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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Martha W. Evans, June 26, 1974. Interview A-0318. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bid for mayor in 1961 and campaign opposition

Evans describes her campaign for mayor of Charlotte, North Carolina, against Stanford Brookshire in 1961. According to Evans, the power base in downtown Charlotte disproved of her candidacy because she was seen as "a wild-eyed radical." She describes how they helped to position Brookshire against her, successfully coercing her defeat. Her comments reveal local political alliances and maneuvering in a rapidly growing urban center.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Martha W. Evans, June 26, 1974. Interview A-0318. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

Now, let me ask you this, in 1961, the campaign for mayor, it was said that it looked like you would probably win and that the downtown didn't want you and they recruited somebody else.
MARTHA W. EVANS:
They recruited three others and then Brookshire. They didn't want me because at that time I was considered a wild eyed radical and all I was doing was giving the Negros an equal opportunity and they didn't want it and now they have more than I ever anticipated.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
And you think that was the sole reason really that….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
That I lost the campaign. Because the vote was so small, plus the fact that when I went to some polling places, as you do, visiting them on election day, some of the workers said, "Here she comes. Here's the nigger-lover." And so, I called the police and demanded a citizen's arrest and I called Mr. Brookshire and said, "If you don't get these people off the polls, I'm going to subpoena you."
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Did that work?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
It worked.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
But you think that was the major factor?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
That's the major factor. But today, we don't have the cohesive black group that we had then. They are dissipated as much as anybody else today and there is no real power structure, single power structure.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
In either community, or the community as a whole. Did Brookshire, was this a stated issue in the election?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
No, it was a whispering campaign.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Was Brookshire himself associated with that? Because later on, he got something of a reputation for conciliation and….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Well, the black community did a job on him and they really put him through the ropes and educated him.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
The demonstrations and the picketing and….
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Uh-huh. So, he was forced to form a Community Relations Committee. Of course, they wanted me to be secretary and I wouldn't do it.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
Because it was his creation?
MARTHA W. EVANS:
I mean, he had a chance to do what was right and he didn't do it. How did I think that he would do it a second time? Why give him a second chance? You don't ride over me more than once.
WILLIAM (BILL) MOYE:
He has said that he thought that in the long run it had been good that he did not have black support in that first election, because then with the changes that he was able to make, the whites couldn't come back and say, "Well, he's just paying off…."
MARTHA W. EVANS:
Well, in those days, there wasn't political patronage in this community. Today, there is. There was no patronage then. There were no black firemen. We had two black policemen. Can you call that patronage? I don't. But under his adminstration, I was one person who held out for at least one year college credit for police and then when I was in Raleigh, I collaborated with the police department officials here and set up a community college course to be paid for by the city, so that they would continue their education through the second year community college and then if they were academically talented and wished to go on, they could transfer to some other institution. And that I accomplished. But this is why, you see. And there is some patronage today, but you do have to meet the credentials, which are, I think, necessary.