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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Comparing poor white mountain residents with poor black Americans

Ponder mentions some reforms necessary to help the poor white mountain residents of western North Carolina. He also compares them to poor black Americans and credits them with admirable patience.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Zeno Ponder, March 22, 1974. Interview A-0326. 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

We still don't have our pro-rata share up here in the mountains. When you look at the county with the lowest income, you look at a little county like Clay county. You look at the ones with the highest per capita income, one happens to be here in the west. That's Haywood county. But by far and large we have the poor here in the western part of the state. That's poor white folks. You read about the ghettos and the blacks—and I'm in the deepest of sympathy with the blacks and I hesitate to say right now that I would have been even half as tolerant as they were for the hundred years that they were in semi-slavery. I've made this statement many times to my white friends. If I'd been black I'd of raised hell a long time before they did. So . . .
BILL FINGER:
Some of them did. Some of them did and got shot for it.
ZENO PONDER:
Yeh, I . . .
BILL FINGER:
History hasn't been written about that.
ZENO PONDER:
Well, I would have tried to get the riots started before the day of Martin Luther King if I'd of been born black. I'm confident I would have. I just couldn't have been content to take that kind of treatment. So I'm in deep sympathy with the blacks. But here in our area in the mountains of North Carolina, western North Carolina, we simply have poor white folks, and they have my very heartfelt sympathy. And we've got to come to grips with the thing and bring in enough industry in these rural, agrarian counties to keep our high school graduates and bring back a few of our college graduates and still not pollute our streams or our air. We can do this thing. And we can do it best by having a progressive form of county and state government. You just simply can't do it with the Republican party and the ideas of Louis XIV.