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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles M. Jones, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0335. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

King and Mays serve as impetus for change in the system of segregation

Jones did not think "separate but equal" could work out fairly, but he recognized that people were reluctant to change that system without the leadership of Martin Luther King and Benjamin Mays. He compares segregation to a married couple that tries to continue their relationship by living separately.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles M. Jones, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0335. 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

JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think most people, white and black, kind of knew down in their gut in '48 or '9 or '50, that the South couldn't sustain a segregated society? That it had to change?
CHARLES M. JONES:
Yes, I think when Dr. King got into it, he got so many white friends and spoke in so many white places. He spoke here. He was a great organizer. I would put Dr. King as the man who broke it.
JOHN EGERTON:
So that means the mid-50s. That doesn't mean '48 or '51. It was really after Dr. King that it all really, the consciousness got raised.
CHARLES M. JONES:
There was another black educator, Dr. [Benjamin] Mays, at Morehouse College, and he was invited to all sorts of white functions and places, but he never, I don't think he ever
DORCAS JONES:
I don't know.
CHARLES M. JONES:
Dorothy Mainer sang here and held a benefit concert for the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen. Her husband was president of .
JOHN EGERTON:
Let's just take Buck, for example. You knew Buck Kester all through the '40s, didn't you, pretty much, all the times you were here? Did you think of him as being a white person who spoke out openly for an end to segregation or did he not do that?
CHARLES M. JONES:
No, I don't think he did. That wasn't his major concern. His concern was the land, farms. I'd say he did for that, what others did for segregation. See, 'cause I knew Buck real well, but it wasn't through segregation.
DORCAS JONES:
He did a lot for sharecroppers.
JOHN EGERTON:
You know, everybody used to say, "If the Yankees would just leave us alone, we could fix our own problems down here." How long do you think it would have taken the South to fix its own racial problem if it hadn't been for the federal court and black protest?
CHARLES M. JONES:
I think you'd have had a black uprising.
JOHN EGERTON:
Had a revolution?
CHARLES M. JONES:
Being quiet, that's called harassing. Because I don't think you could openly have a revolution because you'd have police against you, but you could harass people. I remember when we sometimes had children parade, they would get harassed by the whites. But you couldn't get them arrested. You can't get arrested for harassing.
JOHN EGERTON:
A lot of people in that time would say, "Well, the law says separate but equal, and we never have really done that. So what we need to do is to make it truly equal." Did you ever believe that separate could be made equal?
CHARLES M. JONES:
I don't think so. You see, sometimes a husband and wife would decide to do certain things separately and still be married. They would give over on it and forget about it because they cared for each other. I don't see how you can do that down the line.
JOHN EGERTON:
For the whole society.
CHARLES M. JONES:
With white couples, if they would say they were going to keep all their money and stuff separately, they can't do it even. I think the reason, and I think it probably grew out of, not only sociology but all the science, the universe is so bound together with earthworms needed to do this job, with chickens to crap off the pole and give us fertilizer for tomatoes. So it's interdependent. And the time comes if one of them is taken advantage of, somebody's independence is lost. You see?