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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with James P. Coleman, September 5, 1990. Interview A-0338. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Description of segregation as an accepted social condition in 1930s Mississippi

In this excerpt, Coleman describes the system of segregation in Mississippi as "ironclad" and "completely accepted" during the 1930s. In these brief remarks, he notes that although certain institutions were kept separate, such as school, segregation was not as clearly defined in other areas, such as the agricultural economic system that still dominated the state until after World War II. According to Coleman, both Mississippi whites and blacks were accepting of this system which had both clearly defined and blurred boundaries.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with James P. Coleman, September 5, 1990. Interview A-0338. 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

I finished high school in 1931 right here in Ackerman, you see. There were not but twenty-four of us in the graduating class. Of course, the Depression, the Great Depression. . . .
Was right on you.
It was on us, but it set in, you know, on Black Thursday, or whatever day it was, in November of '29. The fallout didn't really get down here until 1930-31, and by '32 it was absolutely critical. So I grew up here and finished high school here under what you might correctly call the "old regime." Segregation was so ironclad, if you want to put it that way. Of course, segregation, in the first place, is a misnomer-there was a heck of a lot of non-segregation-but it was so completely accepted, at least, almost by the black people as much as the whites. It wasn't even much of an issue. There was no turmoil. There was no uproar. Of course, we had the separate systems of schools, and you had the separate social taboos, and yet you worked right along in the field with them or at the sawmill or in the woods. Had no industrial development, you understand, so it was purely an agrarian society, and that has its points. The only thing, it couldn't be maintained as such, sheer economics, especially after World War II. You'd have an occasional politician who'd try to make hay out of it, particularly folks like Theodore G. Bilbo, for example. If you'll go back and study his real record and so forth, he didn't get rabid on the subject until on up when it was getting ready to boil.