Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clark Foreman, November 16, 1974. Interview B-0003. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Foreman's growing concern for civil rights concerned his older colleagues

Foreman eventually clashed with the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the Phelps-Stokes Fund because he realized political freedom was essential to improving the lives of black Americans. Older leaders preferred to concentrate on even distribution of community resources.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clark Foreman, November 16, 1974. Interview B-0003. 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

What were some of the other issues that you tried to work on?
Issues? No ideological issues. It was just a question of getting the roads paved and getting the facilities evenly distributed.
Those were the limits of what you were trying to do at the time?
Well, as Arthur Raper said yesterday, what we were trying to do was to get the people to working together. And for them, when they sat down together, to decide among themselves, what they wanted to do. How far they were willing to go. BILL FINGER Had you started to become aware of the poll tax?
Not at that time. BILL FINGER Did you learn about it through this kind of exposure to towns across Georgia? More political kinds of issues.
I don't think I did. That development came later and what happened, after I'd been down in Georgia here for two years . . . . I began to feel pretty depleted, you know? I felt that all the time I was trying to pull people along and I was not getting the inspiration that I needed. So I decided that I should go North for a while. About that time Thomas Jesse Jones, the director of the Phelps-Stokes Fund, came down to visit the Martha Berry schools. He stopped by Atlanta to see Will Alexander and asked me to go up there with him, to the various schools. I did. And I told him that I was planning to go to New York and he said that he thought that would be a big mistake, that I should stay down in the South and get my Ph.D. I said I wasn't willing to go back and ask my father to support me anymore and that I was going North. So he said "Well, next year I'm going to be in Africa, so if you come up and work in the office as my assistant on a part time basis and go to the University of Columbia and study for your Ph.D. we can give you a good salary." So that was very good and I accepted that offer. But while I was up there, I realized that politics was a crucial issue. I don't know when I realized it or whether I realized it here and then there or just how. But what I do remember is that Thomas Jesse Jones was horrified at this and wrote my father a long letter saying what a dangerous radical I was and how wrong it was for me to be thinking in terms of political activity for the Negroes instead of, you know, just gradually bringing them along.