Foreman's family dealt with criticism for supporting integration
Clark Foreman's wife, Mairi, discusses how their children coped with being accused of communism and with witnessing the effects of racial prejudice. She also coped with the criticism she faced for teaching them seemingly radical values.
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
That was another thing that the children had to suffer. Oh well, it went
on and on. They were always being called communists. Mrs Cornell called
them in at that time of the Wallace campaign. Mrs Cornell called the
children in and said to them-because they wore Wallace buttons
to school and the other children would jerk them off them and take them
away from them and then they would turn up the next day with a new
Wallace button. So Mrs Cornell called them into the office and she said
"You children are having a hard time, aren't you?"
They said, well, yes, they were. And she said "Because you're
for Henry Wallace." And they said yes. And she said
"Well, I want you to know that Mrs Cornell is for Wallace and
I'm having a hard time, too. But I think it will be worth it."
And you know, you just can't imagine any public school teacher going out
on a limb like that. The principal. She took me to a board of education
meeting about desegregating the schools in Washington because she
thought I might speak out. Because the John Quincy Adams School was
losing white children because there were more Negro
children coming in in the area. So I went with her and we were given a
chart and shown that the John Quincy Adams school would be the ideal
thing to have the Americanization classes. The adult classes. It was
being less and less used for school purposes. The classes were getting
smaller. I said I wanted to ask why the classes were getting smaller.
Well, because there are more Negroes in the neighborhood and the white
people were taking their children and putting them into private schools.
I was bursting with indignation and I said "Why isn't it the
perfect school to integrate and to begin with, if it's in the
neighborhood, instead of sending the Negro children a long way off by
streetcar and letting the school go to pieces?" Which was a
very good school, already having most of the children from the minor
officials of the embassies. They came from all over. So it was a perfect
place. Well, they turned to Mrs Cornell-what have you done,
what have you brought here to this meeting, you know? She looked very
uncomfortable and she said "Well, I would agree with Mrs
Foreman although maybe its not quite time to do it." She was so
good. And I felt I was backed up all the way, in my efforts. But the
children . . . I don't think they really suffered. They all went to the
theatre. We came up to the theatre to see the play On Whitman Avenue and
it was written by Maxime Funsterwald, a friend of ours. It was about a
Negro family who moved into a white neighborhood. Somebody bought them a
house, just like Carl and Ann. Anyway, we sat right behind Mrs Roosevelt
in the theatre at this premier in New York. And the children were old
enough to come. Joanie might have been 9 and Sheila 10 or 11. Anyway, at
the time . . . the children in the play, the Negroes were pushed out and
the enighborhood people came in and were ugly toward them. Our children
sobbed a little bit and cried a little bit about it.
We went out afterwards and Mrs Roosevelt turned around and said
"Well, I shouldn't have thought this was a very good thing to
bring children to." I was astounded, in public, you know, to
have her take me on like that. I just said "Well, Mrs
Roosevelt, these are Clark Foreman's children and we've been brought up
with Negroes. I don't think that it hurts children to cry." I
didn't know what to do. I felt absolutely wanted the floor to open up
and swallow me up. I felt so hurt that Mrs Roosevelt . . . you know, why
would she feel that it hurt children to cry.
- CLARK FOREMAN:
I understand . . . after the mess she made with her children, she wasn't
. . .
The children really . . . it was something for them to weep about. I
don't think it hurt them. I think that's all. I better stop.