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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the ASWPL as a women's organization in the Commission for Interracial Cooperation

Raper describes the size of the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching (ASWPL), arguing that Jessie Daniel Ames was primarily added by a core group of half a dozen women. Additionally, he describes his own interactions with the ASWPL as the research director of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation and the role of the ASWPL within the larger Commission. Of particular interest are Raper's comments regarding the perception of Ames as an "excessive feminist" and her view of the ASWPL as an organization for women only.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Arthur Raper, January 30, 1974. Interview B-0009-2. 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

The first thing I want to ask you is, how extensive an organization was the ASWPL really? How many members and how active was it? I know generally the numbers that they claim to have, but I am still not sure whether to emphasize that it was pretty much a one woman organization run by Jesse Daniels Ames or to emphasize how many signatures they had and how extensively they really did reach women missionary societies and women all over the South. That's kind of a basic, central judgement that I wish I could come down on.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, O.K. This would be my estimate. There were about a half a dozen women who worked with Mrs. Ames and worked with her very faithfully.
JACQUELYN HALL:
About half a dozen?
ARTHUR RAPER:
About a half a dozen. And then the others were more or less peripheral, they came on call and they did what they were asked to do. They… but then, I think that happens with most organizations.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yeah.
ARTHUR RAPER:
But, there were about a half a dozen. Mrs. Tilly was, I guess, the most outstanding one and I could dredge up all the other names, but I know about a half a dozen that were very active and they were responsive and they were on call and it wasn't a matter of her deciding something and then telling them what she had done. They, it was pretty much a committee process.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Uh-huh. How many people on the average would attend annual meetings?
ARTHUR RAPER:
I couldn't tell you.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You spoke at some of them.
ARTHUR RAPER:
I spoke at… I have records of having spoke to two of them. I have notes on what I said and since I talked with you, I had that sort of in the back of my mind and looking out for it when I was going through some papers the other day. And I know I talked to the group two or three other times in addition to that. But these two times, I have notes on what I said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
I have minutes of one of the minutes that you spoke to. Minutes on your…
ARTHUR RAPER:
Do you remember what I was talking about?
JACQUELYN HALL:
You were talking about, the general subject they were trying to deal with was whether to concentrate on mob violence or to begin trying to talk about legal lynchings and the prosecutions of the courts.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Yeah.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And you gave a really excellent speech about the complexities, I mean about the legal oppression of blacks. But, even though you were working in the CIC offices as research director, you didn't have too much contact with the on-going activities of the ASWPL. Was it really that autonomous?
ARTHUR RAPER:
It was fairly autonomous. That's the way Alexander worked. He let me do about the way I wanted to do. He didn't have me under his thumb. I hope I did what he wanted me to do, but I did it more or less on my…well, in other words, it's, if some program was started, and he said, "Now, you'll take charge of this." Why, some people don't mean it when they say that, but he did. And Mrs. Ames carried this on…oh, he was in and out from the minutes I'm sure, he was talking now and again. And Mr. Eleazer did too, to a lesser extent. But, it was somewhat more separate than it might have been. For the reason that Mrs. Ames was an excessive feminist and she had a theory that women worked very differently from the way that men work and of course, this will turn most men off. They just say, "Well, if that's your way of doing it, just go on and do it." But,Alexander didn't take that position. I thought maybe she knew what she was talking about in part, well, she thought that the women's missionary work and the women's political work and what not all had to be in a separate compartment. That it was silly for a man to try to do anything about a women's organization.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why did she think that women…why did she want women to be…I mean, you could be a feminist and want women to be integrated into male organizations, or you could be a segregationist…
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, she wanted them to be integrated out. She wanted them separate.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why was that? Why did she?
ARTHUR RAPER:
Well, I don't know. It was just…some women are that way and some women are not that way. And I usually know when I meet a woman very quickly which way she is going to expect me to go. And I try to accomodate her, if there's any reason why I shouldn't…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, was it partly because that enabled her to exercise leadership. I mean, it gave her a certain, it gave her a constituency and power over her own organization.
ARTHUR RAPER:
Yes, yes, that was clearly part of it.