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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 >>

Exclusion of African American women from the ASWPL

Raper discusses the exclusion of African American women from the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. As Raper recalls it, African Americans were, at times, present at meetings of the ASWPL and suggests that their exclusion was not wholesale. Additionally, Raper discusses the exclusion of African American women within the context of the Commission on Interracial Cooperation's broader aims and argues that, ultimately, it was not a big issue that detracted from the Commission's successes.

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

JACQUELYN HALL:
What you were saying about the lynching issue versus interracial reform reminds me of another thing I wanted to ask you. What about the decision that she made to exclude black women from the women's anti-lynching organization. Do you remember the controversy around that? I've had a hard time dealing with that. My sense from going to the records was that at the time, it was not a big issue, although some people objected to it, but people who have read my work seem to see that as a big thing, you know, real significant that she would do that and how can I explain the exclusion of blacks…
ARTHUR RAPER:
O.K. Let me give you another part of the backdrop in Atlanta. There was an organization that was called the Association for the Preservation of the White Race. Did you run into this?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
ARTHUR RAPER:
See, this is all white. Now, when they came into this, I remembered some of those first discussions and this will show in the records, I'm sure and you're well aware of it. When they first started talking about this women's anti-lynch business, there were some black women in there. And then as time went on, it got all white. But, it didn't it started off as an interracial discussion. See, the Southern Commission for the Study of Lynching was interracial through and through. Members and research and everything. I don't know all the rationale that went into theirs. I know that it was never discussed in a meeting with the Interracial Commission as such. It wasn't discussed at any annual meeting of…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Well, since the interracial aspects of things was so important, why wasn't that very scandalous? [interruption]
ARTHUR RAPER:
Now, ask your question again. I think it's a good question, but I want to be sure that I got what you said.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why they excluded black women and how the black people on the Interracial/Commission felt about that? It evidently was not a big issue at the time.
ARTHUR RAPER:
It was not a big issue at the time. Now, you could ask me whether Mrs. Ames was carrying on some other interracial work that involved Negros…
JACQUELYN HALL:
She was doing that, wasn't she?
ARTHUR RAPER:
Yes, but I can't tell you what it was. She wasn't working on, so far as I can recall, she wasn't working on anything else educational, she wasn't working on anything that had to do with health, she wasn't working on anything that had to do with economics or anything that had to do with welfare. That I remember. So, I don't know what she would have been doing. This thing just about took up her time and it was, I repeat, so utterly and crucially to the bull's eye on this thing that had been identified, and they were the people who had the voice… the white women.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did it have anything to do with her racial attitudes, her attitudes toward black people? Do you think that she found that a convenient way to avoid having to work with black women?
ARTHUR RAPER:
I hardly think so. I don't know. I simply…she had her show, as you said. And she was encouraged to go ahead with this original work. Now, see, I could imagine this now, now this is imagination. But I could imagine that she would have felt, "Well, I can go to the sheriff down in Baker County, Georgia better with an all white group than if I have an interracial group." I don't know. I don't know if that entered into.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But you yourself weren't critical of the ASWPL for excluding black women? You didn't think that was a real weakness or an affront to blacks?
ARTHUR RAPER:
I don't recapture now any particular…I seem to remember something of…, as I'm dwelling on it now, something of the recall of why did we do it this way, "isn't there some way we can do it and keep them in, because we are an interracial commission." But there was nothing that came out so that it was anything like this other stuff that we've talked about here that was out in the open.