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Oral History Interview with Charles M. Jones, November 8, 1976. Interview B-0041. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Presbyterian minister Charles Jones recounts his civil rights activism in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, from the 1930s to the 1960s. He describes the town and the University of North Carolina's leaders as moderately liberal on racial issues. They tolerated some token integration of performances and extracurricular events as long as the students supported and sponsored the activities. However, UNC and town officials limited any measurable integration, says Jones. He notes the differences between liberalism and radicalism in Chapel Hill: the older, white liberals worried about recrimination at work, while the younger, independent radical college students embraced idealistic goals. Jones discusses the impact of Frank Porter Graham, and contends that Graham sought gradual changes without offending the racial sensibilities of the greater North Carolina populace. Jones credits Graham's influence for the state's avoidance of political demagoguery. By the 1960s, though, the number of radical college students who engaged in direct action civil rights tactics had grown, which upset older, gradualist liberals. As the focus on inequity grew to include not only segregation but also economics, Jones argues that it took a while for white liberals to accept the shifting social climate. He maintains that southern liberals viewed segregation as the major problem, but younger activists made economics an issue. Jones's involvement with civil rights activism angered a minority of his more conservative parishioners and led to his decision to leave Chapel Hill Presbyterian Church. His more liberal parishioners convinced Jones to pastor the newly created Community Church. Jones culminates the interview with an assessment of the pace of racial change and effectiveness of civil rights activism.
    Excerpts
  • Limits to Chapel Hill's racial liberalism
  • Youthful and black protests tested the limits of old-style Chapel Hill liberalism
  • Jones reassesses his role in civil rights struggles and describes the seeming rift between older and younger civil rights activists
  • Jones experienced opposition to his liberal racial stance as minister
  • Impact of Christian socialist beliefs, internationalism, and states' rights ideology on Frank Porter Graham
  • Desegregation of public buildings met with some opposition at UNC
  • Evaluation of the changes among students from the 1940s to the 1970s
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  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.