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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 14, 1979. Interview C-0013-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bringing together white and black business leaders

Spaulding remembers Goodwill Day and Brotherhood Day, two efforts by his pastor in the early 1950s to encourage interracial amity. Spaulding appears to have become engaged in this effort, and he invited speakers of diverse backgrounds in an effort to smooth over what he viewed as the destructive effects of discrimination. Spaulding views these gatherings as an essential precondition to the legal desegregation that followed.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 14, 1979. Interview C-0013-2. 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

WALTER WEARE:
Was there ever any reciprocity? Was it possible in this etiquette to be invited back?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, this was the forerunner of the next step, of making it a community-wide thing. In the early fifties, my pastor used to have what he called ‘Goodwill Day’ and ‘Brotherhood Day’.
WALTER WEARE:
This is Miles Mark Fisher?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yes. In February. So I suggested to him, whether or not he'd be interested in my getting (by that time I had formed these contacts, nationally and internationally and so forth) just a roster of people that I could extend invitations to and who would accept them. I remember shortly after Terry Sanford became governor, he was invited. He came over and spoke either at Brotherhood Day or Goodwill day—I forget which it was now. But even before then, I remember Irving Carlyle, a prominent lawyer in Winston-Salem. When the Supreme Court decision came down in 1954, and the governor of North Carolina took this opposition position, you know. And in Virginia, the resistence. And he had made a statement. He was the first white citizen in North Carolina to take an affirmative position on the Supreme Court decision. And I invited him here to be the speaker on one of these days. I'm going to let you read what he said.
WALTER WEARE:
This is Sandford?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
No, this is Irving Carlyle. Before Sandford.
WALTER WEARE:
It was following the 1954 United States Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated schools in public education, when many Southern governors and other state leaders were urging non-acceptance of the Supreme Court decision. And Mr. Spaulding invited attorney S. Carlyle, a partner in a prestigious law firm in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, to be the Brotherhood Day speaker at White Rock Baptist Church. It was there that Mr. Carlyle said in part, "The decision of the Supreme Court of the United States on May 17, 1954, calling unconstitutional the compulsory segregation of the races in the public schools is one of the historic decisions handed down by that Court. On the pages of that Court's epic decision, national destiny has been written, so that all could read and understand, whether they agreed or not." Mr. Carlyle continued, "I have come to the conclusion that the decision is right and inevitable, and will be so regarded by history. Truth is on the side of the Court. The core of the truth is that all men are entitled to freedom through the compulsion of law, the power of religion, the abolition of racial discrimination in this country in due course is certain. And this will come about because law and religion operate irresistably on the conscience of men. In the 1960s Mr. Spaulding began interracial brotherhood and goodwill luncheons.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Well, that's the main part I wanted you to read.
WALTER WEARE:
So this is the step that led up to this.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
You see what I was doing: I was working on different fronts. Trying to change the attitudes of people. I take this position, that if you can really change the heart or the attitude of a person, you've made a change in an individual. If you change conditions through force, for a long time, to keep it, you've got to do it by force. But if you can get people to change, you've really done something worthwhile. And I felt that to bring people together, and to let them come to know each other, and to know that human beings are human beings, aspirations, and common goal, and common objective, that all of us are interested in building a better city, and things of that nature, rather than fighting each other. Because, when you're dividing and fighting each other, you're hurting yourself as well as somebody else. So, with that thesis I would invite these people. I had the ambassador from Costa Rica, the ambassador from Nicaragua, I think, the ambassador from Nigeria, the ambassador from Guana, the person from India who was the first Asian Catholic, I believe, who was privy council to the pope, to speak here. What I would do is, after these people would speak at the church, I would have a reception for them here, and would invite a certain number to come by and meet and shake hands and converse. And, you know, sometimes you'd have a line almost half-way that block.
WALTER WEARE:
Up the street?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Coming in here. Black and white. And then, after that, I took it to the hotel. Let me see, I think I have the first ambassador where we opened the Jack Tar Hotel, in 1964, before all these riots and things.
WALTER WEARE:
That's the year before the public accommodations.
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right, before public accommodations. I want to show you that, and show you what that ambassador said at that luncheon, and who was a member. I set up a committee for brotherhood day luncheon. I went to see the manager and told him what I wanted to do. And before the hotel was opened, I had arranged with the manager for him to give him accommodations. And my pitch was that he was a foreigner, he was important to our international relations, and he'd be making a contribution by accommodating him. And the State Department would appreciate it, and so forth. Well, to make a long story short, he agreed to let us have it. And blacks had never eaten there, to say nothing about blacks and whites eating together. And I set up for that a committee, brotherhood day committee. The president of Duke University, Dr. Douglas Knight. I was the chairman, and he and the president of North Carolina College were vice-chairmen. And I had on the committee, the mayor of the city, the executive vice-president and president of the chamber of commerce, and a differet group there formed this committee to serve as hosts, and to sit on the dais at the luncheon. And had open invitation for anyone who wanted to buy the tickets for the luncheon. And we would have a hundred and fifty people there, black and white. And when this ambassador, Udochi [unclear] , of Nigeria—it was 1964; wonderful talk—got through, Dr. Knight responded. And it was such an uplifting thing, and was such a significant thing, that everybody there just felt refreshed when it was all over. And I continued that until 1966, I think it was. So this was a forerunner of the softening up of the opening up of the public accommodations that followed later.