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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A black politician forces whites to confront their racial attitudes

As he recalls his mayoral ambitions, Spaulding explains that the prospect of an African-American mayor exerts a unique pressure on white voters, forcing them to consider their racial attitudes in a way that lower-level black politicians do not. As he reflects on racism, Spaulding shares his thoughts on the intrusion of class resentment into racial communities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Asa T. Spaulding, April 16, 1979. Interview C-0013-3. 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

You see, where you've been accustomed to white leadership and the premium you put on white leadership. Running for city council is one thing, because you're one among many. But if you're running for mayor, you're running for the number one spot. You're not running for one of six spots.
WALTER WEARE:
It's highly symbolic, isn't it?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That's right. You're running for the top spot, the one spot. And that calls for a lot of soul searching on the part of the people. Just like when I ran for county commissioner the first time. From the most unexpected sources of whites, to come up tell me very frankly, very openly, "Well, Spaulding, I've never voted for a Nigra before, but I'm going to vote for you." For county commissioner.
WALTER WEARE:
These would be white people at all levels? Leaders?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
Yeah. And from East Durham, textile mill person. So, I think you know when you say textile mill what relationship in the thinking there is. I just mentioned that person, but a number of people who had never voted for a black person before, were going to vote for me. And that had to be true because the polls showed it.
WALTER WEARE:
You think up until the time of the black millionaire smear?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
That turned a lot of blacks off.
WALTER WEARE:
The black tobacco workers, do you think they were in your camp?
ASA T. SPAULDING:
And low income people, and people in housing projects, and things of that nature. Because you see there was already a feeling amongst some blacks that the blacks at one level didn't have empathy for blacks at a lower level. When I say lower, I don't mean the matter of character or anything else, but the matter of income.