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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Opportunity for involvement and personal growth in Durham

William Clement talks about moving from Atlanta, Georgia, to Durham, North Carolina, during the 1940s. According to William, the move was a positive one for him and his wife. He argues that they were pleased to settle in Durham and that they had many opportunities for community involvement there. In addition, William cites Josephine's growing confidence and independence as an important development for them after their move to Durham.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. 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

This would probably be a good place to end this, but in case nobody gets back, there's a question I think that maybe you could speak for Josephine on as well, and it has to do with Durham. You both having lived in Atlanta, or being well acquainted with Atlanta society, the institutions, black Atlanta, I'd sort of like your first impressions when you hit Durham, and the comparison.
Well, I was surprised, really, that Josephine agreed to leave Atlanta. I think if I were confronted with that decision today, it would have been far more difficult. Josephine was very submissive, and very cooperative, because of her mother. Her mother, whatever John Wesley Dobbs said, that was it. Occasionally, she would rise up. And Josephine was just sweet. Whatever she thought that I wanted, she just fell in line. And she could not come to Durham, when Mr. Cox came by Atlanta in the fall of '45, and said, "Bill, I need you in Durham, and I'd like for you to be there the first of the year." We were expecting Wesley in April, the eighteenth. Well, you know, at that time, women didn't move after four, five, six, seven months. And so I came up - she had been through here once - she said, "Bill, if you think that this is going to help your career, and it's the best thing to do, we'll go." I came up here and bought a little house over here (it was right after the war period, and I bought this lot - I thought I could build, but I couldn't build because the material hadn't started coming back on the market), so I bought a little house for under 3200 dollars. I said, "Sweetheart, we don't have any place to put a washing machine." We had all these babies, and at that time, you had a roller washing machine - you don't remember that. But she said, "we could put it in the living room." So, she didn't come. And she was very submissive. Josephine in the last twenty-five years - we've been married forty-five - in the last ten or fifteen years, since she got involved in public life, and this matter of the feminist movement and the matter of taking charge of your life, and being recognized as a person - she's changed. Fortunately, I changed. And really, she's a far more beautiful person because of her attitude. She doesn't back up at all. She's very nice, and very polished, but don't you step over her rights, as a woman, as a person. She's very much involved in the equal rights movement here in North Carolina, and that's one thing that's attracted her to Governor Hunt. He was in favor of passing the Equal Rights Amendment - but you'd never pass it in North Carolina. We needed three states, you remember, for the amendment. But she was in that movement. And so, she came - to answer your question, I got away - we came, really, with a great deal of enthusiasm and drive, and determination. I was a North Carolina Mutual person through and through. My father worked for the company fifty years, the only job he ever had; I came along. And I had come difficult times at North Carolina Mutual: I wasn't a part of the family, but you know the history of that. So I had to negotiate that system, and really, was denied some of the greater opportunites that I could have had, because of the family situation. But I swallowed that, because I felt that the institution was bigger than any one person. Fortunately for North Carolina Mutual, it was a mutual company, it's not a stock company where you're passing on the equities to this generation, that generation. So I was sold on North Carolina Mutual, and I came up. Now when we got ready to retire, we thought about Atlanta. We got two boys in Atlanta, Josephine has a sister in Atlanta, and all. And we decided we didn't want to go back to Atlanta, we wanted to stay in Durham . . . The opportunites here are so great: we got involved, Joseephine is involved - I'm not a politician, I support her, but I'm involved in appointments.