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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Clement, July 13 and August 3, 1989. Interview C-0074. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impressions of Durham

Following her marriage, Clement moved to Durham, North Carolina, because her husband and his family worked for North Carolina Mutual. Though she had come from a larger city, she found the community atmosphere very nurturing and welcoming.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Clement, July 13 and August 3, 1989. Interview C-0074. 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

Could you describe, if you recall, your perceptions of Durham at that point, coming here, and if you could compare it to Atlanta?
Durham was, and still is, the smallest place I've ever lived in. It took some getting used to when I did come here. However, Durham had the peculiar value of offering a well-knit, well-secured, strong, black middle-class community. When my husband and I came to Durham, we did not come as strangers, although I was actually. My husband's father had worked with North Carolina Mutual, which was even a stronger factor in the time of segregation than it is now that people live everywhere and work everywhere. That and North Carolina Central [University] were the two leading places of employment for middle-class blacks, other than the tobacco factories. So he had grown up in the company. His father went to work for the company in 1906, so he was well-known. When we came, we were welcomed immediately. There was a very warm sense of hospitality here and people came to see us. The other factor was that I had a new baby, six months old, plus two other children, so my center of activity was very much in the home. But I felt warm and safe and secure in this small community which was very similar to the community I had grown up in, although in a larger city. Other than missing buying things that you needed--because here they'd have to send to Raleigh to get it or what not--it was not that great an adjustment. My mother came up with us when we moved and stayed a week. She said she just wanted to see where I'd be living, and she was very pleased with the hospitality that was extended to us. Then she left and she said she felt very good about that. It was a very warm spirit--and we don't have that now. Our children go out into different communities and this is one thing integration has done. [Laughter] Sometimes they don't even get to meet our friends if we have them in that particular place. They live all around town. The same with the children of our friends. They may be here and work in a different area, and we don't even know them or see them. Maybe that's progress.