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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 >>

Differences between the integration of the YWCA and the League of Women Voters

As she considers why the YWCA's leadership became almost exclusively black following integration while the League of Women Voters remained mostly white, Clement muses that whites still have not accepted that integration requires efforts on their part. Instead, the burden of integration has fallen upon blacks. Clement concludes that the only way integration will truly occur is if both communities participate fully in the process.

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

Back with the issue of the League and the "Y", would you describe how that proceeded within the organization? What were some of the dynamics between the individuals? Was it a smooth transition? Were there points of conflict?
As I remember, the transition in the League of Women Voters was more smooth than that in the YWCA; the YWCA is still having difficulties. In fact there's an article in the paper this morning. I went last week with the director of the YWCA to talk to the United Fund asking for an appeal because the United Fund had decided not to fund them anymore. But the YWCA has had more difficulties, and I don't know exactly why this is. The League of Women Voters has remained a white organization. I went to a meeting last winter in which they asked all the elected women officials from the city and the county to come and talk about some issues. We entered in and there were only one or two black women there. Whereas, on the other hand, the YWCA has become almost a black women's organization, beginning with the integration in the late fifties. I remember I came off of that board in 1960, because my youngest child was born. The white women were leaving, quietly--and this seems to be the style of Durham--not confrontationally, but just quietly to slip away. That support began to fall away. Then there have been some other problems with the "Y" within the women's movement. One group pulled out from the YWCA and took programs and volunteers and people and so forth, and that hurt bad. And then we got one or two bad executive directors. So the YWCA is in trouble right now, but the League is flourishing.
Do you have a sense of why those two organizations evolved in that way--personnel issues or the nature of the organization?
Well, it might be--and I certainly don't know, but I'm just speculating now--it might be that the YWCA was already segregated. You had a black "Y" movement and a white "Y" movement, and you had to put them together. The League of Women Voters was white all the way. It never had any black component. So they began to bring black women in, but they still were in control of the organization. I don't know that they have such a strong black membership now because of their cultural differences. Generally, when you find organizations like that, their agenda does not speak to the issues of black women. It's a middle-class organization. The YWCA on the other hand, had a strong black component, so when you tried to integrate these . . . I think the truth of the matter is, that we are learning that white people have not accepted integration. If you will look at what has happened, you will find that all the integrating flows in one direction, from black to white. We move into white neighborhoods; we go to white schools; we join white organizations. White people never come to the black community. They don't come a lot where we ever feel them, not in large numbers, to the black schools, the black organizations, or the black neighborhoods. It just doesn't work that way. So the onus of integration has fallen on black people. If you move forward and integrate you find yourself giving up the culture that you were reared in, the friends that you had, the people, even sometimes the support of those people. You leave behind and go into an alien culture almost--it can be that different sometimes--which does not support you anyhow. So you have to come back. And I think this is what the young people first tried to tell us in the sixties. And this is why I say we have come to see that integration is not the panacea. I believe in integration, and I never want to go back to segregation in anything, but I think we have to refashion it and reshape it. We have to deal with the culture differences and so forth. White people will have to come to the point that they are willing to deal with integration. Don't think they have been willing to give up anything. If you can come in without making waves, it's all right, but they're not as dedicated to the concept of education--pardon me, of integration--as black people are. So that may account for the differences.