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?
- JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
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.
- KATHRYN NASSTROM:
Do you have a sense of why those two organizations evolved in that
way--personnel issues or the nature of the
- JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
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.