Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Phyllis Tyler, October 10, 1988. Interview C-0080. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

"Chance-taking" and integrating a local movie theater

Tyler offers a brief anecdote about how she and her friend, Vivian Irving, successfully challenged movie theater segregation in Raleigh, North Carolina, sometime during the 1960s. According to Tyler, they were let into the movie theater because while they were buying their tickets, a prominent woman in the community stopped to say hello to them. Tyler uses this anecdote in order to characterize Irving as a "chance-taker" in effecting change for race relations.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Phyllis Tyler, October 10, 1988. Interview C-0080. 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 remember going with Vivian Irving to . . .
PHYLLIS TYLER:
She was a chance-taker. But we went to all the theaters in Raleigh, went to buy tickets, and of course, we were not allowed to. There were days for black people and days for whites. The first time that we cracked it was over at the Varsity Theaters, which no longer exists, over by State College. It was just across from State. I don't believe there's anything there now. But as we were leaving, waiting to be rejected, you know, some very important women came by, Beth Crabtree and a friend of hers, and in front of this window, spoke to both of us warmly. I think they even hugged us, both of them. And we were let in for the first time.
TERRI MYERS:
Was it just you and Vivian at that time? Vivian told me that she thought she was the first black woman, that she was the first to integrate a movie theater in Raleigh, and she laughed. Her recollection, I think, was that the girl who was taking the tickets, whoever was taking the tickets, just didn't know how to tell her no. [Laughter]
PHYLLIS TYLER:
[Laughter] Actually it was Beth.
TERRI MYERS:
Beth Crabtree, they came by and greeted you, and that was seen.
PHYLLIS TYLER:
Then we both went in, I don't know.
TERRI MYERS:
Well, as far as you know, you were the first.
PHYLLIS TYLER:
That was the first time. Vivian was the first.
TERRI MYERS:
Was there any "to do" made of it?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
Of course not, it was silly. Some of the things were.
TERRI MYERS:
Do you remember the movie?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
No. [Laughter]
TERRI MYERS:
You probably were sitting through the whole movie just amazed at what had happened.