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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Involvement in the NAACP

Frye talks about his involvement in the NAACP from an early age, especially during his college years. Frye explains that during the 1930s through 1940s, while he was growing up and becoming involved in public matters, that the NAACP had a reputation as being a radical organization. He recalls that when he was in high school, many of his teachers tried to hide their involvement in the NAACP because of this. Later, when he became a lawyer, his involvement with the group was questioned by the bar.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. 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

From what I have read, you were involved in the NAACP pretty early.
Well, yes, a little bit when I was in high school. We had a little NAACP chapter and I sold memberships in the NAACP and things of that nature. Incidentally, this is an interesting thing I observed at that time. Contrary to the situation today, in the eyes of a lot of people the NAACP was looked at a very radical organization. Black teachers who were members, and only a few of them were members, kept that a secret. They would not dare let the school board, for example, or people generally in the community know that they were members of the NAACP because they were afraid they would be fired for that reason. I recall incidentally my English teacher again, Mrs. Easterling, who was elected an officer in the NCTA which was the North Carolina Teachers' Association and that was the black teachers. In other words, they had two separate organizations then for teachers. You had the North - I've forgotten the name of the white group, but the white group had a teachers' association and the black group had one. At any rate, there was something in the paper about it. Someone, some official contacted her wanting to know why she was an officer in the NAACP. She had to explain to them that this was not the NAACP. This was the NCTA which was the teachers' association and not that terrible radical National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At any rate, getting back to my own involvement. From that then at A&T we organized. I help organize an NAACP chapter, which again was not very active and not radical at all by most terms. We were concerned about racial things, but not, at that point, we were not sitting in or anything of that nature. Later on I became a life member and generally tried to work with the organization. But I've - I'm trying to think, I don't think I've ever, since I left college I don't think I ever been an officer myself.
So you weren't active during law school?
No. Let me back up if I might. I think this is of some significance. One of the questions that I was asked about when I was being considered for my character and so forth for the practice of law, that is really to get my license, one of the questions they asked about was my involvement with the NAACP, which I thought was a little unfair, frankly. I didn't think that had anything to do with it. But that was one of the questions along with some others that I thought were quite inappropriate. Our bar association thing, I understand now, is a lot better and you don't have the kind of problems that we had in those days.