Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, February 1, 2002. Interview C-0298. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Impact of the <cite>Brown</cite> decision on black-owned businesses

Rivera describes in some detail the impact of the 1954 <cite>Brown</cite> decision on black-owned businesses. According to Rivera, the demise of de jure segregation also spelled the demise of many African American business endeavors. While he acknowledges that many black-owned insurance companies and banks survived, other businesses struggled and many of them folded in the years following <cite>Brown</cite>.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, February 1, 2002. Interview C-0298. 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

Of course, '54 was the decision that changed, as I say, changed everything. Black newspapers went out of business. A lot of black schools closed. It was just what we had, we were working for desegregation and when we got it, it meant the end of our jobs.
I'd imagine a lot of black businesses -
Yeah, a lot of black businesses.
Went out of business, insurance companies.
Well, not so much the insurance companies.
They did all right or better.
No, they didn't do better. Before the Brown versus Topeka Board, the banks and insurance companies, businesses of that stature had already come to conclusion that black business was good business. Now a lot of them had a differential, and that is I was told, I didn't ever see this. But I was told that the Metropolitan Life Insurance Company charged more for premiums for blacks than they did for whites. They had a separate system. But they did, they took them. Now as far as the banks were concerned, when the banks were in this area found that the Mechanics and Farmer's Bank was making money, then they started accepting blacks over to black accounts, but it wasn't until they started hiring blacks that the real breakdown came. When they started hiring people in the front offices, blacks. When they started training them for the higher positions and so forth, then of course, they became. I'm sure that the Mechanics and Farmers Bank has felt it. They're not as strong now as they used to be. They had a building savings and loan that's virtually out of business because see the one time the early years when the early years of the bank when Roosevelt came in office, he declared a bank holiday. I don't know if you've ever heard of that. All banks were closed. In other words, he was trying to let them come back those that were abler to come back. The Mechanics and Farmers Bank, the black bank, was the first bank in Durham to open after the bank holiday. So people looked around and said, 'Are you telling me that that was, that's the soundest bank in Durham?' I said, 'Yeah, that's what it is.' They're open. It was the first one. They got a lot of Jewish business from stores that the Jews were running in the black community. They got a lot of that business.