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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

How Adamson negotiated the class and racial divisions in North Carolina

Having described the major political and social contacts the North Carolina office for the Southern Conference on Human Welfare, Adamson explains how the branch intersected with labor, racial, and women's rights agencies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Price Adamson, April 19, 1976. Interview G-0001. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
But you don't remember anything about the overall group, the Southern Conference having one opinion about labor support and your North Carolina committee having a different experience with labor?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No, I didn't have that problem at all. There was always a problem of trying to work with the textile workers, because they were the largest union in the South and one of my early memories is about the Gastonia Strike and it had a lot of influence on me. I think that I may have told you that there wasn't . . .I tried as hard as I knew how to get labor support and I think of Hardy Scott in Asheville, the Fur and Leather Worker's Union. Then there was an excellent person in the Shoemaker's Union. Then of course, there were the Tobacco Workers in Durham and in Winston-Salem and we had excellent members among the Tobacco Workers in Durham, but the organization itself was never cooperative with us.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
So individuals within the union would lend you their support but they could never use the name of their union?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
That's right. It was the same way with the Textile Workers and the Tobacco Workers in Winston-Salem. It was not possible for them to speak for the unions.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Were there individuals within the Textile Workers Union, like Pat Knight, who gave you support? What about rank and file members?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes, there were rank and file members who did. I have forgotten now about what the size of our dues paying membership was, but it was a hundred or so and so it had a rather broad scope.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
If you had about a hundred or so dues paying members, do you remember at all how they were divided, say between men and women or blacks and whites or workers and middle class people?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
I think that I could make a generalization that it was a fairly well divided and as far as the population was concerned. Now, that doesn't mean that there were as many black people in proportion to the . . .I don't remember what the black population of the state was, but of the active people in the state, I would think that it was fairly well divided. For instance, in Greensboro, students at what was then A&T College and is now, I think, part of the University of North Carolina, we had a very active group there and at Bennett College. Dr. David Jones, who was president of Bennett College, was just a tower of strength and he and his wife were really bulwarks of strength as far as their knowledge and their know-how was concerned. Their friendship meant a great deal to me.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What about men and women. Did couples seem to join together?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Yes.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Or were there women who joined, perhaps without spouses or . . . .
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No, I don't remember women joining without their husbands, but there were couples and there were single women who were active.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
Maybe more single women than single men, or do you have any feeling about that? What I'm thinking of is trying to relate to women's groups within the state. Did you have the support of some of the North Carolina women's groups?
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
No. The women's movement was just nonexistent, practically, at that time.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
But nothing like the Federation of Women's Clubs or . . . .
MARY PRICE ADAMSON:
Well, the YWCA was a tower of strength. Everywhere and in every town where there was a YW we could get interracial meeting places, which believe me, was no easy task and the YWCA secretaries were just tremendous help.