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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A surprising example of how business leadership connected interracial cooperation with Communism

Anderson explains the tensions behind interracial meetings of the YWCA. In one particular incident, Anderson recalls the odd occurrence of a company president connecting interracial cooperation with Communism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eleanor Copenhaver Anderson, November 5, 1974. Interview G-0005. 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

ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Oh, there was a religious fervor back of it all. And when you go around to local YWCA's, I remember once in Knoxville there was a question of would we have the board meeting at the Negro branch. They all wanted to do that just as a gesture. And then we had another very famous siege in. . . what's the Mississippi town where that singer. *. . Laurel, Mississippi. Where that famous opera singer, she came from there. And Mrs Robert E. Spear was then president. She went down with me because. . . it was an Eastman Kodak town and this man, or this president of Eastman, he had heard we always had a thing called Rommany Day at Merriwoode. And we had a very popular speaker, a labor leader. And when they had this Leontyne Price Rommany Day, he wore a red sash! Well, no one thought anything of it. But this head of Eastman, he took it up. So Mrs Speer and I . . . but then you couldn't just fly down to Laurel, Miss. We went on the train and had an interview with him. Don't put this down. I'll never forget this. We were sitting in the Y before this man came in. And Mrs Speer was leading the praying that we do right. And just then in came a Western Union boy with a telegram. I remember so well. She stopped. . . reading the telegram stopped the paryer and then she picked it up again. The Speer family, they were great religious leaders. Margaret Speer. I guess she's still alive. I haven't heard to the contrary. He was a very, very famous church leader. Robert E. Speer. But this was a long time ago.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
This would be in the 20s?
ELEANOR COPENHAVER ANDERSON:
Absolutely! It was before race. It was this man wearing a red sash. [Interruption.]