Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anti-Communism splits the poll tax committee

For Durr, the most serious consequence of the anti-Communist atmosphere and growing preponderance of red-baiting during the post-war era was not the presence of the FBI in her office but the fracturing that occurred among the unions and social activist groups. Ultimately, as the various groups purged suspected Communists from their ranks, they withdrew funding from subsidiaries, including the anti-poll tax committee.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. 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

As I look back now, I don't think that it ended in a blaze of glory. Because you see, this was just two years after the war was over. We had a meeting and the Anti-Defamation League, you know, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, a representative was on the committee and they said to meet at his office. You see, we didn't have offices at this time, money was running out and we were having a hard time. So, he said to meet at his office and we met at his office. We still had a lot of the Negro organizations and a lot of the civil rights organizations and church organizations and some of the left wing unions. . . .
SUE THRASHER:
Who is this man, now?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
I can't remember his name, somebody in the Anti-Defamation League. So, we met in his office, which was a very nice office, he was a very nice Jewish gentleman and so he gave us quite a little talk and he said that the Anti-Defamation League and some other Jewish organizations were going to be very helpful and they would raise money for us and would do all that they could to help us and it had just one proviso. He had the Attorney General's list and he wanted to be sure that nobody in the committee was on the list. Well, my husband at that time was head of the National Lawyer's Guild. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
Not in 1947.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, you had been head of the National Lawyer's Guild.
CLIFFORD DURR:
No, I had nothing to do with it until I got out of the government.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, well, anyway. . . .
CLIFFORD DURR:
I was fighting Truman's loyalty' oath during those years.
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Yes, you were fighting Truman's loyalty bills, so then Tom Emerson up at Yale was head of it, I believe. But in any case, he picked on the National Lawyer's Guild and something else. There were two or three more. He said that they would all have to get out. I said, "Why?" And he said that they were all on the Attorney General's list. I said, "You mean to say that you are going to use the Attorney General's list to decide who can be on this committee?" And he said, "Now Mrs. Durr, you have got to be realistic. The United States government is starting to purge all leftists and Communists and radicals of all sorts and we have to do the same thing or we won't get any support from the government or various people." I was pretty tired by that time, too, Cliff was fighting the loyalty oath and we had been through the war. I remember that I looked at him and said, "You know, you are the kind of Jew that brought on Hitler." That was the end of the committee. It was a pretty bad ending, I'm afraid. We stood by our principles, you see, but the thing was that people didn't stand by us. Everybody began to purge. The NAACP purged, the unions purged, everybody purged. So, then, you see, Henry Wallace came on and we all fell into Henry's crusade and he got beat, too.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you formally dissolve it?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh no, it just fell apart. We didn't pass any resolutions, it just fell apart. Nobody supported it, no money. We didn't have any backers that had money and we couldn't hire an office. You see, you have got to remember that the backbone of the New Deal and the backbone of the anti-poll tax committee and the backbone of most of the liberal things in the country and in the Southern Conference was the unions. Well, when they broke up and got decimated and all, you didn't have any solid support at all. The unions just got split all up.