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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Differences between New Deal activists and civil rights organizers

Though the anti-poll tax committee, union organizers, and other activists faced opposition, Durr recalls feeling elated and safe because of the support of leaders such as the Roosevelts. In this way, she believed New Deal activists faced a very different world from that of the civil rights organizers.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, October 16, 1975. Interview G-0023-3. 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

[How did you feel? Talk some about the way you reacted to the big meeting and seeing everybody like that, whether or not you were scared by the fact that Bankhead didn't come that night.] John Bankhead's not coming didn't bother me. I was scared in a way. But I was thrilled. It was like a revival meeting, you know. It was like a -they used to call them, you know, it was a love meeting. All of a sudden you felt like you were not by yourself. There were all these other people with you, you know. It was a feeling of joy, of being thrilled. After all, you know, when you have the wife of the President of the United States and The Supreme Court Justice. You know, you had a lot of support. And John L. Lewis. You had a feeling of support. And the Negro people, Mrs. Bethune, certainly gave me a feeling of support; she was a remarkable character. I was very much impressed with her and we became friends after that. No, I had a feeling of joy. It was thrilling to me; it was a marvelous occasion; I was absolutely delighted with it. The attack by that woman whose name I can't remember, vicious woman; I hate that stuff, you know, all of that nigger-white women business. When they drag that out, it always makes me sick and throw up at my stomach. It's just so disgusting, you know. To think that a Negro man and a white woman can't even sit in the same hall together to determine whether they can vote or not without having all that stuff dragged in. She was a vicious woman. I wish I could remember her name, but I can't. It'll come to me. Almost everybody that left there had the same feeling of finally getting together and joyousness. It was the New Deal come South, if you know what I mean. There was a meeting of the whole Roosevelt New Deal all coming South at one place. But you had the feeling of support from the . . .You see that's a thing that you-all never even had as strong as we did in the civil rights fight; you never had that feeling of support. You see, we knew that Eleanor just had to pick up the telephone and to call Franklin. You see, I just don't that you-all have ever had that feeling of having the government on your side, that you had the power of the United States government on your side. And that your enemies may be trying to get at you, but after all you had the United States government with you. When reading this book of Jeremy Brecker's and seeing the helplessness and how the United States government immediately sent the Army in or the National Guard or the militia. See, Bull Connor, in spite of all the police and the black mariahs, while it made us nervous, in a way, we never were afraid of it because we knew that he was not going to arrest the wife of the president of the United States and he's not going to arrest the Supreme Court Justice. You see the law of Alabama was at that time that you had to be segregated in a public building, so we obeyed the law, you see. We segregated except Mrs. Roosevelt. She was the only one refused to. [Well now what came up there about the laws; was there any move to . . . ?] Oh yeah, there were a lot of resolutions. There was a lot of agitation and resolutions passed about that, about, you know, the segregation. But the main, the driving energy behind it all were the unions. You see, the unions were coming South and people were being organized into unions. And they thought that all the fighting against them and all the being put in jail and held incommunicato and being killed and beaten and all was due to the fact that the sherrifs and the police and everybody else, they were not accountable to them because they didn't have the vote. So the idea was to get the vote, to get some power.