Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
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 >>

Red-baiting divides the anti-poll tax coalition

While Durr had tried to remain oblivious to the various debates regarding Communism, as the 1950s approached, she found it increasingly difficult to stay separated from the disagreements. When the Attorney General's List of Totalitarian, Fascist, Communist, Subversive, and Other Organizations was released, mainline unionists asked the anti-poll tax committee to purge their rolls; when the committee refused, they lost their funding base.

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

So then we were desperate for money. We had no money, and the CIO had said they weren't going to give us any more money. And the left-wing unions had never given us very much and didn't have much. And they were fighting for their lives at that point, you know. Anyway we struggled along for a few months there you know with just the support-oh, the Negro Elks helped us out at that point; I remember that. They gave us some money. But then I got a call from a Jewish fellow whose name I can't remember, who represented some Jewish committee. I don't know what it was. Anyway it was some Jewish fellow who had a liberal reputation. I remember he asked us to have a meeting in his office. And you see by that time the cold war was heating up and the lives were being drawn. So we went to this fellow's office, and the board met, what was left of it. Most of it now was just church ladies, and the Negro groups-you know the unions had gotten out, and the ACLU was still there, I believe. But we'd gotten, you know-the whole big Roosevelt coalition you see had been broken up with all this infighting and stuff. So this young Jewish fellow whose name I can't remember, Herman somebody. He said, Mrs. Durr-he said that they were prepared to give us money and set us up in an office and they thought the anti-poll tax bill was a good thing. There was just one thing: he had the Attorney General's list-you see by that time the Attorney General of the United States had put out a list of subversive organizations, and he had the list with him. And he said is there anybody on this board who is one the Attorney General's list. Well there was somebody from the Lawyer's Guild, and they were on the Attorney General's list, so they'd have to be put off. And there was somebody from the-there were two electrical unions then I believe; the left-wing electrical union guy was there and he had to be put off. Anyway he checked down the list and everybody who was on the board who was on the Attorney General's list of their organization was had to get off the board, or we wouldn't get any support. You see we'd gotten this from Murrey through Hoyt Haddock already. And by the way Hoyt turned out had been working for the owners all the time-he'd been paid from the union and the ship owners. He'd been a double agent, so we heard later. I don't know whether you can use this or not, because I don't have the proof if it; we can add that later. Anyway at that point the whole thing to me just seemed so absurd. We'd just gone through a war, you know, against Hitler, and here was this young Jew telling me we had to . . .And all of a sudden I said something I . . . I lost my temper. I got up and I said, look, I said, you're the kind of Jew that brought on Hitler. I said, this is exactly the kind of thing that brought on Hitler. And for you, a Jew . . .And as far as I'm concerned let's just say it's the end of the committee, because we're not going to . . . I was uglier than that; I was pretty mad, and I said some real ugly things, which I regret. Well I don't regret them; at the time I thought you know to tell a Jew that you're the kind of Jew that's responsible for Hitler. I thought that was pretty bad. When I got home and told Cliff I'd said it, he thought it was pretty bad, too. I just should have said, you're a kind of man that's responsible for Hitler, maybe. Because of course the Jews didn't bring on Hitler. So he thought I'd made a very bad remark. I shouldn't have said . . . It sounded like I was blaming the Jews for bringing on Hitler, if you know what I mean. And I do regret it because . . . But I was mad, and I lost my temper, and I was out of control. And I had already gone through this thing with Hoyt Haddock. And so that was the end of the antipoll tax committee. It never did meet after that. That was the end of it. Never got together. You see, we'd been red-biated to death. I mean all these divisions . . . You see, that was also the end of the Roosevelt coalition. Here was also the beginning of the cold war.