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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 >>

A description of the anti-poll tax committee's only openly Communist member

Durr had told some of the stories about the committee's only known Communist volunteer in an earlier interview, but here, she returns to Sarah Rosenbaum and adds to her previous anecdote.

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

One of the main workers we had-this is such a funny tale, I can't help but tell this, because it's so amusing. There was a little old lady appeared, she was old, really old. She was you know elderly, 60's, 70's, but had white hair. Her name was Sarah Rosenbaum. So she came in one day and was a, to be a volunteer. We had lots of volunteers. I can't remember all their names. So Sarah came in and she was just as cuate as she could be. And she would make us cocoa in the mornings on the radiator. She was just as cute as she could be. She was Sarah Rosenbaum. And the thing that was so funny, though, about her was that she had been a Rostow. I'm trying to make it brief, but this is such a fascinating story in view of the later events. So Sarah's family had come from Lithuania or Latvia. There was a Jewish group that brought Jews over here. They were having the horrible pogroms or something. So this Jewish group settled this Rostow family near New Haven on a little farm. Well the old gentleman-these are stories I got from Sarah-her father, did nothing but study the Talmud. He was a holy man, so he sat with his yamulka on and studied the Talmud. And he wasn't supposed to do anything but that, what he'd been bred to do, he was a holy man. I don't know whether he was a rabbi. The mother, she said, was a little bitty woman, who was Polish, I believe. And she thought they would all starve to death on this rocky farm unless something was done. So she got some cows. And the children would have to get up at four oclock in the morning and mild the cows. Then they would take the milk, you know, and come home in the afternoon and milk the cows and take the milk to the neighbors. So she kept that whole family going on these few cows she bought and on this little bit of a dairy. Sarah told about it with greatest possible pride. What a marvelous person her mother was. It turns out she was Gene and Walt Rostow's aunt, Sarah was. So Sarah was an out-and-out communist. When I say she was an out-and-out communist I mean I suppose she was a member of the Party, but she was always preaching communist and bringing pamphlets to the poll tax committee. She had some sort of a second sense. We used to have a lot of young volunteers, young white men would come in, they were volunteers. And they would say they had just a few weeks off, and she'd put them to cranking the memeograph machine. She knew they were from the FBI; she just had a second sense. And they always were, because they'd tell us these lies about how they worked for the Post Office and they never did. But the first thing they would always ask for was the list, our mailing list and our contributors' list, to see how much gold we were getting from Moscow, I suppose. Of course nobody ever gave us a dime, I mean, except the unions. That was the biggest contributor. Sarah was perfectly delightful. Anyway she opened a book shop in Washington finally, a Marxist book shop. And more people were sent to jail and lost their jobs because they had belonged to this Marxist book shop Sarah had. Well she finally went to California to live with her daughter, who lives out there now. I got a card from her after Cliff died. She would send me copies of letters she wrote Gene and Walt Rostow, her nephews, they were supporting the Vietnamese War. I hope I've kept them because she would really just tear the skin off of them you know. You never read such letters in your life, how they were betraying the family and disgracing the Jews. Oh she was just fierce with them. Sarah was just as cute as she could be. We had a lot of volunteers. But you know it's so long ago.