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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing father's work with issues of racial justice in Atlanta, Georgia

Hamilton talks about her father's involvement in various issues of racial justice in Atlanta, Georgia. Hamilton begins here by describing how her father worked to register voters during the early 1940s, after he had retired from his position at Atlanta University. She goes on to explain how he had always been involved in such activities, citing his early work with W.E.B. DuBois and the NAACP in Atlanta.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Grace Towns Hamilton, July 19, 1974. Interview G-0026. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
Your father was involved in voter registration drives, wasn't he?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
When he retired, must have been… I'm trying to place it in time. Must have been about 1942 or '43, because he had worked for a time as acting president of Fortd Valley State College, after he retired from Atlanta University. But this was the first year he was retired, and in fact, he… People went down to the next building to give in their taxes. I don't guess they do that now, but you would go down to the courthouse and give in your taxes between the first of January and March, and of course it was a poll tax at that time, accumulated poll tax, which you had to pay back, I don't know how many years, if you had not been registered, in order to… So papa used to go to the courthouse just as if he was going to a job, and talk to the Negros in the line waiting to give in their taxes, and ask them if they had ever thought about registering to vote. And they would say, "Yes," They'd thought about it, but they had never registered and they'd have to pay so much accumulated. So it'd be so much as… I don't remember the details of the law, how many years back they had to pay, but it could amount to as much as thirty dollars to get on the list at that time. And then if he could persuade anybody to go and register and pay their poll tax, then he'd make a little note in a book. And before the list closed, he had his little black book full of people that he had persuaded to get on the polls. Another funny story about that time, we were all distressed by the… I mean, not distressed, but had some anxiety about his… We just didn't think it would be pleasant at the courthouse then. And, sure enough, after two or three days some courthouse official came over and wanted to know who he was. And then the second question was, "And whom do you work for?" And papa said, "I am retired, and fortunately my work… my needs are few, so I am trying to encourage people to share in this democracy we hear so much about." They never did…
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did he wait until he was retired to do something like that because he was afraid of the trouble it would bring to A.U.?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, no. He was a part of… he was one of the founding members of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Oh, really.
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
But, I mean, this was… he had time to do this exclusively, and that's why this particular …
JACQUELYN HALL:
When was the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP founded?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Oh, I can't remember. It must have been about 1910, I guess.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He worked with De Bois?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
Yes. DeBois was a member of the faculty at Atlanta University at that time. And of course, that was before I… that was before the NAACP was founded, and I can't remember the dates.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have a feeling of difference between yourself… your own family and the Atlanta University campus, and the rest of the black community?
GRACE TOWNS HAMILTON:
No, because you had… the white people whom we saw were all people who were just, you know, part of the human race. And there were many contacts, many, many friends of the University who were friends of the people that… Philip Weltner, who was a good friend of the people, so he… People in the Atlanta community, not any large numbers, but there were always some, see.