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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Explanation of non-involvement in 1964 civil rights sit-in movement

Johnson explains why she and her husband, Guy Johnson, were not involved in the civil rights sit-in movement in Chapel Hill in 1964. Although both Johnsons were supportive of the civil rights movement and had been active in working to change race relations throughout the mid-twentieth century, she argues that they remained uninvolved because they believed it was time for African American leadership to take precedence over the "white liberal paternalism" of the movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Guion Griffis Johnson, July 1, 1974. Interview G-0029-4. 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

What about when the sit-ins were going on in Chapel Hill during '64, were you or Guy involved in that?
No, not involved at all.1 1 See footnote on attached sheets. Because I think that Guy and I both felt that although protest had to be made, and that it was important for protest to be made and I had written and published at least two essays expressing this idea, that the cause of the Negro had been largely a white liberal cause and very few Negros had been involved. Even white liberals would not permit Negro leadership, except in a few instances. Therefore, I considered this a rank sort of southern paternalism toward the Negro and that the time had come when the Negroes themselves had to win their own freedom.
And you felt in the early sixties that this was . . .
Yes. I had a number of-well, John Hope Franklin for example. I had talked with John Hope about this and he agreed with me. I had talked to a Negro woman historian whom I had first met at Chicago when we were there, some simple name like-she's married and uses her married name now. I'll get her name for you if you would like. She is now at Howard University. And she had approached me (Guy has been on the Board of Trustees of Howard University for a long time and I go up with him occassionaly) and she saw me on one occassion and she said, "We have used your essay on the impact of war upon the Negro and your southern paternalism article as textbooks. And you say that the Negro must win his own freedom. We agree with that and this is what we are trying to do. So help us indirectly if you can, but don't take part in any sit-downs, because you will be violating your own principles." So, we were not involved at all. But when little frictions arose between little groups on campus, then I was able to intervene.