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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 >>

Interaction with and perceptions of the Black Student Movement

Johnson describes the singular instance in which she and her husband, Guy Johnson, interacted with the Black Student Movement in Chapel Hill. Her husband had been invited to speak at an event for the Black Student Movement; however, the reaction to their presence at the meeting was largely negative. Although they were supported by a few African Americans present, she argues that most of the participants were quite radical in their approach to the civil rights movement and did not want any white people associated with their actions.

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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
Well, what about what the Black Student Movement was doing? Was that . .
GUION JOHNSON:
That party was being organized at the time of the sit-ins and they asked Guy to come and speak to them one night on the black student movement and I went with him . . .
MARY FREDERICKSON:
To a group of black students?
GUION JOHNSON:
Entirely. Because they were not too eager to have whites in the group. Which was all right with me. I thought that this was fine, that they needed to have just blacks in their group in order to develop strategy and talk through philosophy and ideology and so he and I and a liberal, white, Episcopal minister who was a campus minister supported by the Episcopal Church, attended. And he was a leader in the Black Student Movement and was working very closely with Howard Fuller.
MARY FREDERICKSON:
What was his name?
GUION JOHNSON:
I hope that I will remember his name. I can't recall right now what it is, but I will get his name for you. 1 1 Bill Couch, not, however, W.T. Couch. He was the only other white person [present.] He sat in the back of the auditorium and Guy gave a brief historical sketch of the movement of the Negro in behalf of his own civil rights. He spoke very briefly about the Southern Regional Council and said that he endorsed the Black Student Movement, the idea of it, although he disagreed with some of the tactics. And then there was just an eruption, booing and they began practically to assault him, and one young man said, "I will not tolerate this white chauvinism in any group that I attend. I believe that the only solution to our problem is to take over the southern states and have black nationalism. This is the land that we tilled, the land that we cultivated, our sweat and our labor made the South prosper. The nation owes the South to us." I stood up and said, "You sound like a South African. You sound like an Afrikaner. This is what the Afrikaners want, the Bantustans in South Africa. Do you know what the Bantustan will mean to South Africa?" He said something like, "The hell with South Africa and you sit down and keep quiet." Whereupon a very attractive black woman in, oh I would say in her forties, rose and said, "I cannot sit here and hear Dr. and Mrs. Johnson abused. They have given so much to the progress of the Negro. I cannot tolerate this. I know Dr. Johnson's work in the Southern Regional Council. This is the first time I have met Mrs. Johnson, but I want to say that if it hadn't been for her book Ante-Bellum North Carolina, I wouldn't have a master's degree right now, and I want now publicly to thank her for what she has written about the Negro in ante-bellum North Carolina." And she sat down and things calmed down. And Kenneth Spaulding, who is now a lawyer in Durham and a very successful leader and lawyer, was then getting his law degree here, and he leaned over and whispered to me . . . we had met him before when he was a student at Howard University . . . "I didn't know that this was going to happen. I would not have asked you to come and talk to this group. These are just outside radicals. They are not even students here in the University, and I apologize." So, this was the only contact that we have had directly with the Black Student Movement. Guy was not asked to address the group anymore, and had no contact with the group whatsoever, or with any of the leaders.