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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Emily S. MacLachlan, July 16, 1974. Interview G-0038. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mother's views on race and approach to social justice

MacLachlan describes her mother's views on race and racism. According to MacLachlan, people from her mother's generation who had progressive ideas about race relations were primarily concerned with improving conditions for African Americans in terms of health and physical well-being. Linking her mother's views to those of Jessie Daniel Ames, MacLachlan highlights how factors such as social class and education were central to their beliefs and the approaches they adopted in pursuit of social justice.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Emily S. MacLachlan, July 16, 1974. Interview G-0038. 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:
How did she act those out?
EMILY S. MACHLACHLAN:
Well, her mother and father had felt that slavery was very wrong. They were of the abolitionist type going way back, you see. They came from a … my grandmother, Emily White, came from a family of physicians, preachers … these were people who always felt that slavery was not right. I mean that a great many of them did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But what about segregation?
EMILY S. MACHLACHLAN:
Well, segregation was not really the issue until after the twentieth century started. The segregation laws, as you remember, VanWoodward, the historian, tells us were not passed until 1898, 1900, 1904, you know, the legal code was not …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes, I was thinking of your mother rather than of her parents.
EMILY S. MACHLACHLAN:
The problem with the black people during my mother's generation and her mother's generation was really one of simply trying to do something about their health, veneral disease was rampant. Child care, they didn't know how to feed their children. Their incomes, so many were in poverty, and it was a kind of personal, helping of the individuals, you see. The idea of equal rights didn't occur to them because there were pressing problems of their physical existence and of course, the whole problem of lynching was a terrible, terrible, horrible thing. And the idea was just to save their lives and to get them to trial before they were lynched by a mob. And so, Jessie Ames's whole organization was one that tried to use educational propaganda, to go throughout the counties and speak at women's meetings, speak at churches, visit the prosecuting attorneys, visit the judges, shame them … the sheriffs, shame them into protecting their prisoners from the mobs. Because, it was a certain class of people who formed a mob and it was the poor white class, but it was the acquiesence of the owning class that made it possible. And so, they tried to teach the owning class, the people who ran things, that this was wrong.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They really didn't try to reach working class minds?
EMILY S. MACHLACHLAN:
Working class, that's right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you think that?
EMILY S. MACHLACHLAN:
Well, the working class whites, of course, had their churches and they were fundamentalist churches. Now, whether they went to speak at those churches too, I don't know. They probably would not have been allowed to come. They may or may not. I doubt it. I think that it was to reach the people who could change things.