Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Bridging together white and black civil rights activists in the Georgia Council

Pauley describes her initial involvement with the Georgia Council, which was associated with the Southern Regional Council. Assuming the directorship in 1960, Pauley was intent upon building bridges between white and African American activists and sought to support black leadership within the civil rights movement. Here, she focuses specifically on her effort to cooperate with SNCC and describes her working relationship with Charlie Sherrod. Noting one incident in Baker County, Pauley emphasizes the non-violent approach these organizations embraced.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. 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:
So how did you move from there to the Georgia Council?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Well, Paul Rilling talked me into taking the Directorship of the Georgia Council. He was working with the Southern Regional Council as their field director. So first thing I started doing was organizing, trying to organize the Council state-wide because by this time, you see, with the League and with HOPE, I really had a network of contacts in this state. But, as I soon learned, my contacts were white. So I had to make black contacts, but that wasn't a problem to do, I found.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was the Georgia Council mostly white when you came into it?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, it was pretty much middle-class black and white, and it never did have many poor people. And there were a lot of people that never did want very many poor people in it. In fact, that was one of the reasons I was glad to leave. I started organizing and of course you had added reason to organize because the movement was starting. We worked hard in the movement to give support to the black leadership. One of the first places I organized was Savannah. The man that took the chairmanship of the Council later came to work with us. That was Oliver Wendell Holmes, and he was a black Congregational minister in Savannah. But Atlanta was his home, and he was glad to come back here and work in the Council with me. I would go as the director of the Council to the leaders of the movement and I'd say, "I'm the director of the Georgia Council. What can I do to help?" Never in any way with any advice or suggestions. Often there were things that we could do, that white people could do - contacts we could make, always trying to be a bridge, and seeing if we could get businessmen, blacks and whites together, if we could get any blacks and whites together to help work out whatever problem was in that particular community. I worked a lot in Savannah. When the movement started in southwest Georgia, I practically lived down there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Albany?
FRANCES PAULEY:
In Albany.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Do you know Charles Sherrod?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Oh yes. He was with SNCC. I went into their headquarters, "Here I am. I'm Frances Pauley. Is there something that I can do to help? You're doing a great job."
JACQUELYN HALL:
There was no conflict between SNCC and the Georgia Council?
FRANCES PAULEY:
There might have been some conflict between SNCC and some members of the Georgia Council. I don't mean conflict, but there were many members of the Georgia Council, including a lot of them that live right in this neighborhood, that didn't like SNCC. But there wasn't any organizational conflict.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You weren't under pressure from your own members not to work so closely with SNCC?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, oh no. They were pleased. Of course, a lot of things I didn't tell certain ones of the members.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Could you give me an example of the kind of support you provided for SNCC?
FRANCES PAULEY:
They asked me to come into Baker County as an observer when they went in to try to get a local organization started.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Who were some of the SNCC people there?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Charles Sherrod was the leader and he picked some of his most experienced SNCC people to go with him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They were going into Baker County?
FRANCES PAULEY:
They were going into Baker County, and they let me know. So one night I was over in Brunswick and they called me and asked me to come. And they said, "We've had bad trouble today. We went down to the courthouse to try to register, and they beat up Charles Sherrod and several other people. And it was just terrible. And do you think you could come?" I said, "Yes, I'll be there soon as I can get there." So I got in the car. They gave me the directions to this little church out in the country. And I rented a car. I remember the only one I could get was a convertible, red, and I didn't want a red convertible. You know, I wanted to be as inconspicuous as possible. Well anyway, I got there and they had everything blacked out at the church so nobody could see in, and it was hot as Hades in that church. And it was packed solid, packed, and oh, they were so glad when I came in. But I just went in and sat down. I didn't say anything. And Charles Sherrod had a towel around his neck that was bloody, and he kept dabbing places that were still bleeding, where he'd been beat up. And he made a speech on why you were a bigger man if you didn't fight back. It was the most wonderful speech on non-violence I ever heard in all my life. I'd just give anything in the whole wide world if I had a recording of it. A couple of men in the audience argued with him about it - quite an argument on non-violence.