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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Frances Pauley, July 18, 1974. Interview G-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White woman stands in support of black marchers in Newton, Georgia

Pauley describes her support of SNCC demonstrations in Newton, Georgia, when she was director of the Georgia Council. According to Pauley, she was the only white person who attended the march in support of SNCC. Here, she describes the visceral intimidation and harassment she received from white residents and store owners in Newton when they realized she was there to support the marchers and the reluctant support she was able to garner from her lone supporter in the FBI, Agent Harding, and from Georgia Governor Carl Sanders.

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

I went on back down to Baker County the next day because they were going to march again. I was scared to death. What was going to happen to them? I didn't march with them because I didn't know whether it was a good idea or bad, or whether it was just that I was a coward. But I didn't. I figured that that wasn't my role, that my role was something different. And if I was on the sidelines, there were certain things I could do, and certain ways that I could be a witness.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is that why they called you down there, to be a witness, to intercede with the officials?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Yes, or just to help them in any way I knew. A bunch of blacks were watching the few who marched, and they asked me to come with them. I didn't want them to be hurt because of me. I got down there early before they came into town, and brought my car full of marchers.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there any other whites?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Not any?
FRANCES PAULEY:
No, none. When I arrived, I went to a little cafe to get some coffee and chatted with the people; we got along fine. They didn't know me, you know. Being fat and old, you can get by with a lot. Then I went to the stores; there was just one little row of stores. And I went into each store.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What town was this now?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Newton.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Newton.
FRANCES PAULEY:
I would chat with the people, all of them just as friendly as they could be. And then I went over to where the marchers were going to meet. And I brought a load of them in my car over to picket. I let them out of my car on the courthouse lawn, and of course some of the white people in the stores saw me. I didn't try to hide. The white people were down here on one corner of the square, and the black people were up on the next corner, and the picket line was on the sidewalk next to the court house. There were no more than twenty pickets, mostly women. Oh, in the meantime I had called the state capitol and asked for protection.
JACQUELYN HALL:
From the highway police?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Yes, but they wouldn't come. I called the FBI. At that time, there was a man that was head of the Atlanta office who later was demoted, a marvelous man, just a marvelous man. He was head of the FBI in Atlanta. And I called him.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What was his name?
FRANCES PAULEY:
His name was Harding, I believe. And I never did meet him face to fact, but I mean, we had dozens of conversations and he told me that I never did tell him anything that was a bad lead. So he was always cooperative.
JACQUELYN HALL:
He really was committed to protecting the people in the movement?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Oh yes. He really was, but the people working for him were different.
JACQUELYN HALL:
That's not true of the FBI in general.
FRANCES PAULEY:
No. But the people that he would send would be horrible. But then at times he would pull out the local FBI and send some others who did not work regularly with the local police. Well, he sent some local FBI into Newton. That's one thing that I usually did, would be to get in touch with officials. The state patrol refused to come.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did they say they wouldn't come, or did they just not show up?
FRANCES PAULEY:
They said they wouldn't come. I was still in hopes that they might. As the march started, the whites began to say ugly things to me. A lady came up to me and cussed me out. I'm telling you, I never hope to get such a cussing out as that lady gave me. She used the foulest language I ever heard in all my life from anybody. Then the whites got in a huddle over on the corner and they said, "What are we going to do? Let's tar and feather her." Well, that didn't bother me because I didn't see any tar or feathers. Anyway, they kept on saying what they were going to do to me and to the "niggers."
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you by yourself, or were you standing with the black demonstrators?
FRANCES PAULEY:
I was by myself. I was in between the group of whites on one corner and the blacks on the next corner. The owners of the store told me not to stand there. They didn't want me in front of their store. So I'd move over away, and the next man said, "Go away. We don't want you in front of our store." And then I'd move over again.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were you scared?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Well, I would say I was nervous. I think it would be kind of dumb not to have been, don't you?
JACQUELYN HALL:
Yes.
FRANCES PAULEY:
Then I went across the street to the courthouse. A white man came up to me, I think his name was Hall, but I'm not sure. He came up to me and he had a gun, and he said, "I'm going to kill you. You leave or I will kill you." He had a gun. I went to the local police and then to the FBI. And I said, "You see that man right over there? He's got a gun, and he just said he was going to kill me." They said, "That's too bad. What did he tell you to do?" I said, "He told me to leave." The FBI said, "Well, why don't you leave?" So I went to the local police and I said, "See that man over there? He's got a gun, and he said he was going to kill me." And they said, "Well, why don't you get out of town?" Well, I tell you the truth, I didn't know what else to do except to leave, but I didn't want to leave. I just felt like it's cowardly to go, but what were you going to do? Nobody'd let me stand on their sidewalk. The little, tiny, pitiful picket line moved along the block sidewalk. So I got in my car and I rode up the road to the first filling station, got out and went in. And I called the state Capitol and I said, "I want to speak to Governor Sanders." I had talked and worked with Mr. Sanders in Augusta when there was trouble there and a white boy was killed.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Is this Carl Sanders?
FRANCES PAULEY:
Yes. He had promised me that he would give me support in my work. He told me that although he wouldn't help me in this state, he would always give me protection. On the phone I reminded him that he had promised protection. I told him a white man was threatening to kill me. I told him I was afraid they were going to kill those SNCC kids down there. I said, "If one of those kids gets killed, I'm telling you, it's going to be your fault. I've warned you. I asked for help in this place." I said it just as strong as I could. Well, I went on up to Albany. They did send the state patrol, and nobody was hurt that day. But it took a lot of nerve for me to go back, but I went back many times and the Council did a real good job.