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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, November 15, 1974. Interview G-0056-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

South Carolina Interracial Commission's early membership and activities

Simkins briefly describes the kinds of people involved in the South Carolina Interracial Commission during its early years. According to Simkins, the group was compromised of "well-meaning" people, but she also recalls that the whites involved tended to be paternalistic. In addition, she explains that the group was less interested in issues of racism, such as lynching, and more concerned with community development and voting.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Modjeska Simkins, November 15, 1974. Interview G-0056-1. 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'll tell you generally what I am doing and then what I wanted to talk to you about. I'm director of the Oral History Program at the University of North Carolina. And we are collecting interviews with people, southerners involved in labor struggles, politics and women who were involved in various things, especially in the twenties and thirties. Secondly, I have been working on a study of Jesse Daniel Ames and the women's campaign against lynching. And as a part of that, I did some work on the very beginning of interracial cooperation between black and white women in the old Interracial Commission. And so, what I wanted to do … if I had time, I would like to get an overview of your whole life, some of the major things you have been involved in. But I would like to perhaps concentrate on your experiences and perceptions of the Interracial Commission in South Carolina. Does that sound o.k. to you?
Yes, well… my reaction to the Interracial Commission as such in South Carolina [interruption] in South Carolina, the members were largely, I'm talking about the whites, now, they were mostly … I think that they thought they were well-meaning people, but for the most part, they were paternalistic. And as I said this afternoon, it was, as they say now, more "rhetoric" than anything else. And the point of lynching … I don't remember the point of lynching ever coming up in the meetings. We were thinking more about … they talked about playgrounds, there were no playgrounds for blacks, paved streets, the right to vote, which they were not doing in the manner to actually take any court action or anything like that. It finally had to be taken by the movement of blacks themselves. Although, I would always be the first to admit that there were always some very fine, well-wishing whites. More so in the background, that wanted to see things done and finally, some of them got up enough nerve relative the white primary, to make a public statement about what they thought of how blacks ought to be allowed to vote. Some of them said that the ones who were eligible were "qualified" blacks, but there weren't too many that said that type of thing, you know. Whenever it got right down to where we said, "Now, what action should we take?", usually, there was a back-out. Not only on the part of the paternalistic whites, but on the part of the blacks who called themselves those who wanted to do something.