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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Relationship of race relations to social welfare reform

Winston explains the place of race relations in women's activism over social welfare issues during the 1940s and 1950s. Having noted that various women's groups in Raleigh, North Carolina, were primarily concerned with issues of education, welfare, and child labor, Winston explains that race relations in and of themself were not a primary concern for many of the women's groups with which she interacted. Nevertheless, she explains how after becoming involved in the State Department for Public Welfare, she worked to tear down racial barriers. Explaining that she was not necessarily a "champion of racial equality at that time," Winston explains that the perpetuation of "separate but equal" in training programs and welfare programs was inefficient. Instead, the goal was to improve standards across the board, regardless of race.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Ellen Black Winston, December 2, 1974. Interview G-0064. 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

ANNETTE SMITH:
Were many of these women interested in race relations, in improving race relations? Or can you identify some of those who . . .
ELLEN WINSTON:
Not really. I don't remember when women's organizations became directly concerned with race relations. These were, in many cases, special organizations, that grew up with this particular interest rather than being the old line women's organization. When I went into the State Department of Public Welfare, we had a professional Negro on the staff. They had had one prior to that time, too. I do know that when I did the WPA training job, we had training groups for whites and training groups for blacks. One of the first things I did when I got into the state office was to say, "Well, now, we are not going to continue to have separate meetings and training and informational sessions on the basis of race. It's too time consuming, it's inefficient, it's wasteful." I wasn't really being any activ champion of racial equality at that time It's just that I didn't recognize that there were any particular reasons for not going ahead and having everybody meet together. And we had no problems. That's the interesting thing. In the 40's, we had no objections. We were always meeting with people in terms of professional programs, but there was never any question or any problem. And we were, from the beginning, encouraging counties to have more black workers on their staffs and that sort of thing. When it comes to the whole question of racial strife and attitudes and so on, it just wasn't part of the public welfare that I administered.
ANNETTE SMITH:
Were a good many people that were on welfare in North Carolina black?
ELLEN WINSTON:
Of course they were. And our big concern was that they had their needs met, that we wouldn't have problems about discrimination in the receipt of benefits