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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Integration of the mills

Sigmon discusses the changes that have come to her local community since integration. While she sees nothing wrong with African Americans finding work in the mills, she is concerned about how much interracial contact is taking place.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nell Putnam Sigmon, December 13, 1979. Interview H-0143. 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:
Are there any blacks that work in the glove mills now?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Oh, yes.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did that start?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
A couple year ago, when they equalized the… They make good hands.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What jobs do they do?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Sew. Some works on the table putting the gloves in boxes. Different things.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the people feel when blacks started coming in?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I've heard some of the girls say that they'd just as soon have a black nice person beside of them as white. They have to fill out a form. They've got to be sort of respectable.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Was there any resentment or …
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I don't think so. Because it's some nice colored people lives over there in that colored town, Coulters( ). It's a couple of those women works over there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Where is colored town?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Right back over in there behind Helen's. It's a road back in there.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you ever have any black women come in to clean your house or to take care of your kids?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
No, I took care of mine myself. Or take them out to the babysitter. I used to get up and get mine ready and take them to the babysitter. This Mrs. Davidson used to keep both of mine. But I don't know how I did it, get up and get them dressed. Feed them their breakfast and fix the baby's bottles. But I did.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How do you think the integration of the schools and the restaurants and so on has affected the area around here?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I don't reckon it's done all that much. I think you can just fall in and accept it and just think, "Well, they want to live, too." And so I don't know. There are exceptions, just like whites.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So when that change happened, you thought that that was okay.
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
I don't see anything wrong with it. It's a lot of nice colored people that want to be and try, and I think it has helped them as well as… But I'll tell you one thing: they've all cleaned up, haven't they? To what they used to be. But now down in Cleveland County, like I said, my grandfather had a lot of colored people working on his farm. And I know those colored women used to come in and do the washing of the dishes and washing and ironing and stuff like that. Well, really, it didn't do too much to me. Because my aunt still had a colored woman come in and do her washing.
JACQUELYN HALL:
You mean you'd been used to being around …
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes, because my grandfather and grandmother had colored people around them, and that's how the colored people lived down there, just do the white people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Has that changed?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Yes, because they want jobs now. They've got a taste of that money [laughter], and they like to make money now. But it's hard work on the farm. But they didn't seem to mind it; they was happy working on the farm. And you never did hear of no scandals and stuff like that. Not like you would sort of expect it to be. You hear of it more now than you did back then.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What kind of scandals do you hear about now?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
You know, whites living with blacks and all of that stuff. Now right over there is a boy and a girl that went to high school at Maiden, and they married, and they've got two little dark children. And she lives over there with those blacks. Now I don't approve of that. That's just going too far with… And I don't believe in them going to church together. Now that might be all right, but… Well, now, they go to school together. I guess that'll have to be all right, but …
JACQUELYN HALL:
Why don't you like them to go to church together?
NELL PUTNAM SIGMON:
Well, I don't know. I just think they have their churches; they shouldn't go to our churches. I don't believe in mixing too much. But the way they got to learn to like each other, they went to school together. But it's not nothing we can do about the school business. It's here for long (), I think. But as long as they stay in their place, I think that it's all right.