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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Threats against a city council candidate

Turner remembers that not everyone in Durham wanted her to win a city council seat. This passage is unclear: Turner describes both a threat and a group of people who sought to dissuade her from running, and it is not clear whether the threat and the confrontation were the same incident. Nevertheless, this passage illustrates the discomfort some Durhamites in the 1970s felt about a black woman winning a seat on the city council, and Turner's own determination to pursue her goals despite adversity. She was motivated to address problems like drug use and poor housing.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Josephine Turner, June 7, 1976. Interview H-0235-2. 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

KAREN SINDELAR:
So your oldest son is somewhat scared for you?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes, he's afraid that when I get too close to the truth to downtown that somebody'll do something. I was threatened one time.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Somebody in the black community?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Oh, all segments, you know [laughter] .
KAREN SINDELAR:
Really?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
I'll tell you, when you get to getting too close to the truth you go to stepping on some toes; you're going to make enemies. And I was threatened at one time. But I him, I said, "Now the day you do anything to one of my kids or me, I want you to kill me, because if you don't that's when everybody's going to know." So I kept quiet on a lot of issues.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Who threatened you?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Can't say, you know.
KAREN SINDELAR:
You would rather not say? I understand.
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Was it an important group, or a person?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Well, it was some people. I had some to ask me not to run in the last thing. You know, they walked up to me and they said, "You know you're not going to win: you're black and you're a woman. What are you running for?" I said, "I'm going to run for the hell of it, because people like you don't want me to run." And then I left it at that and walked away. So I have learned that with the help of God all things is possible, and I'm not afraid. If I take God with me I'm not afraid of the devil in hell, and I'll stand up to all of them. They know I will, and this is the thing that… Now a lot of times when I get on some of them's toes about some of the things I hear…
KAREN SINDELAR:
What types of things?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Well, like the bad housing and the drug situation and the police brutality and all these things, they know I know what's happening. You know I go up to the courthouse every once in a while; I haven't been up there now in a little while. I had one that said they wished the hell I'd stay away from up there. I don't know whether you remember when the issue came out in the paper about the cockroaches and all this stuff up there. And this is a whole lot of it, the environment and their treatment of it. They said they wished I'd stay away from up there. I said, "Well, as long as I pay taxes like you do I'm going to walk in any building in Durham that I'm available to walk in." So he [my son] thinks a lot of times … because I tell the police just what I think. I go to the mayor. I'm not afraid of any of them, because I feel like I'm grown as they are, you know; I'm grown in age if not in might. I feel like if you've got something to tell them, I believe in telling an individual to his face what I've got to tell him. I don't tell somebody else to tell the person what I've got to tell him, because my mother taught me that if a dog will bring a bone he'll carry a bone. I don't give it to anybody else to tell; I'll go and tell them myself so there won't be any misunderstanding. That's where a lot of misunderstanding is here in Durham now, because somebody else is telling somebody else what to tell somebody. If I've got something to tell them I'll go to the mayor, I'll go to the chief of police, I'll go to any of them.
KAREN SINDELAR:
Have you done that? Have you gone to the mayor before?
JOSEPHINE TURNER:
Yes ma'am, I go to him all the time.