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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harvey E. Beech, September 25, 1996. Interview J-0075. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mental effects of segregation

Beech exposes the ingrained psychological impact of segregation. Although de jure segregation was abolished in Massachusetts, he feared eating in a white restaurant while vacationing there. Beech argues that segregation can only be overcome with more intelligence and more wealth.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harvey E. Beech, September 25, 1996. Interview J-0075. 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

Could you tell me about--?
You have to make an A in con law, knowing that in Massachusetts they had a civil rights state law. Eloise and I, my wife, went up to Martha's Vineyard, to just relax a little bit. And we drove our car all the way to Wood's Hole, Massachusetts, where you wait for the boat to go to Old Bluffs. We hadn't eaten anything that day, and there was a little café near the dock. And this was in 1952. And I'm afraid to go and ask for a sandwich in a White restaurant, knowing that Massachusetts had a civil rights act already. This was before '54. I knew they had it, but I'm afraid mentally to go in and be embarrassed. We didn't go in. We waited, we got on the boat, went over to Old Bluffs, and we had our first meal. I said that to say this: segregation is harmful, any way you cut it, even the separate part of it is bad. But the worst thing about segregation, you can't have segregation without discrimination. You can't have it. And it, and if I had gone through all I'd gone through, made an A in con law at Carolina, and I'm afraid to ask for a sandwich in a White restaurant in Massachusetts, what about the fellow who's never had the opportunity that I have had? So it's a mental thing. And that's the dangers of, that's the culprit about segregation. The separateness, that's the stuff. It boggles the mind of a child. And the child doesn't know why. That's why I talked with the Lord about it a long time. It's not right, it's not right. I can see it unfolding itself now. But we still got it here. The only way I know how to overcome it is, personally, is to be smarter and richer. That's the only way. And even after achieving that, you look back, you say, well, I'd rather be by myself. Yes, do your own thing. That's what I tried to do.