Economic discrimination under Jim Crow
Clark describes the segregation of the labor market under Jim Crow. Black women worked in domestic jobs and black men worked for the University of North Carolina, and eventually for Memorial Hospital on UNC’s campus.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clark, June 21, 2000. Interview K-0536. 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
BG: So you were talking about jobs and you just made a comment to me when you were showing me some documents here about what jobs were available.
RC: Back then, the only jobs in Chapel Hill for any black person was work as a domestic lady—cook, clean, wash, iron. And the onliest job the men had was ( ) and work for the university. And the women worked for the university. That was the onliest jobs available.
BG: Did you have a chance to use any of the facilities at the university at that time? Did you use any of their sports facilities or--?
RC: No, no, no. That just became available a few years ago. We ( ) the sports facilities. As a matter of fact, we knew nothing about it. I wouldn’t know nothing about it. When my children came along at that time, as far as using the university, we could go see the ball game and sit in the end bleachers. When my children became a little older, they could see the game by picking up bottles and picking up things. They would pick up bottles afterwards and they would pay them so much money. I’ll never forget: one time, my son picked up a bottle that was half full of whiskey and he brought it home. “No, son. You throw that out. You don’t know whether that’s whiskey.” He was going to give it to his daddy. But he put that out. They could put anything in there, they could use it for the bathroom. It would’ve been the same color.
So that was the onliest job for black folks until the University Memorial Hospital came to town. And that was 1952, when the hospital was opened. That’s when jobs really became available. And then, if you got a job at the university hospital, twenty-five dollars a week, a hundred dollars a month. That was a long way from paying seven dollars a week.
BG: Were the hours better too?
RC: Yes. You did eight hours. But when you was at the Carolina Inn, when I was working there as a maid, it all depended on what your department said when you got off, whether there was some extra beds to be made. You probably worked nine hours but you didn’t get paid any more. And I remember when I started working for the hospital in 1953. Before then, I had started working under Dr. Jones and Patterson As their OBGYN patients returned home from the hospital, I would go home with the mother for four to six weeks until she was able to manage her own child. I would take care of the diapers, the bottles, and I would do their cooking, I was included. And then I would get no more than ten dollars a week if that much. But it began to go up to twenty-five dollars. Then I was asking for fifty dollars. That was at the time that the hospital was coming in. And that was considered nursing. So I was booked up from nine months to nine months. Before the hospital was opened I was under Patterson and Jones. Dr. Jones is still there.
So they referred me to all these patients. And that caused me, at different times, as the hospital opened and as different folks graduated from this school and went to different places, I was referred to them taking jobs—the first one was in Hartford, Connecticut. The next one was in Danbury, Connecticut. The next on was in Long Island, New York. Then back to Ridgefield, Connecticut. The next one was in New York. And I said, “This is it.” I had had it traveling. All I was getting was fifty dollars a week.