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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clark, June 21, 2000. Interview K-0536. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial segregation in the public sphere

Here, Clark describes a pre-integration world where she and others responded to discrimination with silence. When she was growing up, she says, "You didn’t sass anybody." She endured humiliations in the public world such as having to wear a sock to try on shoes at a shoe store or being prevented from trying on gloves before buying them.

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: ( ). You’re describing a treatment as a second-class citizen. RC: Yes. BG: And I’m just wondering how you dealt with this on a personal level. RC: Well, having been brought up during the integration period, I felt that at that time, I could say what I wanted—I was in the ‘60s. But when we were brought up, you didn’t sass anybody. It was “Yes, ma’am,” “No, ma’am,” and “Yes, sir.” And you accepted what they said, did it or didn’t do it. If they asked you to do it, you could be without a job. It was just one of those things you were born into. Just like I had a friend, ( ), before the university started the housing, visiting students from Africa, they would stay in white homes or black homes. I had kept one of the ladies here and the lady was in dire need of some shoes. And I kept telling her I would go with her to the shoe store. Come to find out she wasn’t accustomed like we had been accustomed not trying on shoes in the store. She was shocked, when I took her to Raleigh to the shoe department, that she had to put on a sock to try on shoes. So you blend into those modes and things like that. And getting back to, you asked me how my sister was married in 1946 and I was going to be the bridesmaid. I needed a white glove. So I went up to this prestigious store in Greensboro. I told her I wanted some gloves but I had to try them on. And they told me they didn’t have any, and not my size. I was small in stature, and slim. But they didn’t want me to try on some gloves that another white lady had to try on. So those are some of my experiences. I couldn’t fight the system as you can fight it now. You just lived with it and smiled upon it and went on.