Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Joanne Peerman, February 24, 2001. Interview K-0557. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Chapel Hill's liberal reputation

Peerman began to think of Chapel Hill as a liberal place when she reached high school and began to see black people and white people working together for civil rights. She and others saw Carrboro, which was more rural and less wealthy, as a bit less tolerant of integration.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Joanne Peerman, February 24, 2001. Interview K-0557. 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: Did you perceive the white students from Carrboro different from the white students from Chapel Hill? JP: Just a little bit. Because that was just a little bit further from the center of things and from the school and from cultural activities. A lot of Carrboro was even more rural than Chapel Hill so we saw them as more prejudiced maybe, more racist, less bending, not seeing black people that often so not really knowing us. But really Chapel Hill and Carrboro are sister towns, sister cities. It’s all one place, more or less. Back then it was anyway. BG: Did you see Chapel Hill as a liberal community? JP: In my early high school years I began to see it that way. BG: What made you see it that way? JP: Just because there were a lot of blacks and whites working together for the Civil Rights Movement. Even before that, I worked with Howard Lee’s first mayoral campaign. And that was very rewarding. He had headquarters across from that Midway Barber Shop area. I was very young—maybe twelve or thirteen—and I stuffed envelopes. I worked in the headquarters. I felt very involved in the political scene. And that was good at my age. And it was so rewarding to have a black man running for mayor—it was just great! Especially someone that we knew, someone that had been to our house and we had been to theirs. So I did some phone bank calls and I did some stuffing of envelopes. BG: Now this answer, it’s interesting. I was asking you about the liberal aspect and you perceived Howard Lee’s election as a sign of the liberal quality of the community. Did you see whites helping him in this campaign also? JP: Yes. That’s what made me think about that. This was not only a black endeavor. He had the support of black people and couldn’t have won without the support because they were the majority race at that time. So that’s what made me think of Chapel Hill as being liberal to where you would have a black mayor. That’s why that word and his name came.