Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Samuel James (S. J.) and Leonia Farrar, May 28, 2003. Interview K-0652. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Skin tone determines treatment

Leonia remembers being refused service at a store because of her race, and the light-skinned black woman who stood up for her, winning her courteous treatment thereafter. Leonia believes that there is still racial progress to be made, but that "it's nothing like it used to be."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Samuel James (S. J.) and Leonia Farrar, May 28, 2003. Interview K-0652. 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

PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you ever get to a beauty shop? Did you ever…
LEONIA FARRAR:
Yes, and graduated and got my degree. Yes, I got my B.A. degree and formed my beauty shop. I got that.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Did you work in a beauty shop?
LEONIA FARRAR:
My beauty shop was right there, in my home. My husband built that beauty shop for me and I worked there for thirty-two years. Then I retired from that because I got sick of hair. You just get tired of fixing hair, for thirty-two years, that's a long time. I came out of school in '71. From then things started getting better and better. I don't know what year that was. I know when we came to Cary here I thought you had to be dressed nice and all of that. My neighbor down here sent me up here and I knew I looked good, I knew I did, because I had my beautiful black dress. I walked in there, my very first time walking. I walked in there and I said, "Hello." They looked up at me with a sour look. I said, "I came for some hot dogs, please." One of the ladies said, "I'm sorry, we don't serve black people." I said, "What?" I get up and looked at them just like that. I said, "What?"
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
Was this right after you moved to Cary?
LEONIA FARRAR:
Yes, right after we moved here. I came right back and got my friend, neighbor.
SAMUEL JAMES FARRAR:
They're all fair skinned, you could hardly tell her from you.
LEONIA FARRAR:
That's right, right down here, Arlene. She gave me the money, bring her some hot dogs back. I said, "Arlene, they said they didn't serve black people." Arlene says, "Say what?" She is real light skinned like you, got that pretty hair. I said, "They said they didn't serve black people." She said, "I'm black myself. Come on here, girl." She caught me by my hand and she carried me back up there and she said, "I am disgusted by you all." They knew Arlene. They said, "What is it, Mrs. Moore?" Arlene said, "This is my friend and my neighbor. We went to school together in Apex. They moved here to Cary. I am disappointed, I've been coming in this store ever since I've been here in Cary. I am a black woman. My skin doesn't matter. I'm light like you, but I am a black woman." I reckon that shocked them because they thought she was a white woman, I guess. She said, "My husband is just as black as she is. I am a black woman." From that day until this one, they done treated me, it's been beautiful.
PEGGY VAN SCOYOC:
So they never refused you again?
LEONIA FARRAR:
No, they apologized. They said that we are sorry that this happened. They sure did. From that it has been going up, up. And I'm glad I lived to see this to come, better and better. It's not there yet, no, it's not there yet. But it's better. Because some of them, I wouldn't want to see them around myself. It's on both sides, but it's nothing like it used to be. No, no, nothing. So it's a lot better. It used to be that a black man could not look at a white woman. To make dead, everything been knocked off. But we're getting away from that so it's better.