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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Maggie W. Ray, November 9, 2000. Interview K-0825. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial prejudice in both North and South

Ray remembers some of the misinformation northeasterners had about white southerners in this selection. She tried to correct their impressions, but noticed that racial prejudice existed in Providence, Rhode Island, as well as in the South. When she returned to the South, she joined the movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Maggie W. Ray, November 9, 2000. Interview K-0825. 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

Did you find yourself often trying to explain to people how things were in the South?
Well, I did. One woman asked me, Did we really sit on the porch and whip people? And another one asked me, Did we really keep black people from learning to read? A lot of incredible misinformation that came from maybe Gone with the Wind and other old, old things that made me laugh. I was sort of surprised.
Did you feel you were able to be successful in telling people things were different? Or what would you say that would. . . ?
Well, I think that what I came away with was a feeling that we were honest about the fact that we had a problem to deal with, and that it was easier for the society there to be very self-righteous and yet also turn a blind eye to insidious kinds of prejudice that we have now in the South. For example, renting an apartment: a friend of mine, this same T.A. friend from Jamaica, called about an apartment and amazingly between the time he called and the time he got there to look at it it had been rented. Yes, amazing. So he was quite hurt by that, and I was made aware of how insidious this sort of prejudice was. It was not, what's the word, legalized. It was defacto instead of de jure, yeah.
So you returned to the South in 1968. Did you return with some kind of a resolve to do something related to race or just related to society in general?
Yeah, I'm the quintessential altruist. [Laughter] A social activist kind of person and I married a person like that in '68, and so we were quite determined to do what we could. It was a time of great optimism: Johnson was President and we had the great society vision, and there were poverty workers and civil rights workers, and Julius Chambers was here and quite a few really fine legal aid people. So we really did feel we could make a difference and we all put our shoulder to the wheel, and I think in retrospect we probably did cause some good changes to happen and with a minimum of distress.