Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Interracial cooperation between black activists and white liberals

The desegregation movement was largely dominated by white males, but with cooperation of black activists, the efforts became biracial. The most important enticement to other white liberals was the Community Church, which served as a bastion of liberalism.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Pat Cusick, June 19, 1989. Interview L-0043. 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

PAMELA DEAN:
Other than Harold, earlier than that, had you been talking to anyone in the black community at all?
PAT CUSICK:
No.
PAMELA DEAN:
You were white men talking to white men.
PAT CUSICK:
Right. Very much the type of thing that I criticize these days. But we didn't stay in that little ivory tower long because, after this College Cafe experience, we discussed that and decided we would go to the black community. We had our first meeting at the St. Joseph A.M.E. Church, a mass meeting. We spent all night trying to think of a name, and how we came up with the stupid name we came up with—you'd have thought we had more sense—it was called the Committee for Open Business, the acronym being COB. It seems like we could have done better than that. But that was the purpose, open business. We formed the Committee for Open Business and had a whole steering committee. It was much larger than what we had been. It was based in the black committee. White liberals from the University started coming. By the time we had our first march in May down Franklin Street, it was about fifty-fifty black and white. It didn't stay that way long.
PAMELA DEAN:
Your picketing had clearly brought out the segregationists. But it also had the effect of bringing out the white liberals in the University community that hadn't been active at all before.
PAT CUSICK:
Not at the picketing. The next stage was when we formed the Committee for Open Business, and that brought out a number of professors and people centered around the Community Church, which was kind of a bastion of liberalism. The coming together was doomed to failure for a number of reasons. As a result of the march, or even before it, a couple of places were segregated. We published this list of businesses. They were afraid we were going to come by their place. So a couple—I know a bowling alley, I believe, and maybe some other places—desegregated. We had around 400 people in the march.