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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A liberating atmosphere in Atlanta, Georgia

White compares Atlanta and Durham. Atlanta was much more diverse, and White embraced a more liberal atmosphere, returning to Durham with a hairstyle that shocked his mother.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William E. White Jr., October 29, 2000. Interview R-0147. 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

ASHLEY CROWE:
Was there any big change, do you think to you, between living in Durham and going to Atlanta to live? In terms of the way people live?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Oh definitely. 'Cause I was and eighteen-year-old kid who'd spent all of his-well the last five years - in the country. And then I got shoved in, well in the city, with city kids, city dwellers. We didn't go out after one o'clock in the morning, but you did in Atlanta, there was something going on all the time. In Durham in 1970 they rolled the sidewalks up about six o'clock.
ASHLEY CROWE:
They still do.
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
For the most part, you're right. Lord in downtown Atlanta you could do something twenty-four hours a day. I guess the best example, my roommate and I got ripped one night, and about two blocks, three blocks from our house, there was a place called Piedmont Park. And so we're out there, high as a kite, swinging on the swings at one or two in the morning. And its, oh okay, act straight, no giggling, no laughing. He said, "Gentlemen, do you realize how dangerous it is what your doing right now?" "No officer." He said, "You don't need to be in the park after dark, it's very dangerous, please go home." In Durham, you wouldn't think of going to the park at one in morning. Of course if you had, you probably would have been safer. So yeah, it was - I had a great deal of culture shock.
ASHLEY CROWE:
Was it more diverse or was it just more open?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Both. Much, much more diverse. The street my apartment was on, oh dear god, we had blacks, and Indians, and Native Americans, and Asians, I mean it was like a little strip of the UN It was good.
ASHLEY CROWE:
And then did you have that reverse culture shock when you coming back here again?
WILLIAM E. WHITE, JR.:
Kinda. It was more a case of, oh, I forgot about this. Umm, [Laughter] especially when I got off the airplane. My mom sent to Atlanta a clean shaven shorthaired naïve little white kid. What came back, oh god, I had this Fu-Manchu mustache down to here [chin length]. And my hair is believe it or not curly, I had my own 'fro. And my mom didn't even hug me when I got off the plane She kinda put me out at arms length and said, [puts on accent] "Well, if you clean it up the mustache can stay but that damn hair has got to go." Got a hair cut on the way home. What I learned from there on out when I was coming home from Atlanta was, go have the hair cut the way I wanted it cut, then I wouldn't have to go get butchered. That was the kind of thing, it was like, "Oh god, I'm back in Durham I forgot about this."