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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Fonvielle, August 2, 2002. Interview R-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Economic success of black-owned businesses attributable in part to Jim Crow

Fonvielle attributes the success of black business implicitly to Jim Crow policies.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William Fonvielle, August 2, 2002. Interview R-0174. 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

WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Working down here at 719, and the street all up in here, nothing but businesses. Right across the street was McLaughlin's Market. You had I don't know how many restaurants. You had the bars. You had the fish market, the undertakers. It was a booming street. Everybody traded, all black people traded on West Broad. You see because at that time they didn't want you in the white grocery stores. I mean, you could go in the Jewish grocery stores, of course. They were always being about the dollars. So they had Weiners. Anybody could go in Weiners as long as you had money. But basically you had to shop in the black community. In terms of pharmacies, I remember they had Elliot's Cut Rate, and you couldn't go in the front door. They had a section in the back for quote colored people. So it meant that black folks had to shop in the black community. As a result all black businesses prospered. You knew everybody, and of course, credit was the big thing because everybody wanted to have food and what have you, and if they ran out of money, of course, until payday. So that was just like cash because you knew they were going to pay. Now you dare not take a chance on letting somebody have some medicine and say I'll pay you on payday. You'll never see them again.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So even, so the pharmacy you could get a line of credit.
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Oh yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I've heard of that with the grocery stores.
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
We had shoot, I would, now when we moved down here, I was in high school because that was 1963, and I was off at my freshman year in college. I came back to see the new store, and I remember my aunt asking me would I get the accounts and file them correctly, and at that time I think we brought from down there like two hundred accounts. Every month she would write the bills out and mail them. Then, of course, automation came along, and then we got a copier machine so we could run the bills, but up until I have three accounts now, two doctors and an undertaker. I bill them twice a year, but up until about five years ago, I still had accounts, but it got to the point where it just wasn't worth it. People would forget, and you'd have to call them, and it just got to be, I think five years ago when I closed out the credit thing, it had about thirty accounts. I just said this is too much for so little. So I closed it out.