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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 >>

Challenges for black-owned businesses in Savannah, Georgia

Fonvielle describes Savannah, Georgia, as a laid-back but covertly racist community. The layout of the city prevents an influx of progressive and aggressive middle-class blacks from supporting his pharmacy.

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

KIERAN TAYLOR:
Why, do you think Savannah was different?
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
It was. Savannah was not bad. I think the biggest problem they had may have been when King died, but then that was all over the country. But for the most part Savannah was pretty peaceful in terms of demonstrations. There were no dogs. There were no fire hoses. There was no cops wailing on people. So it was pretty peaceful. Protests were peaceful in terms of looking across the South.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Comparatively—
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Comparatively speaking, right. Yeah, so that, they never experienced the hard core racism, and Savannah has always been laid back like that. A lot of covert racism, which still exists today. The way you find out, you go down to these banks, and you try to borrow some big money. It's like—what kind of collateral do you have? I've got a business that's been going on for eighty-eight years. That's not good enough. I mean, I've got the property that the building sits on. The whole thing's worth three hundred some thousand dollars. I'm asking you for a hundred. That's not good enough, you see. It's still well, you look at the South and you look at Savannah, Georgia, the progressive black folks just aren't here. Progressive, aggressive, they go hand in hand. It doesn't exist in Savannah. Savannah is, it's like sectioned off. We have some schoolteachers here or just knocked off all the lawyers just about. We have a few black attorneys left. We've got your black physicians, and never do they come together. I'm trying to think how many black physicians patronize me in terms of sending their clients here, I mean, their patients here. You've got one upstairs where the people can't help but come down. One around on Trade and Henry. That's about it. Two black physicians that will say go around to Savannah Pharmacy, but they'll pick up the phone just as quick and call CVS or Eckerd's. See that's what I miss, and I guess all the physicians that are here, and I shouldn't say all because there are a few native Savannahians, not many maybe two or three, are people that as the old folks used to say, come heres. They don't seem to understand that we still have black businesses in Savannah. It's like they relate to CVS and Eckerd's and that's it. Then somebody says Savannah Pharmacy. Where is that? What is that? I mean, if you live here for ten years and you don't know where the black pharmacy is, then you're out of touch. I lived in Detroit, Michigan for eight years. I went twenty-five miles to a black pharmacy because I wanted to trade black, and the guy was so nice. I mean, there were other black pharmacies that I could have stopped along the way, and he used to say you come all the way from East Detroit over here. I said, "When I come over here, I sit down. We usually talk an hour." So that type of loyalty doesn't exist. I don't even know, have you seen that black business directory?