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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 >>

Advocating racial unity

Fonvielle argues that middle class blacks must overcome their fears of low-income blacks to maintain racial unity. He implies Savannah blacks bond along economic class, rather than racial lines.

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:
Oh yeah. All that had changed. I had to learn how to get around again, but it didn't take long. But like I say, aggressive and progressive blacks, it just doesn't happen, and that's because we can't come together. I don't have anything against you living on Dutch Island, but don't forget where you came from. Don't forget where you came from. I think probably in the case of Dave Robeson, I think he forget where he came from. It's this guy that took the money from the children, I'm sure you read about it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
[unclear]
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Yeah, he got disbarred because of a suit where lady died. They sued the hospital and what have you and got like four million dollars, and out of the four million, her children got almost nothing. The lawyers got almost all the money. Yeah. That's a big deal around here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
This is in Savannah within the last couple of years?
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay.
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
So here was an attorney that was well respected all over the southeast and a very good attorney who's now no attorney, has nothing because between the Internal Revenue and the payback on this stuff, they took everything he had. They got people like Roy Allen who is a local boy who is in jail, or he may be in a halfway house now because of the same thing, taking people's money. You've got your Clarence Martin who is a black attorney that is in jail for the same thing, taking people's money. So I'm saying you can't forget where you came from. You cannot once you get into the Islands and the Mercedes, don't forget where you came from. I'll never forget Thirty-sixth Street. My mother used to say I was the weirdest child she had because you could always find me in an alley. But you could always find me where my friends were, and I was friends with everybody. So it didn't matter where they lived. I am still like that. I know the thugs. I know the dope peddlers. I know the mayor. I know the physicians. I know all these people, and like I told the young guy the other day, I said, "I remember when you were born." I said, "You're going down the wrong road." I said, "Pretty soon you're going to meet up with death, jail." I said, "But I'm not ashamed to stand out here and talk to you." He said, "I know you don't want to be seen with me." I said, "Why? I've known you, I knew you when your mother was carrying you. So it doesn't matter. Just because you're doing the wrong thing. It's not going to make me do the wrong thing." But yeah, I still do that. I go in dives. These people trade with me. There's a club on the east side called Rosette's Lounge. If you look at Rosette's Lounge and go oh. Guys all outside. I walk right in there, and I play cards with those guys, have a drink. I feel just as comfortable as I can. Everybody calls me Doc, and that's a take off from my father. Everybody called him Doc. My wife said show me this club where you go all the time. [Laughter] Doesn't bother me. Like I said these people come in this store, and they spend money with me. The guy that owns the club, he spends money with me. Why won't I go in there and spend some money with him? The crab places, I know all these people. They trade with me. I make it a point to go to them. I don't go to Rousseau's. I go to the black fish market. If they've got the same thing, then why should I go to Rousseau's. I go to Sharon and Papa's, that's the name of the seafood place. People go well, where is that?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is that down [unclear] ?
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
No, it's on the east side.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Sharon's—
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Oh, yeah, the lounge around. I go there. I go in there, but that's just me. I mean, I'm not going to ever say I don't hang out with these kind of people. No. These are the people that make my day, and these are the people that help me carve out a living. So—