Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Fonvielle, August 2, 2002. Interview R-0174. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Unlike whites, blacks are paralyzed by class snobbery

Fonvielle again elucidates the class differences among blacks. The suburbs, instead of downtown, offered blacks a sense of property ownership. He argues that unlike blacks' resistance to low-income neighborhoods, whites embrace potential redevelopment projects in the same communities. The Savannah College of Art Design (SCAD) assists in the revitalization efforts on West Broad Street.

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:
That's why it's going to be interesting to see what he can do since he owns all this stuff, and it's obvious that he had money coming from elsewhere, not Savannah. So everybody is kind of holding back to see just how that works. I think his first development was great. He had a tenant, SDRA to come in there and take that whole first floor. He's going to have two apartments upstairs. With the entrance not being on ML King, but being on the Montgomery side, still it's going to be a wait and see type of thing because that means your whites are going to have to come in here, and see, black folks really don't care about living downtown. I guess it's a metamorphosis type thing because at one time black folks lived downtown, and then everything started moving out, and of course, we moved out too. The average black person could give less than a damn about living downtown. Your upper middle class black man probably would like to live on Jones Street but—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But as far as it being a sustainable black community—
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
Because black folk have never had property before and when they can go out to the suburbs and have a big backyard and a nice house, you can't have that in downtown Savannah. So I mean, they are perfectly content with staying out in the suburbs with the big backyard because they've never had that. See, that's like history. We always read about Mr. Charlie and the big back yard and the big house. We always, one day. So now that we have that, we don't have any interest in coming back to the inner city, and then you've got the middle class black man says there's too much crime. I don't know. White folks take a different twist on that. We get a [unclear] . We'll clean up big crime. Most of the time it works. It, you look at right now right across Montgomery starting at Anderson coming on down, all the way down, you've got SCAD students, SCAD professors living all the way right there on the tip. They're not afraid, but you ask your average black person, "Well, would you buy a house on the three hundred block of Wildwood?" Too close to them crack houses man. It's interesting, SCAD students from all over the world, and they walk the streets at one or two o'clock in the morning with their dogs or whatever, they don't care. Where we're going, uh uh.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you think SCAD has been a positive or—
WILLIAM FONVIELLE:
It hasn't been a positive for the black community. I mean it's been a real shot in the arm for white Savannah. We don't own any of that property. I've never seen so many renovations going on. All these big as I used to say, big raggedy houses are now being transformed into nice looking structures with nice looking price tags on them. They're being bought and leased. So I think SCAD has had a hell of an impact on Savannah, but as far as the black community is concerned I don't think we're reaping any benefits. SCAD students don't come in here. They walk by here. I'm thinking that maybe in the near future I might want to go down and meet with someone and say all SCAD students get a discount and see if that will draw them in here.