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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Arriving in the South

Anxious about moving to the South (DeVries went to school in the Midwest), DeVries was pleased by his reception at the Center for Creative Leadership when he arrived there in 1975. He did, however, get a taste of southern history from an African American shuttle driver, who pointed out a recently desegregated concert venue.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David DeVries, November 23 and December 2, 1998. Interview S-0010. 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

ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
Do you recall any vivid impressions of arriving in Greensboro in 1975? I mean there have been characterizations of the wooded aspect and the fact that the Center was sort of somewhat isolated from the community. Do you recall impressions of the early...
DAVID DE VRIES:
Yeah, I have impressions of the community and the Center. I remember my initial interview. I was being driven into the Hilton Hotel which is in downtown Greensboro by this African-American driver. As we passed Greensboro College, he pointed out that until just a couple of years prior to that time, if he and his fellow African-Americans wanted to go to a concert there, they had to sit up in the balcony. That really hit home with me. I realized the tradition of segregation, while a lot of strides had been made, was a very fresh kind of issue in Greensboro. And at the Center, what I was most struck with was a group of really well-meaning, ambitious folks who were looking for a cause and looking for a leader and were remarkably open to my ideas. It was unnerving. I was used to university settings where you had to fight to get air-time. And the first response by your colleagues tended to be intellectually hostile. This [CCL] was a very different culture. It was a very inclusive culture. If you had a good idea, people would build on it. But almost in a way, that made me leave the interview saying, "My God, do they not have an agenda of their own?"
ELIZABETH MILLWOOD:
That they were looking to you so strongly for an agenda.
DAVID DE VRIES:
Yes. But it was both very affirming and a little unnerving. It made me feel very much needed and certainly launched my decision to come.