NAACP campaigns for desegregation
Thompson describes how he became involved with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in his home town of Lumberton, North Carolina. Thompson's father formed a county chapter, and Thompson later became president of a larger chapter when local groups merged. Thompson remembers the NAACP's post-World War II efforts, particularly its victory in <cite>Brown v. Board</cite>, and the efforts of southern politicians, like Arkansas governor Orval Faubus, to resist desegregation orders.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Angus Boaz Thompson Sr., October 21, 2003. Interview U-0017. 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
MM: Now did you get involved in the NAACP when you came back and started working?
AT: Not immediately. I was a member, but so far as holding office, no. After my daddy’s passing I became president of the chapter for a couple of terms.
MM: And when did he pass away?
AT: My daddy passed in 1973.
AT: Nineteen seventy-three, April 25th. Yes. Really my mother was the one, which was his wife, trying to hold it up, to keep it going. But one thing, after the county chapter was organized then all the municipalities here formed chapters: Fairmont, and Red Springs, St. Pauls, Maxton, and Rowland, and Lumberton. All of them formed.
AT: And they formed after your father formed the county chapter?
AT: Oh yes. There was no kind of chapter here until daddy got a chapter formed in maybe 43. So we it went that way with all these chapters operating here until maybe about three, or four, or five years ago. All the chapters were slowly not doing too much, even Robeson County, so the national offices advised all the chapters in this county to merge into one chapter.
MM: And that was just here recently?
AT: Yes, that was just here recently, four or five years ago. So we did that, and it’s basically that way now, all merged into the Robeson County chapter.
AT: And that’s the only chapter in the county right now that’s active and got a charter.
MM: How effective was the NAACP did you think in the 1940s and the 1950s? What kinds of things was the organization doing?
AT: In the 1950s?
AT: And the 1940s? The NAACP at that time did a lot of fighting for people who were accused of certain crimes and things of that nature that the NAACP felt sure that they wasn’t receiving justice and things like that. Now, NAACP became active in the school integration during the 1950s, but the NAACP was working from the national level instead of this county level at that time. We even had Thurgood Marshall who was joint council for the national NAACP to come here and speak. That was in September in 1952. And why that stands out, that was the year [Hurricane] Hazel came through in September, 1952, and he was delayed. His flight was delayed coming in so he was late getting here that night. He did come here and speak and everything. At that particular time the NAACP on the national level was fighting hard for integration and had the suit. It was already initiated to integrate the schools on the basis that separate but equal was unconstitutional. In 54, that’s when the NAACP was successful in getting the Supreme Court to pass the law that separate but equal was unconstitutional.
MM: What was your reaction to that ruling?
AT: Oh, well, we were overjoyed. Now, we knew at that time it would be a slow process because tradition is not an easy thing for anyone to get out of. Naturally, we knew that to integrate the schools was going to be tough and slow because we knew that white folks were not ready for that. They wasn’t used to it. I could understand that very well, but that didn’t make it right, so we kept fighting. We kept fighting. What really set the ball to rolling was whenever the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Brown v. Topeka that separate but equal was unconstitutional and the justice department and the president ordered to integrate the schools in Arkansas.
Now that started the ball rolling. And, of course, out there, the same as it is here, they resisted. Even the governors wasn’t ready, and the governors represented the people. Naturally, they were going to try to satisfy the people. At that particular time—I never will forget it. This was the first one. At that time the governor was Farbus out there. He was Governor Farbus. Of course all these Southern governors was against school integration, and they were just reluctant to do it. These Southern governors, they went against it. They were slow. They just wouldn’t accept it. What they did out here in Arkansas, Farbus—the justice department told them, “Open the door and let them integrate the schools.” The governors took the initiative to place their state national guards in the school door to keep them from going there, keep blacks from going there even after they had been ordered to do so. That was very easy because after Farbus put the guards there to keep them out, I know this because General Eisenhower—he was president at that time. He was General when I was in the service. But he was the president. He took the same guards out there in Arkansas and federalized them. He said, “you’ll all have to move.” Federalized them there at that school. They was already placed there by the state to keep blacks out. He federalized them, so “you all make way, clear out,” so the blacks could come in. That’s what happened.