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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Glennon Threatt, June 16, 2005. Interview U-0023. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Desegregation hurts community coherence

This excerpt reveals that integration may have subtly damaged the cohesiveness of the black community. While African American support networks helped Threatt emerge from the tumultuous 1960s without scars, he worries that integration damaged these networks. Segregation meant that African Americans had to give their business to other African Americans, worship at African American churches, and otherwise support one another. Integration removed this necessity.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Glennon Threatt, June 16, 2005. Interview U-0023. 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

KIMBERLY HILL:
We talked some about the really negative experiences you had in the schools, but I was wondering about how you recovered from that? What comfort did you have when you went back home?
GLENNON THREATT:
It wasn't anything that-I don't feel permanently stigmatized by it, not did I feel permanently stigmatized by it at the time. We had a lot of very strong black institutions. I was fortunate to have both of my parents until my father died in 1974, I had an older sister who had done very well in school. She graduated from high school and got a scholarship to Talladega when she was sixteen years old. I have younger sisters who have done well also. My mom had several sisters and brothers that lived here in Birmingham. I had lots of cousins. I went to a very active and vibrant church and I had lots of friends in my community, so I had a very, very strong support network. To some degree many of those support networks have deteriorated because of integration. The black community had a lot more pressure to be supportive of each other at the time, being supportive of black businesses, being supportive of black churches, because you didn't have any other options-you couldn't integrate. If you needed a doctor you had to go to a black doctor because a white doctor wouldn't treat you. If you needed a dentist or a lawyer you had to go to black professionals, and so we had a thriving black professional community here. We had a much more thriving black business community in Birmingham before desegregation than we do now. That's not just here, that's a lot of places.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I could tell that by observation, just driving around.
GLENNON THREATT:
Had it not been for some of the historical efforts that have taken place in the Fourth Avenue area, it would be much more run down than it is now. It had fallen into just a prostitution and drug strip many years ago, until some people that had a sense of the historical impact of that area went in and tried to save it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I didn't know it had gotten that bad.
GLENNON THREATT:
It was bad, it was bad.
KIMBERLY HILL:
It wasn't even safe to walk in that area of downtown?
GLENNON THREATT:
There were prostitutes walking the street, openly.