Title: Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062.
Interviewer: Nasstrom, Kathryn
Interviewee: Cannon, Isabella
Subjects: School integration--North Carolina North Carolina--Race relations North Carolina--Politics and government Civil rights workers--North Carolina Women in politics--North Carolina Mayors--North Carolina--Raleigh
Abstract: Isabella Cannon moved to Raleigh, North Carolina, during the mid-1930s and became an active member of the community through her involvement in the United Church of Christ. Cannon explains how the United Church was particularly involved in matters of the community and served as a collective advocate for civil rights issues. Later in the 1950s and 1960s, she became increasingly involved in the civil rights movement through her activities with the church. In this interview, she describes her participation on the speakers committee, which brought in the likes of Martin Luther King Jr., Norman Thomas, and Eleanor Roosevelt; her relationship with African Americans in the community; her role in developing Raleigh Integrated Church Housing (RICH); and her thoughts on school desegregation, particularly busing. Cannon also discusses her political involvement at the local precinct level in describing her leadership role on the Citizens Advisory Council (CAC) and her growing concern with the impact of Raleigh's rapid growth during the 1970s. In 1977, Cannon decided to run for mayor, campaigning on a platform that emphasized a long-range comprehensive plan for developing Raleigh while maintaining some of its historical and natural elements. At the age of 73, Cannon was elected as the first female mayor of Raleigh. During her two-year term, Cannon worked vigorously to bring her plan to fruition. At the time of the interview in 1989, Cannon was pleased with the continuation of many of her accomplishments. Here, she discusses bringing Raleigh into compliance with North Carolina laws, her revision of the City Code, and community advocacy as the accomplishments she was most proud of. In addition, she describes some of the obstacles she dealt with during her years in office. In particular, she describes the problems she had with the Comprehensive Employment Training Act (CETA) administration—which she describes as a "good old boy" network—and some of the challenges to her efforts to embrace policies of affirmative action in local government. Finally, Cannon briefly reflects on the role of women in positions of leadership.