Title: Oral History Interview with Leslie W. Dunbar, December 18, 1978. Interview G-0075.
Interviewer: Bresler, Helen
Interviewee: Dunbar, Leslie W.
Subjects: Southern Regional Council Voter registration--Southern States
Abstract: Leslie Dunbar served as the executive director of the Southern Regional Council (SRC) from 1961 to 1965. Before that, he was a professor of political science at Emory University. In this interview, he describes an event at Emory in the late 1940s when he invited Bill Boyd, an African American political science professor from Atlanta University, to come speak. Dunbar describes this as an experience that piqued his awareness of racial issues and discrimination in the South. He subsequently became increasingly involved in the civil rights movement and eventually went to work for the SRC. Dunbar discusses leadership in the SRC, focusing particularly on Harold Fleming and Ralph McGill, before his tenure as director. According to Dunbar, the role of the SRC was to serve as an example and leader in changing racial attitudes in the South. As the director, he sought to herald "a great historic mind-changing." Dunbar describes how the SRC interacted with the federal government during these years and especially emphasizes what he saw as a lack of interest in civil rights on the part of the Kennedy administration. After the setbacks the movement faced in Albany, Georgia, in the early 1960s, Dunbar explains how the SRC increasingly sought to work with other African American organizations rather than with the federal government. One accomplishment of the SRC that Dunbar emphasizes is the creation of the Voter Education Program, through which the SRC helped to raise and distribute funds to both national and local civil rights groups for the purpose of voter education and registration. Shortly after Dunbar left the SRC to go work for the Field Foundation in New York City, the SRC began to develop conflict within the organization and filed for bankruptcy. Nevertheless, Dunbar concludes by applauding the SRC's role in helping to push through some of the major changes in racial segregation and discrimination in the South during the 1960s.