Title: Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 3, 1999. Interview K-0143.
Interviewer: Rouverol, Alicia
Interviewee: Ridgle, Lawrence
Abstract: This is the first of two interviews with Lawrence Ridgle, who was born during the height of the Great Depression and spent his childhood on Fayetteville Street in Durham, North Carolina. Ridgle begins the interview by recalling that his neighborhood was impoverished but close-knit. Ridgle describes the various ways in which people made ends meet through innovation during the Depression and helping one another out, arguing that "getting by" constituted great success. Ridgle also asserts his admiration for the social welfare programs that Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented during those years because they put people to work and helped to feed people. Nevertheless, Ridgle also notes that he felt deep disdain for the modern welfare system. In addition to emphasizing community togetherness, he also discusses his father's job with the American Tobacco Company, which he later elaborates upon in his second interview. Ridgle devotes the second half of the interview to what he sees as decline within the African American community, particularly as a result of urban renewal projects that began during the 1960s. Ridgle argues that these projects created a disconnect between African Americans of different social classes, and that thriving African American business in Durham had all but disappeared during the period of urban renewal. He articulates his admiration for business owners who held out as long as possible. Ridgle concludes the interview by arguing that although many people initially understood urban renewal in a positive light, it ultimately served to isolate African American neighborhoods and communities.