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African American journalist William Gordon recalls growing up in the rural South in the 1920s and 1930s. He describes his relationship with civil rights advocates such as Ralph McGill and Herman Talmadge, and explains his perspective on changing race relations and the fall of Jim Crow segregation.
Pharmacist William Fonvielle mourns the passing of black economic autonomy and communal unity in Savannah, Georgia.
In this May 1978 interview, Kojo Nantambu—one of the participants in the 1971 Wilmington, North Carolina, race conflicts—describes what he remembers of the 1971 strife, the inequities present in the trial of the Wilmington Ten, and the aftermath of the discord.
Bishop Paul Hardin helped bring about racial integration of the United Methodist denomination in the 1960s. He recalls several points in his long ministry career when white and black pastors opposed his efforts to move ministers to other districts, accept church members of other races, and dissolve the Black Methodist district. Supportive church members helped him withstand criticism of his personal stance, even when he faced pressure from conservative ministers on one side and Martin Luther King on the other.
John Hope Franklin remembers life as a student in the segregated South.
Septima Clark describes the work of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in the late 1950s to mid 1960s, especially the community education programs that she directed for the SCLC and the Highlander Folk School. She rejoices in the new voters and civil rights legislation that resulted from their work but noticed drawbacks arising from prejudice against female leaders, disdain for the poor, and clashes in leadership styles.
Racism and segregation return to declining integrated schools.
Mary Ann Moore was only a high school student when she began participating in civil rights activities in Birmingham, Alabama, in the 1960s. After becoming a laboratory technician at the VA Hospital in Birmingham, Moore followed family tradition by becoming an active member of the union. She discusses her social justice activism in this interview while drawing connections between the civil rights and the labor rights movements of the second half of the twentieth century.
Harold Fleming recounts how he became involved with the Southern Regional Council (SRC) and the criticism he faced for opposing racism in the 1940s and 1950s. He describes the effect of the Red Scare on limiting the involvement of racial progressives in the organizations like the SRC. Additionally, Fleming compares the leadership styles of those he encountered within the organization.
Geraldine Ray has lived in Barnardsville, North Carolina, nearly her entire life. In this interview, she describes growing up on her family's farm, attending all-black schools, and caring for sick relatives and friends. She describes racial segregation as a problem that seemed less difficult to avoid than segregation and prejudice between local black residents. Geraldine learned several essential skills of farm life from her grandmother and then used them to support the family through illness. The interview concludes with a description of her husband—a childhood friend—and how they chose to raise their children.
Septima Clark served as a board member and education director for the Highlander Folk School and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in the 1950s and 1960s. She links her activism to the memory of her parents' struggles with poverty and racism. She also describes how community relations functioned within the NAACP and SCLC. Her plans for increasing community involvement, protecting the labor rights of black teachers, and educating black voters were often ignored because she was female. She discusses why these types of gender roles persisted in the SCLC and the role of leaders in the black community.
Julian Bond recounts a life of civil rights activism in the American South. He discusses his work with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and his connection with other activists, including Ella Baker, Martin Luther King Jr., Bayard Rustin, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Bob Moses, and Stokely Carmichael.
An African American activist fights for integration in Lumberton, North Carolina.
J. Randolph Taylor pauses to reflect on his participation in the civil rights movement, the reunification of the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America, and various other social justice campaigns.
Joanne Peerman describes the efforts of black students to thoroughly integrate Chapel Hill High School and discusses her relationship with her father, a beloved coach at Lincoln High School and a powerful figure in the black high school community.
Fran Jackson discusses her reaction to the integration of Chapel Hill High School.
Lawrence Ridgle, a near-lifelong resident of Durham, North Carolina, discusses his family's work at the American Tobacco Company and his role of leadership in the newly integrated United States Army during the early 1950s. In addition, he discusses the changing nature of the African American community, focusing on perceived threats to its solidarity, and the impact of demographic changes, primarily the rapidly growing Latino community.
Sam Holton explains his role in the desegregation of Chapel Hill schools during his tenure on the school board from 1968 to 1974.
Elizabeth Brown, a white teacher who taught at John Carroll High School in Birmingham, Alabama, describes desegregation and its legacies in her city.
Birmingham lawyer and politician U. W. Clemon describes his place in Birmingham politics and the city's continuing problems with race.
Veteran activist Stetson Kennedy describes his desire to strike down segregation in the American South and some of the ways he translated this impulse into action.
Dora Scott Miller reflects on the changes in tobacco factory work from the perspective of an African American woman.
Lyman Johnson traces his lifelong pursuit of racial equality through his father's rejection of racial hierarchies, his experiences as an educated black Navy solder, his observations of racial violence, and his efforts to get equal pay and union representation for Louisville teachers.
Guion Griffis Johnson was among the first generation of female professional historians and a pioneer of social history. In this interview, she discusses the work she did for Dr. Howard Odum of the University of North Carolina sociology department from 1923 until 1934. She also describes the research she did on St. Helena's Island and on antebellum North Carolina while working toward her Ph.D. She explains how she lost her job at the University of North Carolina in 1930 but continued to work until she and her husband transferred to Baylor College in 1934.
Asa T. Spaulding, the first African American actuary in North Carolina and former president of the North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Company, remembers and reflects on community activism in Durham, North Carolina.
Richard Bowman reflects on growing up in segregated Asheville, North Carolina, and facing racism during his employment with the army and the Los Angeles Department of Motor Vehicles. He also discusses his work to improve the current Asheville school district and rebuild his old high school. He lived in Los Angeles for four decades and experienced two major riots.
Clark Foreman worked in the Atlanta Commission on Interracial Cooperation, the Roosevelt Administration, and the Southern Conference for Human Welfare from the 1920s through the 1940s. This interview traces his efforts to provide equal social services and political rights for African Americans through these organizations and explains how he developed these goals. He also discusses his travels in Europe, his work with Black Mountain College and organized labor, and his criticism of the Red Scare.
Virginia Foster Durr discusses her early life and how she became aware of the social justice problems plaguing twentieth-century America. In this first part of a three-interview series, Durr describes her life on the plantation when she was a child; race issues in Birmingham, where she grew up; and how her views began to change when she left Birmingham to attend Wellesley College.