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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The race issue in southern politics at the federal level

Boggs discusses how her husband, Hale Boggs, helped to pioneer changes in Congress regarding the "race issue" during his tenure from 1946 to 1972. As more African American voters registered to vote and more African American public officials were elected, Boggs believes that her husband helped to change the attitudes of white congressmen by refusing to back down on issues of civil rights. Boggs emphasizes both the role of political leadership and changes at the grassroots level as important factors in effecting change at the federal level.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lindy Boggs, January 31, 1974. Interview A-0082. 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

How did the removal of the race issue affect what your husband did and what you are doing now?
I don't think it is completely removed. But of course it is being removed more and more. I also think that you are going to find, as we have in the last seven years, the many constituencies where there is going to be a large percentage of black voters and have more black candidates and more black officials. Perhaps this has helped change some of the attitudes of some of the white politicians. I always felt that Hale held great contribution in that regard, that as he grew in thinking and in stature, that he was able to lead people from our own area along with him, and perhaps all of them didn't catch up with him, but he could say that these are the realities of life and certainly of the future, and to lead them as far as they could go at the time. Also, to be able to give courage to other white politicians of the South, that you could take these stands and be elected. So often, I think, people were afraid to take stands that would perhaps defeat them.
Neil Pearson is coming out with a new book on the deep South states that we have seen the proofs of, and it includes an interview with Hale Boggs in which he referred to his last victory after his votes on civil rights measures and it sort of gave him a new sense of freedom to act to vote for his convictions even though he felt in the past that they were dangerous. The fact that he was able to survive that election.
I think he may have said that in the context of what I have said, "Survive to be an example to others that you could survive." I don't think that he, saying that he didn't mean it just about his own survival, because he often took stands that were, as far as his own survival was concerned, that he often times disregarded. But I do think that the fact that he had no opponents, everything was going along very well, we had had a year and a half of more or less political stability within the Democratic party in our area, and he had been able to go home a great deal more than he had been able to in the last several years. Then along came the open housing legislation and his vote on it almost defeated him. The fact there was no serious challenge to his leadership and to his political survival at the moment was not successful. It did give him the feeling that the area was ready for him to move forward in the field of civil rights. But I don't know how he could have felt much more free on voting rights and open housing.