Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Dabney's adherence to the separate but equal doctrine

This passage illustrates Dabney's adherence to the separate but equal doctrine. Instead of integrating professional schools, he advocated segregated but equal facilities.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginius Dabney, June 10-13, 1975. Interview A-0311-1. 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

Well, the final category is certainly important, and that's race. We have some specific questions, but two large sub-categories would be the interracial movement in the South, of which you were a part, and then the campaign to desegregate the streetcars. We might start with just a few specific incidents and situations. One would be the Barbers Bill. This was before you were the editor, but nonetheless, you had some feelings about it. What did that entail?
Everytime it came up, I wrote one of my Sunday articles about it. It entailed an effort on the part of the Barbers Union, which was entirely white, to institute two things, a Board of Barber Examiners and examinations that could be rigged so that you couldn't possibly pass them if they didn't want you to pass. The Board of Barber Examiners was to be made up of white barbers and the questions were framed by those barbers and they let the cat out of the bag in a publication which I got hold of, a union publication. It said flatly that they were getting a dollar and a half for haircuts in California and if they could just get this thing in, they could up the price in Virginia. A dollar and a half in that era, for a haircut, sounded like something out of this world. There were some sample questions in the barbers' magazine about what to ask. "How many hairs to the square inch on the average scalp?" "What is the erecto pilli muscle and what is its function?" I remember those two. They would get a colored barber and ask him those things and say, "Well, you don't know this and you can't barber." So, everytime that it came up, I'd drag it out and write it all over again and we would defeat it everytime. Finally, they brought in a bill so mild that it was passed. My colored barber tells me that it doesn't bother him at all; it's purely for inspection of the shops by the health department, which is the way it ought to be. I think they have a board with two whites and one colored and they are not discriminating against anybody.
Now, you also wrote about the idea of having regional educational institutions where blacks could go to be trained in medicine and other professional lines. Could you sort of elaborate on that idea?
Yes. I think that it came up in veterinary medicine first. It was obvious that it wasn't feasible to have a school of veterinary medicine in every state. The idea was broached that you could have a very good one somewhere and you could send students there, whether white or colored. Then the idea came that there ought to be a good medical school for blacks that they could go to, and a good law school and each participating state would pay the cost of sending a student to that institution instead of letting them in the white institutions. That certainly seemed better than nothing. They weren't going to let the blacks into the white institutions, so that seemed a lot better than what we had. The year I lectured at Princeton, Professor Edward Corwin, who was one of the great constitutional authorities, told me that he thought that was constitutional and I put in Below the Potomac what he said about it. Of course, it didn't have any permanent effect, but it was useful for a time and probably is still in veterinary medicine.