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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Philosophy on race and education

John and Melville Ivey discuss their views on race and on desegregation. Melville explains that throughout his career, John had always demonstrated his belief that African Americans and whites were deserving of equal opportunities, as evidenced by his volunteer teaching in Greensboro, North Carolina, during the early 1940s. John corroborates this by noting that through his work with the SREB, he hoped to improve education across the board because he believed education was the key to cooperation and political development in the South.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Ivey, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0360. 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 would you characterize your own philosophy on the racial issue back at that time, Mr. Ivey?
How would I characterize my . . .
You're looking at somebody that never does see color. He sees people, he doesn't see color. Never has. When he came up here as a graduate student and Dr. Odum was teaching at night school, I don't know whether you know that, but Dr. Odum had classes over at Durham, and the black colleges over there in Greensboro. He taught them at night because they couldn't get accredited professors to do the graduate work so the kids could get degrees. He would recruit graduate students and this one [John] was one of the main ones who volunteered to go over. Even when he was starting out and he had so much on him because he really hadn't had that good a background and all to start out the way he was. He was going over and teaching at night. He enjoyed his classes very much and the students. He made a good friend . . . What was his name? We met him back in India, we came across him in India. Do you know who I'm talking about? Anyhow, he was a black professor and very strongly in the Civil Rights movement and John came across him working as an assistant professor over there. We used to stay and play basketball with him and his wife.
I guess the point I would like to get you to elaborate on a little bit is this was the time before the Civil Rights movement really began. Of course, nothing ever begins all of a sudden one day, there are antecedents. This period of time, particularly the time from the end of the war until the Brown decision in 1954, was a time when people in one way or another were having to decide where they stood on the issue of desegregation, on the end of segregation and Jim Crow laws and all that kind of thing. Some people had decided a long time before that, but the society had not decided and the culture was not being transformed in any extensive way at that time. So, any time you found yourself in a situation where the issue came up constantly, segregation versus desegregation, you had to make your own philosophical choice on where you're going to stand on that. I'm wondering if during this period of time you ever saw the job you had at SREB as being either a job that would lead to desegregation or a job that would prevent desegregation from happening?
I took the position all the way through that the economic development of the South, political development of the South, was dependant upon how well, how people could get others, on an equal basis, to work with them.