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Oral History Interview with William Gordon, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0364. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    William Gordon was born in 1919 and was raised primarily in Mississippi and Arkansas. He describes growing up in the rural South, focusing on race relations, and explains what life was like for his sharecropping family. Sent off to school in Memphis, Tennessee, as a teenager, Gordon excelled in his studies and went to Le Moyne College in the 1930s. Following his graduation, Gordon enlisted in the army and fought in World War II. Gordon focuses on race relations in his discussion of his school and military years. He describes various customs associated with Jim Crow segregation in the South. Following the war, Gordon attended graduate school to study journalism. Gordon wrote for the Atlanta Daily World beginning in 1948, during which time he formed a close friendship with Atlanta Constitution editor and anti-segregationist Ralph McGill. Gordon also formed close connections with Georgia Senator Herman Talmadge. He discusses in detail his perception of changing race relations in the 1930s through the 1950s and argues that desegregation required legal action. Nonetheless, Gordon acknowledges the role of white leaders, such as McGill and Talmadge, who genuinely sought racial change. In the late 1950s, Gordon began to work for the United States Information Agency (USIA) and spent many years traveling through Africa and Europe.
  • Sharecropping and race relations in the rural South
  • Transgressing racial boundaries as a representative for the Tuskegee Institute
  • Jim Crow segregation and the military
  • Reflections on the likelihood of integration in the immediate post-WWII years
  • Importance of intraracial alliances in achieving racial change
  • Importance of a legal basis in ending Jim Crow segregation
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Civil rights--Southern States
  • Southern States--Race relations
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.