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Oral History Interview with Elizabeth Pearsall, May 25, 1988. Interview C-0056. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Elizabeth Pearsall fondly recalls the work of her husband, Thomas Pearsall. Pearsall explains that Governor Umstead appointed her husband to the North Carolina school planning commission because of his easygoing personality and leadership abilities. After the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, North Carolina politicians sought a way to evade the order to integrate without closing the schools. Thomas Pearsall crafted the Pearsall Plan, adopted by the North Carolina General Assembly in 1956. Elizabeth Pearsall explains that the Plan's goal was to calm whites' racial fears, preserve the public schools, and obey the Supreme Court ruling. Pearsall discusses her husband's self-assessment on the eve of his death. She reveals that Thomas worried that blacks blamed him for not doing enough to improve their condition. Thomas genuinely cared about blacks by attempting to keep the public schools open, she says. Immediate integration of the schools, she implies, would have resulted in the closing of public schools to blacks and whites. Pearsall describes her own involvement in public affairs. Her work in the peace movement and her religious affiliation ultimately led to her own attempts at fostering racial cooperation. She describes her increased awareness of racial disparities at an interracial meeting she attended in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. Pearsall recalls realizing that effective interracial relations rely on an atmosphere of trust and honesty. She argues that adequate pay and educational parity between blacks and whites would level the playing field.
  • Thomas Pearsall's strength of character earned him respect and trust
  • Thomas Pearsall's later guilt over the Pearsall Plan
  • Intent of the Pearsall Plan
  • Thomas Pearsall's effective leadership
  • Putting religious faith into action
  • Need for honest discussions between the races
  • Education and equalized pay can improve race relations
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • School integration--North Carolina
  • North Carolina--Politics and government
  • Pearsall Plan
  • Pearsall, Thomas Jenkins, 1903-1981
  • North Carolina--Biography
  • 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.