Title: Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2.
Interviewer: Thrasher, Sue
Interviewee: Durr, Virginia Foster
Subjects: Southern Conference for Human Welfare Women in trade-unions Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886-1971 Johnson, Lyndon B. (Lyndon Baines), 1908-1973 Lewis, John
Abstract: In this fast-paced 1975 interview, Virginia Foster Durr and her husband Clifford banter back and forth as Clifford reminds Virginia of stories, names and significant events throughout the conversation. The interview, the second in a series of three, begins where the first one left off—with Virginia's growing awareness of social problems in the South, particularly of the evils of poverty. During the early 1930s, they faced a great many changes. Her brother-in-law Hugo Black returned to the Senate, and her mother had to be hospitalized because of depression. When Clifford lost his job in a Birmingham law office, he accepted a position with the Reconstruction Finance Corporation in Washington, D.C. After they arrived in Washington, she attempted to join the social milieu. One day, however, she decided she had had enough of all the receptions and joined the women's division of the Democratic Party to work with Eleanor Roosevelt. She became involved with issue of the poll tax, having herself been unable to vote several times because of it. Through their various activities, the Durrs befriended Clark Foreman, Lyndon Johnson, John L. and Kathryn Lewis, Tallulah Bankhead, and other young New Dealers. The La Follette Civil Liberties Committee hearings following the brutal attack on Joe Gelders drove Virginia to recognize how complicit her family and friends were in the violence and injustice occurring across the South. As a result, she helped organize the Southern Conference for Human Welfare in 1938. She also met Mary McLeod Bethune, and in the interview, she tells stories about how Bethune handled the racial segregation in various places they went, often undermining it in clever ways. As both the Durrs became increasingly involved in the New Deal actions, they became aware of the growing anti-Communist feeling that was spreading across the United States. In the interview, they discuss various manifestations of the growing hysteria, including Truman's loyalty oath, which ultimately drove Clifford from public office. Still hopeful and idealistic, Durr campaigned for Henry Wallace, the Progressive candidate, in 1948.