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Oral history interview with Helen Ashby by William Link


Date: March 25, 1987

Interviewee: Helen B. Ashby

Biographical abstract: Helen Ashby (1915- ) was a member of several local interracial groups and was an executive of the Greensboro YWCA from 1949 to 1964 and 1967 through 1970.

Interviewer: William Link

Description:

In this transcript of a March 25, 1987, oral history interview conducted by William Link with Helen Ashby, Ms. Ashby primarily discusses the role of women, Bennett College students, and religious organizations in improving race relations. She describes her involvement with and the activities of the Young Women’s Christian Association (YWCA), American Friends Service Committee (AFSC), Fellowship of Southern Churchmen, United Church Women, Greensboro Fellowship of Ministers, and Council of Churches. She also notes the change in the racial atmosphere in Greensboro from the 1950s through the early 1970s, role of churches and the local newspapers in desegregation, her impressions of school desegregation and integration, and improvements in race relations since the 1950s.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.487

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Helen Ashby by William Link

[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

WILLIAM LINK:

This is William Link, and the date is March 25, 1987. We are in the home of Mrs. Helen Ashby in Greensboro, North Carolina. I wonder, Mrs. Ashby, if you'd mind saying a little bit about your background. Where you were born, when you were born, your education.

HELEN ASHBY:

Okay. I was born in Bellefontaine, Ohio, a small sort of central Ohio town in 1915 and grew up there. Finally, [I] went to college at Maryville, Tennessee. Maryville College is a Presbyterian school in Tennessee where I met Warren [Ashby]. [laughs] And then I had--was fortunate enough after we were married to have a year of auditing courses at Yale Divinity School with three great teachers, which was just wonderful. And then I took a little graduate work in English at [The University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill, when Warren went to Chapel Hill to teach. And then—but mostly I, I went back to UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, formerly Woman's College] in oh, around '58 to get a master's in child development and family relations and worked then with the Institute for Child and Family Development as the assistant director and then in—until '64.

Then in '64 to '66 we went to India to work with the American Friends Service Committee in their conferences and seminars program in South and Southeast Asia. And I also was a consultant for the Ford Foundation over there at Lady Irwin College helping them to set up a master's degree in child development and family relations. When we came back from Greensboro—to Greensboro, then from '67—well, I taught one semester at Guilford [College] in family sociology. That was the hardest work I ever did. [laughs] But then from '67 to '70 I was executive director of YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association], and then from that time until now I've been a, well, a professional weaver, hand weaver. So that's sort of a chronicle. [laughs]

WL:

You, you came to Greensboro first in 19—

HA:

Nineteen forty-nine. Warren came over here from Chapel Hill to teach in the philosophy department. And we found—one reason we came to Greensboro was because it was a, we thought it was a more normal community to raise children than Chapel Hill, that was one reason.

WL:

Why was that? Just as—it was isolated?

HA:

Well, not so overshadowed. The, the community's not so overshadowed by the university as it is in Chapel Hill. And we felt they would—the children would be in a little more normal situation. So I—the—there was very little that I observed in race relations, inter- or cultural things or anything, interracial things at all, or inter-educational things when we first came to Greensboro.

And I had made it a rule for myself that I wouldn't join anything that wasn't trying to be a little bit interracial in any case. Anything except the church, I guess. So I found the YWCA and I had a lot of experience with the YWCA before that. In 1947 the national YWCA had vowed to become completely interracial.

And so immediately on coming to Greensboro, I got on the Y board, and I soon was—then was president. And some of my prejudices will come forward now because I really feel that the unsung heroines of any race relations movement in Greensboro is the work of what the women did in the fifties—early fifties and sixties when it was tough, when it was really tough to do it. About two presidents before me, they, the board at the YWCA, elected to become interracial and to become an interracial board, and the governments and the committees to be interracial.

WL:

This was, would've been about the early 1950s?

HA:

It would've been about 1949. The first—that first president that I knew was Polly Ellis and the second one, her name was Betsy Taylor, Mrs. John R. Taylor. And then I think I was next. But the, we made—the conscious decision was made that we would do everything we could to become interracial as far as all the governance of the organization was concerned and as many of the activities as we could.

The activities were harder than the, than the board work and that sort of thing. And the YWCA at that time was the only place in Greensboro that you could have an interracial meal. Some of the churches perhaps, but I don't, I don't know of any. I don't even know of any churches that courted such a thing. There were no, there was just no place that we could go for interracial meals except the YWCA.

WL:

Fairly radical thing to do, I guess.

HA:

Oh, it was at that time. Nobody knows now. Like the [Greensboro] Council of Social Agencies, which has got another name now, of course, had no place to meet but the YWCA. And, and our board, of course, met there, anybody that wanted an interracial meeting had to go to the YWCA to do it. There was no other place. And we came under a great deal of criticism from the power structure, and I hope I can keep my prejudices in check here. [laughs] But anyhow, the—

WL:

How—what would—how would that criticism be manifested? How would it be expressed?

HA:

Oh, I can—I cannot remember details now. But we all felt under a great deal of pressure that our funding would be removed. And that we were not getting the funding that we wanted because we were doing this thing of having an interracial—this mix, in the community. Particularly the— here again the prejudice—the male money power structure of the community was very vocal about what we were doing there, that we should not be doing it. And it was—and that it was a detriment to our program. So we really felt under great pressure from the community to stop this and to be, well, be “normal women.”

And well—but it didn't deter. And this is what I say is the thing that makes it so important that any history of race relations in Greensboro should take into account the work of the YWCA, and also the United Church Women, which shortly after became interracial, too. And, and then, of course, later some churches opened up for meals but very, very slowly. There was just not much doing at all. And then, of course, there was the Greensboro Fellowship that was interracial, and you may have—I don't know whether you've talked to Warren about that.

WL:

Yes, I did. Not on tape, unfortunately.

HA:

Yes, good. And that organization was doing something. I can remember going to the meeting when they tried to encourage the Greensboro ministry, the Fellowship of Ministers or the Greensboro Ministry—Ministers Fellowship to become interracial. And I can remember, I spoke and told them about how easy it had been at the YWCA. There was no problem. But they turned it down, you know, it just wasn't done.

WL:

It's still a segregated,—I believe. There still is a black equivalent or a white equivalent.

HA:

Is it?

WL:

Yeah, there still is a black equivalent or a white equivalent.

HA:

Is that right? Is that right? Well, I can remember that must have been 1951 or two back then, and the man that got me to go was Tartt Bell[?] who was head of the American Friends Service Committee. And, of course, the American Friends Service Committee was located here in town, in their regional office at that time, and they were active in the interracial things and trying to push it ahead.

WL:

Let's, let's get back to the Y, the YW. Did—was there a, a separate black organization of, of YW?

HA:

There had been, [both talking at same time] although there had been a connection, it was more subordinate to the white Y, to the white board. It would—there were no—as I recall, way back before I came, that there had been a white board that had conducted the affairs of the black YWCA, which was in one of those big old homes near Bennett College, and, and the white YWCA. And the programs were pretty separate, but the uptown Y had the overseeing of the, of the black program and they had a board, too. But the white board was predominant.

And then in 1947, when they voted to become—or maybe it was in forty—it was in '47 to '49 when they voted to become interracial. Why, the two boards were joined so it was all one board. It stayed—usually the president was white. I don't know who the first black president was, maybe Shirley Frye, which was sometime later.

WL:

But there was always significant black representation?

HA:

Oh yeah. Yeah, there were always a good representation of black women on the board. The funds were administered through the—I hesitate to call it the white Y, the uptown or downtown YWCA there on Davie Street. And the executive at Davie Street hired and fired across the board, but the board—the boards always met together. I mean the board met together interracially and decided, made the decisions.

WL:

Did they have—was there a merger of activities as well, for example, with swimming pools?

HA:

That came pretty gradually, that came pretty gradually. For example, there was a swimming pool at the Davie Street Y and the other YW didn't have one, but we were coerced into having a program at Hayes-Taylor when that was—when that swimming pool was built. They insisted, and try as we would there was no way we could get around it. They insisted that the Pearson Street YWCA, as it was called, have a swimming program there. And that continued until I was executive. I stopped in about 1969, and we just we said, “This is ridiculous.” And the—it was too difficult to administer so we quit it.

WL:

Who—when you say “they,” you mean—who insisted? Who particularly, who particularly insisted that it still continue at the Hayes-Taylor?

HA:

The donors.

WL:

Oh, the donors. Okay, so it wasn't the black community?

HA:

No, no. No, no. No. It was the donors of the building and the, and the pool. You see, we were discouraged from having interracial swimming and that sort of thing.

WL:

I would imagine so, since the community pools were still segregated in this period.

HA:

Yes, and I cannot remember. You see, we had a pool at the Davie Street Y, a very small one, had a swimming program. And I can't remember, I can't remember the racial aspects of that particularly. Except I'd—you know, we were told that we had to have our black girls programmed at the Hayes-Taylor. And, let's see, all the annual meetings and the—as many programs as possible gradually were integrated.

But then during my presidency we, we built the Pearson Street, or the Lee Street building, and—which was at the time was a really nice building. Ed Lowenstein did it and it was a, it was a good building. And a lot of the black program was down there, and the white program went down there some. The black program came up to Davie Street and then in—oh, I forget the year, but we got rid of that building. It was—the program was so integrated by that time that we didn't need it. So, I forget the year that that was done, but anyhow the, the Lee Street building was turned back over to the United Way and it has now become—for the Urban Ministry, I guess. The black program had its own executive.

WL:

And that was maintained through the fifties and only gradually complete integration was accomplished?

HA:

As far as—as far back as I can remember, there was a black executive. You know, it, it—I don't know whether there is now or not, I haven't been down there in so long. I think there's just one executive now. The programs are all at Davie Street now in the new building. But I think the thing that will always stand out in my mind is the fact that it seemed to me to be the women of Greensboro and the kind of women who went to the—who worked with the YWCA, the United Church Women. The kind of women who were in those programs were the ones who were trying to move race relations along. And they held the fort all those difficult years while the rest of the community was really not only dragging its feet, but making it very difficult for us to do it. So I'm glad to be able to say this.

WL:

You mentioned before—it's an interesting point that you mentioned before about the lack of interracial contacts in, say, the early 1950s. I wonder if you could expand a little bit on that. I mean just in the daily lives, I guess, with whites and blacks.

HA:

Well, for example, Warren, of course, was very much interested in trying to promote as many interracial contacts as possible. So we devised a scheme of having a group of girls from Bennett and a group of girls from UNCG—and Greensboro College [GC] may have been in on that too with Raymond Smith. And, and we had them meet at our house periodically, our house over on—we were on McIver Street at that time, and then we moved to the little house [1706 Wright Ave.] next door here. And we had good relationships with our neighbors on McIver Street. But nevertheless, some of them called us and told us that we didn't—that they didn't want us to do that in that neighborhood, that they didn't want any socializing, interracial socializing on that, on that street. And we got, we got some pretty nasty telephone calls, too, asking us if we'd like to buy a piece of property on Benbow Road and that sort of thing, you know.

WL:

Very strong community taboo against that kind of thing.

HA:

Yeah. Any kind of, any kind of social contact was just not done, but we kept up with those. And I can remember we kept up until we lived next door, and then, and then it didn't become as necessary. But it was a group—and that's when UNCG was a women's college, so it was all girls, and GC was, was all girls too at the time, so it was a—just girls, no boys to it. Even that was just really frowned on and not to be permitted.

WL:

What was the nature of these meetings between UNCG, or Woman's College girls and—

HA:

I can't remember whether we discussed something or whether we just met and had fun, have something to eat, you know, and just talk.

WL:

Just contact.

HA:

Yeah, well, I don't remember anything of a study program or anything of that sort. It was just, just fairly informal. I'm trying to think of some other—I don't know whether you've ever talked to Mrs. John R. Taylor, Betsy Taylor.

WL:

No, I haven't, but I'd like to, like to schedule an appointment—

HA:

They helped a lot. They were very active. And Betsy was president of the YWCA and very active there on the board for many, many years. And they had a house in the, in the country. He built a big house. And I forget that year, too. It must have been in the late fifties. And they had a lake, a big lake. And they invited, they had interracial meetings there and interracial gatherings, and, and interracial swimming, that sort of thing. But the Taylor story is quite a story. They ran into a lot of difficulty.

WL:

Community opposition?

HA:

Yes, and then later in the seventies when the blacks became so vocal. They were sort of turned-on. And John was in real estate, building, he was a construction person. And some blacks were living in his—some of his buildings and they complained pretty bitterly about the buildings. And I don't know the justice or not of that. But anyhow, it was, it hurt very badly because they had been the prime people in town for all those years that really opened all sorts of doors and all sorts of contacts.

WL:

They felt a sort of betrayal, in other words? They felt a kind of [unclear] loss—

HA:

Yes, and a lot of us did.

WL:

During the 1970s, late sixties?

HA:

During the early, yes, 1970s. I've, I've never felt so deserted in my life. Not only by the blacks but by my teenage children. [laughs] It was an attitude of, “Where have you been all your life? What've you been doing to let the situation be like this?” [laughs]

And so it was—and with that, justice, you know. They should have done a lot, lot more. But nevertheless it hurt.

WL:

Let's get back to the, to the 1950s and the interracial contacts in the 1950s, I'm interested in exploring, I guess, a little bit more about this. Were there any other interracial groups that you know of, who were contacts?

HA:

Have you had contact, contact with the Fellowships of the Churchmen?

WL:

No.

HA:

Well it was—Warren was very active in that, and I was too. We had—it was a southeastern organization and they for a while had an executive in Chapel Hill. And we were—lived in Chapel Hill from '46 to '49. We were very active there. And there were some interesting race relations going on in Chapel Hill which I'll mention if you want me to. But anyhow, [coughs], excuse me, the Fellowship of Southern Churchmen was a group of like-minded people in the South and Southeast—a lot of ministers and labor union people and—

WL:

Any particular denomination?

HA:

—divinity school people. What?

WL:

Did it have any denominational affiliation at all, interdenominational—?

HA:

No, no denomination. That was the thing. It was across denominations and across all sorts of outreach groups. But the primary purpose of it—and it was interracial—the primary purpose of it was to provide a place where people [phone rings] could. [laughs]

[Recorder turned off, then back on]

HA:

The fellowship was to provide a contact between people who were like-minded on race relations particularly and about, well, labor unions and that type of thing, too, as well. And just social issues that were liberal social issues. And it—it really provided a wonderful bolstering for everybody that was in it because you didn't feel so alone in this thing. You didn't—you could find that there were people all over the South, not many, but quite a few that would come together and meet together. And they, and they had a conference once in a while and on weekends and that sort of thing.

In Chapel Hill—for a while the executive of it was in Chapel Hill; that was Nell Morton[?], who now teaches at a seminary in—or she may be retired now. But she was in a seminary in California now. And Charlie Jones of the Presbyterian church in Chapel Hill, he was Presbyterian at that time. And that's an interesting story, too. It involved Frank Graham who was in that church, too. But Charlie was very, very liberal in his viewpoint.

WL:

He was minister of—

HA:

He was minister at that time of the First Presbyterian Church in Chapel Hill. He's still living in Chapel Hill. But that's a very interesting story. That may be in Warren's book. Then, let's see, there was a man that taught at North Carolina Central University, Neil Hougley[?] was in it. And Ed Burrows from Greensboro College, or Guilford College, was in it. And there were, there were people like Mike—oh well, I can't remember all the names, but I could if I had to sit down and try. But there were just people all over the South who were, who were trying to push things ahead and, and felt lonesome if they didn't have a little support along with them. And that was a great group. It was really a fine thing.

WL:

Based in Chapel Hill?

HA:

It was based in Chapel Hill at that time.

WL:

But it would meet in various places?

HA:

And they even went so far as to buy a piece of land in the mountains for a conference center, but I think the atmosphere changed by that time and it wasn't as needed. when race relations became a little easier it wasn't as needed as formally. I think they sold that and they don't have that property anymore.

WL:

What were its objectives? What sorts of things specifically did it try to do just to get people together?

HA:

I think it was mostly for fellowship.

WL:

Fellowship, yeah. Particulary to have an interracial group as well.

HA:

Just to make people feel that they weren't the only ones in the world that were trying to do this. There were a few lights here and there. And that was a really marvelous organization. I don't know whether somebody's written the history of it or not. But if you ever get to Chapel Hill, Charlie Jones is—

WL:

I'd like to do that.

HA:

—is, he's a great—he was a great guy. He was really great.

WL:

Let's talk a little bit about the, about the reaction in Greensboro as you remember it to the changes in the 1950s, particularly the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision, if you remember that. Just the whole question of desegregation, in schools—well, first of all in schools.

HA:

Well, this was extremely difficult. There was one girl, I forget her name now.

WL:

Josephine Boyd? At Senior High School?

HA:

Yeah, at Grimsley—or it was Greensboro Senior High then, and she had, as near as I can make out, had a terribly tough time. And the person that could give you a, good information on that is Jenny Parker, Jenny and Franklin Parker. Their daughter was a good friend of this girl and, and stood with her at Greensboro Senior High with a great deal of trouble. You know, it was tough. That's, that's really tough for a teenager to stand up for—against the whole, against everybody else. And that's practically what, what happened at that time, as I understand it.

WL:

What was the—would you characterize the way Greensboro reacted as mostly against integration or—

HA:

Against what?

WL:

Against school integration?

HA:

Oh yes.

WL:

Or mostly indifferent about it?

HA:

It's the same thing that they've done all along. Just dragged their feet at every point. Tried to put every block in the way that they can—that they could to keep it from happening. And they would devise these schemes, you know, to keep it from happening. As the university has—did with this, with all this stuff, that law stuff that they would throw. Well, if they'd just go ahead and do what was right, it wouldn't, you know, everything would have turned out as it has—

[End Tape 1, Side A—Begin Tape 1, Side B]

HA:

You know, the whole society at the time to try to integrate the '54 [Brown] decision was just, was just more than they could even think that they could do. So, they, like I say, they put every block in the way that they could think of and then finally it, it had to work out. They—there wasn't anything else they could do.

WL:

Was this—this was true of the leadership of Greensboro? In other words, the city council and mayor and sort of civic leaders pretty much opposed to it?

HA:

There was no—every, everything was rather measured in remarks rather than measured—there wasn't a great deal of violent talk or, you know, no Ku Klux Klan-ny type thing or anything like that. But it was just a very slow kind of—if they, if one thing they were doing was ruled wrong, why then they would think up something else that they would try. And gradually, of course, it just—integration just came along and there wasn't any way to hold it back. The community was tense and there was a great deal of, there was a great deal of discussion.

I remember one night Warren went out to Guilford College and spoke about it, just saying that it ought to be done. [laughs] You know, there's nothing—there's no other way. No other way is right. And no matter what we feel about it, it's got to be done. And I don't remember what he said but I remember Bill Snider saying he was almost persuaded. That's—Bill's the editor of the newspaper. But, nevertheless, the newspaper and the community really drug their feet as long as they could. And—

WL:

That was true [unclear]—

HA:

It was a very gentlemanly, for the most part, type of thing, and, and outside of the poor little black girl who was over there all by herself and that sort of thing, you know, it just proceeded on its own. Like a juggernaut, it had to come.

WL:

You mentioned the newspapers were all here. Was the newspaper, would you say the newspaper was fairly, well, by our standards today, conservative on these issues?

HA:

Oh, it was a good newspaper in those days. It was a better newspaper than it is now, in my opinion. But on this subject they were, they were very slow. And I was trying to—I, I don't think of any—there were, you know, editorials. There was some person in the state that devised a plan that he thought would keep this thing from coming so fast. And the newspaper here approved of that plan.

WL:

Was that the Pearsall Plan?

HA:

Yes.

WL:

Oh, they approved of the Pearsall plan?

HA:

Yeah. Yeah, they endorsed that. And I think that's what maybe Warren was talking about out at Guilford. And I don't remember the details now except it just wasn't any use for them to build—to keep building these little hurdles because they got torn down, which is a good thing. [laughs]

WL:

How much in these interracial groups of the 1950s, whites and blacks together, how much trust was being built up, do you think, between whites and blacks there? Was it fragmented trust?

HA:

There was a lot of trust on the YW board. I think, I think all those women really liked each other and everybody knew we were trying to move ahead on this thing. And I think there was quite a bit of trust; I have those friends still.

And then the seventies came along. And nobody trusted anybody. Particularly blacks didn't trust whites, and said so, and rightly so. But in those early years I think we all kind of felt that we were working on a common difficult thing and that we were all beleaguered and that we needed to hang in there together, so we did. And they were—it was a wonderful group of black women, and white women, too. I could name them.

WL:

Please do.

HA:

[laughs] Margery Lane was one of them, Mrs. [?] Lane; and Betsy [Taylor]; and Mrs. Westerband is black; Mrs. David Jones, a finer woman you've never met in your life. Oh, that's another story, about Bennett College—and [pause], just—and then Margaret Headen was the executive of the branch—and my memory fails me. But anyhow, I, I—if I'd sat down I could, I could think of a lot of them that were in there working on this thing.

And there was a real feeling that we were working on something important. And that, that there was a great deal of trust. But, then, like I say, the seventies came along and the suspicion and dislike and sort of turning their backs on whites. And that—Bennett, yeah, Bennett College, Dr. David Jones was head of it. And he was a man of the old school in, in lots of ways. And Mrs. Jones was just a, a marvelous lady. I can remember one day, we belonged to a small Methodist church over here near the campus. And I can remember going to a meeting of the women's society at the church and seeing Mrs. Jones sitting outside of the door of the meeting room. A charming, educated, cultured, lovely lady, [laughs] and she couldn't go in because they were eating. She was going to speak or speak about Bennett or something, but she couldn't go in. So that, the churches were way behind on this thing.

But Bennett was a very interesting place in those days. It was, in lots of ways they were teaching those girls to try to live in a white world, on a white level, it seemed to me. And then, it's changed now. Along came the next president, I can't think of her name.

WL:

Dr. [Willa] Player?

HA:

Who?

WL:

Player.

HA:

Yeah. And she came along and she was there during the seventies and it was tough for her and she did a good job, as near as I could make out. And she turned those girls, you know, free. Not that they weren't doing a wonderful job with the girls before that, but it—the atmosphere changed. Those sixties and seventies were, that was a big changing time. [laughs]

WL:

Would you describe the—Bennett as being one scene of this kind of contact—

HA:

Bennett as being what?

WL:

Bennett College as being one location or scene of black and white contact in the late 1950s?

HA:

No. No.

WL:

Not really?

HA:

Warren went down there once a year and spoke at chapel, that sort of thing. But, you see, that was not, that was not, any, anything. I don't recall Dr. Jones being invited over to any other college around here, a white college to speak. So it was, it was a one-way thing, and too bad.

WL:

Let's talk—you mentioned, sort of in passing, a theme of what we've been talking about today perhaps, I guess, is churches. And I'm interested in your reaction about or feelings about the role churches played, both good and bad, in the race relations. It seems to me that you could make a case the churches have done very badly and there is evidence of church people doing very well.

HA:

Yeah, the churches drug their feet as bad as anybody, as, as any other organization in the community. Just held off and held off and wouldn't do and wouldn't do, except for the United Church Women, which I said integrated in the, in the fifties. That was a national organ[ization]—we were the Council of Churches organization. Now the Council of Churches may have been integrated, I'm not sure. That was a state organization. You might check into that if you're interested in that.

I don't remember when they were—there was an article in the paper not long ago when some Duke professor died. It said he was instrumental in getting that organization integrated—I, I didn't know that of him. And I can't remember his name now. But somebody can identify him for you. It was just not long ago that he died, and it was on the, his picture and everything was on the front page of the second section. [He was a] well-known Duke professor, retired—had been retired. But the Council of Churches, the state Council of Churches was and then the United Church Women was associated with them. It was the women's branch, and then there was a men's branch. And I don't know anything about the men's branch, except that they—there was one.

WL:

Would they have regular meetings? United Church Women have regular meetings?

HA:

Yes, they had about three community meetings during the year. And then their board and their officers were—became integrated in the early fifties shortly after the YWCA did.

WL:

So, all their meetings and presumably social, social functions would also be integrated?

HA:

Yeah.

WL:

Yeah. Let's talk a little bit about the early 1960s and the effect of the sit-ins at Woolworths, as you recall it. And then, the 1963, if you remember. What sort of effect did this have? Was there surprise about it or was there—

HA:

I don't remember much about that. I remember the marching more than the, than the sit-ins particularly. It was, it was scattered all over the newspaper and that sort of thing. And much talked about and much criticized, of course, by the white community.

WL:

Was the response pretty much negative in the white community to marching, to the marching?

HA:

Except for the usual liberals that were, you know, but what can you expect of them. [laughs] But I'm not sure that—I don't know how much it persuaded. I mean, I guess I must have been having children to take care of at the time, and wasn't really, really too much involved with that aspect of it. I can remember the marches, and the, and the college kids taking part in that, Bennett and UNCG girls and I suppose A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] and Greensboro College girls. And I can, I can remember them taking part and this sort of thing.

I think this is one thing that Willa Player turned the Bennett girls loose to do which a few years before that, just wouldn't have, you know, wouldn't have been dreamed of. They were, those girls, were being taught to be ladies, white gloves and hats. And this was a whole new thing, you know. To let them go out on the streets and march. It was—so that was a great change for them. But I don't remember very much except about that.

WL:

What kind of effect did it have on liberals? I mean, was it—this whole interracial, did the interracial contacts that began in the 1950s, did those continue through all of this, did they survive that very well?

HA:

Did what continue?

WL:

Did the contacts that we've been talking about. Did they survive that kind of confrontation successfully in the early 1960s? Do you remember?

HA:

They must have metamorphosed some way, because a lot of those groups like the Greensboro Fellowship and that sort of thing just sort of fizzled out. And so there wasn't that need. One thing that the Greensboro Fellowship did, I remember this very well now, is they tried to get the restaurants integrated. And I can remember that Warren and somebody else from the Greensboro Fellowship went down to talk to the man at the O. Henry Hotel, the old O. Henry which is gone now. But they had a nice dining room and they tried to persuade him that, uh, it's time. It was time for the restaurants to be integrated. And Boyd Morris had a restaurant downtown, the old cafeteria.

WL:

The Mayfair Cafeteria?

HA:

Yeah, and he wouldn't, he wouldn't do it.

WL:

Was he—he was approached by—

HA:

He was what?

WL:

Well, he was approached by the Greensboro Fellowship? Did they approach Boyd Morris?

HA:

Yes. I can remember there was one lovely, lovely Indian girl on the UNCG, well, the Woman's College campus from India. And she was dark-skinned. And she went down with, about this time, she went down with a—I don't know whether it was a white boy or an Indian boy that was visiting—to eat at the hotel. But they wouldn't let her in even though she had a saree on. And so I remember that was one thing that Warren went down and complained. Her father was head of the Indian Air Force or something. And here she comes to the United States and gets turned down at a little hotel restaurant. But that was what was going on.

WL:

You went to, you went to India, in fact—

HA:

Yeah, we went in '64 and stayed until '66.

WL:

And then you came back and you were executive of the YW.

HA:

Yes.

WL:

How would you characterize the atmosphere—racial atmosphere in the late 1960s? Are there any memories there based on your experiences with the Y?

HA:

From '67 to '70, I thought it was very, very difficult. And it was mostly because the blacks had discovered their voice and they had said,—and said, they “weren't going to take this from whitey anymore” and “what you've done is nothing compared to what you should've done,” which was true. And that, “We're just not going to have it anymore.” And they turned, you know, they turned away.

Which was, I thought, very difficult to cope with. And you—There wasn't anything you could hold on to. You couldn't, you couldn't grab on to anything to work with people that were, that were that against you.

WL:

And bitter.

HA:

And bitter. And so I found it a very difficult time to be an executive of an interracial organization. And I can remember some meetings we had in which we had a national meeting of some kind. And I can remember some of the discussions were just pretty vitriolic and, and, and just hard to swallow from the white standpoint. And, uh, even though, even though, we—all of us knew it was justified. And then, since '70, I haven't, I haven't been active with it at all.

WL:

Let me ask you one final question about the whole subject, and that is, to what extent—this is a big question, I guess—to what extent do you think things have really improved since the 1950s? What things have changed? What things haven't changed?

HA:

Oh, I think they've improved immeasurably. And, you know, you always are, are told that you can't legislate morals, but you can. Uh, it, uh—and I think things are just much, much better. Not good enough, yet, by any manner or means. But you look back at the things that are different now from what they were—what they were then. We wouldn't think anything of going into a restaurant and having black people sitting next to us, and—or any place, you know, any place they can. And that's, I think that's pretty good progress. And I think the change is just immeasurable. But immeasurable change is still needed.

WL:

What kind of perception do you think there is on the part of the black community about the way things have changed?

HA:

Well, they're, they're much more sophisticated with what they think. I don't have contact with blacks like I used to, particularly ones that aren't well-to-do. I have quite a number of friends now that are, black friends, who are, you know, in the upper-middle, middle class. And I don't get any feeling that they feel much inferiority, and, you know, that they are made to feel much inferiority.

WL:

Which would have been the case.

HA:

I think they know who they are now, and aren't going to take any gaff.

WL:

But thirty years ago they would've been, had felt, or would have been—

HA:

Yeah, they would've been unsure of themselves and not known whether they would be accepted or not. This group I was telling you about that is studying ethics, there are some black women in there. And, they, they're as, uh—and they know that they're as good as anybody. They don't have to feel inferior anymore. They may down underneath, but we all do down underneath. [laughs] So I think the change is just, is just great if we could just keep on with it now.

[End of Interview]