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Oral history interview with Pattie E. Banks by Eugene Pfaff


Date: June 14, 1979

Interviewee: Pattie E. Banks

Biographical abstract: Pattie E. Banks participated in the 1962 and 1963 demonstrations against segregated businesses in downtown Greensboro while a student at Bennett College.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a June 14, 1979, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Pattie E. Banks, Banks discusses the strategies of students involved in demonstrations during the civil rights movement in Greensboro and the evolution of the movement into militancy. Other topics include Greensboro's image as a tolerant and moderate city, the later breakdown of unity and leadership within the black community, and her views on housing problems and economic disparity in the city.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.489

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 Pattie E. Banks by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—Greensboro Public Library Oral History Program. It's being conducted at GTI [Guilford Technical Institute] in the English department office on June 14, 1979. And I'm speaking with Mrs. Pattie Banks, who was participant in the 1963 civil rights demonstrations in Greensboro in the spring of 1963.

Mrs. Banks, what age and what class were you in 1963? Or at least what class?

PATTIE BANKS:

I was a junior I believe.

EP:

Had you participated in any civil rights activity prior to this time?

PB:

In the fall of '62.

EP:

What activity did that consist of?

PB:

Mainly the demonstrations, that is, the students from Bennett [College] getting together with the students from A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] in the peaceful marches downtown. My group focused primarily on the Mayfair restaurant. That is, we each had different areas that we were to cover on a particular night, and usually mine centered around the Mayfair Cafeteria, which is no longer in Greensboro.

EP:

How were you recruited for this? [telephone rings, tape stopped, then restarted] How did you become involved? Were you asked to participate? Did you volunteer?

PB:

I volunteered. Of course, information was widespread on campus and in the news and what-have-you. But I volunteered on my own; there were instructors on campus who were involved, and the enthusiasm was there, the interest was there. But it was a volunteer thing; I don't remember anybody coming and saying “you ought to participate” or “this is what we need to do.”

EP:

Were there any organized leaders on campus?

PB:

Instructors, but not students that I recall.

EP:

Were you a member of CORE [Congress on Racial Equality]?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

Was there a CORE chapter on [Bennett College] campus?

PB:

It was [on] A&T's campus, as I remember.

EP:

Were these marches in the fall of 1962 on a daily or nightly basis or were they just individual actions?

PB:

It was usually a nightly basis or maybe every other night, as I remember. It was not just a haphazard kind of thing, “Tuesday, we will demonstrate and then three weeks later we will go.”

EP:

How long did they last?

PB:

Oh, God. A couple of months, I think. I'm guessing now, I'm really just guessing.

EP:

Why did they end?

PB:

Probably because it was felt that some achievements were being made. The other thing that comes into play, of course, is holidays, students going home, and this made a tremendous difference. It seems that the bulk of the support or input came from the students from Bennett and A&T. So, of course when the students were gone, then—

EP:

What sort of accomplishments do you think were made?

PB:

At least making the people aware of what our stand was, what we felt needed to be done, what changes needed to be made as far as desegregation was concerned. I think maybe the awareness was as important as anything else. I think, also, some positive attitudes did come out of it, some cooperation on the part of the city officials.

EP:

Were you in any planning sessions as a member of CORE?

PB:

No.

EP:

What was the usual procedure for these 1962 marches? How many people were involved?

PB:

It would vary from time to time. As I remember, initially they would—some points were made that some of the officials at A&T may have been a little reluctant for some of the students to be involved, and I guess that's because it was a state-supported school, I'm not sure. I do remember hearing rumors of students who were—A&T students who were chosen to get the names of other students who were participating. I've lost my point—

EP:

Did you march from the Bennett or A&T campus?

PB:

No, we would always meet at a church. At that time it was Providence Baptist Church, which was in an area sort of between Bennett and A&T. It's no longer there, in the old site, the old church has been torn down. But we would always gather at a church first.

EP:

How—What instructions were you given prior to a march?

PB:

To march in an orderly fashion, always have books, newspapers, magazines or something so that when we would go into restaurants or whatever area we were covering at that time, take a seat and we would be able to read our material until someone came to wait on us.

EP:

Did CORE conduct any classes into preparing you for possible verbal and physical abuse?

PB:

Not formal classes per se. There were guidelines from leaders, such as [CORE chapter president] Bill Thomas and others, and ministers who reminded us of the nonviolent tactics that we were to adhere to. We were prepared for, we were told about, but there were no specific classes as such.

EP:

You mentioned that you carried books in case you went in. Did you ever go in these establishments and sit down?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

What would happen on these occasions?

PB:

Verbal abuse from those who were inside—usually nothing—

EP:

White patrons?

PB:

Right, white patrons because of course there were no black patrons. Until the proprietor, manager, whatever he was called would call the police and arrest us for trespassing.

EP:

Were you ever arrested?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

Where were you taken at this time?

PB:

Downtown to the city jail, I guess it's called.

EP:

Were you actually placed in a cell or were you just released on bond or on recognizance?

PB:

We were released. Fingerprinted, pictures filed or whatever, and then released until the court date.

EP:

Were you ever mistreated or abused by the police at the time of these arrests?

PB:

On a whole, I'd say no. Basically, they were fairly courteous. Of course, they are always those who are rancid and ill-tempered, but on a whole, I'd say no, from my standpoint.

EP:

Did you have occasion to observe who was in charge of the police? For instance, I know Captain William Jackson was in '63.

PB:

Right, that was the name that I was going to say.

EP:

What is your opinion how he handled the situation and the police—his instructions to his men, methods of arrest, that kind of thing?

PB:

He functioned in a rather courteous manner, as I recall. I don't really remember any harassment or mistreatment as such, considering the circumstances.

EP:

Now, in '63, the newspaper has mentioned a familiar tactic was for the demonstrators and marchers to line the sidewalk, but not block it, and then to walk in a circle and then one or more would approach the front door of various establishments and then when they were told they would not be allowed to enter and then refused to leave, then they were arrested. Was this a tactic or did you walk directly into the establishments?

PB:

As I recall, we walked directly into the establishment. As I say, there were different marches going on in different sections, we were assigned different areas, so it could have been that for some instances, this happened. But in my situation, we march—we did line the side of the sidewalks, as you mentioned, so as not to block movement for other people who wanted to pass by. But we would all move into the particular restaurant in question.

EP:

You say this occurred on a nightly basis for about two months?

PB:

Guessing roughly, yes.

EP:

Now after the first few times, did you always enter the establishment or after the first few times, were you blocked or prevented by the management or police?

PB:

I think sometimes when word got out that we were coming, the doors would be locked. It seems that I remember that happening once at Mayfair.

EP:

Were there large numbers of hecklers on the street?

PB:

Yes. Yes.

EP:

Were you ever threatened, intimidated, interfered with in any way by these hecklers?

PB:

Surely. And I was frightened, I'm sure a lot of other people were frightened, because we never really knew—and along with the hecklers, there were those who were on the side offering encouragement.

EP:

Were these white and black people offering encouragement or just primarily black?

PB:

Yes. Yes.

EP:

Would the police get between you and these hecklers? I mean, did they keep the two groups separate?

PB:

I believe so. I remember that they were around. They would usually be in the area when we were marching, just sort of making their presence felt, I suppose.

EP:

How did this particular segment of the demonstrations wind down? Was there a meeting saying, “We won't demonstrate anymore for a while” or did students just take their exams and leave the campus? How did it cease?

PB:

I honestly don't remember a specific meeting as such that [said] “All right, we've done as much as we can now, so we will draw it to a close.” I really don't remember that happening at all. It could have, and if it did, maybe it was a night that I did not go. But I just don't remember a specific session such as that. Again, it gets back to the thing of when it gets time for breaks or the term was over, students would leave, and that was pretty much it.

EP:

Did you march on a nightly basis?

PB:

Not every night. Often enough, but not every night. I would say roughly every other night when we were participating.

EP:

Now, how did your particular involvement cease in the fall of '62 segment?

PB:

[Laughter].

EP:

Well, who were some of the principal leaders, you've mentioned instructors in CORE and not in CORE on the campus?

PB:

Dr. [Elizabeth] Laizner, whom you have already mentioned, Reverend [James] Bush, who was a religion professor, and Mr. [John F.] Hatchett, who was also a sociology and religion professor. Those were the key people from Bennett, and we fell more or less, under their leadership, I guess.

EP:

And you say the encouragement, instruction, communication came through the professors and the campus newspaper, is that correct?

PB:

I would say so. As far as our really being aware and then getting more information as to what was going on, and what should be going on, what it might involve, and so on.

EP:

Were you a resident of Greensboro?

PB:

No.

EP:

Where did you live?

PB:

Stanton, Virginia is my home. I lived on campus, of course, in the dorm.

EP:

Did you have much occasion to witness or did you hear from your fellow students what their impressions of race relations in Greensboro were at this time?

PB:

Somewhat. They were bothered, I guess, as all of us were at that time. There were some students who did not want to get involved, for fear—particularly students from the Deep South—for fear that their pictures may be seen on television. I remember one young lady in particular who was from Tupelo, Mississippi. Her mother was a teacher and she was afraid to become involved, saying that if she should be recognized on television then her mother would no longer have a job. I had difficulty dealing with that, but it made sense to her, so—

EP:

How about local members of the black community, did they express any feeling that they might lose their jobs or be subject to harassment?

PB:

I can remember hearing of things like that, yes. You have to keep in mind, most Bennett students at that time were pretty much removed from the outer community, because we had sort of our own little world, so to speak. There were certain places that we didn't go, that we couldn't go because it just wasn't—

EP:

Segregated?

PB:

Well, not only the segregation, but Bennett, being the kind of school that it was, there were just certain places that we were not to go, to this particular restaurant or that particular one, even though it may have been a black establishment, because we were guided in what was correct and what wasn't correct so to speak.

EP:

Young ladies didn't go there.

PB:

Right, right.

EP:

Was Dr. Laizner a militant activist? What was her role in encouraging the participation of Bennett students?

PB:

I'm not exactly sure what you mean by your use of the word “militant,” but I would certainly say that she was involved. We respected her and admired her, and felt encouraged by her stand.

EP:

There were charges that she was a leftist or even a Communist. Were these rumors going around?

PB:

Surely.

EP:

But there was no—you never were aware of any substance of these charges?

PB:

No.

EP:

When the students came back, in the beginning of the spring semester, when did the demonstrations of the spring begin?

PB:

This is the spring of '63?

EP:

Spring of '63.

PB:

Okay, now that I can't tell you. I was removed from that then. I dropped out of school, dropped out of Bennett that semester and I did become detached from what was going on, so I am really fuzzy.

EP:

Did you attend CORE meetings?

PB:

Again, I don't know to call them meetings as such. The sessions, in essence, were those in preparation for a night's demonstration.

EP:

Did you participate in the spring '63 demonstrations?

PB:

No. No. I didn't—

EP:

Were you aware of anyone who did? Did you speak with them, either at that time or subsequently?

PB:

I don't think so, I don't recall that I did.

EP:

So you were never arrested and incarcerated in the old polio hospital?

PB:

No. No, I was downtown always. I remember our going to the old polio center. Is it Evergreens? Is that the one you're talking about? [both talking]

EP:

You say you went down there; in what capacity?

PB:

In support of—groups of students would go in support of those who were [there].

EP:

But you never marched or attempted to enter as a demonstrator any of these establishments?

PB:

In the spring?

EP:

Yes.

PB:

No, not after I dropped out of school, I didn't. All of my activity took place in the fall from September on, whenever that started.

EP:

The reason I ask that is you mentioned that you went down to the polio hospital. I was under the impression that large numbers arrested in the spring, primarily Bennett students, but also A&T, were at the polio hospital, I just wondered was it at that time that you went down there in support of the students, or was it earlier, were there other times—?

PB:

I think that it must have been an earlier time when there were students there, because I am pretty sure that I was not involved after I dropped out of school that semester, as far as marching was concerned. And I do recall going to the old Evergreens polio center. As I said, there were groups of us that went in support of those who were incarcerated.

EP:

The demonstrations that you did attend, in which you did participate, was there active desire on the part of A&T students for Bennett to participate or was there a kind of lack of communication, perhaps even rivalry between the two campuses?

PB:

Not that I picked up at all.

EP:

Was there ever any fear on the part of the male students that the female students might be subject to undue harassment or even physical injury?

PB:

I think that the concern was there, but not to the point of saying, “Well, you ladies shouldn't participate.” Not to that point.

EP:

Was there ever any formation such that the female students were protected. For instance, I believe Reverend [Otis] Hairston mentioned that, and Dr. Laizner, that marching formation was that the men would be on the outside and the women on the inside, in case objects were thrown or if they were attacked by hecklers. Were you aware of anything like that?

PB:

I wasn't aware of it, but it could have taken place. What comes to mind immediately is one of many pictures taken during that time. And on that one, a classmate of mine and I were on the front page [of the newspaper], as a matter of fact there were three of us abreast, and there was nobody on either side of us.

EP:

You say that you were heckled or verbally abused by the white hecklers, but did it go beyond that? Were you ever physically intimidated or threatened?

PB:

Some rock throwing. Verbal abuse, I suppose, was as much or more the case than anything else.

EP:

You mentioned that you were frightened; could you describe the kind of tension that you were under at this time?

PB:

I was afraid of being attacked physically I think, of being beaten with sticks or whatever. I was apprehensive as to the kind of treatment we might get from the police.

EP:

Did that prove to be justified or not justified?

PB:

Well, I mentioned earlier, I think, that there wasn't any harassment or abuse, any strong abuse from the police.

EP:

But you never spent the night in jail?

PB:

No.

EP:

What charge were you arrested on?

PB:

Trespassing.

EP:

Now, did you have to post your own bond or was bond posted for you?

PB:

Bond was posted.

EP:

By CORE?

PB:

By CORE.

EP:

Did you ever get to know any of the leaders of CORE? You have mentioned Bill Thomas, I understand that Pat Patterson was vice-chairman. How well did you know these individuals?

PB:

Not very well. Only as respected leaders really, in sort of a detached away, I guess, as any large group of people would know a little bit about these, but never on a personal basis where I could go up and say, “Bill this,” or “Bill that.”

EP:

So you were a member of the rank and file of CORE?

PB:

Right.

EP:

Any time that meetings were held, was just with the—was it an open meeting with the total membership or just the hierarchy of leadership?

PB:

They were open meetings. I'm sure that there must have been sessions for leaders only in terms of planning strategy and so on, and certain key people. But there were open sessions, and as I mentioned earlier, frequently before the demonstrations, I guess we had what you could call the mass meeting, that's what they were called, the mass meetings before.

EP:

How were decisions made? Was it democratic, by popular vote or had the decisions already been made and just instructions given out?

PB:

I would say probably the decisions were made by those in charge of making decisions. [laughter] Then the guidelines were passed to the participants.

EP:

Was Jesse Jackson involved in these earlier demonstrations, or was his leadership confined to the spring?

PB:

I think maybe the early ones—maybe later in that fall. I really don't remember so much. I remember Jesse being involved, but I am sort of fuzzy as to times.

EP:

How was order maintained during the march?

PB:

There was no problem. We all knew what our specific purpose was, we knew that or we believed that we could achieve what we needed to achieve better in an orderly manner. We were all of the same accord. There really just wasn't any problem at all as far as maintaining order or doing what we were supposed to do.

EP:

Was this strictly a student involvement at this time or were members of the adult black community involved?

PB:

There were some members of the adult black community. The majority, I would say, consisted of students.

EP:

What were your feelings about the movement? Was it so identified at that time? It's subsequently been called the movement or the civil rights movement. Was it that—identified as such in your mind at that time?

PB:

I guess we didn't place so much [emphasis] on the word “the movement” at that time. Rather, we focused more on the word “demonstrations” for achievement, you know, more so than the use of the term “the movement.” I think that's come about more—

EP:

What were the stated or implied goals at this time? Were they limited to the specific targets, was it general desegregation at this time?

PB:

General desegregation, focusing on specific targets, so I suppose with the hope that if we focus here, here, here then eventually maybe the others will be effective. If we can desegregate this, if we can go to McDonald's or go to S&W [Cafeteria] and so on then perhaps other establishments would follow suit.

EP:

You always went to the Mayfair? That was always your targeted area?

PB:

Right, Mayfair. I did demonstrate in front of the S&W, but I don't ever remember going in.

EP:

Was there much discussion amongst your fellow students as to their feelings at this time? Their expectations, hopes, fears, that sort of thing?

PB:

A little. Occasionally, we would get in groups and discuss what, say, the events of the night had been or what we hoped things would be like the following night or whatever. But it was kind of, almost like a ritualistic kind of thing. People were ill at ease, tense, but somewhat reverent. It was more of a personal thing, I guess. Even though we're involved—there were groups of people involved, but it was kind of personal thing.

EP:

Were there any outside influences on you at this time? For instance, in various histories written of the civil rights movement at this time in the South, since 1960 with the sit-ins and then the freedom rides, and the desegregation and the problems involved in the desegregation of the University of Alabama with Medger Evers, I believe in the spring of 1962 at the University of Mississippi. Did these national events have an influence on you and your fellow students, or was that something removed from the immediate situation?

PB:

I think that we were aware and kept an open observation of what was happening on a national basis, in Mississippi or wherever, but I believe that our primary concern was right here in this area more so than saying that this is a segment of what's going on in Mississippi or Alabama.

EP:

So you didn't see it as one part of an overall national—

PB:

No, I don't mean to say that. It was a part, but it was like the other part was the outer rim. We were more concerned with right here. But we saw it as a part, as a connecting factor, I suppose, with what was happening.

[Pause in Tape]

EP:

You say that you were not in school in the spring of 1963, but that you were in the Greensboro area?

PB:

Right.

EP:

And so you did observe the demonstrations of '63?

PB:

Wait, wait, wait. I believe I'm getting my dates tangled up. Hold on just a second. No, that's wrong, I was in school. It was '64, the spring of '64 when I was not in school. So, you are right. That did mean that it was in '63, in the spring of '63, when I was at the polio center at Evergreens. I was in school then. It was the spring of '64. I got my years tangled up, it's been so long ago.

EP:

But you say that you were not incarcerated?

PB:

No, I was not.

EP:

I know the newspaper recounted several instances when large numbers of students and members of the adult black community marched to the scene of the polio [hospital] to express support of those inside. You say that you did go on one of these?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

There was one particularly large march of this nature on a Sunday afternoon. Were you a member of that march? I believe this was led by Jesse Jackson.

PB:

It was. Yes, that's right. I remember that.

EP:

Now, the newspaper recounts that there were several speeches, particularly a major address by Jesse Jackson, and then there were songs, hymns, and also protest songs, and then there was an episode where the students sang the national anthem and the police did participate to the extent of coming to attention, saluting and that sort of thing. Did these things happen at that time? Do you recall this event?

PB:

No, I don't. And that makes me wonder if that was the same date that I was involved or not, but I do not recall the singing of the anthem. I do not recall the participation on the part of the police.

EP:

What exactly do you recall on the day that you went?

PB:

Just being in the perimeter around the center, shouting words of encouragement to those who were inside, and then leaving.

EP:

How many times were you arrested?

PB:

I think that it was two or three times, and each time released. Yes.

EP:

But this was in the fall of '62?

PB:

Right.

EP:

So you were not in the active—were you involved in the protest marches and demonstrations, then, in the spring of '63?

PB:

Evidently, I was on a limited basis. Otherwise I wouldn't have been there at the Evergreen Center. So I had to have been involved still.

EP:

What sort of things did [Bennett president] Dr. [Willa] Player say and do at this time concerning the student involvement?

PB:

She was encouraging. I don't remember specific words. Perhaps, in a vague term, she was encouraging, not so much as to say, “All right, go out and get involved, and participate see that this is done and see that that is done.” But we were aware that she was behind us. She was behind the instructors who were involved. So, I would say a kind of quiet encouragement.

EP:

Do you recall the events of the June fifth sit-down on Greene Street, the evening that Jesse Jackson was arrested, or the sit-down in Jefferson Square the next evening?

PB:

No, I don't.

EP:

You, then, I assume, did continue to go to school in the '63-'64 school year?

PB:

Right, right. Now, if it was June fifth of May 1963, that meant I had gone home for the summer.

EP:

Did you notice any substantial changes in Greensboro after the demonstrations had ended? Had many of the stores or theatres and restaurants desegregated?

PB:

A few, I believe. Again, there wasn't that much going, that Bennett students engaged in as far as restaurants or movies, but it seems that the theatres are coming to mind for some reason. I can't—for some reason the Carolina Theatre is sticking out in my mind, I don't remember exactly when that was desegregated, but it is coming forth for some strange reason.

EP:

Who were some of your fellow students at Bennett and also some students at A&T that were involved in these—with you that come to mind?

PB:

Paulette Hopkins from Miami Beach, Jessie Wills from Augusta, South Carolina. Those are people that I was particularly close to when we were together. Many students from New Jersey and New York—Toby Polk from Newark, New Jersey.

EP:

What leaders of the demonstrations stand out in your mind as particularly effective?

PB:

There was one student from Bennett. As I remember, she was involved and I'm thinking earlier when you asked me about leaders from Bennett. But Rosalyn Cheagle, her name is. Cheagle, C-h-e-a-g-l-e, Roslyn Cheagle was involved as I remember. So, I would say that she was outstanding as far as the group on campus was concerned, and the other gets right back to the people at A&T, Bill Thomas.

EP:

Were you involved in any civil rights activity after this time?

PB:

Not as such, no.

EP:

Greensboro had a reputation of being a city of moderate racial policies. Whenever asked about it by reporters, the white power structure will always say, “Well, we've gotten along very well,” as a matter of fact, their main statement on the demonstrations was, “It's sad that this is a disruption of our history of good relations between the races.” Do you think that Greensboro was indeed moderate in terms of its racial policy or is this a myth?

PB:

Probably a myth. I think as long as nothing is being done to bring about changes then people are quick to say everything is all right. As long as groups stay where they belong and don't rock the boat, then there are no problems, people say. I think that, perhaps, this was the case here, that maybe not that much had been done in terms of trying to bring about some changes, so it was assumed that race relations were satisfactory.

EP:

You say some of your fellow students were from the Deep South, where there was overt violence and actually police was used as a coercive measure, do you see a difference between the Upper South and the Lower South? Apparently, there was some kind of difference between actual violence, or was that not true? Do you think that the attitudes remained pretty much the same in the Upper South and the Deep South?

PB:

I'm not really sure, but I would say, I think that students who were from areas of greater violence or students who seemed to come from backgrounds that kept them from raising any questions, there was kind of a reluctance on their part to get involved—some, not all of them, of course—but I did notice that, I remember that.

EP:

You were raised in the Upper South but in a state that was particularly hard line in terms of breaking down segregation. Do you see anything from your particular perspective as having been raised in the Upper South as opposed to the Lower South?

PB:

I suppose the biggest thing is that there wasn't that much activity in my area at the time. Again, the assumption probably could be that relations were satisfactory simply because people stayed in their separate categories and didn't cross lines, so my thoughts I guess were more intense. The idea of becoming involved really generated once I got down here, rather than when I was at home. There was some resentment on the part of my father for my being involved; he's from the old school. My father's now sixty-nine and [he] felt that things should be left alone, so to speak.

EP:

Was this a practical—did his feelings on this emanate from a practical point of view, like, “We might get all sorts of recriminations come on us for your activity here,” or was it something that he genuinely felt?

PB:

Of that I can't be sure because I wasn't involved particularly in anything at home. Maybe he thought that it would be known that I was involved down here and that maybe that would have some repercussion on him, I'm really not sure.

EP:

I assume that he was also concerned about your safety?

PB:

Probably, yes. I remember being uneasy. He was to come down the weekend of my birthday and that was a week that we had demonstrations scheduled and I was scheduled to participate. And I was a little bit apprehensive that I might be still in jail when he came down that Sunday.

EP:

Oh, so you were kept in jail for a period of time?

PB:

I was afraid that I would be kept overnight. We were released, we were arrested and released that same night. I was afraid that I would not be released and that I would be in jail when he came to Greensboro.

EP:

After your graduation, did you stay in the Greensboro area or did you leave the area?

PB:

Actually, I graduated from A&T, so that this is where the lapse comes in. I dropped out of Bennett that spring semester of '64 I guess it was, and then I stayed out of school a couple of years. I had a son, I got married, had a child, and then when I returned to school, I returned to A&T. So my graduation is from A&T rather than Bennett.

EP:

When did you graduate from A&T?

PB:

Sixty-eight.

EP:

Were there any further demonstrations, episodes of racial tension or anything of that nature on the campus or the general community up to the time of your graduation?

PB:

Oh, surely, surely. Don't forget that there we got involved in the King assassination.

EP:

What sort of things occurred in April '68 when Dr. King was assassinated?

PB:

Maybe you could call them “hostile activities,” I don't know, but there was some violence that erupted, there was anger. You recall the curfew that came about over the whole city, the riots, I guess they could be called, that centered around A&T, the murder of the student, Willie Grimes.

EP:

What were the pressures in the black student community and in the general black community toward greater militancy?

I'm thinking, now, that in CORE itself there was a strong faction that was for more militant-not armed conflict-but a more militant, direct action tactics, and then, of course, the advocacy of armed demonstrations, resistance, whatever term you would like to call them by such national figures as Stokley Carmichael, H. Rap Brown, and then, of course, the Black Panthers. Did you sense this rise of greater militancy in the black community?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

From whence did it stem? Why was there greater appeal from the orderly nonviolent demonstrations, marches in which you participated as a member of CORE and the more overt violent tactics?

PB:

I think probably because it was felt that not that much progress was being made in a short enough period of time. Also, the idea of Dr. King's philosophy, which was nonviolence, and then for him to be destroyed in a violent manner seemed to shift the whole thing completely out of focus. And I think people began to feel that it no longer mattered, it was no longer sufficient to maintain a low profile of nonviolence, but rather there needed to be a push.

EP:

Did your thoughts tend to go in this direction or not?

PB:

Yes.

EP:

I believe that you said, though, that you did not continue in direct civil rights activities?

PB:

As such, yes, you're right.

EP:

Were you around the campus around the time of the exchange of gunfire in 1969, when the student [Willie] Grimes was killed?

PB:

I was living here in the city. I wasn't around the general campus, per se. But I was here, living in Greensboro.

EP:

Do you think that this was an action that was not sanctioned but at least understood by the mass or the large majority of the black community, and as I understand it, originated from a student election at Dudley High School. [telephone rings] Could they understand why a portion of the student body had actually come to an exchange of gunfire with police?

PB:

I think people were aware of the background that had sort of set this up, but perhaps there was some question as to how it all evolved the way that it did, because I remember being fuzzy myself as to what really happened and how it sort of snowballed.

EP:

Was there a feeling that the police had killed Grimes? Or a suspicion?

PB:

Sure. Certainly.

[End of Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EP:

In the black community, was there a pressure for a thorough investigation of this death?

PB:

Not as strong a pressure as it perhaps should have been.

EP:

The Greensboro Record, this past May, ran a week-long series of articles on the twenty-fifth anniversary of the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision, and there were many candid statements of the lack—discontent in the black community about the lack of progress. What is the strength and nature of that discontent? What are the things that the black community feels should have been done that have not been done, particularly by this time? I am thinking up to 1979.

PB:

Probably the biggest concern is that of more unity among the members of the black community, period. And with that, maybe other things could be brought about. I guess the biggest thing that we are dealing with right now is an attitudinal thing on the part of people. Pretty much things seem to be open; basically, I guess, an individual can go where he wants to go, basically. But there are still the subtle nuances, the attitudes are still in the way.

EP:

In the latter part of the sixties and in the seventies, the civil rights movement seemed to break down into factions and split, with perhaps a loss of effectiveness once this unity seemed to break down. Do you think that this indeed did happen, and if so to what do you attribute it?

PB:

I think that it did happen, and unfortunately, I think it came about because we really didn't have strong leaders. And it seems that this was a case wherein unless there was a King [type] leader, that others just sort of fell apart. I really think that this is what happened. I think after the King assassination, things began to fall apart. I am sure that there are people who will disagree with me, but this is my feeling.

EP:

Do you think that the national attention being turned away from the focus on civil rights to the Vietnam War had anything to do with it? That civil rights became an area of lesser priority than the war, on a national level?

PB:

Probably.

EP:

But then, of course, the argument has been made by civil rights activist groups at that time [children's voices in background] that this was still very important, because a disproportionate number of draftees were black. What do you think is the state of the civil rights movement now?

PB:

Right now? I'm not really sure. I have questions about that. Again, I think many of us have become satisfied with the situation now. There is so much confusion and conflict on the part of certain leaders, for instance, the problem which is now involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference [SCLC] and on the part of leadership. And perhaps it is that we have become more concerned with our own personal goals than with goals that might be more general that might benefit the community as a whole.

EP:

Do you think there is a lack of cohesion and unity in the black community? By that I mean on a local and national scope.

PB:

I'll be shot for this, but yes. [laughter]

EP:

What is the nature of this lack of unity? A lack of agreement on goals to pursue or—?

PB:

I think we have gotten a piece of the pie. We're able to live in Starmount Forest if we have the money, we are able to buy Cadillacs when once we could not, and I mean that literally; I understand that the Cadillac dealer in this area for awhile would not even sell Cadillacs to blacks so that they would have to go out of the area to buy them. We have been guided and have been told that, “You're different from these other people.” And so that sort of got caught in our own little—

EP:

You're different from these other people?

PB:

For instance, “You're the kind of person we like,” let's say, a black who has arrived, a “successful black.” So that sets you apart. And maybe, we get to feel that we are a little better than some other people. Better off, surely, but just a little better, and not really wanting to get involved, not wanting to put anything on the line, not wanting to put forth any effort, maybe on a smaller scale of trying to organize activities in the community for the children, trying to improve baseball fields that are in black communities that could be done so very easily on the part of a few leaders getting together.

EP:

Do you think there's much interaction between the races now or is it still pretty much stratified socially?

PB:

I think that there is quite a bit. Now, the kind of interaction that comes to mind. There is interaction; I think much of it is simply surface interaction.

EP:

For such a long time there was a particular push in the black community to interact with the white community, for instance, to be able to go to the restaurant, motel, a theatre of your choice, as you said, a larger piece of the pie by getting meaningful, better paying employment, more white collar jobs, that kind of thing. Was there a shift in the black community, saying that has once that had been achieved, a spirit of greater militancy which said, “We don't want that much interaction, we want to maintain our own ethnic identity.” Has that been overplayed, or is that a genuine feeling in the black community?

PB:

Well initially, I'm not so sure that the word is “interaction” as it is wanting to be able to go and do where other people go. Not so much that blacks were so concerned about being able to function with whites as being friends or whatever you want to call it, but just a means of being able to do what other people do. I think some things have happened that have made us realize that maybe this coming together has not been quite as beneficial as we thought it would be.

EP:

How has it not been beneficial?

PB:

For instance, the desegregation of schools, the switching about of say, white teachers into formally all-black schools and vice versa. Again, it gets back to the attitudinal problem, I think, so that even though this black student can go to this formerly white school, there is a thing of attitude that is still there. And we may be finding that the whole business of desegregation was not all that great after all.

EP:

There's been a whole generation of black and white students that's gone through the whole twelve years of the public school system in integrated classrooms. Do you think that this has had a beneficial effect on this younger generation of black students, or has it not materially changed the “attitudinal situation,” as you have described it, and other aspects of desegregation?

PB:

I'd like to hope that it has had a beneficial effect on both black students and white students because I felt like that whole thing was to be a learning thing for both parties. It's difficult now, I think, to make younger blacks think of years gone by and say, “Well, this is what happened at such and such a time. Can you believe that there was such a time that you couldn't go to McDonald's or when Dudley was all-black?” So it is sort of difficult to get into that, so that the students may not even be—they're not concerned with, they are not thinking about what was, but only of what is right now. In a way that's good—

EP:

In a sense, this was one of the goals of the civil rights movement.

PB:

Yes, that's right.

EP:

Are you saying that in part it has kind of backfired because the younger black students who were not alive at that time or [were] too young to remember do not appreciate the struggle that was involved?

PB:

Well, I don't mean backfired from that point, and I don't mean to say that—because they don't appreciate, they don't appreciate it because they are not aware of—it's so far removed from their minds, the idea of it—from many of their minds; there are a number of students that are aware. So I don't mean to say that it has backfired in that instance, but rather that maybe it's backfired because what we thought would come out of the desegregation effort, the goals of the movement, perhaps they didn't really come about.

EP:

As a mother of a child in the public schools; is she in the public schools?

PB:

He is, yes, he is.

EP:

Is there much resistance to busing in the black community?

PB:

Some, and my child right now is not involved with busing as far as desegregation is concerned, he goes to a county school, so there is still that kind of neighborhood type thing right now. Yes, there was resentment. I think maybe because of the inconvenience for the children—the child lives on one side of town and has to be shipped ten miles across town—more inconvenient than anything else particularly to the little kids, the first, second and third graders.

EP:

Is there any other way, though, that genuine desegregation of the public school system, beyond a token level, could have been accomplished?

PB:

Yes, I think so. If we hadn't been involved with the living situation, if there hadn't been the segregated living communities, then if the school was in the community, then I think if it could have been that the child could have gone to the school regardless of whether he was a black or white, but I think the living set-up of the city has kept the southeastern sides of the city black and the northwest is white, and so on.

EP:

Is there much, now—theoretically or legally we do have open housing in Greensboro, of course there are all kinds of subtle ways that real estate brokers let it be known that there are perhaps blacks are moving into a certain community, that there are going to be these population shifts in certain areas. Has there been much pressure on the part of the black community to move into predominantly white residential areas?

PB:

Pressure to move into?

EP:

Yes. I know there's pressure not to.

PB:

I'd say no. No, I'd say no. How do you mean? Pressure from whom?

EP:

Well, within the community itself. Basically, what I am saying is, once open housing has at least theoretically been achieved, do certain elements of the black community-I guess what we discussed earlier, the black middle class—want to move out into the white residential areas or do they want to remain an ethnic unity in the community?

PB:

Okay, I see what you're saying, that way there's no pressure. I think many want to simply because it's thought of as being a better area and we all want to progress, but I don't think there is any pressure as such from any party other than one's own personal ambition.

EP:

There have been studies that suggest there is resentment to the—if not lower class, at least less economically well-off members of the black community to the black middle class as saying, “Look, as soon as you achieve a living standard or a level of income that could materially effect raising the entire black community, you want to move out.” I know that this is more in the urban areas, the larger urban areas than in much of the cities in the South. Is there much feeling of that? That the black community does not turn around and make an input into the—I mean, the black middle class does not turn around and make an economic and social commitment to the black community as a whole?

PB:

There have been comments to that effect, yes. I don't know how widespread it is or how strong the feeling is about that. And then I wonder, too, unless there are large numbers of black businesses, you know, what kind of economic input is there going to be anyway that would go back into the black community.

EP:

Does the black middle class in Greensboro maintain a leadership role within the community?

[voices in background]

PB:

I'd say yes.

EP:

How about in the greater community, the white and black community. Does it have input into leadership decisions?

PB:

I suppose so. Yes.

EP:

In conclusion, how would you characterize race relations in Greensboro and the greater area? Has there been a significant progress, has it been grudging and slow? How do you see the situation?

PB:

I'd say that there has been significant progress. I guess the best way that I can put it is to say that we've come a long way but we still have a long way to go.

[End of Interview]