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Oral history interview with Edward F. Burrows by William Link


Date: April 30, 1987

Interviewee: Edward Flud Burrows

Biographical abstract: Edward Flud Burrows (1917-1998) taught history at Guilford College from 1948 to 1979.

Interviewer: William Link

Description:

In this transcript of an April 30, 1987, oral history interview conducted by William Link with Edward F. Burrows, Burrows primarily discusses race relations in Greensboro during the 1950s and 1960s, especially school desegregation, and his participation in civil rights activities. He provides some Guilford College history, including his participation in the Faculty Forum, other faculty activities, the college's first black students, and his experiences with African American students. He briefly discusses his activities prior to joining the Guilford faculty, including his conscience objector status in World War II, the role of Charles S. Johnson of Fisk University in his education, and his work with the Commission of Interracial Cooperation. Burrows also discusses his activities regarding investigation of the Novmeber 3, 1979, shootout.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.496

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 Edward F. Burrows by William Link

WILLIAM LINK:

We're at the home of Edward Burrows. And Mr. Burrows, I wonder if you would mind telling me something, telling us a little bit about your background, your background, where you were born, educated.

EDWARD BURROWS:

I was born in Sumter County, South Carolina, the sixth of eight children, cotton farmer, on August 17, 1917, and grew up there. I attended Washington and Lee University and there became concerned about racial issues, surprisingly. It was a conservative school. When the war came in, nineteen—well, when conscription came in 1930—'40, I had decided to become a conscious objector. And I was sent to a Quaker camp in 1941 up in the mountains of North Carolina, Buck Creek Camp. And I stayed in camp for 18 months, being transferred down to Florida. But my concerns about race relations became increasingly pressing. And also, I felt very strong that conscription was really a basic evil. So, in February of 1943, I walked out of camp, and subsequently was sentenced to three years in prison, which I spent in Florida. And luckily I had a very positive experience there. I grew in terms of my sensitivity about race there and—

WL:

Was, was the, the first camp that you went to, which would have been for officer COs [conscientious objectors]—

EB:

COs. COs, yeah. We were out on the Blue Ridge Parkway.

WL:

Yes. Was it, did, was it integrated or did it have—

EB:

No, it was not integrated. And the one I went to in Florida was not integrated. There we worked with the public health service [unclear]. Then when I got out of prison, I spent a year again in the mountains of North Carolina living on a corporative farm, but still felt very strongly about having to do something in the race relations. So I went in the fall of 1946 to work with Dr. Charles S. Johnson at the Race Relations Institute in Nashville, Tennessee. And there I lived in, in effect as a black person. I lived on the campus of Fisk University. All of my associates, all my friends were black, except one or two other white persons on the campus. And I was accepted as a black person, somewhat to my surprise, because I am fairly fair. But on two or three occasions it was quite obvious, people would come up to me.

Then at Fisk, Dr. Johnson gave me some very valuable experience. He said, “Burrows, the blacks don't need you,” except I think he said, “the Negroes don't need you.” “What you should do is go back to school and get your PhD and get a job teaching in a small, white, southern college.” And he helped me get a Rosenwald scholarship, which I used at the University of Wisconsin. I got my PhD. And then with his help, I did my research on the southern, the commission—well, let's see, I can't remember the name of it anymore.

WL:

The Commission on Interracial Cooperation?

EB:

That's right, the Commission of Interracial Cooperation, which was centered in Atlanta, too. After a year at Wisconsin I went down to Atlanta to do research, and while there I was invited to apply at Guilford [College] because they suddenly had a vacancy in history. So, in the fall of 1948, I came to Guilford. When I came, interestingly enough, when I came for an interview, the president—and he's talking to me, and I said, “Well, there are three things I think you ought to know. One is that I am conscious objector. Two is that I have been in prison. And the third is that I am very much concerned about the relationships between the races in the South.” And he said, “That's fine. As long as you don't get up on top of the buildings and scream about it, we'll get along all right.” And so, I felt very much at home at Guilford, a Quaker institution.

WL:

How would you characterize the racial situation in Greensboro when you first came?

EB:

Well, I'm not sure that I am too aware of it. Guilford at that time was fairly isolated. The city was much smaller, and we were out in the country. And we had no black students at Guilford. And I really was not involved in what went on in town at first. I did, for instance, join the civic music, and if I am not mistaken at that time it was still segregated. And there was practically no contact between blacks and whites.

But one place it was, if I am not mistaken. The summer I came here was the summer they had a terrible polio epidemic. And during that summer, they built a cement block emergency hospital on the other side of town near A&T [North Carolina A&T State University]. And if I am not mistaken, it was integrated from the very beginning, because they had to do it. But other than that, none of the eating places or none of the movie theatres were.

One incident that I remember—it was quite early, but I couldn't pin it down in terms of the year—when the movie Giant was being shown. It must have been in the late fifties [1956], because I had gotten to know some blacks who taught at the other schools back then. I was standing in a long line waiting to get a ticket when some of my black friends came by and sort of teased me, because they said—this is at the Carolina Theatre—and they went in a side door to go up on the balcony, where they were forced to sit. They said, “If you come and sit with us, you won't have to wait in a line.” And they went right on in, because there were very few of them going. But I had to wait in line quite a while before I could get in. In the fifties, the first action that I really became involved in—the American Friends Service Committee had opened an office here, a local office. And the director of it was a friend of mine, Tartt Bell. And the office is downtown on Market Street in an old home—residence that had been turned into an office building. And we began to hold weekly luncheon sessions with faculty members from the various colleges in town. At first we had people from Bennett [College] without any problems. We had a few people from A&T. And then because of some reason, the administration at A&T discouraged their coming. And then we had people from UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro], and Greensboro College, and Guilford.

And that went on, it was two or three years until the office moved to High Point [North Carolina]. And we lost that. But an outgrowth of that was the formation of what we called the Faculty Forum, which became a contact place between the faculties of the local institutions. And it developed into a monthly thing. We would have speakers that moved around from one campus to the other and got a considerable attendance.

WL:

What sorts of people would attend?

EB:

They were all faculty. And all the institutions were pretty much were represented in some form. I know we had, [pause] oh, we had the lawyer who was—oh gosh, my memory is bad at this point. [laughs] McLendon, who had investigated something in college [unclear] His son is still [unclear] and I got to know him because I had to pick him up, I remember. But right now I could not tell you what it was—I don't remember what he was investigating, but it had something to do with civil rights, if I am not mistaken. And we had other people. I believe maybe McNeill Smith spoke to us [unclear]. You know, he was head of the civil rights committee for the state of North Carolina. He issued one of the best reports that was written by any of the committees.

And this was a good experience. It continued up until the early sixties when the schools began to get integrated, and then this died, because there was then no longer any need for it. In a way it was sad, because I got to know a number of faculty members at other institutions then, which we just lost contact because we weren't meeting.

WL:

Were there any other contacts of this type besides in the academic community?

EB:

There were. I do not remember a few of them—there were some other academic meetings. On occasion we would have like joint student meetings. There were student Christian associations on almost every campus then, and we would have a joint meeting with say A&T or with Bennett. This was even in the early fifties. To give you some idea of the nature of the time, I remember somewhere around 1955/56 that the A&T choir came over to Guilford. I was inadvertently the advisor to the Guilfordian; I know nothing about journalism, but the student who was editor and I were friends, and he asked me if I would be advisor so he would not have to put up with somebody who worried too much. And when the A&T choir came, he wanted to run a picture on the front page of the school newspaper. And the administration was concerned, which, you know, could be quite annoying [?].

WL:

Was the picture run?

EB:

I think it was, but I am not sure enough to swear to it. But I think it was. [unclear] Yeah, he was a North Carolina student. Because of these contacts, a lot of the students were way ahead of the administration and faculty.

Gradually, because I made contact with some [unclear], I had some difficulty getting a place to eat together. And one of the first places that I remember eating with a black friend was at Yung's, which was a Chinese restaurant over on Church Street, it is no longer there. But anyway, [unclear] before a lot of the other places in town would.

WL:

This was in the fifties?

EB:

No, this would have been in the early sixties. There was a cafeteria down where—oh gosh, I guess it's an empty space now on Market Street, right behind the old Belk's building where it was, on that first block of Greene[?] Street off of Elm. There was a S&W Cafeteria there and it was one of the first places to open[?].

WL:

What kind of atmosphere—how would you characterize the atmosphere in Greensboro in the fifties. Specifically, how did the things like the Brown [v. Board of Education] decision or national pressure—did that have any affect, you think, or was it noticed?

EB:

Not right away. The was atmosphere was repressive. I think, in general, it was, it was a very paternalistic atmosphere. The city council was dominated by the business and wealthy elements. And I am sure they thought they knew what was best. And there very little changes. And the first changes that came were, my impression was, that they designed not to really bring integration, but to prevent it.

They allowed, for example, students to choose which school to go to. But it was very difficult. I don't know that any whites chose to go to Dudley, I would bet and I believe[?]. I can't remember when Page was started. When I first came Grimsley was the only white [high] school and Dudley was for blacks. And I remember when one or two black students applied to go to Grimsley. [unclear] But, I—

WL:

Would you say that the political leaders, most political leadership of Greensboro was opposed to integration?

EB:

Yeah, I think so. In nineteen—I believe it was in the fall of 1954, I am almost positive. That is when the Brown decision came?

WL:

May of 1954.

EB:

May of '54. Well, that summer a group of faculty members, younger faculty members who had children in the schools wrote a letter to the superintendent of the county schools, because we were out in the county at that time. And I was away for the summer. It had been discussed at some time, and I remember indicating that I would like to sign the letter but they said no, they wanted only faculty members, I mean, persons who had children in the school to sign it. And it went to the superintendent.

Well, he held it until right before school started, and then gave it to the newspaper. And a headline came out which was very erroneous because it demanded—it said that some local people were demanding integration. What the letter said was, basically, that if the school system felt that it should integrate to meet the demands of the Brown decision, that these individuals would support that decision. But it was misinterpreted, and this was very intense.

I was away at Wisconsin finishing up my PhD, and I remember when I got back there was still a lot of tension. One of my good friends whose son—who was a basketball coach at Guilford—had some kind of an explosion thrown into his front yard. [unclear] Almost all of the others had harassing telephone calls for quite some time. And it was a very sad year, because when school opened, the children of these parents went to school and [unclear] if I am not mistaken, you know, a lot of people there to protest had formed [unclear]. And so there was considerable tension. There was no integration whatsoever, and no blacks attempted to come to the public schools. And I can't remember, I think it was at least seven, eight, or ten years before public schools would allow integration.

WL:

How would you characterize your feelings of integration in a period in which most people, or white people, favored— or appeared to favor—continuing segregation? How does that feel?

EB:

How did I feel?

WL:

Yeah, did you feel isolated? Or did you feel—

EB:

Well, being at Guilford, I didn't, because there was so much support at Guilford. All of my young faculty friends were in, you know, the same boat. And I didn't. And the American Friends Service Committee was backing it. The YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association] was backing it; the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] was not. I remember taking a group of my students to a YM-YW conference in Blue Ridge, North Carolina, which was integrated, and feeling very good about that. I took another group down to Davidson, North Carolina; [coughs] I don't remember whether that was integrated or not. But I remember going to that conference with the Guilford students. So I don't remember feeling terribly isolated. But, I guess because of my previous experiences, I was somewhat inured to that, or being to terribly sensitive about that.

WL:

Yep. This sort of harassment that the parents experienced that were petitioning for integration, was that organized or spontaneous?

EB:

You mean the harassment?

WL:

Yeah.

EB:

I think—I, I doubt it. I think it was mainly just individuals who were incensed by the suggestion. And see, all of them listed their names in all of the letters in the newspaper. One of them was really ridiculous, because one of them was, an elderly couple, in fact, who—one of them just died two weeks ago, the Newmans, Alex and Edith Newman. They had been residents here since the twenties. She happened to be from Oregon originally. And one of the letters I remember was ridiculous, because it insisted that everybody that signed the letter was from outside of Greensboro somewhere. And it listed them [the Newmans]. He happened to be born in Alamance County but had come to Guilford as a student in something like 1915, then came back to teach in '24. But she had joined him in nineteen—late 1920s. And had taught at Guilford and had married and raised a family. But they pointed out that her—you know, they made a big thing that she was from Oregon. And this was done by someone[?]. Which is a typical reaction, the same kind of reaction that I remember people having in South Carolina when anybody suggested they could be bringing outsiders.

One of the reasons I think probably I didn't feel isolated is because I was a Southerner. And it was amazing—as a Southerner, I could get away with it more than somebody who was not a native Southerner. Now I'm speaking of my background[?]—I suppose it also has something to do with the fact that I'm basically a non-threatening person, I think. Because a friend of mine who actually was from Greensboro [unclear], we did this all the time, we were constantly agitated. [unclear] Well, I am not sure if it was the same day or later [unclear], but I got up and said virtually the same thing. Two or three of the faculty members who had been very critical of him were very, you know, said, “Oh, we agree with you.” [laughs] Actually, they were against what I was saying, but they appreciated the fact that I said it. And that happened to me rather frequently. I could get away with making talks about it without people getting too upset. Maybe it was because I didn't sound too serious, I don't know. I don't think so, because I was serious. I suppose it had to do with the basic notion that we really should get along with people. I have tried not to be confrontational when I could help it.

WL:

American Friends Service Committee, maybe—I wonder if maybe we could explore their involvement here in Greensboro. They first came, established—

EB:

Some time in the late forties, the office was opened on the UNCG campus. And then it moved around in Greensboro a couple times and went to High Point. And then it moved its regional headquarters—which had been in Greensboro and High Point—they moved to Atlanta several years ago. But at that time they kept a local office here, which is now located on the Guilford College campus, as a small satellite[?].

WL:

What sorts of activities did they, they—?

EB:

One of the first activities was collecting materials and clothes to be sent overseas to the people who suffered in World War II. And they kept this, what they called, “Materials Program” going, and it still goes on, collecting all kinds of things that you send to areas where it's needed.

But then during the fifties, under the leadership of Tartt Bell, it expanded into some very active civil rights activities. One was trying to encourage employers to employ minorities. And you went on an interview. Charles Davis, a black man who lives in town, he worked in that program. He was from South Carolina, and he would go around visiting businessmen and encourage them to think of employing blacks, and probably Indians as well. And they had a school integration program, and they brought in a staff, personnel. They had a youth program which encouraged interracial activities and for a while did workshops which would go into areas and—weekend work camps, and worked with youth groups trying to promote or do some kind of community service. Those were at least three of the programs I can think of [unclear].

WL:

And this was a regional office that was headquartered here? Southeast region? [unclear]

EB:

Yeah.

WL:

What, what are your memories of the emergence, shall we say the emergence of black activism in the early 1960s? What, what kind of effect does that have on the Greensboro community? What sort of effects does it have on the perceptions of blacks or does it have on race relations, the effect on race relations? Say, beginning with the, the, you know, I guess Woolworth sit-ins in 1963 and '64?

EB:

Well, as I indicated, in one way, when that, when integration began to come in and this took place, the—because of this, the contacts that we had through the things like the impact of the forum declined. And I remember talking about it. Before that we had social interaction, because we could not go out and dine. For example, we would invite black friends over and we would go to their homes.

As far as Guilford is concerned, we had a few students who were very much concerned, but most of the student body just didn't seem to get involved, as I recall. I remember one young man who transferred. He just felt such a loner in terms of his deep concern about what was going on [unclear] to participate in the first demonstrations in the 1960s when the first sit-ins took place. And he would stand in the picket lines out at the theatres. One of the things is that we stopped going to the theatres downtown while that was happening; we did not want to cross the picket line. I don't, I did not get very actively involved, as I recall, in any of the demonstrations at that time. [pause]. As—

WL:

How did most people react to them, what's your impression of the average Greensboro white person? [pause] Were they horrified by them, or impressed, or indifferent?

EB:

I really, I really can't say. I guess I was that, you know—I knew at Guilford at that time we were going through a period, because the president who'd been there a long time, Clyde Milner, was moving toward retirement. And he was just terrified were going to have something that was going to point to, you know—it would have upset his campus. He was very—oh, he just identified himself with the campus. It was his school. And he was almost paranoid. I don't want to be unkind of the man, because Davis was a good man. And he himself was in favor of it. He was just really very uneasy about anything happening.

We would have speakers in the chapel, I remember, and he would get very upset if it became too strident [unclear]. And the faculty sort of implicitly—no, no open agreement to do this—but implicitly just sort of kept a low key on things, because we didn't want to make life too miserable for him. So faculty meetings became very, very dull. [laughs] We never did anything, which—we would sit though long expositions on his part. We would just sit there, discuss what we ought to be doing and why, because we all knew he was going to retire.

One of the things that indirectly [unclear] was that for the first time Guilford organized a chapter of the American Association of University Professors. And we went to him and told him we weren't going to threaten him, we weren't going to do anything to call attention to the fact that we weren't integrated and stuff, but we wanted it to be in place when the new president came, so it would not be started after he came as threat to him. And he couldn't object to it. He is an intelligent man; he knew what we were in. I don't think he was terribly happy about it. But that did have a lot to do with protecting faculty members' actions. But I really don't have any very vivid recollections of expressions.

WL:

Guilford was—what was the first black student at Guilford?

EB:

I think was either '62 or '63. I think I am correct in saying that the Quakers had a tradition of having a worldwide conference every fifteen years. And it started in the thirties, and they had one in '52 in—I guess, I guess one was in '37 and then in '52 in Oxford, Columbia[?]—Oxford, England. And Guilford very much wanted the next one to be held at Guilford, which would have been in '65. Is that right? No, '67.

So in, I think it was in '62, there was a meeting in Nairobi, Kenya, of the planning committee for the Quaker conference. And in that meeting, as I understand it, some trustees from the Guilford were present, Quakers and the president of the college, and some faculty members. The committee said they would like to come to Guilford, but they absolutely would not come unless it was integrated. And so I believe it was that fall, two African students arrived at Guilford College. Incidentally, the son and the daughter of one of those student—the daughter will graduate in May, next week, and the son is a student. But they arrived and then we had [phone rings] one or two other blacks who [phone rings] made four all together. [phone continues to ring throughout]

One of the sad things about Guilford at that point was that the board of trustees apparently was practicing some kind of duplicity, because they had instructed the admissions department—I think I'm correct on this, I cannot pin it down to documents—but the admissions, the head of admissions was a friend of mine, and he told me this, that he'd been instructed that any applications he considered as coming from blacks that he was not to do anything with; he was to turn them over to the chairman of the board of trustees who is now dead so you can't challenge it. And he was a leading Quaker. And almost every year some of the Quakers would get up in meeting, at the annual meeting, and ask why Guilford was not integrated, in the late fifties and early sixties. And he would say that we did not receive any applications.

WL:

This was the admissions director or the chairman—

EB:

The chairman of the board of trustees.

WL:

So they were lifted from the—

EB:

Yeah, and officially none of them had been processed, and I'm not sure how you could say they hadn't received, but they were not officially received. And this bothered me. Once they began, we accepted a few every year, and finally in 1968, we had a young man who was head of admissions that year and he deliberately went out and recruited blacks. And that fall we had a large number of blacks to enter. But that was the first real massive—well, that wasn't massive, maybe fifty. We were not really prepared for it, because we weren't prepared to meet some of their needs. In typical Quaker fashion, we insisted we were treating them just like anyone else, which was theoretically desirable but not actually functional [unclear]. For example, they just randomly assigned to roommates, and some of them were uncomfortable. Later on, we had requests to allow them to have special roommate [unclear].

WL:

How did integration work at Guilford do you think? [tape malfunction]

EB:

I'm not sure whether we had any black staff at all. We rather quickly began to employ some staff in the student personnel office.

WL:

That's faculty? Black faculty?

EB:

Yeah. And we had—we hired a black artist who is still—will be retiring this year. And then we had a black man who taught biology. But very gradually we tried to employ others. Unfortunately, it was not always perceived as being by the black students as being in good faith. Actually, I was on the committee several terms, and we would look very hard and really try hard to find black applicants. But the problem is being a small college, any really good black applicants could get jobs anywhere in the fifties, sixties, and seventies. And it was difficult to find people who wanted to come to a small Quaker school for a low salary, and so we had trouble.

There were problems with the students. When the black students first came, a lot of them felt very isolated. I remember—oh, when was it—in the sixties, the late sixties when we had—when a lot of the student unrest was going on, the blacks organized and sat-in in the administration building for a day. And they presented the administration with a bunch of demands, some of which were quite reasonable. One was that they felt we were physically isolated, because Guilford was still part of out of town so there was not easy access to things in town. There was very little out here at that time. I think the fact there were no eating places. And they requested some provision be made so they could get into town on the weekends. They requested some attention to special recreation needs, et cetera. Some of the other requests weren't, weren't as reasonable. They wanted every black to be guaranteed minimum grade of C, which obviously no academic institution is going to go for.

But we were prepared; we didn't know what was going to happen. We were afraid, really, for the safety of the black students. We were afraid that some of the hotheaded local people might hear they were sitting in and attempt to attack them. And so a group of us on the administrative council were prepared to sit up with the students all night long if they decided to stay in the administration building. But to our pleasure, they rolled up in blankets and walked out [unclear]. That was around midnight [unclear] coming in—I had to go to a meeting or something, I came in and the person I was suppose to join for that occasion said, “Well, we've been reprieved. They're gone.”

One thing—to backtrack, Bill—one thing that might give you an idea of some of the atmosphere in the city, Eleanor Roosevelt came to Guilford to speak at a forum which was sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee. And I can't begin to tell you when it was[?]. When I first came, the American Friends Service Committee used to have regular summer seminars, international relation seminars. One year they were held at Bennett, I remember another year they were held Guilford. And people would come and stay for three or four days and listen to speeches on international relations. And Eleanor Roosevelt came.

And at that time the, what is now the administration building at Guilford was the Friends church, Friends meeting house, and it held about five hundred people. She was speaking there. And it was packed. I was acting as an usher, and I remember putting chairs up and down the aisles, ignoring the fire regulations and having people standing. And we put people up in the choir loft and we even had chairs setup outside, so there must have been six or seven hundred people, because the meeting house was packed and we had to put the overflow outside [unclear].

But while she was speaking, she had just made some comment about something like that the world might end with a nuclear bang. I don't remember her exact words, but I know she said something about an explosion or bang. And as if deliberately timed, some local people opposed to Eleanor Roosevelt's views and also opposed to integration set off dynamite in an old tree which is located in a cemetery which was known as the Revolutionary Oak. It is an old tree which according to the legends had been there and Cornwallis had tied his horse to it. And the tree was actually destroyed. It was ironic, because here was something that was of historical value for, you know, the liberty and all this, going back to the Revolution. [unclear] always proud of and it was just dynamite.

WL:

Completely destroyed?

EB:

And it tore it to bits. But it occurred just as she's finished this phrase. And she was marvelous. She said, “Well, I didn't expect it to come quite that soon,” [laughs] and went right on with her talk. But that gives you some idea of the atmosphere. That had to be in the early fifties.

WL:

Was the meeting—the meeting was integrated, blacks and whites, or was it—do you remember?

EB:

I think—it must have been. The Service Committee would not have had—

WL:

Sure. She was seen as a great symbol of integration.

EB:

Oh, yeah. She'd sponsored Marion Anderson singing at the White House and had invited blacks to dine in the White House. And I—my version is actually Eleanor Roosevelt got a lot of unjustified [unclear] because a lot of southerners felt they could not be angry with Franklin [Roosevelt], because he had done so many things to help the South, particularly the rural people in the South. And—but they could take down Eleanor. That's, that's just my—

WL:

And they were able to detach her from him?

EB:

Yeah, because she went around the country doing things that [unclear] for a lady. She went down in a coal mine. And I remember growing up as a child here; I was a secondary child[?] when she came in. I was in high school hearing the cruel jokes and comments about what Mr. Roosevelt was up to. Of course, this was years later, Franklin was dead and she was working for the United Nations.

WL:

Let's talk a little bit about integration in, in public Greensboro, I mean, in the theatres and the restaurants. How quickly do you remember that happening, or do you have any memories of that?

EB:

Very slowly, really. I remember the S&W was integrated, but there were several places that wouldn't, unfortunately. There was a man who is still alive named Boyd Morris who had a nice, very nice cafeteria on the corner of Elm [Street] and—that street has a different name—what's now Friendly, where the First Union Bank is. And he held out against integration for a long time. [unclear] And a little side thing is in the Faculty Forum, I told you, we decided to have some luncheons. And I went to him and asked him if would allow us to eat there when his business was declining, and he welcomed us very graciously. And we had a room upstairs [unclear] and an integrated group. But his business obviously over time closed.

WL:

But he did integrate eventually?

EB:

Yeah. Yeah. He did integrate eventually, but the damage had been done. Of course the downtown was dying too at that time, so it was hard [unclear].

WL:

The decline of the downtown seems to coincide almost with the sit-ins or at least the demonstrations?

EB:

Yeah.

WL:

Was there any fear of the downtown for that reason you think?

EB:

I don't—Well, I think some of that was there, yeah. But I think probably more was the fact that Friendly Shopping Center was opened in the late fifties. And it was so much easier to get parking, and all those old shops weren't there. So that what had been a Saturday—and the hotels were torn down. Just gradually [unclear].

WL:

How smoothly did integration take place, say from the mid-sixties to the late sixties—again, just looking at the public sphere?

EB:

Well, I'm trying—you know—I went the Quaker meeting house out here, so I didn't go downtown to church. My impression was that the churches, most of them remained segregated. I remember discussing it in a Quaker meeting, but very few blacks apparently were interested in coming to Quaker meetings—it was strange, it wasn't your traditional worship service.

There were some eating places where you felt more comfortable than others going in an integrated [unclear]. But I don't remember—I don't think I was ever refused service or anything.

WL:

Which ones would you feel more comfortable in? Would it be a type of restaurant?

EB:

Probably. I am not sure I could say. I remember there used to be a restaurant where there is a Neptune Fish House, [unclear]. And it got crowded and the service was very poor, as a matter of fact. [unclear] out at Bennett College. He and I wanted [unclear]. That restaurant is no longer there. [pause] I don't think I can think of any others. There was an old Chinese restaurant on Greene Street, out there I do not [unclear] not that I went out to eat that often. On a faculty salary in the fifties you did not [unclear].

There was one thing that had nothing to do with race relations per se that occurred in the fifties, Bill, that was a reflection of climate in Greensboro, I think. And that was for a period there were a whole series of arrests [of] gays in the city and they were highly publicized. And a great deal was made of them. And it was stopped very suddenly. This went on, I guess, for some period of time.

WL:

It was part of a police campaign?

EB:

Yeah, it seemed to be a campaign and the newspapers seemed to be, you know, playing it up. [unclear] daily or weekly raids were made on the motels and arrests [unclear]. And of course, technically, they were being arrested for breaking the law. But it was obviously a case of harassment, of violation of individual rights. And then it stopped very suddenly.

WL:

It was only this one period?

EB:

The only period I remember being publicized.

WL:

How, how were the police in Greensboro? Any other impressions during this period?

EB:

Well, as late as the eighties—oh gosh, was it the eighties?—we had a case after, I had mentioned earlier, after the Klan killings of the people in the march in 1979, this group that formed, which was concerned with justice and healing I think it's called. There were one or two cases which were called to our attention of what seemed to be police insensitivity. For example, after one of the trials, a group of black males were riding around town and they were arrested—stopped and arrested, and threatened with dire consequences. They were angry. And I guess—I don't know whether it was the first or second trial when [unclear]—they were angry and—but they didn't really do anything.

Well, it came to our attention, a black woman brought to our attention, that these young men were being threatened with long jail sentences. And some of us went over and investigated, and apparently the police were just being insensitive to the climate in the black community. And some of us then went to the city authorities and interceded, and they responded. I don't know what happened overtly, but I know that things quietly diffused[?]. And, of course, we can't take credit for it, because we have no proof of what we did—what they did. But at least [unclear]. That was in the eighties. It must have been '80 or '81. I can remember the trial—I can't remember what year the trial took place.

WL:

The verdict was 1980.

EB:

Yeah, I think it was.

WL:

Getting back to integration, would you say it was successful? In what respects was it successful and what respects unsuccessful?

EB:

Well, it was successful in a sense I think the blacks certainly had greater freedom to move. For instance, not to be insulted like [unclear]. And, they could eat anywhere they wanted to. I don't know anywhere in town they can't. They could go to movies. They could attend concerts at UNCG or wherever. And eventually, but after a long period of time, they had a little bit better access to city government. We had the final setting up of the district system in the city, the ward system, which was fought for a long time by the city hall.

But in another sense—well, I am not sure we've succeeded really with integrating the schools, because I think what's happened is what's going on right now with the county school-city school merger thing. I think more of the people have moved out in the county. And the county schools are integrated but they are predominately white still, and the city schools are integrated, but some of them are predominately black.

When I first came to the city, the Greensboro city schools were normally some of the best schools in the state, and teachers really took pride in the public system. My impression is now that county schools are developing into city schools. But that is strictly my own impression. [unclear] parents and the children in the school. But like at Guilford, we have blacks here. A lot of them are athletes, and that's why it speeded up integration[?].

But, again, I don't think we have really achieved integration. I think we have eliminated segregation. We have a subtle distinction. I think there's still a good bit of separation. For example, I think—now, I have not eaten in a college cafeteria very often—but used to be, you'd see a number of the blacks eating at one table. And they preferred it that way.

Ten years ago, I had a student from Africa living in my home. And he told me the pressure the blacks put on him to associate primarily with the blacks and not have friends that were white. Or, you know, the Africans have their local ways and prejudices; actually, they came over here, they were really shocked—the ones from South Africa [unclear]. But the ones from northwest and east Africa, they have tribal distinctions, they know whites as another tribe. They really don't have the racial prejudices we have over here.

WL:

They find differences, I suppose, between themselves and American blacks to be very great?

EB:

Definitely. One of our basketball teams made a major [unclear] and the state department sent it on a tour of Africa. And I knew all of them. Several of them were blacks I'd taught. And I remember telling them when they went that they were going to find it was very different. And I remember one of them came back and told me. [laughs] He said, “You warned me, but I wasn't prepared.” Because he thought he'd go and be accepted as a kind of hero. And instead he was looked on as an American. And he found—of course, he also found that living in Africa with no television and no fast food places at the time, that this was very different from what he was used to. But in that sense I'm not sure we've really achieved true integration.

WL:

Would you—how would you characterize the [pause]. When you first came to Greensboro in 1948, the average white person had very little to do with an average black person. Has that really changed?

EB:

I'm sorry? The average white person?

WL:

The average white person in Greensboro had very little to do, I mean in the normal day-to-day context, simply was this physical separation. Today there is more contact, presumably.

EB:

Yeah. It'd be hard for me to characterize that. When I first arrived, Bill, there were, say, pockets of blacks living right near UNCG. I'm trying to place it. And I think it—

WL:

Were going to say Walker? Between Walker [Avenue] and Spring Garden [Street]?

EB:

No, this is between, I think it is between Tate [Street] and McIver [Street].

WL:

Okay. On McGee? McGee Street, right?

EB:

Something like that, yeah. And apparently these had been servants people got and these were kept as black homes. And I remember they were there when I first arrived, because a friend of mine lived in an apartment and blacks lived back behind. And I don't know—see, growing up in South Carolina, we had a lot of contacts with blacks. A lot of my childhood playmates were black; we didn't go to school together. I have always wondered why I became conscious. Because I remember asking my mother why it was that I went to one school and my black friends went to another. And there were—we knew blacks personally; we developed strong ties with them. When I came to Greensboro, I think it was still possibly some of that.

Well, I can give you just a personal experience. I had a black housekeeper, and she came once a week. She had grown up waiting on, cooking, I don't know what all, in the home of one of the prominent black families in Greensboro. And they remembered her constantly. She was thought very highly of. And there was a real personal relationship; she and I became very fond of each other. She was an amazing woman. But I'm not sure how much of that exist today. Plenty of people had blacks, I think maybe working, and maybe they are personally interested in them, but I'm not sure how much of that exists.

WL:

There are always—it's interesting, one thing that I have found here in Greensboro is the great deal of difference in the perceptions of whites about race relations and perceptions of blacks about race relations. And most whites tend to see race relations as pretty good, and most blacks tend to see them, well, less favorably.

EB:

Sure. Sure. And this is sad, I think. I presume you have read the book [Civilities and Civil Rights] by the man over at Duke [University]?

WL:

Bill Chafe?

EB:

Chafe, yeah. I think it's very accurate, you know, that the whites think that they are handling things so civil, but they're ignoring [unclear]. This would be [unclear].

WL:

Let's talk a little about the Klan and the Klan trial, because you were involved in that. The Klan shooting is, remember, 1979. You were involved in a group that emerged out of that?

EB:

Yeah, it emerged the next year when the trial was going on. It did not emerge right away, probably in '80 it got started and it went on until about '84, '85, gradually dwindling until it plummeted into just a handful of professors from UNCG, one or two people from—. One of the assorted black ministers came—oh, it was a black man who was well known on campus—what is his name? But in the end there were only a handful involved in it. But it was very active—had speakers and followed events very closely tried to keep contact between the two committees.Well, the frightening thing, now, was that I'm convinced the city followers, one, were horrified by what happened, but were unwilling to really accept some responsibility. I read all the reports that were issued by the police department. And they really didn't face the fact that they acted in typical, what I call typical southern fashion. They blamed it on outsiders and didn't see there were factors in Greensboro that were really partly responsible.

WL:

What were those factors, would you say?

EB:

Well, the, the continuation of some of the injustices of segregation, the lack of black representation on the city council. We had token blacks. For example, William [Hampton?] was selected. He was [unclear]. The real thing in terms of the gradual [pause]—the schools, not the really keeping up, but the lack of attention to the needs of the black community. No black policemen had been employed, but as my impression is, there probably weren't [unclear]. It's interesting now that we have a black chief. But the city council was made up of the people from the wealthy sector and I think they really felt things were fine. And when they made some changes, the city thought this was all smooth. But when you talk to a black or a member of the black community you feel a different perspective.

And you really have to be careful who you talk to, too. I remember when integration first came, the black housekeeper I had, she was opposed to it. And her reasoning to it was this: they had a black school and her grandchildren went to it—they were not really her grandchildren, but she raised them—went to out near Oak Ridge, somewhere near Summerfield, and she was very much involved. She was very proud of that school. She was very involved in life there. And she said—she was herself semi-literate—and she said, "If they put them all together, we will lose control; I won't have any of this." So if I had quoted her, like I said, she was opposed to integration. Her reasoning was very sound in one way, but she very much wanted the same rights and the same freedom that I had. And there is where I think we had the misdirection of effort.

But I'm not sure I could document why the situation was the way it was. When I first came, I remember that around A&T, the streets were unpaved, a lot of the streets were—I mean a lot of the houses had no adequate sanitary facilities; they were open privies. All around the A&T university. In fact, we had a sad episode at Guilford which again reflects something [unclear]. The chairman of the board was a well-known Quaker and a fairly wealthy lawyer. He had been mayor of the city of Greensboro at one time. He owned some black property. Well, in the late, in the sixties some time—maybe it was the early seventies—Guilford hired a man to come down to help it raise some money—and then really I think did some things that were not desirable.

One of the things he did was incited the Guilford College newspaper to write an article about property held by this man, which was property held in the black community. He charged a relatively high rent for very poor property. Because, well, you know, [unclear] discrimination[?]. But this was typical. Because a lot of property was owned in that part of the city was owned by whites, wealthy whites, and very poorly maintained. And yet they charged very—what would be a really high rent for it.

WL:

And city services obviously weren't very—

EB:

Oh, very poor I think. And I would guess inadequate fire protection, police protection, and so on.

WL:

Conditions that have stayed the same—I mean, at least as inferiority of city services well into the early eighties.

EB:

Yeah. Well, that was in the sixties, that was not in the eighties. But now that has been largely cleaned up. At least, I don't know any open criticisms in Greensboro—houses had no running water.

WL:

And southeast Greensboro is residentially segregated, it was a very—

EB:

Oh yeah.

WL:

—back in the fifties. This justice group you're involved in, was it, how successful was it do you think?

EB:

It's hard to measure something like that. I think we were applying the ointment [unclear] a gadfly. We visited city council. We interceded in city officials. We held public meetings. We held demonstrations at times. They were certainly aware of the fact that we were insistent. We actually met at the—in a courtroom at times. We met at the public library when that got too small.

So that, you know, things—well, there was the fact of the federal trial. Really, I don't think—I questioned whether they would even have a trial if there had not been some agitation. The Black Caucus in Congress, we sent petitions to them. We sent a delegation up to Congress to beg them to push the Department of Justice to do something. And we sent observers to the trials. So I think our presence was noted. It couldn't—

[End Tape 1, Side A]

EB:

—offshoot committee from the main group, but it really was—it was not exactly that either. Either Julian Bond or Andrew Young—one of those, I'm not sure which—came to Greensboro and challenged the black churches to do something. And as a result, a committee was setup with a number of black ministers on it. It included Nelson Johnson. And they invited us to serve on the committee and several of us went—[unclear] a group that met weekly, as I recall—and we met at the Trevi Fountain[?] [unclear]. It was over on East Market Street near the main post office.

And I remember one time that there was a group, a group was discussing what we can do to bring pressure to get the city council to do something. And the group wanted to—I forget—they wanted to do confrontation. And I interceded and another person said, “Let's give them a chance. Look. Let's go to them first and request they do something. Then if they don't do it, we will have justification for making some more noise.”

To my amazement, Nelson Johnson agreed with it. He impressed me. He impressed me to be a very intelligent man but also somebody who enjoyed stirring, ruffling feathers. And so we drew up a very bland petition to the board, to city council, which we asked that it would go on record requesting the justice department to hold hearings or to investigate before they go on. And then members of us got on the telephone and called members of city council and lobbied; and they passed it. I think our group alone could point to that, but the city council did go on record as saying they would—favored some kind of investigation. They didn't admit to any kind of wrong doing, of course. But that would be one thing.

Others, it would have to be [pause] by implication. We maintained a presence in the city from the summer of 1980 until 19-, I would say, in 1984, probably. And we were, we were in the news sometimes, so that at least there was a group here that was recognized, and it was recognized by people outside of Greensboro, and I think certainly known about [unclear].

WL:

Who were some of the other individuals in the—

EB:

In the group?

WL:

Yes.

EB:

Well, Anne[?] Welch was working with the American Friends Service Committee at the time. She was one [unclear]. Charles—oh gosh, his last name just escaped me. He was a black man who had worked for the Service Committee—

WL:

Charles Davis?

EB:

Charles Davis. Charles Davis was active in it. Gordon Chamberlain was one, Elizabeth Kaiser was another. There was a philosophy professor at UNCG [pause]; there was also a sociology professor at UNCG—and their names, both of them, escape me. There was a man who worked with one of the social agencies in town—Jackson. They were very active. Carol Stoneburger[?] was another one. Very active, she was one of the staff at Guilford. Jane [Carrus?], a counselor at Guilford was active; her husband was active for a while. He could not stand going [unclear]. Kay Troxer I think was one. Kay is somebody who ought to interview. She could tell you a lot [unclear].

WL:

They've been around?

EB:

They are residents. He was a loan specialist here. And they've been here for a long time. Who else?

WL:

It was biracial? You had—[unclear]

EB:

Oh yeah, it was biracial.

WL:

—substantial representation on the committee?

EB:

Yeah.

WL:

Did anybody from A&T come?

EB:

I don't—yes, well, no, not at the forum. Well, probably at first, because it was very large. And it—I don't remember anybody specifically from A&T. Bill, you know, I may have some records of that I would be glad to turn over to you, if you get them back to me.

WL:

Yes. I would like to have them.

EB:

I will look for them and get them to you. I am trying to go through my files now and weed out stuff. But I may have the records.

WL:

Well—

[End of Interview]