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Oral history interview with Sarah Herbin by Eugene Pfaff


Date: December 14, 1983

Interviewee: Sarah Herbin

Biographical abstract: Sarah Herbin (1916-2003) promoted equal employment of African Americans as an employee of the American Friends Service Committee in Greensboro from 1953 to 1963 and a member of Governor Terry Sanford’s administration from 1963 to 1965.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a December 14, 1983, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Sarah Herbin, Ms. Herbin primarily discusses her experiences as a staff member of the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) in Greensboro and in North Carolina Governor Sanford's administration during the 1950s and 1960s promoting nontraditional employment of African-Americans. She also mentions her work with local groups such as the Interracial Commission and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), the role of ministers and other African Americans to the sit-in movement, local race relations, involvement of women in the movement, and Ralph Johns.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.524

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 Sarah Herbin by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—library oral history program. It is being conducted on December 14, 1983 in the library. And I'm speaking with Mrs. Sarah Herbin, a former employee of the American Friends Service member—Committee and longtime member of the black community in Greensboro. Mrs. Herbin, are you a native of Greensboro?

SARAH HERBIN:

I'm a native of North Carolina. I have called Greensboro home since 1941.

EP:

And you were born where?

SH:

I was born in Concord. Moved from Concord to Troy. I mean from Concord to Charlotte, from Charlotte to Troy, from Troy to High Point. And then after marrying, from High Point to Greensboro. My father was a minister. So that takes care of—

EP:

Which denomination?

SH:

He was a Congregational minister.

EP:

When did you join the staff of the American Friends Service Committee [AFSC]?

SH:

In 1953.

EP:

And what was your duties or responsibilities?

SH:

Originally, I started with the American Friends Service Committee as a secretary. I had learned from a friend of mine that they were going to be needing a permanent secretary. At that time, I was a secretary over on the campus, on Bennett College campus. And the agency sounded like something that I was very much interested in. I resigned from my job at Bennett and took a secretarial job at the American Friends Service Committee in September of 1953. Was it September? May? Something, anyway. It's so long ago, I don't remember.

But my first job—I guess this is what really got me concerned with the whole area of merit employment. I was secretary to the director of the merit employment program. At that time, he would visit businessmen, industrialists, management, top management in firms across the state to encourage them to hire on the basis of merit, regardless of race, color, creed, et cetera. And, of course, my responsibility as secretary was to type up those reports and see that they were sent to the national office in, in Philadelphia. And it really created a lot of interest and also a lot of concern as I was typing up those reports.

And I, I remember vividly one particular report I was typing up, you know, by Dictaphone. I had these things in my ears and I was typing. And my boss was saying, “And Mr. So-and-So says, 'That as far as I'm concerned, there's no such thing as a qualified Negro. The mere fact that he's a Negro means that he's not qualified.'” And I snatched those things out of my ears. I was just furious. And I got up from the typewriter and I walked to the, to the door. And tears was just streaming down my cheeks. And one of the other staff persons saw me, and he said, “Sarah, what's wrong? What's the matter?”

And the first thing that I blurbed out—this is a peace- loving agency, mind you. I said, “Sometimes I get so mad, so furious. I feel like going up to the square and get me a gun and shoot every white person I see.” I thought, oh my goodness, that, of all things to say in a Quaker organization.

So he said, “Oh, you know, Sarah, it's gonna be all right.” But of course, I began to mature and to learn more of nonviolent ways. But after several years—well, then after being secretary for several years—and then I was the bookkeeper. Our original bookkeeper left because the office moved from Greensboro to High Point.

EP:

Why did they make that move, by the way?

SH:

Well, the house in High Point was owned by the Blair family. And they donated that house to the American Friends Service Committee.

EP:

So it was an economic move more than anything else.

SH:

Yes. And then, too, there was a large base of Quakers, you know, in the High Point area. And it, it really saved a lot. It was a nice big house and gave us a little more space than we had, you know, in Greensboro.

But then, after I was the bookkeeper for a couple of years—and then the program director left. And the executive secretary asked me if I would want to take his place. I said, “Oh, I can't—I couldn't do that.”

He said, “Well, of course you can.” He said, “I mean, you've been following the program through, and you've been taking some initiatives in doing specific things. So I don't see any reason why you couldn't direct the program.” And, of course, they gave me a lot of support.

EP:

Now was this the merit employment program?

SH:

Yes. Yes. And of course, as director of that program, I had to visit employers, businessmen to encourage them [not] to hire on the basis of race, color, creed.

EP:

What was the reaction of the majority of the employers that you, you went to see?

SH:

They were very polite. I was received by the majority of them. I would call for appointments, or I would write a letter for an appointment.

EP:

So you did not experience any overt hostility?

SH:

Not overt hostility. Of course, they would always say, “Well, we can't find any qualified persons.” You see, then the other part of my job was to visit schools, high schools and colleges, to recruit and to find those persons who had the skills that were needed by business and industry. And then refer them to the agency and follow through on it to see if they were employed, and if not, why, et cetera, et cetera.

I suppose one of the—one interesting experience I had with a company in Guilford County who was looking for a chemist. And the qualifications they had—they wanted a person with a Ph.D. in chemistry and someone who had at least five years experience with—what was it—photo—infrared photometer.

I said, “Look, you're probably having difficulty finding white people with those qualifications.”

[He said,] “Yes, as a matter of fact, we are.”

How on earth do you expect me to find a Negro—we were Negroes at that time—with those qualifications, when there has been no indication in the past that these kinds of positions were even available to them.

But that was some way that they had, you know, raising the qualifications so high that they probably knew that we couldn't find any Negroes with specific qualifications like that. And even if there were one in existence, he would already be employed some place.

EP:

Well, William Chafe in his book, Civilities and Civil Rights, mentions that the AFSC in a survey conducted in the 1950s—I assume you were, you were part of that survey?

SH:

[pauses] Ah.

EP:

—whereby they went around to employers encouraging employment without regard to race. [Chafe] said that there was a difference between the large employers, both the receptivity and the answers that they received, and the large employers like Cone Mills, Burlington Industries, that sort of thing, and the small employers. Did you notice any difference in their responses or receptivity to the idea between those two groups of employers?

SH:

Generally, I don't think it was that—I don't think it was that much difference. Generally, large employers—and I think this was a time there was an Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, which had an impact on those large firms that had government contracts. Large firms perhaps were more inclined to, to talk about this, to make some kind of effort, limited perhaps. There were some small firms that—I'm trying to think of—well, I guess, a lot depended on the whole attitude of the management of, of a small firm.

Small—managers of small firms that really needed a skilled person like—I can't think of his name. He had a small business out on Elwell Street. He was extremely helpful. Bob Ford's Acme Engineering. He was just extremely helpful.

EP:

Helpful in what way?

SH:

Employing, employing blacks.

EP:

In other than menial positions?

SH:

Yes, yes. His business was—he made instruments, if you call them instruments, that were—say if a person had an operation and had to have some steel something placed in his body. What do you call that?

EP:

I guess just artificial joints or something.

SH:

It was a very precise business. And we were successful in getting someone at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] to work with him. And he was very pleased and he hired some other persons in, you know, to work with him in that business. And he was very vocal himself in talking with other employers, telling them about the success that he had had in his business.

EP:

You mean at things like meetings of the Rotarians or, or something like that?

SH:

Not big—on a person-to-person, personal basis.

EP:

Was he the exception rather than the rule?

SH:

I would say so. I would say so.

EP:

Did you ever have any inkling as to the success of these one-on-one informal conversations between employer who would hire without regard to race on his fellow businessmen?

SH:

We didn't—that wasn't done in any formal manner.

EP:

You had no feedback as to—

SH:

Just maybe one or two cases but not to any large degree.

EP:

What was the usual level of, or normal level of employment for blacks in Greensboro?

SH:

Oh, there was very—there was very little nontraditional employment. See, this started—

EP:

You mean normally custodians or—

SH:

Yes.

EP:

Or unskilled labor.

SH:

Right. Maybe you'd find an exception at a few places, but it wasn't the rule. And as, as I began to talk with people, I started out first talking with employers about the kinds of jobs that I knew that I could find candidates for.

EP:

Such as—

SH:

Such as secretarial positions, file clerks, receptionists, then into the upper level, draftsmen, engineers, laboratory technicians. Then there were a lot of trainee positions that were open where—I mean—

EP:

Management trainees?

SH:

No, not management trainees. Trainees for specific skills that were needed on, on jobs, maybe apprenticeship positions. And, and began to talk with people in unions and management to encourage them to employ, I think—

EP:

Well, what was the reaction on the union side? Were they also—

SH:

Positive.

EP:

They were positive.

SH:

Yeah.

EP:

One—again, Dr. Chafe suggests that informal, behind-the-scenes attitude of large industry, like Burlington or Cone, was working relationships such that their representatives went to the workers and said, “All right, we'll keep the blacks out of the mills if you'll keep the union out of the mills.” Did you ever have any—

SH:

I don't remember that.

EP:

—knowledge of that.

SH:

No. No.

EP:

But I gather that there wasn't much union activity. That such unions as existed were either small—

SH:

Very small.

EP:

But they were receptive to black membership in their org—or unions.

SH:

Some, but not, not all. I tried to get a young man who had moved from Ohio into the electrical workers union—that was very, very difficult.

EP:

Did that mean that blacks had to set up their own union chapters or simply be unrepresented?

SH:

Just unrepresented. It was the way that I could determine.

EP:

But what—were they receptive to the union?

SH:

Like perhaps on training. Initially taking, you know, taking the, the person from grade level, from, from the entrance level, training them. I'm trying to think of a specific apprenticeship.

EP:

Well, was this the general concept of training, apprenticeship training, or specifically apprenticeship training for blacks?

SH:

No. This—they had a general apprenticeship training.

EP:

I mean, I mean, is that what you were advocating?

SH:

I was advocating across the board that blacks be employed in the apprentice—I mean, into the apprenticeship program on the same basis that everybody else was, was accepted. And I can't remember offhand who they were. That's been a good little while ago, of course, what—like almost thirty years since.

EP:

Well, was the attitude of labor locally that, that, “All right, we will support training blacks on equal level with whites?” No discrimination there.

SH:

Really, that is very vague at this point. And I can't—I don't really recall all of the, the details about it, you know.

EP:

I assume that—my final question along this line is that—were white workers afraid that if blacks were given equal opportunity for employment and apprenticeship training, they would take their jobs?

SH:

Yes. That's always been—that's always been a fear.

EP:

So you think this entered into labors—

SH:

Yeah. Or that other—the other thing that used to come up is that, well, I can't—well, a couple of things that employers would tell me. “I can't employ any Negroes in these jobs. If I do, all my white workers will walk out.” That was, that was one of the fears. Another excuse that they said, “Look, I can't, I can't hire any Negroes here. We don't have but two restrooms, one for male and one for female. And the state law says that you have to provide four restrooms.” You know, one for black males, one for black females, one for white males and one for white females. That, that law actually was on the books.

EP:

Well I, I wonder about that, because, you know, McNeill Smith, who was chairman of the State Advisory Committee on Civil Rights, indicated that a study of the laws indicated this was not a law. This was really more common practice rather than a law.

SH:

No.

EP:

It was on the books?

SH:

It, it was on the books, because I remember at one of the meetings of the Greensboro Citizens—well, not the—that was before the Greensboro Citizens Association. It was—NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] had an open meeting for candidates. And I had raised this question of one of the candidates. I don't even remember who it was. It was somebody who was running for the Senate—North Carolina Senate. And I had raised this question in a public meeting that, you know, would he, if he were elected, try to get this law off the books, because a lot of employers were saying that this was an excuse for not hiring Negroes in positions.

And I remember that he said, “Well, I think I could be more helpful, you know, by getting Negroes appointed to different commissions and boards,” et cetera, et cetera. And he left that meeting and went out to Western Electric and talked to a group of employees and said, “Do you know what they asked me to do? They had—some of those people had asked me to integrate the restrooms. Can you believe that?” And that word, you know, just got out all over the community.

And that man was defeated in that election. The person who succeeded him—I mean, who really got elected—was another person who was at that same meeting where I raised that question. And he was the one who got up and said, “Well, of course. I think it's an unfair rule.”

EP:

So he had just made the mistake of talking officially about it.

SH:

Yeah.

EP:

Oh, I see. Well, I was going to say—you were saying that they said they couldn't hire because they didn't have four separate restrooms. What were some of the other arguments or remarks?

SH:

Well, it's just mostly that they couldn't find, they couldn't find the people.

EP:

Would it be fair to say then that merit employment by the AFSC in the 1950s was only a very mixed success?

SH:

I would say it was more than a mixed success, because it was something different. It was something new. Nobody had ever approached employers before about this. It was unique. Employers did not really fight it, because it was coming from an organization that did not believe in coercion. They said, “We ask you to do this because it's morally right.”

EP:

And you were an alternative to the NAACP.

SH:

Yeah. And—

EP:

Which they saw as more militant.

SH:

Yes. Yes. And because at the same time I was doing this, other groups like the NAACP and CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], you know, were saying, “Hey, look, if you don't do this, we're gonna have a picket line around your place next week.”

EP:

Were businesses picketed by the NAACP, I mean in the 1950s?

SH:

And CORE. Yeah. Especially retail stores. Yeah. I used to—when I was working with the AFSC, I used to spend one day a week down in Durham talking with employers down there. I'd hang my hat in the office of [Floyd] McKissick—McKissick and Berry. And we would coordinate our activities a lot of times.

They knew my approach. They had their approach. And sometimes I would go first to an organization, you know, and tell them all the spiel, why the American Friends Service Committee was concerned about this. And they said, “We'll see about it.” Then the next two or three days, somebody from CORE or NAACP would go with a more militant approach. And then they would come back and call me. [laughs]

EP:

So it was kind of carrot and stick approach. I see.

SH:

[laughs] Right. And then sometimes they would go to an agency first and say [unclear]. And then I would follow up. And a lot of—particularly the retail stores—we were trying to get clerks into the retail stores. He said, “Well, now, I like your approach.”

And so I said, “Well, you know, what are we going to do about it?” And it was quite an interesting—as—go ahead.

EP:

I was just—no, please, you go ahead.

SH:

I was just going to say as a result of that, my experience working with the American Friends Service Committee, talking with employers—in '63, people began to focus on state government, when Terry Sanford was governor. And I remember Floyd McKissick had said to the governor, “Look, we need somebody to open these doors in state government. Nontraditional employment—it's just ridiculous we don't have Negroes in some of these nontraditional jobs.”

So the governor said, “Well, you know, okay. We—who you got who can do this?” And the only person that Governor Sanford was thinking about more or less was somebody like John Wheeler, who was head of Mechanics and Farmers Bank, you know, a leader in Durham.

So Floyd said, “Well, take Sarah Herbin. She's been doing this for the American Friends Service Committee for the last ten years,” you know. So they decided that Governor—sent for me—would talk to me about it.

And I don't know whether you need all this stuff on—so I went down and talked with him about it. And he sent me over to talk with the, the director of personnel for the state, because this is where he was thinking about putting the, the job in state government. And after I talked with this person who said, “Well, I, I, I don't see why you would want to leave the American Friends Service Committee,” you know, “to work on a state job like this—I understand you're doing a good job where you are.”

EP:

So he was trying to discourage you with a soft stroke approach?

SH:

Yes. So I went back to the governor's office. And I think it was Joel Fleishman was working there. I said, “Thank you very much. Thank the governor for that offer, but I, I, you know, I don't think I would want that.”

And he said, “Wait a minute, I want you to tell him.” And I told him I appreciated the offer, but I didn't think I would be able to work under those conditions. He said, “Well, all I have to do is just tell him, look, this is where the job is going to be and, and that's it.”

And I said, “No, because the atmosphere would not be conducive to my doing a good job. And I appreciate it very much.”

And he said, “Well, you know, just don't, don't, don't give it up yet. We'll work out something.”

And about two or three weeks later, I got this call from Joel Fleishman. And he said, “Sarah, I think we've got things worked out.”

I said, “Number one, where is the job? What department is it in?”

He said, “It's in the department of administration.”

I said, “Number two, how is this job to be carried out? This is a brand new job you're creating in state government. You have no job description. How is it going to be carried out?”

He said, “Any way you wanna do it.”

EP:

So they gave you carte blanche.

SH:

Carte blanche. And the first day on the job, the governor asked me to draft a letter that would go out over his signature to the heads of all state agencies, explaining to them that I was employed to work on, not only recruit—I don't even remember the wording of the letter. But I was employed to encourage the employment of Negroes in nontraditional employment in state companies.

EP:

What was your official job title?

SH:

Employment Service Representative. So that in itself—and I did that until the Sanford administration was over. That was a very, very interesting experience.

EP:

Was this not carried through under the Moore administration?

SH:

It was. And Governor [Daniel K.] Moore had asked me to stay on. But I didn't, because at that time I left, and Governor Sanford had talked with people at the North Carolina Fund in Durham, and I was employed there as a grant officer.

EP:

Let's return for a moment, if I might, back to the AFSC's activities—

SH:

That's right. [laughs]

EP:

—in the 1950s. No, I found that very interesting. That, that would have been a later part of my questionings. You mentioned that you worked with the NAACP in Durham in a coordinating fashion with attorney McKissick. Did you work similarly here in Greensboro?

SH:

Not as regularly. I did do some, well, working cooperatively with CORE and the NAACP. But we didn't do any, any joint projects, I don't think.

EP:

One just very loose understanding of the structure of the NAACP here in town was that I believe a man named Dr. [Edwin] Edmonds was president until he left. And then did Dr. Simkins become president?

SH:

Yes.

EP:

Was it a very active organization? One person, for instance, has characterized it thus by saying, “Well, George Simkins WAS the NAACP.” Was it pretty much a one-man organization, or was it broadly based, large membership, very active?

SH:

Are you talking about when George took over—

EP:

Yes.

SH:

—the position? I think that came about—this was at the same time that George and some other black people in the community went to the [Gillespie Park] golf course to, to play golf. And then, of course, they were refused and all of this, you know, came about.

And I don't have all the details. I remember what had happened. But it was after that that George became involved with the NAACP and I suppose in filing a suit, or in, you know, getting more actively involved in, in, in civil rights in North Carolina.

EP:

Well, I know that the most frequently mentioned organizations in the black community at the time were the NAACP, the Greensboro Men's Club, Greensboro Citizens Association—

SH:

Oh, that's what it was.

EP:

Well, I was wondering, as Dr. [Hobart] Jarrett described it to me, he said this came into being in the 1940, late 1940s, early 1950s primarily to, to sponsor black candidates for city offices, city council elections and so forth. And then he said, as I understand it, following the election of Dr. [William] Hampton, went into a decline and was not reactivated until around the sit-ins, and it was designed to help support the student—A&T students in the sit-ins. Is this as you remember it?

SH:

Yeah, 'cause I was away from the city from '48 to '51, and when I came back in, you know, 1951, to see what was, kinds of things were going in the Citizens Association. I think after, particularly after the '54 Supreme Court decision on the school boards, [it] became, became more active in the late fifties. And—I—yeah.

EP:

I get the impression the Greensboro Citizens Association was primarily a politically active group. Was the Greensboro Men's Club more social?

SH:

To my knowledge it was.

EP:

Were there other organizations in the black community present then that were not, have not been mentioned, not necessarily politically motivated, but just very strong organizations within the black community?

SH:

Well, you—CORE, of course.

EP:

I was thinking of fraternal and sororial organizations.

SH:

No. I don't know. As the movement began to gather momentum, more community organizations became involved. And they were initially from the February first sit-in. There were a lot of individuals and organizations that wouldn't touch it.

EP:

For what reasons?

SH:

They know better. You know, people just don't do those things. “Why don't they just,” you know, “stay out of this?”

EP:

“You're rocking the boat and jeopardizing our advance”?

SH:

“You're rocking the boat.” You know, “You, you know you can't make any changes like that. That's just the way things are. And you can't change.”

And gradually, you know, with public meetings every night and the marches, the quiet marches, the silent marches and then sometimes, you know—with the—every week the congregations would get larger and larger until, you know, with—and then with the swelling of the student body and more organizations.

And I know we were trying to get more ministers involved to get their congregations involved in the whole social issues. Well, some of the ministers wouldn't touch it, wouldn't touch it. I mean, their job was to save souls. And—

EP:

So they were making the distinction between the spiritual and temporal world.

SH:

Right. But gradually, as more people became involved, and especially older people, you would see a lot of the old—the senior citizens, you know, involved in marching. And it just sort of emerged, you know. More people began to come in. Maybe I, I, I shouldn't attempt to, to have the—to do any value judgment on why they, they came in.

EP:

Please, feel free to.

SH:

It could be. People like to be a part of something that is, well, that's going to produce status. And maybe a few of them—but then the momentum began to increase. And organizations would be proud to say, yes, we were a part of this. And it got to be a status thing if you were arrested in a demonstration.

EP:

At the time or subsequently?

SH:

Subsequently.

EP:

But not at the time.

SH:

Not, not at the initial stages. But—

EP:

Well, you know, I've mentioned these organizations—they seem to be primarily, or exclusively, male oriented, like the Greensboro Men's Club, Greensboro Citizens Association, NAACP. Were there any organizations in which women were a significant part of the membership, or exclusively women's organizations that were a counterpart to these others?

SH:

Well, women were actively involved in the NAACP. I was on the executive committee of NAACP at that time. And there were quite a few women who were secretaries and very active. Several women were active in that and, and in CORE.

EP:

But you, there are no exclusively women's organizations that you would, would come to mind?

SH:

No.

EP:

I just didn't want to ignore—

SH:

Yeah.

EP:

—the women.

SH:

Well, I tell you, it may be, it may be you ought to talk with someone who was a sorority person. I'm not a sorority person. And so, you know—

EP:

But there were a lot of sororial and fraternal organizations.

SH:

Yeah.

EP:

I gather that there were fairly strong alumni chapters of A&T and Bennett. Is that correct?

SH:

Oh, I don't know how active they were.

EP:

You, you mentioned—

SH:

It seems like, it seems like the—Bennett was involved.

EP:

Yes.

SH:

Yeah. Well, the student, the student body, you know, as the—

EP:

What—you've mentioned the NAACP. What other organizations of—were you a member?

SH:

Oh, locally, other than the church and NAACP and—

EP:

Which church were you a member?

SH:

Bethel [AME Church]. I joined.

EP:

Who was the minister?

SH:

When I first joined the church it was Reverend Cleland. Then, oh, they changed ministers. Oh, gosh.

EP:

Would you say that the congregation and the minister were one of these more active ones that we mentioned or not?

SH:

Not.

EP:

When did you join the NAACP?

SH:

Oh, I guess when I first—I—we got married in '41. I moved to Greensboro in '41. And I guess—the time—I was a member even when Edmonds was president. And—that was back—

EP:

Early fifties. Well, we've mentioned Dr. Edmonds and Dr. Simkins. So you remember any of the other officers or members of the executive committee?

SH:

I think Charles Davis was there, because he didn't, he wasn't there initially. He came to Greensboro in '56, I think it was. Enola Nixon was—and Minnie Feaster—let's see—some more people—deceased now.

EP:

Well, I, I'd be still be interested in their names whether they're living or not living. Give it a sort of historical perspective on the chapter. I understand that Ralph Johns was a vice -president.

SH:

Oh, yeah.

EP:

As a matter of fact, did he not nominate Dr. Simkins for the presidency?

SH:

I don't really—I don't remember.

EP:

Incidentally, what was the attitude towards Ralph Johns in the black community?

SH:

I think a lot of people respected him. And, you know—

EP:

I know there was some—

SH:

There was some, you know, people who had questions about his involvement. But I think the—he got the support of a lot of the students because of his business, you know, that he had on East Market Street. And I think a lot of people felt that he was really sincere in his feelings about the kinds of things that were happening to black people in the community.

EP:

I get a sense that, although there was a strong NAACP youth chapter here, that most of the college students were not members of the NAACP. Or am I mistaken?

SH:

I, I couldn't, I couldn't even respond to that.

EP:

It was primarily an adult—

SH:

Yeah, 'cause I don't know—I don't know what was happening with the, with the youth group at that time.

EP:

Now, I gather there were—you've mentioned the merit employment program. And Mr. Davis was involved with the school desegregation program. Were you involved in other programs of the AFSC at this time?

SH:

My, my job was with the merit employment program, even though the school desegregation program and the merit employment program did work together. We were both under one big umbrella as a community relations program of AFSC.

We were, yes, related also to the college program. The secretary of the college program had the responsibility of meeting with college students and encouraging them to participate in various projects for college students. There were summer projects. Some of the students would get involved in work, work projects for nonprofit organizations. It may be painting or doing some rebuilding or construction work.

EP:

And all these were sponsored by the AFSC.

SH:

Sponsored by the AFSC. Also, there were seminars sponsored like at the United Nations, various kinds of seminars in international relations for college students. They also had projects for high school students, too, similar seminars and similar workshops for high school students. They were separate and apart from the college projects.

EP:

Now, did you just go and talk to the black students, or was it black and white students?

SH:

Black and white students. I didn't talk to them. The college secretary did that. But sometimes, you know, we would work together in referring particular students or, or professors or, you know, this kind of thing.

EP:

Was the student response favorable?

SH:

More or less, yes. On some of the projects—required students to pay to participate in a work project. That got to be a problem in some areas, because most black kids—students—were looking for jobs, paying jobs during the summer and couldn't afford to, to take summer off plus finding money to pay to participate in a community project. Often there were scholarships available, made available for students who could not.

EP:

Sometimes it's difficult for me to keep these different organizations that were—work here in the black community in Greensboro. And frequently they're overlapping memberships, as you mentioned your involvement in NAACP and the AFSC. Were you involved in the Interracial Commission?

SH:

Yes.

EP:

What sort of activities did you do there?

SH:

Well, this was a kind of organization—this was a—we were trying to get people together to talk to each other. And this, we felt, was very helpful if we could get blacks and whites together to express their ideas, their concerns. That this might help people to get to know each other. And if you know each other, then you wouldn't feel any, the kind of hostility that, you know, had been permeating the whole place. It was, it was helpful in some, some ways.

EP:

What sort of things would you discuss?

SH:

We would discuss employment, housing, recreation activities. Most of the times, the blacks would be concerned about their denial of—not being a part of—in terms of the school situations, you know, getting the leftover schoolbooks, the hand-me-down schoolbooks, not having adequate facilities, facilities that equaled the facilities at other schools. We would just talk about attitudes. Why do people have the attitudes that, you know, that they have? What kinds of things can we do to, to break down? What kinds of things, activities, could we sponsor jointly that would eliminate or alleviate something—activities? I know they used to have every—when was it, the first Sunday, second Sunday in February, this massive meeting at one of the big churches downtown, Methodist Church or the First Presbyterian Church?

EP:

Was that part of “Religious Emphasis Week” or is this something separate?

SH:

It was black—“Negro History Week” or something—or “Race Relations Week” they used to have every—

And the thing that used to bother us was the fact that, oh, everybody would come out. It's the first time you could see an audience that was integrated, a church full of integrated people. And we'd do all this in February, and then the rest of the year—

EP:

Now was it the case of whites coming into the black churches? It was never the other way, was it?

SH:

Not initially. It was black people going downtown.

EP:

Would this tend to be—the people who seemed to be receptive to interracial activities in the fifties and early sixties, same names keep coming up over and over again, Kay Troxler, McNeill Smith, Mrs. Smith. Who were some of the more active whites in the community who were receptive to this and did participate in various activities like this? Do you recall?

SH:

I, I know faces. I can't, I can't call their names.

Ethel Troy was a very ardent member. She was the president or secretary. And she was the one who used to keep in touch with everybody to remind them when the next meeting was going to be and, you know, where we would meet.

Oh, dear. You know, I wish I had thought to try to go back and, and look through files that I have of the American Friends Service Committee. If I can get up in my attic and look at some of the stuff, I'd just be glad to share that with you.

EP:

Well, who were some of the members of the Interracial Commission?

SH:

Oh, you're asking me something that happened—

EP:

Perhaps that is unfair. But I, I would like to get away, or to be more inclusive than the names that keep popping up. Of course, these are names that seem to stay in people's minds. But you get a sense there's much broader participation than these few individual names.

SH:

Certainly is, and—oh, my goodness.

EP:

Well, maybe let me shift to—we discussed black organizations. Who were some of the black—

SH:

It's been an hour already.

EP:

Oh, my goodness. That's amazing.

SH:

And I just, I parked on a one-hour place, cause I knew I wasn't going to be here any longer than that.

[End of Interview]