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Oral history interview with Elizabeth Laizner by Eugene Pfaff


Date: June 19, 1979

Interviewee: Elizabeth Laizner

Biographical abstract: Elizabeth Laizner (1915-2004), originally of Austria, taught French and German at Bennett College in the 1960s and was a member of the executive committee of the Greensboro Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a June 19, 1979, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Elizabeth Laizner, Laizner provides details concerning formation of CORE, including the primary figures involved and their roles. She describes in detail several of the major marches, pickets, and various other events that occurred, including those that led to her arrest. She also explains the planning, training, and strategies it took to prepare for demonstrations and marches.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.537

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 Elizabeth Laizner by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

This is a segment of the Oral History Program for the Greensboro Public Library. I'm speaking with Dr. Elizabeth Laizner, who in 1963, as a member of the executive council of CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], participated in the 1963 civil rights demonstrations. This is being taped at the—in the boardroom of the Greensboro Public Library on June 19, 1979.

Dr. Laizner, I'd like to begin by, if you could describe for me the background of the formation of the CORE chapter here, or of your first participation in CORE.

ELIZABETH LAIZNER:

It will be first participation because I was not here when the chapter was founded. Exact details on the founding you will probably get from either Mr. [James C.] McMillan [Guilford College faculty] or Mr. [Robert 'Pat'] Patterson [CORE executive]. We just discussed it and we all agreed that it was somewhere in the summer or maybe already spring of '62, at the beginning of that year, and connected with the picketing of that particular place [McDonald's] that I told you about that was opened on Summit, on Summit Avenue.

As for myself, I had been at Bennett [College] for one year at the time, having come in '61. I was very much friends with two gentlemen, both black, both ministers, who were later on quite prominent, Reverends [John F.] Hatchett and [James] Bush. Reverend Hatchett, I don't know if he is a Southerner or not, but his wife is, and is related here. Reverend Bush was from the North. They were all here in '61 and '62. All of us were talking. I think the same happened over at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] and nothing much was happening. And then, somewhere in summer [of '62]—and I gave you the names of the two gentlemen who can give you more details—something was started.

I was not in Greensboro in the summer of '62 and when I returned, when school started, the picketing of the S&W and Mayfair cafeterias, and occasionally movie houses, had already started. There was quite some upset about it. I did not at that time join [CORE] for a very strange reason. I thought at that time that this was really a black affair and that a white person might not even be wanted. I suddenly got into it when I was sitting at a friend's house, one of my colleagues, in fact—no it was the same—when we all lived in one of those faculty places. And the TV was on. And they showed one of those slightly strange, I would call them professional civil rights workers from the North, who came from one place to the other getting themselves arrested, getting a little bit of publicity for the group and for themselves, and going on to the next, if you know the critters.

EP:

Yeah. Do you—

EL:

I don't remember this particular critter's name.

EP:

Do you mean to say that you're, you're critical of that? You don't think that their intention was genuine or—

EL:

Oh, yes, I think that it was genuine, all right. But some, some were, or some were not. I think that maybe this was an unkind remark, but some of them were very, very—they, they were white, of course. They were very idealistic, I think, and were, in a way, the ancestors of some of the hippies a few years later. Few of them stayed in a particular place, but they really went from one group to the other to do their thing, as we would say.

There were a few of them, and one of them—I don't remember this particular young man's name—many of them were from the extreme Left, of course. This particular young man came there, helped picketing, and somehow managed to get himself arrested and get some publicity for himself and for the group, which was, of course, his purpose.

And I remember just about blowing a gasket and saying, “Why has nobody told me that whites can be in on this?” And I ran over next door to Hatchett and told him that I didn't know, and would they take me? And he said yes. And I joined, and have been active as long as the CORE group existed. So that was the way I came in. And as I said, on the foundation and how CORE came in—I do know that the rep [representative of CORE] came over to organize the remnants of what was left from the Ezell Blair group.

EP:

This is the group that formed—

EL:

In '60.

EP:

—the sit-ins in 1960?

EL:

The sixties, yes. And there was no steady group. There was mainly a group of A&T people—A&T students, very smart, with support from some A&T teachers, as well as a few people from Bennett. It is interesting to notice, and I want to get that name in, that the gentleman who now edits the [Carolina] Peacemaker, John Marshall Stevenson, now calling himself John Marshall Kilimanjaro, was one of the teachers at A&T heavily supporting Ezell Blair and his group.

EP:

Who was the representative you say that organized these people?

EL:

I don't know. I don't know. CORE had a lot of reps. And the reps would be sent here, there, and everywhere. And all I know—I said I was not there when the group was organized. It was sometime in the summer or already spring of '62. I have a feeling that Mr. McMillan and Mr. Patterson will get together on this and come out with the exact date. They probably have some records on it.

EP:

Who were the principal officers in CORE at the time you joined?

EL:

And at the time from then, of course, Bill Thomas [chairman], and Robert T. “Pat” Patterson, who was vice chairman. They led the group.

EP:

What events led up to the 1963 demonstrations? For instance, in the fall of '62, it's my understanding there were a series of demonstrations.

EL:

Yes. There were a series of picketings. We always had the same targets—the large restaurants and the movie houses. I don't know if you're aware here in the beginning that in the movie houses at that time, blacks could only go on the sides of the balcony—bad viewing, insecure, dangerous for, let's say, young ladies. The result was that most blacks just simply boycotted the main movie houses and did not go. There were, I think, one in the black neighborhood, or close to the black neighborhood, where they would go. But otherwise, no.

And this was the second type of it, but the main things were in the fall the S&W and the Mayfair. And then when we didn't avail anywhere—this is what, what you brought in and I checked with Mac [James McMillan?] on the boycott. Then trying to get some of the blacks to boycott the then-very busy downtown, was done in the fall of '62, just before Christmas. And it was beginning to hurt. This is when, as I told you before, the city nominated a committee [Human Relations Commission?]. The then-mayor, [David] Schenck, I believe, did it. We did not realize at the time that the committee had very little power. And there was quite a discussion on it.

EP:

Was this a continuation of the committee that brought about a resolution of the sit-ins in '60?

EL:

No.

EP:

Or was this a different committee?

EL:

No, I believe that this was an entirely different committee. I think there were bankers and people and so on in there. You would—you could probably find out through the mayor's office, but to my knowledge it was an entirely different committee that was supposed to look into the whole situation. Not so much our picketing as the fact of denial of service to blacks.

There was, for example, a case that we did not do, and that created more stir, more stir and more sympathy for our cause than anything else. It was a letter by a non-Greensboroite to the Daily News. That person had been in a line at a drive-in. I assume it was one of the earlier McDonald's, could have been something else. And next to him was a black family, also in a car, and they all waited. Obviously the black man was from the North and did not know what was the case then. He was sent back and he finally got, they got out of their cars and went in line. And he was sent back and told he could not be served. The white man—I think he was the gentleman in question—was very, very furious and upset about it. He was not a Greensboroite either and wrote a very moving letter on it, on the injustice of it. And several people, including some of the professors at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]—of all the strange people to have got out—came in, who's not otherwise sympathetic at all, and came in with a strong letter in support of that.

So what the committee, to my knowledge, was really supposed to look into was, was there a justification for opening these places? Were they really being unjust to the black citizens of the town by not permitting them to come in? This was—was not on us, it was on this. And we had quite some discussions on it within the group. But as I told before, this was probably the most democratic group I'd ever been with. We had chairmen, vice chairmen, and a few other officers, and we had the executive committee—not council—which did a lot of planning. But the actual decision on everything—from the smallest picketing to big things to decisions affecting the whole group—was made by the entire membership, which at that time fluctuated from about forty-five or fifty to about ninety at the height of it, and was mostly, but not exclusively, students from Bennett and A&T.

Through the fact that Reverend Hatchett, Reverend Bush, Mr. McMillan, myself, and another teacher were in [it] at the time, the focus shifted slightly towards Bennett—especially in the fall of '62 when, of course, demonstrations were there. Sometimes meetings—big meetings were held at Providence Baptist [Church]. An occasional call meeting would simply be held on Bennett campus. Now, what then happened was that we were officially approached to call off the boycott and, preferably, cease picketing.

EP:

Officially approached by the mayor and the city council or by other—

EL:

I don't know if it was the committee or if it was the mayor, but we were officially approached by either the committee or the mayor. I assume the newspapers will know the exact details; look in the papers, you can find it—to call it off and give the committee a chance. There was a long campaign in the paper, “Give the committee a chance, they're going to come up with something.”

Well, I still remember the session we had in open meeting. It was very heated. And I was on the side of the group that we call the “activists,” the ones who sat there and said, “Nothing's going to come out. We'd better go on.” And Bill Thomas, and Pat Patterson, and Lewis Brandon, interestingly, were some of the “moderates,” as were Tony [A. Knighton] Stanley. And the thing came to a vote with everybody speaking his piece.

EP:

Well, who were the activists then?

EL:

You mean of the people that you know?

EP:

Well, you've mentioned these individuals who were the moderates. Who were on the other side?

EL:

Oh, McMillan, myself, Hatchett, Bush, and several students. Mostly young ladies from Bennett, now no longer there. I can mention Miss Lois Lucas, Miss Beverly Mitchell, who I think is in town working somewhere, and several others. But there were much more to these so-called moderates. Also, I give you only the leading names.

Anyway, but we voted on it, and we decided that we would do whatever the majority decided. The majority decided we should give a chance to the committee and cease [the demonstrations] for, I think, up to somewhere in February, or whenever they would come through.

This I've already told you: they did come through very beautifully. And the trouble is that a very moving declaration—signed by the head of the committee who was either one of the big textile people or one of the big bankers, I think he was one of the big bankers—which brought out the injustice that it [segregation] was doing to the black citizens of Greensboro. And they felt that definitely those places should be opened, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. It sounded gorgeous. And the trouble was in the last line—“Unfortunately, our committee has no power whatsoever to enforce these suggestions.” And that was it. That was it.

And that was sometime in late winter or early spring, I think—you'll find it in the paper, you probably have somewhere that declaration which was printed all over and much praised, but what it wasn't worth—the paper it was printed on it certainly wasn't worth. But you couldn't blame the gentlemen for that, could you? Anyway, that's when we restarted. And you brought out the fact of our—the first thing we did was to picket the city hall.

EP:

Now how was the decision made to picket city hall?

EL:

I don't know, but we just—this particular thing wasn't anything very important. But the normal decision would have been that the group would say, “Okay, let's do something again.” They would probably charge the executive committee to come up with a plan or plans, which would then be presented to the group, who would vote on it.

EP:

Now, who were the, again, were the members of the executive committee. We've mentioned Thomas as chairman, Patterson as vice chairman—

EL:

No, no, no, no. The, the executive committee and the board, the actual officers, are not identical. The officers were automatically members of the executive committee. But the members of the executive committee at large, like myself for example, were not officers of the organization.

EP:

Who were members of the executive committee?

EL:

All of the officers. That would be Bill, and Pat, and Brandon, who had some office, and Miss Lucas, and Miss Mitchell at, at most times, and then the, the participating teacher advisors, meaning Mr. Hatchett—Reverend Hatchett, Reverend Bush, Mr. McMillan very much so, Reverend Stanley, and myself. And there were a few others. There were a few more student members in there. The ones I can remember are the officers, and Miss Lucas, and Miss Mitchell, and several others.

EP:

How frequently did the executive committee meet?

EL:

That depends. If something important was going on, we would, we would meet very often—at least weekly, sometimes several times a week. And then sometimes there would be call meetings. I told you that the whole thing, the big thing—when you asked had we discussed this or anything, and I said, “No, it developed,”—it started out of a call meeting in early May by Bill Thomas.

We had picketed city hall, and had, I think, started a little bit of picketing of restaurants and so on. But it didn't go very far because people were sort of tired. They were saying, “Well, you have that decision, give them time.” We didn't get much publicity or anything. And there was the question should we or shouldn't we go on and do something right now, with exams staring the students in the face at the end of May—school ended a little later at that time than it does now. And should we maybe prepare something big for the fall?

And that is when Bill Thomas, early in May, had a call meeting in one of the Bennett dorms. Now, you know, they had social rooms downstairs where young men could come during certain times, even at the time of the rather severe and magnificent Dr. [Willa] Player [Bennett College president]. Dr. Player knew everything that we were doing, incidentally.

EP:

Did you say “severe, but magnificent”?

EL:

Yes.

EP:

Could you explain what you mean by that?

EL:

Yes. In—what I meant by that was that Bennett at that time was very old-fashioned. Dr. Player, who never married—the great love story that went flooey because of her greater love for Bennett is no, none of our affairs here—the gentleman is too famous. But she was, and is, a very proper lady, to whom it was tremendously important that her students were proper young ladies. The walls were really walls and the young ladies would sometimes climb over them.

And [laughs] it was very hard to get permission. For example, at that time you could not ride in anyone's car— men especially—but even your auntie if you didn't have permission. If you didn't have permission. This is what I meant by “the severe.” For example, my main job in there, rather than meeting or anything was, when picketing was going on, I was—although I do not drive—I was the Chief Transportation Officer. The thing being that I had a phone at home as well as a phone in my office, and knew a lot of people who had cars.

When the Bennett girls picketed, that was tremendously organized. But there was again trouble. If they walked downtown or rode the bus downtown, it took time. The bus took money. And they did it in such a way as not to interfere with their classes, which was magnificent. The best time of picketing, let's say, at the S&W, was at lunch time anyway, so that was between twelve and one.

EP:

So you were in charge of organizing transportation?

EL:

[Transportation] for them, yes. So I'll tell you how the picketing was done—that's where the “magnificent” comes in. Those were orders of, of Player, of course. I would know which young ladies were going to go down at a given time after their last class was over in the morning and would picket either one of the restaurants, mainly, during the lunch hour. I would then do two things. I would inform the dietician, Mrs. Jones, to see that the young ladies got an earlier lunch during the so-called “chapel break hour.” They were released from chapel in this case. She had the names. They could come in and go to early lunch. And then after their last class, in time for them to go down[town], I would see that the appropriate amount of cars, which had to be chauffeured by faculty members from Bennett or A&T, were there to take them down, and then again to pick them up and bring them there for their 1:15 class in the afternoon.

EP:

Now did—was this for the picketing in the fall of '62, or later on?

EL:

All, all through.

EP:

All through

.
EL:

All through. It mainly, it mainly got—in the late fall when it got busier, and then in the spring it was more organized.

EP:

Was it a daily picketing—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—in the fall of '62 or was it sporadic?

EL:

Daily picketing, daily picketing. Twice a day. They did it again afterwards for the evening meal.

EP:

How long did the picketing go on? Up until this period where the—they [the committee] that asked for—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—a truce to let the committees—

EL:

Yeah. And then it resumed on a smaller scale and then [became] very, very big.

EP:

Was it—how, how long a period, how many weeks or months would you say it went on until this truce period?

EL:

Oh, I would say—it must have started in September—three months, something like that.

EP:

So you're saying that this picketing not only had the permission of Dr. Player—

EL:

It had her support.

EP:

—but actually active support?

EL:

Dr. Player was totally supportive of CORE. She informed us that she could not become a member, which she felt she shouldn't as college president. Actually, her hands were much freer by not being [a member]. And she didn't advertise it. She would defend her girls to everybody. But she wouldn't say that after each meeting, one of us—and indeed the people knew it, I mean the, the officers knew it—somebody would go and tell her what we were going to do.I know when I was in '64 going down to Chapel Hill with a group in support of the people then picketing and thought that I might be arrested—which I was, it was a big mess if you remember—I called her. I had at that time to arrange for some Mount Holyoke [College] guests to go to that picketing, but be very sure that nothing dangerous would happen to them. And I remember going to see Dr. Player and informing her the Mount Holyoke girls are going, and Buddy Tiger[?] or somebody had promised that nothing's going to happen to them. They will see everything, they'll be protected by our people. There will be no chance that they will be arrested, but they'll see that man and his acid bottle and everything. And, and I then said that I am going on my own, and there is a possibility that I will be arrested. She said, "That is all right, Dr. Laizner, just so you let me know." I then called her when I got out of jail, et cetera.

EP:

So, as I understand the sequence, the sequence of events, the moderates in CORE won out. [They] said, “Let's wait until the report of the committee.”

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

And this was—truce was arranged until sometime in February.

EL:

I think it was sometime in February, until the letter came out.

EP:

Then the letter came out, and it was obviously noncommittal, certainly could not be enforced—

EL:

So we started again.

EP:

So then did the activists gain—

EL:

You are, you are beginning to think, to make a war out of the two groups out of it. It was not really. I'm just saying some of us called ourselves this way. It was a different view of it. But you can see from the voting that we were totally democratic and we remained friends.

EP:

Well, I don't mean to suggest animosity.

EL:

No, no.

EP:

In other words, the position that you advocated became the one that was adopted by, by CORE. Is that correct?

EL:

No. I was, I was not the main advocate of the activists. That would have been Hatchett and Bush, and later on, McMillan. Men were dominating. I was mainly the white auslagershield [German for window dressing]. At that time it was unfortunately necessary. As for that young man that was traveling around and others who came later on and did it. Unfortunately, you got better publicity, which is what we wanted. We wanted the public to know, to know, to know if there was a white person there.

EP: W

ere there many white people in CORE?

EL:

In, in the Greensboro group, practically none. That's why I was toted out so much. There was much more—let's say, I would seem much more important to people than I was by the fact that I had to regularly be toted out, had to regularly be put into the first row.

EP:

In other words, you were deliberately in the firstrow—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—because the press would focus on the white demonstrator?

EL:

Yes. And there was young Ramsey. And of course, and in the big demonstration, we had four gorgeous young volunteers from Guilford College.

EP:

I, I recall their participation. Who was the Ramsey individual you mentioned?

EL:

A Quaker.

EP:

Do you recall his full name?

EL:

Dick Ramsey. Worked, worked for the Quakers over in High Point and worked with our group.

EP:

So there was a picketing of city hall—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—as an isolated event in March?

EL:

No, if I remember rightly, it wasn't an isolated event. We went back to picketing some of the restaurants and things, but it didn't create any more stir.

EP:

The newspaper didn't give it any publicity?

EL:

No, not very much, and we didn't do very much, and nothing much happened. The city hall thing got more publicity. And I don't even know—you'd have to ask McMillan—if we went in big force back to the restaurants. We pretty well felt we couldn't do very much and this is when, in May—and the time is shorter than you think because you have Easter vacation in between, you know, and all. So in May there were—you can't say that the groups were clear. The lines were overlapping within. And everybody agreed that something had to be done, but nothing seemed to be doing much. So this is when Bill asked for that call meeting, [tone sounds]—what does that mean? This is—okay.

EP:

[unclear]

EL:

Bill asked for the call meeting, which I told you before, which took place in, I think, Pfeiffer Hall. Anyway, in one of those little social rooms. There weren't too many in there, you know, about twenty or thirty.

EP:

Was this on the Bennett campus?

EL:

Bennett campus, yes.

EP:

Do you recall the date of this meeting?

EL:

No. Maybe Pat will, he was there. Bill, leaning against the piano, more or less put it up to the others and gave two possibilities. Let's do something. It can't be anything big, people are preparing for the finals. Let's do either, do something little—do you feel you should? Or let's not do anything. Let those of us who will be in Greensboro in the summer prepare a big thing for the fall. We almost had the feeling that Bill leaned towards that, which sounded good, and would have been good.

And at that time, some of us then spoke up for the idea that something had to be done. We had to make the people aware of it. I remember especially Pat Patterson and myself being for it. And we got it through that we should. A small group was nominated to get together and work out something for a small picketing job. And that small picketing job that we worked out, and which was approved, was McDonald's. And that's what started the whole thing.

EP:

Why was McDonald's selected as the target?

EL:

Because a McDonald's, if I remember rightly—and I think it was Hatchett, Bush, myself, and some others, I think Pat Patterson was there—a group of us went to High Point in support of their people [picketing]. And they had sort of half-way opened the McDonald's over there which gave us an idea. McDonald's, of course, wasn't what it is now. It was very much of a second-rate hamburger stand, more or less the "cracker's place." If I remember rightly, it had been a McDonald's where this incident of the black driver with all the children in the car who had to go back with empty hands happened, at a McDonald's. So we, we decided that the McDonald's out at Summit Avenue would be a good place to go to. It had that big place, it had—well, you always look over things to see if you can picket, and safe for ladies, and so on. And McDonald's was extremely suitable.

EP:

How so?

/blockquote>
EL:

How so? It had that big square there. It had in front of it sort of a grass verge across the half of the street where we could assemble and wait for the right moment. And it had also across the street that place that McMillan had opened where actually, during that crucial picketing that I described earlier at night, you know the one after we came out of, of jail. Remember? On Sunday—when it really started. Some of us—

EP:

Now the newspaper at that time focused on the picketing of McDonald's.

EL:

Yes.

EP:

But what, what is this other place that was picketed? The [unclear—both speaking at once].

EL:

That was the, that was the, that was the year before. That's why I told you that CORE started—

EP:

In '60—

EL:

—and that was across—it's now Honey's—in '62. And they were open, and they were sympathetic to us. And some of the young people—the night was pretty cold on that Sunday—they could go over there for a moment. Go to the ladies' or men's room and rest their weary legs for a moment over there. They actually sympathized. You may notice that even Honey's now has a lot of upper-class blacks in there. That was very intentional. It's still—nobody forgot that that was the first place which did it [voluntarily desegregated], you see.

EP:

Now was this the Honey's on High Point Road? On Summit?

EL:

No, no, the one on Summit Avenue. And it wasn't the Honey's then, it was something else. It later on became Honey's, and it was the one on, on Summit Avenue. And that's how CORE started. That was the first job and recognizable CORE deed in '62 was that—opening that place in the summer. And you've got to ask McMillan on that.

EP:

So the picketing began of McDonald's?

EL:

Yes, in '63, yes.

EP:

And how was the call sent out for people to picket McDonald's?

EL:

You went to college, didn't you? Where did you go?

EP: UNCG.
EL:

Well that's a little bit large. A&T is large, too, today. It wasn't quite that large then. It had only three thousand, between two thousand five hundred and three thousand. Bennett still has only about six hundred. Well, that—first you have a meeting where everybody comes, and you tell them. And you let anyone else who wants to come know, "This is where we assemble." And then we go down there. We had a few cars that we, we got down there—I don't think it exists anymore. It was sort of a semi-rural place at the time, with a few trees and a little bit of a grass verge where we put our signs and everything before we got in.

We waited for an opportune moment when the place was pretty empty, and went in in a long row, and were refused. And then the—of course, the man informed us that we had no right [to be served] and that we would be arrested, et cetera.

But first we went all through and then this came. And this is of course when Reverend Bush and Bill Thomas and Pat Patterson—and I told you about this—and Reverend Stanley had themselves deliberately arrested. And this is what started it all. Because in spite of the fact that Bush was an activist, most people barely knew him. The community, the papers barely knew him. There were two ministers arrested, and Bill Thomas and Pat Patterson—the leaders of the group. And that is what created the stir.

EP:

Was there immediately a crowd of white hecklers and spectators?

EL:

The next day, yes.

EP:

Next day. Now was all of the crowd hecklers, or only part of it?

EL:

Oh, that was miserable. Let me, let me go on that for a moment—let's straighten this out. We went there, if I remember, on Saturday, and they were arrested. That was in the afternoon or even—in the evening, and they refused bail. But Mr. [Floyd] McKissick—and I've said before, you should get on McKissick, very much so—Mr. McKissick immediately came down, first as their lawyer and second as our boss. He was, you know, CORE—each group was independent, but still had the support from above. And at the, at the biggest height, both Mr. [James] Farmer and Mr. McKissick were here. McKissick came down immediately and visited them in jail.

Now the publicity the next day [of the] Saturday arrests is magnificent if it's early enough for the Sunday morning paper. You may find that Sunday morning paper. And there was an outcry, because the name of all those arrested were supposed to be very sensible people—two ministers, Reverend Stanley's father then had a church here and he had a reputation of being a nice, sensible young man, you know, and all that. There was quite an outcry about it. And this is when McKissick really did the right thing. McKissick said to the four, and Pat told you, “No, take that bail. Get out, because now we can start something. This is going to start it.” And he was 100 percent right. As soon as Bill and Pat were out, we called a call meeting over at—which I've told you before—over at the Y, the Hayes-Taylor [YMCA], and invited the ministers, anyone who wanted to come. [Reverend Cecil] Bishop came. I told you—

EP:

Was it just the black ministers?

EL:

The black ministers, sure, the black ministers. No—there would, there would not have been much sense in inviting our two good ministerial friends who were white

.
EP:

Who were those two individuals?

EL:

Monsignor [Hugh] Dolan and the Rabbi [Joseph] Asher. But they couldn't bring us people, you see. What we needed was to see can we now get the support of the grown-ups. I've told you off the record that this—that the support of grown-ups depended, of course, on the ministers. If their ministers would tell the blacks—and I'm always speaking of the black community—if their ministers would tell them, “This is a worthy cause, let's go and support it,” they would. If the ministers would not, they would not, outside of an occasional daddy or so of a picketer.

So that's what we wanted. And Reverend Bishop came. And I will always remember, I wish—he comes to town occasionally, you should get him, because without Reverend Bishop's saying, it would never have gotten somewhere, anywhere. Reverend Bishop—I remember him sitting up there, and he said, “You're right. We will support you. I am going to—” he then had to call a church near East Market [Street] [AME Zion Church], remember?

EP:

Was this a large open meeting to which they were invited?

EL:

It was a large meeting, yeah. Bishop came for them. I think he said that the other ministers would listen to whatever he would say. He was, I think, then the president of the bishop's conference or something like that, the black one [Pulpit Forum?]. Anyway, he was the most prominent of the ministers and he came. I don't remember if Reverend [Julian] Douglas was there or not, or the minister from the Providence Baptist [Howard Chubbs?]. They may have been. Bishop was the important personality and he was there. And he said yes and he said, “I realize that you have finals coming and everything. I am going to call a mass meeting at my church,” which was then the biggest black church. It is the AME Zion, et cetera; his present church is also but he's no longer here. “But please keep busy. Now I don't want you to do anything—you don't need to do anything big.” That's where he was wrong. “Just do something. Picket here or there so that I can tell the people that something is going on and you need support.”

Well this was fine. And those of us who were there, then and there decided that if he wanted us to do something, why didn't we go back to McDonald's that very evening? And I remember going home and—you'll laugh again—organizing the carpool, with my first call being McMillan with his big—no I think he borrowed somebody else's station wagon, he told me yesterday—with a big car and arranging.

We wanted to have them spelled every hour because that would be better for them at night. Picketing was strenuous. And we had I think the first one set for 6:00 or 7:00, then one at 8:00. And I came on the last group at 9:00 because I was then through with everything, so McMillan picked me up and got me out. And this is when you're saying—this is when the mess was, because the place had closed earlier. And some—excuse me for using a nasty word—“nigger-baiting” crackers were down there in force, and there wasn't a friendly soul among them.

The big lot in front, the parking lot of McDonald's, and the parking lot at that time belonging to a service station next door, which was also closed, were filled with between three and four hundred jeering crackers of the nastiest kind. White people are fine, but these were poor whites who had nothing to do but. And that for them was sort of a Sunday entertainment—for free they could be there and jeer at us. Some women had their children on their backs. They, they were a mean and nasty lot. And as I told you, and as the others told you, when two days later it broke, and Captain [William] Jackson also came, and Captain Jackson praised us for our restraint and—

EP:

Were there police on the scene?

EL:

Eight cops against three to four hundred crackers and forty-five to sixty picketers.

EP:

Do you think that the—

EL:

Jackson was a total of eight.

EP:

Do you think they prevented them from physically attacking you? Was there ever any indication that the crowd might physically attack you?

EL:

At the end, yes. And this is where Jackson comes in. No, the, the police were in between, and the crackers at, at the time were not [coughs]—let's go back to this. No, the, the trouble was when we finally decided to leave. It was getting—the crowd was getting unrulier and unrulier. Bill had asked the few ladies that were there, about fifteen or twenty, to leave, and I think two of my senior students stayed with me.

It made it more difficult for the young men if women were [there] to protect. And we knew that it would get—could get nasty as it was later—getting later. So a little after 10:00, I believe, we decided that—Bill I think made the decision—to break up and inform the police that we would fast go to our cars and get out. And Jackson went to McMillan, and asked him—McMillan was in, you know, in, in charge of the actual transportation. While I was the one who would arrange it, McMillan was in charge when it was going on. So it was understood he would have the last car. And Captain Jackson went up to him and asked him which route he was going to take so that the police could follow immediately to, to make sure that the others would not do anything to us

.

That has happened before, that, for example, when we walked down East Market, which was the usual way of going back from jail or going back from picketing in the evening—you needed no cars, you walked. We walked back to the Y, or we walked back to Bennett, or A&T. And there were several—I think Mr. Patterson brought it out last time—there were several times when crackers would attack. They would throw things and, and all sorts of things.

EP:

Did anything—

EL:

Or try to run people down.

EP:

Did anything of that nature happen at this time?

EL:

No, it did not. Our complete self-restraint, the fact that the police were on the strategic points. You see, the crackers weren't stretched out, they were, so to speak, so deep. You know, it was two squares. So only the front of that mass actually saw us. The ones in, in the back would jeer and jostle. But the confrontation was not, confrontation was not too long for the eight cops, and they prevented afterwards that anything happened. I don't know if they arrested anyone or not. They may have.

EP:

Now the newspaper accounts say at this time that the official line coming from the McDonald's management here was that they faulted CORE for remaining on the scene, for creating a possible riot situation. And that members of CORE responded, said that, “Now, we're just waiting for transportation. We had to wait an additional,” I think they said something like forty-five minutes for transportation.

EL:

Oh, nonsense.

EP:

So this was just a delaying tactic on your part?

EL:

No. We, we left within one minute. We probably—I don't know what they told the man. They may have told him earlier that they were leaving when they weren't yet. When we were actually leaving, I know they were coming by with—

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

EP:

So when you did leave, did the police follow behind you?

EL:

Yes, they did. They followed—I was in, in McMillan's car, and the police followed us, yes.

EP:

And were you followed—were they followed by any white [hecklers]?

EL:

I assume they were, but I don't know. You'd have to ask Captain Jackson.

EP:

Do you think most of the white people there—were they all hecklers or were they mostly spectators?

EL:

No, they were hecklers.

EP:

They were hecklers.

EL:

They were hecklers.

EP:

So when you returned, did you then have a meeting? Or how was it determined to go back?

EL: A

t that time it was pretty late and if I remember right, we all went home. And I don't know how—yes, and then we decided to do something again the next day, and this is when it really got big. And when Bill did that very, very, very bright thing—I don't know if it was Monday or Tuesday, but on one of those days, the last day of picketing, I think it was Monday. Bill—we, we simply got people from now on. The, the A&T students must have told [others]. And the next day we decided we'd go out there again, and if we had a lot of people we might go somewhere else. And this is when they just simply kept coming.

I know I was at Hatchett's, who, for some reason, decided that he was not going to participate. And I went down to the Y, and Bill got me into his car. And some other students were already marching on foot over to McDonald's, which isn't very far. And Bill's car went over there, and we realized that we had hundreds, probably thousands. We had practically two thousand that evening. I don't know if it was Monday or Tuesday. But that's the one, the others remember it. That is the evening—no that was on Monday, and then on Tuesday they called us in and we picketed somewhere else. And they called us in, to the Y, and the man [McDonald's] gave in. But on that—

EP:

You say “they called us in.” Who was, who was “they”?

EL:

Well, let's go back to, to that one thing again and say that when we had so many, the place was completely filled with people. And he closed [McDonald's], but went up to Bill Thomas and said that, “I am closed, but you are still trespassing. If you do not leave, we can have you arrested.” And so this is where Bill made the very, very smart move of saying—I told you that before—“No, we've done what we wanted to do. The place is closed for the night, and I guess we'll go back.” And that's when we then, among ourselves, decided that we should go downtown and do something, since there were such masses of us. And we simply walked downtown. And the Carolina [Theatre] at that time, the movie house, was still going very strong.

EP:

So it was a spontaneous decision?

EL:

Totally spontaneous decision. Mainly by some of the members—it wasn't my idea—of the executive committee. Some of the young ladies I've mentioned—one of them I think was the one who had the brainchild [that] let's go downtown and maybe go by there. In fact, Bill had to be told. We all went down, the whole spate of us. Bill was in the car so he was told when we went by the Y, “Hey, we're going downtown.”

We all went downtown, and there was that tremendously moving scene that Mr. McMillan remembers—

EP:

Did you go downtown—

EL:

—where we knelt down. In—maybe we had lost a few of the two thousand, but there were still enormous masses of us. It was towards the evening by that time. The shops were closed, but the movie houses were going strong. And most of us knelt down on the sidewalk and—I don't remember which hymn we did. It was not our usual "We Shall Not Be Moved." It was a more religious one that we suddenly—somebody started humming it. And a young man who later on became an army chaplain, a nephew of a minister, was the only one standing, and he prayed aloud for the people in there [the Carolina Theatre]. And when I think of it, it was so reminiscent of what one year later Martin Luther King said, that we should all be in as brothers, that God should enlighten the people who are sitting in there and that we should all be in together as brothers.

EP:

That's quite a lot of people, approximately two thousand. Were they on the street, on the sidewalk?

EL:

Sidewalk, mainly, and some of them still coming. The head of us were down, and then we just simply marched through town and back again.

EP:

So you marched through—

EL:

To the Y.

EP:

—town, down to the Carolina Theatre?

EL:

Yes.

EP:

What happened at the conclusion of this prayer? Was anyone arrested at that time?

EL:

Nothing happened. I think the police were not even there.

EP:

And they were—

EL:

They may have followed us, but they realized we were totally peaceful. And we then walked back.

EP:

Did you go directly from McDonald's down to the downtown area—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—or did you stop by way of the Y—Hayes-Taylor YMCA?

EL:

Well, we passed by the Hayes-Taylor Y anyway on East Market, and walked downtown, et cetera. How about a few people were—some of the earlier ones who thought we'd meet at the Y [said], “Hey, let's go, we're going downtown.” That's it.

EP:

So McDonald's capitulated in four days, according to the news?

EL:

McDonald's capitulated in four days. The next day, on Tuesday, we picketed, but I don't believe we picketed McDonald's. And we were downtown and were on our way home, when we were told, “Don't dissolve. Go to the Y. There's something going on there.” We went into the big gym that seats thousands. And this is when the manager of McDonald's was there. And what he then said, which is also in the paper, was very contrary to what he said on that Sunday. When he thanked us, and Captain Jackson thanked us [for our restraint]. And the manager, especially, apologized to the poor four gentlemen whom he had arrested, and that the bail was revoked and everything.

EP:

So the day before he had threatened to have you—

EL:

Two days before he had.

EP:

—threatened to have you arrested, and then there he was two days later apologizing—

EL:

Yeah, no, a day before, yeah. He threatened to have us arrested. This all depended on what the bigwigs told him, you know. His, his head of his people, I think in Atlanta, told him, “Beware, you're creating too much of a stir.”

EP:

Was it at this meeting, or subsequently, that the decision was made to then focus on the downtown area?

EL:

No, that was made in a specific meeting, I believe Wednesday. And there were two, there was—were two large arrests, one I believe Wednesday and the next one on Thursday. Because nine hundred went to jail, but actually some more, some of them identical—let's say, McMillan and I were arrested twice. We, we decided then that we would concentrate on the downtown places, since we had now the manpower to do it.

EP:

What was the difference between this and the situation a year earlier?

EL:

Oh, beautiful, yes siree! Now it was entirely different. You see, in the fall, with the exception of that one thing at Thanksgiving, which I pointed out and McMillan pointed out, our picketing was peaceful, and was not aimed for arrest. Right now—and that was maybe during a mass meeting at the Y—we decided we were now going for an arrest, when we had seen what the arrest of just four people had done for McDonald's. Now, let's see what this is going to do to the others.

EP:

In other words, large arrests would get the kind of publicity that you needed?

EL:

Yes, and it might open it. So we, we worked this one out. In fact, I remember in the first meeting for Wednesday, we had a technique. I had usually been at the Mayfair, but I was shifted to the S&W for [my] experience. Some of us had had some courses in nonviolence and all sorts of techniques over in Durham with McKissick and some reps that came in [from CORE].

So I remember that we planned to jam the revolving doors, and jam it successively. Have a group come in, jam it, and have them arrested. As soon as we were told to be under arrest, we would go out, and the next group standing by jamming it again, and arrested again. Oh, hundreds and hundreds of them on Wednesday and on Friday.

EP:

Now the newspaper described a frequently used tactic whereby the demonstrators would be on the sidewalk, but not blocking it, that there would be a small circle of three or four students, and that either by ones, or twos, or threes, they would come up to the door and ask to be admitted. They'd be refused, and then told that if they didn't leave, they'd be arrested—

EL:

Yeah, yeah.

EP:

—for trespassing. Was this one of the tactics that you had learned in these nonviolent courses?

EL:

This one was nothing. The tactic you described was a very harmless one. One interesting thing among those arrested was a young man from A&T who was in the first group. And yes, it was a small group. It—they described it much, much more harmless than it really was. We, we, shall we say, we tied the place up completely in this way. There was the—the whole mass of them was out there picketing where nothing could happen. And then we—they knew exactly who'd be in the first group, who'd be in the second group—

EP:

In other words, they were designated, is that right?

EL:

—who'd be in the third group. We were designated. McMillan and I and a few A&T students were the first.

EP: Did the leadership decide to get arrested?
EL:

The leadership—well, Bill had to stay out of the big arrest. On this arrest everybody was, but on the big arrest Bill stayed out. Patterson was in, McMillan was in, Brandon was in, I was in, everybody was in [laughs].

EP:

Weren't you concerned that if the leadership—what would happen to the movement if the leadership was in jail?

EL:

No, there were enough people out, and you know who came in? Player. When we were in jail, there was a support committee nominated by Bill that could act for CORE, and Player headed that committee, you see. That was all arranged, who'd stay out, who'd stay in.

EP:

Could you describe to me what happened at the point of arrest? Were you—

EL:

Which arrest [laughs]?

EP:

Well, let's start with the first one—

EL:

With the first one, yeah.

EP:

—the first big arrest. Had the police by that time adopted the procedure they would follow of calling up the police vehicles, the commandeered Duke Power buses, et cetera and so forth?

EL:

That sounds very fantastic. They did—they had some vehicles and brought us down there. Of course, being in the first group always, or in the second arrest in the second group, I didn't, shall we say, follow the other eight hundred, if you see what I mean. Somebody else might be better on that.

EP:

So you were then taken down to the police station to be—

EL:

Up, up, uptown, up, you know where, in the old building where the state and everything was together. And we went upstairs where they had those, those courtrooms and so on. And in this case the—in the first, in the first time we were let go again, but people were getting pretty upset. So we decided on Friday, this time they're going to keep us. And they did.

EP:

What was the behavior of the police when they arrested you? Were they—did they use excessive force or—?

EL:

I told you before that with the exception of one incident at an earlier arrest, the police—but not the state troopers—were very fair.

EP:

What was this one incident that you—

EL:

I told you. McMillan told you about it, you have it.

EP:

Oh, yes, okay.

EL:

That's the one.

EP:

Now you said you completely tied—

EL:

It was the fall picketing of the Mayfair, at Thanksgiving.

EP:

Right. You say you completely tied up the S&W by jamming the revolving door.

EL:

Not really. We called it jamming. Actually, we went in and asked [to be admitted] while we were standing in the door, you see. This was something we had figured out over there. I remember some of us, Mac and I, and a few others, showing them how we could do it. It sounded very harmless. You go in and, and you ask for it [admittance]. But if you do it in the right way, you tie up the door. If you ask to go in while you stand at the door instead of going inside, you tie, you tie up the door.

EP:

Were you already inside the lobby when you did this or was it outside on the sidewalk?

EL:

What?

EP:

When you asked to be admitted?

EL:

When we were in the door. [unclear—both speaking at once].

EP:

After this first arrest, were, were you then transported to the old polio hospital?

EL:

No, no, no, no, no. That was on the Friday one. On the Wednesday one, I don't know how many—four or five hundred or so—wait a moment [unclear counting]. Four hundred and fifty were arrested the first time.

EP:

Where were you incarcerated?

EL:

We weren't incarcerated. We were, we were kept down there for about six or seven hours for booking. It was endless, endless fingerprinting, everything endless. Again, and we went home. And I think I went home—Mac brought me home, I believe, he usually did. And we got home after twelve, and then were in our classes at eight o'clock.

EP:

Were you released on your own recognizance? Was that it?

EL:

On this one, I'm not sure. But I do know that a lot of bail was paid for us. Our bail was paid that time, yep, that was paid.

EP:

Who paid the bail?

EL:

Local people, mainly a local—local dentist [Milton Barnes].

EP:

Had it been previously arranged?

EL:

More or less. Player came, and Player got those people who were friends of hers to, to do it.

EP:

I see. Was this local dentist Dr. Simkins of the NAACP?

EL:

No. No, no. The name escapes me for the moment.

EP:

Did the NAACP—

EL:

He was very prominent.

EP:

Excuse me. Did the NAACP play any role in this at all?

EL:

No, no.

EP:

Did they offer to arrange council, or bail, or anything?

EL:

Yes, the head office supplied our lawyers, yes.

EP:

Well, why was there no agreement or participation by the local NAACP branch here?

EL:

[pause] Because they were mostly older people, busy, and they couldn't do very much. They were supportive, all right. I mean, the, the dentist in question and some other people. Simkins may have paid some of the bail, I don't know.

EP:

But they did not adopt any official position as the NAACP?

EL:

I think they supported us, yes. Sure they supported us, quite officially. They, they just didn't picket. You can't ask gentlemen in their sixties to come out and do that sort of thing that we did.

EP:

Well, what I'm referring to is that, it's my understanding that Clarence Malone, who was a Durham lawyer, was—represented the arrested—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—demonstrators. Who arranged for him to be the attorney?

EL:

McKissick.

EP:

McKissick.

EL:

McKissick. But I do know that from a later trial of mine, the financing was done by the Legal Aid et cetera of the NAACP in New York. The, the Legal Aid—

EP:

The Legal Aid Fund—

EL:

Paid for it, yes. And I'm not sure if there was bail done or recognizance on that big arrest of the four hundred and fifty. That I do not know. But I do know that, that the bail was refused, and we were arrested on the Friday.

EP:

Was it a deliberate tactic to have so many people arrested—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—that it would jam the courts and would put pressure on the city?

EL:

Yes, of course. Yes, of course. And our record of 1350 arrested in one week still stands.

EP:

Now, it is my understanding that Judge [Herman G.] Enochs then adopted the tactic of releasing people, first on their own recognizance, and then in the custody of the two major institutions involved, A&T and Bennett.

EL:

That was no, that was no tactic by Enochs. I, I admire Enochs for his patience with what was being done to him. But this was the direct result of one of the smartest legal ploys I've ever seen. And my father was a lawyer, and I've worked for lawyers in New York. And that thing of Malone— Attorney Malone's that I have shown you, told you about—was one of the smartest things I've ever seen. He had them completely over a barrel. Out of about 160, only 18 could be definitely identified. Myself, the four white youngsters from Guilford College—who had their own lawyer, unfortunately—and a young man seven foot tall, and another one weighing [laughs] three hundred pounds, and a few people like that. There were eighteen of us who didn't get out.

EP:

Well, the reason I say this as a tactic on, on Enoch's part is that, if the tactic was to so jam the court struct[ure]—system as to put pressure on the city, by releasing all of these people then it seemed to ease the pressure on the courts and on the city.

EL:

Oh that, that was not the same thing. You are talking about two totally different things. One thing was the pressure of having us in. And the trouble was you, you totally forget that we got promises when we got out, that we did not go out without the first Human Relations Committee under a black doctor—

EP:

Dr. [George] Evans.

EL:

Dr. Evans being nominated. And a few other things. Promises of arranging for this. If you remember, that didn't work. And then the grown-ups demonstrated, and they did get it. So we got some things immediately or we wouldn't have gotten out afterwards.

The thing with Enochs, I think Enochs was told by the city, “Get that calmed—thing calmed out.” That was not us. All we wanted was to create a big, big, big thing to tie up the city with, with the arrests and all, which we did. And then we wanted something. And we saw that we had at least gotten a beginning, so we went out.

EP:

All right, after the first arrests, then what was the leadership of CORE—what was your decision on strategy?

EL:

You mean the arrests on Wednesday?

EP:

Yes.

EL:

Our strategy was that we would probably not even be offered bail the second time, and if we could get it, we—there wouldn't be enough people to pay it. So it was a good chance that we would finally get what we wanted with the momentum going, and get us a mass arrest. And we did. And we decided to do it on Friday, and we succeeded. We had the nine hundred in, a few stragglers then came Saturday morning. They had themselves extra-arrested. So anyway, over nine hundred were in.

EP:

And this is when you were arrested, and the next morning the, the women and the female students were transported to the polio hospital?

EL:

The males too.

EP:

Oh, I see.

EL:

No, no, that night the city didn't know what to do. They had had 450 on Wednesday, and now [on Friday] they got twice as much. And they were coming and coming and coming, and wanting to be arrested. I've even heard that some very disappointed last groups were told [to] go home. The city was completely tied up. We didn't have the governmental complex or anything then. We had those few little old courthouses. They didn't know what to do with us.

The group I was in, which was the first or second arrested—at that time Mac had to stay out—was in the police part up there, near the police lock-up. And by the time they finally got us out, we were first put into the—one of the courtrooms of the county jail, but the county jail was full. Then they finally got us into buses and got us to High Point. And then by Saturday afternoon they decided to get most of us into the polio hospital, into those barracks.

EP:

Now you, as a, a white person, obviously a leader, were you singled out for attention, coercion, or however you want to describe it, by the Sheriff's deputies?

EL:

By the people in High Point jail, yes. Quite nastily.

EP:

What, what, what took place there?

EL:

Okay. Mac alluded to it last time, slightly, anyway. I'm really cutting down on cigarettes, I am, but I still have—smoke a lot. Okay, what happened was very simple. We all finally went to High Point, and that was very, very late. We were arrested somewhere around eight. By the time we got to High Point it was early morning. We hadn't eaten, incidentally. The leadership, the grown-up leadership had decided that one way of doing something was to have malted milk balls and things. We found malted milk balls the best. I had a tiny bag of them. It was my arrest bag, and, regretfully, I took my rosary out and put—to put more malted milk balls in. And some of the men had malted milk balls in their pockets and we would dole them out. But when we were waiting over there, Bill, who was out—and we saw Player, who was looking in, and winked at us—Bill was, for example, throwing me a pack of cigarettes. And they got a little bit of food in, chocolate bars and things to them. But until the morning in High Point jail, no.

Now I think I told you that incident where we were waiting up in the lockup—outside of the lockup, and a young man who later on became chairman—two years later—was there. And then Ezell Blair came. It was funny, because nobody knew it was Ezell Blair. I don't know if he was really working in that restaurant; I don't believe so. Somebody in a restaurant let him have a white counterman's suit, with a cap and everything. And he was not recognized. The cane was enormous. That's what we got—they were finally permitting us, while we were in jail, to get some sandwiches. And one of those people from the restaurant who brought them was Ezell Blair. Ezell is not very tall. I don't know if you know him, I know him well.

EP:

I've spoken with him.

EL:

Yeah. He is not very tall, and he was even slighter then. And he put it up high above his head. The cops either thought it was none of their business or didn't realize what the idea was. Some big ones were getting sandwiches out, but underneath he told me and a young man named, I think, Jim or Joe Warren—he said, “I was in charge of the group. Dr. Laizner, you are in charge of the group. You are being arrested.” I said, “We know that.” And he said that Joe or Jim or whatever his name is in charge of the A&T students—the, the male students.

Okay. The young man, Mr. Warren, and myself were on the rather large group that went to High Point jail—newly-built jail of which they were very proud. We were put in, and I got in with the girls. And I went up, and they said, “You know, there may be trouble with you being white.” So I went up, and they had some fun that evening. A matron came in. There were, I think, eight in a cell made for four, et cetera, with two rolls [cots] on the side. And I was up on the upper bunk, you know, climbed up in it. I was a little younger than I am now.

And one matron came in and said, “What is she?” “What are you asking?” The young ladies were very polite and played fantastically dumb. I think one of them said, “Is she colored?” And then she said, they finally said, “If you're trying to find out if she is white, she is.” She [the matron] didn't dare go up and get me.

The problem happened a few hours later in the morning. We were woken up—the waking up time in that jail was 5:30 anyway, but we were woken up earlier by horrible screams. I found out later that it was somebody in delirium tremors. But the girls, of course, were very much afraid that somebody was being beaten. But anyway, we woke up, [and were] given breakfast, I think. And I had it in the back of my mind that I had the right for a phone call. So I demanded the right to my phone call, and they didn't dare not to. I don't know if it was a matron or—I think it was a matron who came and took me out. And I went by Mr. Warren's and told him that I would make a phone call. And I said to Mr. McMillan, who I was sure would be waiting for it, because I had no idea where all of us were.

So I made my phone call. And that jail is very functional, very modern, very metallic. And I went through several corridors until I went to the office, where I made my call, told Mac, and then they took me back. And I had the feeling that it wasn't the same way. I said “Wait a moment. You are not taking me back there.” The next thing I know, I was in another cell and there were two white women there, one moaning. It must have been the delirium tremors case. I said “Why are you doing that? Get me back.” She said, “We don't mixes [sic] them in that jail.”

So I was among white drunks. This one was locked in, it was a tragic case. The great master race. A beautiful young woman, about eighteen, a girl. Later on, when somebody came, we had to tell them that they should move her dress down, she was half-undressed and moaning. She had delirium tremors. They hadn't gotten a doctor or anything. The other woman, when I went into the cell, had obviously slept off her drunk, was very nice and friendly to me. She was a rough little type, and one of her friends was going to come by and bail her out. And [she said,] “I'm sorry that's messy. I guess I was drunk last night,” and all that sort of thing. So then I was locked in, and for several hours didn't know what was going on.

Mac was, of course, the one who found me there, too, and came in and made a big stink about it. But they kept me in there for a while, until the afternoon, when it was decided that we would all be moved to the polio hospital, the large, largest part of the group, the 135 young ladies, and a large group of young men. Some others were in, in the armory, and I don't know where, as Mr. Patterson has told you. Then they moved me, finally, back with the young ladies. But for quite a while [they said,] “We don't mixes [sic] them in this jail.”

EP:

Were y'all—were all of you then transported back to Greensboro to the polio hospital?

EL:

Yep. And from some other jails, too. There—the ones who came over there came from other jails, as well as from the one in High Point. High Point didn't, didn't hold five hundred people. I think this is what eventually was in the, in the one over there, because they had a lot of young men in there.

EP:

And you were transported—what, the following day, was, was that it?

EL:

On Saturday afternoon, yes.

EP:

And then was it at that time, as in the earlier tape, that you mentioned that Dr. Player came and talked to the students?

EL:

Yes, that was, that was the time that she came, yes.

EP:

What was the situation in which you were put in a separate room at the polio hospital and the A&[T]—and the Bennett students asked you not to leave, they were very disturbed?

EL:

Oh, that was when—that was on, let's see, Sunday night or Monday night, when the governor—actually we didn't even know if it was true or not—but the governor [Terry Sanford] actually ordered, thankfully, ordered the A&T students out. I don't think he actually had the power, but he, he ordered “As governor of the state, and as a state school, I order them out.”

I've told you about that very, very nasty Germanic matron, I'm sorry, who had been pretty nasty all day. You, you know that, that thing with the students being in there, having bracky water from the tap, while nice Cokes, obviously meant for us, were swilled by the state cops where the students could see it. And the matron swore to me in German, actually, and things like that. I had a hard time later convincing a colleague that I could not sue her, that our principle was to take it.

Anyway, in the middle of the night, the girls were very upset. And they were dancing in the corridor and all just to annoy her. And then the matron came over, and informed me in the room where I was with mostly Bennett students and one A&T student, and informed me that the governor had ordered the students out. And I should tell the A&T students to get ready—not the Bennett [students]—and be ready in this or that time. Now, my own reaction was that I could not judge, I could not even trust the woman that she was telling the truth. I assumed it was. I then asked her for something. I could have sued her on that, too. I asked her for my minister, Reverend Stanley. She wasn't there when we went to the Catholic Church, so she wouldn't have known that I was a Catholic. And I had a right at any hour of the day or night to ask for a minister. She refused this, and just forced me, told me I had to do it, and I did. As I told you, when I went to the first room, they looked at me as if I had lost my mind. [I said,] “The matron informs me that the governor has ordered the A&T students to go out, to leave. Get your things ready and leave. ”

They looked at me as if I was crazy. The funny thing is that the matron was afraid of us, definitely. It had never dawned on her what nonviolence is, you know. And when I went to the second room, she was standing a few steps behind. And I got a few of the girls and whispered, “Disregard what I am saying, get the leadership of each room into room”—I don't know which one it was, I think it was 12A or something, a room around the corner where she wouldn't see us meeting. “I'll meet with you there.” After that she went back, and I just officially announced, and also said we'd meet, and we met in there immediately.

She went back. The girls went into the room, everybody else went in, and we met in there. I don't know whose bright idea it was. I brought it out to them as it was, and said that my own feeling was that we should at least wait until the morning to find out what was really going on. Had the governor really ordered it? Was Dr. [Lewis] Dowdy [A&T president] for or against it? A lot should happen, but I left it to them to make a decision.

And one young lady came up with the marvelous fact that they had never removed the heavy bolts from the inside of the rooms—these were nurses quarters. “Why don't we go in, go to bed, bolt it? They will not dare to get us out.” And they didn't. And this is when, of course, I had to keep my room open—because I was all Bennett, to know what was going on.

And when, about ten minutes later—you have this already—the good lady came and asked what was going on, and said “Oh, then where are the students? Aren't they getting ready? ”

[I said] “Oh no, they are, they are very tired. They are going to go to sleep.”

“That's ridiculous. They was just bouncing in the hall ten minutes ago.”

I said, “Yes, that's what made them so tired. They're asleep.”

Then she came back with the sheriff and two state troopers. This is when I had the decision if I should go limp, which I did later at the arrest in, in Chapel Hill. Effectively, four cops had to carry me. It was beautiful. [laughs] That's a technique you learn. But I, I knew it already at that time. And if I had been alone in the room, of course, I would have done that. But as it is, I felt that with nearly every one of the young ladies in there, all in my room, and some that had slipped through—I mean, with a hand or a finger on me, I didn't trust that state cops. I don't trust them to this day, not the same ones, anyway. They could have broken some arms. That's when I said I would go. And they brought me down to the county jail in the middle of the night and then next day, as McMillan told you, lied to them and told them that—

In the meantime, I found out from some neighbors that with my being gone, they were afraid for the safety of the young ladies. And the churches sent in some young—some black ladies to sort of watch in there. In fact, one of my neighbors, next door neighbor's daughter, was one of those. She didn't even realize that I was the one she was replacing.

EP:

What happened subsequently? How did you get out of the county jail? Were you bailed out or were you released?

EL:

No, we were, we were all released. The city did not want to bail us or anything. The city wanted us out, desperately. It was costing them hundreds of thousands of dollars.

On that first Saturday evening they gave us soggy sandwiches, and some people didn't even have those. But we then got a caterer in, and that cost them money. Of course, the plumbing wasn't exactly in good condition when you have one bathroom for about twenty to twenty-four people. What do you expect it to be? Et cetera. It cost them. The, the, that's why the governor made that ploy. They, they wanted us out. It was creating a nationwide stir. It was bad for the reputation of the city. It was horrible for the finances of the city.And incidentally, Schenck went on a vacation in Virginia, and that elderly gentleman who then became mayor took over an he was the one who—

EP:

William Trotter, mayor pro tem?

EL:

Yes. [He was the one] who gave in, who gave in and, and gave into that group with Bill and Dr. Player and a few others. And gave them their first condition to have that committee with teeth on it, Dr. Evans' committee. And that's—and we were then asked—we were always could have gone out free. They would have, they would have given us roses, probably, if they had them. I was the last one out, because when they told me that they were going out, I said “I don't believe you.” And then finally, Tony Stanley came and said, “Yes, Elizabeth, we got that committee with Dr. Evans. You'd better get home fast. We're meeting at five o'clock at, at Providence Baptist and Farmer will be there.”

EP:

Now tell me about that meeting. I'm interested about—

EL:

That was a beauti[ful]—

EP:

—when Farmer came into the—was he invited in or—

EL:

Well, Farmer was the head of the CORE. I don't know if McKissick called him or if he came on his own. Very likely, he—both happened. It was his job to be there when something big was happening. I have a tremendous respect for Farmer.

EP:

What happened at this five o'clock meeting?

EL:

The five o'clock meeting is what started the five thousand march.

EP:

Was this the first time that the adult black—

EL:

No, no, the adult black—oh, there is something you don't have. On the Sunday when we were arrested and brought under arrest to church, was the Sunday when Reverend Bishop had intended to have his meeting of one thousand. Do you still have time for about ten minutes—

EP:

Certainly.

EL:

—or more. When Reverend Bish[op]—you remember that one week before, Reverend Bishop had told us, “Do just a little bit, so that I can tell the grown-ups that you're doing something.” And then it snowballed in this way.

So, Reverend Bishop—and I wish you could get hold of him, he's a magnificent gentlemen. Not only tall and stately and all, but, wow! He had already called that mass meeting of a thousand at his church. But when we were in the polio hospital, he decided that they would, instead, go out to the polio hospital and wait outside the barbed wire fence. And this is when the cops were worried. I assume there were state troopers again, but they were there even with police dogs and more than a thousand grown-ups.

And that was a magnificent ploy. We didn't see it, but the young men had a good view. And we had the so-called “window telegraph.” They would call over to one room where they could hear it, and they would then inform all others what was going on.

The grown-ups massed. And the policemen and the state troopers were right opposite, some of them with attack dogs, which was dangerous for the older people. It would have been all right with us. We'd know what to do. But somebody, I assume it was Bishop, had the fantastic idea of calling everybody to sing the “Star Spangled Banner,” and the dog handlers had to stay at attention.

In fact, when we came back from church in, in that one Black Maria [slang for police van] and in the—no, no it was a bus rather than a Maria, it was, it was a little—may have been an oversized Maria, because there were about seventy at the church. Some grown-ups were already waiting outside the gate and cheering us on when we were being brought in. So that meeting was there. And then when we went out—it was Wednesday or Thursday, I think it was Wednesday, was it Wednesday or Thursday? Anyway, when we went out six days later, that Providence Baptist meeting—the grown-ups had already, were already, by the time we met—several hundred grown-ups were already marching uptown. Five or six hundred of them with the Reverend Bishop were already marching—silently marching.

And then we had that meeting, and of course the trouble on the meeting was this: there were some who wanted to go right back to jail. They were not content with just Dr. Evans' committee. They would have preferred that the movie houses and the two places [S&W and Mayfair cafeterias] would have been opened immediately. This was promised for the near future. Actually it happened about three weeks later when the grown-ups had to go down on the square. But then Farmer—this church you never saw, I guess; it was more or less where the post office is now. It was, in the height, a beautiful church with a balcony and a sort of a pulpit there, so that if you massed in front of this, somebody could stand up there on that balcony and talk to you—which Farmer did.

And Farmer, of course, was the ranking officer, ranking over McKissick. And Farmer was the speaker. And Farmer said that there were three or four possibilities of what we could do. He first informed us what had been done. That the committee was nominated and a few other small concessions had been given. And that the committee had—he didn't use the word “teeth,”—he is a college professor, so he used a more elegant word. And we could do four things. We could go right back to jail, at least some. We could, on the other hand, do nothing. We could have some small groups picketing again as we had before. Or, since there were so many of us, we could all silently march uptown.

I got some mutterings, and that is when it dawned on me that what Farmer himself wanted, and what made much sense, the most sense, was the march. Actually, I think [Captain] Jackson was already preparing for it, just on the eventuality. And no telling, Tony Stanley let me get up [to the pulpit] because I, I had heard mutterings from some of those who had come out of jail, that they wanted to go back. And this was not the right moment to do it. So I went up and told them. And I remember say—

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

Okay.

EL:

The heroes who came out of jail—many of them were muttering. They felt they hadn't, with their very real sacrifices, gotten enough. And it could have split the group. The majority would certainly have decided on something more peaceful. But we would have antagonized our most valuable people, and this is when I did something I normally did not do. I addressed the group. I asked Tony Stanley, “Tony, I think what Mr. Mc—what Mr. Farmer wants is the march. I'm for it. And I think I can sell it to them better than anyone else.” The next thing I knew, Tony went up, and I think one more person spoke, McKissick or so, and they said, “Get up,” and I went up.

And I remember going there and saying, “I know what we all want to do, and what I would like to do, too, would be to go right back.” And there was some muttering. Then I said, “But this is not what we should do,” and in a few words explained why this would be better. “We've got to give Dr. Evans a choice.” And by having said that I also would like to go back, but that I thought that it would be better to do as Mr. Farmer said, who saw the situation better then we did, who had just come out. Well, so then the march started. That was it.

EP:

And this was the march of the five thousand?

EL:

That was the march of the five thousand.

EP:

It has been described as being very powerful, very moving. The fact that there was not a word spoken—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—not a sound made. How was the decision made for this to be a silent march and for it to be—?

EL:

It was suggested by Mr. Farmer. Mr. Farmer suggested a silent march. As far as I know, the grown-ups had already had one. And he—Farmer is a fantastic speaker. He said it would impress them if we go there, not speaking, I think mostly single-file or double-file I believe, double-file, yes. There were only three in the first row, Jackson and, and, or was it—no McMillan was in another one. In this one I think it was Jackson, and me, and Farmer.

EP:

Did you make any stops at any of the targets?

EL:

No.

EP:

You marched straight through it.

EL:

We marched straight through, through the square and then back again. We made a circle of the town.

EP:

Now were there many students involved in this, too, or was it mostly just the adults and the—

EL:

No, no the adults were earlier. The adults and Reverend Bishop had already—were already marching or had already come back by the time we met.

EP:

So this was students.

EL:

This was students. Students. I would say about three thousand, two to three thousand A&T, practically all of Bennett College, and a lot of Dudley [High School], and so on. That was students and leadership.

EP:

What happened at the conclusion of this march?

EL:

Nothing special.

EP:

Just broke up and went home—

EL:

We broke up.

EP:

What I'd like to get from you is—

EL:

We went to the Y of course.

EP:

What I'd like to get from you, Dr. Laizner, is a, more or less a description of your day-to-day activities as an individual and as a member of the executive committee of CORE during the course of the demonstrations from May eleventh through the last march on, on June seventh.

EL:

May eleventh is which day? That's the one—

EP:

Well, that was the beginning of the McDonald's.

EL:

The beginning of the McDonald's, okay. Fine. That was a—there, there were daily meetings at that time, and practically daily picketing. And those of us who were in school were still going. We were teaching every single class.

EP:

Was there a sense of urgency, that you wanted to get something—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—definite accomplished—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—before the end of the term?

EL:

Yes, of course. This is—the eleventh is a silly date. This is what came out in that crucial meeting where Bill gave us the choice, “Do you want to prepare carefully something big for the fall?” It would never have worked—you can't prepare a mass meeting like that. A mass meeting like that is spontaneous.

EP:

How about after the adult black community got involved? Was there a feeling that they would carry this through the summer, and that things would start up again in the fall?

EL:

You'll have to ask McMillan. I left a few days afterwards to go to Europe. McMillan told you already and will tell you because he was in on this.

EP:

So you were not there during the course of—were you here at the time of the, the sit-down in the—

EL:

Square.

EP:

—square?

EL:

No. No, I was not. I left a few days—I, I already had my reservations and all. And I left about ten days after I got out of jail, because the same week we had finals. And then we had a few meetings, maybe two weeks or so later. I left immediately. No, McMillan is your man for that.

EP:

And when did you return to the United States? Specifically, Greensboro?

EL:

Oh, a month or so later. I just stayed there a month I think.

EP:

Were you surprised at the way things had changed?

EL:

No. I was in touch with my friends and I knew what had happened. I had expected it. I had expected Bishop to carry on. We knew that.

EP:

How did the CORE leadership characterize the things that were going on? For instance, it seems to me they were very—if you look at the paper, it looks like, oh, well, very positive things were being done by the Evans committee, that the council is receptive. And then as you talk to individuals involved, you see that there was a good deal of just empty talk and rhetoric—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—and that they were stalling for time.

EL:

Sure they were. Sure they were. We had the Evans committee. But it was perfectly clear to all of us—and this is why I said that some of the people wanted to go right back to jail, which would not have availed anything. It would have ruined their finals and everything. The, the—we were sure that the grown-ups would take over, and they did. Bishop had told us before, “Don't worry, I know school is over—I'll have that meeting of one thousand. You just do a little thing.” And with our, our having done all that, we were sure the grown-ups would carry on, and they did.

EP:

Do you think meaningful desegregation took place, or do you, do you think it was just very limited, token?

EL:

If you mean this particular thing?

EP:

[Yes, this particular thing] Was a direct result of the demonstrations and the subsequent negotiations with the Evans committee.

EL:

You mean after the grown-ups—

EP:

Yes.

EL:

—came in? Yes. The things that we had wanted, with one exception, and that's very interesting. Mayfair did not come through. S&W was open, the movie houses were open, some other little restaurants were open. In, in fact, we were one of the few towns in the South who were open before the '64 civil rights bill demanded it.

EP:

There were—one thing that struck me. Once the permanent Human Relations Commission was set up under Chairman W.0. Conrad—

EL:

And others, yeah.

EP:

—and Reverend Lynch, Reverend Stanley, Reverend [Otis] Hairston, among others, were on that—

EL:

Yeah. Oh, I have to tell you something else about later.

EP:

Okay, go ahead.

EL:

No, what did you want to say?

EP:

I was just going to say that negotiations were finalized, the theatres were desegregated—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—a limited number of tickets were dispensed [to blacks]. Then a number of committees—subcommittees—were formed and reports were made.

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

And it's very curious the way these reports were. They said, “Now of these fourteen hundred and some seats in restaurants, 20 percent had been desegregated.” This is a report made August eighth.

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

It seems very curious that they broke it down to individual seats. And they said, “And of the X number of motels and hotels in town that could house conventions, 20 percent had been desegregated.”

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

It seems to me that there are a series of very qualifying statements here that by saying—

EL:

I haven't read these things.

EP:

Well, I guess in essence, this is prelude to my main question of did the black community feel that this was obscuring very slow progress and tokenism by giving these impressive numbers? Or did they think they were—

EL:

They were not very impressive numbers.

EP:

What was their reaction?

EL:

I think—I would ask the question of McMillan, and I'm sure you've asked it of Reverend Hairston.

EP:

Well, now, he [Reverend Hairston] was feeling that Mr. Conrad was genuine.

EL:

Oh yeah.

EP:

That he was saying that, “Now, it is time to stop the emphasis on desegregating public places. Now you have to turn to more meaningful things like vocational education.” I believe another thing—

EL:

Well, that's the old saying, always. I mean this—if you think that we all thought that we had gotten everything, no, of course not. But we had gotten—the main thing was that we had always concentrated on certain places, and with the exception of the Mayfair—and I want to say something there, very ironical and very beautiful, not for the Mayfair—that we had gotten at least a limited thing that we immediately wanted.

Now, you remember that the next fall we did something, such as, for example, the picketing of the Oaks Motel, which had been opened, and was opened segregated. There's a very ironical thing that, when in '64, then the civil rights bill opened the Oaks Motel—which had seen some of the nastiest picketing, but not so much publicity—that this had a very strange sequel.

The Oaks Motel then said that they would be open, and in the fall of '64, Dick Gregory [black comedian and activist] was going to give a benefit concert or whatever you want to call it, show is the best word, for us since we needed money badly.

EP:

By “us” you mean CORE?

EL:

CORE, yeah. We had had enormous expenses, you know, even if the legal things were borne by the Legal Aid [Fund of the NAACP] et cetera, there were a lot of other things. We had to maintain an office, we had to get things for people, and so on. Okay, he gave it in fall. And I was arranging that thing, and was told to—somebody called to make advanced billings for him in the most elegant hotel, which was then, I think, the King Cotton—still. And I talked it over with the other leadership. And we came to the conclusion that the best thing to do—the Oaks Motel was then the newest and most elegant—they had said they were open. Why not get Mr. Gregory and the other black singer, whose name I have forgotten—very nice though—in there, and see would it open?

Well, the, the advance person first was hesitant about it. And I assured them that it was a most elegant place, that it had a swimming pool and a mini-golf course, and that Mr. Gregory was getting what he wanted, and that he would also get quite some publicity if they let him in, and if they didn't, that would be something. They did. I went out there and made the reservations. They accepted them. I informed the press, and you may still find the thing. There was a whole, the whole B-l page of the paper—afternoon paper, unfortunately, it got in too earl[y]—too late. No, of the morning paper, it got in too late for the afternoon.

Anyway, the whole B-1 was full with pictures. It was a normal scene, the famous artist was lolling at the side of the swimming pool with a drink in his hand. And his friend, the singer, was trying a few on the mini-golf course. Yes, it seemed a harmless scene, whoever wrote it up, but for the fact that this was the Oaks Motel, which had refused up to now to even accept, they said at that time, Negroes, not blacks. And that the artist was Dick Gregory, and made a big splash out of it.

EP:

Now, it's my understanding that William Thomas was interviewed in the fall of '63 about a decision to picket the Oaks Motel and the Travelodge—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—downtown here. Now why—and he said that they were selected because they were in the downtown area, and that they had—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—not made any—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—progress. Was that an individual thing, or did sustained picketing start up again in the fall?

EL:

Sustained picketing of those places started up, I assure you. The only thing is we didn't get as much publicity.

EP:

I see. Was it just an occasional picketing—

EL:

No.

EP:

—or was it on a daily basis.

EL:

No. Daily, daily.

EP:

How long did it last?

EL:

Oh, for—I would say probably several weeks, probably about two months or more. I was at the Oaks always.

EP:

Was—what was the conclusion of it? Did these places—was it successful? Did these places—

EL:

No, it wasn't. We finally gave up for lack of saying. But we, we picketed for several months. We didn't get very much publicity. And that's when—then the thing came in, when they opened after the civil rights bill, and we luckily had the idea of making this as a—using this as a test case. It got us some beautiful publicity.

EP:

I don't know if you've read it or not but there was a history of CORE written by Elliott Rudwick—

EL:

No, I haven't.

EP:

—in which he—they discuss the demonstrations in Greensboro and they're very complimentary to the CORE chapter here—

EL:

I should hope so.

EP:

But they say that they would regard the activities here as, at best, a mixed success. That more was not done because the black community, particularly the middle class, were exhausted—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—by these [activities]. Would you concur in that statement?

EL:

I would, up to a degree, concur for the year of '63, '64, and following, yes. Because we could have sustained another big one, but it was hard on the students. And the community, I guess, was—well, in Washington it was already obvious that something would come. And more or less the feeling was, “Well, let them.”

EP:

There's one point that I remember mentioning—having been mentioned. Now, Martin Luther King was scheduled to make the commencement address at Bennett in May of 1963—

EL:

Yes.

EP:

—and that he did not appear.

EL:

Yes.

EP:

Do you know the circumstances behind this—

EL:

No. No I don't. Something happened, I think not at our end, but at his end. I don't know if it wasn't a threat or something. Something happened there.

EP:

Now I understand Mrs. King did come some years later and make an address.

EL:

Yes, I was no longer at Bennett when she came.

EP:

What was the feeling of CORE at this time? Did they decide to work through the established human relations committee or—

EL:

We did all sorts of things in that year of '63-4. We didn't make the papers very often. In fact, I'm not giving the lady's name. We did quite a lot, but some of it was done quietly. I remember, for example, one case when we were called, but Bill was no longer there. That was the year that Ralph Lee—Ulysses Ralph Lee, a New Yorker—was the chairman. And after that—that was a very unfortunate thing. Some of us were running Ralph Lee and we thought they would, would take Brandon. Instead, they ran Pat, and everybody, Ralph included, said “If I had known they were running Pat, I wouldn't have run.” Well, anyway, Ralph did it. And during the time that Ralph did it, we had the Oaks Motel picketing and we had a lot of small things.

For example, I don't know if that was the Travelodge, but a small place downtown, [which is] no longer there, a motel. We were at that time contacted by a lot of people, unions and others, and a group—for example, there was something at Black Cadillac, where we intervened, where a Peace Corps worker was dismissed, if you remember that story.

EP:

No, I don't.

EL:

The Peace Corps worker—former Peace Corps worker was dismissed when she insisted on calling blacks working there “Mister.” And we protested and something was done. That was in the papers. We did a lot of things on a smaller scale which were very successful, but not very, shall we say, mass. We knew we couldn't get the grown-ups anymore to back us up. The civil rights bill was definitely going to come. And we concentrated on small things, like that Black Cadillac thing, where we then got complete—got an apology for the young lady who didn't want to go back anyway. And they, they insisted that they, they were going—we and the NAACP got in together. We asked them to help us and had a negotiating group in there, which was very—

EP:

Was there rivalry or animosity—

EL:

No, no.

EP:

—between CORE and the NAACP?

EL:

No, no. Quite to the contrary. For example, in the spring of '64, we were asked by the NAACP that they wanted to integrate the banks, especially the Wachovia. “We don't have people to picket, can you lend us some?” And we came over there and did it for them. Simkins was leading it. And there were maybe two or three grown-ups, and the rest were CORE members. We did a lot of small things during, during that '63-'64 thing that were successful, but not sensational.

EP:

Now, you've mentioned this that Bill Thomas' term as president or chairman of CORE ran out.

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

And that there was an election, and some faction nominated Pat Patterson, another faction, which you supported, nominated Ralph Lee.

EL:

Ralph Lee. Which was very difficult, because Pat is an old friend of mine.

EP:

Did that indicate a rivalry or a [unclear—both speaking at once]?

EL:

No. There is usually—no, no, no. There is usually, when you, when you have a group and you usually have different things, you know.

EP:

Was there a division of opinion as to the course that CORE should follow?

EL:

No, no.

EP:

There was unanimity about—

EL:

More or less, we, we did small things, efficient ones, and that was more or less—there was no, there was no change there.

EP:

Did Bill Thomas continue in CORE, even though he was not chairman?

EL:

Bill Thomas was graduating and, and needed the time for that.

EP:

What sort of things did—

EL:

Pat was always with us, and, and then Bill's younger brother was the last chairman.

EP:

What happened to the Greensboro CORE chapter?

EL:

It, it finally—well, when CORE as a whole more or less went out, it went out, too. Now in '63-'64, as I said, we were still an active chapter and did quite a few things. And then we switched, extremely efficiently, and this is where Brandon comes in. After the civil rights bill was out and all, and even before, picketing techniques were not so much needed. We were needed somewhere else. And in fact, we started already in the spring of '64.

EP:

Where was this other area?

EL:

Wait a moment. Let me, let me give you the other area. The other area was social. The other area was neighborhoods that we wanted, and at that time we were lucky because the then city manager, Mr. [George] Aull, was God's gift city manager. And we decided that we would concentrate on trying to help people help themselves.

Now, one of the neighborhoods that we sparked is still being used in all sorts of sociology books as the example of people helping themselves. This is the so-called Eastside Park neighborhood. There was a lot in the paper on it, but CORE's name disappeared very soon, deliberately. Now what we did was—I headed the committee, but Lewis Brandon was the man who really had the experience in this. I learned under Lewis while I headed it, if you know what I mean. For months, this is the neighborhood next to, but not including, Gillespie Street, next to Morningside Homes, next to the railroad track, which was one of the worst in town. And we went in there in force. The main street was Gant Street. And all Saturday afternoon and most of Sunday, we would go down there, visit from house to house. The official reason was, “We're from CORE. We're just visiting you, how are you doing?” Of course, everybody received us, it was fine.

We worked up a paper. What we really were after were the landlords' improvements, improvements the city could make. And we had a very simple form that we worked out. And I had a young lady, a sociology major, approving it. But the people never saw the form. We handed it out later. It was very simple. It contained such questions as what was the house—frame, brick, wood, et cetera. How was it heated, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. And complaints—how was lighting, how was the landlord, was the street paved, et cetera.

Now our purpose from the beginning was not to do it ourselves, to survey the neighborhood. And while we did it, there was one crucial question, "Do you consider the person interviewed a potential neighborhood leader, yes or no?" When we were through surveying that particular neighborhood, which took us about three or four months—there were some two or three hundred houses—we got together. Mainly the Reverend Marion Jones—in fact, only two of the groups stayed later on—that was Reverend Marion Jones and myself. I stayed as the typist for the group. And we got a group of people that we thought were the right ones together before, showed them the statistics we had, what most people wanted—better garbage collection, paving of about six streets, something. And that was done later on. That went on for—for over a year, I would go with the people downtown and all.

You remember where O. Henry [Boulevard] near Gillespie [Street] goes into East Market? Well, that was the only address that these ladies had to go downtown in the morning. Most of them were maids or waitresses downtown and had to go downtown in the morning. They had to first get their children to the local school. There was no traffic regulation whatsoever down there. And some of the ladies had to go an hour early, because they could not cross with all the people going to Lorillard in time to get the bus on the other side of the street. This was one of the problems. The possibility of a playground was another problem. And all sorts of things.

Well, the group got together and they—we printed it for them—but they got leaflets out to everybody in the neighborhood for a meeting in a tiny little church on Nance Street that belonged to the famous Reverend Frank Williams. That was Reverend Frank Williams' start in all this. Reverend Marion Jones found us Reverend Frank Williams' little church to meet there with the people. After the first few meetings, CORE dropped out and Reverend Marion Jones stayed in.

EP:

Why did CORE drop out?

EL:

Because we wanted the people to do it for themselves, and they did. Marion Jones was there. He attended all meetings. And when the different, the younger people and Mrs. Odom[?] and the older people—Mrs. Byrd and Mrs. White, and Mrs. Lee, and so on—would disagree on some things, he would ask the blessings of God on the group and ask them to be peaceful.

And my only purpose was not as a CORE member. I was a secretary at one time, and I had a typewriter. The, the one who came in and made it a tremendous success—you'll find a lot in the newspapers on the Eastside Park Association. [Jo] Spivey especially went to town for them—fantastic, in that other staff in the paper went to town for them when they couldn't get things. They got everything; even got the playground a few years back. Not immediately, because the place we had selected, an old dump, too much glass came out. But that marvelous man who, retired now, remembered it, and when he got some new playgrounds a few years ago this was one of them. They got everything.

EP:

Was George Aull the city manager at the time of the mass demonstrations?

EL:

I think so.

EP:

Did—you, you mentioned him very complimentary on the subsequent. Was he helpful—[unclear]?

EL:

He was never, he was never concerned on this thing [the marches]. He had nothing to do with it. But on this [Eastside Park] he had. Now there, Spivey helped, and I think there's nothing I can say that's wrong in saying that Spivey helped—

EP:

Meredith?

EL:

Jo Spivey. We let them know that the group would have their meetings, and could they please—on their first meeting when they elected their officers, I called her. And she gave them a very nice write-up on the lower end of Section B, page one—“Neighborhood Group Elects Officers.”

They were first called something else, then later on called themselves “Eastside Park Association.” Then they called—they immediately got a letter from Mr. Aull offering his help, which he gave.

EP:

How did the demise of the local CORE chapter occur?

EL:

It just simply petered out. We—in, in '64-'65, we were only concerned with—we surveyed a few other neighborhoods. Then it simply—the original thing of the, shall we say, nonviolent thing, there was no time for that anymore. The whole black movement was going the other way.

EP:

Into greater and greater militancy?

EL:

Yeah, yeah. And the local group just simply petered out. But we were still very active in this for over a year.

EP:

Was there ever any resentment of you, as a white person, being in a leadership position of CORE?

EL:

I wasn't in as much of a leadership position as I appeared to be. The only actual leadership I had was in that social action group.

EP:

Did you—

EL:

I was mainly an auslagershield. If—you had to—

EP:

Could you explain that term?

EL:

If we had more white people, we could have spelled each other. Since we had one who was prominent enough to make the paper, she had to be toted out.

EP:

Could you ex—translate that German term?

EL:

The auslagershield is a little bit difficult. It's a sign in the shop window.

EP:

In other words, you were there to draw the attention—

EL:

Yeah.

EP:

—and the publicity.

EL:

Yes.

EP:

Were you ever—many people, white and black, but particularly the white members of CORE nationally who associated themselves with civil rights activities came under various attacks. Many were called Communists [unclear—both speaking at once].

EL:

Oh, yes.

EP:

Were you ever—

EL:

Oh Lord, no. I want to bring somebody else in there. It was a tragic story. Just before I came in, you were in, in elementary school I guess, there was the Jerome case. Mrs. [Alice] Jerome was a new and very good teacher at Bennett, sociologist, and she started picketing before I ever got in, at the S&W. And the S&W, at first, were fighting it tremendously. And our great adversary was a lawyer named Mr. Sapp.

EP:

Armistead Sapp?

EL:

Armistead Sapp. He was their lawyer. What Armistead Sapp did was photograph every people. He photographed poor Mrs. Jerome and got pay dirt. Mrs. Jerome's husband—we knew that the husband, there was something wrong with him. Most people thought he had maybe been in a mental institution or somehow. He had been a former editor of Times—Time magazine, and had been—you remember the infamous Smith Act.

EP:

Yes.

EL:

He had been one of the victims of the persecutions, and had served time under the Smith Act as an alleged Communist. He had refused to testify, that sort of thing. So they made a tremendous mess about the fact that Mrs. Jerome was A)at Bennett, and B)a member of CORE. The then leadership—I just came in so this was nothing I did—suggested to Mrs. Jerome that she was hurting the group and she would have to leave. And Bennett was forced to dismiss her. Oh yes. That was a nasty story. She got her salary. Player was furious, but there was nothing that could be done, the [Bennett College] Board [of Trustees] said. And it was more or less proven that she had as a young person attended a few Communist meetings. What well-meaning person hasn't? I haven't, but I mean, I know as a European a little more what they are.

EP:

What—did you ever come under these [charges]?

EL:

Not quite this, but I had a very interesting phone call which I didn't publicize. I am, of course, a foreign-born citizen. The phone call I had, which was very long and very sympathetic, was from a member of the immigration office who checked on me. He could not—we got all confirmation of all sorts of dates and was obviously sympathetic. What had obviously happened—he more or less intimated that he had to be careful—was that somebody, I have always suspected [Sam] Ervin, sent the immigration office after me to find out if they couldn't get me somewhere. Well they couldn't. But he said “You could now commit a murder, and you would still stay here as a citizen.”

EP:

Why do you suspect Ervin?

EL:

Well, [Congressman Horace] Kornegay wasn't quite that bad.

EP:

In other words, it was someone who had the power—

EL:

Power.

EP:

—to do that?

EL:

Power. I may be wrong about Ervin. I admired him much later when he was—but Ervin is, Ervin was the worst of those—Ervin is just old. I, I don't even blame Ervin, he ain't learned no better, if you know what I mean. He was brung up with that idea, and he ain't learned no better. He still hasn't made peace with this. Do you see him having any, any blacks working for him? Of course not. He can't. It's just the way the poor man is.

And I, I can't say—I, I could not sustain it, but I always had the feeling—the man said if he found anything out, he would tell me, which, of course, he didn't. But when I said, “Somebody big made the denunciation, didn't he?”, he more or less, you know, [said] “Well, it's your own guess” et cetera, of course.

EP:

Were you—

EL:

The immigration office wouldn't send an officer down there if somebody very important hadn't.

EP:

Were you ever the object of persecution or subsequent investigations as a result of your civil rights activities?

EL:

Well, if you want to know something funny, I'll tell you something. You know, you cannot—you are not supposed to tap a phone without letting the person know. But you can—you, you—it was always, at that time, possible. If you would tap a phone there was a sound, a certain thing. And I remember McKissick was somewhere else and then he came back to High Point. And he called me, and he said—the phone was very noisy—he said, “What's the matter with the phone?” I said “There are just birdies.” He said “Are they your birdies or my birdies?” And I said “I think they're our birdies.” And he broke up [laughing].

EP:

So you think your phone may have been tapped?

EL:

Oh yes.

EP:

Would you—

EL:

Oh, we did some other things. Oh Lord, we did one enormous thing I forgot, in the fall of '64. In '64, Alvin Thomas, then already elected chairman for the next year, and I went to the national CORE conference. That was at the time of that gosh-awful murder of three civil rights workers in Mississippi.

EP:

Mississippi.

EL:

And Mississippi was in a miserable condition. And some of the Mississippi people, in fact, the mother of one of the murdered men came down there. It was tremendously moving and, and all. And there was a, another martyr there, the wife of a martyr—a white woman, you may remember. You remember the minister [Reverend Bruce Klunder] who died under the bulldozer?

EP:

Yes.

EL:

Well, his wife was there, as one of the delegates from her town—Cleveland, I believe. And I remember when we were waiting for the mother of the black one [John Chaney] of the three [Andrew Goodman and Michael Schwerner] murdered—we didn't know yet were murdered, we found out then—that McKissick was standing there with one of the little white children of that woman and the murdered man in his arms while they were waiting. It was a, it was a very comforting and beautiful thing.

Anyway, Alvin, Bill's baby brother, who is now a union organizer in Washington, [D.C.], made a promise for the group that we would collect clothing and food, but mainly clothing, for Mississippi. We did. Most of the summer and all fall I was still living on Bennett campus, we collected. There's a very interesting thing, the Teamsters union helped us. Can you imagine? Oh we, we had a lot of things. The FBI also helped us, they had to.

EP:

Helped, helped how?

EL:

I'll tell you. That made the papers, too. It even made the, of all the strange things, Wall Street Journal. We sent six tons, we collected six tons of clothing.

EP:

In North Carolina?

EL:

In Greensboro.

EP:

In Greensboro.

EL:

In Greensboro. We went—some people brought it and some others, we let them know. And the old former Bi-Rite store—Essa's[?] store, on Gorrell Street—for several months I had four of their shopping carts. And some evenings some of us would go out on foot with shopping carts and collect. We had six tons.

And McKissick had in some of those meetings given us all sorts of things. For example, the FBI could—was, under Johnson, under orders to help. And there had been trouble already with earlier shipments to Mississippi. One had been kidnapped by klansmen or something, one had been burned, et cetera. We sent it to Jackson. The group down there was not CORE, it was COFO [Council of Federated Organizations], a group united of all of them. And that was also suggested by McKissick, that I should contact the local men of the Teamsters union, that they would transport it for us free, and they did. They forced—you know the union can demand that something that they are transporting can be transported free when the drivers, you know, give part of their salary or something.

Anyway, this was arranged. A man was fantastic. When I told him some of the things that happened—he was, I forgot his name. He was Italian, and his dialect was magnificent, part New York, part Italian, part Southern. When I told him some of the things that had happened, he said “That ain't humane. I'm a-goin' to helpa you.” And they “a-helped” us.

We got that ready. [coughs] It was [coughs] packed—we had it beautifully packed up in, I don't know, some thirty or forty boxes. Headed—young people were there for months. You said the group didn't do nothing. Some whites also. Some young people were there in that apartment most of the summer and in the fall. From August on.

We repaired them if necessary, washed them. Toys were fixed. Clothes were. And then it was sorted, so that the people over there when they finally got it, and one poor town would let them know that they needed children's clothes, they would know which package had children's clothes. They would know which had men's winter things, which had women's underwear or women's warm clothes, or women's summer clothes, everything.

So, this took up 6x6x6 feet square in one of their big trunks—trucks, which is enormous. And I called the FBI. In fact they, they asked, they, they got in touch and they followed through the states that truck down to Jackson. The trouble happened in Jackson. When the men down in Jackson who guarded from that truck—I forgot the firm, it was one of the big truckers, and they did it for the union, you know, they have to do that for the union, and the union had asked them.

Well, the man down there was obviously a klan member, and he refused to deliver it. First wanted to send it back—we owed a hundred and fifty dollars. It took quite a while to straighten it out that this, there was no charge due on it. Then when it was being delivered in the rain, they suddenly decided that they were going to—first they delivered it into puddles, and then they took it back and put it right back.

I was in constant telephone with the COFO office in Jackson. Then they called me, perfectly desperate, and said—the young person who talked to me, I think that it was Jewish New Yorker—he said, “You know, one of the local white men sidled up to me when I walked downtown, bumped into me and said, 'They're breaking into your things in the, in the freight office.'” I said, “Can't you inform the FBI?” He said, “I don't think I'll make it to the FBI office.” I said, “Okay, I'll try it here.”

I called the local [office] and he said, “You know we can't act if there isn't a complaint.” I said “You know they can't make a complaint down there.” [He said,] “We need a complaint.” I said, “Okay, I'm making the complaint right here now. Are you taking it?” He said, “Yes.” The FBI then walked in down there. And a number of the boxes had been broken into, but they hadn't gotten anything yet and it was finally delivered.

The thing made the Wall Street Journal because the—a few New Yorkers from Westchester County—a lawyer, and, and the big businessmen, and so on—were down there trying to trace one of their own shipments to Mississippi that had disappeared. We were in the COFO office when that act happened with the shipment that was then taken back, because some sort of an invoice they needed wasn't there. And it made the Wall Street Journal [laughs]. So, we were still active.

EP:

What was the story that you were going to tell me about the Mayfair Cafeteria?

EL:

Oh, the Mayfair Cafeteria, it was very ironical. The S&W immediately opened, and some other restaurants, smaller ones, opened. And the large hotels opened. Oaks, of course not, and Travelodge didn't. And Mayfair refused. Now, Mayfair had an interesting clientele. While more or less everybody went to the S&W, and especially the little girls working downtown in the shops and so on, they had a more intellectual crowd. Some professors from UNC[G], who were neutral, but they were—some of them were beginning to get a little bit mad when the Mayfair didn't open. And it lost quite a few customers. It still got a few crackers.

Then in '64, the man, a former mayor [Boyd Morris], made a real boner. He said, "Now that it is the law, he would open, and he will welcome blacks," and so on. Well, he was near boycotted by his former white customers and went out of business. Ha, Ha, Ha! Ha, Ha, Ha! is all I can say.

But Hairston—McMillan told me that Hairston, who during the big demonstrations did not especially help, did help in that summer. And when you get him, you'll—he'll, tell you about it. But that first picketing, Hairston was still in on it. In fact, Hairston was, I think, in on the formation of the group.

EP:

Formation of which group?

EL:

Of CORE.

EP:

CORE.

EL:

That was born in '62 in that summer or earlier before. And McMillan was concerned.

EP:

Did you continue in civil rights activities after this time?

EL:

You mean myself?

EP:

Yes.

EL:

Well, I, I got myself arrested in Chapel Hill, as you probably know. That was still in '64. It was a mess.

EP:

What, what happened in that incident?

EL:

Well, I got the, the book thrown at me and got the worst sentence of anybody.

[End Tape 2, Side A—Begin Tape 2, Side B]
EL:

—it was when we laid down on the street. And I was, I was—right now this is all beyond, so the statute of limitations long run out so I can leak a lot of things. I had just intended to help.

The leadership said that certain people would stay. There was a mass meeting in a church and then a small group stayed. And we were—the guests were asked to stay. Ramsey was in on this. And a young CORE rep was there and he was—we were told what we had to do to block certain streets. And I, I was in the last group. And the young CORE rep was told—a teenager—that he should take it over, and we were all told we would be arrested—the, the small groups. There were a larger group who were told that they would go, and then a, a very small [group], maybe forty people or so, were remaining. And he said he couldn't do it; his parents were expecting him home—he was seventeen.

So Buddy Tiger said—they knew who I was. I had been sort of, you know, that's again the auslagershield question. So Buddy Tiger said, “Dr. Laizner, you take the group.” And we were supposed to block the road from High Point to the airport with our bodies, which we did.

We stopped very nicely, and this is, this is when we were then arrested. A young professor from Chapel Hill was our car driver. This was the most beautifully arranged thing I've ever been in. He was our car driver and he was lying down with me. But when the cops came to arrest us and I told him, “Go limp”—and they [police] heard that—he got up and went into his car and informed them [the protesters] that we had done what we should. We had stopped traffic, and now the cops were there and were arresting us. And I went limp. And as I said, four had to carry me to the car. It was beautiful. When we were in the car, we slumped like this [gestures]. And they, I took one chance. That was so beautifully arranged.

When we, when they brought us to the police station down there, a group of the other protesters, the ones who were not to be arrested, was coming down there. And they sat down on the road for a moment, blocking our entry. Their purpose was to see which groups were arrested, when and how. And then I took a chance. And when they opened the door, I let myself fall down, still limp. And, of course, somebody caught me. They didn't want any broken heads. And as soon as we were in the police station, we became alive. Then we stayed in there, and, and then they threw the books at us. That's all. I got a beautiful book.

EP:

What was your sentence?

EL:

Oh, do you know Judge [Raymond] Mallard by reputation? Called the evil dog? [exhales] I was confident that what they did to me was nothing [compared] to what he did to some of the others. [whistling] He sat on the [North Carolina] Supreme Court—no Superior, Supreme Court, yeah. State Supreme Court. I am scared to death.

Some of the people in the trial afterwards—for example, the court stenographer—befriended me afterwards. Oh, it was fantastic. No, he was, he was horrible. For example, he was scared to death that anyone would bring a recorder in there. Some people who wore bags had to open them to show that there was no recorder in there. If somebody didn't rise when the judge came he more or less threatened them with arrest. Now, most of the people in that very large arrest took the nolo contendere [plead no contest], which I could not take it. Because I knew I would have been arrested and thrown out of the state, which is what they wanted. And I had to be back at Bennett, and I had to be back in the court. So I was one of the few who had a private trial.

But, for example, Mallard, is a typical, elegant-looking Southerner, grayish—of course, that was some years ago, that was fifteen years ago. He was—he must have been younger than I thought he was. He always—when he came in he always looked as if he had just taken his Confederate uniform off and put his judicial robes on. And the North Carolina flag looked suspiciously as if it were the Confederate flag.

He bullied people unbelievably. Threatened one young woman who talked for a moment with, with extra sentences. And I remember three young people sentenced for the same thing, trespassing and obstructing a highway. One was a black North Carolinian. He got two months in jail with one year probation. The next one was a black New Yorker visiting there. He got the max—not quite the maximum, He got six months. And he was questioned why he did it, why didn't he go back, why did he do this and all. He got six months, two years probation.

The worst was a young man, white, who had been in there. Obvious Southerner with Southern accent. Judge accused[?], he said, “I'm a North Carolinian.” [Judge Mallard said,] “Your address here is?” I don't know what harbor in, in New Jersey the young man said—I don't know what it is, it's a harbor, a navy town. He said, “But my father is an admiral, sir, and that's where his ship's stationed, and that's what counts as my home town. But I'm a North Carolinian.” Well he got the highest possible, which was, I think under the sentence, one year, with two years probation. Interesting. You see what I mean? A lovely person. [laughs]

Well I got—I was on two charges. Oh, what did I have—obstructing of highway and resisting arrest. My lawyers, Malone and Bert, were excellent. In fact, I saw on a radio show later on Bert's—Malone's argument used on TV later in, in something. His argument being that protest is what the country was founded on. And then, then he, he used the argument—asked the policeman if, if I had made any resistance or anything. Then he said “That's not resisting arrest when she was just lying there waiting for you.” But it didn't help.

They had to, in my case—they ran out of jurors. A college professor got a preemptory immediately from the state. A lady who had once made a contribution of two dollars for the NAACP was removed without preemptory. The judge agreed that that was all right. She could, she could not be give[n] a fair judgment. He then sent them out to the highways and byways together—to the next bar, I believe—with the only thing, “Make sure they owns [sic] property in this county.” And they came.

We concluded afterwards that one of the jurors possibly finished high school. The others could write their names. There was one that we called Smiley. He was so proud that he was in there, and he kept on grinning all the time. The first day, he was in a dirty shirt and unshaven. The next day for honor to the occasion, he was shaved and wore a shirt. Bert got a lot of them out. There was one man who showed obvious bias. The judge said, asked him only, and he asked that he be removed, and the judge said, “If I give you a judgment, and advise you what to do, could you follow it?” “Yes.” “Motion denied.”

Bert went right back, he said, “Mr. So-and-so, when you were standing in your garage and watching the protesters this, that, and that, did you—” and then he suddenly jumped on him, “Do you think the accused is guilty?” “Yes sir.”

Removed. It was beautiful.

EP:

So what were you finally sentenced with?

EL:

What I was finally sentenced on was a thousand dollar fine and two months in jail or one, no probation, and one year jail sentence at the discretion of the court.

EP:

Did you ever actually go to prison?

EL:

No. Yes, I went to jail for a, for—until the bail was raised. It was a very high bail. And they were extremely nasty in that jail in Hillsborough. Oh, God. Oh God. I was in solitary.

EP:

What, what did they do to you?

EL:

Well, I had no dinner, and when I came in they said, “We don't feeds [sic] them that late. We feeds [sic] them at four o'clock.” I came in at 4:30 or 5:00. Bert left the man some money to buy some food for me. He never did it. I asked him for matches, he refused. I was locked in. The next day I think I had breakfast, and they just gave me some food, and then said that my bail had been given. I said “Can I finish eating this?” “No, you go out.”

I was half-starved during those twenty—not twenty-four hours, about eighteen hours I was in there. I had half that, that one meal that I had. And this is when the, when the court stenographer came in. I went to the bus station, which was then next to the court house. Couldn't reach anybody, they were all out of town. I had enough money for bus fare. Hoped they would take it, which they did. I went into the bus, and there was a lady who had been the court stenographer.

And she started talking to me. And she started consoling me and said, “You know, he's a bad man.” [She] remembered the case of the white young man whom he had deviled, because that young man had been rich, somewhat like the admiral's son. And [Mallard] had thrown the book at him. And then she offered me some cheese. She had bought a big piece of cheese, and she offered me some, which I ravenously ate. Mallard is a, is an evil man. Oh Lord. Oh, we had some [unclear—both speaking at once]—

EP:

In other words, you had to pay the fine, but you [unclear—both speaking at once].

EL:

No, I didn't, I didn't, I didn't pay the fine. Governor Sanford, just at Christmas—that was at Christmas. You know, he was going out of office that year. It wasn't just me. There were—they, they were going to get it onto the high court, where they could have gone with a lot of faults. For example, they were trying to make out that my passport was something wrong, my, my American passport. They had seen it and saw on it there was the word Communist in there. He brought the Communist up.

Well, Malone had a lot of fun with it. He entered the passport—which I had with me, they had given it back to me—in evidence. And showed—in the old fashioned passports, at that time, there was a sentence in there that you could not go to certain Communist countries. And had the policeman, the state trooper who was testifying on this, then testified we could have done that. “Yeah, I guess it could.”

And when the judge took it down he saw—there was, of course, a secretary of state [who] had, had signed it. “What? The secretary of state signed that?”

EP:

The secretary of state had signed your passport?

EL:

Every passport has the secretary of state signature. That the secretary of state would do it for me. And of course [he said], “She came here as a refugee, and she was rewarding the country with this?” I was told not to say a word, or I would have told him that is why I did it: so that the thing that had happened where I came from wouldn't happen here. But he couldn't understand it.

So we also, they also asked for pardon. Now Sanford couldn't give the pardon. I wasn't the only one. The person who had got the worst deal from Mallard was a minister from Duke [University] who got the book thrown at him, and was lambasted and, and called everything by Mallard. I was there. I had to go there three times. Each time, if you came—first we had it in Hills[borough]—first we had it in, in Chapel Hill, and then two or three times in Hillsborough. All you had to do was to say that you were there or that bail was revoked. And then they sent you back again. Only the third or, third time did I actually go to trial.

But I saw the trials of others, including that minister, who was just simply crucified. Because I think that—he is still there, an Episcopalian, I believe who had gone out. And, and he was simply crucified. So there were about six or seven of us left. And what Sanford did—he couldn't afford to politically, he'd be forever dead, to pardon us—but he commuted the sentences. Which meant that just before Christmas, I had court costs of a $128.63—or was it $126.83—to pay before Christmas for court costs. That was the brokest Christmas I ever had. [laughs]

EP:

So he commuted your sentence to time served?

EL:

No, no, no. I didn't, I didn't serve. We immediately appealed, and that gets you free on bail. I was in jail for eighteen or twenty hours.

EP:

How far did the case go on appeal?

EL:

Never anywhere, because they concentrated on the—the money wasn't there, you see. The, the people in New York were overloaded. So they also tried the pardon bit with Sanford. The trial was only in August of '64, and the pardon was in December—not pardon, the commutation was in sixty—in the, in December '64, same year. By that time the appeal wouldn't have reached anything. They, they put some things in, but this was enough, you know. The only thing we needed was that I was free and could continue.

EP:

Did you continue in civil rights activities after this time?

EL:

Yes, of course. That's when, when all those—while this was going on, I, I had to miss a little bit of the collection for, for Jackson, Mississippi, while I was having my trial in Hillsborough. And this is when our activities in the neighborhood work went on very strong, in '64, '65.

EP:

Getting back to Greensboro, Greensboro has always prided itself on having a moderate policy or attitude toward race relations. What would be your assessment of it? Do you think it was moderate, or was this a myth?

EL:

Well, yes and no. If you compare it with, with other things, let's say, compare it with France, of course Greensboro is, is Hell. But France has none. Why do so many black Americans stay there? Clearly. At one time you might have thought so, because they were anti-Algerian at one time, and some Algerians, but not all, were black. But otherwise, no.

EP:

Well I mean, limiting it to, to other [unclear]—

EL:

Greensboro.

EP:

No, to other cities—

EL:

To where—compared to other Southern towns, or even with Raleigh, we're better. We aren't good. We're considerably better than other places but we are not perfect. Who is, outside of the Good Lord?

[End of Interview]