Civil Rights Greensboro

UNCG Home > The University Libraries > Civil Rights Greensboro Home > Oral history interview with Frances Lewis by Eugene Pfaff

Oral history interview with Frances Lewis by Eugene Pfaff


Date: January 17, 1981

Interviewee: Frances Herbin Lewis

Biographical abstract: Francis Herbin Lewis (1942- ) was active in civil rights demonstrations as a student at NC A&T University from 1960 to 1964.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a January 17, 1981, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Frances Lewis, Lewis discusses her participation in the civil rights movement in Greensboro, including the sit-ins of 1960, demonstrations in 1962 and 1963, the sit-in in the square, her incaration in the old polio hospital, and her membership in CORE. She also describes her relationship with and opinion concerning the Greensboro Four, Bill Thomas, Knighton Stanley, and other movement and black community leaders.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.544

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 Frances Lewis by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—program, the Congress of Racial Equality [CORE] in Greensboro Project, and I am speaking in the library [Greensboro Public Library] with Mrs. Francis Herbin Lewis on January 17, 1981. Mrs. Lewis, could you give me a brief biographical background of what your parents did for a living and your education prior to coming to Bennett College—

FRANCIS LEWIS:

A&T [North Carolina A&T State University]. I was at A&T.

EP:

Oh, I'm sorry, A&T.

FL:

Right. Well, basically I've lived here in Greensboro all of my life. [I] attended public schools here in Greensboro, and beyond that I attended A&T State. My parents were basically average domestic—my mother was a domestic worker, [and] basically, my father was a maintenance worker. They're originally from the Greensboro area, and we have resided here, you know, all of our lives.

EP:

And you went to Dudley?

FL:

Yes, graduated from Dudley High School.

EP:

What year?

FL:

Nineteen fifty-nine.

EP:

So you knew Ezell Blair and David Richmond [two of the "Greensboro Four"] and—

FL:

Yes, we were all in the same class.

EP:

Had you been involved in any civil rights activity prior to going to A&T?

FL:

No more than membership in organizations.

EP:

Were you in the youth chapter of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]?

FL:

Right.

EP:

I see. Was there much awareness from your, your teachers as to the racial inequalities in society and that kind of a mandate for your generation to change them?

FL:

Well, that was pretty prevalent all over. In school, having lived here in Greensboro, the overall atmosphere—there was no way to mistake it. Any type of social, any type of—well, in all phases really, you know. [pause]

EP:

How about—

FL:

We were just faced with it, you know. Educational, social, what have you, you know.

EP:

When did you first become involved in civil rights activities after attending A&T? Is there any one individual or group of individuals that influenced you?

FL:

Not really. I guess this was just something that more or less I was able to observe. And I—I, myself, was not pleased with the way blacks were treated in Greensboro. I had no anticipation of—at that time, I'd say—of living anywhere other than the Greensboro area. And having this in mind, certainly, you know, anybody would be in a position or would want to improve the conditions in and around the area that they planned to live or raise their family in, what have you.

EP:

What was your first instance of demonstrations? Was it the sit-ins at the Woolworth's or prior to that or subsequent to that?

FL:

I guess our first—my first would—you know, actively are of the magnitude would [recorder malfunction—audio fades out]

EP:

[audio returns] How did you first hear about the sit-ins?

FL:

We were on campus and the news was coming back to campus that they had actually, you know, taken the first step. They were trying—at that point, they were seeking support from—and I felt a little obligated, being that I was originally from Greensboro, had lived here all of my life. I planned to continue living here. It wasn't like I was going to spend four years here in college then move to another area. But I felt a little bit compelled. And based on my beliefs and what I had experienced here, I felt an obligation—

EP:

Did you—

FL:

—to at least support them.

EP:

Would you just hear it word of mouth, or was there a mass meeting? How, how was the—was the support solicited?

FL:

Well, at—having been close to David Richmond, Ezell Blair; they were all Greensboro city students. And we had very close contact with the city students, because basically during our breaks from class and our lunchtimes we basically—and it was basically spent around the same area. So we had very close contact with them. Joseph McNeil, I had close contact with him in that his class—a lot of his classes were taken in the same building as my classes. So these were people that you spent a lot of time with. So there was, you know, just that close relationship there. And like I say, I really, after hearing what—about what they had done, I really felt compelled to at least make a show of support.

EP:

The first sit-in was on Monday evening. When was the first time you went down to Woolworth's?

FL:

Monday—no, not Monday evening—I don't remember exactly, but within the, within the next day or so.

EP:

What would—

FL:

We would—

EP:

I'm sorry.

FL:

We would take our breaks, and generally Tuesdays and Thursdays were our lighter days, schedule-wise. We would have more time on Tuesdays and Thursdays to spend off campus. So we would just go during our breaks. If we had a lengthy break, we would just take that time to go down.

EP:

Large numbers, small numbers? How many?

FL:

It varied. It was sometimes done on just maybe one or two. And as it picked up momentum, you made plans around, you know, when you would go. And we would try to work it in and around other students' schedules, knowing that some of them would have—be due back at the campus for class, then we'd try to go down and fill in for them.

EP:

Besides the three men that you have mentioned, who were some of the leaders of this movement?

FL:

Well, initially, I suppose—oh, I can't remember—I guess Ezell and David, Frank [McCain] and Joe were basically the leaders. Reverend Knighton Stanley, of course, was I guess what we would have called an advisor. I think they received support from most of the officials in and around the campus of Bennett. Dr. [Hobart] Jarrett who was, if I remember his name correctly, at Bennett, he was very supportive.

EP:

Were there many women involved? Many women students?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Do you recall any of their names, offhand?

FL:

[pause] It's a little hard for me to recall names [laughs]. I—let me see—

EP:

Well, several names have been suggested to me were Lois Lucas and Gloria Jean Blair, Antoinette Thomas. Any others?

FL:

Ann Shelton—Ann Staples Shelton was at A&T at that time. Of course, now she is presently living in Columbus, Georgia. There was—some names, I can remember first names, but I can't quite remember the last names. There was a couple of girls from Bennett who came down and a couple of the white students at Bennett, of the white girls I—

EP:

Well, do you remember what it was like the first time you went down to—did you actually go in and sit on the stools or, or, or was it picketing outside?

FL:

I don't re—I don't really recall whether we actually got a seat. In the very early instances, they would close the lunch counter at the, you know, as soon as, you know, you would have a couple of students come down. So, a lot of instances when you would go in, they would have closed the lunch counter. And, of course—

EP:

Did you leave or did you stay in the store at that time?

FL:

No. Generally, someone stayed around most of the time, because if they were to leave totally, the counters would have been opened again. So there was someone there during the operating hours, you know. At all times they tried to keep someone in and around the area.

EP:

What was the con[dition]—what were the conditions like inside the store? The newspapers described sometimes several hundred black and white people in there. And—

FL:

Sometimes they—it was, it was really crowded, very crowded in and around there.

EP:

Were, were you harassed?

FL:

Not really—well, some were. I, I never was personally, other than verbal abuse. Some other students were physically abused. But for the most part—

EP:

What—how then were they physically abused?

FL:

Well, they were hit or things thrown at—things like this.

EP:

Those who were sitting at the counter?

FL:

Right, sitting at the counter. There were articulations in and around the area. But there was nothing that I would really consider major.

EP:

Did the police maintain a fair amount of order in the store or were they not present or what?

FL:

Yes, I think they were present in every instance. Captain [William] Jackson made his appearance pretty well known. And after—well, in a lot of instances, they had the plain-clothes detectives, but after a while you learned who they were.

EP:

Do you think they did an effective job of preventing violence or, or not?

FL:

I would think so. I really don't have—I don't really think we had any major outbreaks.

EP:

What was the attitude of students toward the police? Would they see them as part of the power structure in collusion with the city, with the intransigent store managers, that kind of thing?

FL:

I think so, because I think at that particular time, the attitudes that prevailed were basically the same among the white residents in Greensboro. And this was something that they had lived over a number of years. And they were thrust into a situation where they had to take second looks. They had not been thrust into this situation before, because everything went as per. And I think they were at a position—they were in a position that they [police] didn't have any other choice at that time but to carry out orders from someone else.

EP:

Were you part of the Student Executive Committee for Justice?

FL:

No.

EP:

How did the women feel? The predominant leadership roles were men, the majority of the people on the Student Executive Committee for Justice were men. Did they feel they were not being given a representative amount of input into planning and having their say or anything?

FL:

I don't recall ever hearing a comment to that effect. I think it was more an idea of the job and the support, more so than bickering back and forth about who was doing what. I think it was just the fact that it was being done. It did not matter whether it was a black, whether it was a white, whether it was a male or a female. I never—I don't recall any instance where any reference was made to that.

EP:

How often did you go down there during the six months of the focused picketing and sitting-in at Woolworth's and Kress?

FL:

I think most of us spent about as much time as we possibly could.

EP:

A long succession of days and that kind—?

FL:

Any given day or weekend or what have you.

EP:

Do you recall anything—any incidents on the picket line?

FL:

Yeah. We, we would go down and picket very often, really. I guess we probably spent as much time picketing as we spent actually inside or what have you. And, again, I guess it was the same type of situation where the majority of the abuse came from passer-bys. And basically, they were from the uneducated segments. Generally, after a while, you are able to, to tell from comments and what have you as to basically what intellectual level these people are on. And you can tell from their comments and their actions and their, you know, basic—as to, you know, basically what type of background they are from.

EP:

Now when school let out, did you continue to picket?

FL:

Yeah. We worked summers.

EP:

I understand that during the summer the majority of the activity was carried on by the few A&T and Bennett town students—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—and the Dudley High School students.

FL:

Right.

EP:

Did you know Bill Thomas at this time?

FL:

Right.

EP:

Could you characterize these people that I have mentioned: Ezell or Frank, David, Bill?

FL:

Well, as far as Ezell is concerned I would all—I would consider—well, matter of fact, as far as the three are concerned, they were very outstanding students. They were the type of students who would be basically observant of the type of treatment that you would have. And I guess they would he more sensitive, because all three are from Greensboro. All three had been faced with, you know, some phase of being in school in the Greensboro school system at that time. There was a lot of discussion at that time as to equal educational opportunities for black students and for white students. We were just getting into the point of the school integration bit.

I guess—I don't—I guess [in] '56 or '57, we were, you know, just getting involved in that. The first black students were placed into the predominantly white schools. And, of course, you know, everything was done then—and still continues to be to a point—on a token system. There has always been a measure between black facilities and white facilities. Students were—Dudley was the only black high school. And we had students who were transported fifteen, maybe twenty miles to school, fifteen to twenty miles in the evening, because they were not able to go to a school nearest them. And it doesn't take very much, you really don't have to be, you know, a genius to realize, you know, to begin to realize these types of things, these types of injustices.

So these were the kind of people who could observe what was actually being done in the area and could sit down frankly and talk with leaders, you know, about these frustrations and what have you. And I think they had the ability or the foresight or the leadership ability to carry out this type of leadership and that you could not place everybody in that particular situation and they would handle it, you know, just so. [recorder malfunction]

And so, I think, you know, they really had the background and really think they had the interest. I really think that they were the type of students with a level head at that time that could actually get in and promote the type of activity that we needed. And I think it was the nonviolent type of activity.

EP:

Was that fairly wide-spreadly [sic] accepted or acknowledged that this would have to be a nonviolent campaign?

FL:

Yes. This was, this was definitely stressed. And they actually, well, discouraged those people who were not able to control their tempers and emotions. They did not encourage them to participate, because it was set up on a nonviolent nature. We wanted to keep it on a nonviolent nature. And—

EP:

Were you in on the planning sessions?

FL:

Not really. I'm not really—I was during the summer, after most of the students went home and the students at Dudley became involved, I worked with some of the planning sessions then. But it was more—not—well, I guess we all handled the planning session more on a group basis. There was not—there was no set individual who made decisions, but more or less the groups were called together and they discussed the different ideas, the different tactics. They were told what they would like—how they would like the things to be carried out, why they were doing certain things, and it was a common consensus of the group that they would support that type of thing.

EP:

How did you first hear that the Woolworth's and Kress had decided to desegregate?

FL:

Well, I guess probably leakage from—

EP:

Word of mouth?

FL:

Yeah. More so because it was the type of thing that had been rumored and it was expected most any time before they made the official announcement.

EP:

I, I have learned from CORE papers and other people interviewed that the CORE chapter was actually formed in the spring of '62. Did you continue in activities from the summer of '60 through the forming of the CORE chapter in '62?

FL:

I guess. Let me see. We were—it's hard for me to remember dates.

EP:

The way Ezell characterized it, he says, “Well, there were a group of people,” once again, mainly Greensboro people, “that would, would form and meet without any organized structure,” other than that they had—were carry-overs from the Student Executive Committee for Justice. And they would test individual stores as to whether or not they were segregated.

FL:

Right.

EP:

And if they were, then there would be individual picketing. He mentioned a couple of the McDonald's, places like that.

FL:

Well, one summer, yes, we did spend a lot of time testing.

EP:

Do you remember which summer that was?

FL:

Not really. But we spent quite a bit of time testing to see if the different establishments in the Greensboro area were in fact serving all.

EP:

Was there any pattern to the places selected to be chosen? Just at random?

FL:

Yes. We had certain ones assigned to certain areas. They, they would take the northeast or the southeast or what have you. And we would really, it would really just be determined by the number of people who were available at a given time or the number of, you know, we were able to contact to get together.

EP:

The impression that I get is that, initially, the Student Executive Committee for Justice was primarily A&T, but that over the course of these two years the participation—the majority of the people participating shifted to Bennett College. Would that be right?

FL:

I'm not absolutely sure. I wouldn't say, but I would expect that with the support that they received from Bennett College—

EP:

In other words, from Dr. [Willa] Player?

FL:

Right, and the student body there, I think that it would be no more than fair that they would.

EP:

Does that mean that, that A&T administration did not support its students as much?

FL:

No, I don't think that they didn't. I think we had—I would not say that—I would not say A&T, as a, as a institution. I think we received support from individuals—

EP:

Such as?

FL:

—on the A&T staff. Reverend Stanley, Knighton Stanley was, was active. We received—we did not have the active support, but we had the moral support. I guess at this—

EP:

What, would faculty members come up and speak to you individually?

FL:

Yes, yes. They would endorse.

EP:

How about in class? Would they formally mention it in class or—?

FL:

Well, I guess yes, some of them. Some were I guess maybe a little reluctant. They did not use class time to discuss. Most of the instructors adhered to the policies of, you know, class time, subject matter. But I think there were instances for a few minutes where it was discussed. It probably should have been more times spent on it. But, then again, being a part of the institution, a person is not at liberty to use class time, what have you, because this in itself could have been an adverse type situation as far as the administration was concerned.

EP:

Do you remember how the CORE chapter was formed?

FL:

Not really. Bill worked very closely with the CORE chapter and I suppose—and I'll think of his name in just a second. I'm just terrible at names.

EP:

Well Jibreel [Ezell Blair] mentioned this, I just don't want to rely on his comments totally. He mentioned that a group of students met over at Reverend Marion Davis—not— Reverend Marion Jones's house. And I think Bill and Evander Gilmer and several others had already obtained literature from national CORE and, and that Elton Cox from over at High Point was invited to come over and talk to you. Does this sound familiar? [laughs]

FL:

Right. Yes, at that time—and I think it was probably prior to that summer, I get my summers mixed up—that we actually became involved with the CORE group. Well, at the beginning, we were not backed by any national organization. And their involvement came maybe early that summer. And Bill, of course, was—he was very active then as far as leadership was concerned, he and Evander both. I forget—can't think of the CORE—

EP:

Well [inaudible]. Sorry.

FL:

—the CORE, CORE president at that particular time who had visited Greensboro.

EP:

James Farmer?

FL:

Right. Okay, and, you know, they had, you know, there had been contact with them, but when they actually affiliated themselves with the CORE group, I don't remember the date or the—

EP:

Tell me about Bill Thomas. What kind of person was he?

FL:

Well, I guess I wasn't quite as close to Bill as I had been with the others, because we had—having attended school with the others and having known some of—Ezell from elementary school, we were a lot closer. Bill was several years behind us. But, of course, we got to know him. And he was a very sensitive person; he was sensitive to these types of conditions. He was a hard worker. He really spent a lot of his time, and having—and I think probably the thing that would make Bill outstanding was Bill was a high school student at that time.

EP:

In other words, he showed more maturity than most high school students?

FL:

Yes, and responsibility, too. And he was aware of the movement and he wanted to keep it, you know, alive. And I think this is good, you know, it showed some leadership ability. And I think he did a very good job.

EP:

How about Evander Gilmer?

FL:

Evander was a little ahead of Bill. He was more in our age group. Evander was maybe a year or so behind me. And he was more or less involved at the same time we were, from the very start.

EP:

Did he have the same leadership ability that you've attributed to Bill?

FL:

Well, I, I, would—I don't know. I don't really think that—I think Bill, at that particular point, was really considered the leader at that point. And I guess Evander would probably be just be a, a good right-hand man who was—I don't think—we did not have conflicts with officers as such. More so than—I don't even think the students discussed who held what position. As—I don't think that was, that was important to them.

EP:

Did you ever hold a office in CORE?

FL:

No.

EP:

Your name was mentioned as amongst several people who organized—particularly organizes the, the women students on both campuses. Is that a—

FL:

Well, we wouldn't—

EP:

—fair estimate of your role?

FL:

I would not consider myself an organizer as much as I would just an active participant who—sure, we recruited and we encouraged people to participate and we attended the sessions and the meetings and what have you. But I would not consider myself an or—to me, I would—no more than an active participant.

EP:

You were more involved, though, than the person—average person who would attend the mass meetings, weren't you?

FL:

Yes, I would [unclear].

EP:

But you never held a formal office or served on the Executive Committee?

FL:

No.

EP:

I see.

FL:

Not as such. Now, well as—I guess you could say we maybe performed the same duties, but not officially to say, “You are a member of the Executive Committee.”

EP:

What kind of duties did you do?

FL:

Whatever there was to be done [laughs].

EP:

For instance?

FL:

Well, we provided transportation to and from. We made placards, picket cards. We—just basically whatever it was to be done.

EP:

Where would this activity take place?

FL:

We—

EP:

Excuse me.

FL:

—met at different area churches. We had—basically the churches were the main—

EP:

In other words, not on either of the two campuses?

FL:

No, very little was done an the campuses as such.

EP:

Do you remember what church or churches?

FL:

Well, Church of the Redeemer. We—[pause] Providence—was it Providence [Baptist Church] that was still located down in that area—

EP:

At the time before you formally became a CORE affiliate, had you much contact with the adult black community, particularly more formal organizations like the NAACP or—

FL:

Yes.

EP:

—the Greensboro Citizens Association?

FL:

Right.

EP:

What kind of role did they play?

FL:

Well, we got participation from them.

EP:

An advisory role or?

FL:

Dr. Jarrett that I mentioned earlier. He was, he was on staff at Bennett and he was, he was an active—very active in the black community. He was very supportive of the students at that time. Dr. [George] Simkins—

EP:

What—would he come and talk to you and that kind of thing?

FL:

They would attend our meetings, yes, and they would give advice as to what the plans were, you know.

EP:

How frequently would you meet?

FL:

It was—I don't really remember the frequency, but I'm sure it was at least on a weekly basis sometimes during the intensity of it. It probably—they'd probably meet after hours or what have you. It was no set.

EP:

Just whenever there was a called meeting?

FL:

When there was a need.

EP:

I get a certain sequence of events leading up to the major spring demonstrations. For instance, I know the CORE papers and several people have mentioned the Freedom Highways Project—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—Operation Door Knock—

FL:

Yes.

EP:

—the campaign against the Hot Shoppe.

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Did you participate in any or all of these?

FL:

Not really. I guess the main thing that we had done here as far as—that I had participated in—was voter registrations. Things of this nature.

EP:

How was that organized?

FL:

It was generally organized from the NAACP groups and—

EP:

What, the adult and the youth chapters?

FL:

Right, and what have you of that nature. And there was really not very—well, not very much activity from—that I participated in at that time, because having just graduated from high school in '59, I guess we were, you know, a little—just really a little young, as far as taking the initiative. And that's one reason why I was saying a few minutes ago about Bill, he actually got involved a little earlier than most of us did.

EP:

I see. What would you do in the voter registration?

FL:

Well, we would just try to—we would knock on doors and ask people if they were registered. If not, we would try to encourage them to register or what have you, distribute literature.

EP:

Did you—were you involved in the boycott? The move to urge people to participate in the boycott of the downtown stores?

FL:

Yeah.

EP:

What—was that just more of the same thing? Knocking on doors and asking them to—

FL:

Right, and passing out literature and, and mass meetings and what have you.

EP:

Did you have—in this boycott, were there certain targeted stores that you asked them to boycott or was it just a general boycott?

FL:

Well, basically—well, when—during the time that we were picketing more or less—well, I think it was an overall boycott, because we needed the—we needed to, to touch the merchants. The merchants had a lot—the merchants themselves had a lot of bearing on what the outcome would have been as far as desegregation of the lunch counters and what have you. So it was an overall boycott, but the emphasis was placed on the stores involved.

EP:

This boycott idea and the fact of putting economic pressure on the merchants, did this emanate from the students themselves or was this suggested by the adult advisors, the NAACP?

FL:

I think that it was probably a student decision.

EP:

So they—it was their idea?

FL:

Yes. I think most of the ideas came from the students.

EP:

I guess what I was trying to get is how much influence or control, if any, did these older adult groups have over you?

FL:

As far as making decisions as to what strategies would be used?

EP:

Yes.

FL:

Well, I don't really know. I would say among the, the leaders—and when I say “leaders,” I am referring to David, Ezell, Frank, and Joe—they were very bright students, I would consider, who would be—who would have the ability to ration certain strategies or certain ideas and make a decision for themselves. And I think that this was the main thing—this was one of the things that probably helped to draw the support of the other students is that they had the—they respected their abilities and, and I think they established that rapport with the students and with the adult community.

EP:

Were you part of the planning or initial group that went down to the McDonald's?

FL:

No, I did not participate in the McDonald's.

EP:

When did you first get involved?

FL:

I guess my first active involvement was with the sit-ins.

EP:

Okay. I mean with the spring demonstrations in '63.

FL:

In spring of '63—oh gee, I don't really remember.

EP:

What I, what I was planning—as I understand it, there was a cooling-off period—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—where a mayor's committee was supposed to look into the situation. They came out with a report that really was inconclusive. And the CORE group, as I understand, started up again. They twice picketed city hall in March. And then I don't get a sense of much happening until on May eleventh, Saturday, May eleventh, a group of about twenty-five or thirty CORE members went to the McDonald's on Summit Avenue and picketed. And that Bill and Reverend Stanley and Pat Patterson and, I, I think, Reverend [James] Bush were arrested. Does—you remember that incident?

FL:

Right. Yes, I was not at that point, I was not actively participating as such. As you say, it—things had sort of dwindled at that point. And then I guess this was the revitalation—revitalization, I guess, of a—the movement. And this in itself sort of brought out a lot of those that were not—you know, had sort of gotten away from it, but supporters of it. Of course, I did not mention Pat. I do see him often and he had always been relatively active. So then from that point on, picking up momentum and again, you know, really supporting.

EP:

Were you a CORE member?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Do you remember when you joined?

FL:

When—

EP:

Were you among the original members?

FL:

Yes, I would suppose so. It was during the era with—when we worked with Bill Thomas and whatever, during that time.

EP:

But you were more or less one of these that—people that you had mentioned that kind of drifted away from the central group that was supposedly always—

FL:

Well actually, you know, things had sort of subsided at that, at that point. And there was really no, I guess you would really call it a concerted effort, you know, up until the decision was—you know, with the—you know, to picket the McDonald's and what have you. But it was just sort of getting back—keeping things—it was just being kept alive, really. Keeping—monitoring, I'd say, different situations. Then, when a situation existed that they felt needed their attention, then contact was made at that point, you know—

EP:

But you had not—

FL:

—to—

EP:

—picketed city hall?

FL:

No, I didn't. Not I did not.

EP:

Oh, I see. When did you get actively involved again after the big—

FL:

Sit-ins?

EP:

—re-involvement at McDonald's?

FL:

I guess it was probably during the summer of—I guess it was during the Jackson—when Jesse Jackson was, you know, during the era with Jesse Jackson.

EP:

Could I—if I could follow this through, I realize—

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

EP:

When did you get word that there was some kind of big move on again that spring, that May?

FL:

Well, I guess the news media, you know, is—it provides, you know, most contact, and of course by word of mouth. They are—generally, they would hold, hold a meeting. A meeting would be held at one of the local churches, some local area where it was brought in and they say, “Well, this has been done. That has been done. We would like to do this.”

EP:

So you don't remember—

FL:

And then would meet the press. [both speaking]

EP:

—the first instance that you got back?

FL:

No, it was just—it's just sort of a—it's really not a pattern that you, you know. It's just that when the need arises then you just get involved, really.

EP:

Did you march every time they had a march? How frequently did you march?

FL:

Basically.

EP:

How would the word go out that there was going to be a march?

FL:

Well, again, by word of mouth, what have you—

EP:

Leaflets—

FL:

Telephone calls.

EP:

—posters on campus, that kind of thing? Well, as a CORE member [pause] did you attend meetings more frequently than, say, the average student on campus would during this period?

FL:

I wouldn't think so. They were generally held in areas that were very convenient to the campus. Actually, it was more convenient for the campus students to attend than the students who were living out in the city.

EP:

Would—excuse me—did the students consider—of course, like Bill was the president of the CORE chapter, but I get the sense that even though Ezell was no longer formally affiliated with CORE, I mean—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—he was president of the student body—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—that he and Frank and David and Joe remained more or less the spiritual leaders going back to 1960. Is that a fair assessment? Were they regarded as leaders of the movement or not?

FL:

Well I—in leaders of the movement—I, I think they were considered someone that you could rely on, say, during Bill's era. When Bill was, well, president of CORE or whatever, he—I think Bill felt that whatever his need was that he could go to them for support, that they would support his ideas.

EP:

And because they supported him, the students, in turn, would support him?

FL:

Well, not just because—well, did you—are you saying that his endorsement—the students followed because of his endorsements? I really don't think so. I just think that they were concerned about the movement. They were concerned about the conditions. Whether it was—I don't know whether they gave him their endorsement as such, but generally they, they were on the same frequency as far as ideas, as far as tolerance, you know. And a lot of these, you know—well, I guess, you know, the ideas were just similar. There was—I don't think that there would have been any conflicting [pause]—conflicting rallies between the so-called leaders.

EP:

What happened on the marches in which you participated?

FL:

Well basically, we—it would just basically be a peaceful march. And we would say, well, we will march down to city hall, or we would march down to some—

EP:

One of the restaurants or theatres?

FL:

Right. And we would just—

EP:

Where would you start out from?

FL:

We would generally start from maybe one of the churches; we would start from a given area location. Market and—the march would begin maybe from Market and Dudley. That was a good landmark there near the campus before, you know, the redevelopment in that area that relocated the lot.

EP:

Were there certain designated targets that you were supposed to go to on certain nights? I mean, were you told, “Your group's going to go to the S&W tonight,” or—?

FL:

Only during the, only during the points of when the Mayfair and the S&W were the main targets. At some points, we would just march down to one—maybe downtown. I think one involved marching to Market and Elm and sitting in that area.

EP:

Were you ever arrested?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Where were you arrested?

FL:

Generally downtown.

EP:

I mean, you don't remember where it—whether it was the Center [Theatre] or the S&W or the Carolina or the Mayfair?

FL:

I—let me see now. Once it was during the march downtown, once it may have been during the sit-ins. Once during the sit-ins and once during just a march downtown I think.

EP:

Now, when was this incident during the sit-ins?

FL:

Let me see, [pause] I really don't even have the date on that.

EP:

Do you remember the nature of the arrest? Were you [pause] taken into a police vehicle? Taken in, fingerprinted and all of that?

FL:

Yeah, well yes. At one instance, we were, we were taken—we were released. Now I don't remember where we were taken though when we were arrested. What's—

EP:

Well, I remember the old police station is where the Wachovia building is.

FL:

Let's see, we—on the street arrest, we were taken to—

EP:

Were you in that group that was incarcerated in the old polio hospital?

FL:

Yes. That was the street—

EP:

Do, do you remember that?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Now—

FL:

That was the last one.

EP:

Do you remember being transported there? Could you describe that, how the girls felt?

FL:

Well, of course, we didn't get the best treatment from the Greensboro police.

EP:

Could you describe that? What do you remember about that?

FL:

Not very courteous. They were—

EP:

Did they say abusive things to you?

FL:

Yes. You could, you could sense their resentment in the way that they talked, at any opportunity that they would have to be rough, as much inconvenience as they could show without—

EP:

Push, shove?

FL:

Right. Yeah.

EP:

Did they call you names or anything?

FL:

I never was, but there have—were instances that were reported—

EP:

I see.

FL:

—of this type of thing. But I myself was never harassed as such by any of the officers.

EP:

One—as I read the newspaper, I gather that, for instance, there was the night of the big arrest on Friday.

FL:

Yes.

EP:

And let's see, that would have been the eleventh or twelfth—seventeenth. And then the eighteenth, late in the afternoon, I gather that primarily female students, but also some males, were taken out of the Guilford County jail and police jail, put in buses and driven out to the polio hospital. Does that sound right?

FL:

Well, we were never taken—I don't recall going to the police station.

EP:

Oh, do you, you think you may have been taken directly to the polio hospital?

FL:

Right. Because this was, this was the late evening and I believe we were taken directly to the polio hospital.

EP:

Were you processed there—

FL:

I believe so.

EP:

—or at the coliseum?

FL:

Now some were processed at the coliseum prior to [going to the polio hospital], and I think this is where the major—well, where they had the major incidents, or a portion of them were processed at the coliseum. Now, there were more incidents reported from the coliseum than anywhere else.

EP:

I see. So it was there that—

FL:

With that group that was at the coliseum that received, I—more of the harassment than anyone else.

EP:

But you did not go out there?

FL:

No, [inaudible].

EP:

Okay. Were the girls-well, I don't mean just girls, but I imagine—were they largely handled in separate groups, mostly female students and mostly male, or was it all intermingled?

FL:

No. Just basically, I suppose, however they brought them in.

EP:

I see. Were the people in your group frightened, apprehensive, nervous about going to jail?

FL:

Not really.

EP:

I see. What were conditions like out at the polio hospital?

FL:

Well, we were in more or less a large room, a large general area and—

EP:

But were there any bunks or—

FL:

No.

EP:

What, just blankets on the floor?

FL:

Right.

EP:

Was it very crowded?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Was there any trouble in getting any sleep or being fed because of the crowded conditions?

FL:

Well, I don't—I guess there could have been, but with that group of students that was held there it was—I guess we'd spent a lot of time—I guess we spent more time really, not looking for fault, but enjoying the fellowship of the other students in and around. Most of the students who were there did not regret being there. They felt like they had, they had a mission to accomplish, and this was one way of accomplishing that mission. And I really don't think that there was a lot of complaints, because there were instances when parents came out to take their kids home and some of the kids elected to stay.

EP:

Were you allowed visitors and allowed to receive things like changes of clothes, toothbrushes, that kind of thing?

FL:

Yes. We—it took some time to get these items.

EP:

Did you personally have any visitors?

FL:

No.

EP:

Parents, family?

FL:

No. But we were allowed to call.

EP:

Okay. You mentioned fellowship of other students. What, what—how would you pass the time during the day?

FL:

Well, talking, really just anything that would strike one's mind, you know, to do.

EP:

Well, I've heard that, that in some rooms there were organized songs—

FL:

Right, singing, right.

EP:

—and, you know, kind of pep rally type, "keep your spirits up" type speeches.

FL:

Right, and it really taught—and I guess a lot—the main subject around was, you know, well, was more for rededication type of thing that—

EP:

Were you aware that this was one of the tactics? This mass arrest and “Jail, no Bail” was a deliberate tactic that, that you were doing? I mean, did you understand that you were to refuse bail? How was that conveyed to you?

FL:

Well, it was conveyed to us as, you know, this is one of the type of things that we would have to use to let them know that we were really sincere.

EP:

You mean at the pre-march meeting?

FL:

Right.

EP:

I see.

FL:

And if, in the event that you felt that you could not, you know, that, you know, maybe you were not one of the ones that should be arrested. It was done on a volunteer basis.

EP:

In other words, if you were going to be arrested, refuse bail.

FL:

Right, right.

EP:

If you can't do that, don't be arrested.

FL:

Right. Well—

EP:

Were you told whether or not to be arrested, or was this a personal, voluntary—

FL:

This was a personal thing. They told you the alternatives, you know: “In this particular tactic we will go down. We will do—sit down. This is our plan. There is a possibility that we may be arrested.”

EP:

One way—manner in which a lot of students were arrested was either at the theatres or the restaurants—cafeterias rather—there was a little mat there, and you were technically on their property when you stepped up to the door and you were asked to leave—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—and if you didn't you were considered under arrest. Is this the manner in which you were arrested?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Do you remember the person speaking to you, informing you that you were under arrest, or if you didn't move you'd be under arrest?

FL:

The manager at the Mayfair.

EP:

Boyd Morris?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Was, was he abusive? Was it formal?

FL:

No. He was accompanied by a police officer. And he informed us that he was officially asking us to leave, and if we refused, we would be arrested.

EP:

Okay. Did you respond verbally, or did you just continue to stand there?

FL:

I continued to stand. You know just, we just continued to do whatever we were doing.

EP:

Then what would the policeman do?

FL:

Then he would walk up and he says “Well, you are arrested,” and escort you out.

EP:

Were you taken immediately to a vehicle—

FL:

Yes.

EP:

—or were you placed in a certain group until—

FL:

Oh yes, they, they kept the paddy wagons there.

EP:

I see.

FL:

They came before, you know, we got there. Because, generally, they were tipped off. At whatever point, they knew ahead of time. It was very seldom that they really got caught off guard.

EP:

Were you angry?

FL:

No.

EP:

What, what was your emotion?

FL:

My emotion was—well, I guess it was just like—okay, built-up emotions that—“okay, I can finally express my dissatisfaction over things that I've seen and we've tolerated” and what have you. And more than being angry, it was a, it was a relief valve, really, for built-up frustrations, really. And this was a chance, you know, to say that I'm not satisfied with the way things are going.

EP:

Were you conveyed to the polio hospital in a paddy wagon? They commandeered a couple of the Duke Power buses, I understand. Were you in that group?

FL:

Once we went in the paddy wagon van. Now it—I don't recall. That may have been the group at the coliseum that was transported in the buses, because we were taken—I think possibly, we were taken right from downtown to the polio hospital in the police vans.

EP:

How long did you stay out in the polio hospital, do you remember? How many days and nights?

FL:

I don't really—a few. And they came back one night and decided they would send us back to campus.

EP:

Do you remember when Dr. [Lewis] Dowdy and Dean [William] Gamble and Mr. [Jimmie I.] Barber came out and spoke to you?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Do you remember what they said?

FL:

No, not really.

EP:

I gather that they urged you to voluntarily leave.

FL:

Well, I guess. They gave us alternatives, I would say. Therein, again, was a situation where the administration could not—they had to take a certain position, I felt.

EP:

Okay.

FL:

They had to urge the students to come out.

EP:

I see.

FL:

I feel that this was—they felt the obligation to because of the system.

EP:

Did the students resent them for this?

FL:

No, not really. I think Dean Gamble—I think the students respected Dean Gamble.

EP:

How about Dr. Dowdy?

FL:

Dr. Dowdy was a little distant in that he was forced to be in a peculiar situation as head of the administration who was a state-supported school. And I think he had to look at it from more aspects than the students.

EP:

I see.

FL:

And I think he had to take into consideration how it would affect the overall school. I think he had to look at it from a different point of view. But [pause]—

EP:

Do you recall the manner in which you were taken out?

FL:

Of the hospital?

EP:

Of the polio hospital?

FL:

We were taken out and transported back to the campus.

EP:

Were—do you remember Elizabeth Laizner, a faculty member from Bennett?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Was she there at the, at the time?

FL:

Yes. I couldn't visually see her, but she was active. She was very active.

EP:

She tells a very interesting story. She says that there was a great deal of doubt about—

FL:

The way we were going back to the campus?

EP:

Right. Did you feel you were not going to be taken back to the campus? Where did you think they were going to take you?

FL:

No. Did I feel that I would not? No, I felt that I would be taken back to the campus, because I don't think—I think at that point, Greensboro had heard the message.

At that point, to harm a student would have been a total disaster. At that point. I don't think that they were—I don't think they were ignorant to the facts that existed or the conditions that existed in Greensboro at that time. I don't think that they would have let anything—

EP:

Again, Dr. Laizner says that the—she was told by the matron that she would have to tell all of them “All right, A&T students, you're going back to campus. Get your things ready.” And she said, under her breath, she said, “Now get the leaders together in such-and-such a room.” And at that point someone said, “Well, you know, they—we, we still have the locks on the inside of the doors.”

And she said, “Well, go in and lock yourselves in, and we'll at least wait until morning.”

That when this was discovered, the sheriff's deputies removed her from the hospital, I think took her down either to High Point or Greensboro jail. Do you remem[ber]—recall that?

FL:

Right. Yes. There was a—what they did in a lot of instances was to try to keep the outspoken ones separated from the general group. They tried to keep as much communication from—

EP:

How would they do this?

FL:

Well, they would try to—if, if one person became too—if you became to rely on one person too much, or if they felt that one person was more influential in decision-making, then they would try to isolate that person

.
EP:

Within the hospital or take them someplace else?

FL:

Well, they had been taken to other places. Just like, you know, they had transported them to—carried some as far as High Point.

EP:

Could you think of any person in particular that this was done to?

FL:

Not really. No, basically, they did not particularly care for you being in large groups, you know. Say for instance, you'd be kept in groups of certain numbers. They discouraged, even during—at the time at the hospital, if the groups got too large, they didn't like this.

EP:

And what would they do?

FL:

And it's kind of—well, they wanted to know everything that was going on. You know, I guess they felt that maybe we would plot something from within, you know.

EP:

I mean, would they come in and say, "Hey, you people move away," or "split up" or take people out from—

FL:

Oh yeah, or find something else for you to do, or shift you here or there.

EP:

Well, you mentioned that you were in a large room. I guess there was nothing they could do about that then, right?

FL:

No, but you know, basically, you know, you could group off and what have you.

EP:

And they would tell you to not group off?

FL:

Oh, well they might find something for this group to do, or “This group move over here,” you know, or what have you. Just—and if any—

EP:

And just shift you around?

FL:

Yeah.

EP:

I see. And, and this was pretty constant, is that right? In other words, they didn't just put you in there and then—

FL:

Oh, they would say, “Okay,” maybe, “you're too noisy over here” if you're having a rally, you know, or, you know, and this type of thing. They were—there was something constantly from people who were in charge.

EP: Now when—you did leave and were taken back to campus, did you go back to Harrison auditorium?
FL:

Yes.

EP:

What was the mood and the scene there?

FL:

Well, I think of the ones that were in doubt, they were not sure where everybody was at that time. And I think it was—they were a little skeptical until basically they felt that everybody had been accounted for. The only other problem was I think that there was some resentment that they had done this at such a late hour in the night when it would be a problem to—there was no communication with some of the families to say, “Well, these students are being released” you know, and that transportation home—what have you. That they had waited until a most inconvenient time to do it just to make it as inconvenient for the students and the community as possible. I was not on campus long that night.

EP:

You didn't live on campus?

FL:

No.

EP:

I see.

FL:

I was picked up and carried home.

EP:

By your parents?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Well, Jibreel conveyed a scene where he said a lot were upset. As you said, they didn't know where they were.

FL:

Right.

EP:

They were a little bit concerned that a lot of the women were still in the centers [unclear].

FL:

Right. Well, this was the whole thing. There were—see the—you were only—your group was told; nobody knew the status of any other group, you know. And, and just like you mentioned Elizabeth Laizner, whatever, and she had been taken over to High Point—

EP:

Did you witness that by the way?

FL:

No.

EP:

I see.

FL:

And there were other groups that—well, you really didn't know how many were involved, because the group that you were taken with was the group that, you know, you stayed with generally throughout. So, when they all really got back to the campus, I really don't know. But I do remember there was some doubt in their minds as to where everyone was at that time.

EP:

Well, Jibreel says that several people were asked to speak. He mentions Attorney [Henry] Frye. He mentions that Dr. Dowdy tried to speak, but the students more or less shouted him down. He says that he asked, or that Jesse Jackson was asked to speak and, and he refused. For what reason he didn't speculate, he said perhaps he could have frozen.

Then Jibreel says that he was asked to speak by Attorney Frye and several others because—being a recognized leader of the sit-ins, and that he did. And that a voice vote was, was—more or less, he said, “Now, we're in this together, but we do have responsibilities. Our point's been made. President Dowdy has, you know, got to do his job and our graduation is coming up, our parents are coming to campus. We also have an obligation—we have an obligation to the movement. We also have an obligation to ourselves as students.”

And they took a voice vote and everybody said, “We want to go back, you know. We want to be immediately rearrested and go back.” Because they feared it was some kind of trick to break the back of the movement. And that they kept talking and finally people calmed down enough that, that they said, “Well, we're going to go by the president's order.” Did you witness any of that?

FL:

No, because I didn't stay on the campus very long that night; they were still in the process of coming in.

EP:

I see.

FL:

Because I imagine by the time I even got home it was probably maybe 1:30.

EP:

What was the reaction of your parents?

FL:

Well, my, my mother had passed by that time, and we were living with my father. And he was a little reluctant because of—he feared that something—that I might get hurt. But I think after he realized that this was what I really wanted to do—

EP:

In other words, there was no onus placed on you for having been arrested?

EL: No.

EP:

None of this, “What are you doing getting mixed up in this kind of thing?”

FL:

No.

EP:

Did you march again after that?

FL:

Yes, I guess we were still active in, in most of the marches up until—I guess I was more or less active up until I left A&T.

EP:

Did you sit down in—on Green Street on the night of June fifth or in the square on the night of June sixth? Which one? One or both?

FL:

The march at Market and Elm.

EP:

So you sat down at the square? Now, the police and newspaper [unclear—both speaking at once].

FL:

They did not give us a chance to sit down. With—this was our intention.

EP:

Oh, so people didn't sit down?

FL:

Yeah. Everybody didn't sit down.

EP:

I see. Why don't you tell me what happened instead of me trying to tell you. [both laugh]

FL:

Well, it was more or less—it was—when we got there and everybody attempted, they made a circle around us. And everybody that was in the circle, within the circle, was arrested.

EP:

I see. Did you—

FL:

So—

EP:

Was there a tense situation? Did you feel there was a possibility of an outbreak of violence there?

FL:

No.

EP:

Were—what I'm trying to suggest is some people were saying, “Well, it had been going on for so long, the police were tired, the marchers were tired, tempers were getting frayed—”

FL:

I always felt that there was a possibility, but I never feared it. I never—I would protect myself, but only if my well-being was in danger. But I think this was the basic attitude that prevailed. I don't think either side wanted to provoke. And I think the test from the other side was just to see how—where our tolerance level was.

EP:

Could you explain that more fully?

FL:

It was really just to see if they could provoke, if they could provoke the students to a—some people actually, I—I, I actually believe that some people would have enjoyed it being on a violent type.

EP:

By “some people,” whom, whom do you mean?

FL:

Yes, the hecklers, what have you. They—I think they would have enjoyed the aftermath of a violent type of demonstration.

EP:

Did you ever see any violence?

FL:

No.

EP:

Did, did the heck[lers]—[clears throat] excuse me. Did the police keep the hecklers away?

FL:

To an extent.

EP:

What do you mean?

FL:

They allowed them to stay to, to an extent.

EP:

But did they ever let them get close to you, such that they could throw something or—

FL:

Oh, sure. They spit. They, they threw. They pushed and shoved, you know.

EP:

So this contention by some of the policemen that I have talked to that they kept the hecklers on the other side of the street was not true?

FL:

No. No, they were side-by-side.

EP:

So they got close enough to—

FL:

Yeah.

EP:

—throw a punch or push or say something or spit.

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Did that ever happen to you?

FL:

No.

EP:

Did you see it happen to other people?

FL:

No, not directly. There were reported incidents in it—of hecklers spitting on people, what have you. Sure, we got our, our share of the shoves, the verbal abuse.

EP:

Okay. Did the shoving come from the police or the hecklers?

FL:

Hecklers. And, of course, in the articulations with the police. If in the event that they had the opportunity, they took advantage of it.

EP:

Did—once again, I mean, were you shoved?

FL:

I—yeah. You were roughed up and shoved, you know, and hurt, and you know, in and around. But then of course, you know, it's always, you know, the excuse that, “Well, you know, we're crowded, crowded conditions,” which can be true.

EP:

I mean, to the extent that you were knocked down or anything?

FL:

Oh, no.

EP:

I see. Did you notice any change of attitude in the police when they arrested you that night on the, on the square? Were they rougher than usual, abusive?

FL:

No, not really. I think that they had—they were a little more anxious. Well, I think it was before you really, you know, they really had the opportunity to see what was going to be done. They had already, excuse me, made up in their minds as—or received instructions to arrest. Otherwise, you know, they didn't know whether you would sit there five minutes of if you would sit there one minute and leave. You know, they didn't wait to see. It was sort of a—

EP:

So not everybody was seated by the time they formed this police circle and, and arrested you? Would you have left?

FL:

No.

EP:

Are you—

FL:

I would not—

EP:

—angry looking back on this?

FL:

Beg your pardon?

EP:

Are you angry looking back on this?

FL:

No. I think it was something that had to be done, and I think that was just the opportune time to do it.

EP:

There is some question as to whether this was as thoroughly planned as some of the other activities by CORE. For instance, Pat Patterson said he didn't go along with this part of the planning and anyway, he was leaving town. As a matter of fact, he said, “That night I got on a bus to New York to get a job for that summer.” The paper, again, hardly a reliable source, but—indicated that the usual leadership was not there.

FL:

Well, it probably wasn't—it probably wasn't as, as planned as the earlier activities. But then by the same token, I guess time and circumstances and what have you, the length of time that you would have to, you know.

EP:

Were there more non-students than usual?

FL:

No.

EP:

I was wondering, because a lot of the students supposedly had, had already taken their exams and left campus.

FL:

Right, well some of them had. But then by the same token, at that time the high school students, you know, are out of school, and what have you.

EP:

So there were more high school students?

FL:

I would suppose so. During—well, not more. We really got support from some of the high school students. But then, I don't know in that particular ins[tance]—in that particular march, I would hesitate to predict the percentages. But as things shifted, you know, further into the summers and what have you, when we did rely so much on the high school students, they were there too.

EP:

I see. Had you already taken your exams by this point?

FL:

I, I don't recall. I would suppose so, because generally our exams were falling in May.

EP:

Did you have any difficulty in preparing for your exams, taking your exams, I mean, given the conditions that you were in pris[on]—in jail up to shortly before your exams? Did any of them have to be rescheduled or anything?

FL:

No.

EP:

Did you know of students that had to work out special arrangements with their professors to take their exams, or were you—everybody out of jail before exams began?

FL:

Well, I really don't know of a student in particular. I don't doubt that some of them would have had to, to reschedule some, because our exams extended over a period of time. But I did not have to reschedule any of mine. Basically, my exams would fall earlier in the day so I didn't really have a problem.

EP:

Would this have been your senior year or your junior year?

FL:

About my junior year.

EP:

So you had another year to go?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Now, as reported in the paper, the last mass march, or big march, was the night of June seventh, and nothing happened, no arrests, that sort of thing. Then, apparently this truce took place in which the mayor did appoint a Human Relations Commission, theatres did announce desegregation. I think about the fifteenth or sixteenth of June, the S&W desegregated—of course, the Mayfair never did, or not at that time. Did you continue to attend meetings involving any activities, although there were no marches?

FL:

I don't really remember how long we continued to meet past those points, but I guess we all kept in close contact more so than a regular meeting as such. I guess the, the contacts that we had was as close as being right near someone on campus. It was a type—well, we had a type of contact where, within an hour or two, that you could make contact with most any of the students, whether they were on campus or—they—because they were very close-knit.

EP:

You said that you continued to march right up until the time that you left A&T. What subsequent marches or activities or picketing did you do?

FL:

Well, up through the movements, you know.

EP:

Okay, I was wondering, because, you know, the newspaper, after, I guess, the sensationalism died down, did not cover it on a daily basis—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—like they had the marches. So I am not clear as how much picketing and [both speaking at once] activities went on.

FL:

Activity went on. I'm not really sure, either. I don't—it's kind of hard for me to relate the dates back. I guess the last real act—well, the last real intense was the arrest, of course, and confinement at the polio hospital.

EP:

Oh, I—there's one—sorry, I forgot. When you were arrested that night at the square, where were you taken?

FL:

This is what I am trying to remember, between that and the hospital. I don't recall whether—

EP:

The newspaper doesn't say, either.

FL:

Right. I don't recall. I remember we were arrested. Some were taken to—let me see, there was—they used the coliseum. I do—I cannot remember the Guilford County jail, if we were taken there. But I don't know whether we were—I believe we may have been taken directly to the hospital.

EP:

I see. Were you bailed out this time?

FL:

No.

EP:

You were just released?

FL:

Well, the first time, we were not, we were not held. We were arrested and then just released.

EP:

What about the night of this—at the square?

FL:

Yeah. We were taken—that was when we were taken to the polio hospital. And we stayed there until we were released to go back to campus.

EP:

I never did ask you what your major was.

FL:

Architectural engineering.

EP:

When you graduated, did you remain in the Greensboro area?

FL:

Yes.

EP:

Was there just a—I know there was another big march in '65 in support of Dr. King's marches in Selma. But it seems to me that, okay, the Human Relations Commission was meeting and, and Bill Thomas was on there and Reverend Stanley was on there, and Dr. Simkins, several members of the—who had been leaders of the demonstrations. But there doesn't seem to be much activity. I remember Elizabeth Laizner said that, “Well, we picketed the Oaks Motel and the Travelodge, but they didn't desegregate until after the Civil Rights Act was passed.” [She] said, “We got into some voter registration.” She said, “Some small things like the Peace Corps worker”—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—“who was fired from Black Cadillac Olds” or something. Do you remember each of these activities?

FL:

No, by that time I was not really involved.

EP:

So you didn't remain a member of CORE—

FL:

No.

EP:

—after graduation?

FL:

No. After that, I got married and my first son was born in '65, and I sort of had my hands tied there. And so really, you know, from that point on—

EP:

So, in effect, that next year, '63, '64 was your last involvement with it.

FL:

Yes.

EP:

In—Jesse Jackson; how did you regard him? Did you regard him in the same way that you did leaders who had been in this for years, like Bill and Ezell and Frank and David? Or was he kind of a “Johnny-come-lately”, a figurehead or—?

FL:

Well, Jesse was a—I wouldn't really say a “Johnny-come-lately.” He happened to be a motivating force that came later. I think Jesse was very aware of the situation—

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

EP:

You were expressing your opinion about the police—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—and your genuine feelings about the situation. Would you reiterate them?

FL:

Well, I was saying before that I felt that the police reacted in surprise maybe, initially. They really didn't know how to handle the situation. But beyond that point, I think they reacted out of order, what was expected of them, what was expected from them as far as maybe their associates, the general public. I think that they did what they were—what they were forced to do. A lot of things I feel like they turned their backs to. A lot of things they allowed maybe to happen or conditions they allowed to exist, maybe the hecklers that were allowed to remain—

EP:

Well, you had mentioned that hecklers were allowed to remain in a place where students were asked to leave.

FL:

Right. And in the instance of the aisles being blocked, the fire marshal might request that those aisles be cleared. The students would have to—

EP:

Leave or be arrested.

FL:

Right, leave or move about. They would not be able to stand. Pickets were not allowed to stand; they had to constantly move.

EP:

But the hecklers were—

FL:

The hecklers could stand around.

EP:

Were there ever large numbers of hecklers or were they fairly small?

FL:

They were usually in small numbers.

EP:

Were they distinct and separate from the spectators?

FL:

Most of them were.

EP:

Okay. So not every person in the crowd that was there was necessarily a heckler?

FL:

No, you would have some that would just stand around and watch and look. And I guess—out of curiosity. But some that would never say anything. But then you had others, you know, who would heckle, or what have you, you know. Come by constantly or—

EP:

Did the students respond to the hecklers, or were they instructed to ignore them?

FL:

Generally ignore them.

EP:

Did you ever see any student lose his or her cool, so to speak, and, and look like they were going to—

FL:

I've seen some that were—

EP:

—strike?

FL:

—pushed to the point that they may have. But generally in a situation like that, there was another one close by that could, you know, bridge the gap there and maybe calm that particular student down, or what have you. Or, if he felt that he was not in a position to remain, he could—he or she could be taken back, you know, to the campus, or what have you.

EP:

Jumping ahead seventeen years, 1981, what do you think was the result of the marches? Do you think they accomplished anything?

FL:

I think they accomplished the point that we were making at the time: the desegregation of the certain facilities. I think it gave the black community an opportunity to take advantage of some of the entertainment, activities, you know, places of entertainment in—here in the city. But whether—well, I guess it accomplished the fact that at least you feel that you can take advantage of them, whether you do or not.

EP:

Did you, did you ever go to either of the two cafeterias or theatres that were the main targets?

FL:

Yes, but not any more than I patronized them in the past, the theatres. Only just—

EP:

In other words, you didn't go there specifically because it had been desegregated?

FL:

No. No. Only if I—only—on the same basis that I felt like if I wanted to see it, that it was there for me to see.

EP:

Well, shortly after they had been desegregated did you attend, or was it sometime later?

FL:

Sometime later.

EP:

I see. So the initial period of the first groups that did go there, either to eat or to see a movie, and there was some question about what would happen, that period had passed and calmed down before you went there?

FL:

[Yes.]

EP:

I see.

FL:

I was not—I don't think the students were so concerned as “I want to sit down and eat.” But we were tired of spending our money and having to stand at a lunch counter and eat a hot dog if you were hungry. You could shop all day, but there was no place for you to sit down and eat a hot dog and drink a soda, when right downstairs or right two counters over, you know, other people were allowed the same privilege, you know. And we paid the same price for their merchandise, and what have you. And I think it was more—it was not the fact that, you know, “I want too eat what you have,” but just the opportunity to know that if I want to get a snack, I can sit down and get one.

EP:

What do you think about race relations in Greensboro now?

FL:

Well, I think we've accomplished a lot, but I still think we have a long ways to go. It's far from being totally solved. I think—well, today it's a little hard to say. I have some ideas about the general feelings, but I don't think that they are as good as the general city or the officials would tend to project that they are.

EP:

Is it more in the realm of feelings and attitudes, or genuine lack of opportunity economically, educationally, and socially?

FL:

Well, I think that the attitudes controls most—the general attitudes controls most of the educational opportunities, what have you. Educational or vocational.

EP:

I, I guess what I'm saying is that in '63 [there was] clear-cut, obvious discrimination.

FL:

Right.

EP:

“You cannot come in here and eat.”

FL:

Right.

EP:

“You cannot come in and watch the movie.”

FL:

Right.

EP:

Now, the obvious [discrimination] is out—

FL:

Right.

EP:

—but—

FL:

But—right, I think the attitudes—they still, that it still exits in the attitudes. I still think it's on a token basis. Generally, I think with the pressures that's been placed on certain—in certain areas—say, the minority participation in city government, county government, what have you, you know. They feel compelled to meet these requirements. Once they have met these requirements, they no longer feel compelled.

EP:

In other words, the bare minimum.

FL:

Right. And I think this is, this is where we are now. I don't think it's a wide-open range—or the opportunities are wide open for us even now. You have to be super. You still—it's still—you have to be a “super-black” to be accepted.

EP:

In other words, you have to be twice as good, twice as prepared?

FL:

That's right. And it's not on an equal, equal basis. And I think until we get to that point we will not—we'll never have total equality.

[End of Interview]