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Oral history interview with Sarah Outterbridge by Eugene Pfaff


Date: July 24, 1982

Interviewee: Sarah Jones Outterbridge

Biographical abstract: Sarah Jones Outterbridge, daughter of Rev. Marion Jones of Greensboro, was an active participant in local civil rights activities while a student at Dudley High School.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a July 24, 1982, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Sarah Outterbridge, Outterbridge primarily discusses her experiences with CORE, including its strategies. She describes a training workshop and the role of local chapter leaders, such as her father Rev. Marion Jones, Bill Thomas, Lewis Brandon, Wendell Scott, her sister Betty, and B. Elton Cox. She provides many details of the 1962-63 picketing campaign of the movie theatres, S&W Cafeteria, and McDonald's, including the November 1962 mass arrests that resulted in her prolonged incarceration at the old polio hospital.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.564

Rights: It is responsibility of the user to follow the copyright law of the United States (Title 17, U.S. Code). Materials are not to be reproduced in published works without written consent, and any use should credit Civil Rights Greensboro and the appropriate repository.



Oral history interview with Sarah Outterbridge by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—Library Oral History Program, and I'm talking to Mrs. Sarah Outterbridge who was a member of the Congress of Racial Equality [CORE] chapter in Greensboro in the early 1960s. I was wondering if I could ask you how you first became involved in civil rights activities?

SARAH OUTTERBRIDGE:

Okay, my first involvement was—because, well, my father [Reverend Marion Jones] was very much involved. One of the very first meetings that they had was held in my father's basement. And this is basically the, you know, the way we—I first got involved, because we really wanted to form something to kind of change the things that were going on in Greensboro at that time.

EP:

Were you a student at Dudley [High School] at this time?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

I see. And when did you graduate?

SO:

In the year '63. Nineteen sixty-three.

EP:

I see. So you did not participate in the sit-ins—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—at Woolworth's?

SO:

No, not the Woolworth's sit-ins. No.

EP:

Did any member of your family?

SO:

No.

EP:

So, who—were these a series of meetings that occurred at your father's house?

SO:

Yes. Yes. Either there or at different churches around the city.

EP:

I see. Do you remember—

SO:

But the official beginning of the meetings started at the house.

EP:

Okay. Do you remember who would have been the regular participants at these meetings?

SO:

Jesse Jackson was one—

EP:

Was he involved in the initial setting up of the CORE chapter in '62?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

I see. The reason I asked that is because several people said at first he was not particularly politically motivated. And that he—his appearance in the demonstrations doesn't seem to have occurred until the mass demonstrations in the spring of 1963. But you're saying he was involved much earlier?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

I see. Was he very active, or just an occasional participant?

SO:

Well, during that particular year, he was like in his junior or senior year in college—must have been his junior year—so as much as he could participate, because he was very active in school organizations also, president of the student body of A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] at that time. So, you know, he was there when he could be there. And this is probably why a lot of people were saying that he wasn't really, you know, that active, but he was. He was very.

EP:

One other thing that several people have mentioned to me is that, although he was president of the student body and was photographed very frequently by the news media as being in front of the marches, that it was really the people who had been involved since 1960 in the sit-ins at the lunch counters that were looked to as being consistent leaders of the, of the movement. Would you agree with this or not?

SO:

No, I wouldn't.

EP:

You think he was looked to as a leader?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Who were some of the other individuals?

SO:

Let me see—Lewis Brandon; my sister, Betty; Ezell Blair—he's not Ezell Blair now. He's Muslim and I can't think of his name—

EP:

Jibreel Khazan.

SO:

That's it, okay. His sister, [Gloria] Jean; let me see, Pat Patterson. I have to think hard because the majority of them were college students and I was just in high school.

EP:

I have a bunch of names and if—a number of names rather, and if you wouldn't mind me reeling them off, if you would tell me were these people generally, really involved and, and what was their, their role. Evander Gilmer?

SO:

Yes, very much involved.

EP:

I see. Wendell Scott?

SO:

Yes, Wendell's my cousin. [laughter]

EP:

And of course you've mentioned your sister, Betty. Lois Lucas?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What—now as I understand Mr. Gilmer was the treasurer, is that correct?

SO:

If memory serves, yes, I think he was.

EP:

Did you have a, a office or—

SO:

No.

EP:

I see. And your sister was secretary, is that right?

SO:

Right.

EP:

I get an impression that it [CORE] was a very loosely structured organization. As a matter of fact, Mr. Gilmer said, “Well, I guess we had elections,” he said. But, but that's the only one he recalls—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—until he left and, and that apparently, your, your cousin, Mr. Scott, was the first chairman of the organization—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—but he left, and Mr. Blair was, was the—sort of an acting president. And then he had to resign because he was elected president of A&T student body—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and then Bill Thomas was, was president of the chapter and remained so, I understand—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—until at least the fall of '63. Does this sequence sound right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Why did your cousin, Mr. Scott, leave?

SO:

He went into the service. Yeah, he went into the service and that was his reason for leaving.

EP:

Well, the newspaper more—mentions the, the decision on July 26, 1960, for Woolworth and Kress's and I believe Guilford Dairy to desegregate. And then apparently the Holiday Inn desegregated, and, and the Meyer's lunch counter—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and then later the Tea Room that fall. And then nothing else, or very little is mentioned in the way of civil rights activity locally until the picketing of the Cinema Theatre in February 1961. Is that true, was it—was nothing going on or, or was it just not reported by the newspapers?

SO:

A lot of it was not picked up by the newspaper. Now there was McDonald's out on High Point Road at that time. I think it could have been the only one in Greensboro at that particular time, and we picketed, picketed there.

EP:

Now is this before the spring demonstration—I mean the demonstrations in the spring of 1963?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

So, so you had picketed there before?

SO:

Yeah, right.

EP:

I see. Was this a consistent campaign or just every now and then?

SO:

It was consistent.

EP:

Over how long a period of time?

SO:

Oh, well from the very beginning—I think the first of 1960 until about '63 or '64, if I'm not mistaken. It's hard recollecting all these dates. [laughs]

EP:

Surely. Mr. Khazan—well, Jibreel, he and I became friendly—I don't see any reason to be formal. [laughter]

Jibreel said that a lot of this time was spent in testing, in the sense, in the sense that CORE used, used the term—that is, contacting the businessmen and finding out whether or not they—what their employment policy and their serving policy was, sending people there to ask for service—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and then reporting back if they were denied service.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Was this the kind of activity that, that you did at this time?

SO:

Yes. And out of doing that, then we would know exactly what places to go to.

EP:

Was there—the impression I get is—looking at CORE papers, the first formal date given for at least the formal setting up for the CORE chapter was May 15, 1962.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

And I asked Mr. Brandon, he said, “Well, there was a group of people that met,” at I gather in your father's house and other—in the churches around the area.

SO:

Right.

EP:

And he said, “but there was really no formal structure.”

SO:

No, there wasn't.

EP:

Did you bother to have a name for the organization or just worked as a group interested individuals?

SO:

We just took on the CORE name—the Greensboro chapter of CORE.

EP:

There was a picture in The Record February first or February second of four or five men picketing the Cinema during Porgy and Bess. And the name that they chose for themselves was the Intercollegiate Council for Equality. Was that a name that was more or less created just for this activity, or had it been around for a while? Had you been using it?

SO:

No, we had not been using that name.

EP:

I see. Well the way he tells it is that basically, he and his roommate—and more particularly, his roommate, Donald Pott[?], spearheaded this drive. Does this sound accurate, is this how you recall it?

SO:

I don't remember that one at all, I really don't.

EP:

Okay. At the time SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] was conducting or initiating a program throughout the South that whenever segregated theatres showed Porgy and Bess, they would picket.

SO:

Right.

EP:

And I believe it happened first in Durham and Chapel Hill, because the movie went there first and then it came to Greensboro.

I'm a little confused. The paper seems to indicate that the picketing just went on for a week or two and then emphasis shifted to downtown. Mr. Brandon says that he recalls it going on for several months.

SO:

Right.

EP:

But you say that you're not familiar with this?

SO:

No, the only picketing I can recall at present was the picketing of all the theatres, including the Carolina Theatre, because the blacks—at Carolina, we could go through a back entrance to the balcony, and at the others we could not go in period. And so we picketed all of the theatres, and that went on for quite a while.

EP:

How frequently would you meet at your father's house, and do you know who suggested that these meetings occur?

SO:

If I'm not mistaken it was at least twice a month. I don't think it was any less than that. I'm pretty sure it wasn't any less than that.

EP:

Was it any one individual or group of individuals' idea to begin meeting? I mean, did your father initiate these meetings or was he approached?

SO:

Daddy was approached.

EP:

Do you know by whom?

SO:

I don't.

EP:

I gather that this is a holdover, basically, of the students from A&T and Bennett [College] who had participated in the, in the sit-ins—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and wanted to see something continue.

SO:

Right, right. And Dudley.

EP:

And Dudley.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

You said they met at least twice a month. Did they always meet at your father's house, or other places?

SO:

No. We met other places. As the group began to grow, we started meeting at churches. Trinity Church was one of the churches that we met in, and Reverend Cecil Bishop was the pastor there.

EP:

He was particularly active?

SO:

Yes, very much so. I'm trying to think of some of the other churches.

EP:

Were there other activists in—?

SO:

Let me see, I'm trying to think. Reverend Bishop, my father. There were a couple of others, I can't think of who they were right off hand.

EP:

Was Reverend [Otis] Hairston particularly active?

SO:

I don't remember, I really don't. I know his son was. [both speaking at once].

EP:

Was Reverend Bishop in charge of Trinity AME Zion?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Incidentally, the gentleman who wrote Civilities and Civil Rights [William Chafe] mentions that a nickname for that church was “Big Zion”.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Is that correct—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—is that what it was—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—normally known as in the community?

SO:

Big Zion, right.

EP:

When did you decide to form the CORE chapter?

SO:

Let me see, I cannot give you a definite date at all. I really can't. Like I said, I was one of the younger ones, and I didn't hold an office. I was just one of those that, you know, when we went to demonstrate at a place, you know, to protest and to try to initiate students from the Dudley High School to participate with us.

EP:

Did you—

SO:

This was basically the role I played.

EP:

Did you sit-in in these meetings at your father's house?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What sort of things were discussed?

SO:

Well like, I think you had mentioned, I can't remember who you said, one of the persons said, you know, where they would get people to go around to different places. And after they would come back and tell us those places. We would also keep active with—why can't I think of his name—different—other people within the CORE grouping itself. [Floyd] McKissick was one of the people.

EP:

B. Elton Cox?

SO:

Yes, Cox, yes. McKissick, Cox—I am terrible on remembering names. But anyway, we would—after they would go out to different places they would come back and basically, initially, we would just sit there and map out a strategy or decide what places we were going to, you know, demonstrate, and this type thing.

EP:

Well, before the election of officers, did you have one of those natural group leaders who made suggestions and, and directed the activities?

SO:

Lewis did a lot of that. Lewis Brandon did a lot of that. And he was basically a spokesperson for us a lot of times.

EP:

Was he designated as such or did he just take control?

SO:

[laughter] It's just natural for Lewis. It was just a natural role for Lewis, it really was. And, you know, he—I guess, in a way, whatever position you felt that you were best at doing, this is the way we kind of structured it, you know, those that were good spokespersons or those that were very initiative in getting other people involved, they would do this type role. And I guess there was really no formal mat all together. You know, it's just we got together, we saw a need, we liked the policies that the CORE went by—the nonviolent movement—and that's the step we chose. And—

EP:

I'm getting the impression from your father that he knew Reverend Cox through his civil rights activities and the fact that both of them were ministers in the same congregation.

SO:

Right.

EP:

The same—

SO:

Denomination.

EP:

Denomination.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Was it really his idea that you considered CORE?

SO:

Cox?

EP:

Well, I was thinking first of all your father, and then Cox.

SO:

Well, you mean me as a person, that I considered? Or do you mean as a group?

EP:

Well, I meant—was it your father's suggestion that you contact the representative of CORE and find out about it, or was it someone else's?

SO:

I think it might have been a combination between Cox and Daddy, I'm not certain.

EP:

Did—well, did you consider other groups like, I guess, SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference] wasn't very, wasn't organized in North Carolina at that time. I know SNCC was organized. How active in North Carolina, I don't know.

SO:

Yes, it was active.

EP:

But was it just CORE from the beginning or—

SO:

Yeah. Plus they went—CORE went along with a lot of Martin Luther King's methods of nonviolence and all of that, and we didn't think violence was going to do anything but just cause more violence. So we kind of went along with his way of doing things, with the nonviolent type movement. And I think this was basically the reason. We liked what, you know, the organization itself stood for.

EP:

How did you determine which places to, to send testers to and then report back?

SO:

Well, that wasn't hard, because there were very few places open for us.

EP:

Now, this was just any place that served food or served the public but maintained segregated—

SO:

Right, right.

EP:

Were there any that voluntarily desegregated before this time?

SO:

No.

EP:

Did you have any contact with members of the white community who might have acted as individuals. I'm, I'm thinking specifically of McNeil Smith, the attorney; there was, was an interracial organization, I think the [Greensboro] Community Fellowship—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—although that may not have formed until the fall of '62.

SO:

Yeah, it did. There was one person that was very helpful to us, and I can't even think of his name—he's got a little pawn shop downtown.

EP:

Ralph Jones.

SO:

Ralph Jones, right. And—

EP:

Did you have much contact with organizations in the black community like the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] or the Greensboro Men's Club, or the Greensboro Citizens Association [GCA]?

SO:

Well, the NAACP, we kind of worked a little bit together, because when it boiled down to the demonstrations itself, both groups done that. Most of us were members of both—CORE and the NAACP.

EP:

Well, is this date for officially forming—it, it appears on the, on the application form, May 15, 1962; does that sound like the right date when you—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Did you just adopt the name CORE or did you wait until you were officially affiliated?

SO:

We just adopted the name. I don't think there was any formal procedure for, you know, getting a charter or anything like that. We just went with the name CORE.

EP:

In December of '62, the newspaper mentions that the NAACP, the GCA, and CORE met with representatives of the business community, which were—was more or less headed by Leonard Guyes of Prego-Guyes [women's apparel store] about hiring more black salespeople or of hiring black salespeople. And that eventually in March—I think the deadline set was the end of March '63—that, that they agreed, or at least a number of the employers [stores?] agreed. And I was interested in—about CORE being mentioned as one of the negotiating groups. Do you recall that?

SO:

Yes, vaguely. But I recall quite a bit of it because I remember picketing Wright's clothing store because they would not participate.

EP:

Once again, was this consistent or was this just a now and then act?

SO:

It was consistent.

EP:

What other places did you picket?

SO:

Let's see, I think I mentioned McDonald's, S&W Cafeteria, all of the movie theatres—well, there wasn't that many then. But the Carolina—

EP:

Well, since you mentioned Wright's, were there other clothing stores or department stores?

SO:

I think Wright's was about the only one that really held out, if I'm not mistaken—I could be wrong.

EP:

Now all of this before the mass—

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

—demonstrations.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What—I—

SO:

Plus we were instrumental in doing things as a group also, like we would take big busloads to other cities, and we would, you know, picket—I think the Howard Johnson was one of those main ones that we picketed then. And if a group needed us another place then we would take a busload there, you know, to picket and help them out.

EP:

I get the impression that members of Greensboro CORE went over to High Point and helped the High Point CORE picket—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—McDonald's there.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were you in that group?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What, what did you do?

SO:

I remember picketing there, but—what do you mean when you say what—

EP:

Well, were you harassed?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Were there, were there hecklers?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Was there any violence?

SO:

I don't recall any violence.

EP:

Were there large crowds or just small crowds?

SO:

There was a nice crowd. It wasn't a huge crowd, you know, but it was a nice size. You mean crowd, the spectators type thing? Okay, it was a pretty nice-sized crowd.

EP:

Now when you say spectators, were—was the heckling done by a small number of people or were most of the spectators also heckling?

SO:

Most of the spectators were also hecklers.

EP:

The sequence of events that I get is that the first big activity that Greensboro CORE was involved in was the workshop that was held for two weeks. I gather that people were placed in private homes and that they had to get their meals at Bennett College—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—and that the actual classes or workshops were, were held at Four Seasons[?].

SO:

Right.

EP:

Does this sound right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

And that, out of this, they would go to the Hot Shoppes and, and demonstrate.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Either picket or sit-in inside. And they would go back and, and talk about it in the classrooms.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Is that correct?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Did you participate in that workshop?

SO:

Yes—oh, no I did not participate in that workshop. I did participate in the picketing part of it, but not particularly in the workshop. If I'm not mistaken, the hours were like the hours that I would have normally been in school. The college kids could get out of their classes much better than I could at that particular time. So I was not really with the workshop in that respect.

EP:

Did you talk with your sister about this at this, at that time—how much older than you was your sister?

SO:

She'd probably kill me [laughs]. Five years.

EP:

So she would have been either a junior or senior in college—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—was that right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

And which college did she go to?

SO:

A&T.

EP:

A&T. I gather that, at least initially, there was more activity or participation by Bennett than A&T, is that correct?

SO:

Yes, there was.

EP:

Do you know why there was a reluctance on the part of A&T students to not participate as much as Bennett?

SO:

No, I don't.

EP:

What, what kinds of things did you and your sister talk about?

SO:

Oh, I guess basically, we didn't want our children to go through what we had to go through in growing up. These were the biggest concerns of ours and we talked about that quite a bit.

EP:

So it was more or less abstraction, philosophical abstractions—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—rather than nuts and bolts of what the organization was doing.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Do you happen to remember the sequence of officers?

SO:

No. Not at all.

EP:

Well, did they stop meeting at your father's house after they became an official organization?

SO:

Yeah, they did.

EP:

Do you know where they met?

SO:

Mostly it was, if I'm not mistaken, Trinity—Big Zion.

EP:

So they didn't have an office of their own.

SO:

No.

EP:

What sort of activities within the organization would members do? I mean, I gather that such activities as making posters and providing rides, making sure that people with cars picked up people—

SO:

Right. Another thing that we were very instrumental in doing too was getting people registered to vote. We worked quite a bit with that also. That was a joint effort with the CORE and the NAACP.

EP:

Do you know what time sequence this would have been?

SO:

No.

EP:

When, when they set up a [unclear] vaguely in my mind it was the summer of '62.

SO:

Yes. I think it was a little bit before then, too.

EP:

So you didn't participate in these strategy discussions?

SO:

No.

EP:

Well, how often was the general membership there? I mean, not just the executive officers, but the entire membership? And how many were there?

SO:

Oh, I can't really tell you. I don't even know.

EP:

I gather that the executive committee met more frequently than the—

SO:

Yeah, they did.

EP:

Would they put things before the general membership to either be voted for or down, or did they go ahead and plan them and just kind of present it as a fait accompli, that this is what we're going to do?

SO:

Yeah, it was more of a plan and present type thing. And we went from that, you know. If they had already scoped out the areas and stuff and dealt with, you know, the president of the company, or manager of a restaurant, or whatever. And then they would come back and, you know, say, “We'll, you know, starting tomorrow, we'll be picketing S&W Cafeteria because of their practices for not serving blacks.”

EP:

So ideas didn't generate from the general membership to the committee. It was more or less the other way.

SO:

Yeah. Unless, you know, somebody had been somewhere that maybe we had not scoped out and was harshly treated or didn't want to be waited on, they might bring it out and, you know, go along those lines. But basically, the president and everybody would get together and, you know, with their leaders and then bring back which places we would be working on next.

EP:

Did anyone ever seriously question the decisions of the executive committee, or did they just more or less accept it?

SO:

Accepted it. I, I never heard anyone question it.

EP:

Was there great debate back and forth, or—?

SO:

Not to my knowledge. I don't remember a lot of debating.

EP:

What were the nature of these meetings? Were they more or less sort of inspirational or, or , or—I hate to use the term “pep-rally” here, but, I mean, build up people's enthusiasm, or was it kind of like a, again, nuts and bolts, procedural—?

SO:

Basically, it would I think start a lot of times with prayer and then a minister reading a text from the Bible, and then we would go into some songs that kind of pepped everybody up and, you know, made you think positive; that eventually these things are going to come to us if we stick out there long enough and push forward. But it was like a pep-type thing, you know, to—because you were down to start with, because you could not attend these places.

EP:

Did the same people usually speak each time or were there different speakers, perhaps guest speakers?

SO:

They'd have guest speakers and different people to come in because, you know, like I mentioned before, McKissick a few minutes ago, and I'm trying to think of the other guy's name. I thought of it a few minutes ago and I forgot it just that quick. But I'll come back to it. But anyway, we would have different people to come in from different CORE groups or whatever, you know. And they would talk to us.

EP:

You know—

SO:

Especially the executive talked [?].

EP:

Did they have different committees for, for different purposes like—

SO:

No, we were not a big formal type thing. We just really wanted to do something and, you know, do it nonviolently, but yet we'd still get it done. And there was not a lot of formality, it really wasn't. You know, only in workshops and stuff like this did we really get a lot of formality.

EP:

Well could you give me an idea of the personality of or the effectiveness or lack of effectiveness of some of the principal leaders? I'm thinking of—well, like Bill Thomas, Lewis Brandon, Pat Patterson, Lois Lucas, et cetera.

SO:

To give you what now, say it again.

EP:

Well, what, what kind of people were they? Let's start with Bill Thomas.

SO:

Bill was a very quiet but very determined person. You know he, he wasn't the—I wouldn't say he was a “Jesse Jackson”-type person but he was a good leader. But very quiet. [He] would be outspoken if the time came, you know, I mean he just wouldn't jump into something. But a very smart guy and would weigh things from all angles.

Lewis was a very outspoken, very—Lewis is just a leader. Lewis was the leader-type person who just really had that personality that a leader did. And let me see, who else did you name?

EP:

Pat Patterson.

SO:

Pat was a very conservative-type guy. You know, he, too, was a very quiet person. You know, he wasn't the real booster-type person but very effective, very smart individual.

But I guess Lewis was more of a leader-type person. Lewis was the kind that just could hold a group together. He really had that leadership ability. [Unclear—both speaking at once].

EP:

I was wondering why then—I know that he was listed as a vice president—why then was Bill elected chairman?

SO:

Probably because Bill was from Greensboro [laughs]—

EP:

Ah.

SO:

—and Lewis was not. Lewis came here, I don't know where from, but he came here as a student of A&T at the time. And it was a chapter, you know, within Greensboro, so I, I—to me, I think this could have been the main reason that Bill was elected, you know, president.

EP:

How about some of the older people who were on the faculty of Bennett or A&T and active in the drive at the time? I'm thinking of Reverend [John] Hatchett and [Reverend James] Bush, Tony Stanley. But what were these folks like?

SO:

Let's see, Reverend McCoy, too—was it McCoy? They were, you know, very good people. They were—

EP:

Did they try to run things or just act as advisors?

SO:

They basically, really acted as advisors. They were not the pushy-type people that would say, “Hey, we are much older than you, do it this way.” You know, they basically left it up to us. But, you know, would step in if they felt as if we were being more childish than, you know, than met the eye, or [if there was] more professional way of doing this. This type of thing. But they were basically advisors.

EP:

By “more childish” what, what do you mean?

SO:

You know how as young people you get impatient at times. And they were there ones that, you know, when we were really getting depressed or impatient with things, they would, you know, come to you as a grandmother or grandfather-type image and say, “Hey,” you know, “it takes time to do this, it takes time to do that.”

Which—you know, and they basically served well in those roles, because as young people, sometimes you can get kind of cocky and stuff, you know. And they were the ones that helped us to maintain our, you know, nonviolent type movement. Not that we wanted to get violent but, you know, they were able to keep us under—you know, help us to—

EP:

Besides the picketing and the sitting-in, were there any other activities that were considered in terms of tactics?

SO:

The flush-in at the courthouse.

EP:

Did you participate in that?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Could you tell me about that?

SO:

Basically, it was Reverend Cox, myself—I can't remember who the other person's name was, who the other person was, but—

EP:

Was it a female student from Dudley?

SO:

It was me. Yeah, I was the female student from Dudley.

EP:

Oh! The way the paper told it was that—I guess it was you—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—that the men's restroom was in the basement of the first floor and that the ladies restroom was on the second floor, and that you went up there and apparently you couldn't find it or didn't go in or something. The paper kind of gave the impression that you were, you were kind of frightened or reluctant to go in there, and that Wendell Scott and, and B. Elton Cox went back up there with you.

SO:

Right.

EP:

And you went in and flushed the toilet then came back out. Is that right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Were you frightened or—

SO:

No, I really couldn't find it. I guess it was just the excitement of it all. And this is the first time I had gone in a small group like this to do something. And I was told about where it was located from Reverend Cox, and when I got up there I could not find it. So I came back down to them. And when I came down, this was when the news media came in and snapped a picture with me standing right there under the, you know, the doorway. And they did go back up with me to help me find it.

EP:

Had you arranged for the media to be there?

SO:

We had usually publicized everything we were going to do. So, you know, they either would come or they wouldn't. And with it being at the courthouse, we figured they would be there.

EP:

So, you mentioned that your cousin, Reverend Cox, and yourself. Were there anyone else—was there anyone else there?

SO:

To my recollection, I don't think there was. We—there could have been some other people, but they were not involved in the particular plan at that time.

EP:

Was this something planned by the chapter or just done individually by, by Reverend Cox that, that you supported or—for instance, why didn't more of the CORE members go?

SO:

It was just something that was planned and they asked for whoever wanted to do it to volunteer, and my cousin and I volunteered.

EP:

Was this while he was still chairman? Oh, and he—

SO:

Reverend Cox?

EP:

I mean your cousin, Wendell Scott.

SO:

I think he was chairman at that time.

EP:

So was then active in his position.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Was that the only place you went?

SO:

In a small group, you mean?

EP:

Well, I mean—

SO:

Or me—

EP:

—as far as the flush-ins.

SO:

Yeah. Me as an individual, you mean?

EP:

Either you as an individual or, or the chapter you represented.

SO:

Okay. For the flush-in, yeah. That was about the only flush-in that we had. The other things, like I said—supply and demand—were the restaurants, basically, Hope Hills[?], and the movie theatres.

EP:

What occurred at the Hot Shoppe on—at the times you went there?

SO:

The Hot Shoppe, I think, was one of our hottest ones [laughs]. They—of course, we didn't expect them to accept us, you know, because ideas were then that, you know, we were not to be fed. And we had quite a few, you know, spectators that were booing us and this, that, and the other, and a lot of ugly things said. But we kind of got that all the time anyway, so.

EP:

Did you picket outside or did you go inside?

SO:

I picketed outside.

EP:

Okay. Did you ever go inside?

SO:

In the Hot Shoppes? No.

EP:

Did anybody, I mean, go to the speakers, or did you go directly to the picketing outside?

SO:

We went directly to picketing outside, because we had already contacted them and, you know, we had already had somebody in contact or somebody to go in to see if they would be served. And they thereabout knew that a picket would follow if they didn't serve.

EP:

I get the impression that the demonstrations lasted about four or five days, and then they agreed to desegregate, is this right?

SO:

Yeah. None of them went on for a long period of time. I think maybe the longest one could have been the S&W Cafeteria and the Carolina Theatre.

EP:

Was there ever any violence at the Hot Shoppe?

SO:

I think it was, but I cannot recollect now exactly what it was. As far as someone getting beat up, I don't remember anything like that. Just a lot of throwing things at us or saying ugly things to us.

EP:

Oh, they would throw things at you?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

What sort of things?

SO:

I remember—this wasn't the Hot Shoppe—eggs, oranges, anything, you know, anything they—a beer can, whatever.

EP:

Was anyone ever hurt?

SO:

No, not, not to my knowledge. I got a knife thrown at me at the Carolina Theatre one year.

EP:

When was this?

SO:

Must have been '62 I guess.

EP:

Did you see the person throwing it?

SO:

It came from across the street. There was a little beer place across the street on the corner at that time, and somebody from there—I did not see who threw it, I think it was Jesse—it could have been Jesse Jackson or somebody—when they saw it coming grabbed me because it was coming—it wasn't thrown directly at me, but it was coming in my direction at that time.

EP:

In other words they—

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

—when they threw it they threw it at the crowd—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and it happened to be coming at you.

SO:

Right.

EP:

So you say it was Jesse or someone else got you out of the way?

SO:

Right.

EP:

Wow, I guess you were pretty frightened.

SO:

That was frightening, it really was. Because I was ready for the hecklers and all of that and we knew, you know, some people would, maybe, get violent. But that's the closest I'd ever come to, you know, violence.

EP:

When the Freedom Highways Project, of which, I get the impression that this two-week workshop I mentioned at Bennett and Four Seasons kicked it off and then they went to Durham and Hickory and Statesville and I think down to Charlotte.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you ever participate in those demonstrations, the regular—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Which ones?

SO:

The one in High Point, one in Durham, the participation of the large one in Washington, D.C.

EP:

When you—as far as the Freedom Highways, how were you told to—that a group was going over to Durham, or Charlotte, or something?

SO:

Well, Reverend Cox was on the board of the CORE chapter [unclear], the executive board. And he would let us know things and different things and areas that were going on that needed our participation.

EP:

There was one mammoth rally at, at Durham—well, I mean one in particular, Roy Wilkins from the NAACP spoke, James Farmer of CORE spoke. I think there was upwards of five-hundred or a thousand people. Is this the, the time that you're speaking of?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What went on at that time? Do you recall?

SO:

Well, I think this was the thing—motel, if I'm not—or hotel or something, if I'm not mistaken. And, well, we just picketed the place and they spoke and, you know, it was about—it was almost like the March on Washington type thing. It was like that. But we'd get speakers to come in and talk about different things that were going on, you know, around. And I guess that was the gist of it. And we just picketed places to let them know that—you know, of our presence and that we wanted these things changed.

EP:

Was this a one-time thing or did you go more than once?

SO:

What do you mean, to Durham?

EP:

Yeah.

SO:

I remember going just once. Now I don't remember whether we did it more than once or not.

EP:

Well, taking it again on its chronological sequence, I get the impression then that the thrust or the big activity of the freedom highways moved over to Durham, where Floyd McKissick was there and was very active, and several of these other cities. Well, then sometime in October of 1962, the CORE chapter here started an economic boycott of the downtown and, and of the stores that remained segregated, and that there was a period there right around October and through Thanksgiving when there were demonstrations at the S&W and arrests.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Between the first of August and October when the activities began, was anything going on in the CORE chapter here?

SO:

There was always something going on, really. Yeah, we always had something going. I can't pinpoint exactly what we had going at those particular times.

EP:

Was it more of the same kind of activities—

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

—testing and individual picketing?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Were the police always present at these times?

SO:

No.

EP:

So you didn't—

SO:

We didn't get a lot of police protection.

EP:

Is that right? Did you request it, or—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

And they simply wouldn't provide it, is that right?

SO:

Right.

EP:

Well, did anything happen as a result of the police not being there?

SO:

I can't pinpoint any instances that were really violent, extremely violent. You know we've had people to run up in the crowd and say something or spit on somebody or something like that, or kick at someone.

EP:

Well, I'm not just looking at—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—you know, the most violent thing, I mean anything. Did they ever try to run into your group with a car or anything?

SO:

Not anytime that I was in a demonstration, I don't remember. It could have been but I don't recall it right now.

EP:

You say that eggs and oranges and beer cans and stuff, but was anyone struck with a fist or weapon of any kind?

SO:

The only weapon I do remember was the one I spoke of at the Carolina Theatre. I guess it was because it was coming to me that I remember that more.

EP:

You say this is in '62.

SO:

I think it was '62. I think.

EP:

Would it have been that fall?

SO:

Yeah. Now a lot of times, we'd have more than one group going at a time, because we might have the S&W and the Carolina Theatre going at the same time. We would have a picket at each one. [both speaking]

EP:

Did it start out as all one group and then split off to separate targets—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

[unclear]

SO:

Yes, we went in—we started as—we would march as one group up to the downtown area, and then we would split off and some would go to, you know, the S&W and some would go to the theatre.

EP:

Where did you leave from? Where, where did you organize?

SO:

Usually, we'd leave from Big Zion or somewhere down in that area, down by the A&T area.

EP:

You didn't leave from the schools, is that right?

SO:

No.

EP:

Were the meetings ever actually held on the school—

SO:

No.

EP:

Was that—

SO:

The schools really did not get that involved. I think it was the administration at the time. And they just would not, you know. That's why most of our meetings were at the churches, because we could get the ministers to, you know, get more involved than the schools would.

EP:

You say—you were a student at Dudley at this time, were many Dudley students involved?

SO:

There were quite a few.

EP:

How were they contacted?

SO:

By word of mouth. Like I said, I was one of those that was in the middle of the whole thing, so, you know, we would just say by word of mouth, “Hey we need participation,” or “We need some more picketers at this place and meet us at the church.”

EP:

Did you request people to join, just join in the demonstration, or did you specifically ask them to join CORE?

SO:

We asked them to join CORE, but if they did not want to join CORE and they were, you know, wanted to go along with the things we were doing, they were not turned down when it came to our picketing because we needed as much support as we could possibly have.

EP:

Well, I get the impression at this time that at most about—

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

EP:

[unclear]. Why was there a reluctance of people to join CORE?

SO:

I think basically people were afraid. They wanted to change, but they didn't want to really get involved. And I think this was, you know, the gist of it all. They were afraid that they would get hurt. And then a lot of times when we did have—we would always have a little meeting before we went out to demonstrate, and we would tell them, you know, “If you felt as if you were going to be violent or something like that, we would rather you not go along with us”, you know, because we didn't want that. We figured we'd have enough violence with the heck—hecklers.

EP:

Now apart from this Freedom Highways Workshop, were there other workshops where the techniques of nonviolence were demonstrated or gone over at great length?

SO:

Just usually at our mass meetings, you know, where we invited the public. We let the public know that we were having a meeting and they were welcome to come.

EP:

So the majority of people who participated in the demonstrations had not been specifically trained in nonviolence, it was just kind of a general discussion of nonviolence?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Were they told to—tools—well, what, what were they told at these mass meetings?

SO:

Well, in a way we were trained, because Reverend Cox and McKissick and all of them would, you know, go through procedures. You know, [if] there's somebody coming up with a clenched fist to hit you, and you know, that you would just stand there. And, you know, if they beat you, they just beat you, but you wouldn't do anything to defend yourself.

EP:

What I was thinking of was at some of these intensive workshops, several of the members of CORE, officers of CORE that I've talked to said that they were taught how to protect their bodies and to minimize being hurt by a blow, that kind of thing. Was that really gone over, or just the idea that you must remain nonviolent?

SO:

Well, with those that did join, you know, initially, we did go through these processes. And we tried to do it, like I said, at every mass meeting we would have where the public was invited to join or to come and, you know, be a part of. And usually they would go over these things all the times before we even hit the streets.

EP:

And you were a member of CORE, is that right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Did you have to pay a membership fee?

SO:

I think that there was an initial fee, but I don't know what it was because Daddy paid it for me [laughter]. At that time I didn't mind. Daddy was paying it.

EP:

There were several things for fundraising that I saw mentioned in the CORE papers. One was—James Baldwin came on lecture tour.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Do you recall him speaking?

SO:

Yeah, yeah. I think that was at the YMCA, if I am not mistaken.

EP:

Now, was it, I assume a fee—an entrance fee was charged?

SO:

Yeah, there was an entrance fee, but if you couldn't pay it, we didn't turn a person back.

EP:

Well, now was this money kept in the hands of the local CORE chapter or was it sent to the national CORE?

SO:

There was a portion sent to the national CORE. And then there was a portion that stayed within the [local] group itself.

EP:

What happened—

SO:

And this was basically for, you know, gas for transportation or, you know, anything that might come up like that, if we needed materials to make signs, and, you know, this was basically what the money was used for.

EP:

Were there any social fundraising events, like I've seen reference to like a Freedom Banquet or a Freedom Dance?

SO:

No.

EP:

Nothing like that.

SO:

No.

EP:

Y'all did not engage in any of that fundraising?

SO:

No.

EP:

Well, there is mention of a Freedom Songs record being cut under the auspices of CORE. And I thought it was done in New York. Mr. Gilmer says he thinks it was done locally, and done by A&T students. Do you know anything about that?

SO:

No. But Evander was an A&T student, plus he was a music major, and so it could have been done there. I don't, I don't really remember.

EP:

Did you participate in the picketing of the S&W during Thanksgiving [unclear]?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

How often?

SO:

Every time.

EP:

Was it a daily thing?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

I see.

SO:

And it went on for quite some time, because I remember the last time I was arrested—and I was arrested many times and fingerprinted many times—the, that was in the spring of the year, because I almost didn't finish high school because of it, because I was in jail for such a long period of time. And our principal had said something about if we weren't out for the last practice or the practice before the last practice, that we wouldn't get a chance to march, and luckily, I got out the night before that last practice. Because that was my senior year.

EP:

Now how many times were you arrested, do you recall? Let's start with your first arrest, do you recall the first arrest?

SO:

I guess my first arrest was at one of the theatres, and the S&W Cafeteria. I was arrested several times at the S&W Cafeteria.

EP:

Now all this is before the spring [of 1963]?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What would happen when you were arrested?

SO:

They would take us downtown, fingerprint us, take a mug shot. And then, you know, within so many hours they would let us go. But this last one, the last arrest that I went through at the S&W Cafeteria was a pretty long one, even to the point that they had run out of room in the jail, and had to use what used to be Evergreen, at the time it was the hospital for polio. It was a polio hospital, I believe it was.

EP:

I'd like to get to that. First I'd like to finish up with these small arrests. Were you actually placed in a cell?

SO:

No, not a cell. It was just, just a big room. And they did go through the procedures of fingerprinting and photos.

EP:

Now, I get the impression most of the people who were arrested at that time were released on their own recognizance.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were you informed that this was—individually that this is what was going to be done? Was it done in a group setting? Or how did you know that you were going to be released?

SO:

The officers, basically the ones that had been arrested even more so than we had, you know, would come back and just tell us the format of the whole arrest procedure. And—

EP:

You mean the officers of CORE?

SO:

Right. And, you know, we went in knowing that it would just be a fly-by-night type thing, they would arrest you and take you downtown and go through this procedure and then release you on your own accord. Some of the younger ones, they would have to hold them until a parent could come down to get them out, if you were under a certain age—I think under sixteen.

EP:

Now when—after you had been fingerprinted and your mug shot taken and everything, where, where did you spend the rest of the time?

SO:

Just in a big—I can't even remember, it was just a large room.

EP:

Was it a courtroom or something?

SO:

No, it wasn't a courtroom.

EP:

But it was at the downtown police station.

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Were you among those arrested over Thanksgiving?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What happened then?

SO:

I can't remember precisely what had happened.

EP:

I gather from the paper that—I don't believe all did, but a number of members of CORE went in and stood in line, and they were stopped at the serving line and told that “You will not be served” and to leave. And when they didn't leave, the police came in and escorted them out.

SO:

Right. Right.

EP:

Were the police ever either verbally or physically abusive at these arrests?

SO:

Sometimes they could get a little rough.

EP:

By rough what do you mean?

SO:

They would push you around and jerk on you or, you know. I remember very few of them using any foul language or anything with you. But they would [audio malfunction], this type thing.

EP:

Did they draw their nightsticks or anything like that?

SO:

Several times nightsticks had been drawn.

EP:

Were any of them ever used?

SO:

Not to my knowledge.

EP:

Mr. Gilmer, again, mentioned that he doesn't remember any being raised and being hit hard, but he says that they would push you along with them.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Get you—

SO:

That's right, shove them into your rib or something like that.

EP:

That sort of thing they did do.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

All right, then the next sequence of events that I received any information on is that things began to wind down as the school semester began to end and the kids started taking exams and going home. And that the mayor's special committee, which was not officially designated as Human Relations Committee, it was kind of an ad hoc group appointed by the mayor, asked CORE to suspend demonstrations while they made a study—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and that the study—the results of it were mentioned. But—and I think December 22, [1962], was the release of this report in which, in effect, it says that they urged merchants to desegregate but did nothing more powerful than that, certainly nothing more demonstrative than that, and that they condemned the demonstrations.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Do you recall this?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Do you recall how the demonstrations ceased after the Thanksgiving at the S&W, or did they continue?

SO:

They continued.

EP:

It's just—in the papers they didn't report to that.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were there any—

SO:

Because like I said, I was—that last arrest that I was arrested in when spring of the year, because it was right before my graduation. [dog barks] Hush!

EP:

Were you—was there a mass meeting in which it was announced that we were going to start desegregating upon the results of this report, or how, how was it arranged?

SO:

Say that again.

EP:

You mention you do remember the stopping of demonstrations—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—before this report coming out. Do you remember how it was conveyed to you that you were going to stop the demonstrations?

SO:

At a meeting. They came—

EP:

Of a mass meeting of everybody?

SO:

Yeah. And they came to us—our representatives that had talked with the people on the human relations or whatever they called it at that time. And they'd asked them to cease demonstrations so they could, you know, make the contacts and decide on something. And they told us at that time that, you know, we would cease demonstrations, because, like I say, we were a nonviolent group, and we tried to conform to this type thing. You know, if they said they were going to try to work on it and give them a chance, we did. But if nothing was done in a certain period of time, we would go back to the streets, and let that known—be known.

EP:

Do you recall who those representatives were from CORE?

SO:

No, I don't remember off hand.

EP:

So when—I assume that things quieted down until after the first of the year. Do you remember when you first demonstrated again?

SO:

It was the early spring of the year.

EP:

I know that there were three different times where CORE picketed at lunch time in front of city hall in March [1963]. Were you a part of any of that?

SO:

No.

EP:

None of those things. Oh, I guess you would have been in school.

SO:

Right. All of my activity was done after school hours.

EP:

I see. Did CORE continue to meet, even though they didn't demonstrate during that time?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Mass meetings?

SO:

Basically the officers would meet.

EP:

So you weren't part of those meetings.

SO:

No.

EP:

Was your sister?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Did she ever report to you what they did or said?

SO:

Yeah, I am sure that she did, but right now I can't tell you exactly what.

EP:

So, in my mind, I don't recall anything from those three marches in front of the city hall, the three picketings of city hall, until the arrest of CORE officers at McDonald's on May eleventh. Was there anything in between that, from March to May?

SO:

I don't think that there was.

EP:

Did you continue to hold meetings?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Well, if they weren't directly discussions of the demonstrations and tactics and what to do, what, what did these meetings consist of?

SO:

Basically, that's what it was, either tactics or we would go over the procedures for nonviolence. And—

EP:

Even though no demonstrations were being held?

SO:

Right. We just, you know, always tried to keep people informed, even if there wasn't anything going on in our city. If something was going on in a neighboring city that, you know, we thought maybe they would like, would be enlighten—our group, you know, we would discuss that. Or if some group, like High Point or somebody, wanted you to come over and do something. This type thing.

EP:

Do you remember the field secretaries who were part of the Freedom Highways Task Force that were frequently in Greensboro?

SO:

Floyd McKissick strikes my mind.

EP:

Let me mention some names.

SO:

Yeah, okay.

EP:

Isaac Reynolds, George Raymond, Hunter Morey—these are both black and white, I believe Mr. Reynolds and Mr. Raymond are black, and Mr. Hunter Morey is white. Do any of these names ring a bell?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Can you visualize them, what they looked like?

SO:

No.

EP:

Well how did they act? Were they just in the background, were they advisors, did they say “Now, this is what you should do, and this is how you should do it?”

SO:

Basically, yes.

EP:

The last thing, “this is what you should do”?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Were they unusually aggressive or—

SO:

No, not—I didn't see them as being aggressive.

EP:

Did they direct activities, or was the direction of the demonstrations in control of the local officers?

SO:

It was in the control of the local officers.

EP:

Do you remember Mr. Farmer coming down?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Did you ever speak with him personally?

SO:

Yeah, he ate dinner with us.

EP:

What did you talk about?

SO:

Oh, we talked about, you know, things that were going on nationwide, Martin Luther King, you know, things that— you know, he would ask us things that we were doing in Greensboro, and maybe give Daddy some pointers to take back to the group of things to try or places to go and this type thing. But it was basically, you know, just the gist of everything that was going on at that particular time. Because that whole area was a real busy—the whole, that whole year, I guess the early sixties was very, very busy for the blacks trying to integrate all over.

EP:

Was he kind of this big, heroic-type, symbolic figure in your mind?

SO:

Yeah, he was. He really was. I just thought he was—

EP:

Was he very personable or very warm?

SO:

He was a very warm, down-to-earth, fatherly-type person, I remember him as being. A very easy person to get to know and very easy to talk to, you know, even though, you know, he was one of the big guys, he was a real regular person.

EP:

Did you ever speak personally with any of these—another field person I failed to mention was Moon Eng, a Chinese student. Did you ever talk with any of these people?

SO:

No.

EP:

So you never got to know them as individuals?

SO:

No.

EP:

Okay, moving along to—were you part of the activities at McDonald's in May of '63?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

When—what time? Did you go on that first march on May eleventh?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

How was that arranged? How was that set up?

SO:

Well, you know, it was a—we sent out the people to try to be served as we normally did.

EP:

Now the paper says there were approximately twenty-five to thirty people, does that sound right?

SO:

Yes, there wasn't too many of us.

EP:

Was it already decided that these four men [Thomas, Stanley, Bush, and Patterson] were going to be arrested?

SO:

No, not to my knowledge.

EP:

So as far as you knew, there weren't going to be any arrests?

SO:

Well, we went out—every time that we hit the street, we knew that you might get arrested, you might get hurt, you might get anything. So, you know, we were basically geared up for whatever could come—occur.

EP:

So it was just basically playing it by ear?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Okay, what happened at [unclear]?

SO:

Oh, let me see. Well, we went out and the first four—three or four—people went up and asked to be waited on, and they were denied service. And they just stood there and this is when the arrest took place. Then those of us that were left to just picket it until, you know, we were—I don't remember if we were escorted away or not.

EP:

Did you arrive by car?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Did cars go individually or in kind of a train or caravan?

SO:

I think in a caravan.

EP:

So you made sure you stayed together?

SO:

Yes. We always tried to stay together. A lot of times we would even have the buddy-type system, you know, where you would walk two-abreast. So, you know, you knew who was with you. We could very easily tell if somebody was missing, you know, this way of keeping up with people.

EP:

Was there much of a crowd that first day? I know there were large crowds in subsequent days but how about that first day?

SO:

At McDonald's? No.

EP:

Did you picket very long after the first four men were arrested?

SO:

All evening it seemed! [laughs] It was a long, hot evening, it definitely was.

EP:

You didn't have shifts? The same people just continued picketing.

SO:

Right.

EP:

And whose decision was it to stop picketing and to leave, do you remember?

SO:

Usually we had a spokesperson with each group, and they would always say, “Okay, you know, we're going to wrap it up now and go” or whatever.

EP:

Do you know who your spokesperson was that day?

SO:

I don't remember.

EP:

I understand that you went back Sunday, and of course, by this time the word had gotten out, and there were hundreds of people there.

SO:

Oh, yes.

EP:

Were you frightened?

SO:

It was always frightening, you know, because you knew it was a nonviolent thing. You knew if somebody were to approach you, you would just stand there, other than, you know, to try to block a blow or something, but not to fight back. So there was always this fear in the back of your mind. There really was.

EP:

Did you ever see anyone attacked or hit with anything?

SO:

No, I don't remember anything like that.

EP:

They described that there were probably several hundred white spectators and/or hecklers and only eight policemen.

SO:

Yeah. Like I said—

EP:

Is that right? [laughs]

SO:

Yes. We only had very few protection. Police protection was terrible, it really was.

EP:

Did the police do an effective job of keeping the people separated?

SO:

They were just there. I mean, it was obvious that if something broke out, maybe they might come out or they might just stand there. You know, it was very obvious that they were just there.

EP:

In other words, you weren't sure that they would protect you or not.

SO:

No.

EP:

The paper reports that one white man was arrested for pouring beer on a demonstrator. Did you see that?

SO:

No. I remember it, but I didn't see it.

EP:

I think it was Tuesday—either Monday or Tuesday—that the group, as they were heading back to Hayes-Taylor [YMCA] or past Hayes-Taylor, the decision was made "well let's go downtown" and they marched to the Carolina [Theatre]. And then apparently there was a kneel—a prayer service, "kneel-in" prayer service in front the of the Carolina.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Do you recall that?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Can you tell me how that happened? Was it spontaneous?

SO:

Yeah. It was a very spontaneous thing. It's just something, you know—I think we always tried to keep God in front of everything, and since we had gone through what we had, you know, we just, the person that just decided, “Let's stop and have a moment of meditation.”

EP:

Now were they all on the sidewalk, were they out in the street? What was the situation?

SO:

Sidewalk.

EP:

Do you know how many—

SO:

Well, we knew if we hit the street that we would definitely be arrested for, you know—they didn't want us on the—there, period, so we tried to conform as much to the law we possibly could without deviating too far from it.

EP:

Do you know how many people were involved or approximately how many?

SO:

No.

EP:

Would you say it was hundreds?

SO:

No, it was just—it was—the group was not that large at that particular time.

EP:

And you say—did you surround the ticket area, or were you out on the sidewalk and just knelt down or what?

SO:

If I'm not mistaken, I think that we were just on the sidewalk and knelt down. I don't think we surrounded the ticket area.

EP:

Did anyone—were you followed by hecklers like from McDonald's and throughout your march?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

And of course—

SO:

We would always be followed. If they knew about it ahead of time, they'd almost follow us from Big Zion.

EP:

All right, how close were these hecklers? Were they like, on the same side of the street as you were? Were they across the street? Were they within arm's length of you?

SO:

Generally, they were close to you. A lot of times, they would be on the opposite side of the street, but sometimes they would come very close.

EP:

Do you recall who conducted this prayer service?

SO:

No.

EP:

And then what happened after it? Did you march back?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

To where?

SO:

To, to the church, if I am not mistaken. It was either the church or Hayes-Taylor.

EP:

Now I get—it's my understanding that Wednesday, May fifteenth, was significant for two reasons: one, the announcement by McDonald's that they were going to desegregate and, as I understand it, there was a big meeting at Hayes-Taylor Y. Did you attend that?

SO:

No.

EP:

That was also the night of the first arrests, mass arrests.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you participate in that?

SO:

No.

EP:

Thursday, there was a march—but if I could just try and refresh your memory on any of these things that—Thursday, I understand there was a silent march. And there was no attempt to enter into any of the targeted businesses. Did you participate in that?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Why was there a change—or was it ever explained—why Wednesday night I think some 241 people were arrested and Thursday night there was no attempt to enter and therefore no arrests. Do you know why there was that abrupt change over a two-night period?

SO:

No. I sure don't.

EP:

How did the word spread? Was it a gradual thing or did masses of people just suddenly show up at these meetings? And was it planned for mass attendance?

SO:

It was usually planned for as many people to show up as possible. We would just get it out by word of mouth. And just like we were gaining gospel[?], if you spread it wide enough, you would have some participation.

EP:

Were you surprised at this massive outpouring?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

So it wasn't expected?

SO:

No.

EP:

And then Friday night, I understand that about 400 people were arrested, about 420-something. Did you participate in that?

SO:

No.

EP:

So you weren't arrested from any time that week?

SO:

Right.

EP:

All right, and if I'm not mistaken it was that Saturday that people were sent out to the polio hospital in High Point, and the McLeansville prison camp, and one place after another.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were you aware that this was being done?

SO:

No, not at first we weren't. Now, I was in that group; but I was in that second group, I believe it was. I can't remember exactly what night I got arrested. But no, all—at first, we thought we were going to the police station, and we tried to get as many people involved as possible, because we knew the station was small and they couldn't hold but so many. And I think as far as the police were concerned, it baffled them, because at a point, they—the group that I was arrested in, they just held us in the paddy wagon for a long time because they didn't know where to take us.

EP:

Were you—I get the impression that people were taken by twos and threes in police cars, and then larger groups of people in paddy wagons and that eventually they commandeered—

SO:

Buses.

EP:

—Duke Power buses.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you actually see this?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

What was the attitude of people when they were arrested?

SO:

Basically, we'd still sing and try to be as happy as possible, because the arrest was what was going to bring it to the people's minds, you know, the television, the radio media, and all of this. So the attitude was good, because at that point, we knew it was burning and that they were definitely going to arrest us. There was no doubt in our minds. And as soon as one group would be arrested, others would come.

EP:

Were you told that the strategy was now to go for massive—mass arrests?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Was it left up individually as to whether or not you would be arrested—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—or were you told to be arrested?

SO:

You—it was left up to the individual. If you did not want to be—I think it was, I cannot remember exactly how we set it up, but I think there was a point where you could move away from that group that was going to be arrested if you didn't. They would come up to you and tell you that “We are going to arrest you.” And I think at that point you could move back if you did not want to be arrested, and those that wanted to be arrested took a stand, take a stand. And once you took a stand and stood their firmly, you were automatically arrested.

EP:

What went through your mind when you made this decision to not move away?

SO:

Nothing, because that wasn't the first time I'd been arrested. [laughter]

EP:

Oh, so it wasn't a novel thing?

SO:

Right.

EP:

You say you either had to stay in the group in the paddy wagon for quite some time? Then, then where were you taken?

SO:

I was taken to the polio hospital.

EP:

Directly?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Without being booked?

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were you booked there?

SO:

After a long—you know, I don't even remember if we were booked or not, I really don't.

EP:

What was the place like that you were held in, was it a big open room or a small room or what?

SO:

There were large open rooms. Some people were held in some smaller rooms, smaller groups. But it was one big—like a recreation area or something. And we just laid out there on the floor and everything else.

EP:

Did you already have—I mean, were you led into these rooms by, by the sheriff's department—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—or the police?

SO:

Sheriff's department.

EP:

Did they behave any differently from the police? Were they more aggressive? More—

SO:

Much more aggressive.

EP:

In what way?

SO:

They were very pushy. The police department like, you know, we were saying earlier, would maybe bring out a nightstick once in a while and kind of push you on. But they [the sheriff's deputies] would just take you and push you bodily.

EP:

Bodily.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Were they verbally abusive, more verbally abusive?

SO:

They said quite a few things.

EP:

Can you characterize what they said?

SO:

No.

EP:

Okay. So you were placed in these large rooms and you said it was a long time before you were, you were processed, is that right?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Were you processed in kind of an assembly line order, or one at a time, or what?

SO:

It was—they would just come get somebody and take you.

EP:

And you were photographed—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—and fingerprinted and so forth.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

How long were you out there?

SO:

A week.

EP:

How long was it before you got fed the first time? Quite some time?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Were you fed that night or not until the next morning?

SO:

Because I got arrested that night and—not until the next morning.

EP:

All right, the sheriff's department claims that they were pretty prompt about getting food, and that any delay happened to be just that they were unaccustomed to feeding so many people. But they claim that you got breakfast, dinner, and lunch.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

I mean breakfast, lunch, and supper—breakfast, dinner, and lunch—in other words, three meals.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you always get three meals a day?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

How was the food?

SO:

It wasn't the best food in the world. [laughter] I think it was something that the prisoners decided to send back on their trays. It was horrid, it really was. At that point, too, the YWCA started sending—at that time there were separate groups, the black Y and the white Y, and the black Y got together and started taking up donations of, you know, just little knick-knacks and—or whatever they could send in there.

EP:

Sandwiches and stuff?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

How long was it, do you know, before your father found out you were arrested, and did you see him personally during that week?

SO:

No, I didn't see him the whole time.

EP:

I see. Were representatives of CORE there?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Were these the officers?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Now did they come—were they arrested, too? Or were they—

SO:

Yes. They were arrested, and to my knowledge, I don't think any of them were out there where I was being held.

EP:

So none of the officers were there.

SO:

No.

EP:

Did you ever speak with an attorney or anything like that?

SO:

No.

EP:

Were any of the adult advisors out there?

SO:

No.

EP:

So you were just totally left out on your own—

SO:

Right.

EP:

What did you do out there?

SO:

Well, we just sit around and sing, and of course some books came in, so we would read and talk, and that was about all. On the concrete floor. There were no beds provided. There was a blanket and a pillow.

EP:

Just one blanket and one pillow?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Do you recall when large groups of people came out that Sunday?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

Did you actually see them or just hear about them?

SO:

I heard about them, I didn't see them.

EP:

Could you hear them singing?

SO:

Yeah.

EP:

But you, but you couldn't see it?

SO:

No.

EP:

How did you get word of it? Just word of mouth from the people who could see it?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Was there much communication between the different wards?

SO:

No.

EP:

Well then how was information passed along?

SO:

It wasn't. I don't remember any information coming in.

EP:

In other words, the people that could see them were in the same ward with you—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and you were just so far back in the crowd or something?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

How did you get word—oh, incidentally, was Elizabeth Laizner out there with you?

SO:

Yes. Dr. Laizner, yes.

EP:

Did you talk personally with her?

SO:

Well, I talked personally with her all the time. She was always at the house a lot.

EP:

She told me that, I guess, when the decision came to take y'all back to the campus or to release you late at night—which I gather would have been the twenty-first or the twenty-second—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—that, she says that there was this very bossy German matron. Police matron. And she had said that—had told her that the administration of the college wants you to—I guess meaning A&T—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and that they'd been dancing out in the hall and that somebody—they weren't sure this was true or not, whether it was a trick or exactly where they would be taken or whatever. And someone mentioned “well, there are locks on the inside of the doors.” And she said, “well, go in” and—first of all, she called people together into one room and gave out instructions. “Well go in, and lock yourselves in.” And that when they came in there, the matron said, “Well, where are all the students? Why aren't they getting ready to go?”

“Well, they're tired and gone to bed.”

And so what they ended up doing was taking her [Laizner] out and took her to the city jail or High Point or wherever. Do you recall this?

SO:

I recall it. I didn't see it, but I do recall hearing of it.

EP:

Did you, in effect, lock yourselves into the rooms?

SO:

[Unclear]

EP:

What happened when you were over there?

SO:

Like she said, we were released at night. Had no way of contacting Mama and Daddy to come and get me or anything. They just took us out in buses and just let us out.

EP:

Now as I understand it, they took the A&T students but not the Bennett students?

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you ever see [Bennett president] Dr. [Willa] Player?

SO:

No.

EP:

It was my understanding that she came out there and spoke to the Bennett students.

SO:

Yes.

EP:

What, were the students arrested separated, male and female?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

But the A&T and Bennett students were—female students were together, is that correct?

SO:

Yes, A&T, Bennett, Dudley.

EP:

So if you were A&T [student] you left, and if you were a Bennett student, you stayed. Was that how it went?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Was there any forcible removal or did you go along voluntarily?

SO:

Just went along voluntarily.

EP:

Were you taken back in cars or—

SO:

Now, I went back in a bus.

EP:

Okay. Did you go back to Harrison Auditorium?

SO:

It was either at A&T's campus or Dudley's campus, one that they let us off. It must have been A&T's campus.

EP:

The way the scene was described to me by, by Jibreel was that people were milling around inside and outside. Everybody was confused. They were angry at the lateness of the hour and the abruptness of it—

SO:

It was after ten o'clock. It was—I couldn't believe it; I was afraid to leave. I didn't know what I was going into, basically. They just said, you know, “We're going to let you go.”

EP:

They didn't tell you where they were taking you?

SO:

No.

EP:

Oh, he said that a number of different people either spoke or tried to speak to the students. That [A&T president] Dr. [Lewis] Dowdy tried to speak, but no one would listen to him. Jibreel spoke. Jesse Jackson, for some reason, did not speak. He said he spoke but Mr. Brandon said that, in his opinion, the most effective speaker that night was Dr. Darwin Turner of the [A&T] English department. Do you recall anybody speaking to the students?

SO:

No.

EP:

Did you stay around for a while or, or leave immediately?

SO:

I stayed—I left. Well, I went straight from the holding cell, or whatever they want to call it, to the bus.

EP:

And then from—how long were you in the, in the auditorium?

SO:

I did not go to the auditorium. I guess by word of mouth my father found out that there was a group coming out, and he was just there to pick me up when I got out.

EP:

Did you participate in any other demonstrations after that time?

SO:

Yeah. There weren't too many after that time, I don't believe.

EP:

Were they marches or were they in front of specific targets or what?

SO:

They were basically just marches.

EP:

In other words, you didn't stop at any place.

SO:

No. We would just like, start out by the Hayes-Taylor Y and maybe march downtown and back to the Hayes-Taylor Y.

EP:

Did you participate in either the sit-down on Greene Street June fifth or the sit-in in the square on June sixth?

SO:

No.

EP:

Neither one of those?

SO:

No.

EP:

Why?

SO:

I really don't know why. I really don't.

EP:

I understand that that was the climax of it, and that after that demonstrations were suspended while the mayor made certain promises. The, the—a number of the theatres did desegregate. A few days later—a week or so later S&W desegregated. The Human Relations Commission was set up. Do you recall how all of this was conveyed to you? Was it at a mass meeting? Or did mass meetings continue to be held, even though demonstrations weren't held?

SO:

Yeah, they were.

EP:

Were they more or less to convey information?

SO:

Yeah. They would let us know, you know, exactly what was going on and what places had integrated, and you know, what places were holding back, and this type thing.

EP:

Were there, were there statements that “if nothing comes through by the summer, we will start again”?

SO:

Yes.

EP:

Why didn't demonstrations start up again in the fall?

SO:

I really don't know.

EP:

Now, had you graduated from Dudley that, that—

SO:

Yes, that spring.

EP:

Where did you go to school that fall?

SO:

A&T.

EP:

Did CORE continue to meet?

SO:

Not to my knowledge.

EP:

In other words, everything just more or less ceased with—

SO:

It just ceased, yes.

EP:

Elizabeth Laizner says that, you know, occasionally they would picket a business, like the NAACP asked them to, to picket the Wachovia I believe—

SO:

Yes.

EP:

—because they refused to hire black tellers. There was a business of picketing at the Asheboro Street Kroger [grocery store] when they refused to hire a black cashier and eventually they got a black manager.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Did you participate in any of this?

SO:

The one at Kroger.

EP:

Was this just as an individual, or was this a CORE effort?

SO:

Basically as an individual. The NAACP did, you know, ask us on several occasions to do things, and by word of mouth we would find out. Well, my father was active with both of them anyway.

EP:

Well, you, you say that CORE did continue to meet that summer, and I have subsequently heard that Bill's younger brother Alvin Thomas was elected chairman—

SO:

Right.

EP:

—and, but that it was mostly a paper organization, that, that really, by '65 the whole thing had [inaudible]. Do you know why it withered away?

SO:

No.

EP:

But it just ceased functioning as a, as CORE.

SO:

Right.

EP:

Why did your sister cease to participate in CORE?

SO:

I don't know.

EP:

Were you involved in any other civil rights activity after that summer of '63?

SO:

No.

EP:

You say that you did go to the March on Washington?

SO:

Right, I went to that.

EP:

Now how was that arranged?

SO:

That was arranged through ministers in Greensboro. Floyd McKissick again, you know, and Reverend Cox let us know that this was taking place, and the officers got together and chartered buses and everything. We met at St. Stephen's church and left there early that morning to go to Washington.

EP:

Do you know about what time you arrived?

SO:

We arrived somewhere near lunchtime that day.

EP:

Did you go directly to the—were, were you told where to go?

SO:

Yes. We went directly to the site. The bus drivers already knew, you know, where to park the buses and everything.

EP:

Did you then go directly to the—march directly to the Lincoln Memorial, or was there something else that happened before then?

SO:

No, we went directly there.

EP:

Where were you in the crowd? Were you in the far back, the middle, the front, or what?

SO:

In the middle.

EP:

But could you clearly see the speakers and everything?

SO:

Not really, no. It was just so—I had never seen so many people in all of my life.

EP:

How were you fed?

SO:

We boxed our lunches. We boxed food.

EP:

Here in Greensboro?

SO:

Yes. People just brought baskets of food in for everybody to take. People that weren't participating, you know, would just bring stuff by the church.

EP:

Did you stay pretty much in the same place or did you go to different places, walk around?

SO:

I went to different places, just walked around and listened and sat. And it was a long day.

EP:

Did you ever march anywhere else that, that day, or just the march to the Lincoln Memorial and back?

SO:

Just the march to the Lincoln Memorial and back.

EP:

About what time did y'all return to Greensboro?

SO:

We left that evening after dark. And I guess we got back here maybe late—early—the wee hours of the morning. It was dark when we got back.

EP:

And you participated in no other meetings, picketings, or demonstrations after that time?

SO:

I didn't.

[End of Interview]