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Oral history interview with John Richmond by Eugene Pfaff


Date: January 29, 1978

Interviewee: John F. Richmond

Biographical abstract: John F. Richmond (1919-1987), father of David L. Richmond, one of the Greensboro Four, was an employee of the Water and Sewer Dept. of Greenboro, N.C.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a Januart 29, 1978, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with John Richmond, Richmond discusses race relations in Greensboro, his support for the sit-in movement, and the role of his son, David Richmond, as a member of the Greensboro Four. He mentions the recognition of the sit-ins and his son’s contribution to the civil rights movement, black community support for nonviolent demonstrations, and the response of the Greensboro Police Department.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.569

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 John Richmond by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

I'd like to begin by asking you, Mr. Richmond, how would you describe race relations in Greensboro over the years, particularly in the late 1950s?

JOHN RICHMOND:

Well, I think it was good even till then. But a lot of these big companies just had a policy not to serve Negroes. And it hadn't been pushed, you know, until that time.

EP:

Were race relations as progressive as the white leadership at that time expressed?

JR:

Yes. It was—I think it was good even before the sit-ins.

EP:

What were the major areas of discontent, if any, in the black community over the progress of race relations and opportunities for blacks in Greensboro?

JR:

Well, the most of the things then, you know, is being served at lunch counters. Even when they go up in town to shop, they didn't have anywhere to be served. If they want to sit down for a sandwich, Coca-Cola, or something like that, they had to go all the way back into the black communities to be served.

EP:

How about employment? Did they feel they were getting their fair share of jobs in Greensboro, or were they just restricted to manual labor or poor paying jobs?

JR:

I think they were getting their fair share of jobs.

EP:

How much interaction was there between the black and white leaders? For instance, Dr. [William] Hampton is frequently cited as being a moderate and positive voice for the black community to the white leadership by serving on the [Greensboro] City Council and a number of other capacities.

JR:

Well, I think, all during the years, if a Negro qualified, I think that he got those positions, if he qualified for it.

EP:

You don't feel that they had any difficulty in obtaining positions or not receiving positions?

JR:

Right, right.

EP:

You've mentioned that blacks were unable to eat downtown or to use bathroom facilities downtown. Was there much interaction between whites and blacks downtown, or in other sections of the city, or did they tend to stay, work, and shop in their own community?

JR:

No, because they shopped in the downtown area.

EP:

In other words, they could buy goods; they just couldn't sit down and eat.

JR:

Right. Couldn't sit down and eat, [had to] use that—a specific bathroom for Negroes and whites and the water fountains.

EP:

Was there wide discontent in the black community that this was the condition?

JR:

Yeah. They didn't like that too well.

EP:

You mentioned that no one had pushed to have this, the lunch counters desegregated. Why had no one pushed?

JR:

Well, I don't guess that they got around to it until these four boys [Ezell Blair Jr.(now known as Jibreel Khazan), Franklin McCain, Joseph McNeil, David Richmond] just decided to take—they wanted to sit down and eat. Well, one thing they went in town—see, they were all four of them, they were freshmen at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University]. And they went in town to buy supplies [on Feb. 1, 1960]. And they decided they wanted a sandwich and all. And so they walked up to the counter and asked for—to be waited on. And they wouldn't wait on them. So they said, “Well, we'll sit down then.”

EP:

Are you aware of any previous attempts to desegregate the lunch counters or the movie theatres? There was one time when a number of blacks stood in front of the Center Theatre downtown in the 1930s and requested service and were refused. Are you aware of any other attempts, similar to this incident, to desegregate prior to the sit-in movement?

JR:

No. I can't remember of any. And they did have a big march at one time. I don't remember the exact dates on that. But they marched for, you know, to get better service and all.

EP:

Did you participate in this or any similar incidents?

JR:

Well, I marched with them a couple of times.

EP:

Where did you march?

JR:

Well, downtown. We met at Trinity AME Zion Church and marched, a nonviolent march just through town.

EP:

Was there any trouble or heckling or anything?

JR:

No, no, nothing.

EP:

Who was in charge of that demonstration?

JR:

I'm trying to figure. It was some of the leaders from the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored Peoples].

EP:

Well, how did members of the black community in general feel about Greensboro, about the racial policy of the city council, the mayor, the people who had power and influence in town? What was their feeling about Greensboro and these people? Were they resentful?

JR:

No. Because we already had a good relationship in Greensboro with the council, the police chief, and all of that—all during the years.

EP:

So there wasn't this constant demand for equality and service and job opportunities? It just came periodically?

JR:

Right. And I'll go back to what I said, that it was a policy of [F. W.] Woolworth Company not to serve Negroes.

And for other companies, it was their policy. Not that they didn't want to, but that was their policy. And once there was—these boys had the sit-down—they carried it to the companies and they decided to open it up for—

EP:

Are you aware of any feelings of intimidation or prejudice on the part of the city officials and the police toward the black community?

JR:

No.

EP:

Did you ever feel there was a potential for violence between blacks and whites in Greensboro?

JR:

No. I don't think it ever got to that point.

EP:

What influences in David's [David Richmond, John F. Richmond's son] childhood and teenage years encouraged him to become a civil rights activist? Did he always express an interest in civil rights and equality of opportunity for blacks?

JR:

Well, yes. Even when he was in high school he always said that he wanted to be free to do what he wanted to do. And he felt that he should be able to—if he wanted a sandwich anywhere or to go anywhere and spend his money.

EP:

Did he ever attempt to do anything like this when he was a younger person?

JR:

No, not until he reached college—freshman year in college.

EP:

He went to Dudley High School.

JR:

Right.

EP:

And do you recall his younger education, where he went in the primary or elementary grades?

JR:

He went to Jonesboro Elementary School. And from there he went to Dudley High.

EP:

Did he ever express any feeling of admiration for certain black leaders or black protests or civil rights movements?

JR:

Well, he thought a lot of Dr. [Martin Luther] King and a Dr. Rudolph [A. Philip Randolph?] from Chicago. Now, he's actually the one that inspired the sit-in. He came here and spoke at Hayes-Taylor YMCA at one time. And he said that he thought that a man should be able to sit down and eat anywhere he wanted to, as long as he spent his money and paid his money for it. I think he inspired the four boys to do that.

EP:

Do you recall his full name?

JR:

No, I can't recall his full name.

EP:

Do you know what organization he represented?

JR:

No, I don't know that either.

EP:

How far—how long before the sit-in on February first did this speech occur?

JR:

Well, I'd say about three months before. And then this happened right about three months after.

EP:

Did David talk about the speech and its influence on him?

JR:

Yeah.

EP:

Had he known any of the other three freshmen who sat with him that first day in Woolworth before?

JR:

Well, yes, he knew Blair, because he was a Greensboro boy. But McCain and McNeil, they were from out of town. Blair [unclear]—[Mc]Neil, from Wilmington, North Carolina, and McCain he was from—he was living in Washington, D.C., at the time.

EP:

Did David live at home or on campus?

JR:

He stayed here at the house, at home.

EP:

Do you attribute your influence and your wife's influence on David's decision to become a civil rights activist, or to at least sit down at the Woolworth counter?

JR:

No. Because I think it was—he just went out on his own. Because when I knew anything they were sitting, they were sitting in and marching for—

EP:

Did he discuss with you beforehand that he was going to sit down at the counter?

JR:

No, no, he didn't.

EP:

How did you first hear of the incident?

JR:

Well, during the time that it happened, someone called me on the job and told me that they were down there sitting down.

EP:

And where were you working?

JR:

I worked for the city of Greensboro.

EP:

In what capacity?

JR:

Water, sewer department. I repaired water heaters for the city—still repair.

EP:

Did you then talk with David about what he had done, and what he planned to do?

JR:

No. Because I kind of went along with them on it, because after he told me what their plans—and I kind of agreed with them. And they were doing it nonviolent. It wasn't—

EP:

What did he say their plans were?

JR:

Well, to get—just wanted to sit down and eat when they went downtown to buy supplies. And they were a nonviolent group.

EP:

Did the other demonstrators, the other three freshmen, and the later demonstrators, did they come over to talk to David, or did they ever meet in this house?

JR:

No. They always done their meeting in the library at A&T, Scott Hall [dormitory].

EP:

Did you continue to talk with David about his role in the demonstrations?

JR:

Well, all I told him just not get in any trouble, you know. As long as he was doing it nonviolent, I agree with him.

EP:

What were your feelings about his participation in this movement?

JR:

Well, naturally, I was afraid for him because I didn't know what would happen.

EP:

Did you feel any pressure on the job, any resentment from your other city employees or city workers because of David's participation in this—

JR:

Not any, not any.

EP:

No one ever spoke to you.

JR:

No.

EP:

Did you ever receive any telephone calls that were of an ugly nature or a threatening nature?

JR:

No, never.

EP:

Did you ever feel any pressure from the job or any segment of the Greensboro population to try to convince David not to continue with the demonstrations?

JR:

No, never did. In fact, I think that Greensboro as a whole, as I said, is one of the best cities. And I think it happened at the right place of other cities and states, too, because this was a good city to have—for it to happen at.

EP:

You've mentioned that you told David not to get in any trouble.

JR:

Right.

EP:

Was there any other advice on your part to David?

JR:

Not only—I just told him not to get in any trouble, and that was all the advice.

EP:

Did David play a continuing role in the sit-ins after that first day? Did he continue to go down and sit at the Woolworth and Kress counters?

JR:

Not that I can remember. I think the other students, they took over from there and went—

EP:

So David did not become a leader of the demonstrations?

JR:

No, he didn't. He didn't become a leader.

EP:

Was David ever arrested?

JR:

Never, no.

EP:

Did he then go back to school or did he continue to—you've mentioned that he had not continued to sit-down at the counters. Did he march in demonstrations or participate in any other protests concerning the lunch counters?

JR:

Not that I can remember.

EP:

He just went there that first day?

JR:

Right. And, of course, naturally, a lot of people come up to him and asked, “What should we do about this?” And he was constantly telling them to be nonviolent, not to be violent.

EP:

Was he sought out as a leader by the other students?

JR:

Yes, he was.

EP:

But he did not participate in any other demonstrations?

JR:

No. I think after that, Reverend Jesse Jackson—he started leading mostly.

EP:

Did you or your family suffer from David's actions? For instance, a threat to the loss of your job or any feeling of ostracism or being shunned by the community?

JR:

No, never.

EP:

What was the reaction of the other children in your family?

JR:

Well, they thought it was a great thing he was doing.

EP:

Did you ever go down to the downtown area when the sit-ins were going on and witness what was happening?

JR:

No, I didn't.

EP:

What were your feelings concerning the sit-ins? You've mentioned that you went along with them.

JR:

Well, I agreed with them. And I felt that what they were doing—they were trying to get their rights, and I think—and I agreed with them because they were trying to get their rights. And they were all grown young men. I think they were around nineteen at the time, all four of them, nineteen.

EP:

What was the reaction of your neighbors and friends?

JR:

Well, they all agreed with them. They all thought it was a nice thing for them to do.

EP:

And no one at your job ever said anything about, why is your son doing this—or anything like that?

JR:

No, never.

EP:

Did you work with white men or was it a racially mixed crew that you worked with?

JR:

I think it was only two Negroes working on the job I was on and about ten whites. Paul, my friend there, he's sitting over there. We were the two working for the city at the time. He since then, he's retired now, but I'm still with them.

EP:

What was the attitude of the black community towards the students? Were they proud of them and supported them or did they resent them as threatening any advances in race relations that had already been made in Greensboro?

JR:

No. They were proud of them and supported them in their efforts.

EP:

What was the attitude of the students, David in particular, toward the older members of the black community? Did they want them to join in their protests and their demonstrations?

JR:

Well, they never asked them to join in with them.

EP:

Did other members of the community join the students, or was it pretty much a student organization—

JR:

It was a student, student body itself.

EP:

A couple of quotes in the newspaper at that time quoted some of the students as criticizing the older members of the black community for not having pushed harder for civil rights and integration. Did you ever hear any of this from any of the younger members of the community or the students?

JR:

Well, I did hear a few ask why the older people didn't. But I think most of the older people had their jobs and they was afraid that they didn't know what would happen if they did.

EP:

They were afraid of being fired if they—

JR:

Right. But I don't think it would have. But they were just being careful and cautious.

EP:

Did they seem to resent this attitude of the students?

JR:

No, they didn't resent it.

EP:

Was there a fear of violence or economic revenge on the part—or reprisals on the part of the white community? Did members of the black community say, “All right, well, they might start laying some of us off unless we tell the students to stop demonstrating, or they might get stricter on the stores we can patronize downtown”? Was there any of that feeling in the black community?

JR:

I don't think it was, because, as I said before, they agreed with the four. They was behind them 100 percent. But they didn't want to participate in it themselves.

EP:

What was the reaction of the sit-downs from the traditional leaders of the black community, for instance, Dr. [George] Simkins of the NAACP, the black ministers in town. Were they supportive of the movement, or did they feel that the students were amateurs and might destroy the opportunities to change the racial situation in Greensboro?

JR:

No. I think that they talked with them. And I think that's one reason that they—to help them to be nonviolent because of that—they really had the training from the teachers at A&T and—

EP:

Did the NAACP actively get involved in training the students in nonviolence?

JR:

No. No. It came about from the college, from A&T College, their advisors there, see.

EP:

They did not resent the students in feeling that they were taking over their positions of leadership.

JR:

No, I don't think so.

EP:

What effect did his actions have on David personally?

JR:

Well, it did change him a lot because after that he started receiving awards from different organizations. I have one there on the wall in my—well, he got others in Franklin [North Carolina] with him. He got one from the Jewish and Christian Foundation [National Conference of Christians and Jews]—award from them. And he had one from the NAACP in Durham, North Carolina—the one hanging there. And he had one from East White Oak Community Center he had counseled. They had an award day in the community for him couple of years ago.

EP:

You say it changed him. In what way did it change him?

JR:

Well, I think it helped him to be more of a leader. And it made him a better, I'd say a better citizen.

EP:

Did he ever feel that it caused him to have trouble with his grades and to have been responsible for disrupting his college career?

JR:

No, because I think that when he quit school—he got married. That's why he quit. And I think he had less than eight hours to complete it. And he's been offered to go to Guilford College and finish it up, but he never did; he just never did have the time to go back after he was raising a family.

EP:

When did he quit school, his freshman year or later on?

JR:

Later on. I think he had to about the third year he was in college.

EP:

The book Lunch at the 5 & 10—the author of that book, Miles Wolff, indicated that the original four demonstrators and some of the others felt that they had a great deal of problems in maintaining their grade point average, particularly as the protests moved on into April and May and it was coming toward their exam periods. Did David's grades suffer because of his participation in the demonstrations or his involvement?

JR:

No, because he always brought good grades home, brought good grades.

EP:

And he did not feel that the sit-ins materially affected his grades?

JR:

No, no.

EP:

Or his college career.

JR:

Right.

EP:

Did David want to continue in civil rights activity after college?

JR:

No.

EP:

He was interested in pursuing his career.

JR:

Right, right.

EP:

What did he do after he left college?

JR:

He started working for—I guess it was a government or a state job. He worked for New Careers here in Greensboro, and they trained students. In other words, people that wasn't able—they'd put these students in school, and the government would pay for it.

EP:

Did he have a number of different jobs, or did he stay with that job for a length of time?

JR:

Well, he stayed with that job until a year ago, December, when he moved to Franklin, North Carolina. And then he started working with Burlington Industries there.

EP:

Did he ever feel he received his jobs because of the fame he gained or attention he gained as one of the first four sit-in demonstrators?

JR:

No, I don't think so because he had to train to do these jobs, this job anyway.

EP:

Did he ever feel that he did not receive a job because of people's resentment at his [having] started this movement?

JR:

Well, yes, in a way he did, because he did try to get a couple of jobs before and couldn't get them. And he thought maybe that could have had something to do with it.

EP:

Did anyone openly say that was the reason, or did he just feel that?

JR:

No, he just felt that way.

EP:

What was his reaction and feeling about his participation in the sit-ins, in particular to others who had gone on and made a reputation for themselves in various civil rights organizations, such as the Reverend Jesse Jackson, while he did not?

JR:

Well, he did say that he wanted to, as I say, he got married, he wanted to raise a family. And he didn't want to pursue it, and that he figured he had done his part.

EP:

Did he ever feel that he hadn't received adequate recognition for his participation in the sit-ins?

JR:

Well, yes, in a way. And we have mentioned it, a lot of my friends have mentioned it—that they gave Jesse Jackson and Dr. King most of the recognition, in which they didn't do anything in the city.

EP:

Did David or your family realize that the A&T students had started a nationwide protest movement when they began sitting in?

JR:

No, they didn't. I thought it would just stop locally.

[Knock on door]

EP:

How is he regarded now?

JR:

Well, he—

EP:

Some people have said that it was the beginning of the modern civil rights movement. Does he share that view?

JR:

Yes, he shares that view. And the four boys, they talk constantly. Now you take Thursday will be February—I mean will be the anniversary, the nineteenth anniversary of the sit-in. And they're getting together now. They talk to each other during that time. And a few of them might come in for it, or that's what David said.

EP:

Do they correspond with one another frequently?

JR:

Yeah, frequently. I know David called me yesterday morning. And he had talked with McCain and McNeil for a while—McNeil was here in North Carolina last week.

EP:

How do you regard it now? Do you share the view that it was of national significance and materially changed the racial situation in, not only Greensboro, but the country?

JR:

Yes, I do. I feel—because I used to travel a lot myself, and we'd go to football games, and we'd have to buy and pack our lunch before we left Greensboro, or we couldn't stop at a café or restaurant between here and Washington, D.C., or Florida, or wherever we were going. So I felt that it helped better the situation as a whole.

EP:

What effect did the sit-ins have on your later life?

JR:

Well, I just say it was a good thing to have happened.

EP:

But it didn't effect your life in any way?

JR:

No, no.

EP:

How about David's?

JR:

I don't think it affected his either.

EP:

Has he been able to lead the life of a private citizen, or does he, is he regarded as something of a celebrity?

JR:

Well, a lot of people regard him as that, but he doesn't himself.

EP:

Does he want recognition for his participation in the sit-ins, or does he want to be left alone or ignored?

JR:

Well, naturally, he's going to get the recognition. But, like I say, he'd rather just be a private citizen.

EP:

Well, periodically—I know the news media sought him out in 1970. NBC [National Broadcasting Company] filmed a sequence when the four demonstrators came back to Greensboro for a reunion.

JR:

Right.

EP:

Does this bother David? Does this trouble him that he is sought out from time to time by the national news media?

JR:

No. I don't think it bothers him.

EP:

The lunch counters at Woolworth's and Kress stores were not desegregated until July 1960, although the first sit-in occurred on February 1, 1960. And this was after the A&T students had left for the summer or had graduated.

JR:

Right.

EP:

What effort did the older members of the black community make to continue the protests after June?

JR:

They didn't. It just [was] at a standstill.

EP:

Did the students continue to try to sit-in at the lunch counters? I know that there was a shift from sitting-in to picketing.

JR:

Right. That was—I think Jesse Jackson led the picketing.

EP:

And that was the students again.

JR:

Right.

EP:

Who had the greater influence on the eventual outcome, the students, the older leaders of the black community, or some combination of both?

JR:

I think it was a combination of both.

EP:

What do you recall as the final outcome? How many counters were desegregated eventually?

JR:

Well, in a few months, a few months later Woolworth's opened up their lunch counters, and gradually, all the rest started, all over the whole United States.

EP:

What was the reaction of the black community here in Greensboro?

JR:

Well, that's when they started giving the four boys recognition for what they had done.

EP:

A sense of victory and pride?

JR:

Right.

EP:

Did they go to the stores in large numbers to be served, or did they just gradually, on a one-by-one basis, start going and eating at Woolworth's and Kress and other stores?

JR:

Well, at first it was just the four boys. And then gradually, a few more would go up, four or five at the time, and sit in.

EP:

How about after the store agreed to desegregate? The other members of the black community, did they go up there in large numbers or did they go by ones and twos or individually?

JR:

By ones and twos.

EP:

Was there any request on the part of the store or the city government that large numbers of blacks not go and sit at the lunch counter, that they just come by ones and twos?

JR:

No, they didn't request how many could go.

EP:

It was just totally voluntary on the part of the black community?

JR:

Right, right.

EP:

Did blacks continue to patronize the stores after the novelty of being able to be served at the lunch-counter passed?

JR:

Yes, they continued to patronize.

EP:

Was there any continuation of efforts to desegregate other stores—

JR:

No.

EP:

—such as Mayfair Cafeteria, O. Henry [Hotel], King Cotton [Hotel], restaurants?

JR:

I'm trying to figure—

EP:

I know there was a resurgence of demonstrations in 1962.

JR:

And I think that was Mayfair involved in that.

EP:

But none right after—

JR:

No.

EP:

—Woolworth's.

JR:

No.

EP:

What was your reaction to the manner in which the police handled the situation?

JR:

I think they'd done a good job.

EP:

I know that eventually some of the demonstrators were arrested, but there was a long period there when they were not arrested for trespassing and disturbing the peace. Whereas, in Raleigh and Durham and other cities, they were arrested. Do you feel that this was a positive step on the part of the police department?

JR:

No—

EP:

Or the students?

JR:

I think it was necessary for them to do what they did. And, as I said a while ago, I think it happened in the best city because they did, the city [of Greensboro] Police Department, the city council, they tried to protect the boys, the students. And the citizens as a whole—

EP:

The citizens as a whole—they actively did try to protect the A&T students.

JR:

The citizens as a whole in Greensboro—right.

EP:

Was David or anyone you knew ever injured?

JR:

No.

EP:

Did you know anyone who was arrested?

JR:

No.

EP:

Would you agree or disagree with those that said that Greensboro was more moderate in handling the situation than other cities in North Carolina and in other states?

JR:

Yeah, I'd say that because they really handled it well.

EP:

What, in your opinion, was the short- and long-term outcome of the sit-ins? Let's take the short outcome first. The black patrons of the stores of Woolworth's and Kress were able to eat.

JR:

Right.

EP:

Were there any other more long-term, long-range effects of the sit-ins? Do you think this carried over into a better race relations in Greensboro or worse?

JR:

I think it was a better relations.

EP:

Did you perceive any resentment on the part of the white community?

JR:

No.

EP:

Because when the demonstrations were going on, there were groups, mostly of young, white high school students who said things and carried the anti-demonstration slogans. But did this exhibit itself after the stores were desegregated or did all of this just pass away?

JR:

And, let me mention this, too. Now you take while they were demonstrating, they got a lot of support from Guilford College, UNCG [University of North Carolina at Greensboro], and Greensboro College, those white colleges. They helped them and supported them in it.

EP:

Did David ever describe to you his feelings when he first sat down, fears of being attacked or arrested?

JR:

Well, he didn't know what was going to happen. He was afraid of what was going to happen. And it came out better than he thought it.

EP:

Did he describe what any members of the white community did? I know that in other days there were things thrown at the students, there were things said to them. I think there were even instances of cigarettes being crushed out on their heads. Did he describe any of this to you?

JR:

No, no.

EP:

In other words, they were not bothered by the crowd that first day?

JR:

No, no. They wasn't bothered.

EP:

Did David indicate to you why he did not continue with the demonstrations?

JR:

No, he didn't, never did say why.

EP:

Do you think that the sit-in demonstrations at Woolworth's and Kress influenced the later demonstrations in 1962 to desegregate the cafeterias and the movie theatres?

JR:

Yes, I do think it played its part in it.

EP:

Are you aware of any of the students who participated in the sit-ins also participating in those demonstrations? You've mentioned Reverend Jesse Jackson, but any others?

JR:

No, because at the time when Jesse Jackson, Reverend Jackson, took over, it was a new group altogether of students and all.

EP:

So none of the other three freshmen who participated with David in that first day of sit-ins continued on with the other sit-ins?

JR:

No, no.

EP:

What did the successful desegregation of the lunch counter at Woolworth and Kress mean to the black community? I mean, obviously, it meant they could now eat there, but, more than that.

JR:

Well, it gave them a feeling of freedom, a better feeling of being free. Although I've never eaten at Kress's or Woolworth's, but it just makes you feel good to know that you could if you wanted to.

EP:

Do you think that the relationship between the black community and the white power structure changed in any way as a result of the sit-in?

JR:

I don't think so.

EP:

Do you think that the young groups of black students these days acknowledge that many of the things they can do now, freedoms and so forth they now enjoy, are as a result of what David and other students did at this time?

JR:

Well, I tell you, I don't think that the news media, and the black leaders—I say it for the black leaders. A lot of the students right now, say in high school now, they don't know a thing about who started it. They don't, they just don't have it in the history books for them.

EP:

Do you think this is the fault of the instruction, the history instruction in the schools?

JR:

Right, that's what I think.

EP:

Did you at any time that the demonstrations were going on at Woolworth's, were you contacted by the national news media, television, radio, newspaper?

JR:

Only ABC [American Broadcasting Company], they contacted [me]—Harry Reasoner—and they let us know what dates they was coming on, would be on his program and all.

EP:

Did they send a film crew down here?

JR:

Yes, they did.

EP:

Was this while it was going on or in later years?

JR:

Later years. This was in '70; [unclear] I believe it was '73.

EP:

Have you continued to be contacted by people doing research on the sit-ins, your opinions as David's father on the sit-ins?

JR:

Well, yes. They wanted to know what I felt about it.

EP:

What sort of answers did you give them?

JR:

Well, I always give them the answer that I felt that they were young men and that was their decision. They made it themselves.

EP:

What did the sit-ins mean to David and his subsequent career? You've mentioned that you don't think the younger students today know very much about it and are not aware that David was one of the four demonstrators who began the sit-ins in Greensboro. Do you think he is remembered in that way or that it's had any influence on his subsequent career?

JR:

Well, I think a lot of the older ones know about it. But, as I said before, the younger generation, the students that's coming on now, they don't know about it or either they don't talk about it.

EP:

Well, thank you very much for talking with me, Mr. Richmond. This interview was conducted in Mr. Richmond's home on January 29, 1979 as part of the Greensboro Public Library's Oral History program.

[End of Interview]