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Oral history interview with Edward Zane by William Link


Date: February 13, 1987

Interviewee: Edward Raymond Zane

Biographical abstract: Edward R. Zane (1899-1991), a Burlington Industries executive, served on the city council from 1957 to 1961 and was chairman of the mayor-appointed Human Relations Commission in 1960.

Interviewer: William Link

Description:

In this transcript of a February 13, 1987, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Alvin Thomas, Zane recalls the environment for blacks in Greensboro and the results of desegregation of schools and facilities. He discusses the formation of the Human Relations Commission, the meetings he had with student leaders, and his role in desegregating theatres and restaurants.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.596

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 Edward Zane by William Link

William Link:

This is William Link, and the date is February 13, 1987. We are here today with Mr. Edward R. Zane, in Greensboro, North Carolina. Mr. Zane, I wonder if you could tell me just a little bit about your background--where you were born, where you were educated?

Edward Zane:

I was born in Arlington, Tennessee. In 1914, at the call for volunteers by President Wilson, I enlisted in the United States military forces. And when the air forces was organized I transferred to the air forces. And following the end of the war in 1919, I was discharged in Washington, D.C., and there went to Georgetown University to complete my education. Upon completion of the education, I returned to Tennessee and in 1929 moved to Greensboro, North Carolina.

At that point and time, Greensboro was a community of about twenty-two to twenty-three thousand people—a very attractive city. The relationship in the town was good. There was nothing that occurred in the twenties, that I recall, that implied any serious difficulties between races.

I was particularly interested in the education area, to see what was happening with the children. And segregation struck me—black children going to one school and white children going to others. My observation, by having children in school, convinced me that there were no equal facilities. The legal status of separation of white people's facilities over blacks was non-existent. And from my very young days, particularly after my return from military service, segregation was a matter of intense interest to me. It was wrong legally, was incompatible with our Constitution. And I'm a strong believer that anything that divides the people of the nation will weaken the nation, and segregation should be done away with.

WL:

Was this something that you would express—

EZ:

I've expressed it many times, to friends. They didn't agree with me. But I think the real evidence of a well-rounded individual is the ability to listen. He may disagree, but still can retain principle. I have always been against the segregation, or differentiation in the races, between citizens. Any nation that divides itself into groups is going to weaken itself and is going to lose a great deal of its strength.

This continued. My living in Greensboro was very, very pleasant. I made many friends on both the low level and the high level. In other words, I made no distinction. My making of friends was between the wealthy and the poor. I had many friends in the black area. I had many friends in the white area. A great deal of it was misunderstood as to why I would create friendships. Well, I was interested in the progress that was being made towards at least giving the blacks equal facilities.

WL:

What kind of progress was being made in, say, the 1930s and '40s?

EZ:

The progress was practically zero from the standpoint of the educational area. From the treatment of the blacks, I would say without any hesitancy, that those of the white people that employed blacks treated them well. I have no recollection or any knowledge of ever having seen a black ill-treated that was working for someone else. The principle observation I was going through is, or rather was, are we treating the black citizen on an equal basis with the white? And there was no answer to it, even now. In my mind, it was inevitable that eventually it had to be. I hope I didn't go [unclear], because I'm a great believer that you can't ask me to establish your rights under law by violating the law.

WL:

What—you mentioned earlier, before we turned the tape recording machine on, that you had recollections as a veteran of the First World War about segregation in the military.

EZ:

Segregation was evident in the armed forces, not only with the blacks, but with the whites also. In other words, a person born, say, an Italian, he was a “wop.” Or a person that was in there from Spain—that is, his heritage, he was born or his parents were born there, he was a “dago.” They had names for everyone, and that's not good. I didn't agree with that at all.

WL:

Was there tension, racial tension in the army?

EZ:

Yes, yes there was. There were many fights developed between not just black and white, but between Italians and others, and French and others. And the thing was a mess from the standpoint of—I think it was related to the pride of an individual—sort of, “Well, I'm French, and I think France is the best country in the world.” And an Italian thought his country was the best. None of them recognizing that once you become a citizen of the United States, it's this country that you're part of, not France, not Britain, not Germany. Because in the final analysis, we're all immigrants. There isn't anyone in the United States who didn't immigrate. People came from Italy, or Germany, or Sweden, England. We're all immigrants.

WL:

The military was organized into separate units, I guess, and segregated by race?

EZ:

No, it was not segregated, never had segregation. But relationships in one barrack, there would be—we had some blacks, we had some Italians, we'd have some others—there was always that conflict.

WL:

When you were in Greensboro, when you first came to Greensboro, obviously there were physical signs of segregation, like signs—

EZ:

Yes, it was miserable that the blacks—many a time I went in and sat down, say, at one of the Woolworth or another store—sit down, and a black came in. He could buy a sandwich, but he couldn't sit down and eat it. He could get a drink, but he couldn't sit down and eat. Well, that just didn't seem right to me. He's an individual citizen of the United States. He's paying the same price I'm paying. Why should he be told, “You can't eat that over there”?

WL:

Did you see during this period—let's say, before the Second World War, before 1941—any evidence of change, in terms of relationships between blacks and whites? Or was it a period of—

EZ:

They were pretty near the same. I saw very little difference. We had a large military base over here, and that caused some problems. Now within the military there was no distinction, no segregation of any kind. But once they walked out of the military base into the city, there were certain places they just couldn't go.

WL:

This was during the Second World War?

EZ:

Right.

WL:

Yes.

EZ:

I have two sons, one in the navy and one in the air corps in World War II. And there again, I felt hurt that here are people fighting with us on an equal basis on our own turf for the preservation of our freedom, if you want to call it that—at least for our own personal welfare. And why the distinction? Why should my son be able to go anywhere he wants to, and somebody else's son, because he's black, yet he's in the military, he can't go? That just didn't, didn't sit right with me.

WL:

You mentioned that in your experience, that employer-employee relationships—it was always good relationships between blacks and whites. Was this uniformly true in Greensboro, do you think?

EZ:

In the vast majority, yes, it was, it was. Now inside—another thing that really was commendable to me—for instance, in my home we had two black girls. They sat at the same table. When we ate, we sat in the dining room and ate, or if we were there and had room, and just the family and no guests, we would just tell them, “Come in, sit down.” We didn't make any distinction between being black or being white.

WL:

But that was unusual, I mean, typically?

EZ:

Most unusual. And there were a lot of people who felt a great deal as I did, but didn't have the courage to speak out. They agreed with me, but they knew if they made it known, why, they were going to lose friends and they might make enemies.

WL:

Let's talk a little bit about the 1950s, which seems to be a decade in which things are changing, or were they? What do you—how do you remember the fifties in terms of race relations?

EZ:

Well, the biggest event in the fifties was the decision of the United States Supreme Court [Brown v. Board of Education] voiding the mandatory segregation, separate but equal, in saying that schools should be equal. And at that particular point in time, I was attending a meeting of, let's see, close to two hundred [unclear]. And I was asked what I felt. And I said, “Well, finally we came to the right decision, and now,” I said, “blacks and whites are going to be mixing in schools.” “No,” the majority of them said, “no.” Will you ever see blacks and whites in the same schoolhouse is an understatement. Once the Supreme Court has spoken, now that's the law of the land. And whether you like it, or whether I like it or don't like it, schools will be integrated.

WL:

But the general reaction was that they did not like it?

EZ:

No, no, that I was wrong, that it would never be. And of course, you know what happened in Alabama and other places. And we had problems, some problems here in Greensboro, but not like Alabama, or Georgia, or the Deep South area. But they didn't agree with me. They spoke up and said, “You're completely wrong, it'll never happen,” and I just said, "Well."

WL:

Was there any feeling of the need to equalize facilities in order to preserve segregation? For example, making separate but black schools better, so as to prevent integration during the fifties?

EZ:

Well, they were talking about improving the facilities but keeping them separate, but I said, “You can't do it. The court's already spoken. There's no segregation. It's got to go.”

WL:

Would you say that following 1954 with the Brown decision there was a hardening of attitudes among—

EZ:

There was a resentment, and really you could say it was a hardening of attitudes. It was primarily a resentment that the court would overrule the [18]'94 decision and now we have to integrate. Though I think the court was wrong in [18]'94.

WL:

In the Plessy [v. Ferguson, 1896] case?

EZ:

Segregation in any manner is incompatible with the Constitution. Anyone who has studied law and studied history—under the Constitution you cannot differentiate between citizens. There's not even an inkling in the Constitution that that can be done.

WL:

Were there any efforts during the 1950s to reach accommodation between blacks and whites? How would you characterize contacts between blacks and whites?

EZ:

Well, there were. A number of efforts were made to talk to the people who had the lunch counters in different places, that now that segregation is out, you cannot segregate. In other words, not only schools. That means you cannot segregate people. A person comes in and you ought to let him in. Well, they—the reason was economic. All right, you do that no one will have any business. Whites were dropping out.

WL:

Fear on the part of merchants that they'll lose their business.

EZ:

Yes, the economic factors. “Well, I'd like to do it, if I could. But I'll lose my business.” That proved a big point—dollars and cents—in delaying the integration of other facilities besides the schools.

WL:

What about the development of what might be called white moderates on—well, such as yourself, for example. Were you alone, or were there other people like you?

EZ:

Oh, there were others, but none as willing to come out and stand up. Because it wasn't easy when one finally got to the sixties. And then for about a year and a half my life was made a living hell. My life was threatened, my wife was threatened, the telephone rang every fifteen minutes twenty-four hours a day. They had it set, day and night. My home was under surveillance, city police twenty-four hours a day. Not a lot of people willing to take that.

WL:

Who was this doing this? Who was this coming from?

EZ:

Well, you never could tell who it was coming from. But I—my feeling is that it came from the radical Ku Kluxers, or people of that stamp. Some of my very dear friends at first dropped me, because they were—because I wanted to integrate the restaurants, movies, and so on.

But I sided with the blacks, and I could not make them understand that to me, it's not a case of black and white. It's a case of law, justice. I'm not fighting for the person because he's black or because he's yellow. I'm fighting for the reason that any form of segregation, any method of denying to a citizen equal rights to another is wrong and can only hurt the nation in reflecting itself to the world. In other words, we're saying one thing in the Constitution, but our way of life tells them, “They're a bunch of liars.” We talk about equal rights, but they're not given equal rights.

And now, I'd feel differently if we had the guts to amend the Constitution and tell the world, “We will not recognize anyone except the Caucasian for citizenship in the United States. If you don't like it, don't come.” I'd disagree with you, but at least you're being honest.

WL:

So your position was essentially that the Constitution should be colorblind, and the law is in fact color blind?

EZ:

That is correct. Law should be color blind.

WL:

You were, were you on the city council?

EZ:

The city council, yes. And when the sit-ins started, I was on the city council. And when I heard about it through the police report, I went to both the Woolworth and Kress, went down to the lunch counter about—between ten and eleven o'clock. And the students were sitting at the counters, blocking. And whites were calling them all kinds of names and obscenities, and you could tell that all you needed was a spark and there was going to be some serious things occur.

And I told the city council, told the mayor, that something should be done, because if we don't do something, it's going to develop into rioting, and people are going to get killed. We're going to have people hurt. And we have a duty and responsibility to prevent it if we possibly can. They go, “What can we do?”

I said, “Well, we don't do anything.”

[The council said], “Well, what do you want to do?”

[I replied], “Well, tell them that their license will be taken away from them, because if you operate on a basis which impairs the security or welfare of the community, the license shouldn't be granted.” They didn't want to do that.

Well, that went on for close to a week, and the situation was getting still worse and more tense. And then I decided I would act on my own. So, I wrote a resignation to the city council and presented it to the mayor, and gave my reasons—that we had a duty to perform, we were not doing it, and if the city council as a council was not doing it, then I was going to act on my own by I resigning. Then it would be up to the mayor. The mayor refused to accept the resignation and agreed to appoint a committee. So I returned. That was the beginning of the Human Relations Committee to work with the students.

[tape paused]

WL:

We were talking about the special committee and the formation of the special committee—

EZ:

Well, when the special committee was formed, the first thing I did was to meet with the leaders of the student body that were doing the sit-ins, and I think [Jesse] Jackson was among them. And they were convinced beyond any doubt that I was sincere. And I asked for a delay of them, to stop all demonstrations, stop sit-ins, give me a period of two weeks. And I felt confident that within that two weeks I'd be able to work out a solution for them. They hesitated quite a while, and then they agreed they would do it. I said “I'll report to you daily.”

So the sit-ins terminated. And I met with the students at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] College then, and told them what I planned [on] doing, and spoke to them on nonviolence as being the basis to accomplish their result. And also, that if you are seeking your rights under law by violating the law, you don't build support. You build resentment. And you need the support of people. And the way to get it is to stand by your rights by living nonviolent, no violence. They agreed to go along with me.

And we started our negotiation with the Woolworth and Kress. Woolworth was willing to if Kress would. Kress was not willing to because he said it would destroy their business. I believe that Kress shut down the sandwich place, counter. And I think two weeks later I had to report back to the youngsters that the—I had failed to be able to secure the desegregation of the two places. I was sure that ultimately it would come. But I said, “Now, in fairness to you, I'll have to tell you that I wasn't successful. But I'm still going to go on dealing with this. But you're now free to do whatever you do. And whatever it is, please do it with no violence.”

Well, then they started their picketing—just walking up and down—no crowd, probably seven, or eight, or nine of them. They didn't attempt to go down and take over and control the eating places. In the meantime, our continuation of negotiations ended with both agreeing to desegregate and serve. That ended in March. And the question came up, well, how about—Belk's had a tea room, which was used extensively by the whites but not blacks. And I talked to them. And they said, “Well, Mr. Zane, we'll have people coming in here in overalls and dirty, and we're not going to have it.” I said, "Well, you're just building up things in your own mind." I said, "If you open it up, I'll assure you that you will not have anybody going in with overalls and dirty people coming in, sitting down at the table and eating. In the first place, they don't have the money to pay for it. Second, we'll make it a point to see it doesn't happen."

So, they had an informal agreement with me that if we would police it, they would give it a try. I had Dr. [Lewis] Dowdy [president of A&T] and his wife and Dr. [George] Evans [local black physician], I believe, and his wife agree to act as hostesses, just once. Well, it stayed open a week. No one went in there except a few of the top college professors or doctors, black doctors. But they called me up to tell me forget it. They said, “We don't need anybody up here. If they want to come in, let them come in.” Well, that went on and on, and they never had any problem at all.

And every situation has its comedy in it. One evening I was exceedingly busy and called home to tell them I would not be home for dinner, that I'd eat dinner in town. I had a brief I had to finish. And I went down to Arly's [?] on Summit Avenue. And as I went there—it was about 7:30—Dr. Evans and Dr. Dowdy and their wives were outside. Well, they greeted me and I greeted them. We shook hands. They said, “Are you going in to eat?” I said, “Yes.” They said, “Why don't you eat with us?” I said, “Well, I'd love to, but I'm in a rush. That's why I'm here. I didn't go home for dinner. I'll be in just to grab something and go back to the office.” So, they walked in with me.

Well, the hostess knew me well. She didn't know what to do. See, that restaurant had not integrated [unclear]. She didn't want to embarrass me. She thought they were with me. So, she took them in and sat them down. And I spoke to them for a few minutes, and then sat at a different table. And I was really in a rush. I had to get back to the office and finish something before morning.

The next morning, the owner of the restaurant called me. He said, “Ed, that was a sneaky way of integrating my restaurant.” [laughs] I said, “I had nothing to do with it. They were out there, they came in with me, and the hostess sat them.” He says, “Well, not a single complaint from any person in the restaurant. So, you tell them any time they want to eat here, they're welcome.” That's what happened there. It was just one of those things.

WL:

That integrated the restaurant?

EZ:

Oh yeah. He told me, he said, “You tell them that any time they want to come in, you let them know how we feel here.” Well, gradually that's what occurred.

I did that with the movies. I said, “I'll guarantee that there won't be more than five or eight black youngsters in the movie in any one night.” And the movies—moving picture houses—told me to go ahead and let it be known that they didn't have that many. So, gradually everything simmered down to where everyone realized that segregation was dead. The integration of all facilities is the only answer. And here we are today.

Now you have today differences between blacks and whites, but it's not related to segregation. To me, it's a personal thing. In other words, as I have told them time and time again, I can give you the same rights that I have, but I can't make you like me as a friend. And you can't make me you like me as a friend. I choose my own friends, and I choose my own social relationships.

You can't say, “Well, now, why should you belong to the country club—the Greensboro Country Club—and I can't.” Now you're getting into an area in which you're wrong, in my book. It's a private club. And if that's what they want over there, it's their privilege. And you can form your own, and you decide who you want. But you can't come in and complain because you won't be admitted in my home, or I won't be admitted in your home. That's my privilege, and that's your privilege. It has nothing to do with segregation, or desegregation, or legal rights. Now you're getting down to the individual's right under the Constitution to seek his own crowd.

WL:

So you draw the distinction between this former system which was by law requiring segregation in public places, and private?

EZ:

Private is different. I know a lot of white people that don't like me, and I know a lot of white people I don't like. I won't go to their home, and they won't come to mine. But that's a personal thing. It has nothing to do with segregation or legal rights. It's a citizen's right. That's personal. It'll always be.

WL:

Let me go back a bit to 1960. You raised a number of interesting points. First of all, closely associated with city government in 1960, how would you characterize the response of the city in 1960?

EZ:

Well, to be perfectly frank, the majority of the members of the council didn't want segregation. They were not in favor of it. They didn't want it. They wanted the status quo. But the only reason the committee was ever appointed was my offer to resign if they weren't going to do anything. Then I would act in my own capacity as a private citizen, which would please no one on city council. So the [unclear] had just begun.

WL:

Council wasn't going to change at all?

EZ:

They didn't want it. They said, “Leave it alone. It'll work itself out.” I said, “It won't. It will not work itself out. We're going to have rioting. We're going to have people killed. We're going to have a lot of bad publicity for the city of Greensboro. There's going to be violence if we don't do something.” Because the youngsters were getting impatient. They were being called every conceivable name, and it didn't take much. And they added two or three police detectives walking around in the crowd. But when you have sixty, seventy persons and three detectives or three police, you can't keep the peace that way. If anything broke out, the police would probably be the first to get hurt.

WL:

The police were there to protect people?

EZ:

Sir?

WL:

The police were there primarily to protect?

EZ:

For protection, yes, trying to prevent any violence [unclear]. But—pause]

I have resented segregation since my early days as a youth. And in my studies at Georgetown University, studying law and history intensified that feeling [unclear].

Now, as I've been told, many blacks, they talked about, “Look at the slavery we've suffered.” But I said, “Well, go back into history. You act as though the black person is the only one that ever suffered slavery. That is completely wrong. White people knew slavery long before they knew you existed. Long before the people of Africa were considered by the Greeks and by the Romans, slavery was in existence. The conquerors took the conquered as slaves.” I said, “Jewish people were in slavery for four hundred years. Slavery isn't anything particularly related to the blacks.” And I said, “Furthermore, also be fair and think. Who sold you into slavery?”

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

EZ:

They had the feeling, I think conveyed to them by parents and others, that the black was the only one that ever suffered from slavery. And I wanted them to know that slavery wasn't anything particularly related to the blacks. The white people knew slavery. And furthermore, their own kind captured you in Africa—your ancestors—and sold them into slavery.

WL:

Did you notice, having as much exposure to the leaders of the sit-in movement—young blacks at A&T for the most part—any differences between, say, older blacks and younger blacks? Was there a generational difference, generation gap there?

EZ:

Well, there was. The old generation, which is normal—in other words, you take any person, whether he's black or whether he's white. The way I would act at eighteen, nineteen, twenty, and in the thirties, is entirely different from my reactions today at eighty-eight. At eighteen, why, when President Wilson called for volunteers, I left school. And three o'clock in the afternoon, I was in the military service. Well, now, at forty I would think about it, and at eighty-eight I'd wonder is there a need for it? [laughs]

So—but the blacks, a good many of the older blacks recognized that while they didn't have equal rights with the whites, the whites did treat them right. I am speaking now of this area, not Louisiana, or Georgia, or Mississippi and the Deep South. They were treated really well over here. If they worked for them, if we ever found out that a black family needed help, we'd make it our business to see what it was and what we could do to help them. The only thing that drew the line is black and white. But from the standpoint if a black needed assistance, it wasn't withheld from him. And the older blacks knew it.

WL:

But younger blacks didn't know it?

EZ:

Well, the younger blacks were looking at the thing as I did. “It's wrong. Why should we be differentiated from the whites? We're both citizens of the United States. We both live under one law. Why should the differentiation be made?” And I don't blame them one bit. And I told them so, "Stick with it."

WL:

What was—I'm interested in the nature of your relationship with black leaders.

EZ:

It was at the top. In other words, I was the first one to establish a student aid fund at A&T, so that youngsters in school who couldn't have funds to continue could go through the fund and secure funds.

WL:

When was this? When was this?

EZ:

Sir? That was in the fifties.

WL:

Fifties? I got you.

EZ:

Later, I established the A&T University Foundation. And I was able to secure [funds] from big corporations, like Burlington Industries and Jefferson Standard. We raised better than a half million dollars in the first drive. Today, the foundation is an integral part of the university. I was president of the foundation for about eleven years.

We built—we had our problems. We had our problems, because of the lack of understanding, for instance, in the administration. I had the most difficult time to explain to them that a contribution made for the school of engineering cannot be used for the school of chemistry. The grantor says that I'm giving a hundred thousand dollars to the school of chemistry. You can't give it to the school of engineering. [The administration said], “Well, what's the difference? Use it and then we'll make it up.” I said, "No, you can't do that."

They're adhering to it now, but I had an awful time educating them [that] law is law, and rights are rights. And when I give you something for a specific purpose, you should honor that, because I'm trusting you. Now, if I find that you didn't use it for the purpose I gave, I will not make any further contributions, because I feel I can't trust you.

WL:

Legally obligated to, actually.

EZ:

You are.

WL:

You could get your money returned.

EZ:

Yes. Now the foundation speaks in terms of five million and seven million. But I was the one who started it. I was the first one to establish a student aid fund.

Then, when it came, for instance, to the L. Richardson Memorial Hospital—how did that hospital come into existence? They had not yet, the courts had not yet ruled that the hospitals had to take blacks. And Richardson Preyer, former congressman, was on the board of trustees of L. Richardson Foundation that organized the L. Richardson Memorial Hospital. He asked me if I would fill a position of trustee on the board. I told him I'd be glad to, but before I accept I'd liked to see the facilities of L. Richardson Memorial Hospital. At that point they were on Benbow Road.

I went over there, and actually, I wouldn't put my dog in the facilities. They were terrible. They weren't aware of it. It happened at that point in time we had an epidemic of polio. They had children down in the basement where the coal bins were. They didn't have any other space. And there were these children right next to the furnace. And I said, “This isn't a hospital. I wouldn't bring my dog in.” So I talked to them.

They said, “Well Ed, what would you do? What do you recommend?” I said, “Build a hospital.” They said, “Will you undertake it?” I said, “Yeah.” [The board said], “All right, we'll start you off with three hundred thousand dollars.”

And then I talked with government officials on the Hill-Burton bill, after we had architects employed, and they gave us a complete report on what it would cost. And we got a commitment from the government on the Hill-Burton bill for a million five hundred thousand. We had to raise a million dollars. And I advised them that we can't raise the million dollars on a general subscription because they were not going to get the support. Remember, this was in the fifties, before the '61.

We're not going to get public support, so it has to come from the big corporations. People like Burlington gave me a hundred thousand [dollars], Cone gave me a hundred thousand, I believe Jefferson Standard gave seventy-five [thousand dollars]. About eight corporations, I was able to raise a million, maybe a little under a million. And we built the hospital.

WL:

This was in the fifties?

EZ:

Yes, before the court settlement against denied admission because a person was black. So my interest didn't end with the sit-ins, and it hasn't ended today. But they still have their problems. And a great many of their problems they have today are self-created. They have an intense pride. They don't want to admit that they don't know, and it's difficult to deal with it in a good many instances.

WL:

What do you think the challenges of race relations are in the 1980s and the 1990s, the next generation?

EZ:

I don't believe that you will ever see any—unless they bring it on—race relations in the sense of experiencing what we did in the sixties. There's no reason for it. Because the blacks have businesses, they're successful. There are very, very many successful black millionaires. And with the educational facilities available to them now, in another generation—and also the fact that the new generation of youngsters. I have grandchildren, ten of them, and I've got eight great-grandchildren. And the oldest one is sixteen, of the great-grandchildren. Well, she goes to school. She has black girls come over to the house and visit her. They feel, themselves, about, “What are you talking about—about segregation? Why are you going with them?”

So, as the generations go on past, after you had the breakthrough, a generation from now, you—by the year 2000—why, you find a new generation going. And I think it's proven beneficial to the black. It's proven beneficial to the white, and certainly a great strength, an addition of greater strength to the nation, to do away with segregation.

WL:

One more question I have is about later on in the 1960s. The Woolworth's crisis, the sit-in crisis, was begun in 1960 and was partially resolved. And then, in 1963 even more extensive efforts—

EZ:

Well, those two fell—the others gradually fell in, so that after awhile there was absolutely nowhere that you couldn't go in and sit down. You couldn't demand the same treatment. Maybe the person that served you didn't treat you as well as you would like to have been treated. But they served you. And that gradually disappeared.

WL:

It appears to have disappeared quite quickly. Even by, say, 1967.

EZ:

Yes, well you can go to Detroit, and go down to Atlanta, and go into a restaurant, blacks and whites, and nobody pays any attention. The treatment is the same. But the older generation is, for instance, even in my own home—my wife, she loves them. She'd give the shirt off her back to a black to help. But she will never accept a piece of advice. [She said], “Desegregation now brings them together. You get them in school. First thing you know you'll have blacks and whites marrying. And then we'll have a mess.” [laughs] I said, “Well, but that's a personal choice. The law has to do with that.” And if a white girl found a black man attractive, and you had a law prohibiting marriage between them, as you had before, then you'd have sex going on, and you'd have a worse mess.

But the old generation goes back. They wouldn't agree with it at all. But this newer generation doesn't think anything of interracial mixing. They'd be asking, “What was this segregation business of the sixties?” [laughs]

WL:

I think that they're asking that now, actually. Well—

EZ:

I think it was good for the society. Certainly it was good for the nation. And eventually, historians will find that that particular change gave such greater strength to the nation that we find it difficult to determine the extent of it today.

WL:

Well—

[End of Interview]