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Oral history interview with Janet C. Boyte by Eugene Pfaff


Date: August 31, 1982

Interviewee: Janet Chatten Boyte

Biographical abstract: Janet C. Boyte (1915- ), wife of civil rights activist Harry Boyte, served as youth director of the Greensboro YWCA in the early 1960s.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of an August 31, 1982, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Janet C. Boyte, Ms. Boyte primarily discusses the career and civil rights activities of her husband, Harry Boyte, especially his employment with various newspapers, the Red Cross, and with the American Friends Service Committee in High Point; using their Charlotte home as a shelter for Freedom Riders and allies of Robert Williams in Monroe, North Carolina; and participation in Greensboro demonstrations. Other topics include Mrs. Boyte's work with the Greensboro YWCA and her son's civil rights activities.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.493

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 Janet C. Boyte by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

—you are aware this telephone conversation's being tape recorded, and that we have your permission to so tape record it.

JANET C. BOYTE:

Yeah, you told me that.

EP:

Fine. I'd like to begin by asking you for some brief biographical information on you and your husband.

JB:

Okay.

EP:

Where were you born, for instance?

JB:

Well, I was born in Chicago.

EP:

What year?

JB:

Nineteen fifteen.

EP:

I see. And Mr. [Harry] Boyte?

JB:

He was born in Charlotte, North Carolina, in 1911.

EP:

I see. And where did you attend school?

JB:

Well, I went to New Trier High School in Winnetka, Illinois, and then I went to Denison University in Granville, Ohio, and then I went to—I did a year of graduate study in London. And then I got my master's degree from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois.

EP:

And Mr. Boyte?

JB:

Well, he went to high school in Charlotte, and he started college at Elon College in North Carolina. But that was during the Depression, and he had to drop out of school to work.

EP:

Did he ever obtain a degree?

JB:

No.

EP:

I see. When did, did your husband and you first work for what you would call civil rights activities or organizations?

JB:

Well, let's see. Well, I guess he first got active in what you might call civil rights activities when he was in personnel administration with the American Red Cross in Washington, in 1944.

EP:

I suppose I should back up and ask what, what were his various career occupations?

JB:

Well, he was in newspaper work in both Charlotte and then Charleston, South Carolina.

EP:

Did he work for the Charlotte Observer?

JB:

Yeah, and the Charlotte News, both. And then, I think the Observer as the reporter, and the News in circulation. He did that first, I believe. Then he worked for the Charleston, I think, News & Courier. Is that the name of the paper in Charleston? I'm not—

EP:

I don't know.

JB:

Anyhow, it was the Charleston paper. And then he, he worked for a small paper in Rockingham, North Carolina, for a year. And then he went with Red Cross.

EP:

Do you know what year that would have been?

JB:

Probably about 1942.

EP:

Is, is that what he did during the war?

JB:

No. He worked with Red Cross during the war because he was 4F [deemed unfit for service].

EP:

I see. And how long did he work for the Red Cross?

JB:

He worked for the Red Cross from, I guess, the end of 1942 until he resigned from the Red Cross in 1959.

EP:

When did you get married?

JB:

In 1944, January of '44. We met overseas with Red Cross in Morocco.

EP:

Where did he, where did he serve with the Red Cross overseas?

JB:

In North Africa, and Sicily, and Italy. And then he went—he was attached—he was Field Director for the 82nd Airborne Division. And he went up to Northern Ireland with them, and then he came back to the United States in January of '44.

EP:

And how many children did you have?

JB:

Two.

EP:

And your son's name is?

JB:

His name is Harry and his middle name is the same as my maiden name. It's Chatten, C-h-a-t-t-e-n.

EP:

I see. And your other child?

JB:

Her name is Janet Ann.

EP:

I see. You were going to tell me about your husband's first activities in the area of civil rights.

JB:

Well, that was kind of interesting, because he was working in personnel administration for the American Red Cross in Washington in 1944. Well, he worked there until we came to Atlanta in 1946. But in 1944 he became interested in civil rights. And at that time the organization was pretty white, and he was the first person in the administrative staff at Red Cross to employ a black secretary. And when he decided to do this, he talked to the man—a man named Jesse Thomas who was from Atlanta, but who was working with Red Cross in Washington, and was supposed to be sort of liaison person with the black community.

And he told Mr. Thomas that he wanted to talk to him about getting a black secretary. And Mr. Thomas was talking to him on the phone, and, and he didn't think that Harry knew he was black. And so he, he thought, “Well, I don't think you're the person I want to talk to.” But he was, of course. And so when Mr. Thomas realized he was serious about this, they went to great trouble to find a secretary to be the first to integrate the Red Cross, that would be very good. And they got a woman. I—her name was Mrs. Coleman. I'm not sure of her first name. It might have been Melvina. But, anyway, she had been the secretary to the president of Tuskegee [Institute], I believe. She had a very good job in the South. She came up there to work in this division. So it was kind of interesting.

EP:

Was there ever any difficulty with that within the American—

JB:

Not really, no. I don't think so.

EP:

What did your husband do after resigning from the Red Cross in 1959?

JB:

Well, of course, all the time he was at Red Cross he was doing different things. One reason he came to the South was—back to the South was that he felt people who were dedicated to better race relations and who were native Southerners should come South and strive to improve race relations in the South. And that was one reason he came back to the South at the end of World War II. And he was given this job as manager of the Atlanta Red Cross chapter.

And one of the first things he did there was interesting in this connection, because he found when he came to the Red Cross that the black caseworkers were paid less than the white caseworkers in the Home Service Department, which worked with servicemen and their families. And so he, rather than just, you know, changing their salaries, he based their salaries on their education of all the home service caseworkers. And the black caseworkers had all had master's degrees in social work, and the—some of the white ones had not. So some of the black caseworkers immediately started getting a higher salary than some of the white ones.

This caused quite a stir in the staff. And, of course, some of the white caseworkers offered to resign. And Harry's way of dealing with that always was, well, that's all right. Just give me your resignation. But, of course, they didn't resign. They were just bluffing. Then he—well, he didn't— you know, in those days in the South—are you a native Southerner?

EP:

Oh, yes.

JB:

Well, in those days in the South, facilities were all segregated, like bathrooms and all. In the Red Cross they didn't have segregated bathrooms. And one of the members of his Board of Directors—I remember one time, Neil Blaine[?], was a prominent banker in Atlanta, called him on the phone and said, “Harry, what bathroom do your black caseworkers use?” Harry said, “Why Neil, you know I just have more important things to do than go around and see what bathrooms my staff are using.” Neil Blaine was so furious that he really sort of didn't ever take part much in the Red Cross board after that.

But Harry was very successful with Red Cross. He conducted their fund campaign for about nine or ten years, and was very successful in that. So they were very reluctant for him to resign, and offered him a job running the United Appeal drive and that sort of thing in Atlanta. But he wanted to get more directly involved in, in race relations. This was when things were beginning to get pretty hot in the South.

And at that time in Atlanta, we had an organization which went by the acronym, HOPE, H-O-P-E. It was—it stood for Help Our Public Education, but it was really designed to keep the schools from closing all over the state of Georgia as a result of the Supreme Court decision of 1954 [Brown v. Board of Education]. And so this—although it's hard to believe now, this was a very controversial issue at that time. And the schools in the state were really in danger of closing. So Harry helped the citizens' group which was organizing. And he was the first chairman of the board. And he helped them to organize the citizens' group to keep the schools open. And they, at that time, employed some staff people. And then he always had problems with his health. So he—

EP:

What sort of problems?

JB:

Well, he had had, I guess it was a spinal injury when he was playing football, I guess. And he had a spinal fusion back in the days when he was working in Charleston. And so he just was always very—had a lot of discomfort. And then he had bad headaches. Later on he had an automobile injury, which—it sort of immobilized him in the last few years of his life. But at the time I'm talking about, he also decided that he would like to go back to Charlotte. And his father was quite elderly. And we had inherited a little money through my family at that time. And so he decided he'd like to resign his Red Cross job and go back up to Charlotte and be active there in the field of race relations, and also be near his family. So we moved up to Charlotte in the summer of 1960, I guess it was. And of course, he continued various activities.

EP:

What, what sort of activities was he involved in?

JB:

Well, even before we left Atlanta, he was on—he was, I guess, chairman of the Council on Human Relations in Atlanta. And I had been on that board for several years in Atlanta, on the board of the Council of Human Relations. And they, of course, were seeking to integrate more facilities. I know in 1959, they had a—well, that was before Harry was chairman of the board, because I was helping Whitney Young, who later became president of the Urban League. And he was president—he was, I guess, dean of the School of Social Work at Atlanta University at that time.

But he and I planned this program on desegregation. And it was—at that time, it was very hard to find a place to have an integrated meeting in Atlanta. I know they built a Red Cross building, while Harry was here, for the blood center which he helped set up in Atlanta. It was one of the first Red Cross blood centers in the country. The one here and in Rochester, New York, were the first. And the Red Cross building had one of the few auditoriums in the city where you could have an integrated meeting. And that was about 1952 or three or four, when there just weren't facilities like that.

But to get back to this conference that the Council on Human Relations had in 1959. We had it at the YWCA [Young Women's Christian Association], which was another place that was sort of pioneering in race relations and had a cafeteria, which was one of the first places in the city that would serve both black and white people. And they let us have this conference there. And one of the speakers was Benjamin Mays, who at that time was president of Morehouse College, and later became, after he retired became, I guess, chairman or president of the board of education here in Atlanta. Anyhow, he had quite an illustrious career. But he, I recall, made such a moving speech that everyone was very touched. He could really make you see how it felt to be a black parent and have your child downtown in the city. And the child maybe wanting an ice cream cone, and there wasn't any place you could take them where he could be served an ice cream cone. And driving through the country, and not having any filling stations where you could stop and use the restrooms, and that sort of thing.

Then Harry became chairman of that Council on Human Relations, I guess in 1959, because he was chairman for about a year before we moved to Charlotte. And they had a workshop, which was at the YMCA [Young Men's Christian Association] in 1960, that was also on school desegregation—was quite controversial.

And about that time we used to get harassing calls at our house. People would call at all times of day with, you know, just vulgar calls or threatening calls or things. The—it, it seems so sort of silly now in retrospect, that an integrated conference would cause that much of a stir. But it did. I remember they had a false alarm and the fire department sent a truck over to the YMCA [laughs].

The—there were some quite eminent speakers there, too, like Lillian Smith, whom we knew through a mutual friend of ours—Betty Kester, who was at that time Betty Harris, and she was the staff person with that H-O-P-E, the HOPE that I told you about that kept the schools from closing.

Then we moved to North Carolina. And—of course, Harry's family were never at all sympathetic with his civil rights interests and tried, totally, to disassociate themselves from that sort of thing. I guess the first really—well, no. In 19—let's see. We moved up there in 1960. In 1961, Harry came down to Atlanta with the Unitarian Service Committee and worked for about six months. And that was really in connection with the school desegregation. I wasn't here then. I was in Charlotte, so I wasn't that close to what was going on.

But I know that Rule Stevens[?], who was the assistant superintendent of schools in Atlanta, and who knew Harry from church, called him in to talk with him about the best way of selecting students who would desegregate the schools the first year that they were to be desegregated in Atlanta. Of course, they started at the twelfth grade with about ten students the first year. It was a very timorous approach. But anyway, he was involved in that. And the mayor was quite horrified that he was back in town. And, and he was sort of persona non grata by that time because of the civil rights activities.

But then he came back to Charlotte, because he was involved in a, sort of an investment project that his brother was also involved in. And that was in the summer of '61, I guess. And that summer we—you remember hearing about those Freedom Riders who rode across the South and went to Mississippi?

EP:

Oh, yes.

JB:

Well, when they came back from being in jail down in Mississippi, a bunch of them stopped in Charlotte. They were going out to Monroe, North Carolina, which at that time had a, a very sort of militant and outspoken black man named Robert Williams, whom you might have heard of, who lived there and who put out a, a little militant periodical, or newsletter, called The Crusader. And we had happened to meet this Robert Williams through a friend of ours in Atlanta who had a Japanese girl staying with her. And she asked us if we could drive the Japanese girl up to Charlotte. We had been down here and she needed a ride back, because she was going to visit this Robert Williams. So Harry got acquainted with Robert Williams through this Japanese girl, whom we delivered to his house. Of course, Harry was sympathetic and supportive towards this man. And—

EP:

Did he ever mention anything about his conversations with Robert Williams?

JB:

Well, yeah, he did. They—you know, I suppose they were just about civil rights. And I'm sure he was sort of encouraging to him about that. And there was a—Robert Williams had a friend named Albert Perry, who was a medical doctor who had been, I think, tried and found guilty for doing an abortion on a white woman or something. Maybe it was a black woman. But anyway, they didn't quite know [unclear] sort of got him on this abortion charge, either fine him or send him to jail or something. So he was very alienated, too. And Harry met him through Robert Williams, and continued to be a friend of Albert Perry. And [audio malfunction] across the street when he went up to Charlotte, but—for a number of years.

But to get back to Robert Williams. These people, these young people from—who, on their way back from Mississippi—it was an integrated group of them, and they wanted to go to Monroe to help with some program. I don't remember whether it was an educational program—I think it was, of some sort, that they were doing in Monroe that summer. And so, I remember, we took them over there. And we met them at the station in Charlotte, or the bus station, I guess it was. And they were—we drove them. We had two cars at that time. We drove them. There were that many that we had both cars. And they were afraid. I was so impressed because they were sure that somebody must be following them. They really were sort of paranoid after the experience in Mississippi. And, of course, I was sure nobody was. And nobody was.

But, anyway, we were living on the edge of Charlotte at that time, out on Providence Road, in a house which was kind of out in the country. It had about an acre or two of land around it. And our house sort of that summer became kind of a staging area for these civil rights activists going in and out of Monroe. And they would come over there to sort of, to rest or recuperate or just meet. And different ones arriving and coming [audio malfunction]

EP:

Do you ever remember any of their names?

JB:

Well, one was that—let's see, Jim Forman.

EP:

James Forman [officer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee]?

JB:

Yeah, he became quite active and well-known in civil rights. He was there. And he was in jail for a while in Monroe, I remember. And at the time he was in jail, he was smuggling out notes or reflections or something, which he wrote on toilet paper in the jail, because I was typing them up for him. And—

EP:

Yes, I read about that, what he said about that in the Making of Black Revolutionaries.

JB:

He wrote it up, did he?

EP:

Yes. Did, did you ever speak personally with him?

JB:

Oh, yeah. He spent the night a number of times at our house. See, they would come over there and stay when they were going to and from. And then other people would come there to see them. Like there was a man who was the editor of that Jet magazine in Chicago who came down and spent the night on his way to Monroe. We would take people over there, because they would come to Charlotte. We would meet them and take them to Monroe. There wasn't any direct transportation to Monroe. And some of these people would come over there.

But then, if you're familiar with that Robert Williams story, you remember that he was finally—well, he was arrested, but he escaped. He was charged with kidnapping this white couple that just sort of wandered down his street. I guess they were curiosity seekers. And they had this riot in Monroe. It was on a Saturday. And they had kind of a race riot in Monroe. And I know the mayor of the town was real frightened, because people were shooting through the windows of his house. He had been, apparently, a little bit lenient towards blacks. And he called Harry, I remember, in a great state of consternation. Harry knew all these people because he was, you know, involved in going over there and meeting with different people. And he had been arrested and held by the police and questioned for a long time before he was released.

EP:

What was he arrested for?

JB:

Oh, he was arrested so many times I can't begin to tell you all of them. I think he was first—one of the first times was here in Atlanta, when he went with some black people to the Heart of Atlanta Motel. And a man named [Moreton] Rolleston [Jr.] was the owner of it. And he was just so furious that Harry would come there with these black people who—and, of course, they didn't serve them. But he came storming in there just purple in the face, and told him to get up and never set foot. And if you look at that material in the Duke library, there ought to be a letter in there from—I think his name was Moreton Rolleston—telling Harry never to set foot on his premises again. But anyway—oh, I don't know. A lot of these, you know, arrests are just on trumped-up charges to hold people. And they don't have any reason to hold them, so they let them go after a while.

EP:

But your husband wasn't involved in, in any of the activities in Monroe concerning Robert Williams?

JB:

No. He, he knew Robert Williams, you see. And he—what we were actually personally involved in, besides his having talked to him and visited him and all the things like that—Harry thought it was quite a joke, because Robert Williams lived on Boyte Street which was named for, I guess, a great uncle of Harry's who had lived up in the county.

But anyway, when they had this race riot, Robert Williams, as I recall, took these white people who were in his street, and this mob of black people had stopped their car. And he took them in his house really to protect them. And the—but the police used that to make a charge that he had kidnapped them. And so he had this kidnapping charge. And the FBI can't move into a case for twenty-four hours after it—but—so we knew about this. I guess Robert Williams had called us on the telephone or something. We knew his whole family by then. And, you know, I remember his wife being in my kitchen and all of us making huge quantities of potato salad to take to some of these Freedom Riders, and that sort of thing.

But the next day they—it just—it was a very interesting coincidence, because none of us were at home. And as I say, this house was out in the country and had a lot of woods in back of it. And I had taken the children into Charlotte to meet a friend of my son's who was coming to visit him from Atlanta [unclear], so we weren't there. And Harry was somewhere—I don't remember where, but he wasn't in the house. And he had—I, I believe he'd gone up to pick up one of these Freedom Riders who was quite frightened and wanted him to pick him up and take him out of the town. And he'd gone up to get him. And they'd arranged to meet at some certain place, and Harry was going to pick him up and take him away from Monroe. That was what had happened.

Anyway, nobody was in the house. And when we came home, I noticed right away that this lampshade in the little den had been knocked off the lamp and that the door which led into the backyard from the den was unlocked, and I usually had a catch on it. And I thought that was sort of strange. Well, I didn't think much more about it.

And the next day these FBI agents came to the door. And they were very peremptory. And they said, “Where is he?”

And I said, “I don't know what you're talking about.”

And they said, “Robert Williams. We know he must be hiding in here.”

And I said, “I have no idea what you're talking about, but he's not in the house.”

And so they, by that time, were inside the front door, peering all around. And they said, “We want to look around your house.”

So I think Harry was at home, because he told them that they couldn't do that without a search warrant. But we said that Robert Williams wasn't there or something.

Anyway, we found out later that he had escaped. And we thought—the first thing they asked me was, did my dog bite. I had this cocker spaniel. And I said “No.” So what we figured out later was that they had seen Robert Williams and his wife drive up and come into our house the day before, when none of us were there. And you see, what they must have done was go out this back door of the den that I had noticed was unlocked, and go through the woods and meet somebody in a car back on the road on the other side of these woods, because they next turned up in New York City, and they had escaped.

But that was what we figured out, why the FBI thought we were harboring them. Because the FBI kept, or the police, kept a car—that was on Labor Day weekend, I think. And they kept a car all that weekend right across the street, parked. And it was very hot. I remember I sent my son down to ask them if they would like some Coca-Colas. [laughs] And so we figured our dog must have barked, because she would bark furiously at anybody. And they must have seen the dog barking. And, so, that was sort of an interesting episode.

EP:

But you weren't ever accused of aiding in his escape.

JB:

No, because, see, we weren't there. If we had been there, I'm sure we would have been accused of being accomplices. But we weren't in the house and our cars weren't there. They knew we weren't there.

EP:

So after this, did you continue living in Charlotte, or—

JB:

Well, we lived in Charlotte till the summer of 1962. But Harry went to work in about January of that year with the American Friends Service Committee, which is based in Philadelphia and—

EP:

This would have been January 1962?

JB:

Yeah. And by that time we had started attending the Friends Meeting in Charlotte, because our views were not very popular at the Presbyterian Church where we had been going. Harry had been brought up in the Presbyterian Church. And the minister of that church was not unsympathetic, but, you know, he felt that his hands were pretty much tied. And the people were not at all sympathetic, and the Friends were. So we had become rather active in the Friends meeting, which we joined. And, of course, I still belong to the Friends meeting in Atlanta. But—in fact I work at Quaker House, as you know, from calling. But—

EP:

Were there any other incidents like this Robert Williams case, or any other civil rights activities?

JB:

Well, as I say, we had people there all summer. All that summer these Freedom Riders were involved in that project in Monroe. But it ended around, that last episode I was telling you about was around Labor Day, and they left around that time. A lot of them had jobs or teaching jobs or things they were going back to up North.

EP:

Did—did you—in your conversations with James Forman, do you recall what you talked about or, or your impression of him?

JB:

No, I don't remember what we talked about. It was so long ago. But there were people from all over. I remember there was one girl there from the London School of Economics, which I had attended in London when I was there. I just remember her because we had been to the same school. She was from England. But there were a lot of people. I just don't remember their names, such a long time.

EP:

So your husband went to work for American Friends Service Committee in—

JB:

He worked with AFSC. And he went on the special assignment in Prince Edward County, Virginia, which was the only county in the United States that actually closed its schools rather than desegregate. And he was based in Farmville, and so I went up there that summer. And AFSC didn't want the children to be there in Farmville. And young Harry went to an AFSC work camp in Philadelphia, and our daughter went to a Quaker camp up in Vermont, farm and wilderness camp.

And the—well, Farmville was an interesting experience, too. We lived with a dentist and his wife who had an apartment in their building. He had built a building which was called the Miller Building. His name was Dr. Miller. He was a dentist. He was an alumnus of Northwestern University because—I remember that because I had graduated from there. And they were, I guess, as active in civil rights as you could be and be a dentist in Farmville and still maintain your practice. Of course, his practice was with the black community. But there was no place where we could have rented an apartment in a white community. And we had an apartment in this building which he had built, and it had an apartment upstairs in it and also had their living quarters in it. They were a very nice couple.

And—but it was a place where we were totally ostracized. You know, I would take my dog for a walk and nobody would ever speak to me. It's a little town. Nobody would ever smile or speak to me. They would all look in the other direction. And I remember one day I was washing clothes in the laundromat, and this man who was sort of a redneck type came around the corner of these washing machines. He stood there with his hands on his hips, just staring at me with this look of the most livid hatred I ever had anybody look at me with. It was really quite frightening.

And of course we did know a few white people, and Harry interviewed all of the county commissioners in this county. And those, as I think I told you, interviews would be at the AFSC office in Philadelphia and would be very interesting, although they might be kind of far afield from your research around Greensboro. But they would certainly give some insights into the way these people—I'm not sure they were called county commissioners in Prince Edward County, but whatever they were, they were the governing body of the county.

And he talked to the mayor, too. And the mayor talked to him for about five hours one evening, and he finally just burst into tears and cried. Harry found this experience occurred a number of times when he would talk to these white Southerners who were so involved in maintaining a position of segregation and all. But they really had a lot of ambivalent feelings about it. And they would often just break down and cry. But some of these counties' governing bodies were more sympathetic than others, of course.

EP:

What did he do after he conducted the interviews in Prince Edward County for AFSC?

JB:

Well, we—there were a group of white students who came down from the north that summer and had a, a program of—well, they were tutoring these children in the school—well, they weren't in school because they hadn't had any schools to go to. They had a tutoring program for the black children in Prince Edward County, and they came from Ivy League colleges and places like that. And we did a lot to help those. See, I was there all that summer doing his secretarial work. And they had quite an extensive program with the children. And we were helping them with their program, and transportation and housing and all. And AFSC had sent a good many of these children. They had had quite an extensive program of sending mostly high school students who had no school to go to in Prince Edward County to mostly the families of Friends. That is, Friends of the Society of Friends in the northeast, and some in Kentucky. I know Berea had some who would take these children into their homes and let them go to a local high school so they could continue their education. So that was one of the programs we were carrying on and following up with.

And we had—I remember we had one sort of picnic outing for these high school students in a park, which was a park principally for black people in the county there—just different things. And, you know, we'd go around—there were a lot of meetings. And they had—in those days the black churches were very active in the civil rights movement. And one of the black churches in Farmville, it was the First Baptist Church was the name of it. I'm trying to think of the name of the man who was the minister, but I can't think of his name. And he was a very militant black and of course felt tremendously isolated in this community. He was somebody that Harry made friends with, and he would come over and have dinner with us and sit and talk.

EP:

Were you ever subject to any harassment or intimidation?

JB:

Yeah, we were. And I remember one—it was the Fourth of July. I looked out of the window and there was a Nazi swastika, a very large one, painted on the wall facing our windows, right across the street. Well, actually before I went down there, Harry was grabbed one night as he came back. Well, one thing, he would go up to—they were having some trials in the courts, I guess in connection with desegregating the schools in Virginia. He had to go up to Richmond a good bit to these court hearings. But one night when he came back to his apartment, there were a bunch of sort of—I guess they were sort of Ku Klux Klan types if they weren't members, who grabbed him and ripped off all of his clothes and threatened him. And it was quite frightening, apparently. And—but they finally let him go.

EP:

Was he ever beaten or seriously injured?

JB:

He wasn't beaten, I don't think, in, in Prince Edward County. He was beaten later in St. Augustine. But that was when he was with SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference]. No, I don't think he was actually beaten in Prince Edward County. But this was I guess the most frightening experience they had, when they tore off his clothes and threatened him with knives and all. It was apparently quite horrifying. I don't think I was ever really harassed. But—we had a window in the car broken, but that was all.

And we would meet with the black people. Some would come over there and meet with us. And we would meet in their churches. Like I say, you know at that time everybody was singing We Shall Overcome. And we'd go to a lot of church meetings to indicate support for the black community who were trying to get their schools reopened.

EP:

Did you ever—I, I guess he had not participated in the original wave of sit-ins or—

JB:

Not in Greensboro.

EP:

Well, anywhere across the country?

JB:

Well, I don't know exactly what you mean by sit-ins. As I say, he went to that restaurant in Atlanta I was telling you about, that Heart of Atlanta Motel, with some blacks and—

EP:

Well, I guess in 1960 it began with lunch counter sit-ins.

JB:

Yeah, it began in 1960, didn't it, in Greensboro?

EP:

Yes.

JB:

But—

EP:

So after your stay in Prince Edward County—

JB:

Well, Harry's health sort of broke down in Prince Edward County. I think it was partly the pressure and the strain and all. And so we went down to Charlotte, and we stayed in the Friends Meeting House for about three weeks while he was sort of resting and recuperating. And then AFSC gave him a job in their High Point office, but we lived in Greensboro. And when we were in Greensboro, as I think I told you before on the phone, he did get involved in some sit-ins there.

EP:

When did you move to Greensboro?

JB:

Well, let's see. We were in Prince Edward County in the summer—oh, he was there from January. But it was the summer of, of 1962 we left there. So we were in Greensboro from about September of '62 until June of '63.

EP:

And what was he doing there?

JB:

He was working for AFSC until they fired him because of his civil rights activities.

EP:

Now, AFSC was not involved in the civil rights activities at—

JB:

Well, AFSC liked to do things that were more low-key than taking part in sit-ins. You know, they were all for integration, and they had various programs, but they—that was just a little too militant for them.

EP:

What sort of things did Mr. Boyte participate in?

JB:

Well—

EP:

While he was here in Greensboro.

JB:

He—I remember he was in some sort of demonstration or march where there were a lot of people arrested. And they took them to—they had too many to put them in the jail. I think they had them in a high school gymnasium or somewhere. Maybe it was an armory or something. I don't—

EP:

Was he, himself, arrested?

JB:

What?

EP:

Was he, himself, arrested?

JB:

Oh, yeah. But he had been arrested before then two or three times and—

EP:

Did he ever say how he got involved in the Greensboro demonstrations?

JB:

Well, I think he just went and, you know, he may have known some black people that he—he probably did through his acquaintances and all—

EP:

Did he have any working relationship with CORE [Congress of Racial Equality] at all, the CORE chapter here?

JB:

He knew a lot of people in CORE. And I don't think he ever, you know, was directly connected with CORE, but he knew a lot of those people in CORE.

EP:

Did he ever mention their names?

JB:

There was a young woman he felt was very good. Of course, he knew James Farmer. But there was a young woman he thought was very competent, and I can't remember her name. But I heard her on a panel [inaudible] when we were up there in the summer in '64 I guess. But I can't remember her name. She was on the staff. And I think she might have been somebody we knew down in Prince Edward County in connection with those students, because there were some black students who were down there tutoring that summer as well as some white students.

EP:

The newspaper here—the way I got his name was—the newspaper here mentioned him being arrested, I think, or involved.

JB:

He was arrested at least once in Greensboro, because they were—I remember they had some sort of trial and hearings that Floyd McKissick was supposed to represent them. And Harry felt he had sold out to the power structure. Harry didn't have any use for him, and—

EP:

Was he ever more specific about it—

JB:

He was very disappointed in him. You know, it's been so long I can't remember exactly what he thought. But he thought he had made some deal with the power structure about their legal—what charges they would have and all. But I just can't tell you the particulars of it.

EP:

The newspaper here in town mentioned him as working for the North American Newspaper Alliance.

JB:

Well, that was after he had been fired by AFSC. He was doing some freelance work for them, but he didn't ever work with them very much. He was really looking for another job at that time.

EP:

Was he covering the demonstrations for them?

JB:

Could have been. But I think the first demonstrations he was in were about Thanksgiving in '62, and that was what got AFSC so upset. But they were arrested then, too, I think.

EP:

Did he ever mention any of the people he worked with at AFSC here such as Mr. [Richard] Ramsey [secretary of the AFSC College Committee]?

JB:

Yeah, I remember that name.

EP:

Do you recall Mr. Ramsey at all?

JB:

Well, I remember that Harry thought he was pretty sympathetic. And Tartt Bell was the director of that [AFSC] office at that time. But Tartt was sort of—he was more timid. He didn't want to have any sort of overt demonstrations, however his sympathies might have been.

EP:

Was he responsible for Mr. Boyte being fired?

JB:

Well, I expect he was more responsible than anybody else, yeah.

EP:

Was Mr. Boyte resentful, or did he—

JB:

No. I don't think he was really resentful, because he was used to white people with these attitudes. You know, as I said, his own family had this attitude. He was more worried than resentful, because he needed to have a job.

EP:

And was he—

JB:

Our son was a senior in high school then, and our daughter was, I guess, about tenth grade.

EP:

Was—did he do this freelancing from North American Newspaper Alliance immediately?

JB:

I think he wrote a few things for them, but I don't really think he ever did very much with them. At that time he was having a lot—

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

EP:

—involved in any way in any kind of planning of the demonstrations or advising or—

JB:

No. I don't think he was involved in the actual planning of them. I remember going to the meeting, though, with him in somebody—in some house. I think it might have been a black person's house. But it was an integrated meeting where they were discussing plans for demonstration. And, you know, I can't imagine, really, that he—he wouldn't have discussed them with them, because he was always sort of involved in, in that sort of thing wherever he was in those years. So he probably did talk to them about their plans some. I remember going with him to a meeting at somebody's house where they were discussing plans.

EP:

Did he ever talk with any people who were trying to facilitate these integrated meetings and work out a solution to the racial problem here in Greensboro?

JB:

That might have been what we went to, that meeting that I remember at somebody's house. I think that probably was what it was. And I kind of think it might have been a white person's house.

EP:

Well, the people that are—whose names have come to my attention in this connection are associated with the Greensboro Community Fellowship. And three names that stand out are John and Betsy Taylor—

JB:

Oh, yes. Well, we knew them. See, when we were in Greensboro, I was working for the YWCA, and Betsy Taylor was on the YWCA board. And she was particularly interested in the teenage program of the YWCA. And I was the youth director there. And so I worked with her very closely and knew her quite well. And she was—she and her husband, of course, were—they desegregated their two motels. They were the first motels in the state to be desegregated. They had a couple of Holiday Inns in Greensboro.

EP:

Do you recall the nature of any of these conversations or anything?

JB:

With Betsy Taylor?

EP:

Yes.

JB:

Well, of course, I was talking to her mostly about the Y teen program, and—but I remember I told her when Harry had been, you know—he got—I mean, young Harry—got himself into trouble with Mr. Routh[?], who was principal of the high school at that time, because he resigned from that track meet that I told you about before.

EP:

Could you go over that in greater detail?

JB:

You mean, now that you have your tape recorder back? [laughs]

EP:

Yes.

JB:

Well, he, of course, was quite interested in, in civil rights activities, too. And I was sort of afraid he was going down to be in those demonstrations that were marching all around town in those days and be arrested and might not graduate from high school. And he was offered scholarships, several good scholarships. And I didn't want him to mess up his chances of getting one of these scholarships, because we really needed the help sending him to college the next year.

And the—I remember his father was out of town, I think. He had a number of job interviews in different places, and he went to see people. And I don't think he was there. But I remember I said to young Harry one night that I—he was on the track team. He was quite good in track. And I said to him, “You know, if you want to make a really individual and distinctive protest, instead of taking part in those marches, why don't you resign from the track—state track meet that you're planning to be in, because it's a segregated track meet.” Well, he thought about that.

And he said, “I wish I'd thought of it myself.” You know, he was at this age where you don't like parents to suggest anything. And so apparently he decided to, because he went over and talked to his coach. And then he resigned from the track team.

And that was—there was a story about it in the Greensboro paper and one in the Winston-Salem paper at that time. And his principal, Mr. Routh, was very, very upset about it, and very angry. And so one of the colleges which was about to give Harry a scholarship—everything, all the correspondence we had had from them indicated they were about to—was Harvard. And they wrote to him at this time and said they thought perhaps he should accept one of his other offers. And so we knew that Mr. Routh must have written a non-recommendation to Harvard as his high school principal. And I was telling Betsy Taylor about this and she said, “Well, if Harvard really knew the true story about it, they would be more anxious to give him the scholarship instead of less anxious.” She was quite sympathetic. Her son went to Harvard.

EP:

Did you ever try to bring this to the attention of the appropriate authorities at Harvard?

JB:

No, because he decided he would just as soon go to Duke. He had a General Motors scholarship that Duke offered him, and he decided to go over there.

EP:

I was wondering—other people that were mentioned—I was going—besides John and Betsy Taylor, were Warren and Helen Ashby.

JB:

Well, that name sounds familiar, but I—

EP:

Helen Ashby worked with the YWCA here in town.

JB:

Is she the one who was Betsy Taylor's sister?

EP:

Frankly, I don't know.

JB:

Betsy Taylor had a sister who was a volunteer at the YWCA.

EP:

Frankly, I don't know.

JB:

She may have been her sister. It seems to me her name could have been Helen, but I don't remember the last name.

EP:

One other individual was McNeill Smith, who was an attorney here in town.

JB:

That name sounds familiar, too, but I don't think I, I knew him personally. Harry may very well have known him.

EP:

Was this demonstration in Thanksgiving 1962 the, the extent of Mr. Boyte's activities in this connection?

JB:

I don't think he was too active in too many things in Greensboro then.

EP:

The real heat of the Greensboro demonstration was in May and June.

JB:

Yeah. That's when my son was—see, I was afraid he was gonna be arrested in those marches. And I remember—you know, we went down and we took part in a couple of those marches. I remember going with Harry and walking around the downtown streets and past the theatre where they were going to have a meeting and all. But, you know, just, just marching in the crowd. I don't think he had any leadership role in that. But I think he probably did meet with people and talk with them about their plans, because that's the sort of thing he would have been likely to be involved in.

EP:

Were these primarily adults? I get the impression that, by and large, the students and the adults marched separately.

JB:

I think the march that I went to with him they were adults, yeah.

EP:

There was one really famous march that took place, I think, May twenty-first or May twenty-second, in which about five thousand adults participated—

JB:

Yeah. Well, I think that might have been one we were in. Although that was about the time that Harry came down to Atlanta with SCLC, so he might not have been in town then. I think he got this job with SCLC in May, so he might not have been there. But we knew quite a few of those people who were in sit-ins. I remember we, we had a number of contacts with students from—what's that school that at that time, it was a black school, A&T College?

EP:

[North Carolina] A&T State University.

JB:

Yeah. Well, we had a—

EP:

Well, it was college then.

JB:

Yeah, we had a number of contacts with people there and with students there and with faculty there and—

EP:

Do you happen to remember any of their names?

JB:

Well, one young man who was at our house one time, I remember—I remember him because he told us he was in one of the original sit-ins in the Woolworth's store that—

EP:

Would, would it have been Ezell Blair [now Jibreel Khazan]?

JB:

You know, I don't know. But it was a young man who was one of the people in the original sit-ins. I think he had become a lawyer or was studying law.

EP:

Oh, that would have been Ezell, yes.

JB:

Yes. Well, he was out at our house. We always, you know, were in—I was so used to having all these people who were involved in it that that's why I guess it doesn't stand out in my memory—these individuals. There were always a lot of them around.

EP:

Why were they out at your house? Had they been invited by your husband?

JB:

Oh, yeah. We had probably invited them out. And we had a lot of students from A&T College out there. We had a—but that was the YWCA program that Betsy Taylor was involved in. We adopted a student from Ghana who, you know, we would ask out often, and he would bring some of his friends. And then we—I don't remember how those young men happened to be there that day. But different people came. They probably knew Harry through his different connections and involvement. There were always lots of people like that around the house. As I say, it's so long ago I don't remember who they were or how they happened to get there.

EP:

Other than this march that you told me about, were you ever involved in any civil rights activities here in Greensboro?

JB:

Well, you see, I was on the staff at the YWCA there. And, of course, the YWCA was always integrated, and we tried to do integrated activities with the teenagers. And I would be involved with activities with the—what was at that time the black YWCA and all. But most of my activities were in connection with the YWCA, so they were more—

EP:

Were there many white children participants in these activities?

JB:

I don't really think we had very much integrated activities in Greensboro. We did later in Atlanta when I worked for the Y here, but not in Greensboro.

EP:

What was your overall impression of Greensboro as a city?

JB:

Oh, I liked Greensboro. I thought it was a nice town.

EP:

Well, there has been a book written by Dr. William Chafe over at Duke University called Civilities and Civil Rights. And it's a thirty-year study of the race relations in Greensboro from 1945 through about 1975.

JB:

Yes.

EP:

And one of the major points that he makes is that Greensboro had this reputation for moderation, but that in his opinion, it was merely a mask for the white power structure to maintain control and diffuse any kind of meaningful black protests.

JB:

Well, I think that was true of a lot of places in the South. It certainly was true of Atlanta, very much so.

EP:

Did any of the people that you worked with or talk about express any opinions about Greensboro's attitude toward race relations or anything?

JB:

Well, I guess the person I knew best who was active within the Greensboro community in race relations was Betsy Taylor. And, you know, she would talk about it quite freely. And she would have people out to her house. But I think she was a little bit on the cautious side. I expect most everybody was who had—like, they owned two motels. They didn't want their motels blown up or anything. You know, they had to be a little cautious about what they did, who they got involved with. So my contacts with her were mainly through the YWCA.

I remember when we first moved there, she invited all of us, the whole family, out to their house one Sunday afternoon. But she didn't repeat that invitation after Harry got involved in this, those demonstrations and that arrest and all. So I expect she was being a little cautious. But I continued to have very pleasant relations with her through the YWCA. And after I worked for the YWCA in Atlanta, she looked me up one time when she was passing through Atlanta.

EP:

Did—after his name appeared in the paper and it became known that he was involved in these activities, besides his being fired by the American Friends Service Committee, did you receive any hate mail or telephone calls or any sort of harassment?

JB:

I don't remember that especially in Greensboro. I remember it more when we were in Atlanta at the time of that conference, that workshop that the Council on Human Relations had.

EP:

Do you recall any—besides Mr. Routh apparently writing this negative recommendation—do you recall any other incidents arising out of your son's resigning from the track meet?

JB:

Well, Harry got a lot of letters from different parts of the country. It had been on the Associated Press wire service. And he got letters congratulating him from a lot of different places. I don't think he had but maybe one or two that were critical. Mostly they were quite supportive. Of course, there was a sports writer in Greensboro who wrote a very vindictive column in the paper about him one day.

EP:

Probably would have been Smith Barrier.

JB:

Yeah, that was—I think that was his name. It sounds familiar. I remember I was so incensed at this column that—about this unpatriotic and disloyal young man—that I wrote a reply which he did print in his column about how I felt Harry was being more patriotic than most people, because his great, great, great grandfather or somebody like that had taken part in the Battle of Guilford Courthouse and was a Revolutionary War veteran, and that I felt he was being more in the true tradition of America. I took quite an issue with Smith Barrier over that column he wrote.

EP:

You say that about, in June of 1963—did Mr. Boyte have to appear in court as a result of his arrest?

JB:

Yes, he was in court one time there in Greensboro, because I remember going to court with him. And—but there were a whole lot of them who were arrested at the same time and were in court that day. And I think something was postponed. He never was put in jail about that except in this mass arrest that they were held overnight at the armory or some place.

EP:

There's one thing in the CORE papers that, in connection with the Freedom Highways program sponsored by CORE, which, although it did have a training workshop here in town, mostly took place in Durham and Statesville and Hickory and places like that. And I saw mention of the name Harry Boyte. And I thought at first it was your husband, but I thought later that it might have been your son. And there was something about, in a memo sent to McKissick, that whereas most of—there was some confusion, because whereas most of the people arrested listed Mr. McKissick as their attorney, your son listed William Kunzler.

JB:

Yes.

EP:

And do you know anything about that?

JB:

Well, you probably need to talk to him about it. He was arrested in some civil rights demonstrations up in Chapel Hill, I think.

EP:

Was this while he was still in high school or after he had gone to Duke?

JB:

Well, he was arrested when he was in college.

EP:

I see.

JB:

And he was in—he was at Duke but they were—I think they were arrested in Chapel Hill—these demonstrations.

EP:

The demonstrations in Chapel Hill did extend into '64, after the activities.

JB:

Yeah. That could have been when young Harry was arrested with those demonstrations. And I remember he, he had to go to court. And that was up at Hillsborough, because we were in Atlanta then. And Harry, Sr., went up to be with him then. And he—I remember Harry, Sr., had quite a dialogue with the judge during this hearing, or trial, or whatever it was with young Harry, about how there was a higher law than the state law and this sort of thing, but—

EP:

Well, Raymond Mallard was the judge of those trials.

JB:

Yeah. And he—someway or another, he suppressed the court record of those trials, because you couldn't get access to it. Now, maybe you could now. I don't know, you know, what happened to it. But at that time, it was impossible to have access to it, and—

EP:

A former member of the English faculty at [University of North Carolina at] Chapel Hill [John Ehle] has written a book entitled The Free Men, which is about the Chapel Hill movement.

JB:

Yeah.

EP:

And I've also spoken with a Mr. Clarence Malone, who was an associate attorney of Mr. McKissick. And he says that the white people who were arrested, particularly the students and faculty members at Duke, were just singled out for a great deal of intimidation and verbal abuse from the bench.

JB:

Yes. Well, I think that's right. This, this judge at Hillsborough—and I'm sure it's the one you're talking about; his name slips my mind, of course, because I never saw him. But he, he was very abusive and very punitive towards these students. And, you know, he was really going to throw the book at young Harry, I remember. But he finally didn't—he didn't have to go to jail thankfully, about that.

EP:

Was it your son's—your son that had this, this dialogue with the judge or your, your husband?

JB:

Well, I guess they both did. But I know my husband had a dialogue with the judge about it, too.

EP:

Was he on trial or, or did he just—

JB:

My husband just went up there to, you know, to be with young Harry at the trial. No, he wasn't on trial then. They had thrown out those cases. And they, they used to throw out a lot of these cases. I remember he was—you know, he had some cases in Atlanta with this Judge Durwood Pye down here who was very punitive and vindictive like that. And those cases were finally thrown out in federal court, too.

EP:

Was it through your husband's connections with SCLC that you arranged for William Kunzler to defend your son?

JB:

Probably, yeah, because he was working with SCLC then. That was in 1964.

EP:

Did you ever speak personally with Mr. Kunzler?

JB:

No, no. I never met him.

EP:

Did your husband?

JB:

Oh, I'm sure he knew him. I think he talked to him a good many times, yeah. He may have been involved in the trials in Atlanta, too, that Harry was in, where Durwood Pye was determined to send him to—lock him up in jail. But I remember Durwood Pye here in Atlanta. Harry heard him telling one of the bailiffs or something that he especially wanted to get that Harry Boyte.

You know, they always were especially vindictive towards white people who were involved in civil rights. I remember that the man whose name I can't remember who worked for Jet magazine, when he wrote up all these activities, he called Harry the lightning rod for the white hatred.

EP:

Frequently in the civil rights struggle, particularly in those early days, any white person associated with, with a protest organization was—they tried to brand as communist.

JB:

Oh, yes. They, they always used that.

EP:

Did they ever try to attack your husband in this manner?

JB:

Well, I'm sure they did. You know, as far as just mere words were concerned. I don't know that they ever tried to make a, a court case of it like—

EP:

Or subject to—

JB:

—like McCarthy did or anything like that.

EP:

Was he ever subject to investigation that you're aware of?

JB:

Oh, the FBI had a big dossier on him, yeah. But I imagine those files are all kept very secret.

EP:

So what—when did your family leave the Greensboro area?

JB:

In 1963.

EP:

And you moved—

JB:

Young Harry went to Duke that fall, so my husband and my daughter and I moved back to Atlanta, because Harry, Sr., was working for SCLC.

EP:

Did—was your son ever involved in any other activities besides these Chapel Hill activities?

JB:

Well, I think he was probably involved in various things but I think, you need—you know, you can talk to him. I think you might as well talk to him about it. I can even give you his phone number if you want me to.

EP:

I would, I would appreciate that.

JB:

Because I think about his activities, since he's still living, it would be much better for you to talk to him than for me to try to remember secondhand what his experiences were.

EP:

Did you—do you recall a Mr. Armistead Sapp who was the attorney for the S&W [Cafeteria] in the fall of 1962? Did he ever focus in on your husband as one of the few white participants?

JB:

Well, I remember Harry went to a cafeteria in Greensboro with some black people. And the owner of the cafeteria was very upset. So that might have been the man. I don't remember the name.

EP:

The reason I ask is Mr. Sapp is deceased now. But I called him up, and I had not done much reading on the demonstrations at this time. And quite unsolicited, he said—and I guess from what you've told me, this will not surprise you—he said, “Oh yes, that thing was full of Communists.” He said, “There was Harry Boyte from the North American Newspaper Alliance there.” I never had an opportunity to follow up on this.

JB:

Yeah.

EP:

But I was struck by the fact that this many years later, your husband's name was the first one that came to Mr. Sapp's mind.

JB:

Well, it really, as you say, isn't too surprising, because Harry was quite outspoken. And he had a lot of leadership ability. And people would sort of recognize his leadership ability. And he was never timid or sort of fearful. And so they would, you know, remember him.

EP:

Well, did he ever write any articles or—

JB:

He probably did, but I—

EP:

Was he quoted or anything?

JB:

I don't know where, you know, I don't know where you'd find them. But I'm sure, as you say, that that was a dodge, you know, to—since they couldn't say he was from the North and one of those Northerners who were infiltrating and didn't understand the South, they would probably say he was a Communist.

EP:

Were you aware of the Jerome case, the Alice Jerome case, at Bennett College?

JB:

Well, I sort of remember something about Bennett College. But I don't remember any particulars of it. I don't think I was at all involved in it.

EP:

Well, this is—well, of course, Sapp was looking for any kind of subversive elements that he could find. And apparently Mrs. Jerome's husband was a prominent member of the Communist Party in New York. And he had been convicted under the Smith Act and served, I think, two years in prison. And she came down here and became a member of the psychology or sociology faculty.

JB:

Now that you're telling me all this, I—it sort of comes back to me that I, I did know something about that woman.

EP:

Well—

JB:

But Harry—one reason that Harry, people would have accused him of being a Communist—and that might have been even in his FBI record—was that years ago, in about 1948 when Henry Wallace was running on the presidential ticket for the Progressive Party—of course, we were in Atlanta then. And Harry went to a Progressive Party meeting with a friend of his named Floyd Hunter, who you might have heard of, because he taught for a long time, I think, at UNC [University of North Carolina]. But he was a sociologist and he was in Atlanta at that time.

And he was—Floyd Hunter was very active in the Progressive Party. But Harry just attended this meeting, and he got on their mailing list. And apparently then some Communist Party people picked up this Progressive Party mailing list, because he was on a mailing list that was a Communist mailing list for a while. And he was sort of upset about it, because he really wasn't active in the Progressive Party, and he wasn't a Communist and he wasn't a member of any such organization. But he was sort of distressed to be on their mailing list for a while. And so that might have led to suspicions which would have sort of filtered around different groups who were very opposed to what he was doing anyway.

EP:

Or perhaps Sapp got a hold of this from the FBI files or something.

JB:

He could have. Yeah, he could have. I expect he was the owner of that cafeteria that Harry went to with black people to integrate.

EP:

Well, Sapp would have been an attorney for those. But the people who owned the cafeterias here in town, one was Boyd Morris who owned the Mayfair [Cafeteria]. And the other was R. L. Bentz, who was a manager of the S&W, which was owned by Frank Sherrill in Charlotte, if I'm not mistaken. And so, so they would have been owners of the two primary targets of the demonstrations here in Greensboro. But Sapp was their attorney.

JB:

Yeah, I remember some restaurants there, but I don't remember which one now. I, I remember the names of those restaurants, but I don't know which one it was that he was—he might have been arrested there. As I say, he was arrested so many times I can't remember all of them.

EP:

You say your husband then went down to SCLC?

JB:

Yeah, he was employed by Dr. [Martin Luther] King here at SCLC in Atlanta in 1963.

EP:

How long did he work for SCLC?

JB:

For three years. And then he went with the EEOC, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission.

EP:

What sort of work did he do for SCLC?

JB:

Well, he was—his title was special assistant to Dr. King. And he was the only white person who was ever on their executive staff. And so he was in on all their planning meetings and everything. But one thing he did— well, he had a program called Operation Dialogue, which was supposed to try to establish more dialogue between the white and black communities. But one thing he did for them is that he would go to a community where they were planning possibly, and hadn't made a final decision, to stage some demonstrations. And he would go into the community, like Selma, for instance, before they had any activity there, and he would, you know, meet with the mayor and some of the leading citizens and all and just say he was interested in knowing about the community. And, of course, he was always very neatly dressed. And, and—

EP:

He didn't identify himself as with—

JB:

No. He would just come in and say he wanted to meet the people and get to know the community. And so, they would usually think he was thinking about starting a business in the community, so they would always be very receptive and kind. He would talk to them all, and then later on they would discover that he was with SCLC and they would be terribly upset. But that was one thing he would do.

And I remember he went down to St. Augustine before they started demonstrations at St. Augustine. And young Harry was down in St. Augustine all the summer of '64. He was down there working with SCLC, too. He can tell you about that. But in St. Augustine, he went to see the leading banker in town and talked to him. [inaudible] and this man was extremely reactionary a person, of course. And he talked to him a lot about what was going on in the civil rights movement and activities. Then he finally, after a lengthy conversation and friendly conversation, he pulled out his card identifying him as SCLC. And the banker was so upset. He apparently had heart trouble. He had to lie down on his sofa in his office and call for his secretary to come bring him his digitalis. And Harry just sat in the chair in the office, waiting until he felt recovered enough to continue the conversation. There are a lot of funny things like that.

EP:

You say your husband was beaten in St. Augustine?

JB:

Yeah, he was beaten in—they had a lot of marches in St. Augustine, sort of like those marches in Greensboro. But they were a little more violent. And the police and their police dogs jumped on him. He had the camera. He was always quite a photographer, and he had a camera and he was taking pictures. And the police jumped on him and broke his camera and, and started beating him up. And the television correspondent for ABC [American Broadcast Company], a man named Paul Good, who was a friend of Harry's and very interested in his activities—and if you could locate Paul Good, he could tell you some interesting stories about Harry in the SCLC days. But the last I heard of him, he was up in Connecticut. He's sort of a freelance writer. He wrote a book about the civil rights movement. Anyhow, he jumped on top of Harry and sort of spread-eagled himself over Harry. And so when the police saw the correspondent from ABC doing this, they immediately stopped beating him.

EP:

Was that the only time he was physically attacked?

JB:

Well—they had several adventures, you might say, around St. Augustine. It's a very violent area. The Ku Klux Klan was extremely active in that area. And somebody who owned a house, somebody up North who owned a beach house just outside of St. Augustine, had given it to SCLC—or loaned it to SCLC—to use. And Harry was staying out there with C. T. Vivien, who was a leader in the civil rights movement who was with SCLC in those days.

And he and C. T. were staying out there at this beach house. Things got pretty hot and people were driving around it one night and shooting towards it and all. So they decided they'd better not stay there the next night. And I think the next night the people burned it and blew it up and all sorts of things, so it was good they didn't.

But then young Harry could tell you about how they were in St. Augustine and they had gone into this motel. And I guess it was some Klansmen shot out the windows in the car. So when they came out the back window in the car was all shattered onto the back seat. And there were about five bullet holes through the windshield, which didn't break, because it had I guess shatterproof glass. But they drove this car home to Atlanta, drove it into the driveway. I wouldn't ride in it until that back window was fixed, I was so horrified.

EP:

Did you ever try to urge your husband or son not to be involved in these areas where they felt they might be injured or killed?

JB:

Well, not really. I didn't really—you know, I felt they would—that nothing would happen to them. I'm not one to borrow trouble. And I felt that that was something they felt they had to do. So I didn't try to dissuade them.

EP:

Obviously you must have been—

JB:

I was sympathetic with what they were doing anyway. And I was, you know, very active in the YWCA and having an integrated program at the YWCA here and all.

EP:

Well, obviously, with the history of things like the Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney murders [civil rights activists murdered in Mississippi in 1964], and the murder of the Baltimore postman [William Moore] and—

JB:

That's right. And things got worse and worse. And some of those murders were, you know, after Harry had left SCLC. Now he did go down—I remember one time he went down to Mississippi, and he felt very threatened there. He went to some SCLC meeting in Mississippi, and he flew into the airport and he took a taxi. And he told the taxi driver he wanted to, I guess, go to a hotel or—I don't know where he was going. Anyway, the taxi driver, instead of taking him there, drove him all around the countryside. And he didn't know what was going to happen to him then, because he thought they might really kill him. He was very nervous about this. But apparently they finally, the taxi driver took him where he was supposed to. That was another time he was really seriously threatened, I remember. And there were probably other episodes, but, you know, I can't remember all of them. Now, I know when he was with the EEOC even, he was investigating a company in Lancaster. I guess that's South Carolina, isn't it?

EP:

Yes.

JB:

And they—you know, he was sort of—he would meet on the side with some of the workers who were filing, wanted to file complaints of discrimination with the EEOC, because he was still pretty militant. And he was meeting with these workers who wanted to file some complaints. And the company got very agitated and had him arrested on just a trumped-up charge. But they kept him in the jail there in Lancaster for I guess about eight or ten hours or so, until they could sort of straighten out the black man who was the union leader that they wanted to not file charges. So then they let him loose.

But that was—he had—they had a charge against him there of some sort, because I remember he had some trouble clearing it up, and the EEOC office and their lawyer here in Atlanta was involved in getting that cleared up, which they did. But, you know, these sorts of things went on all the time in those days.

EP:

Well, as wife and mother, you must have, of course, had many a tense moment.

JB:

Well, yeah, of course I had tense moments. But, you know, I was in sympathy with what they were doing, so I guess I just felt that was sort of a part of it, that you just had to stay.

EP:

And Mr. Boyte worked how long with the EEOC?

JB:

Well, he worked with the EEOC until he was in this automobile accident up in Charlotte where he was injured. And after that, he wasn't really able to work anymore. He went back to work for several months, but he couldn't really work full-time. So he was on a disability compensation for the rest of his life after that. That accident was in about the fall of '68.

EP:

And you have been working at the Quaker House for—for how long?

JB:

Oh, I've just been—well, I worked here part-time from about 1970 to '72. And then we moved down to the Virgin Islands for about three and a half years, because he was on this disability compensation and couldn't work. And we just decided we liked it down there, so we'd go down there. And then we came back to Atlanta in the spring of '76 when he found he had lung cancer. And he died in March of '77. Different places. And then I was up in Virginia for a couple of years.

EP:

I noticed that we have one of your son's books on, I believe, it's Grassroots Politics or Backyard

JB:

It's The Backyard Revolution, I think.

EP:

Backyard Revolution, yes.

JB:

Backyard Revolution. That's what he's doing now. He's doing community action programs. And he's really become sort of a national authority on grassroots movement in community action programs. He got a field fellowship, a field foundation grant to do the research on that book you mentioned.

[End of Interview]