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Oral history interview with Ezell and Corene Blair by Eugene Pfaff


Date: February 2, 1977

Interviewee: Ezell Alexander Blair, Sr.

Biographical abstract: Ezell A. Blair Sr. (1919-1997) taught in Greensboro Public Schools for thirty years. He is the father of Jibreel Khazan, one of the four participants in the sit-in of the F. W. Woolworth lunch counter on February 1, 1960.

Interviewer: Eugene E Pfaff

Description:

In this transcript of a February 2, 1977, oral history interview conducted by Eugene Pfaff with Ezell and Corene Blair, The Blairs primarily discuss race relations and desegregation in Greensboro in the 1950s and 1960s. Other topics include their son's activities, the role of specific whites, and the participation of the adult black community, including themselves, in local civil rights demonstrations.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.603

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 Ezell and Corene Blair by Eugene Pfaff

EUGENE PFAFF:

Today's interview is with Ezell A. Blair Sr., former teacher of industrial arts at Greensboro public schools for how many years, Mr. Blair?

EZELL BLAIR:

Thirty years including my army time.

EP:

Thirty years. And now you are a private contractor, is that correct?

EB:

That's correct.

EP:

This interview is being conducted at his home at 2004 Benbow Road. He is the father of Ezell A. Blair Jr., now known at Jibreel Khazan, one of the four A&T [North Carolina A&T State University] freshmen who initiated the first sit-in demonstrations at F. W. Woolworth department store on February 1, 1960, in Greensboro, North Carolina.

Mr. Blair, I'd like to ask you to describe race relations in Greensboro in the late 1950s.

EB:

In the late 1950s race relationship was very cordial in one sense. It was going along with the old status quo of many years back from my early childhood. It wasn't things that we particularly liked, and we learned to live with it to survive.

EP:

What were the major areas of discontent in the black community?

EB:

Well, one of the things that really got close to me was a Christmas parade downtown in Greensboro. And I happened to be on Greene Street in the Gate City Savings & Loan Building. And my youngest daughter, she and I were standing on the outside. And Mr. Jack Stevens, which was director of Gate City Savings & Loan, and some of the staff knocked on the window and asked us to come on inside to see the parade. It was so cold. And we did.

Shortly after then, after the parade passed, we went to Woolworth. And we only wanted some hot chocolate. So we went to the counter and the lady, Mrs. [Rachel] Holt, if I'm correct, and I think I am, being the supervisor, she denied one of my ICT students from serving us. And the girl said she would serve us anyway. And she did.

This didn't sit too well with Mrs. Holt, so she went to get the manager upstairs. I told her she could get anybody.

She said, “We got a special counter for you up here.”

I said, “You don't have any special counter for me.” And finally he got down there. I believe his name was Turner [sic- C. L. Harris]. And he emphasized to me that he was going to build a place in Southeast Shopping Center down here on Asheboro Street. They were going to put a F. W. Woolworth ad hoc place down here. I asked him not to do it if he wasn't going to fully integrate it, because we were not going to participate. And I would see to that.

And I was very comfortable where I was sitting at that time, me and my daughter. And I would not move from there. So I ate my pie and cocoa. My daughter drank her cocoa. And we left.

EP:

But you were served.

EB:

Yes, we were served.

EP:

So in essence, you desegregated Woolworth's on an individual basis about a year before your son—or four to six months before your son—sat down with the other three freshmen, is that right?

EB:

They served me because I would not leave. I had my pie and my cocoa and my daughter had her cocoa and we ate it.

EP:

The white power structure in Greensboro, always whenever asked, would say, “We're a moderate city. We have good relationships between the races here. This is what makes Greensboro different than other southern cities.&8221; Do you think they were, when they said this, reflecting an accurate condition, or were they just overlooking a lot of things?

EB:

I think they were overlooking a lot of things. And I think it beared on their conscience that they were wrong to make a statement like that, because there's no way in the world a human being could come up in a society like Greensboro at that time and think that everything was all right. They just went along with the status quo, what they thought was the law at that time.

EP:

So, basically, the white leaders had a very inaccurate idea of what race relations were like.

EB:

I certainly think they did.

EP:

One thing they always cite is that the, Dr. William Hampton was on the [Greensboro] City Council and acted as a moderate and progressive voice for the black community to the white community. Do you think that was true? Do you think Dr. Hampton filled that role?

EB:

I think at that time he was in the same position as the late President [Ferdinand D.] Bluford at A&T, now A&T State University. He did the best he could under the circumstances. And I think he brought about a whole lot of changes in thinking in Greensboro.

And I would like to use for an example the Glenwood community in southwest Greensboro now and the East White Oak—the White Oak community—not the East White Oak community—where he received so many votes that he could have been mayor if he had pushed it. If it'd had been today, he would have been mayor at that time. I think he relinquished to Mr. [George] Roach to be mayor—or Ben Cone one [time].

But Dr. Hampton was a shining light for the poor community of Greensboro, white and black, plus the elite, or elite, either one you want to name it, blacks. He was a shining example. Of course he was from New Jersey, his original birthplace.

EP:

Do you think he worked to try to improve conditions of blacks?

EB:

He, he really did. And he was my doctor and my family doctor for many years until he passed. He was loved by the people of southwest Greensboro, Cone Mill section and all.

EP:

Was there much interaction between the blacks and the whites, or did they tend to each remain pretty much in their own community?

EB:

Well, I'd like for you to clarify yourself as far as interaction.

EP:

Working and social conditions.

EB:

I think it was down to what I would call a very minute status at that time. I think they were all thinking—to give you an example of what I'm saying—having been raised up in the Warnersville community, which is one of the oldest black communities in Greensboro, we had a very close rapport with the white community in Glenwood. And I don't like to think in terms of servitude but you have to go back to that too, to bring up the real issue.

I know old families in the Glenwood community, the Wagoners on Florida Street, the Teagues on Aycock Street, the Melvins, which I think is related to our present mayor—he used to run Melvin Coal Company—and a host of others which I can't name now. We were very—Kimbreys on Dillard Street—we were very close together. My great-grandparents, they helped each other build their own houses, didn't charge each other, each one, nothing—they gave their servitude.

The McGibleys, a black family, worked for Brooks, old man Brooks, late Francis Brooks's father and all—he was the mill man there. Eddinger Lumber Company, which is a Jewish family—who had the Kimbreys worked for them. And they did things together, which Eli Eddinger and all of them were aware of what they were doing. They were not taking anything. It was a cooperative thing. Just like you had a barn-raising. So does this answer your question? I think this just about clarified it.

EP:

What efforts had been made by blacks to desegregate Greensboro prior to the sit-ins? For instance, I'm aware there were several NAACP-sponsored marches downtown. There was an attempt by A&T students to protest the segregation of the movie theatres in the late thirties. And this was only alleviated when one of the theatres brought Fats Waller to town. I think was one of the compromises. Do you recall any instances of earlier attempts to desegregate eating places, restaurants, movie theatres, that kind of institution in Greensboro?

EB:

Truthfully, I don't know of any attempt. I think they just accepted that the status quo and was desirous for changes. And I think the NAACP at that time was playing a very low profile. And they just didn't push it too much.

EP:

By 1960, the public library, the bus station, the airport, and the police department had all been integrated. Did this have any material effect on the black community?

EB:

You're saying that the police department, the airport and several other establishments were integrated at that time.

EP:

Had black employees.

EB:

They possibly had black employees. I know the police department did because that happened during World War II or a little bit prior to that. I know some of the officers during that time, some of the first ones employed.

EP:

But that did not mean that the black community felt that there had really been major steps to integrating society in Greensboro.

EB:

No. For an example, the airport didn't have any one in first-class jobs there. They might have been custodial workers like they have some now. And they have mixed ethnic groups there now. But not in any responsible position at the airport at that time—I think Mr. Ed R. Zane can verify that they didn't have. But the police department had tokenism at that time.

EP:

Turning now to the sit-ins and your son's participation in them, what influences in his childhood and his adolescence do you feel may have encouraged him to be a civil rights activist?

EB:

I don't think anything particular, in particular, was responsible for him going to this area. I think that this was a time for the economical advantages in the black homes had been lifted, say from World War II up. And he was born right on the verge of World War II in 1941, so economical status was a little different. And you can go and buy from the best store downtown, like Vanstory, Younts-Deboe. We had Belk's, Meyer's at that time, and Ellis-Stone.

And you don't get anything else. You have a segregated place to drink water from and you don't have no bathroom facilities at all. And I think it's just a natural thing that time, your educational values had been lifted. And we came up under, even though segregated, one of the best high schools in the state.

EP:

And that would be Dudley High School?

EB:

That would be Dudley High School. And we had a terribly good administrator from its inception up until, say, in the early seventies.

EP:

The type of things I was suggesting would be yours and your wife's influence, the influence of friends, or the influence of national civil rights figures and movements, such as his reaction to Little Rock or the Montgomery bus boycott. Did any of these seem to stir him to want to contribute to civil rights for blacks?

EB:

I would definitely think so just from a human nature standpoint observing these things on TV, which they had access to every day from the 1950s up. It would definitely set a pattern in their mind looking at Miss [Rosa] Parks in Alabama and the other civil rights movement, early civil rights movement. And what that teaches at that time, this would definitely have to set some precedence in our thinking for the present time then and projecting toward the future.

EP:

Did you and your wife ever try to influence him in this direction?

EB:

Definitely no, not, definitely not. I could tell you when the inception came about. It just happened one Sunday evening, I guess, prior to the week that they went down to Woolworth. The four boys came in one Sunday evening. They said “Daddy, we, Momma, we're disturbed about a certain thing.” I guess we were a little bit more open than some of the other boys' parents. Two of the boy's parents were in exodus from the city. They didn't live here. And we happened to be here, and the Richmonds. And they said, “We're going downtown.” And I said, “Well, more power to you.” They said, “Daddy, this won't bother your job.” I said “I can't mess about a job, because I've been a mechanic ever since 1934. And I've taught for years, but I know how to use my tools and I'm very good at it.”

EP:

Did you offer them any advice?

EB:

Otherwise than that, no. I really didn't know that they were going to start the thing as early as they did. I knew it was in their mind. But I'd like to give a lot of credit to Ralph Johns, if he's living today. I don't know whether he is.

EP:

He's in Beverly Hills, California.

EB:

And I'd like to give the other credit to Reverend Royster on East Florida Street.

EP:

What was his full name?

EB:

Reverend W. R. Royster. I think he writes for the Peacemaker, he wrote articles, etc. And I think he is a man, he and Ralph Johns, need to be contacted on this. I really think they are the initiators of the whole thing, not the NAACP.

EP:

What did Reverend Royster do?

EB:

Reverend Royster and Ralph Johns held conferences together—some of them I didn't know anything about. And Ralph Johns, as you know, was kind of ostracized from the family, Showfety family, due to his leniency toward the black. I don't think it was the thing that he was making money off of them. He's not a mercenary type person. He lost a lot of money with A&T students and black people. But Ralph Johns was just a compassionate fellow. Maybe he was the fellow like the late Martin Luther King in Greensboro, and Reverend Royster was one of his cohorts. I mean he thought the same.

And they would say things that the average black would not dare say at that time. If you read some of Reverend Royster's articles today in the Peacemaker, you see he is still on the battlefield for the same thing. And so bad about Ralph—I mean that the Showfetys, when we were being jailed, his brother-in-laws were right out there, help riding us out, jailing us.

EP:

Oh, Ralph Johns's brother-in-laws—

EB:

Showfety.

EP:

The Showfety family, and they were members of the police force.

EB:

He was the white liaison with the police force. He was not a policeman. But he was right out there where the Evergreens [hospital] is right now, the old Evergreens out on Bessemer Road—helped writing up the people and enforcing the law and keeping the people [unclear] and what not.

EP:

You mean generally against black people, or any one specific incident?

EB:

Yes. He was against black people. I couldn't understand it. Showfety, to me, was a name somewhere from Europe, not Britain, not France, but somewhere they had a lot of suppression. So I don't buy anything from them today, never will.

EP:

So you did not give any more specific advice than to wish them well when they said they were going to sit down?

EB:

No. We didn't know anymore about it until the day it happened—it come out in the paper. Me nor my wife knew anything about it.

EP:

What transpired at this meeting? Did they just tell you what they were going to do and that was basically it?

EB:

That's correct.

EP:

And they asked if this would endanger your job with the public schools.

EB:

That's correct.

EP:

Was your wife also teaching at this time?

EB:

That was in 1960. I think she was employed at Jonesboro Elementary School at that time in 1960.

EP:

But neither of you expressed any feeling that this might endanger your job.

EB:

No. We never felt like that because she has worked domestic work. I have worked domestic work. I have caddied at the golf courses. I waited tables and the like. And so how can this impede me when I have a trade and I know what I can do for my trade? So teaching was the thing. I belonged to the NAACP when many teachers would give me the money—wouldn't even register their name. Didn't want it registered.

EP:

What, if anything, did anyone at the job or in the school system say to you concerning your son's participation in the sit-ins?

EB:

Frankly, no one, at no time—and I think the late Mr. Phil Weaver was superintendent of the schools at that time, and Dr. [John] Tarpley, living today, on Cambridge Street in Irving Park, he was my principal, offered salutations.

EP:

But there was no intimidation on your job?

EB:

None whatsoever from Greensboro Board of Education, none whatsoever.

EP:

How about your neighbors? What was the attitude of your neighbors?

EB:

Well, some of them were fearful because they had not had any experience like this before, and I hadn't either.

EP:

Given the fact that you said there'd been basically no other protests—certainly of this nature by the blacks in Greensboro—this must have been all the more a very different, different radical step. I can see how this would engender doubt in many minds in the black community. Did they express concern that this would make the city even more conservative and antagonistic to the black community?

EB:

Are you speaking relative to the black community and their thinking?

EP:

Yes, sir.

EB:

I wouldn't think so. I think they were in a dilemma. They didn't know what to do or what to think. I think it all come by surprise to most of them. And we received telephone calls stating that they sympathized with us. And I'm sure the Richmonds received the same thing, since they were living in the city. But this had no effect on our thinking.

EP:

Your son's been described as a leader. And he certainly was the spokesman of the four the first day of the sit-ins—certainly is quoted extensively in the paper when the article came out in the Record and the Daily News. Could you describe your son's role in the ensuing negotiations and continuing demonstrations? Did he continue to fill a leadership role?

EB:

I would think so, because I think his eloquence of speech and all was a little bit above the other fellows. And they trusted him for their Aaron and partially as their Moses. And going back to Biblical statement, Moses was the thinker and Aaron was the speaker. So I think he was more the Aaron. And I like to think that Mr. [Franklin] McCain and the others were the three Moses. And he was part of the Moses and he did the speaking for them. I don't think he did anything that they didn't agree upon.

EP:

Did he describe to you his feelings that first day, and when he sat down, did he describe to you what he was feeling and his doubts or concerns?

EB:

Well, he came home that evening and he spoke about it. And he said they may have put burnt cigarettes on his clothing and the other boys and—

EP:

And this happened the first day?

EB:

Yes. And he felt like, well, they should continue. I said, “Well, this is part of it. You've got to suffer some. Christ suffered, so what's wrong with you? You started, so you all, it's you all, the four of you, you started it, so you've got to walk through with it.”

EP:

Did he continue to consult with you over the months about the progress of the demonstrations and negotiations?

EB:

Oh yes, oh yes. And he consulted with Dr. [George] Simkins and the NAACP and the Greensboro Citizens Association. At that time both organizations were very viable in the movement and the citizenry as a whole, as the momentum picked up.

EP:

His goals that first day have been quoted as being merely wanting service for blacks at Woolworth's. Was that an accurate statement? Were they doing it for all blacks?

EB:

I would think so. Really, I would. I don't think they would have even started it. It just so happened Woolworth had—and Kress had—the most feasible place downtown for eating. But I don't think it was just earmarked for Woolworth. I think it was earmarked for the whole city.

EP:

Did his goals change as the sit-ins spread? Did they begin to realize that this movement would go beyond just Greensboro and even just beyond North Carolina?

EB:

I don't think initially that they did. They were interested in Greensboro. But I think with the support they got after the first day from all over the state, especially the black institutions, the institutions of higher learning and the high schools and all, I think their goals changed then.

EP:

Were they surprised at how, how quickly it spread and how many black students were willing to join in similar demonstrations in other cities?

EB:

I think they were shocked at the support in that students came here from all over the state of North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, Alabama, Georgia and all around. They spent their own money to come here and talk with them.

EP:

So they were sought out by blacks, not only from other cities, but other states.

EB:

Definitely so. And lived up to it. Really, I think a lot of the white organizations should be given credit for supporting this. I think they felt the same way but they were afraid to say it—hush, hush. But this brought them out, too. And we had so much support. And I must give credit—

EP:

From the white community?

EB:

Oh, yes, definitely so. We had great support from Burlington Industr[ies], Cone Mill Corporation, and many others which right now I cannot name in that this—the negotiation with Woolworth—Bur-Mil, Burlington Industr[ies] furnished their plane for the blacks and other white leaders here to go to New York and talk with Woolworth officials.

And it finally boiled down to the place where the S&W didn't want to yield. And the Cones went so far as to say, you yield or we will take your lease. And it went so far with this cafeteria, Mayfair, that certain companies that they were getting things on consignment for, cut that off. They had to pay cash for what they got.

EP:

Was this in '60 or the '62 demonstrations against the Mayfair?

EB:

Right off, I can't recollect the year, the chronological year.

EP:

But basically—

EB:

But it got down to that during the—shortly after the mass demonstration downtown and the mass jailing and all, that the established—this was later on—that they just really took the bull by the horns, say[ing], “Well, now, we can't have this degradation against Greensboro. And certain elements of Greensboro think it needs to be done and this will be done.” I rather think it was the Chamber of Commerce.

[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]

[Unclear]

EP:

You've mentioned that you felt that Ralph Johns was instrumental in their success—

CORENE BLAIR:

That's right. I feel that the demonstration would not have been very successful if it had not been for Ralph Johns. Ralph Johns was instrumental in helping the students. They could confide in him. He donated money, clothes. He let the students work in his store. And anything that they wanted they went to Ralph Johns, and Ralph Johns stood by them in every instance.

EP:

Did your son and the other three original demonstrators consult frequently with Ralph Johns?

CB:

They did, yes.

EP:

Did the other demonstrators, as hundreds began to participate in the sit-ins at Woolworth and Kress, did they also consult with Ralph Johns, or did he then begin to play less and less an important role?

CB:

I think that, as the huge crowds started pouring in, I think they more or less went on their own. But those four still stayed in contact with Ralph Johns.

EP:

Miles Wolff, in his book Lunch at the 5 & 10, indicated that one of the four—and he does not identify who it was—felt, said that in effect, well, Ralph Johns was kind of crazy. You can't run a business the way he does. Seemed to suggest that he was not as grateful as he should have been for starting this. Did any of the four ever indicate that attitude toward Ralph Johns?

CB:

No, they did not. I think this is a terrible error that someone made against Ralph Johns. Ralph Johns was for the right thing. And he felt that this should take place. And he even lost his home, his family and everything by helping the blacks.

EB:

May I say this? I think he was persecuted primarily at that time because he was a strict Catholic.

CB:

Well, I didn't know—

EB:

It's too bad some of the others—Catholics—at that time would not stand out like Ralph Johns did. No Catholic stood out at that time. If they did, I would like to know who they are.

EP:

Well, Mr. Blair, I'd like to ask you about any meetings that you participated in between the A&T students, the store managers, public officials and members of the black community. Did you participate in any such meeting?

EB:

Yes, I participated in a lot of meetings. Primarily, we started at A&T College, which was their name at that time. And I have to give a lot of credit to the late Mr. Ellis Corbett, the public relations director of A&T in charge of alumni affairs at that time. Plus Mr. William Gamble, which I think is still associated with A&T State University.

EP:

He was dean of men at that time, was he not?

EB:

That's exactly right. He gave us wide-open support. And I think Dr. [Warmoth] Gibbs was chancellor at that time. He was president at that time. But Mr. Corbett and Mr. Gamble seemed like the burden was put on their shoulders as far as A&T was concerned.

CB:

And I'd like to inject this. Dr. Gibbs supported it 100 percent, too, and also, Dr. [Willa] Player from Bennett College. Bennett College students participated, because at that time our daughter, Gloria Jean, was attending Bennett College. So on this particular night that the mass students were arrested and our daughter was involved there too, Dr. Player sent every parent a telegram letting the parents know that their daughter had been jailed and that they would get them out. But the students did not want to get out because they felt that they would prefer staying there. And she asked if she could get a group of parents to volunteer to go to the—at that time it was down at the—what's the name of this place?

EB:

Old Evergreens.

CB:

Evergreens. They had so many students that they had arrested. They had put the boys and girls together and, of course, this was one thing that the parents were up in the air about. So they had to separate them. So they put the girls over there in the old—it used to be the polio hospital at that time. They had an area there they put the girls.

So I went down one day and worked to help out. And several parents went there, you know, to help out. And then, of course, they said that the—well, the matron there said that my daughter—we talked. I went in. And she said that our daughter was an instigator of getting the others stirred up for asking for so many things. They didn't want to give them the things that they would ask for.

The girls would say that they had a headache and they wanted aspirins. And then the matron would say, well, you had aspirin. So I said, well, this is the least that you can do is to give them aspirins if they had a headache. But this is the type of thing that they have not been accustomed to and quite naturally are frustrated. Well, she would give it, give the aspirins to me for me to take in there to give them.

And then in a day or so after that then they transferred our daughter down to the jail downtown to separate her from the other students. And we had no warning about this until I went down the next day to see her. Then I realized that they had sent her downtown.

EP:

Well, if I could—

EB:

Excuse me. May I inject this right along with that since we're talking about the jailing situation? I'd like to give a lot of credit to Mr. William Trotter; he was vice mayor [mayor pro tem] at that time. Mr. [David] Schenck at that time was mayor; left the city—incommunicative—could not contact. And I'd also like to give credit to the late Mr. Dale Montgomery who was chairman of County Commissioners at that time from High Point, and Mr. Hoover, who is still living today. He runs a funeral home in High Point. They were Republican. And they really worked very fervently. And there was a Jewish fellow that taught at UNCG [The University of North Carolina at Greensboro]—I can't call his name right now—and the present Judge Kivett, Charlie Kivett. They worked very fervently with the movement. And we never can forget them for their efforts put forth.

And Mr. Trotter become very unpopular with a lot of segments of Greensboro at that time. But I think he has overcome all of it. He is still living. He has a cancer and he's sick but he's there every day. And he still looks bright. I think God has bestowed certain things on him for his efforts of the past.

And Ed R. Zane Sr., we'll never forget him. And the late Mr. [J. Spencer] Love, the president of Burlington Industr[ies], and the Burlington Industr[ies] staff at that time, they did a whole lot for alleviating a whole lot of problems here. And this is your white establishment.

EP:

I'd like to turn back to Dr. Gibbs. A lot of—the official position was that he said he could not control what the students did privately off the campus. And several people have suggested that this was his way of giving support to the students by refusing, as some members of the white community wanted to do, refusing to restrict students to the campus. And that this was his way of very quietly, very behind the scenes, giving support to the students. Do you feel this is an accurate assessment of his role? That he really secretly was very much supporting the students, but he couldn't openly come out and support them.

EB:

I wouldn't think that he didn't openly come out and support them. He said it in a board meeting, which we all were there at that time. And he left it up to Mr. Corbett and Mr. Gamble to carry the ball. He could not abstain from the principle of what they were doing. And he supported it one hundred percent. And he was under fire from the state authorities and all. But he stood his ground.

EP:

He did receive pressure from the state legislature?

EB:

Oh yes, definitely. I don't think the state legislature, the government at that time, and everyone else, they just couldn't conceive of this happening in Greensboro, in North Carolina at that time. I can't name who the governor was at that time. You can look it up—

EP:

Governor [Luther] Hodges.

EB:

Governor Hodges, yes. But they didn't bring too much pressure on him when they found out the momentum was moving everywhere at that time. So I think Mr. Hodges just relinquished his position, first position—

EP:

You say you attended meetings between the store officials and the students and the white government officials and the members of the white community and the black community. Who brought you in on these meetings? Who invited you to attend these meetings?

CB:

We had these meetings, Ezell, we started meeting at different churches. And different groups, large groups, would meet together and make plans. And this is when the—a lot of the parents started participating with the students as the time went on. And we decided to then start boycotting the stores. And this is how, why I guess, that Woolworth decided to go ahead and open their area for eating, because they couldn't stand the loss that they were getting every day. Don't you think?

EP:

Do you think that the store managers and the public officials negotiated in good faith with—do you think they were really trying to find a solution that everyone could live with, or do you think they were just stalling?

EB:

I think economic-wise they were not stalling. The momentum had picked up so all over the United States, so they had to come up with something very comprehensive to satisfy the economic loss that they were taking all over the United States at that time.

EP:

Can you think of any compromises that were suggested by both sides that were suggested and were ultimately rejected?

EB:

I'm not in a position to say that because I was not in all the top-level meetings. I think you could get more authentic information from Mr. Ed R. Zane Sr.

EP:

Well, mentioning—

EB:

Or Dave Morehead, who now is employed by HUD [Dept. of Housing and Urban Development].

EP:

What was Mr. Morehead's role?

EB:

Mr. Morehead was the primary negotiator for going to New York and talking with—and Mr. Zane—and talking with the Woolworth officials.

EP:

Local officials, or did people go up to New York?

EB:

They did not talk with the local officials. They went to New York. And Burlington Industries' planes flew them up there and brought them back just like they go to their offices every day in New York.

EP:

Was it just the members of the mayor's committee, or did students go up there and talk?

EB:

We did not have—the students did not go and talk. They didn't have a mayor's committee because Mayor Schenck played hands-off the whole thing. If it hadn't been for Captain [William] Jackson at that time, the late Captain Jackson now, the thing wouldn't have eased off as—it wouldn't have worked as well as it did work. It was a planned thing, so to speak.

EP:

Do you think Captain Jackson—

EB:

Captain Jackson is supposed to be given a whole lot of credit for the whole thing. It was not—

EP:

He tried to work out a solution.

EB:

Right.

EP:

What sort of things did he do?

EB:

Well, he would always contact the students and all, the officials, to find out when they were going to march and the public was going to march. And he was always there. And he—I think at that time he baited down the status quo policemen you had at that date, which is different from today. He conditioned their minds—“this is a new thing.” And even though he was an old cop, he went along with the modern-day thing—this happening now and the future. I think he could project into the future.

CB:

Because they would always let him know, you know, when they were going to have these demonstrations, the marches.

EP:

Do you think he kept down the potential not only of crowd violence but police brutality?

CB:

I think so.

EB:

I think he was prime person over that. It was not the mayor at that time. It was not the police chief at that time. It was Captain Jackson.

CB:

Excuse me. There were a lot of hecklers, but I don't think during the whole time no one was involved in any serious injury or anything of that nature.

EP:

Concerning Mr. Zane's committee, what was your opinion of Mr. Zane and his committee? Do you think it was responsible for working out a solution in the 1960 Woolworth sit-in demonstration?

EB:

I give them a great part of the credit for the whole thing. I would say 75 percent of it.

EP:

What things specifically did they do that you would credit them for?

EB:

Well, I would preface it with this. Being the ethnic group he was from at that time, I think he stuck his neck way out on the chopping block. But I must give the, the greater ethnic group in the city, and I would say primarily—

[End of tape 1, side A]

EP:

Did they do or did they not do?

EB:

I couldn't say what they did not do. I can say what they actually performed. They went along with Mr. Zane's program primarily. I don't know what he did to manipulate them to come under, but they really rallied to the cause.

EP:

How would you assess the individual members of the committee, such other members as Bland Worley, Waldo Falkener, Arnold Schiffman, Howard Holderness, W. M. York, David Schenck, O. L. Simon and James Doggett? Can you think of any of these other individuals that I've named that did anything approaching Mr. Zane's efforts to bring about a successful resolution to the issue?

EB:

Well, I would definitely think they would have been a viable part of it in that they were the part of the whole. Just like in geometry, the whole equals the sum of its parts. And these gentlemen, with the integrity they had, and knowing these gentlemen that you mentioned individually, I think they played a great part in alleviating the whole situation and bringing it to fruition.

EP:

But you feel that the guiding light was Mr. Zane.

EB:

Yes, I definitely do.

EP:

Did either of you speak personally with him or attend any meetings in which he spoke?

EB:

Well, he didn't do a lot of speaking. He did a lot of work undercover.

EP:

Behind the scenes.

EB:

He didn't publicize himself, never has.

EP:

But he met with the store officials and communicated with the students and so forth?

EB:

Yes.

CB:

Yes. I think he also met with those, with the four students, too, on different occasions.

EP:

Did your son keep you closely informed of the day-by-day activities of what were going on?

CB:

Well, no, because—not day-by-day, because so many times I would go—when I'd leave for work I'd go by the campus to check on him. And they would be making what, what do you call those—

EB:

Strategies.

CB:

They would be getting together things they were going to be doing the next day. And sometimes I didn't see him for two or three days. And they were really exhausted, because along with getting their strategies together and making signs that they were going to be using and still having to do their studies, they were pretty busy. And so many times they didn't get to bed at night. But when I did see him they would inform me on the things that had taken place.

And, of course, I helped with, on Saturdays carrying some of the students to—back to campus and picking some up, bringing them downtown to march. And also carrying the, the things that they would need, you know, the signs and things that they would be using, because they made some of those at home, too, when they'd come over at night.

EP:

Did either of you receive any hate mail, threatening phone calls, that sort of intimidation?

CB:

No, we did not. We certainly didn't. And we didn't ever have to have an unlisted telephone number.

EP:

Was there ever any time when you felt you might need police protection?

CB:

No. No.

EP:

Are there any individuals associated with the sit-ins that stand out either positively or negatively in your mind? You've mentioned Ralph Johns. You've mentioned Edward Zane. You've mentioned Reverend Royster. Are there any other individuals that come to mind?

EB:

I would say no. If they did, they played a very low profile. Otherwise the fellow [George] Dorsett used to be in charge of the Ku Klux Klan up here on McCormick Street. And really, I don't think he was any detriment to us. I knew him personally.

EP:

You knew him personally?

EB:

Yes.

EP:

In what capacity?

EB:

Well, he was a mechanic and in the trade field. And I think he was fighting a losing battle then, in that he was trying to reorganize Glenwood. And the people of Glenwood—I've always been very compassionate toward them, and I think they've always been very compassionate toward the black community, especially in the southwest or Warnersville area of the black community. They didn't go along with him. And so they eventually got rid of him and his cohorts, you know.

EP:

Do you think the Klan played an important role in the sit-ins at all? I know Dorsett was seen on the scene. He was supposedly talking to the young white teenagers who staged the counter protest and tried to fill up the seats to prevent the A&T students and Bennett students from receiving seats. But do you think the Klan played any important role at all in trying to prevent the sit-ins?

EB:

No. I think they were on the way out with the philosophical thinking of the white population. I think that they were tired of this, too. And I think they were just moot, so to speak.

EP:

How well do you think the police handled the situation in protecting the demonstrators and in keeping down the potential for violence?

EB:

Well, under the situation at that time with the low level of education in the police department—and not that they have law enforcement agency funds that they have now for educating the police—I think they did a remarkable job under the circumstances.

EP:

Now Captain Jackson at that time was a lieutenant in the juvenile division and has been mentioned in Miles Wolff's book for keeping the teenagers, white teenagers, from doing any sort of violence. And, once again, a number of reporters have given credit to Chief Paul Calhoun for the way—instructions he gave his police officers. Do you think the police worked to protect the demonstrators and keep down violence, or do you feel they did not do their job?

EB:

Well, comparatively with other cities in the United States, especially in the Southeast, I think they did an excellent job. I'm not a Calhoun favorite and very sorry that he's passed on. But he had to have some input into the whole thing since he was the administrator at that time. And knowing his level of education and all, I think he did the best he could do at that time. I think it was more of Mr. Jackson's efforts. And I think he instructed him more than the administrator instructed his subordinates.

EP:

Was your son arrested? I meant, the newspaper accounts his arrest. And as far as I can tell, the first mass arrest for trespassing occurred on April twenty-first. Was your son arrested other than this time?

CB:

I'm sure they were because they were—from the time that they first started arresting the students, I don't think there was a time when he wasn't in there. I don't recall how many times he was arrested.

EP:

He was repeatedly arrested.

CB:

Yes, he was.

EP:

Did you provide bail for him, or was bail provided from a different source?

CB:

Bail was offered to them but it was not—we didn't provide it but bail was offered from other sources. But they would not accept it.

EB:

Well, I'd like to give credit to Mr. Conrad Raiford.

CB:

And Mr. Falkener.

EB:

And Mr. Falkener.

EP:

Is this Waldo Falkener on the city council?

EB:

Yes. Old Greensboro citizen, Waldo Falkener, from the east section of Greensboro, and Conrad Raiford from the west section, Warnersville section. They provided bond for anyone that wanted to get out of jail. A lot of them didn't want to.

CB:

Didn't any of them.

EB:

And the Hargetts—the late Mr. N. E. Hargett also had a standing bond for anybody that wanted to get out. I'm very sorry. And Mr. Smith, Smithfield did the best he could. But Perry J. Brown did nothing—no efforts, no efforts. And I'd like that to be recorded.

EP:

What was Mr. Brown's position in the community? What could he have done?

EB:

He could have furnished bond for hundreds of them. Just recognizing bonds, one of those false things, so to speak. There was nobody guilty of committing any felony or anything at the time.

EP:

No one was actually put in jail.

EB:

No. Well, some of them were put in jail, and they had to get a bondsman. But he never offered one hand any kind of way, no food, no nothing and did not participate.

CB:

The night they arrested you, who went with your bond?

EB:

I don't—

CB:

Because, because you came home. Now the students stayed. And that was the night that Jean was arrested, Ezell was arrested, Ezell, Jr. And you were arrested but you came home. You didn't stay. You didn't spend the night.

EB:

I never did go to jail.

EP:

Now when, when were you arrested?

CB:

You were arrested too that night, now, because I was downtown—I was downtown and I came home because there was nobody here but Sheila and myself.

EB:

Well, this is very comical. They took me down to Evergreens. But when I got out, I recognized the sheriff. At that time he was the head sheriff, a Republican from High Point. I started talking with him when I got out of the police car. And I just walked on up Bessemer Avenue. So I never went to jail.

EP:

You were never recognized for bond or anything?

EB:

I never went to jail.

EP:

Now was this in '63 or 1960? It seemed to me we're talking about two different periods here.

EB:

This is initially—this thing didn't spread too far over three years now. This is initial thing. It had to be between '60 and '61. I've never been incarcerated. You can't find nothing in the jail records where I've been in jail for anything in the city or anything like that. I ain't never been to jail.

EP:

Was this in connection with the Woolworth and the Kress's sit-ins between February 1, 1960, and the end of July 1960?

EB:

Well, this was with the boycott thing where people just protested in general, and marching. This is marches, primarily. I can't name the chronological year. But it was '60 or '61.

EP:

The boycott, did it extend beyond when Woolworth and Kress decided to integrate? Did the black community continue to boycott certain stores?

CB:

Yes. They started—we started boycotting Meyer's Department Store because we spent money there. And then they had the, I think it was called the Garden Room tearoom. And then we decided that we would stop buying there until they opened up. And then after we boycotted there for a certain length of time, then they opened up. And this is the only way that that really was successful in getting those establishments opened up was by boycotting.

EP:

So the story really continues beyond Mr. Westbrook and what appears in the paper.

CB:

That's right.

EP:

What was the attitude of the black community concerning the students? Was it a source of pride of what they were doing or feeling that maybe they're threatening our good relations with city hall?

CB:

I think that the black community had a feeling of pride because these young students were doing something that some of them really wanted to do years ago, but they were afraid of their jobs. They felt that their jobs would have been in jeopardy because so many of them talked about it as time went on, and they were very proud of the students because they supported them, because a lot of the people in the community started giving support to the students.

EP:

As your son and the other three original demonstrators are quoted in Mr. Wolff's book, there's a suggestion that they felt the older black community had not been as active or as aggressive as they perhaps could have been in, in pressing for their rights. And that this in essence was what the younger generation of black college students were going to do. Do you feel this accurately reflects what your son and the other demonstrators were thinking, or is this a distortion of their view?

EB:

I would like to speak to that. I think it's a total distortion. I don't think they vindicated the elder blacks in any way. I think it was a thing that they saw needed to be done. And they initiated it as far as Greensboro's concerned. And I think it's kind of—some things are very irrelevant, as far as I'm concerned.

And as far as quotes in Mr. Wolff's book that he wrote, really, I feel that way. And I think they can speak for themselves. A lot of connotation he has in there—I don't think they even inserted that quotation. I don't think they even inserted that.

EP:

So in essence, this is a college student movement and it remained so. Did the older black community want to be a part of this, or did they feel [that], “All right, this is the college students, this is their thing, this is their movement, and we will support them generally, but they specifically will do the sitting in?” Was that the attitude?

EB:

No. I wouldn't think that, because the support that they got, the wide support from the community, the hundreds and hundreds of people here—all levels of vocation, occupation—they were in the marches and demonstrations. College professors and what in the—I mean whatever vocations—they were there. They were there, rain, shine, sleet, or snow.

EP:

So when the paper talks about these crowds in the stores and out in the streets of anywhere from six hundred to a thousand people, what they're talking about are students and other members, older members of the black community.

CB:

That's right.

EB:

Yes. They met at the Providence Baptist Church primarily every night or at Trinity AME Zion Church, which is over on Washington Street at that time and Clinton Street. And they were right out there, rank and file.

CB:

That's correct.

EB:

Well, you might call them thugs or whatnot, but they were there too. But we had the committee to take care of them, and so there was no violence.

CB:

The staff of the students started, I would say, in a week or two. The people in the community just took right on, just like they were really in the planning. After having the meetings and the times were planned when the marches were going to take place and the community was there to support them.

EP:

So in the marches of '62 and '63 against Mayfair and S&W [cafeterias] and the Carolina and the Center Theatre, the black community of all levels and all occupations got out in the street and marched?

CB:

They did.

EB:

All of the folks.

EP:

What was the attitude of the students? Did they actively seek the participation of the black community?

EB:

I would think so, in that they, they submitted fliers and all to let them know what their philosophy was, their objective. And it was very easy to understand. And the person that didn't have a higher level of education, they could read it. And they came out.

EP:

You've mentioned that neither of you feared any reprisal in terms of your job or other kind of reprisal from the white power structure. Did anyone in the black community evidence concern or, or express this fear that blacks would be laid off jobs, that prices would be raised in stores that catered to blacks, this sort of thing?

EB:

Well, that particular connotation of the prices were going to be raised I don't think was ever injected. We had some friends that would call and say, "Well, do you think it's all right? Do you think you're secure?" Like I said on the tape there, that at no time did we fear anything because—

EP:

Excuse me. Who, who said this?

EB:

I said this.

EP:

Oh, excuse me.

EB:

At no time did we fear anything. Like we told our son and the three young friends that Sunday night, don't worry about our jobs, you know. We're not worried about that—

CB:

Because we felt this—if it should, if it had happened that we had been laid off, we felt like there were other types of work that we could find. This was the type of thing that we thought about.

EP:

In the sit-ins, a number of commentators remarked that it's remarkable that such a large movement could have started so spontaneously. The movement here in Greensboro started with your son and the other three young men and that hundreds participated, and then the other black colleges and universities in the state joined in. But that it wasn't organized by the NAACP or CORE or SCLC or any other black civil rights movement. Did the NAACP have any input into that?

EB:

No, initially, no. The NAACP, SCLC, and all these organizations, CORE and all that, they had nothing to do with the movement here in Greensboro. They came in later for support. They were not aware. George Simkins was the president at that time. We did not have a CORE organization here at that time. We did have a SLC, or Student—what is it?

EP:

SCLC, Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

EB:

No. Abernathy and his group, Martin Luther King, the late Martin Luther King Jr., none of them had any infiltration at all in this movement here in Greensboro. If they say so, I can refute it. I'd like to know what they had to do with it. And George Simkins can verify that.

EP:

When CORE was invited in or sent representatives down to help train the students in nonviolent protest, why was it that CORE was invited in, rather than the NAACP? Given the fact they had an NAACP chapter here but no CORE support.

EB:

Well, I wouldn't say that they were invited in. I thought they—I think they saw an opportunity—

CB:

They supported it.

EB:

To come in and support the movement, which led on to the march in Washington in '63. I think they were seeking publicity for their organization, because the movement in Alabama, the bus strike and all that, boycott in Alabama, they—that was their thing at that time. And they didn't have enough momentum. They didn't have a large enough program, so they jumped on the bandwagon.

EP:

Do you think that the traditional black leadership, the NAACP, black ministers, black educators—in other words, the traditional leaders of the black community—felt that the students were trying to usurp their leadership role?

EB:

Initially, yes. But they had to come around due to their congregation because their congregation was so entwined. If that was the issue of the day and their congregation would not accept anything else—if a minister and the black community didn't participate, then he was put on the black list by his own, own constituents.

EP:

In other words, they had to participate with the students, or else their congregations would have left them.

EB:

That's exactly right. And we had some that did not participate at that time. And they're not so popular today. Some of them are still around but they're not too popular. Either they have died off or whatnot.

CB:

Well, our pastor preached to his congregation to support the students.

EB:

Many others.

EP:

Are there any individuals that come to mind as being very supportive or on the other side being opposed to the sit-ins and then later the marches? Do any individuals come to your mind?

EB:

No, I can't—I can't recollect anyone that—if they were, they kept it to themselves because the momentum moved up so. And public opinion would have been so far against them. If they had any adverse feelings, they kept it to themselves.

EP:

The lunch counters at Woolworth's and Kress's were finally desegregated in the last week of July 1960, according to the newspaper and Miles Wolff's book. Now by this time, the colleges would have released the students for the summer or the seniors would have graduated. And the continuation of the sit-ins and the pickets were done by high school students. But also the negotiations that finally resulted in blacks being served at these two stores were carried on by the Greensboro Men's Association, which, as I understand, was an all-black organization at that time.

EB:

Greensboro Men's Association?

CB:

I'm not sure.

EP:

What was the organization or association that participated in negotiations with Mr. Zane's committee and with the store managers in July that finally resulted in the desegregation of the lunch counter?

EB:

The Greensboro Citizens Association.

EP:

Greensboro Citizens, excuse me, excuse me.

EB:

And I must give credit to the, the organization that you're speaking about, the Greensboro Men's Association, which was primarily professional blacks in Greensboro. They played a very viable part in it.

EP:

So—

EB:

Not initially, but they come along.

EP:

But it was the Greensboro Citizens Association that carried on the final negotiations.

EB:

That's correct. And—

EP:

Were you involved in that at all, Mr. Blair?

EB:

I've always belonged to the Greensboro Citizens Association. All the organizations in Greensboro that had any status at all—black organizations—they had representation in the Greensboro Citizens Association. I don't know whether the Reverend Otis L. Hairston was the president at that time. But the Greensboro Citizens Association, which it was initiated under Dr. James Smith, prior administrator to the L. Richardson Hospital—he was the organizer of the Greensboro Citizens Association, which I have always been a member of Greensboro Citizens Association. That is the organization.

EP:

Now the newspapers do not give a great deal of attention to this on the day that Woolworth did desegregate by serving three of their own employees. And periodically, days after that, they would mention that so many blacks had been served at the counter at either Woolworth or Kress. But the only existing source at this time of the specifics of the negotiation appears to be, once again, Miles Wolff's book.

Are you aware with the specifics of the negotiations that went on? For instance, he contends, that they—C. L. Harris, who was manager of Woolworth, insisted that his workers be the first, his black employees be the first to be served. And that it was a condition of serving that ministers would urge their congregations not to go down in large groups but in small groups or individually. Are you aware of any of these conditions on the negotiations?

EB:

I'd like to correct myself from a prior statement of Mr. Turner. That was the fellow's name, Mr. Harris, that I talked with earlier that year, that date that we had the—after the Christmas parade.

But they wanted a low-level of thing. And I think the Greensboro Citizens Association went along with them on a low- level thing to get the public used to seeing blacks in eating [establishments]. I was not in on any of those negotiations. We played a very low profile in that part, you know, because the Greensboro Citizens Association had taken over, and they were the negotiating factors primarily then. So we all honored whatever negotiations were made between the Greensboro Citizens Association and the Chamber of Commerce and the powers that be that were interested in that then.

EP:

What was the reaction of the black community in general? Did they continue to patronize these lunch counters after the novelty of being served had worn off into the fall and into the winter and the subsequent year?

EB:

I think they gave them very good support. I don't think they lost anything economy-wise. I think they boosted their sales economy-wise. And I think the other businesses watched that very closely. And that's the reason why a lot of them opened up as early as they did, because they were losing them—because a lot of the whites quit patronizing them if they did not honor the thing.

EP:

Well, I know that some students, in a mild way, attempted to sit in at Eckerd's at Friendly Shopping Center and Woolworth's at the Summit Shopping Center, but it appears to be that the concentration of effort was at Woolworth and at Kress's. Was this a policy and a planned program from the beginning?

EB:

I don't think initially it was planned for the other businesses. This come along in the prior planning—

CB:

I think it was only planned for those two stores because this is where the students traded most of the time. They did not branch into the other stores to trade. And they felt, since they were trading at these two stores, that this is where that they should be able to have all the privileges. If they could go to one counter to buy certain items, that they would be able to use the eating place, too.

EP:

Did the college students, after the June graduations, did they continue to picket and demonstrate and boycott, or did the emphasis shift from the college students to the high school students and, and the students that lived in Greensboro the entire year?

[End of Tape 1, Side B-Begin Tape 2, Side A]

EB:

Being in public schools at that time, I feel very closely that the high school students picked up on the program because the college students had to go home or go to work or what not. And then the emphasis went to the high schools primarily then.

CB:

And in the fall, the college students came back and the high school students continued, too.

EP:

The two-week cooling off period, which stretched into a seven-week period from middle of February until the end of March, did the students cease sitting in or any kind of demonstration activities? Was there nothing going on during this time?

CB:

I'm trying to think.

EB:

Presently I just don't recollect, you know, what happened.

EP:

Did the emphasis shift from trying to—I know they closed the lunch counters and kept them closed—did they shift from the lunch counters to the picketing outside? Was that a shift in tactics for the students?

CB:

I believe this is what they did. They started picketing on the outside.

EP:

Do you recall when the boycott came in? That seems to be the tactic that eventually won the loss of revenue to the store.

CB:

This is true. But I don't recall the date when they started this, the particular time.

EP:

Do you believe that to be the, the tactic that finally won?

CB:

Yes, I do.

EP:

Did you, both of you, or either of you, go down to the downtown area frequently while the demonstrations were going on?

CB:

No, I didn't. Mostly I would drive through there to check to see, you know, what they were doing and I would go on home.

EP:

What were the short- and long-term results of the sit-ins? Obviously, the short-term results were that Kress and Woolworth were desegregated. But some of the long-term results for the black and the white community of the sit-ins—

EB:

I would like to speak to that. I think a conscious of a great segment of whites, regardless to their economic level, was salved at that time. I think they could foresee it in general realization, it had to happen some time or another. I think they were very happy about it and we were happy about it.

EP:

There's been suggestion that a number of white merchants downtown wanted black trade at the lunch counters and the other areas where they were prevented from becoming patrons. And that—but that no one wanted to be the first one. Do you think this had any bearing on the thinking of the white merchants at all?

EB:

I definitely think so. I think they played a great role in it, quietly. Take, out on the highways and many other places, a lot of businesses were just starving. They had diverted the highways, you know. And the black business really picked up for that business. And some of the white business here, really I didn't go into them then because I couldn't, according to the laws they had and the spoken law. But a lot of them have folded. They folded during that time because they were holding out stiff and they didn't go along with the status quo, the new status quo and so they lost. And some of them now will tell you, if you know them, they lost due to that. And they haven't been able to recover.

EP:

I'd like to turn to the effect of the participation in the demonstrations on your son, personally. What effect do you think his participation in the demonstrations had on him?

EB:

I would rather for his mother to speak to that. Then I can tell you what effect it had on me at that time.

CB:

You go ahead.

EB:

Well, to say what effect it had on me: I had a tip-top credit rating. And some way or another all my credit was cut off at one time.

And on my son, health-wise, I think all this had an effect on him, which has led up to this present day and time—a nerve condition primarily. He has no good health, hasn't had any since then. And I think his dermatologist—

CB:

Psoriasis.

EB:

Yeah. The gentleman who's a dermatologist here, a medical doctor.

CB:

Dr. Lupton and Dr. Barefoot.

EB:

Dr. Lupton and Dr. Barefoot, I think they can verify that. Even at his employment, first employment in Massachusetts, he had to send back and get a prescription from Dr. Barefoot, because the doctors up there didn't know what to do for him.

But I think it affected him health-wise—not mentally, but health-wise. He has a very good attitude even today. But he is sick from the nerve condition. It was initiated—this is not inherited, an inherited thing, by any means.

EP:

Did his schoolwork suffer?

CB:

No, it did not.

EB:

I don't think so.

EP:

Did your son want to continue with civil rights activity? For instance, he was involved in the sit-ins as a freshman, and then later in his college career he was involved in the marches in downtown Greensboro and the further attempts to desegregate other eating and movie establishments downtown. Did he wish to continue this type of activity after he graduated?

CB:

No. He didn't talk about it, or he didn't do anything about that after he graduated from college. He was seeking employment after he graduated from college.

EP:

Do you think his participation and the attention he received in these demonstrations adversely affected chances for employment, or enhanced them?

EB:

I would like to say I think it really diminished his chances for employment. And I'd like to speak to this on the basis of A&T State University graduates today. If you look very closely around this city today, Greensboro employers are reluctant to hire A&T State University graduates. They will hire anyone from Podunk, but they will not hire A&T State University graduates.

I can prove it by the social services and many other agencies here. They will not. I think it's a thing that business and industry is holding over the heads of the A&T graduates from years back.

And we can almost authenticize this. We watch it very closely. I see social workers in their automobiles and I ask them, where did you graduate from? North Carolina Central, Fayetteville State or somewhere, not A&T graduates. I think as much money as A&T graduates spend in this city each year—I think it's unfair. I think it needs to be brought to attention. They still hold it in the back of their heads that A&T students are belligerent, due to the shootout and the student that got killed over there.

EP:

So it's the whole history of civil rights agitation during the whole decade of the sixties?

EB:

That's right.

EP:

That Greensboro merchants are keeping in their minds and punishing them by not hiring them.

EB:

That's exactly right. And if they can tell me some other reason, I would like to hear it from them. And I'd be glad to talk with any of them on this issue. And we don't particularly like it, the A&T alumni. And if they don't watch, it'll be the same thing they had back in the sixties. A&T students is going to do their thing and stop spending money with them.

EP:

In conclusion—

EB:

I think it needs to be called to their attention.

EP:

In conclusion, I'd like to ask—did your son or any of the other participants realize that they were starting a nationwide protest movement and what several historians have called the beginning of the modern civil rights movement?

EB:

I don't think they had that in their mind at all. I don't even think they could foresee the momentum of this thing. It was just the idea that you spend money at this counter and can't be served at another and you're denied to eat or drink at this fountain. That's all. [Unclear] And we're not poison. Everybody has certain diseases and things.

EP:

Your son and the other three original protestors have received a number of awards and been requested to speak at a number of organizations around the country. And a national television news team came here on the tenth anniversary of the sit-ins and filmed them. Did they interview you at this time?

CB:

No.

EP:

Has the national news service, both at the time of the sit-ins or any time since that time interviewed you or, or consulted you?

CB:

No, they have not.

EP:

Well I'd like to thank you for participating in the Greensboro Public Library oral history program. This interview was filmed at the home of Mr. and Mrs. Blair on February 2, 1979.

[End of Interview]