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Oral history interview with Franklin and Jennie Parker by William Link


Date: March 26, 1987

Interviewee: Jennie B. Parker

Biographical abstract: Jennie B. Parker (1919-1995), wife of longtime UNCG history professor Franklin D. Parker, was active in supporting racial equality and a founding member of the Greensboro Reform Democrats.

Interviewer: William Link

Description:

In this transcript of a March 26, 1987, interview conducted by William Link with Franklin and Jennie Parker, the Parkers recall anecdotes of their lives that trace the path of desegregation. They discuss politics in Greensboro, how they were involved, and black people who participated. They talk about various segregated organizations in which they were involved, other members who participated in civil rights effort, and events that they attended.

Subjects:

Format of original: Oral History

Collection: GreensboroVOICES Collection

Repository: The University of North Carolina at Greensboro

Item#: 1.10.608

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 Franklin and Jennie Parker by William Link

[Begin Tape 1, Side A]

WILLIAM LINK:

—excuse me, March 26, 1987. We are in the home of Dr. Franklin and Jennie Parker. [I am] interested in knowing a little bit of background about both of you—when, when you were born, where you all were educated, and what brought you to Greensboro? Would you like to begin?

JENNIE PARKER:

Okay. I was born and grew up in a small town in south central Illinois, exactly halfway between Indianapolis and St. Louis, a town in which there were no blacks. There was one black lady who lived in a town nearby who did—she was a nurse. And she used to—she took care of my mother when my brother was born. And she had a very good reputation in the [clears throat] in the community as a nurse. She was the only black I ever had any contact with or knew anything about as I was growing up and as I was a young girl then.

I went to college at Greenville College, which was a small denominational school about seventy miles from my hometown, over closer to St. Louis, about fifty miles from St. Louis. And [clears throat] there, again, I don't remember any contact with blacks, except that during the latter part of my school experience there, I remember that we were asked if we would—it was sort of a general questionnaire—we were asked if we would accept a black into school and accept a black as a, a roommate. And I think I probably got some of my ideas from my father, because I did not pick up the usual mores and prejudices of the community in which I grew up. I, I said, of course, I would be glad to have a black person as a roommate. I don't know how the questionnaire came out. But anyway, that was my reaction to it.

But in this area of Illinois I felt that people were very hypocritical, because in my hometown, and other small towns in that area would say, “We have no problems with blacks, no black problems, no racial problems. We just don't allow any of them to stay overnight in town.”

WL:

That was—was that understood by the town? Ws it understood by everybody in general?

JP:

It seemed to be. It seemed to be understood. And, of course, since there were no blacks around, it never became a problem particularly. And I think most people accepted it and didn't realize how hypocritical it was.

But then in later years, when we lived in Indianapolis and in, and when he was at school in Urbana, we did have contact with blacks. And you may want to tell about this half—how we had planned to—and when we were living in another small town in Illinois, we had black friends. And we were planning to keep them overnight just to break the law. I don't know whether it was a real, whether this was just an understood thing or whether it was an actual ordinance, town ordinance or not. But anyway, it seemed to be a very popular idea that, to say that we have no problems with blacks. We just don't allow them to stay overnight.

Further south there were black people, and further north there were black people who worked in smaller communities. But right in that part there were none, except for the exception of that one black nurse who was accepted.

FRANKLIN PARKER:

Most of those farther north were in the cities. On the other hand, only about twenty-five miles south, all the small towns from there on down had blacks. And we called that part of Illinois Egypt. And it was, it was like Southern territory.

WL:

Settled by Southerners, you mean?

FP:

Right. Right where Jennie lived, even though many of them had come up from Kentucky, were the blacks.

JP:

Further south around Carverdale, I think there were coal mines—you know, where Charles came from—and there were more blacks.

WL:

At the university, there were—what sort of racial attitudes were there? What time period—

FP:

You mean the University of Illinois?

WL:

Yes, right.

FP:

Oh, there were quite a few blacks when we were there, quite a few foreign students. And I had a black for my carrel mate when I was doing my graduate work there. The first year I was there, I remember that a librarian asked me if I would mind. I said, “No, not at all.” And she said, “Well, he's a nice guy.” And he was a nice fellow. In fact, he came here to teach here in Greensboro later on, at A&T [North Carolina A&T State University]. Got his PhD the year before I did in history.

JP:

I remember, too, when I was in high school going to ballgames, basketball games, in other towns where blacks were on the teams. And I had rather great admiration for them. They were good athletes, and I was always pulling for the black guy somehow.

As I say, I think maybe I got some of my ideas, some of my—the way I felt about things from my father, who seemed to have a great interest in people from other countries. And he had a Japanese friend, he kept some—there were some Chinese men going through town once and needed a place to stay, and he had them stay in our backyard. He was sort of fascinated by anybody who was different.

FP:

He was fascinated by ethnic diversity when most of the people in town were horrified. [JP laughs]

JP:

And scared of it. They were really scared. My mother used to—she didn't actually follow through on the things that she had heard when she was growing up, but she would vocalize them, and she would repeat things that had been said about blacks. And there was a fear there. But not on the part of my father.

WL:

Franklin, you're from, where are you from originally?

FP:

I was born in Baltimore, and lived in Maryland until I was seven, I guess, and then brought up the rest of the way through high school age in Pennsylvania. And my folks moved to New York while I went off to college. And after two years in upstate New York, I went to the same college that Jennie went to, the denominational school, Greenville College in Illinois—a long ways from home.

And in my Maryland first seven years, I know there were blacks around, but I don't remember any black friends. We didn't have any blacks in our schools back then. And I just don't remember any association with blacks during that time. And Pennsylvania—it was just like central Illinois. Where I lived, there were no blacks at all. I didn't know any blacks at all during my boyhood days, grade school, high school, and—I mean after the first two years in Maryland. And it was only when I went to college that I met my first—met the first blacks, and there were very, very few of them. They were not at Greenville College. I guess they were in the nearby junior college.

JP:

No. There weren't any there at that time.

FP:

And then I taught in high school and during the war worked for Allison division of General Motors—airplane engine work during the war—worked in cost accounting. And we had lots of black acquaintances at that time, and people of other ethnic origins, too. And that was really our first experience on a broad scale, during the war.

WL:

This was where?

FP:

I worked in Indianapolis.

WL:

Indianapolis.

FP:

Indianapolis, Indiana.

JP:

Too, you might mention that Allison—the jobs that were open to blacks.

FP:

Yeah. When I first started working there in 1943, I was talking to a black fellow about my age. He was sweeping around my desk when I worked overtime one night. And I found out that he had a college degree, and he was sweeping the floor. And I said what jobs were open to him. And this was a defense plant in 1943. And he said there were four jobs in all of Allison, with all the employees they had. One was a janitor, which he was doing. One was chip collector, which is a glorified type of janitor work. And one was grease dipping, where they dip parts in grease—parts that were in grease were dipped in acid to get the grease off them. And then there was one skilled job, sandblasting, which is very injurious to the health. Even the people that wear the uniform, they all have a [unclear], very bad—leading towards silicosis in almost every case they said back then. But they were the only four jobs. About a year later, by government order, if you wanted a government contract, you had to open all the jobs to blacks, and it all changed. But for a good year after I first went there, you'd swear that Allison—that's a Northern city, not a Southern city.

JP:

But it has a lot of Southern miners, or it did then. A lot of the people that came up from Kentucky got jobs in Indianapolis.

FP:

Then after the war I taught in high school for three years and then went to graduate school at the University of Illinois. And there, my first real friendships with blacks that have lasted down through the years were formed there, and especially with my carrel mate and his wife. We knew them both well. And, and he was a really good guy. And as I said, he graduated a year before I did, with a PhD in history. So we kept track, close track of each other while we were here and some track ever since then.

WL:

And he was in Greensboro for how long?

FP:

He was in Greensboro for several years. He had woman trouble. He finally married and divorced his wife, and married one of his students. And she was the nicest woman when we met her. She was very nice. And [he] raised a family by her. The first marriage was childless.

But when we first came here, probably about '52, the year after I came—well, I know it was then—he moved to Greensboro, to a position at A&T. And I said, “Charlie, let's swap lectures. I'll come over there and lecture, you come here and lecture.” I think he was the one that first suggested that idea. And I did go over and lecture his class. And then I invited him over to lecture my class.

And then, in a super cautious moment, I went to check and make sure it was all right. And the chancellor at that time wrote me what I considered a very threatening letter, saying that anyone who did thus-and-so—which was exactly what I had done, inviting someone from A&T to come over and speak—was either wanting to hurt the institution, or didn't want his job, something like that. And so I explained to Charles Simpson—Simmons, Charles Simmons, and he said he understood, and I withdrew the invitation. But that made me very sad.

But a number of other impressions we have—we moved here in '51, as soon as I finished graduate school. It was my first job with a PhD. And a number of other impressions we had were very positive, because, you see, we hadn't lived during our marriage at all in Southern territory. And we didn't know the South at all except by hearsay. I had been born in Maryland but that was far back. And most of what we knew was hearsay. And I'm afraid we were expecting some of the worst.

WL:

What was the hearsay?

FP:

Well, I just didn't expect to see any whites being friendly with blacks in public places. I thought maybe with a domestic servant or something like that.

But I had a free lube job offer. The Welcome Wagon, when we moved in, offered several free things like that. And I took advantage of them. I went out to a service station, which was then on West Market [Street] extension, and had that lube job done. And I was surprised. I waited while they did it, and the white owner of the store, and one of the white fellows there, and a black fellow were joking with each other just as though they were really enjoying each other's company. And not only that, but some time before I left, the white fellow hit the black fellow on the back, not beating him or anything, but just having a good time together. And that just amazed me to see that. I didn't think anything like that ever happened. And little things like that kind of delighted us.

And we had a number of good experiences on the front of inter-educational, I guess you'd call it, inter-institutional activity, mostly because we became acquainted with Warren Ashby and his wife, Helen, in those early days. They were close friends of ours almost from the beginning. And they invited us to this and to that.

There was this Fellowship of Southern Churchmen that was active then. And it was an interracial group that met. Now that was not tied in any way to the universities, but every—all the others were, I think. And this one—just people from different walks of life, including several university teachers, would just eat together and talk together once a month. We went to that.

And I was delighted to see—we were both delighted to see—that something like that existed, because we didn't know whether it did or not. And we were glad to be able to take part in it. There was an inter-campus faculty group that met then, and we attended over a long period of years.

Most of these things folded up after the Supreme Court decision in '54 [Brown v. Board of Education]. And the reason, I think, is simply that the various colleges and universities began slowly to become desegregated. And with students on campus who were black, or in A&T's case, with more students who were white—they already had a few—there wasn't as much emphasis to look for other means to get together. But we used to—the teachers used to get together.

JP:

Also, the campuses became very busy, and it was more difficult.

FP:

Yeah.

JP:

They were growing and—

FP:

That's true. In the early days it was easier to schedule things that affected people from several different disciplines and expect them to come, because there were always so few things on the calendar. And that inter-campus faculty group grew and grew until, in the latter days of its activity, there would be meetings like two hundred, two hundred fifty people, and a really good program. Randall Jarrell read poetry one evening to a mixed group—about half black, half white—at Guilford College that night. We'd meet at one campus and then the other. And we were very active in that, participated in that. But beyond that, there was a student group that met in the early days. It was sponsored by—

JP:

Dr. Smith.

FP:

Dr. Smith. He's deceased now isn't he?

JP:

No.

FP:

He's not?

JP:

His wife is, but he's still alive.

FP:

I shouldn't have put that on the tape, should I? Dr. Smith—

JP:

Dr. Raymond Smith.

FP:

Dr. Raymond Smith, retired now I should say.

WL:

He was—

JP:

He taught at Greensboro College. Religion.

FP:

He was the leading light in this inter-campus student group. And we attended that very regularly and encouraged students that we knew to come. And that met on the various campuses. We were very happy to see things like that [unclear]—

JP:

Well, you were the one in charge of the students from UNCG [University of North Carolina at Greensboro], and your friend, Charles, in charge of the ones from A&T. A sponsor, you might call it, a sponsorship.

WL:

Did they meet on campus then?

FP:

We met on campus property. No problem.

WL:

No problem with that?

FP:

No. There was a black speaker. The principal of Dudley High School, I think he was—or vice principal—spoke at UNCG in a lecture hall about the second year we were here. And [he] said what he, the way he really felt about things. And no problem. But it was a special occasion, you see. It wasn't a class where students were supposed to be there. That was the—

WL:

Required to be there?

FP:

To force students to listen to a black teacher—they didn't like that idea.

WL:

How did he feel about them, as you recall it? What did, what did he say?

FP:

This man—what's his name, Jennie? Vance—

JP:

Oh, Vance Chavis?

FP:

Vance Chavis.

JP:

Yes, Vance Chavis—

FP:

The story he told—

JP:

—who served on the city council later.

FP:

The story he told that made the greatest impression on me then was he said, “I was standing waiting for the bus downtown the other day.” He said, “A white man came up, who had obviously been rolling in the gutter, he was all covered with mud.” He said, “he was drinking,” and he said, “As I stood there with that fellow waiting on the bus, I knew that he could get in that bus and sit legally beside the finest dressed white lady on the bus. And there wasn't anything in the law against it.” And he said, “I knew that I, who was just so clean[?] and straight, you know, and all that, and hadn't been rolling in the gutter, would get in and I'd have to go to the back of the bus.” And he said, “That made me feel bad.” That's the way he put it. He just—

JP:

He was the school superintendent at the time. You might tell about Dr. Jones, too, who we heard speak at—Dr. Jones.

FP:

You go ahead.

JP:

No, no. You remember it better than I do. All the things he said—

FP:

Well, Dr. [David] Jones used to be the president of Bennett College. He spoke at our church—we went to College Place Methodist Church at that time. And he was invited there one Sunday evening, I think it was. And [he] spoke, had a good crowd listening to him, and very respectable and all that. He was an old man already then. And he told them how back in the old days when he would ride the trains, he would usually be the only black on the train. Whites would make up the rest of the passenger list. And, except the porters, you know, he'd be the only passenger who was black. And he said they couldn't—they didn't want to have the expense of setting aside a whole car for him, so they carefully pulled curtains around him in the car, so it'd be like riding in a separate car. That's the most impressive thing I remember about that night.

He told how at Bennett, the students used to come there with so little training and so little preparation for life. And he said “We just took them as they came,” that things had changed a whole lot now, by the time he was speaking. But he said in those days a Bennett student sometimes didn't know how to take care of her hair even, and we would teach her that among other things. And he said that “We just took students who needed help, and helped them in any way we knew possible.” That was a very impressive talk for us.

We were members of groups later on, but Jennie more than I because as time went by, partly I found myself teaching downtown at Guilford College to make more money because my paycheck was so small, and partly [I was] just too busy. And Jennie did something that I didn't do in later years. [She] was a member of—what was it called Jennie?—the group, it's more of an acronym.

JP:

Interracial Commission.

FP:

Interracial—?

JP:

Interracial Commission.

FP:

Interracial Commission.

WL:

When was that existence?

JP:

I'm not sure what point in time that was organized. But it was organized for the purpose of trying to get certain things done in the community, like the things that bothered blacks and bothered some of the rest of us who were active in it. Also, that was the separate restrooms, the colored water fountains, and the theatres, which blacks could not go unless it was a balcony and they had to sit in the balcony.

And we—Annie Simpkins, who's now on the city council, was one of the major ones in the group. And we met Amos Troy, who lived over on Mendenhall Street. Mrs. Troy was sort of the one that did all the nitty-gritty work for the group. I think I was secretary-treasurer, or something like that. And the Rabbi [Fred I.] Rypins, who is now deceased, who was at one of the Jewish, let's see, it was the Jewish temple [Emanuel], wasn't it, where he was? He was very, very active in that group.

There was only one place—as I recall, only one place in town then where you could, where blacks and whites could eat together, and that was the YW[CA, Young Women's Christian Association]. And so we would have meetings at the YW. And we would try to put pressure in any way we could. It was really just sort of like chipping away, because it was awfully hard to put any pressure at all.

And we—I remember one person who was working so hard on the [Cinema] Theatre over on Tate Street, because they didn't have a balcony. And he was trying to get it to—trying to get blacks admitted into that theatre. And I don't think—I don't believe he ever succeeded until after civil rights laws were passed. But he was always—he regularly wrote letters to the Public Pulse [column in the Greensboro News & Record] about it, and kept talking to the owners and the manager, and so forth. Always very busy trying to get that theatre opened to blacks. And so, we just sort of chipped away at—

WL:

This was—was this in the 1950s?

JP:

Yes. Yeah, it was in the early 1950s, I would say. I remember too, talking about transportation. One of the things that struck me when we first came was the buses. And I had—when we lived in Indianapolis, my daughter always used to ride in the back. She liked—we'd get on the trolley and we'd always go to the back. That's where she liked to go. And so when we came here, we got on the bus and went to the back. And there happened to be somebody I knew on the bus, and she said, “Well, you can't go back there. You can't sit in back.” And [laughs] I didn't, I didn't try to—

FP:

Actually, that wasn't the law, I don't think. The law didn't say that whites had to sit in the front as long as there were no blacks on the bus.

JP:

I don't know but she, she—

FP:

People felt that way, you know, that they just couldn't do it because it wasn't done.

JP:

And that hit me. And then I remember, too, making a trip back to Illinois with my youngest daughter, who was probably about three years old at the time, or something like that. We were coming back on the train. And we—on the train through Pennsylvania, that area, there was a young mother with a little boy—a young black mother. And we sat together on the train. And her little boy and my little girl played together.

And she told—we were talking. She was coming from Chicago, and I was coming from south central Illinois. And we were talking about different things. And she was talking about how it was hard to find housing in Chicago. And she at the time was living here in Greensboro. And we became—we had a good time chatting, and became very friendly and all, and our children, with the children playing together and all.

And then at Washington, D.C., we had to change—let's see. Did we change trains? Anyway, we got off the train. I think we had about a four hour stop there. When we got back on there was a black porter, I remember, showing me which way to go, you know, on the train. And I got on, and I looked all around, and I thought, what happened to my friend? I knew she was going to Greensboro, and I couldn't find her. And the coach was all white.

And so I walked, when I—as soon as I had a chance, I started walking back through the train, and I found her back in the back. We had been segregated there in Washington, and she had been put in a car in the back of the train. And I had been put in the car in the front of the train.

WL:

How did blacks respond to this, [unclear]? Acceptance, pretty much?

JP:

They seemed to accept it. As I say, here in Greensboro, where—I mean, as far as transportation was concerned, they seemed to accept that, although I'm sure that underneath it, there was—

FP:

I think many older blacks kept on seating from the back a long time after the rule had been—the plaque had been taken off the front of the bus. It took the younger, more adventurous blacks to sit up front at first. And the older ones would just go back. They didn't want any trouble.

I remember when we came back. I think it was 1956, but I can't swear. It might have been 1960. But I believe the buses were integrated in '56 by the Supreme Court decision. I'm not sure of that.

JP:

Probably while we were gone to Central America.

FP:

While we were down there for a whole year. And we'd become kind of colorblind down there, because there's so many different hues. You just sort of gradually forget about who's blacker skinned than you are.

JP:

But we would forget about the segregation here, too.

FP:

And when we came back, we drove—

WL:

Were you, excuse me. You were in with which country in Central—?

FP:

We were in Guatemala, and Honduras, and Costa Rica during that year we lived done there. And—

WL:

Let me just interrupt because we're about ended here.

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

FP:

—and when we drove back, the car actually was in need of some repair work by the time we got to Greensboro. And so my first duty was to take it downtown to the garage and leave it. And I rode back on the bus. And I just sat down in the first seat I noticed and wasn't thinking about color. But before we'd gone that year—I'm pretty sure it was that full year of '55-'56 academic year. We were gone all the summer of '56 as well—I actually sat down beside a black girl. But I didn't realize it until I got close up to the UNCG campus and was ready to get off. I looked around, and there was a beautiful black girl sitting beside me. I said, “Can this be?” Because I was so used to their sitting in the back, the blacks sitting in the back. And then I realized for the first time the buses had been integrated by coming to the awareness that she was sitting there beside me. It made me feel so good to think that that had happened.

JP:

And all these things that we'd been chipping away at for such a long time—it just almost, it seemed like almost overnight. I thought maybe it wouldn't even happen in my lifetime. But it just changed almost overnight, and it was wonderful. [laughs] So—

FP:

There were several whites sitting further back, I noticed in riding around. I looked around to see what the situation was. Most of the blacks were in the back and whites were in the front. But this one girl, who was about college-aged, although I doubt she was a UNCG student at that time—in fact, I don't think the first ones had come yet, the first blacks had come yet. She was about that age, and she was just adventurous enough to do that. And I was happy that she was at my side.

JP:

But there were still lots, of course, lots of problems. I had an interesting, comical—it was comical to me—experience in New Orleans. The year we were down in Central America, at Christmastime I came back, I and the two girls, came back to visit my mother in Illinois. And we were in New Orleans. And we'd flown in, and then we'd taken a taxi over to the train station. And we were staying there in the train station, and ready to take the train up to Illinois the next morning. And at one point I decided I wanted a Coke to drink.

So I didn't look around particularly, and I just went up to the place where they were selling them, the counter where they were selling Cokes. And the person who was behind the counter looked at me, puzzled-like. And I said, “I want a Coke.” And looked like—there was a machine right—or a place right there where I could have gotten a Coke. And then this person, instead of getting me a Coke there, walked all the way around to the other side and got me a Coke over there and brought it back. And then I noticed that I was evidently on what was considered the black side, because there were a lot of blacks sitting over on that side. And I'd gone up to the black counter to get the Coke. [laughs] So it was—

FP:

Had to get you a white Coke. [laughter]

I meant to tell you, in regard to this inter-campus student thing, that the most advanced point which we reached before that began to fold up, I think, was a play that was given with some blacks and some whites, males and females. It was Jean Paul Sartre's No Exit. And it was given on our campus in the music building, in their auditorium there. And we had the place filled for the play. And I thought that was pretty good. You know, they came from all the different campuses around. And the play was done really very well.

WL:

Was the seating interracial? No problem about the seating? Was there—

JP:

No. That was all integrated seating. That—we wouldn't even have considered anything else but that. Those were allowed. See, those were sanctioned, because that was all voluntary. The university did not mind us having meetings on their property at all, because everything about it was voluntary. But they didn't want us taking kids who had come there to attend an all-white school and forcing them to listen to even two words from a black. They didn't want to do it in class.

JP:

And in town it was hard to find places where you could meet and where you could eat together. It was difficult. But you might tell something about Josephine [Boyd] and our daughter's experience and—

FP:

I could try. I was thinking about that, but you know the story better than I do. I could try to tell it—and if you could correct me where I go wrong, because I'm sure I'll say some things wrong. Okay? I'll at least tell you what little I told you on the phone, and if I get too lengthy just let me know. Or steer me to some other phase of it if you want to.

JP:

It was probably '57, wasn't it?

FP:

I wouldn't know the year now.

WL:

I think that's right.

JP:

Well—

FP:

It was the first year when—

JP:

Our daughter was—

FP:

—students were permitted to choose within the city of Greensboro which school they wanted to attend. And one lone black girl, Josephine Boyd—

JP:

Well, they had to be within the school, a certain district, though. There was a district line.

FP:

Not within Greensboro, anywhere within Greensboro.

JP:

No. There was a district line. And she happened to be within that district to go to Senior, Greensboro Senior High [now Grimsley High School], because her folks liveed, happened to live out there.

FP:

So she had the option of going to Dudley or to Grimsley. And she chose—

JP:

She had gone to Dudley before, and she was a senior this year, and decided that she would—

FP:

And her parents supported her, and if they hadn't, she wouldn't have done it. And there were other parents we knew who would have liked to have done the same thing. And Angie Smith can tell you more about that than we can. But they were afraid of the things that might happen to them or to their children if they allowed them to go.

But Josephine Boyd's parents were willing to take the chance. And they did lose their grocery store. The first night she attended Grimsley, well, their grocery store burned down. And, of course, it was obviously protestors. The people who had burned it were in protest against the mixing in schools. And Josephine came and was very much alone for two or three days—I guess that's about right, isn't it—eating lunch.

JP:

Well, she was eating in the—the library of—the school library had not opened with the opening of school. Usually it lagged; they didn't have their books all ready and didn't open for about a week, maybe, at the beginning of school, while the rest of the classes started and all. And she was—the lady, the librarian, Miss Herring, let her eat in the library as sort of a refuge. When she was in class, it wasn't too bad. But lunch hour was the most difficult time for her.

FP:

Well, then our daughter, Ginger, and—she's teaching at George Mason University now in Virginia—our daughter Ginger and Julia Adams—who's in Portland String Quartet up in Maine now and travels all over the world with that quartet—those two, Julia Adams—whose father was the librarian on campus—and our daughter, and a visiting girl, Monica somebody, Monica—

JP:

Gelkin [?].

FP:

From Germany. Who stayed with—

JP:

Who was living with McNeil Smith and his wife.

FP:

Neil and Louise Smith. Those three went to Josephine and told her they'd like to eat lunch with her.

JP:

Well, first I wrote a letter, remember. I had taught at Grimsley the year before, and had to quit teaching for physical reasons. And I wrote a letter to Josephine. And I told her how we applauded what she was trying to do, and we wanted to do anything we could to help, and how I had been a teacher there, and if I was still there I would help her. But that we did have a daughter, and it so happened that our daughter had a different—they had two staggered lunch hours. And our daughter had a different lunch hour from Josephine's. But that our daughter wanted to get in touch with her and wanted to become friends with her. And then it just all worked out. Our daughter somehow was able to juggle her classes a certain way, and she was able to get the same lunch hour. So then—

FP:

So they started eating lunch.

JP:

Then the week had gone by. And our daughter knew Miss Herring, because they both sang in the choir at College Place Church. So they knew that by the end of that week, when the library would be open, then Josephine would have to have some place to eat her lunch. And that's when they made this, sort of like a pact.

They got together and let Josephine know that they wanted to eat lunch with her, because that would be the most difficult time for her. And the first week was the hardest. And one day during the week, at least one day, I went out and sat with them. And things were thrown, marbles, all sorts of things like that.

WL:

This is in the lunchroom?

JP:

Yes. And then our daughter received—well, Julia too, of course—threatening phone calls and like, “How does it feel to be a nigger lover?” and so on and so forth.

WL:

Any idea where this was coming from? Sort of random?

FP:

No. Excepting that the abuse at school did not come from the majority of the school kids. I think that's important, that there were a certain group of fellows—they were all fellows—who did that. Don't you think that's true, Jennie?

JP:

Well, no, not really.

FP:

Not really?

JP:

I think it might be divided into two different areas. There are students—there were then and I suppose there still are—who will take advantage of any situation. They just like to cause trouble. And they would take, they took advantage of the situation and did whatever they could. Others were just plain trying to force Josephine out. They threw eggs on her. And I don't know whether they ever broke the windows of her father's car. Her father would bring her, and they would throw things at the car, rocks at the car. And they were trying to discourage her. That's what they wanted.

And we felt that the school authorities took that attitude, also. We talked to—we knew the superintendent and the assistant superintendent. We talked to them. And we thought their attitude was, "We wish she would give up." And our attitude was that if we could just get one, at least one black there, and get her successfully through the year, that then some others would follow. And—

WL:

How about other teachers? What was the reaction of teachers?

JP:

I felt the teachers in general probably were either supportive or didn't take sides. What do you think?

FP:

Well, she did well academically. I don't know whether they just gave her the grades, but I don't imagine, since she was an honor student at Dudley. She graduated, they say, at the top of the class.

JP:

And Mrs. Smith helped her. Angie Smith helped her a lot with her studies. But she did very well.

WL:

Did she receive much—she must have received quite a bit of support from the black community.

JP:

I would think so. I would think so, yes. But I don't really know.

FP:

I didn't get that question.

JP:

Support from the black community—

FP:

Oh.

JP:

—for what she was doing.

FP:

Oh, I think a great deal from the more sophisticated members of the black community. I don't know if the black community at large were all that gung-ho about it. But she was one of the—even though her folks ran a grocery store, I think—

WL:

She was middle class.

FP:

She was middle class definitely, not just some ordinary working class environment. She did very well at getting scholarships after she left high school, because her academic record was so good and because, of course, she had received some considerable publicity.

Oh, I forget to mention in there the fact that the group from West Market Church of young people formed a kind of protective ring, mostly to keep the students who were demonstrating at a greater distance. And they did—they said they couldn't because their parents wouldn't just permit it—eat with her, but that they could sit around there and not let the other students get that close. And they did that as a group undertaking. That was the youth group from West Market Baptist.

JP:

And after about the first week, too, I think some others joined them.

FP:

There were some others.

JP:

Some others had joined in. It became a bit easier then.

WL:

Did this go on all year long pretty much or—

JP:

It was very hard for Josephine, I would say, during the whole year. I'm sure she felt under pressure. She lost a great deal of weight during the year. But the extreme things didn't keep up, like the egg throwing and that sort of thing.

FP:

I think—you might have mentioned the fact, we knew the vice principal quite well. We just knew the principal a little, but we knew the vice principal personally. And I talked to him some.

JP:

He belonged to the same church.

FP:

Yeah. He belonged to the same church. And I took his daughter over to Grace School, [for a] carpool ride.

WL:

What was his name?

FP:

[Do you] remember his name? I've forgotten it.

WL:

Was it—

FP:

We know him well enough but I can't think of the name.

JP:

Yeah.

WL:

Was it Lody Glenn?

JP:

Yeah, Lody Glenn.

FP:

It was Lody Glenn. He told me—

JP:

He became the principal.

FP:

—some of the things that came to him as he was principal. And he said, “You know, our office is flooded every day with mail from groups, hate groups.” And he said, “They send pictures of white women with black men and all that, to show us what this is going to come to, you know. They're fearful of all those things.”

And then he told me about the phone calls he would receive in the middle of the night. His phone would ring through the night, night after night, with people saying things like—this sounds crazy to somebody that doesn't know what it means—but he explained to me what it meant and I figured it out, maybe. They wanted to—they said it was the coal company, and they wanted to deliver a ton of coal. It was about three o'clock in the morning when they would arrive, or something like that. The idea that coal is black, see, I think that's what the big reference is. But just different, silly little things like that.

And I'd say that he really underwent quite a bit, being of Southern traditions himself—basically, a good Southerner, you know, and brought up in that tradition. He didn't find it easy to think that it was important for her to continue in school there. With all that pressure, he would have been happy, I'm pretty sure—for some time at least—if she had left. But eventually, though, he and the principal did put on the screws and used some discipline on these guys that were making trouble. But I think it took him quite a long time before that happened. It was a few months at least.

WL:

In the beginning there was sort of a feeling that they would not be disciplined, or that the boys—they'd be tolerated?

FP:

I think generally the kids must have felt that way for quite a while, at least a couple of months. And—

JP:

And, as I say, they hoped to discourage her. They thought that could discourage her and she'd drop out.

FP:

And, of course, it is true that when she finished that year, there wasn't any success the next year.

JP:

No. There was—the opportunity was there. I think the school districts were still drawn, as I recall. And there were—there was a black minister whose family we knew quite well, who had twins, a boy and a girl. And they would have been excellent ones to follow, because they were very outgoing and very intelligent and so forth. And we had hoped, you know, that there would be this snowball effect, that we could get Josephine through the year, and then others would follow her, and do well, and it would just keep growing. But instead they, I think they redrew the boundary.

Those, those—do you remember the family?

FP:

[Both FP and JP speaking at once] I can't remember. I've forgotten but I think they lived—

JP:

I can't remember the family's name. But it was—but they did something. I forget what they did. I think they redrew the boundary so that those twins were not able to go. They would have, I think. And so, it just fizzled then. And it was several years, then, that they were all forced to integrate.

FP:

It convinced us, really, the experience convinced us that that kind of integration wouldn't work, because it just gave too many people who were opposed a chance to put their bid in to keep it from happening, you know. Put pressure on and do things to people that would have the nerve to try to send their kids.

It sounds fine to say, “Well, let the kids go wherever they want to. Let the parents send their children wherever they want to.” And eventually I think they did that for the whole city, maybe. Maybe I'm wrong. But it still was a voluntary thing, and somebody had to be very strong-minded in order to do it until they began to change the whole system.

WL:

It took great courage to be a student going into that kind of situation.

JP:

Yes. Josephine was a remarkable young woman, remarkable. And I know her mother well, and I admire her mother tremendously. Her mother still lives here in Greensboro. Josephine lives over in Tennessee.

I was involved later in politics. I got active in politics in—let's see, I think it was '68, was it? The campaign of '68, when—let's see, I was with a group supporting [Eugene] McCarthy. And there was one group supporting [Robert] Kennedy.

And, anyway, after the—I guess it was after the election, a group of us got together over at UNCG. Dr. [George] Simpkins was one [president of Greensboro chapter of NAACP], Herman Fox was one. And we weren't a very big group, maybe fifteen, sixteen, long about that. But we got together over there and decided to try to get a larger group together. I believe the larger group met upstairs in the Elliott Center, in the dining room, as I recall.

And the blacks said that they could support any candidate, any Democratic candidate. And they just wanted—what they wanted was—let's see. In—oh, I know. In, especially for the county, county party organizations to be open to participation by blacks. That—they said that that was one—well, they had several things, but that was one of the main things they wanted to accomplish. They said that the county chairman would always just make the decisions. He would speak to his chums and make decisions, and then the people on the county executive committee would just rubberstamp it. And the blacks had no part in decision making.

The man who was the county chairman at that time was a white High Point businessman, for example. So that was one of our goals. And we decided to form a group called Reformed Democrats, which would bring together the different groups, ones who supported McCarthy, ones who supported Kennedy, and the ones who didn't care, just so they could have some change in the Democratic Party.

And it just happened that along about that time, Gov[ernor]—[James] Hunt, who was not yet governor, had been chosen to chair a commission which was going to hold meetings across the state to try to open up the party also. And to find out what they could do, and how they could do it, and so forth. And Hunt did an excellent job. And some of the ones from our group, Mike Harmon[?], went and testified before the Hunt Commission; it was a party commission. And so we got changes made at the state level. And then here at the local level, we decided to try to take over the precincts so that we could get a county chairman in who would open up the party to not only blacks, but women and young people. They felt they'd all been left out of the decision-making process. And we were successful.

We held—we would hold mock precinct meetings in which we would practice what certain ones from the old white gang would do to keep the others from getting in. And—

WL:

What would they do? Parliamentary procedures?

JP:

Parliamentary procedures, yes. And—

FP:

I was there when her—

JP:

I got him to—

FP:

—when she became chairman of the precinct. And boy, that was really [unclear]. What he was doing was counting votes when people didn't know what was going on and closing nominations while people were still standing there making nominations.

Jennie hadn't even been nominated yet, and he was going to close the nominations by acclimation before the one who was going to nominate her had nominated. But we knew we had the votes there to get her in. We had over half the people there promised—

JP:

And the man who was going to nominate me did not have a loud voice. [laughs.]

FP:

And we all shouted, “No, no, no” when he did this. And he had to back off. He just had to.

JP:

Well, he had asked another person, a friend of his, because, to preside because—

FP:

Over his reelection as chairman.

JP:

Yes, to reelect him as the precinct chairman.

FP:

And he was just going to railroad and ram it right through. We had to shout, “Stop him!” And he was taken aback. He wasn't expecting that.

JP:

And as soon as the person who was going to nominate me could get his chance—well, he shouted the nomination, and I got the vote. We'd worked—we'd gotten all these people who were going to support me there. But they had just about—they were already railroaded in, railroaded him back in.

WL:

That was the intent? They were willing to accept that?

JP:

That had to. And he was so—the one who was the chairman, who was wanting to be reelected, he was so upset. He's a lawyer here in town, and he went off and left his briefcase. [laughs]

FP:

And Jennie and I picked it up and took it home to him, and left it in his yard. And he came out and chewed me out. [laughs]

JP:

But the media had some word that something was going to happen at that precinct. Our precinct has already been a pretty good voting precinct and pretty important in the elections. And they had come during the—we had an intermission—and they had been there during the intermission and interviewed him. And they couldn't find that anything was going on, you know. They sort of, I guess they heard a rumor of it.

But, anyway, I became the chairman of the precinct and quite a few others in other precincts. We were very successful. And then when we had the county convention, we had enough votes to put our county—the one we wanted for county chairman in, and made all the changes that we had wanted.

FP:

Made quite a difference in our delegation in Raleigh, because prior to that practically everyone of them had been white, male segregationists, and all fitted the pattern. And starting at that point, there was always one black from then on. And there were other whites who were much different in their attitudes—very, very different. So as far as our part of the legislature in Raleigh was concerned, it made a tremendous difference to take over the county party—

JP:

And we disbanded—

FP:

At that time the Democrats always won, so whatever happened—

JP:

We disbanded the Reformed Democrats, and became just the Democrats organization. But that was a lot of fun. [laughs]

WL:

I suppose then the blacks were voting in larger numbers? Or had blacks been voting in significant numbers during the fifties and sixties?

JP:

I think they hadn't really. They'd been discouraged.

FP:

Nobody was working—

JP:

And these ones like Herman Fox and George Simpkins who were interested in being active in the party, I just didn't—you know, kept to one side.

FP:

I think the working to get the black vote out came mostly after that.

JP:

After that, yes.

FP:

And it's still a big chore. There are still lots of blacks who haven't voted, probably.

JP:

Yeah.

WL:

But earlier in the fifties, were there active efforts to discourage them from voting or disenfranchise or—

FP:

There were some—

JP:

Yeah.

FP:

—token people almost, you'd call them. A few blacks who accepted an inferior position in the party, really. Like what was the lady and her husband, Falkener?

JP:

Margaret.

FP:

Margaret Falkener.

JP:

And Waldo.

FP:

She, she remained active through this time but—

JP:

Well, Waldo was the token member of the city council.

FP:

Yeah. And they were honest people, nice to the whites and that sort of thing. The whites would put them in and make them look okay in certain positions. But they didn't have any real respect for them as independent persons, or the Falkeners didn't assert their independence. But they were not spokesmen for the black community really. They were certain spokesmen for [unclear—both speaking at once].

JP:

Well, they, they enjoyed the roles they played.

FP:

They were nice enough people personally, but they just didn't fill the role that people like—young Herman Fox was a real guy who got out there, you know. And he didn't—they were needing people like that. He was really active in the party, and they became active.

WL:

Was there a perceived new degree of militancy on the part of blacks at some point during this period? Anything you noticed in terms of, not necessary militants, but let's say a different style of—

JP:

Yeah. There was, certainly. It became—well, there were confrontations, of course—the sit-ins finally, and everything. But I think they became more and more militant. Don't you think so?

FP:

Well, you know, it came down finally to the point where there ended up being some violence with the A&T students, and so forth. But violence was pretty rare here. For a while there were things like protesting in the downtown streets, and maybe the protest would go on longer than the police had given a permit for or something like that.

The police would come up to arrest the leaders. And the leaders, some of whom we knew, would go to jail, but they'd soon get out again. And very frequently the sheriff and his men would pray with them in the streets. You know, it's not too uncommon a thing, with Martin Luther King and others. And they would do that. And the blacks always, I think, were a little bit less inclined to violence because of that aspect, that the white man who were arresting them were pretty—

[End Tape 1, Side B—Begin Tape 2, Side A]

JP:

Yeah. And we used to tell some of our friends in the North that there were lots of blacks here who had much nicer homes than we did. And there was a good group of black people who could do something and not necessarily be militant, but could accomplish change. I remember when Henry Frye, for example, was elected to the legislature. I guess he was the first black, wasn't he, elected to the legislature?

FP:

Yes.

WL:

To the state.

FP:

Men like Henry Frye come from pretty well-to-do surroundings, you know. They're not just brought up in the poorest of homes usually, when they're in positions like that.

We've been impressed by housing in Greensboro, both ways as far as blacks are concerned. In the oldest days when we first came here, Bill, the shacks in which the majority, I suppose, of the black people lived—and some of the white people, too—were just like you might imagine sixteenth century England or something. They were hovels. They were really awful. And we just couldn't quite imagine so many people living in such terrible places. They've all been mowed down long ago by—

WL:

That was in the southeast Greensboro?

FP:

Yeah, mostly the eastern section of Greensboro. And they've all been—the people who lived there have all moved to public housing or cheaper housing somewhere else now. And a few on the very same place, like this one housing group over—just the other side of O'Henry Boulevard. It's where some of the worst of it used to be. And then, on the other hand, from the very earliest days we were here, there was a very affluent section where you would see only blacks out in the yards and playing around the houses and in the cars. And that's over on—what street is that?

JP:

Benbow.

FP:

Benbow Road.

JP:

Benbow Road was the major road, and Ross Avenue.

FP:

When we have company come from other states, we often take them to that part to show that there are black families who do have nice lives, because many of those homes are much more elegant than anything we have on this block. And we've been in some of them, like teachers at A&T live in, some of them, very nice homes. And the Falkeners, they live in a very nice home. And they are there, and they have been there. And that's testimony to the fact that you could be black and get somewhere in the world, if you were born into the right family, I think, or just with a, with a little bit of good luck and got into the right occupation or something. But it still wasn't true for the big mass of blacks. Opportunities were awfully closed to them when we first came here, and so were the educational opportunities.

JP:

And they were discouraged from registering to vote by various ways. I remember when a few of us were working on this, too. We were talking to the—we had a luncheon, three of us women who were very active in the Democratic Party. We had a luncheon with the three members of the board of elections. And their attitude was that, well, if people wanted to register, well, there was—you could register with your precinct chairperson or you could go down to the board of elections and register. And we said—[they said] the opportunity was there. And we said, “Well, we feel that your job is to get people registered, to do everything you can to get people registered. That that's your job.” And the policy was changed. And, of course, there was some pressure from the state party too, and finally the state board of elections, too.

And so then they began qualifying judges who could register people at any place. And that was a great encouragement to black people to register to vote. Judges that moved around could register anyone. You know, they would have—they would set up a place in a black area and register people there. So that was a change to encouraging them to vote.

FP:

I remember when the Supreme Court decision came in '54. I think I was a little na├»ve in talking about the big changes that would be seen within just a year or two. And Warren Ashby heard me talking that way out in the parking lot in front of McIver [Building] one day. He said, “Franklin, it's going to be a lot slower than that.” He said, “It's going to be a process of a little progress, and a little back step, and a little progress for a long time to come, because these things aren't just going to disappear overnight.” And I realized he was right, increasingly so as the years went by.

Nevertheless, I would say that today the situation has changed tremendously from what it was back before the Supreme Court decision. I think it's been a tremendous change. And I see it partly in people, very affluent people, who attend our church. We go out to Christ United Methodist Church. We don't go to church service, but we do attend a class during the Sunday school hour that we like real well—and almost all UNCG and other college people. And we have a discussion group. So we keep that attachment. The people in that church used to be very conservative, very traditionally Southern. [It's] true that some Northerners have moved in, but it's the Starmount section of the city, and a lot of nice homes there are representing the church. [It's] true that some Northerners have moved in, but I'm not sure that's made a lot of difference.

I think the chief difference in attitude—and attitudes are much more liberal toward blacks today, I would say, on average. And the chief difference, I believe, comes from the fact that these parents' children have been going to school with blacks and forming friendships with blacks. And they can see that blacks are human beings. Their kids see them as human beings. And their kids consider them [the parents] old-fashioned if they don't move in that direction. They consider them backward if they don't move in that direction. And I think this helps them to move in that direction. And talking to someone like me, they would never let it be known that they had in any way, you know, been fearful about blacks entering public places and so forth.

JP:

But, when we first joined the church, I remember one of the ushers who at that time was always talking about, “What if a black person comes to the church service? What would we do?” And one of the ushers, I remember [him] saying he wouldn't let them in. I was amazed. [laughs] That's all changed.

FP:

Stand a person at the door and watch them. [laughs]

JP:

And there was all this fear.

FP:

And now there have been several blacks that come. Most of them don't stay as members, but there have been some members for a period of a year or so, at least. And nobody thinks anything much of it. I'm pretty sure they're accepted very well, previously at least. And so there's at least token integration even within church. But mostly I think it's just a slow, gradual change, but really positive change in the attitude of the people. They've began to feel like they don't want to be old-fashioned, you know. And they don't want to be backward, don't want to be viewed as backward. I know there are a lot of people around that don't worry a bit about that yet. But still there are a lot who do increasingly, I think.

JP:

And at the same time the blacks don't take the backseat. They're much more self-assured.

FP:

Our church, it's a big church, where we go now. We did go to service ten years ago, we were still going. And one Sunday morning a friend of ours, Zoe Barbee—you may have heard of her, a black activist and well known in town. She had just been elected, what?

JP:

Member of the board of county commissioners.

FP:

County board of commissioners.

JP:

Well, she hadn't just been elected. She had run—

FP:

She's still run—

JP:

We were trying to get her in. A lot of us had been working to getting her in on the board of county commissioners, both because she was a woman and because she was black. And she had run one time and done very well. And, let's see, I think this is probably in the spring. And we had in—our minister, who was very interested in politics, had invited Zoe to come and speak, give the message.

FP:

Sunday morning. This is Sunday morning, not Sunday evening.

JP:

She was—

WL:

The regular—

FP:

The regular church service, yeah.

JP:

She was an excellent—yes. She was an excellent speaker. And at the same time, he had invited the Bennett choir to come and sing. And then he had invited me to introduce Zoe, because we were good friends. And I felt that was kind. I really felt honored that I'd been asked. And when I—in my introduction, I mentioned that-I was telling about the different things that she had done, and I mentioned that they could expect her to be running again for county commissioner. And she did, that fall, and won. And then she was in a tragic automobile accident.

FP:

She was a teacher at A&T.

JP:

She had been sworn in as a member of the board.

WL:

The first black county commissioner?

FP:

What was the question?

WL:

She was the first—

JP:

She was the first black. I think the first woman, too. And she was a wonderful, wonderful person, and so talented. She taught at A&T. She was active with the Methodist church.

FP:

We were happy that someone like her could be accepted on a Sunday morning basis at our church. The people accepted very well. I was out back, you know, where the preacher shakes hands with everybody that leaves the church. And I went out there purposely that morning and watched around. And quite a large number of people spoke to her and congratulated her and talked and so forth.

And one fairly conservative man stood after most of the others had filtered out and talked to her a little. And [he] said that he felt that she had left out some of the fundamentals, you know. That you had to get right in your heart first and these things came later. That getting right in your heart was the first and most important thing. And she hadn't mentioned about this getting right in your heart business. And she knew just how to answer him very well. And I think he was kind of charmed by her, actually. Because she said something about, oh, she agreed with him entirely, that that was the first and most basic thing. But she just had this one morning, and she was assuming that we had gone through that stage and could move on. [laughs]

JP:

She was not a native of this community. She came here from New Jersey, I believe.

FP:

Oh she did? I didn't know that.

JP:

Yeah. I think it was New Jersey where she was born. But she had lived here a long time.

FP:

It was a real loss to the community when she died.

JP:

She was here—I know she was here when we moved here, so she had been in the community a long time. She had been active in it. She was active in a lot of things, the League of Women Voters, and she was—I remember seeing her at a women's, the Methodist Women's Meeting once, entertaining with an interpretative dance. And also—she was just so talented in just all sorts of different ways. I remember, too, how she could play the piano. And you could just ask her spur of the moment, like at a political meeting, if you wanted some music. She could do anything.

FP:

I noticed that morning, too, the Bennett College choir was very well accepted.

JP:

Oh yeah.

FP:

I noticed the reaction of people around me. They started out with music that would have been sung by any choir, and then they moved over to their own black tradition. And before they finished, they were swaying with the singing. And it was really something different for the church, you know. The ordinary choir doesn't ever sway with the music. But people liked it, because they could see that these people were very skilled in the music that we're all accustomed to and then could move to their own music. And then do something different and do it very gracefully, and with very good discipline and everything. People were really shaking their heads in approval.

That made me feel happy, that they could be as accepting as they were. I don't know whether all white congregations around would be the same way. I have a hunch that a lot of them might be, quite a few larger congregations, at least, would be that way.

WL:

Getting back to the question of whether things have changed and your perceptions about that—do you think there is any difference between the perceptions among whites about this question, whether things have gotten better, and the perception among the blacks today? I don't know [unclear].

JP:

I'm sure. I'm sure. You know you—if you're the person in a certain position, you look—it's different to you. You see it differently. I could never see it, you know, as a black. I can sympathize and empathize, but I still don't know what it's like.

FP:

You mean would blacks generally today feel like not all that much progress has been made, more than whites?

WL:

That's what I've been hearing, I mean—

FP:

Oh, I imagine that's true.

JP:

And I think it's, it's gone a little back in the other direction too. It's slipped back pretty [unclear]

FP:

You mean there's been less of a reaction?

JP:

Yeah. I think so, with resentment along certain lines and all. But it certainly is better.

FP:

I think a lot of old-time blacks appreciate a great deal the change that has taken place. I think that almost all middle-aged to younger blacks are very dissatisfied yet and wouldn't think of speaking of it in terms of great progress, because they see so much that hasn't happened yet. And I can understand how they feel that way. I'm speaking as an older person and as a non-black. And I appreciate all the changes taking place, because we've come to like Greensboro, and we want to think of Greensboro as a place that can move a little bit with the times. But I'm sure that most middle-aged to younger blacks feel very dissatisfied still, and that makes them, in a sense, not really appreciate, as much as some of the older ones might, what has happened already, [that] a lot of them never experienced—the younger blacks, for example

I think in the Soviet Union it's the same way. The younger people that have been growing up, who didn't know what it was like before 1917, are a little more inclined to be critical than the very old, who knew what it was like before 1917. But I'm sure there's a difference between the average white perception and the average black perception. But it might go a lot along with age lines, too.

WL:

Generational kind of differences.

FP:

Yeah, especially among blacks.

JP:

And, of course, you still have all the segregation with, in the churches, for example.

FP:

Most churches are still segregated.

JP:

I don't know of any truly integrated church.

FP:

A lot of blacks don't really favor all that much integration of churches, for example. Because they feel more at home with the type of service, maybe, that most whites don't go in for. And they come into a church like ours, it's far too formal and rigid for them. Now some blacks have equally rigid services, I know. But a lot of blacks are used to more music, more dancing in the aisles and so forth. And unless they can find a white church that puts it on that basis, they're not going to feel at home. And white churches that might put it on that basis aren't very receptive to blacks joining them, I think. So, they got to feel separate. Even among the more elite groups, I think, like St. Matthews Church—what denomination is that? Methodist?

JP:

Yeah, I think, St. Matthews.

FP:

Black church that we visited downtown when we first came, just to go a couple of Sundays to a church whose minister we knew. And their service was very sober, but very different in certain ways. For instance, all the children came and sat in a separate section up front, and they were model kids all the way through. I can't believe it. Nine and ten-year olds, and six and seven-year old kids sitting perfectly quiet through a sermon, and in a group without their parents. And that was their tradition. That's the way they did it. And, well, they would find it difficult to go into another church where that wasn't done without their children.

JP:

And the sermon had a different slant, too. I mean, as I recall, one—I don't know how many times we went, but one Sunday, it was about a man being faithful to his wife and that sort of thing. And I don't think you would have found a sermon like that in a white church.

FP:

And they had a business meeting after the service. And they had a certain way of conducting the business, which was very efficient. But I had never seen a business meeting like that in my life. Each man and each person knew his place in the business session.

JP:

And the black churches meant so much to black people that I think they probably would tend to want to go to a black church.

FP:

We just had a former student visiting us who used to be Roman Catholic. She's married now. She and her husband stayed out in our back room the last two nights. And she was telling us about two Roman Catholic churches in Kentucky—Louisville, I guess. And one was white and the other black. And they were right across the street from each other. And the denomination decided they should be integrated since they were so close. But the people in them, neither black nor white, wanted to mix together. They wanted to be separate. And the church forced them to go together. And what happened then was that they just broke up, broke the whole thing up.

WL:

Both churches were broken up?

FP:

Yeah. Because people—church does involve a lot of social business—

JP:

Well, church is very, very important.

FP:

—and people have to feel at home in social events and they—so, I don't think that—

JP:

But in politics, now, during the time that I was active and after the Reformed Democrats had broke up and all, we had big conventions and so forth. It was very integrated. Completely integrated. We'd all be hugging each other, working together, and having fun together.

FP:

I used to go and sit on the back row and watch her. She presided over the district convention a couple of times. I'd sit and watch her do that. And she had blacks and whites, males and females.

JP:

In that area I would say—wouldn't you [say] it was completely integrated?

FP:

I'd say so, yeah, very much mixing going on. Slapping on the back was very common, I think. But that was politics. [unclear] And as much as you might think, well, religion should be the first place to be desegregated, well.

WL:

No.

JP:

May be the last.

WL:

I think you're right. That's true everywhere. It's true in Greensboro, it's true in a lot of the—I mean the United States. And I think you're right—

JP:

But, as I said before, the black churches have done an awful lot for black people, in every area, to encourage them.

FP:

We're sitting together in a movie theatre.

JP:

[laughs]

[End of Interview]