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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with U. W. Clemon, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Continuing racial problems in Birmingham

Clemon describes some of the racial problems he thinks Birmingham elites are determined to ignore: lack of representation in political office, police brutality, and school segregation are among the problems he mentions. Clemon has been working to find legal remedies to enduring segregation in Birmingham schools.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with U. W. Clemon, July 17, 1974. Interview A-0006. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
How would you define the racial problems in Birmingham?
U. W. CLEMON:
I think that it's a problem of an image. I think that the effort has been, concentration has been to try to destroy the image of Birmingham as a city torn by racial strife. And as a process of all of the energies of the establishment in the city being committed to that proposition, they have been willing, perhaps even forced, to sweep such racial problems as do exist under the rug. The problem for example that blacks are not being hired by the various city agencies, or not being appointed to various positions, responsible positions in the city government by the mayor. The fact that police brutality in some cases and misconduct and discourtesy in others, with respect to black folks, is still a rampant problem in the city. The fact that blacks on welfare are not treated with any reasonable degree of dignity. Or the fact that the schools in this city are still segregated. All of these facts, I think, are overlooked by those who run the city because I think it is felt that any real attention or concentration on these problems would detract from the image that we are otherwise trying to create.
JACK BASS:
How many schools in Birmingham remain all black or 90% or more black?
U. W. CLEMON:
There are about 87 elementary schools in the city. I would say that at least 25 of those are all black schools and at least 30 white schools are all white schools.
JACK BASS:
There is no busing order here?
U. W. CLEMON:
No there is no evidence of that. The last desegregation order entered in the Birmingham school case was in 1970. Prior to Singleton and prior to the Swann decision.
JACK BASS:
Who's handling those two?
U. W. CLEMON:
This office is our counsel in the case. My senior partner, Oscar Adams, is responsible for the Birmingham case and the [Bessemer] case. But recently I've become interested. . . well, recently I've taken time to do some on my own in the Birmingham school case. And for a year now, for one solid year, I've been filing motions in the Birmingham school case asking the judge to set the case down for a hearing so that we can have the school board come forward with a new plan.