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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Charles M. Jones, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0335. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Post-WWII years not a golden opportunity for change after all

Jones argues that no era, including 1945 to 1950, can be considered a golden opportunity because it is so difficult to see what each part of life means or figure out what to do. He also sees ways that the Presbyterian Church and his political leaders were complacent with segregation throughout years when they had opportunities to change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Charles M. Jones, July 21, 1990. Interview A-0335. 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

JOHN EGERTON:
I still am a little confused though about why that period of '45 to '50 didn't seem like more of a golden opportunity to people at the time. That they could do voluntarily and accomplish so much. That we went through twentyfive years of bloodshed to get to the very same place.
CHARLES M. JONES:
Yeah, but right in our own generation, we've got a guy named Jesse Helms. I call him a big, damn fool. He does more harm. He's got a brain, but he's stupid.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah. You know, I guess it's almost always impossible to see what your logic would inform you to do down the road, you have to almost get——Presbyterians have a name for it, predestination, which means being able to look back and see why things worked out the way they did. It doesn't mean being able to sit down there and say here's what's going to happen.
CHARLES M. JONES:
Yeah.Presbyterians was when they say it, they didn't try to pick up and go somewhere else. Presbyterians were traditionally segregated.
JOHN EGERTON:
You think the Presbyterian or Baptist or Methodist Church as an institution has been a force for good in the march of social justice through American history?
CHARLES M. JONES:
Overall, yeah. But you take any particular period and you'd be stuck. And I guess that's true of everything, you can't pin progress on this and that.
JOHN EGERTON:
There are always too many factors.
CHARLES M. JONES:
I don't get confused because I don't worry that much about it. But there's so much that you can keep confused and tied up with. I preached a sermon one time on the meaning of life, and the essence of it was you couldn't know because it's a mystery.
JOHN EGERTON:
The farther I go the less I understand.
CHARLES M. JONES:
But if you don't understand where you've been, you can't go anywhere either.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, that's true.
CHARLES M. JONES:
So the problem, I think, often is a failure of the will. They see and don't do.