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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, February 6, 1991. Interview A-0337. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Endurance of southern racism despite charismatic black leadership

Here, Durr agrees with the interviewer that Rosa Parks was much more than just "tired" when she remained seated on that bus in Montgomery, Alabama. She credits Parks's protest as the trigger for the movement in Montgomery, but does not think that the movement depended on her. She believes that despite the successes of the civil rights movement, the South will not become equal anytime soon.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, February 6, 1991. Interview A-0337. 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:
So this whole idea of Mrs. Parks, who's finally getting tired and sitting down and denying those people, that wasn't really true, was it? I mean, she knew what she was doing.
VIRGINIA DURR:
She knew what she was doing, and after having a visit to Highlander, she realized how it was worse than ever. She just couldn't stand it any more, you know, being made to stand up for a white man. But it was tough. I would have left, but Cliff wouldn't leave. So, of course, I wouldn't leave. But you see, I still don't think the South is any nest of [laughter]-I think it's still racist. I don't know how long it's going to be before it's not racist.
JOHN EGERTON:
You and I aren't going to live to see the day.
VIRGINIA DURR:
No, I don't believe we'll ever see that day. You know, I'm making the best of it now, a lot of people I like and all, good friends. But as far as the South actually becoming a [laughter] place of equality, I don't see it at all.
JOHN EGERTON:
Again, just to linger for a minute on that period around 1950, as I look back on that, it seems to me like that was a low point in a way. After those election defeats and the rise of the anti-communist stuff and the growing agitation among the white power structure in the South against any kind of racial change, it just seemed to me like things, from 1950 until '54-'55, was just sort of like a quiet period where nobody did much. And it took the court action and the people going in the street and marching to bring about the social change that we got.
VIRGINIA DURR:
Oh, absolutely. There's no doubt about it. The thing is that the combination of the fact that Mrs. Parks refused to stand up, that was the sort of trigger point. But the thing that made it so amazing was that Dr. King would have come along at exactly the same time. So here you have a man who speaks with the tongues of men and of angels or whatever. Just a marvelous orator. And he can stir people up the way he stirred them up. Perfectly remarkable.