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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 >>

Red-baiting in the 1950s

Red-baiting dominates Durr's memories of the 1950s, especially as a scheme to undermine the civil rights movement.

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:
If you think of the years 1951, from the summer of '51 until the summer of '54, can you think of any involvements that you had that were active in these social issues, or was that pretty much a quiet time for you?
VIRGINIA DURR:
Well, the thing was that's the time I got Mrs. Parks up to visit Highlander. Cliff, when he started his law practice, he immediately became active in police brutality. These men would come in with him and pull up their shirts, and you could see where the welts were. He was busy with that. Now, he never won any cases, but he got a lot of publicity for these, which they didn't like. But I had three children and I was working and had a job, life seemed so busy to me that I can't think of any particular. . . . The only thing I can think of in that period was the terrific red-baiting.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yeah, right. It just got worse and worse, didn't it?
VIRGINIA DURR:
Yeah, just got worse, worse, worse. It spread and spread and spread. George Wallace took it up.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think there was a deliberate, conscious, intentional seizing of that issue, the red-baiting issue, by the segregationists and the racists of the South in order to cloud the issue of social change?
VIRGINIA DURR:
I don't think there's any doubt about it.
JOHN EGERTON:
I mean, obviously there was a parallel. It was a coincidental thing to the very least. But I wonder if you think that people like George Wallace and Eastland and Talmadge in Georgia and these people seized upon the anti-communist thing as a way to disarm the people who were trying to get. . . .
VIRGINIA DURR:
Oh, I don't think there's any doubt about it. It was so plain to be seen. Jim Eastland was running for Senate, and the Brown decision was about to come down. Okay, so what does he do? He finds me out, who is Hugo Black's sister-in-law, then his son, young Hugo, who was working up in Birmingham. Then he gets hold of Aubrey Williams and Myles Horton and holds this hearing about the communist danger. That the Brown decision will prove that the Supreme Court is a communist outfit. So you see, they just use it all the time. Use it constantly. Dirty time. [Interruption]