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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with C. Vann Woodward, January 12, 1991. Interview A-0341. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Cold War affects civil rights

Woodward says the Cold War had a significant effect on civil rights, but he does not elaborate. Instead, he tells a story about attending a ball and dancing with black women, which horrified the white attendees.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with C. Vann Woodward, January 12, 1991. Interview A-0341. 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

C. VANN WOODWARD:
Yes, its, I think, a reasonable expectation that if the Cold War hadn't come when it did and with such force, that there were in the South forces that would have become more vocal, and more courageous than otherwise.
JOHN EGERTON:
When do you think personally, looking back, when do you think you saw the ultimate inevitability of Brown or of some kind of very dramatic change finally come into the South?
C. VANN WOODWARD:
Well, I guess it was in Atlanta.
JOHN EGERTON:
In the thirties?
C. VANN WOODWARD:
Yes and there were big black universities and colleges there and I knew people there. A simple minded anecdote, but, "Enough of this nonsense," I said in 1932. I knew a woman, a librarian, at Atlanta University; a young woman, but older than I was. In other words, this wasn't an affair of the heart. I knew her and she said, "There's going to be a big inaugural ball at Atlanta University and why don't you go?" I said, "You're on." So I went with her.
JOHN EGERTON:
An inauguration of the President?
C. VANN WOODWARD:
Yes, I can't remember now what the occasion was. Anyway, I went and asked the black students, the girls, to dance with me and they did. There had never been more uncomfortable people on sidelines.
JOHN EGERTON:
You could feel it.
C. VANN WOODWARD:
I could feel it. I went through with it, but that wasn't enough. There was a social hour at the women's college there.
JOHN EGERTON:
Spelman.
C. VANN WOODWARD:
Spelman. So I turned up at the tea hour and had tea with the coeds. [Laughter] A little story.
JOHN EGERTON:
It's an interesting anecdote, though, because obviously you were giving a lot more thought to this issue then in the early thirties than most people were.
C. VANN WOODWARD:
Well, yes, that was true.