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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Opportunities for blacks in segregated Alabama

In this excerpt Lewis reflects briefly on the unique nature of the city of Atlanta and of southern politicians. Atlanta was a diverse city that created room for black people to negotiate the terms of segregation, allowing them in and out of "not back doors but side doors." Lewis also thinks that the South creates amoral politicians, who, without moral conviction, can change their minds.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Hylan Lewis, January 13, 1991. Interview A-0361. 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:
Let me ask you if this sort of characterization rings true to you. If you put virginius Dabney and Ralph McGill on a scale of liberal to conservative over this period of time we're talking about, Dabney starts off in the 30s up here at sort of high liberal and ends up down here as a reactionary. McGill starts off down here at the bottom, pretty conservative guy, but by the time Brown comes along you can go to the bank on McGill.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Absolutely, as I used the words, tested the waters, and with a great deal of courage, and this is why Atlanta was so important. One of the great things about Atlanta is the extent to which there were side doors and windows open. Not back doors but side doors in which people came and went. The point is the difference between the side door and the back door. I think Atlanta probably developed, institutionalized it to an extent.
JOHN EGERTON:
When you think about the South in this period of time Atlanta is always the nexus with everything.
HYLAN LEWIS:
This interesting mixture of businessmen, newspapermen, politicians, church people, and very important, the sense that here is a city with a chance to grow and to be a New York of the South.
JOHN EGERTON:
In a way the mayor of Atlanta sort of characterizes this. He started off pretty conservative. He was a Talmadge man, Hartsfield, and by the time the crunch comes . . .
HYLAN LEWIS:
Interestingly enough is the sense that the South par excellence has produced politicians who in some sense were amoral. And this amorality has a kind of spill-over. Amorality means that one can change.