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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 >>

White southern politicians use racial code, Communism to attack civil rights

Lewis describes how, with the advent of the Cold War, segregationists had a new tool to use against the nascent civil rights movement: anti-Communism. When black and white people met, they faced accusations of Communist involvement.

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

HYLAN LEWIS:
Just speculating here, I think the South, as many sects, has had the greatest facility for the use and manipulation, the conjuring of code words for the beast as the enemy.
JOHN EGERTON:
Outside agitation.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, and that kind of thing. I remember Talmadge was "bloc voters." I think that the communists . . . I say this because I knew and I know very well—this is another story, the whole Communist, FBI bit. But this was an urban northern comment essentially. There were some small linkages . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
But, they were totally insignificant.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Totally insignificant, but the cry communist instead of cry nigger, if that makes sense, was . . .
JOHN EGERTON:
Was a much more acceptable thing.
HYLAN LEWIS:
Yes, in some context. It would have been really interesting if you'd had a few cells there.
JOHN EGERTON:
Yes, to see what would have happened.
HYLAN LEWIS:
The other point about it is that any association of white and black in any context, the thought then was that only communist would do that. I will never forget when I was doing the New York study the people in Chapel Hill would come down to visit me and once they came down John Gillian and Ken Moore and others came down and they had a big old-time van which they came in. They came in to see me and they put the van in the yard. While we were sitting there talking about academic and research matters the town cops came and crept up outdoors to eavesdrop to see what the hell was happening. Now, this was a communist . . . a possible potential. The guy that saved my hide was not the young cop but it was old man Ed Turner. He was an old farmer. It is in that sense that the outsider and the inaudible. That, I think, is another story.