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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Thoughts on the likelihood of changing race relations without federal intervention

Calvin and Elizabeth Kytle ruminate about the likelihood of changing race relations in the South had there not been federal intervention with the <cite>Brown</cite> decision in 1954. Noting that prior to 1954, they had not foreseen the possibility of this kind of federal regulation, both Calvin and Elizabeth Kytle seem to believe that prevailing southern attitudes would have prevented real change from occuring with any degree of immediacy during those years.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Calvin Kytle, January 19, 1991. Interview A-0365. 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

Do you all think, speaking personally, that when you think back to '48, '50 and '52, did you see the Brown decision coming? Did you see the federal government getting ready to change the policies?
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
I didn't.
JOHN EGERTON:
And if you didn't then it would be safe to say, wouldn't it, that the vast majority of the people didn't, white or black? It was an unthinkable thought almost, wasn't it, that it would actually come to that?
CALVIN KYTLE:
I think at that time what we hoped, of course, there would be equal opportunity.
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
You mean, you hoped that's what would really happen. What you wanted and what you thought would happen.
CALVIN KYTLE:
I'm sure Harold [Fleming] would have a much better idea of this than I. I wasn't really studying policy at that time. Harold was.
JOHN EGERTON:
Do you think now if the South had gotten what it was asking for essentially, "leave us alone and we will work this out, we will make separate equal, we will treat people right." Do you think it ever would have happened?
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
I don't, but that's personality again. I don't think anybody has ever done anything when they were let alone. Nobody has ever done anything as long as people were nice about it. I don't think anybody has made any progress at all as long they were oppressed or quiet.
JOHN EGERTON:
So, what it really comes down to is this notion that I began our conversation with, that this was a time when voluntary social change was possible, that's a naive view, isn't it? It really wasn't possible in any practical sense. The South was not truly going to make social change in any major way voluntarily. As we look back on the period of '45 and '50 it seems it might have had a great opportunity. Practically speaking it didn't really, did it?
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
I wouldn't dare answer that because I've lived--my health has been rotten-shut in and I haven't been out in the real world much. I just don't believe that anybody behaves better until they have to. You know, it wasn't nice people who started the American Revolution, it was a bunch of waterfront toughs. I think we have to be grateful to the rude people who would do that. I don't think anybody has made any advance as long as they were quiet about being mistreated. You were talking about leadership. Maybe if there had been that they would have gone along with it. I don't know.
CALVIN KYTLE:
Here's an interesting question. I'm just wondering if there could have been any changes in the economics of the South that would have been conducive to voluntary change? I've always been impressed by the difference between Atlanta and Birmingham in the 50s. I think in contrasting the Coca Cola Company and U.S. Steel there is a lesson in that somewhere because Coca Cola got to be more and more concerned about the black market. I think it had to have to some kind of solution.
ELIZABETH KYTLE:
If it had worked out it would have been a lot easier and pleasanter. I very often think that we let things get so bad that we can't fix it, ever.