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Oral History Interview with Igal Roodenko, April 11, 1974. Interview B-0010. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Igal Roodenko was born to first-generation immigrants in New York City in 1917. Throughout the 1930s, Roodenko was drawn to leftist politics and pacifism. He describes the internal dilemma that he and other pacifists faced as they sought to reconcile their ideals of non-violence with their belief that Hitler's regime warranted opposition. Ultimately, Roodenko became a conscientious objector during the conflict. Rather than facing a prison sentence for his refusal to bear arms, Roodenko spent most of World War II in a camp for conscientious objectors. Increasingly involved in leftist politics during the war, Roodenko participated in hunger strikes while at the camp and eventually did serve time in prison. Following the war, he utilized his experiences with peace groups and Ghandian nonviolence to become a leader in the burgeoning civil rights movement. Roodenko speaks at length about his participation in the Journey of Reconciliation in 1947. Already a member of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), Roodenko helped to organize the Journey, an interracial endeavor to test the Supreme Court's ruling in the Irene Morgan case (1946) as it applied to public transportation in the South. Roodenko describes the strategies CORE employed as they tested segregation policies on buses for Trailways and Greyhound. In Chapel Hill, North Carolina, Roodenko and fellow activists were arrested for refusing to abide by the bus driver's demand that black and white passengers not sit together. He recalls the threat of mob violence against the activists and the role of Chapel Hill minister Charles Jones in helping them escape town safely. Roodenko and the other CORE activists lost their court appeal and he spent thirty days working on a segregated chain gang in North Carolina. His recollections in this interview help to illuminate activist strategies, interracial cooperation, and reasons for limited success as the civil rights movement began to build momentum in the late 1940s.
    Excerpts
  • The founding of CORE and the Journey of Reconciliation
  • Finding support for the Journey of Reconciliation along the way
  • Local minister helps CORE activists escape Chapel Hill unscathed
  • Chain gang prison sentence
  • CORE strategies for raising awareness about civil disobedience
  • Experiences in a conscientious objector camp during WWII
  • Coming to terms with homosexuality
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Civil rights--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.