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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Anti-segregation support grew within the SRC

Wright describes how support for an anti-segregation resolution grew each time it appeared before the SRC, but even progressive white southerners were often reluctant to move quickly on desegregation. Rising African American participation in the SRC eventually forced the motion forward.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Marion Wright, March 8, 1978. Interview B-0034. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
You know Lillian Smith's criticism of the Council and the debate that went on back and forth . . .
MARION WRIGHT:
Strangely enough, I don't remember Lillian Smith. Everybody else seems to remember Lillian Smith, but I did not. I remember two or three annual meetings when the issue was threshed out. And the movement in support of abolition of segregation gained; every time the issue was brought up, it gained converts. I've never been convinced that it was weakness on the part of the white members that they did not endorse it at once. It seems that way now. But you had practical considerations. You had to keep your own strength, and if we'd acted immediately we would have alienated a great many people.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did it come up every year as a provocative issue?
MARION WRIGHT:
I recall something like for two or three years.
JACQUELYN HALL:
But did it come up virtually every year from, say, '44 to 1951 when the decision was finally made?
MARION WRIGHT:
No, I was on the Board for years and years, and I can only recall maybe a couple of meetings when it was debated. Lillian Smith no doubt participated actively. I was more impressed, I think, by certain Negro people who were standing up for their rights. I remember a Dr. Forrester Washington and Dr. Charles S. Johnson from Fisk, who were probably the ablest people present, white or colored. And both of them made statements that influenced me more than Mrs. Ames or Lillian Smith would have done, I'm sure.
JACQUELYN HALL:
And were they pressing the Council to take . . .
MARION WRIGHT:
They were, in no offensive way. They stated their case plainly; they had no doubt where they stood and stated it in such a way that you had to become convinced that they were right.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Were there other people that you remember as being spokesmen for that position?
MARION WRIGHT:
No, I do not. I remember people who were present, but for the life of me I could not tell you . . .
JACQUELYN HALL:
But it was pretty much a black-white division, with the blacks pressing the Council to take a pro-integration stand?
MARION WRIGHT:
I think that was true, and I think there was always a substantial core of white members who wanted to go along with it. And finally the increased Negro membership and the conversion of whites brought about the final adoption of that resolution.