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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William Patrick Murphy, January 17, 1978. Interview B-0043. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Protest through teaching rather than direct action

Murphy was never the kind of activist who used direct action or speeches to protest segregation. Instead, he wrote articles in law journals, taught his position in the classroom, and wrote letters to newspapers. He did not think of himself as an activist.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William Patrick Murphy, January 17, 1978. Interview B-0043. 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

WILLIAM PATRICK MURPHY:
Your classroom teaching and your publications in your area of competence are within the narrowest ambit of academic freedom. The very narrowest concept of academic freedom would embrace that. And everything I did was within that ambit, with the one possible exception of the letter I wrote to the newspaper in which I did defend the function and role of the Supreme Court in our constitutional system. I guess you could say there did come a point where I felt some obligation to try to counteract erroneous propagand a with what I conceived to be the truth of things. But I never did go up and down the state on a soapbox urging integration and talking about racial injustice. And I never got up at Bar Association meetings and made flag-waving speeches. I never was a civil rights activist in that sense. If I had been, I could have more readily comprehended the violence of these people's reaction to me. But nothing that I did was in that category. It was all either my classroom teaching or my legal publications or, in a couple of instances, letters to newspapers. And I very quickly got cured of that, writing letters to newspapers.