Motivation to pursue change and its required characteristics
Josephine and William Clement discuss their motivations for pursuing racial change and their hope for real progress. As elsewhere in the interview, the Clements again stress here the importance of self-esteem and confidence, and they add economic security to the list here. In addition, they discuss the importance of solidarity and strong leadership.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. 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
- WALTER WEARE:
What intrigues historians, though, is that you didn't know how
it was going to turn out, that you were going to have this happy
outcome, that there was going to be integration, yet you continued the
work anyway. Now what really intrigues me is how both of
you - and one could list countless
people - kept from becoming bitter. How is it that
you kept your sense of balance, that you didn't become so
frustrated - what would keep you, after untoward
incident, from just kind of going off the deep
end? - and of course, some people have. Is there
something special, do you think, that explains this?
- JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
I think there are two factors: first, a strong family. A strong family
can receive you back when you've been buffeted by the
community. You get your first sense of self-esteem from your family, and
we were never allowed to feel that we were
inferior - it was just never a part of anything. I
didn't even know that you were supposed to feel inferior
'til the civil rights revolution came along and people began
to talk about it.
I remember once we were going down to South
Carolina - Bill stopped to go in the office
there - and I had Kathy - she
was a little girl - in the car, and she got
restless, and I got out and walked along the sidewalk with her. This
elderly black man came up to me and said, "pardon me, Miss, but
are you from around here?" I said, "no, I'm
not." He said, "I didn't think so. I just
watched you going down the street with your head held high and your good
clothes on." And I didn't even think I had good
clothes on - just traveling in the car, you
know - nor was I aware that I had my head held
high. These were the things that the family gave us.
And the second was: enough economic security not to have to be at the
beck and call of everybody and everything. You didn't have to
worry about survival, you could develop yourself and get your education.
And so I think it gave us a base to withstand some of those things.
- WILLIAM CLEMENT:
Another thing to consider, Jo: I don't think we ever had our
conflicts in the presence of white people. We had enough intelligence to
carry on some kind of conversation, and regardless of what direction it
went - we weren't an authority and all
that - but at least you had an opinion, you could
have solved what was being said, and you could make a contribution. And
people were just amazed. White people were just amazed that
black people could talk, that they could express
themselves, in terms that you could be understood in.
I always found out that you and the white man, on one-on-one, he would
deal with you. But if you came in a mass, then he became frightened. And
I remember Whitney Young making a statement - he
was executive director of the Urban League - he
said, "Yes, we need Jesse Jackson, we need Martin Luther King,
we need McKissick, and and all those people, for
us to negotiate in the board room." I'm not out on
the street protesting, but we need all types. Now, some of our children
were involved in the movement. We encouraged them. But as far as being
out there actually marching and so forth, I never had that