Opportunity for involvement and personal growth in Durham
William Clement talks about moving from Atlanta, Georgia, to Durham, North Carolina, during the 1940s. According to William, the move was a positive one for him and his wife. He argues that they were pleased to settle in Durham and that they had many opportunities for community involvement there. In addition, William cites Josephine's growing confidence and independence as an important development for them after their move to Durham.
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:
This would probably be a good place to end this, but in case nobody gets
back, there's a question I think that maybe you could speak
for Josephine on as well, and it has to do with Durham. You both having
lived in Atlanta, or being well acquainted with Atlanta society, the
institutions, black Atlanta, I'd sort of like your first
impressions when you hit Durham, and the comparison.
- WILLIAM CLEMENT:
Well, I was surprised, really, that Josephine agreed to leave Atlanta. I
think if I were confronted with that decision today, it would have been
far more difficult. Josephine was very submissive, and very cooperative,
because of her mother. Her mother, whatever John Wesley Dobbs said, that
was it. Occasionally, she would rise up. And Josephine was just sweet.
Whatever she thought that I wanted, she just fell in line.
And she could not come to Durham, when Mr. Cox came by Atlanta in the
fall of '45, and said, "Bill, I need you in Durham,
and I'd like for you to be there the first of the
year." We were expecting Wesley in April, the eighteenth. Well,
you know, at that time, women didn't move after four, five,
six, seven months. And so I came up - she had been
through here once - she said, "Bill, if
you think that this is going to help your career,
and it's the best thing to do, we'll go."
I came up here and bought a little house over here (it was right after
the war period, and I bought this lot - I thought I
could build, but I couldn't build because the material
hadn't started coming back on the market), so I bought a
little house for under 3200 dollars. I said, "Sweetheart, we
don't have any place to put a washing machine." We
had all these babies, and at that time, you had a roller washing
machine - you don't remember that. But
she said, "we could put it in the living room." So,
she didn't come. And she was very submissive.
Josephine in the last twenty-five
years - we've been married
forty-five - in the last ten or fifteen years,
since she got involved in public life, and this matter of the feminist
movement and the matter of taking charge of your life, and being
recognized as a person - she's changed.
Fortunately, I changed. And really, she's a far more
beautiful person because of her attitude. She doesn't back up
at all. She's very nice, and very polished, but
don't you step over her rights, as a woman, as a person.
She's very much involved in the equal rights movement here in
North Carolina, and that's one thing that's
attracted her to Governor Hunt. He was in favor of passing the Equal
Rights Amendment - but you'd never pass
it in North Carolina. We needed three states, you remember, for the
amendment. But she was in that movement.
And so, she came - to answer your question, I got
away - we came, really, with a great deal of
enthusiasm and drive, and determination. I was a North Carolina Mutual
person through and through. My father worked for
the company fifty years, the only job he ever had; I came along. And I
had come difficult times at North Carolina Mutual: I wasn't a
part of the family, but you know the history of that. So I had to
negotiate that system, and really, was denied some of the greater
opportunites that I could have had, because of the family situation. But
I swallowed that, because I felt that the institution was bigger than
any one person. Fortunately for North Carolina Mutual, it was a mutual
company, it's not a stock company where you're
passing on the equities to this generation, that generation. So I was
sold on North Carolina Mutual, and I came up.
Now when we got ready to retire, we thought about Atlanta. We got two
boys in Atlanta, Josephine has a sister in Atlanta, and all. And we
decided we didn't want to go back to Atlanta, we wanted to
stay in Durham . . . The opportunites here are so great: we got
involved, Joseephine is involved - I'm
not a politician, I support her, but I'm involved in