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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Role of the United Church of Christ in improving race relations

Cannon describes her involvement with the United Church of Christ in Raleigh, North Carolina. Cannon first became actively involved with the UCC when she moved to Raleigh during the mid-1930s. Here, she focuses on her participation on the speaker's committee and the church's support of civil rights. According to Cannon, there were important ties between the UCC and the black community leading up to and during the civil rights movement.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Isabella Cannon, June 27, 1989. Interview C-0062. 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

I'd like, now, to first talk about what sorts of activities and organizations you were involved with in terms of civil rights.
I was a very active member of the United Church of Christ, which was a leader in the civil rights movement. Do you have this? Is it all right?
I'm just adjusting the dials as we go along.
O.K. We were instrumental in bringing some of the real activists to Raleigh, including Martin Luther King. We had Norman Thomas, which was a shock to some people, Eleanor Roosevelt, and for several years, I was on the committee that helped to get speakers. I was also treasurer of that group, and we were leaders for the very first time in having dinners where black and white could sit down and eat together. We had a dinner every week, which created a great deal of concern among some areas in Raleigh. It also had a great deal of support, and the black community was very cooperative. We were an integral part of that great series the United Church had, which went on for some twenty-five years. It was a tremendous thing. The other thing that I was very active in was the marches. When we had marches downtown, particularly when we were trying to integrate the lunch rooms at Woolworth's, and I was a part of the marches and had absolutely no hesitation about being involved in that. And the marches were interesting in the fact that hand bags were examined, the men's shirt pockets were examined. If you had a fountain pen or a nail file, that was taken away from you because that could be considered a weapon. At that point, the Sir Walter Hotel was the gathering place for the legislators, and they stood out front, and there were some pretty bad comments about what we were doing. But it was an important thing that stands out very clearly in my mind as something very, very exciting. We had attendance at our church, and we had always great reaching out to the black community in this church, and, at one point, we had members who attended, with great detail, the black church of our denomination. We still have a great deal of cooperation between the two.
And what's the name of that black church?
Laodicea Church. We also had one member who went to the First Baptist Church. Now, there are two First Baptist Churches downtown, but she became a member for several years of the First Baptist Church which was primarily the black church. We've always cooperated with them. We have things that happen together. Our choirs work together; we have meetings together. At the moment, we have had, for the last several years, our choir director is black, and we have, I think, very little color consciousness in our group, and all of that stems from these years of cooperation with the civil rights movement. It was an important thing for us. It opened my eyes when I came to Raleigh from a small town, and that church opened my eyes to what could be done, not only in a civil rights movement, but in community activism. It was like a door opening. They were extremely important to me, not that they zeroed in on me, but the whole atmosphere was one in which your eyes were open, your ears were open, but you as a church and as a church member could become active in the community and could do things that were important in the community.