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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Phyllis Tyler, October 10, 1988. Interview C-0080. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race relations and the tactics of the Ku Klux Klan

Tyler describes two separate instances during the 1960s when her sons were targeted by the Ku Klux Klan. One son was attacked by members of the Klan for organizing a draft resistance movement at his Raleigh, North Carolina, high school and another was targeted for his participation in the sit-in movements of the early 1960s. Tyler uses these anecdotes as a way to describe race relations in Raleigh during that time.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Phyllis Tyler, October 10, 1988. Interview C-0080. 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

TERRI MYERS:
Did all of your children go to Broughton?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
No, actually, this is such a long story. But we were so oppressed by the KKK, particularly our youngest son, we had to get him out of Raleigh. He was a protester against the Vietnam War, and he started the draft resistance movement in Broughton. And one night he was coming home from school, and the KKK came in with masks and beat him up on the stairway. At that time I was working at Enloe Park. I was the director, and I was really destroyed. He came home in terrible shape. One of the counselors came about midnight and said, "Get him up." I said, "I don't want to get him up ()." They said, "Get him up. We have to tell him how to survive." These were two black men. One of them had come from an affluent family, and he said, "You learn how to survive." I never go around the corner without knowing what's on the other side. Never go anyplace without a friend with him, not even in the school in the restrooms. They alerted, the rest of that year, they alerted the janitors and () at Broughton. He said it was so embarrassing to see them watching. They looked after him (
TERRI MYERS:
He was a student at that time?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
He was a junior. No, he was a sophomore.
TERRI MYERS:
A sophomore, organizing a draft resistance. What year is that?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
He was probably fifteen, '54, probably around '60.
TERRI MYERS:
Early '60s?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
Late '60s. Yes, he was born in '54.
TERRI MYERS:
He's the same age as my husband.
PHYLLIS TYLER:
We investigated the Friends' Boarding School. They said we couldn't count on anything unless you applied ten years ago. But they took him immediately in the autumn. His older brother stayed because he very much wanted to finish at Broughton.
TERRI MYERS:
So he went his junior year, finished out his sophomore year?
PHYLLIS TYLER:
His junior year, and he went to Swartmore College. No, he went for both years.
TERRI MYERS:
The KKK actually assaulted him on the steps of Broughton High School in the late '60s.
PHYLLIS TYLER:
And the thing that was so frustrating was that when I called the principal, he said, "He got this coming to him. He was organizing draft resistance to the war. There's nothing we can do." So that was that. Our oldest son ( ) I remember (). He came home from school at the time when the sit-ins were going strong, and was the first white male to join them. He was there, I think, for spring vacation. And in the night, one time, the KKK called me on the phone and said, "We've got him. You'll never see him again." I thought, "I can't believe this." And I got up, not knowing what to do, and was walking past his door and he was in bed in his room. It was just a scare technique.
TERRI MYERS:
It's almost unbelievable.
PHYLLIS TYLER:
I know it is when you think. When I hear people say, well, things really aren't any better, I can't believe that they said that. Because it is better. These people are safe now.