Involvement in the NAACP
Frye talks about his involvement in the NAACP from an early age, especially during his college years. Frye explains that during the 1930s through 1940s, while he was growing up and becoming involved in public matters, that the NAACP had a reputation as being a radical organization. He recalls that when he was in high school, many of his teachers tried to hide their involvement in the NAACP because of this. Later, when he became a lawyer, his involvement with the group was questioned by the bar.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Henry Ell Frye, February 18 and 26, 1992. Interview C-0091. 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
- AMY E. BOENING:
From what I have read, you were involved in the NAACP pretty early.
- HENRY ELL FRYE:
Well, yes, a little bit when I was in high school. We had a little NAACP
chapter and I sold memberships in the NAACP and things of that nature.
Incidentally, this is an interesting thing I observed at that time.
Contrary to the situation today, in the eyes of a lot of people the
NAACP was looked at a very radical organization. Black teachers who were
members, and only a few of them were members, kept that a secret. They
would not dare let the school board, for example, or people generally in
the community know that they were members of the NAACP because they were
afraid they would be fired for that reason. I recall incidentally my
English teacher again, Mrs. Easterling, who was elected an officer in
the NCTA which was the North Carolina Teachers' Association
and that was the black teachers. In other words, they had two separate
organizations then for teachers. You had the
North - I've forgotten the name of the white group,
but the white group had a teachers' association and the black
group had one. At any rate, there was
something in the paper about it. Someone, some official contacted her
wanting to know why she was an officer in the NAACP. She had to explain
to them that this was not the NAACP. This was the NCTA which was the
teachers' association and not that terrible radical National
Association for the Advancement of Colored People. At any rate, getting
back to my own involvement. From that then at A&T we organized.
I help organize an NAACP chapter, which again was not very active and
not radical at all by most terms. We were concerned about racial things,
but not, at that point, we were not sitting in or anything of that
nature. Later on I became a life member and generally tried to work with
the organization. But I've - I'm trying
to think, I don't think I've ever, since I left
college I don't think I ever been an officer myself.
- AMY E. BOENING:
So you weren't active during law school?
- HENRY ELL FRYE:
Let me back up if I might. I think this is of some significance. One of
the questions that I was asked about when I was being considered for my
character and so forth for the practice of law, that is really to get my
license, one of the questions they asked about was my involvement with
the NAACP, which I thought was a little unfair, frankly. I
didn't think that had anything to do with it. But that was
one of the questions along with some others that I thought were quite
inappropriate. Our bar association thing, I understand now, is a lot
better and you don't have the kind of problems that we had in