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Title: Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001. Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Rivera, Alexander M., interviewee
Interview conducted by Taylor, Kieran
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 168 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-02-20, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001. Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0297)
Author: Kieran Taylor
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001. Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series C. Notable North Carolinians. Southern Oral History Program Collection (C-0297)
Author: Alexander M. Rivera
Description: 216 Mb
Description: 46 p.
Note: Interview conducted on November 30, 2001, by Kieran Taylor; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by L. Altizer.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series C. Notable North Carolinians, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Editorial practices
An audio file with the interview complements this electronic edition.
The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
All quotation marks, em dashes and ampersand have been transcribed as entity references.
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Interview with Alexander M. Rivera, November 30, 2001.
Interview C-0297. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Rivera, Alexander M., interviewee


Interview Participants

    ALEXANDER M. RIVERA, interviewee
    KIERAN TAYLOR, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
What I've done I've done and if it's worth anything, that's it. But I don't plan on writing anything.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Well, this might be a poor substitute for a book but maybe necessary.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, if I had known that I was doing, what I was doing was important, I would've kept some better notes about what I was doing. But at the time I was a young reporter, and I was just enjoying what I was doing day by day. When night came, I did what most reporters at that time were doing, looking for a bar somewhere. So the day was over and I waited for the next day. But it wasn't until I covered the Marian Anderson story in Washington that I realized that I might be onto something important. Other than that it was just a daily routine.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I was wondering, maybe if we could go back to the beginning and just start out—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Go anywhere you want to go.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
For the sake of the tape recording, if you could just say your name and when and where you were born.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
My name is Alexander Rivera, born in Greensboro, North Carolina, and this was October the 4th, 1913. Very few people think that I'm as old as I am. My father was a dentist. So we realized that with his position and income we had a really good life by comparison. In those days in 1913 we had steam heat in the house and a car, a telephone. A lot of people didn't. I'm just saying that to give you background to the kind of life I had.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Right.

Page 2
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
My father would be considered now a radical because and I never knew what his interest was until later in life. He at fourteen years of age was, he and his family were run out of Wilmington, North Carolina, during the Wilmington Riot.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
In 1896? [1898]
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah, and that affected him. Of course it affected his father too because his father was a very prominent undertaker. When he was run out of Wilmington in the Wilmington Riot of 1898, he never got over it. I mean his father never got over it and I'm sure he didn't either because he became very race conscious. He was a representative of the NAACP in Greensboro. I say that to say that I met as a boy a little child I met all of the NAACP representatives Walter White and William Pickens and James Weldon Johnson and all those people because to belong to the NAACP was almost a sure loss of a job. With him being professional he didn't have any job to lose. So he didn't worry about it. The people that came to Greensboro could not find places to stay because they didn't have any hotels that would accommodate them. So they all stayed at our house. It was just known that when they came to Greensboro that they were going to stay. This was my background as a child.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So your grandfather was an undertaker in Wilmington?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Great grandfather too.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
And your great grandfather in Wilmington.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Great grandfather and grandfather. But my grandfather was Thomas A. Rivera, and his family were run out of Wilmington. My great grandfather was not. He was too old. They did not think he was any problem. So they didn't bother him. My

Page 3
grandfather was at the riot was given just overnight time to leave. Of course with that kind of experience, they never got over it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you know your grandfather?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh yes.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay. So when you were growing up you would've talked to him.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I didn't. When I was coming up, I didn't know about the riot. My father didn't make any about the riot. So we didn't discuss it. It wasn't until Helen Edmonds was doing a book called Fusion Politics in North Carolina that she came around to interview my grandfather. I was in college at the time. Then I realized that he had something important to say, but it was too late. I had, she interviewed him, and I have the book somewhere around here. But instead of sitting down and talking to him about it and all because he was very talkative. He would've talked about it. My great grandfather would not talk about it at all because he jumped ship, and that's the reason why he was in this country illegally.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is that right?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Cut it off.
[Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
My great grandfather would not ever talk about it. He wouldn't talk about it. He was always afraid that somebody would come and send him back.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now you say he jumped ship.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah he was on, I guess he was a sailor because as I say he wouldn't talk about it. So I didn't know to ask him because I didn't know him, my great grandfather. I knew my grandfather. He had jumped ship that was—. Wilmington was an outstanding port, and he came in from Cuba, and when the boat docked, he decided he wasn't going

Page 4
back. He decided to stay here. With what he had on he just stopped. See in those days, undertakers were cabinet makers because they made their, did a lot of work on the caskets. Caskets are wooden and they, so he had some knowledge and some skills in that regard. He became an undertaker.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you have any idea about when that would've been that he settled in Wilmington?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Cut it off there. He, let me see. [interruption] I think it might be in here. It might be in here. That's the church that they, where they did all the planning. [refers to picture of the church in Clarendon County South Carolina where civil rights organizing occurred]
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Liberty Hill.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
These are the fighters—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Oh okay.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The freedom fighters I was talking about. It was some mess. Oh oh oh oh.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Let me put it off. [interruption] That would've been.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
They came—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Was your father born in Greensboro?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, he was born in—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So he was born—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
In Wilmington.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
In Wilmington.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah, where the family was.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now how about and your grandfather was born in Wilmington.

Page 5
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It was the great grandfather that—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I have an article in the Long Leaf Pine. That was a state— [interruption] I don't want to give you that. I'm not sure. When I was telling you about that, I just ran across this when I was telling you that—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Would you have grown up with anything that you could identify as Cuban traditions? Does anything remain in the family over the generations?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. This is my father was Dr. A. M. Rivera. They'll have a picture of him in here, but he led this fight to defeat Judge John J. Parker in 1930. That was the first national NAACP. I was telling you before that they all came to my house and so forth. He lead the first national victory that they had in 1930. There was, the field judge, Judge John J. Parker was as you see was led by my father. My father felt that he was a racist. He fought it, and they won the case. Parker never got to be a Supreme Court justice. They have always given my father credit for defeating him. Of course he had everybody on his side I think besides the NAACP. My father was behind that. So that was something that you could see.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I guess I was trying to give you a background and that got us all into this hassle. He never prodded me to do it, and as far as I know my grandfather and father never encouraged him to be an activist, but it got to him being expelled from the city because of the riots at fourteen years of age. It got to him, and you could see the things that he got into up until his death.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now where would you father have studied for his dentistry after—

Page 6
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Howard.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So he went to Howard.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Howard University. Graduated in 1909.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Then when you got ready to go to college—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I was naturally going to Howard.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were going to Howard.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
That's his alma mater. The girls went to Fisk and the boys went to Howard. It was during the Depression. So my second year there he lost his property and stuff. He said, ‘Well he said I'm going to have to keep the girls in school. I've got to protect them. So you'll have to get a job.’ So I got a job in Washington.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember going up to Washington, was that a big change for you just being so far from home?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
It was a delight because I had a very strict father. Getting that far away from him was really ideal because when I got to that Fourteenth Street Bridge, I was like Martin Luther King. I said free at last. I was—he always, he felt that the idle, they had an expression about idleness is the devil's workshop. He always saw to it that I had a list of things to do. A list when I got home from school, I had a list there. Things that I was to do. So when I graduated and was going to Howard I said, ‘Well I'm free at last.’
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Then you were telling me, so you got work. You were basically forced to take a job. Right because of the Depression.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
As a means of survival. [Phone ringing] He wrote me a letter and told me that he had to take care of my sisters. I had to look for a job. So I had already done two years at Howard. What got me started me in photography and writing was the freshmen as a

Page 7
freshman I was a freshman reporter for the Bison which was the yearbook at Howard. The yearbook was published by the Washington Tribune, which was a local weekly. The paper also had printing department. So the newspaper printed the yearbook. I used to have to bring my reports and clips into the paper to the yearbook section, the printing division. They saw it and wondered if I wanted a job. Well, I need one right then. So I said yes I want a job. So I took a job with the Washington Tribune as a reporter. That wasn't enough. I got a second job. William B. Umstead was our congressman here. I got another job through him as a messenger for the Treasury department. So with those two jobs I was able to make it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Would you remember what kind of stories you covered in the beginning? What sort of assignments would they give you?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Police. See when you start out you get very, because I didn't know reporting.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Right.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The police department was two doors from our building. I was assigned to cover the police report.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So the DC police beat, huh?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well just the black part of it. So I would go in, and I would read the register who was arrested and for what and so forth and so on. If it was a big enough story, we would enlarge it. Otherwise we would just do a rundown of it. But that's how we got started. Then I got to work with Sam Lacy who is in his nineties now and is still living. He is with The Afro-American Newspaper and still working. But I got with him, and fortunately he liked the horses. He liked to go to the racetrack. So some of his

Page 8
assignments he would get me to do them while he went to the racetrack. So when I would, like a high school football game, I'd cover it. He'd come in, and I'd give it to him, and he'd go over it, and then I would see whatever corrections he'd made and how he had spruced it up and what spin he'd put on it and so forth. So I learned by working with him a lot.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So he was at the Tribune at that time.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah he was at that time. He is with The Afro-American now. Tribune I think is out of business as a paper it's out of business.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. It's out of business all together.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
Now, at what point, about how long, I know you had covered one of the early stories was the Marian Anderson story.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
That wasn't until 1938-39.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay, so that was significantly later.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I was about ready to leave Washington and come down here and go to school. It was a big story. I was assigned to cover it because first of all I could write and also take pictures. I was one of the early photojournalists, black in the country. There weren't very many. Most of the fellows would either write or take pictures. See you have to understand the development of photography had not produced the thirty-five millimeters for us around here. We were still using the [unknown] and C[unknown] cameras. It was just a big box. So it was cumbersome. You had to carry it around and so forth. That's what I was using. I was using the [unknown]. As time went on of course the cameras got smaller and more diverse and easier to handle, more versatile. But so they had asked me

Page 9
to go to Baltimore get on the train. Of course the train came, Marian Anderson was coming from New York. We knew that. I was to get on the train in Baltimore and interview her. So I would have the first interview coming into Washington. I would already have it. So I went to Baltimore and got on. So I asked one of the conductors was Miss Marian Anderson on this train. He said—train coming from New York. He said, ‘Yes.’ So I jumped on the train and the train started out from Washington. I found out she wasn't even on the train. My first big assignment I was about to blow it. In fact I figured I had already blown it. But the trains were very close, and another train was coming in from New York, was very close. So when I got to the train station in Washington, I just stayed there. When she got off the train, I asked her a few quick questions and took a picture of her. I covered myself very well. Then she had a rehearsal at the Lincoln Memorial. She had a rehearsal that afternoon, that morning for the afternoon concert. So I found out about the rehearsal. The trip wasn't altogether lost. I went to the Washington Memorial to the rehearsal with her. There I met Tom Macavoy. Tom Macavoy was a Life reporter. So we got a chance to chat.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now by the time you interviewed her at the Washington station had the controversy already taken place?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh, the controversy ran almost, it ran for months. This was a solution. She was coming to sing at the Lincoln Memorial. This was a solution that was brought about by Mrs. Eleanor Roosevelt and Harold Ickes who was secretary. So they decided that she couldn't sing at Constitution Hall, she'd sing at the—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The memorial

Page 10
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The memorial. That's the same memorial that King, in front of which King spoke. Oh yeah it had run for months and months. Of course in the first place you see she was a nationally known singer, and Howard University was promoting her. They didn't think they'd have a problem. The only place really large enough to house the concert was the DAR.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The DAR, yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
So Mrs. Roosevelt being a member. She got upset when they decided that they couldn't have them, and she withdrew her membership. She wrote a column called, ‘My Day’. In her column she denounced it there, and a lot of her friends who were also members of the DAR pulled out. But the actual concert in front of the Lincoln Memorial was the solution I think. It had been running hot and heavy for months. Ever since the DAR said no, it ran immediately papers and all.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So you attended the actual concert as well.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Were you taking photographs at the concert?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Wow.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I've got a picture that's run all over and everything, famous picture of her singing.
Isn't any need for me to go back down here because I've got it. I don't know exactly where it is.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's all right. And you said that was about the time—I wanted to ask you. How did you get into photography? Did you know photography, did you learn photography in Greensboro?

Page 11
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It was just as a student and as a reporter that you picked it up.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. To have something to do with—they didn't run it. They didn't run that picture. To have something—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I didn't see it in there.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
To have something to do with the yearbook. That was my way of getting into the yearbook. Because I didn't get my first photography, my first camera until I got to the newspaper. I was just using a little camera, what you called a Kodak
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So you said that the Marian Anderson story took place just as you were about to leave Washington. What happened, why did you leave Washington?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, my father was—see I was a dropout. Him being a dentist. I'm sure he wanted me to be a dentist. I'm sure that he expressed that he wanted me to take his practice over.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So he wanted you to study for the dentistry.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, for me to stop school that second year of college was calamitous to him. But I was enjoying it. I was a reporter, and he could tell that I wasn't going to do anything. I was satisfied with myself. I was having fun and also able to support myself. That's all I could—but he had a friend here who was president of the North Carolina College. He was his dentist and good friend. He used to go all the way from here to Greensboro to have his dental work done, which was like an all day trip in those days. So my father and Dr. Shepard got together—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
This is Doctor James—

Page 12
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
James E. Shepard president of North Carolina College. They got together. I didn't know this. They got together and conspired to get me back into school. So Dr. Shepard offered me a scholarship if I would organize a news bureau for the college. So I was quite excited about the whole thing. I left Washington, came to Durham to organize this department and also to continue my schooling. That's where I got back in college and that's where I, I did organize the department and got back in school.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
When did you figure out that they had been conspiring?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, early because when I first started to write for the school, Dr. Shepard came to me and says, ‘Now before you send anything to the paper, I want you to send it to the English department.’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ I said, ‘This won't work.’ I said, ‘Oh no. This won't work.’ So I'm going back. I said, ‘Shit, I'm going back to Washington. I think I can still get my job back.’ So he knew then that his part of the bargain would've fallen through. He said, ‘Well just try it. Let's just try it.’ I knew then that it was something fishy. So I tried it. He was happy, and I was quite successful with the—I have in this pile of junk down here somewhere. I've got a recommendation from him to the local paper recommending me for a job without any reservations. I've just got that to put it in my file and never did use it. But until the day he died Dr. Shepard was very, very happy about the fact that I—he never did have a son. He always said that if he had a son, he wished he'd be like me. But I was very frank with him, and even at my age that was unusual because people on the faculty were afraid of losing their job if they were frank. I was never afraid because I knew him as a, he was like an uncle to me. I knew him as a tot. So he would ask me, he says, ‘You know I ask you because they won't tell me the truth.’ They being the faculty. He said, ‘They fish around to find out what I want to

Page 13
know and then they give it to me. That's no good. That's no good. You're going to tell me just like it is.’
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Like it is.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
How you think it is anyway. I said, ‘Yes, that's the only way I know to do.’ So that's how I got back in school. I graduated in '41, started college in '31 and graduated in '41, ten years. I wasn't in school [unknown]. I had lost that much time. I hadn't lost that much time but I was out of school that much time.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Upon graduation what did you do next?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I went to work for the school.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You were still working with the school right.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I still worked for the school. One day the executives of the Pittsburgh Courier came to town. They wanted to see me because see in the work that I was there for the school I was sending material, pictures and stories, to all the black newspapers, southern white newspapers, all of them. So they knew of my work. So these executives of the Pittsburgh Courier came to town and said, ‘We want to meet Rivera.’ So Dr. Shepard sent for me. I went into his office, and they were all in there. He says, ‘Now I want you to know that I've got the best reporter in the country.’ When they left the office and went back to the hotel, they sent for me and asked me how would I like to have a job.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now would this have been Mr. Vann or his assistant?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
His wife. Mrs. Vann. Vann was dead but she was running the paper.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
She did. Okay.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Mrs. Vann. Yeah. So I said, ‘Sure I'd like to’—of course there was a nice salary and all. I said sure. Shepard was mad as he could be. Ohh. Mad at them for

Page 14
taking me. They told him you should never advertise something you don't want to sell. They told him, Dr. Shepard said, ‘If I had known it, you never would have seen him.’ That's how I got with the Courier. I worked with the Courier covering North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So what year would you have started then with the Courier? It's before the war right?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No.
In the war I was in naval intelligence. I was at Norfolk, worked out of Norfolk. This was '45-46.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay so this was after. So shortly after you graduated then you went into Naval intelligence.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The war was on. I went, shortly after I left here Dr. Shepard and I were always fussing and fighting about something. I fell out with him about something. I don't know what it was. It may be inconsequential but—. The Norfolk Journal Guide newspaper heard that we were having difficulty. So they offered me a job. So I was in Norfolk. This was during the war 19—see I graduated in '41. Early I went to work for The Journal Guide newspaper in Norfolk. It wasn't any time before the Navy interviewed me for a job with Naval Intelligence. So I worked with them until the war was over.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What kind of work did you do for Naval intelligence? Was it journalism?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. Intelligence. See I had a, I was a commander class. It was captain, captain class, but I was arrested one day and carried to the police station. In the back of the police station were these Navy officers. As soon as I walked in one of them says, shook his head and said, ‘No, no, no. He won't do. He won't do.’ I said, ‘Now just a

Page 15
minute.’ I said, ‘This is—I've been arrested here and brought up by the police department. Now you said I won't do. I won't do for what. Was is this about?’ So they explained to me that they were looking for a nondescript Negro that they wanted for Naval intelligence. To stay out of it, because I had already passed—. I was ready to go into the service, and I knew it was just a matter of days before I would go into most anything. So I said Naval intelligence. You're talking about these clothes I've got on. I said, ‘They're not tattooed on. These come off. All this comes off.’ I said, ‘I can be nondescript in ten minutes.’ The guy says, ‘Sit down there. Let's talk about this.’ So we sat down and started talking and he found out that aside from being a reporter I had two years of law. I had taken two years of law in Washington at night while I was working. I was going to Terrell Law School. It's a night law school there. The reason I went was not to be a lawyer because they were the poorest, black lawyers are the poorest people on earth. I was going, I was taking the law to understand court reporting. So I would go in court and all of sudden somebody will say something in Latin and everybody would [unknown]. I needed to take some law. So I took two years of law. So then they found out this, when told me, let's sit down and let's chat. They said, 'Oh yeah. You've finished school. You have law. You're not a lawyer, but you've gone to law school. Captain Gray spoke up. He said, ‘Well I'm not going to say yes or no today. I'm going to think about it a little bit.’ He said, ‘But I'll call you.’ I said sure. I was rooming with a woman, in a rooming house there. She said to me, she says, ‘Now what have you done? What's the police say?’ I said, ‘Not a thing.’ But I couldn't tell her. I said, ‘Not a thing. I haven't done a thing.’ She said, ‘You must have because the police came by and locked you up.’ I said, ‘Do you see I'm not locked up.’ She was there with her. She lived with daughters. I was

Page 16
the only man in the house. So she said, ‘Now I'm here by myself. If you're doing something, you let me know now.’ I said, ‘No Miss Hudson. I'm not doing anything at all.’ So I said, ‘It was all a mistake. All a mistake.’ She said, ‘Well okay.’ I said—they came by looking for me and asked her if they knew me. So she looked at them she said, ‘I don't know if I do or not. I don't know if I do.’ She said, ‘You know my daughters take care of all my business.’ She looks at him hemming and hawing. She was saying that her mind wasn't but so good. She was giving all kinds of reasons not to know me, give me a chance to move out. So then I went to work for the, in the Office of Naval Intelligence.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But that's how they recruited is they went around and arrested people, took them in and did an interrogation.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well you see, across from the police office, police department there was a theatre, right across the street a theatre. The girl who took up tickets saw everybody who went in the police department. She saw them take me into the police department. By the time I got out of the police department it was all over town that I'd been arrested because she sat up there with a phone and she can call everybody in town and tell them I was arrested. I wasn't supposed to tell anybody. They had some others in the Army, the G2. Their secret service was called G2. We were just called Naval intelligence. But we weren't supposed to know each other, but we got a chance to know most of each other.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you ship out?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, I stayed in Norfolk.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You stayed in Norfolk.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
We went as far as Richmond, Virginia. I worked in Virginia.

Page 17
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What kind of work were you doing with intelligence?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Trying to find out if anybody was talking or saying anything. I got a job with a night club photographing sailors with the girls sitting all on their laps. They had the expression loose lips sink ships. I was finding out where they had a house of prostitution. I worked several houses of prostitution, several houses. It was our job to find out if they were any, if these sailors were talking because they didn't know how much the girls would tell about ship movement.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Sure. Did you ever find any kind of incidents of spying or at least any incidents of sailors who were loose with the tongues—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, we were, we were like that but no specifics. We would get a general way they were talking too much. You see at the night club they were drinking whiskey. A girl sitting in your lap and they would say most anything. But most places were being watched and I didn't have any—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But never any kind of German presence in the clubs or anything.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. No. So I was there until I left and came back to Durham to go to work at North Carolina College.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
How long were you at the college again before—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The Courier.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah, before Courier came.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Wasn't long, two years. About two years.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Two years.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Because Willie Earle, I can remember about the Willie Earle case. That was a lynching case. Willie Earle was in 1947. War was over in '45.

Page 18
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The Earle case was which one? Was that one in Georgia?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, it was South Carolina.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That was South Carolina.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
A man who was writing a book—wait a minute. Here it is. A man was writing a book wanted to use an interview that he had done of me. The school would not let him use any report or interview without my written—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Written permission.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Permission. So he wrote to me, and he sent all this stuff. I hadn't even bothered to write it. I mean, to read it. It's a whole bunch of stuff on the Willie Earle case.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
On the Earle case. Is he just writing about the Earle case? Is that his focus?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Book, he's writing a book on it. Willie Earle is a, he was a young black guy. This is a transcription of the—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Of your interview on the Earle case.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You want it?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I'd like to look at it. Maybe before I leave, I'll take a look at it. That'd be great.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You can take all of it, bring it back.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay, phenomenal.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Willie Earle was a young black guy. He left South Carolina and went and lived in New York. He came back to South Carolina. As the story goes he made a proposal to some white girl. She reported it, and nothing really, nothing happened. He was locked up, but then they came to the prison. The person in charge of the prison to

Page 19
turn him over to the mob, and they were, they lynched him. The story and I think you'll see it in there. The story is that none of it was true. It's just some hotheads, and that was in '47 in Greenville.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember when you first went over to, when did you first hear about the lynching and—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The next day.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You heard about it the next day. And were you in Greenville the next day?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, I was here. But the paper said go immediately. So I went immediately. We got a chance to do some investigation. I went of course, we didn't have any hotels. So I knew, I didn't know. I knew a person who knew a lady there whose husband was an undertaker. This guy said, ‘Well now she got a big old house and I'm sure she's got some extra room.’ So she said now you go and I'll tell them you're coming. He didn't tell her why I was coming. So I went and I stayed in a beautiful house, a big old house. The next morning she came, and she said, ‘I didn't know you were involved in this case.’ She says, ‘I'm sorry.’ She said, ‘I'm really sorry but being involved in it, I'm by myself.’ And she said, ‘Anything could happen to me.’ So she had asked me to leave. So I didn't know anybody else there. In fact I didn't know her until I got there. So she referred me to this minister who also was president of the NAACP. So I went over and talked to him, and he said yeah you can stay in my house. He said take whatever fare I had and said fine. So I went over to his house and I stayed there. Most of the reporters, the black reporters who came to town also came there. So it was, that was headquarters for us. I went to see, I went to the courthouse to present my credentials—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

Page 20
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
So he slammed the door. I stood out there a long time waiting on him to come back. He came back in and says, ‘Judge Martin wants to see you.’ I went in. He says, ‘It's going to be a tough case.’ He says, ‘I'm going for a conviction.’ There were thirty-two taxi cab drivers involved in it. He said, ‘I'm going for a conviction.’ He said, ‘South Carolina law requires that anybody being charged with a capital offense is eligible to have a kin sit with them.’ So instead of thirty-two it was sixty-four. So he says now, ‘I can't give you, I can't give you any kind of protection. You are walking around here with this camera around your neck, it looks like an expensive camera.’ He said, ‘These people have an idea that you can use it.’ I said, ‘I can.’ So he said, ‘It's going to be a very dangerous place.’ He said, ‘I don't want you sitting down on this lower level here. I want you to go back out—’ I said, ‘Oh no.’ I thought, ‘Oh Lord. I'm not going to be sitting down.’ He said, he said, ‘Really you would help me a lot if you would sit in the balcony.’ I said, ‘I don't think I can hear it.’ He said, ‘I'll see to it that you can hear everything.’ So if I did as much as that, he said, ‘Speak up.’ So I stayed up there until the trial was over. The FBI got into it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
They were down there huh?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh yeah, they had gotten into it. They had investigated it. So it was well investigated from the inception to the leaving the scene of the, the FBI had everything. They had who rode in each car and where they sat in each car and all that. One car had a flat tire. The people in that car had to get out and get in another car. They had the rearrangement. The FBI had everything. This foreman of the jury was from seminary down there. When the trial was over, the Courier told me to stay there and get some

Page 21
local reaction. They didn't know anything about this trial. I'm leaving. So when the trial was over, I left. I got my reaction. I was in [unknown]. When they came back with the judgement, the jury said that that they had done what any red-blooded American would have done. So I said that's the reaction. I'm well aware I'm in [unknown].
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Why was it the taxi drivers they had organized amongst themselves?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The girl, the girl was related to a taxicab driver.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Oh okay.
[Phone ringing]
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I had a stroke. Last October, not this past but last. I had no paralysis except in my throat. For a long time I couldn't swallow. The doctor didn't think I was going to swallow again. But they were trying to figure out some kind of operation. I said, ‘Give it time. Give it time.’
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
It makes you tired. So I'm able to swallow better. I can eat most anything I want.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Great. You got it back. But it was the taxi drivers that—it was one of the, she was related to—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
It was one of them.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
One of the drivers.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
All of the taxi cab drivers got involved with it. That's what you call a lynching party there. The FBI, the FBI knew everything that went on. They'd interviewed them all. They had interviews from everybody. That didn't make any difference.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
No question about who did it or—

Page 22
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. No. They knew. They knew everybody and who did it. There was no question about it. For the foreman of the jury to have said that they did what anybody, what any red-blooded American would've done. That was it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So during the trial did you, you said you did your own investigating and you're I'd imagine you were talking to people in the black community. What kind of reactions were you getting? Were people willing to talk to you first of all? I'd imagine there would be a lot of fear.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
There was a lot of tension in this town. First, when I first got there, I didn't recognize the tension. I said to a guy a guy who came in later, Henning, Robert Henning later. I said black people talking about tension. I don't feel it. He had covered the Scottsboro case. He had. He said there's more tension in this trial than anything I've ever seen. So then I got afraid because if it's here and I don't see it, then I'm subject to get hurt. Because I was moving around and asking everything. I remember going to ice cream parlor to get some ice cream. The guy who was working on the counter leaned over to pick up some ice cream and when he leaned up, I could see a pistol sticking out of his back pocket. I said Oh Lord. So the minister that I was staying with there, two incidents, first I was sitting up. It was hot weather. I was sitting up in the window with the window open and I was typing. He came in to me and he virtually tackled me. ‘Are you crazy?’ I said, ‘What do you mean?’ ‘You're sitting right in front of that window. Anybody could shoot you. A sniper hit you. You wouldn't even know anything about it.’ That frightened me. I pulled the blinds out and typing away from the window, stay away from the window. So we got ready to go to church, and he wanted all of us to go with him. I think he wanted to show off reporters [unknown]. So I said, ‘No, I'm not going.’ I

Page 23
said, ‘Look. I'm going to stay and rest in bed.’ So he said, ‘All right.’ He said, ‘I was hoping that you would go to church with me.’ So he packed his sermon in the briefcase and put a pistol in his pocket. I said, ‘Looky here. Wait a minute. Is that the only pistol in this house.’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Well you don't need a pistol. You're a man of God. I thought God would take care of you.’ ‘Yeah. I believe that.’ He said, ‘But there's nothing in the Bible that says I can't take care of myself until God gets here.’ So we all went to church and he preached. I never will forget it. He preached on the church to get a gun. Get a gun. He said, ‘[unknown] to town and go to Sears Roebuck and buy yourself a gun.’ He once had a pistol—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So he told them.
Do you remember the minister's name?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. It would be in … no, you could find it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Because he was head of the NAACP in Greenville.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Greenville, South Carolina. I mean the whole account is in the archives of both [unknown] and North Carolina Central in the library there the Courier archives. That was in 1947. It would be easy to find.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What are other big events that you covered in those days before Brown?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
The next one was a lynching in Georgia. Isaiah lynching.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Another lynching.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Then we went down to investigate that one. That was the one that I was sure that my luck had run out. Something happened that had never happened before in my whole life. Something told me, I don't know what the something was to go dressed as a chauffeur. It was easier traveling as a chauffeur because everybody figured that you worked with somebody important. They didn't want to have any problems. So I got to

Page 24
thinking. I've got a chauffeur's cap. I kept it because it saved my life. I'm sure it saved my life. I had a little black bow tie on and a chauffeur's cap. I went down to this place and I couldn't find him. Couldn't find where he lived because he lived in the country. He didn't live in a little town. So I saw a guy sweeping, sweeping off his front there so I asked him, I said, ‘Let me ask you something.’ He was nervous. I said, I asked him, I said, ‘Did you know Isaiah Nixon?’ He starts sweeping real fast. He said, ‘Yeah. Yeah. Yeah. I knew him. Yeah.’ I said, ‘You know where he lives?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ He said, ‘But you can't get there in that car, in your car. Your car won't go up there.’ I said, ‘What you mean?’ I had a Roadmaster vehicle. ‘What do you mean this car won't go up there?’ He said, ‘It's just a little trail.’ He said, ‘You won't go up.’ I said, ‘Will your car go up there?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ I said, ‘Will you take me up there?’ He said, ‘No.’ I said, ‘Is it worth five dollars for you to take me up there?’ He thought a while, ‘Yeah.’ I had my camera stuff in my bag, travel bag and I had. We went up. I photographed the family and the kids and talked to, interviewed the wife and we left. (We got a ways) and I was going back to my car no incident at all. But in leaving we had to go circuitous in this turpentine district. So coming out we made a turn in this turpentine district and came face to face with a carload. I says, I was out of breath. I said, ‘Who are they?’ ‘I don't know, but one of them's the sheriff.’ I said, ‘One of them is the sheriff.’ That didn't mean anything. So I said well, they just kept on and I said, ‘Well this might be it.’ So they told us to back up. Go on and back up to. Well, I hadn't anticipated a problem. So I had, we didn't have any escape plan or anything. I didn't know what they would pick on us. When we got up to the house, stay in the car. They were going—he asked, they asked him who was I. They told, he told them that I was a relative of Nixon that came to see

Page 25
about the funeral, burial. I hadn't been over there with her. So then they went in and I don't know what she was going to say or anything. Then the only thing she would say truthfully was that I was a reporter from the Pittsburgh Courier. Well they came out and said you can go. I still don't know whether it means that I, we can go until we get back down in those turpentine district with the trees and what not. We went all the way out to where my car was. Well I got to the car and I said, ‘Atlanta's closer. It's the closest big town. That's what I wanted to get to.’ Atlanta was the closest big town. I'd have to go all the way through Georgia, South Carolina, until I got to North Carolina.
I said, ‘I'd better go into Atlanta.’ So I struck out heading to Atlanta. When I got to Atlanta, I said, ‘Well who do I know in Atlanta?’ Bishop at my church was from Atlanta, Bishop Fountain. I'd seen him a long time. Of course when we had been at the church I'd take pictures [unknown]. I knew him well and he knew me.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you say Bishop T.F. Fountain?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Fountain. I don't know the first name. I'll let you see them later. So anyway when I got to the door, he said, he looked at me and he said, ‘Yes.’ I said Bishop Fountain. ‘Yes.’ Then it dawned. He said ‘Alex. What are you doing with that get up on?’ I had forgotten. I forgot I had the chauffeur cap on. I said ‘Bishop I need some whiskey.’ I need a drink of whiskey right bad. I told him that I had been covering a lynching. He sat down and got some whiskey and I sat down and told him the story. I got through that next day and left and then came on back to Durham. But it was touch and go.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's the one huh? Wow. Whereabouts in Georgia was this?

Page 26
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Montgomery County. It wasn't in a city. I don't know what the city would've been. Montgomery county. [Phone ringing] But that was the end of any real dangerous reporting. We had another story, Buddy Bush in Jackson, North Carolina. He was arrested. They were going to do him in, but he was arrested and some people came to get him one night from jail. This was Jackson, North Carolina, put him in the car. He hit the handle, took off running into the bushes and what not. They never did get him. He ended up in Virginia, Suffolk, Virginia. He had been reading these cases I guess. So he said that he'd give himself up to me. I didn't want him. They wanted him to give himself up. So he gave himself up to me. I drove up to Suffolk. On the outskirts of Suffolk was a little church, they were having a, on Sunday. They were having a meeting at this church. So I drove up. I didn't know Buddy Bush. He said, ‘I want to be sure that there's no harm comes to me.’ I said, ‘Well I want to be sure of that too.’ So I said, ‘We'll find out.’ I asked about it. See the publicity keeps [unknown] nobody wants any publicity. So they had decided that no harm would come. He hadn't done anything. He met, this is one Saturday on the street. He was going to the theatre and the white girl was going to the theatre. They said he said something to her and that was the way it was.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That was enough.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
That was enough. Uppity. Well I had another case Mack Ingram, Mack Ingram. You know about that case.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Umm huh.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Reckless eyeballing case. Over here in Yanceyville. Out from Yanceyville. They were on a farm. This girl was way out quite some distance. He was arrested for

Page 27
leering. I had to look the word up. It was an English word, an old English word leering. It means to stare. I didn't know what it meant. I hadn't heard leering.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Leering.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
What did he do to her? He was leering. Well what is that? I had to look it up. It means to stare and—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It sounds a lot worse when you don't know what it is.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
At any rate he was convicted in two courts, and when the Courier sent me over, and by that time the national press had gotten into it. They decided that he wasn't guilty of anything. But he was across a field. They gave the distance, and his lawyer had him to go to the back of the courtroom. It was a distance of probably about half of this [unknown] that this incident took place. He went to the back back there. He told Mack Ingram to, I want you to leer at the judge. Leer at him. Of course it was quite humorous. You couldn't tell about him leering from that distance in the courtroom. It was thrown out of court.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
During this period, the late '40s, early '50s did you have a sense that things were going to change? What was—no—because it seems like too much of what had already taken place.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well the law. The law had two, when you go to court. When you went to court, white people on this side, black people on this side in a court of law. If there was an interracial event, you didn't have a chance. That's what it was. That's the reason why most blacks got a white lawyer because if they got a black lawyer when they came into court, they were in trouble.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Right.

Page 28
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
My wife.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But you had no sense that things were about to, that about to dramatically change.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Come here. [interruption] No I had no idea because it was the law. See this you had a lot of people tell you, ‘I don't like this and I'm against it, but it's the law.’ So it was the law. Nothing changed until we got back to the Brown versus Topeka Board of Education. That changed everything because that changed the law. It was no longer the law. That changed but up until that time as long as we were, you were going to be lawful, segregation was the law of the land.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
At what point did you learn about the folks in Clarendon County and what—did you know what they were up to from the beginning or was it only as that case became part of the larger Brown case that you became aware of that?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
See the first case, the first time the case came to court it came to court under a lawyer named Harold Boulware. Harold Boulware was a friend of mine. I knew him from the—we had all these, always had cases coming up, always cases. He had school cases and most cases were either school cases or transportation cases. So I said well here we have just another case. Sure enough the first case he lost it. Said it wasn't lost on its merits. It was lost because it wasn't brought in the right jurisdiction. So I said well, he didn't even know what jurisdiction to bring the case in. Well it wasn't that simple. But at that time they had already gotten, they were already persuaded that this was the right thing to do and continue. But he went to see NAACP. Harold Boulware took some cases from the NAACP. He stayed on the case because I was with him.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The one where they're all on the hotel room there.

Page 29
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
They're out on the bed.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
That wasn't a hotel. It was a bed.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
This woman turned her house over to them and I had a name. Was looking for it for something. But anyway she turned the house over to them, and they did all their work right there in the house. I had it here. She no longer lives there. She moved anyway then. But I had it. I didn't get it. But any rate that's where they were.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Where they built their case.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Right there. They went to see Thurgood Marshall.
Thurgood Marshall told them if they could get twenty defendants, the NAACP would take the case. But you see he wouldn't take the case with one defendant and that person would get scared of getting killed and you wouldn't have a case anymore. He didn't expect they would get twelve defendants. I was almost sure he didn't. But they got twenty some odd defendants. They were having meetings at that church, the (Liberty Hill) AME church and they raised money. The principal of the school had lost his job. The assistant had lost her job. They burned his house down, but those freedom fighters stuck right in it. When the case really got rough some people would pass Thurgood Marshall in the hall of the court and say you better not ever come back. You better not ever come back here. But of course see it was a case that had many, many twists. The judge himself, Julius Waring had had his experiences before this kind of case. He had had two or three. I know he had, one was a bus case during the war but a solider who had been harmed and I think he'd been killed. He lost that case and he got determined. The next case they had went after he became a

Page 30
federal judge was a law school case in South Carolina. I can't think of the boy's name there. But John Wrighten I think his name was Wrighten. But anyway he sued to go to the University of South Carolina. All of this you could check on, but he Judge Waring ruled in that case that South Carolina either had to admit him to the University of South Carolina, build another school or put a law school at the black school South Carolina State. The white people there said here was a native South Carolinian ruin like that. Then the other case was the Elmore case, George Elmore, I knew him when he sued to vote. He sued to vote. There's George Elmore right there. Judge Waring ruled that they were eligible to vote, and he said anybody that did anything to circumvent his ruling would be in trouble, serious trouble. He said on the day of the voting, I'll be in my office and I'm going to stay in my office until this voting is done. They voted. That was the first time they had voted in South Carolina since Reconstruction.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
So Judge Waring had shown some indications that—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. Thurgood Marshall too had been in that case, but they'd been together before. They were together in that case. They were together. So they knew each other. Judge Waring knew about Clarendon County. He knew all about it. He knew the school conditions in Clarendon County. So he was well aware. This is the key thing. When they went, one day one morning the court started. He called Thurgood and told Thurgood, he says, ‘Come here. I want you to come into my chambers.’ So when he got to his chambers he stayed a few minutes. He went back out, and when he came back out, he was flabbergasted. You could tell that whatever Judge Waring told him was momentous. Thurgood wasn't the kind of guy that would get upset by anything. He was always jovial and he was always in command. He was never very upset. His appearance

Page 31
upset everybody. So they got around him and found out, ‘What in the world did the judge tell you?’ Thurgood said, ‘The judge told me he said he didn't want to hear another separate but equal case.’ He said, ‘Bring me a frontal attack on segregation.’ The judge told him. He said, ‘Well what did you tell the judge? Did you tell the judge we're going to lose?’ ‘Yes.’ Said, 'I told the judge we were sure to lose. We're not going to lose in your court, but we're going to lose on the appeal in the appellate court, the three-judge court we're going to lose. He said the judge said, 'Yes, you are. You're going to lose in the three-judge court. You'll get two votes against one in the three-judge court. Then you're automatically in the Supreme Court, and he said, ‘That's where you want to be.’ He said, ‘You're automatically in the Supreme Court. That's where you want to be.’ I don't know why nobody seems to want to tell that story. Nobody wants to give Judge Waring—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Waring was pushing Marshall even further than Marshall wanted to go.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
At that particular time and Marshall told him, said that this is on our agenda but it's not tonight. We don't think this is the case. We don't think this is the time. The judge said, ‘This is the case and this is the time. I don't want to hear another separate but equal case.’ So down at Washington and all that, the press gave Marshall hell for capitulating to the judge. He was, 'Nothing I could do about it. Said, ‘The judge said he didn't want to hear it. Don't even bring it up as a separate but equal case.’ So the papers said told Thurgood he's going to lose and all that. Thurgood said, ‘Yeah I know.’ Sure enough. This is what happened. Then they got to the appellate court, three-judge court they lost just like Judge Waring said they would. Then they were in the Supreme Court, but see I don't follow enough [unknown] Virginia. Then it was it should have been, it

Page 32
should have been, the Clarendon case, it should've been named for the Clarendon case. What was that named? Briggs. Briggs.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Briggs versus Elliot.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
It should've been Briggs. No. It was the case here was—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Oh Briggs versus The Clarendon County Schools.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. They decided that they didn't want another South versus North case.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I see.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
So there were five cases, companion cases all in one, but alphabetically the cases in a companion case suit the cases were named alphabetically. So alphabetically Briggs comes before Brown. Instead of Brown versus the Topeka Board, it should've been Briggs versus the Topeka Board. [Phone ringing] Topeka, Thurgood Marshall won that appeal. He was in Clarendon County. He was the one that set the whole tone for all of that. They had a lawyer at Brown who was the Jewish lawyer. I've forgotten his name now.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
[Jack] Greenberg.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Greenberg, right. He was a Jewish lawyer. He was the lawyer at Briggs. But the case that where the most of the stuff was done, the precedent set was in Clarendon County.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember the reaction to the decision?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
What?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The reaction to the Brown decision and I'd imagine you wrote about that how people responded.

Page 33
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You see that was one of the greatest cases in the history of this country because it completely changed the lifestyle of a nation white and black. See when it said all [unknown] then legally Plessy versus Ferguson was dead. That was the case that [unknown] was dead. It's just no more. So it meant that the restaurants and hotels and everything all at first I think there was shock, and then people tried to accommodate the law black and white. White, black businesses took a hit, real hit because for once they're being open blacks could go in or eat anywhere they wanted to or live anywhere they wanted to. Immediately, almost immediately probably small black businesses went out of business. That's what was expected. That's what we were fighting for. Even the black newspapers that were fighting just lost out. But those of us who had these pretty good jobs with black newspapers, we no longer had a job. Well, Courier, the Courier went out along with a lot of other newspapers went out. The Afro is still in existence.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Defender is still around.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Journal-Guide is out.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you remember where you were when you heard the decision? You were here in Durham and you remember any kind of—hearing actually hearing the news—
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You see the case was a funny case to start with. It was in two parts. It was first heard and then they had a recess. Only God knows why they were having a recess or had the case been decided at the recess at the time of recess Thurgood said, ‘We would've lost it, lost it.’ Then they had a recess. Are you familiar with that?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Um hmm.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You know what happened at the recess?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Well, I've heard bits but you should—

Page 34
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
[Frederick Moore] Vinson died. The Chief Justice from Kentucky, Vinson died. The Lord put his hand in there. We would've lost it sure enough. Then Earl Warren from California was appointed judge Chief Justice, and he was the one who engineered the whole case through, and he got, until he got a unanimous decision. Even when he got a majority, he said don't want it. He wasn't satisfied with a majority. He got a unanimous decision, and Eisenhower who had appointed Warren, said worst decision, appointing him was the worst decision I ever made in my life. So you want to know, that was a funny decision. Those two things happened. The death of Vinson and the appointment of Earl Warren because we would've lost it in the first, if it would've been decided without a recess. We'd have lost it. We'd still have been in the separate but equal.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
To what degree did it bring about immediate change in say North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia where you were.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, they all fought it. All fought it. Virginia, North Carolina South, Georgia they all fought it. All said they were—Virginia was terrible. Virginia closed the schools. Virginia said they were going to private schools first. Georgia said the same thing. Of course North Carolina was timid. They weren't very, said well most of them said it was the law. They weren't anxious to abide by it, but said it was the law. This anyway, it was a little inconceivable that the poorest sections of the country the South had to have two of everything.
In Lumberton they had to have three. Down in Robeson county they had to have three. That's why I got arrested. I was taking pictures at the back of a theatre down there. The whole back of the theatre wasn't anything but toilets because they had Indians. They had Indian men and Indian women, white men, white

Page 35
women, Negro men and Negro women there. The whole back of the building was toilets. I saw it. I started taking pictures of it, and the policeman came up and said, ‘What are you doing?’ I had this press camera, and I said, ‘It's obvious what I'm doing. I'm taking a picture.’ He said, ‘You're under arrest.’ I said, ‘Yeah.’ I had a convertible at the time. He told me to get in the car. I said, ‘In that car there is a lot of camera equipment.’ I said, ‘Now are you going to be responsible for this.’ He said, ‘No.’ He said, ‘You get in your car and follow me.’ I said, ‘Okay.’ So I followed him around to the courthouse. The chief of police said, ‘What are you arresting this man for?’ He said, ‘Taking pictures back of the theatre.’ The chief said, ‘Is there a law against that?’ He said, ‘Yeah.’ The police chief said, ‘You go find the law and come back.’ So he asked me he says after he had him to go to the law he said, ‘Are you in a hurry?’ I said, ‘I'm not in a hurry chief, but I would like to be out of your town before dark.’ I said, so he came back and said, ‘I couldn't find it but I know there's a law. I know there's a law.’ So the chief dismissed him and told me I could go.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I know that before the national, well the sit-ins started in Greensboro there were some attempts here with Reverend [Douglas] Moore.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
There weren't any.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Nothing.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Attempts. Greensboro got the idea. We were years before Greensboro.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's what I thought.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
We had the sit-in. I mean we were at the court. We went all the way to the state supreme court with that case. Five years, I think it was five years before A and T did anything. It was at the Royal Ice Cream Parlor that was located in the black

Page 36
neighborhood and it was down on Dobbs Street. Blacks could not go in there. They could go around to the back and get something. Blacks couldn't go in there.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now who would've organized that? Who would've put that together or lead that?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
You just named him.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Was it Reverend Moore, was Reverend Moore a part of that?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
He was the organizer.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah, that's what I thought.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
He organized it. Moore, Elaine Moore. First name was Elaine. Douglas Elaine Moore.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Douglas.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Now it all comes back to me. Douglas Elaine Moore. Douglas Elaine Moore went to school in Boston, same school that Martin Luther King went to. He got an idea that he was Martin Luther King or something, but anyway he organized the sit-in, and it was the first sit-in. A and T came years after. This case, this wasn't just an ordinary sit-in. They had judges the only lawyer living now is William Marsh. William Marsh is still living. The other lawyers are dead. There was M. Hugh Thompson, and I don't know who the other lawyer was. But they're dead. This case went all the way to the Supreme Court.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now did you cover that as a journalist?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I wasn't here.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
You weren't here at that point.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
[unknown]. Wasn't here. But I have it all the record of it and the names of it.

Page 37
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Great.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
All that.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I'm sure there are people you would have—
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[TAPE 2, SIDE A]

[START OF TAPE 2, SIDE A]

Page 38
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
As I told you the first one that we had here for the Royal ice-cream company. That was the one Reverend Moore and several students he got together. Then of course we had A and T started the sit-ins at the counter of the Woolworth's store. Our students then started copying that so he went to the Woolworth's store here. They had a counter here and we sat in. But we didn't pay too much attention to that because we already had our sit-ins. As I told you it went all the way through the courts. I had a friend named Louis Austin and Louis Austin was the editor and publisher of the Carolina Times newspaper. Good friend of mine and I used to work around with him. Never charged him a dime for anything. [unknown] about along and one day he said, ‘Let's go down to the Woolworth's store and sit in and see how they're getting along.’ I said, ‘All right.’ ‘You've got your camera.’ ‘Yeah. I've got my camera. Yeah.’ So we got down there, and there was a vacant seat at the counter. So lo and behold Louis Austin just had to sit in this vacant seat. Somebody poured something hot on him. It was coffee or soup or something. He jumped up and started screaming and carrying on and he said, ‘Now listen.’ Says, ‘Those down at that end and that end, those are the non-violent ones.’ He said, ‘I'm violent as hell.’ That was, you were asking me about my experience with the sit-in. That was my experience with the sit-in. But we left there with him and his suit messed up and came out. We didn't do much with it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
But as far as taking pictures for the Courier would you have, would they have wanted some photos?

Page 39
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
We did some, but they weren't really interested in. The movement was in Greensboro as far as they were concerned. We never got, we never got (the go ahead) in this town for the sit-ins. I went to the News and Observer and gave them the history of it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now who would've been the editor of the Courier at this point?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Mrs. Vann. It was either it was, yeah, Mrs. Vann was still, Daisy Lampkin. I worked for Bill Nunn. Bill Nunn, Sr. because there was a Bill Nunn Jr. who wrote in the sports department. I reported to Bill Nunn, I reported to Bill Nunn, Sr. So I would've reported to him. All of them are dead now, Mrs. Lampkin, Mrs. Vann.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I just would've thought that they would've assigned you to go over to Greensboro and get some pictures but no.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I don't know. I don't know how they got over there. As I said we had had our experience here with it so—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
It had played out to the Supreme Court you were saying.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. Hadn't done anything. See Hugo Black, Hugo Black there was, he came in, he came into the Washington scene while I was there working as a reporter. It was revealed that he had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan, and of course the black community [unknown], and we did a lot of writing about Hugo Black. We had a case it was, of course it was a separate but equal case down in North Carolina. I covered the case in the Supreme Court. It was, they were testing the validity of the out of state aid that the southern states were giving to black schools in order to take a course something that wasn't available at the black school. See this is Woolworth. All this was Greensboro. Jim Rice—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
The journalist?

Page 40
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
He wrote a story—I don't know if he wrote it. He wrote a story on the case—that's all right. Is that it?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I don't think so.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
But he did write a story about the sit-ins, and he put it, he [unknown]. So I knew he got it straight and, but we didn't do anything much on it.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I know that a couple of months after the sit-ins then the students got together, met at Shaw in Raleigh for the organizations of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and I'm wondering if that's something you might have been over to cover as a reporter.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Uh uh.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
No.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
A lot of that I wasn't working. A lot of that I wasn't working for the Courier.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
This would've been April '60. You were gone from the Courier by then?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I think so. I was trying to get, I was trying to make some money. I went to work for the Joslen, Joslen Jewelry Company.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay, sure.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
See August 1969. But I went to work for the Courier because I [unknown]. So I wasn't here. That's one reason they didn't recommend I do something on the sit-ins. I wasn't here. But I was living on the corner right in front of the school. Lot of demonstrations came right by my house.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I believe that yeah.

Page 41
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
We didn't have any fires. We didn't have any shootings at North Carolina College. We didn't have any of that. Lot of noise, a lot of protests. Students left the campus went out to protest in the city but the, it was an odd thing about the kids at North Carolina College. They seemed to want to protect their school. They didn't want to burn it down like some places had fires. We had small fires in some wastebaskets and bathrooms and things but no big fires and no shooting.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I want to go back to the 1957 trip with Richard Nixon, and I'm wondering how that came about. How, why did you get to go with Vice President Nixon?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Well, I was, just a second. I have so much junk there. Cut that off just a second. Do you have it cut off?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
All right. 1955 we received an award, a journalism achievement award by the Global News Syndicate Incorporated. I received one, a joint award with Robert Radcliffe. We worked together at the Courier, and Nixon received an award, a distinguished public service award. So we were at this meeting. We received the award together. So that was, what date was that?
KIERAN TAYLOR:
June 24th, 1955.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
All right. In 1957 one morning I was getting ready to go to work about eight-thirty, eight or something. I got a call from the State Department. I didn't know it was the State Department and said Mr. Nixon wanted me to go with him to Africa. I thought it was a prank. I was rushing to go to work, and I figured somebody was playing a prank on me. So I said, ‘Yeah. Yeah. Well you tell Nixon to take his mama to Africa with him.’ I hung up. So about as soon as this guy called back and the phone rang again

Page 42
and said, ‘Hey, don't hang up.’ Says, ’This is no joke. Take this number down and call us back in a few minutes.’ I said, ‘What number?’ It was the Washington number to the State Department. I said, ‘Yeah, I believe this is a joke,’ but I took the number down and I called him back. They said, ‘No,’ said, ‘Mr. Nixon wants you to go to Africa with him.’ Now he wasn't going to Africa without some blacks. I don't know how many blacks he knew. He was a little bit pressed against the wall. That's how I got to go with him.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
So we got our shots and everything and got ready to go to Africa.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Nixon had an entourage right on the plane.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh yeah. We had a plane.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Who all was on that plane?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
See we had a plane and he, of course had Air Force number two [unknown] planes. Let's see.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Would [E. Frederic] Morrow have been working in the—?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
He was there.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah, Morrow was one. A guy named Barnett.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Claude Barnett.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Claude Barnett was there. Barnett of the Associated Negro Press.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
With his wife Etta Moten Barnett.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah, she was a hundred years old. I got an invitation to her hundredth anniversary.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Is that right?

Page 43
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Etta at a hundred.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Wow.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Johnsons were there. Johnson Publications.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Johnson, yeah.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
He had Moneta Sleet. Moneta Sleet was there. He was the first black I know that won a Pulitzer prize in photography. He was there. Had another reporter from Washington worked with the Johnson Publications. Booker, Simeon Booker.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Simeon Booker.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I can't think of—oh, oh. I should never forget him. His name was—he worked for Afro-American.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Lomax.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No. A little guy. He was there too. Lomax went, but this guy was. I'll think of it after a while. He reason why, oh gosh I can't think of his name. But [unknown] he took shorthand. So every time the reporters would get in a situation where they had to choose between always asking him to go because he could get more than anybody else because he did shorthand. Of course now I can't think of his name.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Any politicians with Mr. Nixon? Like I assumed Powell would've gone a different plane, Adam Clayton Powell
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, he wasn't on there.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Randolph. Dr. King, I think traveled separately.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah they were on, they didn't go with us.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Now was the first step, was the first, you flew from New York to Gold Coast.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
No, Rabat, Morocco.

Page 44
KIERAN TAYLOR:
First to Morocco. Was that just a stop over?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What was the first destination point?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I don't even know. I think we were, because we stopped and refueled once and went into Morocco. Louis Lautier.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Okay.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I knew I was going to think of that name. The name was Louis Lautier.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
That's right.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
He did shorthand and he was quite popular.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I assume this was your first trip to Africa.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. And only trip to Africa.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Only trip.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
First and last trip to Africa I think. Yeah, we went into Canada and on around.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What was that like, I mean, your first experience of Africa? Do you have any memories of what that?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Yeah. All my memories of Africa were good until I got to Liberia. I think Liberia would've been okay if I hadn't already made up my mind that, as long as I can remember I've always wanted to see a country that was run independently by blacks with a record of at least a hundred years. Here this was perfect. Liberia had been black operated over a hundred years independently. When I got there, it was terrible. It was the most [unknown] that I've ever seen. I was very much disgusted. [unknown] they didn't have any democracy. It was run by a tyrant. So I said now I've seen it. I know what it

Page 45
looks like. [unknown] years. We went to Tubman's in charge. They had a ball for us at Tubman's presidents. A lady came up to me and says, ‘Oh what are you going to write about us?’ I said, ‘I'm just going to tell the truth.’ She said, ’You never will be able to come back.’ She was right. I filed my story from Monroe in Liberia. The embassy in Washington protested. So they said, ‘Well, if there's anything that's incorrect, we'll be glad to correct it.’ ‘No, there weren't any corrections. He didn't have to say all this here.’ That's all they said. ‘He could've left a lot out, left a lot of stuff out.’ I wouldn't have had any story. They had uprisings shortly after. You know about that don't you? Marched them down to the ocean and shot them Tubman and all the rest of them.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What about in Ghana did you meet Nkrumah? Did you have a chance to?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Oh yeah.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
What was that like? Where was that? I mean there were a whole series of inauguration festivities.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
I don't know exactly what the occasion was. But you see he had gone to school here in this country. Liberia, I mean in Ghana there was Nkrumah. In Nigeria there was Azikiwe. Both educated in the States and both as far as England was concerned were radicals. So much so that England said we're not going to send any more people to the States for education because when they pass, see the Statue of Liberty something happens to them. But those were the two that I remember from the States, Azikiwe and Nkrumah
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Did you happen to see Dr. King when you were in Ghana?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Just saw him—

Page 46
KIERAN TAYLOR:
Just in passing, yeah. Would that have been the first time you had seen him or had you ever seen him before if you can remember?
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Not that I can remember. He wasn't that famous. He was at my estimation at that time he was just regarded as a good speaker. It was after that that he blossomed out and became the spokesman.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
There's that famous photograph of Dr. King shaking hand with Richard Nixon and that was their meeting where Dr. King had been attempting to get a meeting with Nixon.
ALEXANDER M. RIVERA:
Said I had to come all the way over here to meet you. Yeah, I remember that.
KIERAN TAYLOR:
I was wondering. Maybe we should stop right here because I think we pretty much—
END OF INTERVIEW