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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Evaluation of racial and class changes in the South since 1955

Burgess assesses how the South changed since his stateside absence. He contends that class and racial structures have not changed much, due to the pressures of the job market.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with David Burgess, September 25, 1974. Interview E-0001. 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

BILL FINGER:
Well, how do you feel coming back?
DAVID BURGESS:
Well, you've still got the same..the class structure is still very much here. But things have changed, I think, very impressively. But you still have conservative Senators and Congressmen. The class structure is still very much here, and I don't know if you have militant Negro groups in the state or not; you sure didn't have in 1950.
BILL FINGER:
You can see the film, if you get a chance, of the Oneita strike in South Carolina . . . black textile workers . . . Lane and Andrews in South Carolina . . . end of last summer . . . not so far from Rock Hill.
DAVID BURGESS:
What happened?
BILL FINGER:
They won a six month strike, and 75 or 80 % of the workers were black . . . but they had a very good rapport between black and white workers in the plant.
DAVID BURGESS:
Do you think they'll lose at Cannon Mills?
BILL FINGER:
Yeah, I think they'll lose this time.
DAVID BURGESS:
I think they will too.
BILL FINGER:
But it's . . .
DAVID BURGESS:
. . . from what I gather . . .
BILL FINGER:
The black percent of the vote has increased very rapidly.
DAVID BURGESS:
You know, they barely won at Roanoke Rapids, a lot . . . big turnover, so things aren't quite as good. Lesson for Wilbur Hobby . . .
BILL FINGER:
Did you come back this trip with a goal of taking a look . . . at what things were like in '55 and what they're like now?
DAVID BURGESS:
Oh, yeah, sure. I hope eventually to go down to Atlanta. I'm going to Memphis to speak at the Tri-annual meeting of the Churchwomen United, to be one of the speakers there . . .
BILL FINGER:
You going to write anything about it?
DAVID BURGESS:
I don't know . . . this is sort of . . . you know, I don't know how typical Chapel Hill is. I don't feel any . . . very much basic idealism except in the few people that I see. You didn't have Dr. Frank here any more nor are there other Dr. Frank's on the horizon. There's much greater pressure from parents on the students to get on with their professional careers; the job market is tighter . . . blacks here aren't . . . good basketball players and a few other things, but I don't know how well they're integrated in this community, and I'm not judging because I don't know. I don't want to be a 24-hour expert. I hesitate to pontificate about these things. I do feel that after living next to Newark . . . being aware of my daughter's in Boston . . . in a way the integration of the South may take a longer time. Maybe there's a sounder basis there than is on the inner city black communities left . . . New York, Detroit, and Cleveland . . . you could just name a whole series of things.