Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

WEC founders maintain their goal of desegregating public schools

Brewer describes how the WEC's founders "tricked" members into accepting desegregation by housing international foreigners in their homes. She also explains how the gradual acceptance of desegregation prevented the WEC from admitting black members.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. 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

ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Well, now, do you think these women who were married to men who were not sympathetic with your point of view . . . You would assume that most people married people with similar attitudes. Were most of the women who worked for your Committee openly integrationists, or do you think most of them simply wanted to get the schools open?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
In the beginning most of them simply, they were solely interested in the schools. But they were willing to have the schools opened desegregated, in order to have the schools. So here was the opening wedge. But we did a number of things, because Mrs. Terry and Velma and I still had this original idea in the back of our heads, and we did such things as setting up committees to entertain foreigners, who almost always were of a different color. And this was an educational process. And we did try very hard . . . I'm sure you know that we never had a Negro member, so far as we knew--now we may have had some we didn't know--but so far as we knew. We never did invite them, because we were constantly accused of being integrationists, and if the public believed this accusation it would have destroyed so many of our votes.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
That's right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And as a consequence we dared not open our membership to them, but any of the girls who had any sympathy for the black race were used in contacts with members of the race to reassure them that at the time we were working for the schools, we were really working for them, too. And as a consequence, that final survey of our own membership was a real pleasure to me, because a vast majority of the women said that desegregation of the schools, of the restaurants, of anything, was perfectly all right with them, by then. So it was a growing process. So we didn't completely lose our first aim. (Laughs)