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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Vivion Lenon Brewer, October 15, 1976. Interview G-0012. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Doubts that lasting interracial social relationships will persist

While the WEC desensitized Arkansan whites to interracial meetings, the social realities of a large number of private academies led to an exclusion of most blacks. The material reality of racial separation caused Brewer to view long-term interracial contact pessimistically.

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:
Do you still keep close contacts in Little Rock?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Not a great many. I have a lot of friends there when we see them, but, because of our isolation here, I don't go into town as often as I might. And as I get older, I don't entertain as much as I used to, and we don't go in at night. And as a consequence, we've begun to lead pretty isolated lives. And this has been one of the things that's intrigued me about the racial development, that immediately following the Committee we had extremely close relationships with a great many of the professional blacks in Little Rock. When they first started the Great Decisions programs, we joined a black group instead of joining a white one. (Laughs) And we had so many of the black friends back and forth in our home. Well, it's partly this isolation that's been at the base of this, I feel sure, but I think there has been a swing away from close communication between the two races.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Do you?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
And I think this is a natural swing of the pendulum. They want their own . . . I can understand this, but I think it's too bad, because I think what we need to do is to know each other, and if we do then this makes for understanding. So I hope that the pendulum will swing back. I see some of it that's in groups like the League of Women Voters, that there are black women in, and, say, working at the Art Center, there are. And this is good; this, I think, is just fine. But I think it really isn't enough. I think it's too bad there isn't more close communication, and I'm hoping the day will come when it will swing back.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
I wanted to ask you about that. I wanted to ask you what you thought your assessment was of racial attitudes in Little Rock from the standpoint of the white community. Because, as we were saying a minute ago, when the men finally came to realize the economic impact of the drift of things on Little Rock, then things began to happen: the schools were integrated; the schools were reopened. But always the integration was just token.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Mm-hm.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
And I wondered if, in fact, perhaps people in Little Rock hadn't found a way to hold on to their old racial attitudes, but accommodate themselves just enough to have a token integration?
VIVION LENON BREWER:
I think this is why there are all the academies and private schools. They will tell you that they're open to both races, but I don't know of cases where blacks have applied. I think it's probably because they're too expensive. And it also may be a part of this swinging away from communication; that may enter into it. I think the expense is probably more important. But it does bother me, because the churches have set up all these private schools; there are these private academies; and these young people are not going to have had any association that will give them any breadth of understanding.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
So from that perspective, at least that segment of Little Rock hasn't changed.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Has not. On the other hand, I have to feel that we have come a long way, because who gets excited if you see a black man having lunch with a white girl?
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Right.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
No body does anymore, you know, and, why, back in those days he'd have been killed.
ELIZABETH JACOWAY:
Yes. And also, all of the women who were involved in the Committee and men who were involved in the STOP campaign were sensitized to these problems and issues in ways that they never had been before.
VIVION LENON BREWER:
Very true.