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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

The Durrs' racist beliefs are challenged by Clark and Mairi Foreman

Clark Foreman, one of Virginia's former beaux, returned from a time in Great Britain with radical new racial views. During their first reunion, Foreman confronted the Durrs' prejudices, greatly upsetting Virginia. Nevertheless, the two couples continued to build a friendship which would become very important to Virginia's later work.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Virginia Foster Durr, March 13, 14, 15, 1975. Interview G-0023-2. 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

So, Clark arrived in Washington with a beautiful young wife whom he had met on the boat and promptly hired a Negro secretary. Well, this caused an absolute storm throughout the whole government. Here was a young white southern boy, who came from a good family, the Howells, you know, of Georgia and having a black secretary. Of course, they immediately accused him of the woman being his mistress, you know, that he slept with her. Well, of course, that was absurd. She was a very efficient secretary, but I forget her name. Well, he was the first person that broke that barrier of having a black girl as a secretary. So, he was a great believer in racial equality and was working at it. So, that Sunday afternoon when he came out, he began telling us what he was going to do and what he was doing. Well, my Lord, I just fell into a fit! I just couldn't believe it. We got into the most awful fight that you have ever known in your life. Cliff said that he had to take the wood basket out of the way because I would have brained him or he would have brained me. Because you know, Clark is not tactful at times. He said, "You know, you are just a white, southern, bigoted prejudiced, provincial girl . . . " Oh, he just laid out at me. And of course, I had known him so well and we had been just such good friends and I got furious and I said, "You are going back on all the traditions of the South. You, a Howell of Georgia going back on all of it. What do you think of the Civil War? What did we stand for?" White supremacy, of course.Boy, we got in a horrible fight. So, they left. So, Cliff said, "Well, I don't think you'll ever see him again." But we did, they called us up the next week and invited us to dinner.
JACQUELYN HALL:
What did Cliff think about all this?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Well, of course, Cliff believed like me, but he didn't holler about it the way I did. I hate to say it, but we had both of us been surrounded by it since infancy, and we had this terrible double vision. We had both been raised by black women whom we had adored and trusted and on whom our lives depended and yet, at the same time, we were brought up to think that all black people were inferior. So, we did have this double vision, if you know what I mean, which I am sure contributed somewhat to our later changing our point of view.