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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 >>

Durr serves at a reception honoring an African American

Clark and Mairi Foreman cared greatly about the arts and sponsored a reception for African American opera singer Mattiwilda Dobbs following a concert she gave in Washington, D.C. Since Durr did not enjoy the arts as much, Mairi asked her to prepare and serve the reception, reversing the usual racial roles.

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

Clark had blacks to dinner and that's when I met Mattievilda Dobbs. Do you remember her? She was Maynard Jackson's aunt, his mother was a Dobbs. The singer. Well, I remember very well that Mairi in her sweet way said, . . .Mairi and Clark were much more into the musical and artistic world, because neither Cliff nor I had any musical or artistic tastes, but Clark and Mairi were very much into the cultural life of Washington, the symphony and the arts. They really both loved it. Mairi painted, you see and they went in for modern art and we didn't know what it was. I remember that we went there one night and they had a marvelous new painting that they were thrilled to death over and they asked us what it was and we said that all we could see that it was an old tin wastebasket. It turned out to be some marvelous symbolic painting by Ben Shahn, I think, and anyway, we were completely out of that part of their lives. We didn't even know or appreciate it. I never had any training in art and I was blind as a bat and still am, for a matter of fact. If it doesn't look like what it is supposed to look like, I am just lost. Even Picasso. And oh, they adored Picasso and all those one-eyed people. You know, music, the only people I could ever appreciate was Pete Seeger, Allen Lomax and the country folk singers. I still love them, but you get me above them and I'm lost. But in any case, you see, Clark had known Mr. Dobbs very well in Atlanta nad had worked with him in his interracial work. So, they arranged for Mattiewilda to have a concert in Washington in some quite famous place where they had musical events and she called me up and said, "Jinksie, could you possibly come over and arrange about the tea." She had a servant, but "I have to go to the reception but could you please come over and arrange about the tea because I don't want to leave the cook in the kitchen with nobody to help her out." So, Cliff and I went over and we set up the tea table and I made sandwiches and all. So, when the Dobbs all came back, Mattiewilda had made a tremendous hit. Everybody had stood up and cheered and they were all thrilled beyond words and I don't know how many Dobbses there were, there must have been fifteen. So, I served The Phillips Gallery the tea, quite a reversal role, as you can imagine, for me. Here I was serving tea to this black family. You know, they were so charming and sweet . . .I don't think that you have ever known Mrs. Dobbs, I'm sure that she must be dead by now. That was Mattiewilda's mother, who would have been Maynard's grandmother, but she was one of the sweetest, most charming women that you have ever known. She made everybody thoroughly at ease. She had lovely manners, just those wonderful southern manners, whether they are black or white, when you run into them, they are just sort of like oil on the waters, everything is smooth and lovely and charming and sweet.