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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 >>

Opposition to the Durrs' increasing activism

As Durr became increasingly active in various social justice movements, former friends attempted to limit or direct her participation. As red-baiting grew in popularity, she found that socialists were often the most eager to use accusations of communism to fracture the movements. She also faced disapprobation from her former friends among Birmingham's business leaders.

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

Because the socialists . . . now, I like H.L. Mitchell, he lives in Montgomery and I still see him often. I think that H.L. did a great job over in Arkansas, but the point was that at that time . . . now, H.L. has changed. You know, he doesn't red bait the way that he used to. But those socialists, by God, the Trotskyites, it didn't matter what came up, whether it was the size of a peach or nothing, I swear, you couldn't decide where you were going to lunch without them bringing up the damned red baiting. "Are you sure you want to have him to lunch? We think he's a Communist." You know, you would just go crazy with it, you couldn't sit down to do anything, you couldn't sit down to have just the simplest meeting on procedure without this thing starting up. They were crazy on the subject. I have never people so nutty on anything in my life. I still don't understand why they were so nutty about it. They still are, I reckon. Do you think they still are? Are they like the Maoists and the Revisionists, you think now? Or even worse? You know, here we were in Birmingham, Alabama . . . (well, with the Maoists and the Revisionists, I get mad, too.) But here we weresitting down in Alabama, trying to protect the rights of people to organize so that they would make more than two dollars a day, trying to get people the right to vote so that they couldhave some influence on the. . . . [END OF TAPE 2, SIDE A] [TAPE 2, SIDE B] [START OF TAPE 2, SIDE B]
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
some influence on their lives. Doing things that just were absolutely fundamental, right on the lowest level of political and economic democracy and these socialists and Trotskyites did nothing in the world but red bait. It made me mad. And if you didn't go along with them, then they red baited you. McAllister red baited me to fare-thee-well from then on out. It really was something and it made you mad, too. I still get mad when I think about it. I used to think that the Trotskyites were some form of fleas, I didn't even know what they were. (laughter) They always made me itch everytime they were around . . . (laughter) But in any case, then things began to get kind of tough and then they brought in a lady named Mabel Jones West who was sort of hired hand for the writer Ku Klux Klan, I think. She was at the Morris Hotel and her reputation wasn't the best, to put it mildly and she was one of the one that they have proved shot at Joe Gelders or encouraged someone to shoot at him through the window. I never did get it straight whether she was with him when she shot at him or whether she bragged about having encouraged people to shoot at him. But she . . . well, he was living some place out of Birmingham and they came by one night and shot in his windows. But she was one of these . . . she looked like a used Kleenex, you know. (laughter) I can't describe it any better than that, one that had been blown on for some time, snot. Anyway, she launched this terrible attack on the Southern Conference for Human Welfare from the extreme right wing, we were all a bunch of reds, you know.
JACQUELYN HALL:
In the meeting? She would do this in the meeting?
VIRGINIA FOSTER DURR:
Oh, no. In the papers. And she "didn't know what the niggers and the white women were up to." They were eating together and "what did they do at night and where were they staying." The same old dirt, you know. Just get a black man and a white woman in a big auditorium and by that night, they'll be in bed. (laughter) Well, that made me mad, too, you know. It was disgusting and it really made me sore. So, I was pretty badgered, because some friends of mine, they are sweet dear people now and one is dead, but they took me out to lunch. These are friends of my childhood from all through my life, one had been in my wedding, just two very devoted friends. And she said, "Now, Jinksie, I think that I should tell you frankly that I think for you to come down here and encourage this rabble to take over and you are going to go back to Washington and we are left to deal with it, well, I just have to tell you that I think it is the most horrible thing you have ever done. I don't think that you could possibly know what you are doing. You are going off and leave us with this rabble on our hands that will just try to take over everything." She was serious about it, too. And her husband was serious about it. They just wanted to tell me that I was doing something that was just awful. So, I was meeting with quite a lot of opposition.