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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Violence stunts union organizing efforts

Organizing did not start in North Carolina until the 1930s, after Herring had left the area. She returned for a trial connected to a killing during a labor dispute.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Harriet Herring, February 5, 1976. Interview G-0027. 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

MARY FREDERICKSON:
Right. Were there ever any efforts to organize among the workers when you were at Spray?
HARRIET HERRING:
No, there wasn't; didn't start until well after I left up there, a pretty good while before. They didn't get much of that flurry in the early thirties, when we had such a bad time down here in North Carolina. And, you know, two people were killed in connection with it: one at a mill up farther west (I've forgotten what town that was in now), and one at. . . . No, that one at Charlotte wasn't. . . . Well, I believe there was one shot in some of it; they had right vigorous organizers, you know. It got sort of a mobbish spirit and some shooting. And then I went down to the trial: went the first day and they were getting the jury. And they had about finished getting the jury, so I thought they'd take a little time to get the last one. And I didn't break my neck to get over there after breakfast, and got over there and the courthouse was perfectly deserted. Now what in the world had happened? They said that when they got that last one and they were all seated, the sheriff had the bright idea of having somebody dressed up in the clothes of the man who had been killed, and motored him down the aisle of the courthouse, as if they were going to. . . . I don't know whose idea it was to have that kind of an exhibit. And one of the jurymen went crazy on them right there in the jurybox, screaming and carrying on; they had to dismiss the jury. So there was another strike going on at the same time up Morganton way, or somewhere there. There was a famous (locally famous) newsman from Raleigh that was there, and he was standing around there like me without an occupation going, you know. [laughter] I was there in my car, and so I said, "Well, let's go up to Morganton (or whichever the town was)." So we went up there and looked at that strike, you know.