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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White mill workers respond to mill integration

Shoemaker and Edmonds describe some of the changes that took place in the mill over the course of their tenure there, including the arrival of African American workers. A number of white workers were unhappy about the mill's integration, and continue to grumble, but the sisters were comfortable with the change.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mattie Shoemaker and Mildred Shoemaker Edmonds, March 23, 1979. Interview H-0046. 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 MURPHY:
We'll have to ask again and see if we can. That would be real helpful to see what it's like. Have there been a lot of changes in the mill?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Oh, changes! I should say they have been changes. Used to you couldn't walk up there on that floor, could you?
MARY MURPHY:
What do you mean?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
It's nice up there now. Nice and clean. And now they have, every Christmas, they give a dinner or something up there. They have a party for the children, give them little presents.
MARY MURPHY:
How long have they been doing that?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
They've been doing that a long time, haven't they?
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Yeah, been doing it fifteen or twenty years, I guess.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No, longer than that. Long time before I ever quit, and I've been gone up there thirteen years.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
It's been around twenty year I guess.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Longer than that, because don't you know that Jordan Sellors, their school over there, those colored band would come over here and make the music.
MARY MURPHY:
Who was this band?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Jordan Sellors High School. That was before the colored and whites all went to school together. They had their own school. They had the best band that could be found.
MARY MURPHY:
And they would come up and play?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Yeah, they'd come up and play.
MARY MURPHY:
At Christmas?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Uh-huh. And another thing, some of the people up there didn't like was when they brought the colored people in to work.
MARY MURPHY:
When was that?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
That was when Kennedy.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
They brought them in after I quit.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Uh-uh!
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
No they didn't. Let me see, they brought them in …
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I hadn't retired yet.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
I couldn't tell you what year. Well, after Kennedy went in was when they brought them in.
MARY MURPHY:
And a lot of people didn't like that?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
They didn't like that. Because Drew Moore, he was the man then. He come in there and he was going around and he was asking the help about bringing, you know. And some of them said they'd quit. They wasn't working with no nigger. Well, me and this girl that worked on the other side of the machine from me, he asked us. I said, "Don't make no difference to me. Put one right there on half of this machine, I'm not . Don't bother me. They're human beings, too."
MARY MURPHY:
Did a lot of people quit?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No, they didn't quit. They don't like it up there yet, some of them works up there. Can you see anything wrong in that? I can't.
MARY MURPHY:
What was the atmosphere like after the blacks came in?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, they didn't like it too much but they didn't say too much. They still don't like it. You can hear them very often making remarks after they get out up there.
MARY MURPHY:
Do they ever make remarks to the black people up there?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I don't think so.
MARY MURPHY:
They talk amongst themselves?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Uh-huh. They bunch up and talk to their selves. That's not right. You went to school with them, didn't you?
MARY MURPHY:
Uh-huh. Yeah.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Did it hurt you?
MARY MURPHY:
No, didn't hurt me. Might have helped me. Did they put them all through …
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
All through the mill, yeah. They all worked in the same departments the whites does. Like this is a machine and you work on this side of that machine and that one over here, that might be a colored person over there and a white over here. But that don't hurt them.
MARY MURPHY:
Are they mostly women?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
In the winding room, uh-huh.
MARY MURPHY:
What kind of jobs did the men have?
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
The men? They worked down in the weaving room and in the wire house. And I believe some of them does work out there in the winding room.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
Yeah they do, some of them work in the winding room. They did when I was up there. Two colored people brought all my work up to me.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
Well, those two colored boys brought every bit of my work to me on the third shift.
MATTIE SHOEMAKER:
And I'd guess there's some colored people, that did then, there's some colored people working what they called the "twisting room" and the "slasher room." Colored people worked out there. And they just worked in each department just like the white people did.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
I think that's all right. I'm glad to see it happen.
MARY MURPHY:
If the colored people, they'd a had a chance to get their education years back, I think it would have been a lot better. But they didn't have a chance to get that. I guess what a lot of people wanted, wanted them to be slaves like they used to be.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
You don't have no trouble with the colored people that's well educated, do you?
MARY MURPHY:
No.
MILDRED SHOEMAKER EDMONDS:
No, where I go to church they have the colored people. We go to church together.