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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race relations at a furniture factory

Austin remembers the arrival of black workers at Conover Chair. White employees were unhappy about it, but got used to their presence. The most difficult aspect of this adjustment for white workers was surrendering the boundaries drawn by segregation, such as separate bathrooms and water fountains.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Eunice Austin, July 2, 1980. Interview H-0107. 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

JACQUELYN HALL:
How did the men and the women get along in the furniture plant?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They got along fine.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you have friends among both the men and the women?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Oh, yes. Even some black ones.
JACQUELYN HALL:
When did the blacks start working there?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They never did have but two black women to work there, because they just didn't apply for work. But they did have several blacks that were janitors, and they were real nice.
JACQUELYN HALL:
They didn't have any blacks that were working in the frame room, or upholsterers?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They didn't in upholstering, but they did back in the frame room. They had a few. But in upholstering, I don't know if a black ever applied or not. I never did know of one applying.
JACQUELYN HALL:
How did people react when they first started hiring blacks to work in this kind of thing?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
They didn't like it too good, but they got used to it. They had one lady that run borders in the sewing room, and at first they resented her but she seemed to be a real sweet person and she was clean, and everybody got to where they liked her and respected her. I never did mistreat her in any way, but there was a few that did make some comments about her, but that was just to start with. You know, when something like that happens, you've got to get accustomed to it. The main problem was using the bathroom and drinking from the same water fountain that we did. Now they didn't say much about when the lady came, but the men, they didn't think too much of that. But after a period of time, you got used to it and thought nothing about it.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did people make remarks to her face?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
No. They didn't really make, that I ever heard, any remarks, but it was so new. It was something we wasn't accustomed to, and they wasn't too friendly to her right at first, but after they learned to know her it was altogether different.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Had you known blacks when you were living on the farm, for example? Had there been black families around you?
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Our next-door neighbor was a black, and she kept me when my mother was working in the field.
JACQUELYN HALL:
So you had been around blacks.
EUNICE AUSTIN:
Yes, I'd been around blacks. I had to even eat her cooking. And back when my mother had her babies, she had a black lady that stayed with her one time and looked after her.