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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Neither surprise nor discomfort with racial integration

Jones reflects on racial integration. He grew up playing with white children and being disciplined by their parents, so he was neither surprised nor upset by the change, which seemed to fit with his beliefs about basic fairness.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Johnnie Jones, August 27, 1976. Interview H-0273. 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

BRENT GLASS:
Did it surprise you?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, it didn't surprise me. But I'm going to tell you the truth, because far as I'm concerned about it, I came up with them. Now you take all those Boren boys and things; we were raised right together. Yes, their fathers'd whip me just as quick as they would one of their children.
BRENT GLASS:
Really?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes sir.
BRENT GLASS:
The Boren family?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes. Whip me just as quick. We'd go out there to that barn at four o'clock to milk them cows. If you ain't out of there by nine o'clock them lights was cut off; you had to get out the best way you could. That old man was going to cut them lights out. Now he could handle a boy. He'd treat his boy just like he would your boy. He wouldn't treat your boy no better than he would his boy.
BRENT GLASS:
This is old man Boren?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Oh yes.
BRENT GLASS:
You knew him?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes, I know all of them.
BRENT GLASS:
Right. Now he founded it. He started the company, didn't he?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes. Well that was W.C. Boren. Let's see: Charlie Boren, Will Boren, Dick Boren and Cecil Boren and Gurney Boren. I know them all; I know all the children. I would mess around with all of them, playing with them. It wasn't no different with me. Now you'd go in his front room. You'd go in there and eat just like he would. You go there, they treat you just like you was one of their children.
BRENT GLASS:
So it wasn't a surprise to you that… ?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, it didn't surprise me at all.
BRENT GLASS:
Now in Greensboro around the 1960s when they started the sitting in at the Woolworths…
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Do you remember that?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes. My wife was the first one to sit there on one of them stools.
BRENT GLASS:
She was?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes sir, one of the first. I saw it on television. She was working there at that time.
BRENT GLASS:
Right.
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes.
BRENT GLASS:
And there were some young students who came in there to sit at the lunch counter?
JOHNNIE JONES:
That's right.
BRENT GLASS:
And she sat there with them?
JOHNNIE JONES:
That's right.
BRENT GLASS:
Were you scared for her safety?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No. They had her to do it 'cause she worked there. Told her, "Now you go around and set with them." And she done it and set there with them—one of the first ones that set there.
BRENT GLASS:
Did they fire her?
JOHNNIE JONES:
No, they had her to do it. They wanted her to do it.
BRENT GLASS:
The people in Woolworths?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes. They wanted her to do it, yes.
BRENT GLASS:
Why?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I don't know why, but that's what they had up down there. They wanted her to do it. They said, "You go and set there with them." And she sat there with them. Paid her right on.
BRENT GLASS:
They paid her?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes, they paid her.
BRENT GLASS:
Hmm.
JOHNNIE JONES:
I don't know why they wanted something like that, but that's the way it was. See, the old lady took up some of the stools there, you see, but she put them back.
BRENT GLASS:
What was the talk around here about that? People must have realized that was a big change coming on, wasn't it?
JOHNNIE JONES:
Yes. Yes, they felt like it was. One thing about it: I'm glad didn't nobody get hurt over it. That's the best part about it. I met a fellow here the other day, not too long ago, said he was the one that started that. And he was coming back here a while later. And he said, "Well," he said, "the whole thing's working. I started it and it's still working in."
BRENT GLASS:
Do you think that was a good thing?
JOHNNIE JONES:
I think so. It bring people closer together. It ain't no need of me hating you 'cause somebody else hates you. There's no use of it. I wouldn't fall out with a man 'cause you fall out with him. There ain't no fairness in it.