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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Mary Robertson, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

White tobacco workers resist unionization

Robertson describes an interesting exchange: white tobacco workers received a sense of superiority for their resistance to unionization. To join a union, Robertson explains, was "an act of treason against the whole social-economic-political structure."

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Mary Robertson, August 13, 1979. Interview H-0288. 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 would you explain the reluctance of white cigarette workers to join the union?
MARY ROBERTSON:
That's not hard to explain. Right now, today, your yourself, without realizing it, you always accept in lieu of pay--all of us accept, in lieu of pay--a substitute, a vicarious sort of thing. And when that substitute is a sense of superiority, even though that in itself is a lie, because it's not a sense of your superiority, it's a sense of somebody else's inferiority, .
JACQUELYN HALL:
Did you get that in real concrete responses from people, people not wanting to join the union because blacks were in it?
MARY ROBERTSON:
Oh, yes, it was very outspoken. And it's not that whispered today in certain areas. Among the old craft unions, you still run across a lot of that. "We don't want no niggers in our outfit." I'm talking about the rank and file. But at that time nobody apologized for it. They had not been made to feel there was any necessity for apologizing for it; that was just the way God had created the world, that white people made cigarettes and the black people made chewing tobacco.
JACQUELYN HALL:
Obviously. [Laughter]
MARY ROBERTSON:
And to resist the establishment in any aspect anywhere was just to commit an act of treason against the whole social-economic-political structure.