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Oral History Interview with Lawrence Ridgle, June 3, 1999. Interview K-0143. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    This is the first of two interviews with Lawrence Ridgle, who was born during the height of the Great Depression and spent his childhood on Fayetteville Street in Durham, North Carolina. Ridgle begins the interview by recalling that his neighborhood was impoverished but close-knit. Ridgle describes the various ways in which people made ends meet through innovation during the Depression and helping one another out, arguing that "getting by" constituted great success. Ridgle also asserts his admiration for the social welfare programs that Franklin Delano Roosevelt implemented during those years because they put people to work and helped to feed people. Nevertheless, Ridgle also notes that he felt deep disdain for the modern welfare system. In addition to emphasizing community togetherness, he also discusses his father's job with the American Tobacco Company, which he later elaborates upon in his second interview. Ridgle devotes the second half of the interview to what he sees as decline within the African American community, particularly as a result of urban renewal projects that began during the 1960s. Ridgle argues that these projects created a disconnect between African Americans of different social classes, and that thriving African American business in Durham had all but disappeared during the period of urban renewal. He articulates his admiration for business owners who held out as long as possible. Ridgle concludes the interview by arguing that although many people initially understood urban renewal in a positive light, it ultimately served to isolate African American neighborhoods and communities.
    Excerpts
  • Growing up in a close-knit African American community
  • Dealing with poverty and thoughts on welfare
  • Father's work at the American Tobacco Company
  • Negative impact of urban renewal on the African American community
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  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.