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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

DuPont factory gives jobs to blacks

Coward remembers the arrival of a DuPont factory in her area. The factory was the first in the area to offer jobs to blacks, giving them an alternative to farm work. A steady job at a decent wage represented a significant change for area residents.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clyda Coward and Debra Coward, May 30, 2001. Interview K-0833. 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

CLYDA COWARD:
I guess they did. I don't know what become of them, but I know that they were over here working.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So when DuPont came in, what was it like to have this big new business come into a rural area like this?
CLYDA COWARD:
Well, it was very exciting for everybody because there was a lot of young peoples that really did not want to farm. But they had to; they didn't have much choice. When DuPont come, I had two brothers that worked at DuPont.
BETTY:
And we came too.
CLYDA COWARD:
Oh, you did?
BETTY:
Yes, because we didn't want to farm. [Laughter]
DEBRA COWARD:
But it gave opportunity to black folksߞ
BETTY:
And white.
DEBRA COWARD:
ߞbecause up until that point, there was no place for black folks to work except on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Debra, can you come over here so I can get you a little closer? Thanks. Just tell me that again if you would.
DEBRA COWARD:
What I was saying was that with DuPont and otherߞthe big industriesߞit gave opportunities for black people to have jobs other than farm work. I guess that was the first equal opportunity employer because they did hire black people.
BETTY:
They surely did.
DEBRA COWARD:
I don't know what level of jobs they had, but, like with my uncle, he went from farming to DuPont.
LEDA HARTMAN:
Steady salary?
DEBRA COWARD:
Uh huh. Indoor work. Just a very big change in the lifestyleߞ
BETTY:
Insurance.
DEBRA COWARD:
ߞfor the people of the community. A year round job with a good salaryߞ that was security. And that was considered one of the plum jobs to have back then. Camp Lejeune or DuPont were the main employers for black folks in the community. That kind of raised the economic level of folks that made a difference in the people. You know, if you had those kind of jobs, then you had a different lifestyle than if you still worked on the farm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
So it was a way to break outߞ
DEBRA COWARD:
Mm hmm.
LEDA HARTMAN:
ߞofߞ?
DEBRA COWARD:
Well, I can't say poverty because even thenߞ. My grandfather owned a farm, so he was a little different than just a regular sharecropper that waited for somebody to give him the money. He always had money in his pocket. And he had a car. It wasn't a new car, but he had a car. So there was just differences in people because of that.
LEDA HARTMAN:
And so, DuPont coming in was a way justߞ?
DEBRA COWARD:
As Mama said, it opened up whole new avenues for folks in this community. People commuted from all aroundߞfrom Greenville and placesߞto workߞ
BETTY:
Sixty miles away.
DEBRA COWARD:
ߞto workߞto DuPont.