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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Robert R. Sampson, October 9, 2002. Interview R-0182. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A deteriorating neighborhood, nevertheless full of life

Market Street was "jumping" shortly before the city decided to tear down its deteriorating buildings, Sampson recalls. While the buildings may have needed renovation, black businesses never returned to the area. Sampson believes that driving out black businesses was one of the goals of the project.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Robert R. Sampson, October 9, 2002. Interview R-0182. 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.

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ANGELA HORNSBY:
In talking to some other business owners, it seemed, when I asked them about their feelings about the urban redevelopment Plan, they seem to have a sort of ambiguous response. On the one hand, they say, "Yes, it was terrible because it destroyed the unity of black businesses on that street"—and talked about how wonderful it was and how it fostered a cohesive atmosphere. But then, on the other hand, they said, "Well, there were other areas of East Market that could have stood some improvements." Do you agree with that perspective, or do you basically see it as—?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
Yeah, I agree with that, because most of the buildings up in that area was kind of old.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
And by "old" what do you mean?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
I mean they'd been there a good while, and they were deteriorating. So that might have been one of the reasons the city wanted to do that. The Palace Theater was old too, and I knew people who said it was deteriorating inside and had bugs or something in there. So this was the tail end of the Market Street area—it was going down. Several years before was when it was really jumping. When I would come to Greensboro to a football game, I'd go into the area. That was several years before I came to Greensboro, and it was really jumping, then.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Was this like the early fifties?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
Yeah. But the buildings were getting old, getting kind of dilapidated some of them, so they tore them all down. Claimed they were going to fix it up and bring the people back into the area. But after they got scattered, they never came back.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
And what did that do in terms of the black community? What impact do you think that had on this part of Greensboro?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
Well, I don't know exactly what impact it had on Greensboro. But I think the people who had to move felt less about the city than they did before. But as I said, they had no alternative; they had to move. Of course, they were really improving the area, but if they could've let the businesses come back in after they did that, then it would have been much better for everybody concerned. But they didn't do that.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Why do you think they didn't?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
I don't know. I really don't know. Maybe they didn't want that many black businesses right together in a particular area. I don't have the answer for that—why they did it.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
Is it safe to assume, then, that you thought that there were portions of the business district that could use improvements, but yet you objected to the final outcome? How could it have worked so that the businesses were improved, in your opinion, without what ultimately happened having occurred?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
Well, they could have remodeled the buildings, and just remodeled the whole thing and brought it up to date. Some of it was kind of dilapidated. But I don't know what else they could have done, because as I said, the buildings were old and they'd been up there a good while. But all of them could have been remodeled and brought up to date and left it like it was.
ANGELA HORNSBY:
So you agree with someone else who I talked to about this who said that—she basically shared an opinion like you—that maybe it was, in some ways, a means of disrupting the black businesses—?
ROBERT R. SAMPSON:
I would say that, definitely.