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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Some progress for African Americans and the need for more

Harris reflects on the progress made by African Americans. There are now black decision makers, he observes, and young African Americans willing to speak for their communities. The next step, though, is to motivate African Americans to vote and educate them enough for full civic participation.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Harris, September 5, 2002. Interview R-0185. 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

KIERAN TAYLOR:
Do you have any just any final thoughts, anything that we didn't cover that you want to state for the record that you know either having to do with driving, Greensboro, urban renewal, Market Street? Just any final anything, you'd want to add.
JOHN HARRIS:
Well, this getting along or making decisions about people, people's lives has changed because now we have black people in positions of power, in positions to help make decisions. Decisions that we didn't have anything to do with in prior years, and this has helped because our voices now are being heard, and I have to compare that with a time when our voices didn't even matter. Nobody cared, but now we have people that do care. We have young blacks that speak for their communities. Prior to that, nobody listened. You've got, you used to get campaign promises at election time, and that was all. That's all they were, promises until they got elected. I think we've learned, and we've learned what campaigning is all about and what the reality of it is. Now our, I think our biggest job now is to really get out and vote. We need to learn, and we need to study candidates running for public office. We need to make ourselves available to them, and they need to make themselves available to us. We need to look, take a good hard look at the facts and not, we had one time, I had a lady to tell me yesterday. She said, "What are we going to do? I don't know who to vote for." George Simpkins is dead. He used to send out—
KIERAN TAYLOR:
A slate.
JOHN HARRIS:
A slate of officers. Who am I going to vote for? It's that kind of thing that lets, that you, you can't legislate people into reading. They have to read on their own. We're not, we're just not going to do it. We have to encourage. We have to encourage reading in our communities because that's why it's important, and that way we don't allow other folk to make decisions for us. We can make a decision for ourselves. This is one of our, I guess, one of the things that we're sort of weak in. We need that. We need that reading program. We need that to learn how to think independently, and this is where we're really short on, and the only way you're going to do it, the only way you're going to solve it is to read and draw some perceptions for yourself. Otherwise you're going to be waiting and looking for somebody else to make your decisions for you. So that's about it.