Threat of violence hangs over black activists
Here, Thompson describes some white responses to his family's civil rights activism. Thompson "never did much bending" in his recollection, having grown up on his grandfather's farm without white supervision, and he passed this trait on to his son. He does remember one frightening encounter with a white man who entered his house uninvited and with the Ku Klux Klan, who came to his home searching for his activist father.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Angus Boaz Thompson Sr., October 21, 2003. Interview U-0017. 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
MM: There’s one more question I had specifically, and then I wanted to see if there was anything else you wanted to say or anything else you felt like was important. But I was wondering during this whole time if you had ever felt like your work situation, you employment, was threatened in some way because of your political activity, or not threatened? Did you have experiences where people of different races that were actively supporting what you were doing and helping you? You had mentioned how somebody would come to you and say, “Well, Mrs. Thompson needs a job, and she teachers school, and don’t you want to go along with this, that, and the other thing?” Talk about that a little bit if it’s relevant.
AT: At that particular time—first, let me say this. I wasn’t what you call selected leadership. I wasn’t that. I wasn’t selected leadership. If you wasn’t, you were left out. You suffer. Just like I told you, they’d fight you just like a dog. I’ve had them try to put the foot on my head, but I haven’t been hungry yet. If you don’t follow, this was the attitude. We’ve got a lot of that right now. If you don’t follow we’re going to press you to the ground. Now, that was the attitude. That’s why they said, “Come on. You know your wife’s got to have a job. You this and that. If you don’t, we’re going to put you out of business.” They have tried that.
Let me tell you what. Listen, they were against my fight so much. They fought me because of my daddy. They fought my son because of me. Listen, here he is out of law school, comes to the city council, same black city councilman, to get some practice, office practice and stuff like that in the city. He’s got his law degree now, and the city councilman tells my son, “Well, got nothing now but on a garbage truck.” Now he’s got a law degree.
MM: And offered him a job on a garbage truck?
AT: On the garbage truck. Well, now, he’s got a law degree. That made him hot. At that particular time, he said, “I’ll tell you what you do. If you pass the bar you come back and talk with me again.” And it wasn’t a week before he got his notice from the bar. He had passed it. I don’t know whether he went back and showed it to him or not. If he did, and this wasn’t the right attitude, but if he did, he told him what he could kiss.
AT: So he jumps up and is going to run against him. Well, I advised him. He’s young. I said, “Don’t do that. Don’t run against him for city councilman.” I said, “You just go ahead. Get yourself good in your work and everything, your law practice, and wait until later.” He wasn’t telling me why he wanted to run against him, but I knew. He said, “I’m going to run.” I said, “Well, if you’re going to run, I’m going to help you.” So he got out there and run. I was going to his campaign meetings, debates and things. I felt sorry for him at the time. His old head was calling him anything he--. But that was good for him. That’s made him strong. It made him better. I always considered my daddy ( ). I don’t care what you got.
Unselected leadership, they was trying to press you to the ground. But I came up on my grand daddy’s farm. I never had to really work, stoop for these white folks. It was in my Daddy, it was just in the blood. I never did much bending.
I’ll never forget one day. My mamma got scared for me because I kind put— I was in my teens. I heard somebody coming through the house, and he was a white man. He done come in the front door, coming down the hall. Nobody asked him. And I got up and was going to put him out. I don’t know why. If I came to your house I came to the back door. My grand daddy used to send me to white folks to borrow some bread-- and I had to go to the back door. And them dogs-- They’d look out the window, “Don’t hit him. He ain’t no ( ). Don’t hit him.”
AT: All that stuff. That’s what I said. Here’s this man, walk down through this house just like it’s yours. But my mamma told me. I did get a bit scary. She told me, “She said son, don’t talk to these white folks like that. Bless their souls.” She was right. “You’ll find yourself hanging up in a tree out there.” God has just been good all the time.
You take even my daddy. She was teaching down in Fairmont. Now listen to this. My mamma was teaching down in Fairmont. Littlefield was superintendent down there. He fired—he released her—I’ll say fired my mamma or released her unjustly, and daddy sued the school board, and they had to pay her for the time that she was out of work and then hire her. He was a fighter.
Now, after he did that I’ll never forget one night. There was two black men came to our house and they was wanting to know the way to Bertha Singletary’s. Bertha Singletary’s. It was kind of late at night. My daddy had his shoes off and everything. He went to the door and he met them and told them how to get there. All they had to do was go straight down the road, but for some reason they couldn’t understand. And he came back to where we were to get his shoes. My mamma said, “V.J., what do you think your doing?” He was known as V.J. He said, “I’m going to show them. They’re trying to go to Bertha Singletary’s. I’m going to show them.” My mamma said, “V.J. you’d better watch what you’re doing out there. You know you just sued that school board down there.” My daddy went back there to those country people and said, “I don’t”--. It wasn’t fifteen minutes, oh Lord. A black man came in. He came to us and said, “The Klu Klux Klan’s out for somebody.” That was the intersection. So they stayed down there at Buster Sanchez. I said, “The Lord have mercy. The Lord good.” They’d been there to get my daddy. The Lord has been good.
I never will forget when he came, Mac Legerton. Lord knows if they weren’t after him. I’d get so scared for that poor man. I said, “Lord have mercy.” I used to be with him a lot and do what I could. When you go against with the system you can expect retaliation. Now you can believe that. When you go against the system, the leadership, and all that stuff you can expect retaliation. But it’s all been good. White folks have come and asked me, the mayor right now. He doesn’t even realize. He comes to me, me and my wife all the time to support him when he’s running for mayor. I’m not even in the city.