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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Glennon Threatt, June 16, 2005. Interview U-0023. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Law versus custom in South and North; economic ramifications of protest

The difference between the South and other regions of the country was that while other regions were segregated by custom, the South enforced segregation by law. One law intended to control African Americans' movement prevented people from congregating unless they could prove that they held jobs. Of course, a black man who told a police officer where he worked risked losing that job, as did attendees at civil rights meetings.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Glennon Threatt, June 16, 2005. Interview U-0023. 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

KIMBERLY HILL:
Sometimes it just still feels overwhelming to think about all of that.
GLENNON THREATT:
What's overwhelming is that it wasn't that long ago. I'm middle aged, I'm forty-eight years old and I remember this stuff clearly. So, it wasn't that long ago. The city has changed a lot in many ways, and in many ways it hasn't changed. There is no more du jour segregation. The thing that was odd about the south is Jim Crow. There was segregation in other places, but it was more custom than by law. Here for instance, if a white person had allowed a black to eat at a restaurant he would have gone to jail, not just been ostracized, which is bad enough. He would have gone to jail, and they enforced that here in Birmingham. It wasn't like in some places when it was a wink and a nod, if you went into a white place and tried to order some food they would put you in jail. The police would come and they would put you in jail. The Supreme Court case that dealt with loitering came out of Birmingham. Fred Shuttlesworth was the plaintiff in that case, where they had a municipal ordinance in Birmingham that said no more than four people could congregate, unless they could prove that they were employed. So, they would go anytime there were groups of black people talking and ask everybody to prove that they had jobs. Then what they would do if you proved that you had a job, they would go to your employer and get you fired. That was the same thing that happened at the churches, the police and the clan would take down everybody's tag numbers and run them and find out who you were. When they found out where you worked they would tell them, and your boss would call you in and say, "What were you doing at that meeting?" and then fire you.