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Interview with Arthur D. Shores, 1984 June 28

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Creator:Shores, Arthur D. (Arthur Davis), 1904-1996
Creator:Kuhn, Cliff
Title:Interview with Arthur D. Shores, 1984 June 28
Date:1984 June 28

In this interview, Arthur Shores talks about his career as a prominent black attorney in Birmingham, Alabama, during the Civil Rights movement. Shores went to law school at the University of Kansas because there were no law schools in Alabama to admit blacks and it was cheaper than going east. Through the forties he was the only black lawyer in Alabama (there had been a couple of others before him). He says he never had a problem as a black lawyer in Alabama except in Birmingham. He was retained by the NAACP. One of his big early cases was a lawsuit against L&N Railroad to change discriminatory hiring and promotion practices. He also talks about being the lawyer in a suit to equalize pay for black teachers. He says, though, in general teachers were afraid to speak up for their rights because they feared the repercussions. Shores tells the story of being hired as a prosecutor in a trial of a white officer. He was threatened and had his friends protect him on his way to the court house every day. The man was found guilty. After the trial, a black police informant took a swing at him. When Shores' friends beat him up, they we all thrown in jail, Shores included. Soon, they were released. Later, the informant told him he'd been paid to start a scene. Shores says this incident gained him a lot of publicity; until then, a lot of people hadn't known he was practicing. Shores remembers the struggle to register black voters in Birmingham. He recounts the story of a registrar who asked a black man to recite the constitution. He recited, instead, the Gettysburg address, but the registrar didn't know the difference, so the man was registered. Shores recalls that various groups had registration drives, including the NAACP and the labor unions in the mining camps. Shores describes running for office to prove that it could be done by a black man. Shores discusses how the city was once zoned such that only blacks or only whites could live in a certain area. Once the laws changed, blacks moving into formerly white zoned neighborhoods often had their houses burned or blown up. After the blacks heard from a white informant in the Ku Klux Klan, they planned an ambush of one of those burning parties. After that incident, there were no more houses blown up. Shores also talks a little about his background. He remembers living out in the county near the mining camps. He was envious of camp life for their housing and commissary as well as for their superior schools. He attended one until they found out he wasn't attached to the company. Then he found a way to attend Birmingham city schools by giving the address of a family friend who lived in town. Shores talks about former governor George Wallace, who he doesn't believe was a racist. He once tried a case in his court and found him to be a nice man, and he ate with him sometimes. He describes how politics changes a person's behavior.

Interviewed by Cliff Kuhn on June 28, 1984.

The digitization of this collection was funded by a gift from EBSCO Industries.

Types:Oral histories | Transcripts | Sound recordings | Text | Sound
Subjects:Shores, Arthur D. (Arthur Davis), 1904-1996 | Wallace, George C. (George Corley), 1919-1998 | African American lawyers--Alabama--Birmingham | Discrimination in education--Alabama | National Association for the Advancement of Colored People | Discrimination in employment--Alabama | Police misconduct--Alabama | Voter registration--Alabama--Birmingham | African Americans--Alabama--Birmingham--Politics and government | Discrimination in housing--Alabama--Birmingham | Ku Klux Klan (1915-) | African Americans--Crimes against--Alabama--Birmingham | Intimidation | Birmingham (Ala.)--Race relations | United States, Alabama, Jefferson County, Birmingham, 33.5206608, -86.80249
Collection:Working Lives Oral History Project
Institution:William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library
Contributors:William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library (University of Alabama)
Original Material:

Archive of American Minority Cultures

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To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.

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Forms part of the online collection: Working Lives Oral History Project.

Persistent Link to Item:http://acumen.lib.ua.edu/u0008_0000003_0000062