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Oral history interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979

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Creator:Turner, Viola G., 1900-1988
Creator:Weare, Walter B.
Creator:Southern Oral History Program
Title:Oral history interview with Viola Turner, April 15, 1979
Date:1979 Apr. 15

In this part of an extended interview, Viola Turner, treasurer of North Carolina Mutual Insurance, reflects on her childhood in Macon, Georgia. Born on February 17, 1900, Turner was the only child of her African American teenage parents. Her remembrances are of those of a joyous childhood in which her mother encouraged her to excel in school. In her vivid depictions of Macon, Georgia, Turner describes a town in which segregation was not acutely visible. She was largely unaware of racial discrimination during her childhood. Nevertheless, she discusses at length her perceptions of skin color and the ways in which some of her lighter-toned African American friends were often treated differently than those with darker skin. Educated at the American Missionary Association schools and Morris Brown, Turner's first job was as an administrative assistant at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama in the summer of 1920. Shortly thereafter she took a job working for the Superintendent of Negro Education for the State of Mississippi, which she held for six months before going to work for the new branch of North Carolina Mutual that opened in Oklahoma City in 1920. Turner eventually settled in Durham, North Carolina. The latter portion of this interview focuses on her descriptions of entertainment and race relations. Specifically, Turner describes her interaction with various black performers and her experiences attending both black and white theaters in Durham. In addition, she explains her friendship with Eula Perry, who could easily "pass" for white, and the reactions their friendship elicited from various observers.

Title from menu page (viewed on July 21, 2008).

Interview participants: Viola Turner, interviewee; Walter Weare, interviewer.

This electronic edition is part of the UNC-CH digital library, Documenting the American South. It is a part of the collection Oral histories of the American South.

Text encoded by Mike Millner. Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers.

The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the aggregation and enhancement of partner metadata.

Types:Transcripts | Sound recordings | Oral histories | Sound | Text
Subjects:Turner, Viola G., 1900-1988 | African Americans--North Carolina--Durham--Social life and customs | African American insurance agents--North Carolina | African American women executives--North Carolina--Durham | African Americans--Georgia--Macon--Social life and customs | Macon (Ga.)--Race relations | Segregation--Georgia--Macon | Durham (N.C.)--Race relations | Segregation--North Carolina--Durham | African Americans--Race identity--Southern States | United States, Georgia, Bibb County, Macon, 32.8406946, -83.6324022 | United States, North Carolina, Durham County, Durham, 35.9940329, -78.898619
Collection:Oral histories of the American South (Georgia selections)
Institution:Documenting the American South (University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill)
Contributors:University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library
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Forms part of Oral histories of the American South collection.

Persistent Link to Item:http://docsouth.unc.edu/sohp/C-0015/menu.html