- Oral Histories of the American South: The Civil Rights Movement
- Oral history interview with Josephine Clement, July 13 and August 3, 1989
- Clement, Josephine
- Contributor to Resource:
- Nasstrom, Kathryn L.
Southern Oral History Program
- Date of Original:
- School integration--North Carolina
North Carolina--Race relations
African American women in politics--North Carolina
Durham (N.C.)--Politics and government
African American women civil rights workers--North Carolina--Durham
African American politicians--North Carolina--Durham
Women local officials and employees--North Carolina--Durham
Durham County (N.C.)--Politics and government
Durham (N.C.)--Race relations
School integration--North Carolina--Durham
Education, Secondary--North Carolina--Durham
School boards--African American membership--North Carolina--Durham
African Americans--Civil rights--North Carolina--Durham
- Clement, Josephine
- United States, North Carolina, Durham County, Durham, 35.99403, -78.89862
oral histories (literary works)
- Josephine Dobbs Clement (1918-1998) was one of six daughters born to Irene Ophelia Thompson Dobbs and John Wesley Dobbs. Her father was a prominent businessman in Atlanta, Georgia. Clement received her bachelor's degree from Spelman College in 1937 and her master's from Columbia University the following year. In the late 1940s, she moved with her husband, William A. Clement, to Durham, North Carolina, where she was active in local politics and social justice movements. In this interview, she describes how her father instilled within her a sense of justice and the tools to protest inequality. In keeping with this heritage, when she arrived in Durham, she quickly became active in the YWCA and the League of Women's Voters, helping to desegregate both of them. Throughout the interview, she maintains that her identities as a woman and an African American could not and should not be fractured. Rather, she argues, true freedom will only come when both racial and gender hierarchies are destroyed. Though her husband became politically active during the 1960s, she did not do so to the same extent. Instead, she participated in activities that concerned her children, and became involved in her community through those outlets. Eventually, these activities led to an appointment to the Durham City-County Charter Commission. After that, she ran for a seat on the city's board of education. During her time on the board, the courts ordered the city schools to desegregate, a change which prompted white flight and drastically altered the racial composition of the city. For a time, she chaired the board, and under her leadership, the city selected its first African American superintendent of schools. After a decade of working with the board of education, Clement decided to resign, and she became a county commissioner. Clement believes that her various civic roles have allowed her to accomplish some of the social change she desired, though she sees more that needs to occur. At the end of the interview, Clement explains how she tries to balance her concerns for social justice, her interest in environmental issues and her pragmatic recognition that new building in Durham is inevitable. After this interview was completed, Clement remained politically active and even co-chaired the successful gubernatorial campaigns of Democrat James Hunt in Durham County in 1980 and 1984.
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.
- Metadata URL:
- Title from menu page (viewed on Oct. 24, 2008).
Interview participants: Josephine Clement, interviewee; Kathryn Nasstrom, interviewer.
This electronic edition is part of the UNC-Chapel Hill 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.
- Contributing Institution:
- University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Documenting the American South (Project)