Interview with Virginia Durr
QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

I, I WAS JUST THINKING THAT WHAT, YOU WERE TELLING A STORY AND I WAS THINKING ABOUT SOMETHING YOU TALK ABOUT IN YOUR BOOK. WHICH IS YOU TALK ABOUT KIND OF THE DOUBLE VISION THAT, THAT YOU HAD ABOUT BLACK PEOPLE AS YOU GREW UP THAT YOU, YOU WERE BROUGHT UP, YOU WERE SAYING THAT YOU AND YOUR HUSBAND BOTH WERE BROUGHT UP BY BLACK PEOPLE WHO LOVED AND TOOK CARE OF YOU, AND YET AT THE SAME TIME YOU WERE TAUGHT THAT THEY WERE INFERIOR. AND, I WONDER IF YOU COULD TALK ABOUT THAT. DESCRIBE THAT FOR US.

Virginia Durr:

Well, uh, it's just so hard to describe a, such a, you know mixed up situation. If you were a child you were taken care of by a black woman, uh if you had money enough to pay her and God knows you didn't pay her much, five dollars a week, maybe, uh, but they took care of you, you couldn't help but love em, I mean they'd put you to bed, fed you, dressed you and bathed you. And they were so kind to you. I've often wondered that, so marvelous to me that the black women of the South had taken care of white children and as far as I've known they've never done em any harm. I can't remember in my whole lifetime even hearing of a black woman who had ever done a white child any harm. And uh, so they were your protector too. And uh, so you did come to love em very much indeed. And, but about the time you started going to school was the time that they began to tell you, you know, well you can't do this and you can't do that and you can't do the other, and, and uh, and so just little by little you know and of course the schools were segregated too. And uh, you got to the point where you didn't actually need a nurse. And so little by little the relationship was uh, you know, widened, and uh so it's a curious experience. I had, when I was in Washington and working for the Democratic Committee, uh, there was a newspaper woman from Chicago who was very attractive and bright and she came from Birmingham. And so she came to me one day and said that uh her mother-in-law would like to see me and that uh, I said "Well what was her name?" and she says "Mrs. uh Smith" and "Jones" or something. I said "Well I don't know any Mrs. Smith or Jones." And about a year later she told me again that Ms. Smith was in town and wanted to see me and I still couldn't remember. And uh then the next year she told me she died. And I couldn't imagine why she kept telling me that Mrs. Smith and Mrs. Jones had died and I couldn't have the least recollection of. And then uh, her sister-in-law came and she said uh, "Mrs. So and so wants to see you," and this was another name said Ms. Robinson. I said "Ms. Robinson? I don't know a Ms. Robinson", she said "Well her name is Sarah Robinson." Well, Mrs. Smith had been my nurse and Sarah Robinson was a little girl I'd played with all my life, but you see the lady, the black woman from Chicago wouldn't call her by her first name to me. If you, she felt that was undignified. And I had never even known their last names. I mean it just shows you how difficult you know, here was one of the closest and most uh, warmest relationships of my life and yet uh, you know I didn't know her, I didn't even know her last name. And the woman from Chicago, she wouldn't use the last, the first name because she felt it was degrading to say, you know Nursie wants to see you. But I always felt that that was just a sad example of the uh division, you know, that exists.