White Support of the Montgomery Boycott
by Virginia Durr

Originally published in Eyes on the Prize, 1987.

[Virginia and her husband Clifford were two of the very few Montgomery whites who supported Blacks in their struggle for justice.]

See Montgomery Bus Boycott for background & more information.
See also Montgomery Bus Boycott for web links.

I was born into a segregated system, and I took it for granted. Nobody told me any different. It really wasn't until I got to Washington that I began to realize how much at variance the South was from the rest of the country and how very wrong the system was. So when I came back to Montgomery, in 1951, after almost twenty years, I no longer took the system for granted.

The first thing that happened to whites like us who were sympathetic to the boycott was that we lost our businesses. People didn't come to us. We got a reputation. My husband got mighty little law business after he took a very decided stand. People like my husband and Aubrey Williams [publisher of the Southern Farmer) realized that they were cutting their own throats. Aubrey lost all of his advertising, every bit of it.

The fact that our family stood by us even though they did not agree with us was our salvation. If they had disowned us, had not stood by us, we could not have stayed. We were lucky because Clifford was kin to so many people in Montgomery County. It was difficult for them to ostracize us on account of that strong feeling of kinship.

It all gets down to economics. White men were terrified that if they took any position at all they would lose their business, as my husband had. They couldn't sell real estate to blacks or they would get in bad with the bank. You had to have a great deal of security to be willing to take that kind of ostracism and disapproval.

There was another kind of terror. Some whites were scared that they wouldn't be invited to the ball, to the parties. It's a terror of being a social failure, of not making your way in the world. Now that's not nearly as bad as being lynched or killed or beaten up. But it is a terrible fear; that's the fear that possesses most men today.

I think the women played a tremendous part in the movement, the white and the black women. For years, we had an integrated prayer group here. We'd pray together every morning. That was broken up by one of those white Nazi groups. The husbands and uncles and brothers of these women took out advertisements in the papers, and many of them repudiated their own wives.

When I heard that the boycott had been successful, I felt pure, unadulterated joy. It was like a fountain of joy. Of course the blacks felt that way, but the white friends I had felt the way I did. We felt joy and release. It was as if a great burden had fallen off us.

Copyright © Virginia Durr, 1987.

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