Interchange: In This Issue
By Betty Norwood Chaney
Vol. 1, No. 2, 1978, p. 2
Southern Changes, for those of you who are reading our pages for the first time, marks the beginning of the Southern Regional Council’s fifth publishing venture. Our new publication is a process of “vision and revision,” influenced by the traditions, virtues, failures and successes of those who came before. Southern Changes joins the ranks of our previous publications, The Southern Frontier, New South, South Today and Southern Voices.
We hope you find the magazine to be a forum for reliable, concise reporting and interpretation of the issues and events in the South, with emphasis on the plight of the poor and the Black Southerner. For more than a century the idea of change has been the inspiration of the Black Southerner; for most of the Council’s existence it has been the hope of the liberal White and Black Southerner. Today, we still hope for change in our region and, just as important, need to understand those that do come our way.
The articles in this our second issue tell us about the different characters of change. The print on the cover symbolizes change, but is also characteristic of the duplicity so often a part of change in the Southland. Taken from a poster by the Voter Education Project (VEP), an organization dedicated to improving the conditions of minorities through the political process, the print carries the slogan, “The hands that picked cotton now can pick our public officials.” While signifying the enormous progress Blacks have made in the political arena in the South, the statement is at the same time misleading, for the fact remains that only 5 percent of elected Southern officials are Black.
In the article “Vivian Malone Jones and the VEP: From Integration to Voter Registration,” the VEP head, herself a symbol of change – one of the first two Blacks to integrate the University of Alabama discusses her work. She looks at the progress the South has made from the vantage point of that historic day 15 years ago when she faced Governor George Wallace at the University’s doors, and we get a glimpse of how it has influenced her. She concludes “I would have expected much more change.”
The public school system in Atlanta, a city that is a symbol of Black progress often referred to as “the Black Mecca,” is a case in point of change that is slow in coming. Twenty-four years after the Supreme Court decision barring segregation, Atlanta, whose 1973 “Atlanta Compromise” school plan brought very little integration, is still involved in a suit. The “Metro Suit” as it has come to be known is examined in this issue as a possible solution for integrating Atlanta’s Black majority school system.
All of the different elements of change come together in Jerry Bledsoe’s poignant and sensitive presentation of two mountain women who have waited a quarter of a century for electric power to come to their South Carolina mountain. Through them we are shown a glimpse of a way of life that has remained virtually unchanged for decades. We perceive, too, the elements of both good and bad that change brings with it. Of the electric power, one of the women says, “Been a-lookin’ to git it fer 25 years and it didn’t come just till we got so old we can’t enjoy it.”
Blacks and poor Whites are not the only ones to feel the brunt of a sometimes changeless South. Bill Cutler shares with us an experience that Howell Raines, accomplished White writer who chronicles the indignities suffered by courageous Blacks during the civil rights movement, has in the marketing of his book, My Soul Is Rested. Raines learns a bit of injustice first hand.
The last two articles – as were two of the preceding ones – are about women, to whom we pay special attention in this our second issue. In the first, we are presented the Southem Black woman who is held back from helping usher in a change – the ratification of the ERA – which might be for her betterment because she is tied to the past by certain age-old myths about herself.
And then, in a final piece, Steve Suitts focuses in more pointedly on the rural Black woman who is the head of household. The price of her ticket out of rural poverty and urban despair might even be beyond the means of the ERA.
In addition to the articles in this issue, we carry some of our regular departments. This our “Interchange” section, where you our readers share your views with us, should prove one of the most provocative. Along with “Letters-to-the-Editor” and “Keeping You Posted,” we have a thoughtful response by a concerned Black father to Robert Hilldrup’s commentary in our first issue “My Sons Are Growing Up Racists.”
Finally, in the next few days and weeks, the South will have still another chance to redress the many years of denied opportunities to its women and Blacks. In a unique opportunity that probably comes only once in a century, more than 150 new federal judges will be appointed throughout the nation. Sixty of them will be added to the federal bench in the South, In “Soapbox,” another of our regular departments, Steve Suitts examines the process by which these judges will be appointed. Under the patronage system that is in operation in the selection of the nominees, it is not very hopeful for minorities. Blacks and women will again be locked out unless Southerners of good will band together to make the changes happen. On this score, there is still . . . hope.