Interview with Doris Griffin

April 20, 2010

Interview with Doris Griffin April 20, 2010

March 4, 2010

Doris Griffin was born in Aiken County, where she attended A.L. Corbett high school. Doris received her cosmetology license at Area Trade College in Denmark, SC. Doris moved to Ninety-Six, SC with her late husband, Sloan Griffin, after finishing school. Sloan opened the Ideal Shoe Shop but when he died Doris continued to run it with the help of her son, Sloan Griffin Jr. When I asked Doris if she would answer some questions about Civil Rights, she was more than willing to do so.

When Doris was asked if she remembers when the schools were integrated and was there much opposition, she answered, “Yes! I was just about to turn 13.” “There surely was a lot of opposition with this change; an example of something that went on was boycotts.  That was a terrible time.  There were lots of things that went on in the schools, like blacks had different books from the whites.” I also asked if figures such as MLK, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X well-known where she lived and Doris responded, “Yes!”

Doris was very thrilled to answer this question:  Were there any inspirational Civil Rights figures from your area? Doris said, “My aunt Viola was an inspirational Civil Rights Figure.  When blacks were able to vote, they were terrified to do so.  My aunt Viola took blacks to vote, and the white people tried to stop her, but she continued to take her fellow black people to vote.”

The question came around was she ever afraid of racial violence, and did blacks and whites respond differently to these fears? Doris stated, “Yes, because you never knew if you were going to be attacked, and parents were frightened for their kids.  Blacks and whites responded differently, because most white people did not live in constant fear like black people.” Then I asked Doris if she felt that change occurred rapidly in the area, or did it take time? Doris said, “Change took time, and it is still a working process, because racism is still around today.” I told Doris that I wondered if she had any exposure to people of other races as a child, and her answer was, “No!”

I asked if there were any memories of segregation in South Carolina that she could recall and share with me.  She said “Yes baby!  Blacks and whites could not use the same water fountain, and blacks were restricted from certain places.”

I asked how national sports figures like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali affect her thinking about integration, and how did she feels about them and their accomplishments. Doris stated, “They let me know that us as blacks can do whatever anyone else does no matter what race you are.  I felt great about them, because it was another stepping stone to paving the way for us.”

We also discussed the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She said that she does remember it. “I was working at Neptune, and they announced that Martin had been shot.  We were all shocked over what had happened, but the white people told us to go back to work.” She said, “His death influenced me a great deal, because Martin was one of the men trying his very best to make the world a better place.”

I asked Doris, growing up during segregation, if she recalls an early incident when she recognized a difference of treatment on account of color.  Doris said that when she and her mom approached a certain restaurant, they could not go inside. “White people ate inside, while black people got their food from the side of the building and ate outside.”

Shikina Griffin


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