Women of Valor

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Interracial Cooperation

Gertrude Weil, 1879 - 1971

Long before the boycotts, demonstrations and sit-ins generally associated with the civil rights movement, Weil's dedication to social justice led her to challenge the segregation, disenfranchisement and lynchings that marked the lives of Southern blacks. While she was not alone in her early civil rights work, her consistent efforts to improve race relations took considerable courage in the highly segregated South.

Weil first immersed herself in civil rights work in 1930, participating in the Anti-Lynching Conference of Southern White Women and subsequently joining the Association of Southern Women for the Prevention of Lynching. As a group, these women contested the prevailing argument that lynchings of black men were necessary to protect white women from the supposed sexual threat of black men. Weil and her colleagues insisted they had no desire to be "protected" in this way.

In 1932, Governor O. Max Gardner appointed Weil to the North Carolina Commission on Interracial Cooperation. Composed of white and black leaders, the Commission aimed to foster communication and mutual trust between the two communities. Through the Commission, Weil became involved in some of the most critical race issues of the era, as she advocated legal, economic, political and educational equality for black North Carolinians.

Well into her 80s, Weil championed attempts to integrate schools and other Southern facilities. Long after most white families had left the area, she continued to live in downtown Goldsboro, inviting her black neighbors into her home in defiance of powerful Southern norms. In 1963, she convened a Bi-Racial Council in her home. The same year, when many whites refused to bow to African-American demands that they remove statues of black delivery boys from their lawns, Weil painted hers white to underscore the ridiculousness of the situation.

Notes: 
  1. Episode of delivery boy statues from Frank Warren, "Miss Gertrude Weil," Goldsboro News-Argus, December 6, 1964.
  2. Additional information from Margaret Supplee Smith and Emily Herring Wilson, North Carolina Women: Making History (Chapel Hill, NC: University of North Carolina Press, 1999), 261, and the Gertrude Weil Papers at the North Carolina Office of Archives and History.

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Women of Valor - Gertrude Weil - Interracial Cooperation." (Viewed on April 19, 2014) <http://jwa.org/womenofvalor/weil/interracial-cooperation>.