By MACEY GIBASZEK, Ranger Reporter:
Each year Amarillo College hosts a lecture in honor of Women’s History Month. This year the lecture was held on March 22 in the Ware Student Commons.
The theme for this year’s event was “our strength is our history.” Dr. Stephanie Decker discussed the life of Virginia Foster Durr, an unlikely activist whose work began in the 30s and carried on all the way into the 60s.
Born in 1903, Durr came from a prominent Birmingham, Alabama family. Her father was the minister at a well-known church, and like many well-off white children during that time, Durr was raised by an African-American nurse that she called Nursie. When Durr was seven, a family member called Nursie the N-word and Durr grabbed a knife and threw it at them.
“That was the first time she realized southern society was segregated,” Decker said.
After briefly going to college, Durr came back to Alabama and married an up-and-coming lawyer by the name of Clifford Durr. Her sister, Josephine, would later marry Hugo Black who would go on to be a Supreme Court Justice from 1937 to 1971.
“Virginia and her husband are going to be a force when it comes to civil rights,” Decker said.
When the Great Depression hit, Durr saw the severity of poverty and suffering that her upbringing had shielded her from. She started up milk drives to help malnourished children.
“I saw the world as it really was,” Durr wrote. During the Depression, Durr’s family would lose its plantation. This would lead Durr to not only realize the problems poverty created for children, but also for women. “Her social consciousness began to be awakened,” Decker said.
After her husband lost his job, they, along with many other New Dealers, moved to D.C.. Durr joined the Women’s Division Democratic Party. One goal of the group was to get women, especially in the south, to get involved in politics.
One of the biggest barriers keeping women from voting, or even being active in politics, was the poll tax. While men were willing to fork up enough money to pay the tax, they often would not be willing to do the same for their wives. Durr would spend about the next 10 years striving to get rid of the poll tax.
Durr and her husband supported and were deeply involved with the civil rights movement. During the Selma march they housed protestors and fed them. She was close friends with Rosa Parks and was there to bail her out when she was arrested for not giving up her bus seat to a white person.
Durr called Parks a “lovely woman,” and when Parks heard of Durr’s death in 1999, she said, “She was a lady and a scholar, and I will miss her.”
“I believe in equal rights for all citizens and I believe the tax money that is now going for war and armaments and the militarization of our country could be better used to give everyone in the United States a secure standard of living,” Durr once said.