Mary Lou Clarke oral history interview, 2001 May 11
Mary Clarke, Charlotte-Mecklenburg NAACP president (1986-1990), describes her experiences working for the NAACP from the 1950s to the 1990s, with attention given to her early role as a fundraiser and her later work as chapter president. Ms. Clarke explains the role the NAACP played in the evolution of Charlotte's race relations, from the civil rights movement and school desegregation in the 1960s and 1970s to community/police tensions and the role of racism in the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department (CMPD) in the 1980s. She recounts the racial violence groups like the KKK used in an attempt to silence the NAACP, including personal threats made against her and the bombings of the homes of several African American leaders in the area. Also discussed is the central role women played in the Charlotte chapter, how the NAACP worked with local white government leaders, and her experience as part of the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Community Relations Committee. Ms. Clarke describes her motivations for making health care and health education her top priority during her presidency, and in particular, the work she did on combating substance abuse and raising AIDS-awareness in the community.