Virginia Durr (1903-1999)


Virginia Foster Durr was born in Alabama in 1903. She is remembered for having overcome her own personal racism and striving to make others aware of their prejudices. Durr attended Wellesley College where she was hesitant to sit near, and eat with, African-American students. Being in a different environment from the segregated South changed Durr's perspective, and she began to see how the society she'd been raised in was constructed to keep groups of people separate. She eventually returned to Montgomery and married attorney Clifford Durr. The couple moved to Washington D.C. where in 1938, Durr was a founding member of the Southern Conference on Human Welfare and worked with First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt to combat racism. In the 1940's, the Durr's came under suspicion and were under FBI surveillance due to their political beliefs and because Clifford took on clients who were members of the Communist Party. They moved to Colorado briefly and then back to Montgomery, where they became involved in the Civil Rights Movement. Durr continued to work for social justice throughout her life and wrote a book, Outside the Magic Circle: The Autobiography of Virginia Foster Durr which was published in 1985. A book of her correspondence Freedom Writer: Virginia Foster Durr, Letters from the Civil Rights Years, was published in 2003. In her later years, she protested against nuclear weapons. She and Clifford raised four daughters and she died in February, 1999.

Civil Rights Era

After moving back to Montgomery, Alabama, Clifford opened a law practice where Virginia worked as a secretary. Virginia became friends with Rosa Parks and arranged for Parks to study at Highlander School in Tennessee. The Highlander School was an organization where union members and civil rights leaders held meetings and conducted educational training. Shortly after that, Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her seat on Montgomery bus for a white man. The Durrs and E.D. Nixon bailed Parks out of jail. The Durrs supported the boycott which resulted from Parks' actions. She and her husband eventually became outcasts in the white Birmingham community because of their political beliefs and actions. Virginia later supported Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) workers by housing many volunteers who came to Montgomery to work on voter registration issues.

Bibliography

Information for this biography was gathered from the following sources:

Return to Eyes on the Prize I Interview Index