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Field Notes (example)

SOHP Series: The North Carolina Politics Project
Field Notes: REP. DANIEL T. BLUE, JR. (compiled January 19, 1996)
Interviewer: Joseph Mosnier
Interview Date: Friday, Jan. 19, 1996
Location: Blue's downtown law office, Raleigh, NC
Tape No.: 1.19.96-DB (cassette 1 of 1) approximate total length 70 minutes

THE INTERVIEWEE. Daniel T. Blue, Jr., has been a major figure on the North Carolina political landscape and pioneering African American political leader since the early 1980s, serving since 1981 in the NC House and as that body's first-ever African American Speaker during the 1991-92 and 1993-94 legislative terms. Born April 18, 1949, in Lumberton, Robeson County, NC, Blue was educated in the local segregated public schools, earned a degree in mathematics from North Carolina College in Durham (now North Carolina Central University) between 1966 and 1970 during a period of ongoing civil rights protests in Durham, and then attended Duke Law School, graduating in 1973. From 1973-76, Blue practiced law in Raleigh in former NC governor Terry Sanford's politically well-connected law firm, and began his involvement in local Democratic Party and African American politics. In 1976, Blue departed the Sanford firm to co-found Thigpen, Blue & Stephens, an all-black Raleigh law firm. In these years Blue led the Wake Black Democratic Caucus, which challenged the established Raleigh-Wake Citizens Association by appealing to a younger and more progressive generation of black residents and activists. Blue narrowly missed election to the NC House in 1978, but since 1980 has won eight consecutive two-year terms. During the 1980s, Blue labored in the House, typically in conjunction with the NC Black Legislative Caucus, for political redistricting, the King Holiday, greater workplace safety and tax equity, increased educational and health care spending, and against any introduction of a lottery, among other concerns. Following the 1989-90 term, during which Republicans and a minority of dissident Democrats orchestrated a leadership coup that deposed Speaker Liston Ramsey and broke his eight-year reign in the House, the House Democratic Caucus chose Blue as Speaker. Blue's tenure as Speaker ended with the election in November 1994 of a Republican majority in the House.

THE INTERVIEWER. Joseph Mosnier is a graduate student in the Department of History at UNC-Chapel Hill, currently completing a dissertation concerning the civil rights litigation efforts of Mr. Julius Chambers, an African American civil rights attorney and North Carolina native who brought countless suits to desegregate the state's places of public accommodations, schools, and workplaces after establishing his practice in Charlotte in 1964. NB: In the summer of 1972, Blue served as a legal intern at the Chambers' firm in Charlotte; see the note below.

DESCRIPTION OF THE INTERVIEW. The interview was conducted in the conference room of Blue's Raleigh law downtown law office, a quiet and comfortable venue. There were two brief interruptions for phone calls. Although it had taken many months to get an appointment to see Blue, given his heavy schedule, he was relaxed and unhurried during our conversation, and readily gave more than an hour of his time. Blue knew of my dissertation work on the Chambers law firm, and hence we enjoyed some common ground from which to build for our conversation about state politics. Blue was warm, personable, and pleasant, and seemed to enjoy discussion of the evolution of black politics in NC across the last several decades; though he is, to be sure, a polished, skilled political leader, one well practiced in talking to reporters, we generally were discussing historical matters that he could discuss with some candor, and hence the level of detail is generally good. I had worried at the outset, when he announced that he wished to place no restrictions on access to the interview, that he perhaps would be somewhat guarded with his comments.

CONTENT OF THE INTERVIEW. Substantively, the interview was organized around several major themes: the evolution of black political activity in NC during the late 1960s and early 1970s; his earliest political involvements in Democratic Party and African American politics in Raleigh in the mid-1970s; his House service during the 1980s and the circumstances that led to the 1989 House leadership upheaval; the issue of political redistricting; his selection as Speaker in December 1990-January 1991; and the recent enormous electoral successes of the GOP. As is the case with all interviews I have done for this series, every effort is made to explore, through the lens of the interviewee's particular range of experiences, the following overarching themes: (a) the dealignment/realignment in NC party politics and the Republican reemergence; (b) the evolution of African American political activity in NC since the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965; (c) the evolution of women's political activity in NC in the same period; and (d) the centrality of cultural/social politics in the state's political contests and debates during these three decades. NB: This interview contains very little background biographical information on Blue; for that discussion, see the Marjorie Smith interview, cited above.

NOTE ON RECORDING. I used the SOHP's Marantz recorder #3 and one unidirectional microphone, recording in mono (the left track in stereo mode did not seem to be responding fully, so I switched to mono). The tape quality is quite good. NB: I neglected to provide an introductory message on the cassette providing the Tape Number; if possible, one should be added to the first portion of all dubbed cassettes ("Interview with N.C. House member Rep. Daniel T. Blue, Jr., for the Southern Oral History Program's series, 'The North Carolina Politics Project,' on Friday, January 19, 1996, in his Raleigh, NC, law office; the interviewer is Joe Mosnier; the Tape No. is 1.19.96-DB.")

The Southern Oral History Program
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