Law Professor Writing Book on Her Time in Cairo During Civil Rights Movement

Apr 24, 2017

A law professor, who was involved in the civil rights movement in Cairo, visited SIU-Carbondale Monday to talk about her experiences then.

Carol Pauli is an associate professor at the Texas A&M University School of Law.

She was a schoolteacher and journalist in Alexander County for almost three years in the early 1970's. Pauli is now working on a personal memoir about those times.

She says her goal is to tell stories about the people there at the time, including several African-Americans, who helped her out as a white woman, during some very turbulent times.
"Even though they were poor in North Mounds, right, they were still generous, to a fault. I mean they had a dignity that gives me goosebumps now to think of."
Pauli says she still wonders why they were so kind to her. But, she says it may be a product of the different racial histories of whites and blacks.
"If you're in any minority, you get the majority culture. You can sort out who's a friend and who's a foe in a way that if you're in the majority culture you don't have that same kind of insight. You haven't had to have it. But, to survive if you're black, you get that, so you know who's who."

Pauli says she feels sadness at what has been lost there.

"Because I can still remember an active downtown. I can remember personalities. The sense that we had then was you can preserve the town and just kind of fix the racial thing and then it would be...better."

Pauli says her book will focus on the resilience of the people during those chaotic times. She says residents still have a sense of community today, despite the dismal condition of the small river town.

"That's more what we live for than the shape of the house that we're in. That's not to say that shape doesn't matter. I mean, would you trade your neighborhood and your family and your connections and your community for just a better place? I think that matters to them and I think that's worth thinking about."

Pauli will travel to Cairo Tuesday.