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Vera Thelma Shorter

Auditor, community activist, and writer, Vera T. Shorter, was born on December 22, 1922, in Huntington, New York. Raised in Huntington on the Long Island section of New York, Shorter and her family moved to nearby Northport when she entered high school in 1936. After graduating from Northport High School in 1940, Shorter studied bookkeeping at Eastman Business School in New York City. After several years as a secretary and bookkeeper, Shorter earned a certificate in accounting from Pace College in Brooklyn, New York. During her early career as an accountant, Shorter was an active member of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, and an activist with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. Shorter was also a contributing writer to Black Odyssey, a travel and leisure magazine, and Our World, writing feature articles in the Fairs and Food section.

Between 1965 and 1973, Shorter served as the supervisor of tax auditors at the Internal Revenue Service headquarters in Manhattan. During her last three years at the IRS (1973-1976), Shorter was the equal employment opportunity officer; she was the first African American to attain these positions with the IRS in New York.

In 1976, Shorter moved to Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts when her husband, Rufus B. Shorter (1920-1980), was appointed superintendent of the Martha’s Vineyard Public Schools. After the move to Martha’s Vineyard, Shorter became an influential and respected civic and community leader, becoming involved in virtually every aspect of the black community and in a range of educational and civic activities in the larger community. For ten years, Shorter coordinated a celebrity tennis tournament to raise money for the Nathan Mayhew Seminars, an adult education institution. Shorter served on the executive committee of the Martha’s Vineyard branch of the NAACP, and as a member of the Affirmative Action Advisory Committee to the Vineyard schools. Shorter also served as the president of the Lagoon Pond Association and was a charter member of the Island’s branch of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History. For many years Shorter also assisted the elderly in preparing their income tax returns.

Accession Number

A2005.151

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/24/2005

Last Name

Shorter

Maker Category
Middle Name

Thelma

Occupation
Schools

Northport High School

Queens College, City University of New York

Eastman Business College

Pace University

First Name

Vera

Birth City, State, Country

Huntington

HM ID

SHO01

Favorite Season

Aqua

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Give Yourself Some Time.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

12/22/1922

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Martha's Vineyard

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

Community activist Vera Thelma Shorter (1922 - ) was the first African American to serve as the supervisor of tax auditors and the equal employment opportunity officer for the IRS in New York. In addition to her work with the IRS, Shorter was an active member of Martha's Vineyard's black community.

Employment

Kanak Company

Dr. James Lee

New Jersey Contracting Company

Internal Revenue Service

Independent Consultant

Favorite Color

Spring Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Vera Thelma Shorter's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Vera Thelma Shorter lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her mother's service with the Rockefeller family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her father, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her mother's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her father, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her father's jobs and sightseeing trips

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her siblings' lives and professions

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her relationship with her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her maternal grandparents' family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her paternal family background

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes growing up in Huntington, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes the sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her family's holiday traditions

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her school experiences in Huntington, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her experience at Northport High School

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her family attending church

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her aspirations in high school and college plans

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her high school's racial makeup and her babysitting job

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls working as an au pair in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Vera Thelma Shorter remembers attending Eastman Business College

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls forming a citywide youth committee in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes how she met her husband, Rufus Shorter

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her career immediately after she was married

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her husband's career as an educator, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her husband's career as an educator, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her career progression at the Internal Revenue Service

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her experience as an equal opportunity officer at the IRS

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls challenging situations at the IRS

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her community activism while working at the IRS

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her writings for the IRS and for periodicals

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her younger daughter, Beth Shorter-Bagot

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her older daughter, Lynn Shorter

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls moving to Martha's Vineyard in 1976

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her involvement in the Martha's Vineyard chapter of the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her fundraising for the Nathan Mayhew Seminars

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her volunteer work for the Nathan Mayhew Seminars

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her involvement in the Lagoon Pond Association

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes the impact of her husband's death

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her husband's professional achievements on Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Vera Thelma Shorter learns about The HistoryMakers' digital archive

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Vera Thelma Shorter recalls her modeling agency in New York and tax practice in Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Vera Thelma Shorter reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her grandson, Gabriel Bagot

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Vera Thelma Shorter gives advice to young people interested in community activism

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Vera Thelma Shorter describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Vera Thelma Shorter narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

4$7

DATitle
Vera Thelma Shorter describes how she met her husband, Rufus Shorter
Vera Thelma Shorter describes her involvement in the Martha's Vineyard chapter of the NAACP
Transcript
You were married in 1943.$$Yes.$$So when and how did you meet Rufus Shorter?$$(Laughter) Well I was out on a date with a fellow named Fitz and I loved music and dancing as you know. So we went to a place--I don't know if it was called--I think it was Lucky Millinder's club [Lucky's Rendezvous] in Harlem [New York, New York] somewhere and all the jazz musicians would come there from their various gigs and play. So you really--for a couple of drinks or what have you, you're really getting a concert. And he was there with this very beautiful girl, Leticia Bates [ph.]. I even remember what she wore, she had a white dress with a red cummerbund and here's this handsome fellow and I said to Fitz, "What a beautiful couple," because I always--if I see something and it's beautiful I can't help but resonate to it. He said, "Yeah he goes to college with me, he's a graduate or something, and we had been at the same college. All the girls are crazy about him and he just tosses them over one after the other, you know, he didn't care." I said, "Well I think he's beautiful." And I was just saying all this--so. Rufus came over to us with the girl, with Leticia, and greeted Fitz and stood there waiting to be introduced, so we got introduced. So Fitz and I got up to dance, so Rufus came and cut in, he had the girl with him and he just pushed her over to Fitz. As soon as we started dancing--the first topic we talked about and I'll never forget it, it was Spinoza [Baruch Spinoza], the philosopher and I don't know why but it came out and then the next one was about a farm boy, a book, another book, and it was a slow dance so naturally we had a chance to talk. So he said something. Then he came back again and Fitz said, "Don't take that man seriously because he doesn't take any girl seriously." I said, "Okay I'm not--I just think he's pretty." I thought he was pretty, and I danced with him again and that's when he said, "Where do you live?" I said, "966 St. Marks [Avenue, Brooklyn, New York], if you ever want to see me." That's it. And he came by, so that was it.$$And what was he doing at that time?$$He had just finished college, and he couldn't get a job which was happening to most of these young people, and so he was working at Grand Central Station [Grand Central Terminal, New York, New York] as a red cap or whatever they called them. I think they changed the name after a while. He was waiting around to take tests for something, you know, you need to--but he was really a nice guy.$$So you were married in 1943, your courtship then was short (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Short, very short and everybody was saying, "Oh, oh, oh, you're so young, don't do this, you're making a big mistake." Even though my mother [Susan Hendrickson Groves] adored Rufus and my father [Claude Groves] did too. He met everybody and I met his people. He had a wonderful mother and a very bright sister but none of them--nobody felt it was right. But we did, so we went on and got married.$$Okay.$So then, and then I saw the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] so I said, "Ah, ah, I'm going back to (unclear)--I'm starting back again." So I joined them and I had a nice interesting time with them and I just stayed quiet for the next few years. I worked with the NAACP, I didn't go on any--oh yeah I worked on one situation and that was because it was the actors people, the acting people. They came to me, they really did; and I don't know how they knew that I knew something about finance because they came and asked me would I be on their finance committee, and I didn't want to be on any board so I said yes. So I was on a committee and not a board but after I worked with them maybe through that year they said I had to come on the board. So that was the only two things I worked on and I was perfectly content and I was playing tennis, and taking walks, and enjoying myself. And he was (makes sounds).$$Well you have been a very important in the NAACP. Would you say a little bit more about your activities with this chapter over the years, were you president of the branch at any time, or?$$No, no I never really want to be pres- I don't like president--being a president. I think I could have, I really do, because those jobs go wanting, I mean people don't want those jobs (laughter). So it's no big deal, but I didn't want to be president. What I always was interested in was and is affirmative action. So I always worked from the background with that. It was not a designated committee way back there then, but we did things like talking to the merchants about hiring African Americans in their stores and they--we did it quietly, and they did. They cooperated, so those are the things I like that aspect of it. I don't care for the--all the bureaucracy stuff of it, you know, forty-five copies of this and that, but if you have a job, I will do it.