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Barbara Ransby

African American studies and history professor Barbara Ransby was born on May 12, 1957 in Detroit, Michigan. As an infant, Ransby was adopted by Charlie and Ethel Ransby. She completed her B.A. degree in history from Columbia University in 1984. During her time at Columbia, Ransby worked for the Institute of African Affairs and the Department of History as a research assistant. Ransby received her M.S. degree in history from University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1987. While at the University of Michigan, she taught African American studies. Ransby founded the Ella Baker-Nelson Mandela Center for Anti-Racist Education in 1988 and the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves Organization in 1991. She served as an instructor of history at DePaul University from 1992 to 1995; and an assistant professor and director of the Center for African American Research from 1995 to 1996. Ransby received her Ph.D. in history from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor in 1996.

Following the completion of her education, she joined the faculty of the University of Illinois, Chicago (UIC) as an assistant professor in the departments of history and African American studies. In 1998, Ransby co-founded the Black Radical Congress and in 2002, she was promoted to associate professor at UIC. In 2003, Ransby authored the award-winning biography of civil rights activist Ella Baker, entitled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement. In 2004, she received the Coordinating Council for Women in History's Prelinger Award. Since 2008, Ransby has served as professor and director of UIC's Gender and Women Studies Department and in 2011, she was appointed interim vice provost for planning and programs at UIC. She has written many articles and contributed to several books on civil rights, black feminism and African American history.

Ransby has served on the board of directors for many organizations including the CrossRoads Fund, Chicago Reporter Magazine, Anti-Racism Institute and the Chicago Coalition in Solidarity with Southern Africa. She has been a member of the Association of Black Women Historians, the Coordinating Committee for Women in Historical Profession and the Organization of American Historians. Ransby serves on the editorial board of The Race and Class Journal and on the editorial advisory board of The Black Commentator, an online publication. She is married to Peter Sporn; the couple have two children Asha and Jason.

Barbara Ransby was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on January 19, 2012.

Accession Number

A2012.016

Sex

Female

Interview Date

1/19/2012

Last Name

Ransby

Maker Category
Schools

Columbia University

University of Michigan

Columbian Elementary School

St. Leo High School

Rosary High School

Wayne State University

First Name

Barbara

Birth City, State, Country

Detroit

HM ID

RAN10

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Michigan

Favorite Vacation Destination

Lake Michigan

Favorite Quote

Give People Light And They Will Find The Way. And Ella Baker Quotes

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

5/12/1957

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Short Description

History professor and african american studies professor Barbara Ransby (1957 - ) joined the faculty of the University of Illinois at Chicago in 1996 and was the author of the book, 'Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement'.

Employment

DePaul University

University of Illinois, Chicago

Team for Justice, Inc.

Project Headline

North End Concerned Citizens Community Council

Progressive Media Project

Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Barbara Ransby's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby describes her adoptive mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby talks about her adoption

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby describes her adoptive father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby talks about her adoptive parents' migration to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby describes her adoptive parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Barbara Ransby describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Barbara Ransby remembers the riots of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Barbara Ransby remembers the riots of 1967 in Detroit, Michigan, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby remembers her social column in the Michigan Chronicle

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby describes her experiences at Columbian Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby remembers an influential teacher at Columbian Elementary School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby recalls her childhood pastimes

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby talks about St. Leo High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby describes her experiences at Rosary High School in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby talks about the African American community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Barbara Ransby talks about color discrimination within the African American community

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Barbara Ransby talks about her early influences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby describes her work with the Team for Justice, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby talks about her career and education in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby describes her decision to move to New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby describes her experiences at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby talks about her studies at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby describes her political involvement at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby remembers her mentor, Eric Foner

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Barbara Ransby talks about the status of black female historians

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby remembers attending anti-apartheid conferences

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby describes her role in Columbia University's divestment from South Africa

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby talks about the Civil Rights Movement in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby remembers her professors at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby talks about her decision to study the life of Ella Baker

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby describes her research on Ella Baker

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby talks about the role of a community organizer

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Barbara Ransby describes Ella Baker's involvement with the SCLC and SNCC

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Barbara Ransby reflects upon the legacy of Ella Baker

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby talks about her book, 'Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby describes her anti-apartheid activism at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby talks about Anita Hill and Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby describes her experiences with the African American Women in Defense of Ourselves

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby recalls her work at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby describes her role at the Progressive Media Project

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby talks about her teaching position at DePaul University in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Barbara Ransby talks about her teaching experiences

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Barbara Ransby remembers the release of Nelson Mandela

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Barbara Ransby talks about the founding of the Black Radical Congress in 1998

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Barbara Ransby talks about her literary contributions

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Barbara Ransby describes her role as interim vice provost at the University of Illinois at Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Barbara Ransby talks about her book 'Eslanda'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Barbara Ransby reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Barbara Ransby talks about her family

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Barbara Ransby describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Barbara Ransby reflects upon her life

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Barbara Ransby describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

3$7

DATitle
Barbara Ransby describes her role in Columbia University's divestment from South Africa
Barbara Ransby describes her research on Ella Baker
Transcript
Now, let me go back to Columbia [Columbia University, New York, New York] for--$$Oh, okay.$$--I mean, yeah, for a minute, and get you graduated.$$(Laughter).$$So, when you graduated, what were your prospects? Were you, did you--$$So I got, fortunately, I got a fellowship that was--I was considering, we were considering. I was married at the time, and pregnant with my first child [Jason Ransby-Sporn], who was born a few days before graduation, so I actually did not go to my graduation. I was looking for a parking space on the Upper West Side [New York, New York] to bring home this new baby. But I got a fellowship, a Mellon Fellowship, which was a portable--national graduate student fellowship, which was portable, and I could take it to, what, you know, whatever school I got accepted. So, that was helpful, and I decided to take it to Michigan in Ann Arbor [University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, Michigan], partly, my husband [Peter H. Sporn] made a commitment to do medical training there, but we had decided together. Our parents were in Detroit [Michigan]. We wanted to come back to the Midwest, and there were people at Michigan at the time who I--in the history department, who I respected and wanted to work with. So, that was the plan. But right as I was graduating, the antiapartheid struggle and divestment movement at Michigan, I mean at Columbia, really heated up in 1984. We had a, we initially had a vote of the student faculty senate [University Senate] for divestment. Then the trustees intervened, and said, "Wait a minute." (Laughter) "You may think this is a decision making body. It's more of an advisory body, and we don't know that we can really go along with this." So, then we had faculty allies, because the faculty was like, "Well, wait a minute. We thought this was a serious deliberative body," because we'd won the faculty over. So, the trustees intervened, and it was just a very intense period during which, you know, it was my first pregnancy, so it was very intense for me. And I remember just laying awake many nights thinking what should we do next, how should we handle this, who should we pull in, where should we draw the line, because the university was trying to sort of negotiate, and there were lots of other propositions on the table other than divestment of what, you know, what universities could do. So, they had a vote, and this sort of played out in 1984. And then you may recall, the year after I graduated, all the people I had worked with in the Coalition for a Free South Africa culminated in a takeover of buildings on Columbia's campus in 1985. And it, you know, it made national and international news. The people from the Harlem community [New York, New York], you know, Elombe Brath [ph.], and Sam Anderson and Baraka [Amiri Baraka], who was in New Jersey--but all these folks kind of converged on the campus to support the students. The campus was shut down and it was, you know, it was very dramatic. And ultimately, Columbia was pushed to divest, but it was at a point where other schools were coming to divest as well. But that was an important moment in that struggle. A lot of forces came together and I think it was a memorable moment for a lot of activists who had gone on to do other kinds of work. So, that was my closing chapter at Columbia. Now the interesting thing, you know, people have asked the question, you know, our current president was at Columbia during that time. And so, a number of people have asked--I did not know him then. You know, maybe he was in some demonstration, I had no idea.$$You're talking about Barack Obama [HistoryMaker President Barack Obama].$$I am talking about Barack Obama (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Okay.$$Yes. So, but we did not, we did not really overlap. And this was a struggle that I lived and breathed every day. So, you know, he wasn't in the inner circle of it. But, so, it's interesting that he was there at the time, so.$$Okay. Does it disturb you that he wasn't involved at all?$$No. And like I say, you know, he may have been on the periphery. But, you asked me the question about how many people. I mean, at times we had many hundreds of people in front of the library at Columbia. And at some times it would be like three or four of us, and we'd stand there looking around hoping someone else would show up. So, it wasn't something that was consistent in terms of a large number of people. Once it got some momentum we could count on, a critical core of people--when there were big actions, there were critical cores of people, but, I mean a mass of people. But, in an ongoing way, the majority of students, including the majority of black students, were not, you know, they were doing what people do. They were going to class and (laughter) trying to get out of there. So.$$As an activist though, when you look back on it, I mean, did the activists kind of know who was an activist?$$Oh, yeah.$$And I know how most activists think. They think everybody ought to be one (laughter).$$Well, you want that, you want that. But there, but I also understand there's lots of pressures on how people live their lives and so forth. Everybody doesn't choose to be a full-time activist, which is what some of us were for a number of years. And that was true at the height of the, you know, what we termed the civil rights and black freedom movement. The majority of people were not in SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] (laughter). The majority of people were not in the Black Panther Party, even though those organizations influenced thousands and thousands of people, and people supported to varying degrees for shorter you know, and longer periods of time. But in terms of a core of activists, the majority were not.$Well describe, I guess, what it was like trying to research El- Ella Baker.$$Well, it was energizing and exciting and difficult and frustrating, sometimes all at the same time. I did this first round of work on my dissertation, and then I did a whole other round of work on the book ['Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement: A Radical Democratic Vision,' Barbara Ransby]. I interviewed a number of people and--Ella Baker has papers. I did look at Ella Baker's papers. They're now at the Schomburg [Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, New York, New York]. But I really also patched together an archive of Ella Baker material through all the different people she knew and organizations she was involved in. I spent a lot of time in the Library of Congress [Washington, D.C.] in the NAACP papers [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]. She worked for the NAACP for a number of years. I looked at the papers of other individuals that she had had contact with, newspaper clippings. There was a lot of material at the Schomburg, bits and pieces in different collections. She had worked with George Schuyler on the Young Negroes Cooperative League in the 1930s, so I found information on that. And so it really was a kind of quilting process, of patching together all of these fragments of Ella Baker's life. I looked at census material, I traveled to Littleton, North Carolina where she grew up, and interviewed people there and went to the public library there, and the county courthouse and so forth. So, you know, it was a journey to really discover her life, and you know, this work of biography. I've just now finished a second biography on Eslanda Robeson ['Eslanda: The Large and Unconventional Life of Mrs. Paul Robeson,' Barbara Ransby], Paul Robeson's wife. But the work of biography--you ask questions of other people's lives. You may not even know those answers about your own life. Like, you've just asked me questions about my own family history. I could probably better answer some of those questions about Ella Baker or Essie Robeson [Eslanda Goode Robeson], than myself. But you are a bit of a voyeur, you kind of wade into very personal areas of someone's life who you didn't know, and wasn't invited to do, necessarily. So it's always a balancing act, of what are you looking for, what do you want to know, what do you need to know, what does an audience and a reader need know to know this person? And then there's the issue of silences. I mean, what kinds of things are just not as important, because you never tell the whole story of a life. You tell a part of a life. And as a biographer, you decide what part gets told, right? Some of that's what, you know, what you find and don't find, but then there are choices. So, it was an interesting, wonderful journey to research Ms. Baker's life. And you know, there was sadness and inspiration, I think, in it.

Janet L. Sims-Wood

Historian, publisher, and reference librarian Janet Louise Sims-Wood was born on May 22, 1945 in Rutherfordton, North Carolina to Marvin and Hazel Sims. Sims-Wood attended Carver High School where she worked in the school library. At the encouragement of her school librarian, she attended college at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina, receiving her B.S. degree in sociology with a minor in library science in 1967. Sims-Wood worked in several Washington, D.C. libraries until a supervisor cautioned her that she would not advance without a master's degree. She enrolled at the University of Maryland where, in 1972, she received her M.L.S. degree. Sims-Wood later completed twenty-one hours in African American history at Howard University before earning her Ph.D. in 1994 in women’s studies, history and oral history from Union Institute in Cincinnati, Ohio. She also holds a ministerial diploma from the Spirit of Faith (SOF) Bible Institute in Temple Hills, Maryland.

Sims-Wood began her career in library science in 1972 as a Reader’s Advisor in the Black Studies Division of the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. This experience led to her interest and specialization in African American history. In 1974, Sims-Wood became an assistant reference librarian at Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University. She was appointed to Assistant Chief Librarian for Reference, Reader Services of the Moorland Spingarn Research Center in 1987, a position she held until her retirement in 2005. Sims-Wood has taught black women’s history courses at the University of Maryland, and has served as a children’s librarian with the Washington, D.C. Public Library System. She worked part-time for Prince George’s Community College Library. Sims-Wood was part of a team of librarians who provide online services through a nation-wide 24/7 virtual reference program called AskUsNow.

Sims-Wood is a founding associate editor of SAGE: A Scholarly Journal on Black Women which published the anthology Double Stitch: Black Women Write About Mothers and Daughters. She was the founder of a small publishing company, Afro Resources, Inc., which published a 1993 calendar depicting black women who served in the Women’s Army Corps during World War II. Sims-Wood has served as a consultant to several publishers and agencies, including Carlson Publishing Company’s Black Women in America series and the American Girl's Addy doll and book series. Sims-Wood has also served as a bibliographer for the annual Black History Month kits of the Association for the Study of American Life and History. She is a life member and has held several executive positions in the Association for the Study of American Life and History and the Association of Black Women Historians.

Janet Sims-Wood was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 24, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.159

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/24/2007

Last Name

Sims-Wood

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Louise

Schools

Paul L Dunbar School

Carver High School

North Carolina Central University

University of Maryland

Union Institute & University

Spirit of Faith Bible Institute

Howard University

First Name

Janet

Birth City, State, Country

Rutherfordton

HM ID

SIM07

Favorite Season

Spring

Sponsor

ProQuest

State

North Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

They That Wait Upon The Lord Shall Renew Their Strength; They Shall Mount Up With Wings As The Eagles; They Shall Run And Not Be Weary; They Shall Walk And Not Faint.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

5/22/1945

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Historian and reference librarian Janet L. Sims-Wood (1945 - ) served as Assistant Chief Librarian for Reference, Reader Services for the Moorland Spingarn Research Center at Howard University.

Employment

Howard University. Moorland-Spingarn Research Center

Prince George's Community College

University of Maryland, College Park

Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue, Green, Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Janet L. Sims-Wood's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Jane L. Sims-Wood describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the community of Avondale, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Janet Sims-Wood describes her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dunbar Elementary School in Forest City, North Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her elementary school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her favorite subjects

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her experiences at Carver High School in Spindale, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her aspiration to attend college

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her early interest in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her aspiration to become a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers sewing her own clothing

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her childhood home

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers the music and television programs of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her decision to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her first year of college

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her extracurricular activities in college

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her start as a librarian

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her experiences at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her professors at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her projects at the University of Maryland

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls publishing her first academic article

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the patrons of the Moorland-Spingarn Research Center in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes an apocryphal story about Charles R. Drew

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about the importance of African American history

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her role as a librarian

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her research on the Ku Klux Klan

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her dissertation on the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her decision to pursue a Ph.D. degree

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls interviewing members of the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Women's Army Corps

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dovey Johnson Roundtree

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about black women's experiences of racism in the U.S. military

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers founding the SAGE journal

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls developing an American Girl doll

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her publishing company

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood lists the African American academic journals

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Maryland Humanities Council

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls her trip to South Carolina

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her historical research projects

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about conducting oral history interviews, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about conducting oral history interviews, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood recalls completing her dissertation

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers her research on the Voting Rights Act of 1965

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her husband and stepchildren

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Spirit of Faith Christian Center in Temple Hill, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the library at the Spirit of Faith Bible Institute in Temple Hills, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her librarian duties at Prince George's Community College in Largo, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Janet L. Sims-Wood reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the challenges of teaching research skills

Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about researching her family history

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes the Kids' Black History on the Net project

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her organizational involvement

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Janet L. Sims-Wood describes her work with the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Janet L. Sims-Wood reflects upon her career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Janet L. Sims-Wood shares a message to future generations

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about her breast cancer diagnosis

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Janet L. Sims-Wood narrates her photographs

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DATitle
Janet L. Sims-Wood talks about black women's experiences of racism in the U.S. military
Janet L. Sims-Wood remembers Dovey Johnson Roundtree
Transcript
Martha Putney [Martha Settle Putney] talks about being on a troop train and one time she was on a troop train where she was the only black on the train. And nightfall came and they tried to figure out where is this woman going to sleep. So, you know, you can, you can tell when people are talking about you. She said they were all standing in a group and they were talking and then they'd turn their heads and look back at her, you know, and they--so she knew they were talking about her. And so, what happened they ended up putting her in a private room and having her meals sent to her so she wouldn't eat with the rest of the, rest of the troop women on the train. So, basically, when they first went in it was very much segregated. They had their own unit, they ate together, they--everything they did, they did together. By the time, by the time Martha got there though, they were beginning to have--be in the same barracks 'cause she did have an incident where a white lady did not want to be in the same barracks with her. And, of course, they--the, the personnel straightened her out so--but they tell so many fascinating stories. It's, you know, just, just things that happened to them because they were, you know, you were supposed to be protected by the military but in certain instances you were not.$$Right.$$So they still had to deal with the discrimination. And one of the reasons that--of course most of them went in, the men and the women, was because they were looking for, you know, they wanted to be citizens, good citizens. But unfortunately they sometimes got treated better overseas than they did here. And when they came back they still could not get jobs and things. So, they still had a, had a problem but they really wanted to show that they were citizens. And one of the things that--when I would have them with me or when I would do presentations, especially if I--and to students. One thing that students ask me but they wouldn't ask them, was: "Why would you want to go into something that people--where you were not wanted?" So I would have to explain the, the circumstances of that particular time period, the economic time period. So that gave me a little time to teach them a little bit of a lesson. And but, when they were there, if one of them was there, that was never a question that they asked them. "Why would you go [into the Women's Army Corps]?" And I think it was out of respect because they just, you know, that gives a question--'cause they were so proud of the fact that they had been in. So they, they were really, they were fascinating ladies.$Dovey Roundtree [Dovey Johnson Roundtree], for instance, was a recruiter. One of the questions I asked Dovey was about--I asked all of 'em, I had general questions that I asked everybody. But one of the questions that I asked was, because this was the [U.S.] military and I know they--and they test you and put you in a certain place that's where you'd be. Well, I say, "Were you ever able to do--ask them for another assignment or something like that, or once they tested you, did you have to stay in the--wherever they put you?" And she said, "Well, I was put the transportation department," and she said, "I went to them and told them that I thought I was more intellectual than that and that I thought I, you know, and on top of that I can't drive." But you see, you know, that didn't matter because they were gonna teach you how to drive. Most of those ladies couldn't drive when they went in, but they told her that, "Since you like to talk so much, we're going to make you a recruiter." So that's what she became, she was a recruiter and went around the country recruiting students. Especially--and she got a chance to go back to Spelman College [Atlanta, Georgia], where she graduated, and she did some recruiting there. So, she recruited all over the country. And one of the things that Dovey also told me, when she was in undergraduate school, 'cause all the WACs [Women's Army Corps] that went in, the very first group were officer candidates. They had to go in as officer--and they had to be college graduates because they were gonna train the rest of the folk that came in. So she was a college graduate, but she said when she was at Spelman she--her grandmother knew Bethune [Mary McLeod Bethune] and so--but she was gonna have to come out because she didn't have any money. And she was out there on the campus one day crying, and this white teacher came by and asked her what was wrong. And she told her, she said, "I have to leave, I have no money." And the lady told her to--, "Meet me at the, the bursar's office the next morning." And that lady came and paid the rest of her college education. And she said while she was in the military she put funds away to come back and repay that lady. And she was one of the few people that repaid her. So they had, they had all kinds of stories that they told.