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Alexander Smalls

Restaurateur and opera singer Alexander Smalls was born on February 7, 1952 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He graduated from Spartanburg High School in 1970, and enrolled at Wofford College before transferring to the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, where he received his B.F.A. degree in opera in 1974. He then attended the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania between 1974 and 1977.

Upon graduation, Smalls, a classically trained baritone, toured professionally as an opera singer. As a member of the Houston Grand Opera, he performed in the George Gershwin opera Porgy and Bess, which earned Grammy and Tony Awards in 1977. Smalls studied opera and culinary arts in Europe; upon returning to the United States in the late 1970s, he founded his own catering business, Small Miracle. In 1994, Smalls launched his first restaurant, Café Beulah, in New York City, specializing in Southern Revival cooking that combined Gullah and international cuisines. Then, in 1996, Smalls opened Sweet Ophelia's, a casual dining venue featuring late-night, live entertainment in New York City’s SoHo neighborhood. He went on to open The Shoebox Café, an upscale Southern bistro in New York City’s Grand Central Terminal; however, the restaurant closed in 2001 in the aftermath of 9/11. Smalls founded a second catering business, Smalls & Co., which served a celebrity clientele that included Denzel Washington, Spike Lee and Toni Morrison. In 2012, Smalls established Harlem Jazz Enterprises; and, in partnership with Richard Parsons, opened two restaurants in Harlem in 2013: Minton’s and The Cecil.

Smalls has appeared on television on NBC, CNN, ABC, CBS, and the Food Network, among others. He also served as a contributor to Food & Wine, The Washington Post, the New York Times, the New York Daily News, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Crain's New York Business. Smalls authored the memoir and cookbook Grace the Table: Stories and Recipes from My Southern Revival, which features a foreword from jazz musician Wynton Marsalis.

Smalls was the recipient of the Legacy Award given by Amsterdam News in 2014, and the C-Cap Honors Award given by C-Cap in 2015. He joined the board of the Harlem School of The Arts in 2014, and served as board chair of director of Opus 118 Music School from 2007 to 2009.

Alexander Smalls was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 20, 2016.

Accession Number

A2016.021

Sex

Male

Interview Date

9/20/2016

Last Name

Smalls

Maker Category
Middle Name

Bernard

Schools

Curtis Institute of Music

University of North Carolina School of the Arts

Wofford College

First Name

Alexander

Birth City, State, Country

Spartanburg

HM ID

SMA05

Favorite Season

Fall

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Favorite Quote

And There You Have It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/7/1952

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Peanut Butter and Jelly, Franks and Beans

Short Description

Restaurateur and opera singer Alexander Smalls (1952 - ), the father of Southern Revival Cooking, has opened five restaurants in New York City: Café Beulah, Sweet Ophelia's, The Shoebox Café, Minton’s and The Cecil. He wrote the cookbook Grace the Table: Stories and Recipes from My Southern Revival.

Employment

Harlem Jazz Enterprises LLC

Smalls & Company

Shoebox Cafe

Sweet Ophelia

Cafe Buelah

Favorite Color

Yellow

Al-Tony Gilmore

National educational executive Al-Tony Gilmore was born in Spartanburg, South Carolina. He was raised in the South and in Youngstown, Ohio by his father, an education administrator; and, his mother, a homemaker. Gilmore attended North Carolina Central University and graduated with his B.A. and M.A. degree in American History in 1968 and 1969, respectively. He went on to earn his Ph.D. in United States social history from the University of Toledo in 1972.

In 1972, Gilmore joined the Howard University Department of History as an associate professor of American history. He also worked at the Institute for Services to Education where he developed social science curriculum. In 1978, Gilmore was appointed as professor of history and director of the University of Maryland, College Park Afro-American Studies Program. While there, he pioneered lectures and courses in the history and politics of African American athletes, popular culture, and African American autobiography. In 1982, he was selected as chief consultant for the National African American Museum in Ohio. He later served as a consultant for the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), the California State General Assembly, and the U.S. National Archive.

In 1986, Gilmore became the manager and senior program officer for the Leadership, Training and Development Programs at the National Education Association (NEA). He was instrumental to the success of the Minority Leadership Training Program, the Diversity Training Program, and the Women’s Leadership Training program. Gilmore also produced the project titled, “Honoring Our Legacy of Inclusion: The Merger of NEA and the American Teachers Association.” He also served as historian and Archivist Emeritus of NEA, and as a visiting scholar at George Washington University.

Gilmore’s scholarship includes The National Impact of Jack Johnson (1975), Revisiting Blassingame’s The Slave Community (1978), All The People: NEA’s Legacy of Inclusion and Its Minority Presidents (2008), and A Biographical Directory of the Presidents and Executive Directors of NEA and the American Teachers Association (2011). Gilmore also wrote the introduction to The Negro in Sports (2013) by Edwin Bancroft Henderson.

Gilmore’s articles have appeared in Journal of Negro History, Journal of Social History, Journal of American History, The New Republic, The San Francisco Chronicle, and the Washington Post. His contributions to television productions include PBS’s African American Lives (2007), Ken Burns’ Unforgiveable Blackness (2005), and the History Channel’s Crossing the White Line: The Life of Jack Johnson (2001).

Gilmore has served on the board of directors of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH) where he served on the board of the Journal of African American History, the Quality Education for Minorities Project (QEM), and the American Historical Association. He has lectured in the United States at Morehouse College, Harvard University, Brown University, Hampton University, and internationally in Germany, Israel, Korea, and Japan

Gilmore lives in Bethesda, Maryland. He travels and vacations friends and family in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina.

Al-Tony Gilmore was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on November 21, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.275

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/21/2003

Last Name

Gilmore

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Organizations
Schools

Cumming Street Junior High School

Carver High School

North Carolina Central University

University of Toledo

First Name

Al-Tony

Birth City, State, Country

Spartanburg

HM ID

GIL02

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Myrtle Beach, South Carolina

Favorite Quote

The Guilty One Knows Who He Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

6/29/1946

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Seafood

Short Description

Federal education administrator and history professor Al-Tony Gilmore (1946 - ) , former professor of history and director of the University of Maryland, College Park Afro-American Studies Program, served as historian and Archivist Emeritus of the National Education Association.

Employment

National Afro-American Museum and Cultural Center

National Education Association

Favorite Color

Navy Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Al-Tony Gilmore's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the community where he, his mother, and his mother's parents grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes segregation where he grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes segregation where he grew up in Spartanburg, South Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his father's background and how he earned a scholarship to attend North Carolina Central University

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his mother's position in the community

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his father's reputation in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about how his parents met and the meaning behind his name

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about his father and paternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes how he benefitted from the segregated schools in Spartanburg, South Carolina and the black power movement

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his interests in grade school

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about his grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his family's yearly trips to Youngstown, Ohio

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the economic decline of Youngstown, Ohio, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the economic decline of Youngstown, Ohio, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about how Youngstown, Ohio affected his understanding of different types of intelligence

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes playing football and basketball at Carver high school

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience playing football and basketball at Carver High School

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience as a long jumper and the other track and field athletes he competed with

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about his teachers at Carver High School in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes falling in with the wrong crowd at Carver High School

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes deciding to attend North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes enrolling at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the history department faculty at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his decision to attend graduate school at North Carolina Central University

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his master's program in history at North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes enrolling at the University of Toledo and meeting HistoryMaker John Hope Franklin

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes protesting at the University of Toledo in Ohio in May of 1970

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes taking his written examinations at the University of Toledo in Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes working on his dissertation at the University of Toledo in Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes interviewing for a faculty position at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the publication of his first book

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about writing reviews on black scholars for The Washington Post

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his students and the faculty at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about African American history scholars at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience with the Association of the Study of African American Life and History

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience at the University of Maryland in College Park, Maryland

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the decline in African Americans entering social science Ph.D. programs

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience at the National Education Association

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the financial differences between the National Education Association and being a professor

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the power and scope of the National Education Association compared to being a history professor

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the Association for the Study of African American Life and History

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about historically black colleges and universities

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the importance of historically black colleges and universities

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about class differences in the African American community and the prominence of rap music

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes the achievement gap between middle class and poor African Americans

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about how school vouchers perpetuate the achievement gap among African Americans

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the difference in popularity between black historians and the black press

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about HistoryMaker and public historian Lerone Bennett

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the differences between popular historians, trained historians, and self-made historians, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about the differences between popular historians, trained historians, and self-made historians, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Al-Tony Gilmore reflects upon his legacy as a historian

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Al-Tony Gilmore reflects upon his legacy at the National Education Association

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Al-Tony Gilmore reflects upon his regrets

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Al-Tony Gilmore talks about his black poster collection and his connection to the past

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Al-Tony Gilmore describes how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Al-Tony Gilmore narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Al-Tony Gilmore describes protesting at the University of Toledo in Ohio in May of 1970
Al-Tony Gilmore describes his experience at the National Education Association
Transcript
So, at the end of my first year, a fellow in the law school [University of Toledo College of Law in Ohio] by the name of Roosevelt Cox from Cleveland, Ohio--he was about the only one in the law school, and I was the only one in the Ph.D. program. So, my thinking was that the University of Toledo was so disconnected from black people in Toledo, Ohio--to just being absurd and unexplainable. So, I started getting with some community groups, the Black Panthers in particular, and starting talking about let's make some changes out here at this university. It started in my barber shop. The guy said, "What are you doing up here?" I said, "I'm at the University..." "You at Toledo? You're out there?" I said, "Yeah, I'm out there, man, yeah." So, I started going to these community groups and started listening to these community speakers. And I started saying, "Well, listen, what we need to do is encourage the University of Toledo to be much more aggressive in seeking black graduate students in all the departments."$$Now, is the University of Toledo a publicly funded school, or is a--$$State funded school.$$State funded school.$$Uh-huh, state funded school.$$Okay.$$Almost lily white... 24-25 thousand students there, and just a handful of blacks. This is 1969, man, this is unbelievable, unbelievable. So, one thing led to another. One day I came to school and they shot some white kids at Kent State University [in Ohio, May 4, 1970].$$And that's not too far away from there, right.$$The president of the school decided that they were going to shut the school down, a day of recognition of this tragedy that occurred at Kent State. A couple of weeks later, the policemen shoot kids at South Carolina State College [South Carolina State University in Orangeburg, South Carolina] and at Jackson State [University in Jackson, Mississippi]. The University didn't even recognize it, things went on as normal. So I went to a community recreation center and I said, "Look here, let's get together Cox, this is wrong." I said... And I called my mother [Margaret Gilmore]. And I said, "Look here, they're going to probably put me out of here. But I'm telling you now this is something that I am not going to tolerate. I'm going to make my statement now." And there was a professor there, Joe Scott, a black guy in the sociology department at Toledo. He was getting ready to leave to go to [University of] Notre Dame [in Indiana]. And I had only had one year of my Ph.D. program. He said, "I can take you to Notre Dame and you can finish over there." So, that was really my backup, I did have a backup. So we met in a church that night, and we decided that we were going to shut the University down. We were going to the main university building and we were going to put chains on all the doors, and we were going to have a meeting with the president [William S. Carlson] and have a list of demands that we wanted to be met. Man, that thing started breaking down and I was talking and talking. And as I started getting people, I said, "Will you be on this one, and that one...?" And that thing started breaking down, breaking down, breaking down, breaking down. And I could see that a lot of them in there didn't have the guts. I could genuinely see that. And at that particular time, I had it. And there was another guy in there, named Roosevelt Cox, he had it even more so than I had it. And Cox stood up, he said, "Well, I'll tell you what. We've been talking too long. Y'all just go on home and cut your TV on in the morning. Because Tony Gilmore and I, we're going to shut it down ourselves. We will be there. We'll shut it down. We're going to show you something." Well, that next morning about 40 or 50 of us showed us with us out there. We got out there about six o'clock in the morning. We left some windows open to get in there, and we shut it down. And that's the article I was showing you. And I feel that was a very important contribution I made because... Because of that, within a matter of several weeks--one of the parts of the negotiation was to start a Black Studies program--to have an aggressive affirmative action program for hiring black professors but to recruit black graduate students, and they put me in charge of it. This is like in the spring. By the fall, I had found--they sent me to Morehouse [College in Atlanta, Georgia], Grambling [State University in Grambling, Louisiana], Florida A and M [Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University in Tallahassee, Florida], Howard [University in Washington, D.C.], Morgan [State University in Baltimore, Maryland], NCC [North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina]. They sent me to probably about 25 to 30 schools. This is like March, April [sic, May 19, 1970]. By September, I had found about 21, 22 students who met all the requirements for entry into the graduate programs in political science, history, every field. MBA programs, you name it. I went out and recruited those students by myself. I'm still a student there. LeRoy Williams, I recruited him. He had gone to the University of Arkansas in Pine Bluff. He's now a professor at the University of Arkansas [at Little Rock, Arkansas], okay. He was my real close friend, because he and I were in the same department. I was just one year ahead of him, and we became lifelong friends. That was important to me.$Well, I thought that I would try something different. I went to the National Education Association. I knew nothing about working for a labor union. I had a sister-in-law who had been very active with the NEA. I knew that [HM] Mary Hatwood Futrell was a black woman had been elected the president of NEA [in 1983]. I did not know the NEA had 2-point something odd million members, and that in public policy NEA was like E.F. Hutton--when they spoke, people had to listen. I had never as an historian been asked to testify on Capitol Hill on any bill or any legislation. I never had to analyze the assets or the liabilities of a political candidate or a political party. I had not understood the process of endorsing candidates. I didn't understand all these people walking in the NEA building who were running for President of the United States, who were running for Senate, who were running for the House of Representatives--who were running for anything, coming in that building because they wanted that endorsement and that support. I didn't recognize that I could go to a place and make a speech on some form of public policy around public education, and every newspaper in the country would pick it up and run it. So, it was a different world. But when I worked at the NEA, I was researching black issues and black topics. And nobody else at the NEA was doing that, okay: The impact of Brown v. Board of Education on black teachers in the South; the studying and making research reports to show that 30,000 black teachers lost their job when they finally did de-segregate the schools in the South. Because when they desegregated the schools, which came over time with genuine deliberate speed, they never integrated the faculties, okay, that's for sure. So, we had a lot of black teachers lose their job, issues like that. The widening student achievement gap--a major report had come out in 1983 which would change the course of politics around public education. Since 1983, public education is the number one issue for any politician in this country. Because the Secretary of Education, Terrence Bell [sic, Terrel Howard (T.H.) Bell], in 1983 published a report called "A Nation at Risk." And what it said basically was that there was rising tide of mediocracy taking place in our country, and it is going to threaten America as a world power. Because the kids in Russia, the kids in Asia, the kids in China, the kids in Europe--they're testing better than our kids--the rising tide of mediocracy. Well, I like that little phrase, but I understood what it meant, too. That's a nice way of saying a rising tide of people in our schools that look like me. That's exactly what it meant. It meant our public schools are being populated by folks who look just like this. The majority is becoming the majority population in our public schools, and they're not doing real good. So, that, that sort of was exciting to me.

John Atchison

Hairstylist and salon owner John Atchison was born in 1941 in Spartanburg, South Carolina. As an adolescent Atchison moved to New York City and finished high school there. Atchison grew up in close contact with his extended family and was initially motivated to be a hairstylist by watching one of his aunts do hair at her own beauty shop.

After finishing cosmetology school, Atchison worked at several salons before landing an assistant stylist position at the fashionable Vidal Sassoon salon. Rising swiftly through the ranks, he was soon appointed manager and artistic director for the Vidal Sassoon salons in New York City. In 1976, Atchison branched out on his own with a salon in New York where his methods and techniques have been at the forefront of style. As a salon owner Atchison is a strong advocate for professionalism and has implemented apprenticeship and continuing education programs. Subsequently, Atchison went on to found a training center for hair care professionals as well as a line of products for African American hair. Through his organization, he has trained thousands of hairstylists in the United States and the Caribbean.

The John Atchison Salon now has two locations, New York and Los Angeles, and after 25 years as an owner Atchison is regarded as one of the premier educators in the industry. Atchison is a motivational speaker and lecturer, and has been awarded numerous honors including a citation from Modern Salon in 1999 honoring him as one of the 75 educators of the century. He is also a consultant to the New York City Board of Education's cosmetology program.

Accession Number

A2001.001

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

4/2/2001

Last Name

Atchison

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Academy of Hair and Beauty Culture

Morris High School

Carver High School

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

John

Birth City, State, Country

Spartanburg

HM ID

ATC01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

South Carolina

Favorite Vacation Destination

Colorado

Favorite Quote

Treat them for what they are and you make them worse, treat them for what they can become and you make them better.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

2/15/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Sardines, Crackers

Short Description

Hairstylist and salon owner John Atchison (1941 - ) was regarded as one of the premier educators in the hair care industry. He owned the John Atchison Salon, located in New York and Los Angeles.

Employment

Vidal Sassoon

John Atchison Beauty Salon

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:1510,15:1960,22:2335,113:9610,305:52555,815:52847,820:64378,963:75066,1069:78685,1169:90902,1382:91340,1390:93165,1426:114125,1745:117977,1813:134818,2002:140002,2106:147926,2216:151096,2229:160023,2399:160892,2420:204696,2878:205480,2884$0,0:3250,20:16390,149:16900,156:17580,165:18260,179:20640,204:21320,213:28790,282:29315,293:30890,307:33515,372:34490,414:37865,456:38390,465:70765,977:73690,1039:74365,1051:87454,1197:87722,1202:88861,1229:120398,1571:121659,1585:131150,1651:131834,1662:132290,1669:139206,1783:139662,1790:156430,2003:157902,2061:160462,2122:161294,2190:170173,2324:181170,2476:194105,2622:195730,2659:203291,2759:209118,2857:220515,2989:220847,2994:221179,2999:232730,3123:241200,3219:241739,3264:259434,3489:267570,3637:268226,3650:276655,3760:288638,3891:289026,3896:290510,3913
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of John Atchison's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - John Atchison lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - John Atchison talks about his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - John Atchison talks about building relationships with his family members

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - John Atchison talks about researching his maternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - John Atchison talks about his father's cab company, and the limousine business run by his uncle

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - John Atchison talks about his childhood love of cowboys

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - John Atchison recalls memories of growing up in Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - John Atchison describes his childhood hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - John Atchison considers what might have inspired him to own his own buisness

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - John Atchison lists the schools he attended in South Carolina, and describes a prophesy he received at church as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - John Atchison talks about moving to live in New York City as a teenager

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - John Atchison talks about attending school in New York City, New York

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - John Atchison talks about working in New York City

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - John Atchison describes what motivated him to attend cosmetology school

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - John Atchison describes the triumphs and challenges of attending cosmetology school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - John Atchison describes the cosmetology field, hair trends during his early career, and his first two jobs

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - John Atchison talks about getting hired as an assistant at Vidal Sassoon Salon

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - John Atchison talks about resigning from Vidal Sassoon Salon, and his vision for African American haircare and styling

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - John Atchison describes how he was hired to work at Vidal Sassoon Salon in New York City, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - John Atchison talks about the challenges he faced as a trainee and manager at Vidal Sassoon Salon in New York City, New York

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - John Atchison talks about opening his first hair salon, John Atchison Salon

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - John Atchison talks about how he built his clientele

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - John Atchison describes how his haircutting techniques contributed to his national recognition as a hairstylist

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - John Atchison comments on clients that have aided his development as a hairstylist, including Camille Cosby and Minnie Riperton

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - John Atchison reflects upon his talent and haircutting techniques

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - John Atchison considers what makes a great head of hair

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - John Atchison talks about what he learned as a manager at Vidal Sassoon Salon, and how he applies those skills to the John Atchison Salon

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - John Atchison briefly reflects upon the maturation of his relationship philosophy

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - John Atchison describes the experiences that led him to become an educator, and eventually create a training program for stylists

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - John Atchison talks about forming the Cultural Events Committee

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - John Atchison talks about the development of the John Atchison Training Center

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - John Atchison talks about what inspired his hair care line

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - John Atchison reveals his plans for the future pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - John Atchison reveals his plans for the future pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - John Atchison reflects upon the state of African Americans in the hair care industry

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - John Atchison talks about his initial decision to focus on hair products over salon expansion

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - John Atchison talks about the significance of African American entrepreneurship in the hair industry

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - John Atchison makes an analogy of playing cowboys and Indians as a child

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - John Atchison reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - John Atchison narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - John Atchison describes photographs, pt. 2

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DATitle
John Atchison talks about getting hired as an assistant at Vidal Sassoon Salon
John Atchison reflects upon his talent and haircutting techniques
Transcript
And so okay so you're doing that-Charles [Rome] gets you to come downtown [New York City, New York] and--tell us that story.$$I applied, where he was working [Paul Mitchell Salon] I didn't get hired, they didn't need anyone and I'm walking around and going into various shops. I went to the top shops at that time, Kenneth's [Salon, New York City, New York]. I went to Vidal Sassoon's [Salon, New York, New York], okay then I went downtown to--the guy who was the top guy, a black guy in New York was Walter Fountaine. He and a guy named Rudel [Briscoe] and they had just broken up their shop and I got a job as an assistant working with Walter and a guy in Walter's shop named Lloyd Rota (ph.) from Bermuda. He had trained in London [England] so he had these little scissors and he was cutting hair and he was real cool, I mean he was so smooth and I assisted him and Walter. I used to just watch him, study his style because I loved the way he handled his clients and hair but I had been intrigued with the Sassoon thing because when I was roller skating-I came from a ice skating rink and I passed his shop. I didn't know it was Vidal Sassoon's at the time, I just knew I liked the ambience of what I saw in the window. When I was working at Walter's I used to go to Sassoon's to apply and I told Walter [Fountaine] I was interested in working with Vidal [Sassoon] and he said he knew him and he really wanted me to stay with him but if that's what I wanted to do then fine. So I would just keep going to Sassoon's every month I would go and apply, they didn't need anybody and I'd just keep coming back. Eventually I'm going to get hired, they will get tired of telling me no and eventually I got hired as an assistant.$$So tell me what world that opened up for you and what period of time--how long have Vidal been around?$$I really didn't find the year that Vidal came over, I might have read it someplace but I think he came over in the late '50s [1950s] okay and he revolutionized the whole hair cutting, hair styling thing because his emphasis was on cutting and blow drying and everyone else in New York was teasing, back combing big hair. So that was a hot shop to be in. I didn't know that at that time, I just knew that I liked the ambience and I wanted to learn. After my experience with Walter who when I started with him, I wasn't a stylist, I was an assistant. Now I'm still working in the subway selling tokens. So when I finally got hired the fellow who hired me became a mentor later on, a guy named Edward Wadsworth [Green], he's not here anymore. But I kept going there and when I got hired oh boy we--they worked you, sweeping floors, getting coffee for clients, washing towels and gowns, assisting blow drying, curling hair, shampooing and then two nights a week they would train you in hair cutting and I stayed there for five and a half years.$So you--a whole new world opened up, really with that. You sort of hesitate when I asked that.$$I was thinking about this whole new world and was I really thinking about it as a whole new world or was I thinking about it as being just grateful that I had an opportunity to--for my work to be appreciated. That was more than anything, from the beginning when people were like oh you cut so wonderful, I love your cuts. I didn't understand what the whole fuss was about. When I was at Sassoon's [Vidal Sassooon Salon, New York City, New York]and my clientele was building, I knew I wanted to build a big clientele and I knew how I was going to do it. But people began to appreciate my work, you know because I knew was going--my personality I was going to be what I thought a stylist was supposed to be about, okay and that was polite and charming and all the things you know, and you smile at the right time and do all the things and I enjoy doing it anyway. So it wasn't like I had to act it out, okay. So I enjoyed being that way; that was me anyway. So I knew I had that part down but it was the technical part, I didn't know really how good I was to other people and people--they would come back and they would fly in from different places for me to cut their hair and I didn't get it. And I always worried about what is this that they are coming back for, you know? And as things were happening, I still didn't--I didn't know what it was. Why me when they had a lot people who can cut hair.$$So now you--when you approach a head of hair can you talk about that moment?$$That was like a whole new world. The actual working on the hair, seeing the growth pattern, capturing the movement of the hair, the bone structure, the look, how it would frame a woman's face, the things that I could do with hair as I'm cutting it. How I could cut it and make it perform and grow in a different direction. How I understood the movement of it and the growth pattern from a cutting aspect and it was like without the help of anything, blow dryer, rollers or anything, I could cut that shape in there and I loved that. That was like--I would get lost into it. It was like being--making love, I mean to see that hair move and you're controlling it, you know. I mean, I just loved it. And then I knew everybody can't do this, you know. Even though there are a lot of stylists they can't cut hair and understand that they can do what I can do. Now I knew there were guys that could but there were very few, very few guys could really cut hair. And I was there, they said the guys in London [England] were really the best, I went to London and I checked them out and the best guy Sassoon had, I worked with him. Roger Thompson, he passed away about two years ago and I worked with him. Studied him--I studied all the guys who were supposed to be the best in the world and I was there and that just made me feel--it was amazing.$$So in many ways you're very much an artist?$$$$Okay, I'll take that.$$You're very good.$$People say that and I always tell people if you study something as hard and intense as I did with cutting, you will be good too. I mean that was my feeling. Now what motivates you to do that; that I don't know. Well I can't say I don't know, I say I know because it comes from God. I think God puts the talent in you. He puts the gumption in you to just go ahead and do it. Now you've got to get up and do it and that drive--it just like blew my mind. Even today if I can get a great head of hair and the freedom to cut it the way I want to, I will play in it all day long. I could just cut, just minute pieces, just getting it--perfecting it. Getting it to move but you don't have time when you're doing clients to do all of that. You've got to get to the next client so you do your very best but give me no limits, great head of hair and any texture and just watching it move.