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Maxine Smith

Civil rights activist, executive secretary, and state government employee Maxine Smith was born on October 31, 1929, in Memphis, Tennessee. She graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and went on to receive her B.A. degree in biology from Spelman College and her M.S. degree in French from Middlebury College. In 1957, Smith applied to the University of Memphis and was rejected because of her race. This brought her to the attention of the local NAACP chapter, which she joined and became executive secretary of in 1962.

Having helped to organize the desegregation of Memphis public schools in 1960, Smith also escorted the first thirteen Memphis children to benefit from the Memphis school desegregation. Smith continued to fight for civil rights and school integration throughout her career, organizing lawsuits, sit-ins, and marches, including the “Black Monday” student boycotts that lasted from 1969 to 1972. Smith served on the coordinating committee for the 1968 Memphis sanitation workers’ strike that Martin Luther King Jr. travelled to Memphis to support before his assassination.

In 1971, Smith won election to the Memphis Board of Education, a position which she held until her retirement in 1995. In 1978, Smith was instrumental in ensuring W.W. Herenton’s election as the first African American school superintendant in Memphis, kicking off his political career. Smith was elected president of the Memphis Board of Education in 1991, the same year that her protégée Herenton became the first elected African American Mayor of Memphis.

Smith received more than 160 awards for her efforts on behalf of educational equality and civil rights, including the National NAACP Leadership Award, the Bill of Rights Award from the American Civil Liberties Union, and the Whitney H. Young Jr. Award from the National Education Association. She was a member of the board of directors for many charitable and civic organizations, including The National Civil Rights Museum, the NAACP, the Women’s Foundation for Greater Memphis, and the National Kidney Foundation. Smith has also been featured in several documentaries about the Civil Rights Movement, including Oscar-nominated Witness From the Balcony of Room 306 and Memphis: The Promised Land . She passed away on April 26, 2013.

Accession Number

A2010.094

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/30/2010

Last Name

Smith

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Schools

Booker T. Washington High School

Spelman College

Middlebury College

Lincoln Elementary School

Porter Elementary School

First Name

Maxine

Birth City, State, Country

Memphis

HM ID

SMI23

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Tennessee

Favorite Vacation Destination

Cruises

Favorite Quote

I Gave It My Best Shot.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/31/1929

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pasta

Death Date

4/26/2013

Short Description

Executive secretary, foreign languages professor, civil rights activist, and state government employee Maxine Smith (1929 - 2013 ) was a leader of the Civil Rights Movement in Memphis, Tennessee, where she served on the school board for twenty-four years.

Employment

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP)

Memphis City Government

LeMoyne-Owen College

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625022">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maxine Smith's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625023">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625024">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith talks about her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625025">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes her mother's teaching career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625026">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith remembers her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625027">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith describes how her parents met</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625028">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about her father's education and employment</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625029">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith lists her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625030">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith describes her community in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625031">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith remembers visiting her father at the Memphis Veterans Hospital in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625032">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her early family life, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625033">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith describes her early personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625034">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her early family life, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625035">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith remembers her parents' finances</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625036">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625037">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith describes her schooling</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625038">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith remembers her father's burial</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625039">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about being the youngest of her siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625040">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith remembers the Tri-State Fair in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625041">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith recalls her family's periodical subscriptions</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625042">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith remembers Booker T. Washington High School in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625043">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith remembers enrolling at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625044">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith remembers joining the board of the NAACP</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625045">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith recalls the language program at Middlebury College in Middlebury, Vermont</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625046">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes her courtship with her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr., pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625047">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith describes her courtship with her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr., pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625048">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith talks about her husband's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625049">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith remembers returning to Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625050">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith talks about her social circle in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625051">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith remembers joining the Memphis branch of the NAACP</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625052">Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith talks about her experiences at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625053">Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Maxine Smith talks about her social circle in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625054">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith talks about the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625055">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith recalls the agenda of the NAACP Memphis Branch, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625056">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith recalls the agenda of the NAACP Memphis Branch, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625057">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes Memphis Mayor E.H. Crump's political machine</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625058">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith remembers her high school principal, Blair T. Hunt, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625059">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith describes the voter registration drives in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625060">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about voter disenfranchisement in Shelby County, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625061">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith remembers the elections of Russell B. Sugarmon and A.W. Willis, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625062">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Maxine Smith remembers attending the March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625063">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Maxine Smith reflects upon the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625064">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith remembers the death of Medgar Evers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625065">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith talks about the Tennessee General Assembly elections of 1964</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625066">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith remembers confronting the Board of Education of Memphis City Schools</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625067">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her civic service</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625068">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith talks about the Black Monday boycotts in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625069">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith remembers the support for her school board candidacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625070">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith talks about the Memphis Sanitation Workers Strike</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625071">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith recalls meeting W.W. Herenton</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625072">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith recalls W.W. Herenton's election as superintendent of the Memphis City Schools, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625073">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith recalls W.W. Herenton's election as superintendent of the Memphis City Schools, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625074">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith talks about Memphis Mayor W.W. Herenton's leadership</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625075">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith talks about her support for congressional candidate Steve Cohen</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625076">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maxine Smith talks about the political climate in Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625077">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maxine Smith talks about the political climate of Memphis, Tennessee, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625078">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625079">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Maxine Smith reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625080">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maxine Smith describes the founding of the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625081">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maxine Smith talks about the National Civil Rights Museum</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625082">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maxine Smith reflects upon the legacy of her husband, Vasco Smith, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/625083">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maxine Smith describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

6$3

DATitle
Maxine Smith describes the voter registration drives in Memphis, Tennessee
Maxine Smith remembers confronting the Board of Education of Memphis City Schools
Transcript
But then you all were registering voters and, now--$$Oh yeah this is (simultaneous)--$$--(simultaneous) getting more voters.$$This is--$$Okay. So you're getting into the voter registration?$$Uh-huh.$$Okay.$$Now this is in f- my first little task on the NAACP [NAACP Memphis Branch, Memphis, Tennessee].$$Okay.$$We went in, in two years we had over fifty thousand and all since the history of Memphis [Tennessee], we had less than ten thousand. We had ten thou- fifty thousand black registered voters.$$New, new voters?$$New voters.$$Okay.$$Registered there.$$Now how, how did you do it? Did you go door to door or?$$Door to door, yeah, that's what I tell these politicians now; they got my old self out here trying to help our politicians (laughter). I said I'm too old, but, so they put me on the billboard (laughter). But you know everything is so technical, so computer now, which is good. But I still, well that's my age and that's you know how I was raised. See the good in that personal contact.$$Okay.$$You know I'll, I mentioned the political club, the Democratic club [Shelby County Democratic Club], you said, how did we get--? We organized, we had eighty precincts all with a significant amount of black votes organized block by block. Each block worker was assigned or responsible for his block, if it was too short, two blocks maybe. And, and we'd ret- we'd go get them 'cause we didn't have postcard voting, registration then. Take them down to the, you know, voter registration office and then peo- people got killed, this what Chaney [James Chaney], Schwerner [Michael Schwerner] and Goodman [Andrew Goodman] got killed for in Mississippi, and they aren't the only ones. But what we were doing in many places before they went crazy, and Memphis never tried to block us because Crump [E.H. Crump] wanted these folks voting, so they couldn't stop that. But block by block we'd call by telephone, well we'd get them registered. We'd have to pick them up, find somebody with a car, buy a little gas to help him 'cause we couldn't even--some of us couldn't even afford gas. Then we had to go get them on voting day or Election Day and see that they voted and we had a little card file; we didn't have computers then. With every registered voter, we'd spend our money instead of paying folks, getting voter registration lists. We'd have card files, and as they voted, we'd put the voters in one box and about two o'clock in the evening if whatever's left we start sending troops out there to get them. "Go on out of this house and vote." We could get--'cause it wasn't as many voters then, it wasn't as many of us, we could get a 75 percent turnout. And 90 to 95 percent of us were voting together, you understand what I mean? Now NAACP could work up to the point of who you vote for 'cause our dri- drive, voter registration drives was to get 'em out, get 'em to vote, but we couldn't tell them who to vote for. So that's where the political club came in and we were so effective.$I wanted to ask you a question about Fannie Lou Hamer. Did, did, did she ever come to Memphis [Tennessee] to talk or anything that you remember?$$Yeah I saw her somewhere, oh gosh she was quite a figure. I remember her better at the Democratic National Convention in '72 [1972 Democratic National Convention] when that was my first national convention. That was in Miami [Florida], Vasco [Smith's husband, Vasco Smith, Jr.] didn't even know I was going. I had, and I was--my heart troubles were beginning to show I guess.$$Well maybe let's wait to the end then.$$Uh-huh.$$Just talk about, now, 'cause what you, we, you, we had started talking about the school crisis in Memphis [Tennessee] and the Black Mondays--$$Yeah.$$Tell us about what Black Monday was all about and what?$$Well we had a list, I have them somewhere here, I'm so disorganized, of fifteen demands that we took to the school board [Board of Education of Memphis City Schools; Shelby County Board of Education].$$And you took them as, as what? As, as the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] or as--$$Yeah, as NAACP. I was the spokesperson because I was executive secretary of the NAACP [NAACP Memphis Branch, Memphis, Tennessee]. For years, see, we always had kept a pretty even balance racially--numerically and racially. You know some years it may be a few more whites, some years it may be a few more black, but we never had a black school board member. We didn't have any black administrators, the only administrators we had was black principals who were principals over black schools. And, and whatever, they did it over black schools. And we were demanding more black representation that kind of imaged the s- school system. Every time a vacancy would occur on the school board, we'd go down--you know by death or resignation or something, we'd go down and ask for a representative, a black person to be appointed. 'Cause it filled themselves, I think the, the mayor of the city commission in those days I think it was called, had to okay whatever the school board ruled it was filled. You know not by vote, but, but they just turned their backs on us. I'll never forget the straw that really broke them down that began, I told, I'm so glad I didn't know this lady was about to die. There was a group of white women, mostly Jewish women who had, they called funds for--their, their primary interest was feeding the hungry children. I think they called themselves funds for needy children, fund for something; they had a name for that movement. And I went to the school board, Laurie Willis Sugarmon [HistoryMaker Miriam DeCosta-Willis], she was one, I don't think I got four in that car (laughter) looked like I had a vacant space, I was kind of late getting to the school board. 'Cause I was trying to get at least one car full (laughter). But we went in there and Bailey (unclear)--what is his name? Ed Bailey, Edward Bailey [sic. Edgar H. Bailey] was president, and I threw, told him--you know I served on the board twenty-four years after that. I didn't know what the procedure was then, but he was telling me I couldn't speak and I kept walking. "I, I, I have something I would like to present to the board." Now these women--I just knew it was full of people. I didn't look around--and it happened that I knew most of them, I wasn't looking around, but I was just, see the cameras had closed up. And I wasn't looking for a camera, I never have looked for a camera, that's never really excited me. And these, all these women and these are white women now, jumped up and started clapping. How them cameras--and they thought, everybody, they thought I was with them (laughter). I didn't know what was going on (laughter). So I got there and presented my fifteen demands from the NAACP, and we had some kind of exchange of words or, I don't know, I don't remember what. But the big thing I had a roomful of women they were mostly women it maybe a few men. White women mostly if any blacks, I don't know, and that was headlines (laughter) that was the beginning of Black Monday.

Marvis Kneeland Jones

Elementary school teacher, travel agent, and public relations manager Marvis Kneeland-Jones was born on February 1, 1941 in Chicago, Illinois. She was born and raised in Memphis, Tennessee and graduated from Hamilton High School with honors. After the landmark Supreme Court case Brown v. Board of Education mandated the desegregation of the Southern school system, Kneeland-Jones was among the first eight African American students to pass the entrance exam and enroll in Memphis State University. She and her fellow students eventually became known as the Memphis State Eight.

Kneeland-Jones graduated from Memphis State University with her B.S. degree in elementary education in 1974, after a four-year hiatus caused in part by the neglect and discrimination she experienced in her time there. During her time at Memphis State, Kneeland-Jones worked as a secretary for the NAACP. She went on to receive her M.S. degree in education and teach in the Memphis Public School system for the next twenty-five years. Kneeland-Jones also organized voter registration drives in Shelby County and worked to help her husband, Rufus E. Jones, run a successful campaign for State Representative in Tennessee, a position he held for sixteen years. Upon retirement from teaching, Kneeland-Jones went to work as Public Relations Manager for the government relations consulting company REJ & Associates, which her husband had founded.

Kneeland-Jones has been involved with numerous charitable and civic organizations, among them the Links Inc., the Friends of Memphis and Shelby County Libraries, Washington Chapel Church Christian Methodist Episcopal Church, and the National, Tennessee, and Memphis Education Associations. Kneeland-Jones has been awarded lifetime membership in the NAACP, has been named a Civil Rights Pioneer Honoree, and has been honored with the Arthur S. Holman Lifetime Achievement Award by her alma mater, Memphis State University. Memphis State University also established the Memphis State Eight Best Paper Prize in 2000, for the best historical paper on the African American experience, in honor of Kneeland-Jones and her colleagues. In 2006 the Memphis State Eight were invited back to Memphis State to see the prize awarded at a conference on African American history and be honored for their pioneering roles in desegregation.

Accession Number

A2010.086

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/27/2010

Last Name

Kneeland-Jones

Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

LaVerne

Schools

Hamilton High School

LeMoyne-Owen College

University of Memphis

Hamilton Elementary School

Douglass K-8 Optional School

Trevecca Nazarene University

First Name

Marvis

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

KNE01

Favorite Season

Birthday

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere

Favorite Quote

God Help Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/1/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Salad

Short Description

Travel agent, elementary school teacher, and public relations manager Marvis Kneeland Jones (1941 - ) helped to desegregate Memphis University and worked to promote civil rights and education throughout Memphis.

Employment

Memphis Public School System

For All Seasons

REJ & Associates

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613054">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Marvis Kneeland Jones' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613055">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613056">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613057">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613058">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about her mother's teaching career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613059">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613060">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about her father's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613061">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her parents' marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613062">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers her mother's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613063">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the deaths of her maternal family members</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613064">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613065">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers the Douglass community in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613066">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613067">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences at Hamilton Elementary School in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613068">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls her childhood activities in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613069">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her early involvement in Memphis' Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613070">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the civil rights leadership in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613071">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers her early participation in sit-in protests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613072">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls the desegregation of the city buses in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613073">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers moving to the Douglass community of Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613074">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences at sit-ins in Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613075">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls the discriminatory admissions practices at Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613076">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes the NAACP's first attempt to integrate Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613077">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes the formation of the Memphis State Eight</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613078">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls her reluctance to enroll at Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613079">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the Great Migration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613080">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers her first day at Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613081">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Memphis State University, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613082">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Memphis State University, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613083">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls her academic experiences at Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613084">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls graduating with honors from Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613085">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers meeting her husband</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613086">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about her marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613087">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613088">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Marvis Kneeland Jones recalls her graduation from Memphis State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613089">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her career as an educator</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613090">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about her children's education and careers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613091">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613092">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Marvis Kneeland Jones remembers her students</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613093">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her husband's legislative career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613094">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about Mayor W.W. Herenton of Memphis, Tennessee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613095">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the need for education reform</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613096">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613097">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Marvis Kneeland Jones reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613098">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Marvis Kneeland Jones reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613099">Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Marvis Kneeland Jones talks about the need for job training programs</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613100">Tape: 5 Story: 12 - Marvis Kneeland Jones describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613101">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Marvis Kneeland Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/613102">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Marvis Kneeland Jones narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Memphis State University, pt. 1
Marvis Kneeland Jones describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Memphis State University, pt. 2
Transcript
So, now after the dean [R.M. Robison] gave you all his rules of what he didn't want you to do and to get off campus as fast as you can (laughter), what did the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] tell you all?$$Well, the NAA- we told them about the registration process and the NAACP said, "Look, if you don't like what they have picked out for you go to them and tell them. And for your courses, your orientation and everything, and tell them that you are not happy with that. And if they say anything to you, give me a call." Well, you know we were so tense that we didn't do that. We just took what they gave us and went on.$$So you didn't tell the NAACP what the dean said or anything there?$$I didn't tell them.$$You, you didn't tell them, okay?$$Yeah, I--we told them, but I said--the NAACP said, "If you don't like what you got in terms of courses and--go and tell the dean that you don't like it and the administration," as they would say. But we didn't do that. We just took what they gave us and went on.$$But the NAACP didn't know that you all were just taking stuff you didn't like?$$No, they didn't know.$$That's what I--that's the point (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) They were saying, "Okay, so how was your day?" Mr. Turner [Jesse H. Turner, Sr.] every day, "Did you go to the cafeteria?" "No." "When you going?" "We, we don't know Mr. Turner. We, we don't really have time. We gonna have to get off the campus by twelve [o'clock]. We don't even have time to go to the library." And he said, "Well, I don't know why you can't, go on to the library." Well we ignored him because we wanted to get off of that campus like we were told. We just didn't do it.$$Now were you all afraid of the students?$$Sort of. Because--actually we didn't have very much socialization among each other. We were never in a class together, it was always one of us. And when we would go in, we would be sitting, if you sit in the middle you're gonna have seats vacant on both sides and behind you. And we used to wonder why people would be getting up. You know, how we had--how you go into class. And that's what would happen. And then we also--$$But, but did you really wonder why?$$Yeah--$$You didn't expect that (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) We wondered why and but we didn't--we just told the NAACP about that and of course they just said, "Well, you can't do anything with the people that move. But if they bother you, you must let us know." Well they didn't bother you, they just treated you indifferently. And you had to not pay attention to it. And when I, I noticed in my class, see I was the only one in there so I didn't have anybody to talk to in my group. I raised my hand and sometimes the teacher would just overlook it and somebody else would've answered the question. I didn't like that. So I ended up staying at Memphis State [Memphis State University; University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee] under these conditions for about two years and then I quit 'cause it was too much for me. Some of the others dropped out in the first year and went somewhere else.$$Did anybody finish there?$$Yes, Luther McClellan [Luther C. McClellan] was the first person to finish and he was from Manassas High School [Memphis, Tennessee]. And he finished and he was chemistry, mathematician and he started working for the government and he went into their service. And he did finish. The one--the next person to finish was Eleanor Gandy and she was from Douglass High School [Memphis, Tennessee]. And she majored in French. Now they went straight through. The rest of them, let's see, Sammie Burnett [Sammie Burnett Johnson] left in--after one year and she was my partner. And Ralph [Ralph Prater] finished, and I think he went--he didn't finish, but he went to Howard [Howard University, Washington D.C.] and got a law degree there.$That's Ralph Prater?$$Ralph Prater, uh-huh.$$You said that they put sugar in his gas tank?$$Oh, one day we were going home and he was trying to get the car started. He said, "I know there's nothing wrong with my car 'cause I just had a tune up." And so he tried to start it 'cause he was gonna take us to the bus, we were gonna miss our bus because it was about a couple of blocks up the road and he was just giving us a ride. And we could get a chance to interact with each other. But then we--Luther [Luther C. McClellan] and--not Luther but James Simpson [sic. John Simpson] and they looked and said, "Man, you got something in your tank." And that's when he found out that he had sugar in his tank. So somebody had to put it there. We don't know who. But anyway it was there. Another incident that happened is that Sammie [Sammie Burnett Johnson] and I were walking to catch the bus and we wal- went through what they call Jones Hall [Memphis, Tennessee]. And at Jones Hall, these football boys were standing out there and they said, "Okay, you niggers need to get outta here, we don't want you here." And of course, we were furious. We didn't know what to do, so we kept walking real fast and, and Sammie told me don't look back, we're just gonna walk and do what we have to do, and I did. Another incident that happened is the orange situation where some of the par- of Memphis State [Memphis State University; University of Memphis, Memphis, Tennessee] they said that they--oranges were thrown at them. And it was little irritating stuff like that, just irritating. So that pushed a lot of them away to go to other schools, to just leave that kind of environment. What got me out is that I got married and I had three children right away and I did not want to go under that kind of stress for life. I did not think I had a normal college life. I had experienced it at LeMoyne [LeMoyne College; LeMoyne-Owen College, Memphis, Tennessee], but when I went to Memphis State it was a whole lot different from what I was used to.$$What was the, the feedback that you received from Mr. Turner [Jesse H. Turner, Sr.] and the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People]? What did they say about--did they have anything to say about you all not staying in school?$$Well, sort of you know, by that time I wasn't working for him then, you know. I was at home being a homemaker. But I started school taking three hours, six hours.$$Okay, but I wanted to go back to when you all--when the, when the first, the black students first started dropping out of that bad situation at Memphis State. Did they--did they try to gather you all together and talk you back into going?$$Oh sure they talked to us a lot, but we just decided that this was not for us. Luther wanted to because he was very smart and he wanted to stay because he, he wanted to be a part of--he wanted to go on and get a higher form of education. And when he went in the [U.S.] Air Force he really did.$$Now did--did anybody--I'm sorry, but did anybody from the NAACP ever go up to Memphis State and talk to the dean [R.M. Robison] or the president [Cecil C. Humphreys] about how you all were being treated?$$You know what, I really don't think so. But I don't really know, because when I told my parent [Jones' father, James Kneeland] about it he said, "Well, you're just gonna have to keep going and do what you know to do." But by that time I had met my husband [Rufus E. Jones, Sr.] and I was ready to get married.$$Okay, well I just wanted to make sure I--how that worked 'cause if you (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) I don't remember that. I do remember that the first year that we were there, they used to call us all together and we would go down to Mutual Federal [Mutual Federal Savings and Loan Association, Memphis, Tennessee] and have those meetings with those lawyers. But I really don't know what came out of that because it was at that time that the State Board of Education [Tennessee State Board of Education] allowed us to come to that school. And then I think they just said everything was okay, unless we complained, nothing else was done about it. And we just scattered. Now what? (Unclear) (laughter).$$Okay, well that--that's important 'cause I think we do need to know the dynamic of how the NAACP was working. And if they, they put you all, they, they organized you to go there, it seems like somebody would've, there'd been some follow through?$$Mr. Turner was trying to, you know. But you know, as I left and I wasn't working there anymore, because when I went to school, you know, I couldn't work. I had to spend most of my time studying. I just couldn't.

Jerry Fanion

Civil rights activist and city government administrator Jerry Fanion was born in 1931 and raised by Jesse and Lucille Fanion in Memphis, Tennessee. Fanion graduated from Booker T. Washington High School and began working for the U. S. postal service. As the Civil Rights Movement reached a fever pitch in the South, the Shelby County Community Relations Commission was founded in order to attempt to relieve racial tensions within the Shelby County community. Fanion began serving as director of the commission in the early 1960s, where he worked as a liaison between the Memphis government and the community of Memphis.

During this time, Fanion also played a role in easing the lives of many Civil Rights Movement luminaries, including James Meredith and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., by running errands for them and trying to make them more comfortable as they passed through the city. Fanion constantly worked to smooth tempers and ease relations between people throughout some of the tensest periods in Memphis.

Fanion was involved with the sanitation workers’ strike that took place in 1968, and worked to get the city government to recognize the sanitation workers’ union. He was present at King’s “ I’ve Been to the Mountaintop ” speech and was attacked by policemen during marches and arrested while leaving meetings on several occasions during the strike, in spite of his position in the city’s government. He was also a member of The Invaders, a militant African American political organization associated with the sanitation strikers, which eventually merged with the Black Panther Party in 1969.

After King’s assassination and the subsequent favorable settlement with the sanitation workers by the City of Memphis’ government, Fanion went to work as a salesman for the Chevrolet Corporation, where he remained for the next twenty-three years and received numerous awards for successful salesmanship. Fanion died on July 30, 2010 at age seventy-eight years old.

Jerry Fanion was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 26, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.095

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/26/2010

Last Name

Fanion

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

A.

Schools

Booker T. Washington High School

LeMoyne-Owen College

First Name

Gerald

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FAN01

State

Illinois

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/24/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Memphis

Country

USA

Death Date

7/30/2010

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city government administrator Jerry Fanion (1931 - 2010 ) helped organize the historic sanitation workers' strike in Memphis, Tennessee in 1968, and continued to be involved with the Civil Rights Movement throughout his life.

Employment

Shelby County Community Relations Commission

Chevrolet

Naomi King

Civil rights activist Naomi King was born in Dothan, Alabama, on November 17, 1931 to a single mother, Bessie Barber Bailey. Her mother, a cook in a prominent Atlanta home, taught her social graces. King, educated in Atlanta Public Schools, excelled in French and English. As a young woman, King was often selected by local clothing stores as a preferred fashion model, at times featured in shop windows. King and her mother belonged to the Ebenezer Baptist Church, where Martin Luther King, Sr. served as senior pastor. At the church, King became acquainted with the pastor’s children, and she caught the eye of his youngest son, A.D.

In 1949, King entered Spelman College, where she spent a year studying French before marrying A.D. Williams King, Baptist minister, civil rights activist, and youngest son of Martin Luther King, Sr., in 1950. She later attended the University of Alabama and studied interior design. She would have five children: Alfred D.W. King III; Alveda King; Esther Darlene King; Reverend Vernon King of Charlotte, North Carolina; and Reverend Derek B. King of Indianapolis, Indiana. King lived most of her life as a mother and First Lady. She brought musical concerts, women’s enrichment programs, and tools for living to her husband’s congregations. Together, she and her husband supported Martin Luther King, Jr., when, in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to move to the back of the bus in Montgomery, Alabama; at the creation of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957; when students in Greensboro, North Carolina, launch the sit-in movement in 1960; through the Birmingham campaign of 1963; during 1963’s “March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom”; and throughout 1965’s campaign to vote in Selma. Toward the end of the campaign in Birmingham, on May 11, 1963, a bomb destroyed the Gaston Motel, where Martin Luther King, Jr. was staying, and another damaged the home of Naomi and A.D. King.

On April 4, 1968, Martin Luther King, Jr., was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. This tragedy was soon followed by the death of King’s husband, A.D., in 1969; on July 21, King and her children were vacationing in Nassau when A.D. drowned in their home swimming pool. On July 30, 1974, King’s mother-in-law, Alberta Christine Williams King, was murdered by deranged gunman Marcus Chenault as she played the Lord’s Prayer at Ebenezer Church. In 1976, King’s younger daughter, Darlene died while jogging from an apparent heart attack, and ten years later, her son Al died in the same manner. In 1984, King’s father-in-law, Martin Luther King, Sr., passed away from a heart attack, and in 2006, she lost her sister-in-law, Coretta Scott King, to advanced stage ovarian cancer. Despite these losses, King has kept her husband’s memory alive through her establishment of the A.D. King Foundation in 2008. She received the SCLC Rosa Parks Freedom Award in January 2008.

Naomi King was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 14, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.071

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/14/2010

Last Name

King

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widow

Schools

Walker Street Elementary School

Davis Street School

Booker T. Washington High School

Spelman College

First Name

Naomi

Birth City, State, Country

Dothan

HM ID

KIN14

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Alabama

Favorite Quote

This Is The Day That The Lord Has Made. We Will Rejoice And Be Glad In It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

11/17/1931

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Civil rights activist Naomi King (1931 - ) was the wife of the late A.D. Williams King, brother to Martin Luther King, Jr. She and her husband supported the Civil Rights Movement. King received the SCLC Rosa Parks Freedom Award in January 2008.

Employment

Citizens Trust Bank

Bank of Louisville, KY

The Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640525">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Naomi King's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640526">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Naomi King lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640527">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Naomi King describes her mother's family background and personality</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640528">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Naomi King remembers the Mechanicsville neighborhood of Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640529">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Naomi King recalls her experiences at Walker Street Elementary School in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640530">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her experiences during the Great Depression</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640531">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls her childhood activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640532">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Naomi King describes her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640533">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Naomi King talks about the segregated movie theaters in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640534">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Naomi King talks about her experiences of segregation in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640535">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Naomi King remembers her friends at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640536">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Naomi King describes her involvement at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640537">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her experiences at Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640538">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Naomi King remembers the segregated retail stores in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640539">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her experiences at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640540">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Naomi King remembers her courtship and marriage to Alfred Daniel Williams King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640541">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Naomi King talks about her husband, Alfred Daniel Williams King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640542">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Naomi King talks about the early years of her marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640543">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Alberta Williams King, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640544">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Alberta Williams King, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640545">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Naomi King talks about her children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640546">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Naomi King describes her husband's pastoral career</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640547">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Naomi King describes her husband's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640548">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls the bombing of her home in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640549">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Naomi King recalls the Civil Rights Movement in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640550">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Naomi King describes her relationship with Coretta Scott King and Christine King Farris</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640551">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640552">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her husband's career at the Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640553">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Naomi King talks about the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640554">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Naomi King talks about the FBI's surveillance of her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640555">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Naomi King recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to nonviolence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640556">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Naomi King remembers the death of her husband, Alfred Daniel Williams King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640557">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Naomi King describes the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640558">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Naomi King remembers the death of Reverend Martin Luther King, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640559">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Naomi King describes her work with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640560">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Naomi King remembers the death of Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640561">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Naomi King reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640562">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Naomi King describes her concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640563">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Naomi King shares a message to future generations</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640564">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Naomi King reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640565">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Naomi King reflects upon her husbands' legacy, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640566">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Naomi King reflects upon her husband's legacy, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/640567">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Naomi King narrates her photographs</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

7$7

DATitle
Naomi King recalls the bombing of her home in Birmingham, Alabama
Naomi King recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s commitment to nonviolence
Transcript
Now talk to me a little bit about the incident of your house being bombed in, in Birmingham [Alabama], 'cause they were calling it Bombingham at that time (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) Bombingham, right, right.$$So let's first talk about the bombing at your home when it was in--and what happened? Give me the, the details of that incident?$$Okay, the--it was May the 11th, 1963, a Saturday before Mother's Day and I had set my dining room table with all of my finery on it because the next day was Mother's Day and so I wanted to have everything you know pretty and ready to go for Mother's Day. So it was exactly eleven o'clock, May the 11th, 1963, a Saturday night. My husband [Alfred Daniel Williams King] was in the bedroom working on his sermon. The children were all in bed and after I had finished setting the table and all I decided that I would just sit in my living room and just pray and reflect and just enjoy the peace and quiet of, of the evening. So I was sitting there just you know praying and reflecting when my husband got up and came to the front of, the front--opened the front door. No, he came up the hall and he said, he said, "It's too quiet in here." He said, "Let's, let's just get out of here." So I remember while I was sitting there the picture window began to crack but I didn't hear anything, I didn't see anything and I was just sitting there and at that time that's when he said, he said, "It's too quiet in here. Let's get out here." And opened the front door and he said, "Let's just get out of here," he said, "it's too quiet in here." So he came over and took me by my hand and by the time we got up from the sofa and headed down our hallway, our house was like an L, by the time we got like down by the hallway, the first--the cracking of the, of the windowpane was the first bomb that was hit and I'm told that it was tossed, that's what I'm told. It was tossed and then the second bomb was the one that brought all of the front of the house--oh, I'm sorry--we'll get this?$$Let's stop for a second. Okay.$$The second bomb was the one that brought the front of the house down so that is when the house was bombed and the time.$$And your children were in the house as well?$$Right.$$So you just got everybody out?$$What happened, when that happened then we got everybody up and we went out the back, out the back door because the front was all blown out and was gone and we went out.$$And so, did you, where did you go to stay until--did you fix that house or did you move from that house (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) The house was eventually fixed and we stayed in it because the front was damaged you know, but we could stay in the back of it so it was, it was fixed.$$And did they ever find out who was responsible for this?$$Yes, there was a witness and his name was Roosevelt Tatum, I think that was his name I'm not sure, I'm told that he saw an officer toss something. There was a police car across the street. I'm told that Roosevelt saw that officer toss something and so I'm assuming that must've been the, the first bomb that was tossed over you know into, into the hedges of that and he supposedly went and, and got in a ditch you know 'cause he was afraid you know for his life and so he went and got in a ditch and it was the second bomb that was, that brought the front of the house down, so that's what I'm told.$Now, we know that the nonviolence philosophy was Martin Luther King's [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] thing, but how did your brother [sic.]--was he, I guess all the--did he buy into it all the way? I mean some people bought into it somewhat, some people bought into it all the way. Was he all the way in with nonviolence?$$I would think so, I can give you two--I'll tell you two stories that, that led me to believe that he bought in it and he lived just what he said, he lived it. I can remember in 1955 when I went to--let's see, to see him and Coretta [Coretta Scott King] because Yolanda [Yolanda King] was their first child and, and, and it was born. This was Montgomery [Alabama] and I went you know to, to see my--'cause she was born on my birthday like I told you, so I wanted to see my niece. So we went and I don't know what day it was but it was a night about eleven o'clock. I don't know what day it was and I was sitting in the darkened living room in there and Coretta was busy back with Yolanda, busy and all and Martin came in, and so when he came in--I told you my nickname is Nene and that's all he ever called me was Nene. I don't care where we were whether--he'd call me Nene. So when, and so he said, "Hi Nene [HistoryMaker Naomi King]." I said, "Hey, ML," so he walked over to his mantel and it was dark in there, all you saw was just the light from the street, you know from--through the window. And I'm sitting there and I glad he couldn't see my face you know. So he walked over to the mantel and he put his hands up on the, the mantel and he said, "You know what Nene?" I said, "What?" He said, and he put his hands up to his throat where his tie was and he said, "You know what Nene?" I said, "What?" He said, "You know what?" He said, and he was fingering, he said, "You know what they tried to choke me to death with my tie. They tried to choke me to death with my tie." So I was just quiet and didn't say anything, and he said--he just kept you know fingering with his tie and he said, "But you know what Nene," he said, "the more they do to me, the more I'm gonna love them 'cause that's what I'm supposed to do. God said that I'm supposed (unclear)." I just couldn't stand it, I just, I just, I just couldn't stand it. I'm glad he couldn't see my face 'cause it brought tears to my eyes. So that was one instance that, that I knew that he was like committed. The other time was when he was in New York [New York] after the stabbing, and I would call him and we would talk you know during the day just to see how he's doing and all that, and so when I talked to him on one occasion I said, I said, "Martin is there anything I can do for you?" He said, "Yeah." I said, "What is it?" I told you my mother [Bessie Barber Bailey] taught me how to cook and, and I didn't like to cook but I did it 'cause I had to. And he said, "Make me a sweet potato pie." I said, "Okay," I said, "I'll find out." I said--he called his wife Corrie, he said, "Find out when Corrie's going to take the flight up in here and if you can make me a sweet potato pie." And I said, "Okay, I'll do that." And so I went straight in, fixed the sweet--find out when she was gonna be leaving, made the sweet potato pie, put it in a plastic container and took it over there for her to take it to, you know to him. So make a long story short when I talked to him, I said, "You got your pie?" He said, "Yeah, Nene I got my pie." He said, "It's delicious as always." And I said, "Well, I'm so glad Martin." And he said, "Nene?" I said, "Yeah ML?" He said, "You know what?" I said, "What?" He said, "If I had sneezed I would've been dead." I just, I almost dropped the phone (makes sound), I couldn't stand it. So when he says if he had sneezed he would've been dead, and when I finally got to myself, I cam- I said, "Martin, ML," I said, "thank god you did not sneeze." I had to hang up the phone.

Christine King Farris

Civil rights activist and education professor Christine King Farris was born in Atlanta, Georgia, on September 11, 1927, to Alberta Christine Williams King and Martin Luther King, Sr. She was the eldest of three children: her younger siblings were Martin Luther King, Jr., and Alfred Daniel (A.D.) Williams King. Farris and her family belonged to Ebenezer Baptist Church, where her father preached. Farris attended Yonge Street Elementary School, famous for its organization of the first black Parent-Teacher Association, before transferring to Oglethorpe Elementary. From 1940 to 1942, she attended Atlanta University’s Laboratory High School, and when it closed, she enrolled at Booker T. Washington High School, which her grandfather helped to found. In 1944, Farris graduated from Washington High School and entered Spelman College, where her grandmother, mother and great-aunt had all matriculated.

In 1948, Farris graduated from Spelman College with her B.A. degree in economics. One year later, she graduated from Columbia University with her M.A. degree in the social foundations of education. Over the next few summers, she earned a second M.A. degree from Columbia University in special education. In 1950, Farris took her first job as a teacher at W.H. Crogman Elementary, where she taught a seventh grade reading class. In 1958, Farris was hired as director of the freshman reading program at Spelman College, and eventually became director of the Learning Resources Center, a position she still holds. She is Spelman's longest-serving faculty member. In 1965, when her brother, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., led the campaign to vote in Selma, Alabama, Farris sang at the opening rally on the day they departed for Montgomery. After his death, his wife, Coretta Scott King, founded the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia. Farris served as the treasurer and taught workshops on nonviolence. Farris also went on to found the Martin Luther King, Jr. Child Development Center.

The recipient of the Fannie Lou Hamer Award, Farris helped establish the Martin Luther King Jr. National Historical Site in 1980, at the suggestion of President Jimmy Carter. She is the author of the acclaimed children's book, My Brother Martin, and of an autobiography, Through It All: Reflections on My Life, My Family, and My Faith. Currently, Farris resides in Atlanta with her husband, Isaac Newton Farris. They have two children, Isaac Newton Farris, Jr., and Angela Christine Farris, and one granddaughter, Farris Christine Watkins.

Christine King Farris was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 11, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.074

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/11/2010

11/19/2017

Last Name

Farris

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

King

Schools

Spelman College

Teachers College, Columbia University

Atlanta University Lab School

Booker T. Washington High School

First Name

Christine

Birth City, State, Country

Atlanta

HM ID

KIN15

State

Georgia

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

9/11/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Short Description

Civil rights activist and education professor Christine King Farris (1927 - ) was the eldest sibling of the late Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. She was the longest serving faculty member of Spelman College, and served as vice chair and treasurer of the King Center.

Employment

Spelman College

W. H. Crogman Elementary School

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/859">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Christine King Farris' interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/860">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her childhood home, her parents Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and her maternal grandparents, part 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/861">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris discusses her childhood home, her parents Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr. and Alberta Williams King, and her maternal grandparents, part 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/862">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris discusses the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood at 501 Auburn Avenue</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/863">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes her neighborhood and how she spent her leisure time as a child</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/864">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris discusses her relationship with her brothers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alfred King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/865">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about family traditions and her earliest memories growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/866">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris talks about being a part of Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/867">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris talks about her home environment growing up</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/868">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses family dinners and her father, Dr. Martin Luther King, Sr., as an activist</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/869">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her father's activist influence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/870">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris discusses the death of her maternal grandmother, Jennie Celeste Williams, and the impact on her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/871">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris discusses choosing a college and her family's legacy at Morehouse College and Spelman College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/872">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses her family's homes at 501 Auburn Avenue, 193 Boulevard and Dale Creek Drive in Atlanta, Georgia.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/873">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris describes her childhood neighborhood and its businesses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/874">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her brothers' and father's names, traditions at Ebenezer Baptist Church and the Baptist denomination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/875">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about her brother's decision to join the ministry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/876">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris talks about her brother's development as a young minister and his influences</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/877">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about attending graduate school at Columbia University and her brother's theological education at Crozer Theological Seminary</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/878">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about her family's relationship with Dr. Benjamin Mays and conflicts within the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/879">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris discusses her brother's beginnings as a civil rights activist, the SCLC and SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/880">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris talks about her family's role in supporting Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/881">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about the Baptist World Alliance, her brother Alfred's role in the Civil Rights Movement and danger in Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/882">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her father and brother's name change and provides anecdotes about Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/883">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about homecoming at Ebenezer Baptist Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/884">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris explains and describes baptism and tithing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/885">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes the church during her childhood, church traditions and her Uncle Joel King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/886">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about the Sunday morning murder of her mother, Alberta Williams King by Marcus Chenault</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/887">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about childhood pets and her brother's grief over the death of their maternal grandmother</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/888">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris discusses her brother, Martin, Jr.'s burial and his accomplishments</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673428">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Christine King Farris's interview, session 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673429">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris remembers the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673430">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris remembers the opening of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change in Atlanta, Georgia pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673431">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris describes the idea for a living memorial for Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673432">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers the 1969 celebration of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birthday</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673433">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris talks about preserving Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth home</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673434">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris recalls balancing teaching with the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673435">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris talks about recognition of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673436">Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris describes Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s life's work</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673437">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris remembers the assassination of her brother, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673438">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris recalls the aftermath of her brother's assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673439">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her friendship with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673440">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the early locations of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673441">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers fundraising for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673442">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes her efforts to teach nonviolence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673443">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about the role of faith through her family's struggles</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673444">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris recalls parenting with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673445">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris recalls her decision to become an educator</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673446">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris remembers the birth of her granddaughter, Farris Christine Watkins</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673447">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her granddaughter's interest in education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673448">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris remembers meeting her husband, Isaac Newton Farris, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673449">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris describes campus life at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673450">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris remembers Spelman College President Florence M. Read</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673451">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris recalls singing with the Spelman College glee club</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673452">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris describes the campus rules at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673453">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris remembers slipping off of Spelman College's campus as a student</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673454">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris talks about her classmates at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673455">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris recalls returning to Spellman College as a professor</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673456">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the relationship between Spelman College and Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673457">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris remembers her classmates at Spelman College and Morehouse College</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673458">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes campus life at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673459">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris talks about her marriage to Isaac Newton Farris, Sr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673460">Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Christine King Farris remembers her wedding</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673461">Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Christine King Farris remembers her mother's support following her brother's assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673462">Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Christine King Farris remembers her relationship with Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673463">Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris reflects upon the many losses in her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673464">Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673465">Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris remembers the death of Coretta Scott King</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673466">Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Christine King Farris talks about the exposure that comes from her brother's prominence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673467">Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Christine King Farris talks about the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673468">Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Christine King Farris describes various collections of her brother's papers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673469">Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Christine King Farris describes her hopes for the Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673470">Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Christine King Farris talks about race in the United States</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673471">Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Christine King Farris reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/673472">Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Christine King Farris talks about her children</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$6

DAStory

6$2

DATitle
Christine King Farris discusses her relationship with her brothers Martin Luther King, Jr. and Alfred King
Christine King Farris discusses her brother, Martin, Jr.'s burial and his accomplishments
Transcript
Now, did you parents talk at all about your role as the youngest [oldest]? Were you required to sort of look after your younger brothers [Martin Luther King, Jr.] [Alfred Daniel]?$$Well, in a way, yes. I recall that someone had made a good cake and given it to our family. And it was so good, the boys were just eating it away and slipping and getting it. So Dad [Martin Luther King, Sr.] called us together, and so he told them, "You know, now, you're not supposed to--you know, you don't eat cake without permission. You need to check with your mother or something." And so as they were putting the cake up and my brother M.L., [Martin Luther King, Jr.] who you would refer to as Martin, but we called him "M.L", he said, and so Dad told him, now, Christine is the oldest. So she's in charge. So you'll have to check with her. And, so as we were putting up the cake and everything, and there were crumbs around, and so it was so interesting and pitiful and M.L. said, "Well, Christine, can I have some of these crumbs?" (laughter) And, of course, I said, yes.$$So, were you a good big sister?$$I was a good, big sister, yes.$$Were you a disciplinarian yourself?$$Not really, not really. That was supposed to be my role, but I wasn't really a disciplinarian cause a lot of times I would be with them.$$Tell me about what the relationship, you know, because siblings have relationships. So can you talk about each of your brothers and yourself as young people?$$Well, we were very close because the three of us, I mean oft times, you know, we would go with my parents to places. And so we were, were very close, and, of course, I'm being the only girl and the oldest, and Dad would stress that, "She is in charge". Of course, they, you know, leaned on me a lot. But we played together.$$So was M.L. or A.D. [Alfred Daniel], were they mischievous like boys are or--$$Typical boys, typical boys. And I would want people to understand that. I mean he was, he was normal, typical boy, played and things.$$So give an example because we all have memories. So give an example from your memory.$$Yeah, well, I mean M.L. played those games, baseball, basketball. We had a basketball thing out in the yard, and they would play that. One day, and, of course, they were always, as I said, a little on the mischievous side. We had a garage in the backyard, and it had a slight incline. Dad kept the car in the garage, and, of course, typical boys wanting to explore and see what it was, they got in the car. And apparently, Dad had left the keys in the car, and they turned on the ignition, and they went straight through the back of that garage. And, of course, you know, they were taken care of when Dad found out (laughter) what had happened, yeah. They were typical. They were always exploring, seeing what things were all about. And, of course, like all boys, they wanted to drive a car. They weren't old enough to drive, so they were experimenting with the car, carried them right through the back of the garage.$$So how old were they about that time?$$Hum, I guess about nine, ten.$$So your father was pretty upset I bet ya.$$Oh, definitely (laughter).$$So they got a little hand to the--$$Yeah, they got a little taken care of on that one.$I have two more questions, and one is, if, you know, the facility has been built there, you know, and we have the Center and we have the National Park Service. What are your feelings about what has been done here in honor of your brother [Martin Luther King, Jr.] and your family?$$Well, I feel very good because I was right on, in from the beginning. I worked with my sister-in-law [Coretta Scott King], we worked through the design and what it should be. So, it's a humbling experience, but I think one that, you know, that we're pleased with. And all the time we were building this and thinking about the entombment, I was the one, along with my sister-in-law, who my brother was moved to his final location. It was about three times. We first moved him from South View Cemetery [Atlanta, Georgia]. That's where he was entombed at the beginning. And we decided that we had to move him there because hate was still on the move. And one day we discovered that there were bullet marks in that mausoleum. Of course, you know, it couldn't get through, but just the idea of somebody--we didn't know what they were trying to do. So we said, we've got to get him away from where we can protect him more. And so that's when we first brought him over--there was a vacant lot right next to the church [Ebenezer Baptist Church]. And we put him in a mausoleum there temporarily. He stayed there for several months, and then we built, there was space further up. And while we were constructing the King Center, as it is now, that's where he rested in that space. And we put a picket fence around it, and, of course, people are coming visiting. And then finally, we moved him to where he is now entombed. And I was at the forefront of all of those moves, you know, along with my sister-in-law. And when we first moved him from South View Cemetery, we did it early in the morning, and right then, it was unusual for much traffic to be out like 1:00 and 2:00 o'clock in the morning. So we met, got a few deacons from Ebenezer. And I went along with Coretta, and I think that was all, along with those deacons. And Ralph Abernathy was with us at that point, and brought him from South View Cemetery to the funeral home, which was on Bell Street, Hanley Bell Street, and brought the casket there. And they sprayed it because it had a little bit of mildew or something on it, and, of course, Coretta and I did not look at him. I think Ralph looked at him, and I don't know, but Coretta and I sat in the back. We didn't look at him, yeah, my father. I mean my husband. And then after that, and then we brought him over here. And, of course, we had somebody guarding it, you know, overnight because it was not protected at all. But he's been moved from South View to this temporary location, and then a little bit further up. So about three times before he was entombed where he is now.$$Oh, the last question was gonna go (laughter). I was wondering also about, you know, what you think your father, your brother, you know, your family would think about the work that, you know, has been done even by the National Park Service? What do you think they would think?$$Yeah, it's a humbling experience, and I think that my brother Martin [Martin Luther King, Jr.], you know, he would be very humble and not thinking that he deserves this. I mean he was self effacing. He didn't look for praise and honor. He felt more like it was a call for him. He was not doing it for the limelight like I see a lot of people now who do things. But it's, you know, so that I can get on camera or whatever, but my brother was not like that. So he would be very humbled by this experienced. And as I, I reflect on it, and I look at it, and it's very humbling to me because I'm saying, "This is my brother, and here he is up here among, you know, presidents." It's really something just growing up, you know, a normal individual, and never would have thought that anything like this would have happened in our family.$$That's it. Okay, thank you. Thanks a lot. Thanks Mrs. Farris.$$Okay.$$So it wasn't so bad, was it?$$No.

Ann Walker

Civil rights activist Ann Walker was born in Freehold, New Jersey, on February 27th, 1928. Her mother, Mabel B. Edwards, was a seamstress, and her father, Robert Willard Edwards, worked in the trust department at Howard Savings. She attended Jefferson Junior High and Court Street School before Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey. For two years after her high school graduation in 1946, Walker attended Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia. In 1950, she married Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, who would later serve as Chief of Staff for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and as executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) from 1960 to 1964. In 1951, Walker graduated from Howard University with her B.S. degree in accounting and economics, and one year later, her first child, Ann Patrice, was born. In the next five years, Walker would have three more children.

During the 1960s, Walker and her husband were very active in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1961, they participated in the Freedom Rides, for which Walker would spend a week in jail in Jackson County, Mississippi. Two years later, in 1963, during Martin Luther King Jr.’s campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Walker was beaten on Mother’s day at the Gaston Motel by the National Guard.

In the 1970s, the Walkers lived in New York, where for thirty-seven years her husband, Dr. Walker, was Senior Pastor at Canaan Baptist Church of Christ in Harlem. During this time, Walker volunteered with the Westchester Foster Grandparents, serving one-on-one as a tutor and mentor to young people. She also served as board president for two terms at the Yonkers YWCA and as Mayor’s Liaison to the Black Community in Yonkers. In 1975, after raising her children, Walker entered the workforce at North American Philips as the Branch Director of their credit union. She retired in 1989, and in 2004, when her husband also retired, the Walkers moved to Chester, Virginia.

Ann Walker was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on June 22, 2010.

Accession Number

A2010.055

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/24/2010

Last Name

Walker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Ann

Schools

Jefferson Junior High School

Court Street School

Freehold High School

Virginia Union University

Howard University

First Name

Theresa

Birth City, State, Country

Freehold

HM ID

WAL13

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere Near Water

Favorite Quote

Do Unto Others As You Would Have Them Do Unto You.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/27/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Civil rights activist Ann Walker (1928 - ) participated in the Freedom Rides and the campaign to desegregate Birmingham, Alabama in 1963. Her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker, served as Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s chief of staff.

Employment

North American Philips Company

Favorite Color

Pink

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608783">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ann Walker's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608784">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ann Walker lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608785">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ann Walker describes her mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608786">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608787">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ann Walker talks about her mother's organizational involvement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608788">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ann Walker describes her parents' personalities and her likeness to her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608789">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ann Walker describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608790">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ann Walker describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608791">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ann Walker describes her early experiences of racial discrimination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608792">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ann Walker remembers the Great Depression</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608793">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ann Walker describes her parents' relationship</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608794">Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ann Walker remembers her childhood activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608795">Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ann Walker talks about her early education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608796">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ann Walker recalls the racial discrimination at Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608797">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes her social life at Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608798">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls her early experiences of travel</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608799">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ann Walker recalls her attempt to organize a walkout protest</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608800">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ann Walker recalls her graduation from Freehold High School in Freehold, New Jersey</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608801">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ann Walker describes her experiences at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608802">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls meeting her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608803">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ann Walker remembers the notable figures at Howard University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608804">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ann Walker talks about the births of her children</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608805">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ann Walker describes her experiences of discrimination in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608806">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes her early exposure to The Links</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608807">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls the reprisals against her husband, Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608808">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes the members of the SCLC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608809">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ann Walker remembers her role in the Mississippi Freedom Summer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608810">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608811">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608812">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ann Walker recalls being beaten by police in the aftermath of Project C</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608813">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ann Walker remembers being jailed in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608814">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ann Walker remembers the March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608815">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ann Walker recalls leaving the South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608816">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ann Walker describes her experiences of discrimination in Yonkers, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608817">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ann Walker talks about her experiences as a pastor's wife</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608818">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ann Walker talks about her son's incarceration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608819">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ann Walker recalls working for the North American Philips Company</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608820">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ann Walker describes the notable members of the SCLC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608821">Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ann Walker recalls the assassination of Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608822">Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ann Walker remembers her husband's association with Nelson Rockefeller</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608823">Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Ann Walker remembers the Harlem community in New York City</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608824">Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Ann Walker describes her involvement with The Links</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608825">Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Ann Walker describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608826">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ann Walker reflects upon her legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608827">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ann Walker describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608828">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ann Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/608829">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ann Walker narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$3

DAStory

4$6

DATitle
Ann Walker recalls her attempt to organize a walkout protest
Ann Walker recalls being jailed for her activism in Jackson, Mississippi, pt. 1
Transcript
Do you recall any, any civil rights activity at all in, in--when you were growing up (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) The only thing I re--$$--any organized, you know, activity or the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] being involved?$$There was a Mr. Fenderson [ph.], he was always trying to get people to join the NAACP, course I was a kid. But I do remember in my high school [Freehold High School, Freehold, New Jersey], one of the girls was going to be in a play and they said her brother before her had been in this play and he had gotten into a--jumped into a barrel of cotton and came out, you know, with his eyes big and whatnot. And the black kids complained. And they said that his sister was going to have to do the same thing. And we decided if she did it, we were gonna walk out. Well, I sat with the orchestra down at the front, I was playing violin then. And when she, she didn't jump in the barrel of flour, she jumped behind the barrel of flour and was making the big eyes and whatnot. And I got up and I walked out, nobody else walked out with me. But we had said we were gonna walk out. I went to my locker and got my things and went home, because assembly was the last period of the day. And the next day the principal asked me why did I leave, and I told her, I did not want to see somebody of my race making a fool of themself. She didn't reprimand me, I didn't get any punishment or anything.$$Wha- what did the other students say as their reason for not (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) They didn't say anything, no. I had just walked and that was it (simultaneous).$$(Simultaneous) They never--they didn't give any, any excuse for not walking out?$$No excuse or nothing, unh-uh.$$Okay. You, you didn't ask them why they--why they--$$No I didn't ask them, I was mad with them.$$Okay. So this--this is your senior year, correct?$$It was either my junior or senior year.$Were there any whites at the--angry white people at the bus stop (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) When got--when we got to Jackson, Mississippi there were policemen on both sides and if you wanted to go someplace else you couldn't. But they escorted you right into the white waiting room and arrested you. As soon as you stepped in that door, you were under arrest. And so we spent the first night in the Jackson, Mississippi city jail. The two white girls [Margaret Leonard and Miriam Feingold Real] were in the cell next to me. They gave us cold peas and cold corn for dinner. And the mice were running up and down the bars of the jail--of the cells. And I could talk to the two white girls in the next cell, see we--they were segregated.$$'Cause they were white they had their own cell.$$Yeah, right they were in--yeah. And then the next morning, I kept notes and I still have them of every day we were in jail. I think like five or six o'clock the next morning they got us up and took us to the county jail, the Hinds County jail [Hinds County Detention Center, Jackson, Mississippi]. And that's where I did a week and it was terrible. I couldn't talk about until maybe about twenty--twenty, twenty-two years ago, it was so bad.$$Well what was it like?$$There were bugs. There, I think, thirteen of us in one cell. You're sleeping on the floor and whatnot, and at night when the girls were sleeping you could see the bugs crawling over them.$$Now these are--these are all black women?$$All black women in that one cell, the white women were in another cell. And the food, they would--as I remember I think they put it through a slit and something in the bottom of the door and they gave you your food that way. The food was terrible and you had no, we had no, no toothbrushes, no washcloths or anything. And they kept telling us we would get them until finally one of the white--one of the black ministers came and brought things. He said he'd left a package, I think he said something like thirty pounds, I have it in my notes, but we never did get them. And we couldn't, the water--it seemed like when you wanted to take a--to take a glass of water, it was hot. And if you wanted to bathe, it was cold. I mean it was just--it was just terrible. And the guard was so mean. At night he would turn the air conditioner on. If it was cool, he would turn the air conditioner on. In the day, he would turn the heat on. And we would sing to the men--I could hear my--we could hear the men singing and I don't know where their jail was, it was somewhere near, but we could hear them singing and we would sing back to them. And he would tell us to stop singing and we wouldn't stop singing. And that's when he would turn the air conditioning on so that we would stop singing. But it didn't stop us. And those girls were the--they were as clean as any college roommate. And they si- had a line strung up, I don't know if it was a string or what across the cell and they would rinse out the little things, you know, at night and hang them on the line. But it was terrible. And the Salvation Army came by one day and they told us we were all going to hell. We were sinners and all going to hell (laughter). We're sitting in that, you know, riding the bus anyplace we wanted to sit.$$This is a white, white members of Salvation Army?$$White Salvation Army, yeah.$$Okay, so what kind of songs did you sing, do you remember what?$$We sang the freedom songs, "Over my head, I hear music in the air" [sic. 'Freedom in the Air'], 'We Shall Overcome,' there was something to the tune of 'Day O' ['Banana Boat Song'], 'Day O' that [HistoryMaker] Harry Belafonte sang. We, we--I had--I forget the words to that, but we sang it. Whatever, you know, anybody knew that was a freedom song. We--they were called freedom songs and we would sing them, uh-huh. And then somebody had a book, may have been more than one but I read, I forget the name of it, 'The Long Day' [ph.] or something like that. Somebody had a little radio and we could hear when they would take some of the cellmates out to go to Parchman penitentiary [Parchman Farm; Mississippi State Penitentiary, Parchman, Mississippi]. Then the next, you would hear on the radio, you know, "Some Freedom Riders left So and So and they'll be in Jackson [Mississippi] at such and such a time." So we knew somebody else was coming. And they were--they were a nice group, there was never any confusion, no friction.

Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker

Pastor and civil rights activist Wyatt Tee Walker, also known as “The Harlem Preacher,” was born on August 16, 1928 in Brockton, Massachusetts to John Wise and Maude Pinn Walker. He attended primary and elementary schools in Merchantville, New Jersey and went on to attend Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia, where in 1950 he earned his B.S. degree in Chemistry and Physics, magna cum laude. He remained at Virginia Union and attended the Graduate School of Divinity, where he received his M.A. degree in 1953. Walker was heavily involved with the Civil Rights Movement as president of his local NAACP chapter and state director of the Congress of Racial Equality. He met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. at an interseminary meeting, forging a connection that continued until Dr. King’s assassination in 1968.

Walker, together with Dr. King, founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in 1957; he served as the organization’s third Executive Director in 1960 and helped Dr. King organize the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. In 1964, Walker left the SCLC and worked as a marketing specialist for the Negro Heritage Library, which aimed to make African American history a more integral part of the revisionist school curricula. Three years later, Walker became the Senior Pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, New York City, where he would serve for thirty-seven years. At Canaan Baptist, Walker reenergized the music program, leading it down a new path to several choral albums. In 1975, he earned his D.Min. degree from the Colgate-Rochester Divinity School, where he wrote his dissertation on the music of the black religious tradition. The urban affairs liaison for New York Governor Nelson A. Rockefeller, Walker served on the National Committee on the American Committee on Africa, which brought many African leaders to the Canaan Baptist Church, including Nelson Mandela. He concerned himself deeply with the apartheid struggle in South Africa as founder of the Religious Action Network of the American Committee on Africa in 1988.

Walker was a published author of many essays, including “The Soul of Black Worship: A Trilogy – Preaching, Praying and Singing” in 1984. He was named as one of Ebony magazine’s “15 Greatest Black Preachers” in 1993. After experiencing four cerebral strokes in 2002 and 2003, Walker retired from his post at Canaan Baptist Church and moved to Chester, Virginia with his wife Ann in 2004. After his retirement, he continued to speak and make appearances and was honored with induction into the International Civil Rights Walk of Fame at the Martin Luther King, Jr. National Historic Site in Atlanta, Georgia.

Walker passed away on January 23, 2018 at age 89.

Accession Number

A2010.069

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/24/2010

Last Name

Walker

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Tee

Schools

Colgate Rochester Crozer Divinity School

Virginia Union University

Merchantville High School

First Name

Wyatt

Birth City, State, Country

Brockton

HM ID

WAL14

State

Massachusetts

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Georgia

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/16/1928

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Atlanta

Country

USA

Death Date

1/23/2018

Short Description

Civil rights activist and pastor Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker (1928 - 2018 ) founded the Southern Christian Leadership Conference with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1957. He also served as the senior pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem for thirty-seven years.

Employment

Canaan Baptist Church of Christ

Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC)

Gillfield Baptist Church

Timing Pairs
0,0:1112,8:1880,14:9848,224:10712,236:28812,472:63070,780:63570,786:64570,798:69536,835:115149,1350:130288,1471:136230,1541:142030,1597:153176,1721:174605,1860:182770,1957$0,0:1332,15:4594,38:6848,92:15308,236:15830,243:24494,415:44300,589:46540,612:52860,650:64876,783:65272,803:69908,860:71852,889:72257,895:72662,901:73310,911:73796,919:107810,1282
DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137071">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Reverent Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137072">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes his family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137073">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes growing up in New Jersey and his father, John Wise Walker</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137074">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker talks about his experience at Virginia Union University in Richmond, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137075">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recalls Samuel DeWitt Proctor, and becoming pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137076">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes serving as pastor of Gillfield Baptist Church in Petersburg, Virginia and president of the Petersburg NAACP</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137077">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recounts his civil rights activism with the NAACP, CORE, and the Petersburg Improvement Association in Petersburg, Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137078">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recalls when he first met the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137079">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recounts how he grew the membership and budgets of the NAACP, SCLC, and the Petersburg Improvement Association in Virginia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137080">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recalls becoming the executive director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) in Atlanta, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137081">Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes the relationship between SCLC and SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137082">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker explains the strategy behind SCLC's 1963 Birmingham, Alabama campaign, Project C</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137083">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker recalls his and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1967 arrests in Birmingham, Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137084">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes HistoryMakers Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Reverend James Bevel</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137085">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker remembers the 1963 March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137086">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes becoming pastor of Canaan Baptist Church in Harlem, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137087">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes his work as a cultural historian</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137088">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker talks about his work against South African apartheid and meeting Nelson Mandela</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137089">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137090">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker remembers where he was during the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s 1968 assassination</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137091">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137092">Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker talks about his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137093">Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/137094">Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker explains how he financed his education at Virginia Union University</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

2$2

DAStory

1$3

DATitle
Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker explains the strategy behind SCLC's 1963 Birmingham, Alabama campaign, Project C
Reverend Dr. Wyatt Tee Walker describes HistoryMakers Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Reverend James Bevel
Transcript
Tell us about Project C with SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference].$$[Reverend] Dr. [Martin Luther] King [Jr.] said if we could crack Birmingham [Alabama], we could crack the South. Birmingham was the largest and most racist city in the South. And he told me to develop a plan for attack. And [HM Reverend] Fred Shuttlesworth wanted us to come. And he, it [Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights] was our strongest affiliate. So I developed Project C, which was accepted by Dr. King's Executive Committee without changing a comma or a period. And that was the plan for attacking segregation in Birmingham. And everybody, expert or naive, would agree that Birmingham was the chief watershed of the nonviolent movement in America, and led directly to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which had an effect of desegregating America. And I think that was my chief organizational accomplishment, the planning of Project C and executing it.$$Now, what were the key components of Project C? What was supposed to happen?$$Well, using Christian nonviolence as a means of desegregating Birmingham. And the calculation that [Birmingham Commissioner of Public Safety Eugene] "Bull" Conner would do something to help us, and he did.$$Now, what did he do to help?$$Well, his brutality, the water hoses, the dogs and the unsolved bombings.$$So his predictable brutality--$$Yes.$$--basically dramatized--$$Dramatized our struggle.$$Okay. All right. Now, did the--what difference did the media make in all of this?$$They made a tremendous difference because they publicized during the Cold War, that peaceful demonstrations in the South were being attacked by dogs and dosed with water hose, pneumatic water hoses, and while we were trying to influence, spread our influence to the Soviet Union. So we were the counterpoint of international diplomacy. And that helped propel the [Civil Rights] Movement against desegregation into an international issue.$Let me ask you about the, some of the other personalities involved in the [1963] Birmingham campaign [Birmingham, Alabama]. Tell us a little bit about [HM] Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth.$$Bravest man I ever met. Bravest man in the Civil Rights Movement. And they have named the Birmingham airport [Birmingham-Shuttesworth International Airport] after him and erected a statue in Ingram Park, and he deserves all of that because he kept the fires burning in Birmingham, regardless of the brutality they imposed upon the black community. And he never waivered.$$Okay.$$He tried to send his children to integrated schools. They beat him with chains. He's in ill health now, but he's a great person. If it had not been for Shuttlesworth, we would not have won Birmingham.$$Now, what about [HM Reverend] James Bevel and the youth march?$$Well, he organized the children, for the children's march which broke the back of resistance in Birmingham of the mercantile industry. When people saw television pictures of fire hose washing youngsters down the sidewalk in Birmingham, they, they said, this is enough. Segregation must end. And the children's march [Birmingham Children's Crusade] broke the back of resistance in Birmingham.$$Okay--$$And James Bevel was responsible for that.

Sala Udin

Politician and activist Sala Udin was born Samuel Wesley Howze on February 20, 1943 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania to William and Mary Howze. Raised in the Hill District of the city, he was one of eleven children. In 1961, Udin graduated from Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York and joined the Freedom Rider campaign that same summer.

Upon his return from the segregated South, Udin served as the president of the State Island Chapter of the NAACP for three years. In 1963, Udin took a group of college students to hear Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. give his “I Have A Dream” speech at the March on Washington. The following year, he worked for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project registering voters in Holmes County. The next year, in 1965, Udin co-founded the Centre Avenue Poets’ Theatre Workshop in his childhood neighborhood of the Hill District with friends and renown playwrights, August Wilson and Rob Penny. By 1967, Udin had become a strong advocate of Black Power attending numerous conferences and started the performing arts company, Black Horizons Theatre, modeled after Amiri Baraka’s Spirit House. Over the next four years, the company produced plays reflective of the Black Arts Movement and used black playwrights such as Sonia Sanchez, Ed Bullins, and Amiri Baraka. The programs were held in the Leo A. Weill School. Additionally, Udin helped to establish a Black Studies program at the University of Pittsburgh and published articles in The Pittsburgh Courier entitled, “Afrikan View.”

Beginning in 1968, Udin had numerous run-ins with the law including gun charges and driving without a valid license. In 1970, he was indicted in Louisville, Kentucky for illegal transportation of firearms and possession of distilled spirits. Sentenced to five years at a federal penitentiary, he began serving his sentence at the Lewisburg Federal Penitentiary in 1972. Seven months later, he was paroled. In 2006, he attempted to have his sentence pardoned.

Throughout the mid-1970s, Udin worked in social service agencies including as Executive Director at the House of Crossroads, a drug treatment facility and the Multicultural Resource Training Center in San Francisco. He moved back to Pittsburgh in 1992, and ran for City Council in a special election in 1995. He served as Councilmen for the Sixth District, his childhood neighborhood for ten years. As a councilman, he introduced legislation to establish a Citizen’s Police Review Board and sat on numerous committees including the Plan B Oversight Committee, which helped to provide jobs to women and minorities; the Housing Authority: City of Pittsburgh Board; and the Disparity Study and Implementation Commission.

In 2005, Udin lost in the primary to former employee Tonya Payne. Udin advocates the improvement of the Sixth District and was instrumental in the creation and maintenance of the Freedom Corner, a civil rights monument located in the Hill District neighborhood.

Udin was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on August 12, 2008.

Accession Number

A2008.104

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/12/2008

Last Name

Udin

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Port Richmond High School

First Name

Sala

Birth City, State, Country

Pittsburgh

HM ID

UDI01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

San Francisco, California

Favorite Quote

Power Concedes Nothing Without a Demand. It Never Has, and It Never Will.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/20/1943

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Pittsburgh

Country

USA

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city council member Sala Udin (1943 - ) worked for the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project in 1964 and started the performing arts company, Black Horizons Theatre. Udin has worked in social service agencies, including as executive director at the House of Crossroads, a drug treatment facility and the Multicultural Resource Training Center in San Francisco, and has served as a councilmen for the Sixth District in Pittsburgh.

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136271">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Sala Udin's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136272">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Sala Udin lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136273">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Sala Udin describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136274">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Sala Udin talks about his maternal grandparents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136275">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Sala Udin describes his mother's background and education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136276">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Sala Udin talks about his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136277">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Sala Udin talks about potential family ties in his paternal ancestry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136278">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Sala Udin describes his father's life in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136279">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Sala Udin talks about his parents and his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136280">Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Sala Udin recalls his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136281">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Sala Udin describes his childhood neighborhood in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136282">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Sala Udin recalls the sights, sounds, and smells of growing up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136283">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Sala Udin describes his experience at Holy Trinity Catholic Church and Catholic school in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136284">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Sala Udin talks about his classmates in the school at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, including Rob Penny and August Wilson</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136285">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about his grade school years at Holy Trinity Catholic Church in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136286">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Sala Udin recalls his fifth-grade teacher at Pittsburgh's Holy Trinity Catholic Church</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136287">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Sala Udin talks about the roles of church and of the community in shaping his values</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136288">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Sala Udin recalls television and film during his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136289">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Sala Udin describes the Hill District community of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136290">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Sala Udin talks about the Crawford Grill jazz club and the Negro League baseball teams in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136291">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Sala Udin talks about jazz artist George Benson and other musicians from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136292">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Sala Udin recalls moving from the Lower Hill District to the Bedford Dwellings projects in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136293">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Sala Udin describes his year at Central Catholic High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136294">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Sala Udin talks about his experience at Schenley High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136295">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Sala Udin describes moving to New York City with his friends</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136296">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Sala Udin describes moving in with his aunts and his cousin in Staten Island, New York</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136297">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Sala Udin recalls Port Richmond High School in Staten Island, New York, seeing Malcolm X in Harlem, and the 1963 March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136298">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Sala Udin recounts his semester studying to be an undertaker at the American Academy McAllister Institute</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136299">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about his involvement in the NAACP Youth League</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136300">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Sala Udin recounts meeting a representative of SNCC and his decision to go to Mississippi during the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136301">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Sala Udin recounts his arrival in Durant, Mississippi in 1965, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136302">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Sala Udin recounts his arrival in Durant, Mississippi in 1965, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136303">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Sala Udin describes ideological changes in the Civil Rights Movement during the mid-1960s, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136304">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Sala Udin describes ideological changes in the Civil Rights Movement during the mid-1960s, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136305">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about his role as a black northerner and the role of white liberals in the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136306">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Sala Udin explains SNCC's safety trainings for incoming civil rights workers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136307">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Sala Udin recounts his confrontation with Mississippi police during the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136308">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Sala Udin recounts his confrontation with Mississippi police during the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136309">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Sala Udin recounts his confrontation with Mississippi police during the Civil Rights Movement, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136310">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Sala Udin reflects upon the expulsion of white civil rights workers from SNCC, and on the philosophy of nonviolence</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136311">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about returning to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1968</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136312">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Sala Udin describes moving from Mississippi back to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in 1968</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136313">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Sala Udin describes his entry into the Black Power, Black Arts, and Black Nationalist movements</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136314">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Sala Udin talks about the Black Power Movement's strategies and the origin of the House of the Crossroads drug treatment program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136315">Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Sala Udin describes August Wilson and Rob Penny's Black Horizon Theatre in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136316">Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about Amiri Baraka, HistoryMaker Maulana Karenga, and the formation of the Congress of African People</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136317">Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Sala Udin talks about Amiri Baraka and the Congress of African People's transition from cultural nationalism to Marxism-Leninism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136318">Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Sala Udin recalls his 1972 incarceration for transporting a rifle across state lines</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136319">Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Sala Udin talks about leaving the Congress of African People after its transition from a Black Nationalist to a Marxist-Leninist focus</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136320">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Sala Udin recounts the decline of the Congress of African People in the late 1970s</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136321">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Sala Udin talks about his first marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136322">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Sala Udin talks about moving to California in 1982 to lead the Multicultural Training Resource Center</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136323">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Sala Udin describes disengaging from local politics and leaving his sons in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania after moving to California in 1982</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136324">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about raising AIDS awareness through the Multicultural Training Resource Center in the San Francisco Bay Area of California</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136325">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Sala Udin describes his life in California and traveling as a diversity consultant for the Multicultural Training Resource Center</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136326">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Sala Udin talks about the death of his mother, the death of his friend Jake Milliones, and his first run for Pittsburgh City Council</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136327">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Sala Udin recalls his 1995 election to the City Council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136328">Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Sala Udin talks about fighting police brutality on the Pittsburgh City Council after the 1995 killing of Jonny Gammage in police custody</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136329">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Sala Udin recounts his accomplishments on the City Council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136330">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Sala Udin recounts his accomplishments on the City Council of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136331">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Sala Udin talks about leaving the Pittsburgh City Council and becoming President of the Coro Center for Civic Leadership</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136332">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Sala Udin describes the Coro Center for Civic Leadership's training program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136333">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Sala Udin talks about his second marriage</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136334">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Sala Udin talks about what he would do differently</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136335">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Sala Udin describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136336">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Sala Udin talks about his two living sons</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136337">Tape: 9 Story: 9 - Sala Udin talks about his acting experience and the beginning of the August Wilson Center for African American Culture in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/136338">Tape: 9 Story: 10 - Sala Udin describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

7$7

DAStory

2$3

DATitle
Sala Udin describes his entry into the Black Power, Black Arts, and Black Nationalist movements
Sala Udin talks about the Black Power Movement's strategies and the origin of the House of the Crossroads drug treatment program
Transcript
Okay. Now, what would you describe your ideology at that point?$$Black Power developing toward Black Nationalism.$$Okay. And how would you define Black Nationalism?$$Initially, a desire on the part of black people to establish the independence of a nation and the respect that nations have among nations. And I never bought the idea that anybody would concede to a certain number of states in the Southland, but I thought that, that wasn't necessary for nationhood, that a nation could exist even as a scattered nation if they developed enough unity and power to exert, exert that nationhood. So, I identified with the Black Power Movement with black, black consciousness. Eventually, the Black Power Conferences that had been held in different cities around the country realized that nothing in between those conferences was getting organized, and that as long as we just kept having these impromptu conferences in a different location every year, our political roles couldn't get realized. And so, I was really glad when I heard that there was going to be a culmination of all those Black Power Conferences in Atlanta, Georgia in 1980.$$Nineteen--not '80 [1980], but--$$Nineteen-seventy [1970], 1970--$$Yeah.$$--when the Congress of African People gathered and it gave me an organizational entree for those of us in Pittsburgh [Pennsylvania] who needed a national political affiliation to attach to.$$Okay. Now, prior to that time, you were involved in the Black Arts Movement here, the theater movement, and that sort of--$$Yes. As I was transitioning into Pittsburgh, we formed an organization called the Afro-American Institute. And the Afro-American Institute had several committees. Eventually, I became chairman of the Afro-American Institute, and our various committees achieved certain accomplishments within the realm of that committee. For example, the education committee worked on the establishment of a Black Studies Department at the University of Pittsburgh [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania] and a black student organization to increase student enrollment and increase black faculty and administrative representation at the University of Pittsburgh. Many of these achievements that we started then continue to exist today, like the black studies program and like the Black Action Society which is the black students' organization. They are well institutionalized.$Now, the institutionalizing of these studies programs suggest that there must have been some sort of a cultural reawakening or girding up of, you know. So, did you--you didn't have black studies in school when you were growing up, now did you? I mean, had you had been reading all along, or trying to develop what a concept black culture was?$$No, the movement was a university.$$Okay.$$And the other cities where these struggles were taking place was the course subject that we studied. And these conferences, the Black Power Conferences, and other conferences is where all this information came together, and people learned what the goals of local organizing should be. So, it was really something that was modelled for us by other communities around the country.$$Now, which ones and like, what kind of work--I mean, specifically, what works were you reading, and/or what individuals were informing you?$$What I remember most is Amiri Baraka, Stokely Carmichael, [H.] Rap Brown--their readings--Malcolm-X's writings and recordings. Those were the things that I remember most--$$Okay.$$--about that period. We had a committee that worked on offing the [drug] pusher. We had a group of thugs in our organization who, when we noticed how much drugs was permeating our community, we decided to confront the pushers who were few enough to be easily identified at the time, and we started beating up pushers and robbing them, and throwing their dope down the sewer, and taking their money, and using it for the movement. But we ran our mouths too much, and next thing you know, they knew who we were, and they started fighting back. And we took a couple pretty good ass-kickings before we figured out that that is not going to be the way we get rid of drugs in our community. And that effort evolved into an attempt to recruit drug addicts, clean them up, politicize them, and bring them into our movement, so that we could understand the underground operation that these pushers operated in because we were not hoodlums, so we didn't really understand that life, and didn't understand how they operated, but we were so above-board and ran our mouths so much that they understood everything about us. We understood nothing about them. So, we wanted to recruit some of them into our movement to inform us, so that we would stop taking these defeats that we had taken. But during the course of that effort to recruit them and politicize them through a drug treatment program, it was a kind of political drug treatment program that we started. During the course of that, we discovered that confronting street pushers is not going to stop this explosion of drugs in our community. It's going to have to be a political battle. And, but the drug program is still a good thing to have, 'cause we saved a lot of people's lives, and it was a source of some employment for a lot of us in the movement working in the drug treatment program. And so, that program continued, and that continues to this day. It's called the House of the Crossroads [Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania]. It's still in the same building it started in, in 1969.

Dorie Ladner

Civil rights activist Dorie Ann Ladner was born on June 28, 1942, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. As an adolescent, she became involved in the NAACP Youth Chapter where Clyde Kennard served as advisor. Ladner got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and wanted to be an activist after hearing about the murder of Emmitt Till. After graduating from Earl Travillion High School as salutatorian, alongside her sister, Joyce Ladner, she went on to enroll at Jackson State University. Dedicated to the fight for civil rights, during their freshmen year at Jackson State, she and her sister attended state NAACP meetings with Medgar Evers and Eileen Beard. That same year, Ladner was expelled from Jackson State for participating in a protest against the jailing of nine students from Tougaloo College.

In 1961, Ladner enrolled at Tougaloo College where she became engaged with the Freedom Riders. During the early 1960s, racial hostilities in the South caused Ladner to drop out of school three times to join the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). In 1962, she was arrested along with Charles Bracey, a Tougaloo College student, for attempting to integrate the Woolworth’s lunch counter. She joined with SNCC Project Director Robert Moses and others from SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) to register disenfranchised black voters and integrate public accommodations. Ladner’s civil rights work was exemplified when she became one of the founding members of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Clarksdale, Mississippi, which included: NAACP, CORE, SNCC, and SCLC.

Then, in 1964, Ladner became a key organizer in the Freedom Summer Project sponsored by the COFO. Throughout her years of working with SNCC, she served on the front line of the Civil Rights Movement in various capacities. She participated in every civil rights march from 1963 to 1968 including the March on Washington in 1963, the Selma to Montgomery March of 1965 and the Poor People’s March in 1968. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, from 1964 to 1966, and lectured at universities, churches, and other institutions to raise money for the organization. In addition, Ladner was a supporter of the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and worked in the presidential campaigns of Eugene McCarthy and George McGovern. She went on to serve as a community organizer for the Anti Poverty Program in St. Louis, Missouri, and was an advocate for civil rights in housing and employment. Ladner has also worked for the Martin Luther King Library Documentation Center to help collect the history of people who were participants in the Civil Rights Movement.

In 1973, after her marriage and the birth of her only child, Yodit, Ladner earned her B.A. degree from Tougaloo College. In 1974, she moved to Washington, D.C., and enrolled at the Howard University School of Social Work where she earned her MSW degree in 1975. Ladner has served as a clinical social worker in both the Washington, D.C. General Emergency Room and Psychiatry Department for thirty years. Since her retirement, she has continued her work as a social activist by participating in genealogical research, public speaking, anti-war activities (marches against the war in Iraq), and volunteering in the presidential campaign of Barack Obama.

Accession Number

A2008.079

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/2/2008

7/24/2008

Last Name

Ladner

Maker Category
Schools

Earl Travillion High School

Jackson State University

Tougaloo College

De Priest School

Howard University

First Name

Dorie

Birth City, State, Country

Hattiesburg

HM ID

LAD03

Favorite Season

Spring, Winter

State

Mississippi

Favorite Quote

Freedom Is A Constant Struggle.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

6/28/1942

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Southern Food, Brownies

Short Description

Civil rights activist and city social service worker Dorie Ladner (1942 - ) is a founding member of the Council of Federated Organizations, and participated in the March on Washington, the Selma to Montgomery March, and the Poor People's March. She was the SNCC project director in Natchez, Mississippi, and a clinical social worker in the Washington, D.C. General Emergency Room and Psychiatry Department.

Favorite Color

Bright Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618518">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dorie Ladner's interview, session 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618519">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner lists her favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618520">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's family background, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618521">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's family background, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618522">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner talks about her maternal grandfather and great-grandfather</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618523">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes her mother's upbringing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618524">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about race relations in the South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618525">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes her father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618526">Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner talks about the economic opportunities in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618527">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes her paternal grandfather's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618528">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner talks about her French ancestry</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618529">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner talks about her paternal grandfather's death</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618530">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner talks about her relation to Thomas Ladnier</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618531">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes her father and his siblings</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618532">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls her decision to stop her genealogical research</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618533">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes her father</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618534">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes her likeness to her parents</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618535">Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner describes her earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618536">Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dorie Ladner remembers the community of Palmer's Crossing, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618537">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes the sights, sounds and smell of her childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618538">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner describes her schooling in Hattiesburg, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618539">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner remembers the murder of Emmett Till</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618540">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner recalls her early exposure to African American publications</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618541">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers the lynchings in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618542">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the economy in Hattiesburg, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618543">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes her education at the De Priest School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618544">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner remembers joining the NAACP</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618545">Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner recalls matriculating at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618546">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner remembers meeting with Medgar Evers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618547">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls her experiences at Jackson State College in Jackson, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618548">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the history of Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618549">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remembers demonstrating with Tougaloo College students</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618550">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls transferring to Tougaloo College in Tougaloo, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618551">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the figures in Mississippi's Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618552">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner remembers travelling through the Mississippi Delta</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618553">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner remembers meeting Fannie Lou Hamer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618554">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon the success of the Civil Rights Movement in rural Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618555">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the violence against civil rights organizers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618556">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remembers Robert Parris Moses</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618557">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls joining the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618558">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner remembers the imprisonment of Clyde Kennard</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618559">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls Clyde Kennard's release from prison</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618560">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the summer of 1963</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618561">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Dorie Ladner remembers the murder of Medgar Evers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618562">Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner talks about the African American legislators during Reconstruction</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618563">Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers Medgar Evers' funeral</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618564">Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls being jailed after Medgar Evers' funeral</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618565">Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the trial of Medgar Evers' murderer</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618566">Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls being accosted at a bus station by racist whites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618567">Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls the funeral of the victims of the 16th Street Baptist Church bombing</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618568">Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls working with SNCC in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618569">Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner recalls the attempted bombing of the SNCC office in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618570">Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618571">Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618572">Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 3</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618573">Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner narrates her photographs, pt. 4</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618574">Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the murders of Herbert Lee and Lewis Allen</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618575">Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls the decision to recruit northern civil rights workers</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618576">Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the early membership of SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618577">Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers SNCC's recruitment at northern colleges</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618578">Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls the federal government's opposition to SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618579">Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner remembers SNCC's nonviolent action training program</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618580">Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner remembers the Freedom Summer murders</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618581">Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes the SNCC training program in Oxford, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618582">Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the mission of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618583">Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner talks about her civil rights work in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618584">Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner recalls the collaboration between SNCC and the U.S. Department of Justice</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618585">Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner remembers transporting SNCC volunteers to Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618586">Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner recalls establishing a Freedom House in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618587">Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about race relations in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618588">Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the attitudes towards outsiders in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618589">Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes her daily activities as a civil rights organizer in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618590">Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers developing trust with the black community in Natchez, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618591">Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the white reactions to civil rights workers in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618592">Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the violations of her First Amendment rights</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618593">Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner talks about the importance of her roots in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618594">Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner talks about SNCC's black northern membership</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618595">Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner describes the backgrounds of the members of SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618596">Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner talks about the role of white women in SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618597">Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner recalls the founding of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618598">Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner recalls the federal response to the Freedom Summer murders</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618599">Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner describes the objectives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618600">Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes the events of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618601">Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes the events of the 1964 Democratic National Convention, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618602">Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes the reactions to the 1964 Democratic National Convention</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618603">Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner recalls the Freedom Summer murder trial</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618604">Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes the aftermath of the 1964 Democratic National Convention</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618605">Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon SNCC's accomplishments in Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618606">Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner remembers the SNCC retreat in Waveland, Mississippi</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618607">Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner recalls the transition of civil rights activities to Alabama</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618608">Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner remember the U.S. Congressional campaigns by SNCC activists</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618609">Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner recalls the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618610">Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon the strategies of the Civil Rights Movement</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618611">Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner reflects upon her life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618612">Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Dorie Ladner describes SNCC's philosophy of activism</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618613">Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Dorie Ladner talks about the differences between the SCLC and SNCC</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618614">Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Dorie Ladner remembers the March on Washington</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618615">Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Dorie Ladner describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618616">Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Dorie Ladner describes the value of genealogical research</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618617">Tape: 13 Story: 6 - Dorie Ladner describes her family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618618">Tape: 13 Story: 7 - Dorie Ladner talks about Barack Obama's presidential candidacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/618619">Tape: 13 Story: 8 - Dorie Ladner describes how she would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

2$1

DATape

12$6

DAStory

1$4

DATitle
Dorie Ladner reflects upon SNCC's accomplishments in Mississippi
Dorie Ladner describes the trial of Medgar Evers' murderer
Transcript
Well, we were talking about the, the early part of 1965, a retreat in Waverley, Mississippi?$$Waveland.$$Waveland, Mississippi, yeah, Waveland, okay; down on the coast, right? The Gulf Coast (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes, Mississippi Gulf Coast.$$Yeah. And you said that the SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] people were kind of beating up on themselves.$$Well, yes. It was a retreat to assess what we had done, our successes and failures, and where were we going from there. And some people thought that enough hadn't been accomplished; some thought that some- something had been accomplished, and some weren't quite sure. I know--for myself, I, I knew that things had changed; I'll speak for myself.$$Okay. How had they changed? I mean this (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Because, as I said earlier, that I wanted the young people who were coming into Mississippi, I wanted them to come and see, come and see what was going on, what was happening to us--the young white people who were coming and bringing the media and bringing the federal government into the State of Mississippi to see the brutality and the deaths, and to see the disenfranchisement, the humiliation, the wages--low wages; I wanted everything to be seen. And for me, I knew that Mississippi would never be the same again because it had been exposed to the whole world, and that, for me, was enough. It wasn't enough, but it was enough for me to say that never, never, never again would this happen, and I felt that voter registration, going to the Democratic Convention [1964 Democratic National Convention, Atlantic City, New Jersey], and encountering people from different congressional districts, and having gone to the seat of power, Humphrey [Hubert Humphrey] and the president of the United States [President Lyndon Baines Johnson] knows that we're here now, and our workers had been killed, and the CIA [Central Intelligence Agency] had set up headquarters in Mississippi. J. Edgar Hoover had been down there and--searching for the bodies, and the whole state was saturated. No stone was left unturned, although they may have hidden something under them or may--something may have been left, but everything was wide open; Mississippi was wide open, and blacks had gained a sense of empowerment. There were no, no longer any twelve o'clock curfews in Clarksdale, Mississippi, ten o'clock curfews for blacks in Ruleville, Mississippi with the night watchman [J.W. Milam] who had killed Emmett Till serving as the night watchman in Ruleville, and these things were--got--were eradicated. I wanted everybody to come and see, come and see. And for me, I felt that a lot of that had been accomplished. Of course, we had a long way to go because Mississippi is still the poorest state in the union, and the economic part had to be dealt with. But just the humiliation of buying a dress and not being able to try it on. Not being--being told to get out of a restaurant or doctor's office. I know when I was about twelve years old--I had always suffered with sinusitis, and went into the doctor's office and they--woman--nurse came and told me, "Get the hell out of there and go in the back door." Now there was another door at the end of the hall, to go to that door. But the humiliation of day to day activities that you don't anticipate, but it's like everybody sees now, everybody knows what's going on, everybody knows that Herbert Lee was killed, Louis Allen was killed, Mickey Schwerner [Michael Schwerner] and James Chaney and Reverend Lee [George W. Lee] from Belzoni [Mississippi] was killed--they know that; they know Emmett Till was murdered. Emmett Till was murdered and his mama [Mamie Till Mobley] let everybody see his face. Mack Charles Parker was killed--he was thrown into the river; everybody knows that. How many deaths will it take? And they started naming all the names of people who'd been killed. So, that was my whole feeling about what had happened.$It was such a painful, painful time. Your, your mentor--the individual who had nurtured you and who had taught you, and who had taken time to teach you, and to see him gunned down like that, and you'd been with them the night before and said, "We'll see you tomorrow." And I went to both the trials, and Byron De La Beckwith, the murderer, came into the courtroom, they say he had already shot his wife [Mary Williams Beckwith] in the buttocks when he came to court. And his son [Byron De La Beckwith, Jr.] was there. The first judge was moderate; he said, "You could sit wherever you wanna sit." And it was quiet in the courtroom, so we'd come in and sit down; we'd come from Tougaloo [Tougaloo College, Tougaloo, Mississippi] every day and observe. But one day I came, and this white man put his foot up on the seat to keep me from sitting down and I said, "The judge said we could sit wherever we wanna sit. Move your foot!" And he took his foot down. So, my buddy (laughter), Thomas Armstrong, who was with me--looked for Armstrong--Armstrong was sitting back there acting as if, if he didn't know me, but it didn't matter. The next day I came to court, these same men would say, "Here she comes; what she gonna do this time?" I said, "The same thing I did yesterday." 'Cause Mother [Annie Woullard Perryman] always told us, "Don't you back down; once you get into it, you stay in." And so, they found--they had a--but the way the jury was selected, William Waller who later became judge--the DA [district attorney] at that time, said--would say, when they selected a jury, "Medgar Evers was a nigger, he lived over in nigger town, I didn't agree with what he did, and I know you don't either, but it's my job to uphold the law. Do you think it's wrong for a white man to kill a nigger?" And some of them said--would say, "No," some indifferent, and so that's how he selected the first jury. The second trial--that was mistrial. The second trial, the Klu Klux Klan [sic. Ku Klux Klan, KKK] came, and they dominated the whole courtroom. The jailer--the bailiff had a big thick cane and made us go up to the balcony, and we had to sit in the balcony. But see, we had to time it just right because if we were there by the time they got out of court, we would get beaten, so we would leave and run down those marble steps. You know, in these courthouses, they had these marble steps and those old raggedy elevators? We would run down the steps and get away from the courthouse, and Farish Street [Jackson, Mississippi] was like--almost a mile from where we were; you had the courthouse and the jail right together, so we would (makes sound) run. And the second mis- this--Beckwith would come in for the Klan, they would give him a standing ovation, he would take his bow, and make his little speech and thank them, and they would applaud him and he would have his seat. And so, another mistrial was declared, and this time they--we got caught; they had let out so fast, we weren't able to get away, but Jesse Morris drove up (laughter) in one of those VW [Volkswagen] wagons, and said, "Do y'all need a ride?" And we said, "Yes," and we jumped in and flew, and that was divine intervention because they were very angry, very angry--you know, the Klan, 'cause they were there, and so we got away safely.

Robert Wright

Dimensions International, Inc., founder and chairman emeritus Robert Lee Wright was born on March 17, 1937, in Columbus, Georgia, to a bricklayer and a nurse. After graduating from high school, Wright went on to attend Ohio State University where he became classmates with future world class athletes Bob Ferguson and Mel Noel. Wright graduated in 1960 from Ohio State University College of Optometry with his degree in optometry. He returned to Georgia where he began practicing as an optometrist.

Upon his return home to Georgia, Wright became deeply involved in the Civil Rights Movement. In 1965, he participated in the Selma to Montgomery March. Then, in 1968, Wright’s career interest changed to politics when he was recruited by the Republican Party to run for Columbus City Council. He won and was re-elected three times before being appointed to the position of Associate Administrator for Minority Small Business and Capital Ownership Development by President Ronald Reagan. After two years of working with the Reagan Administration, Wright resigned, and in 1985, he founded Dimensions International, Inc. Through Dimensions International, Wright began providing leading-edge technology to the government and private sector in the fields of systems engineering, information technology, and airspace management. A core subsidiary of Dimensions International is Flight Explorer, the leading provider of web-based global flight tracking information. Under Wright’s leadership, Dimensions International grew to a multimillion dollar defense contractor, listed amongst Black Enterprise’s 100.

Wright was chairman of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, and of the Sub-Saharan Advisory Committee of the Export-Import Bank of the United States. Since 1999, he has been a director of Aflac, Inc. He has received many awards and recognitions, including the 2001 Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award in Technology Services; the Man of the Year of the National Federation of Black Women Business Owners; the 2007 Boy Scouts of America Distinguished Citizen Award; the NAACP Achievement Award; and the Push Excellence Award.

Accession Number

A2008.077

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/1/2008

Last Name

Wright

Middle Name

Lee

Schools

Spencer High School

Fifth Avenue School

The Ohio State University

First Name

Robert

Birth City, State, Country

Columbus

HM ID

WRI04

Favorite Season

Summer

Sponsor

Richard Holmes

State

Georgia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Rome, Italy

Favorite Quote

What Is, Is.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Virginia

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/17/1937

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Alexandria

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Pudding (Banana)

Short Description

Technology chief executive, civil rights activist, and city council member Robert Wright (1937 - ) was the founder and chairman emeritus of Dimensions International, Inc., a leading information technology and airspace management solutions provider. Wright participated in the Selma to Montgomery March, and worked in the Reagan administration after serving four terms in the Columbus, Georgia, city council.

Employment

Self-Employed

Columbus Council

U.S. Small Business Administration

Dimensions International, Inc.

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482437">Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Robert Wright's interview</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482438">Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Robert Wright lists his favorites</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482439">Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes his mother's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482440">Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his mother's community in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482441">Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes his mother's education</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482442">Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Robert Wright describes his father's family background</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482443">Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Robert Wright describes his parents' personalities, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482444">Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes his parents' personalities, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482453">Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Robert Wright describes his father's career in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482454">Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Robert Wright describes his earliest childhood memory</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482455">Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes the influence of Fort Benning on Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482456">Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his neighborhood in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482457">Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes the sights, sounds and smells of his childhood</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482458">Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls serving on a presidential commission with Hank Aaron</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482459">Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Robert Wright describes his early activities in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482460">Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes his early academic interests</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482461">Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Robert Wright remembers the Fifth Avenue School in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482462">Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Robert Wright remembers William H. Spencer High School in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482463">Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Robert Wright recalls his favorite music from his youth</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482464">Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Robert Wright recalls his early experiences of watching television</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482465">Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Robert Wright remembers racial discrimination in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482466">Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls his decision to attend The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482467">Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Robert Wright remembers his studies at The Ohio State University</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482468">Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Robert Wright recalls his community at The Ohio State University, pt. 1</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482469">Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Robert Wright recalls his community at The Ohio State University, pt. 2</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482470">Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Robert Wright recalls returning to Columbus, Georgia after college</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482471">Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Robert Wright recalls his optometry practice in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482472">Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his civil rights and political activities</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482473">Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Robert Wright recalls joining the Republican Party in Columbus, Georgia</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482474">Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Robert Wright recalls his work with Republican politicians in the South</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482475">Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Robert Wright remembers serving on the U.S. Small Business Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482476">Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Robert Wright describes the growth of the U.S. Small Business Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482477">Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Robert Wright describes his achievements at the U.S. Small Business Administration</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482478">Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Robert Wright remembers founding Dimensions International, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482479">Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Robert Wright describes his career at Dimensions International, Inc.</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482480">Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Robert Wright describes his achievements in business</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482481">Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Robert Wright describes his philanthropy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482482">Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Robert Wright describes his hopes for the African American community</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482483">Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Robert Wright reflects upon his life</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482484">Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Robert Wright reflects upon his legacy</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482485">Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Robert Wright reflects upon his family</a>

<a href="https://da.thehistorymakers.org/story/482486">Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Robert Wright describes how he would like to be remembered</a>

DASession

1$1

DATape

5$5

DAStory

1$2

DATitle
Robert Wright describes his achievements at the U.S. Small Business Administration
Robert Wright remembers founding Dimensions International, Inc.
Transcript
Now you were at the SBA [U.S. Small Business Administration] for two years. We were mentioning off-screen Sonicraft [Sonicraft, Inc., Chicago, Illinois] as being one of the--in Chicago [Illinois] as being one of the minority-owned businesses that you helped fund, you know. And quite a few businesses got big contracts, you know.$$Oh, yeah, yeah, quite a few businesses got huge contracts and, you know, I was instrumental in trying to get some of those contracts. The idea being if you get the contract, you can hire the people, you can bring the expertise, you can grow a business, you can make that business competitive so that when you can't bid for these or get these kind of contracts, you have a, a good foundation in which to grow your business on a competitive basis. That was the whole idea. We provide management, technical assistance. In some instances, we provided equipment to firms, so it was a great opportunity in my opinion for minority businesses to really get a step up.$$So the rewarding of contracts based largely on the management capacity of the business and what it's able to--$$Yeah, to a great extent and expertise to be able to handle the work. You, now, we wouldn't give a contract to make a, a highly technical electronic gadget to a guy who's a barber. That's not his expertise. Not taking anything away from that profession, but it's just not his expertise. But--so, the people that got contracts should've had some type of background that would lend itself to the contract that they were getting, either by having worked for someone else, having the degrees in that, or having a business that had grown up in that industry. Which is interesting because ultimately what I did in my business [Dimensions International, Inc.] is totally different from what I was trained to do (laughter).$$Right. It was--I was listening to you talk, I say, well, now. So, but, now, now you were, you were at SBA for two years.$$I was.$Now, what happened that you decided to--was it--and I guess I'm, you know--now, I'm thinking as I'm hearing you tell this story, so you're awarding these million dollar contracts to people and you see what it takes to get these contracts, and you're working on a government salary. You're thinking, well, heck, if I can get on the other side of this--is that what you thought?$$No, that was not my driver when I started Dimensions [Dimensions International, Inc.]. As a matter of fact, when I left the government I did not start Dimensions right away. I had no intentions for going into the government contracting business. I became a consultant to try to continue to help other firms get government business, try to help other firms get through the maze of the SBA [U.S. Small Business Administration] machinery so to speak. So I had, no, no, no--so I wasn't motivated by, oh, that's the way they're doing it, let me get out and do it to. But, I started a consulting business and at some point in time I got--I had several clients but unfortunately they all didn't pay me and that created--that was--presented problems for me. I'm going out helping a guy get a contract and, you know, and I'm need to be paid or help to do some marketing, or open a door and, or whatever. And, so I decided, well, maybe I need to look at this a different way. So, it was at least two years after I left the government before I really started, you know, taking a look at the government in terms of an opportunity for myself.$$Okay, so by 1984, I guess, then that you--so, well, really you started Dimensions International in '85 [1985] but I guess you started planning, you know (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Around '85 [1985] is when I really began to change the concept 'cause I started out as Bob Wright and Associates as a consulting firm. But then I began to--took on a new name with a different focus around '85 [1985].$$Okay.$$And that's when I formed Dimensions International, and eventually incorporated as Dimensions International.$$Okay, now what did Dimensions do, basically?$$To start off I was just--I was in management consulting, doing studies, surveys, you know, things like that. And then one day, a firm that had outgrown the 8(a) Program [8(a) Business Development Program], the Shelton Market [ph.] was about to--then I eventually went into the 8(a) Program myself. I'm trying to get my story straight. And I went in as a management consulting firm. Eventually, this firm that was running computers for the [U.S.] Department of Agriculture had outgrown their ability to get this particular computer contract. And they asked me would I become the prime on that contract, they had the expertise and they would become a subcontractor to me. Well, that's a win-win for everybody. It's a win-win for their company because they're able to keep part of the business. It's a win for me because I'm able to get into a business I'm not in already with someone who's in it to provide the expertise. You see what I mean? And so, I was able to get into that contract--