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Ntozake Shange

Playwright and author Ntozake Shange was born Paulette L. Williams on October 18, 1948 in Trenton, New Jersey to Paul T. Williams, an air force surgeon, and Eloise Williams, an educator and psychiatric social worker. Her family regularly hosted artists like Dizzy Gillespie, Paul Robeson, and W.E.B. DuBois at their home. Shange graduated cum laude with her B.S. degree in American Studies from Barnard College in New York City in 1970. While pursuing her M.A. degree in American Studies from the University of Southern California, Shange began to associate with feminist writers, poets and performers. In 1971, she adopted her new name, Ntozake, meaning “she who comes with her own things,” and Shange, meaning “she who walks like a lion,” from the Xhosa dialect of Zulu. She graduated from the University of Southern California in 1973.

Upon joining Malifu Osumare’s dance company, Shange met Paula Moss, and their subsequent collaborations led to the invention of Shange’s work, the choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf. The work was initially produced Off-Broadway in 1975 at the New Federal Theatre in New York City, moving to the Anspacher Public Theatre in 1976. After premiering on Broadway at the Booth Theatre later that same year, the play went on to win the Obie Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award, and the AUDELCO Award. Originally conceived as a choreopoem, it has been published in book form, and adapted into a stage play. In 2010, Tyler Perry wrote, produced and directed the film adaptation, For Colored Girls, starring Whoopi Goldberg, Phylicia Rashad, Janet Jackson, and Loretta Devine.

In 1978, Shange released Nappy Edges, a collection of fifty poems celebrating the voices of defiantly independent women. In 1979, she produced the Three Pieces trilogy of choreopoems, which won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 1982, Shange released her first novel, Sassafrass, Cypress, and Indigo, which she followed with Betsy Brown in 1985 and Liliane: Resurrection of the Daughter in 1994.Shange’s work also appeared in The Black Scholar, Yardbird, Ms., Essence magazine, The Chicago Tribune, VIBE, and Third-World Women. In addition to poetry, novels, essays, and screenplays, Shange published four books for children: Whitewash (1997); the tribute to Muhammad Ali, Float Like a Butterfly (2002); Ellington Was Not a Street (2003); Daddy Says (2003); and Coretta Scott (2009). She also served on the faculty of the Department of Drama at the University of Houston.

An Emmy, Tony, and Grammy award nominee, Shange received an NDEA fellowship in 1974, two Obie Awards, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1981, the Paul Robeson Achievement Award in 1992, the Living Legend Award from the National Black Theatre Festival in 1993. She was inducted into the St. Louis Walk of Fame.

Shange passed away on October 27, 2018.

Ntozake Shange was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on September 12, 2016 and February 1, 2017.

Accession Number

A2016.042

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/12/2016

02/01/2017

Last Name

Shange

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Barnard College

University of Southern California

Clark Elementary School

Trenton Central High School

Boston University

Dewey International Studies Elementary School

Lone Mountain College

First Name

Ntozake

Birth City, State, Country

Trenton

HM ID

SHA09

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Bermuda

Favorite Quote

Not My Will But Thy Will Expressed Through Me.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

10/18/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Seafood Gumbo

Death Date

10/27/2018

Short Description

Playwright and author Ntozake Shange (1948 - 2018) wrote the award-winning Broadway play and choreopoem for colored girls who have considered suicide / when the rainbow is enuf, which was published in book form, and adapted into a 2010 film.

Employment

The Evolution of Black Dance Troupe

Trenton State College

Sonoma State College

UC Berkeley Extension

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 1

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her mother's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her father's education and profession

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' personalities and who she takes after

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange lists her siblings, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her early education

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls her parents' celebrity guests

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers watching the House Un-American Activities Committee hearings

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange describes her early experiences of religion

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her early exposure to literature and film

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange remembers her first two poems

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers reading African American periodicals

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences of racial discrimination at Trenton Central High School in Trenton, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange describes her decision to attend Barnard College in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her involvement with the Black Power movement

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her experiences at Barnard College in New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about editing the Phat Mama literary magazine

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange recalls her abortion and first marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recalls the strike at Columbia University in New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recalls her professors at the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, California

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her decision to leave graduate school

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange recalls the start of her writing career

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange remembers her aspiration to dance with the Sun Ra Arkestra

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange recalls starting to write 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange remembers the rehearsals for the first production of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange explains the meaning of the title of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange remembers bringing 'For Colored Girls' to New York City

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ntozake Shange talks about the first performances of 'For Colored Girls' in New York City

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Slating of Ntozake Shange's interview, session 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange talks about the negative critical responses to 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the adaptations of 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about Tyler Perry's film, 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her work after 'For Colored Girls'

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about experiences of bipolar disorder and neuropathy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her struggle with bipolar disorder

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange describes her writing process

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about her current writing project

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange talks about her theatrical works

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of 'Sassafrass, Cypress and Indigo'

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about the critical reception of her works

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange talks about her novel, 'Betsey Brown'

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes the plot of her novel, 'Liliane'

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about writing a novel with her sister, Ifa Bayeza

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange talks about her books for children

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange talks about her inspiration

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Ntozake Shange talks about the lynching of the Newberry Six

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange remembers the African American literature courses she taught

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice to aspiring poets and writers

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange lists her favorite poets

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her body of work

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the status of women today

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange shares her advice for black women

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon the state of African American art

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ntozake Shange recites her poem 'Ode to Orlando'

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ntozake Shange recites poetry from her collection, 'Wild Beauty'

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ntozake Shange talks about her family

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ntozake Shange describes her parents' thoughts on her career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ntozake Shange talks about her musical accompanists

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Ntozake Shange talks about her plans for the future

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Ntozake Shange reflects upon her legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$2

DAStory

10$8

DATitle
Ntozake Shange talks about the first performances of 'For Colored Girls' in New York City
Ntozake Shange remembers her first two poems
Transcript
And then I ran into my sister who--the playwright who always inspired me, Ifa. And Ifa said, "What you have here is theater Ntozake [HistoryMaker Ntozake Shange]. You don't need to do this in cafes anymore, you can do this in a theater." And I said, "Well, I'm happy doing it in cafes, I don't need to make it theater and do the same thing every night. When you do theater, you have to do the same poems every night. And doing what I do, I can change the poems every night. And we still have 'For Colored Girls' ['For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide / When the Rainbow is Enuf,' Ntozake Shange] because it becomes whatever poem I put in there." And she said, "No, no, no. You don't understand. Theater is alive. You can find actors who can make it different every night." And I very reluctantly entertained these actresses that my sister Ifa Bayeza, and [HistoryMaker] Oz Scott, my director, discovered in New York [New York]. And that's how we got Trazana Beverley and Laurie Carlos. And we kept Paula [Paula Moss] as a speaker as Lady in Green. And Paula had a verbal role which she had never had before. And I had two pieces that I did. We got Janet League and Rise Collins and Aku Kadogo and I think that's all there were. I don't think I'm leaving anybody out. And Oz arranged for us to perform--or I arranged for us to perform down the street from the Old Reliable [Old Reliable Theatre Tavern, New York, New York] where we had been working, where they had no running water and no heat And we were having practicing down there. And then Oz found us rehearsal space at New York University's theater school at the Tisch School of Art [Tisch School of the Arts, New York University, New York, New York]. And they had empty rehearsal rooms sometimes. So we would be in from seven to eleven [o'clock] or from seven to one, or from eleven 'til dawn. And then we would go to our day jobs and we would finish rehearsal. For free we did this. And then we did to DeMonte's Cafe [New York, New York] on 3rd Street and the Old Reliable was on 3rd Street between C [Avenue C] and D [Avenue D]. But DeMonte's was on 3rd Street between B [Avenue B] and C. So we were moving up as we went along, up the Lower East Side [New York, New York] (laughter). And we felt very accomplished because at DeMonte's, they not only served food, they served drinks. And, and people could come and sit down. So my parents [Eloise Owens Williams and Paul T. Williams] in their mink coats came to the Lower East Side to DeMonte's Cafe to see my show that my sister was very involved with as a dramaturge and assistant director. And she also did the set, the original flower that Ming Cho Lee won a Tony [Antoinette Perry Award for Excellence in Theatre] for. And we performed it and Woodie King [HistoryMaker Woodie King, Jr.] came to DeMonte's to see it and said that we could do it at Henry Street. So we were very excited about that because we had a theater engagement, and I had been convinced that it was okay to let other people read my poems because I was so used to reading them all myself, that it was very hard for me to let other people have them. Even though I saw they brought different life to them. I still had to transition from ownership to sharing. And so we performed for Woodie King at Henry Street, and there were lines that went around the corner. And it was just word of mouth that people were coming to see it with. And we did a, a workshop of 'For Colored Girls' at Henry Street. And a lot of stuff we did at Henry Street, we lost when we went to The Public Theater [New York, New York]. We had to do a, an audition performance for Joseph Papp in the little theater where the movie theater is now at The Public. It used to be a rehearsal room and, and, and small theater. And we performed in there. And Joe picked us up. He picked up the show. But we made a lot of changes.$$Okay. Let me just--we have to stop here, but just wanted to point out the Henry Street you were referring to is the New Federal Theatre [New York, New York].$$Yes.$$Woodie King's New Federal Theatre (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Yes.$$--and the Henry Street Settlement House [Henry Street Settlement, New York, New York].$$But we didn't do the New Federal, we did the Henry Street auditorium.$Did you start writing, when did you start writing creatively (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well it was really funny. I wrote a poem in high school [Trenton Central High School, Trenton, New Jersey], just one about Vietnam [Vietnam War]. And it was about a picture I had seen in The New York Times of a little Vietnamese girl whose clothes were tattered and everything around her was burned down from Agent Orange. So there was just this black starkness behind her. These stripped trees, and a little white doll with its head off. And the poem I wrote was about the state of the girl and the head off of the white dolly. And how painful that image was to me. That's what the poem was about. And it was--they published it in the literary magazine at my school, at my high school. And then I didn't write another poem 'til I was at Barnard [Barnard College, New York, New York] and I was sitting on a terrace and this white girl came up to me thinking I was Thulani Davis. She came up to me and said my poem was due in by five o'clock. And so I went home and wrote a poem and turned it in by five o'clock. And that's how I started writing and the literary magazine ended up publishing two black girls instead of one because Thulani Davis published her poem, she got hers in by five too (laughter).$$Now that's funny. We're gonna pause here again. That, that's funny.

Arthur H. Harper

Arthur Henry "Art" Harper, President and CEO of General Electric (GE) Equipment Services, based in Stamford, Connecticut, was born in Trenton, New Jersey on December 3, 1955 to Eleanor Graham Harper from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a maid, and Joseph Harper from Harlem, New York. Harper received his B.A. degree in chemical engineering from the Stevens Institute of Technology in 1978.

For four years following graduation, Harper worked as a technical sales representative in the Chemical Division of Conoco, Incorporated in Houston, Texas. In 1983, he became a marketing representative for the Polymer Products Department of the DuPont Corporation. Harper joined GE Plastics in 1984 as a market development and aerospace specialist and as the aircraft application program manager. He was appointed to the position of district sales manager for GE Silicones in Brea, California in 1987, and was named as manager of the Plastics plant in Oxnard in 1991. In 1992, Harper was put in charge of crystalline materials in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and in 1994, became head of the LEXAN® (polycarbonate resin, a high performance plastic) business. In 1996, he served as president of GE Plastics of Greater China. Harper was then appointed Vice President of Global Manufacturing for GE Plastics in Bergen Op Zoom, the Netherlands in 1998. In May 2000, he became President and Senior Managing Director for GE Plastics Europe.

At GE Equipment Services, Harper headed one of four separate divisions formed when GE Capital split into four different corporate units in 2002. Harper oversaw GE Plastics Europe, Middle East, India, and Africa and GE’s SeaCo, a venture with Sea Containers, an international marine containers dealer. Additionally, Harper was a member of GE's Corporate Executive Council. In December of 2005, Harper retired from GE and started his own private equity firm called NexGen Capital Partners.

Harper received the Black Achievers in Industry Award in 1994 and the Career Achievement Award at Stevens Institute of Technology in 1998. He received the Social Justice Hero Award from the Fairfield County Region National Conference for Community and Justice, and the Whitney M. Young, Jr. Service Award from the Boy Scouts of America Greater New York Councils in 2004. Additionally, he is a member of the Executive Committee of GE's African American Forum and serves as Chair of the Stamford Commission on Education Achievement. He is also a board member of the Yerwood Center, a non-profit community center in Stamford, Connecticut.

Harper passed away on September 19, 2017, at age 61.

Accession Number

A2005.208

Sex

Male

Interview Date

8/27/2005

Last Name

Harper

Maker Category
Middle Name

H.

Organizations
Schools

Absegami H S

Oakcrest H S

Stevens Institute of Technology

Farmington Elementary School

First Name

Arthur

Birth City, State, Country

Trenton

HM ID

HAR17

Favorite Season

Fall

Sponsor

Alfreda Bradley Coar

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Maui, Hawaii

Favorite Quote

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

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

12/3/1955

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

9/19/2017

Short Description

Corporate chief executive Arthur H. Harper (1955 - 2017 ) was the president and CEO of General Electric Equipment Services and founded GenNx360 Capital Partners.

Employment

Conoco Inc.

General Electric

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Arthur H. Harper's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper describes his maternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper describes her paternal family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his father's experiences with discrimination in the U.S. Navy

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper describes his first childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper recalls his first experiences with racism and bullying

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper describes his childhood neighborhood in Pleasantville, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood in Pleasantville, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper remembers his principal from Farmington Elementary School in Pleasantville, New Jersey

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Arthur H. Harper describes his childhood personality and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper describes his younger brother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper remembers childhood road trips to see his grandmother in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper describes his relationship with his brother growing up

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s death

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about attending predominately African American junior high and high schools in Pleasantville, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper recalls his growing awareness of racism and discrimination as a youth

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper describes his childhood community in Pleasantville, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper talks about being raised in the Muslim faith

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper describes his parents' conversion to the Nation of Islam and its impact on him

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper explains why he left the Nation of Islam

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Arthur H. Harper talks about misperceptions of the Muslim faith

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Arthur H. Harper describes what he admired about Muslim leaders Elijah Muhammad and Malcolm X

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Arthur H. Harper describes his high school experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Arthur H. Harper reflects upon the source of his anger growing up

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper talks about adjusting to integration at his overcrowded high school

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the kind of student he was at Absegami High School in Galloway, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his sports activities in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his journey of self-discovery as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper remembers his motivations in high school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper recalls meeting a chemical engineer from The Boeing Company as a teenager

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his decision to attend Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper recalls getting into a fight on his first day at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper talks about how college transformed his outlook

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the lack of diversity at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Arthur H. Harper talks about how working as a chemical engineer at a plant in Monaca, Pennsylvania inspired his interest in business

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper explains how his activities at Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, New Jersey helped his career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper shares an anecdote about a job rejection

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his decision to work for Continental Oil Company in Southern California

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper remembers lessons from his mentor at Continental Oil Company

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper shares lessons he learned about quality customer service

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper talks about selling specialty chemicals to top car companies in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper talks about leaving Continental Oil Company after E.I. du Pont de Nemours and Company's acquisition of it

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his transition to working in sales at GE Plastics

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper recalls his first impressions of General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper describes his impressions of Jack Welch and Lee Iacocca

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper talks about learning to navigate through corporate America as an African American

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the beginning of the African American Forum at General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the why Jack Welch started the diversity meetings and African American Forum at General Electric

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his promotion to district sales manager at General Electric in 1987

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his strategies to advance in his career

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the importance of networking and exceeding expectations

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper shares his management philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper details his approach to managing

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper explains his business philosophy of rhythm and rigor

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper shares his thoughts about operating a business effectively

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper talks about working with Jeffrey R. Immelt at General Electric

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the history of specialized plastics development at General Electric

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about accepting jobs at General Electric that helped him grow his desired skills

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper recalls a period of transition and growth for plastics at General Electric

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper talks about encountering existing racial and community tensions at the Lexan manufacturing plant in Burkville, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his community outreach with General Electric in Burkville, Alabama

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his promotion to president of GE Plastics Greater China

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper talks about giving back to the community with his wife

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper reflects on becoming president of GE Plastics Greater China

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper talks about General Electric's history and growth in China

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper talks about learning to adapt his management and communication style in China

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper explains the cultural differences in business settings between the United States, Asia and Europe

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Arthur L. Harper talks about cross-cultural exchanges while president of GE Plastics Greater China

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his business mentorship philosophy

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper talks about becoming vice president of global manufacturing of GE Plastics in the Netherlands

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper remembers obstacles with opening a new plant for GE Plastics in Cartagena, Spain.

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper remembers receiving encouragement from Jack Welch to solve a problem at General Electric's plant in Cartagena, Spain

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper talks about leadership lessons learned from the General Electric plant crisis in Cartagena, Spain, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper talks about leadership lessons learned from the General Electric plant crisis in Cartagena, Spain, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper talks about becoming president and senior managing director for GE Plastics in Europe in 2000

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper remembers preparing for Y2K and advancing at General Electric

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the importance of staying in contact with General Electric's United States headquarters while working overseas

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about becoming CEO and president of equipment management for General Electric

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the diverse businesses of General Electric

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper explains his responsibilities as president and CEO of General Electric Equipment Services

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper talks about staying competitive in the business market

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his accomplishments as CEO and president of General Electric Equipment Management

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Arthur H. Harper describes former CEO of General Electric, Jack Welch

Tape: 8 Story: 11 - Arthur H. Harper talks about Jeffrey R. Immelt taking over as CEO at General Electric

Tape: 8 Story: 12 - Arthur H. Harper reflects upon advances and continuing challenges for African Americans in corporate America

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the place of African Americans in a global context, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Arthur H. Harper talks about the place of African Americans in a global context, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Arthur H. Harper describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Arthur H. Harper shares his advice for young African Americans pursuing a career in business

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his future plans

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Arthur H. Harper talks about his parents

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Arthur H. Harper reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 9 Story: 8 - Arthur H. Harper narrates his photograph

DASession

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DATitle
Arthur H. Harper recalls meeting a chemical engineer from The Boeing Company as a teenager
Arthur H. Harper reflects on becoming president of GE Plastics Greater China
Transcript
But there's no one influencing you, no other mentors, people you're looking up to at that time?$$My father [Joseph Harper].$$People--$$You know, still I, I think--$$Okay.$$Even though at that point, you know, I'm, I'm--$$Right.$$You know, there's a lot of tension because he, he, he has one set of beliefs, I'm, I'm moving in a different direction, and I'm challenging him because I'm--$$Right.$$--I'm this (laughter), you know, I'm this growing young man. You know, he always pushed in an--he always instilled in me to be my own person. He always instilled in me to be a man of honor. He always instilled in me to work hard for what I'm gonna get and, and he always instilled in me to not be a victim. So all those things are, you know, are help--are, are helping me. I will say that as a--as a I think junior or senior [in high school], I can't recall, my father when he understood that--he said, what do you wanna do? And I said I think I wanna go be an engineer, and I had no idea what an engineer did, okay? I just knew that I liked chemistry and I liked science, so I--someone told me, you know, engineers do that. He, he actually got--brought home a--an African American engineer who worked with him at [The] Boeing [Company] and I, I remember him coming there, coming to our house. I remember he had this very nice car, okay? I remember he, you know, he, he seemed like this very well prepared, you know, person. I, I, I liked his style, liked how he approached me as, as a--as a kid. And I remember asking him, you know, what does an engineer do? And he described what he did, you know, and how he helped design the planes and, and, and what his job was and how he was able to take care of his family, you know? And, and that impressed me, so I decided with that one little interview that, you know what, since I like chemistry--'cause I asked him, I like chemistry, he said, well, you can be a chemical engineer, and that was what got me thinking. I had no clue what a chemical engineer did, but I decided I--I'm gonna go study chemical engineering. And when I went to my guidance counselor and said I wanna go to college and I wanna go study chemical engineering, their view was that's too difficult, so don't do chemical engineering and, and do you really want engineering in general and, and oh, this school [Stevens Institute of Technology, Hoboken, New Jersey] is just too difficult. All those things became for me a challenge, so I said I'm gonna go study chemical engineering, I'm going to this school and, and, you know, that was my, my view.$I was sent to China. I mean, I, I was working for Jeff Immelt [Jeffrey R. Immelt] and he asked me to go, but it really was a joint decision between Jeff, Gary [L.] Rogers who, who ran all of [GE] Plastics, and, and Jack Welch. And, you know, I was the--I believe, I was the first African American to go to China to run a business. We had others who'd gone to, to run functions or pieces, but I was the first one to go run it. And, and I remember having some discussion around that because, you know, there was--there was concern by, by the people above me, was that gonna work? You know, how would the Chinese react and how would I react and would it--would it work?$$And, and what were--what were the--what made you decide to do it? Let's just ask that.$$I, I--it was easy for me. One, I--my screen is always--was always the same. Will it allow me to pick up some new set of--a new set of skills that I need to move forward? So the answer there was yes. So, then it became was it gonna be interesting to me? And that was huge. It--you know, it was a big yes there. So, you know, it was a--it was just a matter of convincing my wife [Linda Harper] to go and she quickly said yes as well. So it really came down to, it allowed me to pick up some new skills and it happened to be this very interesting opportunity. It also had this, this really appealing piece to me, and that was, here was a chance to move the bar forward for African Americans, that I got a chance to do something first that hadn't been done. That carried with it a sense of--a great sense of responsibility, but a--but a bit of fear, too. Because--not so much from, from my own self failing, but I felt like I was gonna carry the weight of everybody, so if I did fail, you know, I thought--there's not--they're not gonna send another African American over here to China for twenty years or--you know, that was my thinking or for a long time. So I wanted to succeed more than, than I did in the other roles, not so much for me, but I knew what it represented.

The Honorable David N. Dinkins

David Norman Dinkins was born on July 10, 1927, in Trenton, New Jersey. He was raised in Trenton until the Depression, when his family moved to Harlem. Dinkins served in the United States Marine Corps during World War II. In 1950, he received his B.S. degree in mathematics from Howard University. Dinkins went on to graduate from Brooklyn Law School in 1956 with his LL.B. degree and then started a private law practice that he maintained until 1975.

Dinkins began his public service career in 1966 when he was elected to the New York State Assembly. He was president of the New York City Board of Elections, and served as City Clerk for ten years before his election as President of the Borough of Manhattan in 1985.

Dinkins was elected as the first African American Mayor of the City of New York in 1989. As Mayor, Dinkins initiated a program called “Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids,” reducing crime and expanding opportunities for New York’s children. He also established the Beacon community centers that offer New Yorkers a mix of social services ranging from recreation and job training in public schools after school hours.

Upon leaving office in 1993, Dinkins went on to serve as professor in the Practice of Public Affairs at the Columbia University School of International and Public Affairs, where he continues to teach and mentor young people striving towards careers of service. He also serves on the school’s advisory board and hosts its annual Dinkins Leadership & Public Policy Forum. In 2003, the David N. Dinkins Professorship Chair in the Practice of Urban & Public Affairs was established at Columbia University.

Dinkins is a founding member of the Black & Puerto Rican Legislative Caucus of New York State, the Council of Black Elected Democrats of New York State, and The One Hundred Black Men. He was also vice president of the United States Conference of Mayors, and is a member-at-large of the Black Leadership Forum.

Dinkins serves on the board of several non-profit and charitable organizations, including Association to Benefit Children; Children’s Health Fund; The Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund; Posse Foundation; Coalition for the Homeless, and USTA Serves. He is chairman emeritus of the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and the Constituency for Africa (CFA), and serves on the steering committee of the Association for a Better New York and the New York Urban League Advisory Council. He serves on the board of New York City Global Partners and is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations and the National Advisory Board of the International African American Museum.

Dinkins resides in New York City with his wife, Joyce Burrows Dinkins. They have two children – David Jr. and Donna Dinkins Hoggard – and two grandchildren – Jamal Hoggard and Kalila Dinkins Hoggard.

David N. Dinkins was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 4, 2002 and March 21, 2014.

Accession Number

A2002.005

Sex

Male

Interview Date

3/4/2002

3/21/2014

Last Name

Dinkins

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
Schools

Brooklyn Law School

Howard University

First Name

David

Birth City, State, Country

Trenton

HM ID

DIN01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

Tennis

Favorite Quote

Everybody stands on somebody's shoulders. Nobody gets anywhere alone.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/10/1927

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Soul Food

Short Description

Mayor The Honorable David N. Dinkins (1927 - ) was the first African American Mayor of New York City. Dinkins focused on crime and problems of racial inequality and initiated a program called "Safe Streets, Safe City: Cops and Kids," reducing crime and expanding opportunities for New York's children. Despite losing the 1993 mayoral election, Dinkins has continued to be critical of problems within the criminal justice system, including abusive police and institutionalized racism in the courts.

Employment

Dyett, Alexander, Dinkins, Patterson, Michael, Dinkins, Jones, LLP

Favorite Color

Dark Colors

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of David Dinkins interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - David Dinkins's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - David Dinkins describes his family members

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - David Dinkins shares an early memory from growing up in Harlem

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - David Dinkins offers an overview of his adulthood

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - David Dinkins details his secondary school life

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - David Dinkins remembers his parents' separation

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - David Dinkins notes personality traits he shares with his parents

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - David Dinkins details his transition from graduate school to the working world

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - David Dinkins expresses his childhood personality

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - David Dinkins remembers enlisting in the Marine Corps

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - David Dinkins retells a humorous story from his Marine Corps service

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - David Dinkins describes college life after leaving the Marines

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - David Dinkins fondly recalls his tenure at Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - David Dinkins describes his friendship with Howard University classmate, Andrew Young

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - David Dinkins recalls meeting his wife

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - David Dinkins reveals his reasons for pursuing law school

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - David Dinkins describes several supportive colleagues

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - David Dinkins remembers influential figures from his law school days

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - David Dinkins discusses his early involvement in politics

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - David Dinkins describes his close relationship with Charles Rangel

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - David Dinkins reveals the origins of Harlem's Carver Democratic Club

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - David Dinkins discusses New York's influential political figures

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - David Dinkins recalls moments in his early political career

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - David Dinkins discusses his tenure as the President of the New York City Board of Elections

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - David Dinkins describes his responsibilities as City Clerk of New York City

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - David Dinkins explains his relationship with U.S. Congressman Charles Rangel

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - David Dinkins discusses the career of Percy Sutton

DASession

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DATitle
David Dinkins describes his friendship with Howard University classmate, Andrew Young
David Dinkins discusses his early involvement in politics
Transcript
Was there anything else about the Howard [University, Washington, D.C.] experience that influenced you, you know, in hindsight?$$Well, I had some great classmates, [U.S. Ambassador] Andrew Young [civil rights activist], among them. We used to call him 'Little Andy Young'. Andy was younger. He came to Howard at age--I don't know, maybe sixteen--he was much younger and he a couple years behind me. Andy, I guess, at least five years younger than I am, but he was the same--he is the same today as he was then. And I love to tell the story of how Andy was in the [U.S.] Congress--and you want to wait for--.$$We're rolling.$$I recall--a story I like to tell a lot is how Andy was in the Congress--Andrew Young--and I was running for Borough President of Manhattan [New York]. I ran a lot, in fact, I ran three times before I succeeded, and people use dot say to me, "What do you do?" And I'd say, "I run for borough president." Anyway, Andy was going to campaign with me and I just knew--Andy was enormously popular--and so Andy out in the street walking the streets of Harlem [New York] with a bullhorn saying, "Vote for Dinkins," it was gonna really help a lot. Well, [U.S. President] Jimmy Carter appointed him to the United Nations. So I'm crestfallen. On the one hand, I'm happy for my friend, he'll be an ambassador. On the other hand, he won't be there to campaign. Andy said, "Sure." He walked--it rained that day, a light rain, and Andy was out there, this dignified ambassador, walking the streets of Harlem with me, I'll never for get it. I'm very grateful for him. He's a good friend. But, anyway, there were lots of people that passed through Howard that were really great, great folks. And I have friends of mine from Trenton [New Jersey], Fred Schenck, spelled S-C-H-E-N-C-K, and he went to Howard. In fact, we were roommates for a while. The Hayling brothers. William Hartley Hayling, known as Bill, who lives out in California now, and his brother Leslie Hayling, whose son is my godson, Leslie Hayling, Jr. And Bill Hayling has two daughters, Pamela and Patricia, and I'm the only one permitted to call her Patty. And she's my goddaughter. And have--we're friends, close friends to this day. And we grew up together as little kids, you know, three, four, five years old. So when you look at it, we're talking about seventy-year relationships and we're as close today as we ever were.$$When you said Andrew Young was just as he is today, was he a old young person?$$No, I don't mean that. I mean Andy is warm and friendly and the last thing he is is pretentious. He's just a nice guy. Very smart, very smart. And just a very nice decent person.$When you came out [of Brooklyn Law School, Brooklyn, New York], how did you find your partners to--did you--when you came out were you--did you automatically go into--?$$No. Well see, when I came out, my father-in-law, Danny Burrows, B-U-R-R-O-W-S, he's another self-made man who had been in the Assembly in New York State, way back in 1939, and he knew Tom [Thomas] Dyett [attorney]. And so Mr. Dyett let me come in. I'm sort of--almost an intern, you know, a gofer. But Mr. Dyett was very nice to me, and he and I and Fritz Alexander [attorney], and then there was Kenneth Phipps--Kenneth MacArthur Phipps, who's dead now too, who was in the Assembly, later became a judge--and we were all in the same law office. It was a very small firm. It became a firm later. It was just an association at that point. And then Bernie [Bernard] Jackson joined us for a while. Bernie and I, who had been classmates--we had been classmates in law school. But I didn't have any pre-conceived plan. And perhaps I should have had one. Many years ago the very first congressional--I guess it was the first--but among the first [U.S.] Congressional Black Caucus galas, the big dinner they have, Ossie Davis was the speaker, and he said, "It ain't the rap, it's the map. You need a plan." And I suppose I should have had one. I did not have a plan. As a matter of fact, even when I ran for mayor, I did not--when I became borough president [of Manhattan], I never said, "Ah, one day I'll be mayor." I mean [U.S. President] John [F.] Kennedy and [U.S. President] Bill Clinton, they said, "One day I'll be president." I never thought that way. I thought that I wanted public service and I enjoyed what I was doing. And in the days when I was the borough president, borough presidents really had some power and influence, because there was something called a Board of Estimate that consisted of the mayor, [city] controller, what was then called president of [New York] City Council, and then five borough presidents, and they passed on the budget, major contracts, land use, it really was honest-to-God power. As Borough President of Manhattan I was a significant individual, as Percy Sutton has been before me, and others before him, who were black. Connie [Constance Baker] Motley, had been a borough president, Hulan Jack was the very first, Ed [Edward] Dudley. There had been a very distinguished list that I joined. Today it's a black woman, C. Virginia Fields is Borough President of Manhattan. But when I--there came a time many of us; Percy Sutton, Basil Paterson, a lot of us had supported [Mayor] Ed Koch. In 1977 there had been a primary with half dozen or more--six or seven candidates for the Democratic nomination including Percy Sutton. It was Percy Sutton, Abe [Mayor Abraham] Beame who was the incumbent mayor, Ed Koch, [future New York Governor] Mario Cuomo--Koch of course became mayor. Cuomo later became governor. [U.S. Congresswoman] Bella Abzug--Herman Badillo later became a [U.S.] Congressman. At any rate, all of these folks seeking this office--and we supported. There was a run-off. Nobody got 40 percent. There was a run-off between Ed Koch and Mario Cuomo, so all the blacks had supported Percy Sutton, and then Percy led us and we supported Ed Koch, who at that time was a very liberal member of [U.S.] Congress. He over--he served three terms and by the time he got in his third term he was no longer so seen by us. And there was dissatisfaction with him, and we were looking for a candidate. And folks came to me, and I don't mean to suggest that I was drafted or anything like that, but it was given me by some friends as an option, "You should think about this." And I thought I could run for re-election as the borough president and be elected easily. Now if you keep in mind I had run three times before I had succeeded and if I run for mayor and lose, I got zero. But I was persuaded that this was--it was a smart thing, a good thing, a thing of value to do. And so I ran. Of course, no black had ever been elected mayor of New York, and I had three opponents: Ed Koch the incumbent, Dick [Richard] Ravitch a successful business man--all smart good people--Jay [Harrison J.] Goldin who had been [city] controller for I guess three terms. Brilliant people and each was Jewish and the wisdom was that I would lose or at the very best, even if I finished second--first I wouldn't get 40 percent, if I finished second, I'm in a run-off with the lead person, I would lose because the supporters of the three Jewish candidates would gang up against me and I would lose.