The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon
Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

Monique Greenwood

Author, editor and bed & breakfast inn owner Monique Greenwood was born on June 22, 1959 in Washington, D.C. Greenwood attended Howard University where she graduated magna cum laude in 1981 with her B.A. degree in communications. In 1989, Greenwood married Glenn Pogue, a broadcast engineer for WNBC-TV.

Greenwood’s family lived in the Washington, D.C. area for several generations. In the 1920s, her grandfather, Benjamin Greenwood, operated a small grocery store in the southeastern part of the city. He later owned the Greenwood Transfer Moving and Storage Company, a business that was eventually listed as one of the United States top Black owned businesses. Greenwood was inspired by her grandfather’s success. His example proved to her that racial discrimination could not stop a person who had the determination to succeed.

Not long after Greenwood’s graduation from Howard University, she began working at Fairchild Publications. Greenwood stayed at Fairchild for fifteen years; among her achievements at Fairchild was the creation of Children’s Business, which was a monthly trade magazine that provided information about children’s apparel and other products. In 1992, Greenwood published her first book Go On Girl! Book Club Guide to Reading Groups. She was also the co-founder of the Go On Girl! Book Club, which is the largest African American book club in the United States.

In 1995, Greenwood and her husband opened their first Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast in Brooklyn, New York. The following year, she started working at Essence magazine, as a lifestyle and style director, where she stayed for five years. In 2000, Greenwood became editor and chief of Essence magazine. In 2001, Greenwood published Having What Matters: The Black Woman’s Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want. After writing her second book, Greenwood realized what mattered most to her, so she resigned as editor and chief of Essence magazine to pursue her passion for inn keeping.

Along with her husband, Greenwood opened four more Akwaaba Bed & Breakfast Inns in New Jersey (2002, 2006), Washington, D.C. (2003) and New Orleans (2005). Greenwood is working on her third book which will be titled Life Under New Management: How to Fire Your Job and Become Your Own Boss.

Greenwood was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on October 11, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.286

Sex

Female

Interview Date

10/11/2007

Last Name

Greenwood

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Schools

Barnard Elementary School

Rabaut Junior High School

Woodrow Wilson High School

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Monique

Birth City, State, Country

Washington

HM ID

GRE13

Favorite Season

Summer

State

District of Columbia

Favorite Vacation Destination

Home

Favorite Quote

Make It Happen.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

6/22/1959

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Lodging entrepreneur and magazine lifestyle editor Monique Greenwood (1959 - ) was former editor and chief of Essence Magazine, and the owner of five successful bed and breakfast inns. Greenwood also authored two books, Go On Girl! Book Club Guide to Reading Groups and Having What Matters: The Black Woman's Guide to Creating the Life You Really Want.

Employment

Fairchild Publications

Essence Magazine

Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

Favorite Color

Black, Sage Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:498,8:8056,209:10212,259:15448,360:15833,366:16603,379:19837,448:21762,517:26459,600:34500,647:38318,701:38650,725:39065,731:42053,808:44045,855:45207,881:45539,886:46120,936:49025,1070:55748,1178:58570,1302:67105,1421:80804,1653:91412,1806:93518,1911:96560,2164:118785,2395:119338,2403:129134,2655:141568,2833:141832,2838:142162,2850:143350,2892:144472,2925:146518,2998:153118,3159:159322,3351:159784,3362:160180,3369:160774,3378:161170,3386:168913,3449:177129,3566:179104,3656:179736,3665:183133,3748:186056,3791:186530,3799:187241,3813:188663,3842:188979,3847:190717,3906:196682,3930:199716,4018:200044,4023:201356,4043:208162,4178:210950,4263:213492,4301:215952,4337:226342,4446:238046,4732:240125,4791:240433,4796:243205,4858:243821,4868:252694,4908:253530,4921:256874,4975:264170,5101:267438,5170:270098,5251:274962,5365:275570,5375:284326,5430:290878,5670:293810,5678$0,0:1827,22:5742,92:7743,114:8265,122:9048,133:17391,254:19451,292:20481,306:23880,369:29150,407:31644,522:32160,529:35772,613:36460,626:38610,678:39728,694:44544,837:49446,972:57672,1039:58000,1044:64014,1162:64298,1167:65647,1203:70617,1318:71966,1354:74238,1442:75658,1545:98474,1970:99762,1995:106650,2011:107640,2025:113496,2121:120936,2264:127983,2367:129908,2410:134913,2517:136299,2549:140688,2662:143999,2772:147002,2815:148773,2888:156572,2921:156884,2926:158288,2966:159380,2981:161876,3043:162890,3058:163436,3133:166790,3195:167648,3213:168272,3230:168662,3236:169442,3248:176618,3395:177320,3406:178334,3421:179114,3437:179426,3442:179738,3447:191718,3612:197638,3709:198304,3724:199192,3752:201486,3790:202078,3800:203040,3818:203706,3828:206074,3877:209330,3978:209626,3983:218844,4095:220250,4132:230610,4431:231054,4438:234532,4520:236086,4543:236604,4553:243230,4607
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Monique Greenwood's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood describes her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood describes her father

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood describes her family's moving business, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Monique Greenwood describes her family's moving business, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Monique Greenwood talks about her older brother

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood lists her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood describes her relationship with her siblings

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood describes her early talent for leadership

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood describes her leadership of her family

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood describes the holidays with her family

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood describes her home in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood remembers the Petworth United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood remembers writing about fashion

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Monique Greenwood remembers the media of her youth

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Monique Greenwood describes the sights and sounds of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Monique Greenwood remembers Barnard Elementary School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood remembers Rabaut Junior High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood talks about her interest in fashion

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood recalls her decision to attend Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood describes her experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood remembers Woodrow Wilson High School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood describes her social life in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood remembers her dreams and aspirations

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood recalls her decision to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Monique Greenwood remembers Howard University

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood recalls working at Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood remembers writing about men's accessories

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood describes the Children's Business magazine, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood describes the Children's Business magazine, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood recalls the diversity committee at Fairchild Publications, Inc.

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood remembers founding the Go On Girl! Book Club

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood describes her book, 'Having What Matters'

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood remembers dating her husband, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood remembers dating her husband, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood describes her wedding

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood joining the staff of Essence magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood describes her career at Essence magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood recalls moving to the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood of Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood remembers vacationing in Cape May, New Jersey

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood recalls her decision to open a bed and breakfast

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood recalls purchasing the Akwaaba Mansion in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood talks about the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood describes the growth of the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood describes her husband's career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood describes the locations of the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood describes her personal quarters at the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Monique Greenwood describes the Akwaaba Cafe in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Monique Greenwood talks about her retail properties

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Monique Greenwood describes her involvement in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood in Brooklyn, New York

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Monique Greenwood describes the importance of economic empowerment

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Monique Greenwood reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Monique Greenwood talks about her daughter

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Monique Greenwood describes her role models

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Monique Greenwood describes her plans for the Akwaaba Bed and Breakfast Inns

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

6$1

DATitle
Monique Greenwood remembers founding the Go On Girl! Book Club
Monique Greenwood recalls purchasing the Akwaaba Mansion in Brooklyn, New York
Transcript
Did you start the Go On Girl! Book Club at Fairchild [Fairchild Publications, Inc.; Fairchild Fashion Media]?$$Yes.$$Okay. So, let's talk about that a little bit. That started very small with just you and a couple of your friends?$$Yes.$$So--$$So, as I was saying, when I became editor at Children's Business, I hired these amazing black women who worked in other areas of the company, but hadn't really gotten the light that they deserved. And that was Lynda Johnson and Tracy Mitchell [Tracy Mitchell-Brown], so they became on my staff. And we would oftentimes have lunch together, lunch as we worked 'cause, you know, we, we--it was like a staff of five. We worked really hard and over lunch, they would occasionally start talking about a book. And it--or books they were reading, and it turned out that one time the two of them were reading the same book, unbeknownst to each other, so they're going back and forth, wasn't is that great? Did you get to the part? And they're having this whole discussion. I'm sitting there looking left out. And I realized that I really wasn't reading for pleasure, even though it was something I enjoyed doing. I didn't make the time to do it, because, and I, I told them, I'm always reading your copy. I'm reading your--edit, edit your copy. I don't have time to sit around and read, and but they were so into this book. And I was so piqued by it. And I say, what is this book? And I wrote it down, and the book was Steven Corbin's 'No Easy Place to Be.' And it was--I, I just thought, wow, that sounds great, and I went and bought the book. And I tried to read it fast, so I could catch up, and start the conversations with them over lunch. And so, as we did that, we had so much fun around this. We said, you know what, why don't we form a book club? And so, it was like, okay, well, you bring three people, I'll bring three people, you bring three people. Tracy, we'll have it at your house and what, what date was good? And how about next Saturday, whatever, so started very loosely, very informally. We each invited a couple of friends. We went to Tracy's house. She made some banana bread and some tea. And we started talking about what, how we're going to make this book club, and what we're going to do, and what kind of books do we want to read. And, so, very loosely, we said that we wanted to read books by and about African Americans. We said we wanted to read broadly, so we didn't want it to be genre specific. We wanted to read science fiction. We wanted to read autobiographies. We wanted to read fiction, non-fiction--just across the board. And so, we started doing that. And then, as the women in the group started to become mobile and move to different cities, they missed the sisterhood. And that's when it really became, sometimes it was more about what, what we're eating, and what we're talking about, after we talked about the books. That was more significant than talking about the book, so it was just our time. That's what it was really about. It was like, our time. And so, as folks started to move around, they missed that. And so, they would want to organize something similar to it where they were. And she still wanted to be a Go On Girl!, so it was like, okay, so you're going to be the Go On Girl! D.C. chapter [Washington, D.C.], which became our second chapter, which I have roots in, too. So, we say, oh, my sister-in-law wants to join, blah, blah, blah, so we put together a group over there. And this thing just started snowballing. So, we had chapters all across the country, like thirty-two, thirty-two chapters. And we became the nation's largest group of African American readers--book clubs. And we got a lot publicity because this is pre-Oprah's Book Club, and this is really at the height of kind of, you know, that this black book boom after [HistoryMaker] Terry McMillan's success with, with her, with her book, 'Waiting to Exhale,' and so everything has kind of snowballed.$$So, with that organization, is it organic for you to write a guide, to lead others perhaps, to expand from that thirty-two?$$Yeah, I mean, as we started to become this, this entity, and we felt like, we knew how to do it, and everybody kind of wanted to start forming book clubs, it became a very, a very fashionable, just very popular to do. We got approached as the founders--Tracy, Lynda and I--to, to write a guide for other groups that wanted to form. And so, we got approached by an agent, who had already been approached by a publisher. So, it just kind of came to us, and we already had the deal, and it's like okay, write down what you did, write down how you do it. And so, the three of us then, we wrote our first book. Each of us--neither of us had, none of us had ever published a book before and, you know, we were very strategic about who would do what parts. And Tracy, who is probably the most driven reader, the real reader, she did the, the anthologies or the--she would pull out segments from different books by genre. She did that. And Lynda did most of the, the history kind of stuff of book clubs, and how they evolved and all of that. And I did the kind of this is how you do it, set it up this way, how many people can be in it, rotate meetings, have a consistent meeting date, you know, the kind of nuts and bolts of, of making it work. And we put this book together called the 'Go On Girl! Guide to Reading Groups' ['Go on Girl!: Book Club Guide for Reading Groups,' Monique Greenwood, Tracy Mitchell-Brown and Lynda Johnson], and it did very well as a book cl-, as a book. And so, we went from being book readers to book authors.$Yeah, so I, I come to realize how only a bed and breakfast would combine all of my personal passions. And I ride down my street two blocks up, and I see a house that I've sent--seen all the time, but this time with new eyes. I go, "Wow that would be a perfect bed and breakfast." And this house was the house that all the kids in the neighborhood called the haunted house, and you never saw any signs of life. And so I started leaving notes on the door saying, "If you're interested in selling your home, please call, please call." And I would leave these notes on the door for, like a year, and no one ever calls. And, finally, one day, I saw a very unassuming gentleman standing in the yard. And I jumped out of my car, I was so excited, and said, "Do you know anything about this house?" And he says, "I know a lot about this house." And he says, "This is my family's home." And I said, "What? Have you been getting my notes?" He goes, "Yours and everybody else's," you know. I said, "Well, you know, I really, really love this house, and I would love to have it," and told him what I wanted to do. He said to me, "Well, you need to talk to the real estate agent." And just as he said that, the real estate agent was walking up the street. I took it as an omen. I go to the real estate agent. His office is around the corner, and he goes, "Well, you need to come in. We can talk about it in the morning." I said, "What time do you open? I will be there when you open your doors." He said 9:00, I was there at 9:00, went there. "How much is it?" I said, "Okay, ready, where's the contract? Let's do it." And, yeah, called my husband (laughter), I said, "Glenn [Glenn Pogue]," (laughter) and, you know, he's like, "Well, we just finished working on this house." I said, "Well, this is going to be great and--," you know. And he, he went for it. You know, again, very--Glenn's like, "Where, where we going? Just tell me where we're going," easy about stuff for the most part. So, that's how we came to acquire this place [Akwaaba Mansion, Brooklyn, New York]. Took us about nine months to create it as a bed and breakfast. And the strategy at that time was really--there were no hotels in Brooklyn [New York]. And Brooklyn, if it were a city into itself, would be the fourth largest city in the country--no hotels. I kept thinking, this is a no-brainer. We're only going to have four guest rooms--surely, we can fill four guest rooms. And my thought, initially, was that we would house the family and friends of people coming to visit their, their loved ones in this neighborhood, and I thought I would also reach out to the churches because it's like one on every corner. And we could, you know, let the busy body at the church know that we're here, and when folks coming for funerals or for weddings, they would tell them we're here. We can house their, their people, and I would also reach out to the funeral homes and, and give that same message. And that's what I thought we'd say. What I quickly discovered was that the people, who were actually, were not the family and friends of the people who lived here, but the people who lived here. So our first guests were people who lived right here in New York, or came across the bridge or through the tunnel. And they were in towns, and they were just looking to get away without having to go away. Living and working in New York, you know, they just need the high touch and the high tech, high stress world, and so that's who we cater to. People came for their birthdays. They came for their anniversaries. They came to propose. They came for girlfriend weekends, and that's, that was our customer base. It still is a big part of our customer base. However, now that Brooklyn itself has become so popular, a lot of Europeans like to come to Brooklyn 'cause it's the new hot place to be. They want to go to Williamsburg and they want to go Greenpoint, and they want to go to Park Slope. And some even want to discover Bed-Stuy [Bedford-Stuyvesant] right here. And so, we get a lot of folks from Europe and they, obviously, are coming a distance, so they're planning in advance, and they're staying a longer period of time. So a lot of our local people can't really get in anymore 'cause they're doing it spontaneously, going, "Ha, let's go over there. That'd be a fun thing to do as a date this weekend." It's not going to happen because we've been booked--we're booked like a month and half out. And so we are seeing a shift in, you know, the people who actually come, and what they're coming for.

Helen McDowell

Born on September 28, 1903, in Abingdon, Virginia, Helen Newberry McDowell was the fourth of fourteen children. Her mother, Caroline, was orphaned in Cleveland, Ohio, and raised by her uncle Frank Donahue in Abingdon, where her mother met her father, Samuel.

McDowell attended Morristown Industrial School, where her mother taught, and went on to Bennett College. Graduating in 1924, she attended Teacher's College in Winston-Salem, North Carolina. McDowell then attended Howard University from 1928 to 1931, earning her M.A. in education.

McDowell began teaching in 1925, and after earning her M.A. went on to teach at Morgan State University in Baltimore. In the 1940s, McDowell bought six houses in Washington, D.C., and converted them into rooming houses for students. These buildings became known as the Newberry House and from 1949 to 1973, was the home to hundreds of students from Howard University's School of Religion. McDowell also ran a wedding salon out of Newberry House. McDowell began teaching at Phelps Vocational High School in Washington, D.C., in 1950, and taught English there until her retirement in 1973. She then moved to California with her husband but relocated to Washington D.C. in 1993. McDowell continues to teach

Accession Number

A2003.179

Sex

Female

Interview Date

7/30/2003

Last Name

McDowell

Middle Name

Newberry

Schools

Kings Mountain School

Morristown College

Bennett College for Women

First Name

Helen

Birth City, State, Country

Abingdon

HM ID

MCD01

Favorite Season

Birthday

State

Virginia

Favorite Vacation Destination

California

Favorite Quote

If a task is once begun, never leave it till it's done. Be the labor great or small, do it well or not at all.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

9/28/1903

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Bread

Death Date

7/17/2010

Short Description

Lodging entrepreneur and high school english teacher Helen McDowell (1903 - 2010 ) has owned and operated Newberry House, a boarding house for Howard University students, as well as a wedding boutique. McDowell was also a teacher in the Washington D.C. area for over 47 years.

Employment

Morgan State University

Phelps Vocational High School

Newberry House

Board of Education

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
0,0:4465,80:5320,92:6175,103:7030,114:29510,327:35040,373:35390,379:40128,420:40964,435:41344,441:43582,457:52950,545:53520,552:59427,624:63342,703:102693,1188:104117,1280:109017,1364:109341,1369:112176,1592:115011,1672:130408,1822:140626,2021:182339,2394:182655,2399:184110,2409$0,0:15530,167:15878,172:16226,177:26405,376:37940,587:51530,767:69841,1084:73376,1131:80694,1194:82422,1236:91314,1304:97861,1380:98770,1390:144695,1853:178075,2275:198650,2486:206400,2552:215820,2600:223312,2698:238644,2839:248724,2950:262464,3200:293984,3464:318330,3636
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Helen McDowell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell talks about her mother's family, childhood, education, and early career

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell describes her mother's thwarted career plans and methods of teaching her children

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell talks about her father and his family's heritage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell recalls her cousins moving away in 1912 and a happy visit to see them in Los Angeles, California in 1934

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell recounts her father's work as a cook for the Southern Railroad and later for a family in Abingdon, Virginia

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Helen McDowell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell recalls childhood memories, including a word game that she later used when teaching

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell remembers her early education at King's Mountain School in Abingdon, Virginia

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell explains how she was able to attend school despite financial hardships

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell recalls her college education and her first years teaching at a Rosenwald school in Wilkesboro, North Carolina in 1924

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell details her time completing her teacher training at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell recalls meeting her husband Newberry at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell recalls meeting her husband Newberry at Bennett College in Greensboro, North Carolina, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell recounts her marriage to her husband and their work at an elementary school in Liberty, North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell talks about her husband's family in North Carolina

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell recalls happy memories of attending Bennett College and living with her in-laws in North Carolina during 1927

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell explains how she was able to continue at Howard University while raising her siblings after her mother's death in 1931

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell remembers her mentors at Howard University, Washington, D.C.

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell reflects on her religious beliefs and raising her siblings

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell explains how she began operating rooming houses, including the Newberry House

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell recalls Dr. Thomas Wright, a Civil Rights leader who stayed at Newberry House

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell remembers Howard Thurman and his story about Haley's Comet

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell describes how Dr. Benjamin Mays inspired her

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell recalls how Dr. William Leo Hansberry conducted a slide-show lecture at Newberry House

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell mentions Dr. Ernest Everett Just and Dr. E. Franklin Frazier and explains why she does not join organizations

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell talks about the influence of Mary McLeod Bethune and George Washington Carver

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Helen McDowell recalls the highlight of her educational career at Phelps Trade School in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Helen McDowell talks about providing guidance and support for her students

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Helen McDowell describes helping a former student and his family succeed

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Helen McDowell explains her teaching philosophy

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Helen McDowell attributes her longevity to a disciplined and religious life

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Helen McDowell describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Helen McDowell reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Helen McDowell talks about how she would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$5

DAStory

8$1

DATitle
Helen McDowell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
Helen McDowell talks about providing guidance and support for her students
Transcript
Now, what was it like to grow up? What did the place look like? And what were some of the sights and sounds and smells of growing up? What do you remember from your childhood?$$I know we lived in a four-room--in Bell's place, we called it. It was a four-room house. There was a hydrant, the water--there was a hydrant out there on the, I think that hydrant was on the front porch, right by the step. There was one step up to the front porch. And one night the house caught on fire (laughter). Somebody put--there was lamp sitting on the sewing machine. And there was a cover out on the sewing machine. And we were going to bed. We always had family prayer before going to bed. It was Monday night. My father was at a lodge meeting. When mama [Lucy Ellison Newberry] got through with the prayer, we always had a little verse we'd say. I had one brother who never could get enough to eat. And mama always said he had a tapeworm. And, but we got ready to go to bed, mama had a little verse she used to say, "To bed, to bed said sleepyhead". And she'd point out the one, whoever said, "I'm sleepy, let's go to bed." Mama said, "To bed, to bed, said sleepyhead". That'd be that one. "No, no, said, slow. Put on the pot said, greedy gut"--that's Carl. "Let's eat before we go." Every night, we'd go off to bed saying that. And on our way to bed that night, somebody pulled--that cover on the machine had tassels on it. And somebody pulled one of the tassels and pulled the lamp off of the sewing machine. That's the only reason I have that lamp today. There's a lamp on that commode, over there by the window. That's what we used to see, but I keep that for old time's sake (laughter). They pulled the lamp off of the machine, and the oil exploded and set the lamp on fire--I mean set the cover on that machine on fire. And it went up and burnt the curtains. And one of the boys pulled the curtain down, and he pulled it down. Instead of throwing it out the door, he threw it on the floor, and that caught the rug on fire. And (unclear) then the older brothers got the, went out there to this faucet (laughter), and got water and put the fire out. And they wet the floor all over. My father [Samuel Newberry] was at a lodge meeting. And when he came home, he smelled something burning and said, "What's burning?" Mama never did tell him. She never did tell him what happened--$Tell us about the jail story again?$$Oh, I went down to jail as a character witness for one of my students. And while there, they had a group of prisoners waiting to come into court. And I went by there, and I saw a lot of 'em put their hands up over their faces when they saw me. And I said, you needn't hide your faces. I know you by the shoes 'cause they had ole dirty tennis shoes all the time (laughter). And they laughed. They said, Ms. Newberry [Helen McDowell], I knew you would know who I was (laughter). I didn't know them. I didn't even know that--if they hadn't done that, I wouldn't have known if they (unclear), you know. But I told 'em I knew 'em from--but that school, I never--every time I'd see anybody with some shoes untied, I'd make him stop and tie his shoes up. And then those were days they were wearing plaits [braids]. I told 'em men didn't wear plaits on their heads. And I'd make 'em go get those plaits off there. I wouldn't let 'em in my classroom with plaits on their head. And then when they started to wearing "bush" (laughter), I had a time fighting all that during the '60s [1960s] stuff that was coming in. But, and then when my students were beginning to use dope, you know, dope was coming in at that time. And I had one little boy--I can't think of that child's name. At any rate, he had a name that could be pronounced two different ways. If I call it one thing, then all the students would tell me to pronounce it another way, and--but at any rate, one morning I called his name. I had my students seated in alphabetical order, and I didn't have to call the roll. I'd just look at the seat, I'd know who would be absent. And Montague, but, oh, yeah, I called him Montigue [ph.]. And they'd say Montague, Ms. Newberry. If I'd say Montague, they'd say "Montigue". Anyway, when I called his name one morning, they said, he won't be coming anymore, Ms. Newberry. I said, why? Said, he got killed last night. He robbed a filling station down there at Fourth and Front Avenue [Washington, D.C.]. And he put his gun on the man, got $30.00, and he kept the gun on the man until he got back to his car. And when he turned around to get in the car, the man shot him in the back. And he died with the $30.00 in one hand and his gun in the other. When they told me about that, I'm telling you all, I felt so badly. I broke, I started crying. I couldn't stop crying to save my soul. That hurt my heart. And all the rest of that day, I could not teach. I couldn't do a thing. And I think after that, the students, their attitude, their conduct and everything about them changed completely. They were the most wonderful students, and when you hear about all this stuff going on, there's never one of my students involved. And when they had the riot, I told all of 'em to go home. I said, don't follow the crowds. You follow the crowd, somebody's gon' get hurt. And they--I said, go home. One of my boys got burned up in the Five and Ten Cents store up on 14th Street [Washington, D.C.], one of the best boys in my class, in any of my classes, nice boy. They said he went home and changed clothes and then followed a group of boys back into the streets. I went to his funeral. They just had his picture on the casket 'cause he was burnt up. You know, those students have never forgotten me (laughter). Those boys just, they just seemed like my children, and so I love every one of 'em. And they loved me. They call me. They always want to do something for me. They call every day. I got some of 'em, I haven't turned loose since they were in the tenth grade.

Herman Roberts

Herman Roberts was born in 1924 in Beggs, Oklahoma to James and Ella Roberts as the youngest of six children. An entrepreneur from an early age, Roberts became the nation's foremost African American hotel and motel owner. He is known best for the sixth Roberts Motel, a Chicago institution.

When Roberts was twelve, his family moved to Chicago, Illinois. He began working odd jobs, including delivering papers and washing taxicabs. Within three years, Roberts drove a cab himself and soon earned enough to buy a license. He continued to buy licenses and then started his own cab company. After serving in the military, Roberts returned to Chicago in 1947. He immediately picked up his business again.

Roberts opened the Lucky Spot in 1953, a small lounge on the city's South Side. The Roberts Show Club, which featured entertainers such as Sammy Davis, Jr., Redd Foxx, and Della Reese, opened a year later. Segregation made housing these performers difficult, and Roberts realized the need for a black-owned motel. In 1960, he founded the first Roberts Motel. It opened to such demand that Roberts followed quickly with four others. As he focused more on the needs of families, he redesigned his show club into a bowling alley. In 1970, he launched his sixth motel—a huge, fully equipped complex that included 250 sleeping rooms, twelve suites, two penthouse party suites, a restaurant, lounge, ballroom, travel agency, convenience store and beauty parlor. He continued building his motel business with acquisitions in Oklahoma and Gary, Indiana.

Roberts bought land that had once been an oil field and built a house in his hometown of Beggs. He drilled for oil and struck it in 1981. Roberts then sold his motel business, converted the bowling alley to a skating rink and concentrated on his new venture — he still operates two derricks. He remains a Chicago icon.

Roberts was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on July 24, 2002.

Accession Number

A2002.108

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/24/2002

Last Name

Roberts

Maker Category
Organizations
Schools

Edmund Burke Elementary School

Englewood High School

First Name

Herman

Birth City, State, Country

Beggs

HM ID

ROB02

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Oklahoma

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

Do the best you can.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

1/21/1924

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Meat, Potatoes

Short Description

Lodging entrepreneur and entrepreneur Herman Roberts (1924 - ) is a consummate businessman who has founded a taxi company, a night club, a bowling alley and a motel chain in Chicago. He is known best for the sixth Roberts Motel, a Chicago institution.

Employment

Roberts Show Club

Lucky Spot Lounge

Roberts Motels

Favorite Color

Blue

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Herman Roberts interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts recalls his mother's family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts describes his father's background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts discusses growing up in Beggs, Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts remembers his siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts recalls the Great Depression

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Herman Roberts recounts his schooling and recreation

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Herman Roberts discusses his biggest influences

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Herman Roberts explains his family's move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Herman Roberts recalls hunting in Oklahoma

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Herman Roberts details the Chicago housing situation in the 1940s

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts explains why he didn't finish school

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts discusses his strategies for success in business

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts recalls his first job, selling newspapers

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts expresses his thoughts on communism

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts details how he got into the taxi business

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts relates his Army experiences

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses business strategy

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts recalls his time in the Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts shares his values

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts discusses the business strategy of delegating responsibility

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts details how he started his cab company

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains how he got into the nightclub business with Roberts Show Club

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts describes how he booked famous musicians at Roberts Show Club

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses the advantages of a bigger business

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts recalls his transition to the hotel business

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts details his success with the 500 Room at Roberts Motel No. 6

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts describes his business relationship with Marty Faye

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts discusses dealing with illegal activity by his customers

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains what black businesses should do to be successful

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts discusses the death of small businesses and towns

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts relates how integration hurt black-owned businesses

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts shares his thoughts on black entertainers

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts discusses his mentors and mentoring others

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts recounts striking oil in Oklahoma

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Herman Roberts reflects on his life and career

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Herman Roberts discusses his current career

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Herman Roberts describes his parents' reaction to his success

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Herman Roberts reflects on retirement and the situation of seniors

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Herman Roberts shares a story about Sammy Davis, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Herman Roberts ponders the future of black businesses

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Herman Roberts discusses the problems with black-owned businesses

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Herman Roberts considers his legacy and his future career

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Herman Roberts explains his business acumen

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Photo - Herman Roberts with one of his taxicabs, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1956

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Photo - Herman Roberts with his brother, Colvin Roberts, and Richard J. Daley, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Photo - Herman Roberts, ca. 1965

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Joe Louis, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bobby Prince, and Eddy Plick, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1958

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Photo - Joe Louis with the Roberettes, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1953

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jesse Owens, Chicago, Illinois, 1957

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dinah Washington and others, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Muhammad Ali and Joe Louis, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1966

Tape: 6 Story: 15 - Photo - Herman Roberts with James Baldwin, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1959

Tape: 6 Story: 16 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Willie Mays, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 17 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Leroy Winbush and George Jones, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 18 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Adam Clayton Powell, T. K. Lawless, and others

Tape: 6 Story: 19 - Photo - Bud Billiken's Parade, ca. 1950s

Tape: 6 Story: 20 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Dick Gregory and George Kirby, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Sammy Davis, Jr. and others, Chicago, Illinois, November 1959

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Mayor Richard Hatcher and his wife, Sonia, ca. 1967

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Clifford Kelly, Bill Murray, Ernie Terrell, T. C. Hooks and others

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Johnny Hartman, Duke Ellington, Al Hibler, and others

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Bill Murray, Sam Cooke, and Barbara Cooke, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Photo - Herman Roberts with his brother, Colvin Roberts, and Ralph Metcalfe, ca. 1976

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Irv 'Kup' Kupcinet, Chicago, Illinois, ca. 1957

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Photo - Herman Roberts and others prepare to greet Muhammad Ali, Chicago, Illinois, October 1974

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Harold Washington and Marty Faye, Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 10 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Wilson Frost, Richard J. Daley, and Muhammad Ali, ca. 1967

Tape: 7 Story: 11 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jimmy Bracken, 'Daddy-O' Daylie, Sid McCoy, McKee Fitzhugh, and others, ca. 1956

Tape: 7 Story: 12 - Photo - Herman Roberts with Jesse Jackson and banking executives