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Ofield Dukes

Public relations guru Ofield Dukes was born in Rutledge, Alabama, on August 8, 1932. After serving in the Army from 1952 to 1954, Dukes went on to Wayne State University in Detroit and graduated in 1958 with a degree in journalism.

After graduating, Dukes spent several years working at WCHB radio as the news director. In 1961, unable to get a job with any of the white-owned newspapers, Dukes went to work on The Michigan Chronicle. He found himself writing virtually all the articles, from editorials to politics, front-page news and music reviews. In 1964, Dukes won three awards for his writing from the National Newspaper Publishers Association, a Washington, D.C.-based organization of black-owned newspapers. Later that year, President Lyndon B. Johnson appointed him deputy director of the President's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress. The following year, he became the deputy director of public affairs for the White House Conference to Fulfill These Rights, where he stayed until 1969. In addition to this, he was appointed to Vice President Hubert Humphrey's staff in 1966 as an assistant. Following Johnson's decision not to seek reelection in 1968 and Humphrey's loss in his bid for the White House, Dukes became disillusioned. In 1969, he established Ofield Dukes & Associates, a Washington-based public relations firm, with Motown Records as his first client. Today, they serve Sony Music Entertainment, RJR Nabisco and the Congressional Black Caucus, among others.

Between 1972 and 1983, Dukes served as an adjunct professor of public relations at Howard University, and since 1993 he has served in the School of Communications at the American University in the same capacity. He has been a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign since 1972 and helped organize the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner. He is also the founder of the Black Public Relations Society of Washington.

Dukes has won numerous awards over the years, including a Silver Anvil from the Public Relations Society of America in 1974 and a Gold Anvil in 2001. He has also been inducted into the Washington, D.C. Public Relations Society Hall of Fame.

Ofield Dukes passed away on December 7, 2011.

Accession Number

A2003.112

Sex

Male

Interview Date

5/31/2003

Last Name

Dukes

Organizations
Schools

Sidney D. Miller Middle School

Wayne State University

First Name

Ofield

Birth City, State, Country

Rutledge

HM ID

DUK02

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

The First Law of Life Is Knowing Thyself.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

8/8/1932

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Steak

Death Date

12/7/2011

Short Description

Public relations chief executive and political consultant Ofield Dukes (1932 - 2011 ) founded the Ofield Dukes & Associates public relations firm in Washington D.C., and served on the White House staff during the Johnson administration. Dukes was also a communications consultant for every Democratic presidential campaign since 1972.

Employment

WCHB Radio

Michigan Chronicle

Presidents' Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity

White House Conference on Civil Rights

Ofield Dukes & Associates

Howard University

American University

Favorite Color

Blue

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ofield Dukes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes growing up in Rutledge, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes growing up with four sisters

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes talks about his childhood personality and the teachings of his Baptist church

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his family's move to Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes describes his childhood community in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes his elementary school teacher, Mrs. Barrow, sister of Joe Louis

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about his paper route

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes the role of radio soap operas during his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes how his paper route allowed him to develop a sense of self-reliance

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes the coach of the Miller High School football and basketball teams

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Miller High School basketball team

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became a cub reporter for the Detroit edition of the "Pittsburgh Courier"

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became "a lover" in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes describes his first heartbreak and failing the entrance exam for Wayne State University

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ofield Dukes describes being drafted to serve in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences serving in the U.S. Army

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences attending Wayne State University in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired as the news director of WCHB-AM radio in Detroit, Michigan

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his experiences working as assistant editor for the "Michigan Chronicle"

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes comments on the significance of the "Michigan Chronicle" to Detroit's black community

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about serving as president of the young adult division of the Detroit Chapter of the NAACP

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how he met the Gordy family

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes talks about black life and culture in Detroit, Michigan during the 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes talks about being an usher at Detroit's Paradise Theater, and Paradise Valley

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Idlewild, Michigan resort town

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes his appointment as Deputy Director of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his responsibilities as Deputy Director of President Lyndon B. Johnson's Committee on Equal Employment Opportunity & Plans for Progress

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson brought African American leaders together

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired to work for Vice President Hubert Humphrey

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes how Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara started an affirmative action program for the U.S. Armed Forces

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson gained support for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes talks about the Presidency of Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Ofield Dukes describes President Lyndon B. Johnson's final meeting with black newspaper editors in 1968, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes President Lyndon B. Johnson's final meeting with black newspaper editors in 1968, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes talks about President Lyndon B. Johnson's commitment to civil rights

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes talks about Vice President Hubert Humphrey's presidential campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes starting his own public relations firm, Ofield Dukes & Associates

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes talks about having Motown as his first client at Ofield Dukes & Associates

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes his health issues caused by stress and lack of exercise

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's inauguration, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for Detroit Mayor Coleman Young's inauguration, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes subletting his office to Alex Haley, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes subletting his office to Alex Haley, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes how Alex Haley overcame depression

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes how he became a member of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes his work as a theatrical press agent for the Washington, D.C. production of "Bubbling Brown Sugar"

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes describes representing boxing promoter Don King

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for the Washington Bullets after they won the 1978 NBA Finals, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes describes his work for the Washington Bullets after they won the 1978 NBA Finals, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes organizing the first Congressional Black Caucus dinner in 1972

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes describes representing Coretta Scott King during her visit to South Africa to speak out against apartheid, pt. 1

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes describes representing Coretta Scott King during her visit to South Africa to speak out against apartheid, pt. 2

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes describes his role in facilitating Dr. Leon Sullivan's relationship with Vice President Hubert Humphrey and President Lyndon B. Johnson

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes describes being hired to teach public relations at Howard University

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Ofield Dukes talks about winning the Public Relations Society of America's Golden Anvil Award, and being honored by HistoryMaker Cathy Hughes

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Ofield Dukes describes the evolution of the public relations field

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Ofield Dukes responds to a question about good and bad public relations

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Ofield Dukes talks about the significance of the public relations field

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Ofield Dukes describes what contributed to his success

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Ofield Dukes shares his hopes and concerns for the black community

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Ofield Dukes reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Ofield Dukes narrates his photographs, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Ofield Dukes narrates his photographs, pt. 2

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$5

DATitle
Ofield Dukes describes how President Lyndon B. Johnson gained support for Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964
Ofield Dukes talks about having Motown as his first client at Ofield Dukes & Associates
Transcript
And during the debate on Title VII, [President] Lyndon [B.] Johnson had the corporate executives, about seventy of them, to come to the White House for a meeting in the East Room because the debate was hot and heavy. And he needed the corporate support and especially since these executives were pushing voluntarily affirmative action in employment. And so, Willard Wirtz presided and he's very eloquent. And Lyndon Johnson was busy at a security, a national security meeting on the war in Vietnam, and was late in coming. And then Hobart [Taylor, Jr.] spoke. And so, you had all of the, the heavyweights, the CEO's, and Lyndon Johnson finally came. And he was looking sort of beaten down and the war was getting to him. And he started speaking and just said that people are surprised that, as a Southerner, that he's developed such an intense commitment. And he talked about his life as a Southerner, as a poor Southerner, and how he worked with the Hispanics and the Negroes and whatever. And he pointed to Hobart Taylor, Jr., and he says, look, you all know Hobart, and Hobart was smart. The, the corporate executive loved Hobart because he knew much about Wall Street and he played golf, and he was in much a part of their culture as anybody. They just loved him. And Lyndon Johnson said, see, Hobart, his father's [Hobart Taylor, Sr.] a millionaire, successful businessman, and Hobart is working for me at a sacrifice. He could be making several hundred thousand dollars a year out there. But he says, there are a lot of Hobart Taylors out there, and what we want from Title VII is for these Negroes to have the same chance to be taxpayers instead of tax eaters. And he was so convincing that the--these corporate executives said they would become active supporters of Title VII. And that was decisive, but before the bill was passed, there was a senator from West Virginia, who introduced a, an amendment as a subterfuge to kill the bill. And it was amended to prohibit discrimination, not only based on race, but also based on sex. And he thought that this would certainly kill the bill. But Lyndon Johnson is so smart, so he called--had his staff to do a little research and to find out how many women held positions, sub positions in the government. And then, he decided to have a press conference at the National Press Building to make an important announcement. And he announced a series of appointments of women to key positions and said that this amendment would expand opportunities for women, and it became a positive story. And so, white women became supportive of the bill and it was passed. And I became very much involved with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that was set up to administer the bill with Sam Jackson and Arlene Hernandez and et cetera. And the first two class action lawsuits under Title VII were filed by AT&T by white women who were switchboard operators, and by flight attendants for TWA. And they won, and Title VII has been a--create a benefit to white women in a sense than blacks. And Lyndon Johnson was so smart that he, that he was clever enough to, to, to use that ploy to get the bill passed.$And a day or so later, there came a call from Detroit [Michigan] from a lady named Esther Gordy Edwards. And she said, Ofield, I understand you're in the PR [public relations] business. She said, guess what? Motown would like to be your first client, and that was marvelous. And I thought again of what my grandmother said--that the Lord may not come when you want Him, but He's always on time. And then, a couple of weeks later, I got a call from a guy in New York, and I had worked with him because he had been on loan to the Plans for Progress Program as an executive. He's a vice president of Lever Brothers, vice president of PR. He says, hey, Hobart Taylor [Jr.] called me, and said you're in the PR business, and Lever Brothers would like to be your first client. I said, I'm sorry, if you don't mind--if it's not offensive for you to be the second client. And so, that was the beginning and it was exciting having Motown as a client. 'Cause whenever the Supremes or the Four Tops or the Temptations or Stevie Wonder came to Washington or New York, I handled them and learned about the egos of entertainers because when the Supremes came to Washington, and I arranged for them to be interviewed at Channel 9. I learned that one lady desired to have her own car. She didn't want to ride with the others--a sense of privacy, so I made the adjustment there. And on another occasion, Stevie [Wonder] was going to do a big rally in the park. Oh, they had even the White House. Bob Brown and Stan Scott thought it would be a good PR thing to have Mrs. [Pat] Nixon there, and it was at the Washington Monument. So it was at 4:00 and during the summer, and Stevie was coming from Baltimore. And Mrs. Nixon was there at 4:00, about 10 or 15 minutes till 4, and the Secret Service people, and 15,000 predominantly African Americans, you know, and all excited. Stevie was coming and the backup band was there, and it was 4:00. No Stevie--it's 4:15. No Stevie--4:30. And by 4:45, people are getting restless and the Secret Service is--I was there and it was just where is he, where is he? So there was just suspense, the drama. And Mrs. Nixon was nervous, and these people were becoming impatient and threatening, you know, how people are. Brothers (unclear) we're gonna turn this mother out if he doesn't show. And suddenly, Stevie arrived about 10 minutes to 5, casually. And Mrs. Nixon was so excited as if this was saved, you know, what could have been a violent scene that she jumped out of her chair, walked over and greeted him with a big hug. And that was the photo carried around the world, and it was really misinterpreted that this was a warm, friendly greeting of Mrs. Richard Milhous Nixon--such a fondly greeting of Stevie Wonder. But I guess I learned the PR implications of all of that--that it's, in getting with entertainers, there's the unpredictability. And the other thing that I learned is about cash flow, business cash flow. I did all those wonderful things for Motown--all of the excitement, and I just remembered somebody saying, all that glitters is not gold, simply because this was not the age of fax machines, of emails. Of whatever the circumstances, Motown was six or seven months late in paying. And there were days at the Press Building when I looked forward to their check, prayed for their check, simply because I didn't have 50 cents on some days to catch the bus from southwest Washington to the Press Building. So I, I walked, and my part-time secretary was very understanding and, you know, it wasn't anything that she needed. But I learned about cash flow. But I also learned the art of perseverance.

Amy Tate Billingsley

Civic leader Amy Tate Billingsley was born on November 29, 1936 in Chicago, Illinois to parents Herman Tate and Inez Duke Tate, who were both active leaders educational in local and international co-op communities. Billingsley’s great-grandfather, Jesse Chisholm Duke, was a prominent newspaper editor and activist in Montgomery, Alabama and Pine Bluff, Arkansas during the 1880s and 1890s; her grandfather, noted architectural engineer Charles Sumner Duke, was the first African American graduate in mathematics at Harvard University in 1905, founder of the National Technical Association in 1926, and the supervising engineer of the Public Works Administration in the Virgin Islands from 1946 to 1951.

Billingsley was raised in Chicago, attended John D. Shoop Elementary School, the University of Chicago High School (the Lab School), and Morgan Park High School. She then enrolled at the University of Chicago, receiving her A.B. degree in mathematics and education in 1958. She went on to earn her M.A. degree in counseling psychology from Ohio State University in 1961, and her M.B.A. degree in marketing and management from the University of Baltimore in 1982.

Billingsley travelled to the Republic of Senegal, West Africa with the non-profit organization, Operations Crossroads Africa, and then worked at Harvard University’s Center for Research in the Study of Personality. In 1961, she married Brandeis University student Andrew Billingsley, becoming instrumental in his many landmark publications including the classical sociological text Black Families in White America. Her work with political campaigns, started with one candidate’s 1966 campaign for California Assemblyman, which lead to the successful political career of Congressman Ronald Dellums. Billingsley’s participation in the campaigns of Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley and Atlanta Congressman Andrew Young were precursors to her significant involvement in the presidential campaigns of William J. Clinton, Al Gore, and John Kerry. In the 1990s, Billingsley worked with the Clinton Administration in the White House Public Liaison Office; as Program Manager at the White House Initiative on Historically Black Colleges and Universities; and as Special Assistant to U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

Billingsley was a founder of Black Women’s Agenda, Inc. in 1977, and has served on the board of the National Black M.B.A. Association (N.B.M.B.A.A.). In 1982, Billingsley started Amistad Associates, and since has been a consultant on national projects for clients including, marketing for Dr. Dorothy I. Height’s Open Wide the Freedom Gates: A Memoir, serving as a Regional Coordinator for The HistoryMakers, and coordinating organizational projects for Tom and Barbara Skinner’s Leadership Institute Seminars For Upper Level Executives.

Divorced in 1998, Billingsley lives in Washington, DC. She has two daughters, Angela Billingsley and Bonita Billingsley Harris, and three granddaughters.

Amy Tate Billingsley was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on April 26, 2003.

Accession Number

A2003.093

Sex

Female

Interview Date

4/26/2003

Last Name

Billingsley

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Tate

Organizations
Schools

Morgan Park High School

University of Chicago Laboratory Schools

John D. Shoop Math-Science Technical Academy

University of Chicago

Reed College

The Ohio State University

University of Baltimore

Speakers Bureau

No

First Name

Amy

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

BIL01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Jamaica

Favorite Quote

It Doesn’t Matter, You Can’t Control What Happens To You, You Can Only Control How You Respond To It.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/29/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Bread

Short Description

Civic leader Amy Tate Billingsley (1936 - ) was heavily involved in events planning, marketing and organizing for several significant projects. She worked in the William J. Clinton Administration with Historically Black Colleges and Universities and with Labor Secretary Alexis Herman.

Employment

Black Women's Agenda

United States Department of Education

Amistad Associates

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Amy Billingsley's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Amy Billingsley lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Amy Billingsley describes her family history

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Amy Billingsley describes some of her great grandfather, Jessie Chisholm Duke's interesting activities

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Amy Billingsley talks about her grandfather, Charles Sumner Duke, pt.1

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Amy Billingsley talks about her grandfather, Charles Sumner Duke, pt.2

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Amy Billingsley describes her paternal family history

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Amy Billingsley describes her father, Herman Tate

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Amy Billingsley describes her mother, Inez Duke Tate, an influential teacher

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Amy Billingsley describes how her parents met

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Amy Billingsley describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt.1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Amy Billingsley describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt.2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Amy Billingsley talks about her sister, HistoryMaker Evelyn Cline, and her experience at John D. Shoop Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Amy Billingsley describes her memories of childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Amy Billingsley describes her experience at the integrated University of Chicago Laboratory School

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Amy Billingsley recalls influential grade school teachers

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Amy Billingsley talks about her graduation from the University of Chicago Laboratory School and the impact of her father's death in 1952

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Amy Billingsley talks about her studies at Reed College in Portland, Oregon, and her return to the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Amy Billingsley reflects upon her experiences at the University of Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Amy Billingsley describes her impressions of Portland, Oregon and Berkeley, California

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Amy Billingsley talks about her work with the American Friends Service Committee Project at the Henry Booth House in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Amy Billingsley describes her experiences at Ohio State University

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Amy Billingsley talks about her husband Andrew Billingsley and her work with Operations Crossroads Africa

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Amy Billingsley talks about her home as a gathering place for black intellectuals in Berkeley, California during the 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Amy Billingsley talks about her and her husband's book "Black Families in White America" and Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Amy Billingsley talks about the Free Speech Movement and her activities in Berkeley, California

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Amy Billingsley talks about black intellectual activity at Howard University in Washington, D.C. during the early 1970s

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Amy Billingsley describes her husband's appointment as the president of Morgan State University in Baltimore, Maryland in 1975

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Amy Billingsley talks about her community activism

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Amy Billingsley describes her start in political organizing

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Amy Billingsley talks about her work with Project Follow Through and her passion for political empowerment

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Amy Billingsley describes the political apathy of disenfranchised citizens in Washington, D.C.

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Amy Billingsley talks about working on Walter Mondale's presidential campaign in 1984 and organizing intergenerational gatherings

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Amy Billingsley describes her contributions to education on a national level

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Amy Billingsley talks about political organizing in the Democratic Party and the 2000 presidential campaign

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Amy Billingsley mentions her consulting firm, Amistad Associates, and the Lewinsky scandal

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Amy Billingsley expresses her thoughts on the right wing agenda

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Amy Billingsley describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt.1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Amy Tate Billingsley describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community, pt.2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Amy Tate Billingsley reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Amy Tate Billingsley describes HistoryMaker Dorothy Height

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Amy Tate Billingsley describes Alexis Herman, the former U.S. Secretary of Labor

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Amy Tate Billingsley describes HistoryMaker Ronald Dellums, the former mayor of Oakland, California

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Amy Tate Billingsley talks about how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Amy Tate Billingsley narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$2

DAStory

4$1

DATitle
Amy Billingsley describes some of her great grandfather, Jessie Chisholm Duke's interesting activities
Amy Billingsley describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood, pt.1
Transcript
And at that point he [Jessie Chisholm Duke] had married and had children. My grandfather was his first born. He had eventually eight children. He founded the Montgomery Alabama Herald, his newspaper. And the story that has gone through the family, even before I heard it systematically from Aunt Esther was that he wrote an editorial against lynching. There was a woman, a white woman who frequented the slaves, well the black neighborhoods, and was going around with a black guy and somebody saw her there and she called rape and accused this man who she had been--had consensual relationship with and they lynched him. They dragged him through the street and lynched him, and he took exception to that and wrote an editorial about that. And they came to his house looking for him. He hid in the piano, they couldn't find him.$$Hid in the piano?$$In the piano. Apparently they had a piano that was big enough for him to hide in. So they couldn't find him and then the mayor of the town who was fairly friendly helped him escape in women's clothes and drove him to the train station. Was interesting because a professor at Auburn University [Auburn, Alabama], when we were researching my grandfather and went to Montgomery [Alabama], could not find his newspaper in the archives of Montgomery, they had been taken out, and we were very unhappy about that, got home found out that the person who took it out was Allen Jones, his name, was the professor at the Auburn University in Auburn, Alabama. And he says, your grandfather, we've been researching him for three years. So they had been researching Jessie Chisolm Duke and gave me lots of information, including video--microfiche of newspapers where, for a whole week, running the white newspapers in Alabama, talked about how Jessie Chisolm Duke was uppity and he was--he wrote this editorial, and a committee went to call on him and they could not find him, and they just really, of course, wanted to discuss with him and that they couldn't find him and so--then there was correspondence back and forth. And I actually found some reference to him in a book about Booker T. Washington. Now apparently--I don't know if you want to know all of this.$$Yeah, go ahead.$$But apparently what was interesting is that Jessie Duke was encouraging what is now Alabama State [University, Montgomery, Alabama] to come and settle in Montgomery, Alabama. And Booker T. Washington whose new institution, Tuskegee [Institute, Tuskegee, Alabama], was not too far away, was really a little nervous about the fact that Alabama State, what is now Alabama State, would be so close to Tuskegee. He was afraid that it would somehow be detrimental to his institution, so this was kind of a dialogue that was going back and forth between the two men. And in the newspapers that were talking about this uppity Negro who had this newspaper and was talking all this stuff, they talked about how--they talked about this controversy. And it's interesting to me because there was a letter from someone called Progressive or something like that, who said it's no problem, we can have a new school come and settle in our communities, said it'll make for jobs for our brick masons and our bakers and so forth, and we know how to take care of Negros. We've taken care of that for a long time. Part of the controversy was they were afraid that if a school came to Montgomery then black men would become educated and desirable to white women. And they said we can certainly take care of that. So this is--this is part of the traffic that was in the Montgomery Advertiser at the time. Well Jessie Duke left on the train, went to Memphis [Tennessee] where Ida B. Wells sheltered him for a time. And then he finally settled in Pine Bluff, Arkansas where he started another newspaper, and he was the Grand Chancellor of the Grand Knights of Pythias. And Aunt Esther said he would go out on the road on speaking engagements and would come back with so much that he had to have security guards come with him and they would sit on the dining room table and count out this money. Also, in Montgomery he was a deacon, I guess, on the Board of Trustees of Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, which is where [Reverend Dr.] Martin Luther King [Jr.] started out. And he also was involved in the founding of the University of Ala-Arkansas [at] Pine Bluff.$Let me ask you about the--tell me about the neighborhood you grew up in and what the different sights and sounds and smells of growing up?$$Grew up in Morgan Park [Chicago, Illinois] at 109th and Loomis. We had a two-bedroom--we had a three-bedroom house, which seemed awfully big to me then. I went back it seemed kind of small. My grandmother [Salina Veasey] lived on the--there's one bedroom on the first floor and my sister [Eileen Cline, HM] and I shared a bedroom on the second floor and my parents lived on the second--you know shared a room on the second floor and there was one bathroom. And we had a basement, which actually was, at least half of it was full of my grandma and grandpa Duke's stuff cause they had at that point were in Washington [D.C.] and the Virgin Islands and you know had things that they wanted to store, but the other half was what we used for parties and things. We did Kool-Aid parties, we painted the light bulbs with tipper colors and had parties there. I was gonna tell you my father [Herman] migrated from Arkansas. His family sort of migrated from Arkansas. His older brother and sister came up and then you know various ones would come up and stay with them until they got settled and then they would, you know, move out on their own. So my father actually came up when he was in grammar school and worked to support himself all the way through college which is why he finished college after my mother [Inez Duke Tate] did, actually. So with his ten brothers and sisters, they all eventually came up to Chicago at some point. My sister and I, my sister was born in 1935 so my sister and I are about 18 months apart, and we had a vacant lot next to us where we grew--we had a garden, and we had chickens. My father's brothers and sisters and his mother, would you know all come out and work the garden. We had fruit trees. In the summertime the only thing we went to the store for was milk. We didn't have a cow, but we grew all of our food, and the chickens were one of my jobs. I raised the chickens and collected the eggs and raised tomato plants and bought my first bicycle that way. My grandmother would go out for Sunday dinners, she'd go out and wring the head of a chicken and he'd flop all over the yard and then we'd pluck him and eat him.