The Nation’s Largest African American Video Oral History Collection Mobile search icon Mobile close search icon

Search Results

Advanced Biography Search
Mobile navigation icon Close mobile navigation icon

city

Ruby Nell Sales

Ruby Sales, born in Jemison, Alabama, on July 8, 1948, suffered many hardships during the civil rights movement but was not disparaged. She has spent her adult life working in philanthropic endeavors.

While studying at the Tuskegee Institute in Alabama, Sales became involved with the state's Freedom Summer voter registration drive. One afternoon, as she and Jonathan Daniels, a white seminarian, stood in line at a corner store, a man shot and killed Daniels for standing behind Sales in line. Unnerved and unable to speak significantly for seven months, Sales determined to attend the trial of Daniels' murderer, Tom Coleman, and to testify on behalf of her slain colleague. Her perseverance moved her to a career of social activism.

After earning her B.A. in American history in 1971 from Manhattanville College, where she was a National Council of Churches Merit Scholar, Sales enrolled in graduate school at Princeton University. Between 1971 and 1976, she was a Danforth Scholar, and she advanced to Ph.D. candidacy in American history before leaving the university. Sales taught adult education in Boston for a year, and then worked as director of the Citizens' Complaint Center in Washington, D.C. From 1986 to 1988, she taught courses on the civil rights movement and African American women's history at the University of Maryland before becoming affiliated with the National Women's Studies Association. She served as director from 1989 to 1991 of Black Women's Voices and Images, an initiative to wed research to action on issues affecting black women. For the following three years she worked as director of Women of All Colors, coordinating a broad coalition of progressive organizations to work on issues affecting all women.

In 1994, Sales entered the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She studied feminist, African American and liberation theologies with an emphasis on race, class and gender issues, and in 1998 received her master's of divinity. Her training as a seminarian prepared her to launch SpiritHouse in 2000, a nonprofit organization focused on community organizing and spiritually based community building. Sales has written several articles and has appeared as a commentator on several television programs. She lives in Washington, D.C.

Accession Number

A2003.226

Sex

Female

Interview Date

9/15/2003

Last Name

Sales

Maker Category
Marital Status

Domestic Partner

Middle Name

Nell

Organizations
Schools

George Washington Carver High School

Tuskegee University

Manhattanville College

Princeton University

Episcopal Divinity School

First Name

Ruby

Birth City, State, Country

Jemison

HM ID

SAL02

Favorite Season

Fall, Spring

State

Alabama

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Beloved Community.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/8/1948

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Greens (Collard)

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and social activist Ruby Nell Sales (1948 - ) is a scholar who focuses on African American women's issues. Sales experiences in the civil rights movement shaped her career which eventually led her to launch SpiritHouse, a nonprofit organization focused on community organizing and spiritually based community building.

Employment

Citizen Complaint Center

University of Maryland, College Park

Black Women's Voices and Images

SpiritHouse Project

Favorite Color

Purple

Timing Pairs
0,0:1190,23:2984,80:4700,130:11830,223:16388,275:16828,281:17356,288:19028,313:19468,319:19996,326:20436,333:20788,338:22812,372:23164,377:23692,384:25188,406:26068,417:27124,432:27740,441:28444,451:29236,462:31524,530:40730,594:41480,606:43130,636:44180,654:44555,661:44930,667:45980,686:46880,703:47480,714:50105,769:50480,775:50780,780:51680,796:52055,803:52355,808:58746,847:59262,855:59950,864:60552,872:67776,995:68464,1006:72360,1018:72944,1024:74990,1029:76400,1034:77597,1060:77912,1066:78416,1076:78857,1084:79361,1094:81494,1118:91000,1267$90,0:1182,18:12028,133:14735,219:15400,228:21901,296:42005,469:42393,474:43072,483:47049,553:47728,561:53370,593:54618,611:60234,720:61326,737:75414,929:76206,939:77614,970:81486,1025:82366,1037:90170,1094:91116,1107:95932,1165:103870,1223:104220,1230:108650,1265:110214,1299:123702,1464:124026,1471:125160,1488:129100,1502:130924,1538:134624,1555:135177,1563:136678,1589:139048,1638:140075,1654:140707,1663:141813,1683:142129,1690:144025,1722:144341,1727:152873,1848:158170,1861:166080,1975:166340,1980:168950,1994:169234,1999:169518,2004:195070,2354
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ruby Nell Sales' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales states her parents' birthplaces and birthdates

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her father's experience in the U.S. Army

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales describes her maternal family's view of her mother's ambition

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales describes how her parents met

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ruby Nell Sales lists her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ruby Nell Sales describes her childhood neighborhood in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ruby Nell Sales describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about talks about Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her childhood activities and the Catholic school she attended in Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her religious background

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about attending Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia and the school's care for students

Tape: 1 Story: 16 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her love of school and nurturing teachers at Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia

Tape: 1 Story: 17 - Ruby Nell Sales remembers her grade school teachers

Tape: 1 Story: 18 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about life in the South and impressions of her high school homeroom teacher

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her high school interests, particularly in reading

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about growing up in the segregated South

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales remembers graduating from Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia, and her disinterest in attending Tuskegee Institute

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about HistoryMaker Gwendolyn Patton, Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama and the town's residents

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about participation in the Civil Rights Movement from Tuskegee Institute students, faculty, and staff

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her first experience staging a sit-in in Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales comments on how the Civil Rights Movement coalesced

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales recalls help from faculty at Tuskegee Institute as she engaged in Civil Rights work in Lowndes County, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about Lowndes County, Alabama and gives anecdotes about Stokely Carmichael

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ruby Nell Sales describes Stokely Carmichael

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales describes how she went about inviting people in Lowndes County, Alabama into organizing work

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about differences in movement strategies between Mississippi and Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about SNCC in Alabama and Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about shifting political power in Lowndes County, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about debates concerning white people in Civil Rights work

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about how gender factored into civil rights work in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales recalls the murder of Jonathan Daniels in Lowndes County, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ruby Nell Sales describe the aftermath of Jonathan Daniels' murder

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales reflects upon the importance of Jonathan Daniels' murderer being sent to trial

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales reflects upon Jonathan Daniels' reasons for joining in civil rights work prior to his murder

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the trial of Tom Coleman, who murdered civil rights worker Jonathan Daniels

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the end of her time in Lowndes County, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her transition to the North

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about her time in the history department at Princeton University in Princeton, New Jersey

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about historians Arthur Link and James McPherson

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about black historians and lack of support at the Ivy League schools she attended

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales offers her thoughts on 'Time on the Cross' by Robert Fogel and Stanley Engerman

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about black women poets who influenced her

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about teaching at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about becoming a feminist, her organizations, and her opinions on the differences between womanism and feminism

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the impact black folk theology had on her theological studies

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about black folk theology and its connection to the Southern Freedom Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales describes the spirituality of black Southerners who participated in civil rights work

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the SpiritHouse Project and the political climate of the times

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the importance of relationship-building in community organizing

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ruby Nell Sales offers reflections on the state of the black church and African Americans in the American empire

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ruby Nell Sales talks about the symbolism of the Biblical Exodus story

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ruby Nell Sales comments on the young people she comes into contact with through her organization, the SpiritHouse Project

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ruby Nell Sales describes her hopes for the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ruby Nell Sales reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ruby Nell Sales reflects upon what she would have done differently in life

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ruby Nell Sales reflects upon how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Ruby Nell Sales narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

1$8

DATitle
Ruby Nell Sales describes Stokely Carmichael
Ruby Nell Sales describes the spirituality of black Southerners who participated in civil rights work
Transcript
Ma'am, can you tell us about Stokely Carmichael [Kwame Ture]? Now what kind of person was he and how, you know--what wouldn't we know about Stokely Carmichael from--?$$Well, first of all, Stokely was very beloved. He was very loved in Lowndes County [Alabama]. All of the local people loved Stokely. He was a local legend when I came into Lowndes County, and he was a very gentle organizer, and a very respectful organizer, and this was before he became the chairperson of SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] and everything I know about organizing, I learned from Stokely, and contrary to some of this notion of him as being chauvinist, when I first came to the county after a week, he gave me my assignment and I was off and running, and there was no sense that because I was a woman, that there were any limitations to my being able to organize Calhoun County [Alabama] all by myself. He sent me out to Calhoun County by myself; and what I would say about Stokely in Lowndes County was that he was very, very much providing the backups for local people to develop their own leadership. He was not trying to be the leader in Lowndes County, Alabama. He was a part of a community movement, where a community designated and named their own leaders.$When you finished school, did you--what you do now is part of a ministry.$$It's part of--it's a call. Um, it's a deepening the call that I heard at Tuskegee [Institute, later Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] to work for justice, so it's work that I do, it's continuing that, but adding a larger way of doing that work.$$When those of us who were not direct participants in the movement, physically in the south, hear these stories and even as we saw them on TV from where we were in those days--I mean we can get a profound sense that something special happened that regardless of the beatings. I mean something happened that was transforming I mean for everyone.$$Absolutely and it was a spiritual evangelical transformation. Something had to happen in someone who could sing the song without fear. "I'll do what the spirit says do, and if the spirit says 'die,' I'll die oh Lord." It meant an effect that you had a different vision of death and you have a long meaning of understanding of life and creation and continuity, that killing me didn't mean the end of me as long as the movement was going on. And my life was a part of something, you know, that was larger and greater than myself and so it was not that I would disappear if I died. It was moving up to a different level of consciousness where one was renegotiating one's understanding of life and death. You had to do that or you couldn't have stood before guns, or dogs, or anything of that. Something had to happen in you that reordered how you stood on the ground, and so I believe that the movement and the spiritual, the God talk, and spirituality of the movement was so powerful because it had come from a people who had suffered, it had come from a people--that those words had come from their very essence and their very being, and so that--and they had met the challenge of having to move up a little higher and stand a little bit higher in a world that said that they were nothing--that they were chattel, that they were second-class people, so it was an ability--it was kind of a dual vision to not only be able to see who you are today, but the vision to be able to see who you might be tomorrow and that was powerful and that undergirded the movement.$$Okay.$$Sorry, I didn't mean to preach.$$That is wonderful preaching and it's good. Don't be sorry about that.