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Edith Armstead Gray

High school home economics teacher Edith Armstead Gray was born on November 19, 1910 in Galveston, Texas to Millie and Henry Armstead. Although Gray and her family sometimes worked as farm laborers picking cotton, her parents valued education and encouraged their children to attend college. She attended Lamarque Public School and Booker T. Washington School in Lamarque, Texas before earning her high school diploma from Central High School in Galveston in 1930. The following year, Gray enrolled at Tuskegee Institute, slowly working her way towards her degree. As a member of the Tuskegee 100 Voice Choir, she traveled with the group across the country for six weeks singing at Radio City Music Hall in New York and for President Franklin Roosevelt's mother's birthday in 1932.

In the mid-1930s, when she was no longer able to pay tuition, she returned to Texas where she worked as a seamstress. In 1934, she received her first and only teaching job with the Conecuh County Board of Education in Alabama, teaching home economics until she retired in 1976. While teaching, she completed her studies at Tuskegee and earned her B.S. degree in 1940, nearly ten years after she enrolled. In 1966, Gray joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and served as the first secretary for the Conecuh County chapter, where she helped to organize people for civil rights protests and tried to increase the membership.

Gray is widowed and has three adult children, Frederick, Jerome and Phyllis.

Edith Armstead Gray was interviewed by TheHistoryMakers on May 18, 2004.

Accession Number

A2004.051

Sex

Female

Interview Date

5/18/2004

Last Name

Gray

Maker Category
Marital Status

Widowed

Middle Name

Armstead

Schools

Lamarque Public School

Booker T. Washington Public School

Central High School

Tuskegee University

First Name

Edith

Birth City, State, Country

Galveston

HM ID

GRA04

Favorite Season

Spring

State

Texas

Favorite Vacation Destination

Anywhere New

Favorite Quote

War Is The Surgery Of Crime. Bad As It Is Within Itself, It Always Implies That Something Worse Has Gone Before.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

District of Columbia

Birth Date

11/19/1910

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Washington

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

12/1/2009

Short Description

High school home economics teacher Edith Armstead Gray (1910 - 2009 ) taught home economics for the Conecuh County Board of Education in Alabama for over forty years. Gray was the first secretary for the Conecuh County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Employment

Conecuh County Training School

Favorite Color

Yellow

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Edith Armstead Gray's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Edith Armstead Gray lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her mother and describes her personality

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Edith Armstead Gray describes visiting her maternal grandparents' farm in Cedar Lake, Texas and her mother's education

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls stories her father shared about his childhood

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls how her parents met and married

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls the account of her great-grandmother's enslavement

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls the account of her great-grandfather's enslavement

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls the account of her grandmother being sexually assaulted by a plantation owner during slavery

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Edith Armstead Gray shares memories from her childhood in La Marque, Texas

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Edith Armstead Gray remembers holidays during her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Edith Armstead Gray describes her maternal grandmother

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her oldest sister

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her brother Otis Armstead

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her maternal uncle attending Tuskegee Normal and Industrial Institute while George Washington Carver was on the faculty

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her brother earning money by picking cotton near Bay City, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls the impact of her brother's refusal to attend Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her early elementary school education in La Marque, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls spelling matches in elementary school

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Edith Armstead Gray explains how she decided to study home economics

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Edith Armstead Gray describes the smells of growing up in Galveston, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about the benefits of stocking up on groceries

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls attending church as a child

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls an unpleasant teacher from Booker T. Washington School in Bay City, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls an influential teacher from Booker T. Washington School in Bay City, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 15 - Edith Armstead Gray describes her personality as a child

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her experience at Central High School in Galveston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Edith Armstead Gray remembers her home economics teacher at Central High School in Galveston, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about her family's education

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her maternal uncle's influence in her decision to attend Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her experience at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Edith Armstead Gray explains how financial difficulties delayed her plans for graduating from Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls obtaining her job as a home economics teacher at Conecuh County Training School in Evergreen, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Edith Armstead Gray remembers encountering George Washington Carver during her time at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Edith Armstead Gray remembers her mother's reaction when she obtained her first job

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Edith Armstead Gray explains the reason Conecuh County Training School in Evergreen, Alabama changed its name to Thurgood Marshall High School

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Edith Armstead Gray describes her experience teaching home economics at Conecuh County Training School in the 1930 and 1940s

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Edith Armstead Gray expounds on why home economics should continue to be taught

Tape: 3 Story: 13 - Edith Armstead Gray talks about the lack of integration in Conecuh County, Alabama School system

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls Montgomery, Alabama during the Montgomery Bus Boycott of 1955-1956

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Edith Armstead Gray explains the lack of protests in Evergreen, Alabama during the height of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Edith Armstead Gray recalls her involvement with the NAACP in Evergreen, Alabama during the late 1960s

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Edith Armstead Gray describes the dilapidated conditions of the white high school in Evergreen, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Edith Armstead Gray describes changes that she saw in student attitudes throughout her teaching career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Edith Armstead Gray describes her sons' educational achievements

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Edith Armstead Gray describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Edith Armstead Gray expounds on the educational importance of listening to children and providing them with opportunities

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Edith Armstead Gray reflects upon her life

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Edith Armstead Gray shares advice for aspiring educators

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Edith Armstead Gray reflects upon her legacy, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Edith Armstead Gray describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 13 - Edith Armstead Gray remembers her late husband

Tape: 4 Story: 14 - Edith Armstead Gray reflects upon the importance of sharing African American history to younger generations

Tape: 4 Story: 15 - Edith Armstead Gray reflects upon her legacy, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 16 - Edith Armstead Gray narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

8$8

DATitle
Edith Armstead Gray remembers encountering George Washington Carver during her time at Tuskegee Institute in Tuskegee, Alabama
Edith Armstead Gray expounds on the educational importance of listening to children and providing them with opportunities
Transcript
Tell me a little bit about just what it was like to attend Tuskegee [Normal and Industrial Institute; Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] with Dr. [George Washington] Carver and just what was that like?$$Well, when I went there, Dr. Moton was the director of the school. He was the president, Dr. Robert Russa Moton. And Dr. Carver, at that time, was not teaching. He just worked in his laboratory over in the agricultural building that was along the far side of the campus. But I took biology in that, in that same building. And we'd see him every time we had a class over there, I think. I took biology about three days a week in the lab, two days a week, but we would see him in his lab working. And then, not only that, we'd see Dr. Carver every morning when he passed by White Hall. He'd have a little basket on his arm, you know, and he would be going around picking up little grasses and little flowers and different things, putting in his basket. And they said that he was running experiments on those things, and you'd see out there every morn. And he wore the same--the whole time that I was there, because Dr. Carver didn't die until about 1941 [sic. 1943], he wore that same little brown coat. He had worn it so long that it had lost its color. And that's what he was--a very, very smart man. And he had--the [George Washington Carver] Museum [Tuskegee, Alabama] had been opened, and you would see all of his paintings and all of the things that he had done. Oh, he was just such a marvelous person--all of the things that he had made from the peanut, and from the sweet potato, and that sort of thing, but he never taught any of us. But he would have Bible study every Wednesday night down on the Tompkins Hall that was a dining hall. And that was right across from White Hall. All I'd have to do is walk out my building and go--I'd say about a half block and get Tompkins Hall where you'd have your meals.$Do you think that there are things that teachers nowadays don't do that they did when you were teaching?$$I really talk about teachers now because I've been a teacher for so long, you know. And I not only taught the students, but during my career, I taught adults as well. And during the lifetime of my late husband [Philander A. Gray], he and I would go out. He taught the farmers and I taught the farm woman. I taught them to make quilts. I taught them to do all of the things in their home to help improve it that they could. I taught them how to listen to your children. You know, so many people--you know, when I was a child, people used to say, "Shut your mouth, and you be quiet." They wouldn't listen, but we need to listen to our children. And just because you're an adult, it doesn't mean that you're always right. Here, what I tell my children, "I want to hear your side of it. And then, I'll give you my side of it, but in the end, I will decide what is best for you to do." My children tell you I did that, open, and it--I still do it (laughter). Even though they're good and grown. But I think we're going to have to do more listening, and see if we can't develop stronger leadership in young people, you know, and give them an opportunity. So many of us who are old, we want to hold on to what we've been doing so long. We don't want anybody else to do anything. I know in my church--I had a little girl named Jessica Kyles [ph.]. She was a very smart girl. And I had taught Sunday school for all those forty-some odd years. And I said to the superintendent of the Sunday school, "Do you have any objection if I train Jessica Kyles to teach the class that I've been teaching so long?" I said, "She's thoroughly capable." "Well, we don't know about that, we don't know about these children doing so and so." I said, "Well, how is she going to ever learn unless she's trained?" "Well, you can try it and we'll see." And so, I started training the girl, and I gave her an agenda, you know, that she was to follow. I said, "This is the same agenda that I've been using with you all." Come to find out the child to me was doing it better than I was doing it. So, we had--and she's now a teacher in that Sunday school.