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

Amazon Brooks

Amazon Brooks was born in Arcola, Mississippi on November 26, 1897. Her maternal grandparents were slaves in Alabama, and her mother, Ella, was born in 1871, just a few years after the end of the Civil War. Her father, Thomas Duncan, hailed from Louisiana. She attended the Trail Lake School in Mt. Airy, and then later attended the Free School in Mound Bayou.

Brooks traveled north to Chicago in 1915 to help family members and to try to find greater opportunities for herself. The cost of her journey to the North was only $17.00. Once in Chicago, Brooks found work as a chambermaid at the Congress Hotel, and in 1933, during the World’s Fair, she began working in a laundry mat that provided linens and towels to hotels, and she would remain there for most of her working years. In 1938, Brooks joined the Antioch Missionary Baptist Church in Chicago.

Brooks’ most notable achievement, however, was that she voted in her first election in 1920, the year women were granted the right to vote, and she continued to do so in almost every election since then. Even more of a rarity, since the 1932 election when she voted for Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Brooks voted on a straight Democratic ticket.

Brooks passed away on February, 23, 2007 at age 109.

Accession Number

A2004.143

Sex

Female

Interview Date

8/25/2004

Last Name

Brooks

Maker Category
Occupation
Organizations
First Name

Amazon

Birth City, State, Country

Arcola

HM ID

BRO23

Favorite Season

April

State

Mississippi

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

All Right Now. and God Almighty.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Birth Date

11/26/1897

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

United States

Favorite Food

None

Death Date

2/23/2007

Short Description

Domestic Amazon Brooks (1897 - 2007 ) began voting in 1920, the year women gained the right to vote. She was Chicago's oldest living voter until her death on February 23, 2007.

Employment

Congress Hotel

Palmer House

Favorite Color

None

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Amazon Brooks' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Amazon Brooks lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Amazon Brooks talks about her mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Amazon Brooks talks about her maternal family and their relationship to their former slave master in Green County, Alabama

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Amazon Brooks shares an African American folktale

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Amazon Brooks talks about her maternal grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Amazon Brooks talks about her maternal family and the crops they raised in Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Amazon Brooks talks about her family's relocations around Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Amazon Brooks recalls fishing in a farmer's bayou as a child in Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Amazon Brooks talks about her mother and stepfather's churches and attending school in a church house

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Amazon Brooks recalls what little she knows about her biological father

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Amazon Brooks remembers the first time she saw an automobile

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Amazon Brooks remembers attending school at Trail Lake Plantation in Greenville, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Amazon Brooks remembers her schooling in Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Amazon Brooks recalls her childhood personality and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Amazon Brooks talks about her deceased siblings, her stepfather's first wife, and her mother's remarriage

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Amazon Brooks talks about Isaiah T. Montgomery, founder of Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Amazon Brooks talks about Mound Bayou, Mississippi families

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Amazon Brooks talks about her maternal uncle's family

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Amazon Brooks recalls her cousin's death in 1917

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Amazon Brooks recalls her arrival in Chicago, Illinois in 1915 as a seventeen year old

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Amazon Brooks shares memories of Chicago, Illinois in 1915

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Amazon Brooks remembers taking care of her maternal uncle's children when she arrived in Chicago, Illinois in 1915

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Amazon Brooks talks about voting in Chicago, Illinois and Mound Bayou, Mississippi

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Amazon Brooks talks about her marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Amazon Brooks recalls her marriage to Mr. Brooks and her son's birth

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Amazon Brooks recalls working in hotels in Chicago, Illinois and seeing President Theodore Roosevelt

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Amazon Brooks recalls prominent African Americans from her youth

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Amazon Brooks remembers African American newspapers the Chicago Defender and the Chicago Bee

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Amazon Brooks remembers working as a "scrub girl" in hotels in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Amazon Brooks recalls various presidential administrations

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Amazon Brooks remembers where she was living the first time she voted

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Amazon Brooks talks about Marcus Garvey

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Amazon Brooks recalls her second marriage

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Amazon Brooks talks about her and her mother's radio-listening habits

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Amazon Brooks talks about coming to Chicago, Illinois while still a minor

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Amazon Brooks remembers the change in black political affiliation from Republican to Democrat and black politicians in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Amazon Brooks talks about baseball

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Amazon Brooks talks about voting for Harold Washington for mayor of Chicago and her lack of excitement about politicians

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Amazon Brooks reflects upon her place in the world in her old age

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Amazon Brooks offers advice for young people who want to live a long life

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Amazon Brooks remembers her family's lack of interest in education and stresses the importance of education for young people

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Amazon Brooks reflects upon her life and raising her son

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Amazon Brooks reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Amazon Brooks describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Amazon Brooks talks about a cousin

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Amazon Brooks narrates her photographs