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

Littleton Mitchell

Association branch executive, civil rights activist, and Tuskegee Airman Littleton Purnell Mitchell was born in the 1920s in Milford, Delaware, to Helen Ann Purnell and George Darnell Mitchell. His advocacy began at age thirteen, when he joined the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP). During the late 1930s, he attended Howard High School, the state’s only high school for African Americans. Upon graduation, he spent two years at West Chester University of Pennsylvania on a track scholarship before joining the Tuskegee Airmen during War World II. While he was there, he witnessed the building of the airfield at Tuskegee in 1941. He taught future pilots the art of instrument flying. His duties sent him to the Link Trainer Facilities and Schools in New York, and Chanute Field in Chanute, Illinois, as well as the Base Instrument Command Flying School in Texas. In February 1946, he was discharged from the U.S. Army. Encouraged by his fellow Tuskegee Airmen, Mitchell returned to college, and earned his degree from West Chester University of Pennsylvania and began a career in the psychiatric treatment of children and civil rights advocacy.

Mitchell led the Delaware State Branches of the NAACP as president for over thirty years until 1991. During his years there, he led their efforts to secure fair housing, equal access to public accommodations, and equal education and employment opportunities for Delaware’s African American community. He became the first African American teacher of white children at Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City. He retired from teaching in 1984. His wife, Jane Mitchell, now deceased, became one of Delaware’s first African American nurses. For many years, she served as the director of nursing at the Delaware State Hospital and along with her husband led efforts to desegregate the state’s hospitals.

Mitchell served on the Delaware Humanities Council from 1991 to 1997. In 1993, the University of Delaware awarded Mitchell its Medal of Merit for sustained community service. He was also awarded the Delaware Bar Association’s 2004 Liberty Bell Award for community service. For the Brown v. Board of Education 50th Anniversary Commission, he served as a presidential appointee representing Delaware.

Mitchell resided in Delaware City, Delaware, with his family until his death on July 6, 2009.

Littleton Purnell Mitchell was interview by the HistoryMakers on December 19, 2005.

Accession Number

A2005.267

Sex

Male

Interview Date

12/19/2005

Last Name

Mitchell

Maker Category
Middle Name

Purnell

Schools

Howard High School

Delaware State University

West Chester University

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Littleton

Birth City, State, Country

Milford

HM ID

MIT08

Favorite Season

Christmas

Sponsor

Discover Financial Services

State

Delaware

Favorite Vacation Destination

Vermont

Favorite Quote

A Man's Most Precious Possession Is His Integrity.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Delaware

Birth Date

11/27/1918

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Delaware City

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Three-Layer Yellow Cake

Death Date

7/6/2009

Short Description

Association branch executive, tuskegee airman, and civil rights activist Littleton Mitchell (1918 - 2009 ) led the Delaware State Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People as president for over thirty years until 1991 and was the first African American teacher of white children at Governor Bacon Health Center in Delaware City.

Employment

United States Army Air Forces. Fighter Group, 332nd.

Governor Bacon Health Center

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Tan

Timing Pairs
0,0:6775,139:9286,172:9654,177:12966,228:13794,239:26089,507:26818,527:27304,534:30790,562:31078,567:32446,636:33454,658:34030,667:34966,685:42166,860:47206,965:48070,986:48358,991:48646,996:50950,1048:60838,1132:67999,1265:68384,1271:78875,1423:79400,1432:80825,1456:81125,1461:81425,1466:83600,1497:84425,1514:84725,1519:85175,1531:85550,1537:85850,1542:88775,1606:93000,1625:99338,1761:102249,1844:103953,1880:104521,1891:104805,1903:109328,1985:111967,2020:112695,2033:113150,2042:113514,2047:114515,2062:115516,2079:128114,2257:128544,2263:129060,2270:130006,2284:130436,2290:136056,2349:136560,2358:136992,2366:142536,2494:143040,2503:143400,2509:143760,2515:151980,2602:152700,2619:153120,2628:153540,2637:153780,2642:154080,2648:154320,2655:157618,2682:165408,2725:166101,2734:177282,2893:177630,2901:177920,2907:178210,2913:179704,2922:180232,2930:180960,2941$0,0:8772,265:9396,275:10254,288:10566,293:12204,325:13140,339:17012,365:17544,373:28802,678:34022,734:38308,822:40660,837:42900,850:43910,861:46030,899:46953,915:56360,1022:57080,1032:57560,1039:65160,1216:66040,1229:86850,1553:87250,1559:92027,1636:99570,1741:100038,1749:100350,1754:100662,1759:100974,1764:102456,1804:108384,1938:110568,2002:110880,2007:111348,2014:118399,2212:149582,2577:150194,2585:156008,2681:156416,2686:160932,2731:161604,2740:162024,2746:172437,2961:173900,2990:174362,2998:175055,3011:175594,3019:181004,3066:182391,3095:182683,3100:188995,3195:193492,3237:194394,3251:194968,3260:223110,3753:224300,3779:224580,3784:225280,3827:225560,3832:231440,3941:239098,3997:245700,4101:246294,4113:254700,4223
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Littleton Mitchell's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell describes his mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his father, Littleton Van Mitchell

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell describes his mother, Helen Purnell Mitchell

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell recounts his earliest memory of racism

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell remembers an altercation with his mayor while growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his early response to racism

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his trip to Spain, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his trip to Spain, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell describes Howard High School in Wilmington, Delaware

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his college aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his experience at West Chester State Teacher's College

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his probation at West Chester State Teachers College

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his favorite professor at West Chester State Teachers College

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell remembers trying to enlist in the U.S. Air Force

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell talks about his Native American ancestry

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers arriving at Tuskegee Army Airfield

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell remembers the racism of white U.S. Air Force instructors

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers his training in instrument flying

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fleeing Montgomery, Alabama

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell describes racism in Alabama, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell describes racism in Alabama, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell recalls tense race relations in Tuskegee, Alabama

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell remembers seeing poor treatment of migrant laborers

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers advocating for migrant laborers

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell recalls his hiring at Delaware City's Governor Bacon Health Center

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers teaching at Delaware City's Governor Bacon Health Center

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers taking leadership classes with the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell remembers Wilmington, Delaware after Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell describes his relationship with Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell remembers exposing Governor Charles L. Terry, Jr.'s racism

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Littleton Mitchell talks about fighting segregation in Delaware

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting for integrated hospitals in Delaware

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Littleton Mitchell remembers helping a migrant laborer

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Littleton Mitchell remembers rescuing a boy from a migrant labor camp

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting racist legislation

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon the struggle for civil rights

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Littleton Mitchell explains how he likes to be identified

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Littleton Mitchell describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his legacy and how he would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon his life

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Littleton Mitchell reflects upon the importance of history

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$5

DAStory

2$2

DATitle
Littleton Mitchell remembers arriving at Tuskegee Army Airfield
Littleton Mitchell remembers fighting for integrated hospitals in Delaware
Transcript
So, you arrived at Tuskegee [Tuskegee Army Airfield; Sharpe Field, Tuskegee, Alabama] in what year? Do you remember?$$Oh yeah. It was in December 1941, and I stepped out nine o'clock at night into two-and-a-half inches of mud because we were disillusioned. You see, when I was in West Chester [West Chester State Teachers College; West Chester University of Pennsylvania, West Chester, Pennsylvania] and I saw the add about volunteer and serve, there were tennis courts and swimming pools, and more than that, they had some pretty women in there with 'em and they said Tuskegee Institute [Tuskegee University, Tuskegee, Alabama] was just shortly a little distance from it and, man, that was all good so I wanted to fly but it was good that I was gonna be down there with these women in the tennis courts and (unclear) swimming. And we got out there and we were twenty-five miles back in the woods from Tuskegee, and there wasn't nothing there but red, red, red clay. And I stepped down into this clay up to my ankles nine o'clock at night, no lights, no nothing, and got into a truck and rode to me. To me, it seemed like ten miles on those four-by-fours that the [U.S.] Army has, all rough, and we were all talking about I want to see what Tuskegee Airfield looks like, and so when we got out of the trucks and looked around, there wasn't any air field. They hadn't built it. They were building it. And we had to sleep in tents. They were tents that were built with a wooden floor that came up to about that high, about three feet high, boarded around, then the rest of it was a tent and in the center was a stove that you could put wooden coal in to keep you warm. That's what we had. And if you didn't have that, then you had to sleep out on the ground. I wasn't one of those lucky people who slept on the ground. I was in the first car, so I slept in the tent. There were some of the guys that had to sleep in pup tents on the ground out that night. But we were in that for about, I would say, about three weeks, three or four weeks, just in that. They were building the Tuskegee, I saw 'em build the runway. To landscape they brought grass in. This was all red mud. They didn't have water there. We had to get the water out of the water trucks that the Army would bring in, and we'd get our water. And we washed ourselves like the guys do when they're out in combat. They gave us a helmet and we'd wash--the helmet--wash our face in the helmet and do it, and we did that for about three weeks until they built it up, and we saw Tuskegee built by the first of us, I mean the most of us--were from the North in that group that I went down with, and we had never seen black craftsmen. This base was built in every way by all black craftsmen. It was McKissack & McKissack, out of Memphis, Tennessee. And it was amazing to see this, and they built it and they had it done in about three months. Then we were there.$The hospitals in this state [Delaware] were segregated. Our NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] got a letter from the [U.S.] Department of Health, Education and Welfare [U.S. Department of Health and Human Services] saying, "Tell us about the hospitals in your state and let us know how their treatment for patients are." They were getting federal funds. Well, I had an expert (unclear) with me. My wife [Jane Watson Mitchell], she was director of nurses at State Hospital [Delaware State Hospital, Wilmington, Delaware], so I didn't have to ask anybody. If I go in there, I'm not an expert. I don't know. I can see where patients are, but somebody else--so I have to say, "Is it all right if my wife goes." They said, "Take anybody you wish. Just give us the information. Well, we started at the main places, Wilmington Hospital [Wilmington, Delaware]. The patients in all hospitals in the state were seated black patients in the cellar where the coal is, where they have all the equipment that's going on. The patients were in the cellar. If you had the mumps, you were in the cellar. If you had given birth to a child, you were in the cellar. There was no segregation according to what your ailment was. You were there if you were black. You were just in there. If there wasn't any room for you, you were in the hallway. For instance, down at the Milford Hospital [Bayhealth Milford Memorial Hospital, Milford, Delaware], my home, when we went there, the patients down in the cellar, one per room was right next to where the coal bin was. They used the coal for the furnace and when that patient would sit up in bed, if he sat up suddenly he'd hit his head on the pipes going above him. This is what they were like. Or a patient would be out in the hallway right there with plenty of room upstairs, so when we went down there, the place that really, really changed, we went to Beebe hospital [Beebe Medical Center] down in Lewes, Delaware. I had this letter from the Department of Health, Education, and Welfare. I always liked to have an ace in the hole. I liked you to run yourself up on it and you don't know what I got, and then you tell me no, then I'll pull my ace out, or I don't tell 'em--come here for a second--I said, "I would like to look and see how your patients, Negro patients, are treated here and I'd like to see how, what kind of treatment they're getting." The director of nurses told me, "No, we can't do anything like that." I said, "Well, where is the director of the hospital, because I would like to know exactly--you get federal funds and I want to know how patients are," so my wife takes over from there, "Jane Mitchell, director of nurses at Delaware State Hospital, and we're here to look at this." "Well, I can't do that." "Oh," I said, "Are you sure you can't just let me go see? Oh," I said, "Well, read this, then, and see what you think about that." They'd read that letter where it said we want to know how our federal funds are being spent and you will give us the information as to whether we will keep the score. She said, "Oh, my goodness, I better get Dr. Beebe [ph.]." I said, "It's all right with me." So, Dr. Beebe was also a member of the board of trustees of one of the banks. Said, "He's in a bank meeting." I said, "Get him out, get him out, or else I'm gonna have a long thing for you." They got him out and he comes down and she said, "This is Mr. [HistoryMaker Littleton Mitchell] and Mrs. Mitchell, and they want to visit our hospital." He said, "Well, you know they can't do it." She said, "Dr. Beebe, you better read this first." He read it and he said, "Take 'em through." So we looked and it was the same there. They were down in the cellar, pipes with their heads where they come up and sit up, when they sat up to eat the meal, they did like this to keep from hitting their head on the pipe. They had to go back down like that. So, my statement was, "Within one month, we want the (unclear) integrated." He said, "Oh, I don't know whether we can do that." We went back in one month; they were integrated, every hospital in the state. Federal funds, that's what it does. Federal funds.

The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire

Newspaper publisher and former congressional staff member Jerome Whyatt “Jerry” Mondesire was born October 10, 1949, in Harlem, New York. Mondesire’s working class parents, Jerome Alexis Mondesire, a Dominican Garveyite, and Winnifred Taylor Mondesire of South Carolina, emphasized education. Mondesire attended P.S. 88 and Junior High School 172; he graduated from Martin Van Buren High School in Queens in 1968, where he was a member of the NAACP High School Youth Council. Mondesire attended City Colleges of New York, where he studied journalism and was a student activist and volunteer with SNCC in 1969.

Mondesire covered the Black October killings of Maryland State Senator James Turk Scott and “Pee Wee” Matthews for the Baltimore Sun in 1973. At the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1974, Mondesire covered Mayor Frank Rizzo’s strip-searching of the Black Panthers. At the Inquirer, Mondesire became assistant city desk editor, turning to politics full-time in 1977. Mondesire was later chosen to work as chief of staff for William H. Gray’s successful congressional campaign. As Congressman Gray’s top aide, Mondesire influenced and shaped policy; he was instrumental in the 1985 national Stop The Springboks! Campaign, and helped to write the South African sanctions legislation for Congress. In 1991, Mondesire started his own weekly newspaper, The Philadelphia Sunday Sun. In 1992, after Congressman Gray retired, Mondesire acquired the Philadelphia Sun newspaper including the online edition. Mondesire also hosted the FreedomQuest, a local public and political affairs talk show on Philadelphia cable television.

Mondesire was elected president of Philadelphia’s NAACP chapter where he increased membership to over 5,000. Under Mondesire the NAACP overturned the ex-felon disenfranchisement law in 1999. Mondesire remained active in welfare to work training, health care, youth violence and police brutality.

Mondesire passed away on October 4, 2015.

Accession Number

A2005.158

Sex

Male

Interview Date

7/11/2005

Last Name

Mondesire

Maker Category
Middle Name

Whyatt

Schools

Martin Van Buren High School

P.S. 88

Irwin Altman Middle School 172

City College of New York

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Jerome

Birth City, State, Country

New York

HM ID

MON04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

Ignorance Is A Terrible Thing To Watch.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Pennsylvania

Birth Date

10/10/1949

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Philadelphia

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Strawberries

Death Date

10/4/2015

Short Description

Association branch executive and newspaper publishing chief executive The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire (1949 - 2015 ) published the Philadelphia Sun newspaper and acted as president of Philadelphia's chapter of the NAACP. Mondesire passed away on October 4, 2015.

Employment

The Baltimore Sun

The Philadelphia Inquirer

Congressman William H. Gray, III

Philadelphia Sun

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:6624,323:10224,405:11880,433:12312,439:13032,461:17594,491:24866,704:26954,755:27314,761:29978,852:31922,895:34154,949:36818,1020:43680,1063:44480,1075:44880,1081:45680,1093:46080,1099:46640,1107:51416,1172:51892,1180:52368,1189:53048,1203:53524,1211:53864,1217:54340,1225:54884,1239:55224,1245:55836,1256:59032,1328:59916,1359:61616,1417:72140,1513:78284,1681:78604,1692:80396,1736:81164,1801:85429,1910:87630,1971:92410,2042:93541,2058:107680,2345:108310,2359:110200,2395:121130,2661:121706,2671:122154,2681:123050,2686:123626,2697:132146,2834:133618,2855:150970,3277:151408,3284:151919,3293:156591,3400:157029,3407:157540,3421:160560,3432:161056,3442:163970,3514:164218,3524:168000,3601:170046,3643:170356,3649:173580,3740:180896,3806:183376,3863:183934,3873:192163,4037:206060,4326:209290,4382$0,0:160,53:18184,314:30980,489:37280,623:37820,630:40250,681:56994,893:57568,906:73820,1205:77580,1248:81661,1460:91979,1661:103870,1798:122034,2166:127515,2200:133594,2490:144572,2602:149324,2638:156080,2749:161415,2819:168915,3001:174979,3041:177398,3099:179520,3131
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes being raised by his father after his mother's death

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes the sights, sounds and smells of growing up

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls the African National Memorial Bookstore

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire remembers Blumstein's Department Store

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his childhood in Harlem

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire remembers Harlem's Apollo Theater

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his childhood personality and activities

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his early educational experience

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls studying Russian in high school

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire remembers his first TV

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls New York City's music scene

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his civil rights participation, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his civil rights participation, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls a dangerous political situation from his college years

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls why he became interested in civil rights activism

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his interest in journalism

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire talks about the NAACP Youth Council

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls his experiences in the South

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire remembers joining The Baltimore Sun

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls his work for The Baltimore Sun, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls his work for The Baltimore Sun, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls covering the murder of James "Turk" Scott

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls covering Black October, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls covering Black October, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire reflects upon Black October's approach to Baltimore's drug culture

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls moving from Baltimore to Philadelphia

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his work at The Philadelphia Inquirer

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls being chief of staff for HistoryMaker William H. Gray, III

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes founding the Philadelphia Sunday Sun

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls his anti-apartheid involvement

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire talks about Nelson Mandela

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire reflects upon his political involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls the bombing of MOVE in Philadelphia

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes the Philadelphia Sunday Sun and his NAACP involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes joining the NAACP's Philadelphia chapter

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his Philadelphia NAACP presidency and prison reform

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes the Philadelphia NAACP's program involvement

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes the Philadelphia NAACP's anti-violence activities

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire talks about long-term solutions to violence

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls a visit to Pennsylvania's Graterford Prison, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls a visit to Pennsylvania's Graterford Prison, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire talks about Mayor John F. Street

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his challenges as Philadelphia's NAACP president

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - The Jerome W. Mondesire remembers prominent NAACP leaders

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes his hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire reflects upon his life and running for political office

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire reflects upon his legacy and describes his children

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire describes how he would like to be remembered

DASession

1$1

DATape

1$3

DAStory

8$8

DATitle
The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls the African National Memorial Bookstore
The Honorable Jerome W. Mondesire recalls covering the murder of James "Turk" Scott
Transcript
I guess it's just me but maybe I'm just drawn to this bookstore [African National Memorial Bookstore, New York, New York] (laughter).$$No.$$Name of [HistoryMaker] Charles Blockson, who was in Philadelphia [Pennsylvania] (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's right.$$--used to talk about, you know, taking a train ride to that store, you know.$$It was the most phenomenal--the most phenomenal, probably, collection of literature in North America, dealing with people of color. The Michaux family, you've gotta keep in mind, the man [Lewis H. Michaux] who owned it, was also related to Oscar Micheaux, the filmmaker. I don't know if they were cousins or if one was--they weren't brothers but they were related, so you had one Micheaux who was a pioneer black filmmaker--$$Yeah, Oscar and then--$$--who made all these great films and used some of the black stars, who became somewhat famous in Hollywood in later years, and then you had this other member of the Micheaux family that--$$Lewis--$$Lewis Michaux, with his collection and he had this great series of pictures of Kwame Nkrumah and other African leaders, Haile Selassie, on the front of the building. So, just walking past the store was, in fact, a black history lesson and he would change the books in the window, you know, repeatedly on a regular basis. It's the first place I encountered J.A. Rogers [Joel Augustus Rogers], you know, history of black people, Paul Laurence Dunbar, obviously Elijah Muhammad, and then Malcolm X, Marcus Garvey, the books by Garvey, of course all of Du Bois' [W.E.B. Du Bois] books were there, but you were also encouraged to go inside the store. That was the other part of it. You could meet anybody in there, you could meet professors from Columbia [Columbia University, New York, New York], or City College [City College of New York, New York, New York], or Fordham [Fordham University, New York, New York]; sometimes, even the white professors would come, but all the black professors would come, but all the activists would come, all the lawyers and the people who were in the movement, things that you would see in the news, you'd hear about it, you'd see, I saw Floyd McKissick in there one day, Sutton [Percy Sutton], the lawyer for Malcolm X (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) Percy Sutton, yeah.$$--who went on to--Percy, and who went to fame and then fortune as an attorney and now as a cable TV operator. Adam Clayton Powell [Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.] would hang out in there on his way up to Frank's Restaurant [New York, New York], or going across to get some coffee at the Chock Full o'Nuts from the Hotel Theresa [New York, New York], so it was a gathering spot, and then during the height of the movement, during the height of the '60s [1960s], all of the pan-Africanists, the Black Panthers [Black Panther Party], the Nation of Islam, the Five Percenters [Five Percent Nation], you name the group, you give their initials, SCLC [Southern Christian Leadership Conference], CORE [Congress of Racial Equality], SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] would meet there, Muhammad Ali is there, in fact it's depicted in the film ['Ali'] where--with Will Smith. He is walking past the bookstore after, you know, signing autographs and then making a speech. During times of trouble and crisis, when King [Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.] is assassinated, when there were also people killed by the police and there was trouble in the neighborhood. The bookstore became also a repository of fact; not that Michaux saw himself as some kind of street leader, but he would gather, people would come to the bookstore so you could find out was, in fact, someone killed by the police, what was his or her name. What's the condition if they weren't killed, and so things were--there was a conversation that was always going on. It became a very important place, and when it was lost because of his death, it left a huge hole and there was a place that opened up on Lenox Avenue [Malcolm X Boulevard], called Liberation Bookstore [New York, New York], but it never filled the void. I mean, it was just such a unique place, plus it was huge. It was--I believe, I remember I was going as a kid and I believe it had a backyard. So, and then there were books everywhere, from the floor to the ceiling. It was just a wonderful place; so, you're right to remember it.$July 13th, I was at my girlfriend's house, summer of July 13th of '73 [1973], and I get a call late at night. I was watching an old movie and by this time, the man who was calling me and giving me the information as a member of Black October, had given me a code name that he would use, and I'd given him my home number and how to reach me so that if something ever did happen, I said, "Well you just call me if anything really does happen." Of course, did I ever believe it? No. And, about 11:30 that night, he called me and said, "This is"--gave me the code name, and said, "We've just killed James "Turk" Scott, and you'll find his body in such-and-such a place and we used these kinds of weapons," and he gave me the calibers, "and he's dead." And I said, "Are you 'S'-ing me?" He said, "You'll find his body," and he hung up the phone. So I jumped in my little Volkswagen, I drove down to at a high rate of speed, broke--went through red lights and there was "Turk" Scott's body, sprawled out in his garage of his basement--parking garage of his fancy apartment building. He's a huge guy, about 6'4", weighed about three hundred pounds, body's riddled with bullets and around it are leaflets that say drug dealer, and there's a young, white, rookie cop, he looks like a rookie to me, and he goes for his gun. He goes for his holster and I said, "Hold it, hold it, hold it. I'm from The Baltimore Sun." He said, "How the hell did you hear about this? We haven't even gotten the paramedics and the other cop." I said, "I heard it on the police radio." We had police scanners in the company cars at the time. He didn't know I had not driven my company car. And I said, "Well, can I see who it is?" And he just let me get close to the body, and then he shooed me away. So, I went back to the nearest pay phone, because there were no cell phones in '73 [1973] (laughter), and I called the city desk, and it was one of the few editors who actually liked me, an Irish guy, older guy. And I said, "You're not gonna believe this, but Scott is dead, and I could tell you where he was killed. I can't tell you who killed him. I can tell you how he was killed." And, I said--of course, people don't believe it, but the presses actually do run. And so, he said, "You're telling me a story. I should stop the presses." He said, "We've never done this. We haven't done this since World War II [WWII]." I said, "Well, you better do it now." And so he did. And he ordered a stop on the press. He said, "But, if you're wrong, we're both gonna lose our jobs." I said, "You're not gonna lose your job." And he stopped the press somewhere in the mid-run for the final edition. I think we made about 2/3 of the final edition and they changed the headline, and said that Scott had been killed. And TV, of course, starts out the morning questioning the story because they're the ones who always break, you know, big crime stories. It's just their nature, radio and TV. So, they come on that morning saying, "The Baltimore Sun reports that so-and-so was allegedly killed," because the police won't identify it either.

Carrie Camillo Tankard

Carrie C. Tankard has been a contributor to the civic and cultural life on the island of Martha’s Vineyard in Massachusetts for nearly forty years. Her major work has been in civil rights, historic preservation and education, and intercultural understanding.

Born on February 18, 1935 in Newark, New Jersey, Tankard was one of seven children of Maggie and Felipe Camillo. She graduated from Newark’s Southside High School in 1953. After high school, she was employed as a clerk-typist at the Internal Revenue Service in Newark for four years. She married George Tankard of Newark in 1954, and they had six children between 1955 and 1961.

At the time of the urban civil rights riots in Newark in 1967, the Tankards were living in public housing. The violence, fires and store lootings during the two-day disturbance led her family to flee Newark and they relocated on Martha’s Vineyard in the fall of 1967.

While she worked as a dental assistant from 1968 – 2000, Tankard’s civic and community involvements and contributions have been significant and acknowledged across the Island. For thirty-eight years she has served as vice-president of the Martha’s Vineyard Branch of the NAACP, working on memberships, with youth, and chairing the branch’s annual Martin Luther King, Jr. Birthday Dinner. She is the co-founder of the African American Heritage Trail on Martha’s Vineyard, which was established in the early 1990s.

As a lay historian she created African American educational exhibits on Black cowboys and cultural cooking and foods. She has been an active member of the Martha’s Vineyard Preservation Trust. She served for five years on the Board of Directors of the League of Women Voters and for two years on the board of the Martha’s Vineyard Hospice. She is a former president of a Parent Teacher’s Association, and she has been a volunteer tutor of English for Portuguese immigrants to the island.

Accession Number

A2005.145

Sex

Female

Interview Date

6/22/2005

Last Name

Tankard

Maker Category
Middle Name

Camillo

Schools

Southside High School

Miller St

First Name

Carrie

Birth City, State, Country

Newark

HM ID

TAN01

Favorite Season

Spring

State

New Jersey

Favorite Vacation Destination

None

Favorite Quote

None

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Massachusetts

Birth Date

2/18/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Martha's Vineyard

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Shrimp

Short Description

Association branch executive Carrie Camillo Tankard (1935 - ) served as vice president of the Martha's Vinyard branch of the NAACP for nearly forty years, and is the co-founder of the African American Heritage Trail on Martha’s Vineyard.

Employment

Internal Revenue Service

Peter E. Strock, D.D.S.

Liberty Mutual Insurance Company

Favorite Color

Green

Timing Pairs
0,0:5876,63:7396,186:40690,525:41314,535:41938,544:46420,621:54990,701:60012,767:65100,819:74918,970:76006,1005:76346,1011:84950,1054:89323,1114:89718,1145:92167,1186:103400,1275:103950,1281:105690,1286:106010,1291:118500,1409:122013,1438:136600,1604:151900,1729:157530,1787:164436,1880:165246,1892:174216,2038:174488,2043:178364,2132:187602,2292:194055,2317:195105,2350:197805,2422:211110,2599:217640,2729:228360,2883:229970,2927:232140,2973:233120,2991:233470,2998:253010,3156:253246,3161:253541,3167:254013,3177:254249,3182:256756,3263:257166,3269:265732,3380:269320,3468:269788,3475:289440,3722$0,0:12976,265:24830,363:25205,369:26480,389:42640,607:54225,779:54900,790:55350,797:55950,807:57000,825:58275,849:64435,944:64760,951:72602,1063:75596,1076:83456,1163:83824,1168:85480,1191:104790,1363:106500,1392:107760,1412:108210,1418:111660,1427:111960,1432:113385,1462:118335,1567:119160,1584:119535,1590:122160,1643:139884,1901:143755,1936:145463,1985:148040,2007:148515,2015:151865,2037:152353,2052:152597,2057:152841,2062:179005,2370:179371,2378:179798,2391:180103,2397:190878,2568:193902,2616:208443,2838:216680,2987:232450,3220:238787,3292:240242,3311:240727,3317:249440,3405:252900,3416:255042,3478:255420,3486:255672,3491:256365,3508:256932,3519:257310,3527:265506,3645:265796,3651:269586,3706:275466,3809:276810,3829:284320,3940:285400,3965
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Carrie Camillo Tankard's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Carrie Camillo Tankard lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her maternal grandfather, George Franklin Kornegay

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey.

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes activities in her community as a child

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes family activities and growing up in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes a family vacation

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the sights, sound and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her experience at Miller Street Elementary School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes what she was like as a student

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her shop class at South Side High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her activities at South Side High School in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her first job at Liberty Mutual Insurance

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes meeting her husband, George Tankard, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her first years of marriage

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Carrie Camillo Tankard lists and describes her children

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the move to Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes race relations in Newark, New Jersey

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the aftermath of the 1967 Newark Riots

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the family's arrival in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes buying a house in Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Carrie Camillo Tankard talks about becoming a dental assistant

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Carrie Camillo Tankard recalls how she became interested in community involvement

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Carrie Camillo Tankard talks about her involvement with the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Carrie Camillo Tankard recounts how the Martha's Vineyard NAACP chapter formed

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the Martin Luther King, Jr. memorial dinner

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Carrie Camillo Tankard details educational activities within the NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes scholarship and legal programs within NAACP

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the African-American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Carrie Camillo Tankard details sites on the African-American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the plans for the African-American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her husband's involvement with the NAACP

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes rewards she has received over the years

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Carrie Camillo Tankard talks about her interests and activities

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Carrie Camillo Tankard reflects upon the importance of history

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Carrie Camillo Tankard reflects upon her life

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her future plans

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Carrie Camillo Tankard reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 5 Story: 10 - Carrie Camillo Tankard describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 5 Story: 11 - Carrie Camillo Tankard narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$4

DAStory

1$5

DATitle
Carrie Camillo Tankard recounts how the Martha's Vineyard NAACP chapter formed
Carrie Camillo Tankard describes the African-American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard
Transcript
Could you give us a brief accounting of the development of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] on the island [Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts] in the early '60s [1960s], as you read about it and then heard about it before you got here?$$Well, the branch really took off in '63 [1963], just after the assassination of President [John Fitzgerald] Kennedy, there was a young Episcopal minister from Williston, who had done some work in Williston, North Carolina, and he told his parishioners about the problems that they were having there, they were having all kinds of problems that, in jobs and all sorts of discriminations at that time and the people of his parish started taking up collections for food and money and clothing and things to send to Williston, North Carolina. And a group of them called the Vineyard Five, there was five women on the Vineyard who decided that they weren't gonna just send this stuff, they were gonna take it to make sure it got to the right people and they went to Williston and were actually jailed because they sat in on a demonstration at a Sears [Sears, Roebuck and Co.] store who would not hire blacks and they were all arrested and put in jail. And their husbands went to Williston to get them and after that they started, they would meet in churches and different places and decided they really do need the NAACP and it was formed with Toby Dorsey, as interim president. And, from there on we started having a NAACP. It w--$$So when you arrived here in '67 [1967], in '68 [1968], the branch was--$$The branch was--$$--up and running?$$--up and running.$$Um-hm.$$And they had lots of memberships.$$Um-hm.$$Even lite memberships because they had a, an entrepreneur, Kippy--Kivi Kaplan, was his name and at the time he was very much involved with the national and he went around the island to all of his friends and relatives and got memberships--$$Um-hm.$$And so--$$I wo--$$--it was fully formed when I arrived so.$$Okay, so you arrive and was that one of your most immediate affiliations? Did you get involved with--$$Yes it was.$$--the--$$It was.$$Who pulled you in? And why did you get involved?$$Jackie Hunt [E. Jacqueline Hunt] who was a friend of mine, and I believe Harold Johnson was the president at the time and it was just the place to be involved.$$What were some of the things that the branch was doing in those very early years, late '60s [1960s], early '70s [1970s], as you became a new young member?$$Well whatever was going on in the country was part of their agenda and on the island there wasn't much going on, they would take part in different events that would happen on the island like the Fourth of July parade and things like that. But there wasn't.$$There weren't a lot (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous)There weren't--$$--discrimin--$$--a lot of--$$--discriminate, discrimination complaints or--$$No, they--$$--civil rights violations of people or?$$Well the, the civil rights violations that I remember were in the way of housing and, but it just wasn't so overt that you could really place your finger on it. The realtors, if they took your business were smart enough to only show you in specific areas that they thought you should buy and there were other areas that they just wouldn't even take you to see. Whether you had the money--they didn't know whether you had the money or not, they didn't care, they just wouldn't take you to see those places. And I, that's probably how most of us got to Oak Bluffs [Massachusetts] because they've always called it the honky tonk part of the island. I disagree because I feel everything of value is in Oak Bluffs, the hospital, the airport, you know, everything is here.$So how have you felt, how do you feel now, as you look back at your NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] life, I mean, what has it meant to you being involved (simultaneous)?$$(Simultaneous) Well, I have been involved in several other organizations and, NAACP has always been number one for me.$$Um-hm.$$And.$$Well tell me about the other major organizations that you helped to found and--$$Well, I (laughter)--$$--here of, of--$$I co-founded the African-American Heritage Trail of Martha's Vineyard [Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts] with a friend of mine, Elaine Weintraub.$$Elaine?$$Weintraub.$$Okay would you spell her last name?$$W-E-I-N-T-R-A-U-B.$$Okay. How did you happen to get involved in the heritage trail with Doctor Weintraub?$$Well, actually a mutual friend of ours, Elaine is a school teacher, she was working at the sch- Oak Bluffs School [Oak Bluffs, Massachusetts] at the time and a young lady that I knew from childhood, at, she was a child, Corrine Dorsey, she was Dorsey at the time, was also a teacher at the school and I used to give her a lot of my posters and things for Black History Month and Elaine was very much interested in the history of African Americans on the island [Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts] and, I forgot her name already. Corrine introduced us and that's how we got started. At the time, Elaine had had a young class that, and she asked them for some history, some of their family history and they said, we don't have any history on the island and she said, well, where there are white people there are black people, so you gotta have some history. So, she set about hunting for some and as in researchers, you know, every now and then you hit a blank wall and you can't go too much further. In the meantime, I was still at Doctor [Peter] Strock's office and this gentleman came and gave me this document and said, "I know, I see the, your exhibits and things in the paper all the time, maybe you'd be interested in this." Well, I read it and d- at the time it didn't mean very much to me and I took it to Elaine and it turned out to be a census from 1841 or something like that and on it were some of the names that she was hunting for like Captain William [A.] Martin, who is a whaling captain and he had sailed out of and lived in sic. Edgartown, Massachusetts. And as they say the rest is history. We began searching and--$$Researching?$$Researching and, and (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) African Americans?$$Yep.$$History from?$$We were in and out of the [Vineyard] Gazette office and--$$Um-hm.$$--Dukes County Historical Society [Martha's Vineyard Museum, Edgartown, Massachusetts] and--$$Um-hm. So, how did you go about establish--$$--the courthouse.$$--ing the trail then, this African American heritage trail? And when did you really get that signed officially?$$Well, it was official in 1997, before that we had gone to, we had been invited to Nantucket [Massachusetts] to speak on the history of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], and I, that's what I spoke on and, and Elaine spoke on the whaling captain, and at the [Nantucket] Atheneum [Nantucket, Massachusetts]? And they were building a black history trail 'cause they had an African meeting house there and they had other places where Frederick Douglass had been and things like that. And, their trail was so spread out that we thought, well, wait a minute, some of our, the things that we have discovered are a little bit closer, maybe we can do a trail and so we came home and put our heads together and started marking all the areas and, that we could build a trail. And so now, we have, I believe there's nine trails, nine areas in, just in Oak Bluffs [Massachusetts] alone. A lot of ours is spread out too. Because there's two areas in Chappaquiddick [Island, Edgartown, Massachusetts] and there's an area in Aquinnah [Massachusetts] and Chilmark [Massachusetts].