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

city

Rosetta Miller-Perry

Multi-talented Tennessee Tribune publisher and civil rights activist, Rosetta Miller-Perry was born Rosetta Irvin on July 7, 1934 in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania. The steel mills attracted her parents, Anderson Irvin and Mary Hall Irvin to Coraopolis from New Orleans, Louisiana. Miller-Perry grew up near the Allegheny River where she spent her first four years on her aunt’s house boat. She attended McKinley Elementary School and Coraopolis Junior High School. A good student, who read the Pittsburgh Courier and played the organ for her church, Miller-Perry graduated from Coraopolis Senior High School in 1952. Accepted by Howard University, Miller-Perry was disappointed when a close relative spent her tuition money. Moving to Chicago, she attended Herzl Community College and Cortes Peters Typing School while working for Spiegel’s. Perry joined the United States Navy in 1954, where she worked for Adam Bush in the Pentagon and for the Adjutant General’s Office in Germany.

Miller-Perry completed her B.S. degree in chemistry from the University of Memphis in 1956 and her D.M.S. from the John A. Gumpton School of Mortuary Science in 1957. In 1958, she attended Tennessee State University and then Meharry Medical College for nurses training as she worked for Southern Funeral Home. Actively involved in the civil rights struggle, Miller-Perry worked closely with Z. Alexander Looby, Curley McGruder, Reverend Kelly Miller Smith and other leaders. When Looby’s home was bombed by the Ku Klux Klan in 1960, Miller-Perry moved to Memphis. She worked closely with SCLC and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. She was brought into the United States Civil Rights Commission (USCRC) in 1960 as a clerk typist, then as a field representative. Assigned to cover the Memphis Garbage Strike in 1968, Miller-Perry witnessed the suspicious activities of the FBI, “The Invaders” and the chaos after the murder of Dr. King. Assigned to the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) in 1975, Perry became Nashville Area Director of the EEOC. She retired from government service in 1990.

Miller-Perry founded Perry and Perry Associates in 1990 and published Contempora, a Tennessee-focused African American magazine. In 1992, Perry founded the community-oriented Tennessee Tribune in order to focus on issues like health, education, and voter registration. She established the Greater Nashville Black Chamber of Commerce (GNBCC) in 1998. That same year, Miller-Perry created the Anthony J. Cebrun Journalism Center in partnership with Dell Computers to prepare young people for careers in journalism. In 2006, she published the names of registered voters in the predominantly black districts, who did not vote and increased voter turnout from 35% to 65%. A civic dynamo, Miller-Perry serves on numerous boards. The Rosetta I. Miller Scholarship at Memphis State University was created in her honor and the annual $1,000 Rosetta Miller-Perry Award for Best Film by a Black Filmmaker is presented at the Nashville Film Festival.

Miller-Perry was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 18, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.096

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/18/2007

Last Name

Miller-Perry

Maker Category
Schools

Coraopolis High School

McKinley Elementary School

Coraopolis Junior High School

Tennessee State University

Meharry Medical College

John A. Gumpton School of Mortuary Science

University of Memphis

Search Occupation Category
First Name

Rosetta

Birth City, State, Country

Coraopolis

HM ID

MIL05

Favorite Season

Christmas

State

Pennsylvania

Favorite Vacation Destination

Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts

Favorite Quote

Things Get Better With Time.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Tennessee

Birth Date

7/7/1934

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Nashville

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Civil rights activist, magazine publishing entrepreneur, and newspaper publishing chief executive Rosetta Miller-Perry (1934 - ) served as a clerk typist, then as a field representative for the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. She was also Nashville Director of the United States Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. She went on to become publisher of the Tennessee Tribune.

Employment

U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
0,0:474,56:4582,70:21560,230:23912,251:24619,259:35206,474:35646,480:36086,486:39540,501:40404,519:41700,543:42060,549:44220,597:45372,626:47820,684:48396,694:54010,756:55290,797:56490,836:60330,911:60650,916:77744,1103:81530,1211$0,0:14012,217:17980,243:31480,449:31960,456:37214,528:45740,636:46524,647:47014,653:47602,660:54250,709:55600,737:57790,747:68346,933:73860,953:76308,1011:76988,1033:77260,1044:77600,1050:85148,1262:98222,1518:103634,1571:104372,1582:104782,1588:106176,1607:106586,1613:114099,1703:116050,1719:117514,1752:119050,1778
DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Rosetta Miller-Perry's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her mother's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her mother's upbringing

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her father's first wife and remarriage

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her parents' move to Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her father and her likeness to him

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry lists some of her siblings

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her earliest childhood memory

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers living with her maternal aunt

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her childhood pastimes

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her early experiences of racial discrimination

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls working as a domestic for her white peer's family

Tape: 1 Story: 15 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Coraopolis High School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers the draft during World War II

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the sights and smells of her childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her father's career

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers her early aspirations

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers the newspapers in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls her activities at Coraopolis High School in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Mount Olive Baptist Church in Coraopolis, Pennsylvania

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls being prevented from attending Howard University

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers moving to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers working at the Pentagon

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers meeting her husband

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her ex-husband's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers her time in Germany

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls the start of her involvement in the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers her experiences of segregation

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers learning about nonviolent direct action

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry talks about the civil rights marches

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the residents of Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls the John A. Gupton School of Mortuary Science in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers working at the Southern Funeral Home in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Memphis State University in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the Rosetta I. Miller Award Fund

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her civil rights activities in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls the leadership of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls her early civil rights activities in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers joining the U.S. Civil Rights Commission

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers being targeted in a federal investigation

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls staying at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry talks about the Invaders

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls the rumors about Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls an incident with N.J. Ford

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 4 Story: 10 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination

Tape: 4 Story: 11 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes Civil Rights Movement leaders' illicit activities

Tape: 4 Story: 12 - Rosetta Miller-Perry talks about the tactics of the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers the Poor People's Campaign

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the impact of civil rights groups on black newspapers

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls working at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes changes in the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Clarence Thomas

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls founding Contempora magazine

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers founding The Tennessee Tribune

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls her newspaper's impact on voter turnout

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls the criticisms of her newspaper

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes The Tennessee Tribune newspaper

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry remembers Anthony J. Cebrun

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the racial tensions in Nashville, Tennessee

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her publishing philosophy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry talks about megachurches

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the challenges facing The Tennessee Tribune

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the staff of The Tennessee Tribune

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her advertisers' partners

Tape: 6 Story: 9 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her plans for the future

Tape: 6 Story: 10 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the leadership of The Tennessee Tribune

Tape: 6 Story: 11 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her concerns for the African American community

Tape: 6 Story: 12 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the mission of The Tennessee Tribune

Tape: 6 Story: 13 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the Rosetta Miller-Perry Award for Best Black Filmmaker

Tape: 6 Story: 14 - Rosetta Miller-Perry reflects upon her life

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Rosetta Miller-Perry talks about the media's portrayal of the black community

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes the influence of Christianity in the South

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Rosetta Miller-Perry reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her family

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Rosetta Miller-Perry describes how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Rosetta Miller-Perry narrates her photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$6

DAStory

2$4

DATitle
Rosetta Miller-Perry recalls her early civil rights activities in Memphis, Tennessee
Rosetta Miller-Perry describes her publishing philosophy
Transcript
So how did you get involved in civil rights?$$Well, you know, at that time I didn't do bridge, I didn't only--I was in the sorority, and Memphis [Tennessee] was hot, you know. And when they started marching, I just got involved, started marching and getting angry. And you go to the movement. I mean, you went to, to, to all the meetings and you get stirred up. And then I lived in Lakeview Gardens [sic. Lakeview Garden, Memphis, Tennessee] and well, they were talking about other people, we are consumers, we are spending our money with other people. And then we had this Chinese store out there and the people weren't nice to us, but we spent our money there. So, it started making me angry and I just got involved 'cause I want--I used to put my kids in front of that store and marched, just the four of us (laughter) telling people not to shop there. So you just keep getting yourself involved, one more thing and then the bigger thing and so forth. I talked my sorority into participating in the marches, you know. They didn't wanna do it, but we, you know, eventually everybody in town, basically.$$So what sorority were, were you in?$$Alpha Kappa Alpha [Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority].$$Okay, AKA.$We were noticing the layout of the paper [The Tennessee Tribune], you have a lot of nice big pictures in the newspaper. Do you have a philosophy about how newspapers should be laid out, the visual side of it?$$Well, personally I feel like my people won't pick up a newspaper if they don't see a picture. You know, they don't wanna read all that, whatever it is. But what--and people have told me this, tha- when they get my paper, they go to the social section and they read, 'cause they see the pictures. And then, they're relaxed they read the news, you know. But basically in black papers, you know, our news is old news, so we have to do other things like say who's who in business or you know, what things are happening in the community because we're weekly, you know.$$Yeah, a weekly paper, I guess any weekly paper now would not be news oriented, because you--everything is already over with by then?$$But we do a lot of national black news that these folks would never see. And that's what people like about my paper. They would never even know what's happening in New York [New York] or Chicago [Illinois] unless they read my paper, because they're not gonna read it in the white paper.$$Yeah, I just was reading an extensive article on the res- resignation of the director of the NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] just now that I didn't know anything about. That happened on Ma- March the 4th and it's the first I've read about it.$$Right. So those are the types of things, you know, the people need to know. And then people are doing creative things in other communities. And pe- excuse me, people can get ideas from what's somebody's doing in New York, you know, instead of us doing the same old thing over and over again.