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Alice Windom

Social worker Alice Mary Windom was born on March 30, 1936, in St. Louis, Missouri to Frances Louise Jones Windom and Dr. John Henry Windom. Windom is from a family of educators. Her grandfather, Christopher Columbus Jones, was Southern Illinois University’s first African American student. Windom’s parents met at the University of Illinois and raised their daughter on African American college campuses at Albany State College and Prairie View A&M University. She attended Prairie View Training School in Texas and Cote Brilliante Elementary School in St. Louis. Windom graduated from Sumner High School in 1953. Offered half tuition at Central State University (CSU) in Wilberforce, Ohio, Windom was exposed to African American historian and school president Dr. Charles Wesley and lectures by Thurgood Marshall, J.A. Rogers and others. She started and organized a successful sit-in of Xenia, Ohio’s Geyer’s Restaurant in 1957. Graduating that year with her B.S. degree in social work, Windom went on to earn her M.S.W. degree from the University of Chicago in 1959.

From June 1958 to August of 1962, Windom worked as a social worker and as a child welfare worker for the State of Illinois Department of Mental Health Division of Family and Children’s Services. From 1962 to 1964, Windom made a decision to live and work in Ghana, West Africa. Working as a secondary school teacher and secretary to the Ethiopian Ambassador, Windom was a part of an historic group of diverse African American expatriates in Ghana which included John Henrik Clarke, Maya Angelou, Curtis “Kojo” Morrow and the elder W.E.B. DuBois. In 1964, Windom helped plan the itinerary for Malcolm X’s trip to Ghana and served as administrative assistant for the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa from 1964 to 1968, organizing international conferences in seven countries. From 1969 to 1972, Windom was a social welfare organizer for the Department of Social Welfare in Lusaka, Zambia. In the United States, she served as director of social services for the St. Louis Medium Security Institution from 1973 to 1974. In 1977, Windom sued the City of St. Louis for racial and sexual discrimination and the denial of free speech.

Known for her many well-documented excursions to the African world, Windom served as coordinator for the James T. Bush Center at the University of Missouri-St. Louis; initiating research and workshops in employment, education, housing, and law. A sought after lecturer, Windom is a member of a number of organizations including the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilization and the African Heritage Studies Association.

Alice Mary Windom lives in St. Louis, Missouri.

Alice Mary Windom was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on December 19, 2006.

Accession Number

A2006.181

Sex

Female

Interview Date

12/19/2006

10/17/2007

12/7/2007

Last Name

Windom

Maker Category
Marital Status

Single

Occupation
Schools

Charles H. Sumner High School

Cote Brilliante Elementary School

Jones Elementary School

Central State University

University of Chicago

First Name

Alice

Birth City, State, Country

St. Louis

HM ID

WIN05

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Missouri

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Missouri

Interview Description
Birth Date

3/30/1936

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

St. Louis

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Social worker Alice Windom (1936 - ) was part of a historic group of African American expatriates in Ghana. She worked on the Encyclopedia Africana with W.E.B DuBois and helped to plan Malcolm X’s trip to Ghana.

Employment

St. Louis Medium Security Institution

Department of Social Welfare

State of Illinois Department of Mental Health Division of Family and Children's Services

United Nations Economic Commission for Africa

University of Missouri, St. Louis: James T. Bush Sr., Center

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Alice Windom's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Alice Windom lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Alice Windom describes her maternal great-grandparents and grandparents

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Alice Windom describes her maternal grandfather and his family

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Alice Windom talks about the St. Louis World's Fair of 1904

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Alice Windom talks about her mother's childhood, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about her mother's childhood, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Alice Windom describes where and when her father was born

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Alice Windom describes her father's family background

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes why her parents were married twice

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Alice Windom shares her earliest childhood memories, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Alice Windom shares her earliest childhood memories, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Alice Windom remembers being molested by a neighborhood teenager when she was four years old

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes her family's move to Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Alice Windom describes the sights, sounds, and smells of her childhood in Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Alice Windom recalls her experience at Prairie View Training School in Prairie View Texas

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Alice Windom recalls her experiences with nature and animals in Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Alice Windom recalls an encounter with snakes in her family's victory garden

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Alice Windom talks about the dirt roads in Prairie View, Texas and tricking her younger brother

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Alice Windom describes her childhood personality

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls reading about lynchings in the Pittsburgh Courier and the Chicago Defender

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes her understanding of African American history in grade school

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Alice Windom remembers her teachers at Prairie View Training School in Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Alice Windom describes her family's move back to St. Louis after her father received his Ph.D.

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Alice Windom recalls learning about the death of President Franklin Roosevelt and the existence of concentration camps

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Alice Windom talks about her family's lack of belief in religion, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Alice Windom talks about her family's lack of belief in religion, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Alice Windom remembers living with her grandparents in Edwardsville, Illinois after leaving Prairie View, Texas

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes her experience at Cote Brilliante Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Alice Windom describes graduating from Cote Brilliante Elementary School in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Alice Windom talks about her teachers at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Alice Windom talks about her teachers at Sumner High School in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes her decision to enroll at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Alice Windom shares her experience at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Alice Windom recalls the history and surroundings of Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Alice Windom recalls her Civil Rights activism with CORE in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes leading sit-ins at Geyer's Restaurant in Xenia, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Alice Windom talks about her professors at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls one of the outcomes of her protests at Geyer's Restaurant in Xenia, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes her experience working for Belva Manufacturing Company in St. Louis, Missouri after high school

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Alice Windom talks about getting treated for an ovarian cyst and the scarcity of jobs in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about her recurring summer job at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio during college

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Alice Windom talks about the housing and campus life at Central State University in Wilberforce, Ohio

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Alice Windom describes planning to attend graduate school and her father's death

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Second slating of Alice Windom's interview

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes enrolling at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Alice Windom describes the lack of understanding of the African American community at the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls her graduate school fieldwork supervisor and graduating from the University of Chicago School of Social Service Administration in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Alice Windom recalls conducting adoption home studies for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Alice Windom talks about Ishmael Flory and the black Communists within the African American Heritage Association in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about the Washington Park Forum and F.H. Hammurabi's House of Knowledge

Tape: 6 Story: 8 - Alice Windom talks about her association with the Nation of Islam through Christine Johnson and E. U. Essien-Udom

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Alice Windom recalls a meeting where she defended the Nation of Islam to the Chatham and Avalon Park neighborhoods of Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes her political education in Chicago, Illinois and meeting Malcolm X for the first time

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Alice Windom remembers E.U. Essien-Udom and the Pan African Students Organization of the Americas

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls celebrating the independence of Ghana in 1957 and Nigeria in 1960

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes traveling to New York City and London, England on the way to Ghana in 1962

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes her experience in London, England while moving to Ghana in 1962

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Alice Windom describes arriving in Accra, Ghana from London, England in 1962

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Alice Windom describes her experience teaching English at O'Reilly Secondary High School in Accra, Ghana

Tape: 7 Story: 9 - Alice Windom describes her experience teaching history at O'Reilly Secondary High School in Accra, Ghana

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Alice Windom shares her impression of Kwame Nkrumah's leadership in Accra, Ghana

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Alice Windom recalls factors leading to the collapse of Kwame Nkrumah's government in Ghana

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Alice Windom talks about the foreign black community in Accra, Ghana

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls her experience in Ghana with HistoryMaker Maya Angelou

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Alice Windom recalls Malcom X's visit to Ghana in 1964, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Alice Windom recalls Malcom X's visit to Ghana in 1964, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about her friend, writer and actor Julian Mayfield

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Alice Windom talks about her interactions with HistoryMaker Maya Angelou and W.E.B. DuBois

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Alice Windom talks about Dr. Alphaeus Hunton and the Encyclopedia Africana

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Alice Windom remembers Malcom X's return to the United States from Ghana and the famous photograph she took of him

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Alice Windom recalls moving to Ethiopia in 1964 and meeting with Malcolm X again

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes her experience working with the United Nations in Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie, pt. 1

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Alice Windom describes her experience working with the United Nations in Ethiopia under Emperor Haile Selassie, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Alice Windom describes traveling through Asia in 1969

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes her experience in Zambia under President Kenneth Kaunda

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes reuniting with Pamela Nomveta, her former boss's daughter, in Johannesburg, South Africa in 1996

Tape: 9 Story: 7 - Alice Windom describes the sexual discrimination lawsuit she filed against the City of St. Louis in 1977

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Final slating of Alice Windom's interview

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Alice Windom talks about Robert L. Williams and the Institute of Black Studies in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Alice Windom talks about Robert L. Williams and the Institute of Black Studies in St. Louis, Missouri, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Alice Windom recalls her involvement in the movement to keep Homer G. Phillips Hospital open in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes her visit to the Organization of African Unity Conference in 1975

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes Emily Maliwa's efforts to establish a Pan-African Research Council in 1975

Tape: 10 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about the treatment of African women by African governments

Tape: 10 Story: 8 - Alice Windom talks about meeting people from the United States during her visit to Kampala, Uganda in 1975

Tape: 10 Story: 9 - Alice Windom reflects on meeting her friend Emily Maliwa

Tape: 10 Story: 10 - Alice Windom describes her life in St. Louis, Missouri and working at the Union-Sarah Health Center

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Alice Windom describes her work with the Yeatman/Union-Sarah Health Center in St. Louis, Missouri and Dr. Bobby E. Wright

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Alice Windom describes working on a grant to start a mental health center in St. Louis, Missouri

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Alice Windom recalls being hired by the Booker T. Washington Foundation in the 1980s

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Alice Windom describes the decline of the Booker T. Washington Foundation

Tape: 11 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes her experience with the Booker T. Washington Foundation and meeting Atlanta Mayor Maynard Jackson

Tape: 11 Story: 6 - Alice Windom describes being hired at the James T. Bush Center at the University of Missouri in St. Louis, Missouri in 1987

Tape: 11 Story: 7 - Alice Windom recalls her travels to Mexico with Dr. Ivan van Sertima in 1984

Tape: 11 Story: 8 - Alice Windom describes her experience of traveling to Egypt with the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) in 1987, pt. 1

Tape: 11 Story: 9 - Alice Windom describes her experience of traveling to Egypt with the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations (ASCAC) in 1987, pt. 2

Tape: 12 Story: 1 - Alice Windom talks about scholars of African culture, including Sylvia Ardyn Boone

Tape: 12 Story: 2 - Alice Windom talks about scholar Sylvia Ardyn Boone

Tape: 12 Story: 3 - Alice Windom talks about the role of women in Islamic and non-Islamic African cultures

Tape: 12 Story: 4 - Alice Windom talks about her depression and the lack of progress she saw for the African American community

Tape: 12 Story: 5 - Alice Windom talks about retiring from the James T. Bush Center at the University of Missouri, St. Louis

Tape: 12 Story: 6 - Alice Windom talks about the fire that destroyed her home library

Tape: 12 Story: 7 - Alice Windom talks about the Olmec heads found in Mexico with African features

Tape: 13 Story: 1 - Alice Windom describes her hopes and concerns for the African American community

Tape: 13 Story: 2 - Alice Windom reflects on what she would change about her life

Tape: 13 Story: 3 - Alice Windom reflects upon her legacy

Tape: 13 Story: 4 - Alice Windom talks about her family

Tape: 13 Story: 5 - Alice Windom describes how she would like to be remembered

DASession

2$2

DATape

7$9

DAStory

5$4

DATitle
Alice Windom describes traveling to New York City and London, England on the way to Ghana in 1962
Alice Windom describes traveling through Asia in 1969
Transcript
I left during the Cuban Missile Crisis [October 1962], in fact. My desire had been to get a--to go to Africa by ship because I was moving everything that I had, which was mainly books. I didn't have furniture. And I really wanted to travel by ship with my stuff to go to Africa.$$Now how did you, how did it come about? How did you--what agency? How did you hook up on a trip to Ghana, or, or was it through a, a program, or you just decided to go?$$I was going. I had to get out of the United States before I hurt somebody or somebody hurt me. I was so mad with the, the, the, the discrimination and the racism that I was ready to hit somebody. And I'm, I'm not a violent tempered person, but I knew I had to get out. Also, it appeared--I mean Africa, that was the hope then. People were coming to the United Nations from Africa. We'd seen all these glorious, gorgeous folk.$$Did you have contacts on the other side then, I mean in, in, in, in Ghana that--$$I had--$$--that you know?$$--all these friends in Chicago [Illinois]. Several of them were Ghanaians. I knew I was going to Ghana, and so I had a few letters. Christine Johnson had been to Ghana and had shown her slides. I had the medical kit Mr.--Dr. Thompson had made up for me. And it was really on the plane that I really realized I didn't know a soul (laughter)--(unclear)--I was, I was on the plane, and I said, "Well I don't know anybody (laughter) there. Everybody, every Ghanaian I know is in Chicago or New York." But I spent six weeks in New York trying to get this ship. I had failed writing letters from Chicago to, to shipping companies. I wanted to go on freighter. I didn't have the money to go on a cruise ship. And so I had gotten a list of, of freighters, and I had written to these companies. And, and nobody could give me a, a ship going to Ghana. I was in, I got, went to New York. I had spent six weeks there trying to find this ship and also having to work on a visa because I didn't want just a visa that would let me go for a couple of weeks, 'cause I knew I wanted to settle. And so I was asking for at least a year's visa, and I couldn't get that. I eventually found a ship on the black, the Black Star Line had a ship going. Ghana's national shipping company was named after Marcus Garvey's Black Star Line. But I got communication from the person in charge telling me that if they book me on that ship, I would be the only woman on the ship, and they could not guarantee my safety. So I said, "Okay, I got to fly." So I went ahead and got a ticket going through London [England] and then to Accra [Ghana]. And I had packed all my things for a ship, so I had to, had to make suitcase for a plane trip. I went down on 42nd Street, and I got a huge suitcase for $6.00. I told the guy who told it to me, look, I said, "I've got, I'm gonna have to go to London, and then I'm going to Ghana. Will this suitcase make two trips (laughter)?" He said, "Oh, yeah, you'll get three or four trips out of this suitcase." It was a big case with a canvas top, with a zipper that ran along the top edge. I was renting a room from a West Indian couple named Alcantara [ph.] in New York. The morning of my flight, I was to go to wake up two friends who lived a few blocks away, and they were gonna take me to the airport and help me with my luggage. As I was trying to close this $6.00 suitcase, the zipper broke (laughter), and I, I had to have a suitcase. I went down and woke up my landlord. I said, "Have you got a rope? Please give me a rope." They went and took their clothesline down and gave me a rope so that I could tie this suitcase closed and at least get to the friend, home of my friend Alpha Flack. When I showed--she saw he suitcase with the flaps (laughter) open, she said, "They're not gonna let you on the plane with this." I said, "I've got to go today. I must take, go take this plane today." So she ended up, she and her roommate ended up selling me three or four suitcases. I, I had wanted one big suitcase, and I ended up with three or four suitcases again. And then I said--and they hadn't even gotten up out of bed. I said, "You're supposed to help me get to the airport." They said, "You were supposed to be here two hours ago." I said, "Get up, get up." I was crying, "get up" (laughter). They got up, we got to the airport, and I got on the plane.$I had an offer of a job in Zambia in the Department of Labor and Social Services that had, the job had been obtained for me by a woman who used to work in the United Nations who had met, met a Zambian when she was traveling for the UN and had married him. And she'd gotten me, gotten me this job. But I knew I had to wait for my ticket, so I decided to travel in Asia. You know, Malcolm [X] talked about the Bandung Conference in what, 1955 or '56 [1956] in Indonesia, and I really wanted to see how Asians related to an African traveling. So I went by myself, something I probably wouldn't do today. But I went, in those days, I just took a map and I drew a line to all the places I wanted to go. I took it to a travel agency, and I said "Give me a ticket with these stops on it." And then you could change your ticket if you wanted to, didn't cost you anything. And so, when I was in a country, if somebody said "have you seen Angkor Wat" say, in Cambodia? And I said "No." My rule was when the third person said are you going to such and such, then I would go and change my ticket so I could go to such and such. And that's how I got to Angkor Wat. I spent a month in India, fantastic. I would love to go back there again, wonderful hospitality from Indians who had met African Americans while they were traveling in the States. And they had had hospitality from African Americans, and they offered me hospitality, had a great time. Thailand, everyplace was magical. In Hong Kong you have all of these bazaars and shops. And the shopkeepers would come out and say "Soul sister, come into my shop," because that was the way we were projected back then. And I felt really good about it, 'cause so much was going on in the States, people knew about it. "Soul sister, come on in." My nephew, who is a Navy, a commander in the Navy, was stationed in Japan in 1998, and he said Japanese shopkeepers were coming out, "O. J., O. J., come into my shop. We have knives" (laughter). That's how, that's how we have sunk in the estimation of the world, from "Soul sister" to "O. J., we have knives" (laughter). So, I went to Japan, and Indonesia was the only place that I can say I had a problem with people just being so astonished to see a black woman. Now, it wasn't this with black men. They were used to seeing soldiers on R&R [rest and recuperation] and the African diplomats, they would, but to see a woman by herself, people would just get hysterical. They would laugh. And some days I would wear an African dress. It was worse when I wore an African dress. Now, Indonesia was the site of the Bandung Conference (laughter), so I realized that this was just a paper thin veneer of any kind of solidarity, that there was none. In other places, too, I was an object of curiosity, sometimes just because women don't travel alone in those days. To see a woman by herself was strange. But colored played a big part in it. I've sent Julian [Mayfield] letters, and at the end, when I talked to him after the trip, he said "Alice, your trip sounds like one of the great horror stories (laughter) of the Western world." I said that could be because I was emphasizing troubles that I had, but basically, it was a great trip. And to be able to change a ticket without paying a penalty was something that you really miss now if you try to travel. You simply can't do that anymore. So I had hoped to spend a couple of months, say, bumming around on, in Asia again on the fortieth anniversary of my trip. I couldn't think about doing that now. First place, around-the-world ticket back then was $1,625.00. It's several thousand dollars now if you just wanna girdle the globe. But it was $1,625.00. My average expenditure per day including hotels and food was $10.00. Now, if you can do it for $300.00, an average, you're doing well. So I'm so glad that I did that when I did it. And I was, you know, I hadn't broken my knee yet. I could go, if I had to crawl someplace I could do it. I was physically in better shape than I am now. So that was a memorable trip.

Maulana Karenga

Dr. Maulana Karenga, professor of Africana Studies at California State University—Long Beach, was the holder of two Ph.D.’s. Karenga completed his degrees in political science at the United States International University, and in social ethics at the University of Southern California, before being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Durban, South Africa.

Karenga’s fields of teaching and research within Africana/Black Studies included: ancient Egyptian (Maatian) ethics; ancient Yoruba (Ifa) ethics; Africana/Black Studies theory and history; Africana/Black (continental and diasporan) philosophy; African American intellectual history; ethnic relations; and the socio-ethical thought of Malcolm X.

A prolific writer, Karenga authored numerous scholarly articles and books, including: Maat, The Moral Ideal in Ancient Egypt: A Study in Classical African Ethics; Selections From The Husia: Sacred Wisdom of Ancient Egypt; The Book of Coming Forth By Day: The Ethics of the Declarations of Innocence; Odu Ifa: The Ethical Teachings; and Introduction to Black Studies. Karenga was also one of the creators of the pan-African cultural holiday Kwanzaa, and the Nguzo Saba (The Seven Principles), as well as the author of the authoritative text, Kwanzaa: A Celebration of Family, Community and Culture.

An activist-scholar of national and international recognition, Karenga played a major role in Black political and intellectual culture from the 1960s on. Karenga has, along with The Organization Us, been instrumental in such movements as Black Power, Black Arts, Black Studies, the Independent Schools, Afrocentricity, Ancient Egyptian Studies, the Million Person Marches, and the Reparations Movement. In addition to his activism, Karenga lectured on the life and struggle of African peoples on major campuses in the United States, Africa, the People’s Republic of China, Cuba, Trinidad, Great Britain, and Canada. Karenga served as the chair of The Organization Us; the National Association of Kawaida Organizations; and as the executive director of the African American Cultural Center and the Kawaida Institute of Pan-African Studies.

Karenga has received numerous awards for scholarship and service, including: the C.L.R. James Award for Outstanding Publication of Scholarly Works that Advance the Discipline of Africana and Black Studies; the National Leadership Award for Outstanding Scholarly Achievements in Black Studies from the National Council for Black Studies; the President’s Award for Scholarship and Service in the Development of Black Studies from the African Heritage Studies Association; the Diop Exemplary Leadership Award from the Department of African American Studies-Temple University; the Richard Allen Living Legend Award from the African Methodist Episcopal Church; and the Pioneer Award from the Rainbow PUSH Coalition and Citizenship Education Fund.

Accession Number

A2002.207

Sex

Male

Interview Date

11/18/2002

Last Name

Karenga

Maker Category
Schools

Salisbury High School

Los Angeles City College

University of California, Los Angeles

United States International University

First Name

Maulana

Birth City, State, Country

Parsonburg

HM ID

KAR01

Sponsor

Knight Foundation

State

Maryland

Favorite Quote

It is a good day to struggle and that we must remember the teachers of the Ottoeva (ph.), that we are all divinely chosen to bring into the world and not let any good be lost.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

California

Interview Description
Birth Date

7/14/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Los Angeles

Country

USA

Short Description

Social activist, africana studies professor, and author Maulana Karenga (1941 - ) is the founder of Kwanzaa, in addition to having a career as a prolific writer and influential figure in a number of Afrocentric movements.

Employment

Mafundi Institute (Los Angeles, California)

California State University

African American Cultural Center

Main Sponsor
Favorite Color

Black, Green, Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maulana Karenga interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recalls his parents' backgrounds

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga explains his limitations with oral history

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga remembers his father

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga describes his mother

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maulana Karenga shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga shares childhood memories

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his early education

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts his family's transition to California

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers his college years

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga details how he became a black nationalist

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga lists his intellectual influences

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga describes his involvement in The Organization Us

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga remembers Malcolm X

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga explains why he learned Swahili

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga recalls his activism in the early 1960s

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga details his philosophy of Kawaida

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga details how he created Kwanzaa

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga responds to criticism of Kwanzaa

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga discusses the problems posed by the recent creation of Kwanzaa

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga explains how Kwanzaa became seven letters

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his involvement in the Black Power Movement

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 1)

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 2)

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 3)

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga details the rift between Us and the Black Panther Party (part 4)

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga recalls his incarceration

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts surveillance by the FBI's COINTEL program

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers FESTAC 1977

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga recalls the founding of ASCAC

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga discusses redressing the distorted view of ancient Egypt through ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga recalls the founding of ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga explains the philosophical underpinnings of ASCAC

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga recounts building the National Black United Front

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga remembers helping to create the Million Man March

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga responds to criticisms of the Million Man March

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Maulana Karenga discusses his involvement with the African American Leadership Retreat

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Maulana Karenga discusses the impact of the African American Leadership Retreat Family

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Maulana Karenga describes his current projects

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Maulana Karenga shares the importance of African philosophy

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Maulana Karenga recalls his parents' reaction to his career

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Maulana Karenga considers his legacy

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

3$1

DATitle
Maulana Karenga remembers Malcolm X
Maulana Karenga details how he created Kwanzaa
Transcript
Now, so Malcolm [X] was very important to us as, as, as a teacher, as a mentor. I met Malcolm in '62 [1962], and the first time I met him we, he took me home afterward. We went and talked. We--it's a restaurant, it used to be a restaurant on 51st and Main, a Muslim restaurant. And you--after the mosque, you would go over there and eat bean pie and talk abstract. So Malcolm welcomed us. We were right from UCLA [University of California Los Angeles]. He welcomed us back there. We talked a long time, and every time since when he would come in town, I would try to get there. And, in fact, when there was a crisis, Malcolm asked me to be the emcee for a memorial for, Ronald 26X [sic, Stokes] actually, that was shot by the police. I don't know if you remember that. But--$$Is that the scene with him, even in the movie shows the picture of the man, the poster, the famous picture of Malcolm showing a poster of the body was full of holes--(simultaneous)?$$Yes, shot, that was it. Yes, that was the major police shooting of the Muslims at that time. And I learned a lot from Malcolm, and I always enjoyed his company and the brilliance of his intellect. See, I'm, I'm writing now a book on his social, ethical thought because people usually think of ethics, they think King [Martin Luther King, Jr.]. And they think Christianity. But Islam has ethics and certainly Malcolm had an ethical philosophy, and I, I think he has a rich legacy that's still to be taped. And I challenge all those people who have written books on him, who seem to be janitors of history, looking for stench and stain, and reductively translating his message. Mine is to speak his special culture, true, and to show the brilliance of his mind and incisiveness of his analysis. That's what I want to show. The rest, FBI [Federal Bureau of Investigation], [J. Edgar] Hoover, got data for all this, you know. It's just like writing a book on King and trying to talk about King, what he didn't do and all that. The question is, what does he mean to us? You see, and one of the problems I find with modern intellectuals, black intellectuals, is that they've so limited themselves to deconstructionism, that mainly what they do is janitorial service and look stench and stain, peeling paint and criticize and condemn things, but they have no capacity for conceptual generation, that is, the production of concepts to enrich and expand our lives, to give us the capacity to understand ourselves and assert ourselves in dignity-affirming ways in the world. That's a whole different kind of project.$I wanted to ask you about the development of Kwanzaa out of Kawaida theory.$$Yes, right. So first, I'm, I'm at UCLA [University of California Los Angeles] in '64 [1964], just got my Master's. I decided to go on to get my doctorate. I'm studying on my doctorate. The revolt comes. I quit and join the Movement, and I create my organization. And I fur--[The Organization] Us, and I further developed my philosophy, Kawaida. And I call it Kawaida because I believe that culture and tradition are the foundation for our life, our future and our effective assertion in the world. I think culture is a fundamental way of being human in the world. And so at the heart of Kawaida philosophy is this argument that we must constantly dialogue with African culture, asking it questions and seeking from it, answers, to the fundamental issues of human life. How do you create a just and good society? What does it mean to be human? What is our moral obligation to each other? What is our rightful relationship with the environment? Those questions, we usually don't ask Africa those questions. We usually ask Europe or Israel. We ask Greece or Israel or some other culture, but we don't ask Africa. You know, we don't--we just don't ask Africa what does it mean to be human? What is my relationship with God or anything like that? What is, what is that? So, I wanted to do that. And so I began to draw from the best of African culture, synthesize it and put into this philosophy called Kawaida. And it's subconsciously called Kawaida, a Swahili word, it means tradition because that is the core of it, tradition and reason.$$Can you spell Kawaida for us (simultaneous)?$$K-A-W-A-I-D-A, Kawaida, okay. Now, I've already--as I said earlier, I've already decided to use Swahili to do this, okay, because the language itself contains philosophical concepts I need to stress the communitarian value system I'm going to create with the seven principles, Nguzo Saba. So I'm in the philosophy, and I'm asking how can I teach this philosophy in a simple, but profound way? How can I produce concepts that would create both a discourse and a practice of being African? Okay. And I decide I, I need a value system that is manageable. And I decide the way I can do that is study African cultures, and I studied African culture, and I asked myself, what is the social cement and the social glue that holds these cultures together and give them their humanistic, moral content? And I believe that it is their communitarian values, values that stress family, community and culture. And so the question is how do I choose these values? Okay. I choose ten, twenty, thirty? Well I choose seven, and I choose seven for several reasons, because first of all, the spiritual significance of seven in African culture, all the way back to ancient Egypt. Seven is like a sacred number, okay. Second--so it has special value as well. Then the second thing I do is manageable. People would be saying, why didn't you do ten? Well, try to get seven, you know, then we can talk about the other. If we could just do some of these some of the time, a whole new change would come in our life. So, my argument was let's do these seven. So now, I have to choose seven values, communitarian values that form a system of thought and practice. And I have to choose them according to what I think is most important, not just now, but of enduring importance. And that's a very important thing. I can't be a faddist. I can't choose values like Green Power, I mean that goes out, you see. I have to choose that which endures in the midst of that which is overthrown, as the Husia said. And so what I do, is I choose what is enduring values, and I organized them such--there are seven values, Nguzo Saba. First of all, look at the name, Nguzo means "pillar," okay. It's both a pillar as a strength in the community and as a protection for the community, okay. Okay, so Nguzo is pillar, and it means principle. And Saba, of course, means seven. So I start with Umoja, unity. Why? Because unity in the family community, nation and race. Why unity? Because without unity, you can't even start a project. I mean the fundamental requirement for a people to actually understand and realize itself and assert itself successfully is unity. So Umoja, unity, is the first principle. Second principle is Kujichagulia, to define ourselves, create for ourselves, name ourselves, be up for ourselves. That's a very important thing, to speak our own special culture truth, make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Third, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, to make our sisters and brothers' problem our problem and to solve them collectively. We, we have to see ourselves as responsible for each other, and we have to, together, build the world we want and deserve to live in, okay. Ujamaa, cooperative economics, shared work and shared wealth. People want to do the wealth, shared wealth, but a lot of times they don't want to do the shared work. So we say to build our sisters and brothers stores, shops and other business and to profit from them together, just to tell people, you have to work together and you have to get profit together. That's a very important discourse in the '60s [1960s], whether we go capitalist or whether we go communal. Okay, we say we have to go communitarian. We have to do communalism. We have to do cooperative economics. The cooperative economics comes from the word Ujamaa, and jamaa, the root word of jamaa is--Ujamaa, jamaa, which means "family" or "kinship." And so what it says is we must do economics as if we are related, related not just as a human, but related to the environment too. That's a whole different discourse. So what I'm doing is giving categories. This has been Kawaida's main strength and Us organization's main strength, it's creating a series of categories, philosophical concepts that encourage a discourse about African life in a way it has never been done before. That's what we did with Kwanzaa. That's what we did with the Husia. That's what we did with Odo Ifa. That's what we did with Operation Unity, etc. Okay, now, next, Nia, purpose, the collective vocation of rebuilding our nation so that we can restore our people to their traditional greatness, okay, to bring good into the world and to give black people both permanence and power in the world. And then the sixth principle, Kuumba, creativity, to do all we can in the way we can to leave our community and this world better and more beautiful than when we inherited it. And finally, Imani, faith, faith in ourselves, our leaders, our teachers and the righteousness and victory of our call and faith that through hard work, long struggle and a whole lot of love and understanding, we can again step back on the stage of human history subconsciously as a free, proud and productive people, speak our own special culture truth to the world and make our own unique contribution to the forward flow of human history. Now, the question is, how do I build an institutional process to, in fact, teach those? I mean I could just put them out there, but it doesn't work. So I think of, what about a holiday? Again, I'm a scholar. I have to do research. I'm very concerned with culture and with authenticity. I can't just--they just don't drop from the sky for me. I have to study them from a social context, from a historical context. So I studied, I decided that I would use the oldest celebrations, and that way, I thought they would be more authentic--authentic, than one that was later created and might be influenced by Europe. So what are the oldest celebrations? They're agriculture celebrations. It's the same way when we go to Egypt. It's before the European comes, before there is this question of influence, you see, back then. And so I studied first fruits celebrations, harvest celebrations, okay. And I'm very struck by umKhosi, a Zulu celebration, which is seven days, and happens at the end of the year. Part of it is in the beginning, part of it at the end. So I straddled Kwanzaa the same way. Most of it is in the first of the year, and then there's one day in the new year. And that day I set aside for meditation, January first. So I put Kwanzaa December the twenty-sixth to January first, and it duplicates the umKhosi celebration of the Zulus, okay. I don't even tell everybody all this. I'm, I just do this, okay, because I'm, I'm, I'm saying, this is my culture. I, I can do it. I study also the Yoruba and the other festivals, and always, there are five fundamental activities that they engage in regardless. The first is that, the holidays are a time of ingathering of the people, a time when the people come from all over to reaffirm the bonds between them. Second, is the time for thanksgiving for the Creator and the creation, okay, a time not only to give thanks for a good harvest, but to recommit ourselves to the protection and preservation of the earth which provided the harvest. Third, is the time for commemoration of the past, time to raise and praise the names of those who gave their lives so that we could live fuller and more meaningful one; time to remember Fannie Lou Hamer's teaching that there are two things we all should care about, "Never to forget where we came and always praise the bridges that carried us over." Fourth, is a time for the reaffirmation and recommitment, a time for recommitment rather; time for recommitment to our highest culture values, values that stress and strengthen family, community and culture, speaking truth, doing justice; honor thy elders and the ancestors; cherishing and challenging our children, caring for the vulnerable among us, having a rightful relationship with the environment, constantly struggling against evil and always raising up, praising and pursuing the good, but especially time for recommitment to the seven principles, Umoja, unity, Kujichagulia, self-determination, Ujima, collective work and responsibility, Ujamaa, cooperative economics, Nia, purpose, Kuuma, creativity, Imani, faith. And finally, the fifth activity of Kwanzaa after ingathering of the people, a special reverence for the Creator and the creation, commemoration of the past, recommitment to our highest culture values, is celebration of the good, the good of family, community and culture, the good of life, the good of the environment, the good of our history, the good of our awesome march through human history, the good of existence itself, just the good of the world. And so we celebrate that, I mean, the good of the harvest, it used to be, but the good, above all, of the ongoing challenge to constantly bring good into the world and not let any good be lost. Now, people often say, why did you create Kwanzaa? I mean I think I've said, but I've--in the context of my discussion, but I created it for three basic reasons, one to reaffirm our Africanist, to reaffirm the fact that we're an African people. When you're in the process, you know, Kwanzaa is, is created in the context of the Black Freedom Movement. The Black Freedom Movement is from ninety--1955 to 1975, and there are two sections to it. From 1955 to 1965 is the black, is the Civil Rights Movement, and from 1965 to 1975 is the Black Power Movement, and I'm more in the Black Power Movement. In the Black Power Movement, even though I participated in the Civil Rights Movement, in the Black Power Movement, one of the core elements is the return to Africa, to step back to black. In fact, we used to say in Us, the first step forward is a step back to your own culture and your own self, okay. And so what we argued is that we have to reaffirm that we're African. We must say we are African people, okay. So Kwanzaa gives us a time to do that. And if you look at it, more than any other time in the, in the, in the year, black people talk about Africa, even corporate types wear African clothes, want their kinara and their Kwanzaa set to be aside other end-of-the-year celebration sets, right? They talk it. Okay, we've got a discourse, a conversation around Africa. Second, I created it to give us a time as African people all over the world to come together, reaffirm the bonds between us and meditate on the meaning and awesome responsibility of being African in the world. And if you look at it all around the world, you see that that has happened. Twenty-eight million people celebrate this holiday on every continent in the world, throughout the world African community. And finally, of course, as I said, early, I created Kwanzaa in order to introduce and reaffirm the importance of community and values, especially, Nguzo Saba, the seven principles.

Conrad Walter Worrill

Conrad Walter Worrill was born on August 15, 1941, in Pasadena, California. His mother, Anna Bell, was the first African American to sing in the Pasadena Philharmonic Orchestra and his father, Walter, was a college-educated YMCA manager. Conrad Worrill became an activist and scholar whose goal is to advance the cause and concept of African independence and self-determination both in the United States and internationally.

After moving to Chicago on his ninth birthday, Worrill became serious about athletics. He gained his first racial consciousness through competitive swimming when his black YMCA team faced serious heckling. In 1962, he was drafted into the Army and shipped to Okinawa, Japan. While overseas, he read profusely about African American history, culture and politics. After he returned to Chicago in 1963, Worrill attended George Williams College but became radicalized by the Black Power movement. After graduating in 1968, a West Side YMCA hired him as the program director. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He headed George Williams College's Urban Institute in 1973 and began teaching at Northeastern Illinois University in Chicago in 1976, where he is the coordinator and professor of Inner City Studies Education. While organizing in 1983 to elect Chicago's first black mayor, Harold Washington, Worrill co-founded the Task Force for Black Political Empowerment. As the national chairman of the National Black United Front (NBUF), Worrill is working aggressively to change the American public school curriculum to be inclusive of the contributions of Africans and African Americans.

Worrill is the elected economic development commissioner of the National Coalition of Blacks for Reparations in America (N'COBRA). He served as special consultant of field operations for the historic Million Man March/ Day of Absence on October 16, 1995, in Washington, D.C. As part of the fight to win reparations for the American descendants of slaves, he traveled to Geneva, Switzerland, in 1997 with a delegation to formally charge the U.S. Government with genocide and human right violations before the Commission on Human Rights. The delegation presented the commission with a "Declaration of Genocide by the United States Government Against the Black Population in the United States" with 157,000 signatures.

Upon returning to the United States, Worrill presented this petition to the United Nations in New York City. In 2001, he led a 400-member delegation to the UN World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa. He writes the syndicated weekly column "Worrill's World," which is widely read in African American newspapers across the country. In August 2002, Worrill organized a national reparations rally attended by thousands.

Accession Number

A2002.144

Sex

Male

Interview Date

6/13/2002

12/15/2009

Last Name

Worrill

Maker Category
Marital Status

Married

Middle Name

Walter

Schools

Pacific Oaks Children's School

John Farren Elementary School

William H. Ray Elementary School

Hyde Park Academy High School

Pasadena City College

Malcolm X College

Central YMCA College

George Williams College of Aurora University

University of Chicago

University of Wisconsin-Madison

First Name

Conrad

Birth City, State, Country

Pasedena

HM ID

WOR01

State

California

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

8/15/1941

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Nonprofit chief executive and african american studies professor Conrad Walter Worrill (1941 - ) is a reparations leader and chair of the National Black United Front. He traveled with a delegation to Geneva, Switzerland in 1997 to formally charge the U.S. Government with genocide and human right violations before the Commission on Human Rights.

Employment

U.S. Steel

Sears YMCA

United States Army

George Williams College

Northeastern Illinois University

Favorite Color

Blue, Green

DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Conrad Worrill interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill's favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill details his family background

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill gives his brother's name

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill recounts his parents' courtship and early marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill recalls his father's education

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Conrad Worrill remembers his father's early career

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill describes race relations in the Pasadena, California of his youth

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls his family's move to Chicago and his traumatic elementary school experience

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill recounts his involvement in sports at the Wabash YMCA in Chicago

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill illustrates his family's relationship with Jackie Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill talks about his family's relationship with Jackie Robinson

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls some of the sights, sounds and smells of growing up in Chicago

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill lists his childhood role models

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill details his involvement in high school sports

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill remembers DuSable High School winning the state basketball championship

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill provides the socio-political context of his senior year of high school

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Conrad Worrill recounts his wild college years

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Conrad Worrill provides the socio-political context of his college years

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill discusses his rising awareness of Civil Rights issues

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill recalls his experiences in Army basic training

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill relates his overseas experience in the Vietnam War

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill recounts his efforts to be productive after returning from the Army

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill talks about his decision to finish college after his return from the military

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill explains how he got involved in social work

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill recalls his entree into political activism with Fred Hampton

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill discusses his involvement in Black Power

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill details how he gave the Sears YMCA back to the black community

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill remembers being courted by other social service organizations

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Conrad Worrill recalls Catalyst's impact on the black community in Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Conrad Worrill describes Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s relationship to Chicago

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Conrad Worrill recalls the assassination of Fred Hampton and C. T. Vivian's 'Black Curfew' declaration

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Conrad Worrill lists the social service programs funded as a result of unrest in the Chicago black community

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Conrad Worrill recounts his experiences in graduate school and community organizing

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Conrad Worrill details the political context of his graduate school years

Tape: 7 Story: 1 - Slating of Conrad Walter Worrill's interview, session 2

Tape: 7 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls his work at the YMCA during the Civil Rights Movement

Tape: 7 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers the black consciousness movement

Tape: 7 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls enrolling at the University of Chicago

Tape: 7 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about working on his first political campaign

Tape: 7 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers the assassination of Fred Hampton

Tape: 7 Story: 7 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls joining the Ph.D. program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison

Tape: 7 Story: 8 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes his doctoral dissertation

Tape: 8 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes Black Nationalist activities in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 8 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill remembers Charles O. Ross, Jr.

Tape: 8 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the development of Communiversity

Tape: 8 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the start of the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 8 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the history of the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the history of the Abraham Lincoln Center in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 8 Story: 7 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls working at George Williams College

Tape: 8 Story: 8 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about accepting a professorship at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 8 Story: 9 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the Communiversity activities at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, pt. 1

Tape: 8 Story: 10 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the Communiversity activities at the Jacob H. Carruthers Center for Inner City Studies, pt. 2

Tape: 9 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the conflicts between Marxism and nationalism in the Pan African movement

Tape: 9 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes socialist theories

Tape: 9 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the founding of the National Black United Front

Tape: 9 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes the National Black Independent Political Party

Tape: 9 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the activities of the National Black Independent Political Party in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 9 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the contention against Chicago Mayor Jane Byrne

Tape: 10 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls rallying Chicago leaders to support mayoral candidate Harold Washington, pt. 1

Tape: 10 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls rallying Chicago leaders to support mayoral candidate Harold Washington, pt. 2

Tape: 10 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill describes a flyer used in Harold Washington's campaign

Tape: 10 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the community support of Harold Washington

Tape: 10 Story: 5 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about Mayor Harold Washington's accomplishments

Tape: 10 Story: 6 - Conrad Walter Worrill recalls the death of Mayor Harold Washington

Tape: 11 Story: 1 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about the Free South Africa movement

Tape: 11 Story: 2 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about campaigns against genocide in Africa

Tape: 11 Story: 3 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about social and racial issues of the 20th century

Tape: 11 Story: 4 - Conrad Walter Worrill talks about books on African American history

Ausbra Ford

Ausbra Ford's academic and sculptural work has been the result of his adept merging of scholarly research with an artist's creativity. He was born in Chicago, Illinois on February 28, 1935. He attended Coleman Elementary and DuSable High School before studying sculpture at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where he earned a B.A. in 1964 and a M.F.A. in 1966.

From 1964-1968, Ford taught art courses for elementary schools in both the Gary and Chicago public school systems. He then served a brief stint as an associate professor at Southern University in Baton Rouge before returning to Chicago to become a full-time Professor at Chicago State University. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa. Subsequent grants from the Chicago State University Foundation allowed him to continue pursuing his work in the field.

Ford's writing on funerary art has been published in journals such as World Anthropology and the Morition Press, and in the books Two Centuries of Afro-American Art and African Influence in Funeral Art of Haiti.

He has lectured at the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art and the Chicago Field Museum, as well as numerous colleges around the country. Ford sits on the Board of Directors of the DuSable Museum; is the President and one of the founders of the African American Visual Arts Roundtable; and is a member of both the Kemetic Institute of Northeastern Illinois University and the Association for the Study of Classical African Civilizations. His work has been exhibited both locally and nationally, in one man and group shows. Ford's pieces are part of the permanent collections of Chicago State University, the University of Suwon in the Republic of Korea, the Southside Community Art Center in Chicago, the DuSable Museum of African American History, Northeastern Illinois University and Chicago's Hilton Hotel.

Accession Number

A2002.078

Sex

Male

Archival Photo 1
Interview Date

5/17/2002

Last Name

Ford

Maker Category
Occupation
Schools

Du Sable Leadership Academy

Colman Elementary School

School of the Art Institute of Chicago

Search Occupation Category
Archival Photo 2
First Name

Ausbra

Birth City, State, Country

Chicago

HM ID

FOR04

Favorite Season

Summer

State

Illinois

Favorite Vacation Destination

Africa, Brazil

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

Illinois

Interview Description
Birth Date

2/28/1935

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

Chicago

Country

USA

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Sculptor and art professor Ausbra Ford (1935 - ) has taught at Chicago State University and lectured around the country. In support of his interest in the funeral art of Afro-Americans, Ford received a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship as well as a grant from Chicago State University to conduct research on the funerary art of West and Central Africa.

Employment

Chicago Public Schools

Southern University

Chicago State University

Gary Indiana Public Schools

Favorite Color

Orange, Light Tan

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Ausbra Ford's interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford lists his favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes the building where he grew up

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes his father's personality

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's trucking business

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father leaving Mississippi

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes some of his father's stories

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his father's business philosophy

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's escape from Georgia and move to Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Ausbra Ford describes his mother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his maternal grandmother's personality

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford shares his grandparents' stories of the trauma of slavery and lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his reactions to hearing family stories of lynching

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his childhood in the Bronzeville neighborhood of Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford describes the development of the Bronzeville neighborhood in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford describes the sights, sounds, and smells of his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the gangs in Bronzeville during his childhood

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford describes what kind of student he was at Coleman Elementary School

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Ausbra Ford talks about his aspirations to become an artist or architect

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his parents' response to his decision to become an artist

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford talks about athletics at DuSable High School in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how DuSable High School prepared him academically

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his high school teacher, HistoryMaker Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about graduating from DuSable High School in 1953

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about his service in the United States Air Force during the Korean War

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in Illinois

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Ausbra Ford talks about his relationship with HistoryMaker Dr. Margaret Burroughs

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes the beginning of his academic career

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 1

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford describes his study of funeral art in Africa, pt. 2

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his experience teaching at Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford describes his growth as an artist

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of AFRI-COBRA and the art scene in Chicago, Illinois

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience teaching at the Kemetic Institute and Chicago State University

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 1

Tape: 5 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford describes his first trip to Egypt in 1987, pt. 2

Tape: 5 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his second trip to Africa in 1988

Tape: 5 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the influence of traveling to Africa on his art

Tape: 5 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun

Tape: 5 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about his interest in mixed media sculpture

Tape: 5 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about the experience of traveling to Brazil

Tape: 5 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford talks about the relationship between African and Brazilian art

Tape: 5 Story: 8 - Ausbra Ford talks about the creation of the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 5 Story: 9 - Ausbra Ford talks about his success with the African American Visual Artists Roundtable

Tape: 6 Story: 1 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 1

Tape: 6 Story: 2 - Ausbra Ford talks about his experience with the committee to provide art to the Harold Washington Library in Chicago, Illinois, pt. 2

Tape: 6 Story: 3 - Ausbra Ford talks about the present support of visual arts in the black community

Tape: 6 Story: 4 - Ausbra Ford reflects upon his legacy

Tape: 6 Story: 5 - Ausbra Ford talks about how he would like to be remembered and his parents' pride in him

Tape: 6 Story: 6 - Ausbra Ford talks about his family

Tape: 6 Story: 7 - Ausbra Ford narrates his photographs

DASession

1$1

DATape

4$5

DAStory

8$4

DATitle
Ausbra Ford talks about the importance of the collective in his art and teaching
Ausbra Ford describes his two sculptures on Oshun
Transcript
Yeah it's an interesting thing about the way you speak of your, your work and your experiences you--many artists talk about their vision on something and what they're creating and you, of course, you, your work is unique, their yours on a level, but you, you always speak about in, in a collective way like you're part of something bigger, I mean, you know, you, you've done more talking about the influences of other on your than you have about what you, your own, you know--(unclear)--$$It's, it's that--I, I think it's that African thing, man you know it's that, the collective is as so, so very important, you know, and matter fact it was like the first piece that I did for Inner City Studies [Northeastern Illinois University Center for Inner City Studies in Chicago] I had one name on it, and they renamed it. I, I didn't get upset 'cause hey shoot does it work. Fine, that's probably the way it was meant to be. Sometime it has two names. I said I could care less, but it's, it's the feedback, the input from other folk, which is so important, and this is a problem that we have so much in Western culture and Western art. You know, everything is "I" and, and I keep drumming it and drumming it, and drumming it into those student's heads and everything else. The whole thing is the community, the collective us and Africa. That's why we in trouble now. That's why the continent's in trouble 'cause people doing all these crazy things, and it's all about I and forgetting about everybody else and its un-African. And it's not gon' straighten out, and we're not gonna get the continent straightened out until we get our whole thing and get back on like Jake [HM Jacob H. Carruthers] said, "We get back to fundamentals." And when we get back to fundamentals, things are going to straighten out and things can happen. And I just keep saying this is part, this is why we have problems. You just don't have to look at Africa, you can just look here in the United States and see part of our problem here. We don't own nothing. We don't want to do anything. We just falling apart. We got more money. We got more, we got better jobs and everything else, and we are worse off than we ever were. I said we let the family fall apart and once you let that family fall apart and the collectiveness in terms of the community fall apart you got deep troubles. I said and real deep, and I started giving examples, and they say "Hey Ford I agree with you. You right there and everything else." And this is the whole thing that we gotta understanding. I said, "Look we went through slavery. We went through the middle passage and went through slavery, and we didn't fall apart. Look at us now," I said, "just look at us now." We in pathetic shape, and you know when, when you deal with Jake and the rest of 'em you got statistics. You can, you can drop all that stuff off and that's what Andy [Anderson Thompson] does, you know man Andy drop all that stuff off, he say hey get an understanding. This is time to talk, the right talk and get ourselves together as a people, whereas we are not used by every ethnic group that comes along and this is our problem. Everybody has used us, and that's why the continent is in that shape. Everybody wants something from us without paying. I said and that's why we're in that shape, you know, and, and then their eyes get bigger and the next thing you know they reading the African books, they getting into it and everything else and wanna hold a conversation and then the spiritual stuff comes up and all this other kind of jazz, which makes it interesting, you know, and so you making people, you making real human beings out of real African people. And this is what I love about teaching here is that I can, I can touch somebody, you know.$Now, we're in a unique position today to do something unusual that we don't do. We've got two pieces directly behind you that are on camera and I think we might even be able to focus on them, and, and perhaps you can tell us about those. Because you're an artist, you know it's hard to talk about art without looking at it, but, you know, and the ideas that go into the art work. So, maybe if we can maybe talk about the piece to your left over your left shoulder.$$And that's Oshun 'cause that's from, that's from the Bra, Brazilian thing 'cause I recall it and that's after Dr. Anderson Thompson. You know he coined the phrase the African-Brazilian Connection. And I've gone to Brazil doing stuff and I've become very, very influenced by that also and they work together. And that is we call an Orisha called Oshun, and Orishas are aspects of nature, and they're saints really. And Oshun was, was the Oshun River, and she was very, very, very, very powerful, very, very beautiful. She had curative properties and everything else and so that's a sculpture. So, they have colors. Each Orisha has colors, foods, and everything else that relates directly to them. And they come out, and they, they come out dancing, they come out dancing and this is what she's in a move position of moving forward because she's in a position of dancing, and dancing brings in the spirit entity of that, of that particular Orisha and other Orishas, and this is how the ceremony really starts and everything else. So, and you will see orange and with her being the Orisha in terms of the Oshun River, and I was at the Oshun River when I was in Africa and everything. Matter of fact I used to hang around all the time, you know. A beautiful town, Osogbo [Nigeria], but at any rate this is where she's from, so she was very beautiful, and she was also vain. She was, she loved to look at herself and everything else. So, a lot of times she has a mirror, and you'll see that in the hand. And so she was very, very important and very, very powerful. She has the beads in front of her face. It's called a veil of beads and only those who are associated with and those who are associated with royalty have the right to wear the veil of beads in front of the face. Literally what it does is protects the, the viewer from what we call the spiritual energy of the person or the ashe. That a king's ashe is so powerful that it would harm the average person. So, they have the beads in front of the face to protect you from seeing his face. And so, therefore, if this Orisha is associated with in any way with royalty and everything else then therefore you will see the beads in front of the face. So, that's the one over there and so you can see she's got her mirror in her hand, and, and she's ready for action.$$Okay, now there's one too over your right shoulder. Maybe you could describe that one for us?$$I forgot which one is that.$$OFF-CAMERA MALE VOICE: You can look.$$I can look, okay, shoot all right, shoot. Oh, you know what that one is that's Oshun also. The, the, the wall piece and Oshun is, and let me mention this, Oshun is one of my Orishas. I'm very, very involved in it and everything else. And your Orisha is on your head. And Oshun is, she's not the number one Orisha, but she is one of my Orishas. So, therefore, it is only normal that you would do one of your Orishas and so she's the Orisha of love, curative powers, the water, which water is always important and etc. So, this is what's happen, so I've used plexiglass on her and you can notice the veil of beads coming in front of the face and everything else with the gold mask, so orange, gold are her colors and everything else. And if you look real close you can see the fish on the, on her dress, and her dress is shaped almost bell shaped and that's a symbol. Everything in Africa means something. So, that's symbol in terms of the first mound of the world, where the first, the first mound of earth began. The world was surrounded with water, and what was out was this mound of earth and so therefore the skirts symbolize this mound of earth and therefore you get that kind of bell like shape and everything else. So, that's what she has. So, everything on there, you know, researching down to, you know, very much and I do the Brazilian thing the same way as I do the Kemetic thing is. I'm always in touch with the priests, so when they come in town from Brazil they come in and look and you know give me a yeah or nah on it and everything else and matter of fact they, you know, gave me a, you know, go ahead on all the stuff that I've done. You know, they read the shelves and they tell you whether you can go on and do the work or not.