Michael: Hello, this is Michael Jones, with the Metro Housing Coalition at U ofL's Unfair Housing Program. And I'm here with Mattie Jones, a noted activist who lives on--next to a street with her name on it. We're gonna talk about housing. I know originally, Mattie, you're from Memphis, right?
Michael: So how old were you when you came to Louisville?
Mattie: I was 7 year old and the second grade.
Michael: Okay, so were you aware of the differences in the city when you camefrom Memphis to Louisville?
Mattie: No, the only differences that was made known was when I would hear mymother and father talking at dinner, and they were talking about why my daddy left Memphis and came to Louisville. And the difference in pay they would be 1:00talking about his check was bigger or something, you know. Grown folks talk as they would call it around the table.
Michael: So what'd your father do?
Mattie: My father worked for a construction company. He was a constructionworker. And what his title was, was he was a hod carrier. That you don't hear anymore. It's gone completely. The hod carrier made those little boxes and they carried hod motor and concrete on their shoulders. And over the years, you could tell because a scar was on my daddy as long as I can remember, you know, on his shoulder--
Michael: What were your parents' names?
Mattie: My daddy was named Tommy Johnson, and my mother was named Mattie Johnson(laughs). They named my brother after my daddy and they named me after my mother.
Michael: Okay, so you only had--did you have other siblings besides your brother?2:00
Mattie: I had older brother that passed away at 3 years old in Memphis. No hewas 6, I take that back, he was 6. He passed away in Memphis with pneumonia. There was just the three of us.
Michael: Okay, besides your father's bigger paycheck, were there any otherdifferences between Memphis and Louisville?
Mattie: I really didn't see any at that time.
Michael: What part of town did you live in? Where'd you live when you firstmoved to Louisville?
Mattie: I lived out--I think they called it South Memphis. I lived on WellingtonStreet and we went to church over on Mississippi Boulevard. Now Wellington, I know we've got the number, 659 South Wellington. I don't know how I can still remember that, but we lived at 659 South Wellington--that's in the south part of Memphis. And we were just around the corner from LeMoyne College, and I was one block from the elementary school that I attended. 3:00
Michael: And so where'd you move to in Louisville?
Mattie: (Inaudible 0:03:01.9) to the east end part of Louisville. Not the EastEnd, though, the east end where majority of the African Americans lived on East Madison Street. We lived 529 East Madison Street.
Michael: And what year would this be?
Mattie: We came to Louisville in 1940. My dad came before we did cause my motherhad to settle up the property and they had a little farm, out of an old place called (inaudible 0:03:33.8), Tennessee. And my mother had to stay and get all the business taken care of because my daddy had to leave very abruptly. The man from I guess the contractor from Louisville came to Memphis looking for hod carriers, and my dad was a union man. He was what they called the shop steward so he rounded up four or five, and they left that afternoon and came to Louisville. 4:00
Michael: So was he working for a specific company? Or was it that contract?
Mattie: It was during the time that they were, I guess they seen in a visionthat we were gonna go into war. So they were building the ammunition plants and things over in Jeffersonville, and that's where my dad--but they said they needed workers, so that's why my dad came.
Michael: And so what was the atmosphere like in Louisville for you growing up?
Mattie: Well you know, it never bothered me because I guess I just thought thatthis was our place, you know. We lived in a good neighborhood and we were all, during that time, there were good neighbors. We were all kids and friends and walking to our school together. We thought nothing about the differences. I thought nothing about the differences at that time.
Michael: So you were in the black world, pretty much?
Mattie: Just in the black world, loving it. Loving being in the black world. But5:00I would hear my parents say things. But with me being so very young, it didn't even reach me, you know.
Michael: So when did you become more conscious of race issues and the otherthings going on in the community?
Mattie: Well really, really when--you know, the integration of schools takingplace and we got rid of the thing that you had no choice. That you've had a choice at that point, our school, in which I'm a graduate of the class of 1951 from Central High School. We knew that we could go to Municipal College, that was our school which at that time I didn't really realize it was a branch of the University of Louisville. That was, "Hey, this is where you colored folks go." But that didn't hit my mind. 6:00
Education was on my mind because my mother was just very strong on education. Sowe--I played around after I graduated a few months yet, almost a year, went through the summer, and a friend of mine, we decided we were gonna go to IU. Well you know, first of all, we're going to Indiana University. This way, we'd be away from home, and we wouldn't just be with the strict disciplinarians that our parents were. Get a chance to show how grown, 18, we were grown we thought.
So my first hike was at IU. And it was a lonely trip because very few of us,you'd could count us all one hand and have some fingers left that was on that campus that looked like me. No instructors or nothing that looked like me. The majority of the student body did not look like me. So my brother, I talked with 7:00my brother, he was the oldest, my brother was seven years older than I. And he was working and out of school and he decided that he would come and pick me up, my last class I think was on Thursday evening around 1 o'clock.
So every Thursday, about 1:15, I could look out the window and I see my brotherparked out there and I would come back to Louisville. And my other friend, she had some relatives, I can't remember if it's grandparents or who they were, but she would go to a place called--then she went to Dayton on the weekends. So therefore, we didn't have any connections or any social activities there on the campus--and we fell for that, because there was nobody that wanted to socialize with us.
So I came to Louisville, my brother come every Thursday right on time, picked meup, bring me back home, then take me back on Sunday afternoon. So I did that for 8:00the whole year. And I was having--really, I was kind of enjoying it because it didn't make any difference if you didn't say anything to me. That didn't bother me cause I was coming home on Thursday and I had still had friends here at home.
And at the end of the semester, my mother told me one morning after breakfast,she says, "I want to talk to you." Oh when she said that, I knew that something was going on in her mind. And she said to me that, "You know, this running up the road has got to stop. Either you're coming here or you're going to stay there. Those are the choices."
So I knew right away that I was not going to stay there and not have theenjoyment of seeing my brother and coming home on the weekends with my friends and having a good time. So I decided to come home and was a very good time at 9:00home. Sleeping late, going out, having a good time.
So by morning when I didn't get up, my mother said, "I need to talk to you." Soat the table, she says, "I'll tell what you do, young lady. There's no more sleeping this time of morning. You must get up at 7. You must go out and seek employment, get a job for yourself, or you can enroll in school." Those were the two choices that she gave me.
So I started seeking out employment, and I did, I was my height a little bittaller when I was coming up very fast with my hands and all. So I got hired at Smolens Laundry. And they put me over on what they called the shirt line, where 10:00we would press the shirts, cuff and collar and pass them on. And it was called production work and you made a little bit more money if you made production plus. So I was there--
Michael: And was it mostly black workers?
Mattie: It was black workers on this side of the building. The white workers wason the other side of the building. We worked together. That didn't bother me until one day, very hot temperature around 80 degrees outside and 95 inside the laundry. So we didn't have water and the salt pills, like the other side--the white side had. And they had a huge fan. We had a little bitty little fan I could pick up with one little hand.
Well I went to the supervisor and I asked her why we did not have what they had.So that signed my--getting rid of me, my fire notice. As I said too many 11:00questions and was very strict about why. That was the first thing that came to my attention that there's a difference. And well, I got fired that afternoon. My supervisor said, "You don't have to come back anymore."
Got home and didn't know what to do, my mother says, "Well," said, "You know Itold you that when you were at the other 18 years old and you all started to walk out the door, I said I said to you, Mattie Florence, leave those things they call feelings on the doorstep." And I didn't quite understand. But she said, "That was what I was talking about at that time. Because you gonna meet this. This is life. And you gonna have to learn how to deal with it." So I said, "Okay."
Well I decided that I would go on back to school. So I went out to U of L and12:00enrolled myself and all. And during that time, you didn't have all of those ACTs and all that stuff. That wasn't even heard of during my time. So I've got a minute and I became a student.
Michael: So this is U of L proper, not the Louisville Municipal College?
Mattie: No this U of L. Municipal had closed. They closed it down because see,when the law was passed through the Brown versus--when that law was passed, that cut out the separations that stopped that mess of separate but equal. So we could go to University of Louisville. Before that, we couldn't go there. We had to go to Municipal College. (Laughs) That was for the black folk.
So I was out there doing fair. It was kind of a little lonely travel becausestill, there was not too many of us. I decided I wanted to work because my mother told me, work. She brought me up knowing how to do. How to work. So there 13:00was a job advertised in a little paper called Administration Assistance, something like that. I thought I was pretty hot stuff. I was a commercial student when I left Central High School and I knew I could type and I could write shorthand. So I said, Well I'm gonna apply for it."
So I did, believe it or not, I got an interview. And that afternoon when I wentover to the Administration Building for my interview, I sat there a few minutes and the gentleman came in and he spoke very nice and all. He picked up my application and he looked he said, "Oh," he says, "Did you fill this out?" And I said, "Yes I did." He says, "Hmm," he said, "I'm gonna need another one." He said, "Can you fill another one out for me?" 14:00
Still it's not dawning on me what's going on. I did. And he said, "You have anice penmanship." I said, "Yes, I've been writing, first year writing ever since I was 5 years old. My mother taught me." And he said, "I'm very bewildered." And you could tell the anxiety was working with him cause he's kind of twisting and turning a little bit.
Then he finally says, "Well," well," he says, "You know," he says, "Theapplication and everything is all right but," I said, "But what?" he says, "Well the you know," he says, "Those ladies out there that--you can't work out there with those ladies. I said, "Well why not?" He says, "Well--ah ah ah you are--you are a Negro." I said, "What are you trying to say?" I said, "Are you trying to 15:00say there's a difference in their money and my mother's hard earned money?" "There's black money, white money." I says, "What you trying to say?"
And he didn't say anything else, he just got up and walked on out of the room.And I got up and I walked out I think I probably slammed the door and everything. I was so upset. My kids said don't tell anybody, but I tell it because that was me. I was so upset until--if I could have made a Molotov cocktail, I would have made it and threw it back in that building, at that time.
So when I got home that night and all, I was just upset, just going through thehouse and I kicked a couple of chairs and moaning and groaning, you know. My mother said, "Let me tell you something. Sit down here." She said, "You're not going to go get anything done walking around kicking chairs." She said, "I don't want my dining room chair kicked, (inaudible 0:15:59.8)." She says, "Now this is 16:00a part of life. This is a part that you're gonna have to go through."
She says, "But you know, you can't go through this all by yourself. And you cankick all the chairs and break them up or break other ones, whatever you wanna do. But it will not heal this problem." She says, "So you need get yourself involved with some people that can help you work through this and understand better what is going on," and she says, "And I recommend to you the NAACP." Well, I said, "Okay."
But before I got connected with the NAACP, I don't know how I met thisgentleman, was named Roosevelt Roberts and he headed up the Black Workers Coalition. And they met on Sunday afternoon over on, I think, Oak Street [and] Virginia, met on Virginia, down around probably 24th. And every 17:00afternoon--Sunday afternoon there was meeting down and I went over and I joined that organization and go involved with them. And I started writing up complaints of workers in plants where they were and they had been misused and amused by this racist system. Now never heard a word racist in the whole short traveling through, trying to get through the world, and I never heard my mother use it.
So I got over there, things were a little bit different. Brother Roberts wouldtalk to us about racism and the differences that whites made between those of us is black. And I know one Sunday afternoon, he'd a lot of time telling us about the word nigger. He said, "That is a word that you will make you destroy your own self."
He says, "I know know you don't like it," he says, "I don't like it, but we got18:00to learn how to deal with it. So that's why we're here. That's why we're called Black Workers Coalition, to help us understand and to work through this system where whites will use one word that can destroy a whole life.
Michael: So hey, your mom been involved in any kind of organizing, like whywould she tell you that you need to do that? Had she been involved in NAACP or anything?
Mattie: No, she hadn't been involved in the NAACP, but she had seen some things.My daddy was from Mississippi. He was Mississippian born and my mother had had some experiences. Now my father was not an educated man, but my mother had had some education. So certain things, one time she said, "My daddy was a sharecropper and he wanted to stay down in Walls, little place called Walls, 19:00Mississippi and work the winter and turn in the cotton in the spring and all. And get paid." So my mother said, "Okay."
She said she decided she would stay in Memphis, he would go to Walls,Mississippi and you know, he'd come home on the weekends sometimes. So she said the first thing that put a bitter taste in her mouth, as she would say, was the white man that owned all the land in Walls, Mississippi would total up with them at the end of the cotton period when they ginned the cotton. He would pay them their pay.
So, but my mother said when dad went down there, that she told him do not buyanything at a Sullivan, I'll never forget this man's name, Sullivan Store. Says 20:00anything that you think you need, you come home, walk up, and he had walked from Walls to Memphis in order if he wanted to get some groceries or something for Mama. And either he had a little money to go buy things--
Michael: How far of a walk is that?
Mattie: I think that is about maybe to the state line would be about 12 or 15 miles.
Michael: Oh okay.
Mattie: So when Daddy went to total up with Sullivan for the work, he told himhe didn't have anything coming. And so happen, my mother was down there that day with him. And my mother spoke up and said, "Why not? He hasn't bought anything in this store and he doesn't owe anything." And he told her, "Girl, you got a little time, not much, to get off of my property." And my mother and father left 21:00there, but nothing walking cause he told Daddy he didn't have no money.
So that, I think put the fire under my mama's feet. And then she belonged toCentral Baptist Church in Memphis and they had hung a black man and placed his heart on Beale Street one year. And my mother led a group of church members and the choir out on Beale Street to tell them that they'd better--oh my goodness. (Persistent doorbell) That they take the black gentleman's heart up out of the middle of the street.
Michael: So you kind of inherited that fire--
Mattie: So I kind of inherited standing up and speaking out from my mother.
Michael: So how long were you part of the Black Worker's Coalition?22:00
Mattie: I guess I was there, maybe a couple of years.
Michael: So did housing come up at all? Or do you just dealing with employment issues?
Mattie: We dealt with employment issues. And then I got an invitation to come toanother organization, the Kentucky Alliance. That was right after the freedom of Angela Davis. After Angela was freed, where we met in Chicago, we decided--
Michael: Is this the early'70s, or?
Mattie: Yes, that's when we decided that there were other political prisonersand other issues that needed to be addressed. So working with the Alliance, I became involved in housing discrimination, job discrimination, police brutality, all the legs and feet that they put on our necks that kept us from moving forward.
Michael: So how did the Alliance get started?
Mattie: Well the Alliance there were some folk in New York that, I don't know if23:00they knew Angela or they knew the injustices that was taking place there at that court hearing. They organized all over the country for freedom for Angela Davis. After Angela was freed, this group of people met in Chicago, we met in Chicago, and Angela came to thank the people for all of their help.
And at the time too, one of the people that helped her, I did not know, thatAretha Franklin made that bond for Angela. She wanted to thank the people and after she spoke and all, there was a woman there by the name of Charlene Mitchell. Charlene says, "We cannot stop because we got the victory of freeing 24:00Angela. So there are a lot of political prisoners. So that we must organize and get this fight going."
At that time, it was just, what they call them, National Alliance Against RacismPolitical Repression. There was not an alliance here after we'd made that decision, so when I came back, Anne Braden, Anne was there. Anne Braden and myself and several others, we decided that we would do chapters. We talked to Charlene about it and we began to do chapters, and those chapters just boomed all over the country.
Every state name had a chapter, had an alliance chapter, and we began to do workaround housing, anything that was discriminatory toward a person because of 25:00their color or because of their religion, we began to work--take those issues up.
Michael: So what was the housing situation like for blacks in Louisville at thetime, cause we had gone through--there had been the uprising, the demonstrations in '68 after King's death and then urban renewal also.
Mattie: Well we had to march to get what we call the Open Housing Law, becausewe only had certain neighborhoods we could live in. And we had certain streets that didn't want to--but white people didn't want to be living on that had--and black people living there and the same street name. That's one of the reasons you see here now these streets with double barrel names? 26:00
Michael: Like River Park and Chestnut?
Mattie: Yes, white people was right here on River Park. Nice (inaudible0:26:07.1) right to the park and blacks were at Chestnut. Then certain areas of this city, not only could we move in, we could not move in that area and we couldn't walk in that area.
Michael: So was it like official discrimination or was it something that wasjust unsaid but--
Mattie: No it wasn't unsaid, it was official. It was not unsaid because if ithad to been unsaid, there would have been more of us moving in and renting and trying to buy. We knew, it was like a law on the book that this is your place. That's why it had to be challenged. Was not a good law, for us. 27:00
Michael: So when'd you get involved in open housing?
Mattie: It was due to the time we began the demonstrations in the '60s. When webegan to demonstrate for open housing and public accommodation. You see, both of those two went together because there was no place for us to even get a meal. If you went to White Castle, yes you could go order it, but you had to go through the back door and they throw it out to you like you was the puppy dog.
And you couldn't live--I couldn't live here and I couldn't walk through thisneighborhood. I better not be caught in this neighborhood. The Shawnee Park was the same way. I better not be caught in Shawnee Park.
All of those laws had to be changed and they were changed through thedemonstrations that taking place. But there's still that institutionalized stuff that they have made kind of more sophisticated. There's still some of it's going on. Just like the redlining of certain areas. That's almost like I can't move 28:00here. And that issue's gonna have to be dealt with very deeply with these insurance companies.
Michael: Like home insurance and--
Mattie: Home insurance, the car insurance, renter's insurance, all of that. Theyhave a certain sophisticated, they think, that will prohibit, discourage blacks from wanting to live.
Michael: So in the '60s, where were the places where black people could live?
Mattie: Well as I said, after you leave 30th, you're on Chestnut. They couldlive Chestnut going east as far as probably, I would say, Shelby Street. Or maybe not that far, maybe Clay. Because where the university hospital sits now, 29:00that was all an African American neighborhood.
Then West Louisville, then they had over in the Parkland area, now 28th Street,all that area in there they call Parkla, that was our neighborhood. And it was just like the country, when you got to certain areas out in the DuValle area, what they're calling DuValle. And there was a gathering there of blacks. They had patches, I would say.
Michael: Is that the area they called Little Africa?
Mattie: Yes. They had names for them, they called up Little African area. And30:00Smoketown. They had them named so that you knew who was there.
Michael: What about Russell? Was it called Russell then? I talked to someoneelse who just said--just called it the West End.
Mattie: That's it. Because I graduated from Madison Junior High there, 18th andMadison, 1947. And it was rust, it was just Walnut Street, 18th and Walnut and not just specifically saying--it didn't have a certain name, like Smoketown and West Louisville.
Michael: You think that's cause it was so close to downtown? It's kind of likethe West End of downtown?
Mattie: I guess they--they knew their boundaries. They knew their boundaries toidentify where we were. And sometimes things slips through the cracks. So maybe 31:00Russell kind of slipped the crack. But there were black schools in the Russell area. But they had designated areas where we live.
Now my mother, when they called it white flight, in the '50s, the late '50s,whites began to leave if a black person came into their neighborhood. My mother was the first African American person to purchase a home on 28th Street, between Kentucky and Garland--no, Kentucky and Greenwood. She purchased that home in 1951, the year I graduated. That's when I left the East End. 32:00
Michael: And did you move there, or was it--
Mattie: We moved there. We were the only black family on the block. From I wouldsay Market Street all the way over to Virginia Avenue plus.
Michael: And so, did this cause tension with your neighbors?
Mattie: No tension, because they're moving out every day, as fast as possible.(Laughter) And the stores that--that neighborhood--and you know, sometimes I walk through that neighborhood and I shed tears. To know what is used to be. The beautiful homes that was on that street and in that section, up in the area they call Parkland, there were stores, dry good stores, grocery stores, all kinds of stores.
There were greenhouses, there were two florists, there was the bank, everythingwas right in there. And they began to ease out little by little as African 33:00Americans moved in. So because when my mother moved in, the stores didn't carry anything, the grocery store there, Gavin's Grocery, it didn't carry anything but a round steak and T-bone steaks, and center cut bacon, and see, my mother was southern born, she liked neck bones, she liked pig feet, pig tails, you know, that kind of stuff, and chicken.
So she'd have to get on the bus and ride all the way up to Preston andJefferson, what they did and they called the Haymarket to purchase her food and get back on the bus and come back down to 28th Street. Now, what changed things in that community, things that changed things was when they had the riots in the 34:00'60s. That they said we burned down our own stores. No, we didn't own anything on 28th Street. Everything remained white in businesses that got our monies.
Michael: You had talked before in another time I talked to you about on FortStreet, like if you tried on a hat in a store, they would make you put something over your head if you're black--
Mattie: Oh they put newspaper, they put a piece of newspaper over your head orwhen you sit down, they cover your head up.
Michael: And this is just the black patrons?
Mattie: Yes, just the blacks. My mother went in there to get her a Hollywood hatbox to get her a hat for Sunday. Southern women always wore hats on Sunday. So she went in there to get her a new hat and she sit there and the woman came over and put this newspaper all on her head and was getting ready to try to put this hat on her head. And my mother moved some kind of way, and it knocked the paper 35:00off her head and knocked the lady out of the way too, accidentally on purpose. (Laughter)
The sales lady hit the floor and that was the kind of treatment we got on FortStreet. I wonder what they call one year Chesterfield Coat. And my mother carried me to Kaufman's Stores. There was not place for you to try on these--you could not, no, that was mandatory, no. In so many words, you a negro and you not gonna try anything in our store.
So there were challenges that went along with housing. You had certain place tolive, you had certain things you could do, certain things you could buy if you 36:00wanted to buy like they wanted to treat you. During that time, we were treated very obviously as to know that you are a negro and you don't have any business with us white folk.
Michael: What was the reaction to black community to urban renewal when theytore down a lot of, you know, black neighborhoods, institutions that served black people, that build hospitals and parking lots?
Mattie: Well, when urban renewal came through, which they called it urbanrenewal, I called it black folks removal. I think there was a lot of commitments made to the black business people that never happened. What they do, they did make that but it never happened. And there were not--I think it was done so quickly and talked in so smoothly that it kind of closed our eyes that we would 37:00never be able to have businesses again on Walnut Street, which is our Muhammed Ali.
Because every business on that street was black-owned, from 6th Street on down.Oh I would say 5th Street, because Dr. Sweeney who was black, he owned from 5th on down to 6th Street. He had a--in fact, I think his dental office was there, that's Sweeney. And the rest of the businesses were beautiful nightclubs, beautiful soul food restaurants to eat, and they talk about what the young folks 38:00did at Derby here several years ago. We did that on Walnut Street. That was our Derby. That was our Churchill Downs.
Because we would have entertainers like Bill Epstein and Sarah Vaughan, and oneof the prettiest nightclubs in the country, they said, was a place they called The Top Hat. So we had thriving business--it was a thriving black neighborhood. And we didn't have to ask can we go over to see you all, because we didn't want to go.
We had everything, we had right there. And I think too people think that thereason all of this taking place, the reason that we said, "No more separation, that we're not gonna be treated like third and fourth class citizens," it was not because we just wanted to be integrated with white. It was because we didn't want that foot on our neck that say, "Hey you can't cross this line," or "You can't do this," and we are citizens, we are taxpayers, but still, they had those 39:00kind of boundaries for us. We wanted to break the boundaries.
We didn't want those laws are saying what we can do and what we can't do and thestruggle that our fore parents had to build this country. Don't tell me I can't walk down River Park because it's an all-white neighborhood. I get beat up, arrested, or whatever they felt like doing to us. So when the rides came up on in the '60s on 28th Street, it really wasn't really a ride ride. And the truth of that was not really told because that was not a--Stokely Carmichael was supposed to have came. But instead of Stokely coming, can't recall the gentleman's name now, he came.
But the police and all was out there and they were just ready, as if to say, "I40:00know you all are gonna act up." So while this gentleman that came, I can't recall his name now, know it as well as I know my name, but while he was making his speech--getting ready to make his speech, we had some little kids, pretty bad kids in the neighborhood, they had gotten themselves on the roof of the store that was there at 28th and Greenwood.
And one of them, Ernestine's oldest kid, he set off a firecracker. The policethought it was gunshot. They went crazy. I'm there on the corner standing with Father Charles B. Tachau, and I told Father, I said, "We better go." And that's when all of the--when the police started, the folks got angry. They just started 41:00going wild, breaking up stuff and rioting.
Michael: Was there a lot of tension already because Dr. King and--
Mattie: It was, because--there was a lot of tension because, you know, StokelyCarmichael was not a favorite. The police at that time was--I think they were nervous and upset too, because I'm sure they knew who Stokely was. The tension was there. You could kind of feel it.
MichaelAnd how was the neighborhood different after that?
Mattie: Everything disappeared. Everything disappeared. The neighborhood beganto go down slowly, slowly, and you can see now what it is. With only any kind of comeback I have seen, it's been there to care, they took over the grocery store. More businesses never came back to Parkland area. 42:00
Michael: Why do you think that is?
Mattie: Well one, when all of that happened, and whites began to go other placesto their own neighborhoods, if you will, they were upset too, the power to be, so they just let it deteriorate and knowing that we were not on an economic pedestal that could replace and they made nothing available for us to replace.
I think they're thinking now, I heard something about they're gonna try to dosome economic development into that neighborhood. But my God, look how long it has been? The same as West Louisville. Look how long it has been before we got 43:00anything that looks like the track. Before we got anything that looked like the Kroger Store, the Y, look how many years that it's taken to get those steps.
Michael: So when you first started with the alliance, you said you met AnneBraden, and had you heard of her before?
MattieOh yeah, uh hm. Yes.
Michael: So you know all about the situation with the Wades and the house in Shively?
Mattie: Oh yeah, they had had and how they would associate me, if I'd been intothat organization. I was told that I would be called a Communist. And one time, I ran for public office and they made mention that I was connected with Anne Braden and that I was a Communist.
And I told him, I said, "Well you know one thing? If standing up for what's44:00right, I am a Communist." I said, "And you know you all got to be pretty dumb to let a Communist run for public office here in America, right here in Louisville, a Communist. Since you all have defined the Communists as being such a bad thing. Somebody doesn't have good sense. Because I ran for public office."
Michael: Did you meet Louis Coleman around the same time as you met Anne?
Mattie: No, Louis is young. (Laughs) Louis is young. His mother and father wereour neighbors when I lived over on Grand, he was still at Kentucky State, still being bad, sill stealing watermelons and running through the alley over on Grant, so. (Laughs) But he came out of college with a good determination. And that's why that he worked so hard and so steady that he didn't even take care of his own self.
I believe that he could have lived a little bit longer if he had just taken careof his health. I would tell him, he'd call me, "Sister Jones, what's on the 45:00agenda for tomorrow--today?" I said, "Well Reverend," I said, "You have a doctor's appointment at 11." "Oh sister, call him and tell him I can't make it till about 6 because I got to go to Oransborough. I got to go to this place." I said, "Reverend, you cannot do that. You don't make your own appointments with your doctor, you have to use his time."
"Well Sister Jones, I," so finally his doctor said, "Miss Jones, just tellReverend that whenever he can get here, tell him to come on in. I'll work him in." And that was sometime very seldom he'd just go. At 2 o'clock in the morning, 3 o'clock in the morning, if you called Reverend Coleman, he'd come out. His mother wanted him to be a teacher. He wanted to be a professional ball player. But God wanted him to be what he was. How he helped the people. (Cough, 46:00excuse me) And the contribution that he made to make this city a better city.
Michael: And so, well you're so identified with both Anne and him. It's likeyou're the three of you are connected--
Mattie: (Inaudible 0:46:12.0). We were together.
Michael: And so, when did the three of you start doing things together?
Mattie: I started with Anne when I became a part of the Kentucky Alliance.
Michael: And this is like, when was Angela Davis freed, was this like '73 or--
Mattie: '73, uh hm. And with Reverend Coleman, I had been to New York and thatwas in '90. I went to New York to work for an organization to do some organizing for them, called FOR.
Michael: What's that stand for?
Mattie: When I came back, Reverend Coleman asked me if I would help. So I47:00started working--well really, we all worked at those two together, the Justice Resource and the Kentucky Alliance, we worked together.
Michael: What was the organization you went to New York for, the FOR?
Mattie: Fellowship of Reconciliation.
Michael: Okay. So that's--and so, how'd you hook up with them? How'd that happen?
Mattie: Because one of the--I call him one of the best. He's one of the bestwhite persons, understand racism and understood the duties and the jobs of white people, was George Edwards, Dr. George Edwards. He was a professor out to the Theological Seminary. George and his wife worked together, George and Jean Edwards was how I got to New York.
Michael: So when you and Anne first got together in '73, you said you dealt withhousing and-- 48:00
Mattie: Police brutality, discrimination in the workplace, we were just--and wehad committees evenly dealt with racism in the prison system.
Michael: So is that the period when you would say that the black communitybecame kind of the over policed? Cause you talk about the tension that happened that sparked the riots?
Mattie: You know, black people have always been overcome, overshadowed bypolice. And I said this when the Taylor case came up, my Sister Taylor.
Michael: Is that James Taylor?
Mattie: No, Breonna, little Sister Breonna Taylor.
Michael: Oh Breonna Taylor. Oh (inaudible 0:48:52.3).
Mattie: When her case--that had been happening. If they didn't beat them to49:00death in the jail, they beat them to death on the streets before they arrested them and carried them to jail. So that's been going on as long as--longer than I got fingers and toes. But we did not--we were not prepared, if you will, to deal with it like we can deal with it now. The understanding and the belief in ourselves had been crushed down so that we were afraid to speak out and speak loud. They've gotten away a whole lot of things that is just as bad.
The first case we dealt with here in Louisville that the city was made to paywas the case of Fred Harris. Another case we dealt with wasn't police brutality, but it was dealing with housing. Young sister bought a home--rented a home or 50:00something out in Dallas Station. And they burnt a heck of a cross in her front yard. And we had to go there and--
Michael: Is that you and Anne, or?
Mattie: Anne, yes. Anne Braden and Tom Moffitt, my brother Bob Cunningham--
Michael: And what year was this?
Michael: Do you remember when this was that you had to do that?
Mattie: Ah, that was in the late '70s.
Michael: Oh, okay.
Mattie: That we had to go out there. She was a musician's sister. He played theguitar, I can't think of his name now, but he was a blues singer. So, you know, when what happened to Breonna, it just--it called upon a new day. White people's 51:00conscience rose up and young African Americans got up off of their can and they began to demand. But the only thing I say to those young people, don't leave out old school, cause we could have informed you that you were gonna be infiltrated.
There's infiltration in every movement that comes about. Whereas we werepeaceful, they were peaceful and demanding, rightfully for justice. There were others that came in that wasn't, that started the rioting, the breaking up, and the stealing. There are folks that are paid to tear up the movement. So that is the only thing I say to them: "Don't forget old school." We can inform you and 52:00help you understand some of the things that's going on, that will happen.
And it also, we also can tell you how to conduct yourselves when you're in theprotest movement. Cause we were trained. Dr. King did not let us just hit the street. I went to a place called New Market, Tennessee, where I got my training of how to do, what to do, how to react. Because we're not at the end of a Breonna Taylor. It's not over. Housing discrimination is not over. Look at the money, see they've got an economic movement going. They're coming through neighborhoods and they're buying homes and they're doing that Section 8. There's no guidelines to it. There-- 53:00
Michael: I was gonna ask you about that. That a lot of people felt that BreonnaTaylor's killing was somehow tied to the revitalization effort going on in Russell. Because the police unit that was executing the warrants was a place based, and it was kind of focused on the block that was slated to be revitalized. And so, you feel like there's a connection between what's going on now with the housing and some of the other things that we're seeing?
Mattie: I don't. Because I feel like, from my experience, in all black54:00neighborhoods, police has been doing this many, many years. Not just one particular settlement of us. Anywhere there is progression going on in a little black community, as they call it, our little black spot, then they seek out not only the police, there are others that seek out to destroy. And racists. The Klan you notice, the Klan is not marching anymore.
They don't have to scuffle money to get their sheets and their hoods out of thelaundry. They have become a little bit educated. They've gotten themselves on the police force. They've gotten themselves with the black robe on sitting in the courtroom. They're on the fire trucks, you know. So and they creeped in. They're in our big colleges. They're changing around, they don't say that will 55:00not admit us. They won't admit us as many blacks, but that institutionalized racism is still in neighborhoods.
I had a grandson that got off and was walking through a neighborhood to get tohis job. And when he knew anything, there's four police cars behind him. And this beautiful, maybe $400,000 homes, he was out there working for, I think, Papa John's on--I think that's where they were working on. And that morning about 7 when he knew anything, there were these police behind him that pulled him over. Because he was walking in a white neighborhood. Tell me it's all over, no it's not. The battle has not been won. And it won't be won in my day. 56:00
Michael: You were saying you had some training? Were you involved with Dr.King's movement? Did you ever get to meet him?
Mattie: Oh yeah. Oh, Martin the III is sitting right here, Bernie's been righthere, Dr. C.T. Vivian, Fred Shuttlesworth, all of them has been in this old place. And then, I would work with them. When he come in town sometimes he'd stay at Anne Braden's home. And as I told you, when I first met him, I was on 28th Street and I was at the home of Senator, I still call her my Senator, Georgia Davis Powers.
Michael: And she was big in the open housing movements--
Mattie: Yes. Sometime I did walking right beside her.
Michael: When did you move to River Park?
Mattie: When did I come here, 19--it was in the early part of the '70s.
Michael: Okay. And so had this area become a black neighborhood then?57:00
Mattie: Just about, it was maybe about--I bought from a white family. And Ibelieved this white family, she was very true. She had gotten disgusted. They were country people, she and her husband, and they were elderly people. They had a son and his wife, and they were totally dissatisfied with them. They were living upstairs, and all. And they wanted to go back to the country. So that's why they were sold.
The lady next door, she was white. She stayed until she passed, and one of mydaughters became very close to her. The next house was white, and she was very religious person and she stayed until she passed away. But to show you how the neighborhood has changed, I'm the oldest one on this block. The longest liver on this block. 58:00
All the rest of them are children--some of them are children to the owner. Butas being original home buyers, I'm the oldest one. And I'm seeing the neighborhood change. I've seen my homeowner's insurance go up, because I look here next door, bless his heart, the white agent, lives out by Southeast Christian Church. Look at the property?
I've called him several times and I'm not knocking Section 8. Every person inthis country needs a place to live. There is no need to tell me about homeless. You can move them out of the tents, but you can't secure housing for them. As many of these houses, you talk about, "Oh we can't find a landlord." Well yes you can. Well if you can't find him, then you've got a law in the book that you can take that property. What's that, endo domain or something, so-- 59:00
Michael: Eminent domain.
Mattie: Yeah, so you can take that property. But when you get it, people have tohave incentives and training. You take someone been on a tent for two, three years or a year. They're not gonna know how to upkeep that house, how to upkeep the yard, how to plant flowers, housekeeping. Help them. Develop that pride and that sense of being in a neighborhood. They haven't been in a neighborhood where they could see someone come out and say, "Good morning," and see all clean surroundings.
You can't just throw them in a house and say, "Here." So Section 8 is good, butSection 8 must put some more bearings--you put bearings on the tenant. Put some 60:00bearings on that landlord, that all he does is collect the money the first of every month. Or if you're light and gas go off, then take you off your program. That's not the way. Make them comfortable in a neighborhood.
Make the people that have scuffled that went to the bank for 30 years down onthe corner to make their mortgage payment, and then they come back to find that your homeowner's insurance goes up. Anything you attempt to do, if you say you live in a certain section, they look at the housing and all and they make your payments and whatever you have, they redline you and upscale you too, unbelievable.
Michael: So are you concerned about the revitalization efforts, about theoutside--people outside the community wanting to buy up houses? 61:00
Mattie: I do. I take issue with them. You wanna buy the house, oh yes, uh huh.You live way out in eastern part of Louisville out by Southeast Christian Church and all that, blanking and baking and all out there in your comfort zone. But you come to our area and you buy up these houses. You turn them in to boarding homes, rooming houses, and residential property for low-income renters.
But that's all you do. You rent to them. You take that money, but you don't donothing else. You get the homeowners upset because you don't do anything to keep the property in shape.
Michael: And Beecher Terraces are going become a mixed income community. Do youworry that black people won't be able to get back into that space? 62:00
Mattie: They're gonna get back into their spots, some of them. And I do agreethat when we had Beecher Terrace that certain folks could not come and live with you, and you tolerated and they continue to bring down the neighborhood. I think that the--in order to keep people from being homeless that has once lived in those places, they must have an understanding.
They must, you know, before people move in, there should be lessons, sit thereand listen to what the ownership is saying. And helping you develop the pride in your homes. Now I don't like too much of that kind of close living. I'm trying 63:00to find the beauty in Beecher.
Michael: And another issue that's come up a lot with housing has been theschools, because a lot of it is tied to where you live. Until recently, most black kids were bused. I was bused from the California neighborhood. I always went to school outside my community. And so do you think that's impacted the community relationship?
Mattie: Sure, well do you hear them say, oh we're going down to West Louisville.They're economically deprived. Smoketown, economically. What are you talking about economically deprived? That's the way they label us. They label us according to where we live. That's no mistake why we all bused. There's no mistake why a majority of us is falling apart and being warehoused in the 64:00Jefferson County Public School System.
Take West Louisville, here are several, several years ago when they had asuperintendent that came into Louisville by the name of Newman Walker. And all West End schools that he put in a program called "Focus Impact," kids could do their own thing. If you wanted to play--shoot craps over in the corner, didn't not do your lesson, you could. And the teacher standing up in front of her class looking and (inaudible 01:04:36). All right, right after they fired Dr. Walker, along comes busing.
Now those kids have not been prepared. I did not let my kids go in, I'm notproud to say it and I hate it, but I saw what was happening and my husband and I said, "Nah uh, we can't let our kids go there." So we bused our own kids. There 65:00was a gentleman that was over pupil personnel called Stu Sanderson. He would help me transfer my children to East End white schools. From elementary school, my kids graduated from some of them. Graduated from Belknap, up Sils Avenue and Bardstown Road, that's where I drove every day, twice a day. From Belknap, they went to Highland Junior High. From Highland, they went to Atherton.
Michael: Is that because you didn't feel like the--
Mattie: The Focus Impact was not for my kids. Because you don't do your ownthing in the school system. I'm like my mom. You do my thing. So I can understand if you get a D in a subject and your grade and conduct and all is 66:00A's. I feel like that you didn't understand, or you may have been too embarrassed to ask your teacher.
So that's when I'm gonna deal with you. But when you come home you got a D, yougot D and it's not satisfactory in your conduct and all that other stuff you're supposed to be doing right, that's when I deal with you in a different voice, in a different way. So because they were telling the kid they had this memo marker with this Focus Impact, we knew right away that you wasn't gonna do your own thing. And they were not in the schools where I told you I sent my children. The Focus Impact was Shawnee--
Michael: So what does Focus Impact mean? It was a--
Mattie: This was the name of the program that they--was the name he gave it,Focus Impact.
Mattie: All kids don't want to do--don't want to sit there and do their work atthe desk. I can understand that. But you don't do what you want to do. You can't 67:00come in my classroom and shoot craps or sit up in there and do whatever you want to do. You make way to find out what that interest could be. They all vocational.
Michael: So you think that the standards for black students were lower--
Mattie: Much lower, much lower. Why do you think the largest number of childrenbeing suspended from JCPS is black kids? Why do you think we so far behind? Cause of our color. I had one teacher, a white teacher, the kids was giving reports on where they spent the summer, I think. And one of my kids, all my kids is, got kind of lazy doing history. 68:00
To do the shortest way out, they would do their grandfather which was thefounder of Piney Woods Country Life School, not the Lawrence C. Jones. They knew all about the history so they didn't have to do no studying or nothing, they just write to get it together. This kid, she gave the story about spending the summer down at her grandfather's school and all and what all went on, all this and the other.
So the teacher told her, "Cynthia," she said, "You tell such a good story. I'mgonna let you have some more time tomorrow. Ha-ha-ha, it's sure funny." When Cynthia got home, she was almost crying and she told me, she said to me what the teacher had said. I said, "Okay, Nuh-uh, bring yourself here. Take some more time tomorrow." So I let her get pictures of her with her grandfather, the school, the history and all, and when she got back that next morning, she asked the teacher, and I'm standing outside the door where they cannot see me.
Could she have a little bit more time, she wanted to finish up her project,teacher. "Ha-ha, you're so amazing Cynthia. You're so amazing. Yes, you can have 69:00some more time." When Cynthia got up and started spreading all these pictures and things out in the history of the school, and her with her grandpa and all of this, the teacher's mouth just almost dropped. That's when I opened the door and I told her. I said, "You're no teacher. Even if you didn't believe it, you don't crucify a child." "Oh, please, I need my job."
I said, "No you don't. You need some training. Cause you know I'm going straightto the board and am asking for you to dismiss her. Because the same way you treated her, if a Jewish child would come in here, you'd probably do the same when they begin to talk about Holocaust, or how their parents went through 70:00certain issues or their grandparents." I said, "No." So we finally got her into some diversity training and all, she turned out pretty well. I kept track of her for a couple of years or so. But these are the things that hurt us the most is the unseen things that we see they do, that we don't see it coming and we don't see the effect both ways, immediately and after effects of how this blocks our children.
Housing, look at our children that's in shelters that have to get off the bus atthe homeless shelter. How does that child feel when another kid, and kids are very cruel, they don't meant to be, but they're cruel. But they ridicule this child. How come you're not thinking about another way this child can get home 71:00besides getting off the bus in front of a homeless shelter? Why don't you sit down in the morning if that kid comes in and that kid is kind of out of socket and all, that we don't have a psychologist that works with the school, or a therapist that works in the school that this kid can talk to.
And you can find out definitely why that they're not getting the academicsstudies up in here because there's something that's more serious right then and there that's blocking this child's knowledge. Don't just send him home and get him out of the school system. All of this reflects back to the housing, the parents, the respect. (Persistent doorbell)
Michael: (Laughs) I think we're about finished up, anyway.72:00
Mattie: Oh God, I hope I've been helpful. I get long winded, so I get to talkingabout the things that are happening to us today, you know, and for us to think that, "Oh yes we got it made, because I can go out on Bardstown Road and buy a home, or because I can sit behind a big desk and have an executive title." Oh no. No it's not over, it's not over for us. We've made that possible for you through our struggle. And our struggle shall never be forgotten.
The same as the Jewish brothers and sisters. They will always let you know aboutthe Holocaust. Some of us are ashamed to talk about slavery. "Oh no, my grandparents wasn't no slaves. My so and so wasn't no slaves." You're a slave now.
I had that experience out to the prison and I was talking about slavery, Italked about the New Day Slave. And this gentleman said, this gentleman said to 73:00me, he says, "Ma'am," I said, "Yes," "I want to let you know I'm not not slave. I ain't never picked no cotton." I said, "Yes, that's true." I said, "But please, would you get me a drink of water?" "Oh, I can't get up and go you any water because I have to ask Captain if I can go." "What's it you're not a slave? I can get up here and get me a drink of water, go anywhere I want to go right now. Can you do that?"
"Uh, uh," I said, "You don't have to pick cotton to be a slave, Little Brother.You a slave right now in a white man's prison. You do what he say do, you sit when he say sit, you eat when he say eat." He broke down and cried. He said, "I never thought of it." And several other guys began to really think. I said, "Don't keep using this door as a swinging door." So housing plays a major part, 74:00and I'm glad you're working on housing, it plays a major part, they look at you where you live and how you live.
Michael: All right, thank you.