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KENNETH L. CHUMBLEY: The date is August 25, 1978. I'm talking this morning with Mrs. Amelia Ray as part of our Black Oral History Project. [Tape shuts off, then resumes] Mrs. Ray, you said you were going to be, in a few short weeks, seventy-nine. If you'll just return now to 1899, the year you were born, and just begin there by telling me something about your first recollections of you parents, grandparents, and --

MRS. AMELIA RAY: Well, I don't remember any of my grandparents because I never saw any of them.

KC: Uh-humm.

AR: My maternal grandmother was a slave in Tennessee. My great-grandmother was sold away from -- see, that is my great-grandmother and my grandmother. They 1:00were both slaves in Tennessee but my great-grandmother was sold away from my grandmother when my grandmother was just five years old. She went away with a baby girl in her arms. My grandmother could remember seeing her mother -- she was riding on a horse -- two men came for her and brought an extra horse for her to ride. She watched her mother as far as she could and she rode up a hill and then there was some kind of plateau like and the horses went fast over it and her braids were jangling! They went down the hill and she never saw or heard of her mother and the sister, anymore. Her father had been sold before her mother 2:00was sold away, and that left my grandmother, for whom I'm named, completely alone.

KC: Her name was Amelia Cooksie?

AR: Her name was Amelia, uh-huh. Yes. Now I never saw, as I say, any of my grandparents. My father died when I was five years old. It seems like those fives runs along --

KC: Yeah.

AR: It was just my mother and myself then for three years.

KC: Did you hear about your grandmother, though, and her mother from your mother or from your father or. . . .

AR: No. Well, in slavery time, the slaves took the name of the land or the slave 3:00owner, but my great-grandmother was Cooksie. All that I really know about my grandparents is what my mother told me.

KC: I see.

AR: My grandmother, the type of marriage that they had then, she was finally a Parchman.

KC: A what?

AR: A Parchman. Parchman. P-A-R-C-H-M-A-N.

KC: The name?

AR: Yes. My grandmother. Now we've talked about my great-grandmother. My great-grandmother was . . . I told you how she was sold away, but I think she was probably -- they originally sold her, from what I can remember that my mother said, she seemed to have been the type person that didn't make a very satisfactory slave, in that she would work, but she wouldn't permit anyone to hit her.

KC: Hummm?

AR: If anyone struck her, she'd fight back. And they sold her to what -- I don't 4:00know whether that's the correct term for it, but Mama always said they sold her to the speculators. That's the two men that came for her, you know.

KC: Uh-humm.

AR: Of course, I don't know what happened as to why they sold my great-grandfather, but he was sold before she was. When it came down to my grandmother, Amelia, she was left all by herself when she was five years old because her mother was sold away from her. Through the years, all that she had that she could call her own, and I showed that to Mr. Pediatore (?) was a little glass (?) slipper. She found that in her sack of grain she was preparing to take to the mill. She could take the corn to be ground at the mill. She took this slipper to her mistress and she permitted her to keep it, and that was her sole 5:00possession. Years later, when she was finally freed, all she had was that slipper and what few rags she had on her back.

KC: She spent most of her life in Tennessee?

AR: Yes, and she died in Tennessee. Getting to my father and my mother, my father didn't know his mother. Now that's paternal. We're talking about paternal parents now.

KC: Right.

AR: His father, my paternal grandfather, was kind of a renegade or somebody in the family. He had been away from the family for years and nobody knew anything about it. They thought of him as being dead. They didn't hear from him. And he came back to the plantation and my father was a little boy, a little more than 6:00three years old. He could remember his father wading across a creek that was between the road and the plantation, carrying him in his arms. He carried him back to the old home place and told his sister that he was sick. The other members of the family had passed on and it was just his sister, Aunt Arabella they called her, living. He told her he had come home to die and would she keep this boy. He said "This is my son and you keep him," but he died before he'd told where he'd been or what the child's mother was. . . .

KC: Huh!

AR: So my father never knew who his mother was or where she was or anything, if he had any sisters or brothers. He didn't know that. So, she reared him. My 7:00father, I don't remember -- his features have gone from me. I don't have a picture of him even.

KC: Hummm.

AR: And I can't remember too much about him. The most I remember . . . I didn't like for him to kiss me because he has whiskers or a mustache and I didn't like that. But he died when I was five years old. From then on it was just my mother and myself and the going wasn't too easy because, my mother being the child of a slave, she had no formal training. I often wondered how she learned to read, but she did. She could read, and I recall when I was a small child, she used to read to me this poem called "The Little Sandpiper and I." There were pictures of a little girl on the beach, picking up driftwood and wondering where this little 8:00bird would spend the night. And some other simple stories that she would read to me, And for three years it was just Mother and myself. She passed away in 1954.

KC: You were born in Tennessee, then?

AR: Yes, uh-huh.

KC: How long did you and your mother stay in Tennessee? Did you stay long?

AR: My mother remained in Tennessee. She died in Tennessee. I remained in Tennessee until about 1921, somewhere along in there, and then I began going out. I first came into Kentucky, I believe, in 1921, to Western Kentucky.

KC: What part of the state of Tennessee did you live in?


AR: Clarksville.

KC: Clarksville? What part is . . . I'm not familiar with Tennessee, so you'll have to tell me where that is.

AR: Well, it's not too far from Louisville. It's about thirteen miles from the Kentucky line, from Bretherton (?), Kentucky. I don't know what direction it would be from here, but it isn't too far from, Clarksville, Tennessee is not too far from Louisville. It's just thirteen miles from the Kentucky line.

KC: How did your mother and you survive?

AR: My mother did housework, laundry work, housework, that was the type of work that she knew to do.

KC: Did you have any brothers and sisters?

AR: No.

KC: So it was just your mother and you?

AR: I had a half-brother, and a sister too. I say half or step, but they died 10:00when they were small.

KC: Where did you go to school in Tennessee?

AR: I went to school in Clarksville, I went to Franklin Street School. [Pause]

KC: That was grammar school?

AR: I beg your pardon.

KC: That was grammar school?

AR: No. It was junior high school, really. It only went as far as the ninth grade.

KC: Uh-huh. What was the school like?

AR: I beg your pardon.

KC: What was the school like? What was the school like?

AR: Maybe there's something wrong with my ears. I'm sorry. I didn't quite understand you.

KC: What was the school like? Was it a large school?

AR: Oh. It was the elementary and the so-called high school department, all in 11:00one building. It was a lean-to kind of a brick building. No library, as I recall, we didn’t have any library, and down through the years, there was a bond issue. I don't know whether I've talked about this… or not, but anyway planned to build new schools for the white students. Well, their schools to start with were much better than our schools and we decided that, I say we, the black people decided that unless there was something included in the plan to do something about the black school, why they would vote against this effort to 12:00build a white school, and so they did. It failed. And the next time this same proposition was presented, why some measure or steps was taken to do something about the black school. So that time, everything went over all right. They built a school for the blacks, but unfortunately I was away then. I didn't get to attend that. But it looks very much like Central High School. I suppose the plan is about the same. They named the school for a black doctor there, Dr. Robert T. Burke, which is unusual, he was living at the time.

KC: Uh-hummm.

AR: But they named the school for him. What else would you want to know about the school?


KC: Well, just -- were there many black kids going to school with you? That was a junior high, you say?

AR: Yes. It wasn't a junior high because -- they only had the ninth grade. That's as far...

KC: As far as it went?

AR: Uh-huh. They were all black children.

KC: Right, but were there many with you? Did most black children your age, go to school or did they mostly work at home?

AR: No. They went to school.

KC: Yeah.

AR: Yes, they went to school. And as I look back over it, I'm pretty sure their training then was much superior to what they get nowadays because the children there, the students at that time in the fifth and sixth grade, were doing decimal fractions, that sort of thing. Mental arithmetic.


KC: Uh-huh.

AR: I don't think that's used anymore now in school.

KC: You're pretty satisfied then with the kind of education you received?

AR: Well, no. Not completely. At the time, I didn't know to think about it, but when I think now, civics wasn't taught.

KC: Uh-huh.

AR: We weren't taught [?]. Looking back over it, I don't think too much of it, but now when it comes to the basics of spelling and reading and writing and arithmetic, there was much stress placed on that, but not too much on history and not anything on civics.

KC: Were your teachers good teachers? Well-trained teachers?

AR: Yes. In the main they were good teachers. I remember my first teacher. He was excellent. Most of the teachers I studied under were, I'd say, good 15:00teachers. I can think of one or two that, in retrospect, didn't measure up, but in the main they were very thorough in what they were teaching.

KC: Uh-huh. They seemed devoted to their profession?

AR: Yes.

KC: What was their attitude?

AR: They were dedicated. I would say they were dedicated.

KC: So you finished up the ninth grade there and what happened at that time? What did you do when you left school?

AR: Well, when I left school, I got married. [Laughs.] But I didn't stop there. Now I did some study by correspondence course. I finally finished high school by 16:00attending night high school classes.

KC: In Tennessee or was it here?

AR: No. No, no. It was right here in the city of Louisville. I finished high school at night.

KC: So right out of high school, you got married? What was your husband doing? Did he have a job there in Clarksville?

AR: Yes. I've been married twice. My first husband had [?]. Then I married a Kentuckian, a native Kentuckian. That's when I came to live in Louisville permanently. I was often in and out of Louisville because there were people here that I knew who had lived at home. When I came to Kentucky to stay, came in 17:001934. Now wait a minute. Yes, it was in 1934 to stay, but I had been in Kentucky prior to that time. I entered – Wonder what else did you want to know now?

KC: Well, just go on.

AR: -- Municipal College in 1938, I believe it was 1938, and I, at that time, was thirty-eight years old.

KC: How old were most of the other students at Municipal?

AR: I was a fossil! They were college-age students. [Laughs.] I don't think there were over two or three people on campus that were old folks, like myself. 18:00After a while, we got along all right. After so long. But I wondered all along, they had a big sign up there that said, "The Louisville Municipal College for Negroes." Well, I didn't say anything about it, but I thought about it and wondered about the inconsistency. Like all my life I've been dealing with inconsistencies, that things just didn't seem to go just right. Things like my mother would tell me, "Don't go in the white people's front door. Don't go in the front door.” “Why?" "Well, white people don't like for you to go in their front door." "Well, why?" When I was a babe (?), of course she couldn't answer all those questions, but "Well, Mama, they come in our front door."

Now when they got to Municipal, the Louisville Municipal College for Negroes, and I knew that was the name of the school before Lincoln, but I thought, "Now, to be consistent then the other schools would be specified as to what they 19:00were." Well, so much for that. Well, while I was a student there, during the years, they put a new sign up. The old one was becoming deteriorated. I asked the question of some of the younger students as to how they liked that sign, if they would like the same wording to be on the new sign. Oh, it was a black background with gold letters, and think again, and see when they think about it, "Well, no. They think they would like to have it just Louisville Municipal College." So I helped them (?) to petition for the name to just be Louisville Municipal College. So it was accepted and they changed the name from Louisville 20:00Municipal College for Negroes to Louisville Municipal College.

At that time I could (?) if I am fortunate enough to be awarded a degree here, I didn’t (?) that Louisville Municipal for Negroes all the way across there. Now the class of '42, 1942, was the first graduating class from that school that did not have that word or that name, “Louisville Municipal College for Negroes,” in 1942. That was also the first graduating class that had any recognition from the media. I happened to know at that time, Ms. Marian Porter, bless her, she's gone on, and it was through her that the commencement exercise was covered and they brought a photographer and she depicted the class...


KC: Was she a person at the Courier?

AR: She was a reporter for the Courier-Journal, Ms. Marian Porter was. That was how... prior to that time, the media had not…

KC: You were there at the Louisville Municipal College for four years. What do you remember about the college and the teachers? Was there a large staff? Small staff?

AR: Oh, naturally, it was a small staff, but the teachers were, I think they were alright. They seemed to be well-qualified, the ones that I studied under. Dr. Parrish was one of my instructors. I could name several others, but anyway, 22:00it was a small staff and, again, they seemed very dedicated. So far as the school was -- you know where the building is, don't you?

KC: Uh-huh.

AR: So you -- was a small building and being small, though, it enabled the instructors like -- you more attention than disattention than if it were in a larger class. Then in 1942 -- now up to that time, black students could not do any graduate work in the state of Kentucky. You had to go out of the state somewhere else to do it, but I think I have it there someplace in that Racial Memories. It’s just a brief…


KC: I see. It says the first year that a Negro could do graduate study in Kentucky was 1942. The late Raymond A. Kent, then President of U of L and Dr. John Cronin, then dean graduate division of social administration, later the Kent School, arranged to offer one graduate course a semester on a segregated basis to a minimum number of black students or Negro students. Then you mentioned that the late Blanche A. Falance and this writer recruited the students.

AR: Uh-huh.

KC: Before we talk about that, what did you receive your degree in at Municipal College?

AR: In social sciences.

KC: Social sciences. Political science and sociology and. . . .

AR: And anthropology (?) and education.

KC: Now, the tuition at Municipal College must have been steep for you. It must 24:00have been difficult to pay, and I'm wondering was there financial aid? How did you finance your education? How did most black students finance their educations there?

AR: Well, when I went to Municipal at first, I was married then. I was living right here, where I'm living now. In the meantime, I worked. I did interior decoration and dressmaking and on days that I didn't have to go to class and after class, I would do that kind of work. But in the main, my husband helped me with my tuition there. Then when I went to graduate school, of course I was working, and I paid my own tuition.

KC: And you say -- I just read the letter -- that up until 1942, no black could 25:00attend graduate school here, but that was when the University of Louisville began that course. What was the course?

AR: I beg your pardon?

KC: What was the course?

AR: The courses? See, we could only take one course a semester. Oh, boy, I don't --

KC: It must have been a social work course.

AR: It was social work. The school is called the Kent School of Social Work now, but at that time, it was not. We had a course in psychiatry, but there was only one course a semester for a minimum number of students. I transferred my credits from the Kent School of Social Work to the University of Chicago. And so many of the other students did too, and I was accepted by the University of Chicago as a regular student, to my surprise. I really didn't know that it was 26:00somewhat of a policy with the school to accept new students on condition, but a friend of mine who lived next door at the time, she was awarded her Ph.D. at that school. And she said, "You must have had a pretty good record there that they admitted you as a regular student." There were so many, well several, who went to this segregated setup here. Transferred their credits to the University of Chicago. But that's how graduate work started for blacks. Now that was all before this, you know, civil rights movement.

KC: Oh, yeah.

AR: But that was the first year that black students could do any graduate work in the state of Kentucky.

KC: So you went to the University of Chicago in the early '40s to study what?


AR: That was the school of social work.

KC: Oh, to study social work.

AR: So many doubting Thomases said when Dr. Kent and Dr. Cronin -- I don't know how this was arranged, but it was arranged that we were given this graduate training on a segregated basis and it was so funny, I think about it. The classes would meet – the white classes, sometimes their class would meet first and the black students would be there waiting so when that class broke up, they'd go in there. It was an imposition somewhat on the instructors, because they had to repeat, they did repeat, the same lecture that they had to the white students. Anyway, that's the only way we could do it, so we did that. But there were other people who said, "Oh, you're wasting money because those credits will 28:00not be accepted and so forth and so on," but they were. They were accepted by the University of Chicago. Let's see now, what else about this. Is there anything else you wanted to know about that?

KC: Okay. Let's move now to the University of Chicago. You became a full-time student there?

AR: No, I was admitted as a full-time student but I didn't enter the University of Chicago. I became ill. I had a terrible ear infection and the doctor advised against my attempting to go to school in the state of my health right then. Then after that, things began to happen fast and furiously, and I never did get to the University of Chicago.

KC: After you became ill, did you work after your illness passed? After you became better -- you were a teacher in 1921?


AR: Uh-hummm. Yes, that was in a little mining town. Except we only taught through seventh grade.

KC: Did you resume your teaching?

AR: I beg your pardon?

KC: Did you resume your teaching?

AR: I did substitute teaching here in Louisville for a number of years, but in the meantime, I worked with the Crime Prevention Bureau. I think I was the first employee when they established the Crime Prevention Bureau.

KC: I think I was the first black in (?) there. I don't think much of that as my being first… And then after I had worked there, I didn't work anyplace for a good while and I was still married at the time, and later I worked at a 30:00department store and made draperies for the store. Then later than that, I worked at a hospital, [?] General Hospital, in the X-ray department. I had been a member of the founders (?). All the employees, who were there before the hospital was opened to the public, are members of the founding society. I have worked at various things as the years have gone by. I worked on a newspaper and I have done dressmaking and interior decorating. I worked, as I say, at the Crime Prevention Bureau, Department of Safety, and I did substitute teaching up until 1974. I haven't been in the classroom since ‘74.


KC: Tell me a little bit about your newspaper work. What paper did you work for?

AR: The Louisville Leader.

KC: Louisville Leader.

AR: Uh-huh.

KC: Were you a writer?

AR: Well, yes. I wrote a column for the Louisville Leader for a long time, but before I began writing a column, I revised the news for the linotype. Then I wrote a column for the Defender. I think I was one of the first columnists for the Defender.

KC: Is that right? Any thoughts of becoming a columnist again?

AR: I beg your pardon?

KC: I said any thoughts of becoming a columnist again?

AR: I tell you, I had worked like a shuttle back and forth.

KC: Between different things.

AR: Doing so many different things, until I was relating the story of my work 32:00isn’t very cohesive –

KC: -- the article, you mentioned that when you came to Louisville, or, I think, perhaps at your job as a teacher in the mining camp, you met some racism. You probably met more than just some.

AR: Oh, that was frightening! Because the school started there in August and it was oh so hot and dry. I had to change trains in a little place out in the country. I waited for the next train to come, but at around the little place I guess you called the station, there were no women in sight, and the men that were there, all of them seem crippled in some form and they stared at me so. I began to feel frightened, but I looked across the railroad and there was a cornfield. They hadn't raised corn that year. The stalks were just there, but 33:00this sign was in the edge of the cornfield. A great big sign, and on this sign said, "Nigger, don't let the sun go down on you here" and that scared me to death because I didn't know where to -- suppose the train doesn't come?

KC: Yeah, and there you are.

AR: And I didn't see any -- not a woman, and these men -- But the train finally came. Well now, that was my experience when I first went to western Kentucky. Here in Louisville, my experiences have been varied. Again, the inconsistencies. Now, I worked in an organization and going through their records, of all the descriptions I'd find of black people, we'd hear the description of what color they were and their hair and so forth and so on, but when it got to their eyes, they'd have maroon eyes! I didn't think of it from a racial angle at first. I 34:00thought of it in connection with if law officers were looking for a felon, his eyes might clear up before we'd find him. You see, I thought anyone's eyes can be bloodshot, and I thought of it from that angle. So the head of the department came through one morning and I asked him, I said, "Why is it that all the records I see are black people" -- they didn't say black then, they said Negro -- "they have maroon eyes?" He said, "Well, I don't know." He said, "I'll go back and look over some of the old records and maybe find the answer." He went back and he was gone so long, I was almost ready to leave the department when he came back in. But he came in and he said – he didn’t seem too pleased. He said, "I looked over the records back through 1912, and I was in high school then, and all the records of the Negroes had maroon eyes, and it’s a tradition 35:00and I don't propose to change it!" Well, I hadn't asked for a change. I looked at him and I said, "Well, I think you'll agree with me that it is a fallacious description, because I think no creature, no living creature has maroon eyes, except a pigeon!" Anyway, then -- I'm just jumping around a little bit -- once upon a time where it was Fourth and Guthrie, there was a place there, they had pumping station. You go downstairs underneath and on the top, up at the surface was bandstand (?). Well, there were several rows of booths down there. When you went down the steps, the first booth you saw, the door was always closed and it had the word "colored" on it. So I never did go in that booth. I always waited 36:00for the other booths when I put my nickel in. One morning, I had gone in with the black maid. She was doing (?) she told me, "That booth is empty." I thanked her, but I still waited. I went in the other one. When I came out, she said, "I'll find out why you don't go where colored people are supposed to go" and I said, "I did, lady." I waited for her, but she didn't come back in time and I went on. Well, of course, she reported me to the people that were head of the Welfare Fund, but I anyhow reminded her, I said, "This is a tax-supported station here." I said, "I pay taxes and I guess you do, too." So much for that, you know. Then you go in a department store anywhere here, and you couldn't drink out of the fountain. And a comical thing, you'd go to the ten-cent store 37:00to the fountain and you wanted a cold bottle of Coca-Cola or whatever and the girl would look at you and say, "Do you have a bottle?" Well, now she was doing what she was told to do, you know, asking black people if they had a bottle, but they'd give me the benefit of the doubt if you weren't with another black person whose skin was actually black. You could get you a bottle or they wouldn't ask you if you had a bottle. Once I worked in a department store here in Louisville. I worked in the alterations department. The vice president of the store asked me to come to the store. Consequently, I bypassed the personnel office. Well, while I was there, the maid in the restroom -- they didn't allow black people in the 38:00restroom, in the lounge -- her mother became ill and she had to go home, so they sent me, that was quite all right by me, from the alterations department down to the lounge. The man who was personnel director, he went over everything and telling me what was what, and the final instruction he gave me he said, "Now, you're not to let any Negroes come in here," and I looked at him and I said, "Well, how am I gonna keep them out?" He said, "Well, just tell them, don't come in." And I still looked blank, and he said, "Well, you know a Negro when you see one, don't you?" I said, "Well now, that's just it. I'm afraid I don't!" I said, "I see some people as black as I am and they say they're white and I see some as white as you are and they are black." I said, "I don't think I'll tell 39:00anybody to stay out. I'll let your customers tell them. I might get your firm sued if I send somebody out that may be white and I think they're black." Well, if I had come by him, he would have fired me on the spot, but he didn't do anything about it! [Laughs.] I was down there a week and I desegregated the restroom! [Laughs.] I desegregated it. And just things like that. The inconsistencies, you see, just so inconsistent. Then there were some black people that, I guess, accommodated to that and accepted it and they just go along. I guess all of us do. But when they got to the place that they didn't fit anything on black people in the stores here... I was standing on the corner of Fourth and Walnut one evening and Selman's was there. One of the managers had on some beads, looking through the plate glass, they looked like they might have 40:00been what you called "cats-eye beads," but I wasn't sure. So I went in to make sure and the clerk came to me and she was telling me about a sale they were having. I looked at her, knowing that they didn't fit black people in there. She told me all about what was on sale and then she said, "Now, you can go and look and get the stock number of anything and we'll be so glad to send it out to you. There's so many of the colored teachers. They see our ads and we send things out to them." I told her, "I hope I don't appear rude, and I realize that you're doing what you've been told to do, but I hope that you would tell your manager that this is one black woman in Louisville that don't want a thing Selman's has. If I can't come in here and be fitted as anyone else, then I don't want it." I said, "It's saddening that any black person would stoop to ever have things sent 41:00to them on such terms." Of course, I said, "Everybody has the gift of choice and they can choose to do whatever they want to." So much for that. But it was on and on like that. Those inconsistencies all along. Inconsistencies. And I've been dealing, I guess most black people have, I don't know, but as a child, I began . . . the inconsistencies. First, "Why do I have to go to the white person's back door?" Then, when I go to church, and it's the Lord's Supper. And they pass it, If it's a Baptist church, only to the people who are Baptists. I had been taught never, never eat anything or drink in the presence of somebody else without saying, "Will you have some?" Well, here they pass this -- they 42:00passed it through the pews. To me, it wasn't using good manners. And just on and on. And even until now, but I think I've come to terms with these inconsistencies to see the basis for the soul. Many things that we do that -- we say one thing and we do another thing, but there is a basis for that. I may be wrong, but I think the Bible furnishes a background for a lot that we do or don't do as the case may be. Because man reaches for something higher than himself to justify whatever he does, and there are so many places in the Bible, you see, it's an interpretative book. People interpret it to substantiate or 43:00prove whatever they want to do or don't do. The inconsistencies, I have dealt with those and they are comical! You know, some of the things that happened were just so comical. Now one thing that -- I wasn't living in Louisville then, I was coming from Chicago and had stopped through here, and some people that I knew and they were taking me to the show. Well now, of course, my hometown was just a little hole in the ground, so to speak, and all (?). So we went to the show on Chestnut Street and bought the tickets at the box office and walked, I think it was, west. We walked west. There was a little gate there and I looked up and there was people going up the outside of the building. Well, heights didn't bother me at all, but I thought, "Ooh, I could never do that" and that was a wet blanket on the whole thing, so I didn't go up and the others didn't either, and 44:00that kind of put a wet blanket on the whole thing. But now in my hometown, we didn't do that. We had two theaters. Each one was on a street corner and the blacks bought their ticket at the separate – I mean, they had a black girl that sold the ticket and the black girl and the white girl were just side by each. The blacks bought their ticket from the black girl and went in that door and so on, but that hadn't always been. Blacks had never gone up the side of the building, the fire escape to get in.

KC: To get in the balcony or something or to get in where?

AR: Beg your pardon?

KC: You mentioned that blacks were climbing up the fire escape.

AR: Yeah, that was here in Louisville! [Laughs] It was a tall building and there they were, going up like Jacob's Ladder, going up the side of the building. Well, I couldn't do that because we didn't do that at home, and that was farther south. Inconsistencies there as here, but the difference in the 45:00inconsistencies, you see. The difference in the. . . oh, I don't know. Anyway, they showed at my hometown, the thing that really turned things around and we finally had the black girl selling the blacks tickets, the theater management billed this, Birth of a Nation to be shown. And the black people asked them not to show it, because it was [geared?] for racial dealings, but they showed it anyway. Then the black people, nobody went to the show, and there wasn't enough white people to keep both theaters open, so when they made the proposition that if the blacks would come back, they would have one-half a theater, the balcony, one-half of the balcony and one-half of the side of that theater, one-half. Prior to that the blacks had only had the balcony. Well, we said that wasn't enough. We'd like to have one of our girls to sell us the tickets and that's 46:00what happened. In 1934, that was when I really come back to -- married a Louisvillian, a Kentuckian and came back. We went home. It was one of the first places I took my new husband to see how they did things farther down south. And we still had the two girls, side by each at the box office. Now that's some of the things that happened here in Louisville. Going back to the ten-cent store, you couldn't drink out of a glass. You couldn't get any milk because you couldn't drink out of a glass. It was supposed to be sterilized anyway. And if you bought a sandwich, it was into a bag with a mute invitation to eat it out on the street. But as I say, if they gave you the benefit of the doubt, if you looked like you might be something else, if your skin wasn't black. . . .

KC: Yeah.

AR: Why… Now, by myself, I could go… But if I -- had a woman who worked 47:00with me at the Crime Prevention Bureau. We had an assignment on Fourth Street one day [and] she wanted to go in the ten-cent store to get a drink. I said, "No, let's not do that." She wasn't out of Kentucky and I didn't want to tell her what would happen if we went in, so finally, I said, "Let's wait and go to Sixth Street, Sixth and Walnut." Anyhow, I told her what would happen. I said, "If we both walk up to the counter and ask for a bottle of whatever we wanted, they'll ask you if we have a bottle and we won't get it," and I said, "But if I go up there by myself, I can get it." While I'm black, I think I have all the features of a black, but my skin just doesn't happen to be as black as [?]. Well, we worked that out and sure enough -- we were in one ten-cent store and we were both of us together and they asked us, "Do you have a bottle?" but we went 48:00to the next ten-cent store and she stayed back in the crowd and I'd go up and I'd get the bottle. Now that's the kind of thing that black people have had to -- and they still do. I don't know. I don't know if it's getting any better or not. It probably will.

KC: What do you remember about the public accommodations law and that being passed? People picketing the Blue Boar on Fourth Street, for example, so that the Blue Boar would begin to serve blacks. And then this growing effort to get civil rights legislation passed. Open housing. What do you remember about that whole period?

AR: What do I think about it?

KC: What do you remember about it?

AR: Well, I wasn't actively involved in the civil rights. Of course I was in 49:00favor of civil rights. I still am. I wish it were possible that all peoples could live together peacefully, and be free. You know, as I told someone from down state, I said, "I don't know about all the black people, but I think most black people, they don't want to come to your house if you don't want them or you don't invite them to come." I said, "I know I wouldn't go to anyone's house, regardless of what ethnic group they belong to, if I'm not invited. I don't barge in there," but what we don't want is laws that say that I can't do. You see, don't fence me in like that. Let me be free. If I want to cultivate your friendship and you happen to be Chinese or Indian or Caucasian or what have you, 50:00then don't have a law that says I can't do that! And well, now, there are people who think differently. They think that everybody ought to be off, kind of I guess to themselves, but I was very much in favor of the civil rights activities, although I wasn't actively involved in any of it. But I think it's being unraveled. I don't know. I think we’ve gone back in the opposite direction. Everything is transitory and nothing lasts forever, so which ever way it goes, it'll eventually be a change somewhere.

KC: How do you mean things are beginning to unravel and go back in the opposite direction in terms of civil rights? Do you see blacks losing their civil rights?

AR: Yes, I see that being whittled away. Very definitely.


KC: How -- Can you give me some concrete examples?

AR: Maybe I can't put it into words. I have difficulty talking to my contemporaries. I can write much better than I can talk and I don't do that too well, but I do better talking to children. When I begin to try to talk to my contemporaries, then I grope a lot for words. Right now, I don't know that I can put into words what I think about the progress or the failures of civil rights.

KC: What about the Supreme Court's recent Bakke decision, so called. Would that 52:00be an example of the kind of thing that you're talking about?

AR: Well, that, the Supreme Court decision -- of course, I don't know too much about law -- but it seems to me that the Supreme Court decision opened up a lot of avenues for court action on various angles, and I don't know. It's just something that's visible, that the blacks are losing much of their civil rights. For instance, when you talk about justice and equality, all right, "We have to have equality." Well, now, if you don't make headway, then it's your fault. You have equality before the law. At that same time, they take it from the economic 53:00angle, which is the basis of one's life or progress, that blacks are steadily losing ground there. They've never gained too much, I don't think. Now, there are a lot of token -- we have had a lot token positions in storefronts -- and I say often that we see ourselves as mannequins and we see ourselves on TV and that gives a false impression -- I think it's largely false -- that we really have arrived. When you look at it from another angle, you haven't arrived at all. I think the blacks of tomorrow will be a whole lot poorer than the blacks 54:00of today, with this present economic setup. Blacks have always been below the poverty line. As you know, there were individual blacks even in slavery times, who made it and were doing fairly well, economically. But on the whole, I believe that black people, with the trend, the way things are going now, that the black people of tomorrow will be much poorer, economically. And then from an educational standpoint, now I can take this school setup. When they introduced the “focus-impact” method of teaching, to me, it was just bedlam in the school.

KC: What do you mean by “focus-impact”? I'm not familiar with that.


AR: Well, it was a new method of teaching. Oh, it's hard to explain. It was like a kiddie's nightmare, but it was a new method of teaching. In other words, called team-teaching.

KC: Oh, okay.

AR: Like that, and the student had ever so much freedom. They would just be so. . . .

KC: Open classrooms and the like?

AR: Yes, and the result was that nobody was learning anything. There was no emphasis on anything. It was impossible. You were just there. Well that went on for a long time. As far as if the students, they decided they wanted to mark on the wall all the week, write on the walls all the week. Well, if they did that, they would take another week maybe to put the walls back like it was, but to [?]. Oh, anyhow.


KC: Do you think for blacks, what should blacks be doing today to gain this equality? To gain equality? You said they don't have economic equality, and there are other people other than blacks, who don't have economic equality.

AR: Uh-huh.

KC: If you're talking about a more equitable distribution of the world's resources, and of money and of all that, that's almost an impossible thing. That's an ideal.

AR: Well, yes, but I think you'll admit that blacks in main, some jobs are traditional jobs for them, which are usually the hardest, the poorest paid, the last hired, and the first fired. That's somewhat of a tradition all the way along. And there were certain jobs that no white person would even condescend to 57:00do. That was, you know... Now that… now the black people have always been at a disadvantage, when it comes to that economic side of it. In that they didn't have the better pay. Even sometimes when they were qualified to hold the jobs, they didn't get it. Because it's just tradition, so to speak. You're supposed to have the most menial job. Well, now, machines are taking away so many of those jobs that were just menial jobs, and I think cybernation will affect not only 58:00the black people, but other peoples as well, but I can see the blacks being the greatest sufferer because they have such a fragile economic base to start with. You see, 100 years, a little more than 100 years, is not long enough to build... and the blacks were turned loose after 350 years of slavery. They were turned loose, but there were dusty roads under their feet and the sky up above them. That's how they had to start and 100 years is not long enough to, I don't think, for them to have had in the main, that economic basis, you know. Now that those menial jobs, whatever they worked at, machines are taking that away. And even 59:00the better paid jobs and they had better pay, they were the last hired. The unions, you see, they were the last hired and then when things became… Well, take General Electric. I think it was General Electric. They laid off about 800 people and most of them are the ones that are more recently, now I don't know what ethnic group they belonged to, but they were the last ones that were the hired. So it's that kind of setup.

KC: So what's the answer?

AR: Beg your pardon?

KC: Have you thought about what a possible solution to this would be?

AR: No. That's the thing, I don't know. Unless we… and I don't think that will happen, unless, I don’t know how to -- The American creed, you know, we sound so altruistic, I think, and to a great extent we are.


KC: So democratic too.

AR: If that was just enforced, we'd all reside... the Ten Commandments in school. I don't think that's all right, but I think if they put the Golden Rule in there and everybody started doing unto others as you would, I think that would be more effective, well, I don't know how effective, but at least it would serve to emphasize actions that would be constructive.

KC: A more human world? Caring?

AR: Doing unto others. They call it the Golden Rule. I think the Golden Rule would be better, but again, there is a lot of individualism among all of us. That's how we live, and we find that even among the smaller children. You can watch them all in a yard. You get them in a line, get them back in the classroom and it's, "Me first, me first." And you have to pull them apart.


KC: Yeah.

AR: So that's one of those things that you have to start way down here to train the child not to think too much of themselves. That they think in terms of doing for the other person or treating the other person like they want to be treated. Not so much me – bjut it's getting now among all peoples, I think, is a lot of "me-ism," me first, regardless of how it affects somebody else.

KC: Well, I want to thank you for your time this morning. I've enjoyed talking with you.

AR: Well, you still didn't get that part that I wanted on there.

KC: The Day Law?

AR: No, that Ku Klux Klan thing.

KC: Oh!

AR: And the slaves turned their minds heavenward, "We're suffering this, but we're going to be paid up after awhile. We're gonna be paid for all of this after a while," and I think to a great extent, black people haven't moved too 62:00far from that now. But you should listen to the songs of the blacks or the slaves, Negro spirituals. "I'm gonna eat at the welcome table some of these days,” now you couldn't eat at Mr. Charlie's table. “I'm gonna eat at the welcome table some of these days,” and “swing low, sweet chariot, coming to carry me home." Well, to a great extent, I don't think that black people have gotten off of that there. I think they still very much are hung up on that, “Well, God's gonna take care of it and God's gonna get even.” Well, I don't hear them say that but anyhow. But, as I think it over, I wonder in view of the fact that we, mankind, hasn't had the Bible all these centuries, we just began to get the Bible 800 years before Jesus was born. What about all those people 63:00back then? They didn't have all this God to go by, and what happened to them? I don't think black people are questioning that too much. That's another reason I don't think that on in the main, any of us are going to make much progress until we leave fantasy. You see, in dwelling so much in fantasy? "It will be all right after awhile.” And turning your mind heavenward.

KC: That, you think, has kept blacks down, shall we say?

AR: I think it has to a great extent.

KC: Have you rejected, then, Christianity or the Bible?

AR: Oh no, well, now really -- now, when I grew up, I was determined I wasn't gonna be a Baptist. My mother was a Baptist, and what few relatives I had, were Baptists, but I…