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AACHM Oral History: Nelson Freeman

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 1:29pm

When: January 12, 2017

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Nelson Freeman was born in 1939 and grew up in Ypsilanti. He remembers being one of the few black children at his elementary school and the transition to high school with white friends. He also recalls how his father made sure local African American children had a night of their own at the local rollerskating rink, where he became one of the best skaters, and other social and business activities in town. Mr. Freeman spent time in the Navy and had a long career as a dental technician.

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Transcript

  • [00:00:14.51] INTERVIEWER: So first I want to start by thanking you for agreeing to do this interview on behalf of the African-American Cultural and Historical Museum. And so we're going to begin the interview. I'm first going to ask you some simple demographic questions. These questions may jog your memories, but please keep your answers brief and to the point for now. We can go into more detail later in the interview. Please say and spell your name.
  • [00:00:41.94] NELSON FREEMAN: My name is Nelson Freeman. And do I have to spell the whole name?
  • [00:00:47.18] INTERVIEWER: Yes, please.
  • [00:00:47.68] NELSON FREEMAN: N-E-L-S-O-N F-R-E-E-M-A-N.
  • [00:00:55.04] INTERVIEWER: What is your date of birth including the year?
  • [00:01:00.20] NELSON FREEMAN: June 20, 1969. Is that what you wanted?
  • [00:01:08.69] INTERVIEWER: Your date of birth?
  • [00:01:11.33] NELSON FREEMAN: 6/20/1939, June 20, 1939.
  • [00:01:16.75] INTERVIEWER: OK, you said '69. That threw me.
  • [00:01:19.96] NELSON FREEMAN: OK, 19-- I'm sorry, now, I'm getting thrown. 1939, June 20, 1939. My mistake.
  • [00:01:30.20] INTERVIEWER: No, no problem. How would you describe your ethnic background?
  • [00:01:35.33] NELSON FREEMAN: Ethnicity, you mean like African-American? Yeah, I related to that all my life, so yeah, I would say African-American.
  • [00:01:50.40] INTERVIEWER: OK, what is your religion, if any?
  • [00:01:54.09] NELSON FREEMAN: I belong to the Baha'i faith. I've been a Baha'i since 1965.
  • [00:02:05.57] INTERVIEWER: What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
  • [00:02:13.15] NELSON FREEMAN: A year and a half of college at the Cleary College and two years at technical school in Elkhart, Indiana.
  • [00:02:27.32] INTERVIEWER: What is your marital status?
  • [00:02:29.60] NELSON FREEMAN: I'm married.
  • [00:02:34.13] INTERVIEWER: How many children do you have?
  • [00:02:36.23] NELSON FREEMAN: Two sons.
  • [00:02:39.17] INTERVIEWER: How many siblings do you have?
  • [00:02:42.62] NELSON FREEMAN: One brother.
  • [00:02:47.51] INTERVIEWER: And what was your primary occupation?
  • [00:02:51.82] NELSON FREEMAN: Dental technician.
  • [00:02:57.35] INTERVIEWER: If retired, at what age did you retire?
  • [00:03:01.17] NELSON FREEMAN: I am retired. I retired at the age of 72.
  • [00:03:07.35] INTERVIEWER: And how long have you been in the Ypsilanti area?
  • [00:03:14.68] NELSON FREEMAN: Probably most of my life. I was born at the University of Michigan Hospital. And I've been in and out a couple of times. I was in Massachusetts for a couple of years, military for four years, and I was in Elkhart, Indiana, in school for two years, as well.
  • [00:03:39.52] INTERVIEWER: So you were born here?
  • [00:03:41.05] NELSON FREEMAN: I was born here. My father was born at that hospital as well.
  • [00:03:46.02] INTERVIEWER: Oh, wow.
  • [00:03:46.72] NELSON FREEMAN: And my grandfather was born at that hospital.
  • [00:03:50.18] INTERVIEWER: So we're going to ask you a lot more questions as we proceed. That's great. I'm going to go into part two now. Memories of childhood and youth. This part of the interview is about your childhood and youth. And once again, even if these questions jog memories about other times in your life, please only respond with memories for this part of your life. What was your family like when you were a child?
  • [00:04:20.89] NELSON FREEMAN: Cohesive. My grandmothers, both of them were like the matriarchs of our families, and they sort of were in charge of keeping us, all of us, my dad and everybody else, in step. So really loving families from both sides.
  • [00:04:44.44] INTERVIEWER: Now, did both sides also live in this area, in the Ypsilanti area?
  • [00:04:49.81] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes. Well, yeah. My grandmother lived in Ypsilanti on Hamilton Street. My paternal grandmother lived on Hamilton. And my maternal grandmother lived on Hawkins Street in Ypsilanti. They were there for us whenever we need them.
  • [00:05:17.71] INTERVIEWER: What sort of work did your parents do?
  • [00:05:21.94] NELSON FREEMAN: My father, he did a lot of different things, but pretty much laborer. He was a janitor for the Ypsilanti school system for the last 25 to 30 years of his life. My mother was a beautician, and she had her own beauty shop in our home. It was in the same building as our home was. And she had that for probably 30, 40 years as well.
  • [00:05:57.64] INTERVIEWER: So your family really is very much a big part of Ypsilanti in terms of growing up and being there are all these years?
  • [00:06:04.84] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah. I missed a lot of what was happening in Ypsilanti during my career, my dental technicians career, but I was there. I was self-employed from 1971 to about 1991. And had I known I was going to be married to my job as well, I probably wouldn't have taken that course, being self-employed. Because, like I said, I was there, but I wasn't there. I was 24/7 with the business most of the time.
  • [00:06:50.71] INTERVIEWER: So when you say you were self-employed, in terms of being in the dental business, tell me a bit more about that.
  • [00:07:00.19] NELSON FREEMAN: After I left Massachusetts, I came back, and I worked for a couple of years for a dental manufacturing company in the research department. That was in Taylor down in Romulus area. And then I opened my own dental laboratory in 1971. And I ran that in Ypsilanti area for pretty close to 20 years. And then after that, I closed it, I worked for the Ann Arbor VA Hospital as a dental technician for the remaining 20 years of my career. So I retired from the VA hospital here in Ann Arbor to the end of 2012.
  • [00:07:57.58] INTERVIEWER: OK, so you're a new retiree.
  • [00:08:00.07] NELSON FREEMAN: I'm retired.
  • [00:08:01.21] INTERVIEWER: I said you're a new retiree.
  • [00:08:03.16] NELSON FREEMAN: I've been retired for five years now. Yes, I am new because I'm still loving every day of it.
  • [00:08:09.75] INTERVIEWER: OK, that's wonderful. What is some of your earliest memories in terms of your childhood?
  • [00:08:18.03] NELSON FREEMAN: Oh, there's thousands of those.
  • [00:08:20.65] INTERVIEWER: Give me a couple.
  • [00:08:23.69] NELSON FREEMAN: Some of them are kind of strange. The lady Janice Wilson Thomas is going to be coming here to be interviewed by you. She and I are born about the same time. And I don't know how I remember this, but I can remember the first time I met her we were both in diapers. She and I were both in diapers. And I had not seen anybody that looked like me prior to that point except her, and I was so excited.
  • [00:09:02.32] INTERVIEWER: Even as a little small child?
  • [00:09:04.06] NELSON FREEMAN: I was so small. I don't know how I remember that. But I can remember first time seeing her, and I just grabbed her. And I was screaming and hollering, and just so happy to find somebody that looked like me, and was the same age and everything. And to this day, I don't know how I remember, but it was like it happened just yesterday.
  • [00:09:26.62] INTERVIEWER: So when you say looked just like you, you meant in terms of color?
  • [00:09:30.91] NELSON FREEMAN: In terms of our size. In terms of the fact that we both had on diapers. Color was not-- I mean that was not an issue at the time. It was just that we were the same size, and we both had on diapers, and everybody else had on clothes.
  • [00:09:57.01] INTERVIEWER: Were there any special days, events, or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
  • [00:10:04.78] NELSON FREEMAN: There was my paternal grandmother always saw that we had family reunions especially on holidays and stuff like that. Thanksgiving were always big days. Christmas were always big days at her house. She had several brothers and sisters around the country, and we would always have like family reunions somewhere else around the country, sometimes Whitaker. Sometimes, we went to Colorado Springs, Colorado for family reunions or Chicago. Wherever there was family, she would make sure that-- we rotated, and we went to see our families in those different areas around the country.
  • [00:10:59.25] INTERVIEWER: So in that way, you were really getting to know your families when you traveled around like that?
  • [00:11:04.44] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah.
  • [00:11:10.54] INTERVIEWER: And you just mentioned the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Were there other holidays that you celebrated?
  • [00:11:20.74] NELSON FREEMAN: As a family, I mean, not like that. Yeah, we celebrated other holidays as well, but not to that magnitude where all of us were there. I can remember holidays at my grandmother's house, and people from out of town being there. All of us trying to stay there. So a lot of times, as a child, me, and my cousins, and the other siblings would be there. And we'd sleep on the floor because that was only spot we could find. So we stayed overnight, and we slept on the floor.
  • [00:12:03.58] INTERVIEWER: So traveling there, you stayed there because you all wanted to be together because there was no other places that you could stay, as a family, or as African-Americans?
  • [00:12:15.26] NELSON FREEMAN: There was probably so many people there most of the time that there were other places that they could stay, yeah. And those that could probably did, but, I mean, there were some times there were so many people, as a child, that was not something that was an issue for me. I mean, as long as my cousins were there, we were just having a good time, having fun, and playing with each other. When it came time to go to sleep, we get our pillow and blanket and sleep on the floor.
  • [00:12:45.83] INTERVIEWER: You were just happy, huh?
  • [00:12:47.41] NELSON FREEMAN: Just happy. That's all.
  • [00:12:51.25] INTERVIEWER: Has your family created its own traditions and celebrations?
  • [00:12:56.47] NELSON FREEMAN: My family? My immediate family right now? Is that what you're talking about?
  • [00:13:00.82] INTERVIEWER: Your family, in terms of your parents or even with your immediate family.
  • [00:13:05.93] NELSON FREEMAN: OK, you know, a lot of that has gone by the wayside since my grandparents have passed. The family has expanded to the point where there's so many of us that it's been very difficult to try to generate that same kind of family cohesiveness as we had back then. And we've tried on a number of occasions.
  • [00:13:36.31] And just getting a program, getting it together to the point where we could accommodate all of those people from all those different places, well, that's a big, big chore. And it got to the point where there was no one that was willing to do that anymore.
  • [00:13:58.10] INTERVIEWER: To serve as the host?
  • [00:13:59.11] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah, serve as host family. I think I was one of the last ones to do it. And they were looking for me to do it again, and I said I'm done. There's just so much work. I mean, it would take close to a year to organize and put a situation like that together for a weekend, just for a family weekend.
  • [00:14:30.77] INTERVIEWER: So when did you host?
  • [00:14:34.03] NELSON FREEMAN: My last host, I hosted at my parents' house in Ypsilanti. My mom and dad had a fairly large house and a large yard set in what had been a Wiard's Orchard at one time. We had a lot and a half. And my dad was still alive, so he was a big help. And so I had to coordinate the food and we did several tours of the area where my grandmother and her family had grown up in this area. And we wound up doing a lot of research down in Mansfield, in the Saline area where her and her family grew up, and finding people who, in those areas, that knew her when she was a child, and that sort of thing.
  • [00:15:31.49] It was a lot of work that went into-- we went to the newspapers and tried to go to the cemeteries to find the information on it, so we put a lot of effort into that, getting that program together. But after that it was like I don't want to do this again.
  • [00:15:53.26] INTERVIEWER: So tell me some of the things you found out in doing the research, two or three things that you found out.
  • [00:16:01.90] NELSON FREEMAN: I found some homes that they had lived in. We found that the original homestead was no longer existing. At that homestead spot we found remnants of the foundation were still there, but whoever had purchased the property lifted the house up and moved it to another location closer to Saline. And so we found the house, and we found a family that lived in that house. And they graciously allowed us to come on the property, take pictures of the house, and we were able to tell them the stories of the house and how it got there.
  • [00:16:59.82] INTERVIEWER: That must have been exciting to locate it and then to go inside the house.
  • [00:17:03.16] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah. The exciting part, for me, was that we went there-- our caravan. So we had like buses and trucks full of family, and then we were all following each other there. And, in those buses, we had a lot of our children, grandchildren, who had no idea. And so through that effort they got exposed to a lot of things that they may have never known about.
  • [00:17:45.56] INTERVIEWER: That must have been exciting.
  • [00:17:47.39] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah. We found a cemetery where they were supposedly buried at. That was a very interesting experience as well. And I can't remember exactly where it was, but it wasn't in Saline. It was sort of southwest of Saline.
  • [00:18:12.83] And what we found was, at that time, the cemeteries would not allow black people to be buried in that cemetery. And so what they did with the black people was bury them in the field across the street from the cemetery. This is emotional for me because I still have a problem with that.
  • [00:18:46.79] INTERVIEWER: I can tell.
  • [00:18:51.88] NELSON FREEMAN: So there were some protesting that went on as a result of that type of arrangement down there. And so the populace finally decided to allow black people to be buried in the same cemetery with the white people, but their heads had to be facing in a different direction than the white people's heads. So they were all buried with their heads facing the street as opposed to whatever way they had them in there. So it is what it is.
  • [00:19:37.84] INTERVIEWER: And I could tell it was emotional for you. So did you say that you, in fact, did locate your grandparents, or you did not?
  • [00:19:45.94] NELSON FREEMAN: I did not locate-- no, I did not locate any ancestors that might have been mine that were supposedly buried there because even at that point there was no identification that they had even been there. I know where my grandmother is, and my great grandfather is, and most of those people that I had some sort of relationship with. And I know where they are, but beyond that point I don't know.
  • [00:20:27.25] INTERVIEWER: So they're in this area then?
  • [00:20:29.03] NELSON FREEMAN: They're all in this area, yeah.
  • [00:20:31.62] INTERVIEWER: OK. I'm going to go back now and talk a little bit about your school experience-- during the time for your schooling. Did you play any sports or join any other activities outside of school?
  • [00:20:49.74] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah, there's a lot. My dad was very active in the community, and he made sure that all of the children on the south side of Ypsilanti were involved in something, so I was involved in a lot of different things.
  • [00:21:09.14] INTERVIEWER: Thanks to your father.
  • [00:21:10.25] NELSON FREEMAN: Thanks to my father. Mainly, Boy Scouts, Sea Scouts, programs that were sponsored by the American Legion Post 401. Yeah, 401, I guess it was, there. So whatever they had going on, I was involved in that. I played football in high school. I was on the swimming team in high school. I played in the band in high school.
  • [00:21:46.79] INTERVIEWER: So you were busy.
  • [00:21:48.80] NELSON FREEMAN: I was busy thanks to my dad. I guess this was his way of keeping us occupied and out of trouble.
  • [00:21:59.84] INTERVIEWER: Right. And swimming, that's interesting. So how was that, in terms, of did you have other African-American blacks in the swimming team, or were you one of the few, or the only one?
  • [00:22:13.61] NELSON FREEMAN: No, I was the only one. I didn't have any problems with that because I went through elementary school that way. I was the only black child in the Woodruff School in Ypsilanti from first grade all the way until almost to the time that I went to junior high school at Ypsilanti High School. I think in my third grade or fourth grade, a few more black children came to the school.
  • [00:22:47.60] But like, first, second, and third, I was the only black. And even after that, I was, like, the only black child in my particular classes, so I was used to being in that kind of an environment, that kind of situation. So it was not a big deal for me to be the only black person on the swimming team.
  • [00:23:14.18] INTERVIEWER: So when you talked about Woodruff Elementary School, that was located where?
  • [00:23:19.34] NELSON FREEMAN: Woodruff Elementary School was located on Michigan Avenue in Ypsilanti. There's a set of railroad tracks down at, like, the bottom of the hill, I don't know, and that school was right there, next door to the railroad tracks.
  • [00:23:40.37] INTERVIEWER: Now, you said you grew up on the south side. I'm visualizing the south side. I guess that's not that much of a distance to get there for elementary. That's what I'm trying to get in my mind here.
  • [00:23:55.43] NELSON FREEMAN: I went to school because in the first grade because both my mom and my dad were working at that time. There was no one there to watch me when I finished school and came home. My grandmother happened to be the cook for the preschoolers at Woodruff School. So when I finished classes, I would wait for my grandmother, and we would come home together. So I did that until I left Woodruff School.
  • [00:24:47.68] INTERVIEWER: OK. That must been a wonderful time to bond with your grandmother.
  • [00:24:53.79] NELSON FREEMAN: Oh, yes.
  • [00:24:54.30] INTERVIEWER: I don't know if you thought about it that way, but it was--
  • [00:24:56.98] NELSON FREEMAN: I loved my grandmother. Nobody like her.
  • [00:25:00.66] INTERVIEWER: Nobody like grandmothers, right?
  • [00:25:02.83] NELSON FREEMAN: Uh-huh.
  • [00:25:03.31] INTERVIEWER: Yeah. So tell me a little bit about how the south side was then. You said you lived on the south side of Ypsilanti.
  • [00:25:13.90] NELSON FREEMAN: It was a fun place for a child. I mean, we were free. I mean, I should say we were free to do what-- especially when school was out. The children, we could roam the neighborhoods. We could play. We could do just about anything we wanted to. Well, I shouldn't say anything we wanted to do because our neighbors were our parents if you know what I mean.
  • [00:25:47.92] INTERVIEWER: I do.
  • [00:25:51.46] NELSON FREEMAN: That means that as long as you behave yourself you were OK. But if you did not behave yourself, the neighbor punished you, sent you home, told your parents, and you got punished again. So it was a double whammy. But the fact is that we had a lot of fun. The kids, we enjoyed ourselves, and we knew what our boundaries were.
  • [00:26:25.08] INTERVIEWER: I've heard a number of people talk about going up and having the neighbors being your parents-- That same story you just told.
  • [00:26:32.30] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes, that happened on the south side all the time.
  • [00:26:35.43] INTERVIEWER: All the time.
  • [00:26:36.59] NELSON FREEMAN: I mean all of them were you parents whether you knew it or not.
  • [00:26:42.19] INTERVIEWER: So I've heard people talk about the Parkridge Community Center. Was that in place when you were growing up as well, Parkridge?
  • [00:26:48.94] NELSON FREEMAN: Later.
  • [00:26:49.71] INTERVIEWER: Later, OK.
  • [00:26:50.56] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah. I really didn't get introduced to Parkridge until I was probably 12, 13 years old, and it probably wasn't there much earlier than that.
  • [00:27:08.68] INTERVIEWER: All right. What about your school experience is different from school as you know it today?
  • [00:27:22.54] NELSON FREEMAN: My school?
  • [00:27:23.59] INTERVIEWER: School, when you were attending school, what's different about your time that you were in school as opposed to how it is today, with students going to school? Let's talk about elementary, high school, that kind of thing.
  • [00:27:42.61] NELSON FREEMAN: Actually I don't know too much about what's going on in the school system today. I hear a lot of things about the quality of education, and children not getting what they need. But I don't see that being any different from where I was at, when I was in grade school as well.
  • [00:28:12.32] I keep reflecting on that because, at Woodruff School, which was supposedly a pretty good school, I did not get educated the way that I later felt that I should have been educated. It was like I was their-- I was a invisible person.
  • [00:28:41.24] INTERVIEWER: I understand.
  • [00:28:42.80] NELSON FREEMAN: You know what I mean?
  • [00:28:43.52] INTERVIEWER: Yes.
  • [00:28:44.51] NELSON FREEMAN: I was an invisible person. And if I didn't learn how to read, or write, or whatever, nobody cared.
  • [00:28:59.48] INTERVIEWER: So the makeup of your classmates is that you often were the only black or African-American in your class, so it was predominantly white school?
  • [00:29:10.76] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes. I remember one, myself, and one boy who was in our class. He was from Mexico. And we were like sore thumbs in the class.
  • [00:29:36.62] INTERVIEWER: And you were like, you said sore thumbs?
  • [00:29:38.97] NELSON FREEMAN: I mean we stood out like sore thumbs. We stood out like sore thumbs because I was black, and he was Mexican. Everybody else was white.
  • [00:29:49.88] INTERVIEWER: And did you have a black instructor during that time at all?
  • [00:29:56.84] NELSON FREEMAN: No, not really. There was one that came years later, several years later, and he was not an instructor, not one of my instructors. But he was at the school. Otherwise, all the teachers were white there at the school.
  • [00:30:21.25] INTERVIEWER: So did your family, during this time, have any special sayings or expressions? During your school years, was there any kind of sayings or expression that they used?
  • [00:30:35.23] NELSON FREEMAN: No, I can't think of any. I had some crazy relatives. They were liable to say anything any time.
  • [00:30:43.56] INTERVIEWER: We all have some of those. All right, now we're going to move into another area here. When thinking back on your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time? And how did they personally affect you and your family?
  • [00:31:12.76] NELSON FREEMAN: You know, I say this, and I don't know if I have anybody to support me with this or not. But, as a teenager, there was a social revolution taking place in the mid '50s. And this is when Elvis Presley and all that bunch of people were coming along. And, for me, what was happening was that the young people now had their own music.
  • [00:31:56.88] They had their own style. They had their own culture, which was different from the culture that I was used to because my mom's music was my music. My mom's culture was my music, was my culture. But then there came a division, and children became independent of their parents and the types of things that they thought, the types of things that they listened to, the types of things that they believed. And this created some problems. This created some problems, but we all got through it.
  • [00:32:50.13] INTERVIEWER: OK, so you lived during the era of segregation. Can you speak about that? This is multiple questions here, so I can repeat it. Was your school segregated? And you talked a little bit about your school already. Was the elementary school near you, your home? Was there a high school for black students in the same area?
  • [00:33:16.13] NELSON FREEMAN: There was not a high school for blacks in our area. Black children went to Harriet School, which is now Perry school, but there was no high school. When they finished sixth grade-- and I knew all of them because I lived in the neighborhood, even though I went to all white school. This was probably another social thing that I had to deal with in that when the black kids came to Ypsilanti High School, there were racial clashes all the time. We had not learned how to get along with white people, and white people had not learned how to get along with black people except for me.
  • [00:34:18.36] INTERVIEWER: Because you had been at that Woodruff School?
  • [00:34:20.48] NELSON FREEMAN: I had been there, and at times, I felt like I was caught right in the middle of this whole big mess. And I had problems with that because I was accused of being a whitey lover first of all. And all of these kids I have been going to school with for the last six years were my friends. Most of them were my friends, and I was so used to that. So I was like walking on eggshells for the rest of the time, and I never liked that.
  • [00:35:03.43] INTERVIEWER: So let me ask you. Harriet was like a junior high, middle school?
  • [00:35:10.63] NELSON FREEMAN: It was an elementary school.
  • [00:35:11.86] INTERVIEWER: It was elementary?
  • [00:35:13.45] NELSON FREEMAN: Strictly elementary, yeah.
  • [00:35:14.45] INTERVIEWER: And it went from what grade to what grade?
  • [00:35:17.41] NELSON FREEMAN: From kindergarten through sixth grade.
  • [00:35:21.79] INTERVIEWER: And then you left Harriet, and students went where?
  • [00:35:25.90] NELSON FREEMAN: Harriet and Perry are the same school. Woodruff School had the same situation. Woodruff was from kindergarten to sixth grade. Harriet Street was kindergarten to sixth grade. Seventh grade, we all went to Ypsilanti High School. Everybody went there, Ypsi High, from all over the city, no matter what school you went to. In the seventh grade you went to Ypsi High School.
  • [00:35:55.94] INTERVIEWER: So when you talk about your classmates-- you had your neighborhood friends, and you had the friends that you had gone to school with. So that, therefore, was causing some friction for you when all that came together?
  • [00:36:08.57] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes.
  • [00:36:09.29] INTERVIEWER: All right. How did you get to school? How did you get to your high school?
  • [00:36:16.25] NELSON FREEMAN: Walked.
  • [00:36:16.97] INTERVIEWER: You walked? OK, and Ypsilanti High School was located on what street?
  • [00:36:21.82] NELSON FREEMAN: Cross Street.
  • [00:36:23.38] INTERVIEWER: So you walked from the south side? How long a walk was that?
  • [00:36:28.55] NELSON FREEMAN: It was a mile. It was one mile and depends on how you decide to travel. We could run down here. A lot of times, especially in the winter time, we would run to school.
  • [00:36:40.92] INTERVIEWER: Because it was so cold.
  • [00:36:41.36] NELSON FREEMAN: And it took us about 10, 15 minutes.
  • [00:36:45.37] INTERVIEWER: Were there buses for other students?
  • [00:36:50.60] NELSON FREEMAN: The way that I understand it, the students that lived outside of the city limits were bussed there on school buses. We also had public transportation, buses that went through the neighborhoods, and picked up people, and took them down there. Those buses, if you were lucky, you could get on them. There was like one bus, and once it was filled up, he couldn't take any more riders. Then you still had to walk.
  • [00:37:26.81] INTERVIEWER: So, in terms of Ypsilanti High School, was there more diversity in terms of teachers? Or was it still predominantly white in terms of the teaching staff?
  • [00:37:40.55] NELSON FREEMAN: Not really. I think I can remember two black teachers, Mr. Briggs and Mr. Bass-- I'm sorry, not Mr. Bass. I'm sorry, I can't recall his name.
  • [00:38:08.65] INTERVIEWER: That's fine.
  • [00:38:09.97] NELSON FREEMAN: But there were two gentlemen that were black teachers there. One of them was actually a football coach, junior varsity football coach, and I'll probably remember his name before I leave here.
  • [00:38:25.54] INTERVIEWER: OK, so just say I remember.
  • [00:38:29.73] NELSON FREEMAN: I should remember because he was a very nice man. I enjoyed him a lot.
  • [00:38:38.17] INTERVIEWER: Were there restaurants or eating places with blacks where you lived, and how were black visitors accommodated?
  • [00:38:47.41] NELSON FREEMAN: There was a black restaurant on Harriet Street, and it was like a hangout for kids and anybody because they had pinball machines and stuff in there. And a lot of people went down there. It wasn't a place that I usually would hang out at, but we did go down there occasionally. That was the only restaurant I can remember that was there that was open most of the time, and that I could go into.
  • [00:39:34.73] INTERVIEWER: So that was the restaurant, but there were other restaurants. But blacks could not go to those restaurants? So there were specific restaurants?
  • [00:39:45.08] NELSON FREEMAN: Not on the south side, no. I mean, if it was on the south side it was there for the black community. When I was in grade school at Woodruff School there was a restaurant across the street from the school that would not serve me. It was called the Bomber Restaurant. It's actually a very famous restaurant in Ypsilanti right now.
  • [00:40:21.06] INTERVIEWER: I was going to say, isn't that still a Bomber Restaurant on Michigan Avenue?
  • [00:40:24.85] NELSON FREEMAN: I think it is, yeah. And I knew this, and actually, my dad had warned me not to go over there. But a couple of my classmates wanted me to go with them to the Bomber Restaurant and grab something. I said, well, I can't go over there. And they talked me into it. So I went over there.
  • [00:40:47.89] INTERVIEWER: Peer pressure, huh?
  • [00:40:49.09] NELSON FREEMAN: I went over there with them, and we were all sitting at the counter waiting to be served. And the waitress came, and she waited on the three of them, the ones that were there. But she would not wait on me. And when they finally figured out that well, they're not going to serve you, they're not going to serve me, they all walked out. So we walked out and went back to school. We didn't get any lunch that day. I felt good that my friends had supported me by leaving there.
  • [00:41:27.38] INTERVIEWER: So those were some of your white friends?
  • [00:41:28.91] NELSON FREEMAN: They were all white friends, yeah.
  • [00:41:32.38] INTERVIEWER: So tell me a bit more about the south side. Were there other businesses? What were some of the businesses that were on the south side? Were there businesses there on the south side?
  • [00:41:39.53] NELSON FREEMAN: Oh, yeah.
  • [00:41:40.32] INTERVIEWER: OK, can you mention or name some of those, or not necessarily by name, but what kinds of businesses?
  • [00:41:48.59] NELSON FREEMAN: Harriet Street was a big street for businesses. I was on Main Street for businesses, but there were other things around, mostly small grocery stores. Just about every area had at least one or two small grocery stores where you could buy things that you needed right away, eggs, some bread, milk, stuff like that. Harriet Street had barber shops, they had a restaurant, they had a taxi cab business there. There was beauty shops, women's clothing stores, pool rooms, bars.
  • [00:42:49.39] Later, there was another restaurant that opened there on the corner of Hamilton and Harriet Street. There was cleaners. And there was-- I don't know if you'd call it a grocery store. It was like a place where you could buy liquor, a liquor store.
  • [00:43:19.12] INTERVIEWER: Yeah, I knew you were going to say that.
  • [00:43:20.19] NELSON FREEMAN: Liquor store, that's what I was trying to say. There was a lot of activities right on Harriet Street.
  • [00:43:28.98] Now, throughout the community, dispersed all around, there were other stores. They were like mostly grocery stores. There were cleaners. There was a cleaner in my neighborhood. Other areas where there were pool rooms people would go play pool.
  • [00:43:49.23] INTERVIEWER: And those were all black owned businesses?
  • [00:43:51.62] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah, all black owned businesses in the black side of Ypsilanti, yeah.
  • [00:43:57.40] INTERVIEWER: Wow, that's quite a bit.
  • [00:43:59.86] NELSON FREEMAN: Ypsilanti had a lot. We had two physicians, Dr. Clark. The teacher's name was Clark.
  • [00:44:16.03] INTERVIEWER: Clark, it came to you.
  • [00:44:18.48] NELSON FREEMAN: His dad was a doctor, and he became a teacher. And then there was Dr. Bass. And we had two doctors. We had a dentist, Dr. Perry. And that school, Perry school is named after. Dr. Perry's office is right next door to my grandmother's house on Hamilton Street, so I got to know Dr. Perry when I was a child as well. Wonderful man.
  • [00:44:57.18] And we had lawyers, black lawyers. So we had black professionals throughout our community. My uncle, Herbert Francoise. I don't know if you know that name at all, but was a big real estate man there on the south side of Ypsilanti. All of these people were very active in the black side of town, black community over there. And they would often petition City Hall to try to make sure that we all got the things that we needed, and that we deserved to have over there, so we had an active black community.
  • [00:45:57.06] INTERVIEWER: So when you mention that, you mentioned earlier that your father was very much involved in terms of community involvement. Talk a little bit about that.
  • [00:46:07.87] NELSON FREEMAN: My dad was a people person. He didn't get involved in politics and that sort of thing, but he wanted to make sure that children had things to do and things that they needed. He made sure that they were fed. He made sure that they were house, that they had activities to go to, and that kind of thing. He worked with the Veterans Administration association because he also was a veteran as well.
  • [00:46:44.93] And what was happening back in the '40s and '50s was that a lot of black veterans were coming out of the military, and they had no idea about what they were entitled to in terms of medical, in terms of housing, financing, and all that kind of stuff. And so my dad also worked with the American Legion Post there, and he made sure that black veterans coming out of the Korean conflict and the Second World War knew how to tap into educational benefits, FHA housing, medical, hospital, whatever.
  • [00:47:46.49] Whatever the government had that they were entitled to, he made sure that they knew about it. He made sure that they got there. He would often take them there, make sure that they got what they deserved to have. And he just did all kinds of things with kids. I mean, there was a roller skating rink on the west side of Ypsilanti that did not allow black people to skate there. And he went out there and made arrangements for us, the children on the south side of Ypsilanti to have that skating rink on a Monday night. And so he made that available, made sure that we all got a chance to go out there and have fun at the skating rink.
  • [00:48:40.65] But my dad did all kinds of crazy things, like, I never knew. He always enjoyed helping people. That was his mission in life.
  • [00:48:51.71] INTERVIEWER: That's wonderful.
  • [00:48:52.52] NELSON FREEMAN: Serving other people.
  • [00:48:54.11] INTERVIEWER: So what was your father's name?
  • [00:48:55.85] NELSON FREEMAN: Louis, Louis Freeman. Everybody knows him as Louie. Everybody called him Louie.
  • [00:49:04.64] INTERVIEWER: So were you a good roller skater?
  • [00:49:07.37] NELSON FREEMAN: Oh, yeah. I was one of the best. Actually, you know, through that skating experience, they just bring me back all kinds of recalls for me. But through that skating experience I became a very fancy skater. And so what we had was a carnival that would come to town around 4th of July, and I got hired by the carnival to put on a skating show. So they put out a big platform for me out there, and people would come and watch me do all kinds of fancy things on skates.
  • [00:49:53.85] INTERVIEWER: So you were very good. I was a roller skater too, but I couldn't do a whole lot. That's great. I'm going to move on to part three, which is about adulthood, marriage, and family. This set of questions covers a fairly long period of your life from the time you completed your education, entered the labor force, or started a family, until all of your children left home, and you and/or your spouse retires.
  • [00:50:24.17] So you might be talking about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. And if you need me to repeat anything just let me know that. After you finished high school did you remain here, or did you move away? And you mentioned that a little bit earlier.
  • [00:50:40.37] NELSON FREEMAN: Mhm.
  • [00:50:41.29] INTERVIEWER: And what was the reasons for these moves?
  • [00:50:44.81] NELSON FREEMAN: OK, I was a bad student at school.
  • [00:50:49.04] INTERVIEWER: You were what?
  • [00:50:49.85] NELSON FREEMAN: Bad student. And I wasn't disciplinary bad. I just didn't study. Anyway, when I graduated from high school, I had no idea what I wanted to do. And so I went to Cleary College, and that was probably the only school that would accept me at the time. And I studied there for a year and a half, and my attitude never changed. I still was a bad student in Cleary College.
  • [00:51:24.80] At the time, there was a draft going on, and I think the only reason I was going there is because I was trying to avoid being drafted into the military. But after a year and a half of that I decided I didn't want to do that anymore. And the school was giving me warning shots saying hey, we don't want you here anymore if you're not going to study. And so for about six months I was unemployed, not going to school.
  • [00:51:58.82] And Mr. Beatty, who was in charge of helping the draft board get us into the military found out, and so my name went on the draft list. When you're drafted you go into the army, and I knew that I did not want to go to the army. But I could go somewhere else. I wound up going into the Navy.
  • [00:52:32.84] I went into the Navy, which meant that I had to spend instead of two years in the army, I had to spend four years in the Navy. But I went there because I didn't want to march. I didn't want to dig holes. I didn't want to live out in pup tents and all that kind of stuff.
  • [00:52:53.14] So two years, it was worth it for me to go someplace where I had a nice clean bed, nice clean clothes, and I don't have to sleep out in the mud, and all that kind of stuff. So I went in the Navy, and I was there for four years. That move changed my life there because when I finished basic training in the Navy I took an aptitude test. And not because of my scholarly abilities but because of my aptitude said that I was capable of doing certain things I wound up in the dental corps. And they sent me to school in San Diego, California to become a dental technician.
  • [00:53:50.50] And so I started school in San Diego, and again, my attitude had not changed. I was still lazy when it came to studying. So what happened there was that I had a birthday coming up in June of that year, and I was still out there. And I had a couple of buddies that I was going to school with that decided to take me out on the town in San Diego and get me drunk. They succeeded. I got drunk, and, in addition to that, I got put in jail.
  • [00:54:38.06] They put me in a drunk tank, and then the next day they sent me back to the military base. And when my commanding officer found out about that he just went through the roof, he just blew his-- He was so mad at me he just could not-- and so, he knew that because of the aptitude tests that I had the potential to do a lot better than what I was doing.
  • [00:55:12.96] And so from that point on until the time that I graduated from the school, I was confined. I was only allowed to go to school, go eat, and come right back to the barracks, and to study. I was not allowed to go out and play basketball. I was not allowed to go on leave or breaks, anything. I had three things that I could do, go to school, go eat, and study.
  • [00:55:45.28] And so, for the duration of my time in dental school that's what I did. I studied. That's all I could do. I studied, and I studied. And I wound up at the top of the class as a result of that. And so, the revelation for me was that if you apply yourself you can do it. So from that point on I knew that if I wanted to do something, and I decided I was going to do it, all I had to do was apply myself.
  • [00:56:28.10] INTERVIEWER: And so that led to you-- actually, you mentioned earlier-- having your own business.
  • [00:56:33.38] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes.
  • [00:56:34.34] INTERVIEWER: And you want to talk a little bit about that?
  • [00:56:36.47] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes. Well, after I left the military, I came back home, and I had been trained to be a military dental technician, which included dental, assisting, X-rays, and hygiene. And I was looking for a job doing that on the outside here, and, to my disappointment, I found out that no one would hire a man to do that kind of work.
  • [00:57:20.36] And I realized that-- after that, I said, well, yeah, I have never seen a man do assistant work or to clean teeth. And it was all women work, you know. So I found out that if I wanted to stay in dentistry, and I certainly didn't want to lose all of that education and training that I got, I would have to go back to school and learn the laboratory part of it. And so that's what I wound up doing, going back to school and getting my diplomas in dental laboratory procedures as well.
  • [00:58:04.86] That's how I got to Massachusetts. My first job in the dental industry was in a dental laboratory. And so I was up there for two years, and I came back. And I spent the next year and a half, two years, working in dental materials research. So I'm getting all of this knowledge and experience doing all these different kinds of things, and that's when I decided that I was ready to open my own business.
  • [00:58:36.69] And that seemed like it was almost an automatic thing that I should do because my mom was self-employed, and two of her brothers were self-employed. One was in real estate. One was in construction. And so that's what I did. I opened my business in Ypsilanti, and I always had my laboratory somewhere in Ypsilanti. I moved my laboratory probably three times while I was there, but the business was always in Ypsilanti.
  • [00:59:11.10] INTERVIEWER: And what was the name of your business?
  • [00:59:13.35] NELSON FREEMAN: The name of the business was Freeman Dental Laboratory.
  • [00:59:16.45] INTERVIEWER: OK, Freeman Dental Laboratory.
  • [00:59:20.12] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes.
  • [00:59:22.40] INTERVIEWER: Very good. OK, so let me talk a little bit about family now. So just tell me a little bit about married life, your spouse, your children.
  • [00:59:34.33] NELSON FREEMAN: I have a beautiful wife.
  • [00:59:35.56] INTERVIEWER: Oh, that's a good start.
  • [00:59:39.10] NELSON FREEMAN: We just celebrated our 50th anniversary--
  • [00:59:42.61] INTERVIEWER: Oh, congratulations.
  • [00:59:43.87] NELSON FREEMAN: --this year in August.
  • [00:59:48.25] INTERVIEWER: How did you meet?
  • [00:59:52.15] NELSON FREEMAN: We met through mutual friends years and years ago, and she's about five years younger than I am. So when I met her, I was about 20, and she was about 15. And I didn't pay any attention to her at all. I went back down there about four or five years later, and she had turned into--
  • [01:00:20.44] INTERVIEWER: Quite the young lady, huh?
  • [01:00:21.47] NELSON FREEMAN: Quite the young lady, and I got interested in her at that point. So I wasn't sure whether she would be interested in me. I started calling her and talking to her and everything else. Now, the thing is that she lived in Illinois, and I lived in Michigan. So it was like a long term--
  • [01:00:45.25] INTERVIEWER: Long distance
  • [01:00:49.12] NELSON FREEMAN: But it was nice because we both had a chance to think about all of the different things that we were talking about, and whether or not this was a person-- we had the chance to sit back, and think about it, and evaluate where we were going, what we were doing. So that was good that that happened that way.
  • [01:01:13.02] INTERVIEWER: Well, when you mentioned it you just got this big smile on your face, so that's wonderful. What about children?
  • [01:01:19.11] NELSON FREEMAN: We have two children, two boys. Our oldest boy-- I'm very proud of both of them. He's in an intelligence technology thing. He does a lot of work with-- I think he's with Comcast now in Virginia. And one of his first jobs after he got out of the military was with a company out in Colorado, and I was always amazed by what he was doing. He had been the go to person for the computer systems for the telephone companies who have giant, huge all kinds of computer problems and equipment there.
  • [01:02:19.35] And he was the person that they came to when they needed to find out what was going on with the equipment, and I was impressed with that. My youngest boy, he is a media person. He always liked film, and pictures, and stuff like that. So he's working with WXYZ TV in Detroit. He works down. He's not doing exactly what he wants to do, but he's got his foot in the door. He's hoping for things to get better for him there too.
  • [01:02:54.30] INTERVIEWER: I'm sure it will. All right, some of this stuff we're going to talk about now is work and retirement. We've already gone over a lot of this, but one question I want to ask you about your work is what is the biggest difference in your main field of employment from the time you started until now? What are some things that have changed? What do you know?
  • [01:03:14.71] NELSON FREEMAN: In my employment?
  • [01:03:16.11] INTERVIEWER: In your field, the dental field.
  • [01:03:18.78] NELSON FREEMAN: Technology.
  • [01:03:19.65] INTERVIEWER: Right, technology.
  • [01:03:21.26] NELSON FREEMAN: Technology is just-- I'm just so amazed what I've seen happen to the dental laboratory industry over the course of my career that it's just fascinating. I can remember going to dental laboratory conventions in New York in the late '70s, early '80s and seeing some of the futuristic things that they were talking about-- how they would use computers to fabricate crowns, and bridges, and stuff like that.
  • [01:04:00.78] And, at the time, they were saying this is years off, and I said, well, I'm not going to worry about that. But it's all come to fruition today. So, as a result of that, the work that I specialize in-- I was a crown and bridge specialist. I did crown and bridge work. I made gold crowns. I did ceramic work, aesthetic type thing for people who wanted to make their smile look better and that kind of stuff.
  • [01:04:29.88] It's all done by computers now. So, I mean, my job that I did, that I retired from, is now on its way to obsolescence. Another 10 years, there will be no such thing as a dental ceramics or a dental crown and bridge technician.
  • [01:04:54.45] INTERVIEWER: What did you value most about what you did for a living, and why?
  • [01:05:00.33] NELSON FREEMAN: What did I value most?
  • [01:05:01.80] INTERVIEWER: Right.
  • [01:05:10.00] NELSON FREEMAN: In the early days, I valued my independence. I valued my independence to be able to do what I wanted to do and make a living at it. Later on, when I went to the VA hospital, I valued the fact that what I was doing allowed me to be creative and do things that I thought was best for my patients. And I valued the fact that I enjoyed it so much, that I often felt like, they were paying me to do this. It was that kind of a job. I just loved doing what I was doing. That was the value.
  • [01:05:59.30] INTERVIEWER: That's great when one can say that about their job-- that it didn't even seem like work. They're just getting paid for something they enjoyed.
  • [01:06:08.90] NELSON FREEMAN: I probably would have raised a little hell if they hadn't paid me. I just felt like I enjoyed it that much.
  • [01:06:17.98] INTERVIEWER: Great. When thinking back on your working adult life, what important social or historical events were taking place at the time, and how did they personally affect you and your family?
  • [01:06:43.24] NELSON FREEMAN: My wife and I married when I was in dental technician school, and this was in the mid '60s, 67, 68, somewhere around there. And there was a lot of civil rights turmoil at that time, and things were changing. Cities were burning, people were getting killed, and there was just a lot of things that were going on that were affecting all of us at the time.
  • [01:07:23.46] And we were in a process of trying to establish a career in a safe haven type situation. We were looking for security. We were looking for acceptance from the larger community, that would allow us to be employed, be human beings. So yeah, there was a lot going on back in those days.
  • [01:08:01.04] Prior to that, I had been part of all of that. Before I went to school, I was involved very much in the NAACP in Ypsilanti, and I was like the youth coordinator for them for several years. And my job was to work with the young people and help them learn how to be of service and be of an asset to the community. That was enjoyable too. I mean, civil rights, and the struggles, and everything else was very much a part of my young adult life.
  • [01:08:45.45] And I think it made me a stronger person, but there was a lot of damage that was done to our society back in those days. And I think a lot of us are still reeling from that, we're still suffering with a lot of that stuff.
  • [01:09:11.44] INTERVIEWER: And with the recent elections there's some of that stuff surfacing again. People are becoming concerned about some of the same issues.
  • [01:09:18.20] NELSON FREEMAN: Feel like it's coming back again. Yeah, it really does.
  • [01:09:21.07] INTERVIEWER: So we're moving into part 5, which is historical, social events. And tell me how it has been for you to live in the Ypsilanti community.
  • [01:09:40.33] NELSON FREEMAN: I don't really live in Ypsilanti anymore. I live in Pittsfield Township, but I still feel very connected to Ypsilanti. It's been such a large part of my life, and I still know a lot of people over there. And although our numbers are dwindling every year, we still have that--
  • [01:10:07.96] INTERVIEWER: Connectedness, sense of family.
  • [01:10:09.46] NELSON FREEMAN: Conectedness. I went to a lady's house this summer. She sits on a porch all the time. She's like 96 or 97 years old that I knew when I was a child.
  • [01:10:21.82] INTERVIEWER: And what side of town? South side?
  • [01:10:24.16] NELSON FREEMAN: South side, yeah. And I walked up on her porch. And I stood there, and I didn't say who I was, anything. And she looked at me, and she stared at me. And then she said, Nelson.
  • [01:10:41.06] INTERVIEWER: Wonderful.
  • [01:10:41.30] NELSON FREEMAN: I said, lord have mercy. She remembered me from my childhood.
  • [01:10:47.69] INTERVIEWER: And to have that memory at 96.
  • [01:10:49.51] NELSON FREEMAN: Yes, she still had it. It was amazing. But it was a cohesive community, and we still enjoy one another's company whenever we can.
  • [01:11:04.47] INTERVIEWER: Well, you said you're not living there now. But you're still in the area, but you also had your businesses for all those years in Ypsilanti.
  • [01:11:10.69] NELSON FREEMAN: Yeah. The business was there. I don't know if people knew that I was there, but the business was there. Because, like I said, the business was almost like a seven day a week, 24 hour a day thing, so I was never able to interact with the community the way that I had prior to that. Like, I was involved in lots of stuff because of my dad. And once I started in business on my own that went out the window. I didn't have the same connection with the community that I had prior to that.
  • [01:11:48.30] INTERVIEWER: Well, they say when you running your own business it's like 24/7 almost.
  • [01:11:53.31] NELSON FREEMAN: It is. It really is, yeah.
  • [01:11:57.23] INTERVIEWER: When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud?
  • [01:12:04.35] NELSON FREEMAN: What am I most proud of? I saw that question, and I thought about it. And I'm still not quite sure what it is that I'm most proud of. I know a lot of people in the community are proud of me because of my accomplishments, and what I represented to the black community over there being from the community, and having my own business, and being part of the larger community as well.
  • [01:12:52.56] I guess I'm most proud of my family. I think I would have to say my wife, my children, and my grandchildren. They're the love my life. You know, so if I'm going to say I was proud of anything that would have to be it for me.
  • [01:13:10.60] INTERVIEWER: Well, that's a good one. Tell me a little bit about those grandchildren. How many do you have?
  • [01:13:18.30] NELSON FREEMAN: I have three granddaughters.
  • [01:13:24.40] INTERVIEWER: Well, usually grandparents just light up when they talk about grandchildren, and you're no different.
  • [01:13:30.36] NELSON FREEMAN: My two oldest grandchildren are in Colorado Springs, and I've been very sad about that situation because their parents split up, and when they did that, we were sort of cut off from the grandchildren. So I haven't seen them in a long time. The youngest one lives here in this community, and she is the love of my life.
  • [01:14:01.53] She's graduating from high school this year, but she's been studying at Eastern Michigan University for the last two years. She's a very smart young lady, and she was given an opportunity to go to the Eastern Michigan University and study there. So when she graduates from high school she will have almost two years of college credits under her belt. So yeah, she's my sweetheart. She's the one that I got a chance to spoil the most.
  • [01:14:39.38] INTERVIEWER: Well, that's wonderful. I'm sure she's happy about that. OK, the last question. What advice would you give to the younger generation?
  • [01:14:55.29] NELSON FREEMAN: Education, education, education. Never stop. Education is a life-long career, and I've been sorry that I didn't realize that in my early age. But young people, unless you educate yourself, life is tough. It can be worse without it.
  • [01:15:32.82] INTERVIEWER: I said that was the final question, but actually I have one more. Why do you feel it's important to do this type of interview?
  • [01:15:38.61] NELSON FREEMAN: I'm sorry?
  • [01:15:38.76] INTERVIEWER: Why do you feel it's important to do this type of an interview?
  • [01:15:51.31] NELSON FREEMAN: You know that I work with Matt. And that was like a blessing to come in contact with him, and to see the things that he's doing, see the research that he's doing, and having an opportunity to be a part of all of that with him. Because my life on the south side of Ypsilanti, I knew a lot of people, I saw a lot of things, and I saw the contributions that they made to our community that they never got any credit for, nobody knew what they were doing except the people who lived there who never wrote any of this down.
  • [01:16:44.16] And so, the opportunity to work with Matt, and to share with him, my experiences, share with him all the things that I know about the community, and be a part of all of that is just fantastic. I hope it never happens again. I hope that somebody will pick the ball up, and run with it, and make sure that the history of the other black people all over the world is recorded as well.
  • [01:17:22.27] That became even clearer to me when I first met Matt at the Ypsilanti Historical Society. And I went down there and looked through the building and through their museum and everything, and there was no indications that black people even existed in Ypsilanti. I was so upset by that experience that I had to do something. So when Matt and I got together that was the opportunity to--
  • [01:17:54.61] INTERVIEWER: Tell the story.
  • [01:17:56.80] NELSON FREEMAN: Tell the story.
  • [01:17:58.81] INTERVIEWER: Well, I'm glad you agreed to also come and allow us to film you to hear some of that story. It's been great. Any final words or thoughts?
  • [01:18:14.05] NELSON FREEMAN: I always wanted to be a part of something that would help generations to come to have a sense of where they came from, and a sense of what they need to do, and to make this world a better place for all of us to live in, not only me, but them. And they're down people too, the people that are coming after them, you know.
  • [01:18:58.85] There's only one God, and there's only one race of people. And that's the human race, and when we can all start treating each other as human beings and loving one another as human beings, we'll be on the right road.
  • [01:19:25.74] INTERVIEWER: That's a great way to end this interview. So, once again, thank you so very, very much.