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AACHM Oral History Excerpt: Mary Wheeler McDade

When: July 13, 2021

Mary Wheeler McDadeMary McDade was born in Columbia, South Carolina in 1939, but grew up in Ann Arbor. Her parents Albert and Emma Wheeler were active in local politics and civil rights. As a college student, McDade helped found the University of Michigan chapter of the NAACP. She moved to Peoria, Illinois with her husband Joe Billy McDade in 1963. After raising four children, she built a career in law. McDade graduated from the University of Illinois College of Law and she has been a justice of the Illinois Appellate Court since 2000.

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  • [00:00:17] MARY MCDADE: [MUSIC] When we moved into the house on Eighth Street, I started going to a school called Bach School. I don't know if it's still there.
  • [00:00:28] JOETTA MIAL: Yes.
  • [00:00:29] MARY MCDADE: But I was in kindergarten there. Mom had made me a nice dress for the first day at school and I went off. She took me to school. When I came back home, my dress was all torn and I was bleeding and she asked me what was wrong and I told her that some kids at school had caught me on the playground and had beaten me up. She took me by the hand and walked me right back to the school looking exactly the way I had come home. She had a long talk with the school and the upshot of the whole thing was that they solved the problem by saying that I could no longer go out on recess. I had to stay in school when the other kids were out playing during the course of the day. They were not happy with that, so the following year they enrolled us at St. Thomas hoping that we would be able to deal better, we wouldn't have the negative racial things there that had been at Bach School.
  • [00:01:42] JOETTA MIAL: These were white kids that beat you up?
  • [00:01:44] MARY MCDADE: Yes. Nancy did a little better at that school than I did because when she was in kindergarten, I remember she brought her entire class home to see the new puppies that had just been born, without saying anything to mom about the fact that she was bringing them. We ended up with a lot of little kids looking around at the puppies while mom was still in her nightgown. [LAUGHTER]
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July 13, 2021

Length: 00:02:17

Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)

Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library


Bach School
Racial Discrimination
Local History
Oral Histories
Race & Ethnicity
AACHM Living Oral History
Mary Wheeler McDade
Eighth St