AACHM Oral History: Laurita Thomas
Wed, 09/22/2021 - 11:02am
When: August 25, 2021
Laurita Thomas was born in 1950, and her family lived in southwest Detroit and Ontario, California. She attended the University of Michigan and pursued two master’s degrees from Wayne State University and Eastern Michigan University. Throughout her career, Thomas has pushed for better career opportunities for women and women of color. She worked at U-M for 47 years, eventually serving as Vice President for Human Resources. A survivor of domestic violence, she regularly shares her story and was president of the board of Safe House Center in Ann Arbor.
- [00:00:00] JOETTA MIAL: [MUSIC] We're going to get started. Laurita, first of all, I'm going to ask you some demographic questions so that our listening and viewing audience will know exactly who you are. Some of these questions may jog your memory for other information, but we're going to ask you to keep it a little brief and we'll go into later more detail about your life. Thank you again for allowing us to interview you. I want you to please say and spell your name.
- [00:01:02] LAURITA THOMAS: My name is Laurita Thomas, L-A-U-R-I-T-A, T-H-O-M-A-S. That is the preferred name. My first name is actually Eleanor. I don't use it, but that is a beautiful name as well, E-L-E-A-N-O-R.
- [00:01:22] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, wow. I don't know if I knew your middle name.
- [00:01:24] LAURITA THOMAS: [LAUGHTER] I use my middle name as my preferred name, yes.
- [00:01:31] JOETTA MIAL: What is your date of birth including the year?
- [00:01:35] LAURITA THOMAS: April 10, 1950. It was a good year.
- [00:01:42] JOETTA MIAL: How would you describe your ethnic background?
- [00:01:45] LAURITA THOMAS: African American.
- [00:01:47] JOETTA MIAL: What is your religion?
- [00:01:51] LAURITA THOMAS: Protestant, African Methodist Episcopal. My church is Bethel AME Church.
- [00:01:57] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you. It's my church too. What is the highest level of formal education you have completed?
- [00:02:07] LAURITA THOMAS: My bachelor's degree in economics and political science. I have enough credits for three master's degrees but I never finished a single one of them.
- [00:02:18] JOETTA MIAL: Where was that?
- [00:02:23] LAURITA THOMAS: Wayne. Bachelor's is from the University of Michigan and I studied at Wayne State and at Eastern Michigan University at the master's level.
- [00:02:36] JOETTA MIAL: You said you had enough credits for three master's so you attended some additional school?
- [00:02:45] LAURITA THOMAS: Just Wayne and Eastern.
- [00:02:50] JOETTA MIAL: Okay. What is your marital status?
- [00:02:53] LAURITA THOMAS: Divorced.
- [00:02:56] JOETTA MIAL: How many children do you have?
- [00:02:58] LAURITA THOMAS: Three.
- [00:03:01] JOETTA MIAL: How many siblings do you have?
- [00:03:04] LAURITA THOMAS: Four.
- [00:03:07] JOETTA MIAL: What was or is your primary education? Your primary occupation? I'm sorry.
- [00:03:14] LAURITA THOMAS: [LAUGHTER] Human resources administration.
- [00:03:21] JOETTA MIAL: I'm asking this but I know the answer. At what age did you retire?
- [00:03:28] LAURITA THOMAS: 70.
- [00:03:29] JOETTA MIAL: 70. But you're doing semi, right?
- [00:03:34] LAURITA THOMAS: Yes, I'm semi-retired because as I continue working in my field on a part-time basis.
- [00:03:44] JOETTA MIAL: Now we're going to go to part two, where it deals with the memories of your childhood and youth. Even if these questions jog memories about other times in your life, please only respond to the memories for that part of your life. What was your family like when you were a child?
- [00:04:13] LAURITA THOMAS: We've always been a very close family. My mother in particular had a high value. She taught us, God first, family second, self third, and she practiced that in everything that she did. We traveled a lot. My father was an entrepreneur, he liked to start up businesses and then move on in self-discovery. We've lived in Michigan and several places in California, and we've visited other states as well. My parents made a commitment that their children would see all 50 states and they were successful in getting us to 49 and then as adults, some of us made it to Hawaii as well. My mother had a strong faith in God. She didn't impose any one practice on all of us, but she exposed us to many different ways of religious practices and then felt that it was her responsibility to make sure we had options and all of us continue our faith journey even today. Education was extremely important in my family growing up. My parents were the generation that believed that educated young people would be the antidote if you will, or the ability to attack racism. All five of their children have at least a bachelor's degree and some have more and so that was really important to us. Because we traveled a lot, we would experience family in many different states. I would include Florida as my mother's birthplace. We often visited there. Her secondary home was Washington DC, and we spent time with cousins in DC every summer. In some ways, we relied on our immediate family to a great extent with our principles and values and how we worked together. But there was an extended family that was also very much a part of us. Like many in my generation, there were extended family members that became aunts and uncles because we always referred to people with respect in their last names, but if they became close enough, a friend of my parents became Aunt Marion and Uncle Jimmy, and so the extended family is well-defined.
- [00:07:10] JOETTA MIAL: Lots of travel and lots of extended family. Where did you spend most of your childhood? Where were you?
- [00:07:19] LAURITA THOMAS: Most of my childhood was in Southern California. Went to Northern California first. We lived in Palo Alto for a year, and then we moved to Compton, California. Then high school was in Ontario, California out in the valley.
- [00:07:42] JOETTA MIAL: Can you tell me about your earliest memory?
- [00:07:52] LAURITA THOMAS: Earliest memories. We lived in southwest Detroit when I was four or five and I can remember the social process for my parents, they were bridge and bid whist players. On the weekends, "Have card table and chairs, will travel." The card games occurred among their friends. We, of course, were the helpers and the servers for their get-togethers and their socialization and it was a lot of fun. I have a very sad memory of living in southwest Detroit in salt mines, and of course being totally instructed to stay away from them. But some neighbor children were actually playing near the railroad tracks and found themselves in a car when the salt mines dumped the salt and the railroad car opened up and we lost two neighbor children. I remember that being so, so very sad in the community. I remember the community coming together to support that family. I also remember the danger, it's never left me and I think I was only four years old when that happened.
- [00:09:15] JOETTA MIAL: Oh my. Well, that certainly was a continuing bad memory.
- [00:09:26] LAURITA THOMAS: Yes. [OVERLAPPING] It's bad because it happened but blessed because you learn about the importance of friends and family and community.
- [00:09:40] JOETTA MIAL: Again, where was that exactly?
- [00:09:43] LAURITA THOMAS: Southwest Detroit. We lived on Ethel Street at the time.
- [00:09:50] JOETTA MIAL: Were there any special days, events or family traditions you remember from your childhood?
- [00:10:00] LAURITA THOMAS: Certainly, all of the Christian holidays were celebrated in my family. There are some things that my parents did, probably my mother in particular, that I didn't really appreciate how creative she was until I was grown. One tradition I remember is we always went out on Christmas Eve and got a real tree, and we made a big deal of decorating with popcorn and other things on Christmas Eve and we certainly looked forward to that as children. As an adult, I learned later, of course, that Christmas trees can often be free on Christmas Eve because the vendors want to move them along. I didn't know that was the reason why we did that tradition, because mother made it so much fun and so much to look forward to. But it was one of her clear ways of stretching a dollar beyond a dollar to the nth degree. I learned over time how really good she was at that. Of course, we didn't talk about being poor. We had a working class income, and with five children it didn't go as far as it might've. But we never talked about being poor. We were rich and spirit, and rich in traditions. I can remember one of the homes we had in Compton, California, and it was at the top of a hill, and my family just created so many stories and games and activities about climbing that hill and using that metaphor for climbing in school, in education and in Bible study. I remember riding skates down the bottom of that hill and falling and hurting myself, and being told, "Get up, get up and do it again. " Some of those lessons that we have from our childhood, of course, come back to sustain us in our adulthood.
- [00:12:19] JOETTA MIAL: Wow. What a creative family and speaking of creating, you've answered some of this in the next question about, has your family created its own traditions and celebrations. Anything to add to what you've already said?
- [00:12:42] LAURITA THOMAS: Oh, as my own family, Christmas season is so very, very special and one of the things I look forward to most is we've added an ornament to the tree each year. Each member of the family adds an ornament to the tree representing something significant of that year to them. One of my sons was a football player and there's a football player ornament with the number that he wore on his team. There are candles and crosses and beautiful hearts for members of that family that have gone to Heaven. There are, when I adopted my oldest son, he was 11, and there is an ornament that is a heart that says "First Christmas Together" with his name on it. In fact, one year I started to decorate the tree when one of the sons could not be home, and I got a tongue lashing about that was never going to happen without him being home because he enjoys decorating the tree and unwrapping those ornaments and going through those precious memories together. So I learned I am always to announce the day that the tree is coming out so that folks can come home and participate in the decorating of it. Now that includes our grandchildren. Each of them have an ornament on the tree each year as well, you might say, "Is the tree pretty full?" Yes, it is pretty full now [LAUGHTER]. But each ornament means an awful lot.
- [00:14:24] JOETTA MIAL: What a special tradition, wow.
- [00:14:27] LAURITA THOMAS: Thank you.
- [00:14:29] JOETTA MIAL: You already said you completed your masters. When did you come to Ann Arbor?
- [00:14:43] LAURITA THOMAS: I came to Ann Arbor for school to attend the University of Michigan, in 1967. I mentioned my parents, and my father always wanted the best for us. We didn't have any family history of going to the University of Michigan, but we certainly knew of its prestige, its quality, and its excellence. My father wanted his oldest girl to attend the University of Michigan, and I always knew that I wanted to, being a good daughter, but I was in California in high school. I remember talking to a counselor and being told I would never get into the University of Michigan, one because I was colored, two because I was out of state and had no track record, and so you carry that in your spirit. But I knew it was important to my dad, so I still applied. I was a good student, that was also really important in my household. I had a high honors and I did well on the standardized tests, and I got in. I wish I could find that counselor. I didn't really look for them, but I think sometimes when we're told what we can't do, it inspires us to achieve that very goal and to learn what's necessary to overcome those barriers. I almost thank her for telling me I would never get in, because it meant, we just worked that much harder to achieve that dream.
- [00:16:30] JOETTA MIAL: In so many of our interviews, our interviewees have told us that people have told them that they could not do this or that or what, so that's a very inspiring story. Let me back up a little bit. When you were in high school, did you do any sports or other extracurricular activities?
- [00:16:57] LAURITA THOMAS: I was a bookworm first. Reading was extremely important to me. I was a member of Junior Achievement. I was a member of the National Forensic League, so that was public speaking and debate. I loved the film when it came out, The Debaters, because I was on the debate team in high school, and it was one of my most precious experiences, I just loved that. I loved learning about running a business too from Junior Achievement. I was really active in my church and the youth activities in the church. I was junior class president at my high school, and worked in student council activities all the way through school. By high school, I wasn't in girl scouting anymore, but that was something I remember elementary and middle school. Then just was so busy doing some other things, didn't stay in girl scouting in high school, but I do have really good memories of being a brownie and a scout. I'm going to share a story. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself, Joetta, but--
- [00:18:16] JOETTA MIAL: [OVERLAPPING] That's okay.
- [00:18:17] LAURITA THOMAS: I did share this story, when I was a speaker at the University of Michigan Women of Color Conference. People told me the story was very special and inspiring to them. It comes out of my love of debate. Oh, the theater. I also was a behind-the-scenes person in the theater arts. I loved the theater, and performing arts. I wasn't necessarily in front of the stage, but I did work on production crews, etc. But in debate, in my high school class, we were paired up to conduct debates to finish our debate class. I was paired up with a person who was known as the son of the Grand Wizard in the county. This student refused to debate me because--we used the term colored back then--and the teacher was so incredible. She told the student, "then you are choosing to fail the class because participation in debate is an absolute requirement of the class," and so he said, well, you couldn't do that, and so we went on to have the debate with the topic that the teacher had given us. The class voted me hands-down, a 100 percent consensus as the winner of the debate. What he said to me was, "Well, the only reason you won is because you have white blood flowing through your veins." I don't know where the response came from, only perhaps the focus on our Black History that was true in my church and in my family, and I said, "I'd be happy to talk with you about where that blood that came from, and the destruction it made of Black women.” I probably said slaves at the time, we now know to say enslaved Black women. In telling that story as a high schooler to the Women of Color Conference attendees, it just generated a conversation that lasted all day, for weeks. There are so many times when I have to give glory to God when you're in a situation, and you don't anticipate a question like that coming at you, and being able to say the right thing at the right time, to cement the impact that you want to make. I give that glory to God. But it made a difference in high school and it's made a difference for adults to share that story.
- [00:21:07] JOETTA MIAL: Well, thank you for sharing that with us. Let me go on and ask you about how do you think your school experience is different from how school is known today?
- [00:21:33] LAURITA THOMAS: Some so much of the same and yet, some different. When I came to Michigan, Black students had been here for many, many years. In fact we used to study who was the first in the various disciplines, and who was the first to attend. In my church now I hear stories of how, for instance, Charles Adams, the senior pastor of Hartford Church, was a student here but couldn't live in the dorms, so lived with one of our church members, Mother Seeley. Wow, he was a student here. We actually were in the dorms, I moved into Mary Markley as a freshman and I believe there were 30 people that came up to Ann Arbor to help me move into the dorm. It wasn't just mom and dad and the siblings. I think there's a whole community and family that supported my generation going to majority colleges like U of M, and I think we knew when we came that it was not just for us we were getting an education or not just to please our parents, but we were representatives of our race and the communities we came from and we had an accountability and responsibility to them as well. I believe because it was the civil rights movement--I was a freshman in 1967--you can remember the various riots, the Watts riots, what happened in Detroit in '67, you can remember the March on Washington from '63 impacting our generation, you can remember the Vietnam War was part of my time when I was at Michigan. But we were small in number, but mighty in spirit. We wanted to do well at Michigan, we wanted to make a difference at Michigan, we wanted to make sure more people who look like us, more students who look like us could attend in the future. That were our conversations that influenced the disciplines we chose, it influenced our social environment. We were part of the original BAM movement. So we know about strikes and sit-ins and working with the president. That reminds me of another story I'd love to tell. Some of the challenges, we felt like, I had to carry my GPA and my standardized test scores with me to my meetings with my faculty because so many of them didn't believe we deserved to get here, and we got here by the color of our skin and not by what we deserved and had earned. I still hear some of that from the students, having to prove their right to be here on campus and study with this marvelous environment. The concept of understanding equity and inclusion as a lifelong journey. I think we pushed open doors, we created opportunities for people to rethink past behaviors and patterns, we set the original demand for Black enrollment at Michigan, that has yet to be met 50 years later. It speaks to how important it is to continue the journey and the advocacy and demands of working inside the system and outside the system to earn what's due. I think students are still having to advocate. Maybe the topic or the demand appears different from the 1960s, but the challenges are still there that require advocacy.
- [00:25:51] JOETTA MIAL: Wow. You said you attended high school in California?
- [00:25:57] LAURITA THOMAS: Yes. Ontario High School, out in the valley..
- [00:26:01] JOETTA MIAL: How did that prepare you or how was it different than what the high schools are like now?
- [00:26:14] LAURITA THOMAS: My goodness. I don't know if I can reflect on that Joetta, I had a great experience. I was in high school when Kennedy was killed and we were in Latin class. I remember getting a great education at Chaffey High. I don't have yet any lifelong friends from that experience. But it was a great high school to attend. Having raised my children in Ann Arbor, of course, I've experienced really great high schools here as well. The relationship to me, it has to be the importance of outstanding education and being in an environment where schools have valued and high school education has a variety of options for students and for those that choose to be in the college prep curriculum that they can do well to prepare to go to intensive research universities like the University of Michigan.
- [00:27:22] JOETTA MIAL: Was your high school integrated?
- [00:27:28] LAURITA THOMAS: I was often the only Black student in my classes, so integrated to the extent that there was some presence, but not in overall community representation. Ontario was right next to Pomona. There were more Black students in Pomona. We were also right next to Claremont and there were fewer Blacks in Claremont. When my parents chose to move to a new community, my mother taught me that she and dad would look for the house that they could afford in Jewish neighborhoods. The reason why they did that is because they wanted their children surrounded by peers that believed in education. She believed, and whatever the reputation was in her experience, that Jewish parents really focused on education as well, and so we never lived in an integrated neighborhood after we left Compton. Integrated to the fact that we were present and maybe a couple of other families were, but their choice was to live in predominant neighborhoods, primarily where Jewish people lived.
- [00:29:00] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you. Did your family have any special sayings or expressions during this time?
- [00:29:18] LAURITA THOMAS: I really couldn't think of any. My siblings may have had and I apologize, I meant to ask them what they might remember so that I could respond to that.
- [00:29:35] JOETTA MIAL: That's fine.
- [00:29:36] LAURITA THOMAS: That's fine? Yeah. I'm sure that the teachable lessons that we got, mom was always teaching as she brushed our hair, I'm sure they were there. I know my mother's favorite Psalms because she would quote from them. Psalm 91 was her favorite prayer of protection. When any of us were traveling as children and as adults, mama always sent us off with Psalm 91 and we knew that she continued that. I just couldn't think of any funny quips or anything like that.
- [00:30:17] JOETTA MIAL: That's something too, about sending you all off with Psalm 91.
- [00:30:22] LAURITA THOMAS: With Psalm 91 [OVERLAPPING], the Psalm of protection is one that was her favorite. Whenever we were traveling, mom always recited it for us. She would call us in the morning. One of the fond memories is mother always wanted to be the first to wish you happy birthday. You knew that you were going to get a call at midnight and one second because that's just what mama did. She always wanted to be the first to say happy Easter, merry Christmas, happy birthday. After she passed, there was one Easter where our get-together for the family was going to be at my house. At 12:01 on Easter Sunday morning, I woke up and mother was saying to me as clear as day, "You forgot to get the Easter lilies." Because the tradition mom had at Easter was every family, all my siblings and their families received a lily from her and she passed those out when we gathered, and it was true, I had not bought any lilies. Thank God, Kroger's [LAUGHTER] was open because she was clear as day, "Get up out of that bed and go get the lilies for the family." And so I did. Then I had to do the poinsettias at Christmas because that was the other tradition as well, every family member received a poinsettia from mom. We've continued those traditions in honor and respect for her.
- [00:32:08] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, how sweet.
- [00:32:12] LAURITA THOMAS: Pleasant memory.
- [00:32:14] JOETTA MIAL: The next question, you may have answered some of it, but were there any changes in your family life during your school years? Now I know you said you moved around a lot. But anything that comes to mind?
- [00:32:34] LAURITA THOMAS: Well, once we were back in Michigan, after I came to Michigan, my whole family moved back from California to Detroit. My mother and father, in anticipation of retirement someday, bought a motel and restaurant on Colchester Beach in Ontario, Canada. They had always been in the business, the auto business, car repairs, tire stores, that kind of thing. My father used to tell this story. He had worked for the city of Detroit but found that was extremely hard for a Black man. Before I was born, he decided to be a self-employed businessman and he was all of his life. I remember some of his accomplishments. I remember him testifying before Congress on what it was like to be a Black man that was an entrepreneur in small business. We were so very proud of my dad for that. But one of the things that they had planned in advance was to retire by being this motel and restaurant owner. They bought a property called the Silver Crescent in Colchester, Canada. They provided first jobs for most of the young people in the neighborhood that my sisters and younger brother grew up in northwest Detroit because everybody would pile in the vans that we had and go up to Colchester Beach and clean the cabins and serve as restaurant servers. My sister learned how to cook and eventually became a culinary artist and went to school for culinary arts and ended up teaching in the vocational departments in culinary arts in the Detroit public schools. The family business, all of us worked. I came home every summer from Michigan to work as a waiter and everything else we did to keep the family business running. We learned so many lessons about customer service and relationship building and building business partners. We learned that firsthand from watching our parents do that. We also cemented family commitments because we worked together, we cleaned together, we prepared foods together under my mother's and my sister's direction. Every summer was spent at Colchester Beach for over a decade. In fact, almost two decades. The grounding that that creates as well as the memories, I think, Joetta, you came to my wedding at Colchester Beach; am I correct? [LAUGHTER].
- [00:35:31] JOETTA MIAL: I think so.
- [00:35:31] LAURITA THOMAS: I think you were there.
- [00:35:35] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, what a wonderful learning experience for all of you. Let me go on. When thinking back over your school years, what important social or historical events were taking place at that time and how did they personally affect you and your family? Now I know you mentioned, I think you were in California when JF Kennedy died, but any other social or historical event?
- [00:36:12] LAURITA THOMAS: Well, of course, all three of the deaths. Martin Luther King being assassinated. I was at Michigan when that happened. And Bobby Kennedy. The challenge of these very positive people that represented hope and they worked in a very positive and optimistic way to make the world a better place. Their assassinations were certainly a challenge to the sacrifices that people who believe in a better life make for the good of people and for the good of the world. If they could give their lives for their belief, for their hope in a better future, then the impact on many of us was well, we have to work hard too. It could be sad, it could be depressing, but it's what's required of us in order to have impact and influence on what's possible. Sacrifice is part of the journey and when that sacrifice occurs, I think it creates more responsibility and accountability. That's how I felt about it and I know many in my generation did as well. We were the generation that were told, don't sit in the back of the bus because the civil rights movement made it possible for you to sit in the front of the bus. I had to teach my children never to sit in the back of the bus on their school buses going to school because people had died for the right of them to sit anywhere in the bus. I think those significant events we created or understood the lessons learned from those and tried to apply them to our daily walk. We voted because people died for us to have the right to vote and it's important to vote both in the national and the local elections because all politics can be local. We didn't have to be convinced or invited or incentivized to go vote. It was our responsibility to do that and to make sure that other people could vote as well. I think all of the trauma of the '60s and '70s, there was a fear of nuclear war, etc. Bomb shelters were being built so that you could protect your family. I remember a trip across the South. We were going to visit relatives in Florida from California, and at the time my father owned Texaco stations in California. He had three of them. We stopped in Mississippi to fill up the car with Texaco gas and dad asked where were the restrooms so his three little girls could go to the bathroom, and they pointed out to the field. I actually looked at my father when this gas service station owner said to him sending us to an outhouse or out in the field with no protection or privacy at all. I saw a look on my father's face that I will never forget: the injustice in the world. He stopped pumping the gas and we all got back in the van to go elsewhere where maybe we could do indoor plumbing. But the look on my father's face about that injustice, it was terrifying, but at the same time it was, oh, I never want to see that look again. So I have to work really hard to make this world a different place so not only my father, but other Black men don't experience that sense of humiliation that turns into anger.
- [00:40:35] JOETTA MIAL: Wow. Oh, let me go on. You lived in the era of segregation. Can you speak a little bit about that? You talked about your school in California and you were often the only Black person in there. I don't know where you went to elementary school, but was it near your home? How did you get to school and who were your teachers? Were there restaurants or eating places for Blacks where you lived?
- [00:41:23] LAURITA THOMAS: Elementary was primarily Compton, California. I went to Ralph Bunche Elementary School. It was more Black and Asian than white at the time, but white people still lived in Compton at that time shortly after. I don't know that there were very many because there was white flight there too after the riots. We walked to school. I don't remember busing being an issue in Compton.
- [00:42:04] JOETTA MIAL: Compton was mainly a Black area?
- [00:42:12] LAURITA THOMAS: Black and Asian. There was a really strong Asian community, Vietnamese, in Compton at the time, but primarily Black. Ralph Bunche and Enterprise Junior High were both integrated but primarily Black. I don't remember us eating at restaurants. Mom was a terrific cook and there were a lot of us, so eating out was just not something we did. We all participated and had our various chores and roles. I do remember eating at other friends' houses. I remember block parties and family picnics. Earlier I remember saying the things that we learned as adults that we didn't know as children. We did travel a lot. We had family in Florida and we were living in California and we had family in Michigan. I remember my parents mostly having station wagons. When we got ready to go visit family, there was enough fried chicken cooked and picnic baskets made to last the whole trip. We didn't stop at restaurants. The car had plenty of food in it for sometimes two, three-day trips. Later as an adult, I learned that mom and dad didn't know where we could stop to eat. Where those were precious memories of packing picnic baskets and enjoying all of that preparation for the trip and then eating in parks and in the car, parked. Those were fun memories. I didn't know it was because my parents didn't believe there was a place we could stop and buy food until I was an adult and understood that we were traveling in the South in the '50s and '60s and they couldn't count on how to feed their children. Everything was prepared in advance and lasted the whole trip. I remember trips from Michigan in late teens, same thing. We prepared everything we needed for the trip and it was in the car till we got to Florida. I now know why. I didn't know. They are precious memories of how to travel in a car.
- [00:44:50] JOETTA MIAL: Do you know how Black visitors were accommodated in your areas? I know in the South-- [OVERLAPPING]
- [00:45:07] LAURITA THOMAS: Just from what I've read as an adult, we were accommodated by churches and ministers and places we knew we could stay. I don't know other than our travel across the country to visit with family. As I said, we went to DC every summer. I can't speak to in general other than what I've learned as an adult is how we survived those years.
- [00:45:39] JOETTA MIAL: At least in your childhood it was fun traveling.
- [00:45:43] LAURITA THOMAS: Yes. Those are good memories.
- [00:45:45] JOETTA MIAL: Yes. Now, we're going to move on to part three, and this is adulthood, marriage, and family life. This set of questions covers a fairly long period of time 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 retired. Se might be looking at about a stretch of time spanning as much as four decades. After you finished high school, where did you live?
- [00:46:24] LAURITA THOMAS: Ann Arbor, University of Michigan.
- [00:46:26] JOETTA MIAL: You went to school there.
- [00:46:30] LAURITA THOMAS: Yeah. Other than a brief time of going to Detroit because my husband was a City of Detroit employee and had a residence requirement. I went to school here and then I've worked at the university ever since I graduated from school. I always had an Ann Arbor base, but I lived in the City of Detroit when we were married because there was a residency requirement. I was in Detroit for eight years.
- [00:47:06] JOETTA MIAL: You said you worked at the University of Michigan right after graduation? [LAUGHTER]
- [00:47:12] LAURITA THOMAS: Yes. My full-time job right after graduation was in the financial industry. I worked for Huron Valley National Bank at the time. It was acquired by Detroit & Northern Savings and Loans. My first professional job, if you will, after school was with Huron Valley National Bank, but I also had a part-time job at the university as a diploma clerk. I worked in the registrar's office there as well. Then I worked--after Huron Valley National Bank, I went to the university as a guidance counselor for the School of Public Health. I was a study skills teacher for graduate students that were returning to the School of Public Health. Then I worked at the law school for the University of Michigan doing similar work. I don't know if you want me to stay on that career path right now.
- [00:48:30] JOETTA MIAL: I think I'll get into that some later.
- [00:48:32] LAURITA THOMAS: Okay.
- [00:48:33] JOETTA MIAL: I'm just amazed that [LAUGHTER] you're leaving college and then going and staying, so you are true blue [LAUGHTER].
- [00:48:46] LAURITA THOMAS: I am true blue. I ended up working for the University of Michigan for 47 1/2 years.
- [00:48:55] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, my. I'd like you to tell me a little bit about your marriage and family life with or without a spouse. Just tell me a little bit about your family life with and without your spouse.
- [00:49:25] LAURITA THOMAS: I've been married twice. I was married immediately upon graduation. I graduated in December 1970, and I got married that same month. A very nice person even to this day. I think I was influenced by those of us that went to school to get a bachelor's and an MRS all at the same time. I was still growing as a person and in that first marriage, we were together for seven years, but I grew in a very different direction in my 20s than he did. The person that he needed as a spouse, I was not that person. We ended up going our separate ways. We parted with respect for each other. I had become a very different person from the 19-year-old that he married. I was working still at the university and very active in my sorority at the time and working in the community. I met my second husband at Colchester Beach. He was visiting there with friends and we started a relationship there. In a couple of years, we got married. I was a little older at the time and certainly wanted to begin a family and he just was the best kind of guy for being a dad that I could see. The second marriage was to Luther and that was about the beginning of the wonderful family-type relationship. Well, it continued. There was stuff I should have done in background checks. I think young women have much more opportunity now to check the backgrounds that people tell you they have because unfortunately, after marriage, I learned that many of the things that I thought were true about that person were not true and had been presented in a way to attract me to be a wife. Then I experienced domestic violence on a repeated basis. I had all of the classic processes related to domestic violence, "Oh, my God, it's my fault, I'm not doing the right things. I need to be a better wife. I need to do all of these things differently." And the guilt that it was my fault. I experienced that. Then the third time I was hospitalized, I had been choked so badly, I didn't think I was going to live. By that time, my son was seven or eight months old. I felt this enormous drive to live so that I could be his mother. That meant that there had to be a separation between his father and I because he was going to kill me. That experience that I was able to survive was secret because women like me who had parents to sacrifice to send them to U of M, that had professional careers, that didn't happen to us is what I thought and so it was a secret for 25 years. I went to a sorority international conference called Break the Silence and it was at that conference I realized I had a story to tell and I became involved in Safe House Center here in Ann Arbor as a volunteer and stayed with them, eventually joining the board and ending up being president of the board. Because once I broke the silence and understood how many other women shared my story, it was important to do the work to make opportunities better for other people. That husband would occasionally show up while I was raising our son. But he did exit the picture and I became a single parent and learned the value of village and community and friends in that single parent role. I tried very much to surround my son with role models in the church and other places so that he would have father figures, even though his father was not involved in his life. I told you I had three children. Lamar was born and is my biological son. Shortly after he was born, he was 2 and 1/2. Wesley came to live with us. He was a distant family relative, the godson of my sister. He had been living in Taylor, Michigan between neighbors. His parents had both died. His mother from [NOISE] chronic illness. His father had been killed and his grandmother that he had been with had put him out on the streets to fend on his own at 10. One of the neighbors called my sister, who was his godmother. She was living in Texas at the time and said they couldn't really take care of him anymore and was there something she could do? She called me because I was here in Ann Arbor. He was in Taylor, she was in Houston. She said, could I just go down and pick him up from Taylor and keep him for the weekend while we thought about what can be done? So I said of course, and went to Taylor and picked him up and had no idea what to do with a 10-year-old. Spent the weekend with my cousin in Ypsilanti, who had a 10 year-old son so that he would have someone he could relate to. I never took him back to Taylor. I went to find out about his schooling and found out he had been truant and not in school. I found out he had lived in 17 different foster homes. I didn't believe any child at age 10 could have had such a terrible experience. I had no clue as to what I was doing. But I saw how much this child just needed to be loved. I told my sister, I said I'm going to take him home after the weekend staying with my cousin, and I did. I became his legal guardian. I also moved from Ann Arbor to Detroit at that time. I am deeply in debt to two teachers at Clague Middle School, who took their time to teach him almost two years of school because he had been in and out of school that consistently and they stayed after school to do that. Those two teachers, I invited to his Morehouse University college graduation and that young man went on to earn a PhD from the University of Michigan in Near Eastern Studies and is a college professor now, as well as on the executive council of the Nation of Islam. That is my oldest son. My second son is my stepson; he and Lamar share a father. His mother is Emily. We made a pact after we were both separated from their father, that they were brothers and that they would be raised as brothers. We did that all of their growing up lives and then I would always introduce him as my stepson because he didn't grow up with Lamar and Wesley here in Ann Arbor. At some point when their father passed away in 2016, my stepsons said to me, please stop calling me your stepson. You are my mom. You have done everything that moms do. I am your son. My wife is your daughter-in-law and that's how I want you to refer to me. I have three sons out of respect for his request to be called my son. Where do you want to go, Joetta? [LAUGHTER]
- [00:59:47] JOETTA MIAL: I just appreciate you being so open and honest and when people listen to your story it will be helpful. Now, tell me more about how as a single parent with the three sons, how was some of your life?
- [01:00:10] LAURITA THOMAS: It was always about prioritizing their opportunities. I am so grateful for Bethel Church because the foundation of our Christian belief and an extremely strong youth program that Bethel had. We were at church at least three times a week if not five, with activities that created a great foundation for them. We were also members of the Ann Arbor Chapter of Jack and Jill, and that's Black parents coming together to create opportunities for their children to learn about their heritage, their legacy, and to prepare them to compete in this world. Great group activities were so well thought through to give our children opportunities for growth and my own parental commitment was that each of them should have some activity, something they were engaged to develop three things: their mind, their body, and their soul. In addition to their responsibilities to be good students in school, each of them had to choose an activity, at least one that would develop their mind, one for their body, and one for their soul. Soul was very often filled spiritually and religiously by church and the activities of the church. Body was fulfilled by their choosing activities, sports, and teams. I did ask each of them to choose an individual sport as well as a team sport so that they could continue that sport into adulthood. Each of them did choose basketball and football, were synonymous with team sports. All three of them did those. But each of them also had an individual sport, either tennis or swimming or walking and running, and for Lamar it was sailing, to sustain through adulthood. Those were important things to guide our life. Of course, I'm so grateful for all of the support systems that existed in our community to help being a single parent as effective as we could. But that was top priority while they were at home and it still continues because we're such a close family.
- [01:03:19] JOETTA MIAL: Well, two of your sons I know really well and have been really successful. You want to tell me a little bit more about them?
- [01:03:30] LAURITA THOMAS: I think one of the reasons why you know Wesley so well is because he was so outspoken and probably had to have chain pulled when he was Black Student Union president at Huron, because I was told about a couple of his speeches. But he was so inspired by a number of people at Huron. Yourself of course. Bill Radcliffe. Oh my God, his name will come. Who taught him African-American history.
- [01:04:08] JOETTA MIAL: Bob Brown? No?
- [01:04:09] LAURITA THOMAS: No. This person ended up buying a motor home. Mr. Pipkin.
- [01:04:19] JOETTA MIAL: Ray Pipkin.
- [01:04:20] LAURITA THOMAS: Ray Pipkin changed by son's life by teaching him the kings and queens of Africa and who we are and who we should expect to be, and taught him things that he had never learned any other way. I credit Mr. Pipkin for starting Wesley on his lifelong journey of knowing about we as a people and understanding who we are and what our background is. Again, for the village accepting Wesley's commitment, he is now of course a scholar. When I think about his first 11 years, I don't know that he felt loved as much as the village here in Ann Arbor that surrounded him from your leadership at Huron High School, Dr. Mial, to the leadership of the church and the various rites of passages that we participated in with them. He said at one point, if he couldn't go to Morehouse he wasn't going to college. That was frightening for someone who wanted to make sure he got his education. He did go to Morehouse between junior and senior year in their summer program. That absolutely cemented his interest. When he applied, he was accepted, and I was a little nervous because at that point in my career I was in a very different economic situation and I didn't have enough money to send him to Morehouse. I shared that with a few people and then all of a sudden these applications from fraternities and from Kiwanians and from the Elks, and from the church. They all came to our attention and Wes's four years at Morehouse were paid for by scholarships, his tuition was paid for. We, of course, had to find money to support housing and everything, but the village decided that he should go to Morehouse. The largest scholarship he received was from the Moody family. Charles and Christella's son had gone to Morehouse. He was a graduate of Huron High School, and he had started a scholarship fund for graduates of Huron High School that went to Morehouse, and that was the largest funding that Wesley received. I'm still grateful to the Moody's for that investment in Wesley. He did very well at Morehouse and then this village again, Roger Doster who is a member of the community, wanted to talk to Wes about graduate study at Michigan, and he did have a conversation with him on one of his visits home and the next thing I knew, he went through the application process, applied for graduate work in the doctoral program, and he got his masters along the way. If it not been for Roger saying, you really should pursue your love of history, your love of religion, and the practices of those at Michigan that opened the door, and then Roger did everything to support his applications, to get him prepared for his academic studies, to get him over to Chicago to learn some foreign languages because language was required, and to shepherd him throughout his doctoral program at Michigan. He currently is teaching online, the history of religion and Near Eastern studies. He also is quite a prolific scholar and writer. His website, you can go [inaudible 01:08:45] and see. I think it's up to 16 books he's published now, and he is on the executive cabinet for Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam. That means he's on the inner circle of influence and impact in the nation and very much influences their learning and education there. He's been married twice. His two oldest children, my two oldest grandchildren are now 22 and 19, and they of course spent most of their growing up years in Ann Arbor while he was in his doctoral program. In his second marriage, she had two girls and they have one, so he now has five children, and his youngest are five and seven, and then she has one starting sophomore year in college as well. That's five of my nine grandchildren. Omar went to Northside Elementary and Clague Middle School and Huron High, a true Ann Arborite, a River Rat. You had retired by the time he became an outstanding student at Huron. I'm proud of him being president of his class for three years, and then the last year he was treasurer of the senior class there. He was an honors student and he was on the one football team that played in the state championship. He was not the greatest football player, but he certainly was a spirit and a true team leader on the team, and that he is in everything that he does. He went to Hampton University because his senior high school teacher for his Sunday school is a true Hamptonian, married to a true Hamptonian and my brother and sons, and his daughter went to Hampton as well, so we had family commitment to Hampton. He went there and he did very well at Hampton and then he came back and got his master's degree here after living in Virginia for 12 years. He currently is the Chief Diversity Officer for Amazon Prime, their business and he is married. He married a wonderful woman that he met when he came back to Ann Arbor after having lived away for 12 years. They have two children. One will be three on Sunday, and one is five. Those are my youngest grandchildren, and they're right here in Superior Township, so they are such a delight. The middle son has two daughters as well. I have eight granddaughters and one grandson. The middle son lives in Detroit. He has a college freshman at Wayne State and he has a 10th grader in Detroit, Jada and Jordan. They are a pleasure as well.
- [01:12:18] JOETTA MIAL: Oh my, you are so loved by lots of people [LAUGHTER]. Thank you for sharing all that. Let me go on to your work and retirement. Now you've shared with us that you were at the University of Michigan after you graduated and you started working for them almost immediately, and that you worked for them for 47 years. Your main field of employment was human resources? Why don't you tell me a little bit about your career.
- [01:12:57] LAURITA THOMAS: Sure. I started out in guidance and counseling, which is consistent with everything that I thought I would be and become given the commitment to help other people. In that counseling role, I was at the School of Public Health when layoffs became necessary because of national reduction in funding. I was interviewed at that time by the personnel office because the university has a policy that if you're losing your job because of a reduction in research funds or grant funds, they will work hard to help you find other work. Well, the interviewer saw something in me that--she really was supposed to be helping me find jobs somewhere in the university, but she wanted me to work for her. She offered me a job in personnel at the time as an employment recruiter. The university had made a commitment to diversify its workforce and so she wanted me to recruit, particularly in Southern schools to bring employees here to the University of Michigan. I started my personnel journey with her and in that field, you can move. I actually moved the first five years, almost every year, to learn a different area of specialty within human resources. I learned very early on from research and reading that Black women received the least amount of feedback in their professional careers of any group of people. If you wanted to be successful, you had to figure out ways to get feedback. I also learned that one of the key ways to challenge racism is to have really good data about what goals and objectives are and what's expected of you as a staff member and to have clarity about that with your boss or partners or teams or the communities you serve. I learned very early on to create feedback mechanisms about clarity of expectations, reaching agreement early on what success looked like. I always ask the question from early in my career, what does success look like for this role, for this series of jobs. Then I collect the data. I use data to measure my own contribution as well as apply data in a field of social science that very often will have some data. [NOISE] When I mentor other young people, I talk about the values of work that really are eternal. They don't really change as technology changes, as skills change, as information and expertise changes. The importance of clarity of expectations, the importance of knowing what success looks like and having agreement on that, and then the ability to measure it is time eternal and something that I try to reinforce from my own experience. So I moved along. I was working hard, but I was getting recognized. Affirmative action was the byword when I entered. I know that affirmative action opened the door for me, for my human resource career, but I knew I had to work hard to sustain my opportunities in the field. I got promoted almost every year for like five or six years in a row and I built some expertise in different areas of HR. Then I went into labor relations and learned how to understand the role of unions and the partnerships that can be held with the organization. Then I went into the healthcare and I started my management career. I was fortunate to get a management role at only 30, which is typically fairly early for management. But I had wonderful bosses. One in particular allowed me to take risk and do things that people in my field had never done before. I had a big failure. I was ready to resign and he said to me when I went in to resign, "You can't quit, I just invested in you learning about how to manage change." Because he believed in what the goal was, we ended up accomplishing that same goal eight years later when the timing was better and managing change. I do credit that boss, a white male, for believing and creating opportunities for us to stretch and learn and take risks and learn from those risks and come back from failure and succeed in significant ways. The last role I had at the university was as Vice President for Human Resources. I'm so grateful for the work that I had the opportunity to do, to work to make a difference for women. I called myself and my colleagues one of the original bra burners at the university because we saw where there was discrimination on a gender basis. We were able to create advocacy and policies and programs and procedures and mentoring and coaching that created better opportunities for women. The same is true of my journey. I remember toward my retirement running into one of the service workers at the hospital. Early in her career, she was almost fired because she and her supervisor didn't understand each other and they were talking past each other and I worked hard to find her another job that matched her skills and talents. This was 35 years later that she was still thriving on the direction that she ended up in. I said to myself, if that had only happened for one, then my journey at the university made a difference. But I think it happened for a lot more than her. The opportunities that I had the pleasure to work with my teams to create for people to be successful at Michigan. My belief in the potential of people and creating environments where people could be successful. I'm so grateful to the bosses that just allowed me to pursue dreams and things that had never been done before to create voice for people that work at Michigan, to create more clarity of expectation, and to create places where people could thrive. I couldn't have had a better career. I'm so grateful to the people that I had the opportunity to work with, their expertise and them bringing their talents to the table and bosses that gave me the freedom to do that in an environment of excellence and quality that rewarded that.
- [01:20:45] JOETTA MIAL: Oh my.
- [01:20:49] LAURITA THOMAS: I had 17 different jobs while I was in Michigan.
- [01:20:53] JOETTA MIAL: I really thank you for this inside look at the University of Michigan. It helps us to bring town and gown together in your journey through it. You've answered some of these questions, so I'm going to skip down to--In thinking back on your working life, is there an important social or historical event taking place at the time and how did it personally affect you and your family?
- [01:21:37] LAURITA THOMAS: All of the work on affirmative action comes to mind first, whether that be race or gender. All of the work that the university did to go to the Supreme Court to secure an opportunity to pursue its vision of becoming a more inclusive employer, and then the bumps and bruises along the way, and the challenges. I think the journey of trying to make the world a better place impacts us as individuals and impacts us as families. As you know, I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. In addition to gender-based work and racial work, I also had a disability and the disability community to become an advocate for, from even personal experience if not professional commitment. The experiences as individuals and as teams impacted not only my family's determination to be successful, despite all the barriers that we confronted, to a professional drive. To work as hard as we could to be who we wanted to be, who we could be in both my department that I had the opportunity to lead, the division that I was in and the university and all three campuses. Just the experience of being different and knowing what it takes to be successful at a place like Michigan and being able to share that and inspire others to it, impacts your family. It impacts your family's motivation, drive, choice of priorities on how you spend your time. Selfishless and working in the community. My mother believed in service and so not only did I have a demanding career, but a huge commitment to service through community organizations and in gratitude for the kind of community that we live in trying to give back.
- [01:24:13] JOETTA MIAL: Wow. One more thing in the retirement. You've answered some of this also. When do you value most of what you did for a living and why?
- [01:24:33] LAURITA THOMAS: Helping someone find their bearings, believing in themselves, finding their voice, and being able to thrive at work. I'm impressed. I don't know. I'm grateful to God and my parents for a level of confidence that has shown through in all of my work and belief that things can be different and better. I know when people don't have self confidence, therefore don't believe in their own talents and skills and gifts. If you can create dialogue, if you can create support networks, if you can create self-reflection opportunities, if you can create classwork and coursework to help people invest in themselves, they not only are self-actualized themselves eventually, but they make such an impact on those that they touch in their own environments. I think working to create opportunities for people is what I've had the privilege to do and what I still do. I do have a part-time job as president of the American Research Universities Human Resource Institute. It's all about leadership development and creating opportunities for people to be better, to learn and to grow, and to develop. That has been a very satisfying career.
- [01:26:31] JOETTA MIAL: Wonderful. Now we're going to move on to the last section, which is entitled historical and social events. You've said some of this but we'll ask it anyway. Tell me how it is for you to have lived in this community?
- [01:26:57] LAURITA THOMAS: Ann Arbor has grown and changed and developed along with the times. There have been moments of significant pride in Ann Arbor's leadership in certain areas and there have been experiences that you just don't expect in this community, but they do happen. In learning about for instance, many of my church members who are either native Ann Arborites or grew up in Ann Arbor and Ypsilanti and the surrounding areas, not necessarily associated with the university. Hearing stories of friends who couldn't try on clothes at Jacobson's or other stores in the Liberty, State Street area. Knowing that Blacks worked first at University Hospital before working in the schools and colleges of the university on trying to build on that legacy and rich history and still open doors for people throughout the university. Learning Mr. Barfield's story of working as a custodian at the university and then moving on to own companies that did extremely well and honoring him as an entrepreneur. That story. I think looking for the stories that inspire people in spite of the barriers that existed in the greater Ann Arbor community. Knowing the Wheeler family, the first Black Mayor of Ann Arbor, the park named for him. Knowing his two daughters and how they have fought for equal rights in both of their careers. Knowing you, Joetta, and our dear friend Letitia Byrd and the [inaudible 01:28:57] McDonalds and the Joyce Hunters of the world that were the first in the Ann Arbor schools that opened doors for our children to be successful. The Helen Olivers that worked on the Saturday academy, the Joe Dulins who knew that some children we're not making it in this community and they needed a different educational environment and structure. And watching him go create that with committed teachers like Lexana Lyons and others that supported those goals. Knowing the Sunday school teachers that I had the opportunity to work with at Bethel, they were also public school teachers and the inroads that they made, Betty Schaffners and Doris Mirees, and watching them committed to all children. But also working very hard on behalf of those whose doors needed barriers to be broken for them to be successful. Doing whatever I could through various organizations such as the sorority, the church to help them make a difference for our kids in the greater Ann Arbor communities. I mean, I remember Saturday Academy and how important it was to our kids, and how many kids did well because of participation in the Saturday Academy. I was sorry to see it go because of individuals that felt it was discrimination to do that, reverse discrimination, and the factors that we felt. For your leadership, Joetta, with the demographics of Huron High School and how you created an understanding on sharing diversity. You were my partner in a research grant for a mentoring program to invest in Black kids to have opportunities to work in healthcare and other kids that were caught in the middle. Do you know the program that you and I started is over 30 years old now? And it is extremely successful in helping people excel in the healthcare field. I could start to name names of people who are nurses today and doing well because of the program that you and I were able to start to invest in kids. I'm going to say, I know that it has been sometimes mind-boggling what the achievement gap data says about our children and at the same time, I've experienced hard work, commitment of individuals, absolute passion about children and their opportunities and making sure they have them in this community. It still boggles my mind the barriers that we experience, but I'm grateful that there's a passion to work to eliminate those barriers. There's work for all of us to do until we reach the goal: that these barriers don't exist, these gaps don't exist and there is true equity in housing and education and those major environmental systems that make a difference for our people.
- [01:32:41] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you so much for all that information. Now, a couple more questions. When thinking back over your entire life, what are you most proud of?
- [01:33:11] LAURITA THOMAS: I'm struggling in the fight for pride because my mother taught me to be a humble person. What I'm I most proud of? There's so much to be joyful about. But I guess if I were honest, it's three good people that I call my sons. They're just really good people. They are good citizens and they believe in God. But beyond that is, I hope I lived up to my mother's belief in making a difference for people.
- [01:33:59] JOETTA MIAL: Well, you've been rewarded with so many different awards so, you certainly are appreciated. Next to the last question, what advice would you give to the younger generation?
- [01:34:22] LAURITA THOMAS: Find your passion. What do you care most about? Learn to recognize the gifts that God has given you and build on those skills with the passion that you have no matter what that is. Invest in yourself, invest in your village, your community of support. Because our family and our friends, the community that supports us and sustains us on this life's journey, as difficult as it can be, it always comes back to you more than you possibly could have given up. Find your passion, invest in yourself and the people that you love and remember to love. Remember that love conquers all.
- [01:35:28] JOETTA MIAL: Oh, boy. All right. Now this is the final question. How do you feel personally about doing this interview for the museum and its impact on you?
- [01:35:41] LAURITA THOMAS: Well, I'm deeply honored that anyone would think that anything I had the experience with or stories to share would make a difference, so I'm very honored. When you reach 71 and you reflect on all of the beautiful days God has provided you to be alive on this earth, if you've made a difference for someone, and the stories will make a difference, in the future your grandchildren will be able to listen to this someday in the archives and know the legacy that they come from. I am deeply honored and extremely humbled. I hope some story I told will make a difference for somebody that hears it.
- [01:36:30] JOETTA MIAL: Thank you, thank you, thank you so much. So proud of you.
- [01:36:38] LAURITA THOMAS: Thank you for the invitation.
- [01:36:40] JOETTA MIAL: You're welcome. The world will see it, our viewers will see it, and I'm sure they'll find some inspiration. Thank you so much, Laurita.
- [01:36:51] LAURITA THOMAS: Thank you for the interview. Thank you for the nomination, and thank you to the Ann Arbor District Library for your interest in capturing our stories.
August 25, 2021
Copyright: Creative Commons (Attribution, Non-Commercial, Share-alike)
Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library
University of Michigan - Human Resources
Detroit Salt Mines
Civil Rights Movement
Black Action Movement (BAM)
Huron Valley National Bank
University of Michigan - School of Public Health
Clague Middle School
Huron High School
Bethel AME Church
Jack and Jill of America Inc.
Historically Black Colleges and Universities
Nation of Islam
Black American Women
African-American Saturday Academy
LOH Employment - Health Ed Public
AACHM Living Oral History
Johnnie Mae (Jackson) Seeley
John F. Kennedy
Luther Thomas III
Charles Moody Sr
John W. Barfield
Albert H. Wheeler
Charles Hall Sr.
Essex County (Ontario)
Ethel St Detroit