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Intergenerational Dialogue on the Great Migration: Highlights

When: July, 2022


  • [00:00:17] Alvesta Smith: [MUSIC] I don't think I was part of the migration, but some of my ancestors, my aunts and great uncles and aunts and all were probably part of it, but I was not personally part of the Great Migration. I'm from Virginia so a lot of my relatives went to New York. Different ones had a different travel space I would say moving from one area to the other.
  • [00:00:44] Betty Thomas: I was raised in Columbus. I don't know if you have ever noticed on the map Columbus, Georgia, and Phoenix City, Alabama are like one place. You know what I mean, is the city buses from Columbus run in Phoenix City where we had moved to Phoenix City before we migrated here. I say I'm up here from Columbus by way [LAUGHTER] of Phoenix city.
  • [00:01:13] Delores Washington: I am 93 years old, will be in September. In my opinion I am more 93 than 92. You wanted to know my birthday? I was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
  • [00:01:33] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: October 4th, I'll be 79 this year. I was born in Chicago, Illinois. My great grandmother and her family came from Alabama. My great grandfather and his family came from Tennessee.
  • [00:01:46] Jerene Calhoun: My name was actually Jerene Bowens. I was born in East Point, Georgia. My birthday is October the 19th, 1939. I grew up in East Point, Georgia. I attended East Point Elementary and South Fulton High School. I graduated from South Fulton High school in 1957. I'm from a family of seven children. I'm the oldest of the seven. We grew up in East Point, which was a small town which was highly segregated. That's why I went to East Point Elementary and South Fulton.
  • [00:02:39] Johnnie M. Redding: Yeah. I was born in Atlanta, Georgia, like I said, April 15th, 1936. I was born to Mr. and Mrs. John McKevins, only child. Both parents are deceased now. I moved to Ann Arbor in 1961.
  • [00:03:06] Roger Doster: I always have to think about that. I'm 72. I'll be 73 this year. My date of birth is October 30th, 1950. They're all originally from what we call South Georgia. It would be about 200 miles from the Florida border in Georgia, in a small little rural city called Fitzgerald.
  • [00:03:28] Savannah Williams: My mother's mother, my grandmother was originally from a place called McKenzie, Tennessee in a smaller town called Tretsven. That's where she met my my grandfather. When my mom was seven or so, they moved up to Nashville, but I had other relatives who moved further north, like Detroit, Gary, Milwaukee later on in their lives.
  • [00:04:08] Betty Thomas: When I came, I had three small children and we were blessed in that my mother-in-law had this huge house that you could stay in until you got on your feet and get your own place. In the beginning and it was tough because the five of us shared one bedroom [LAUGHTER] . You're so blessed to think about where you came from. It was hard getting here, but it was worth it because we started out and our car broke down in Tennessee and we had to find somebody willing to take us. I think it was about 10 people in one car [LAUGHTER], which was unheard of, but that was before your seat belts and all that stuff. I think there were four in the front seat, but that was how we got here. You count your blessings every day that you survived, what all was going on and thankful that you got here, and say, look where I am now compared to when I first got here. It was unusual the way we came because we weren't thinking of jobs. My mother-in-law came here first to be with a daughter who had lost her husband at the time. While here, she went to work in her place domestic. At that time in Phoenix City and Columbus, domestic workers were getting $3 a day the whole day. My mother-in-law found out that he or she got a dollar and a quarter an hour so to her that was great. Our story goes from that she was a mother of 12. She eventually I call it recruiting. She eventually recruited all of her kids up here except for one. Eventually all the 11 kids got here and we were looking for jobs. Most of the women started working right away because it was easier to find some kind of domestic work or whatever for us to do. The men it took a little while until Ford Motor Company started hiring. Well, we arrived here in '61,1961.
  • [00:06:58] Savannah Williams: My family's experience moving from McKenzie, Tennessee up to the North, they were just looking for a better opportunity. They knew that living in the South, that the opportunities as far as the jobs available were limited, [NOISE] excuse me, and they wanted better opportunities, a chance to have better wages and so they made the decision to migrate north. It was hard leaving family behind, but they had to do what they needed to do in order to provide for themselves and their future generation.
  • [00:07:43] Roger Doster: Fitzgerald is known for producing cotton. If you think about our history, you can understand why a lot of blacks when they hear to word cotton and they always think of that's how we made a living. That was true for my family, a lot of them was cotton pickers. In that particular city though, they had one factory, which was a underwear factory. They manufactured underwear, but a lot of blacks couldn't get jobs there early on. I'm talking about pre 1940 in the '30s and stuff like that. If they did get jobs, they were the toughest jobs. That was the only type of work that they can really get. Many people actually wanted to improve themselves somehow. One of the ways was certainly for men was the military. A lot of them saw that as a way to a least advance themselves. He went into the military and then they actually gotten married right before he went into the military. When he got out, they moved to the Detroit area. Actually they moved here with the understanding that he was going to look for a job in the automobile industry because that was a real big thing back then. This would have been probably 1942, '43. When he came here, and he was older at that point, he wasn't really a real young person, he didn't get a job in the automobile factory, but he got a job with Greyhound as a mechanic because he had learned those skills when he was in the military. He had a really good job compared to the kind of jobs that he had when he was in the South when he came here. He was really the first part of my family that came from the South, he and my great aunt. That kind of started because they all came from very large families. In my grandmother's family, they had 11 children.
  • [00:09:58] Jerene Calhoun: This was an all-black neighborhood an all-black school. Out of the seven, like I said, our chain has broken and two years ago I lost a brother, but the rest of my siblings are still alive. We live in several areas. I have a brother here in Canton, Michigan, and him and his wife and family. I have a brother and his wife and family in Union City, Georgia. I have a sister and her family and they are in Atlanta, Georgia. Then I also have a sister that lives in Oakland, California, her and her family. I have a son who lives in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He has four children, and I'm a great grandmother. I have four great grands, four grands and four great grands. I have been in Ann Arbor since 1964.
  • [00:11:02] Jerene Calhoun: I migrated from Georgia to here. Since then, I have worked in the area doing several different jobs because when I left Georgia, I was working in the retail area. Then I when I moved here, I had had some banking classes, so I applied to work in banks in Ann Arbor. Didn't get hired right away. But I did apply. I went back to school and started working on trying to get an associate degree so that I could further myself and find work.
  • [00:11:46] Johnnie M. Redding: My husband came to get a job at four so we moved here in 1961 and when I came to Ann Arbor, I had three small kids. I had a five-year-old, I had a four-year-old, and going to be a two-year-old in September which we moved in August of 1961. I've been here ever since then.
  • [00:12:11] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: In the 20s and 30s living in the South under Jim Crow was very difficult and my, what would he be? He would be my great uncle, I guess, if I think about the relationship, but that might not be right. But anyway, he tried to get my grandfather to come and visit him in Memphis and he was very anxious for my grandfather to come and my grandfather absolutely refuse to ever go south. What I learned was that because of Jim Crow and because of the lynching that was going on and because of other things that were happening to black males and black families in the South. The North was not a bed of roses, but it was better than what he was afraid he would experience in the South.
  • [00:13:22] Delores Washington: Well, from what I understand, my folks were born in a little town called Jake in Georgia and the reason that I was probably born in the North, it's because my grandfather was a share cropper and my grandmother told me that he was turkey hunting and they share cropper and as they were firing, not bullets, but I guess whatever, they use it that time, not the real bullets and my grandmother told me that as my uncle raised up, he thought that there was a turkey and he shot at him and instead of it being in Turkey, it was a share cropper and he shot him instead. I don t know what part of the body, but it wasn't anything that would have taken his life and he said to me and of course, excuse him when my grandfather said he was sorry. I thought you were the Turkey and he forgave him, but my grandfather accepted that at that moment. But then after that, he made preparations for the rest of the family to move north. We had some relatives that live in the North because he believed that this gentleman, even though he knew that share cropper, could come back and could maybe lynch him and the whole family so they got as many clothes and things that they need it as soon as possible. I don't know the period of time, whether it was one day or two days, but as quickly as he could and he got all of the family together, put them on the train, and they came to Pittsburgh. We had relatives in Pittsburgh and the people my family, the team to Pittsburgh moved in with some cousins who lived in Pittsburgh in their last name was Anderson. How long they had to live like that? I don't know because the next thing I know, we were living in a house on Chauncey street, 677 Johnson Street. I remember that number well, and there was my grandmother, my mother, my cousin, and myself that were raised at this address.
  • [00:16:14] Alvesta Smith: Well, I think I've had a good life. I don't particularly feel as though I was with part of the Great Migration, as I said, because I'm a few generations removed from it. But it's a good thing that they did make the migration because they were doing it to better themselves.
  • [00:16:34] Savannah Williams: I think the biggest sacrifice for my cousin was just not having family around. It was just her her dad, her mom, and her brother and her and her brother were able to find community through school and things like that and her dad worked for General Motors and the post-office, so he was pretty busy there and found community there. Her mother struggled to find some community because she was a stay-at-home mom and and things like that. I think finding community where they live for her mother, that was a concern. But she said everybody live in around her was going through the same thing so she never felt, it was just normal for her her life and what she had was just normal for her. She wasn't aware of needing or wanting to have different because for her where she lived was what she knew.
  • [00:17:42] Johnnie M. Redding: Like I said, I had to sacrifice and leaving my family and I was young, and that was hard to leave. Like I said, my mother had passed away and I had to leave my grandfather and I left my cousins, those that I was raised with, and uncles. I had to leave them and that was hard. But I kept in contact with everybody by phone. I tried to go home at least once a year. At most of the time was at Christmas that for awhile and then it became that I could go home in the Summer times with the kids. I would drive my kids and I we would drive the dad.
  • [00:18:48] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: One of the things that my mother did.
  • [00:18:55] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: I was 12 years old when Emmett Till was murdered. Emmett Till was a child of Chicago. He was born and raised in Chicago. When his mother determined that the world should see what white racism did to Emmett Till, she had his funeral and she had his casket open so he could be seen. My mother took me and I stood in line.
  • [00:19:34] Isaac Mack: You saw?
  • [00:19:36] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: Yes, I did. But it was at the reason that black mothers and fathers, grandparents stood in line down the street, around the corner, up the street to go and view his body and took us kids was so that we fully understood what hatred and racism did. That has lived with me all of my life. To this day, I cannot look at the picture of Emmett Till in his casket. I cannot do that because it brings back all of that hatred, that racism, that fear, all of that stuff.
  • [00:20:28] Roger Doster: I think they really felt like it worked out for the best. I think they were thinking ahead, I think they were thinking about the children. They were thinking, I want my children to have a better opportunity than I had. I think their thinking was if I could come here and I can at least start out economically on a better playing field and provide my children with an opportunity to get educated, they would have an opportunity to do more for themselves and then for their families. I think they think they did the right thing. I think they didn't feel like staying in the south would work out for them. When I tried to think of funny stories, I don't know if I can think of any funny stories reflecting on their experience in the south. Most of them would seem like they were just stories about how they took care of themselves, how they made sure they didn't get in trouble with the law or with other white people for doing certain things they shouldn't be doing. For instance, my grandparents, when they grew up, they had to make sure that a man wouldn't look at a white person in the eye. I always wondered about that. When they would talk to someone they would be looking down. I would be thinking they grew up trying to learn to do that. Whereas today, we teach everyone in your family, you teach them to look them in the face and look them in the eye when you talk to them. I always thought that was like a very cruel thing if they were taught to look down when they were talking to especially a white person. For some reason that just resonated with me.
  • [00:22:24] Jerene Calhoun: One of the biggest sacrifice she had to leave my brothers when we both came here because we left my three brothers in Georgia with my sister. She had to leave them. That the reason why she was going to get them eventually, but she had to get a self-settle. Once she got working and got herself self-settled and a place to stay, I went back home and transfer my brother's back here to Michigan and they lived in south west Detroit. That's where my mother lived because she worked at the hospital in Southwest Detroit. That was one of the biggest sacrifice she had to make and then to get my brothers in school and everything in a new place. That was a big sacrifice. I lived in Ann Arbor, so I wasn't able to do a lot to help her so it all fell on her, getting them situated. But thanks be to God we had a lot of people that came to our rescue that help us find our way. Well, they weren't actually family but these were deep friends that my mother had made. Then after I got here I made some deep friends. This is how doors were able to open for us to be able to stay in the area.
  • [00:23:46] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: We were red-lined. We were told that there was just a certain area in which you could live. Rent was very high as compared to what rent was like on the north side of Chicago. The buildings were large enough that there were four bedrooms, usually three or four bedrooms in an apartment and each one of those bedrooms housed a family. You might have mom, father, and a child or two in one room and everybody shared the bathroom and everybody shared the kitchen and everybody shared maybe if there was a living room or dining room that was all shared. But your living space was in that one room. A lot of blacks when family members would come up from the south and they had no place to go, they would come and they would be with family. In the instance of my great grandfather and his family, his daughter lived there, his grandchildren lived there, his son lived there. I think my grandmother's brother lived there and I think the sister also lived there. It might have been a three or four bedroom apartment that they lived in but they were all there together. They were there because they couldn't afford to be on their own and red lining had a great deal to do with it. My grandfather became a chauffeur and that was about the only job that he could find that blacks could be hired in. He became a chauffeur for a wealthy white family.
  • [00:25:49] Isaac Mack: This was in Illinois?
  • [00:25:50] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: This was in Chicago. He did that for probably, I don't know, 5-8 years, and then he got a job during the 40s in Roosevelt's WPA. He got a job as a draftsman in with National harvester, I think was the name of the company. I can't remember. I know it was harvester and it was in the Chicago area and my grandfather was a draftsman and a very good draftsman.
  • [00:26:40] Betty Thomas: When I moved here, it hadn't been too long, I guess that segregation was stopped in the south. I was in the south. I grew up in an area where there was a line on the bus that you didn't dare go cross. That's the way it was in Georgia, Phoenix City. When I got here I didn't have to be concerned so much about where I was going or what have you. That was a big difference and still when you come from that culture, you're always cautious about what you doing or whatever. [LAUGHTER] I grew up with that. I can remember I go into the back door of restaurants to order food, you couldn't go in the front. I remember the black and white water fountains. I can remember walking in stores and standing there waiting for the cashier to wait on me and they see you, but they ignore you until another white person walks up and they would wait on them. I can remember running home from school not every day, some days because we had to go through this white neighborhood walking and nobody would say a word. It was okay. I remember a lot of things. But most of all, you couldn't get ahead because of the low pay not long pay. [LAUGHTER] But it's a lot of things you don't like to remember, but they happened and the sad thing is this still happening. [LAUGHTER]
  • [00:28:41] Delores Washington: I think well, they had more of an opportunity to speak freely among those who lived as I said in these blocks where down in the south they had to be very careful. You could not walk on the sidewalk with the other population, they didn't have colored places for the color to go in for the toilets and the drinking water. Then some of the stores that were opened up, like we had stores on the corner. I can remember one grocery store, Mr. Corn was his name and we would go and shop there. They didn't have those things there in the south. To me there were improvements.
  • [00:29:50] Alvesta Smith: Well, I remember one year we were still living at our great grandmother's house, and aunts and uncles came back from New York and they would be cooking. It was actually on a weekend, I think. They were cooking and talking and all. I had one aunt who made this peach cobbler. [LAUGHTER] My uncle, uncle Hayes was saying, Oh Ruby, it was just delicious, just delicious. As they were eating aunt Ruby said, Oh, really, Hayes? You really think it's that good. Yes. I'll go back to the kitchen and get you some more. [LAUGHTER] She went back to the kitchen to get him some more. He would stand up and the window and throw it out. [LAUGHTER] When she's coming, Oh, this peach cobbler's so good. Anyway, that was a story that I'd remember them coming back.
  • [00:30:53] Betty Thomas: Oh, when you get older like that, [LAUGHTER] you don't move. They say, I don't want to leave home, in fact it's surprising that well the only reason my mother-in-law left was because of the death in the family. Now, she probably would have never left Phoenix City, had it not been for that. Then when she got here and experienced, working and making so much money, then she thought well. You have to remember, she had built her own house in Phoenix city. But still to her, the living was better here. It was nothing for her and I don't know exactly how old she was, but out of 12 kids her youngest was in his 20s. She was up in age, when she came up here. Older people, even when they need to go into a nursing home, I am not leaving my house. [LAUGHTER] Didn't have to give up, what we gave up we were happy to give up. Just meant leaving all the family because as I said, most of my husband's family ended up here, but non of my own family did. I really didn't give up anything. To me, I gained a lot because I was able to go to work. [NOISE] Excuse me. Eventually we got on our feet and got our own house. Few years later we were able to buy our own house. We just thank God has been our pillar.
  • [00:32:51] Janet Virgina (Newton) Haynes: I can only surmise that my great grandfather and his brother had a close relationship. That relationship was severed because one chose to remain in the South and the other chose to come North. Again, not sharing with me as I was growing up and not hearing any of the stories, I don't know what that relationship was since they were apart, but I have to believe that there still was some connection because my grandfather and his cousin, so my grandfather from his father, his cousin from his father, had a strong relationship. There had been some bond there, but I have no idea.
  • [00:33:52] Roger Doster: When you take a look at where they ended up in life, and somehow it was just opportunity. They just didn't get the opportunity that they would have gotten if they had moved North. I certainly think that when I think about the sacrifices that were made, certainly my parents, I really respect and appreciate the sacrifices they made when they came here. As I mentioned, my mom had to do day work. She did that for several years. For at least 15 years of my growing up life and my dad, he was in the factory for just about most of his entire life. He eventually left the factory and then he ended up working for a car dealership like a janitor, maintenance man. But I can see that the sacrifices they made, not only economically, but just juggling their lives to make sure that their children were taken care of, you really appreciate it now when you reflect back on it, you just appreciate them more than you did when you were growing up.
  • [00:35:05] Savannah Williams: One thing she talked about that I thought was pretty funny is she talks about the trips back down South during the summer to be with her cousins and her dad and her mom with [inaudible 00:35:20] brother up, and they make the journey from Detroit back down to McKenzie. They'd stay for awhile with family, aunts and cousins and hangout. One of the things my cousin's dad missed was the food. Which food is such a huge part of my family even still today. One of the things that my cousin's dad would make sure to bring back to Detroit was red baloney from the South. She talks about how on one trip back up, her dad had given them permission to make a sandwich with some of his red baloney that he purchased. But by the time they get back to Detroit, there was no red baloney left, [LAUGHTER] and her dad was really not happy because that's one of the things like he really enjoys bringing back from the South. But I thought that was pretty funny because her and her brother devoured that tube of baloney on the way back from Tennessee. For me, it's where we pass some of our culture on. We put on a family reunion where we have anywhere from 150-250 people that comes from all over the United States to come and be with that branch of our family. One of the things they love is that we don't cater it through a restaurant, our family members who host it, cook all the food. They feel and they taste the love in that food, and that's one of the reasons they keep coming back for the family reunion down South.
  • [00:37:10] Roger Doster: There's a big difference. First of all, they took care of one another. I don't know if I can summarize that. I don't think they went to the doctor as often as they should have, but a lot of things were taken care of at home. Either home remedies. People were just more family-oriented I think when they were in the South, I think they said, okay, I have a relative that's ill. They wouldn't think about sending them away. They would always be taking care of another family member. Even as the family members grew older, we didn't think about sending them to a nursing home and things like that. All of my relatives, especially in the South, it seemed like they took care of one another. As an individual got older, they just stayed there. They were actually with the same way with us. Even though we moved here, my grandmother ended up living with us for a long time. We took care of her for a lot of years, and when we had even other relatives come and live with us as they migrated from the South.
  • [00:38:26] Delores Washington: The midwives would deliver the children. Then my grandmother said in her case, as soon as that child was delivered, the next day, she was out in the field working again. As a matter of fact, she did tell me that she lost a set of twins at five months. It was rough for them, but the women to me were really tough. You can imagine delivering a baby and then going out the next day to work in the fields. I don't know at what age the babies were, but my grandmother told me that there were times that they would have to tie the children on them as they were working. To me they had to be some tough women working in the hot sun. That was before she came North.
  • [00:39:27] Savannah Williams: Sure.
  • [00:39:28] Savannah Williams: Very much like still in the South in my family anyway today. At that time, they didn't have access to hospitals, so they had doctors that would come visit the home. If a woman was pregnant, she'd have a midwife. But mainly they were cared for by their family members, so you'd be kept in the home, maybe isolated if you were sick, if your family member had mental illness or something like that, again, you weren't sent to mental health institution, you were cared for at home. Sometimes that was limiting. In the quality of care that you received. Then also in the end, also had an impact on your longevity for life. But in the North, like what my cousins was saying that when they moved to Detroit, they had access to a pediatrician. Anytime her brother had a cough, they were at the pediatrician's office getting seen, getting what they need and that is not something that would have happened in the South.
  • [00:40:45] Roger Doster: Like I said, unfortunately, I don't know if a lot of my relatives really get the medical care they should have been getting because a lot of the men on my mom and dad's side of the family didn't live too long. Many of them died in their mid 60s, which was early. I think part of that was because they didn't get regular medical care. A lot of things were done at home. A lot of them may have died of maybe issues that could have been solved that they were seeing a doctor on their on in on a regular basis. I think going to the doctor or dentist wasn't a regular thing. I think people took care of things at home. Some of it is economical because they just didn't have any money to be taking people to the doctor. Unless it was a serious situation where they had to go to the hospital, they pretty much took care of it at home time.
  • [00:41:47] Johnnie M. Redding: Yeah. You did find a lot of problems because that was one area [LAUGHTER] like a public hospital, Grady Hospital. You could go there and stay all day and never get weighted on. I saw that was really hard. I had three of my children there. But my daughter Robin, she was born in [inaudible 00:42:18] and that was more like a private hospital. I had no problems there and delivered that night. My son was the second child. We didn't make it to the hospital. He was born at home, which he's been fun being born at home. He's six to five now and just a healthy man. Just have a little bit of problems with his eyes because the day he was born, he was born on February 14th, 1957 and the son was in the room and the bones didn't get drawn, so he's still have a little problem with his eyes. But otherwise his fine. Then my third child was born in Atlanta and she was born premature. Only 2 pounds and 4 ounces. She is going to be 63 in September, and she's well. She works over at Ipsa high school.
  • [00:43:33] Jerene Calhoun: Like I said, when I grew up, I was the neighborhood. It was a divided neighborhood naturally so to have care was not that great. I can remember my grandparents and a lot of things that happened to us growing up. They did self-care. We didn't have a clinic or a doctor. Mom had a doctor that she knew where we could go get our shots and stuff, but that was not like, you have neighborhoods, you have health care facilities. We didn't have that. And at that time we had a doctor that maybe come to the neighborhood once a week to see the sick and the elderly. But we had a lot of people, like I said, this one lady who when she died, she was a 124 years old. But she gave my parents a mulatto remedies to help us be ill. We didn't have everything that everybody else had. But through faith and everything, they use everything, because we got bee stings, we stepped on nails and everything else and they did pull out the old-fashioned remedies to make sure we didn't get really sick.
  • [00:44:47] Delores Washington: I understand that that time the hospitals were segregated and [NOISE] the African American people would assist one another even with the birth of a child. I remember my grandmother saying that she would work in the field up until the birth pains and it was time for the baby to be birth and she would leave the field, come into the house, and they had what they, what do we call them today? Nurses, not really nurses. It wasn't too much better from what I understand, but it was better. I understand that my grandfather and I don't know how long it was that he was employed here, but he became ill and he was taken at that time, they could take them into the hospitals, and there were phones that were shared in the community. Everybody did not have a phone. The only way that my grandmother knew that her husband was passed, someone from the hospital called her and told her that he had passed. You can imagine how devastating that would be to someone new. She had no one to assist her. She did not know that he was dying, so that's the way that case was handled. Rose, her daughter, she had a second daughter, my mother, and her sister. I can't remember, I think it was about two years old at this time. I remember her being ill but I didn't know what the illness was and I remember the ambulance coming to take her to the hospital, and for some reason I thought that they had taken her to a school and I wondered why she never came back. But that was the mind of a two-year old and he or she had died and I did not know that. There were things that were very secret in the family. Of course, a death wasn't because they would put a rainfall on the outside of the house. The body in the casket would be kept in the living room, and then the neighbors would come to do the viewing. That's when he died. I don't remember anything else after that concerning her funeral.
  • [00:47:29] Betty Thomas: I was young, very young when I'm married and I left home, so my parents and grandparents were still in Columbus. I grew up in a housing project. That's where my mother and father lived in. My grandparents lived in another area of town and at that time we had clinics and then if you could afford to, you could go to the doctor. But there were a lot of clinics or what have you that people could go to. I'll tell you one thing that happened in my life that was different when my second child was born in 58, I think it was 59, she was delivered in a Seventh Day Adventist hospital. I think it was because at that time they weren't allowing black doctors in the hospital, so this was only place. I take that back. She was delivered in what they call a lying-in-hospital, or two or three of the doctors had bought this little building strictly for having babies and because they weren't allowed in the big hospitals. I remember that happening now. My third was born by a midwife at home.
  • [00:49:12] Alvesta Smith: Back there at that time, family would take care of families because my mother was raised by her grandmother and we lived with our great. She was my great grandmother. She was a nurse for white doctor in Virginia. Family back there used to take care of family. My mother's sisters and brothers all went to New York. But my mother wanted to stay to take care of grandma, so they took care of others. Today, people are put into nursing homes and it's a little bit different today. Sometimes people are able to stay at home where they're able to take care of themselves.
  • [00:49:58] Alvesta Smith: Well, advice for the young generation. They need to remember or learn as much about their history as possible. I think one of the best ways is to get with an older person to discuss it. Reading books. You can read books too as well, yeah, it help you. But it's very important because if you do not remember your history, sometimes you might have to repeat it. It's very important.
  • [00:50:28] Jerene Calhoun: Well, for the future as a race of people, we need to get our kids more actively involved with the churches and learn how to get along with each other, but see the division of 10 fit over into a lot of people and a lot of hatred because we're constantly seeing on the news where we've taken on our own people. That's an area that can need to be rectified but it's there. Then we got all the gangs and everything. Because they're looking for love, they're looking for something. They go in the way that they go, which they think is the only way. Is up to the people and the community to reach out and try to love on each other. It's hard because a lot of people have been disillusioned, been mistreated, and they don't want to hear nothing you have to say. But I'm not going to stop giving my testimony that God is love. You need God in your life, and that mean teaching my granddaughter, my great-granddaughter, they need to get in Sunday school and church contest the way we was raised. There was nothing else for us to do but to go to church. You didn't go to movies, you didn't do anything on Sunday. You respected the Sabbath day. That was it. All we did was church. But that was a good day because that was a preparation to spin the Sabbath day, to get rid of this menu day with God all day. Like I said, kids were mischievous and growing up we had lots of fun and that's another thing. Our kids don't get the opportunity to have fun. We've given them too much. Anything they want we give it to them. But when I was growing up, it wasn't that way. You earn what you got. Then like I said, we didn't have all these toys and things and games that young people have now. Your videos and all that stuff. We didn't have that. We made up our game. My dad built us a playground. My grandmother would play in the yard with us. We jumped rope, we played jacks, we did things like that. But we had fun, you see our kids don't know how to have fun no more because of all the bottles and all the stuff that comes around it. That keeps kids scared to do anything. Because in my day care when I bought jump rope, jacks, and things for the kids to play, they looked at me strange, but I taught them how to do jacks, marbles. All this was our games. That was the only thing that we had and we made games, we created stuff because we didn't have stuff. To get a bicycle or roller skate at Christmas, that was really something for a family. Like I had seven siblings. Well, my mom and dad they always made sure we had something for Christmas. But see, we don't commercialize everything. Everything, there is no secret time, no more. Everything is wide open. Sundays, you can do whatever you want to do. That wasn't the way we was raised. We gave it up for Sabbath day and we made it holy. But all that's gone.
  • [00:54:11] Delores Washington: Well, the main thing that I would say to the young personnel is, and this is from my experience. Oh, I forgot our churches. The black church was very prominent at this time and you had to go to church whether you wanted to or not. I think this was the stronghold in the black family. Very definitely. Everything that was brought up political and otherwise that I can remember was they talked about it at church. We had so many kids in church. We had church on Sundays, and I think Church during the mid week. We had Sunday school and then we add something for the teams. As I said, if you didn't want to go to church, you certainly didn't have the nerve to tell your parents that you did want to go because every child or just about every child had to go to church. Sunday was set aside. The one day that you didn't go to movies or play, you got dressed up. We had Church in the morning and then you go back to church in the evening. This was a day that was dedicated definitely to the Lord, and of course, the rest of the week, you were supposed to behave as they felt children should. I would say that today, the church, the main thing is your faith and belief in God. I'm not ashamed to say that. I'm very proud to say that as a Christian, I have been taught to treat my neighbor as I would like to be treated to love them, and not to think on the negative side of things because there have been improvements. I see the split that has occurred at this particular time, which I think is very unfortunate because the African-American has really excelled I think in ways that many of the people thought that that would not be possible. But when I think of all the great things that our people have done, my advice again would be, first of all, believe in God and live the life for him. Do as the word of God says, to treat others the way that you would want to be treated and to keep pressing on not looking back at the things that have occurred. I think we need to know about these things, but not to stress about these things, but to keep trying to do better. That's what I would say. I hope the little bit that I had to say that you did get something out of it. I'm glad to be an American. I'm glad to live here in America. I always like to say this because when it, one time a year, I do a very beautiful rendition of America, the beautiful at the church. I get an opportunity to say why I'm glad to be an American. If we're Americans and we're tearing our country down by racial, we have all these different races, why are there so many people that are trying to get in to this country? There must be something good here. We live here. And I think we should build up our country. Everything isn't perfect, there are mistakes that are made. But we're not perfect either. I'm a work in progress as all of us are. As I said, I'm glad to live in America, to be in America and I wouldn't want to be in any other place.
Graphic for audio posts


July, 2022

Length: 00:57:08

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

Rights Held by: Ann Arbor District Library


Turner African American Services Council
Great Migration
Black History
Black Americans
Health Care
Oral Histories
Race & Ethnicity
Jerene Calhoun
Roger Doster
Janet Virginia Newton Haynes
Johnnie M. Redding
Alvesta Smith
Betty Thomas
Delores Washington
Savannah Williams