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Legacies Project Oral History: Opal Simmons

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:14am

Opal Simmons was born in 1931 in Detroit. After graduating from Eastern High School, she attended Fisk University and Wayne State University. She lived in New York for a few years as a young woman and recalls attending dances at the Savoy. She volunteered as a letter reader for the American Red Cross during World War II. During her working years in Detroit, she was secretary to the deputy mayor in the Coleman A. Young administration. Richard Simmons Jr. became her second husband. Later in life, she attended seminary and became a minister.

Opal Simmons was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.

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Legacies Project Oral History: Mary Frazier

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:10am

Mary Frazier was born in 1910 in Marion, Arkansas, where her father owned a 140-acre cotton farm. She describes sharecropping, Black land-ownership, and the devastating effects of the boll weevil infestation on the cotton industry in the early twentieth century. When her father’s farm went under, she moved to Detroit to live with her aunt in the Black Bottom neighborhood. Over the course of her career, Frazier worked as a domestic laborer, hospital worker, and U.S. Postal Service employee. She completed her high school education at age 83.

Mary Frazier was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.

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Legacies Project Oral History: Katherine Dawkins

Thu, 01/16/2020 - 9:05am

Katherine Dawkins was born in 1932 in the Black Bottom neighborhood in Detroit. She had two children as a teenager, and recalls how that impacted her relationships with friends and family. She married her second husband, James Dawkins, in 1963. She has held various jobs, including switchboard operator at the Gotham Hotel and customer service representative at Harper Recreation Bowling Alley and Henry Ford Hospital. Late in life, Dawkins was inspired to return to school and she received her GED at age 79.

Katherine Dawkins was interviewed by students from Skyline High School in Ann Arbor in 2010 as part of the Legacies Project.

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AACHM Oral History: Janice Thompson

Sat, 04/15/2017 - 1:45pm

Please take a moment to take our Living Oral History Survey and let us know what you learned.

Janice Thompson was born in 1939 and grew up in Ypsilanti. She reminisces about visits from her Detroit relatives to her home in the "country," some of the prejudice she faced during her school years, and pranks she played with friends in Ypsilanti neighborhoods. Ms. Thompson received a master's degree in social work, working for a time at the Veteran's Administration hospital and running programs for public housing children.