0:00

INTERVIEWER: Welcome to the interview with, with Mr. [Welf], Ralph Grimes, the principal at Ypsilanti High School. Today’s date is July the 14th, 1981, Tuesday, at 11 o’clock. This is, this is basically an interview being conducted to ascertain the role on the part of blacks in Ypsilanti Township, specifically looking at community life and the contributions made on the, on the, on the part of various Afro-Americans in the community life of Ypsilanti Township. Uh, Mr. Grimes, were you born here?

GRIMES: No, I was not.

INTERVIEWER: Where were you born?

GRIMES: I was born, uh, in, uh, Adrian, Michigan, uh, 40 miles uh, southwest of here. Um, uh, Adrian being a, a fairly small um, farming, uh, community, it has, uh, grown in, uh, industry now, but it was a fairly lazy farm community when I 1:00was a youngster growing up there.

INTERVIEWER: How old were you when you first arrived in Ypsilanti?

GRIMES: I came to Ypsilanti, ah, when I was, uh, twenty-four.

INTERVIEWER: OK. How long have you been here now?

GRIMES: Approximately twenty-one years.

INTERVIEWER: Approximately twenty-one years. Could you provide to me an, an oral discussion, ah, your views concerning the black life in Ypsilanti, uh, as an educator, as a professional in terms of progress, in terms of businesses, in terms of community life, and in terms of the various uh, leaders in the Ypsilanti community? And I’ll just let you go at random with that.

GRIMES: OK, OK. Ah, I, first of all, I think that, uh, Ypsilanti is, um, quite a unique, um, community, as far as uh, black life uh, is concerned and the 2:00opportunities that exist here for, uh, for, black, uh, youth and adults. Unlike, uh, most, uh, communities, uh, Ypsilanti does seem to be kind of a microcosm of, uh, of, uh, society, uh, the, uh, racial-ethnic mix of, uh, this community is in my judgment unique. Um, its origins of growth based on the pre-world war and during World War II era tended to bring, uh, people, uh, from, uh, all parts of the country but mainly, uh, from, uh, the South and, uh, deep South, as well as, 3:00uh, Appalachia and, uh, Ypsilanti, uh, has, uh, those families third, fourth, fifth-generation here now. The unique part of it is the blend of, uh, the professional staff, uh, persons who, uh, are the, to a great extent, the outgrowth of the university community that exists in Ann Arbor and, uh, in, uh, Ypsil—in Ypsilanti with Eastern Michigan University. So it presents a cross-section of, uh, people that, uh, is not usually found in, uh, one single community. Um, just dwelling on that topic as to the, uh, diversity of, uh, persons, I believe, uh, that, uh, Ypsilanti in spite of the diversity of culture 4:00and race, uh, Ypsilanti tends to be a very conservative community, which is, uh, unusual. Uh, the conservative nature of it is, uh, permeated or has permeated, in my judgment, throughout, uh, the, uh, structure and fabric of the community. Uh, those, uh, black leaders in the community who have, uh, made a difference in, uh, the quality of life for blacks, uh, have had to work within the framework of that, uh, conservatism. I think they have done, uh, extremely well in, uh, into, in making gains for, uh, Ypsilanti blacks, uh, at all levels.

5:00

INTERVIEWER: Can you identify some of those individuals?

GRIMES: Yeah, just a little foggy this morning, as we’re, as we’re talking, and going back to find persons.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: Uh, but, uh, I, would, uh, I would cite, the, um, I would cite the present mayor, uh, George, uh, Goodman, as, uh, working within the system to make a meaningful difference in the quality of life for blacks, uh, Reverend S. L. Roberson has been a strong community leader, he’s been visible, his, uh, efforts have been towards opening doors for blacks in this, uh, community. Many of the, uh, the, uh, ministers, the cler—the members of the clergy—and, and 6:00I do not, I, I cannot go back far enough to catch the, uh, initial steps that were taken but, uh, I, I recall the very early years that I came, just about the time he passed away, and that is, uh, Dr. Perry, who was very active, uh, black within the community. Uh, a member of the, the school board, uh, Mr., uh, Washington, very active, uh, in the, in the late ’50s and early ’60s in Ypsilanti. Uh, I’m searching for names.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, sure, no problem.

7:00

GRIMES: Now, I’m, I’m not recalling all the names that I want to,

INTERVIEWER: Sure.

GRIMES: but uh, I, I guess the, the theme being that, uh, they are the persons who came forward at the time that,

INTERVIWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: y’know, leaders were needed

INTERVIEWER: Uh-huh.

GRIMES: for the black community.

INTERVIWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: Um, I am not personally, I am not satisfied with the, uh, the line of demarcation that existed and continues to exist in, uh, Ypsilanti with, uh, the black, uh, area of residence being primarily identified as the South Side, south of Michigan Avenue, uh, I think that pattern is being broken with open housing throughout the community but, uh, that, that is one area of, uh, of, uh, 8:00demographics in, uh, the community that, uh, it’s, it’s essentially disappointed me. It can be, it can be a strength, uh, for a community with a significant black minority but in my judgment in this case for Ypsilanti it has not been, uh, a, a major, uh, beneficial factor. Um, my role as an educator in Ypsilanti for eighteen years, uh, has given me an opportunity to, uh, watch the community grow, uh, in many respects, uh, I’ve seen it regress in other, uh, respects, aspects, but overall, uh, I, I’m very pleased with the overall progress that this community is making in the area of, uh, opportunities for 9:00blacks and in the area of, uh, of education for, uh, for black persons.

INTERVIEWER: What do you see as some of the major problems, um, experienced by many blacks in Ypsilanti in terms of matriculating through the system effectively.

GRIMES: Uh, I, I think, uh—you’re speaking of the educational.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, educational, uh, employment, just your, your perceptions and observations on employment, government, politics, y’know, race relations. Just your, your, your perceptions of, of certain things. Since you’ve been here in Ypsilanti, uh, what do you see? I’d like to know some of your opinions about some of those pertinent topics.

10:00

GRIMES: I tend to, uh, be quite opinionated, uh, I often do not, uh, speak my mind and offer my opinions freely, but I do know that, uh, what, um, appears, what appears to be one of the significant impediments, one of the problems in the black community, uh, borders on, uh, on, uh, two, uh, difficulties. I think the first is, uh, based on the, the, uh, cohesiveness of the family unit and its, the family’s ability to sustain and motivate individuals within the 11:00family. Uh, and not only is that occurring, y’know, with black families but families, uh, whatever race across the nation—the weakening of the family structure. The second problem I think is based on, uh, just the ability of, uh, black youth to find role models and adult models, uh, to positive models to emulate and, uh, and, uh, be stimulated and motivated by that, uh, contact. Far too often the, uh, peer culture of, uh, black youth is one, uh, that is not, uh, socially redeeming and/or personally uh, developmental. Uh, uh, too many of the 12:00activities are tended toward, uh, more fun-loving and hedonistic as opposed to uh, skill-building and, uh, talent, uh, development, and, and that has been a very frustrating observation for me as a school administrator to see, uh, the, uh, young persons, the youth, with strong potential, uh, allow it to, um, to, uh, dry up on the vine as the saying goes, rather than to cultivate it, develop their talent, allow peers to distract them. I believe the strangest phenomenon that I see is that far too often with, uh, with young blacks it is not cool to 13:00be an achiever

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: and, uh, I, I just sociologically, psychologically, I cannot trace the, uh, the basis for that, but I see it daily, in that, uh, there tends to be a, uh, can I use the word um, “excommunication,” if that’s, uh, that’s too strong a term for, ostracizing of those persons who think they’re better than, y’know, the old term “trying to be white,” just frustrates me, to see, uh, their ambition thwarted and dulled by uh, the pre—by peer pressure. I, I, I, I would go to the extent of saying that I think that it is not as strong today as 14:00it was, uh, ten years ago. And I believe that uh, as the whole country tends to slip into what appears to be a new state of conservatism and moving to the right, uh, one of the spinoff benefits, uh, may be a greater awareness on the part of uh, black youth to develop, uh, their, uh, skills and, uh, particularly their employability skills, and develop their talents so that, uh, they become, their skills are marketable. And once that, uh, gestalt is there, that, uh, sense of direction is there I think we will see some very meaningful changes 15:00that will begin to change the, uh, quality of the black community.

INTERVIEWER: Within the last twenty, twenty-one years as you’ve been here in the community, share with me some of your views on race relations here in Ypsilanti, you know, among, uh, blacks and whites in the area, but perhaps, uh, just, uh, politics or daily life and businesses and stuff, you know, in terms of the pitfalls versus the [triumphs], just some of your observations.

GRIMES: Well, uh, my, uh, a, a, again, Ypsilanti tends to be unique

INTERVIEWER: [Laughs] Yeah, OK.

GRIMES: Uh, in spite of the large numbers of, uh, blacks, a large minority 16:00group in, in essence, I call our community biracial, um, because the significant numbers of other minorities is uh, minuscule to the point where it’s almost nonexistent. Surprisingly, Ypsilanti has just an amazing void in the area of, uh, Hispanics, Mexican-Americans, which surprises me, uh, for this size community.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: Uh, uh, and, um, the Oriental population, Asian population, Middle Eastern population, although growing, a little bit, Middle Eastern, um, is still sort of insignificant, down to less than one percent, or, so biracial is the nature of the community and being biracial, and as long as I can remember, the population in the 21 years I’ve been here, has been 25 percent black minority 17:00of the population and growing. Uh, and I’m sure in your study you are finding, you’re substantiating statistics, but, uh, we’re apparently approaching 30 percent level,

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: uh, one-third, approaching the one-third mark, and with that kind of number, uh, composition, uh, the, uh, the extent of conflict has been amazingly low in the community, and, uh, the, the pattern, the race relation pattern has been, uh, uh, what I would call exceptionally healthy in, in terms of, um, a, um, a three-to-one

INTERVIEWER: And why is that? What do you think?

GRIMES: Well, I think it is, I think it is based on, on two things. Uh, first, 18:00um, it is based on a strange uh, political complacency on the part of the black community, and I hesitate to say that,

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: but I think it’s a, a, a, a political complacency, uh, that, uh, causes a very sensitive, causes, to, causes us to avoid conflict in the very sensitive areas. Um, just as an example, a major thrust for, uh, uh, equal housing. Uh, this, our black community has never risen up, so to speak, with the demand that it will be. And as a result, uh, the very, uh, major confrontation 19:00that could result from that kind of demand has never surfaced. It always occurred in a much more subtle way, much more patient way than the “right now” kind of, uh, push for change. So I, I think that the absence of a, of a, a strong militant push for change and equity, uh, has tended to keep, uh, the level of tension down, and by keeping the level of tension down, may also have kept some of the level of progress down, but it was steady. It’s the speed of progress.

INTERVIEWER: So what you’re really, you’re talking about the, the level of the leadership,

GRIMES: Thats right. We have not had militants.

INTERVIEWER: There’s a void of that. You know what I notice, in Ypsilanti, uh, 20:00you, you found very few young black men between the ages of eighteen and thirty-five in Ypsilanti, they’re either less here, or going into the service, or elsewhere. What do you see as some of the reasons for that kind of a void here, whereas in other communities, you won’t see that type of gap. It’s rather pronounced, too.

GRIMES: Yeah, yes, um, I, I, I’m just guessing,

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: but I think part of the reason

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: is, uh, is due to the fact that, uh, uh, the, uh, there tends to be a skewing of, uh, the, the, uh, age range toward the higher end and that, uh, the immediate opportunities for, and I’m speaking within the last, uh, I would use 21:00a ten year.

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: Within the last ten years, the opportunities for, uh, young adults, uh, have not been there. They have not been, the opportunities for young black adults, uh, to enter the workforce and to enter the mainstream of, uh, society within this community, the opportunities are not there.

INTERVIEWER: Why is that?

GRIMES: I would say because the community is not growing. It’s not growing in, uh, the sense of uh, of, of, um, expanding, expanding in, uh, job opportunities, uh, expanding in the areas that will sustain, sustain, uh, minority youth. Now, y’know, to, to analyze that, uh, I, I need to back up and 22:00say that, uh, that one of the problems, rightly or wrongly is, um, is a skill level. Unskilled, no opportunities. Skilled, there are opportunities. Uh, those persons who are leaving, the majority of those persons who are leaving, uh, are young persons who have not developed a skill. And, and, and, that’s a guess, because I haven’t had an opportunity to really analyze that.

INTERVIEWER: Do you see a, see a high correlation between the lack of job opportunities in Ypsilanti with the central black leadership and the issues that 23:00they address themselves to?

GRIMES: Ah, to an extent.

INTERVIEWER: See, see what I’m, see, see, see what I’m suggesting?

GRIMES: Yes, yes.

INTERVIEWER: You know, like, the leadership should provide the, the direction, and the guidance, and the availability of opportunity, for those that have yet to [come to children].

GRIMES: Um, yeah, I, I see, y’know, very clearly what

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: you’re suggesting, and, and, uh, uh,

INTERVIEWER: Just wondered what you, what you, what you think about that.

GRIMES: I think it’s, I, I think the observation is correct, that there is a void.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

GRIMES: And I also think that, uh, that, uh, because of, uh, other attendant factors, y’know, such as uh, a lack of cohesiveness within the community that 24:00kind of uh, of uh, arena, the leadership arena for black youth to, uh, consult with, go to, be led by, uh, is a very major need. Uh, there’s a void there. And, um, as you’ve um, stated, um, the young adults leaving the community and I believe it is based on the fact that they do not get direction, and cannot establish, uh, a, a base, cannot, uh, meet their needs within uh, y’know, the, the, the home community.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of alternatives do you see, that might enhance, or, that condition or help eradicate it, you see what I’m—

GRIMES: Mm.

INTERVIEWER: to the point that it might slow down this exodus on the part of our 25:00young adults? Can you offer some, what, what you might see as some, some solutions or beginnings of the solution to a rising problem that’s real? You mentioned one very good thing was the cohesiveness of the community, the need for that.

GRIMES: I, um, I, I, I had just a little void in my thinking, what, what, what, uh, what appears to be a um, a process that, uh, has uh, uh, a highs and lows is the, uh, the agency, fabric, the social agency fabric of, uh, the black, black 26:00community, and the assistance that is brought to bear, uh, is, uh, oh, quite sporadic and inconsistent. And the, the need, the need is constant. The assistance is sporadic and inconsistent. And I believe the reason for that is the kind of effort that is required, uh, in the arena of guidance, counseling, and planning and an, an agency or leaders who can, uh, create such an environment and which that kind of group or agency unit can function, uh, is, 27:00uh, I, I think the direction that needs to be pursued. A, a, a, a leader, oh, I’m, I’m thinking now, of, um, a person who, um, who saw this void um, his name is slipping, and it shouldn’t be, uh, uh, Reverend Cunningham, Barry Cunningham, uh, y’know, began, uh, uh, an open counseling assistance unit on, uh, on Harriet, uh,

INTERVIEWER: Is that the Ypsilanti Resource Center?

GRIMES: Yes, yes,

INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK.

GRIMES: that’s the term. Um, and is getting some assistance from other agencies and donations but that is the basis of, uh, of, uh, his thrust is to 28:00serve in the counseling, guidance arena and helping persons establish direction, um, get, uh, a, a me—a meaningful, uh, employment, um, to begin to function, to fully function, within the community. Um, but he has provided the leadership for that. It was his thrust, and his effort, I, I’m not sure, y’know, if, if, if it will be sustained; because I understand there are some weaknesses that are beginning to develop, uh, in the, uh, delivery part of it. The staff services to be brought to bear. Um, I, I, I endorse that kind of effort, uh, as 29:00a professional educator, I, I’m very leery of, uh, the, of, of how much difference an agency can make if it’s serving just a small section, y’know, of a, of a major need. I look to, uh, the institutions: the Ypsilanti school system, uh, the, uh, university network here as being really, the, uh, the key to a turnaround of the community, the black community, and much of the change now has come about with, uh, and through, uh, the black leaders who, y’know, 30:00are coming with, uh, uh, formal education, subsequently have, uh, uh, had families with, uh, offspring who are formally educated, y’know, and are, are beginning to, uh, hold, uh, positions of responsibility and are able, then, to begin to open doors, and I’m overworking that term of opening doors but I, I, I, I think that is the key to, uh, progress, is to, uh, is to, uh, open an area, an industry, a career, for minorities.

INTERVIEWER: What has been some of your observations as to the various, uh, white leaders that you think have made a contribution to the enhancement of the 31:00development of black community life in terms of race relations, yourself, would you name, what’s the names of individuals that you think have done a, uh, a positive service in terms of, ah, enabling the community life of black folks to [indeed] grow and mature for high level development just in terms of race relations on the part of both black city leaders and white city leaders working together? What are some of your observations, last twenty years?

GRIMES: My, my, uh, observations, uh, are that uh, that there have been few, few liberals

INTERVIEWER: OK.

GRIMES: few liberals in uh, in this community, uh, and I, I, I’m searching to 32:00find, y’know, the outspoken champions for, um, civil rights, equal rights.

INTERVIEWER: Why is that, do you think?

GRIMES: I believe, uh, it is because they have essentially worked more covertly as opposed to overtly, and, uh, the result being that, uh, it is not possible to put a label, uh, y’know, here’s a liberal, here’s a conservative, so it, it’s just not possible, it’s always a matter of, ah, watching for cues. So personally I have a very hard time of identifying, uh, the white, uh, leaders of this community who have been champions.

33:00

INTERVIEWER: Why is it that, that they have not been interested in being identified with [whether] making a contribution in very, you know, subtle type manner? Because of certain elements, or what?

GRIMES: I, I, I, I, political, I think it’s it is politics, as, um, uh, as naive, as politically naive as the black community in Ypsilanti, ah, at least observationally, appears to be, the community itself is highly, highly political, uh, unusually charged with politics, and, uh, politics tends to permeate, uh, the total operation,

34:00

INTERVIEWER: In the black community?

GRIMES: Not in the black community.

INTERVIEWER: OK, in the white community.

GRIMES: In the white community.

INTERVIEWER: Oh, OK.

GRIMES: And because of that, uh, there are few whites in my judgment who will step up and say, y’know, to champion black rights. Here’s what we need to do because, uh, unless they they sequester, garner, somehow, a significant segment of the black community for support for them, then they won’t be around. Y’know, politically they won’t be around.

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: Um, and, uh, white influence they may have had because of the persons they can influence would begin to wane. So we have had very few whites and I wish I could be more graphic about it and name names and look at persons, but, 35:00uh, there are few who are observable, as far as the real champions. I, I’m thinking of a couple of names, but, uh, I, I

INTERVIEWER: What about those in the past, versus the present, you know, in the last twenty years, y’know, have there been any versus today, or perhaps the political situation today is exactly the same as it was yesterday in the past, without much change, is that what you’re suggesting?

GRIMES: Very little change. Very little change. I think there has been progress, but there has been very little observable change in that uh, uh, that, uh, structure of how business is conducted. And, and, uh, y’know, I, I, I hope 36:00I’m reflecting correctly, and I, I think I am, but I, I, uh, there, there have been those who have, um, been sincere uh, have uh, been empathetic, but to move out visibly, overtly, to espouse their position and philosophy and intentions, very few have have moved in that manner, and, and, y’know, and I, I, again, I, 37:00I, believe it has been, y’know, in a much more covert way, and those persons who have assisted in quiet ways have taken their lumps from, uh, the, uh, bigots, and, uh, y’know, have, uh, just risen above it and dealt with it, but, again, no advocacy.

INTERVIEWER: Do you see any, uh, possibility of major change and enhancement of, of, of leadership in area politics in Ypsilanti, uh, blacks and whites, in, in, in terms of increased involvement, increased activities, or do you see very little change y’know, coming comparable to the statement you just made about very little political change in the last 21 years?

GRIMES: Well, y’know, I, I, uh, native Ypsilantians, they disagree with many 38:00of my observations. Uh, but I, I, believe that uh, the stance, the political stance, uh, that I have seen over the last 20 years or so, uh, I, I, I think is in a pattern that, uh, is not going to be significantly altered. Um, and, and, uh, y’know, it’s, it’s a terrible comment, but I think for the next 20 years.

INTERVIEWER: [Laughs]

GRIMES: I think it is a set that has developed, and that it is on a straight 39:00path, not, not going up, not going down, and it hurts me to say it, because, y’know, it, it makes a person feel a little impotent in being able to affect change, and so on, but, I, uh, it’s, it’s just an observation. Um, I, I think the other part of quality of life in this community is that, um, unless there is a political awakening and the involvement of a much larger number of black citizens than there is now, that, uh, that will continue, they, black 40:00community, will continue to be, uh, either in a, uh, catch-up role, or in uh, wha—in, in a, in a role of “I’ll take what you give me,” kind of passive posture, uh, because the willingness to deal with facets of, uh, political entanglement just tends to or seems to be, uh, an involvement that far too many black members do not want to be bothered with because of the kind of strategy, and, uh, maneuvers, and meetings, and, uh, discussions, and they just, 41:00uh, prefer to be out of that arena, and those who have the propensity and, uh, and skill at political kinds of endeavors, uh, tend to form a, a nucleus but very small, and again, y’know, unable to effect uh, a meaningful change in what even appears to be an epithetic kind of, uh, attitude, on the part of the larger community. And the leaders of the community, the ministers, the, um, the, um, governmental representatives within the city and the township, which is a 42:00whole new story, you mentioned the township, that’s a whole new story, talk about the township in the city, are, they are visible and the representation is there, but the constituency isn’t there, y’know, with them, so there, there is that part, y’know, there’s some, y’know, blacks are visible in, in uh, in the politics in the city, and that can often deceive persons, because, you know, it’s

INTERVIEWER: Like a captain without a ship. [Laughs] All right. This is totally unrelated, but, uh, entirely different topic, in your last twenty-something years, what has been your perception on the part of black entrepreneurship in Ypsilanti, in area businesses, you know, uh, those blacks that you’ve seen own 43:00businesses, do blacks own businesses in Ypsilanti, and if they do, what kinds have you seen? In your observations, being here, as, as, y’know, as a, as a resident.

GRIMES: Uh, I, I have been impressed with, uh, with, uh, the level of minority business operation, owned, operated by minorities. Uh, we, we’re just now beginning to see the real, substantial, strong economic uh, force that can be generated by, uh, industry, y’know, operated by blacks, and that’s a, [fuzzy] name for it, uh, John

44:00

INTERVIEWER: Bar—Barfield?

GRIMES: Barfield,

INTERVIEWER: OK.

GRIMES: uh, the business he has open, it’s a, the, the, multifaceted business, multi-product, is, uh, y’know, is the biggest black-owned in, uh, and I, I guess he ranks top 50 according to Ebony magazine, in the nation, of black-owned businesses, but a multimillion dollar operation manufacturing automobile parts, is his latest division, but also y’know, operates the other, y’know, like the Barfield Enterprises, is what it amounts to, y’know, with several dimensions. He has, uh, the time that I’ve been here, made the most 45:00meaningful progress in entrepreneurship for the black. The others, that, and I’m saying I’ve been impressed with is in the area of, of, of service and industries. In the area of, of, of, um, beauty shops, food services, um, y’know, such as the most recent is Mrs. G’s out on East Michigan Avenue in the Township, which, uh, Mr. Hall, Tom Hall, is the, uh, is the owner. That has been in an area of um, business operation that uh, that has surprised me more 46:00than, uh, probably more than any other, uh, dimension of the black community is the business, the operation of business. And, even in these squeezing economic times with the state of the economy, I think, y’know, blacks in Ypsilanti are doing well. Mr. Forbes, Lance Forbes is another black in the community who is essentially independently wealthy from his business ventures.

INTERVIEWER: What kind of business does he have?

GRIMES: He’s a contractor.

INTERVIEWER: OK.

GRIMES: Construction contractor, and, y’know, worked from the level of, uh, 47:00constructing residences and business for others to being the builder-seller of, uh, of improved property and then to the actual operation of business is the way he moved, and y’know, he is now owner-operator of several businesses, his latest venture being, um, a supply beauty aids, hardware, L&M, forgotten the last name of it, oh, on Michigan Avenue, and will, and has started construction of a, of a gas station on the corner of, of First Avenue and Michigan Avenue.

48:00

INTERVIEWER: Mm-hmm.

GRIMES: He bought the business, the old, what is called the old Fosdick property. Years ago it was a gas station and now it’s gone full cycle, he is going to build a new station, same site. But there, there has been from my observations, substantial movement in, in business arena, ownership of business, operation, but again, I would like to see much more black ownership in the mode of the John Barfield scale. That, that is a, a direction of, of black enterprise that has not really opened up to the extent that I would like to see it. In, in 49:00the field of manufacturing, we, blacks tend to deal more in services and very little in, in uh, the production of an industrial product, and I think that that time is coming, such as the Johnson products, still nationally still in the field of beauty aids, but my goodness, what a corporation that turned out to be.

INTERVIEWER: Right, right, right.

GRIMES: Uh, I’m trying to just embellish on that a little more but I’m, I’m not pinpointing as well as I would like to.

INTERVIEWER: I mean, I understand, no problem, no problem.

GRIMES: Uh, and just a casual observation is that, uh—

50:00

[TAPE STOPPED, RESTARTED]

INTERVIEWER: You were talking about the black, the black businesses.

GRIMES: Yeah, I wanted to move from the black businesses to, to say that, uh, in, in the, the two decades, the 21 years that I’ve been in Ypsilanti, I think Ypsilanti has been good to me as a, as a black within the community. Being in the field of education, I, I tend to think that, uh, our, that we [earn] hold the community and I, and I think that is, y’know, a real key in societal 51:00matters that, uh, that, uh, has not really left its cultural stamp on blacks. Um, I think when one is a product of the community and tends to thrive within the community, that, uh, just like raising one’s family, there is a payback kind of, uh, dimension to it and, uh, in, in this field of education, it is community service, it is community-oriented, and there is more we can do, uh, but we tend to stretch ourselves very thin, and the, the opportunities through 52:00this office and through my role are always far in excess of what one can deliver. I feel a wanting when I see numerous situations that I cannot bring resources to bear on or to, uh, but I do have an opportunity to uh, consult with those who can, y’know, give assistance. I have a chance, an opportunity to, to watch and observe, to encourage those young people who I have contact with, uh, to persevere, and many of them I talk with have matriculated though this school, 53:00coming back with their degrees and advanced degrees, and are scattered all over the country now, many doing well, some not so well, but runs the full gamut. As you observed, many of them are leaving this community because of a, what a, use the term, kind of stagnation, that the community is not expanding at the rate, uh, it should so that it can absorb its youth.

INTERVIEWER: All right, thank you, Mr. Ralph Grimes, for taking the time to provide us with an oral interview concerning the contributions on the part of blacks in Ypsilanti. What we do as part of policy is that I’ll have the tape 54:00transcribed, and typed out, and bring it to you, and provide you an opportunity to look it over, and to add to it or to delete to it, according to how you feel, so that it will really reflect you, more. Thank you.

0:00 - Ypsilanti's uniqueness

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Partial Transcript: INTERVIEWER: Welcome to the interview with, with Mr. Ralph Grimes, the principal at Ypsilanti High School. Today’s date is July the 14th, 1981, Tuesday, at 11 o’clock. This is, this is basically an interview being conducted to ascertain the role on the part of blacks in Ypsilanti Township, specifically looking at community life and the contributions made on the, on the, on the part of various Afro-Americans in the community life of Ypsilanti Township. Uh, Mr. Grimes, were you born here?

GRIMES: No, I was not.

INTERVIEWER: Where were you born?

GRIMES: I was born, uh, in, uh, Adrian, Michigan, uh, 40 miles uh, southwest of here. Um, uh, Adrian being a, a fairly small um, farming, uh, community, it has, uh, grown in, uh, industry now, but it was a fairly lazy farm community when I was a youngster growing up there.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Grimes gives a short introduction to his background in Adrian, Michigan. Mr. Grimes gives his perspective on the state of race relations in Ypsilanti and offers some examples of leading members of the city's Black community.

Keywords: Adrian, Michigan; African-American educators; African-American Ypsilanti; Amos Washington; Ann Arbor, Michigan; demographics of Ypsilanti; Dr. Perry; Eastern Michigan University; George Goodman; Great Migration; Ralph Grimes; Rev. S.L. Roberson; Ypsilanti housing segregation; Ypsilanti School Board; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: Adrian (Mich.). African American teachers. Ypsilanti (Mich.)--History--20th century.


Hyperlink: An entry on Adrian's champion Negro League Baseball team, the Page Fence Giants.

9:20 - Thoughts on difficulties confronting Black youth

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Partial Transcript: INTERVIEWER: What do you see as some of the major problems, um, experienced by many blacks in Ypsilanti in terms of matriculating through the system effectively.

GRIMES: Uh, I, I think, uh—you’re speaking of the educational.

INTERVIEWER: Yeah, educational, uh, employment, just your, your perceptions and observations on employment, government, politics, y’know, race relations. Just your, your, your perceptions of, of certain things. Since you’ve been here in Ypsilanti, uh, what do you see? I’d like to know some of your opinions about some of those pertinent topics.

GRIMES: I tend to, uh, be quite opinionated, uh, I often do not, uh, speak my mind and offer my opinions freely, but I do know that, uh, what, um, appears, what appears to be one of the significant impediments, one of the problems in the black community, uh, borders on, uh, on, uh, two, uh, difficulties.

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Grimes gives his opinion on some of the difficulties facing young African-Americans from his perspective as a school administrator. Mr. Grimes talks about the stresses of popular culture on the Black family.

Keywords: African-American educators; African-American families; African-American School Principals; Ralph Grimes; Ypsilanti African-American students Demographics of Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: Intergenerational relations. African American youth--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History.


Hyperlink: November 13, 1973 on Principal Grimes confronting a student walk-out at Ypsilanti High School.

15:19 - Current state of the community

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Partial Transcript: INTERVIEWER: Within the last twenty, twenty-one years as you’ve been here in the community, share with me some of your views on race relations here in Ypsilanti, you know, among, uh, blacks and whites in the area, but perhaps, uh, just, uh, politics or daily life and businesses and stuff, you know, in terms of the pitfalls versus the [triumphs], just some of your observations.

GRIMES: Well, uh, my, uh, a, a, again, Ypsilanti tends to be unique

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Grimes gives his thoughts on the racial dynamic in Ypsilanti, its lack of diversity of ethnic groups at the time ,and the reasons for the relative racial peace experienced in such a biracial city. Mr. Grimes also talks about the few employment and education opportunities available to young African-Americans in the 1970s and 80s and steps taken to address them.

Keywords: Eastern Michigan University; Employment opportunities in 1970s; Housing in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Reverend Barry Cunningham; Ypsilanti Resource Center; Ypsilanti Schools; Ypsilanti, Michigan African-American community; Ypsilanti, Michigan demographics; Ypsilanti, Michigan race relations

Subjects: Race relations--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History. African American leadership. African American youth--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History.


Hyperlink: 1969 article on Mr. Grimes becoming principal. (Note: Mr. Grimes was not the first African-American principal in Ypsilanti.)

30:49 - Ypsilanti politics in black and white

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Partial Transcript: INTERVIEWER: What has been some of your observations as to the various, uh, white leaders that you think have made a contribution to the enhancement of the development of black community life in terms of race relations, yourself, would you name, what’s the names of individuals that you think have done a, uh, a positive service in terms of, ah, enabling the community life of black folks to [indeed] grow and mature for high level development just in terms of race relations on the part of both black city leaders and white city leaders working together? What are some of your observations, last twenty years?

GRIMES: My, my, uh, observations, uh, are that uh, that there have been few, few liberals

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Grimes discusses the political climate in Ypsilanti between and among the black and white community. He reflects on the lack of fundamental change to how the system of power in the city is run.

Keywords: African-American political loyalties; White racial attitudes in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Ypsilanti African-American politics; Ypsilanti City Council

Subjects: Race relations--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History. African Americans--Politics and government. Political participation.


Hyperlink: Photo of Ypsilanti City Council debate about proposed Urban Renewal program in August, 1961.

42:43 - African-American entrepreneurship in the city

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Partial Transcript: INTERVIEWER: This is totally unrelated, but, uh, entirely different topic, in your last twenty-something years, what has been your perception on the part of black entrepreneurship in Ypsilanti, in area businesses, you know, uh, those blacks that you’ve seen own businesses, do blacks own businesses in Ypsilanti, and if they do, what kinds have you seen? In your observations, being here, as, as, y’know, as a, as a resident.

GRIMES: Uh, I, I have been impressed with, uh, with, uh, the level of minority business operation, owned, operated by minorities. Uh, we, we’re just now beginning to see the real, substantial, strong economic uh, force that can be generated by, uh, industry, y’know, operated by blacks, and that’s a, [fuzzy] name for it, uh, John

INTERVIEWER: Bar—Barfield?

GRIMES: Barfield,

Segment Synopsis: Mr. Grimes is asked about Ypsilanti's black business leaders, including John Barfield. He responds by giving a survey of the Black businesses in the city. Mr. Grimes ends the interview by talking about the role of education and his role as educator in bringing progress to the community he served.

Keywords: African-American business owners; Black economic power; First Avenue; Fosdick property; John Barfield; Johnson Beauty Aids; Lance Forbes; Michigan Avenue; Mrs G's; Ralph Grimes; Tom Hall; Ypsilanti African-American businesses; Ypsilanti Township

Subjects: African American business enterprises.


Hyperlink: December, 2007 Ann Arbor News obituary of Ralph Grimes.
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