INGRAM: S.L. Roberson. Today's date is July the 26th, 1981. The interview is being conducted at, at three o'clock. There are essentially two sections that we plan to cover today. Section one will uncover a, a biographical overview or sketch of the life of uh, Reverend Garther Roberson, the Reverend S.L. Roberson's father, and then, second half, hopefully we'll cover an overview of the biographical life of the Reverend, himself, Roberson, himself. We'll take it from there.

ROBERSON: Okay, well, as I, as I was saying, when my father, uh, left, coming here from, uh, Alabama. Uh, one of the things that brought him is uh, at the time, when uh, he and my mother married, he worked for a man, uh my grandfather worked for a man by the name of Mr. Howard, and, uh, what happened was that 1:00Daddy had a good crop that year, where I understand it, and, at the end of the year, when they got through to settle up, uh, Mr. Howard told my father he almost broke even, and at that point, they were all into a, sitting around at the meal, and when my, when Mr. Howard, that was our landlord, said to my father, that, uh, "Boy, you almost broke even," my father hit the floor. Well, everybody got upset, and he- he asked him, said well, "If you, what do you mean?" He said, "Well, uh, you almost broke even. If I had those two bails of cotton, and that corn," he said, uh, "You wouldn't owe me a thing," and they said when my father did that, he hit the floor, and said, "That's what you adhere?" He said, "That's it." He asked him what he's gonna eat. He told him he 2:00didn't have to worry about what he was going to eat. And my dad, my mother was there trembling, and my father, grandfather and all, my father went out, and uh, nailed up the cribs, and after nailing up the cribs, gave him that, and they said, and so they said, "How are you going to live?" And, uh, Daddy said, "I'll make it," and so, they tell me, my father put in some clothes, in a little sack, and he caught a train, and we had an uncle here by the name of Eugene Sears, and uh, so my dad got on that train with that sack, and he came to Ypsilanti. And when he got here,

INGRAM: What year was that?

ROBERSON: Well, that must have been, uh, I'm 61, and I've been here, I was about a year old, so that must have been, I was born in 1920. It must have been 3:00somewhere between 1921, or '22.


ROBERSON: And then, near that, some point, because it had to be, because they tell me I was a year old when he brought me here, and then, after Daddy came here, um, my father always had a lot of faith. He didn't have a job, my uncle allowed him to stay at the house, and he got enough money to send for my mother and aunt. Then, he found himself without a job. Now, you're talking about one of the first stores that I made, we call them juice store, Gordon store, and my father went down there, and uh, talked to Mr. Gordon, and Mr. Gordon gave him enough food.

INGRAM: Was this a black store?

ROBERSON: No, it's Jewish.


ROBERSON: Owned by the Jews.

INGRAM: Okay, Jewish.


ROBERSON: Jewish stores. And, uh, then, uh. Uh, I'm just talking about some of the things that I can remember, that, that stood out. And then, uh, we called my, and in fact, my father was the liberator for our family, because after Daddy come, then brothers and sisters began to come. Uh, I know this. I can remember, my father worked for Central Specialty and me and my brother can talk, talk about that. Daddy was a [ ] tender down there.

INGRAM: What is that?

ROBERSON: That is an individual that, uh, uh, mel-, uh, they, the metal is melted, in sort of a, what they call a [ ] or a great big pot, and uh, what happens after it reached a certain temperature, then uh, the slide boils off, and then, you know that it's about ready, and then, you- you, what you call, 5:00you, you tap that out into labels. He worked there at a foundry. Um, I can remember, uh, as he started to build our first house, uh, and I can remember the first encounter that uh, my father had, and I guess it was during the Depression. A fellow came to the house, and they were the collectors, at that time, they were all fighting, I guess, most of my dad, knocked on the door, so my mother, either he, my, we pay him, or get out. Well, my dad always took care of his business. He didn't like, and it's one thing he's always taught us. Whenever a man's in the house, you answer the door. So much for that, but anyhow, [laughs] I can remember when, this fella came back. He said, "I'll be 6:00back." My father didn't go to work that day. The first time I really seen Daddy sorta angry, 'cause when uh, he had felt like, tap dance said, "Didn't I tell you to have that money?" And I see my father step out with behind my mother, grab this fella in the collar, shake and grabbed his little gun, and told him to hit the road. My father was a very peaceful man, but he never liked [ ]. I remember those things about Daddy. Then, he was one who always believed that, uh, everybody uh should be treated as people. I'd like to say, talk about the time when the Ku Klux Klan was going to run Dr. Dickerson. That was one of our first doctors. Ms. Fanny Davis was one of our first nurses, and they were gonna 7:00run Dr. Dickerson out of town. I can remember my father, uh, the first time I ever saw a gun. Uh, he bought one, and then, on that night that they were supposed to come down to the area, and most of us had always been located on the south end of town, going to run them out, my father and a number of the men, and they said, at that time, I never will forget that, police had nothing else. Anything [ ] on the street had problems, so they settle that problem. I remember, uh, him being part of that. I can remember times when, uh, uh young, this a black girl was living, as, on Normal. Being Eastern was called Normal at this time, and this white girl claimed that this black girl uh, had stole some 8:00money. They didn't want her there. And they put her in jail, and Jared Sample was the judge, and uh, my father went down to the see the girl, and the girl said she didn't do it, and the other said she did do it, and so, my father went and told, told, told the police, said, "I want her out of there." So, he went in there, and the judge asked him, "What do you mean, you want her out of there?" And he simply told him that, "I want her out of there. I can, I can take her word as well as you can take that girl's word," and said, "Now, this girl. Uh, I've known her and I knew her parents." They said, "You're not gonna take her anywhere." Daddy said, "I'd like to see you stop me, Your Honor." And, and he looked at Jared Sample, and Sample looked at him, said, "Reverend, I'm not 9:00afraid, but since you said it." I can remember when, uh, uh for the first, when, he, when his people need job, Daddy would go to the people, and tell 'em, I know when, like the integrating of the ANP and a number of other things.

INGRAM: So, your father was like a labor agent, recruiting, uh, workers.

ROBERSON: Oh, yeah. He would do

INGRAM: for employment.

ROBERSON: Yeah. And, uh, he, uh, he always loved children. My dad always loved children. And, uh, his, he smiled a lot. But he could knock you down and never stop smiling. So, you know, those are some of the early things. Had been many accomplishments, and I guess, we didn't pay it as much attention as others, because he was always in the home.



ROBERSON: Uh, his philosophy was, and I remember when I started going across town to high school, and uh, he'd take, he'd taken me, we had, uh, metals, I guess, and we just called 'em fields, and, uh, he, uh, instilled in me, I, I never will forget it, that uh reassuring me. He, he knew a lot about birds and things, and- and he was, he said, "Now, you're going across town to school. You're going to come in contact with these white people," and I guess, because of his heritage and background, he said, "Now, I want you to understand one thing," and he went to pointing out to me, uh, and I, my first bluejay, and, uh, he pointed out to me a robin redbreast, and a number of other birds, and he 11:00said, "Now, look. You see those birds there?" He said, "Now, you don't see them mingling with each other." He showed me the rabbits and he knew where they, uh, coons, and a lot of others things, where, and he showed 'em to me. He said, "Now, you're going across town to school," because at that time, we had to go across town. I guess, basically, now, you had to walk.

INGRAM: Mm-hm.

ROBERSON: He said, "Now, when you get there, I want you to realize one thing, that you're just as good, and even better, in some areas, 'cause I've taught you some things, than a lot of those white kids, but don't go over there, mingling and pulling on them." He said, "Basically, I have nothing to do with marriage, but you'll find that the only thing in there, man, only thing that happens," 12:00said, "Man's an intelligent. You never see a bluejay crossed with a robin. You never see a, a rabbit crossed with a cat." And he said, "Now, when you get there, I want you to remember those things," and I, basically, uh. Another thing he taught me, uh, was one day I used to be, rather, hot tempered. We, we were poor, and, uh, there was a white fellow lived in our community, Mr. [Laverdes], and I haven't forgotten that. Uh, Mr. [Laverdes] took our ball and burnt up our ball, and when that old man burnt up our ball, he came out there, and I hit him upside the head with a rock, and when my father came home, he came over and told my father what I'd done. The biggest mistake that I made about the situation, I 13:00did, as I got older, I know I didn't give my father no way out. I said to him, I said, "Daddy, he ain't nothing but an old white man. He'd like to beat me to death." He said, "The man is old enough to be your father. You don't refer to anybody as an old white man or an old black man. You learn to respect people." He said, "I won't even discuss with you whether he was right or wrong." Uh, another thing he taught me, was when I was coming along, I used to wonder, and that was before Joe Louis' time, that we ever have any black boxers, and he used to tell me, "I'll tell you about him," when he got older. And, um, when, um, just a little before Joe Louis’ time, he said, "Yes, we had one, and he was a great man. But I, we don't hold him up to you, because the moment that he got in 14:00position that he could help us, he married a white woman," and I didn't understand that at that time, because his philosophy was rather blunt. He said, and uh, I, I, couldn't understand why he said, "Could help us." I thought, and then, after I got older, I could understand what he was saying. Is, and he told me, he said, "In your race, you can have any type woman you want." He said, "But the minute that a black man get to the place where he got a dime, this is where, this is what happens," and so, that is one of the reasons, and, uh, he, he wasn't a racist. He just believed that the way that we can help our race is whatever we have, if we will cultivate that, and the moment that we get up, we 15:00should be in a position where, if we are looking for a wife, we could, we could look close along. So, I had remembered those things, and it have helped me, in many, many times, in my own experiences, as uh, as I worked for labor, and I've been, as I, as I traveled a lot, because uh, human reactions is human reactions. Uh, uh, human react to humans, regardless of who we are, and then, there are some things that you've got to have, within you, as a being, to stabilize your thinking. So, um, uh, he, my dad, for years, he worked, in the foundry, and pastored a church.

INGRAM: Was your father a minister when he came here, or could you give me a chronology on that?

ROBERSON: No, he wasn't a minister when he came. In fact, when he came here, my father was uh, he joined Second Baptist Church, and he sang in the choir.


INGRAM: Who was then the pastor of Second Baptist? Do, do you recall?

ROBERSON: Uh, Reverend Carr, as I recall.

INGRAM: Reverend Carr.

ROBERSON: A Reverend Carr, or a Reverend, uh, what is the name? Williams, I, no, it wasn't him. It was another fella. It was Williams, I think, I could dig it out.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And, uh, well anyhow, he started as a, uh, singing in the choir, and as on the deacon board, and then, when he felt his calling in leading in the ministry, that's when, he uh, accepted the call. But, like it has been with most of our churches,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: is getting a little better now, but the average church wasn't self-supportive, so the minister had to work



ROBERSON: as well as, as pastor. And that is one of the things that he had to do. He had tremendous faith in God. Uh, my father, uh, the doctors, uh, when he contracted cancer, and they removed a kidney, and they said he'd live six months, and Daddy lived for near ten years.

INGRAM: Oh, wow.


INGRAM: What was your father's, uh, did your father have a basic religious philosophy? If you, if you were to sum it up, could you, you know, tell me something about, you know...

ROBERSON: My father was a strong believer in an individual, uh, uh, repenting, accepting Christ, which is what we call, "Repent, born again, and live that, and 18:00accepting the spirit of God, and live according to what the scripture." What I mean by that, is that Daddy believed that the Bible, was the, was the principle by which you lived by.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Um. He believed that a person must accept Christ. Let me explain. He, uh, with us kids, he believed that, and, at that time, they believed that, you weren't responsible for your sins until you was 12 years old. Okay? Then, at that time, he believed that you come, and he taught us that you come into Christ, that you accept him as your savior, one that you, and after accepting Him as your savior, that's what they call being born again.


ROBERSON: All right, then, being baptized. That's submerged in water. And then, 19:00after that, you, it's, it’s a guide to help you. Uh, I find that, his method have helped me a lot because he believed, taught that you grow into this. Um, like I had my girls here today. You know, Shunda's three, so, uh, then he believed that it's a thing, you, it's something that you're gonna have to, uh, work with people with. We accept Christ today, and maybe there's something that uh, you're still hanging onto, and it would be up to, his belief is, if you constantly work with that person, then it turn around. It's like, I never heard him get up and tell anybody that you're going to hell because you smoke a cigarette or if you've been caught drinking or things of this sort, but he, he 20:00did believe that these are the things that, uh, will be a hindrance to you

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: if you continually pursue it.

INGRAM: Two questions. Uh, how many brothers and sisters do you have, and, and out of that group, how many became ministers?

ROBERSON: Uh, I have uh, I had two sisters. And, uh, there was six of us. There was four brothers. Now

INGRAM: [Could you name them?]

ROBERSON: we. Three of us and the fourth one was a missionary.

INGRAM: Could you give me their names, and their names, and

ROBERSON: Uh, Walter, Walter Paul.


ROBERSON: Walter Paul. He is deceased.



INGRAM: Was he a minister?



ROBERSON: Then Harold. Harold wasn't a minister, but we always felt, because his dedication and education and so on and so forth, and whenever he spoke, um, uh, 21:00my brother was uh, and he had deceased, but Harold was a magnificent speaker.


ROBERSON: He, uh. Uh, I, I often, when I'm moving around in town, um, which was it? No, it was last week when, uh, one of the people who knew him, Harold was a very dedicated when it comes to teaching and education. Then, there's Garther.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: The one you have already met, and myself.


ROBERSON: Uh, my sister, uh, my older sister, was leaning towards, uh, social work.

INGRAM: Her name?

ROBERSON: Garthonia.

INGRAM: Oh. Okay.

ROBERSON: And then, my present, I, I know you talked to Evelyn.


ROBERSON: Evelyn was a, was a nurse. She worked at the U of M. And, this sort of thing.


INGRAM: Very interesting. Um, during the time that your father pastored his church, okay, I've been told that, uh, a significant number of the ministers in Ypsilanti have integral ties, going all the way back to Second Baptist Church and your father.

ROBERSON: That's true.

INGRAM: Could you, mention to me, uh, talk to me about, give me some of the names of those ministers that may have been members of your father's church, who were dramatically influenced by his pastoring.

ROBERSON: Who? [ ]

INGRAM: Your father. Like, I notice a lot, a lot of the ministers that have fathered their own churches.


INGRAM: Uh, you can still relate, or, or there's some time of integral connected link, to Second Baptist Church as being like a springboard.

ROBERSON: Well, it was. Frankly, um, frankly, all of the ministers from, uh, that has any of 'em from 50 years old or older, that was his brother, Reverend 23:00Frank Roberson. There was, uh, uh, mmm, Reverend English, Reverend Eddie Wilson. Uh, myself. I'd have to, I'd have to go back in,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: uh, memory. Uh, there was a number of ‘em that had come out from under his ministry. I forget how many sons


ROBERSON: that they have.

INGRAM: Okay. Was Reverend Hopkins a part of that, or?

ROBERSON: No. Reverend Hopkins, uh, uh, had been here for the last 14 or 15 years.

INGRAM: Oh, I see. Okay, what about Reverend Leggett?

ROBERSON: Reverend Leggett has been here for the last 11 years.

INGRAM: Okay. Uh, Bishop Walls? Melvin Walls?

ROBERSON: Oh, Bishop Walls, bless his heart. Uh, he had been here. Uh, Bishop 24:00Walls was practically raised in, and moved in this area.

INGRAM: Oh, okay.

ROBERSON: But, uh, he and my father was great friends. Always have been. In fact, his mother was a member of our church here. His mother.


ROBERSON: Bishop Walls' mother.

INGRAM: Interesting.


INGRAM: Very interesting. What were some of your father's ideas, uh, concerning, uh, education, uh, race relations, and politics? You know.

ROBERSON: Well, uh, one thing they used to say to my dad, "Why you should you always be," uh, uh, "Why is it that you always, uh, stick-, stick- standing up for people? You can go anywhere you want to go?" But my father, I listened to him, Daddy said, that if, that's where I, I learned this statement is from, "If my brother can't go, I don't."


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And, uh, because, uh, anywhere he wanted to go, uh, any place that he moved in the city, not only here, but, uh, the surrounding cities, he never had any problem. Daddy always believed that, we all, regardless of who we are, what we did, that we should be able to, uh, be friends. He believed that if the, if we could get us to stand together as a group

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: especially the men, that we could move, move mountains.

INGRAM: Would you say that your father was a part of that era of, uh, of racial identification? Feeling very proud of one's ethnicity, uh, during this time period? 'Cause I know during this time period, you had, there was a movement, where you had the Garvey Movement. Then, the whole racial identification with 26:00oneness and proud of one's identity, you know.

ROBERSON: Well, all I know is that my father was very, very proud that he was a black man.

INGRAM: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

ROBERSON: And he instilled in us


ROBERSON: to be proud that we are black.

INGRAM: Reason I say that, because, in 1916, Elijah D. Muhammad founded the Muslims in Detroit,


INGRAM: and in 1915, Garvey stepped foot- foot in, uh, New York, Harlem,


INGRAM: and founded the Garvey Movement.


INGRAM: I was just wondering, you know, with literature being circulated during that time period, you know, and that your father was a part of that identification with one's, proud of who one was, oneself, you know.

ROBERSON: Well, it could be, but I, I don't think that that influenced my dad


ROBERSON: and his belief.

INGRAM: Oh, okay.

ROBERSON: My dad, uh, basically, uh, uh has certain fundamental belief, and I think it's because he came from an enlarged black family.


ROBERSON: See, there were about, uh, between 18 and 21 of them.


INGRAM: From, now, where did he come from? What part of-

ROBERSON: Moundville, Alabama.

INGRAM: Oh, Moundville, Alabama.



ROBERSON: And, uh, my grandfather was a very honorable man.

INGRAM: What was your grandfather's name?

ROBERSON: Uh, Daniel.

INGRAM: Daniel Roberson.

ROBERSON: Yeah. A very honorable man.


ROBERSON: And, uh, uh, I don't know how or why, but, these are one of the things that Daddy always

INGRAM: Mm-hmm

ROBERSON: He had respect for a man, and I use the same philosophy here, that he used- he used with us as boys. He said, "Any man can be a man amongst women, but it takes a man to be a- to, to be admired amongst women, but it takes, [ ] it takes a man to be a man to be admired amongst men." And, uh, I teach, uh, I try to teach the fellows that around here.

INGRAM: Yeah. Yeah.

ROBERSON: And, uh, I didn't understand that, until, some of them drive me along, 28:00and he used to teach, he taught me, as coming along, he said, "Never let a woman's good be your good." I didn't understand that.

INGRAM: [Laughs]. Phewww.

ROBERSON: And, uh, until after.


ROBERSON: And then, after that,


ROBERSON: and he never said, never thank you so [ ] before, and your relationship, he didn't use the word "relationship" with a woman, said, "You, uh, laying up there in the dark, and she's talking to you a lot of things and whispering, and she could laying up there while you think that you are mastering the situation, she's lying there eating peanuts," but he didn't use that terminology,

INGRAM: Yeah [laughs].

ROBERSON: and uh, these are things that, uh, I, I didn't understand.

INGRAM: Was a very spiritual man, wasn't he?

ROBERSON: That's right. That's right.

INGRAM: Very spiritual.

ROBERSON: Right, so, uh, these are the things, and, uh, that helped him, and 29:00then, helped people, and I say very honestly, and very humbly, that whenever Daddy spoke, we all listened, but basically, I think they came from his grandfather. They tell me that when Grandpa spoke in that house in which he, where they were raised, said everything, uh, listened. Even the old dog under the house and the pig was [ ].

INGRAM: [Laughs] How did the community, uh, see your father? I mean


INGRAM: What did the community think of him, as a man?

ROBERSON: Well, if the testimony of his death means anything,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: the city shut down.

INGRAM: The city did what?

ROBERSON: Right, they shut down.

INGRAM: Oh, the city

ROBERSON: Ford Motor Company.

INGRAM: Activity closed.

ROBERSON: Closed. Because I know at the plant in which I worked, they furnished all the cars that was necessary for the family.


INGRAM: What plant was it that you worked at?

ROBERSON: Ypsilanti Plant.

INGRAM: Ford Plant, closing, for it's all the cars.

ROBERSON: Yeah, all the cars. Uh, people came from everywhere. We had people that, that, who said that, he's just alive. Came from all parts of our country. Then, after those that didn't get there, they sent sort of some- some tribute of some sort. Um, I was awfully proud of my brothers during that time. Uh, as, uh, difficult as it was for us. They, I remember, they were Daddy's pallbearers. We, we looked after him as he looked after us.

INGRAM: How old were you when your father, uh, passed?


ROBERSON: Mmm, see.

INGRAM: [What year?]

ROBERSON: That was in 1955. It was, I’d had to be [ ] 1955. About 30-35. [Something like that]. Mm-hmm. Yeah.


ROBERSON: I, I know he had been. And one thing he taught us, too, was to, if you have leaders, work with your leaders. Uh, you take like John Burton, and I remember, and my father pointed out a lot of things to me before he passed, when he knew he was passing, and that's something, that, uh, people, I, I look at, uh, he knew that he was going, uh, he was passing that year. I know, uh, that's the only time I ever defied my father, was a little before his death, and I just 32:00said, well, 'cause my dad was a person who, whatever he's going to do, he's going to do it, and he stood or stand on his own feet. I remember, I notice he was still failing with health, and uh, so I said to him, I said, "Now, Daddy, I'm going with you today to see your doctor," because we didn't question him,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: but I know my father wasn't well, and so, uh, he looked at me, he said, I said, "Well, I'm going today, Dad," and he smiled, and I went with him, and headed up to St. Joe. And so, when I got there, I never will forget. He said to Dr. [Barlow], he said, "This is my oldest son. You can tell him now. He wants to know." And, uh, so Dr. [Barlow] said to me, "Well, your father has cancer and 33:00if he lives to Christmas, he will be well." And I never will forget, my dad said to the doctors, "I want to thank you for what you've done and I'm not gonna bother God anymore," because it had been twice before that, that Daddy, I know, when he worked, I remember when, uh, the [ ] door fell on his head, and I can remember, uh, he was in an accident, but he said, "I'm not gonna worry." He thanked, he talked to the doctors, and then, he said to me, "You don't say anything to your mother about this," and that was it. We didn't. And then, on the 5th, uh, then I take him back and forth, to see the doctor, and it was amazing thing about it, my father had lumps in his stomach as big as my fist, and they used to [claw] him in the stomach like that and, and they couldn't 34:00understand why he, he didn't have pain. And we found out, after he had passed, they gave him, my mother, just, you know, and my sister, bless her heart, she used to, and my dad, running, she was there, and they would uh, uh. Those pills and things and we found them all around the [ ] to take them.

INGRAM: He never took anything.

ROBERSON: Hm-hmm. His faith in God sustained him. And I know the Sunday, that Sunday morning, I’d taken care of his broadcast, and uh, I went over to see him, and I never seen a person look as pretty as he did, and he's told me I didn't have to come back.


ROBERSON: So, "Now, you go home. You don't have to come and take me tomorrow." Well, I come and take him to. What he was doing, so that my mother wouldn't 35:00worry, we was taking him to see a doctor. "You don't have to do that." I said, "Oh, Daddy, you know I'll be here," 'cause what I did, I changed my shift, so I could take him and, uh, and, uh, he looked at me. I said, "I'll be here." I guess he knew that I wasn't up to, didn't figure I could take it that that was his last day on earth so


ROBERSON: He said, "Well, all right, but after this, you don't have to worry about it. You're go home and take some rest, and if you want something for the spirit to dwell in you, you have to take care of your Bible." That's the type of man my father was, and is

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: because he's ever present with us.

INGRAM: He lives through you all. I call it continuation.

ROBERSON: Yeah. That's true.

INGRAM: Right.

ROBERSON: That's true.

INGRAM: Thank you, [ ]. Well, the second half of the interview that I'd like 36:00to conduct will basically, uh, deal with you, in terms of specificity, in terms of, as a youth, you know, growing up in Ypsilanti, uh, what was life like in the area. Primary three areas I like to, they ask you questions about, in the area of race relations, in the area of, uh, leadership, and in the area of entrepreneurship, you know, who were the individuals that owned their businesses, you know? Who got into their black economic development, in terms of becoming entrepreneurs. Who were the leaders in the area of education, or in community life activities. So, we can just take 'em one at a time, and the first question I'd like to start off with, and that is: What was black life like as a youth growing up in Ypsilanti, to you?

ROBERSON: Well, I, it was different in a sense, because, stranger than it seems, I lived up here on Frederick Street.

INGRAM: [Mm. Okay.]

ROBERSON: Now, in the time that I come along as a boy, there was certain things 37:00that the male families did not do. Now, uh, I know like, uh, Elder Anderson, and Mr. Goldman, and all of those, uh, Mrs. Brown and things of that sort. We, as children, were [ ] we were raised by, we were raised by the neighborhood. By this, what I mean is this, that if I go to your house and I did something, your parents had to chastise me. I would be on the defenses, and I said, "Please don't tell my parents," because my parents would follow up on the chastisement. Uh, I notice that, uh, when we come along, that, uh, the things that, uh, I can remember, I kne-, I knew nothing of, uh, whiskey and stuff of that sort, 38:00because, the, the males in the, you had to go on the outskirts of town, couldn't have that in your neighborhood. Uh, there were two young men and I, we went to reform school. We were forbidden to be, to play with them.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: We were told that, uh, they, this was a bad influence and, uh, we were taught how to treat each others. And my father best, best messed up our philosophy about girls because he said, "Now, you're supposed to treat other brothers’ sisters like you wanted somebody to treat your own." Uh. There was, uh, we had, I know, I can remember the time we didn't have water in our house. 39:00We had to carry water.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Um, there was one or two people had water. Um, I can remember, uh, our, um, in our relationship, um, with, uh, with each other, but as a rule, it was mostly black, but as a child, and as I began to come up, to become a teenager, then, we found, and we started cross over, but as the, the relationship were pretty good with the white in this area

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: and I think that's a lot, a lot had to do, because, uh, they, my father and Mr. Neely and some of those who were around here, stood up

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: and, uh, uh, we had no, I, I can't remember having any serious problem

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: in this, in here, as we grew up, because, uh, there was Mr. Wilson, up 40:00the street from us.

INGRAM: What was his first name?

ROBERSON: We call him Boy. He lived to be 100, almost 100 years old.

INGRAM: He was one of the leaders, the community leaders in this town?

ROBERSON: No, he wasn't so much a community leader as, uh, one of the disciplinarians.

INGRAM: [Laughs].

ROBERSON: I guess that's leaders, too.


ROBERSON: You- you learn to obey, but, uh, I can remember Mr. Neely, uh, a Mr. Anderson, who was a real estate, who, uh, one of our real estate operators. Uh, Dr. Perry.

INGRAM: What was Dr. Perry's first name?

ROBERSON: Uh, Lawrence



INGRAM: Uh-huh.

ROBERSON: I remember him. Uh, I'm trying to go back, uh, I remember Dr. Dickerson.


INGRAM: What was his first name?

ROBERSON: I don't remember Dr. Dickerson's first name.

INGRAM: Who was he?

ROBERSON: He was a physician.


ROBERSON: He was a black physician. Uh, I remember Mr. Fuller.

INGRAM: Who was he?

ROBERSON: He, he was a grocery store owner, and, uh. I'm trying to think of a, mmm. And there was a Richardson, I think, who was a- a barbershop. One of our barbershop owners, that if you had 25 cents you could go get your hair cut. That didn't happen too often around us. Then, as I grew, I, leader sticks out in my mind, Mr. Amos Washington. Uh, [claps] what is this fella's name? He was one of our first [on council]. He's Seymour. A fellow by the name of Seymour. John 42:00Burton, uh, those men, Eugene Beatty. Our first black principal. Uh, Dr. Bass,


ROBERSON: Dr. Clark. Dr. Clark was one of our fi-, uh, around, around the second black physician in my area. Um, I remember him.

INGRAM: Were many blacks during this time, as you were growing up, in leadership positions?


INGRAM: Okay. Wh-, do you have any observations or reasons that may have been?

ROBERSON: Well, I, I think most of 'em, uh, as I found out that it's not much difference today, which mean, I'm surprised as you. Uh,


INGRAM: [Laughs]

ROBERSON: the average, uh, black, uh, he, he wants, he got himself a job, taking care of his family, something that he could master. He never ventured for a failing of losing what he had. And I think, basically, that is it, and I think that, basically, it's one of the weakness with the black male today because, in my experience, the load that I've had, uh, in employment, you take, uh, uh, uh, a fellow applying for work, and you, with his resume, you'll find that nine times out of ten, and I'm guilty, just as guilty as the others,

INGRAM: Mm-hm.

ROBERSON: that, as most of 'em, they, uh, they have a tendency to stay right with it, but the Caucasian, will take this, [ ] work that, so and so forth, and 44:00I think, basically, that is one of the reasons why [ ]. And then, uh, during the time I came along, the black man had a job just keeping, uh, body and soul together.

INGRAM: Couldn't really be assertive, in other words.

ROBERSON: No, because of the length of time he had to put in on his job, or occupation, and, uh, the size and the size of his family, and, uh, the, uh, as I, like with automobiles, I can, just for transportation, I can remember the time, when the only thing that one of our people could own would be a secondhand car, and nine times out of ten, it would have passed three or four hands before 45:00you got it.

INGRAM: Would you- would you say that life in Ypsilanti was very, either very liberal or very conservative?

ROBERSON: Well, uh, I would say it was, it wasn't as liberal as, uh, most people would apply the word, but I think, the life in Ypsilanti has been a place, whereby they seem to have certain, uh, gentlemen agreements.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And the people who were, uh, in the leadership position, they would move, but they, they have a tendency to, uh, to, uh, [ ] something along the line to compromise because basically, uh, there haven't been a lot of problems.


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Only when they, we started to push. Uh, I can remember, and they don't like to be reminded of it, that, uh, now we can get a loan at the bank. But I can remember a time that you couldn't get a loan

INGRAM: Couldn’t get a loan.

ROBERSON: at the bank.

INGRAM: Were there any, uh, black leaders in politics still at this time when you were coming up? Who were they?

ROBERSON: Well, Mr., we always looked forward to Mr. Neely. He was one of our, our leaders. Our father was one of our leaders,


ROBERSON: when he came along. I could remember when we first started, when was it, 1937, we were all Republicans, I think.

INGRAM: Oh, wow.

ROBERSON: Mm-hmm. Yeah. And, uh, up until the Roosevelt era. And, uh. Would you like for me to heat the tea?

INGRAM: Oh, no. I'm fine. Were there any, uh, were there any, uh, black 47:00businessmen that owned black businesses, that men

ROBERSON: Out right?

INGRAM: in Ypsilanti. Yeah, in Ypsilanti?

ROBERSON: No, there was some that were call themselves businessmen.

INGRAM: Who were they?

ROBERSON: Uh, there was a Mr. [Harry]


ROBERSON: Uh, and then, Mr. [Beldman Hailey]. He, uh, was a businessman.

INGRAM: What did he own?

ROBERSON: Uh, the Northern Light Tavern. Um, Mr. Herbert Francois was our real estate agent. And, uh, as I said before, Mr. Fuller was one of the first grocery store owners that I can remember. Uh. Mmm, there weren't too many. I guess that's about all I can, off the top of my head.


INGRAM: What do you see as some of the reasons why there haven't, why there has not been a rapid expansion of black-owned businesses on a part of blacks in Ypsilanti, given, uh, the track record in the past? You know, you had those that would own black businesses, like this Northern Tavern. I'm quite sure that is not in existence today.

ROBERSON: No, it is not.

INGRAM: Nothing of that sort.

ROBERSON: No, it's just like with the post over there. It, uh, uh, at one time, and this has completely, uh, I think, basically, uh, the incentive that the average black man in Ypsilanti had, uh, now how? What am I say? How was it? I just think it's just because, most of 'em weren't really willing to sacrifice, to, to, uh, go into it. It wasn't because they weren't qualified to do it.

INGRAM: [Yeah].

ROBERSON: Or they, the, uh, now, you take Mr. Washington, uh Amos Washington. 49:00Uh, he, he had a business, and then, he went into, uh, well, he- he was one of our first, uh, individuals who run the Parkridge Center. But, really, basically, is this like it bothers me? No. Uh, about black businesses, because we, uh, those opportunities, they're here today, but they don't, for some reason, they just don't seem to take the time to look into those areas. [ ] do quite well in our city.

INGRAM: Who are they and what do they do?

ROBERSON: Well, most of them are satisfied, with, with the job that they have. Now, there are those who go on to higher education. Uh, as a rule, a number of them, they, uh, they just don't come, most of 'em don't come back, come back 50:00home, [ ]. I can show you a number of those in my church, who have graduated and went on to higher education. Uh, we find, uh, let's take Jerry. Jerry, he is, uh, he's in New York City. Jerry is a music major, very capable, very fine in that, and, uh, but for some reason, now, I know, I worked on urban renewal and things of this sort. In fact, I'm [ ], trying to talk to some of them about going into businesses. Some of 'em will start, and then, they don't seem to have that initiative to, to move. Now women seem to do a little different, with their, their hair business and things of this sort, but beside barbershops, 51:00and that, it's about the, the crux of, uh, what they do in this area.

INGRAM: If we were to make an assessment, uh, of life as a youth growing up, comparing it with life today, do, do you see any, or ha-, have you seen any real significant improvements in race relations today, and, uh, politics, and, and business ownership on a part of blacks, today, if you were to compare? [ ]

ROBERSON: Well, if I was to compare what, what [ ], I would say there have been because, uh, let's go back to the time of our, um, of our dwelling on this area, and the time that when it was mud, and, uh, no streets and things of this sort. Housing was below code and this sort of thing.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Uh, this, we lived in, we lived in, as we, what we would call sub-standard housing. Since that time, there has been improvement in that. Uh, 52:00when we came along, it was as I said before, uh, to get a mortgage for a house, this was impossible, but that has improved, because the first mortgages that we have in the homes that we have here, we went out of the city,


ROBERSON: to get those mortgages.

INGRAM: [Was it…]


INGRAM: Tells you a lot, tells you something about race relations in Ypsilanti, then.


INGRAM: Was it, was it very, very conservative?

ROBERSON: I would say it was very, it was very conservative, and it did not have enough people who would say to those people, "Look, uh, we live here. This is what we want." I know when they, we started to building houses here, and they refused to let us have the money, we went down and told them, said, "Okay, then, if we don't let us have it, we'll, we'll get it from somewhere else, someone else," and what they don't understand as a rule, 99 and five-tenths of black people


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Now, once that he acquires something, he will take care of that. Now, they will always let you have money for cars,


ROBERSON: but they wouldn't let you have money for, for homes, in this area, so, uh, I feel that's an improvement. Now, uh, at one time, all of us lived on the south end of town.

INGRAM: Mmm. Where is that at, the south end of town?

ROBERSON: Uh, on south of Michigan Avenue.

INGRAM: Oh, okay.

ROBERSON: Most of us lived on the south end of town. They lived on the north end of town, and, I think it was sort of a, a gentleman's agreement that, uh, you 54:00stayed on one side and they stayed on the other.


ROBERSON: And, uh, uh, it was one time there weren't any sewage, sewers. Uh, we, all of our, our, uh, houses, toilets, were in our backyards. But, uh, with the leadership of, uh, people like my father, John Burton, Mr. Neely, and some of those, we got that taken care of.

INGRAM: About what time was it, what time and period was this?



ROBERSON: Oh, somewhere, I think things started turning somewhere after 1937.

INGRAM: 1937.

ROBERSON: Uh-huh. Mm-hmm.




ROBERSON: Uh, yeah. And, as far as going downtown to eat, uh, it had never been 55:00a challenge, in the sense as when, uh, pressure and things started to move, they just opened up the store, but most of us, in the area never bothered much about that.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Uh, drinking in their saloons and things.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: There was a time they would indicate that, "You had the Northern Lights. Why don't you go back there?" Uh, but, uh, and as far as, uh, lot of name calling and this sort of thing. This wasn't done.

INGRAM: What about interracial human relations. Was that few? People intermarrying or seldom occurred, or,



ROBERSON: it seldom occurred in our area. I can remember, can't recall the name of these people, but back when the communists in this were pushing a surge back, 56:00um, mmm, what was that? Around 30, during the '40s, I guess, as well.

INGRAM: Otis T. [ ].

ROBERSON: And they were, they used to send their women in our area.


ROBERSON: And, uh, they'd been rather reluctant to accept them. And I know, uh one girl, a very fine young man, who was a very prominent young man, that we were looking for great things out of

INGRAM: Mm-hmm,

ROBERSON: he, uh, he, uh, got caught up in this. And then, there was a certain family, in this area, who was extremely light, and they, uh, they moved in from 57:00Canada, that the community practically isolated them. In fact, I used to, uh, the oldest girl and I were friends, and, I used to, uh, see that she got home.

INGRAM: Isolated on the terms of what?

ROBERSON: Uh, as far as, uh, blacks were concerned.

INGRAM: Oh, they, they were just very, very light.

ROBERSON: Yes, and so, every, all the rest of the black ones, took off on it.

INGRAM: Would harass them and stuff.

ROBERSON: All the time.

INGRAM: All the time.

ROBERSON: So, uh, and that, that happened in our own neighborhood. That would happen in our own neighborhood. Uh, I think one of the things that, reason youngsters did not get into a lot of this, because it was practically controlled by the adults [ ]. Uh, we could get out a Boy Scout meeting in [ ] or, or, 58:00uh, any of the, uh, others, say, "All right, boy, you get home." Here we are, we're 14 years old. [ ] So, we were about, we didn't stop to question. We'd take off. And that's the way the neighborhood was. Um, I can remember, like with Mother Bass, um, when we came along, now, her husband was carpenter and builder and Sam and John and all of us around, I, I may be a little older than what they are, but what they would do, Mother Bass would cook on Saturday night, and people with large families,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: uh, Melvin and them would have to deliver food and stuff of this sort.

INGRAM: Who was Mother Bass?

ROBERSON: Uh, she has, she has passed now. She is Counselor Sam Bass, John Bass, 59:00Mos Bass. Uh, you should talk to them.

INGRAM: Uh, their mother, that was their mother.

ROBERSON: That was their mother,


ROBERSON: Mos Bass. They have been in this area, and they have contributed a lot because, Mr. Bass, he was a, a carpenter and was a man that built, there was Mr. Hopkins, he used to build houses.

INGRAM: Mr. Hopkins, is- is this the father of Reverend Hopkins?



ROBERSON: No, they’re not kin.

INGRAM: They're not related.

ROBERSON: No, uh-huh. Uh, I think about them, and, uh, these are, are- are people, but, uh, uh, and then, as you go back, the religious factor had a lot to do with controlling, like across the street, uh, Elder Anderson. The Andersons lived on our street.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm. What role, as, as, as a, as a youth, and compared…



ROBERSON: Sense of direction. Black church was the place where the average youth, because when we come along, it was, you went to church. If you didn't like, uh, what was it? Yesterday, uh, the wife and I was a little, uh, well, we weren't, we weren't to get here until the 11th, so my son taking my daughter to church. Parents taking, uh...Most of your recreation came. When you start dating, as a rule. You, you date those, you start dating around the church. Until you got up to the age of 17 or 18, and then, it makes, because of the, the, Your [ ]- I wouldn't say [ ] friends, because of your training, you find 61:00yourself, uh, um, listening. I know when I was, uh, 17, when I started first going to dances, now that was at Perry school, and, uh, there was certain things, if you're going to, when you get, when you get to a certain age, you felt that you were on your way.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And the church wouldn't allow you to function.

INGRAM: Hm. Okay.

ROBERSON: And, the church, the church, uh, uh, then, there are, I think about Sam Davis. He's gone now. Uh, and, uh, Mos Bass, and all of those, with your recreational, uh, outlets.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: But nine times, 90% or better was controlled by the church. If a 62:00person, and when the voting come, we would see, you get a chance to meet candidates, 'cause they'd all come to the church.

INGRAM: Do you see significant, uh, improvements or expansionism in the black church today in Ypsilanti, versus the black church of yesterday, when you were a youth?

ROBERSON: Yeah, there's quite, yeah, because, uh, youth has a, youth today can express yourself in the church, where before, you couldn't.


ROBERSON: You were seen and not heard. Now youth has an opportunity today,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: like with our church, every fourth Sunday is, as a rule, is youth day. Uh, if they don't like anything, they have a right to say so. They're given an active part in the church. In fact, they're, they're taking up training now, 63:00where at that time, you could not do that.

INGRAM: Did the black church, uh, of yesterday, versus today, play a major role in enhancing race relations between blacks and whites?

ROBERSON: Yes, because,


ROBERSON: Uh, basically, it's because of their contact with the other ministers, the white ministers.


ROBERSON: And when things got so, they, they would get their heads together and they would agree on a force of pursuit.

INGRAM: Uh-huh. Uh-huh.

ROBERSON: And, it- it- it's, uh, it would be, I think I would be, it would be fair to say that this is one of the ways that they, they worked with, because I know, my father was limited as far as education was concerned,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: and Reverend Shaw, a white minister, and Daddy was good friends, he 64:00would tutor Daddy, and ask Daddy to give him the same spirit that he had.


INGRAM: What I want to ask you, who are your community leaders today, in Ypsilanti?


INGRAM: What roles do you see, what, what, and how, how have you perceived their roles, individually?

ROBERSON: Well, we have a number of, uh, leaders in our community today. There's John Hunter, there's Hunter. Uh

INGRAM: Does he identify, um, as [you name them]?

ROBERSON: Yeah. It's Hunter. Yeah, Hunter is, uh, is one of the leaders. And, uh, uh, I feel that, he does what he does, you know, Hunter has his philosophy, and Hunter does, he does a, he did, [he does a pretty good job]. There's Doug Harris. Doug Harris is, uh, uh, he's on the council, and, uh, uh, he has been in 65:00the, uh, in the field as a leader of advocating of, uh, of, uh, education, uh, and, um, better relations, and, and then, he's, he's on our council. There's our former mayor, John Burton, and John has been one that has been in the forefront. Uh, John has been a very strong leader in our community. He, uh, uh, John says what he, what he thinks, he get things done, and even those who disagree with him admire him for the stand that he takes. John is responsible for a lot of improvements in our neighbor-, in our, in our community. Not only in our 66:00community, but in the state in which we live. Uh, there's another young lady by the, we have a young lady by the name of Ethel [Cohen]. You may not- you met her. I introduced you to her.

INGRAM: Oh, okay.

ROBERSON: She does, uh, a lot of work in our, in our community. Uh, uh, then there's Vanzetti Hamilton, the attorney. And, uh, there's Mullins, the president of the NAACP.

INGRAM: Ray Mullins?

ROBERSON: Ray Mullins. Uh, uh, let me see. There is, um, now, among the ministers, Reverend Hopkins is, is, is, uh, really doing a tremendous job.


INGRAM: How does he tie in with, uh, you all's background, and or, with, uh, Reverend Roberson?


INGRAM: How does he fit?

ROBERSON: Uh, because of the, he ties in because basically, after my father's era had [ ] he had come and tried to, uh, to, uh, to work along with the leadership that we always, we have already had.

INGRAM: Okay. Did he, he, he did not, uh, become the pastor of Second Baptist, after the demise of your father, did he?



ROBERSON: A fellow by the name of Anthony Robinson.

INGRAM: Then Reverend Hopkins came.

ROBERSON: Yes. Mm-hmm.

INGRAM: And then he also, uh, worked along with your brother in terms of your brother serving as a deacon.




INGRAM: So, that's the really connective link.

ROBERSON: Yeah, that's where, and, uh, so we worked with him, and, uh,


INGRAM: Did he know your father?

ROBERSON: No, he didn't [ ].

INGRAM: Okay. Okay.

ROBERSON: No. He knew him by, through other people.

INGRAM: Okay, 'cause I was reading the anniversary booklet that was published in 1970, that came out of, uh, Reverend Hopkins’ church, and I wondered whether or not he knew, you know, of your father.

ROBERSON: No. He didn't know Daddy.

INGRAM: Okay. I was just paying- paying deference to the anniversary.


INGRAM: Oh, okay.

ROBERSON: And then, our present mayor, George Goodman, and, uh, uh, we had another young lady, and then another one is Sam Bass.


ROBERSON: Uh, Sam Bass, he works for, um, and his brother, John. Sam served on the council. Uh, [ ] Moore, our city police. And, uh, [ ], Chief of Police.


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And, uh, mmm [ ]. There's Emmett Coleman, who's been influential to the community, and so these are some of the leaders.

INGRAM: Okay. What do you see as some of the problems, uh, besetting Ypsilanti, affecting black life in Ypsilanti?

ROBERSON: Well, uh, one of the problems is, in the city of Ypsilanti, we have too many individuals that feel as that, uh, they have a solution, to problems, and when it comes to uh. Oh, now don't let me forget, here, too. I want to, don't forget our postmaster, Mr. [ ] and his wife.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Margaret.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: They, they're, she has been one of our outstanding leaders and educators, but one of the problems that I feel in our city,


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: that divides our city, that everyone wants to be the individual that says that everyone will say, uh, uh, he is responsible. The thing have always bothered me is that I never will forget when, uh, we were, uh, trying to get some urban renewal improvements.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And, uh, we were up making some statements, and, two of the ladies, we can't forget Mrs. Dorsey in that group, said, "Shut up, we're going to [ ]. We know what to do, and this is where we're going to do it." This is the rough part.


ROBERSON: Uh, we have too many fragments in our community.


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: And, uh, when it comes down to reasoning and to setting up potential, uh, like, uh, I've asked them, concerning Harry's, and the, and, uh, the new Renaissance, where, what, what they say is going up there. I've asked them time and time. I say, "Why don't we, uh, sort of get together, and see what we can do about developing, um, businesses?"

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: But we, they don't do this. I know, like, the business and professional leag-, men's club.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: All they do is like we're doing now, talk.

INGRAM: Really? [Laughs].

ROBERSON: Well, you can see.


ROBERSON: I mean if they weren't doing anything other than that,

INGRAM: Yeah, yeah.

ROBERSON: we would have a


INGRAM: Yeah. What do you see as alternative solutions to the situation? If I were to ask you, Reverend Roberson, what kind of solutions would you suggest that, that could enhance, uh, community life, or make things better, among black folk, collectively?

ROBERSON: Well, one of the things I would say to you, uh, see if you can find you four or five, that is willing to sit down, and willing to sacrifice, to invest,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: in anything, whether it's a barbershop, or whether it's a, uh, a grocery store,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: or whether it's a business. Another thing bothers me is, uh, we're not supportive of our, of our people. We're not sup-, if, uh, you get me four or 73:00five people, that said, "All right, then, we're gonna support each other." That would be one of the things. Then, not only, we should do something that would, uh, uh, like with, as long as a center had been there, uh, they're going to, okay, so they're going to reopen. There's no reason why as many as our people are in this area, that we could not have a center.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Uh, like, uh, when the businessmen and the, uh, Brown Chapel built these apartments, that was a, that was an effort, but the money came, mostly 74:00came from the government. We do not want to invest anything [in each other].

INGRAM: Is there quite a bit of, uh, potential businesses that one could invest in, if one was interested in doing that in Ypsilanti?

ROBERSON: Uh, I don't see any reason why we can't.


ROBERSON: Our businesses would thrive like in any other. It's just like,

INGRAM: Yeah, right.

ROBERSON: We had a pizza business down here. In fact, we, uh, in fact, we, we sorta helped to get that going.

INGRAM: How did it fare?

ROBERSON: It fared pretty well for a while. And then, because of, uh, mmm, those who were running the business. We found that uh, we backed out of it, and after, uh, our church, was using our church name to support, support it.

INGRAM: Yeah, yeah.

ROBERSON: But after, uh, they, uh, we found that they, people who were running 75:00the business, weren't actually producing in the manner that they should, we

INGRAM: Closed it down, eh?

ROBERSON: No, we just moved out, and at least, I don't know what other sponsor that they could find.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

ROBERSON: Then the business folded.

INGRAM: Yeah. And it seems that that would, that would have great potential in a black community.

ROBERSON: It had great potential. So, I think the bigger mistake I made, I should have uh, let the church run it. What I mean,

INGRAM: Where was it located?

ROBERSON: On Harriet Street.

INGRAM: Right on Harriet Street?

ROBERSON: On Harriet Street.

INGRAM: Oh, wow.

ROBERSON: Right next to Tom Hall's Barbershop. In fact, it was located, at one time, in one of those buildings.

INGRAM: I bet it was a very active business, too.

ROBERSON: Yes, but, by the same token, when you got a lot of youngsters hanging 76:00around everyone [ ].

INGRAM: Yeah. And, that probably had everything to do with, uh, people that was running the business.

ROBERSON: Oh, yeah.

INGRAM: Oh, yeah.

ROBERSON: Another thing, uh, bothers me is the drug problem in my area. We have that.

INGRAM: Is that, is that a very big problem here?

ROBERSON: Oh, yes.

INGRAM: Drug problem.

ROBERSON: Drug problem. And, that bothers me. That's a deterioration. And when our young people and things get into that, we find that, uh, that's very [disturbing].

INGRAM: Who are some of the, uh, leaders in Ypsilanti that have attempted to do something about that, to correct those problems that you’ve mentioned? Could you name a few? Or, are there any?

ROBERSON: [Laughs]. Doubt very seriously.


INGRAM: Really? No real sincere commitment to bring about change?

ROBERSON: No. No, they do a lot of talk.

INGRAM: Is community life that bleak? [Laughs]. Do you see it as being that bleak?

ROBERSON: It'd have to be that bleak. Young man, I tell you…


0:00 - Vignettes of Garther Roberson Sr.

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: S.L. Roberson. Today's date is July the 26th, 1981. The interview is being conducted at, at three o'clock. There are essentially two sections that we plan to cover today. Section one will uncover a, a biographical overview or sketch of the life of uh, Reverend Garther Roberson, the Reverend S.L. Roberson's father, and then, second half, hopefully we'll cover an overview of the biographical life of the Reverend, himself, Roberson, himself. We'll take it from there.

ROBERSON: Okay, well, as I, as I was saying, when my father, uh, left, coming here from, uh, Alabama. Uh, one of the things that brought him is uh, at the time, when uh, he and my mother married, he worked for a man, uh my grandfather worked for a man by the name of Mr. Howard,

Segment Synopsis: S.L. Roberson begins the interviews with a series of memories of his father, the Reverend Gather Roberson Sr., who came to Ypsilanti from Alabama as part of the Great Migration. Mr. Roberson details some of the life lessons his father gave him.

Keywords: Black foundry workers; Central Specialty; Dr. Dickerson; Eugene Sears; Fannie Davis; Garther Roberson Sr.; Gordon's Store; Great Migration; Joe Louis; Judge Sample; Ku Klux Klan n Ypsilanti; Michigan Normal College; Racism in Ypsilanti; S.L. Roberson; Second Baptist Church; sharecropping in Alabama; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African American families. Fathers. African Americans--Migrations--History--20th century.

Hyperlink: "Rev. Roberson" Ann Arbor News, December 6, 1955.

15:35 - Leading Second Baptist Church

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: Was your father a minister when he came here, or could you give me a chronology on that?

ROBERSON: No, he wasn't a minister when he came. In fact, when he came here, my father was uh, he joined Second Baptist Church, and he sang in the choir

Segment Synopsis: S.L. Roberson talks about his father's leadership of Second Baptist Church and the things he learned from him. He talks about his father's attitude towards women and children. Mr. Roberson responds to questions about the family and Garther Roberson Sr.'s attitudes towards race.

Keywords: African American religious traditions; Bishop Melvin Walls; Daniel Roberson; Eddie Wilson; Evelyn Roberson; Frank Roberson; Garther Roberson Jr.; Gathonia Roberson; Harold Roberson; Marcus Garvey; Moundville, Alabama; Race relations in Ypsilanti; Racial identity; Revered Hopkins; Reverend Carr; Reverend English; Reverend Garther Roberson; Reverend Leggett; Reverend Williams; S.L. Roberson; Second Baptist Church; South Hamilton Street; Walter Paul Roberson; Ypsilanti, Michigan

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

29:32 - A father's passing

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: How did the community, uh, see your father? I mean


INGRAM: What did the community think of him, as a man?

ROBERSON: Well, if the testimony of his death means anything,

Segment Synopsis: In this segment S.L. describes the illness, death, and funeral of his father, Gather Roberson Sr. pastor of Second Baptist Church.

Keywords: Dr. Barlow; Ford Motor Company; Garther Roberson Sr.; John H Burton; S.L. Roberson; Second Baptist Church; St. Josephs Hospital; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African American families. Parents--Death.

Hyperlink: A photo of old Second Baptist on Ypsilanti's South Hamilton Street.

35:58 - Growing up in Ypsilanti

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: Thank you, [ ]. Well, the second half of the interview that I'd like to conduct will basically, uh, deal with you, in terms of specificity, in terms of, as a youth, you know, growing up in Ypsilanti, uh, what was life like in the area. Primary three areas I like to, they ask you questions about, in the area of race relations, in the area of, uh, leadership, and in the area of entrepreneurship, you know, who were the individuals that owned their businesses, you know? Who got into their black economic development, in terms of becoming entrepreneurs. Who were the leaders in the area of education, or in community life activities. So, we can just take 'em one at a time, and the first question I'd like to start off with, and that is: What was black life like as a youth growing up in Ypsilanti, to you?

ROBERSON: Well, I, it was different in a sense, because, stranger than it seems, I lived up here on Frederick Street.

Segment Synopsis: Reverend Roberson is asked about growing up in Ypsilanti and his memories of Black business owners. He gives his opinion on why there weren't more Black businesses in the 1980s than the 1950s.

Keywords: African-Americans and the New Deal; Alfred Anderson; Amos Washington; Ben Neely; Black barbers in Ypsilanti; Dr. Bass; Dr. Clark; Dr. John Dickerson; Dr. Lawrence Perry; Eugene Beatty; Frank Seymour; Frederick St.; Fuller's grocery; Garther Roberson Sr.; Great Migration; Herbert Francois; J.D. Hall; Mr. Wilson; Northern Lights; Parkridge Community Center; Race relations in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Racism in bank loans; S.L. Roberson; Sam Richardson; Urban Renewal; Ypsilanti south side; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African Americans--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History. African American business enterprises.

51:17 - Keeping up with changing times

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: If we were to make an assessment, uh, of life as a youth growing up, comparing it with life today, do, do you see any, or ha-, have you seen any real significant improvements in race relations today, and, uh, politics, and, and business ownership on a part of blacks, today, if you were to compare? [ ]

ROBERSON: Well, if I was to compare what, what [ ], I would say there have been because, uh, let's go back to the time of our, um, of our dwelling on this area, and the time that when it was mud, and, uh, no streets and things of this sort. Housing was below code and this sort of thing.

Segment Synopsis: In this segment, the interviewer and Rev. Roberson engage in a long conversation comparing leaders, businesses, churches and race relations from the time when Rev. Roberson growing up in Ypsilanti and when this interview was conducted in 1981. Mr. Roberson gives his opinion of what role the church should play in the community.

Keywords: Anthony Robinson; Ben Neely; Boy Scouts; Doug Harris; Eaglin family; Garther Roberson Sr.; George Goodman; Housing in Ypsilanti; Jimmy Moore; John Bass; John Burton; John Hunter; Mattie Dorsey; Mose Bass; Perry School; Race relations in Ypsilanti; Racial disparity in social services; Racial segregation in Ypsilanti; Ray Mullins; Red-lining in Ypsilanti; Reverend Shaw; S.L. Roberson; Sam Bass; Sam Davis; Vanzetti Hamilton; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African American leadership. African American churches. African American business enterprises. Race relations--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History.

Hyperlink: "Rev. S.L. Roberson, longtime Ypsilanti minister, dies at age 90" Ann Arbor News, December 4, 2010.
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