INGRAM: We're with Dr. Thomas Bass, a physician by occupation. Um, Dr. Bass, when did you first arrive in Yspilanti?

BASS: In, uh, to stay, in 1943.

INGRAM: 1943.

BASS: October the 1st, 1943.

INGRAM: Uh-huh. Uh. Where did you come from?

BASS: River Rouge, Michigan. You don't mean my place of birth? You mean where did I come from directly.

INGRAM: Yes, where were you-

BASS: To Ypsi.

INGRAM: Okay. Where are you born, when are you born?

BASS: Well, I was born in uh Paterson, New Jersey. One T. P-A-T-E-R-S-O-N. Octo- ... Uh. September the fourteenth, 1910.

INGRAM: Why did you come to Ypsilanti?

BASS: Well, I had been working here and there, this one and that one, and at the time get on out and practice. I'm told I'm old, for one reason. And uh, uh. I just wasn't making a living there at River Rouge. I was a resident in medicine


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and I practically ran the hospital down there in River Rouge. But uh, it wasn't a very remunerative situation. I didn't get, make any, a sum of money that really I thought was in keeping of the amount of time I put into it.

INGRAM: Why did you-

BASS: The amount of time I'd been in medicine, plus the fact I wasn't learning anything, either. [Laughs] So-

INGRAM: Why did- Yeah.

BASS: Well I came out Ypsi for two reasons. One I needed to get out, as I mentioned, just in general. And I heard that uh there was need for uh, what I hate to say, black doctors in this area. I don't think they well, Dr. Clark is here, but, uh, I'm not sure he's currently active. And uh, let's see, he was probably the only, the only black physician in the county, Washtenaw, in 2:00practice at that time.

INGRAM: Who was this?

BASS: Dr. Clark. Samuel Clark. Um. But then I wanted to go to the School of Public Health up at Ann Arbor. So my thought was to, uh practice at least one hour a night and go to school most of the day, which I did. Consequently, I didn't do too much in either place. But I finished. I got a Master's Degree in Public Health, which I have to say, uh, because of, I think, uh largely racial prejudices, it was essentially a waste of time. [All of these degrees] [ ], none of us really can use them to do. Help yourself, of course.

INGRAM: [ ] What is your educational background frame?

BASS: Well, I've been to um, the usual schools along the way. I went to the public schools in Paterson, New Jersey as far as I could go through high school. 3:00Then I went to Lincoln University in Pennsylvania, which was founded in 1856 which makes it the oldest school for the higher education of blacks. We say "black" now, but then we said, "negroes." In the world. And ah, let me see, I graduated from there in 1933, with primarily working chemistry and those kinds of subjects in order to get into medical school. But I had to stay out because of finances so I didn't get to medical school until 1934.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm

BASS: And ah, I graduated from Meharry, that's down in Tennessee, it's one of the two big black medical schools in the, at least it was at that time, I suppose, world. You know, like [ ] ancient schools that blacks probably had many years ago. Ah, then I, let's see, I got the MD in 1938. And uh, I uh, 4:00interned at Freedmen's Hospital in uh, Washington, D.C. It's now called Howard University Hospital or the Hospital of Howard University Medical School, but then it was Freedmen's. F-R-E-E-D…-M-E-N-apostrophe-S. I stayed there 18 months for various reasons and uh, I spent a whole lot of time giving free services on OB GYN. We had a large open service there. And uh, the other one, 5:00the other one was uh, I guess the ambulance which was a complete waste of time, too. And, of course, the emergency room we worked 24 hour shifts, be on 24 hours, off 24 hours. Ah, I put in a lot of time in some other area, I'm trying to think what it was. It must have been just general medicine. This was because the internship, then, was in a state of ah, well flux, I guess you can say. They were trying to uh, develop it uh, there. I guess all medical schools at that time were trying to make the internship more meaningful. Uh, and uh, they were trying to, I suppose, uh, what’s that word where they, they want them to conform to about the same thing in all medical schools. Well, anyhow that's what they were trying to do there at Freedmen's. So, consequently, I spent a lot of time in those areas I mentioned. Ah, I can tell you a whole lot about that 6:00first, about the, how I feel about it now, about the, seems to me it wasn't a very learning experience. But once you keep in mind, too, at that time, there were only five uh, so called first class hospitals where a black could get a decent internship, to say nothing of a residency. And Freedmen's happened to have been one but uh, like so many uh, organizations or things of that type uh, uh just because it happens to be named as one of those where you can, where, uh, things are supposed to be outstanding in various aspects of medical training, it doesn't necessarily make it so. And I'm sorry I have to say that about Freedmen's.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: Um, see after staying there 18 months, I [ ] I worked especially in 7:00venereal disease control, too. I evoked an interest in that and also in, therefore in, uh, urology and um, in ah, first class internships were hard to get. But residencies and the various specialties were even more difficult for a black to get. I had hoped that I could have gotten up to the Harlem Hospital but ah, because my home's just across the river from New York City and I visited over there with one or two of my high school classmates who happened to have been white and uh, of course, you get promises but, uh, when the time comes to deliver, they just couldn't deliver it. Well, they were, they were uh, I guess, uh, moderate house officers. I mean moderate, of moderate standing. They weren't like the administrators, they weren't anything of that sort. So I didn't get to 8:00Harlem but that's where I really wanted to get, where, where there was ever so much training that could have been obtained and you know, being Harlem at that time, being a Harlem Hospital at that time up there in Harlem uh, there were all sorts of chances to learn to do this and that or to train in this and that and the other. Uh, the majority [ ] there was no question about. All patients practically were black. Ah, so I got a chance to work at uh, this Lincoln University where I graduated from, as a school physician and uh, also I was supposed to lecture in one class in freshman hygiene, which I did. And uh, the thing that got me about that was all that dog gone laboratory work that


INGRAM: [Laughs]

BASS: I had to go over again because they wanted me to teach a couple of lab classes. Well, I did it. But ah, there wasn't any money there either, which, well, you just, it wasn't, uh, weren't able to make ah, the sums of money at that time as an intern or even a resident as they do now. So, I uh, stayed there a year and another fellow was supposed to come in. I went there before him just to fill in until he came. And uh, I thought maybe he wouldn't come and I would kind of stay there a little longer and go out and practice in that area, Chester County, Pennsylvania. It's beautiful country, about 50 miles south of Philadelphia.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: So, I ah, got a job in Philadelphia with a physician in practice and he had somebody else working but uh, I didn't stay there too long because the 10:00training I had wouldn't allow me to keep up with the speed with which they were able to take care of people. For example, we'd get to the office on a Saturday evening at 5 o'clock and by 12, 12 o'clock, we'd seen a hundred people or a hundred people would have been seen. I couldn't work that fast so, I left. I was invited to stay if I wanted to, but I couldn't, I wouldn't be paid anything [laughs]. It was just supposed to have been more experience, but experience in what? Um, then I think I went back to Jersey. Oh, I did. I went back to New Jersey to try to get ahold of some money to uh, open up an office there in Paterson, my birth place. And the need there was for physicians, too. But, 11:00despite the fact that uh, the bank with which I used to do business, Second National Bank there in Paterson, they knew me well because they, there weren't but so many blacks in town. For example, in my class in high school, there were about 400 who graduated with me at midterm, and there were only two of us blacks in the class. And that was in one of the high schools and I think there might have been one black in the other high school. Well, anyhow these people knew me but that didn't mean anything. Ah, because I couldn't borrow, I couldn't borrow, I think I wanted 250 dollars or something to buy a car. I couldn't borrow that to say nothing about borrowing some money to, uh, fix the old house that we had there. So, I had the, this, uh, friend, acquaintance who was in medical school with me, I was a year ahead of him though, who wanted to get into surgery and 12:00ah, they needed a resident in medicine at the Trinity Hospital in Detroit. So, upon ah, his request and after thinking about it, I, well, I wasn't doing anything except walking around the streets. I ah, uh came out, drove out to Detroit in this '29 Chevrolet that I was able to get for, I've forgotten what I paid, I think [125] dollars and had some difficulties on the way, but I won't tell you about those. Those are something I need to write about one of these years. And I stayed there for a short time and uh, I guess people then say I was quite rash and brash and everything else

INGRAM: [Laughs]

BASS: because I couldn't get along with the fellow who was the owner, one of the owners and he was Chief Administrator of the hospital at that time. But this 13:00allowed Dr. [Arrington], was the man, uh, who was at the Trinity Hospital and went into surgery, he's turned out to be quite an obstetrician/gynecologist. But I relieved him so he could get in that area and, as I say, I soon moved on out to River Rouge where I heard you could make a few dollars more [laughs].

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: And ah, at the, that hospital was owned and administered by Dr. Samuel B. Milton, who was quite a prince of a fellow. But there wasn't any money, I think they paid me $90 a month.

INGRAM: What was the name of the hospital out there.

BASS: Sumby, S-U-M-B-Y. Sumby Hospital. That was named after a Dr. Sumby, who was up in Saginaw, who had died, uh, prematurely I think you might say. That was Dr. Milton's brother-in-law.


BASS: Dr. Milton died, of course, about a year ago. His brother died about year 14:00before that, whom I knew very well because one was in medical school with me.


BASS: So I stayed there three years and uh, there was a wealth of ah, knowledge to be learned but it had to ah, it should have been formalized in some way. There wasn't anybody to teach me, I had to pick it all up myself. And, uh, a lot of it, I have to admit, was by trial and error. I had to lick that. Ah, for example, I think about a day or so after I got there, Dr. Milton hadn't had a vacation in a long time, he took off in his car and I didn't see him for about two or three months later. So, running the hospital was my job.


BASS: And we had some uh, good experiences down there, I have to admit I learned uh, by putting into practice a lot of this theory to a great degree. As I say, 15:00there wasn't anybody really to teach me anything. I, I hadn't had any significant amount of surgical training and what little I uh, obtained ah, I had to learn all that myself. Such as tonsillectomies and so forth, DNC's and…I had spent a fair amount of time, too in orthopedics at Freedmen's, so I was kind of adept, you know, in putting on the casts and taking care of fractures, relatively simple fractures. But uh, ah I just wasn't making any real definite headway towards ah, really my life's work. Ah, I needed to get out and uh, despite his [ ] admonishments and advice about staying there and starting a practice there, I decided not to because I didn't want to be known as Dr. 16:00Milton's doctor.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: I uh, wanted to, as I mentioned, to get in to the School of Public Health, so I moved out here. And ah, oh, while I was at Freed ... at ah, Sumby Hospital, the war started but uh, ah these are not sour grapes and yet they are in a way. It's God's honest truth, I tried to get into the Army. In fact, I tried getting into the Army while, uh, I was at Freedmen's or soon after graduation because ah, as a medical officer, you were given the rank of 1st Lieutenant, at that time at least. And the pay was $3,200 a year which was


BASS: like manna from heaven and here I was earning at Freedmen's $10 a month, not a, $10 a month was the money I had.


BASS: Um, so I went on up to Ann Arbor and opened up here up there in the 17:00project on the side of the hill and uh, tried to have hours, uh, one hour every night

INGRAM: Doing what?

BASS: Well, I was practicing medicine.

INGRAM: Oh okay, up at Ann Arbor?

BASS: No, no. Here in Ypsilanti,

INGRAM: [ ] Ypsilanti.

BASS: up on the side of the hill there, in the neighbor-, Parkridge, they call that project up there.

INGRAM: Oh, oh Parkridge.

BASS: I had my first office up there.


BASS: And well, I first had an office in the house.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: And uh, of course, I soon got married and

INGRAM: What, what were some of your observations of uh, of race relations in Ypsilanti as [ ]

BASS: Well at that time, certainly they were, they were, I have to admit, kind of strained. Racial relations that I have experienced were strained all over. Ah, it certainly in Washington, I can tell you a lot of tales about Washington. I happened to been Washington, too during the time that Marion Anderson, you know,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: was invited to sing

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: and the Daughters of the American Revolution wouldn’t let, would not 18:00allow her to sing in Constitution Hall.

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: So Mrs., uh, Roosevelt, who Mr. Ickes, the Secretary of the Interior, made available a setting in front of the Lincoln Memorial. It was a beautiful, ah, event. I couldn't make it that day, I had to be on call. But I had clippings, but God knows what happened to them.

INGRAM: So back in Ypsilanti, wasn't [ ]

BASS: No, Ypsilanti, all of the black people lived on the south side of Michigan Avenue. Many of them still do. But uh, it was practically 100%. At that time, the blacks who went up to Eastern could not stay in the dormitories.

INGRAM: Was Eastern known as Michigan Normal then?

BASS: Michigan Normal, that's right. They could not stay in the dormitories. And same thing over in Ann Arbor. They had a house over there, I don't know what that street is. Ann Street.

INGRAM: Ann Street.

BASS: Where uh, the black women stayed, they used to call it the "B house". I don't know why. You know, we didn't call ourselves "black" so I don't think it 19:00meant black house


BASS: at that time. But that was the only, those were the only, uh, say, on campus facilities where blacks were staying. Ah, the Ainsworth subdivision, which is right across here from the office, uh, was a no, no, a no man's land if you were black. You weren't even supposed to walk through there, although I chanced it once or twice, nobody ever bothered me, though. And where the office is now, well there were a lot of white folks, of course one or two of the houses there weren't built, but white folks were all around and I didn't build the office until I'd been here, I guess, four or five years later. Ah, what else can I tell you about the situation? Well, there were no black councilmen initially.

INGRAM: Who were the black leaders in that, in-

BASS: The black leaders? I think you might, I can think of Ben Neely and uh, 20:00Frank Seymour. Frank is dead. Frank, uh-

INGRAM: Wha-wha-what were their specific occupations?

BASS: Well they were kind of politicians. Ah, more or less. Ben, Ben worked, uh, for a cleaning establishment, but Frank, I don't know what the devil Frank did. Frank probably worked out at the bomber plant, I'm not sure. For Kaiser-Frazer


BASS: at the time, no it was Ford bomber plant at that time. And let's see, John Burton. Ah, yeah, put him up there. He's old time rabble rouser, so called. And uh, trying to think of the ministers. The ministers just weren't in the forefront. This is frank and it see-seems to be that way now.

INGRAM: As the politicians, ah

BASS: Yeah

INGRAM: what were the roles of the three you just mentioned? Were they councilmen or what? [ ]

BASS: No, they weren't councilmen. But they got together and elected uh, councilmen. They elected, I think, Frank first. Oh, I forgot Amos Washington. 21:00Amos Washington, I’d have to say was a leader, too.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: Ah, I don't know whether or not it was Amos and what, and Frank together. No, it was just one. And then the people kind of outsmarted themselves, they wanted to, uh, that was, I think into that large type of election. Then they wanted to elect people just from the wards, you know, they changed the system around and I think, seems to me we had two black councilmen there. But anyhow, I remember when Amos uh, was elected, he, he got the highest number of votes, it seems to me. And ah, usually that person would have been the mayor.


BASS: But uh, not so with Amos.

INGRAM: What role did black ministers play? I mean, was their role minimal or...

BASS: They had the church services.

INGRAM: But no problem with the world and [ ] [black leadership] and the community?

BASS: No, not at that time that I can think of. I went to church, uh, because 22:00that was the way I'd been brought up, I had to go to church at home, but uh, it [spilled on over].

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: Ahh, I can't recall any of them really being in the forefront at that particular time. Uh-uhn. Ah, there's Francois, who was, I think the president of the NAACP

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and I think during his or, it must have been during his term, ah, that the um, restrictive covenants were, were outlawed by the Supreme Court of the United States. There used to be a family, there was at that time, a family down the street by the name of Wright. And, I think the people were just about trying to put him out of the house, just down the street there. But along came the Supreme Court to decide that uh, restrictive covenants, restrictive covenants based on race were illegal. At least they would no longer be upheld. [ ] Francois used to 23:00be quite a realtor around here and he was a, I think you have to call him a leader, too.

INGRAM: Was Francois black?

BASS: He was black, yeah. All these people I've mentioned are black. I didn't-


BASS: The white folks, it seems to me, were absolutely, uh, negative so far as racial relations went. We were in another world. The kids, I feel sorry for them as they must have had some problems because they would have to live in two worlds. One they were at home here, down here, okay this was black, or negro and when they went over there to high school, well it was another world all together. But some of them did fairly well.

INGRAM: But this was a difficult situation for a black youth to grow up in, in this community during this time?

BASS: I think it was a relatively difficult situation. Well, ah it seems so, I 24:00can see it so much better than some of you younger people

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: because a lot of changes took place and uh, changes which had far reaching, you know, consequences.

INGRAM: What were some of those changes that had-

BASS: Well, you probably know them better than I. Like uh, the various uh, revolutions that we had, which were probably started by, at least were furthered by Martin Luther King.

INGRAM: Right, right.

BASS: And, uh, the NAACP seemed to assume a more positive role in breaking down or making some inroads against segregation.

INGRAM: Could you give me, perhaps, a short scenaro-scenario in terms of how, you know, that Martin King era, the Civil Rights era, your perceptions of how that may have impacted and facilitated change in Ypsilanti,

BASS: Well-

INGRAM: changes here?

BASS: Uh, I can remember one thing particularly in which I worked and that was 25:00ah, the time that them clowns bombed that church and killed all them kids,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and um, I was working kind of closely with the NAACP and it was my job to kind of organize something as a, well it was an outcry against such.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: So we had quite a march and everything went along real swell. I don't know where the program is that I put together but uh, I saw it around the house some time ago. Maybe I can find it. And we got, we had the cooperation of [some of] the ministers. Practically all of the ministers cooperated well. We started at the Brown Chapel Methodist Church and walked down, I don't know which road we walked down, on down through the main streets in town and there were no incidents whatsoever. We also worked with the formation of this Civil Rights Commission here, which I'm sorry turned to be a whitewashing organization 26:00because uh, I think I was sold down the river on that, frankly. I can't mention, I don't know who it was now, but, uh, it was my, uh, thought that we should have one because this was a popular thing in those days, humans rights commission. They had one at Ann Arbor, and it's amazing, everything they had at Ann Arbor, in Ann Arbor we used to always try to have here in Ypsi, but they- except for that. So we, I was a member of the Chamber of Commerce, too and I was on the, I guess I was on the Civic Affairs Committee, lo and behold. And I couldn't sit there and just listen to them talk about Dutch Elm disease and the toilets downtown without getting into the fact that we needed a Civil Rights Commission. I thought maybe we could make some headway there. But uh, they also pointed to 27:00the Commission, Mrs. Milford, who uh, was Dr. Milford's wife, he's died, he's dead, but she's now one of the regents up at Eastern

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and uh, she and I certainly were on opposite sides of the fence.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: She wanted, wanted me to give the definition of uh, it's an Italian word, a "ghetto" or something.


BASS: Why do you have to call it a "ghetto"? What is a "ghetto"? So, I could give the definition because it just so happened I just happened to have looked it up that day [laughs] and sure enough, we lived in a ghetto.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: Right? But anyhow, ah, we didn't accomplish too much. We had some fine pronouncements about uh, ah it was our right to move wherever we were able to live. If you had the money, you should be allowed to buy a house there, like anybody else. And there were one or two other pronouncements, I can't recall 28:00them specifically now. But, evidently, like I say, I was sold down the river because I served only one year and I told them that, well, I'd be happy to serve another year. Maybe it was two years, I don't know. And ah, they appointed somebody else in my place who had been in Ypsi about a month. Couldn't have been much over a month. He's dead, I don't care to bring his name up. Uh, and, of course, the thing just continued to go on down. They appointed ah, one of the white lawyers who, I'm not sure if he was really a racist though, and yet he must have been because his job there was to obstruct everything positive that I would bring up. Mrs. Milford's job was that also. I don't know whether or not the Chamber of Commerce appointed her but some of these, some of the organizations had a lot to do with it. But I have to give that lawyer much 29:00respect because I remember my, one of my daughters, my oldest daughter was the queen of the, what do they call that graduation time, the high school?

INGRAM: Commencement Society? Commencement, graduation.

BASS: Yeah, this was uh, some kind of queen, whatever. And, of course, she was the first black one, naturally.

INGRAM: Oh, the sorority and fraternity.

BASS: No, it wasn't that. [ ] It was the school thing,

INGRAM: Homecoming?

BASS: the kids in school voted. And they voted her into this position as Queen,


BASS: and of course, they, [laughs] her escort was this lawyer's son and, uh, they went along perfectly okay. So I imagined if he had ah, had some liberality in him, or liberalness, whatever the word is, I'm sure that wouldn't have happened.

INGRAM: [Laughs]

BASS: [Laughs] That's just an interesting aside that ah, so many of those things come up.

INGRAM: What do you see as-

BASS: We've gone a long ways from this background and training. I ought to tell 30:00you about my first case that I settled which was St. Joe. St. Joe, as you know, is a great hospital over there in Ann Arbor and I think about the second patient I had, need-, he wanted to go to the hospital. And needed to go to the hospital, she sensed [ ]

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: so there's no point in mentioning her name. And uh, well I knew that you, you had to have some money

INGRAM: [Laughs]

BASS: and I'd heard that the Beyer Hospital here in town, “Oh don't go. This is for black folks, naturally. Don't go there, man. They'll kill you the second you [ ]. They're very prejudiced” and this, that and the other. And in the meantime, of course, I'd applied to get on the staff and I had some recommendations from the right people like, the County Health Officer was one and somebody else around here. So uh, whom I had met over at the school of Public Health.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: So this lady went out and in about, uh, ten minutes came back with $200 31:00which was all that she needed to get in the hospital. She was sick enough. So I called and the first thing I got was, “Well, what's her name?” of course. Well, the second thing was, “Well, what color is she?”

INGRAM: Huh [Laughs].

BASS: Well [laughs], and, uh, you know, the war is going on and black folks were in the Army and Navy, I guess. Probably polishing the officers’ boots in the Navy, but they were in the Army. You know how they worked in the Army in those days, Service Corps. It was like loading ships and unloading ships

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and that type of thing. Although, uh, I guess there's more [blurring], getting out there, getting shot, shot at. But anyhow, I just didn't understand her. And uh, I asked to speak to the one, her officer, I mean her, her 32:00supervisor, whoever it was. First person evidently is a clerk there. So this person, after one or two words, it came up, “Well what color is she? We have to know that, you know.” My God. So I said, “Let me speak to the administrator,” who was ah, Sister Phillipa, one of the nuns. In those days, you see the nuns did not, had charge of the hospital recently. But they used to have charge, I don't remember that Order, whatever they represented but uh, so we talk back and forth. And of course, everything she said made me angry, everything I said made her angry. Well finally, she comes up with this question, in the state I am, still had my Brooklynese type of accent so she didn't know what I was,

INGRAM: [Laughs] yeah…

BASS: so finally she says, "Well how would you like it for a colored woman to be 33:00put in the same room with your sister?" So I called her everything but a [child of the king]. And uh, I didn't, you know, I tried not to use those curse words or profanity,


BASS: I guess that's the term. But I called her everything else. Certainly she was a Hitler in black clothing and all that, with that black thing. The figure, all of it. I was leaning towards the Catholic Church, so you know what that did to my thoughts about the Catholic Church, no way. So,

INGRAM: How did-, sorry.

BASS: Well, and course, I guess I'm the loser because I've never had too much for St. Joseph's Hospital to do for me, although my wife's been a patient there in more recent years. And ah, I never did apply for the [staff at the new hospital]. I probably should have done that, that. When I say "apply for", I mean apply for admission to the staff. And uh, after getting this degree in 34:00public health, I think they call it a Master in Public Health,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: I should have been in the public health service. But here again, they didn't want any blacks in the public health service at that time. Not the uniform public health service, I think they had one fellow whose job it was to, uh, go around and, uh, show these films and make lectures and things like that.

INGRAM: Did you ever use that degree?

BASS: No, I never. That's why I want to [reiterate my statement], it was a waste of time. But there was ample opportunity because my major field was venereal disease control and God knows, if you have an Army,

INGRAM: [Laughs] [That’s right].

BASS: out in the field you go in foreign countries. They're going to have need for people

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: with knowledge of venereal disease. [ ]. Never.

INGRAM: Wasn't that a two year degree, too?

BASS: No, that was a one year degree. You had to write a thesis, and this is how I met my wife, largely, because she came over and helped me work on it. She did 35:00most, she did most of the typing.

INGRAM: How many kids do you have?

BASS: I have three children.

INGRAM: Three? What are their names?

BASS: Well, one's named Michael, that's the oldest. Michael Thomas. And the next is Ann Elizabeth, and the most recent, or the youngest, is Leah Louise.

INGRAM: What are their ages?

BASS: Michael, let me see, is probably 30-, 36.


BASS: And Ann is two years younger, 34, if I'm not mistaken now. And Leah is 27, I think. Something like that. Yeah, must be if Ann is 34, because Lea is seven years younger.

INGRAM: What was your father's and mother's first and last names?

BASS: Okay. My mother's name was Mattie, first name. And before she married, was Harrison. She's from North, she was from North Carolina. Kenansville, not too far from the Marine base down there.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.


BASS: And, uh, Camp Lejeune. And my father's name was Thomas and he's from the West Indies, from Antigua. Uh, they had lived in well, they'd, I was born in Paterson, so they, they I guess came to Paterson way back there, 1902 or something. But my father came here as a sailor and uh, he was always awfully race conscious, too. He could tell some tales if he were alive. But uh, we were fortunate in having both of them here with us for a while.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: But uh, but she always wanted to go back home but I regret we, just didn't. We could have done so if somebody pushed me, I guess, never got around to caring.

INGRAM: Yeah, yeah.

BASS: But several years after he died, my wife and I toured the whole of the Caribbean, that was over 25 years ago. We had a delightful time, especially in Haiti,


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: where we stayed almost a whole month.


BASS: But uh, so far as my travels went, we seemed to run into racial discrimination and uh, even recently. I believe the airlines tend to try to discriminate, they do.

INGRAM: That's why I want to ask you that, as a physician and arriving in Ypsilanti in the early 1940's, what is your assessment of, of uh, the various black leaders today in Ypsilanti? What do you see their role as, and thirdly, have the black ministers assumed any degree of leadership in this community, uh present, you know? [ ]

BASS: Well, I'll answer the last one first. Uh, I think the ministers have [BUZZER SOUNDS] become somewhat more aware of


INGRAM: The question I was asking Dr. Bass, in terms of asking about your observations, have you seen any significant progress in community life in 38:00Ypsilanti in terms of progress on the part of black leaders, on the part of, of education, you know, the educational enhancement of the people in Ypsilanti and race relations?

BASS: I think, uh, so, uh, in all of those areas that you mentioned. You know, we started, I started talking with you about the ministers because that was really, the first, the last specific question you asked before. And I say that I believe they have uh, assumed some awareness about the problems that we may have and

INGRAM: But you mentioned some of the [ ]

BASS: A sense of the need for improvement. You know, we haven't reached the millennium by any means. I guess we never will until all of us turn white, which means never.

INGRAM: Never.

BASS: Um, the uh, uh work is, I mean employment is still a problem, I think, but 39:00beyond that, or this applies not only to black folks, white folks, too, I have to admit. The, the family life is, is lacking. Uh,

INGRAM: Elaborate on that.

BASS: Uh, well I mean is, training that these kids should get at home and have, I don't know where else they're going to get it. They're not going to get it in school, initially. You've got to start with these kids when they're four or five years old. I'm not too much of a teacher, I mean an educator in that sense. But ah, I know that this is a fact from what I can read and I read a very interesting article. I won't go into that ah, about the fact that the black family life is, is awfully lacking. It's really at the bottom of the ladder, which is in keeping with the fact that black folks around the world are at the bottom of the ladder. There's no question about that. And uh, I have to admit 40:00that we're at the bottom of the ladder here in Ypsilanti, still too. But um, we cannot get, at least when I was working intimately, more intimately with the NAACP, we couldn't get more than, on an average of, eight people out to a meeting. We'd meet once a month. We found that the best time for a meeting was a Sunday evening. We tried various times during the week, various days and you just couldn't get anybody out. So we settled on that, we still have the meetings on the last Sunday of every month. But because of the fact that all the churches are always having various programs, they have a right to have these, too. But this is only one Sunday a month that we have this meeting but, uh, uh, there's no, no cooperation at all from the ministers on trying to fit in with the time of the meeting of the NAACP.


INGRAM: Are you suggesting-

BASS: I still, I still would say that the NAACP is still a primary organization, uh, in America or in the world through which the black folks are going to really make any headway with putting down segregation and achieving, uh, first class citizenship, here in the United States. Just being treated like a man, like a human man throughout the world.

INGRAM: In other words, are you suggesting that the, the social consciousness on the part of black families or blacks in Ypsilanti is very low in terms of being aware of certain things?

BASS: I, I, uh, I can say that, yeah. I can say that. For example, where in the world can the parents be if they allow these kids to just wantonly go by the school and break out all the windows? Or if you walk up there on Michigan Avenue and see, uh, that uh, let's see, that’s housing, that public housing up there 42:00on Michigan Avenue, uh just off of Second Avenue. They tried to improve it some, but it's still very much unkempt, just because people go by and throw their paper or, or whatever it is they don't want, they just throw it here and throw it there.


BASS: The children don't take going to school seriously. Some of them go there simply because they can play basketball, which seems to be the favorite sport. And I guess football is next. But then for something like track, they're not the least bit interested in coming out for because well, I guess I can see that, too.

INGRAM: Whose fault is that?

BASS: It's hard work. That's part of the family, I mean, the parents for one thing, too. Uh.

INGRAM: What do you see as some-

BASS: I think they're obligated to show them wherein a healthy body is a very 43:00fine asset and one way you can get it without, uh, it kind of getting you down is by participating in athletics. They will participate to some degree, but haphazardly, see. And some of them, of course, are only in it for the money that they think they can get out of it. And I say this is not necessarily a noble reason but it's pretty good. [ ] if you can make the money that these people make nowadays in athletics.

INGRAM: What do you see as some alternative to this problem affecting the families in Ypsilanti?

BASS: Well, here again, in I think that they could get a very excellent insight if this could be preached to them, in church every Sunday or in Sunday school, too. Now, I didn't get into the, uh, teenage pregnancies, I really don't know what the ratio, what the comparison, compared ratio as to the number of teenage 44:00pregnancies is, uh, black versus white here in Ypsilanti, but uh, we still have too many teenage pregnancies. And it's, it's not unusual at all to see some of these, oh boy, to listen to some of these small kids uh, uh, speak or talk to one another, see. Using those four word, four letter words means nothing to them, they don't care where they use them. And I know that's the family responsibility to bring them up more properly to show that, uh, those are, uh, expressions that you just don't use. None of them, I won't say, hate to say, I don’t want to say none, I don't mean that. They seldom, uh, know much about the, the classics. I mean about reading. I won't go into music, of course. [I have to admit so many of them don’t care about anything] other than, uh, popular rock 'n roll, or whatever it is, [or that funk is, that funk roll] or 45:00something, I don't know.

INGRAM: What are, who, who are some of the, uh major political leaders in the community in terms of their role [ ]

BASS: I think I better try to uh, back just a little bit on this minister thing, too. I think the church is one of the most powerful organizations and moving organizations that black folks have in America at the present time and the church can do so much more if it would reach on out in a practical way and try to do this. And you have to bring the white church into this also. And I, I should mention some of the ministers who I've noticed have participated in community affairs other than just having their own

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: dinners and so forth and so on. Like Reverend Hopkins, he's been a supporter of the NAACP. And, uh, Reverend S.L. Roberson


INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: and frankly, I just haven't seen any of the others, ever at an NAACP meeting. I, I can't say whether or not they ever mentioned the NAACP meeting, uh, because I haven't been able to get to all of the churches. I would say, I have to retract just a little bit, at the time that the NAACP needed that money to fight that case down there in Mississippi, you know, you may remember that, where they were suing black folks because they had boycotted

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: these white places, you know. [Can you imagine?] So we were able to uh, go around and I think I got donations from all of the black churches with very few exceptions, there might have been two. I know this because I did all of the going around and getting this money. And some of them came up with sizeable amounts, like $100 even.



BASS: I won't mention the churches which, I remember the churches, I won't mention the churches that did so. But some of them, uh, came up, you know, with $25 which was more than what we had had. There's no reason in the world why every one of the churches should not be a life member of the NAACP here in Ypsilanti. Not talking about Tougaloo, Mississippi, or someplace maybe where they don't have the financial finesse. But around here, where black folks, in a sense, earn about as much as white folks in the plants where they work. Ah, you asked me who would be the, was that the question?

INGRAM: Yeah, uh, I asked you to name some of the political leaders in the [ ]

BASS: Oh political leaders. Well, certainly the mayor, George Donald Goodman, and I think John still is a political leader, John Burton that would be. Ah, [ 48:00]. Amos used to be one, Amos Washington. But uh, he was on the other side of the fence, he was a Republican, but still, he was a, he was a good man. He just, you know, believed in his convictions. There's nothing wrong in being, being a Republican if you can prove to me why you want to be a Republican.


BASS: I think if you have good reasons for being a Republican [it’s okay]. Uh, I'm trying to think of the others. Well, there were two or three, um, councilmen. Doug Harris has been a councilman on and off and a member of the school board. [Davies] is a member of the school board, but he’s not a political leader, I would say. And uh, Jerome Strong. [They’re still trying to wrap poor Jerome up in with, up, uh, communism, uh, flag or something], I don't 49:00know. But

INGRAM: Jerome Strong?

BASS: [This is what many people] try to say, I think. But Jerome, I think, is primarily a black person.

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: Uh, at least he works with the NAACP, his wife does, too. Um, I can't think of any other outstanding, uh, if you mean people who will run for various offices around town, well, I can, made around the area, I can mention one or two others, but you, you asked me about political leaders and I think those are the, largely the political leaders.

INGRAM: How has uh, how has the black community fared under, uhh, under the various kinds of policies in Ypsilanti in terms of race relations? Has the black community grown or has it suffered, you know, in Ypsilanti?

BASS: Well, the fact that, uh, there's no prog, not, uh, sufficient progress, 50:00uh. It means that there certainly has been some suffering. There's been some [shortcoming], but on the other hand I think the progress that has been made is about comparable to the progress in any other, uh, relatively small town. Uh, the undertakers, they have a closed business here, more or less.

INGRAM: Explain.

BASS: Uh, well, I mean there's no competition. So there-

INGRAM: There are no black morticians here?

BASS: There is one black mortician family here and that's Lucille's, they call it. It used to be two or three but the, but they're not here anymore. They're doing all right. The liquor store is doing all right. I call it Bill and Jim's over there. They're doing all right. I think it's still black owned, I understand the previous owner sold out to another black, I understand, I'm not sure. Oh, and then, uh, Forbes the builder has done exceedingly well because of 51:00the area that he's in and uh

INGRAM: What's that area?

BASS: Well, he's a just a general contractor.

INGRAM: Oh, yeah.

BASS: He's a grade A mason, so far as that goes.


BASS: [Constructionaire], really. Ah, then John Barfield with his, uh, engineering firm and custodial firm has done exceedingly well right from the ground on up. But uh, just to name names, be frank, those people, the latter two, haven't protected themselves into actually working at the grass roots in the community.


BASS: Yeah, they've done well. I think the Barfields will gross a million, eight millions of dollars this year, if I'm not mistaken. So that puts them up there with the, in that



BASS: first 100 negro businesses,


BASS: black businesses

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: which that magazine usually outlines.

INGRAM: Black Enterprise.

BASS: Black Enterprise, yeah. And Forbes, well he didn't get in it, but Forbes has done very well financially, I'm sure. Uh, so I think the, uh, community has made some strides because we live all over the area now, we don't just live on the south side and there are some beautiful places that black folks live in. I don't live in one of those, but uh, many blacks do. If you ride along the Huron River Drive, are you familiar with Ypsi at all?

INGRAM: Yeah, I am. I live in Ypsi.

BASS: Out there where A.P. Marshall is, you know,

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: out that way. Well, that was a, that was just unimaginable, say 20 years ago. No way.

INGRAM: All white, that area.

BASS: Well, there wasn't anything much along there anyhow except the beautiful 53:00Huron River and the home of the one of the leading architects, [ ], out there, yeah.


BASS: But uh, uh, I regret to say again, but it bears repeating, that these people who've done so well with their businesses just have not projected themselves into the community to work even near the grass level.

INGRAM: What do you think they need to do-

BASS: [ ] the undertakers [ ].


BASS: I think Barfield is a member of the NA, a life member of the NAACP but not any of these others. You shouldn't have to ask them.

INGRAM: Right.

BASS: It's not my obligation only. They've made it as much for them, even more for them than it is for me, if you look at it that way.

INGRAM: That's interesting.

BASS: Yeah, well we have several, uh, school principals, too. I think there are two black ones now. Or, no, no there are more than that. The principal of the 54:00high school is black. And Leo, the principal of the Perry School, which was the first black, all black school in town and used to be called Harriet Street School. Dr. Perry was a long time member of the, uh, school board.

INGRAM: How are you, envision, uh, black leadership in the future? Do you think it will get better, become more, more prominent? Uh, will, will it have a more active role? You know.

BASS: Well that's the only way, only thing that can happen, it's so far down [laughs], it's kind of at base right now, the only thing for it to do is to go up. [Laughter]. I don't see how things, well things could get better if Mr. Reagan has his way, I presume, because I heard him mention now that everybody be able to do so much better that uh, uh, America has become more conservative in any number of ways other than just passing those, those budget cuts along with 55:00the, the tax program.

INGRAM: [Laughs]

BASS: Meaning, so far as I can understand, that a lot of the social programs of which so many blacks are dependent


BASS: on for making it here in America are going to be cut severely. The, the affirmative action is just a thing of the past now.


BASS: So, and a lot of folks just didn't like that.

INGRAM: Went right back to [ ]

BASS: We have turned, that's right, the circle around back to the opposite way now.

INGRAM: [Right] What, what, what, what we're going to do is, uh, have this tape transcribed and typed out and

BASS: Yeah.

INGRAM: I'll mail you a copy in the mail, where you’ll have an opportunity to, to peruse it and make any additions or deletions that you'd like to have out or in.

BASS: Yeah.


BASS: This is okay with me. I don't know if there's anything that I've said that I can't say down at City Hall at the, [ ] one of the council meetings [ ]

INGRAM: [Laughs]. Thank you.


0:00 - Becoming a doctor and coming to Ypsilanti

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: We're with Dr. Thomas Bass, a physician by occupation. Um, Dr. Bass, when did you first arrive in Ypsilanti?

BASS: In, uh, to stay, in 1943.

INGRAM: 1943.

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Bass details his birth in New Jersey and educational history. He describes his route through medical schools as a Black student. He discusses his work at Meharry Medical College in Tennessee, Pennsylvania's Lincoln University and Washington DC's Freedman's Hospital. His studies eventually led him to Michigan and Ypsilanti.

Keywords: Black medical doctors; Chester County, Pennsylvania; Dr. Arrington; Dr. Samuel B. Milton; Dr. Samuel Clark; Dr. Thomas Bass; Freedmen's Hospital; Harlem Hospital; Howard University Hospital; Lincoln University, Pennsylvania; Meharry Medical College; Parkridge Homes; Paterson, New Jersey; River Rouge, Michigan; School of Public Health, Ann Arbor; Sumby Hospital; Trinity Hospital, Detroit; Washtenaw County; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African Americans--Education--History--20th century. African American physicians.

Hyperlink: Photo of Sumby Hospital from the River Rouge Historical Society.

17:35 - Race relations in Ypsi after World War Two

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: What, what were some of your observations of uh, of race relations in Ypsilanti as [ ]

BASS: Well at that time, certainly they were, they were, I have to admit, kind of strained. Racial relations that I have experienced were strained all over. Ah, it certainly in Washington, I can tell you a lot of tales about Washington. I happened to been Washington, too during the time that Marion Anderson, you know,

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Bass describes the racial situation he found when he moved his practice to Ypsilanti, Michigan. He talks about the various Black leaders of the time and how the post-World War Two Civil Rights era affected the city.

Keywords: Ainsworth subdivision; Amos Washington; Bee House, Anne St.; Ben Neely; Bomber Plant; Brown Chapel AME; Dr. Thomas Bass; Eastern Michigan University segregation; Frank Seymour; Herbert Francois, Ypsilanti NAACP; housing segregation in Ypsilanti; John H. Burton; Kaiser-Fraizer; Marion Anderson; Mrs. Milford; Race relation in Ypsilanti, Michigan; segregated housing at universities; Wright family; Ypsilanti Chamber of Commerce; Ypsilanti Civil Rights Commission; Ypsilanti, Michigan

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

Hyperlink: "Ypsilanti Housing Group Presents Report" Ann Arbor News, December 22, 1959

30:01 - Practicing medicine in Ypsilanti

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Partial Transcript: BASS: We've gone a long ways from this background and training. I ought to tell you about my first case that I settled which was St. Joe. St. Joe, as you know, is a great hospital over there in Ann Arbor and I think about the second patient I had, need-, he wanted to go to the hospital. And needed to go to the hospital, she sensed [ ]

INGRAM: Mm-hmm.

BASS: so there's no point in mentioning her name. And uh, well I knew that you, you had to have some money

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Bass describes the attempting to get a Black patient admitted to St. Josephs Hospital as one of his first local cases practicing medicine as well as the obstacles white racism had placed against both Black doctors and patients.

Keywords: African-American Doctors; Beyer Hospital; Catholic Church; Dr. Thomas Bass; Racism in health care; St. Josephs Hospital

Subjects: African American physicians. Racism--Michigan--Ypsilanti--History.

35:14 - Parents and children

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: How many kids do you have?

BASS: I have three children.

INGRAM: Three? What are their names?

BASS: Well, one's named Michael, that's the oldest. Michael Thomas. And the next is Ann Elizabeth, and the most recent, or the youngest, is Leah Louise.

Segment Synopsis: African American families.

Keywords: Ann Elizabeth Bass; Antigua; Dr. Thomas Bass; Kenansville, North Carolina; Leah Louisa Bass; Louise Bass; Maddie Harrison; Michael Bass; Thomas Bass; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: Dr. Bass talks briefly talks about his parents and children, including his father's history as a sailor from Antigua.

Hyperlink: Listen to an interview with Dr. bass's wife Louise

37:56 - Leadership in the city

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Partial Transcript: INGRAM: The question I was asking Dr. Bass, in terms of asking about your observations, have you seen any significant progress in community life in Ypsilanti in terms of progress on the part of black leaders, on the part of, of education, you know, the educational enhancement of the people in Ypsilanti and race relations?

BASS: I think, uh, so, uh, in all of those areas that you mentioned. You know, we started, I started talking with you about the ministers because that was really, the first, the last specific question you asked before. And I say that I believe they have uh, assumed some awareness about the problems that we may have and

Segment Synopsis: Dr. Thomas Bass gives his views on the problems then facing the Black family. Dr. Bass laments what he sees as the break down in the Black family and the lack of discipline in the you of the day. He is asked about the role of Black leaders in Ypsilanti and gives his opinion.

Keywords: Amos Washington; Black churches in Ypsilanti; Black families in Ypsilanti; Black life in the 1980s; Doug Harris; Dr. Thomas Bass; Eugene Beatty; George Goodman; Jerome Strong; John Barfield; John Burton; Leo Clark; Lucille's Funeral Home; Perry School; Race relations in Ypsilanti, Michigan; Reverend Hopkins; Reverend S.L. Roberson; Ypsilanti NAACP; Ypsilanti, Michigan

Subjects: African American families. African American leadership.

Hyperlink: Obituary of Jerome Strong. Agenda, September 1994.
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