WILLIAMS: Oh, does that take picture, too?
MARSHALL: No, it, uh,
WILLIAMS: Just it, conversation.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Main thing is I wanted for us to be able to see that little redlight bulb.
WILLIAMS: Oh. (laughs)
MARSHALL: I guess one of the main things we’re after, or the first thingswe’ll be interested in is um, something about your early life here in Ypsilanti.
MARSHALL: And the life of, uh, in Ypsilanti. Now, we already know your birthday.
WILLIAMS: Well, yes, [the oldest] my life in Ypsilanti is all in that, uh, inthat little book, that the Historical Society sent me.
MARSHALL: Oh, mm-hmm.
WILLIAMS: Yeah. Right there. Mm-hmm.
MARSHALL: But you were born here?
WILLIAMS: Yep, up here in Superior Township, and uh, that, on Ridge Road.
MARSHALL: Did you, uh, and, now I’m not too familiar with all of this. I readit, and then, but in this light, um, I may have to ask you to tell me some more 1:00about it.
WILLIAMS: Well, that’s what I want you to do, you ask me the questions andI’ll answer.
MARSHALL: All right. Um, I see, uh, where you went to Fowler School.
WILLIAMS: Yeah, right.
MARSHALL: And that is…where is, where is that, in the light of, where in Ypsilanti?
WILLIAMS: Superior Township.
MARSHALL: That’s still in Superior Township.
WILLIAMS: Superior Township.
MARSHALL: And, your father worked at, uh, at the, I see, the Flat Iron Factory?
WILLIAMS: Well, that was after we moved into Ypsi. That, see, I was born outthere on, on a, Ridge Road and, uh, he was a tenant farmer, he never had a farm of his own, he was a tenant farmer. And in nineteen, no, 1897, I think it was, we moved, they decided to move into Ypsi. And we lived at 4353 Forest Avenue. 2:00And, uh, we lived there two years. And, his first job was at the, this Flat Iron Factory. And he only got nine dollars a week. That’s all they were paying. Nine dollars a week. It was, let’s see, there was my brother, was older than myself and then my, and then me, and then Edith, who just passed here, this year, and two younger ones, Harriet [Welmina] and Inis Mae. They both died. Inis Mae died when she was fi—two, and uh, Mina died when she was five. Just before she started school, she died.
MARSHALL: Was that generally about the average wage for people especially forNegroes living in Ypsilanti at that time?
WILLIAMS: The average wage?
MARSHALL: Wage, yes, the average salary.3:00
WILLIAMS: I don’t know.
MARSHALL: You just don’t know, you just don’t remember.
WILLIAMS: Well, no, I wouldn’t know about that, but, you see, I was onlyabout uh, uh, eight years old then, see, and uh, the, uh, then during those two years that we lived on Forest Avenue, my mother did get some work, little work, y’know, to do, that is, domestic work. And, um, sh—then they bought over on Norris Street, where they lived and died, 722 Norris Street, lived there. And, but before they moved, I went [to pub—] to my first, uh, school, here, was the Fourth Ward School, which is now Adams School.
WILLIAMS: I went there two years, well, as I said, now, will this, will this,4:00will telling all this,
MARSHALL: Yes, I’ll turn it all off if you want to.
WILLIAMS: Well, just shut it off for a second [unintelligible]. It’sflickering, but it won’t come, it won’t stay on.
MARSHALL: It isn’t…if it’s doing [unintelligible]
WILLIAMS: Worked all right before. Maybe it’s just…
MARSHALL: Now it’s going. Mm-hmm. I, I can tell by that little slow-moving,these you can, that little slow-moving thing there. Mm-hmm. 5:00
WILLIAMS: So we went, we enrolled up there, and I, my sister enrolled in thefirst grade, but that was in a different building from what I was. I was in the training school, and, uh, she was in the normal, proper [one]. And her teacher’s name was Miss Jackson, first grade teacher. But my, I don’t know what, I would’ve, I would, I was started in the fourth grade, and, uh, my teacher’s name was Miss Plunkett. That’s all in there.
MARSHALL: I was going to say, that’s all in here.
MARSHALL: I’m going to just sit here where I can…watch this, yes it’sdoing all right. If you don’t mind, I’m going to [copper it] along the floor, that’s where I sit at home most of the time. Um,
WILLIAMS: And everybody, both the boys and the girls, when they started, well,6:00[the train a gonna] they put in room, added a room, for, um, well, I don’t know what you’d call it but anyways the boys did uh, manual work, made things, and the girls had to do that too, because that’s all there was, see. Then, finally, they put in a sewing room for the girls. And, um, naturally, I was in that. That was in fourth grade. And I, uh, I won first prize in the sewing class. There was one other colored in that class, but I was, I won first prize for sewing. I did the most sewing and the neatest sewing for, for that, uh, contest. And then they put in, uh, they finally put in cooking for the girls. And, um, Mrs. Slain [Swaine], who lived up here, I say up here, I’m thinking 7:00I’m downtown, she lived on the corner, her parents lived on the corner of Forest Avenue and River Street, northeast corner, and they were twins, she had a twin sister. Well, she was our cooking teacher. And, uh, we learned a lot of the basic things, y’know, but, well, we made a few fancy dishes, but not very many. And then when I moved—when I went out of the fourth grade, boy, I went into the fifth grade, well, they didn’t have that, y’know. But at that time, they were, uh, we’d go in the morning, the teacher, would, uh, always, we always had to read a chap-ter in the Bible. That was the first thing, in the morning. And, uh, then we’d go on with the rest of the lessons, y’know, the rest of the schoolwork. I didn’t put those things in there, because, y’know, 8:00that’s just too much.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Mm-hmm, no, but that’s good to, that’s—we think is good toknow, anyway.
MARSHALL: Um, when did you become associated with Brown Chapel?
WILLIAMS: When I was nine years old. But I don’t know, I, for the life of me Idon’t know when it was changed to Brown Chapel, got to be Brown Chapel. It was just the A.M.E. church, see, that’s all it was, just the A.M.E. church but, I wa—when, and then I, I went—when I finished the eighth grade up there, I never had to take, um, a final test in spelling because I was always a good speller. My spelling average was 100.
MARSHALL: Do you remember much about the um, I’m trying to think now at thesame time, uh, much about the remodeling that they did at Brown Chapel, in changing the way it looked? 9:00
WILLIAMS: Yeah, I know all about it, ’cause I was right there (laughs).Y’know, uh, Mr. Marshall told me, when we were talking about it, he said that [Bun] Henry told him that, now this sounds ridiculous, to me, anyway, [Bun] Henry told him that the this Brown Chapel this, this building now, was built around the little old white church that we had. Which was impossible, y’know, you had a lot of ground work to have to be done, the sewerage has to be put in, pipes and all that, before you can put up a building, y’know, this, that was done, had to be done, before they could even put the wall around! Makes, y’know, so, I told him, that’s, I said, that’s wrong! So I said—and another thing, she was only a little tiny girl; how would she know? Huh?
MARSHALL: Well, I don’t know (laughs)
WILLIAMS: Well, she didn’t know, that’s all. And, uh, but, uh, that10:00ch—Reverend Pettiford, when uh, we first was, k—went over there, why, it was, uh, Reverend Collins and his wife were here. They were very nice people. He was a great, big, port-ly man, y’know, but they were very nice, and she was a little woman like, oh, she was a little larger than Mrs. Peterson, but she talked a lot, oh, my.
MARSHALL: (suppressed laughter)
WILLIAMS: But she w—they were nice, and then when they left here, thenReverend Petti-ford came, he and his wife. And they were the ones that, that built the church.
MARSHALL: Mm-hmm. Did you, um, at that time, did you know uh, whether or notthat that was a possible station for the Underground Railroad? Did you hear anything about that, concerning that?
WILLIAMS: Well, we heard about it, but then that all happened before.
WILLIAMS: Before this.
MARSHALL: But I guess I’m trying to ask you, but it was not necessarilyassociated with our church building down there, where it is now. 11:00
WILLIAMS: No, no, no, no. Mm-mm. That church wasn’t there. Now, the first onein the beginning was in a home, a private home, up on Cross Street.
MARSHALL: Yes, we had heard that.
MARSHALL: Yes, we had read about that. And, uh, but somehow we had—well, Icouldn’t see how, but it could be, but, somehow, we had heard that our church was at one time a former station for the underground railroad, and I wondered if you had any information on that.
WILLIAMS: No, I don’t have nothing [huge on] that, mm-mm.
MARSHALL: What did you do as a young person for well, social life, socialactivities? You name some things here, but I thought maybe you might have remembered some other things that you did.
WILLIAMS: Well, there was a Albert Anderson and his wife had lived, well, the,the house was, the buildings are all torn down now, but he lived, he built a 12:00home, a nice home, on the corner of, um, of Washington Street and Harriet Street. It was, it was a real nice home. The, the house was still there, oh, they just tore it down this last year. And, um, he and his wife lived there, and he, uh, y’know, I’m, I’m going to say something and then another thought’ll come in my mind, and I, I lose what I was gonna say.
MARSHALL: That’s all right, take your time.
WILLIAMS: But anyway, oh, I know what I was gonna say, you asked what we didfor activities and everything. Well, he, he, there was about eight of us girls who were the same age and we were together all, most of the time. Well, he orga-nized a club of us girls and we called ourselves the, um, uh, the Rosebud Club, that, and, that was under his direction. Albert Anderson, his name was 13:00Albert Anderson. And everybody always uh, remembered him and well, they sort of laughed at him because when he walked—this is the way he walked—(laughs) both feet going the same way! (laughs) Instead of one this way, one that way! That way—they was both going the same way! Instead of one this way, one that way. They was both going the same way. They always had fun about it, too. ’Course, that was his way of walking.
MARSHALL: Yes. Um, what did you do in the club?
WILLIAMS: Well, we uh, used to give—we worked for the church, see, worked in,in the church and for the church. And we’d give, like, when we’d get a new minister here, why, we’d get together and give a reception for him. We didn’t have banquets then, we had recep—we’d give a reception…
WILLIAMS: …for him. And we did that for every minister that came while wewere together, ’course, some of them, uh, like Bessie Crosby, uh, I don’t 14:00know if there’s anybody here now that is, was connected with her or any of her relations that you would know. I think they’re all passed on. Well, anyway, Bessie was uh, in that, and she had, uh, a sister and she had two brothers. The Crosbys lived on South Hamilton Street, uh, which has all been torn out now, but anyway, that’s where they lived. And, uh, she, Bessie, was older than I was but I don’t know, she was, she was in this group too but she finally got, we got, oh, mad at each other, because, I’m going to give you the exact words that she said. She said that my sister was wearing a white man’s hat. Well, 15:00that made me mad, and I, right out in front of the church as soon as the service was over, I jumped on her. (clap).
WILLIAMS: I did, ’cause made me mad. Now, ’cause that wasn’t true! Whatwe had, you see, and the reason that I quit school was because my parents were poor, and they couldn’t afford to dress me like I liked to be dressed, ’cause I always liked nice clothes, see. I had—y’know, I looked decent, and [all my now] but I, I wanted some nicer clothes (laughs) and they couldn’t afford to do that. So, that’s why when, second year in high school I quit, I dropped out. But, uh, when we had this, I had jumped on this girl had her, had this fight with why, uh, then that made her mad at us, and she finally got sick. She, uh, got, uh, TB. But before she died, and we—I used to go see her, before 16:00she died, she told her father that she wanted my sister and I, Mabel and Hazel Carter, were in the group, and had them, and um, Gladys and Francis Lyons whose father was our minister at that time, see, that made six, didn’t it…
WILLIAMS: Two, four, six. Well, she wanted us to be her pallbearers. So wewere. Her pallbearers, when she was buried.
MARSHALL: Well, when did you pick up this yen for writing?
WILLIAMS: For writing?
WILLIAMS: Oh, I don’t know. I used to write, well, this is long after I cameback to Ypsi. See, I was away for about 15 years, y’know. When I was first married, I went out to, uh, Flat Rock. Well , I didn’t, I didn’t, it was, uh, out in the country, and I’m not a country girl. I was born in the country, 17:00but I—the country left me! (laughs) So, uh, I, well, there was no place out there for me to go. The, they, the white people, it was all white people the, his family was the only colored family out there, see. Well, they, they were nice to me. But I’ll tell you what, one [mum] said she was wash, after she got acquainted with me, she says, “How on earth did you get in that town?” Because they were people that never thought about going to church. They didn’t know what it was to go to church. The children went to school until they could read and write and old enough to work, and then they’d quit, drop out, see. So, I just couldn’t take it. I, uh, and then another thing, the mother-in-law, some mother-in-laws, mothers, don’t want their children to, their sons to get away from them. Well, she, it wasn’t that she didn’t, she had—eleven, I 18:00think there were eleven children. Yes, there were eleven children. And the, the one that I married was the oldest one. His name was Walter. He was the oldest one. And she would, y’know, you wouldn’t object to your help—to your husband helping his mother. But he, she had two other, one, the brothers next to uh, Walter were big enough and old enough to work and earn money and take care of their mother, help take care of their mother. But they, she would wait until she saw Walter come out of our house. We had a, our own house which was on their property, see, she’d wait until she see him come out to go to work, ’cause he worked every day down at the tile yard, the [Buttay] tile yard, and, um, then 19:00she’d go out and meet him, and tell him that she had to have a 25-pound bag of flour or, or, uh, sugar and, different things, y’know.
WILLIAMS: When she had these two other great big men, and they could have donethat, she’d she’d ask them, but she wouldn’t ask him in front of me, see,
MARSHALL: Mm-hmm, I see.
WILLIAMS: …she, uh, and I just got tired of that. So I just left out there. (laughs)
MARSHALL: Uh, what do you remember, and I know that you had some things here,um, uh, where some of the, well, the outstanding buildings, other than you had in here, that Ypsilanti had, or stores…
WILLIAMS: Yeah, and hotels…
MARSHALL: And hotels.
WILLIAMS: They had three hotels. Mm-hmm.
MARSHALL: And was the Huron one of the early ones?
WILLIAMS: What—no, no. That, that was here, oh, these others were all, um,closed, now there was a Hawkins, a, uh, oh, I got the name of it on there but I 20:00forget, on Hu-ron Street.
MARSHALL: Yeah, that’s the Occidental.
WILLIAMS: The Occidental Hotel, yes.
WILLIAMS: Well, there was um, the, the cook, head cook there was a Canadian,and I forget his name, I, I just don’t remember his name now, but anyway, there was the Occidental Hotel, there was the Hawkins House which is on, uh, on Michigan Avenue, and the Lewis Hotel was down where Sam’s Party Store is, on the corner of River and Michigan Avenue.
WILLIAMS: That was the Lewis House.
WILLIAMS: Well, the night that that house burned, it burned down, hotel burneddown, why, my mother and I, and my sister, dressed, we lived on Norris Street, way over on Norris Street, we dressed and walked down there because it lit up the whole city, y’know, and such a big fire. As I said in there, you’d think 21:00that there was an army around because the whiskey bottles…
WILLIAMS: …that were stored in the basement just popped, y’know, they gothot and they just popped! (laughs)
WILLIAMS: Made an awful noise.
WILLIAMS: And then, but, uh, the um, Huron Hotel wasn’t built till years afterthat, and Dr. Dickerson, was a colored doctor that we had here, he was our first colored doc-tor.
WILLIAMS: Not Dickson, but Dickerson.
MARSHALL: No, Dickerson. Was his wife—the woman they buried from our church.
WILLIAMS: Yes, because his—he, well, his first wife, he divorced his firstwife for Anna Harris.
WILLIAMS: She got, she roomed there. Mrs. Dickerson, she was a nice person, she22:00told this girl, she, she knew that these two were getting pretty thick so she told this girl she’d have to move. Anna told her, “If anybody goes, you’ll go.” Now, that was the wife. You know what I’d have done? She wouldn’t have been able to walk out of there. Mm-mm. In my own home, and tell me that? Uh-uh! Well, any-way, they separated and she was divorced, and then after a while, why, and she married this Al Anderson, that I told you about, that—
MARSHALL: Oh yeah. Mm-hmm.
WILLIAMS: She married him, and, uh, lived there, after a while, y’know. Andthen finally, uh, Anna married Dr. Dickerson and uh, then she outlived him, and they had—the first child that they had was a little boy and he got burned by 23:00some hot coffee. They were sitting at the table and I think the doctor, I don’t think she, she wasn’t, Anna, I mean, Mrs. Dickerson, well, Anna, wasn’t at the table. But in some way or other, Dr. Dickerson spilled his hot coffee on this boy, this baby. He was just, oh, I guess maybe a year old and he got burned so badly that, uh, he died. And, uh, after a while, why, old Dr. Dick-erson was around for a long time, because I remember, I was working in Ann Arbor for a family and this woman went away, and I was cleaning, I was do-ing domestic work, y’know, cleaning, clean—well, day work, and, um, I said, domestic work sounds a little bit better than day work, (laughs), so, I was 24:00cleaning a bedroom floor, upstairs, and uh, I run a sliver under my thumbnail. Oh, way down. And it hurt so bad, y’know, I was so hurt. So, when the wom—her name was Howe, Mrs. Howe, came home, why, I told it to her, so she said, well, you had, you go home, I had to get off of the, streetcars was running then, not buses, streetcar, I got, I had to get off at where the old high school at that corner and then walk down to Forest Avenue, and not Forest Ave-nue, to Norris Street to my home, see, where I lived. And she said, well, when you go down, you get off of there ’cause Dr. Dickerson’s, uh, he had a private hospi-tal right across the street from that old high school. So she said, when you get off of the bus you go right to the doctor and have him take that out, and send the bill to me. So I d—I did, and they had told me before 25:00that, I had al—heard that he drank some, y’know, so, I said, well, I’m gon—I’m gonna watch him, keep my eye on what he’s doing, y’know. So I did, but uh, and he fixed it all up, so it came out alright.
MARSHALL: Uh, what other professional is—people do you remember? Negroes,especially, who maybe practiced law, or medicine, or had grocery stores or something like that here in Ypsilanti?
WILLIAMS: Well, the only ones that had the grocery store that I remember werethe Washingtons, that’s Tommy Washington’s husband’s brothers, his and, he and his brothers.
WILLIAMS: They had a grocery store down on Harriet Street, the corner, well,not near the c— I, I don’t think it was right on the corner, but near the 26:00corner of Hamilton and Harriet, southeast corner of Hamilton and Harriet. Then there was a Thomas [Rodeman] that had a, he was a musician, he had a band, here. Oh, he was a man that was built like, who, that you would know…I don’t know but he was this big, but he wasn’t too tall but, and he, uh, he had this band. Now as far as anything else, I don’t think there was any…these Washing-tons had this grocery store, but, uh…
WILLIAMS: I don’t, I don’t remember any other business, colored business, y’know.
WILLIAMS: Um, there was Sam Travis had a barber shop much later.
MARSHALL: Yeah, well…27:00
WILLIAMS: … on Washington Street.
MARSHALL: Uh, about what you said, much later, about what time would that havebeen? In the early 1900s, what had had, or later?
WILLIAMS: Oh, no. It was much later.
MARSHALL: It would have to be much later.
WILLIAMS: Because uh, uh, John’s, uh, son used to hang around there, whenhe—you see, he had TB and he was in the out to Howell in a sanitarium for oh, he was out there, I guess, I know he was out there a year or maybe longer than that. And uh, he, during that time, they sent him in to the University Hospital to have his ribs taken out, he had all the ribs on one side taken out. Well, after that he couldn’t work, he couldn’t do any work, so he used to go down there and, and uh, oh, maybe he’d do errands or something like that. But, and, during that time, I was writing a society column for the Pittsburgh-Courier. I, 28:00I did that un-til over, I mean, I don’t know how many years I did that.
MARSHALL: You can’t give us some years for that—that sounds so nice!
WILLIAMS: Well, I, y’know, I can write, but I can’t talk. (laughs) Really,a lot of things that I could write about, but I couldn’t talk and tell it, y’know, I can’t get up in front of anybody and talk, and say a word, uh-uh. Like, Sunday, somebody said after church, well, you should have said, thank God, well I did say thank you but they didn’t hear me. (laughs)
MARSHALL: Oh, no, that’s just the way some of us are.
WILLIAMS: I had a pretty interesting life, but y’know, just here and there.And then, you see, my, my mother’s brothers, well, as I said in there, all the colored people that lived in Ypsilanti at that time came from Canada, see. They 29:00didn’t come from the South, they came from Canada. And, uh, some of them came here, now, like the Kersey family, George Kersey and Jim Kersey, worked on that church when it was being built, well, they, they both came from Canada, but they were younger and they had their families here, see. And they came over here because there was nothing to do over in Canada and they could take care of their families better here, make a better living for their family, I’ll say that, then they could over there, just the same as the people from way down south, now, Mississippi, and, and Georgia, and Alabama and all those places—those people came up here, they just flocked up here, when Henry Ford started paying $5 a day for, for labor.
MARSHALL: Yep, I remember.30:00
WILLIAMS: And I had, oh, I had my feelings hurt so many times, but I justoverlook it be-cause they don’t know what they’re talking about. Now, my cousin in Detroit, she said that the people in Ypsilanti never bought any homes until the people from the south came up here. Well, that’s not true! Because the Kerseys came over here, everybody came over here from Canada, see, they were all Canadian. And I could name all, I could name all of them. There was a Jones, the Kerseys, and uh, uh, I don’t know how many more. But anyway, they, they’re all dead, see, but some of their descendants, like the Kerseys, now Nina, you know Nina, well, she’s a descendant from Jim Kersey.
WILLIAMS: Jim Kersey and his wife had, his wife was a Canadian too, they had,let’s see, what’d they have, they had three, four boys, I think they had four boys, and um, one girl. And the girl got TB, and she died when she was 31:00about, oh, I guess she was about twelve to fourteen years old, something like that.
MARSHALL: Was that in addition to Mrs. Nina Williams?
WILLIAMS: Yes, Nina’s brother’s child.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm. Wow.
WILLIAMS: And then George Kersey, he built, bought a lot of land down on SecondAvenue, from Frederick, south, south of Frederick. And, um, built a house, the house is torn down now, but he built a hou—house there, and he and his wife raised their family there. Well, he bought land, all that land where oh, that man that was a um, uh, council, oh, what was his name, I think the house, I think the house is still standing there, well anyway, Mr. Washington, lived 32:00right at the end of Frederick Street.
WILLIAMS: That’s where he bought.
WILLIAMS: Well, Mr. Kersey bought the land south of that. And he bought so muchthat when his children, as his children grew up, why, and married, he would give them a lot, to build a home on. And he—he had so much, they called it K—Kerseyville! They did, they called it Kerseyville.
MARSHALL: That’s interesting, I had not heard that one (laughs)
WILLIAMS: Yeah. And then he bought on, on, he was, they lived on the east sideof Second Avenue but then he bought from that to the corner of Frederick too. And he gave Irene a lot, he gave Charlotte a lot, Charlotte was the older one, Marie, Marie live —lived next door to him on, on uh, Marie was older. She 33:00lived next door to him, the home, on, uh, Second Avenue.
MARSHALL: Let me get—they were—were they George’s daughters?
WILLIAMS: Yeah, mm-hmm.
WILLIAMS: And then he had two bo—two sons, too. And the oldest son, he learnedto be an electrician. And the youngest one, um, oh, what is his name, can’t think of his name, as well as I know him, ’cause my husband, uh, I got him to give him give my blood husband blood transfusion, and I can’t, can’t picture him, and I can’t call his name, well anyway, he, [on] had his home on, I think 34:00it was on Madison, Madison or Monroe, I forget just which.
MARSHALL: Well, you remember a lot here, let’s see if I have anything elsedown here that I wanted to ask you. I don’t know whether I asked you or not, then, your family did not come from Canada.
WILLIAMS: My mother did.
MARSHALL: Your mother came from Canada.
WILLIAMS: She was born and raised in Canada. My father was born and raised inIndiana. And his, his parents were Indians. I mean, his grandmother was a full-blooded Indian. But, when his mother died, he was five years old. When his father died, he was seven years old. But, foster—he had foster parents that 35:00raised him until he was, well, until they passed, and he was seven years old then. Well, he never talked about his family because he was too young to [renoll], to remember anything, see about, so he never talked. I don’t know anything about them but only that, what I have just said, about his people. But my mother had, had, uh, there was eleven in her family. And Uncle Jim, her oldest brother, came over here, and he settled in Detroit. Well, he married and then eventually, he, in time, he moved out here to Ypsilanti and he lived up on River Street near the cemetery. And my mother came over here and then she lived with him. Then finally she got a job to work where the uh, Gilbert Resi-dence is now.
WILLIAMS: Well, that was owned by a Mrs. Swift, [just isn’t a] Swift, and theyhad two sons and one daughter. The oldest son name was Newton, Newton Sm-Swift, 36:00and the youngest son’s name was Fred Swift, ’course, they were men, y’know, young, young when she went there to work. She worked for them when she was 18 years old, see. Well, then, in time, they married but the sister never did marry. Her name was Hattie, Hattie Swift. She never did marry. And, uh, my mother worked for them I guess until she got married, I guess, I don’t know but she never, she never told us how she met my father or when, or anything about it. Never did. No, I can’t—I don’t know anything about that. (laughs)
MARSHALL: Well, that would have been interesting, too, wouldn’t it (laughs)
WILLIAMS: Yeah. (laughs) But they um, uh, um, Uncle Jim, well, Uncle Will,37:00another broth-er of my mother’s, came over here and he, he stayed with us for a while be-cause on Norris Street because he had, uh,—he was sick, wasn’t well. And then he finally went back to Canada and then he passed. And then Uncle John—Uncle Walter was the next oldest. He settled in Detroit, married, and had a family. And, uh, the next one was, um, Uncle John. He settled in De-troit, and he married, and lived on Lumley. But they only had one little boy and he died when he was, oh, I gue—I don’t know how old he was, he was about two or three years, two or three years old, something like that. He died, but they never had any more. And then, Uncle George, he settled in Cleve-land, he went to Cleveland, and he married. And, uh, and, and let’s see, but she was, she was a peculiar sort of person. She was nice, but she was kind of peculiar. We went, at 38:00that time, and before that, why, my mother’s sisters and brothers, she had one sister, that, uh, well, the youngest sister rather, she had the oldest sister, uh, stayed in Canada, she never did come over here. And she had a lot of children, lot of girls, but they had, they, they eventually came on over here, and uh, they were all my, I started to say my uncles, and this one aunt were all Masonically inclined, y’know, and had…
MARSHALL: Mm-hmm. I was looking at that certificate up there.
WILLIAMS: This is, this is her. She’s, she’s the one that came out of hereand set up the [crusaders here], the temperance crusade here. That was her youngest sister… 39:00
MARSHALL: And her name was Laura?
WILLIAMS: Yes, Laura. And she married a man by name of Walker, Laura Walker, andshe had a hotel in Detroit. And finally, later he died, and then she married another man by the name of Smitherman.
MARSHALL: Now, I’m going to be sure. She was—what relation to you?
WILLIAMS: An aunt—my mother’s youngest sister.
MARSHALL: It’s your mother’s sister.40:00
WILLIAMS: And I had a half-sister, that, um, had had this, um, niece that washere, and she raised this girl, raised this niece, so all she knew was just she called her Mom, ’cause that’s all she knew. Now, this is, this is one of my mother’s brothers.
MARSHALL: [unintelligible] [how they set so far away from you]
WILLIAMS: Yeah, yeah.
WILLIAMS: Then I got a picture of uncle Walter somewhere here. And this, this isa picture of my sister, the one that died [just ’cause it’s here]. This is a 41:00picture of the family reunion when we were in Detroit one year. After all of the broth-ers and sisters passed, then they quit having the family reunion. Because the younger ones ain’t in—they weren’t interested, y’know.
[END OF TAPE]
0:00 - Early life as Washtenaw tenant farmers
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: WILLIAMS: Oh, does that take picture, too?
MARSHALL: No, it, uh,
WILLIAMS: Just it, conversation.
MARSHALL: Yeah. Main thing is I wanted for us to be able to see that little red light bulb.
WILLIAMS: Oh. (laughs)
MARSHALL: I guess one of the main things we’re after, or the first things we’ll be interested in is um, something about your early life here in Ypsilanti.
Segment Synopsis: Ruth Marshall, the wife and co-worker of A.P. Marshall interviews Mrs. Williams about her early life in the Ypsilanti area, growing up on Forest Avenue on the city's east side.
Keywords: 4353 Forest Avenue; 722 Norris Street; Adams School; black women domestic workers; Flat Iron factory; Forest Avenue; Fourth Ward School; Fowler School; northern black tenant farmers; Ridge Road; Superior Township, Washtenaw County; Ypsilanti, Michigan
Subjects: African American families. African American farmers.
Hyperlink: Genevieve's reminisces of early life published in the June, 1980 Ypsilanti Gleanings of the Ypsilanti Historical Society.
5:02 - Grade School at the Normal College
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: WILLIAMS: So we went, we enrolled up there, and I, my sister enrolled in the first grade, but that was in a different building from what I was. I was in the training school, and, uh, she was in the normal, proper [one]. And her teacher’s name was Miss Jackson, first grade teacher. But my, I don’t know what, I would’ve, I would, I was started in the fourth grade, and, uh, my teacher’s name was Miss Plunkett. That’s all in there.
MARSHALL: I was going to say, that’s all in here.
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams describes her grade school education at the Normal College training school, domestic arts and the teachers she remembers.
Keywords: black students at Normal schools; Michigan State Normal College; Miss Jackson; Miss Plunkett; Mrs. Swaine; Swaine family
Subjects: African Americans--Education--History. Home economics.
Hyperlink: View of the Normal Training College, now Eastern Michigan University, about the time Genevieve attended grade school there.
8:09 - Memories of Brown Chapel A.M.E.
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: MARSHALL: Um, when did you become associated with Brown Chapel?
WILLIAMS: When I was nine years old. But I don’t know, I, for the life of me I don’t know when it was changed to Brown Chapel, got to be Brown Chapel. It was just the A.M.E. church, see, that’s all it was, just the A.M.E. church but, I wa—when, and then I, I went—when I finished the eighth grade up there, I never had to take, um, a final test in spelling because I was always a good speller. My spelling average was 100.
MARSHALL: Do you remember much about the um, I’m trying to think now at the same time, uh, much about the remodeling that they did at Brown Chapel, in changing the way it looked?
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams shares her memories of Brown Chapel A.M.E. and the church's rebuilding around 1900.
Keywords: 1904; A.P. Marshall; Brown Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church; Bun Henry; Cross Street; Mrs. Peterson; Rev. Collins; Rev. Lewis Pettiford; Underground Railroad; Ypsilanti
Subjects: African American churches. Underground Railroad.
Hyperlink: Rev. Pettiford, pastor of Brown Chapel A.M.E.during its 1901-1904 rebuilding.
11:39 - The Rosebud Club and social life
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: MARSHALL: What did you do as a young person for well, social life, social activities? You name some things here, but I thought maybe you might have remembered some other things that you did.
WILLIAMS: Well, there was a Albert Anderson and his wife had lived, well, the, the house was, the buildings are all torn down now, but he lived, he built a home, a nice home, on the corner of, um, of Washington Street and Harriet Street. It was, it was a real nice home. The, the house was still there, oh, they just tore it down this last year. And, um, he and his wife lived there, and he, uh, y’know, I’m, I’m going to say something and then another thought’ll come in my mind, and I, I lose what I was gonna say.
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams discusses social life as a young woman and the founding of the Rosebud Club for Ypsilanti African-American girls.
Keywords: Alfred Anderson; Bessie Crosby; black women's clubs; Brown Chapel AME; Frances Lyons, Gladys Lyons; Harriet St.; Hazel Carter; Mabel Carter; Rosebud Club; South Hamilton St.; South Washington St.; Ypsilanti
Subjects: African Americans -- Social life and customs.
Hyperlink: Photo of Brown A.M.E. choir, 1930s.
16:38 - First marriage and Flat Rock
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: MARSHALL: Well, when did you pick up this yen for writing?
WILLIAMS: For writing?
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams describes her first marriage, difficulties with her mother-in-law and life in Flat Rock, Michigan before returning to the Ypsilanti area. She also briefly discusses her newsletter and history writing.
Keywords: Flat Rock, Michigan; rural racism in Michigan; Walter Williams; Ypsilanti, Michigan
Subjects: Marriage. African American families.
Hyperlink: An example of the "Ypsi-Ann" published by Mrs. Williams.
19:35 - Memories of Old Ypsi
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: MARSHALL: Uh, what do you remember, and I know that you had some things here, um, uh, where some of the, well, the outstanding buildings, other than you had in here, that Ypsilanti had, or stores…
WILLIAMS: Yeah, and hotels…
MARSHALL: And hotels.
WILLIAMS: They had three hotels. Mm-hmm.
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams and Mrs. Marshall discuss Genevieve's memories of Ypsilanti including of black businesses, the hotels in town and an early Ypsilanti African-American doctor, John Dickerson.
Keywords: African-American doctors; Alfred Anderson; Amos Washington; Ann Arbor, Michigan; Anna Harris; black businesses; black women domestic workers; black women society columns; Cross St.; Dr. John Dickerson; Forest Avenue; Harriet St.; Hawkins House Hotel; Hotel; Huron Hotel; Lewis Hotel; Michigan Avenue; Mrs. Dickerson; Mrs. Howell; Norris St.; Occidental; Pittsburgh Courier; Sam Travis; Sam's Party Store; Thomas Roadman; Tommy Washington; Washington Brothers Grocery Store
Subjects: Hotels. African American physicians. African American business enterprises.
Hyperlink: Obituary of Thomas Roadman, early Ypsilanti black business owner.
28:57 - Ypsilanti's special relationship with Canada
Direct segment link:
Partial Transcript: WILLIAMS: I had a pretty interesting life, but y’know, just here and there. And then, you see, my, my mother’s brothers, well, as I said in there, all the colored people that lived in Ypsilanti at that time came from Canada, see. They didn’t come from the South, they came from Canada. And, uh, some of them came here, now, like the Kersey family, George Kersey and Jim Kersey, worked on that church when it was being built, well, they, they both came from Canada, but they were younger and they had their families here, see. And they came over here because there was nothing to do over in Canada and they could take care of their families better here, make a better living for their family, I’ll say that, then they could over there, just the same as the people from way down south, now, Mississippi, and, and Georgia, and Alabama and all those places—those people came up here, they just flocked up here, when Henry Ford started paying $5 a day for, for labor.
MARSHALL: Yep, I remember.
Segment Synopsis: Mrs. Williams discusses families coming from Canada to settle in Ypsilanti, like her mother's, and the development of First and Second Avenues by families like the Crosbys and Kersey's.
Keywords: "Kerseyville"; Amos Washington; Black Canadians; Detroit, Michigan; First Avenue; Fred Swift; Frederick St.; George Kersey; Gilbert Residences; Great Migration; Hattie Swift; Henry Ford; Indiana; Irene Kersey; James Kersey; John Williams; Jones Family; Laura Walker; Madison St.; Marie Kersey; migration from Canada to Ypsilanti; Monroe St.; Newton Swift; Nina Kersey; Prince Hall Mason; River St.; Second Avenue; Swift family home
Subjects: African American families. Canada -- Emigration and immigration. United States -- Emigration and immigration.
Hyperlink: Buxton, Ontario's museum contains a wealth of information on Ypsilanti families.