ORAL HISTORY T-0609-29
INTERVIEW WITH ELIZABETH GARLINGTON
INTERVIEWED BY DORIS WESLEY
LIFT EVERY VOICE AND SING ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER-ST. LOUIS
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS
DW: Today is ... and this is Doris Wesley of the Western Historical Manuscript Collection at the University of Missouri St.
Louis. I have with me today Elizabeth Garlington , who has agreed to make a tape recording with me for our St. Louis African-American Heritage Oral History Project. Good afternoon Miss Garlington.
DW: Where did you grow up?
EG: I grew up in South Carolina, Abbeville, South Carolina.
DW: And where did you go to school there?
EG: I went to school through the tenth grade, and then I went to Atlanta University Preparatory High School. And ... I also graduated there from high school and from college and from the School of Social Work, where I received my masters in social work
DW: There in South Carolina?
DW: ... in South Carolina?
EG: Atlanta, Georgia.
DW: Atlanta, Georgia.
EG: Yeah, that's where I went to school. Atlanta Georgia, Atlanta University. At that time they had a preparatory school. I went there because in South Carolina the schools were not accredited at that time, and in order to get a good preparation, my parents sent me off to boarding school. It was very early for it.
DW: At a very early age.
EG: Yes, it was to leave home at that time, but Atlanta, Georgia was only about 125 miles from my hometown, which was in Abbeville, South Carolina.
DW: What brought you to St. Louis, Missouri?
EG: Oh, there was a need in St. Louis when we graduated there for professionally
trained social workers, and we were ... some of the students were offered jobs
in different parts. I was offered... at that time, I had a choice to make between
Chicago, Pittsburgh, Baltimore, St. Louis .... Philadelphia also. I chose St.
Louis, because I felt it was more of a challenge and I thought I might get lost
in some of the big cities. That's why I came here and the agency that was looking
for them was then called Provident... it was The Provident Association. And
the history of Provident Association . . . the name has ... it was then called
Family Services. And ... of course now I see its come full circle, it's going
back to the name of Providence Counseling.
DW: Yes! We have their records. Tell me what you did at Provident?
EG: I worked with families primarily ... primarily with families At that time they were widows and many families were into the St. Louis area and were being urbanized and I worked more or less with families where there were ... children and a person ... making an adjustment to either widowhood, divorcehood, or desertion. And that was primarily ... I've always worked with families. My primary interest in social work has been working with the families strengthening the families. And ... I have found that working with the family ... I've seen a lot of benefits and I've been able to make a difference, because I've done a lot of research and I've done advanced study, beyond my masters. So, I was saying one day, we were talking once at school of social work in Atlanta, I go back there sometimes to do a lecture or a talk with them there, and they said you should pool all of you experiences: academic and educational experiences together and see if you qualify for a doctorate. But I never did want to go through all of that.
DW: Oh. You should have done that.
EG: So I've spent most of my time really in advanced study. And when I was a Provident Counseling, I call it Provident Counseling, when I was at Provident Counseling I worked up, really, through the ranks. I was a supervisor, and then district director, and I was academic ... while I was doing counseling. And then I started what we called family therapy, working with the total family rather than individuals, singling out one person to work with, I worked with total families, because I find ... we have found that when one person in the family 's in trouble, they all are in trouble. It impacts on the total family ... function of the total family. So that was one of the advances. I pioneered in that.
DW: Oh, that's great.
EG: I also pioneered in doing marital counseling. When we started . . . when it started ... I'm speaking historically, cause I'm talking about ... I came here in the late thirties. And so, of course social work didn't ... they didn't have any professionally trained social workers here. I was well accepted by the agency but some of the persons in the area didn't .... It was about four of us. Lillian Rosie brought us here. And ... but I found it great challenge. And getting back to marital counseling ... at that time when you said marital counseling, they separated the couple. They worked ... one person worked with the man, and someone worked with the woman. So I decided because I was having conflict with my co-worker, the one working with the male… female, that they began to fight over who was doing the right thing and what the husband was doing and visa versa. And so I said, Let's try this experiment . So I experimented working with the two of them together. It was one of the things that made me grow up. I became very object ... objective ... I didn't think the wife was the worse one and I didn't think the husband was the worse. It really kind of stabilized you in you thinking. You became less subjective ... trying to protect one and blame the other ... and that took hold. And the Family Services Association of America, which is the national office in New York, back then, I think they're still in New York, Family Services Association of America.... I wrote some papers on that and ...
DW: Are you published?
EG: Well, they were published in social work magazines. Had to be, at that time, anyone publishing. I think that's the reason I don't write now. If you work hard, you pull this together and you write it and the agency took the credit for it. It was published by the agency. Some of that is still done now in agencies. They might give credit to the person that's doing the research of the study, but the agency, because you were doing it on agency time, and it was the clientele of the agency, it went under the agency's name. So that kind of ... you know...
DW: Your name, as the author, appearing on the...
EG: And at that time too. Miss Wesley, blacks couldn't get things published, unless they were pejorative sort of things, arguing that you were talking about the pathology in the family. And I've always talked about the strength in the family. And as social workers, we work more or less with the ego ... strengthen the ego, rather than working with the illness. We know we're not ... we know we can't deal with illnesses. That's for the psychiatrists and for others who want to study it, but we can definitely work with the ego. And that's how I feel that I've been ... I can almost say , I'm not boasting, that I've had a great deal of success in working with families and with marital. My last ...
DW: The Division of Family Services needs you.
EG: Yeah. It's not Division of Family Services ...
DW: Oh, isn't it?
EG: No, no .
DW: I'm saying ... _I know it isn't, but I was saying that they do need you.
EG: Oh yeah. But I sometimes do work, I still do some consulting and do a little private practice.
DW: Good. All right.
EG: My last experience ... if you want Co say, last venture in the agency, I worked with interracial couples. How I came to work with interracial couples, I was interested in working in adoptions. And if you remember about 1960 and 70, we began to consider placement of adoptions in ... with white families. And we ... many of the black social workers, under the leadership of some of the social workers around the country, we got together and called ourselves, well we worked with preserving the black family, preserving our heritage. And we made ... we had projects where we made extra efforts to find black families to find ... to adopt black children. See at that time when societal changes . . . was at... having a child out of wedlock wasn't as ... looked upon better in white girls, who'd take their babies and keep them or they would make other plans to have them adopted. And this of course took the market down, where there were only black babies to be adopted. And whites began ... because they needed a child or wanted a child, they began to adopt black children. A black child was not the first preference, but if they couldn't get a white child, they wanted a white ... a black infant. And we thought that they saw this as second best. And we did a great deal with research, we did some searching, we had projects to find black families, for black children. Because black families have always adopted black children, but they didn't go through the process of the court. You know they would be individual adoption or private adoption, that sort of stuff. We still do a lot of that, outside our agencies, but the demand had gotten so great at the time, for black babies, until we decided to have this project going, it was a national project. Some of it is still going on. And so ...I ventured into did several things like that.
DW: Yeah. That's wonderful, that's really good. Mrs. Garlington about the black babies and adoptions, how did they adopt the little black baby without going through an adoption agency? How did that happen?
EG: Well, now they came through the agency to adopt them. Agencies had ... it wasn't the community that we were working on about this, we were working on the agency who was allowing it... who was placing these children for adoption. See because whites paid a large amount of money to adopt. And blacks didn't have that kind of money and I saw it, in order to dramatize it, .... we saw it as selling the baby, because it went to the highest bidder. Of course that didn't strike oil with us. And what they were doing, they were siphoning off our best babies. If you want to say best babies, you see.
DW: The ones that were sick or ...
EG: Yes, the ones who had a mother and a father that would come in and talk and you could get the background and history on them. But children that.... that their background ... or you couldn't know anything ... sometimes you don't know much about the background. And... but when we found these healthy. . . it's may be a college girl or a high school girl who said, well I really can't keep this child, I would love to, but I really wanted the child to go to a family who can give it what I can't give it. And at this time in my life, if I get out of college, I don't know what would happen if I can't pursue my education, I'm not sure what would happen to my child. And they leave it honestly feeling it was the best plan for the child.
DW: That's true.
EG; And then another thing, black girls were able to find relatives or cousins to take the baby. When I came to St. Louis, you know, teachers couldn't marry then, being I guess you shouldn't
EG: Teacher's couldn't marry then.
DW: No .
EG: I saw, so many teacher's with nephews and nieces. I said, why do they have so many nephews and nieces? All these teachers have so many. Oh well.
DW: Oh well.
EG: Oh well. Because we did not... we didn't really...blacks did not believe in adoption... I mean in abortion.
DW: Yeah, it's taken us a long time.
EG: Yeah, yes didn't we ...
DW: That's true.
EG: If they did abort, it was in the very first month or two. A girl would
find out that she missed her period. She'd jumped down the steps, fall down
the steps, fall off her wardrobe or get her a pig knife, get her a coat hanger.
And that should never be in there.
DW: Yes, but that's what happened though.
EG: You see, we have always been very resourceful group of people, ingenuous ... black women are the most ingenious, resourceful women you can find. And ... Oh, I wrote my paper on the strength of black families. I found.
DW: Oh, I would like a copy of that.
EG: I did a lot of research and I took a lot of pokes from Dr. Hill, who published it, and Dr. Billingsly and others. And they were the ones I sort of moved around with in the days of the sixties and seventies.
DW: Were you involved in the civil rights movement?
EG: Oh yeah.
DW: Tell me about them. Oh god, I have a hard time finding
EG: Well you know what? When I started it was in the forties.
DW: Yes! It didn't just happen in the sixties. I wish you would tell some of these people out here that. It started in the forties and the thirties.
EG: It really started in the thirties, because in Atlanta we called it the League for Economic Democracy... League for something. LLD it was. And... we've always been active in doing that, you know. It didn't start with Rosa Parks.
DW: No. No.
EG: That just happened to have been the one that catch hold.
DW: Yeah, it got a lot of national attention.
EG: Yeah. Because we never rode... I lived in Atlanta, we didn't
ever use the streetcars. That's why I learned to walk so much, I still do a lot of walking. When I came here, one great need, when I came here was adolescent girls and boys. There was Girls Scouts, you know and Boy Scouts and. . . what other group was. . .the YMCA, and with the youngest... and so I worked in my church, St. James Church, and I was in scouting. I started out in scouting. And the girls. . .even to me, became of age. I started seeing in a scout troop. And that was... the blacks and whites didn't have the same troop, but because there were so few whites, in doing that… my adolescent girls also... they all met together, planned city-wide, and oh, I think it was about... my young lady, Vilover Smiley, who is now Dr. Smiley with... St. Louis University, of instructive Ed. One was president of the senior Girl Scouts. And... oh, that made history, in the forties.
DW: Yes, that was good, in the forties.
EG: I think it's regressed since then.
DW: I agree.
EG: Really, some things that we promoted and got into earlier, you don't see any semblance of it anymore. So, it has gotten in some ways, depending. . . when it comes to integration or working and doing things together. They have ecumenical groups and what-not. And... but I feel that sometimes youth are not as well integrated as in my youth. I know they go to the schools...
EG: And I know whether or not they go to schools. I think some of the schools in the county are very good. I go to them because I search for talent in young black kids, for the arts and the sciences and the humanities. And in my contact with the school is changing in the county. And some in the county are just horrible. But you find some schools, now Rockwoods. There's school out there in Rock...
EG: Yes, Rockhill. if they take an interest in a student.. Sometimes you'll
find a teacher that will become interested, and
they will devote their time to that student. But as a group, I don't think, I haven't found that they... many of the schools,
accept them on the same level as they do the white students. I think there is a difference. I first... when I used to go out,
they want you to come out and tell them about black folks. I told them the thing... I need to talk with the white teachers, because
it wasn't the black students. Because they had a concept of a black kid and they are very much afraid of black boys, if they are
aggressive... assertive, I'll say.
EG: They are very much afraid.
DW: They are.
EG: And you ask them, what is it you're afraid of? "They are just so mannish." "What do you mean mannish? Are they different, and in what way are they different from the white students?" And they would let you know that they expected the white kid to be aggressive and to take hold, but they expected the black male to be, you know, submissive and quiet, you know. And you'd go to a school, and they'd say, "We have a nice little kid in here. 0h he's very nice and he just won't talk and he won't work." I say the kid is sitting out there, not even... He's afraid to talk, and that's the kind that they like. And if the kid is serious and reaches out and speak and talks, they're just... afraid of him. Black males are a threat to the white community... still... a threat to the white community. And they still have got that ceiling, you can't get over that ceiling.
EG: Frank Jones... I was trying to think of him, Frank Jones was the head of the (Colored) Clerks' Circle. And we would picket… We picketed Woolworth's, and... on Franklin Avenue and on Easton Avenue... it's called... Easton is now called...
DW: Dr. Martin Luther King
EG: Yes, Dr. Martin Luther King. And Franklin part of Franklin is called... around in there... all around in there was only blacks. The Jefferson Bank was there, and that came later, and the... I didn't get into the Jefferson Bank.
DW: Did you picket with the (Colored) Clerks' Circle?
EG: Oh, I told you with the Clerks... Oh yeah. I have pictures
I have given away, I wish I had them.
DW: Oh, I wish you had them. We could have made copies of them.
EG: Yeah, we... we were effective too.
DW: Oh yeah.
EG: We were quiet and orderly, but... and then we would picket
downtown. Scruggs, Vandervoort, and Barney was downtown, and we...
DW: Do you remember any other, people? Can you name me some more people that picketed along with you?
EG: You know one thing? It's sad to say, most of my friends, they've either passed away or in nursing homes or are out of town. So they just aren't there. I just happen to remember Frank Jones, the leader, and the Chestnuts who moved to Detroit.
DW: Oh yeah.
DW: They relocated.
EG: Um - hum.
DW: I would imagine so.
EG: Because St. Louis at that time, they were more placid. They were just... you know, everything's okay. Don't muddy the water.
EG: And they saw me as more or less of a rebel, you know when I came here I said. . . and I had. . . I would have a lock into a community because I was a AKA. But, somehow or other they didn't take to this little gal from Atlanta. My color wasn't right.
DW; Yes, that's true, I hear a lot about color.
EG: And it was interesting, cause at Atlanta University, in my day, you know in the thirties, you had to be very light and very fair... there were more light, fair girls on the campus. And so I said now, what is going to be my sales pitch, how am I going to make it?
EG: Well, my people weren't poor. They weren't rich either, but we lived comfortably. And I had been in the undergraduate. . . I had been in the high school there, so that put me, you know, in tune with things. So ...
DW: And prepared you academically, also.
EG: Yes, oh yes indeed.
DW: A lot of the black community missed that opportunity.
EG: You see, that was where I... I was pretty smart.
DW: I can tell.
EG: And I was popular, I've always liked people. You know my dream was... when I was young... I wanted to be a missionary or I wanted to be on the stage. I wanted to be like Ethel Waters or some of the ladies that sang and made people happy. But, I didn't have any voice for singing, and forbidding parents. At that time, you know, that was like going into a den of iniquity. And they surely weren't going to let me go to Africa to be a missionary. So I settled and became a social worker.
DW: That's good. I'm glad you became a social worker.
EG: Uh-huh, yeah I've enjoyed it. It hasn't been anything that
has brought me any wealth, but it brought...
DW: But you've enjoyed it and it's been your career.
EG: Yeah, I've enjoyed it.
DW: That's important.
EG: Yeah, that's what I've found out...
DW: That's very important.
EG: Because some of my friend's youngsters and some of my
godchildren, they have gone into the corporate world and they aren't happy.
DW: I'm not a corporate world person. I like doing things like this, creating and talking... and I like working with people.
EG: Uh-huh. And I guess out of... I've always wanted to help people. I felt I had something, you know, to offer.
DW: Don't you think that has changed? I'm kind of scared to help
people now, to reach out.
DW: I mean from in the sixties and fifties. You're scared to death to help people.
EG: I know it. And they're suspicious of you. Now this project I'm with, I don't get paid. It's volunteered. I don't get paid to come here. But...I'm...
DW: The NAACP...
EG: Yes, and they say, what do you get? I said, well nothing. This money comes out of you pocket? I said, most of it. Because what I do... our project's gotten so big now I have to...
DW: Type a grant?
EG: Oh they don't give you grants, you know why? People just will not give
us money, scholarships. They will give you money for something that's dramatic,
like if a kid's been... if a kid is...the parents. . . if he's been killed,
or something. . . a tragedy.
They'll do that, or do that for poverty stricken people. But my project is to help find talented kids, to find talented youngsters,
help them develop and give them the same recognition that we give the athletes. You see, it's designed on that same plan. Well, when we first started it, it started in Chicago. Rodney Dereks started it. It started in Chicago. And we found that everyone was getting recognition but these bright kids who were inside doing all of the work. And they would get, these athletes were getting all the girls, getting all the popularity, and all the scholarships. And our young people who were academicians, and the scientists, and the fine arts persons, they were even poked fun at. And they didn't even give them anything. So we said, that what we would do was we would have this project, and we would find youngsters throughout the United States, you know, we've got branches, and give them recognition. And we call it AACTSO: African, Academic, Cultural, Technological, and Scientific Olympics.
DW: That is an excellent project.
EG: Yeah. And listen, we have touched many youngsters across the board. Many youngsters who never would have been inspired or encouraged and we given them a kind of a dignity, because you remember, and still right now, the youngster who is into science or into fine arts, kids begin to kid him, and call him a nerd, you know, and that sort of stuff.
DW: That's the way they do my nephew. They label him like that.
EG: And kids just... and I've know teachers who said youngsters are afraid to speak up in class and show that they're bright.
DW: That's true.
EG: And we're trying to... we have done a lot in that we're trying to help a kid. Look, that's their way of saying I'm dumb and you're smart.
DW: That's right.
EG: And we have to give them. . . we give them a lot of encouragement and support.
I find mentors for them, coaches and
teachers to invest in preparing them for the nationals.
DW: Oh, this project is overdue.
EG: Yeah. So...and... we... I've always been interested in education and fine arts. I'm not a fine arts person, but I know. I appreciate it. But these young people are: Ken Williams, you know Ken Williams. Ken Williams is our 1982 alumni. And this year they invited him back to the National, and he preformed at the National. He took his orchestra and everything to play up there, and they had a great time. So that was it. And one of the things I encourage... I asked them to please include in the music he was going to play, it was going to... He played "The Battle Hymn of the Republic." Along, you know, that was part of it, and "America the Beautiful", etc. And I said “now we want, "The St. Louis Blues.” I'm telling you, when they played, "The St. Louis Blues." I just couldn't take it. And a young man, the young man who won contemporary, won it, contemporary locally, he's another Miles Davis. He played the... I said, Winton Marcelus move over. And he played "The St. Louis Blues" on that horn and I'm telling you...
DW: It sounded good.
EG: Oh, it did sound good and that orchestra was good too. And Ken did it well.
I said Ken, this is the time, you can make it.
And he... cause this is national...
DW: And he can fly on away. Good for him.
EG: So he's happy over that honor too. And by the way, we honored some women there. Amy [Till's] mother was honored.
DW: I remember when... well I don't remember, I read about ..
EG: And Rosa Parks... who else now, Murley Evans, Murley Evans, and the. . . Oh, now my brain, my memory is playing tricks on me. The person that is the legislator out of Pennsylvania, a real popular lady...
DW: I want to say Maxine Waters...
EG: She always wears a...
DW: Oh, I know who you're talking about, but I can't think of her
EG: I can't think of her name either.
DW: We might think of her name later on.
EG: We honored her and Ken's mother. Now that was really very soul stirring. I felt I had achieved, and so I can throw in the towel. Yeah and the young man from St. Louis, he won the science award. He invented and refined the telescope.
DW: Did he really?
EG: Uh-huh. And it came just at the time when we were doing this astronomical,
this astronomy, you know. It came just at the time you could see Jupiter. And
it was... he was just good. See what these kids do, they're creative and inventive.
It's... I don't
want to be snooty about it, but it... we don't take just classroom work. A youngster has to be kind of interested in this, and if it's something that's his sole inspiration. It's like with athletics, you know, youngsters just don't go out there and become a great basketball player. They study, they start dribbling those balls when they're very young and that's the way these kids are with science.
DW: They just have it.
EG: Yeah. They just have it.
DW: And they love it. It's just one of their passions, and it happens.
EG: His brother, last year, his brother got a silver medal for his invention.
Before that the brother got the gold award for another
invention. These youngsters started out when they were around seven or eight years of age. You know, inventing, creating, asking why something worked, and why can't it work the other way, and that sort of thing. So they have done a lot of... they've added a lot of stature to St. Louis.
DW: Well, what's coming up next?
EG: This year, I am looking for some youngster who is talented in science, you know, computer science, architecture. We had one youngster, when we first started, ... Lily Thomkins' son. Tony. He presented a design for an airport terminal, no it wasn't, it was a bus terminal, and he got... I think he got a bronze, it wasn't the top one. But he had been playing around with that sort of stuff for a long time. And he won it then, that was back in '78.
DW: And this is done nationally, also...
EG: Yes, it's national... well what happens, the local branches, they search their community for these talented youngsters in about 23 categories. And we work with them, help them find tutors, and help so them they can prepare for national. And then the local winners here go to the national. NOW they come from all over, about 145 branches....
DW: These are NAACP Offices?
EG: Uh-huh, yeah. So it... and they go to the convention, the national convention. And this was our eighteenth convention. And...
DW: This is where they compete?
EG: Yeah, this where... Oh and... it just makes you proud to see the talent there. And they're so well disciplined. But I discovered...
DW: That sounds good.
EG: Yeah, those artists are well done. And these youngsters, they aren't just tied up in science or music, they also are pretty...they're versatile. And this young man that won the medal this year, he's the president of his junior class out in Hazelwood. And he also is very good as... as he does basketball and another one, he does hockey, not hockey. He does basketball and something else. So he's pretty good in athletics too. And he... he's really bright.
DW: He's good in athletics and he's good academically also. And that's good.
EG: And most of those kids, they have 3.5 and above. And one of the things, its like... I can tell you this, and I'm sure Ken doesn't mind, because I tell it with a lot of pride, when we found Ken, Ken... he was really between the cracks. He was getting lost, and he was going to be a musician, you know, he plays well, but he's not a great musician. And so he wanted to go so bad, because his friend, Germaine Smith, Germaine was a very good singer, you know, and he got it on voice. And he said, I want to go Ms. Garlington. How can I go? I said. Well, what do you have to offer? He said. Well, music. I said. Well music, that's taken, you can't do music, you don't measure up. And I talked with him and he sounds so intelligent and so articulate. And I said, "Have you ever written? What about an essay?" He said, "Oh, I could write an essay."
DW: I saw him... on Dr. Martin Luther King's festivities.
EG: Yes, So his writing was poor, but his thoughts were so good. And he could put things together. He has a beautiful memory. And he's sharp and quick. And It didn't hurt him, because he looks a lot like Martin Luther King.
DW: Yeah, yeah.
EG: That didn't hurt at all. And he was so determined. And his
average, his grade point average was less than 2.1.
DW: I remember that.
EG: And I'm telling you, he said, "Miss Garlington, if you do this for me, if you get me in here, I'll prove to you what I can do. Miss Garlington, please." And so I said... I felt it was worth a try. I've never been so happy about anything and he hasn't either. He didn't know that he was going to make it in college. They wouldn't take a person like that, because his grade point average was so low. But it happens, I was working with Melvin Ware and working with Dr. Bryant and some of the others out there and they were impressed with it. And Norman Seay didn't hurt either.
DW: Oh, no. He's wonderful. That's my friend.
EG: That didn't hurt either. So they got him in there.
DW: Remember, he was in... Remember we were at one meeting and we took Ken in there? Well, I was part of that, because I helped him with library research, because Marion said she could do research you know, but she knew that I was really good with research. And I said, "Send him down any time. If he has a term paper, he needs to do research or if he's writing or something... I'd be more than happy to help him." He used the repository, at the library.
EG: Yeah, yeah. He really made good of it.
DW: Yes he did.
EG: And I just say, my gosh, where would he have been, over there at Ranken. They wouldn't let him in Ranken, because he had to have a certain average. And he's brought it up. I understand he’s doing less... what is it? He less than 4.9... what... no, no, no wait a minute. He's 4.9... no 3.9.
DW: Three point nine.
EG: He said, "Before I graduate Miss Garlington, I'm going to show
you a 4. Because I tell all of the kids when I start working with them, don't blame your parents.. . if you don't get the good grades. If you got...
DW: Not these days. There's too much... too many. There are grants, ... loans,
they have it all. You can get the stuff.
EG: But they are looking for you if you have more than 3.5. Up there, when we go up to the national, the deans of the schools are there, the corporate world is there, they siphon off our best kids too. M.I.T. and Digital, IBM, Kodak...
DW: You know why, because they can spend more money in their institutions,
where they have all these scholars in there, just
EG: Yeah, they like that. And then they know the black kid's going to work too. It gets them too. I say to all these kids, "Look, if you bring them... if you bring me a 3.5, I'll see that you get a scholarship." And that's another thing I do on the side, I'm always looking for scholarships for kids.
DW: That's wonderful.
EG: So, it isn't just the project or I want them to win gold medals. I want them to have that experience. And it is really, it's almost like an emersion or something. When they go and see all of these bright kids, they say, "Will he measure up to them?" And I say, "Yes you can, do you best." And they see these professors that are interested in them, and they see the corporate world is interested, and the fine arts persons are there, the actors and all of the drama people and they see all that, and it just blows their minds.
DW: Do you think Ken will go into the masters degree program?
EG: I hope so, I hope so.
DW: You know, I forgot what his bachelor degree is.
EG: He'll get it this year, won't he?
DW: I believe so.
EG: He's a senior this year.
DW: I believe he's a senior.
EG: He's a senior.
DW: I'm sure he's a senior.
EG; He's a senior. I'm sure he's going to get a masters.
DW; Okay, that'll be good.
EG: And he's doing something in... also, he's doing philosophy. Is it philosophy? And also he's doing something in... I told him to take a business course, do something. I think any black male, black female too, aught to get some of the business, because you're going out into this world. And this is a highly competitive world.
EG: And everything. And entrepreneurs are going to be the leading thing for black folks. Cause these big firms, you know, they'1l take you so high and...
DW: Right and then stop you.
EG: And they'll bring in... to really kill your morale, they'1l bring in a
young white fellow...
DW: And have you train them.
EG: Yeah. That's it. That happened to a friend of mine. Fred Robinson. And it really... and they need to...
DW: It's devastating.
EG: It is! It kills that guy.
DW: Certainly. Or woman. I mean, I know a few friends, lady friends, that that happened to.
EG: I know when I counsel people, that's the reason I am always job searching, seeing how to get persons out into something else, because they... there's one way... it's something I think out there to keep us at a certain level.
DW: Standard. Yeah, a certain level.
EG: It breaks the... what is it? It breaks some kind of glass, I read. . .
DW: Glass ceiling?
EG: Yeah, the glass ceiling. Breaking the glass ceiling.
DW: I don't know when it's going to happen, but it has to happen
soon. It's been going on too long.
EG: Oh yeah. Yeah, because, you know, one of the things we're doing that's great, and we're beginning to do it, because at one time we didn't want to do it... Each person want his own, own turf, but we are correlating our efforts now and networking. And I'm not talking about calling up and saying hello, how are you. These agencies and these groups are getting together and seeing where they can benefit from each other.
EG: And not feeling that the other one is going to take it all. Because you
know, just like some of these churches, I say, should
merge, but each one wants a bishop here and a presiding elder there...
DW: It's the power that they don't want to let go.
EG: Yeah. But they've got to find out the power is not as great as being empowered, by your, you see? You have persons who helped you and you strengthen each other, because your strength rubs off my strength and my weakness, you can supplement my weakness with your strength. And your see, it has to be like a family. And I think if we can do that, we'll make it. And I believe we're going to do that. I just hope that I'll stay around that long.
DW: Yeah, I'm going to be around too...
EG: I'm an octogenarian.
DW: Pardon me?
EG: I'm an octogenarian.
DW: Oh I didn't know... so you auction things off.
EG ; No, no . no .
DW : 0 - C - T - D - E
EG: I'm in my eighties.
DW: Oh, okay. I didn't know what you... I said, "Wait a minute What is she talking about here".
EG: I knew you didn't... I've got to keep that R in there together.
DW: Well, you don't look a day over fifty.
EG: Well, I tell you, some days I feel that I'm fifty.
DW: I'll bet it's wonderful.
EG: And then some days I say, "Oh my Lord." Which can happen today. But by and all I'm in fairly good health. I had a mastectomy.. . oh about 6 years ago, but I was lucky . They caught it just at the... it was just about the size of the tip of my fingernail. And I had it removed. They say you could have tried three things. I could have had a lumpectomy, or I could of had the treatment, you know, but I wanted it removed. I felt at that point, I didn't need it.
DW: I know what you mean.
EG: But other than that, I feel good. One of the things I ask a person, I ask myself, how old you say you are, you are, if you didn't know your birthday. If you didn't know the year you were born in or when you were born, and feeling like you do, how old would you say you are?
EG: It's... So and that's the way it is, because it really...
DW: It's really all a number.
EG: No it isn't a number. Age is only a number and I'm not giving my numbers out. Cause after... you know, you're so proud... that you've lived that long and they say are you able to function… One of the things I see, I see so many people with Alzheimer”s...
DW: Oh yes, that's a terrible disease.
EG: It is. And I say, "Oh my God, I hope I don't get it."
EG: But what I find though... and the other geriatrics person…
DW: That's a good field to go into.
EG: Yeah, Uh-huh. And I go to all the lectures, I go to all that I can, because I like to help others who are coming along. But if you are academically... and if you're interested in issues and what's going on in the world, you'll make it, but if you interested in self, family... you cut off that brain or something.
DW: You shut yourself out.
EG: Watch a person who is very selfish and who's not interested in anything but the lighter things in life... I think sometimes social butterflies... and that's why if we are into something, we ought to make it not as much more than just ourselves. You see. And interested in other people, interested in other issues, and that sort of thing.
DW: That's right.
EG: It's urn... they say it's urn, genetic sometime, but they haven't found that to be true. But if you study the ones that... now St. Louis University, they have been doing some study. Washington University did some study, but you're not privy to that... anything but their lectures, they don't give you the material, like St. Louis University. But they find that if you are an active virile person who is community oriented and interested in the world...
EG: And these people who look at these soaps, I have some
DW: Oh, it's depressing.
EG: It is.
DW: Yeah, my mom just had open heart surgery. And she's... well of course, that retired her because she's 62. So that automatically retires her and she gets her social security because my father has passed away, but anyway she looks at these soaps. And I say, "Momma, you got to get out here and do something."
EG: Yeah, find her something outside of the house.
DW: Right. I told her so.
EG: And another thing too, if you keep your circulation up, see that circulation gets to the brain and keeps it nourished, and even if she walks slowly, whatever she wants to do, just let her get out.
DW: Well she drives, she gets out and take care of business. And I, you know, when she was down and sick I took care of all the business, but now I return it to her because I want her to, you know, get out and be active. Not sit there like an old woman, which she is not.
EG: Yeah, yeah. No! No, uh-huh. You want to avoid that at all times. And if she can get out... Is she active with her church?
DW: Oh yes. Well she's not... she goes to church every Sunday.
EG: Well that's good.
DW: But she's not active as far as committees, things like that because she worked all the time. But now since she's not working, I think she's going...
EG: She needs a hobby. And get her one that's interesting for her. I think sometimes... Does she like art? There are so many little things you can do, you know, what do you call...
DW: She just likes to read, she used to read all the time.
EG: She reads?
DW:  ... except after my father passed. . . and when she had the surgery, I guess she's still in mourning.
EG: Well, she's reading, that' s stimulus.
DW: Yeah, but she stopped reading.
EG: She did, huh? Well you know she can always volunteer at the libraries and art museum, historical societies. Let her do something for you at the historical society.
DW: That's true.
EG: Because they have... you've been, I know you've been there.
DW: With the Missouri Historical Society?
DW: The Missouri Historical Society?
EG: The historical society there in Forest Park.
DW: Oh, yeah. I've been there many a times.
EG: She can be. . . what do you call those things who you carry around? The docents? The ones who guide you around, take you…
DW: Oh you're talking about tour guides?
EG: Oh yeah, uh-huh.
DW: Yeah, she could do that.
EG: It's pleasant.
DW: Sure it's pleasant.
EG: But the main thing is physical and mental activity. You have a much better chance of making it. And I have a phenomenal memory, except names.
DW: I fail with names too. I'm good with faces, but I'm bad with names.
EG: I can remember the face, what you wore, what we talked about and I just
like... oh what's her name, it almost got to me. She ran for the board this
year and didn't make it. You know, we had a wonderful experience at the convention.
We gave the
[Spingar,773] Award or medal to Maya Angelou.
DW: oh, I love her. I think she's the greatest.
EG: And Oprah Winphrey presented it to her. You see she's...
DW: They're best friends.
EG: Yeah, uh-huh. It was a real touching kind of thing.
DW: when you say we, do you mean the NAACP?
EG: NAACP, yeah.
DW: Is it okay to say N double ACP?
EG: Yeah, N double A, some people, Fred Weathers says N double A I like to say the whole thing. National Association for the Advancement of Color People. When I first came to St. Louis, people were afraid to say that... to use the word African, they didn't use the word African.
EG: The National Association for the Advancement of Color People. One time, I'll share with you, one time I got into the Marcus Garvey Movement. I got fired from my job.
DW: No, you didn't.
EG: Yeah, but they took me back.
DW: Tell me about the Marcus Garvey Movement.
EG; Oh, but you... I did believe in him. I thought he was a great
DW: He had a great philosophy?
EG; Because he wanted to go back to Africa.. . he wanted to go back to Africa. I didn't want to go back to Africa, I wanted to be a missionary in Africa, I didn't want to go back there. I wasn't that loyal. I didn't want to go back to that part of my heritage. Not then. At that time, people on welfare... and that, you see that was part of the Depression, that came in during the Depression. And we really didn't see light of day until 42, until we went into the second World War. You see World War II. And families were struggling. They didn't have any spokesmen. And the Marcus Garvey Movement was out there speaking. I was out there, I was working at the welfare office, you know, in the daytime and in the evening I was at the Marcus Garvey... Lost my husband... and lost my job.
DW: No .
EG: That was a good way to lose my husband.
EG: Uh-huh, oh yeah. He was a court clerk, and you know he couldn't say...
he was a good Republican. Now why I married a
Republican, I'll never know.
DW: Did you have any kids?
EG: No, no kids. They would not bless with kids, I'm damned with nieces, nephews and God children.
DW: I know, I know what you mean.
EG: So no, I do not have any... did not have any children. The children were not that fortunate.
DW: Yeah, I know what...
EG: No, but I've always been... I think that's why I've been so interested
in young folks. I'm on the board of the Annie Malone..
cause I've always worked with Annie Malone since I come to town, in one way or another. I've been a consultant out there and I've worked with the directors and I'm on the board now. So. . . I still consult with people and (". . .^ Echo, I've just retired from the Echo board. St. Louis Christian Home. And I'm getting off the Presbyterian Children's Home board, because .. . I'm fixing to send them a hot letter, I don't think they're doing what they should for minorities. They have a /...) they were to do some outreach and some other things and they haven't… And they had a very fine young man working there, black fellow, and he did a good job of development, staff development, and what not, and they brought in a young white fellow to take over development and gave him a higher salaries than Fred was getting and wanted Fred to train him and orient him. And so, I felt that was ridiculous and awful. So for that reason, that and some other things, I've collected. I've done research.
DW: That's enough\right there.
EG: So I said, well, that's what I'm doing. I still will be interested in folks.
I will continue my work with the NAACP' s Excel
DW: Is this the adult NAACP award? The Excel Program?
EG: It's the... I think it is one of the... it's the highlight of the convention.
And it's the best program they have for youth.
It's the one thing that's kept the youth involved, because the other programs they had... you see... well this has happened even
with the NAACP. The program that we used to do was Civil Rights. That is no longer as necessary as it was then, because the
government is doing... you know we have fair employment laws. We have all the CEOs, and all of that, so and the courts listen to the complaints now. We'll take a case if it’s, you know, if it's a landmark case. We'll take it if it involves… like right now, we
have this suit against KFUO, you know that classical program. The haven't hired blacks, you know why? Blacks are not interested in classical music and they don't have a black audience and... that is the most ridiculous thing...
DW: I love classical music.
EG: Well sure. Well we... I suppose... I made a declaration on it. I'm using my experience with my young people who I have been working with for over 18 years, who all are classically oriented… into the classics. So they don't...
DW: I used to study by classical music.
EG: Well, you know, they try to say that and get by with it. Now they are saying that blacks hadn't applied, but we do have blacks who did apply. And one thing about it, I have been able to find Lutherans who are classically oriented. There's [Johnny de Haley], and then I have a young man about five years ago played classical guitar, which was unusual. And then I have found others around. So I've been doing my research on that... And then we would get people like Ray, Robert Ray, to testify and Fred Robinson has helped me...
DW: Now Robert Ray is a music teacher out at UMSL.
DW: Because I'm taking a class with him.
EG: So I'm asking him... when they call us in... I'm going to ask him to come in cause, you know, he knows that stuff all up and down the line, you know.
DW: Of course he does.
EG: And... he's articulate too, and he's forceful.
DW: I talked with... I don't know him personally, I just talked to
EG: Um-huh. He's quite a master at training, ... at that conducting and all
of that. And not Missouri, your school, is now
merged... doing something with... the symphony.
DW: Oh yes, yes.
EG: So that's great.
DW: That's good.
EG: Germain and some of my other friends are out there, some of my best friends are at the University of Missouri.
DW: But I'm going to ask you this last question... And then we can sum it up. Messages for young people. What words of advice would you like to share with young people about you profession?
EG: About my profession? Well, I've been in...
DW: Or about life.
EG: Oh, well. Well, let me see... Why did you ask me that? Let me dream over
that. No I... I was brought up with this, that if
you have a gift, you should share it. And to him that has much, much is expected of them. My family was a rather humane family.
We shared with others. I feel very strongly that I owe something to... I feel almost compelled to help other people, if I have it
myself. Sometimes I feel I'm generous to a fault, I know that, with my time and with my energies. Wealth I do not have, social
workers will never be wealthy, but we do have a talent. And I like to share that. And I would like to say to young people that
the best thing I can say to them is to do their best. I think that in itself is... if they can just do their best whatever they do,
you see, and to expect the best of them. I do expect the best. Sometimes I think I am a hard taskmaster, but young folk don't
react negatively to it, because I do it in a concerned way. I'm not angry when I do it. I have more compassion. I wish that young
people would become more interested in the humanities as well as in the corporate world, because that's a fast pace. I've seen,
through my lifetime, I've seen a number of my successful friends that I was admiring, sometimes I was envious, because they had all this; two car garage, and wall to wall carpeting, and all that. I would say, now why didn't I do... why couldn't I do that? But
really I didn't find they were... having that kind of gratification or they that they were really truly satisfied in that. And I've
seen them change, change professions, and I've known in the past 6 years, I know of 5 persons who left their corporate world job and went into teaching.
DW: That's wonderful.
EG: And I've know persons, not intimately, I've known persons who have gone into the ministry and gone into social work. We've found persons who have come into social work. And many of my friends and acquaintances, I encourage them to work with me sometimes, they get excited and they want to stick with it. And they do. I can convert people sometimes into to helping professions and into humanities. I would encourage anyone, if you are in business to really get involved with the humanities. I think the business world and the cold corporate and I think if anyone owes us anything, it's the business world and the corporate world. Now why I think that I don't know. But I see they do they do match gifts if we give things. I see that they will match... if you are working in the corporate. And they like for their employees to be identified with agencies. I don't know how... whether they want you to be identified with Civil Rights agencies, but they do with the nonprofit agencies, like you know. Provident Counseling, you're on the board, you see you bring dignity to them. I have a friend... she's a top person in the banking world and every time she gets an assignment or someone asks her to even lecture or do something, the bank just goes. . . this is a big bank. . .it goes. . . it really gets excited, she's giving to the community, and she's got to say... she's got to say where she comes from too. So I think. . another thing I would say this, sometimes for good or evil, for better or for worse, I think sometimes the business world steps out and helps with some of the religious groups.
DW; Yeah. That's true.
EG: But I think it's left to us to get from the business world. Now I don't
like to beg from the business world. I do believe in
self-help. And this is what I'm trying to make my program into, self-help. At one time, you know, we would ask Anheuser Busch and all that... But I find this, those businesses, they might give scholarships to a person, to families, to their families if they're
black, but generally giving scholarships and giving these big awards, they don't come easy from these big corporations. I have
a book here on the foundations and how much is given and how much. . . And fortunately, I've worked myself, I've been on white boards, I get on the boards with the white groups too and I see what they get. The large... $50,000.00, and we get $1,000.00 or $2,000.00 and we seem satisfied. That should... and to do the kind of... study or recruiting, not recruiting, searching that I do about scholarships, I find these scholarships, you can get a scholarship for most anything.
DW: That's right.
EG: You've got to know where to go, when to go, and how to find it.
DW: You can get a scholarship to pay your way to a conference.
EG: Well sure.
DW: I didn't know that until a few...
EG: All you have to do is have a little brains.
EG: And be determined, you see. And I think we have to be… people say... I like to use the word aggressive, I think we have to aggressively move out and get what we want. Now that's not a negative word to me. Because if you stand in the back, they will keep pushing you in the back. And they're going to think you're not ambitious. So you've got to show...
DW: That's right. If you want it bad enough.
EG: And I think we need to use our energies, really in helping others, you see. I find it... I find that this project that I'm with, now these young people try to help each other. They're not seeing who's going to get in and who's not going to get in. If I find a person in there who's envious and can't share, I know that kid is going to fall out. I mean, he's going to drop out. Because it's a sharing group and that's what we always... we treat, we try to help them to be, you know, compassionate toward each other, sensitive to the other person's needs, and that... everyone has a weakness, everyone has a strength.
DW: That's true.
EG: We don't beat a guy cause he's weak, we help a guy when he's
weak, you see. So I like to do my little...
DW: You've done a lot. You've certainly done a great deal.
EG; And networking, I think, and networking in a way that we share and we let people in on things, we can help them. If I know of a resource, I'm bound to help you. I should help you. At one time, you know, blacks said, I'm the only one who's done this, I'm the first one. That still irks me.
EG; You're the first and only? Something's wrong that they couldn't call somebody else. If you're the only one, they must be stuck with you.
DW: Well, I'll close this interview and thank you very much, Miss
EG: Well I... I try.
STATE HISTORICAL SOCIETY OF MISSOURI RESEARCH CENTER-ST. LOUIS
222 THOMAS JEFFERSON LIBRARY
UNIVERSITY OF MISSOURI-ST. LOUIS
1 UNIVERSITY BOULEVARD
ST. LOUIS, MISSOURI 63121
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