|The Whole World Was Watching
an oral history of 1968
(The audio for this interview begins approximately seven pages into the transcript.)
Ashley Johnson: Mrs. Craig, when did you marry?
Naomi Craig: I married in 1943, October 22, married on a Friday, and my husband left for the service on Monday morning. That was World War II, way before your time.
AJ: Where did you live after you were married?
NC: Well, I lived home until my husband came home from the service because there were no houses available anyway, so I was glad to be home. So I just went right back home, went right back to my same job, working in a defense plant at that particular time, and stayed there about, almost until the time he got home from the service. And then I went to live with his mother because she was by herself at that time, and I went to live with her and she and I were together, you know, during the War, from 1944 till 1945, until my husband got home from the service.
AJ: So he was only there for a year?
NC: Yes, just about that time. Then he came home.
AJ: Would you describe any problems you might have had finding a home to rent or to buy?
NC: A problem? It was a continuous problem. First thing we had to, when you are looking for a home, the homes were not available at that time because the whole country was in a flux. In other words, people were coming to Rhode Island that never were there before because Newport was a base and the sailors were down in Newport. They were coming up to Providence, and then there were people moving from the South coming up to the north for defense plants, so the whole state of Rhode Island was in sort of a turmoil.
And when we, I didn't try to find a house until my husband got home from the service. When he got home from the service, we looked for houses. I don't know that you know much about discrimination, living down here in South Kingstown, but discrimination is all over, particularly if you have an influx of different people. But we weren't an influx. We were there all the time. We always have been there. My husband's people have been there since the 1600's because he is a Narragansett Indian, and people have come north, you know, coming up where we are living, so we're not, we're natives. So we couldn't find a place. And let me tell you how hard it was finding a place. I didn't realize this myself.
I would call on the telephone, and I would say, "Oh, I see there's a house available. " And I would tell the street, "Oh, yes, yes, we do have a house, would you like to see it?" "Yes." And my husband and I would drive out and the real estate agent would probably be parked over here, my husband and I would go right in up to where he was, and he looked, and he sees that we were black, and he would say, "Oh, I'm not too sure whether they want to sell the house." And I would say, "They just got through talking to you." "Well, well, I'll have to make other arrangements and I'll let you know and I'll give you my card." That happened so many times. Over the telephone, he wouldn't know who I was, and people then were not as open as we are now, because we have laws now that you cannot discriminate, but then, there were no laws.
And it was difficult for us to find a place. We looked and looked and finally, we did find a house. We put in to get a mortgage from the bank. My husband was just home from the service. Oh no, we were risks, we were midline risk. We couldn't get a place, so the man from whom we bought the house held the mortgage so we could buy a house. So it was difficult. Had we been white, we could have walked right in. Had we been immigrants coming over here, we could have walked in. But we, native Rhode Islanders, couldn't find a place. But we found one, and I'm still there now.
AJ: Did you work outside the home while you were raising your family?
NC: Not in the beginning, no. I stayed home until my son was about, I have two children, I have a son. When he was eight and my daughter was five. But I could have worked out, because my mother-in-law lived so close to me and she could walk up the street, and she took care of them anyway for me. So I could have worked, but I wanted to be home in the beginning to see them grow up. And I thought at five years old for my daughter and eight for him, I could go, and then they were there with their grandmother, and they liked that better anyway, because she was not strict with them. They could, you know, sort of not do their beds or do anything, and grandmother was, "Oh yes, that's fine." Everything was lovely, and they never did anything wrong. When I would come home, no, they were beautiful and so on. That's the way it was.
But she was a lovely woman. Now she was a Native American, and she was a woman that loved the house. I loved everything outside. I was into everything, I was on all kinds of boards, I was President of the PTA, I had a Brownie troop in the school, I belonged to the Providence Council, I belonged to Progress for Providence, I belonged to all things. I loved things outside of the house, and I'd come back and tell her about it, you know, my mother-in-law. So we had a very nice understanding and the children, they were there with her and with me, because we just had a very nice time. She lived down the street, so all she had to do was walk up and be there with me, and that was her whole life, my children.
And she was lovely, always made me the nicest meals. My husband and me, my husband was working, too, and when he got home, he went out to the Police Department, and his hours were so different, but my mother-in-law would always have lovely things for us when we got home to eat. She just made us her whole life, and it was beautiful. You don't hear of mother-in-laws like that. She was, they are like that if we took time. You know what I mean, but we have a sort of foolish way of saying that mother-in-laws this, but they love their daughter-in-laws and sons-in-laws like anybody else. Sure, right. So we had a good life together.
AJ: That's great. You said, that you did start working after your children grew up. Where did you work or what did you do?
NC: Well, I had a hard time finding a job because jobs were very hard to find, but finally I had a job with the state and I worked for the state and I got a job there, but my experiences of getting a job after high school were terrible. It was, prejudice was so bad. It was terribly hard to get a job. And all I wanted to be at that particular time was a court stenographer. I loved shorthand and everything I heard I was taking it down, and I was so naive, I thought all I had to do was be smart and be ready, and I was.
My first job that I went to, I said, that in the other book, that I told about, I just got out of high school and I went to this place that was hiring young people, and she said, to me, "My dear, do you know there's a depression on? And white girls are not finding a job. What makes you think that you could find one?" And here I was all dressed, a lovely blue suit on and navy blue shoes, and little hat and gloves, looking so beautifully, thinking that that was the first step. And she was a dowdy looking little women in the office running out here and said, I couldn't have a job. And she was right. There were so few jobs available, and black girls did not get jobs. I had cousins who graduated from Normal school it was called, who never got jobs as teachers. They had to go south to get jobs.
The difference between being black and being white in working was a sorry situation. It's better now, but people had to work and people had to suffer in order to get that opportunity. Young people have so much more then opportunity now, that I didn't have.
But I'll tell you one thing, Ashley, at first I was really bitter about it, and I thought, "Why should that be?" I was intelligent. In fact, more intelligent, then the majority of the people that I was competing against. And I thought this was a terrible world, and I thought white people were so mean and then, it was just like God speaking to me and saying, "It's not all white people, its just these few that have authority that are making it hard for your, but that's not my plan for you. God's plan is that everybody has an opportunity. And don't have any bitterness in your heart, because that destroys you, that's not destroying the people over here, that's you." So I said, "I don't need to have that kind of a feeling."
And I always taught Sunday School. I always was in church, so I could teach Sunday School and love other people's children and be kind to them. That bitterness and meanness, people didn't want me to do this, I said, that's okay, I'll be the best I can at whatever I do, and whatever I did, I was the best. Then finally, when things opened up, I did get a job, I took an exam, I was a court steno, no not a court stenographer, but just a stenographer, and I got a job, and I worked for the state and I had a good life doing that.
But if I had had the things that I could have done when I was younger, it would have been so much nicer, but, at old age, that old feeling of being white and being black which God is not pleased with. There's no difference between white and black.
AJ: That's absolutely right.
NC: That's right, and ask when you know that makes the world a better place. It really does.
AJ: You said, you had two children, right? When were they born?
NC: Well, my son was born in 1946, the year after my husband got home, and my daughter was born in 1949. There's three years difference between them.
AJ: Can you describe your family in the late Fifties and Sixties?
NC: Yes, my children got out of school from 1966 and they went to college. And trying to find a place for them to go to college, because they wanted to go to black school, just living in mostly all white where we lived. And I was trying to teach them to have pride in who they were and they said, "We can't have much pride. There's nothing in the schoolbooks about black people, there is so little, if you stop to look, there is now, but 1966, when they got out of high school, there wasn't very much in all that.
Then there was unrest in the nation at that particular time. They wanted to go to school in the South. So I didn't know much about the South , but I knew there was unrest in the South at that time, and people were trying to get to sit at counters where they all could be fed together, because some of the rest, most of the restaurants in the South would not allow black people to sit at the counters. You could buy you food, but you had to go around outside to eat it.
So they had young girls in colleges would try to open up the way that people could eat, they would sit at the counters and waitresses wouldn't serve them, and they wouldn't move, they kept staying there, and the police would take them out, and everyday they would go back and they would sit at those counters until finally, public opinion was against them, and it was spread all over the world, what was happening in the South that you could pay for your food, but you couldn't eat it there. Little restaurants, little old places like, I wouldn't call the names of them, because I don't know what they were, but they were little eating places that you couldn't eat there.
And so, that was all settled, and then finally you could go in and eat where you want, sit where you want, and eat. Was that such a terrible thing to want? You see, we think of it as nothing now. I could come in here and sit down with you and you and I could eat together and have a wonderful time. You wouldn't say anything. But that was such a terrible thing. They could pay and then go outside.
When my children didn't know anything about that, and I didn't know anything about it until I read it in the papers. Is that stupid, isn't that?
AJ: It's ridiculous.
NC: I guess it's ridiculous! And also, they had different fountains in the South. White fountain and, a fountain that said, for whites, and this one said, for blacks. And the black people got so mad. It's the same water, why can't we have the same one. Oh, it was just terrible.
Well, anyway, they wanted to go to south, so my son went to Virginia University, and my daughter, I had to find a place for her to go to school because she was so young. She was accepted at Howard University. That's a great school, in Washington, and people from all over go there, and you're right there, you know, where all the things are happening in Washington.
But she was only sixteen, and that was the year in 1966 they had taken in too many students, and she couldn't really be there, she would have to live off campus. I wasn't about to have her live off campus, you know, there, `cause she was always a little girl that was reading all the time, in the house with her grandmother, she didn't even go out with a lot of her friends. She loved to read, and I would come home from work and she would say, "Guess what I read today." Oh, she would be so thrilled, so I said, I couldn't have her, she was only sixteen, going away from home, so I found a little college that was in North Carolina, called Bennett College, only for girls, only five hundred in the school. I loved it, and I went down there for orientation with her. I didn't bother about my son, I knew he could go anywhere, because he was more older then she, so I took her down to the school and had orientation. They were so nice to her and it was all black.
And I had never been with a lot of black people before myself. I felt they were so pretty, all different colors. Some were very, very fair, some were very dark, but here was such a mixture of colors and they were all dressed so prettily. And I said, "Oh, I love this" and they had a southern way of speaking, and they would say, "Oh yeah, I love this." I thought that was so nice. And, "Ohhh, wasn't that good."
But anyway she went to the school there, and I found that that was nice, and then she went there. Of course, she didn't like it at first and she was calling me all the time. "I hate this place, I want to come home." I said, alright, then we will try for next weekend, and finally she got onto it, but oh, in the beginning, because she didn't know anybody, and the school teachers were so nice to her, because when it came time for a holiday like, a one day holiday for Thanksgiving, well the teachers would take her right to their home and then she found students down there, so it was good. So she went to one school and he went to another.
And from 1966 to `70, my husband and I drove down in May to take them down there, and came back and then. Went down in September to take them and came back in May. Traveling south twice a year. It was oh so hard. We went to Virginia and then down to North Carolina, and then coming back up again. Oh, I was so glad when they both graduated.
AJ: When you kids were younger, what kind of music did they listen to?
NC: Well, my two, you see, at that time, I was in church, see, and they had to listen to church music. What they did on their own, they either liked it or listened themselves. I should remember, we used to have records on and they would play, some of the most silly little things, [she hums]. My daughter would play that all the time. She thought that.
But I myself, I, well, I didn't play for church in the beginning, but I sang in the choir, my children sang in the choir and they had bell choirs that they could be in and then my son was an usher in church, and my daughter, well, she was always on the programs, and then I was the Superintendent of Sunday School, so we were always in different things in the Sunday School, so we spent our life in church, and going to school.
AJ: What kinds of things did your children do with their free time?
NC: They loved to play games together. I had bought them, well, of course they had badminton, they used to play, I had it downstairs in my basement, and they would play that. I'd get so mad with my daughter because she wanted to win all the time, and you know, my son was good to her, you know, and then she got to be really good and she would give him a time, you know, bump, bump, bump. Then they had a game called hockey that you do with the sticks. She would be on that side and he would be on the other side, and the ball would be going, you know, you'd be coming up this way and she'd be going down that way and then he would shake the thing like this and he would be winning, and then she would shake it so she could be winning, oh they had good times together.
But when they were little, they played Monopoly, and would go from day to day, and my mother-in-law loved them to play that, because it kept them busy all morning, that's my mother-in-law, she always had lunch on time. Twelve o'clock bells rang, and they were eating, see, and then they could play Monopoly until twelve o'clock and they knew that, and they could play that, and then they rested in the afternoon. She made them rest. She had the old lady concept that you had your hands in the water and your feet in the water. That was cooling to her in the Summertime, when every kid was running in the street, my children were in the house with her, hands in the water, feet in the water, and she would take cool cloths to make them feel a little bit better, and then they could play games. She was lovely to my children, really beautiful.
AJ: What friends did they hang out with around that time?
NC: Well, around that time, I lived in an neighborhood that was more or less Cape Verdian people, I don't know that you know Cape Verdian people, they come from the Cape Verde Islands, and they settled there because they [... -? ed.]. And they were down near the water, and they were the nicest people. They had big families, and my children could play with them, you know, it was nice, but my mother-in-law didn't have them out playing too much. On a schedule, they could come in and read and see where they were. But they had a lot of friends. My son, had a lot, he would go down to the school. They had a recreation place down there and he played basketball and he thought he was going to be a star. I knew he wasn't, but as long as he didn't know, he was happy, so that was fine. But my daughter was mostly in the house with her grandmother. She didn't care much about playing out, she liked to read, so she was, she had all books that she was reading.
AJ: Were their friends mixed racially?
NC: Oh yeah, you were in with a lot of whites, so yeah, we always had mixed races. And we went to a church that was mixed, too. We always went to a church that was mixed, that was not completely white. And we still do.
AJ: Did your children play any sports while in high school?
NC: Oh yes. Not my daughter. My daughter wasn't much into sports, but my son played basketball. And he ran track, I guess. He wasn't, he thought he was great in both, but he was a good runner, I would say that much, he could really run. He was a good runner, and he liked track, and nothing really great and outstanding, you know, just regular.
AJ: How about any other like school activities. Did your daughter or son participate in any other?
NC: My daughter had friends that she would, you know, talk with and be with, but no, nothing too great. But my son, in school from a little fellow, used to run the projector for the, you know, the movies that we used to have to be going to different rooms, doing that.
AJ: Did you feel there was a generation gap in your family?
NC: No, I didn't have time to think. You see, I worked with young people, see, then I had a Brownie troop, and my husband had a Cub Scout troop, so we had them meet at the church, and I had the Brownies at the school, so there was no gap so to speak, because we were there with all of them. You know, all the children around their age.
I used to go down to the school and used to have a Dale Evans hat on. They would be walking and saying, "There's Mrs. Craig." And then, I used to teach my Brownies to do things that whenever we had PTA's, my Brownies would come and we would open it up with a salute to the flag. I had them learn how to march in, and then I would teach them a different song that they could sing, so whenever we had anything at PTA, all troop 135 was there to do things, you know, for them. And you know, the opening exercises, and then we closed it. We would go up and then we would sing "Day is done, gone the sun."
And, oh, everybody just loved it. It was so nice, because it was people in the neighborhood and the children, their own children, right there in the neighborhood, so I've had a good time in all, and there weren't, I'd say there was only two children of color. Most of them were all white, but I was there with all of them. It was nice, they loved it.
AJ: Were your children in that, were they in the group? Was your daughter in there?
NC: Oh yeah. Always. I had had my daughter in Brownies. In fact, I started the Brownies because of her. But the Cub Scouts troop was at my church, and then they would perform, too. They would go up with the flag, you know, and do things, so it made it nice. They were always in the public's eye, because I was in the public's eye all the time, but then I was on different boards for the state, so that made it nice for them, so I was going to different meetings and my mother-in-law was always there. She stayed at my house until I got home. Then my husband, being a policeman, worked all different hours, so it was nice that I had a mother-in-law that was always available. And she was good to my children.
AJ: Do you also feel in general that there was generation gap in the Sixties?
NC: I didn't have any generation gap, not until my son went to college. The first year in college, he came back and he wanted to be all black, so he had the big Afro. Oh, we had never seen anything like it, `cause you know, people didn't have them up here. And I said, "What!" He said, "I," he said, "I'm just done." Because you know, he said, "You don't know anything about the homeland." I said, "What homeland?" He said, "Africa." I said, "We've been here all our lives, so I guess this is our homeland, right here." He said, "Well, I'm studying to go to Africa." And I said, "Well, that's fine."
And my husband didn't like his hair, and we were like, "It looks so different," you know. But now if I should see it I wouldn't think a thing about it, because the kids look so [... -? ed.]. And you see how kids at that time used to dress to go to school. You had a shirt on, you had a tie, but now, they wear anything they want, you know.
AJ: Yeah, pretty much.
NC: Yeah, sure. So anyway, I never felt a generation gap, but I know he was trying just to tell me a story that I didn't know much about African people, and I told him I would like to learn, and I did, I learned as much as I could so he could be, talk about it, you know.
AJ: What kind of rules did you set for your children?
NC: Well, I had taught always, I didn't mind if they looked at television, but I didn't like too much television. I thought they should do more reading. I never had any problem with my daughter, I don't think there was a program on TV she ever asked to see. She was exceptionally smart, she was a brilliant little girl. To go to college at sixteen, she was brilliant. So she read a lot. But she was academically smart but she wasn't socially smart. You know, know how to give and take with being with people. Because she didn't feel like she wanted a whole lot of people. She was content with a book, so when she went in public, she was a little bit timid and she was shy.
But, no my son, he wasn't shy, he was going out with everybody, he was happy. He wouldn't read unless I made him. And if he looked at a program, now Saturday, that's one rule I had. You couldn't stay up late on Saturdays. We went to Sunday School and we went to church, and I didn't care how late he stayed. If he wanted to stay up to see a program, we had to be up early on Sunday morning, so he'd say, "Oh, I'm so sleepy." And I'd say, "Oh, I'm so sorry. You were up last night, and now you're going to church today, and out we'd go. My rule was that if you can stay up and look at something, you could get up the next morning. But if you had an exam or something, I put them, turned off television. You're going to study, and that's that. I didn't think television had much on it, to help anyone to do anything.
I never cared for television from the very beginning. I didn't mind, but I don't like rough language and I don't like people hitting people. I thought that was so poorly in manners, for the children to see other people hit this one or trip this one. You'd be surprised how much of an impression it makes on little children, and I didn't like that at all. But there were some programs that I really liked, and I wanted them to see them. Usually it was at a time that they weren't available, see, so it made it hard, very hard.
AJ: What were your children's experiences in high school, growing up in Providence?
NC: Well, I don't think they had much problems. I think my daughter didn't have any, but she was sent to a, she was in a gifted child program, and she had to have a bus pick her up and take her, but the bus would go all over and pick everybody else up.
[Conversation about the tape recorder -ed.]
AJ: I'll repeat that question, what were your children's experiences in high school, growing up in Providence.
NC: Well, I can say that my son would have a run-in with the teachers if they ever asked him anything, he was almost a too truthful person. And I tried to tell him that it wasn't necessary to be so truthful. You know, if somebody asked you something, and it wasn't necessary for you to answer, you don't have to. He did get in trouble one time when one teacher was a substitute, and she came in and was talking to all the girls. I think substitutes don't think, and she was talking about her trousseau, she was going to get married, and she was going to France, and she was only there for that one day. And she was just talking about that.
And she said, "We have had a lovely day, haven't we?" And the boys didn't have a good day at all. They were all talking to each other, so she said, "Didn't we, David?" And my son said, "The reason I thought it was terrible was that you never taught us one thing." She thought he was
[... -? ed.] and he had to go down and see the Principal, and I had to come up to the school. And I said, "Did she ask him the question?" And he said, "I don't know, he just said, that." I said, "No, she must have asked him." And he said, "Yes, she did. She asked me did I have a good time, and I told her no, she didn't teach us anything, which she didn't."
So I mean, I had to let them know that, don't ask anything if you don't want to know the truth, `cause he will tell you. He's the most honest person, and it doesn't go over good. I said, David has to know the difference between necessary truth and she said, "Didn't I teach you?" And he said, "Well, the girls seemed to enjoy it." And I said, "See," I said, "You have to learn how to say things, but he still is very truthful. You have to be very careful about that. So don't ask him anything.
[Audio begins here]
AJ: You said, you were active in parent organizations at school, right? What were some of those that you had?
NC: Well, what we did in that, at that time. Ah, the school that my son went to and my daughter was an elementary school, and the junior high school was almost two miles from their house, and it had, it was through a neighborhood, a residential neighborhood of very fine houses up on the East Side, they had to go to school. There was no place in case it rained, no stores or anything in case it rained they could get inside. And I thought they needed a bus, and I went to the School Department, and they said, "No," it was just within the limits, and they didn't have, and I said, "Let me tell you something." I said, "You've got this school down here because these people are immigrants and they had to walk way up there, but if those people there up on the Upper East Side had to come down to this little school, they wouldn't do it." I said, "It is wrong." He said, "Nobody complained." I said, "They didn't know you have to."
Because quite a few of the people in the school where I was immigrant parents and they thought anything that they were supposed to do they would do it, but I got them together and said, we don't have to do this. We do not have to do this. This school is too far from the town, and we petitioned the School Department, we petitioned the PTA at the other school where they were to go. So we got a bus. The parents got a bus, and their children would go on the bus. Now they have school tickets and they can ride the buses all over, but at that time, they never had a bus to go. Because it was across town, and nobody else would be riding it but the kids.
But they had a bus while my children went to school, and for a few years after, then finally it got so that they could get a regular bus to go there, but that was a good project, and it kept me busy, kept me going to the School Department, staying all hours, talking with everybody. The necessity of that. Why didn't you have one before? I wasn't there before. Why didn't the people speak up? They didn't know to speak up because they were immigrants. They thought every, if you told them that they had to be here at four in the morning, they'd be there four in the morning. That was because they thought they had to do everything. But they've learned now.
AJ: Were you aware of any racial tensions or problems in Rhode Island during the Sixties?
NC: Yes, there were quite a lot of problems in the Sixties. That's when people were trying to get houses. You had to have fair housing, and we got that going, and then another thing was people in the schools, teachers in school, were not considerate to young children that were a different nationality then they. They would be, "You can't do that," and holler at them, and we didn't like that. We thought all children should be taught alike.
And then a lot of the children, they didn't have breakfast in the morning. I never thought about that, I thought everybody had breakfast. Found that they didn't, so the schools started having breakfast, in sections where the children could have breakfast before they went to school, which I think was very good for them to do.
And another thing, I think a teacher who teaches should teach, regardless of the child, because every child is coming from a family, probably not, not having the things that other children have. You have to be open, you have to be kinder to those who don't have. You have to be considerate of little children, because they have feelings. Try to teach, treat each child the same, and I think that some teachers are not accustomed to being with black children, and they didn't know how to act with them. But then you've got the other teachers that just loved them and were so good to them, so I think teachers should really be taught sensitivity. Things that they say to people, they don't think means anything, a little child's feelings will be hurt. And I think that you should, however you treat one child, you should treat the next child, because children do know.
I've dea lt with children all my life, and I always know children have feelings. And another thing, teachers should give little children opportunities, not the same children that are smart. I learned that in Brownies. I had three little girls that were very shy and they never did much of anything. My daughter was one of them, she was very shy. And right towards the end, she said, to me, "You've never let me be in a play." I said, "I've asked you." She said, "Yes, but you never encouraged me. You always put the same people in." I never thought of that. The play doesn't have to be good. It doesn't. You know what I did before? I used to put the young little girls that liked to be in the front, whenever the school wanted them to do something, I would get these same little girls, because they could talk in front [imitating the girls] "Hi I'm Taffy, and we're gonna have a program with the Brownies, Troop 135, would you please come?" And the other children didn't do it.
And then one day I said, I'm putting all these little children who never had an opportunity, I put them right in. It wasn't as good, and some of the teachers were saying "Why did you do that, Mrs. Craig?" I said, "Listen, these little children that had this opportunity will never forget it." We would have them in saying, "I did that. I was up on the stage, and I did that." And this one little girl, she said, "It wasn't good," she said, "but I was up there."
And that taught me you don't have to be good. It was something that little girl never forgot, and now she's a grown woman. She'll say, "Mrs. Craig, you remember when I was up on the platform?" I said, "Yes, I do." "I was awful!" I said, "Yes, you were, but you were up there," and we laughed. You see, these are the things. We think things have to be good. Ashley, people are more important than what they're doing. Put the little girl up there, and she stuttered, and she, and everybody was so uncomfortable, you know how you go "aww." But she got through with it, and I learned that and I think that should be taught to teachers. You don't have to be perfect if you deal with people. Give other people an opportunity. And you remember that now, when you get up with whatever you're going to do, give people an opportunity, you don't have to be perfect. But let everybody.
AJ: Just be yourself.
AJ: And try it.
NC: Yes, isn't that nice? Sure!
NC: We're never going to get through, are we?
AJ: This is fine. Did you or your husband or children get involved in any rallies or protest movements?
NC: Well, yes I did. In fact, I'm in a big one now, a very big one. I have a young girl, you see, I did social work, and when I got out of high school, I didn't find anything. But I went to college later on in life, and I worked with students at Barrington College, and I found out that the same law that would give this one opportunity will hold this one back, which is not right.
So right now in my church, I have a young woman that is trying to adopt her little cousin. And, that child has been given to a foster, foster parents. And this young girl, she's fully capable, but they're making her wait. And the more she waits, the more money she has to spend, so she took it to court, and she is spending all her money on lawyers, but now we have, I don't know that you know the woman, but she used to be Attorney General of Rhode Island, her name is Arlene Violet. She's excellent. She's working with this young girl and we're all praying for her that she can get her little cousin, so she can take, and he's the cutest little boy, he came to the church. And he said, "Am I going to stay?" Oh, he thought he had to go, you know. "Am I going to stay?" His cousin said, "Oh yes, you're going to stay." And it was such a happy time, so we're, I'm working on that with her. Every time she has to go to court, if I'm allowed, I'll go to court with her. But in the meantime, I'm just praying that she can have this little boy, because the little boy has family with her, but they made a mistake by giving him over to this foster family, now they don't want to lose face.
You know how, when they do something, "Well, no, they are more capable." It's not more capable, its more love. And the child is a mixed, you know a mixed nationality, he's part black and part Spanish, so the child's gorgeous, you know, gorgeous little child, like you see mixed race children, they're darling! They are the cutest little babies. I think that's, the world is going to be like that pretty soon, and then everybody will say, "Oh, she's, is she white?" "No." "Is she black?" "No. I don't know what she is." "She's brown." The world will be brown. We're living in the browning of America. Did you know that? Yes, in Providence, there are so many whites and blacks that are married, that the little babies are brown, the most gorgeous little babies. Some of them a little peach color. Oh, they're gorgeous. I love them all.
AJ: Oh gosh, that's great.
NC: Ashley, we're having too good a time.
AJ: Can you describe the extent of your involvement and your family's, in, like, protest movements?
NC: Well the protest movements, well you have to wait `til you get a protest, you know, you just don't go out and do something. And I think what we, we wait for a cause before we do it. But what I do want is for young people who don't have too much money, if they're really smart, to be able to go to college, `cause I think it's a waste to be brilliant and not go to college, so my protest is if there's money available, lets see that the right people get it. And that's, that's something we have to pay attention to. But we have organizations that do that for us. We have NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People], we have the Urban League. Those two great organizations. People have really worked to get those going. So I belong to both of them. And I work with both of them.
AJ: How did you view the 1960 election of John F. Kennedy?
NC: Well, I didn't think he could be elected at first, and then, living in Providence where we had more Catholics then anything else, and I'm surrounded by two big Catholic churches, great big one on one side, one on the other. I said, well, I don't think there's anything he can do differently than any other President. You've got, you've got the Congressmen and you've got the Senators right there. He has just so much power.
But I said, it would be nice to have him, because I thought he was young and I thought he brought in such a beautiful spirit. "Ask not your country, what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country." It was great. My son adored him. He thought he was so nice. And when the wind blew his hair and he was ruffled up and he was talking, he never had a coat on. He brought youth to the country. We had so many old Presidents, and sick Presidents. Now we had a young man. I thought he was great. I really did, I thought he was, and I thought his wife was great, and she was, little cute little self, walking with him. I used to wear hats like that. We used to have high hats with our hair all puffed out. It was nice. Those years were great. Great years when he was President. Yes, I liked that.
AJ: Did you think he was supportive of your causes?
NC: I thought he was. Because at that time, cause he had a brother, you know, Robert Kennedy, and they were having the, all the sit-ins and they had the riding the buses, and trying to ride the buses, and course Rosa Parks time was in through that time, too. And I thought that they were sympathetic, but they had never done anything like that before, so it was going to take time. But I thought that they tried, and did as much as they possibly could during that particular time.
I was so sorry when he was killed. I never, ever thought that I would live to see the day that a President would be shot.
I thought that was the most awful thing there ever was. It was terrible. I will never forget that day in November. I was working downtown, and they said, "The President's been shot" SHOT! Could somebody do that? It was something I could never believe. And he was, he tried hard. He really did. And I thought his views were so great, being young. It was nice.
AJ: After Kennedy's assassination, Lyndon Johnson was able to get Civil Rights legislation through Congress. What was your opinion of this?
NC: Well, I figured, figured that he had no other alternative. Because Kennedy was dead and these were some of the things, but I, and he did more for Civil Rights than anybody `cause it was there. It has been started, but of course we had people in the South that were moving for these things. I had no idea that it was so bad living in the South. I didn't realize it, and I just thought it was automatically you could do things, it wasn't. You just couldn't do things that other people, black people were held down, so they all lived in little districts by themselves. But they had, some of them had very nice homes. Even though they lived in districts. But it wasn't, wasn't what I thought it was. [referring to tape recorder] is it stopping again?
AJ: Nope, it's working.
NC: Alright, what else did you want to know?
AJ: W hat effects did that have on your family, the new Civil Rights passing through Congress, and all that, all those movements?
NC: What did Civil Rights do for us? Well, Civil Rights did, well, for me it didn't do anything, because it wasn't helping me to go to college `cause I had already been there. But there was something out there that did help me, because if you were retired, and you went to school, you didn't have to pay for the tuition, so that was good. I just had to pay for my books, so that made it nice. So I.
AJ: So did you do that?
NC: Yes, I did. I went right into Barrington college, and I went in free tuition, just paid for my books, and I graduated, and I was a grandmother going to school, and I graduated magna cum laude. Wasn't that great?
AJ: That's wonderful.
NC: And Civil Rights also opened up housing for people. Before, you could be in the bank and they'd say, "Oh, these are black people and I don't think they're ever going to pay. We'll put a little mark here, red lining, mark that, when they come up for a mortgage, they won't be able." Now they can't do that anymore. Another thing that Civil Rights did for us was fair housing. If I had the money to pay for a house, I could go anywhere I wanted. I might, people might not like it, they might move out, but I had the right to move in. That's what Civil Rights did. And it was great, it was great.
AJ: Did anyone, did you or anyone in your family take any action or join any marches or protests at that time, like?
NC: Oh, I went to a march on Washington, which was 1963. And that was August 28th. We were marching down there, that was where Martin Luther King was, we first heard him. My husband was a policeman at the time, a police Lieutenant, and we were having Civil Rights here. People were trying to get different jobs and people didn't want them to have it. You know, as long as no one is bothering you when you have your job and I have my job, it would be lovely. But if someone else comes in and wants to take your job or take my job, then we're not, we're not lovely anymore. We're going to have to all fight for this job, see? So that was going on. People were losing jobs and people were trying to get jobs, and it, the situation was not good.
So they had a march on Washington, and I didn't know much about Martin Luther King at that time at all, he in fact, he wasn't, he was known in the South , but he wasn't known up here as much. And there he was. We were, we had busses, and people from all over, went to Washington, and I took my daughter, and she was just a little girl at that time. I think she was about eleven or twelve, and my husband said, "You can't go, there might be trouble, because you'll all be in Washington with no way of getting out. I don't think you should go." I said, "Listen, this is history. This is HISTORY! We need to be in this." And we went. And we were scared. We didn't know what would happen to us. Everybody was on buses, and I thought it was only going to be black people.
I got to Washington and the place was full of white and black people. There are so many wonderful white people in the world, and we all, just great big lines of people across, and we marched down the street and Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House. I couldn't hear him so well, because there was so much, he was so far away. Even over the loudspeaker, I could hear "I HAVE A DREAM!" Oh, I was so thrilled with that. It was so wonderful. And not so much what we did, but that we showed that we cared about what was happening to this country. We said, we've always lived here. We have a right to be here. We have a right to live where we want to. We have a right to a job. It's guaranteed liberty and freedom for all. And this is what we want. It was wonderful. I wish we could have that same feeling, it was just so euphoric. It was great! I loved it.
AJ: Wow. What was your reaction to the assassination of Martin Luther King?
NC: Well, I was devastated. Because, I said, I wondered how long he could go without violence. He was never violent. But people were violent to him. I don't even know that you have seen the movie where those young people in the schools, where they put the hose on them and tore their clothes off. I never realized that that terrible feeling that the white people had for the blacks because, just because they wanted to have a decent education. It wasn't that they wanted the same school that they were going to. They wanted the same education. If they had the same schools in the black neighborhoods, they would never have bothered. But, the quality of education was so different. So they wanted better schools and they wanted, they were paying taxes like everybody else, why couldn't they go to the schools?
I felt terrible. When he died, I said, "He was a man for peace." All he wanted was for his children to have the opportunity that other people. How would you like a park right over here next door, and all whites could go, and your children couldn't go? How could you explain it to them. Well, he was trying to tell his little boy that you can't go to that park? He said, "Well, everybody's in there. Why can't I go?" He said, "Well, you can't, because it's not for you." "The children are in there!" He said, "It's only for white children." That was so awful. And we need to, and he never even fought anybody, he never hit anybody. I have pictures here in this book here that I brought down. I'm going to let you see this book. Look, this is called Eyes on the Prize, and these are all the things that happened in the South. I'm going to let you just keep it down here so you can look at it.
AJ: Okay, great.
NC: That's so great. And that came out as a movie so you could see it. And like I was telling Linda Wood, I said, "You have so few blacks down here, but you really don't have the give or the take, like I have with most people." I had to give and take with whites all my life. But there is a lot of white people who you don't have much give and take with black girls to go anywhere with them or to see them or do anything. You just don't have that. But that's something that both of you lack if you don't have it. I was brought up with all, mostly all whites. I didn't have much contact with blacks. There were very few blacks in there, but now, I, in my church, I have whites and blacks, so it makes it good.
But as for Martin Luther King, I felt like the light had gone out of the world. And that it was like darkness creeping in. Here was a man who had stood for beauty. He stood for everybody. He didn't just fight for blacks, he fought for anyone who needed rights. He fought for people in other countries. He never wanted the Vietnam war. He said, we should not touch that. Yet people said, he was terrible to do that, taking away from the pride of America. Here was a man that wanted only everyone to love each other. That's all he wanted. And they shot him. I said, to kill somebody that only wanted love and peace, I couldn't think how God could allow that, and how anybody could do that.
It was terrible, and then, there was such, oh, the reaction after that. It was awful. We had fights in Rhode Island. Black people were running though the streets, just tearing up everything, they were so mad with everybody. It was just like an awful reaction, what have you done? You take the best we had. What have you do done? You've taken the best we had. And their only reaction was to do bad. Just like I said, to my children, we're not going out there, why should we do bad? We want to do good because of him, but your reaction was if you could do that to someone that was the best, it was awful. It was a terrible feeling. I felt awful about that. I still have a, like a, like a place that's missing in my life because I never, ever got to really know him, like I would have loved to.
I talk about him to my church, and I talk about the different things that he said. But, never to have shaken his hand, you know, I would have loved to, I would have loved that so much. He was such a great person, his wife also. And their children, and how they could bring them up to be peaceful? I don't know how they could do it.
I don't know how they could it, because he had so many instances, and you can look at that [Eyes on the Prize] and see how, so many instance, where people would be hitting him, throwing things at him, and he was a minister, and he was educated. He was not a bum from the street, he was a great man. He won the Pulitzer prize. And yet he couldn't even walk through the streets in, in Alabama. Isn't that awful?
AJ: That is tragic. Did you or your family go to church meetings or any political rallies after his death?
NC: Oh, yes. I have gone to NAACP [we really got -? ed. ] the best person to run. And I, right now, I love the idea of politics. I think it should be, everybody should be interested. Politics is so, this keeps your country running. You should try to get the best person in, and I want the best person in. Yes, I love politics. And I go to rallies.
AJ: Did you participate in any event after his death?
NC: After his death it was like a moratorium. Nobody seemed to want to do anything. Everybody just felt like, "Oh, what's the use? The best person we've ever had was killed." But gradually, we knew that life went on. Life has to move on. And so we just moved on, to do the best thing that you can do, that's all.
We've never had anybody like him since. No one has ever come on the scene like him, and no one never will. Because, you see, this world is not geared for peace. This is a violent world. I have never seen so much shooting and killing on television in my life. Your young people don't know what it is to have peace. It's a shame. And they glorify those who are shooting with the guns. Everybody comes out with guns. Isn't it awful?
And the caliber of the things on television, has gone so bad. I turned it one night, and I saw this Mr. Springer, the Springer show. I was, people fighting each other, and girls, young girls living such low life, living. I don't know what's coming up, I wonder. I said, if I had a young daughter, I don't know what's going on, and I would have to say to her, don't look at this. This is terrible.
AJ: It's an awful show, I know what you're talking about.
AJ: Were your children participants in any active or active in any Civil Rights organizations or sit- ins or teach-in demonstrations while in college?
NC: No, they didn't. Well, listen, when my daughter went to college, they, to show you how little I knew about it, I went down there with her and I thought it was such a lovely school. I came back, and the next year, they had, when Martin Luther King died, was killed, they had to, for their protection, they had soldiers all around the school. And I called down there, and I said, I saw pictures of soldiers around the different black colleges. They said, "for protection reasons." They didn't want anybody to get excited, you know, or to think they had to do anything bad.
And my daughter called me, she said, "We can't even go out. They have us alright in here." So I called, I called for the president. I didn't know you didn't do things like that. I said, "I want to speak to the president." "Who's calling?" And I said, "Mrs. Craig. I have a daughter in that school." "I know, but he's busy." I said, "I need to speak to him." And they put him on. And I said, "I want my daughter to come home. I don't want her down there if you're going to have any kind of riots down there." He said, "Her protection is in the school. We don't even want the children to leave the school. We're keeping them here." I thought that was awful. But see, those sit-ins had gone on before she got there, and her school was the school that would sit-in at the counters and be taken off the seats, and I didn't even know it.
And another thing I didn't know, that when we went south, I didn't know that you couldn't go in all the different hotels and, you know, I thought you, we just called in and went. And they had some that didn't have blacks in there. And we were the first ones in some of the hotels there, that they hadn't had blacks before. We didn't know it, see, so we just went on down and we had called in for reservations, and they didn't know us. Got there and they said, "Oh, well, alright," and they, they took us in. And my husband said, "Oh, they look like they don't want us." I said, "Well, we have no other place to stay, we've got to." So that was down there also, they couldn't say well we didn't realize it, see, so we were just going right into places and doing things, but otherwise, we would never have had a place to stay. Isn't that awful, we didn't even realize it.
Wow, we went through a lot of things and not knowing it. But things were terrible then. They're not like that now. And I'm so glad. The world is changing, people can't change with it and be nice to everybody. We just can't live, we've got to learn to live together. Because not one of us is going to go away, we just have to live together. You don't have much difference in races down here, do you?
AJ: Not really, but I'd say a little bit more, I used to go to Chariho, that's out in like Richmond and Hope Valley down there, and there was none, I can't remember one black student that was at the school. I mean, there's a lot more here then there were there. I still can't say there's a lot.
NC: Yeah. So, do you do things together, with blacks and whites?
AJ: Yeah, like we have, actually, coming up, we have Rhode Island Day, which is what we do for our school, May 8, I think it's that's when it is and I remember that last year in that, we had like a big talk on like racial issues, and we have like, we have like a club at our school that deals with all of those like, problems and all that.
NC: Yes, and you see, bring it out in the open. That's why you can talk about it. If you can talk about something, you can do something. But if you hold it in and be mad with this one and don't bother, you can't talk. You don't do that here. That's good. I'm glad.
AJ: Yeah, we also, like, Native American things, yeah, that would be, we have like a presentation every year, they do like dances and all that, for the whole school. Yeah, it's great.
NC: That's good, that's wonderful. I'm glad. Am I almost at the end?
AJ: Nope, not quite, we have a little more ways to go.
NC: Oops, ooh, oh, well, let's go on then.
AJ: What were your feelings about their participation or involvements in any of those things?
NC: Well, you know, I felt so bad because they had little children, they were opening in Arkansas, they didn't want the blacks in the school, and I couldn't understand it. Changes can, four or five little black children, but when the school changed that whole school, teachers never talking to the little children, getting away from them. I felt so bad for these little black children. I thought to myself I wouldn't subject my little child to that. I'd say you can have your white school. You're not going to mar my little girl, but it had to be somebody to do it.
What wonderful black people they were. When you read their lives. I said, just think, my little daughter here, five years old, I'm going to put her in a bus and let her go to that school to open it up so people can go to school. Oh, Ashley, that must have been awful for those little children. To be in the school with nobody talking to them, nobody bothering with them. And they were only little children. But somebody had to do it. And people throwing things at them, and the policemen taking them into the school, but those little kids did that. I read the story about them later on, when they got grown, they said, they were speechless, they were so frightened they couldn't even talk. They didn't know what people were doing.
This country here, isn't this awful? I'm so glad that people can go places they want to now. And when there is discrimination, it's not as overt as it was then. But somebody had to make a start. God bless those young people. God bless the mothers that got those little girls ready to go to school. I knew a family that had opened the schools in Georgia, and I said, to the young girl, she's grown now, I said, to her, "How did you feel?" She said, "I was so frightened," she said, "I got so scared going into the room," she said, "but nobody bothered with me. They didn't even talk to me the first day. They were scared of me. They didn't know what I was going to do. I was scared of them `cause there was so many of them." But she said, "After two or three days," she said, "everybody was nice." So it's only the grownups, right? Children don't do that.
AJ: Kids can't even tell the difference.
NC: They don't know the difference! Isn't that something, Ashley? Isn't that something?
AJ: When did you first become aware of Vietnam?
NC: Well, some of the students around my son's age had to go. When my son was getting out of high school, he was getting draft notices all the time. And if he didn't go to college, he'd have to go in the War. Young men, eighteen years old, if they were not in college, were drafted. So that war was not a fair war. Because if you had money to go to college, his friends didn't have the money to go to college, so they all had to go to war. All his friends went in, just he and a few others went to college. The War was not fair.
AJ: Did you approve or disapprove of the US involvement in the Vietnam conflict?
NC: I never approved of that. I really didn't approve of it. I didn't think we should do that. I didn't think that war had anything to do with us, and I thought we were over there, and we weren't, I didn't think we needed to be there. But I never said, anything, because I was so frightened because I thought all these kids around this neighborhood were gonna go, so many were killed too. And that wasn't the War that we really needed. I've never felt that way, Martin Luther King said, that from the very beginning. But, we were over there.
AJ: What did you think about the draft?
NC: Like I told you about the draft, I thought it was an unfair draft, it was only taking those who weren't in college at that time. That war, it wasn't right. Because a lot of young, a lot of mothers around my age at that time felt so bad about their sons, but they couldn't go to college, and they went to war. You had to go. They were drafted.
AJ: Do you know anyone whose life was interrupted by the draft or left the country to avoid the draft?
NC: No, I don't know anybody that left the country for that, no. Because you really had to have money to go out of the country. See, that was a decision that you made, see, but they were right to make a decision, but I think I would have stayed here and been a conscientious objector and gone and not fought. You see, I would have done that. That would have showed more rather then leave the country. I don't think I would have done that.
AJ: So did you know anyone who's life was interrupted by it?
NC: No, I didn't know anybody. I didn't even know a conscientious, yes I did, Mohammed Ali, the fighter. Yes, he did, he wouldn't go, and he said, "No." It wasn't his war and he didn't, and they stripped him of his title. Yes, Mohammed Ali, Cassius Clay his name was. Yup, he didn't go. He was a conscientious objector.
AJ: Great. What about your son, was he in danger of being drafted?
NC: Yes, this I just told you. If he hadn't been going to, if he hadn't been accepted in college, he would have had to go to war `cause he got draft orders every week, he had go to the draft board, and say that, you know, he said, "I'm waiting to go to college, I'm waiting right to hear." They said, "Well, we'll give you two more weeks," and in two more weeks, he didn't hear. We had sent out his, you know, we had sent out his applications. And finally, one day, it came in, Virginia U., and they had accepted him. He went to the draft board and showed them. He says, "I don't have to, I'm going to school." And that was it. But if he hadn't gotten that, he would have gone to war.
AJ: How did your family deal with the draft issue?
NC: Well, my husband and my brother-in-law were both in the service, and my brother, everybody we knew went into World War II, and we never, and then at that time, World War II was terrible on black people. I said it before, and I'll say it now, it was completely segregated army which was wrong. Finally they opened it up, but it was too late for my husband, and then my husband didn't get his job back when he came back, wrote him all the time that he'd have his job back when he got out of the service, he came back, and they had given it to somebody else. So it was not a good war for black people. It was not. White people could move up, but we never moved up. We were set back. It wasn't good.
AJ: D id you know anyone who served in Vietnam?
NC: Yes, I know some of those young people that were in his class with my, in school with my son, up there. We have one that's home and he's, he works out of an office for the, not purple heart, but people who were wounded in Vietnam. There were a lot of people who were wounded. I have a nephew that's back from Vietnam, and he never talks about it. He has never told me one thing about it. They don't talk about it. There's something about it that they don't want to talk about it for. I never knew what, but I know he went to Vietnam.
AJ: Do you know anyone who was killed in the War in Vietnam?
NC: I don't really know of them, but I've heard of them, but I never knew them personally.
AJ: What was your opinion of the War and the African-Americans?
NC: You mean, how did it affect us as African-Americans? I thought it was an uncalled for war. And I thought that it was mostly a racial war. I really did. But there was nothing that you could do about it, because it was already going on. And I always felt that was a big mistake on our part. And I thought about all the, we've got more black people killed in that Vietnam war than any other. You look up the people that were in that war, take time to look and see, they were always the poor, they were the poor people, because if you could pay your way out, you didn't go off, you went to school and you didn't have to go. That was an unjust, unfair war.
AJ: Has your opinion of the War changed over time?
NC: Well, I feel this way. I have never believed in war. I really don't. I think you can do more by talking about things, I like negotiation. We're too, war kills everybody. We killed people, what did we kill women and children for? That's the part, I said, we kill innocent people. I don't believe in war. I believe that if you can't talk about it, and there's nothing worth killing somebody over. I don't believe in it, no.
AJ: Do you feel Vietnam vets were treated with respect and courtesy?
NC: No they weren't when they came home, they weren't treated with any respect at all. And everybody, nobody even bothered about them. They were busy living their own lives, and really forgot about the War. They forgot about them being over there. And it's just here lately that they are beginning to get a little bit of recognition. It wasn't fair. At least in World War II they were recognized when they came back, and they had parades and they had things for them.
And even now, I belong to the Veterans of Armed War, the auxiliary, they don't even have any women in it whose husbands were in the Vietnam war, and my husband was a Commander of the Veterans of Armed War, World War II, but there's not one Vietnam veteran who even joined it. None. Because they felt as if that war wasn't necessary, and they went because nobody cared about them. It was not fair.
AJ: So people weren't generally appreciative of what they had sacrificed?
NC: No, no they weren't. I didn't think they were at all.
AJ: Could you compare the homecoming of black soldiers from World War II to the homecoming of black Vietnam vets?
NC: Well, I'll tell you, I didn't know too many here, and they didn't make anything, I have never seen a parade of the Vietnam vets. World War II, when they came back, they had parades and everything, but it's just here lately. But then, now, the people from World War II now are quite old, and they wouldn't be marching anyway, but the thing about it is that the, we've never ever treated the Vietnam vets in the way we should. It's just been lately that people began to realize the War wasn't right. It wasn't right, but they have never got the appreciation that's due them, and I've never seen any parade or any kind of a, any kind of a celebration or recognition of Vietnam vets. I haven't seen it.
AJ: Did you or any members of your family attend any antiwar protests or peace marches?
AJ: None? Why not, do you think?
NC: The reason I didn't do that was because I felt so bad for those that went in, why am I protesting? They're already in it. I felt that I would make them think that I didn't care about them, because they had no way of protesting. They had to go, and that young fellow that went with my son, was already in the service. How could I protest it, when he was already in there and his mother was heartbroken. I couldn't protest it. One woman protesting, make her feel like her son is over there in vain? No, that, that wouldn't be the way to do it. I don't know how I could have protested. I told her over and over, I'm sorry. I was. And she was sorry, too. He came back wounded, but the thing about it was, my protesting it wouldn't have done her any good. She would have thought he had been gone in vain. No, I couldn't do that. I never protested.
AJ: Have you visited the Vietnam War Memorial in Washington DC?
NC: No, I haven't, yes I have, I've seen it. Yes, I have. It was so moving, because it was just names. And I saw people all around it, just rubbing their hands over it. And I thought that was the most moving thing I had ever seen.
AJ: Did you go there with your family or?
NC: I did when, in the very beginning, but now that they don't live near me, and I've always thought that that was the most moving monument I'd ever seen in my whole life. I thought it was, then we didn't have too much for women either in the service. Now we have a monument to women, which is right. And isn't that nice?
AJ: Lyndon Johnson's announcement on TV that he would not run for the Presidency a second time. How did you feel about that, what was your response or feelings?
NC: Well, at that time, I really thought that he had done all he could do. I thought we needed somebody else. I really thought so. I thought that he had done about all the things that he could have done, and then he was beginning to get to the place that I didn't think any of his things that he was doing, you know, any of the things that he was doing, was really doing anything for the country. I think he sort of lost it. I felt that he had lost it. I really did. I thought his time was moving on out. He did the Civil Rights because he was pushed into it, but after that, that was it. I, I really thought he should go ahead.
AJ: How did you feel, or how did you describe, could you describe the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy?
NC: I thought that was so unnecessary. He was a young man with a dream. He wanted, he was like a Martin Luther King. The years weren't ready for him. He had a feeling of trying to make this country great, and having everybody included in this country. And he was shot down. I couldn't believe that. It seemed as if that was just destiny. All the people who wanted to do right had to leave, and be gotten rid of. I thought it was awful.
AJ: How about the Columbia University sit-ins and other student agitations against the War and draft?
NC: The Haitians?
AJ: The agit-, agitations against the War and the draft?
NC: Well, I thought they were right in doing that. I really did. I think people have a right to express their feelings, and I thought it was awful the way they were treated. I really do. And I think that we don't give young people enough consideration. They have thoughts and they have feelings, and if you are not allowed to express them, I don't think its fair. And I think if you have to go to war, then you have to express your feelings.
AJ: What would your feelings or response be to Governor George Wallace's campaign?
NC: George Wallace was just, I just considered him ignorant. He was just an ignorant man. And he wanted a way of life that he could be in and he could see it gradually changing. He knew he would have no place and the new world was coming on. You can't hold onto old ideas and old things that you used to do. They have to go. And I just thought he was out of step with what's going on, so.
AJ: H ow about the Democratic convention in Chicago. What was your impression and response or feelings about that?
NC: That's the one they had in Chicago at that time? Oh yeah, they had the people outside fighting, it was terrible outside there, and they ignored the whole thing, trying to go ahead, right along, you can't do that. You've got to come to grips with an issue. You can't just bury your head in the sand and think it's going to go away. The same thing that they're trying to do with discrimination and prejudice, you cannot bury your head in the sand, you've got to meet it head on, and say what are we going to do about it `cause we're going to have to live here. You can't do it. So that's what they were trying to do, go on with something and ignore. You can't ignore it. They should have stopped and said, listen, what's outside here, we've got to get it right, but they didn't do it. I thought that was a big farce, trying to go on like the government's going on just the same. You can't do that, you can't do it.
AJ: What did you think about Hubert Humphrey's candidacy?
NC: I thought he would have made a wonderful President, but the world wasn't ready for him. He was a person that loved everybody. And that thought everybody needed a chance. But people don't want truth, they wanted him to just push on and say "Don't tell everybody you're about to do a good thing, because everybody doesn't want everybody to have a good chance." He was very naive. He thought if he told everybody he wanted everybody to have a chance, and be lovely, that he would make it.
I always liked him. In fact, when I was a young woman I wrote him, and he wrote me the nicest letter back. I never thought anything about it, but I mean to say, to think that he would take time to write! He was such a great man. He was for everybody. And he had to go. See, we don't like people who are nice. We get through with them.
AJ: How about the women's liberation movements?
NC: The women's liberation movement? Well, I thought it did well, but I think they've gone a little bit too far. I mean, alright, say what you want, but there's a, there's a difference between a man and a woman. Let's wake up to that fact. I don't mind, I don't mind women having rights and I don't mind women getting, like, if you and I have the same job, you and I have the same amount of money. If a man comes in, it's going to pay him more money than he's, than they're paying you and me for it, because he's a man, that's wrong. You do the job, you get the money. I believe in that, equal pay, equal pay for equal work. I believe in that, but I don't want it to go any further than that, that you have to do more things and have to be too masculine. I don't want that.
And I want people to open the door for me, I want all the little niceties of life, sure I don't want men just to say, "Get in," you know, I don't want that. I think it takes away from a woman to have that. Don't ever get to the place where people can't do things for you. It's nice. Very nice.
AJ: You're right. How about the expulsion of Olympic athletes for their Black Power salute during the playing of the national anthem at the medal ceremony?
NC: Well, they had to do something because they were treated so badly. And if all this country wants is for them to go out and represent them in athletics, then they have a right to be who they are. I believe that, I believe they were right, I was shocked, but that was up to them, that's what they wanted. That was, and they won the medals, then let them do something.
AJ: Overall, how would you say the Sixties affected you and the United States in general?
NC: Well, I'll say one thing, I just knew that times would have to be better, cause they weren't the best of times. But I know they couldn't always stay like that. But I was always going to be the best regardless of the times. Always remember that, nobody can change you but yourself. I don't care how bad the times were, how mean people are. I could say, "Good morning" and walk along, and be lovely. Regardless of the times. Times shouldn't change you, you should be who you are in spite of the times.
AJ: What were the most important changes of the 1960's to you?
NC: Well, I felt that my children were going to school, and I wondered what kinds of jobs they would have when they got out, and whether they were going to go on further to school, and I wondered what kind of positions they would have, but whatever they did, I knew it would be right. Because I believe that if you mean right, regardless of how long it takes, it's going to come out that you were right. God has a way of seeing to things like that. cause he's always going to be here, whether we're here or not, God's here. And I know that. And I believe that.
AJ: Which do you think were the most positive and which do you think were the most negative changes?
NC: Well, the positive changes were opening up, that they had programs for young people to go to college, and even though in my day people went to college, they never got a position afterwards, but positions were opening up. And then I could see that black people were running for mayors in different states and were getting in. Shocking, in the South ! I was shocked to see how many black mayors we had in the South.
So I said, things are moving, even though people don't realize it, things are changing. They really are. So I'm glad that things are changing. I'm glad that people know that all people are people, Ashley, all people are people. It's that we don't know them that we think they are different. They aren't different. If you had to be thrown in with a whole lot of people of a different nationality, you would soon learn how to get along with them. And you'd find out things weren't as bad as they thought they were. It's ignorance that makes the difference, that's what it is. It's when you don't know and you make up things. But if you know, you don't have to make up anything, you accept it, that's what it is.
AJ: How would you compare the presidencies of Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon?
NC: Well, I think Kennedy wanted to so something, but he was cut short. Nixon did the things because the country was ready for that. The country was so sorry about him, sorry about the plights of the black. They were hurt to think that this country would do such mean things. Look in that book and see what they did to the young black students. They were hurt to think that that went all over the world. What they were doing to students who were only going to school, and I think the country was ready to try to do good. And as long as they were ready to do good, and they could do it, it was a good feeling and that we can do it, we can do it. It didn't last that long, but at least we did have it during those times, that's it.
AJ: Has the change in women's rights and positions in society been a positive or a negative thing?
NC: Well, I think it's good, because some women have really gotten good positions out of this. But having a good position doesn't mean everything.
NC: `Cause they, a lot of women had good positions outside, but those women that were married had to go home and still do most of the work, cause the men were not doing it. I don't know what it is about a man. He still thinks that he's supposed to come home and then sit down, and then she comes home, she can't sit down. So in a lot of ways, women had two jobs, work and home. And they're still doing it.
They ought to be home, some of them. And take less, but you see what happens is when you're home, you don't have as much to do with, but who said, you had to have all those things, Ashley. See, we've got an appetite for everything, we need everything. You need two cars, you need one of your own, and he needs one for himself, so if we had wanted more things, but we've lost a lot in teaching our children. We haven't had the quality time with the young children, and we never talked to them `cause we weren't home. Somebody else was raising our children. And it isn't the best thing.
I raised mine, you see, and your mother raised you. And you find out later that those years were the good years. And you never get those back again. I always say to young people when they say to me, "Oh, I would like to be able to work." And I say, "Listen, you're never going to get these years again. You think they are going to go on forever. No, that little boy is growing up. Give him the love now, and the attention now"
AJ: My parents always say things like that too.
NC: Yes, yes, that's what you need then `cause you can't do it afterwards. You'll never see them walk if you're not home to see them learn to walk. Doing those little things. That's the love of a mother for her child. And you don't all these things, you don't need fourteen suits if you're home. All you need is one good one. See what I mean, it evens itself out.
And then in a few more years when you're out in business, you can have all those things. Your son's going to school. See? I think some of the things we've missed out on, but a lot of the things we've gained, a lot of women who are very clever, got positions that they never would have gotten, because they've got the knowledge, I think it's good. I think women's lib has done a lot for women. Even though some people don't like it, some, because some women felt that they had to be very masculine to get it, but it really didn't have to be. We could have been feminine. But I don't know whether it would have worked or not, but I really feel that they could have been more feminine instead of trying to think that you had to do everything the men did, no, you didn't have to. There is a difference between men and women. Always remember that. God intended it to be that way. Otherwise he would have made all men. You know?
AJ: Did you feel that changes in women's rights and positions in society has gone too far or not far enough?
NC: No, I don't think it has gone too far. Just give us, all that people want, women want, is the same opportunity that a man has. They didn't want any more. If you're not qualified, then get back. If you are qualified, go ahead. See? That's it. If you're qualified, go, let's give the woman a job. Just because a man is looking for the job and you're looking for the job, just because he's a man doesn't make him better than you. If you can do the work as well as he, give you the job. That's it. Don't look for anything more.
AJ: What do you think African-Americans have accomplished since the start of the Civil Rights Movement?
NC: Well, we've accomplished a lot. We've got a Colin Powell, haven't we? We have, we have men who can stand up, we've got men in Congress, and we've got Senators there, we've done very well. If given an opportunity, we could have done more, but if you don't get the opportunity, you can't do it.
Just think, just think, if blacks had had all the opportunities that white people have had. Look at the little opportunity we've had. We've got athletes far superseding the whites. If they can do that, an athlete, can't they do it mentality, with the mentality. Give us an opportunity. You see, it doesn't take anything away from you if another person can do something. You're still who you are. People have the crazy feeling that "Oh, she's going to get ahead." Well, so what! Let her get ahead. You're coming along. Your turn will come and you can do that. We're always so afraid somebody is going to beat us doing something. Isn't that stupid?
If we had had more opportunities, I have sisters and I have cousins who wanted to be school teachers and graduated from the school. They never got a job here. Had to leave in order to get a job. They could have stayed here and made this country nice. My children could have stayed here. They're not even here. They're in the South where they have good jobs. They're living well. They can't do it here. There's no jobs opening up. Very few jobs here. They have good positions. My daughter has been at IBM since it started, and my son has his own business, they're doing very well. A lot of things that we don't have here. And so they just,
AJ: Great, wonderful.
NC: But still, I don't see them. That's another thing. But, that's okay. Yes, that's alright. They're doing what they like to do.
It would be so nice that if your ability put you into a position, not your skin. So many people have gotten in because of what they looked like. Even in the white race, there are some girls that are pretty and a nice little form, can get in quicker than somebody else who doesn't look like anything. And that's not fair either. But, who said, it was going to be fair. So you do the best that you can.
AJ: Is racism still a problem in American society today?
NC: Is it!?! My dear, the racism is so rampant here in the United States. That's a big fault of the United States. Racism. And it's so stupid, because we've all been here. And some people say to me, "Oh, the blacks are so pushy." Well, wait a minute, I was here before you ever got here. You were the one who came here. You was the one who came, and now you're telling me this is your country? This is MY country, you see, and so, but I'm not looking to fight. I'm just glad I'm here.
You see, what difference does it make what color you are? But we've got to learn to live together, because it is more rampant here in the United States then in other countries. I've been abroad, I've been in Egypt with the people living there, they're all around my color. I was so shocked. I didn't know they were as dark as I was, the Egyptians. And while I was there, people looked just lovely. And a man said, to me, "Are you Egyptian?" And I said, "What?" And he said, "Are you Egyptian?" And I said, "No, I'm American." And I said, "I'm with those people over there," I came with a lot of white people. And he said, "Oh, you're with them?" And I said, "Yeah." "Well, you're not like them." And I said, "No, I, I'm black." He said, "No, you're me!" I thought that was very nice. He was trying to tell me that he and I were the same color. They are all about this color here. And it was nice. You know what I mean? And they were lovely people, everywhere I've been.
But the United Sta-, people from the United States always think that they have to be first. And they don't have to be. You go to another country, you must understand the way they're doing things. That's the way they do it. They don't have to go there and tell everybody "Do it this way." Don't do that. We make ourselves persona non grata going to countries and telling people what they're supposed to do.
AJ: Okay. This concludes our interview.
NC: Oh, it's all over? Oh, isn't that nice.