Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Negro youth interview subject 01
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TitleNegro youth interview subject 01
DescriptionTranscript of an interview done by J. Howell Atwood. Atwood interviewed 22 Negro youths in Galesburg, Illinois in the late 1930s for the American Youth Commission as part of a larger research project investigating conditions and needs of Negro youth in the United States. Atwood's research informed the paper "Negro Youth in Galesburg, Illinois" published in 1941 in "Thus Be Their Destiny: The Personality Development of Negro Youth in Three Communities." Inteview questions are presented with the transcribed answers in the transcript. Interview subjects are not named.
CreatorAtwood, Jesse Howell; American Youth Commission
Time Period1930s
IdentifierJ. Howell Atwood Manuscript Collection (box 9)
CollectionStruggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
Transcript1. [Name]

2. [Sex]

3. [Age]

4. [School years accomplished]
3rd yr. college

5. [Birthplace]
Fed. Tennessee

6. [State or states lived in]
Tenn. [Tennessee] New Mex [New Mexico] Ill. [Illinois] Ala. [Alabama]

7. [Father's occupation]

8. [1st vocational choice]
YMCA work

9. [2nd choice]

10. [3rd choice]
Hospital work - nurse

11. [How do or did you like school?]

12. [How treated by teachers?]

13. [How treated by coaches?]

14. [How treated by white students?]

15. [Did you have a chance to take part in the school's activities?]

16. [What activities?]
Debate, Track, Basketball

17. [Were you encouraged?]

18. [Did you feel that they were interested in you?]

19a. [What teacher seemed of most help to you?]

19b. [How did he or she help you?]
Helpful - took special time all along

20. [If you quit before graduating from high school, please explain why?]
Didn't quit.

21. [Employed?]

22. [Kind of work?]
Gardening & housework

23. [How long have you worked there?]
Second summer

24. [Has it a good future for you?]
Temporary summer work

25. [Your plans for future -- say next year?]
Plan to work in hospital part time - certificate
as a practical nurse. Attending college

page 2

26. [2nd year]
In hospital

27. [3rd year]
In hospital

28. [4th year]
Either YMCA Training School or Embalming

29a. [Favorite pastime -- winter]

29b. [Favorite pastime -- summer]

30. [Where enjoyed?]
Lake Storey beach

31a. [Do you date?]
Very seldom - girlfriend not here.

31b. [Where go?]
To show - to park - to church

32a. [Do you drink?]

32b. [Where?]

33a. [Do you dance?]

33b. [Where?]

34a. [Church -- membership]

34b. [Church -- attend]

35. [Club membership?]

36. [What club or clubs?]
BeeHive - Olive Branch - church group

37. [Do you hear your friends talking about their future plans?]

38. [What do they say?]
Majority talk about getting married

39. [Are they worried?]
Yes - financially

40. [What is your attitude toward the church?]
The church is practically my only
resource for enjoyment & contact. I
don't do a lot of running around.

41. [How does it help young people like you?]
It puts them ahead. Working in
church they don't have time for any
other things -- fooling around - getting
into trouble
After you gain confidence of church

page 3

workers -- they will help you get along --
in your line of work. True of doctors, lawyers.

42. [What more could it do?]

43. [What more should it do?]
Should do more for the improvement of
the race - draw our people closer together.

44. [What is your attitude toward the city officials here in Galesburg? (aldermen, police, mayor)
Don't know them except aderman of
5th ward. It isn't what it should be - but
he'd make promises to our people & then
he'd forget them. Same thing over &

45. [How do you feel toward the Main Street merchants?]
As a whole very good

46. [How do you feel toward the various movie theaters in town?]
Since I've been in the South where we only pay
a cut rate -- here we are segregated & pay the same
price. For that reason I've been only once this summer.

47. [Did you go to the NYA recreation center on West Berrien Street?]
Last time I was there was last summer.
I went fairly often.

48. [Is there any substitute for that center -- now that there is no NYA center?]
No there isn't.

49. [Where do the CCC boys spend their free time when they're in town?]
At beach: taverns - one near Cooks school - one over near Harding &

50. [Do you like the colored beach at Lake Storey?]
In a way I like it. In a way I don't.
3 or 4 different classes of people there.

page 4

It's all right for swimming. There are church
folks, a group of drunks, children. It's a
very poor arrangement for the children.

51a. [Do you know young colored people who don't go out there?]
No; all the young go. Some of the
older don't, for the reasons above

51b. [Why don't they?]

52. [How does life for young Negroes in Galesburg compare with life in other places you know about or hear of?]
Young people have very little thought for
church & education. At the college where
I've been going the young people carry
everything -- YMCA, BYPU. They
work -- are making preparation for useful-
ness. Here those my age are getting

53. [Name a place you think is better. Why is it?]
In the tri-cities -- Moline R.I. [Rock Island], Cham-
paign [champaign].

54. [Name a place you think is worse. Why is it?]

55. [What do you think of the WPA set up?]
I think it's all right to a certain
extent. As a rule it seems to be making
people lazy.

56. [What contact have you had with the emergency relief case workers?]
No contact

57. [If you could have two wishes come true what would those wishes be?]
a. To be able to finish my
college & get position as YMCA Secy [secretary].
b. To see my three younger brothers
thru college & started in their occupations

page 5

58a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in the U.S.?]
Dr. Geo. [George] Washington Carver

58b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in the U.S.?]
Mammie Burrow Bethune

59a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in Galesburg?]
Dr. W.T. Green

59b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in Galesburg?]
Dayse Walker Booker

60. [What is the greatest obstacle in the way of Negro youth here in Galesburg?]
I know 3 who graduated in my class who could
have gone on to college & made good, but they were afraid
to tackle the task.

61. [Do you live at home?]

62. [Are both parents living?]

63. [Do you have any conflicts or arguments with them?]

64. [What are the biggest points of misunderstanding?]

65. [Have you a room to yourself?]

66. [Do they expect you to contribute to the family purse from your earnings?]
No, but I do.

67. [How do you feel about this?]
I think it's a good thing for a boy or girl
to do this -- to help.

68. [Is there some other problem which troubles you or your colored friends of about your age which hasn't been asked about in this interview?]
Negro youth should make greater - more
attends to dev. [develop] his education. They say they can't
get money for education -- & so they stay where they
are. But they must do something to help them-
selves -- if they make the attempt they probably
they can make headway. They don't reach out
enough for something greater. The Negro

page 6

folk have been in depression all their lives.
There are more children being born in these
poor dependent families. There have been
several CCC boys who came here & married
& have children & don't have work -- or very
few have.

Remarks: #1 has had two very interesting years at
a Negro church college in Ala. [Alabama]. He had a year at an
Ill. co-ed. small college in which he & 2 N. [Negro] girls were
the only colored students. Did only passable work.
In South he has found himself has become a lead-
er among his fellow students, was Pres. of YM [?] this
year -- put over successful financial campaign
& secured excellent coop -- fr. [from] white Y secy [secretary] in the
city (place of 18, 000 population). He finds that stories about
how awfully the N [Negro] is treated down South are highly
exaggerated. He has been discreet, both in his relations
wit colored & with white. So. [South] Ns [Negroes] don't like most
no. [north] N. [Negro] who go down & talk noisily & brag. He was
informed of that by the dean of the college before he

page 7

arrived. : he held back; talked little; let
others step forward for about six wks. Then
gradually in a quiet way he began to take
more part in affairs. He found tha students
liked him. They would want him to go wit them
place they weren't supposed to go, but his consc-
ience & independence kept him back. They went
& got caught. That happened several times. He's
convinced that his consc [conscience] -- is a pretty good
adviser. "You can say just two words wrong to
white folks down S. [South] & you're in trouble." Apparently
he discovered you don't have to say them. The
Y Secy [secretary] (white) was delighted when #1 asked for
cooperation. Said he'd been waiting for the opening.
Thus #1 put over a good program. He is speaking
next Sunday AM. at Allen Chapel on Negro
youth & their Outlook. In the evening he gives
his oration which got 2nd place in Ala. [Alabama] N. [Negro] college
competition. Is thrilled over his new-found power
to speak in public.
When I was a boy here there were 3 of us --
one the son of an MD, one of a teacher and 1 of a
preacher ("me"). I had the least money of the 3.

page 8

They used to tell what they were going to do & it
used to hurt me 'cause I have a lot of brothers
& didn't see how I could get to go on to college.
Well, the MD's son got everything he wanted. His
mother went out on a nursing job in a neighboring
city -- gone 3 yrs & that kid got to cutting school.
-- got worse, finally dropped out. Folks even got
him a car to try to coax him back to school. The
other kid's mother died (the teacher) & he stole
a car -- guess he's in Joliet now. I'm the only
1 [one] who went on to college, but they said they would.
There's another N [Negro] boy who graduated my yr.
He was brilliant -- very quiet -- different from the
rest of his family -- he should have gone on to
college; really able boy. Works at one of the
jewelers as a porter now. Our G. [Galesburg] N. [Negro] youth
lack the courage to go ahead. If they'd start
they probably could finish. But they're afraid
to start. [Transcriber's note: Last two sentences are underlined for emphasis.]
Physical Description8.5 x 11 in. handwritten sheets
FilenameNegro youth interviews/subject 1
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