Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Negro youth interview subject 12
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TitleNegro youth interview subject 12
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)
Transcriptp. 1
1. [Name]
# 12

2. [Sex]

3. [Age]

4. [School years accomplished]
[1]9 yrs.

5. [Birthplace]
Ill. [Illinois]

6. [State or states lived in]
Ill. [Illinois]

7. [Father's occupation]

8. [1st vocational choice]

9. [2nd choice]

10. [3rd choice]

11. [How do or did you like school?]
All right -- grade school better -- teachers
were more interested me in elementary.

12. [How treated by teachers?]
Fine -- got along fine.

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?]
In grades school & J.H. [junior high] but not in my senior h.s. [high school] In
J.H. [junior high] I was in basketball & track.

16. [What activities?]
Belonged in J.H. [junior high] to Etiquette Club -- on year.
None in Senior high, except I sang in a
quartet. Very little time in Sr. H.S. [high school]

17. [Were you encouraged?]
Yes, I guess.

18. [Did you feel that they were interested in you?]
They were in a way. I was an athlete -- that
helped me some. Sorry I had to quit.

19. [What teacher seemed of most help to you?]
One swell man teacher -- Latin. He
was awfully interested in me -- showed us a
system of studying -- writing was stressed
instead of reading -- help us learn to con-
centrate. There were other nice ones too.
Interested in every student.


20. [If you quit before graduating from high school, please explain why?]
Quit because dad died -- left mother --
sister & me. Wanted to go on but my sister
graduated anyway. I took over my dad's

21. [Employed?]

22. [Kind of work?]
store porter

23. [How long have you worked there?]
3 1/2 yrs.

24. [Has it a good future for you?]
It has -- I've learned a lot about
clothing since I've been there. If I
could get in a colored store believe
I could clerk. There's no expanding
future. It pays the same salary year
after year.

25. [Your plans for future -- say next year?]
Same job

26. [2nd year]
I think about the future some.

27. [3rd year]

28. [4th year]
Nothing else in view.
Can't see
nothing any better."

(In time I hope to be a regular
member of a band -- There are
four of us -- last summer we had
regular work for 2 months. Now
its 3 or 4 a month. Every Sat.
after 9P.M. -- Custer, Galesburg Club. Elks night
clubs. Can't get into permanent music job
in 4 years though

29a. [Favorite pastime -- winter]
reading, basketball

29b. [Favorite pastime -- summer]
swim, play ball

30. [Where enjoyed?]
a. rented the h.s. [high school] gym every Tues. for basket
ball. Reading magazines at home.

b. beach, colored beach -- 1 soft ball

p. 3

31a. [Do you date?]
Yes -- dances & parties

31b. [Where go?]
at pvt. homes
in summer -- steak
fries at the Beach

32a. [Do you drink?]
Not much whiskey --
a little beer occasionally

32b. [Where?]
We may buy beer &
drink in a private home or at
a dance

33a. [Do you dance?]
Yes -- a little

33b. [Where?]
Armory at a
other towns.

34a. [Church -- membership]
belong AME.

34b. [Church -- attend]
attend occasionally
-- not steady.

35. [Club membership?]

36. [What club or clubs?]
to a young men's club started last winter
-- about 10 members -- a social group
Salsus Circulus

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

38. [What do they say?]
What they'd like to do. What they want
to do -- how to get a better job. A lot
talk about studying for a gov't job.

39. [Are they worried?]
They figure it's getting hard to find

40. [What is your attitude toward the church?]
I was raised up with church around
me. Every one should belong anyhow. They
should attend.


41. [How does it help young people like you?]
There's a lot in the Bible you can
get by hearing the pastor's sermons. It
helps young people a lot. It gives you something
more to think about than just the world
you live in today. Concerns the life
after death.

This has got me stuck. The churches are
drawing closer together -- thru their
churches. The Baptists & Methodists are
closer to one another -- more coopera-
tive than they used to be. The white
churches are nearer to colored too & in
the same way.

42. [What more could it do?]
We could have better attendance & it would
be better for us. They could give picnics
& maybe interest the young people -- plays
& lively speakers.

43. [What more should it do?]

44. [What is your attitude toward the city officials here in Galesburg? (aldermen, police, mayor)
Our alderman is pretty nice. We have
some nice police & some not so nice.
Don't know the acting mayor. Guess the
mayor is pretty good.

p. 5

45. [How do you feel toward the Main Street merchants?]
They're pretty nice. Some few bad ones --
some just don't care for colored people. They
won't give us any work. Their actions are
unfriendly too.

46. [How do you feel toward the various movie theaters in town?]
I have no bad feeling in a way. They have
segregation. In some cases it's bad. I
don't feel bad about it. Two theatres are worse than
the other two. One don't care for colored
trade. If you do go you have to sit right
up on the picture. Another -- the Orpheum
is very courteous -- ushers & mgr. -- but they
make us sit in the balcony all the time. You
can see all right, but you must go up there.
I can see better there I think. I haven't
much [illegible] them though. The West is
about the best -- the ushers & mgr. are O.K.
You sit on the right side only -- but anywhere
on that side. The Gala just don't want
our trade. I wouldn't go there. We don't
mind the segregation so much as the dis-
courtesy. We'd rather be by ourselves than
to be seated by a white person & then have
them get up & leave because they don't want
to be near us.

47. [Did you go to the NYA recreation center on West Berrien Street?]
Yes -- ping pong, cards, boxed etc.

48. [Is there any substitute for that center -- now that there is no NYA center?]
They still have the "center " -- sell ice cream &
play cards -- closed in summer.


49. [Where do the CCC boys spend their free time when they're in town?]
In winter at the "center" -- pool hall, go to
the colored joints -- Mrs. Polk's on south
Prairie -- they get liquor there -- in the base-
ment. They are bared fr. Galesburg now --
the truck only come to Lake Storey. There
are good & bad among the CCC boys.

50. [Do you like the colored beach at Lake Storey?]
Yes -- wonderful

51. [Do you know young colored people who don't go out there?]
No. --

52. [How does life for young Negroes in Galesburg compare with life in other places you know about or hear of?]
It's about the same here. in bigger cities
it's better -- more people & more chances to
do things. But smaller cities are much
alike -- a few are a little better. I have
nothing [illegible] G-- [Galesburg] though.

53. [Name a place you think is better. Why is it?]
If they're looking to the future a larger
city is really better -- better jobs.

54. [Name a place you think is worse. Why is it?]
Lots of places are worse.

55. [What do you think of the WPA set up?]
That's a hard question. It's give a lot of our
colored race work. It's all right, I guess. Every
one ever on I've known has needed it.

56. [What contact have you had with the emergency relief case workers?]
My mother was sick -- sister in high sch [school] --
I was at work -- tried to get the En -- Rel.
to send someone to stay with Mother & they
did. Mother is a cripple. They send some
one 4 days a week -- clean house -- wait on her.
This is since last April (1939)

p. 7

57. [If you could have two wishes come true what would those wishes be?]
a. That our race could be a stronger
better race -- that we'd get more oppor-
b. Mother to be a well woman.

58a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in the U.S.?]
Joe Lewis

58b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in the U.S.?]
Marion Anderson

59a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in Galesburg?]
G.G. Fletcher

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

60. [What is the greatest obstacle in the way of Negro youth here in Galesburg?]
Segregation -- it's not awfully bad -- but we
don't have the opportunity --. we don't have
the money to go to school or college to get
a good education.

61. [Do you live at home?]

62. [Are both parents living?]
No -- father dead

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?]
Yes -- My purse is the family purse.

67. [How do you feel about this?]
I should -- OK. Glad to.

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?]

Remarks: The young people in town don't play
policy habitually the way the older people do.
There must be 25 or 30 people who are agents
in town -- when they shut down these people
were all out of work.
Physical Description8.5 x 11 in. handwritten sheets
FilenameNegro youth interviews/subject 12
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