Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Negro youth interview subject 09
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TitleNegro youth interview subject 09
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]
10 yrs.

5. [Birthplace]
Ill. [Illinois]

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

7. [Father's occupation]
Dead (plasterer)
"Father died when I was 8"

8. [1st vocational choice]

9. [2nd choice]

10. [3rd choice]

11. [How do or did you like school?]
Like it very well.

12. [How treated by teachers?]
Fine -- just like a white boy -- swell

13. [How treated by coaches?]
Coaches -- outstanding in interest in me.

14. [How treated by white students?]
Some of the kids I felt very close to --
Others treated me real well
no difference. Others were sort of
shy of me.

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

16. [What activities?]
All except Basketball. A feeling that
I couldn't take part. Some of our boys did
get on the squad at the last of the year.
That may be due to the new supt. [superintendant] &
principal. Think this change had to do
with their thinking toward us. Clubs

17. [Were you encouraged?]

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

19. [What teacher seemed of most help to you?]
Mrs. Whipple is the most interesting
teacher I've ever had. Not a bit of prejudice[.]
Helped me a great deal. Wanted me to get

p. 2
along. She helped every one, in fact. She
made clear about diseases. How the human
body was important -- wonderful creation,
wonderful -- dressed or undressed -- not
vulgar. It helped me to be more -- at
ease -- Know how to treat girls & what to
think of girls. She said she believed
the way we lived is the way we die. If
we keep our own physical standards right --
eat sleep think straight then all
right will be with you.

20. [If you quit before graduating from high school, please explain why?]

21. [Employed?]
Yes -- part time

22. [Kind of work?]

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

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

25. [Your plans for future -- say next year?]
3rd yr H.S. [high school]

26. [2nd year]
Senior in H.S. [high school]

27. [3rd year]
don't know

28. [4th year]
don't know
(I'd like to go to college, but my mother
is elderly & I need to help her -- she's
sacrificed a lot for me so far. I may
not be able even to go back to high school.
I should like to get a better paying job &
work so as to take care of her.)

29a. [Favorite pastime -- winter]

29b. [Favorite pastime -- summer]
reading, picnicing,

p. 3
30. [Where enjoyed?]
a. home & public
b. Lake Storey colored beach.
Monmouth park

31a. [Do you date?]

31b. [Where go?]
Show -- out to the beach --
dances (Armory & the Silver Slipper on
Prairie St.)

32a. [Do you drink?]
Hardly noticeable -- really hardly.
ever. Never been drunk.

32b. [Where?]
At my older brothers -- 4th of July
or Christmas -- only beer -- don't
like other

33a. [Do you dance?]

33b. [Where?]
Armory -- Silver Slipper

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

34b. [Church -- attend]
attend too

35. [Club membership?]
Belong to a club of colored boys

36. [What club or clubs?]
Salsus Circulus -- Mr. Slavin gave
us the name. We have parties where
only our own members & guests are

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

38. [What do they say?]
Lots are thinking
of going to some training school. Others
have already went to school. Others just
want a decent job to live half-way

p. 4

39. [Are they worried?]
They are worried very much about
their problem of becoming what they
want to be.

40. [What is your attitude toward the church?]
The church hasn't enough support
of its members & of the colored community.
There are so many different churches
among us. Why it isn't kept up is
the hard times & colored people aren't
making much money.

41. [How does it help young people like you?]
Helps me to have the feeling of religion
& God. Without this a person is lost -- no
good to others or to themselves.

42. [What more could it do?]
It is doing its part very much. It
is up to the people -- to come to church.
Some have to work on Sundays to get ahead.

43. [What more should it do?]
A church depends very much on the
preacher -- if he isn't liked the church
goes down. Present situation isn't very

p. 5
44. [What is your attitude toward the city officials here in Galesburg? (aldermen, police, mayor)
Really haven't much contact. I don't
vote. Rumors aren't to be taken seriously.
If I'm going to be successful I want to
get nice things to have in my home.
Some criticism from both colored & white I hear. Think there
should be more colored policemen.

45. [How do you feel toward the Main Street merchants?]
They don't pay enough for work. [Characters "they
treat me all all right" crossed out] if one is trust-
worthy & obedient they should pay what
its worth. They don't that.

46. [How do you feel toward the various movie theaters in town?]
Not very happy -- not satisfied. I know
why they segregate. Sometimes they are
too narrow minded. There might be a
Negro in overalls just from work or intoxi-
cated & that would be unpleasant if
he sat next a white person. That should
not be -- regardless of color. But other
Negroes shouldn't be segregated. Throw
them out if they don't act right. If they
are neat & decent they should sit any

p. 6
47. [Did you go to the NYA recreation center on West Berrien Street?]

48. [Is there any substitute for that center -- now that there is no NYA center?]
No -- only in the same bldg. there is a
nice place -- so long as the right crowd
is there. But if some one comes with
liquor then we have to leave.

49. [Where do the CCC boys spend their free time when they're in town?]
Lake Story, and at the "center."

50. [Do you like the colored beach at Lake Storey?]
Very fine -- very much

51. [Do you know young colored people who don't go out there?]

52. [How does life for young Negroes in Galesburg compare with life in other places you know about or hear of?]
In some towns you can go freely to the
theatres. You feel you are good enough
you like that. You don't feel shy.

53. [Name a place you think is better. Why is it?]
In Chicago & Burlington it is better in
the theatres.

54. [Name a place you think is worse. Why is it?]
If there's any worse -- it's Galesburg.

55. [What do you think of the WPA set up?]
It is OK. Had no relationship direct.
Quite fair far as I know.

56. [What contact have you had with the emergency relief case workers?]
Haven't had a great deal of contact. They have
gave me different things. I feel proud
that I am an Am. [American] citizen -- the way the
govt. [government] has helped me out. I appreciate it.

57. [If you could have two wishes come true what would those wishes be?]
a. Most important wish -- good health --
I really haven't got as good health as I'd like.
b. A good job so I could help my mother
& me live like we should & like God wants
us to.

58a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in the U.S.?]
Quite a few I don't know. B.T. Washington,
but he's dead. The present congressman --

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

59a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in Galesburg?]
a. don't know any.

59b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in Galesburg?]
don't know

60. [What is the greatest obstacle in the way of Negro youth here in Galesburg?]
We haven't any opp. [opportunity] here to be anything
except a janitor -- all dirty work -- no
chance to be a public park man -- or
a policeman. Not enough jobs in the
city gov't [government] open to us.

61. [Do you live at home?]

62. [Are both parents living?]
No. Father dead

63. [Do you have any conflicts or arguments with them?]
No -- mother does the arguing.

64. [What are the biggest points of misunderstanding?]
She understands me well. Knows
I'm honest & that I want to make something
of myself, but not my health condition. She
does her best & is one of the best friends I

p. 7

65. [Have you a room to yourself?]

66. [Do they expect you to contribute to the family purse from your earnings?]
I dress myself & have a little spending.
But I buy some of the food. The Relief
handles the rest.

67. [How do you feel about this?]
It's my duty -- no more than right.

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?]
My problem stands with Fate. If I acc-
omplish anything it's because I try hard. If N. [Negro]
youth given 1/2 a chance they'll be a help to the
country & to the whites & to themselves. They should be given a chance.
Remarks: Wrong food -- not enough vegetables --
don't feel well. Bowels don't move properly. My boss
tells me about the proper food but on Relief we can't get it. I don't get
cereal or milk for breakfast. We don't really have enough money to live and
eat the way we should. My mother's old and doesn't understand. My poor
work in school is partly because I don't feel well -- constipation.

We can't look at one N. [Negro] youth who goes wrong
and judge all. There are plenty who are good-worthy.

If I'm good enough to go with the fine girl
I do go with & I'm respected by my friends
& have a lot of fine white friends (& I know
there are plenty colored boys better than I, )
why can't the white race feel closer to us?
I don't ask to be with them all the time or
go to their church or marry their girls
(I'm deeply in love with a Negro girl.) I want them to treat me
right. I'll be a good Negro brother & fight
beside them against their enemies. "Let the
Negroes live."

Physical Description8.5 x 11 in. handwritten sheets
FilenameNegro youth interviews/subject 9
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