Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Negro youth interview subject 14
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TitleNegro youth interview subject 14
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]

5. [Birthplace]
Ill. [Illinois]

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

7. [Father's occupation]
(Police officer)

8. [1st vocational choice]
Commercial -- secretarial

9. [2nd choice]

10. [3rd choice]

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

12. [How treated by teachers?]
Treated well all through

13. [How treated by coaches?]
1 yr with coach -- gym teacher -- OK

14. [How treated by white students?]
In grade school it was better. In
H.S. [high school] the majority were OK -- without
prejudice. It seemed that in J.H. [junior high]
they were more friendly -- quite a
diff. in Sr. H.S. In JH [junior high] took

15. [Did you have a chance to take part in the school's activities?]
yes -- more part in outside activities.
Assembly programs. In Sr. H.S. [senior high school]

16. [What activities?]
in the all-school variety show.
Also 1 assembly given by the girls'
chorus. I belong to a social literary
club. There have been clubs open to us for
3 or 4 years at least.

p. 2

17. [Were you encouraged?]
It encourage me in music. Miss
Terry wanted me to take part.
Otherwise I wasn't so much encour-

18. [Did you feel that they were interested in you?]
Not too much personal interest.

19. [What teacher seemed of most help to you?]
My commercial teacher -- always
ready -- call me up to see if I was
getting along OK. Wanted me to go
on to college. Wanted to try to help
me get a position. Encouraged me
to enter contest for certificate --
for short hand. Got 2 " [certificates?] in
result -- she was the cause.

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

21. [Employed?]
An employed Saturdays -- 2 times amonth
(occasional typing work.)

22. [Kind of work?]
Care of the rest room.

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

24. [Has it a good future for you?]
No future

25. [Your plans for future -- say next year?]
I'll be unable to attend school. Want
a position (temporary) & take night school
work in comm'l[?] subjects.

p. 3

26. [2nd year]
Hope to have secured an office or
clerical job

27. [3rd year]
reached the top in my work --

28. [4th year]
reached the top in my work --

29a. [Favorite pastime -- winter]
reading & singing

29b. [Favorite pastime -- summer]
reading & singing
tennis & other
out door sports

30. [Where enjoyed?]
a. home & library
b. Graham Park

31a. [Do you date?]

31b. [Where go?]

32. [Do you drink?]

33a. [Do you dance?]

33b. [Where?]
Whenever there is a dance
here -- no night clubs

34a. [Church -- membership]
St. Patricks

34b. [Church -- attend]
Attend every
Sunday unless I'm

35. [Club membership?]

36. [What club or clubs?]
Susie H. Wallace Club (16)

p. 4

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

38. [What do they say?]
Some say they'd love a nice home &
raise a family. Others -- professional
singers. Designers -- dress shop
career. Some like to take civil
service exam.

39. [Are they worried?]
Yes they are -- simple reason -- lack
money to go to college -- Opportunities
so scarce around here.

40. [What is your attitude toward the church?]
I believe that every young person
should attend church -- at least
once a month. All should know
how to pray.

41. [How does it help young people like you?]
Helps to know right from wrong.

42. [What more could it do?]
It could encourage the young to
attend more than it does. As to
the local colored churches here there
should be youth organizations
in the church. The preacher instead
of showing right from wrong he really

p. 5

condemns their wrong actions. The
members of the church should practice

43. [What more should it do?]
what they preach. The church officials
criticize the young & yet they them-
selves set a poor example. Any
young person who went to "Jew" Sam's
would be condemned -- it happened
that one of the officials was seen there,
yet he had been one of the main ones
to talk against it.

44. [What is your attitude toward the city officials here in Galesburg? (aldermen, police, mayor)
The alderman, Mr. Phillips, has done
all he could for us. He fought vs
pavements.* Mr. Wilkins & Crawford
are on the police force.

*We can't afford them. He's swell.

45. [How do you feel toward the Main Street merchants?]
All I've had to do with have been nice.
Never made me feel they didn't want to
wait on me. There was one small
shop where they didn't want colored to

p. 6

try on a dress. You could buy but not
try on. All the other stores are fine.

46. [How do you feel toward the various movie theaters in town?]
Hadn't thought much till I went away
to a larger city where they didn't seat
us as they do here. They seat us on one
side; there are white people there, but we
can't sit elsewhere. They used to seat
us way down front.

47. [Did you go to the NYA recreation center on West Berrien Street?]
At the time it was first open. But since
the NYA has gone it isn't as nice. It has
attracted any Tom Dick & Harry. I don't
go any more.

48. [Is there any substitute for that center -- now that there is no NYA center?]
The beach is a substitut in summer.
In winter -- the show is all.

49. [Where do the CCC boys spend their free time when they're in town?]
At dives -- this place of Miss Polks.
Of late they've been at the "center" too.
Some of them aren't any credit to us. There's
trouble when they're in town.

p. 7

50. [Do you like the colored beach at Lake Storey?]
Yes. It's a fine place -- had many fine
times there. Good clean fun --
exercise -- swimming; ball play-
ing; swings for kids & grown-ups.

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?]
There aren't as many opp[ortunities]-- here
as in larger places.

We have a break compared with some
places -- esp. in reference to schools.

53. [Name a place you think is better. Why is it?]
There is no segregation in the Davenport

54. [Name a place you think is worse. Why is it?]
Hannibal, MO. -- because there is so
much segregation -- signs in dept.
stores "For whites only, " "For Negroes only."
That offends me.

55. [What do you think of the WPA set up?]
It does give people work who would otherwise
be out of a job. It makes some lazy, because
they feel sure of relief.

p. 8

56. [What contact have you had with the emergency relief case workers?]
None. Have talked with those who have --
Reports weren't so good.

57. [If you could have two wishes come true what would those wishes be?]
a. Right now to be able to attend college.
b. Be able to make a good living -- to do
something worth while with my education.

58a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in the U.S.?]
In music -- W.C. Handy -- the old-timer.

58b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in the U.S.?]
Mrs Conway of Peoria -- in social
service work. I admire her greatly.

59a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in Galesburg?]
Mr. G.G. Fletcher -- the only one one who has
had a business such as he has.

59b. [Who is the outstanding Negro woman in Galesburg?]
Mrs. Matilda Griffin -- recently been
made president of district federated clubs.
She's well-educated.

60. [What is the greatest obstacle in the way of Negro youth here in Galesburg?]
No opportunity -- more an obstacle than
anything else.

61. [Do you live at home?]

62. [Are both parents living?]
Father dead. Mother

63. [Do you have any conflicts or arguments with them?]
Not yet -- small argument as to going to a
certain place & it takes me a few minutes
to discover she was right.


64. [What are the biggest points of misunderstanding?]
In my case she wants me to go out
with the best young people. Until she
knows a boy's family she doesn't want
me to go out. I can tell after talking
with him a few minutes. But she
wants to know more.

65. [Have you a room to yourself?]

66. [Do they expect you to contribute to the family purse from your earnings?]
No my mother doesn't expect this. I
do buy small things for myself. I
expect to help if I get a steady job.

67. [How do you feel about this?]
Ok -- 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?]
About clerking in the dime stores. So
many of the h.s. [high school] girls work there, but we've
often wondered why we couldn't. Six or
seven years ago a young N-- [Negro] woman
asked -- they said their own (white)
needed work so badly they couldn't give
us any work.
At Woolworths dime store they serve us.
I've eaten there repeatedly. Also Walgreen's
serve us I understand. Mother says there is
less prejudice now than when she was a girl in H.S. [high school] here.

p. 10

We attend the class, & the club parties. We
are eligible to belong to the clubs. That
was brought about recently. Two colored
girls held office in two different
clubs this year.
I plan to join the Am. [American] Legion
auxilliary in Sept. Mother is a
member of Sam Skinner Post #681,
and I am eligible. Mrs. Randolph
Wheeler is president of the Ladies
Physical Description8.5 x 11 in. handwritten sheets
FilenameNegro youth interviews/subject 14
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