Knox College Struggle and Progress-African Americans in Knox County, Illinois (Knox College)
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Negro youth interview subject 21
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TitleNegro youth interview subject 21
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]

8. [1st vocational choice]
Drums playing
band membership

9. [2nd choice]

10. [3rd choice]
School teacher

11. [How do or did you like school?]
Liked it -- wanted to go

12. [How treated by teachers?]
Treated good by some but not by all. One
was prejudiced. Suspicions of me. Failed 3
times straight. Only one I ever had trouble with.

13. [How treated by coaches?]
Coaches -- good.

14. [How treated by white students?]

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

16. [What activities?]
Plays, baseball, track, some basket-
ball. They tried to keep me out of that.

17. [Were you encouraged?]
Didn't go out for basketball -- Didn't
encourage me there.

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

19. [What teacher seemed of most help to you?]
Advisory teacher. If I wasn't studying
she'd remind me to get to work. She tried to
help me a lot. Would talk with me.

20. [If you quit before graduating from high school, please explain why?]
I went to work. I feel I wasn't dressed
properly -- my feet were out. My father wasn't
home much & I had to look after myself.
If my mother had been living I'd have gone on.


21. [Employed?]
a. Stock work, distribute supplies,
carry bundles, some cleaning work
b. Professional dancing, singing
c. Life guard on Sundays & holidays

22. [Kind of work?]
3 yrs.

23. [How long have you worked there?]

24. [Has it a good future for you?]
I could work up to wash man. Then
I could work in any laundry. That's
a skilled job. Some future.

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

26. [2nd year]
Plan to leave G-- [Galesburg] -- can earn more

27. [3rd year]
Want to become a good dancer.

28. [4th year]
" [Want to become a good dancer.]

29a. [Favorite pastime -- winter]
a. reading -- it helps
basket ball
club meeting

29b. [Favorite pastime -- summer]

30. [Where enjoyed?]
a. home
H.S. [high school] gym
Mendes' gym -- So. Henderson -- between
Berrien & Brooks St.
Cook Schoo. Corpus Christi;
Monmouth PK. Lake Storey
Colored Beach & Springfield
Pvt. homes
Graham PK.


31a. [Do you date?]

31b. [Where go?]
Dances, tennis, bicycle
riding, shows.

32a. [Do you drink?]

32b. [Where?]

33a. [Do you dance?]

33b. [Where?]
Armory -- center

34a. [Church -- membership]

34b. [Church -- attend]

35. [Club membership?]

36. [What club or clubs?]
Salsus Circulus (10 young men

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

38. [What do they say?]
They'd like to be school teacher, singers,
drummers. Like to move to city & open
a place of business & make a living.
Some speak of undertaker.

39. [Are they worried?]
They are. I'm not.

40. [What is your attitude toward the church?]
It is really something to go to -- they've
built it up -- for your children. It's
for you. My mother helped built it
up. If we don't support it & pay
taxes on it it will be taken away. It's
about the only piece of property
colored people own -- public sort.

41. [How does it help young people like you?]
By bringing them together -- makes them
see they've got responsibilities. When they
listen to a sermon they learn right from


42. [What more could it do?]
If it could bring col. [colored] people closer together
& they could be in one body & all hear one
thing they'd improve. Not too many
churches, but too many Ns [Negroes] don't support.

43. [What more should it do?]
It could be cleaner, better cared for in its
physical appearance; dusted & remodeled.

44. [What is your attitude toward the city officials here in Galesburg? (aldermen, police, mayor)
Police are pretty good to colored people.
Phillips is good.

45. [How do you feel toward the Main Street merchants?]
They're very good. Some are prejudiced. If you
come in & some white man's back of you &
they wait on the white man first that's
poor. Other's have made me wait to wait at the
10¢ store.

46. [How do you feel toward the various movie theaters in town?]
I can't blame them much for seating us
on the right. But at the Gala they put
you way up front at the left. -- We
have those with dirty overalls & I don't blame
them for being put to the side, but I
get up and move if they sit by me.
don't think I'm better I just don't like
the odor. Orph & West & Col. OK.

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?]
"Center" still operates -- I dance there.


49. [Where do the CCC boys spend their free time when they're in town?]
"Center", saloons (Raymond Young's and
Andy Anderson's Duncan's on Main st.
(3rd near Halton)

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

51. [Do you know young colored people who don't go out there?]
No -- Some complain about the lack
of sand at the beach -- on life
belts, no tennis courts, lights
for the ball diamond. Don't
cut the grass regularly.
The Board of N. [Negro] citizens don't
ask for anything, and they're
in authority. The young don't
know how to go up to the City
Hall and ask. That's what one
club wants to do.

52. [How does life for young Negroes in Galesburg compare with life in other places you know about or hear of?]
Around here we're about the best off
because of the beach. People coming from
Chicago bring their ideas here first. -- new
dances etc.

53. [Name a place you think is better. Why is it?]
Springfield is. Have very nice beach; more
place for young to go; such as formal
dances, matinee dances for colored.

54. [Name a place you think is worse. Why is it?]
Burlington Iowa. There they haven't
much recreation. They run in different
bunches -- Few. then. Whites are very
prejudiced. They won't give C.P.A. real
good break the way they do here.


55. [What do you think of the WPA set up?]
That helps quite a few Ns [Negroes].

56. [What contact have you had with the emergency relief case workers?]

57. [If you could have two wishes come true what would those wishes be?]
a. That I was well educated as professional
man -- M.D. lawyer, professor
b. That the colored race might be a more
successful race than they are now.

[in box:] best known
58a. [Who is the outstanding Negro man in the U.S.?]

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

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

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

60. [What is the greatest obstacle in the way of Negro youth here in Galesburg?]
If they have more back bone -- they're
kind of skeered[?] to ask. They got hatred
in them. White figure all the colored
the same. They say as little to white people
as they can, because they feel they'll be
insulted. Some white people they joke with you, but
others they just don't say anything. A few
white boys make remarks on the street.
Negro boys avoid trouble.

61. [Do you live at home?]

62. [Are both parents living?]
Mother not living -- died when I was a
baby -- lived in the hospital for a year.
Some friend wanted to take us, but
Father wouldn't let them.


63. [Do you have any conflicts or arguments with them?]
Brother & I have arguments. None with

64. [What are the biggest points of misunderstanding?]
We have a few -- nothing real serious.

65. [Have you a room to yourself?]
Father & I together.

66. [Do they expect you to contribute to the family purse from your earnings?]

67. [How do you feel about this?]
Right that I should

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?]
There are some things I think about. A N. [Negro]
boy at Walgreens stole 85 cartons of cigarettes.
It got all over the store. He's marked. He
can't get a good job here now. A white boy
could make a come back. Another white boy
there stole money ($50.00) from the cash register. They
fired him. The colored boy they gave a
month in jail. The white boy's case was
hushed up -- never in the paper. The Negro
case was put in the paper. This sort of
thing bothers me. They won't want any colored
boy to work there anymore. But all
colored boys aren't that way.

Remarks: Just a few days ago two N [Negro] boys were walking
past the skating rink on Simmons St. There was a
bunch of white boys standing there. The two weren't
afraid but they didn't want trouble so they went
single file. The leader of the white boys said,
"These niggers want to get through." He was a


Remarks: big sized boy but the braver of the 2
N's [Negroes] said "what's that you said?" He
replied "You heard me." The N [Negro] boy had his
hand in his pocket on his knife. He whipped
it out and hit at the white boy. Later
the white boy came into the pool hall, asked
for Ulysses & struck him. No one laid a
hand on him, but they old him to get out. He
did. Later he told U. he wanted to drop
the matter. He had said too much. If the
N. [Negro] boy had gone into a white pool hall & struck
a white boy he wouldn't have got off the
way that white boy did. Calling a N. [Negro] boy a
nigger is the worst thing a white boy can say.
Where I work one of the girls called me
"Sunshine" one day. I said "I beg your pardon
were you addressing me?" She said "Sure." I
said, "You know my name so please call me
by it." She has ever since & she looks kind
of funny at me, but she treats me with respect
ever since. I never flirt with the white girls. I keep my place. Some
of them try to boss me around because they
know I can't talk back, but the superintendant
stands up for me.
Most all the boys I know carry a knife
now for protection -- colored & white.
I'd rather be poor and a negro than poor
& a white person. Seems like we're happier, don't
worry and know to get more out of the little we
do have than the poor whites. You take a colored
boy -- he'll have only 1 suit, but he'll keep it pressed
& cleaned and looking nice. People say -- "How


Remarks -- cont'd.
much a week you get?" "$12, " I say.
"I don't see how you look so well & do so much
on that money." Many a time colored
boys will be talking. A white boy they
know goes by. One boy will speak up & say
"Gee, if I had his money I'd sure be farther
along than he is. If I had his color I would-
n't be where he is -- not me." (Meaning that
he'd make more of a showing with the same
Physical Description8.5 x 11 in. handwritten sheets
FilenameNegro youth interviews/subject 21
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