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Charmaine Coleman Oral History Interview, May 14, 2018

Oregon State University
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RUTH KORNBERG: Can you please tell us your name and the date you were born and where we are sitting right now?

CHARMAINE COLEMAN: Yes. I'm Charmaine Coleman. I was born March 23, 1936, and we are sitting in my home in Eugene, Oregon, right now.

RK: Okay for this interview, we're mainly interested in your life that you have spent here in Oregon, but I think in order to really understand fully somebody's life it's a good idea to have an idea about where you came from.

CC: Mm-hmm.

RK: Can you give us some of your background? Where you were born? What your family that you grew up in was like? Who raised you? Who you were with?

CC: Sure, sure. Well, my family roots started with my father's father, who's my 00:01:00grandfather, in Thibodaux, Louisiana. I like to start with Grandpa, because he set the tone for the family, because my mother's father was a railroad man and was out of the state, you know, he was not there all the time. My father's father was in town and took over as the patriarch of as many of them as would allow him [laughs]. His roots were coming from the island, Caribbean. His mother's mother had immigrated to Thibodaux, because my understanding is there 00:02:00is a shipyard, or dock, or there's the port and there were sailors who came into Louisiana to do things, you know to work or whatever. My grandfather was a product of one of the sailors, one of the white sailors, and my Caribbean grandmother, who was Catholic and Black. She did not come as a slave. She came, but she came doing that kind of work for people. When she became pregnant with my grandfather, she could not drag a biracial child around in Louisiana in that 00:03:00time and era. I mean, there was a lot of mixing going on, but it wasn't in the open. So, my grandfather, my paternal grandfather, the patriarch, or the leader of this group was raised by the Catholic nuns at the orphanage that was there. That's where my history starts, I feel, because Grandpa was raised fully until he became a young adult and then they sent him to training school and he came away with whatever it was in that day and age a degree, or a something. He was a carpenter. He was trained in that skill, and that's where my history is. My 00:04:00mother's side of the family was mixed with Choctaw, coming from Oklahoma. They ended up in Houston, Texas. My mother's father, my mother's mother was part of the Choctaw group and her father was from Trinidad. So, I go on to say all of this to say that we were a part of, I don't know that there's a name for it, but I'm looking for that portion of information because there were a lot of Black people in those days, and especially in those areas, where there were ports and people coming in and coming in and out.

My mother's father left Trinidad to come to Houston. I don't know much about 00:05:00that, but out of all of this our family was very productive because they had those grandfathers who had come from different backgrounds that was not heaped in the oppression and the racial issues because they were not involved in that. You know, their upbringing was open. Most of the nuns at the orphanage were from Europe over here doing their work, so there was no-so, the family was greatly advantaged from the beginning, and I give all of that the credit my 00:06:00grandfather's, the credit for having the skill and the resources that I've ended up with. That is a very, it's a difficult thing to talk about, because so many African American people, I believe, don't really know the depth of their history. We've had our tensions among each other, because there were all of those different levels during that time. There's even a film made that I watched at church, and we became Catholic, that is called The Courage to Love. It was during an era where in Louisiana in particular, I don't know a city, not 00:07:00necessarily New Orleans (that's the one we hear about), where white men who had immigrated from France in particular were in large numbers in that area and the style was to have two families: a white family and another family made up of a young Black woman, and to take good care of these families. That film is so, it was so revealing to me about my family, because as a young person it was so confusing when I was around.

We lived in Oakland. We moved from Houston to Oakland during the war and that's where, as a young child, the kind of issues started to come forth, because now 00:08:00that, in retrospect I look back at it and what my mother and dad were always trying to tell us, it was not that we were better or superior, but they didn't know how to put it. They didn't say: you probably come from a different background than a lot of the other African American children in the neighborhood, because when we got there the only housing was public housing. We were just mixed in. All the Black people were in one part of the neighborhood, and the Japanese who had been interned were in another neighborhood and then the other people were, white people, were in another part of the neighborhood. That's when it all started coming to me, when you're trying to make friends, you know. It didn't work a lot for me and my brother. That's what it was. I didn't 00:09:00really put those pieces together for a long time until I was old enough to recognize what it was. I want that to be, I really need to have that be a part of my history, because it has been both an advantage and then a little bit of a flaw in my upbringing because I realize now why there are just some gaps in my relationships with many other Black people. I'm mature enough to not allow that to enter, but a person's history really can have a lot to do with, well, everything.


RK: Can you give us some concrete examples of how that has influenced relationships?

CC: Well, yes, I'll give you one that I think will be very valuable in this interview. Mine and Ed's coming to Eugene, a virtually all-White community, has been, I wouldn't say perfect, but none of the racism or the culturation, or whatever you call it of Eugene has had any effect on us. I do believe that it's due to our backgrounds. You see, Ed had a similar background where his mother was a product of the man who owned the large house up front. His grandmother, 00:11:00Grandma Sally, was taken in by that family, given a little shack in the back, and that's where she lived. Now, it was sometime after slavery had ended. She had been part of something which was also part of the disruption of families when slavery ended, and she ended up there as a young lady with no home or no anything. By that man, she had three children, one of whom was Ed's mother. The advantage of that for Ed's mother was that that man took good care of them. They were never subjected to the oppression, the sadness, and the ugly, ugly history 00:12:00of slavery because they lived on his property. His wife always felt that the children of Sally's were her sons, but they, in fact, were her husband's. It was during that era that I was talking about, where White men, it was just a condition where very many of them-I don't know whether it had to do with wealth or, I don't know. I wish I had a name for it. It's really is a troublesome issue among Black people because you see, we still bear some of that old, old history of the lighter skin is better and the hair texture, you know, is important. We still have a little bit of that left. It's kind of sad, but it's because of that 00:13:00history. Eddie's mother was very fair-skin. I mean, that man was Italian. He had a bunch of children by his wife, but he took good care of them. I mean, we have a picture of them in the hall and they are dressed like, well-dressed, those children.

RK: We'll have to see that picture. Tell us who Ed is for the purpose of the interview.

CC: Ed is my deceased husband. He passed away a year and a half ago. We moved to Eugene together so that he could start and finish his Ph.D. He had a master's degree and was teaching at Chico State. We took this position here because it was a good offer and they had a good department. He wanted to do theater and 00:14:00communication. Having been a musician in the bay area with some fine groups, he had that artistic bent about him. We chose this school. Another reason, very important reason, was it was closer to get to the mothers. We had a 3-year-old, so [laughs], that was another reason. As I was saying, but our time here in Eugene hasn't been like a Disneyland or anything, but because of our background of knowing what we knew about our people, because I must give our folks credit. They never tried to hide the ugly, the bad and the ugly, but they were fortunate 00:15:00because by the time I came along, you know my grandfather had a business. They all had a house with indoor toilets. So, I never, none of them were part of that oppressive slavery because of their immigration into this country and their circumstances were different. But, they certainly were enlightened. They knew. But it was totally a-it was a resource that was passed onto me. I give that the credit for my lack of insecurity with Eugene being all-White, the university... none of it was ever anything that Ed and I thought we couldn't overcome or live 00:16:00with. That, I don't know how to say that, but I want to say that is so important in the history of Black people. The reason a town like Eugene could be very, very, not only lacking in anything that Black people have the resource to do-for example, there just really aren't that many jobs around here that would suit many Black people. I hate to make that sound like a general comment, but had Ed and I not been coming here for the university I don't know what-there would be no purpose for us to come here.

RK: When you say would suit many Black people, what do you mean?

CC: Well, because we've been so left out of life. Black people have just really 00:17:00been totally, I would say, totally neglected in this country, and we can bring it up to, actually, in the latest terms in which we're talking, Black people have been harassed. We have been intimidated. We have been neglected. We have been abused. We have been all of those conditions, and it's only through the miracle that my family had of being, what would you say, immigrant, we were not a part of that slave history. So, we had a little more, you know both 00:18:00grandfathers had a little more education than a lot of Black men and their families. We were in a different category, and I believe that the education is what helped us move through that oppression. Understanding where people are coming from helps. I stayed in Eugene because I totally understand Eugene. It's White. It's small-ish. It's not that well-resourced. Even a lot of White people who come here don't find the kind of work, you know it's not the kind of city 00:19:00that has industrial work. It's backward in its cultural appreciation, even of each other, because I find that there are a lot of groups of people-there's a Russian, what's it called?

RK: A Russian church?

CC: A Russian community. There's a Russian community. There are a lot of Scandinavian people in this region. The racism kind of overshadows everything. There probably weren't as many hard-core racists who came here as there were other people, but that kind of mentality sort of spills out into a place. Really keeps it, really racism is a detriment to African American people and to other 00:20:00people of color, but it's a detriment to White people. It's keeping everybody behind. I know that Eugene could be a much more fabulous place if it were more mixed and if there was less of that narrow-mindedness in pockets. It's here. I mean, it's here. It just doesn't rear its ugly head. So, Eugene does have that level of sophistication to hide it or to cover it up.

RK: Speaking about rearing its ugly head, I know that last week or a couple of weeks ago at Westmoreland Park.

CC: Yes, that community center.

RK: The Center was named after your husband.


CC: My husband, Ed.

RK: There was graffiti someone put up around here. Can you tell me something about that? Just as an aside, but my voice is not being recorded.

CC: Oh, okay.

RK: I was with Calk, and I came down here last week-

CC: And did the leaf lining, yes.

RK: I hadn't realized that this is where your house was. I was on the other side, but I didn't realize you lived right here.

CC: Right here, right.

RK: Could you tell us something about what happened and how it affected you?

CC: Well, first of all, I'm a former teacher. I come from an educated family, so we've always, always known that the way to straighten things out and to get 00:22:00people on the right track is through your family and through your children. Having said that, the officials of the city have spoken with me about it, this incident.

RK: Could you explain the incident?

CC: The incident was that the center was named, City Council had went through legal channels and everything after Ed, my husband, who really was a dyed-in-the-wool community worker. He wanted wherever he lived and raised his children to be the best. He was an educator, so he, Ed tried to do it through educating people, like, you know, I don't want to talk about racism. I don't 00:23:00want to talk about these ignorant people who are still practicing it, but I want you to know that it's not going to end until each person takes part in being an equal part of everything that's going on. The only way we can teach that is through our children. We have to teach our children that they're okay on this earth. You may not have everything that everybody else has. To me, that's where racism is being held onto, is we are too, people in this country in particular, have emphasized too much of the worldly kind of stuff. It's easy, racism is so easy, to do to get back at the world when you don't have all of that stuff. It's a bunch of neediness that rules that racism, people that don't feel that they're 00:24:00accepted and part of it. I've been told that these were young people just going around with a spray can. I don't know. But they did spray a sign that I can see from my house with a Nazi swastika. Well, we all know that's illegal. It's illegal to go around doing that, but that's probably why I believe that they were young kids. But, older people do that, too. They don't know. I any case, that kind of, what do you call that kind of behavior? is coming out of those people's insecurity and un-involvement in what's positive about this country.


Ed and I, a long time ago, as kids were taught our importance. So, I'm putting this in that spectrum that we Black people are tired of coping with it. We're stick of it. We want to get on with our lives, but it's still out here. It holds us back, but it's also holding those people back who perpetrated. I don't know what to do about it. I don't know how to feel about it, because even though I can cope with Eugene and understand and I'm an older person. I know my limits. I know when people are in my business, and I know my right here on this planet. 00:26:00It's maturity that kept Ed and me here in Eugene. It's a maturity about who you are, where you fit in the world, and what your rights are.

RK: In terms of what happened here, how much graffiti was actually done?

CC: Well, I was told, I didn't see it because I did get in my car and drive back around the Boys and Girls Club, but I guess the city or whoever runs, one thing about city business is I don't understand how a city works. I don't understand who they work for, because that kind of stuff. That sign outside of my door is just painted over. It wasn't taken down or repainted or anything. It's still quite ugly, I think. I've talked to city officials about it. My understanding is they got right on it and repainted or removed or something the Boys and Girls 00:27:00signs that were graffitied, but I don't know how much of that was done. That is my issue now. I spoke to the city people who have contacted me. One of the officers came here and sat and said we have patrols out here, because that's not the first time we've had anything sprayed on our fence, but in that context we do believe that it was affiliated with that being named after Ed. How can you think anything else? But then, Eugene, in Eugene I think people are so comfortable and so busy just trying to make their lives work that, and inexperienced-I find a lot of people come here and wherever they come from they 00:28:00bring a "whew, boy I can breathe in this place." Because I don't think racism is just the worst thing that Black people face or any people face. White people don't treat each other with kindness or care or courage, and it's all kind of mushy.

RK: Let's get back more now directly to your own life and experiences. You've had quite a lot of education. Can you tell us something about your own education?

CC: Oh, my own education was coming from my mother's father's grandfather's from their interpretation. So, I'll tell you about my education. When we were in 00:29:00Houston, I was only 6 when we left Houston. The schools, I mean, the neighborhood that we lived in had Black schools. They were all-Black. The teachers were very dedicated, very dedicated. You see, this is what I'm trying to discern, is that my whole background as I know it, the only thing they knew would help them escape from this oppression and this mess was through education, so that neighborhood that we lived in, it was middle-class Black. We had sidewalks, we had-now, there were other parts of Houston where, you know, Black people were living disheveled and very low-income or whatever that is. The 00:30:00schools were excellent as the neighborhood was as excellent because that neighborhood was filled with middle-class, educated Black people. You might say that in many, many places in this country there have always been neighborhoods of educated Black people. I believe that we've lost that edge to our lives. I think the war had a lot to do with it, the disruption, families moving from place to place trying to get another job. Here's what I say about my education: there was no question that I would continue being educated, because my family 00:31:00believed that that was the only way out, and, you know, I think they were absolutely true. When you are educated, you just not only does it build your confidence and who you are in this world because you're learning about other people, you're broadening out. I think by broadening out, you can only make yourself a more comfortable, secure person. Am I just rambling on? But it's through education that a lot of this happens, or doesn't happen.

RK: So, you did your elementary, primary school?

CC: In California. But, mind you, I had the kind of mother who, in that day and 00:32:00age, spoke good English. This was during the war disruption. Those teachers were dealing with all kinds of children leaving the south. I can't even imagine teaching under those circumstances. One thing that I had that probably a lot of children may not have had in that public arena there was a mother who knew education. She knew what this country had set up for-she knew our rights. I think that's another reason coming to Eugene was not unsettling to Ed and me. We have always known our rights.

RK: So, we were talking about your education.

CC: Yes.

RK: So, when you finished high school-?


CC: I finished high school. Now, I have to tell you that because my mother knew the - what do you say? - the politics of education or whatever that was, she always felt comfortable going to the school to discuss mine and my brother's education with the principal, or whoever she was. A lot of young children didn't have that privilege, because educators really do want to do the right thing, I believe, because I was a teacher myself. But when, it's really very true, when a parent takes time and really comes to the institution and speaks with those in authority in a positive sense, you know, and with a conciliatory attitude, it 00:34:00makes a big difference in how that child's education can progress. I know as a teacher, I so appreciated parents who came to help. I don't mean volunteer in the classroom, I just mean came with a positive attitude about what my role was, and what their role was. My mother was that kind of a woman. She was very comfortable with that, because there were several teachers in her line. So, there was never any question my brother and I both felt supported that if we didn't do the best that we were doing, my mom would be there. She'd be on us, 00:35:00but the school needed to do its part to help us get educated. She understood the whole process of all the moving and the mixture and the racism and that was the most horrible part of my life growing up, was all that-it was really confusing. At first, the teacher didn't have enough chairs in my classroom, so I was sitting, and a couple of the other Black students, were sitting on little pieces of carpet. I mean, it's because she didn't have enough seats, but she had us sitting kind of in the back. My mother went to school and made a slight fuss about it to the principal. She said, I don't know what your budget is. My mom knew all of that stuff. She said, I don't know what your budget is, but you get 00:36:00some chairs in here for these children.

RK: So, was this a mix school?

CC: This was in Richmond, but remember it was during the war and they had just mixed us in in any great numbers. They weren't ready for any of us. My mother said, oh no, I will not have her-see, my mother knew the connection between my going to school and their getting money for each student. That's something most mothers at that point in time, most Black mothers, did not have that kind of background. So, she knew the politics. She said, oh no. They need chairs, and they will not come back to this and I will be going to the superintendent of schools. That education coming from when they were kids and my grandpa being 00:37:00educated by-it's key to why so many of us Black people aren't farther ahead, because we haven't known our rights. We haven't known how to tell people, no more of this.

RK: Then you got to, then I know you went to university.

CC: I finished high school in that town, and it was up the hill, the line had been gerrymandered to exclude us low-income, low-class White folks and low-class Black folks. My grandfather, because he was a builder, he found it out and investigated, and there was a whole section of Black kids who were supposed to 00:38:00be going to the school on the hill, which was far superior from the school over here. All of those kinds of things, we, Black people, we've been tossed around and messed around. I guess what I'm saying is the difference between anything that I do or say has to do with the fact that I come from a very seriously well-educated background and so, you know, we've suffered some oppression but because we've known our rights we've been able to navigate the course. I went to college at University of the Pacific in Stockton. I got some monies because I also was a very gifted signer, little kid. And the priest at our church is the 00:39:00one who pushed my career. He was from Hollywood. He was not one of those priests who practiced any kind of oppression or racism. He was very well-educated himself. He saw the talent, and so he started getting my, you might say, he was my manager [laughs], getting me little gigs here and there. That's why I say I've been a professional singer since I was 12, because these were paid, because he realized my folks needed the money. I would sing for the Irishmen's Club, these monied Irish men, they had a club. The country club-I had a career when I was a kid, and that also boosted my confidence, helped my mom and dad, because they'd been used to that in Houston. That's why Greg says, if you wanted me to 00:40:00wear a formal to this interview, I have one in there [laughs]. I graduated from the University of the Pacific, not in music, though, because that's where the racism started being apparent again. I was one of 5 Black women on campus. The other four were on scholarship. I was not. There were only Black men on campus, and they were all on the football team. That's when the racism, for me, was just-but, it just, it makes you tough. Without that background that I had I wouldn't have been tough enough to stay there, because racism-

RK: So, give me some concrete examples.

CC: Of the racism on that campus?


RK: What you actually experienced.

CC: Well, I didn't have a roommate in the dorm. Now, you know my dad and mom are paying the tuition. It's the same tuition as a White girl's. I didn't have a roommate for weeks, and the claim was my mother-my mother always suspected that people were lying about something. So, she wondered why I didn't have a roommate. She felt that that was an important part of my college, is not being isolated. She felt that it had something to do, a racial component to it. Well, it did, when we finally got down to it. The roommate (it backfired, though), the roommate that I got was a girl from Hawaii [air quote gesture]. She was as White as the driven snow. She was, what do you call it? White. From Hawaii. Her folks had moved there to do some work or something [laughs]. She never stayed in that 00:42:00room with me. That kind of stuff existed in that dorm. The house mother herself was intentionally off-handed to me. I mean, I was, you know, 18 or 19. I knew what kindness was and I didn't see her behaving that way with other girls. That kind of stuff. That campus was Methodist-owned, and yet there was that kind of racism on it. I had my good friend, Mona, who tested the system. She signed up to join a sorority. She had the grades. She had everything for it, and they-she couldn't pass any of those silly tests, like whatever it is: walk around the 00:43:00block 6 times. We knew it was silliness. That kind of racism was on that campus. To this day, that is the one place that I cannot stand to think about. I mean, it wasn't horrible, you know? But it was me. The singer-I thought I was pretty hot stuff, and I was of value to that campus, and racism was, well, it's a slap in the face of anybody's face, but to me? Who had been taught that, well, I hadn't been taught that I was privileged, but I hadn't ever thought of them not giving me a roommate, you know? That kind of stuff.

RK: So, now let's jump to the University of Oregon.


CC: To Eugene.

RK: To Eugene, and since we're on the subject of education, let's think about, tell us about your educational experience at the University of Oregon.

CC: Of Oregon? Well, by the time Ed got finished with those people over there, what I mean was he was one of few professors, and the university is such that it has a reputation that it's an educational institution. So, the racism that you would find on campus is so undercover and so entrenched in intellectualism, that you'd have to have a fine-toothed comb to really nail it.


RK: What year did you?

CC: We came here in 1966.

RK: Okay, and what year did you go to the university?

CC: In the '70s: 1972/'73, I went. Ed was teaching there all that time. My going there, I wasn't living on campus, so I didn't have that foolishness to put up with, but I did suffer some, what I call, some deep kinds of neglect because of my Blackness.

RK: Give some examples. Concrete examples.

CC: I was admitted as a returning student. A house, no, it had a title, but 00:46:00there were professors on the campus who did not have any of that kind of attitudes. So, Dick Schminke [?], he was a good friend of ours, was teaching in the education department. He helped me write up an application, and I was granted a stipend in the special ed department. I faced deep, deep racism in that department. So, I won't say that it was departmental necessarily, but it was at the university they played the game of finding the person who they think is more deserving of the stipend based on what university they came from, which 00:47:00one they're trying to get to. It's all that university kind of elitism. We don't call it racism, but it's there. It's still there. It's entrenched in there. For example, the university has not mentioned for about a year now how much time and effort Ed put into not just his field but into fields Upward Bound, all of the programs that we're serving, not third-world people but minority students. Ed worked tirelessly on those committees. Boy, the racism there was just deep and ugly. The incident that I had was with the special ed department. It was that 00:48:00they would always avoid my kind of query into any anything. It was almost as if I was invisible. I can't remember what things I was asking about. I entered with a stipulation that because I was a returning student, had not been in undergrad work for 20, 30 years, some of the demands of a graduate program may be such that I would require extra tutelage or extra time. Now, that was in the contract that I signed. Somehow, though, when it came to taking my test for that degree, 00:49:00the people who were administering it, and I know this to be a fact, could have cared less. It's like, I got nothing special. Not special, but for my needs, because I didn't come through a program in high school where they taught us how to write. I didn't. Well, no. Let's put it this way: my premise to the university was I was my-the Black students, see there's no proof of it, Black students in that elitist high school were kept out of those classes, those college preparatory classes, because they had no hope that we were going to go on.


I do remember my mother going to the high school and having a very extended conversation with the principal about the fact that the French teacher told her that he wouldn't teach my brother in the French class because we had thick lips and we couldn't speak a foreign language. My mother went ballistic. But, that kind-you see that kind of stuff. What happened here at the university was, I get to the people who were administering the test. They did not look at that portion that said she needs this and she needs this because her writing background, she was left out of it. I know that Dick Schminke [?], the one who helped me get 00:51:00that stipend, he knew his business. He wrote, on my behalf, because he was my advisor, on my behalf this is not the agreement that she came into this department under. She came in this department under the stipulation that the writing of a comprehensive would be modified to a specific level of her learning, or something like that. [Shakes head] I failed it. They failed it. By then, I didn't know whether they failed it because we made a fuss about it, or that-well, it was clearly my writing that was not up to the level of most of the other people. I went to war with them. It was-


RK: Did you have, within the classes, then, it sounded like in the beginning within that agreement that there were supposed to be some special tutoring, or?

CC: Yes. Some with my classes. If I was having difficulty taking the notes or anything, I would go to Dick, the man who helped me get-and he was my backup. He would analyze what the problem was. What was he saying in the lecture? There were some lectures that I just-and of course, to add to it, I became very, very, very emotionally upset. From that point on, my reading, my studying, everything 00:53:00was just in the toilet. So, I did not get it, that degree. But Dick kept working on it, and got me readmitted to the special ed department with that stipulation, that my paper would be a verbal paper with him, and some of the special ed people, because she can articulate the information back but her writing skills, you know. So, I did go back and at that point, Judy Dunlop was head of special 00:54:00ed department, and she took it from a woman's point of view, where women have suffered some of the same kinds of stuff. She was right on it. I did get the degree. I got my little piece of paper.

RK: Was it based on the oral?

CC: Yes.

RK: Oral test?

CC: Yes. I gave them the information, the answers to the question, orally, and passed it, because my articulation-you know, I can talk about a million things, but I did not have the kind of writing skills that they were requiring that is... how can I put this? There are so many levels of deceit that go on in this 00:55:00country all over the place, and Black people have been deceived. We have been misled with that language. Because you see, every department, every structure, every mechanic shop, every McDonald's has their language. It's an inside kind of thing, and it's regional, too. You can't just come from Texas being Black, not educated, and get a job at McDonald's, probably, because you don't know the McDonald's language. That's how deep racism and prejudice really is, and it's not just us Black people but White people are prejudiced, segregated against, too.

RK: So, then, you got your master's degree.

CC: At U of O.

RK: At the U of O.

CC: Special Ed.

RK: In terms of your relation with the other students, was that?


CC: What was it?

RK: Did you have any social relations with students?

CC: With students?

RK: Also, you were older and you were the wife of a professor, so you had another level of social.

CC: Something to do, right.

RK: We can talk about that separately, but in terms of your relation to students, yourself, your own.

CC: There were two students who I could go to, or who I could talk to, about school stuff. Two. Pat Glassow [?] was, had been a teacher in the district, and I don't know what Pat's background was but we got along really well and there was nothing she wouldn't help me with. But, of course, she had her full load. I remember Pat not knowing that what I was really suffering from was neglect of 00:57:00the system that I had signed up with. But, she was really, really, really helpful and then there was one other student who I could talk to. I'm saying this because other than that, any other students that I tried to have a relationship with, to talk class [shakes head]. White students would not share. Now, I don't know whether they treat each other that way, but I certainly saw it.

RK: But the two friends you had, were they White or Black?

CC: Well, Pat was-well, you know, like I said, I don't know what your background really was, but she'd been a teacher. She probably understood some of the struggle I was having as a returning student and all of that. She was beyond any kind of racial necessity to not talk to me, because she, you know, the other 00:58:00students were young and felt threatened to give out information to me. I don't know what their fear-maybe their fear was that I knew something or I was a spy. I don't know [laughs], but they were not friendly. My sons, my oldest son, had that same problem, because he's big and he said one of his professors referred to him as, well, you jocks. He went to her and said, I'm not a football player. I'm not on the team. My dad and mom are paying my tuition. You can't treat me like this. She pretended not to know what he was talking about. That's what happened to him. No, the other students that I would, you know, sit next to or talk to, not friendly.

RK: Not friendly.

CC: Very protective of whatever.


RK: After you got your master's degree, and that was in special ed.

CC: Mm-hmm [nods].

RK: Then was it then that you went to look for work?

CC: Well, Dick Schminke [?], who is still living, he's 88, 89. We still talk on the phone. I give him credit for being one of the best people I've ever met in my life, except my dad and my grandpa and those men. Dick wrote letters to 4J on my behalf. I had that as an advantage, and I had George Russell, who, at that point, was human resources director, just the year that I was looking for a job. Now, I'm not saying those two got me the job, but without those two they would have been looking at me as just another woman that age, you know, blah, blah, 01:00:00blah, blah, blah. But because Dick wrote those letters about my competence as a teacher, and Dick was even able to-Dick can sell honey to a bee. I mean, and he knows his stuff. He went to 4J and got me into the classroom as a, what do you call it, when you're doing your practice teaching? Well, practice teaching. He got me into the classroom. Usually, you have to spend 2 years or so taking classes, because he knew that I knew how to teach, that I was mature. He got me in there before I took any of those classes. That's unheard of. But he said here is a mature woman who has, comes from an education background, blah, blah, blah. I was student teaching at Washington School before I took any of those 01:01:00elementary courses, which were pathetic. I'm still on a committee that still fights with that education school [shakes head]. It's about color. The students of color just know that they're just not getting what they deserve.

RK: Are you talking about at the university?

CC: [Nods] Right now. Right as we speak. I'm on an ongoing committee of educators who try to interface with the education administ-you know, that level up there. Because students will come to us and complain.

RK: So, are you finding that students of color better going to the, graduating 01:02:00from the high school in Eugene who come into the University of Oregon, are not being well-prepared in the schools, or?

CC: Well, no, but let me see if I can put this-I'll try to put it, well, I don't have to be nice on here. The university is an entity all in itself, that's where a lot of racism, discrimination, comes in. I don't know of any Asian students, especially Chinese students, who don't get in on first application, not speaking good English, blah, blah, blah, but they do have the money. Students of color 01:03:00are looked upon as being, you know, from backgrounds like the one that I told you I wasn't from. That's the discrimination and the racism that students of color face. They're looked at as their history, not the progress out of that history. What am I saying? I can tell you another example of that. I have some friends, some people who I know, who are always, and I know they're trying to be nice, or complimentary. For example, last night, I went to the ballet, and I wore a piece of jewelry that I know is very precious. I don't wear it that much, because it's a very good piece. I have that stuff in my family. They always wore 01:04:00nice jewelry and clothes. Fortunately, these were not women that I knew, but individually these women came up and go, oh, that jewelry is-now it is pretty, but I take from that would you do that to Carolyn Chambers? Who used to be the wealthiest White woman in Eugene? Are you doing it? See, I have that Blackness in me. It doesn't go away, the mistreatment. I'm thinking, well, yes it is a fabulous piece of jewelry, and you notice it, but is there something else to this? You didn't expect me to ever have a piece of jewelry? I mean, blah! But you don't do that.

I just said, oh, thank you, it's a piece that my husband gave me on a 01:05:00special-something. But, they don't know that I'm raging inside. Don't be telling me my jewelry is beautiful. I know its beautiful [laughs]. My children, when I tell them that story, they go, well, Mom, they're just trying to be nice. I said, yeah, I know, but I've got too much of the old Black woman in me and I'm wondering if they're thinking where did you get a piece of jewelry like that or how did you have nerve to have a piece? It's not really rational, because I think they're well-meaning, but it's like mm-hmm. Those students of color still find that the university is negligent because when there is something that they don't have in that context, the university context, they're held to it, but they 01:06:00know that their White colleagues, or whatever you call your student-

RK: Colleagues, yeah.

CC: Yeah. They don't have to go through that requirement. Now, I can't tell you what it is. But I know that had I been a White woman, maybe, mmmm, with the educational background that I had, I went to a private, private Methodist school. It was not a junior college. It was a very, very upper-class-my dad probably still owes the tuition for me. He probably died before he finished paying it.

[Cut in the recording]

... that I'm your friend. We've always been friends. We've raised our little boys here in this church. I've loved you forever, but when you constantly compliment me on something that is totally ordinary for me, that means you don't 01:07:00really know who I am, do you? Well, what do you mean, Charmaine? I said, all these years we've known each other, I don't come from the street. I come from a very wealthy Black family. But I can't celebrate it, because you people keep thinking everything I have is accidental. Yes, Ed and I spent our hard-earned money fixing this house, blah, blah, blah, but had I not come form that kind of family I wouldn't have had that kind of background, to, blah, blah, blah, to get a job at the university. Ed would not have been educated had he not come from that White grandfather who did see that his mother, his child by this Black woman, did get some education. She lived on the, they lived on the place with 01:08:00them so they picked up some of the privilege. And Martha, she was just looking at me like [mimics confused expression]. I said, I don't mean to sound rude, but really, I'm telling you, I'm never surprised at anything that you have, because I know you deserve it. You got it because you knew where it was, or you knew it because your great-great grandmother came cover here on the Mayflower and left it for you [laughs]. I don't have that in my background, but that's why I dress the way I dress. I don't dress this way to show off. We've always dressed nice to go to church, that kind of thing.


RK: This, in a sense, then leads us in various directions. Since you started to talk about your personal relationships with people that are friends or acquaintances, people that you associate with.

CC: Right.

RK: Tell us a little bit more about those relations, relations that you have with your neighbors, with your fellow churchgoers. Give us some more examples of the way those relations pan out, and be as concrete as you can with examples.

CC: Let's think. The neighbors who we have the best relationships with in this neighborhood have been people who had some commonalities with Ed and me in that 01:10:00they were educated, they'd been teachers... in other words, they were not blue-collar. They were a little higher up on the-and I know that I'm using the word education a lot. I do believe that that is really what is lacking with so many of us, is really being educated in how people are, how the world works, and I don't mean presidential level, but I mean the level of...let me just use this example: Obama never would have become president had he not been-that man could 01:11:00run the world, because of his brilliance and his knowing how to use it and his exposure. Yes, his mother was white, but they were from a pretty well-educated family, and I don't mean college educated. I just mean educated in their heads and hearts to know what's right and what is just totally not. He was accepted by his grandparents. He was loved. He was given privileges that most little Black boys of his age, you know, I see him roaming around Eugene, Obama's age, and they don't look like they are headed anywhere. He was totally the exception, and he never would have become president. You see, there are White people who know 01:12:00the difference.

RK: Let's get on specifically to your neighbors and relations-

CC: So, I'm saying the same thing. Had Ed and I not been at the level that we are educationally, we would have moved out of this neighborhood, because we've had neighbors who were less than educated in terms of raising their children, educating them But for the most part, this street in particular has contained people who had a level-well, for example, one of our neighbors down the street her husband, he was young, and he was already retired from the Navy. He had a level of security and education that prevented him from worrying about Ed and me 01:13:00being Black moving into this neighborhood. Does that make sense to you? That's the kind of education I'm talking about. Mary and I are still friends. Mary doesn't have much beyond high school, but she comes from a family who always taught respect for other people, you know, education's important, you raise your children properly. I'm considering all of that to be an educated person.

RK: So, tell me more specifically are you friends with any of the neighbors? Do you have relationship? I think it's not-

CC: In Eugene?

RK: Yeah, here. It's not necessarily the case, whatever race or ethnic background, that neighbors even have anything to do with each other. So-

CC: It's as matter with-

RK: Have you ever become friends with the neighbors? Have you experienced 01:14:00anything directly positive or directly negative?

CC: With [counts] one, two, three, four, five neighbors who have been here forever, we have good, you know they, my children played with Paul. But they are of that ilk. They are of that, you know, they had a stable family. I don't know which I'm emphasizing more: education with your family or just plain getting to know things better and broader. They have a broader outlook. Our neighbors, Bill and Peggy, they were elderly when we moved here, but Bill had worked meat marketing in New York or somewhere.You know he had a broad sense of the world. 01:15:00Peggy was a little, little persnickety with us, but she was kind of that way with everybody: oh, don't let the boys step on my grass. You know that kind of nonsense. My children never stepped on her grass. That kind of stuff. I don't know that it was so racially motivated, but it was just the way Peggy was. Bill was just the opposite. Our neighbor, Muriel, who passed away, just not too long ago, and her husband were friendly, because Muriel worked some of the better clubs in Eugene. She was a gourmet salad maker or something for Valley River or something. She did not have that edge. When you, I don't see it so much these days. I think a lot of these young people who have these jobs have a hip 01:16:00rudeness about them, and their managers don't tell them, oh no, not in here. There are two places that I can go, and those people are trained. They have no attitudes about any of that stupid stuff. You see, I always know that if there's an attitude up in this place it's going to rear its ugly head on me. Okay, we had neighbors, we had one woman coming to look at this house years ago and she came over here, knocked on the door, rang the bell, or whatever, and I went to the door. She said, um... you're the neighbor? I'm over... she just nearly fell apart. She said, I was over looking at the house, and I was, I just wondered if 01:17:00you have a tape measure we could use? I said, sure. Gave it to her. She went on her way. The realtor came and told me she went up one side of him and down the other, why didn't you tell me we had, there were colored people living in that house?

[Cut in recording].

GREGORY BLACK: So, continue with that thought.

CC: Okay, well, over the years we've had... when we moved into this neighborhood, there were like, probably four elderly couples. We were never friendly with them, necessarily, either because they didn't feel comfortable with us. I never knew, because we had no relationship. But, for the most part, we've had, the neighbors that I have now who I am friends with and I could contact if I needed anything, are here. We have two or three who don't, what do 01:18:00you call it? Interact with anybody, and I think it's because they're renters, and I think they have a renter's mentality. They just don't want to get close. I don't know what it is. I know, in particular, there's one house down the street that isn't a rental, but he's not friendly with anyone because his yard looks like the junkyard, and I believe that's a part of his-you see, it's people's own kinds of insecurities and backwardness that will keep them on that track, because this person, this young person I was told is a suspect in writing the graffiti, is a teenager, and he's been in trouble before. So, troubled people.


RK: What about when your children were growing up? So, there were some neighbors with children of the same age.

CC: Mm-hmm [nods].

RK: Did they all play together?

CC: Well, I'll tell you. I have to say I chose, Ed and I selected out who our children associated with because we've always known that our children were vulnerable to all of these issues that I'm talking about. My children were not of the ilk that some children were, but they didn't know it. They were privileged to the degree that we come from a very well-educated family. We have these expectations. Your dad is-so, what I have seen with my children is I've 01:20:00seen a lot of under-educated children who wanted to be their friend. I don't know what that phenomena is, but maybe Greg knows it. Somehow, their-

RK: Under-educated...

CC: White children.

RK: White children that wanted to be their friend?

CC: Yes. Maybe because my children, I would like to think that my children were nice children. Maybe the other children would discriminate against those lower-income children, and so they ran to my children. I don't know what that phenomena is, but I've seen it more than once. I know that it is, it was kind of a phenomena that was happening. Children who I didn't really have faith in their 01:21:00parenting background, so I didn't want my children being around that. I wanted them to be around children whose parents had supervision of them and who they could have the same kinds of activities levels together and the same kind of interest. I knew that my children... I was the snob in that case. I really did monitor carefully, not ever telling them no you can't play with that kid. Somehow I would work it around where the schedule didn't work or whatever. Usually, it worked itself out, because usually these children were free and available after school, which meant to me they didn't have supervision at home, somebody telling them they have to come home. Now, did I answer the neighborhood thing? This neighborhood, well, we decided, I'll tell ya, we decided to buy this 01:22:00house on the basis that it was in a school, Adam's school was a very stable school at that time. They taught the basics. The teachers were-now, there have been some issues with my children at school with other little students that may have been racial or class, because my children went to school dressed properly, not overdressed, but properly. The neighbors up and down here have been tolerable. Because, for one thing, Ed and I had dispositions where you know we're here. We know that this is a good place for us. This house is one that we chose on the basis of the school and the way the house is set up and our budget. Now, we also have a very keen sense of what is safe. We would never buy a house 01:23:00in the River Road area at that time, even though River Road has some upper pocket people, but still it's been a little risky in that area. Even North Eugene still has some of that racial tension stuff because my son counseled at north, and he said, Mom, you know-I don't, he said, it's amazing that I run into these kids who have that racial edge thing to them, Black and White.

RK: So, what about when you were-when did you buy this house?

CC: In 19...let's see, okay. I have to count the children's age [counts to 01:24:00self]. 1972.

RK: Okay.

CC: Mm-hmm.

RK: How was your saga of looking for a house?

CC: That, Ed and I really pre-programmed by going to professors, his professors who he knew knew what we were talking about, and one of them was Charlie. Charlie was from back east. He was really hip. He was in the drama department, just, because Ed is a musician a lot of around hip people, I mean aware. Musicians tend to be, they don't have time for that foolishness, you know. So, we went to Charlie and said, Charlie we know that you know Eugene very well, and we really feel comfortable-you know who you're comfortable with, and we trust 01:25:00you. What can you tell us about looking for a house? Charlie was right on it. He said, okay, here are the realtors. There weren't that many in town like there are now. He said, I know this guy is Canadian. He won't have any problem finding you a house in a neighborhood that is friendly. He's not going to just put you anywhere or he's not even going to take you to those places, because he knows the racial issue, not because Canadians, well, because they don't mess with a lot of that. They didn't in those days. They were just Canadian and they were pretty friendly, whatever. We got with a really fine person who really knew the scope. Ed and I coming from Oakland and San Francisco have big antennas, and so 01:26:00we always knew where we, oh no. That's how we screened out north of whatever and south of whatever. We knew the hilly-hilly area was filled with whatever, and we didn't want to live on a hill anyway because I have a bad leg and blah, blah, blah. The neighborhood had the schools that we thought would be good for our children. They had a mixture of children. Like, this school down here used to be the best school for that nice mixture. Of course, everybody was so surprised that we didn't send our children to the Catholic school. I know that Greg's children went to the Catholic school, but it was way later. When our children were little, there was still some weirdness going on in the Catholic church when 01:27:00we got here. That's another institution that we've had to just blow through, you know like we're Catholic. You deal with it. That's your problem. We stayed on top of it, and that's why we go to the Newman Center, the student center, because we tried St. Mary's and it was way like those churches were in those other neighborhoods where we would have to go to church. It was horrible. The priests were, ew. It was terrible. Narrow, you know. We still deal with some of that in our heads with the Catholic church. That's due to that there's something that we pass around in this country.

RK: Give us some of those concrete, really concrete examples, with the Catholic church when you were at St. Mary's.


CC: You know, I can't say that-see, we didn't stay long enough to even interact with the priest or anything, but just the way the priest, the tone, you know, the sermon that they chose, just the order of everything was just way, way below, or out of order for what people our age needed, and especially a Black couple. It was just way old-fashioned.

RK: Can you give us some examples?

CC: Yeah, just plain narrow and boring and out-

RK: What would they be talking about?

CC: I don't even-they'd be giving the sermon, but you knew that they were just scaring people. It was kind of a scary... it wasn't a pulling you in, teaching 01:29:00you what Christianity is. No, it was like-see, now, I was young. For me it was like, oh, that's scary. We'd go home-that was when I was really young, but St. Mary's had that same, rigid, old-fashioned, Catholic nonsense. They weren't friendly with any of us, they weren't friendly with the congregation. These priests at Newman Center stand outside, I mean, blah, blah, blah. One of the churches that, see Ed and I had a jazz trio, and we played for very many fine, wealthy people who were giving house parties.

One of the Catholic churches, oh, Newman Center, decided that they wanted us to 01:30:00be the music ministers for that year and play jazz: take the Christian songs and put a jazz bass to it. It wasn't like we were in there singing about baby, baby, baby, momma, momma, momma. We weren't doing that, but we were taking the Christian music and singing and playing it. The students loved it. I mean, they just loved it, because it was up to date. Well, another church invited us, I guess unbeknownst to the head priest. I don't know what, or they out-talked him. St. Paul, I think it was St. Paul or St. Alice out there in that part of town. We played our music, and then after church we were putting our stuff away and the old priest-and I can say this, the old priest, came out and said, well, I don't know where you folks come from, but we don't do that kind of music up in the Catholic church. Ed just let him talk, and so finally Ed said to him, well, 01:31:00you better go talk to your people because they hired us. We didn't come up in here with our instruments. Ed said, furthermore, Father, I don't know what to think about you, but my sister's a nun. My family's Catholic. Charmaine's grandpa was raised by Catholic nuns. So, it's not like you could kick us out because we weren't Catholic and we were playing jazz. He said, talk to somebody else. Don't ever bug the musicians. Ed gave him a little of manners: hey, you don't mess with musicians, because we are hired by somebody who wanted us. We didn't come up in here with our instruments and start playing [laughs].

RK: There is something, actually, that came up in your other interview and also 01:32:00I think we've been talking about with other people and that Greg has been telling me teeny bits about-you're Catholic, and many of the African Americans here are Protestant, and there's some kind of conflict that goes on. Could you tell a little bit more about that?

CC: Well, you know, should I say this off the record, Greg?

GB: Let it roll.

CC: You'll.

GB: It's good to go.

CC: I have not had any Black women friends. I have-there are Black women in this town who are nice. They've been nice to me, but to be like friend, girlfriends 01:33:00or anything, and it has to do with several things. It has to do with mine and Ed's level when we came here. They put us into this stuck-up group: they're university people, therefore, which wasn't true. My family beat it into our heads that we are Black people. We're all in this together. My grandpa would always say, I'm Black. I might have had that White sailor made my mother pregnant, but I'm Black. She was my mother. She dragged me around, you know? So, I'm Black. So, we were never allowed to do that. Never. Never. But they don't know that. That's an issue with Black people. We do that to each other. We will 01:34:00put us in categories and then we can't make a relationship.

Now, what Ed and I have done, though, is whenever there was someone in town who had something to offer someone who came to speak at the university, that had something to offer that was of Black history, Black something, we would invite them. With the university, we would say, we would like to host these people to our house for the Black community. We've always had this house, this house has always been open. They would come. Some would, some wouldn't. Some would come and get into an argument because Charmaine and Ed had liquor in their house, and you know we don't drink. It's like-that kind of silly stuff. Anything they could find. You know Charmaine, she's too proper. She speaks proper. Meaning, I speak 01:35:00my grammar correctly. Now, it's never been told to me, but I know it. Now in this age, it's like when I see them, I'm just friendly to them. Some of them have changed, but there's still a little bit of, well, Charmaine... whatever. So, I really must tell you, I have never had a close Black friend in this town, except two women who had a lot in common with me. They were both teachers. We've always been friends. One of them had a son who Edwin, my son, played with. They're good, good friends. But, even we, the two of us, we don't even talk about our differences, because she has a totally different attitude about how to 01:36:00practice her Blackness, and on, I don't let White people bother me. I'll say, oh, yeah, I don't let them bother me, but, honey, if she bothers me I'll call it like it is. I don't pretend that, no, I'm not, no. I see it. I'll call it. We have that difference of opinion. It's like, oh please. Stop that. I accept people, but that woman is prejudiced, or she's just not with it. I don't spend that much time. Well, she just means well. No. No. No. No. So, we differ on that. We're not close, close, close, close, close. Like, she would let her son play with a wide range of children. I didn't. I'd say to her, I don't let Edwin play with those kids because they've got some kind of an attitude that is not 01:37:00going to be good for him. My children can't grow up thinking they're privileged beyond privilege, or whatever that silly stuff is. We have to protect our children from that.

RK: Do you have any close friends here?

CC: No. I have one friend who came into mine and Ed's life several years ago, and I would say that she and I are the closest two Black women that we know, because she has some of the same issues. She tried attending the Black church out there, but she's lighter-skin. Her hair is straight. She speaks good English. She went to several Catholic colleges, and she's a lesbian. Oh, my 01:38:00Lord. We are good friends. Actually, we would be sisters, because our upbringing was very similar. The things that people have criticized about us would be the same. She says, I've never had a lot of Black women friends because right away they just go right to my skin color, my hair.

RK: Do you have any close White friends?

CC: I have what you would call real friends. I have a woman, Hope Pressman, and I'll say her name because she is a fabulous woman. She and Ed and I became friends because they were marching to get their degree. She was getting her MA, and Ed was getting his Ph.D. She had known about Ed being on campus. We're 01:39:00friends because she is a totally, totally well-developed, completely developed woman. She is 97. Collin saw her the other night at the museum, but she is what I would call a fully developed human being. You know what I mean? She took us in, and, yes. Anything I would ask for, I could get help from Hope. We've been to their house. They've been here. I mean, just an open, open, open, intelligent woman. Now, her husband was a little bit on the stand-offish side of stuff, not just with us, but he was an insurance type.

So, you see, as long as I can understand where you're coming from, I can 01:40:00tolerate whatever this is you're putting out. He just wasn't that friendly. I mean, he wasn't unfriendly to us, but he just wasn't she, not as open and welcoming. But, you know what? That's what is getting me through. Okay, I can tell you, that's what has gotten me through living on this street with friendly or unfriendly neighbors, attending that university, whatever. I have to give myself credit for this: I have such a perception and a depth of knowledge about people. You know, I mean, and based on that, that's where I take them from.

RK: I'm going to change the subject now a little bit. But, you were here in the '70s at the time when the Civil Rights Movement when there was a fairly good, 01:41:00active Civil Rights Movement here in Eugene and on the campus. Can you tell us about what you experienced at that time here? Give as much details as you can.

CC: I can. Okay.

RK: And what you did. What were your contributions?

CC: Ed and I, Ed, my husband, was a very politically active person in San Francisco. COREs and all that stuff, because San Francisco, of all of those cities, had some of the worst race problems, and kind of hidden in all that tourist fun stuff. Terrible. Some of the worst property owners for Black people to try to deal with were the Chinese, and it's kind of interesting. I can kind 01:42:00of see why, but it was-so, we move here with that kind of background. I didn't do a lot of picketing, but I'll tell you my mother's and dad's house in Berkeley was politic central, because my mother was so smart when it came to politics and she was a spitfire. I mean, she knew stuff. That's why I'm saying we got through those schools so well, because she knew how to go up there and talk to those people with the political edge and stuff. Well, when we came to Eugene we had that with us, that attitude. So, Ed joined NAACP. We joined on whatever needed to be joined onto.

RK: What were the different places that you could join?

CC: There's always been a democratic headquarters somewhere. It has moved to 01:43:00different places because of the property thing. I don't know what that is. So, we've always been Democrats. We've always gone to meetings, Democratic Party meetings. Basically, that's what we did in those days, which was Democratic Party stuff. There was no Calk, but we also joined it eventually. What else have we joined? Ed was at every political rally that there was. Robert Kennedy came through on a train. I mean, every-

RK: Tell us about this, because we need the story of the history of this, what was going on. We don't know anything. Tell us as though we don't know anything about it.

CC: Okay, well, just as much involved as Ed was, there were White people in this 01:44:00community who were the same. There's still a few whose names, Jerry Rust, ran for what? Commissioner or something. There's still some of those people in this town, so there was always a bunch of people. Now, I can't name names, because you know I had two kids. I wasn't on committees like Ed was, but there was always, always a large segment of people who were politically active. They knew what needed to happen, but then, what happened? Something, Eugene just kind of became sort of, what do you say? Incorporated with what cities do. They become 01:45:00larger, therefore the roots. You know like the Democratic Party is not the one that, they're not as active. Maybe people were tired and stopped doing that. But something happened. It's not anything like it was. In those days, people were out marching on the campus. They were marching against Nixon. They were marching for so-and-so, very, very active people, and Ed and I were included in the group. There was no problem of race or anything. We were always welcomed into that group. What else can I, what other information? That was just a wonderful, busy political activism going on in those days. I don't, I mean, there still are 01:46:00groups because I go to lunch with a friend from church, and she went to the Trump rally just so she could see it. There are still people, but as far as Black people are concerned, we've only mostly, Black people in Eugene, except for a few of us, have mostly, what would you say? Been active with their church.

I think the Eugene pioneers, people who came here during those days, I find that they were overwhelmed. It has had an effect on them in their participation. I still, and in their resources, because they didn't come here with anything. I 01:47:00would like to use the word overwhelmed, because, to me, they still are under-represented. They don't show up at the Democratic Party meetings. They don't show up. I know there aren't that many, but we still need to get together and have a group, like this group. We need to respect. I mean, they have a lot to offer to other Blacks. Well, just because there aren't very many of us here makes the difference. It's easy to think, well, that doesn't bother me because I have a job now, and blah, blah, blah. But I think they're still a bit intimidated by the racial issues and haven't had time to really feel successful 01:48:00with it. This isn't going out to the public, is it? This information? Well, I just want to say, a lot of the Black people who were here as pioneers had it rough. They're still kind of in that condition, or position. There aren't too, too, too many of them still. But they didn't get a chance to grow beyond what they were trapped in. So, I think some of them are still suffering from a kind of a, what would you say? a poverty mentality, even though some of them have gone on to college and gotten jobs at the university. I still think that, as a whole, Black people basically, I believe we are, we are feeling the neglect. I 01:49:00don't know that we can ever overcome all that's been destroyed about us. That's what I'm trying to say about Eugene. I believe that the Black people in Eugene did not have resources. They weren't comfortable going to Democratic Party meetings, because they were surrounded by people who spoke better than they, or had more than they, and that's intimidating. I do believe that the difference between mine and Ed's coming here was that we never suffered, our families never suffered, that kind of neglect to the point where it got to our souls.

It didn't get to our souls. Ed and I knew it was there. We faced it. Every day I 01:50:00walk out of this house, I know I'm a Black woman. I don't know what fool I'm going to run into in Eugene, but the difference is I have the heart and the head that I know how to handle it. I'm secure with it. We don't talk about that a lot, and I don't know whether these Black pioneers up there talk about it a lot, but I do believe in my heart and soul that Black people are in a very depressed state still.

RK: Did you participate, do you now and have you participated in the NAACP?

CC: I do, and I always have, because of my respect for what the NAACP is 01:51:00formulated under, the umbrella: helping Black people. I say that because there's been some confusion. Just lately, I've talked to a couple of younger people and I say, you know-well they say, well, White people were always in it. Yes, they were always in it, but they were not the controllers of the mindset that it was set up under. It was strictly for Black people, to help them get a start and get ahead. These were White people who had resources and wanted to do that. We were talking about it because somebody had made a comment, I get, this was a Black person said, I get sick of being in a group and the next thing I look up and the white people are taking it over. Somebody made that comment somewhere. I've heard it a lot of times. So, that's what I'm talking about when I say we don't 01:52:00understand that we have power against that. We can open our mouths and say to those people, even if they're giving lots of money to NAACP, calm down. This is about us. This is about us getting ahead. It's not about being lesbian. It's not about being any of that. Yes, those groups have the same kind of background of oppression and everything. This was formulated to help Black people and we still need that help, badly. We cannot have it taken over by a privileged group thinking, because the thinking is different.

RK: Have you done any direct, participated in any direct way in the NAACP?

CC: Yes. I have.

RK: What have you done? Tell us about it.


CC: I have donated every time I can, financially, because we've not always been known to be organized, and I don't operate with any group or committee that isn't organized, because I don't have that kind of patience. NAACP, over the years has really not had the kind of maturity that NAACPs in the city, Berkeley, that I experienced. I don't fault them for that, but I have a hard time keeping my focus with them, because they'll get off, and I'm thinking, ugh. We don't have time for this. We need to stick with getting things better for us and thinking better. I can't even go into all the details but it's frustrating for 01:54:00us, for me, and for Ed, because we know the NAACP from our childhood and what it was set out to be. We've never had the kind of leadership, well, we've had a couple of people, young people, who have come from cities who ran it, who organized it. But, I think it's another kind of regional thing. I don't think the national NAACP or those that are formulated and have an organizational plan, I don't think we get the kind of attention that we deserve, because I found this out, this is one problem I've had with Eugene, I found it out because I am a shopper. I love to shop. I don't buy everything I see, but I love looking at stuff.

It's the kind of frustrated artist in me, you know? I just love-so, when we were 01:55:00first here, I would take my son, who has very flat feet-I had polio when I was a kid, so I know feet. My family, they were adamant about taking care of your feet. It was kind of like, I mean, they were on a, I mean they, you don't neglect your feet because it's what you walk on. So, I'm trying to buy nice shoes for Edwin, leather shoes. Couldn't find a shoe store. Finally, Sister Margaret Graziano, who was 99, or 199 when she died, was a nun. One day I was walking downtown with Edwin, and she said, well hi, Dear. She always called me 01:56:00dear. Well, what are you two doing today? I said, well, Sister, Sister Margaret, I'm looking for a shoe store. I went to Penny's but I don't like the quality of their shoes. She said, oh, Dear. Oh, Dear, yes. I know what you mean. Well, there is a shoe store. She told me, oh it's where what that-it's on, is that Polk, not Polk... oh gosh, West Brothers used to have a barbeque place, and now that is closed and now it has a casino, poker night place? What street is that? I was on it the other day. It's been one way. Oh! It's on that, it's where all 01:57:00those people hang out. That street.

RK: Do you mean on West 7th? I mean 6th?

CC: It's not 7th, it's going this way [makes hand motion]. It's the name of a street. Is it Polk? No, it's-uh. Olive.

RK: Okay.

CC: Olive. Okay, there was a shoe store there, but I didn't know Eugene. So, I'm sticking with what I know. Penny's used to be in that corner. I went in there. That was a Jewish couple, and I knew it because our neighborhood had Jewish shop owners who lived at their shop. I kind of knew what Jewishness was like. They were so friendly and so good. So, I said, well, why is there only one shoe store 01:58:00where I can find good shoes for my son? She looked at me and said, Eugene is considered a level, I think she said, in the market, you know of business, well, okay, I'll get to the point. Eugene is a level D town. We're never going to-like the Nordstrom that they brought here is a junk shop. So, they still treat us that way. NAACP, I believe, does not get the service from the well-organized branches. So, I don't think our president gets the advice or the kinds of opportunities to develop himself. I don't really have a lot of patience, but I will participate. I did go and speak at their women's speaker format, but I 01:59:00believe that's because there's some young Black women who are interns. They work in there with Eric and they're moving. It was for women of women and I spoke. They gave me the open mic, and it was lovely. I spoke about being Black, being Black as a person, being Black in Eugene. I will forever, ever, honor NAACP.

In my maturity, I wish I had time, and I need to take time. I really want to interface with NAACP on a level where before I leave this place it will have much more than it has now. I don't mean a building and a library and all that, but just be at the top of its job, because I think we can pull in White people 02:00:00to help, but I think some of the White people that I've seen who really want to give up their time, some of them are misguided. They don't really, they give the wrong information of their experience. They'll come in and, the White experience and the Black experience is totally different. I don't care what you're doing. Even Bill Cosby with all his money. You see they nabbed him, don't you? Yet Trump is running around here. That is a color thing. It has to be. I can't fathom anything else. No, it was horrible, if Bill Cosby did all that, but he has more money and more popularity than Trump. He didn't get away with it. You see that? Because most of the women were White. Because White male American is 02:01:00what runs this place, and they take sides and they run it the way they see it and it's to their advantage. I'm never going to shut up. A lady tried to say to me once, and she happened to be Jewish: well, now, you can't blame all White-I said, hey, don't you ever tell me that I can't believe that what is a major part of the philosophy of this country is that White men run it.

RK: Well, thank you very much.

CC: [Laughs] On that note.

RK: I think we can go on and on and it's probably getting late and you're probably getting tired.

CC: No, I'm fine. I'm fine, but I just want to say this to you and Greg. Have I fulfilled this position properly? I mean, I don't want to leave out anything, 02:02:00but I don't, you know. I don't talk about it a lot, so it's hard to organize it in your head.

RK: The answer is yes, because I think we're, you know when I told you we're getting life histories. We're following, you can see certain themes. I've got some other themes in here that, you know, we could get into.

CC: Right.

RK: I think one of the things that I'm particularly, would like to see, I think we've all talked about, is in an interview rather than just always focusing...

CC: On the negative? [Laughs].

RK: No. I mean, focusing on this subject or that, but there's much that comes 02:03:00about from a person when you're just telling, just your life, your, this aspect. A lot of times you find out a lot more new and different things or unexpected things that you don't find out when you're pointing.

CC: Well-

RK: So, from your, all of what you've been telling us, at least certainly from my perspective, we have to get Greg in here. It seems to me that, I guess one of the questions that come to mind as, you know, how is it that an African American gets to be where you are now, whether it is that you're where you are now or whether we expected to be interviewing people of all status got to be in other 02:04:00situations that are not as desirable.

CC: Okay. So, that's a wonderful-

RK: So, you really gave us, to me, you know a good, a point of view there, that I think is going to contribute.

CC: Right, because-

RK: To this kind of historical knowledge that we're looking for.

CC: Yeah, I'm hoping what my interview will say to people is that I'm speaking from my Black woman experience, and we are not, we're nothing all alike. That's the thing that I have really been thinking about in all of this is-people, because a lot of our problem, it's not our problem. It's a people's problem, is that they take us all and lump us into one kind of misunderstood category. My 02:05:00fighting that university was from my point of view. Another woman from another background probably would have given up. I have known too many black students, too many Black people who came to this town with good intentions who gave it up, probably because their background did not have that strength. See, our family was constantly fighting, because there were dark-skinned ones. I mean, my great aunt, who was my grandmother's sister, the Choctaw, was Black. But, she had that, they had that background of, well, they had the culture. They were Indian, although they were mistreated, but they still had had, you know they had a tribe. They had something. So many Black people who came here with nothing and 02:06:00still have nothing are still totally left out of that loop. At the same time, a lot of white people want to lump us into that, oh, poor thing you came from slavery. How did you and Ed do this? Well, we did have a little advantage, and it's not a braggadocios point, but it's to point out that I still have that fight in me, you know. Fortunately, I had that little bit of advantage.

RK: I'm going to-we're coming to the end, but I did want to ask you another little more specific question about the NAACP. Have you ever participated in their education committee, given I'm thinking is a role...

CC: Well, I think, no, because really to tell you the truth, the NAACP has just 02:07:00not had enough resource of background of what they're really about and they've not had the personnel who had that background. NAACP is not just a thing where we have a library and we have-see, we don't have the structure down yet. Does that make sense? We don't-and I don't want to hammer or harp on the leadership, but there's something else we don't get. We don't get people on board who know enough about what this group really started out doing and what it still can 02:08:00continue to do. We're just, it's kind of like, we're just what? An organization, and some of the people who have been in the leadership don't even know what an organization is supposed to look like. I mean, I would never volunteer or elect myself or what to be elected as president of NAACP, because it's not just, you don't compare it to, what? Going to church. Somebody in that church, they have a structure. Priests, we have catechism, we have-well, NAACP, they don't have those, in writing, where you hold onto those and that's what you pass down. 02:09:00That's the difference between what I'm talking about, I'm using the Catholic church, because it is the one church that has structure. You are not a part of it unless you go through this, and you go through this, and you go through this, you go through this. You're on all those committees. Now, NAACP can't break itself down like that. But a group like NAACP and other churches need a structure, because we need to, people need to know, okay have I fulfilled this part of this so I'm part of this? You know, you go to NAACP meeting, and it's like what is? Where do I fit? Whatever.

RK: What is your opinion, what is your concept of NAACP? We know it's-


CC: My concept for this NAACP is that we contact-

RK: Should be, in other words.

CC: We contact national, and I know they do have some, you know-we get it down from the go-get. When did this start? Who started it? What is the mission? Where do we slot our branch into this? We can't do all of this, for one thing we don't have that many people here in town and blah, blah, blah. But that's what I think. That's what feels like it's missing to me, is a lot of, well, let me put it in this-and Greg will understand what I'm talking about, and you probably, too. There are a lot of churches that Black people can belong to, but very few 02:11:00of them have the foundation of a religion that stays on track, on base, and doesn't get off into-megachurches don't have that. So, it's not just the little Black churches. For years, people like my family have talked in the house, not out, about oh, Reverend so and so, he doesn't know anything about how to run a church, because people would think that we were putting the Catholic church against theirs, but I'm telling you that's what the Catholic church has that keeps me bound to it. It has a structure. I've been to communion. I made a vow of this. My children were confirmed in the faith. You don't have to do that to 02:12:00be a part of the church. You can go to church. You can go to the schools. But if you're going to be a truly practicing Christian of Catholic faith, I value those things. We have, you know, the commandments, the Lord's Prayer. Those were put in that practice.

RK: You've been active in Catholic church, mainly at the Newman Center, or other?

CC: In town, yes, because you see even though the Catholic church has that structure, it's the personality of the place that I'm talking about. I don't care for the personality of these churches in Eugene. I just find them to be in a different era.

RK: Tell us what your participation has been like at the Newman Center.

CC: Well, my participation-I have participated on everything at that church. 02:13:00We've been music ministers. I've been in on helping students, I mean we still do it. I take food during finals for the students, because basically that's the community that they serve. But I also, my children were first communion there, baptized there, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I still participate with other parents and their children. Every bit of that church I participate in. I'm not on the committee. I'm not the committee chair, but I do know when they mention it in the bulletin, I know what it is.

RK: Give us a couple of concrete examples.

CC: Of? Well, for example, there is an African mother who has two children, and she's Catholic. There are a lot of Catholics over in those countries. That's, my 02:14:00grandmother came from somewhere. Not Africa, but Caribbean, or somewhere. Frida, Frida's little girl, had her first communion the other day. What Frida did, and what I did, was we invited other Black people who we know are Catholic but don't come to church and we all just sat in a section supporting her. It's the little things, you know, that we do. The priest yesterday told a story about his family who was highly, they were bright and brilliant. His dad was a doctor, but some dysfunction that made people crazy, about the Black lady who came to their house to help his mother clean up or straighten up, shielding him from one of his dad's beatings, because his dad would, you know, let the discipline go.

Then, when it would just get too bad he'd just come home and beat all the kids 02:15:00[laughs]. Well, after church I went to Father and said, thank you for that story. These people need to hear that. So, I guess you might say something concrete that I have done for that church is to bring my Black ethics and my Black knowledge to it. Ed and I brought the jazz music to the church. But we not only brought the music, we told them this is a legitimate music form. This was what Black people played. We don't just do spirituals. I gave a talk on the difference between spirituals and what's the other one? Spirituals and, is this a spiritual or is this a gospel song? Yeah. The difference between the two, and there is a difference. Those kinds of things. I think concretely you would say 02:16:00Ed and I are the, kind of the Black voice of the Catholic church [laughs]. I mean, I never let them forget. I don't throw it in their faces every day, but I remind them. Okay. Yeah, but you know, you've not been Black and Catholic, Honey. I'm telling you this is not news. Speak up. That's the one concrete that I could say that I've contributed to: my household, my neighborhood, NAACP I will speak. I'll go Black on them.

RK: Okay, well, maybe with that last word, we can thank you very, very much.

CC: You're very, very welcome. And I hope this is helpful to everybody who hears it. It's coming from my heart. Yeah. I'm just trying to say it like I know it. 02:17:00It's in my maturity and knowing a lot that I'm peaceful. I can be peaceful.

RK: Thank you so, so much.

CC: You're very welcome. You're very welcome.