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Annie and John Mims Oral History Interview, March 16, 1993

Oregon State University
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RESSA SIMEAN: Today is March 16th. Today we're interviewing Ms. Mims, and my name Ressa Simean. My name's Eugene Pomlin.

EUGENE POMLIN: What black community was there when you came here to Eugene?

JOHN MIMS: Mom? Did you hear the question? Mom?


JM: Did you hear the question what he asked you?

AM: Hmm-mm [no].

JM: What was it?

EP: What black community was there when you came here to Eugene?

JM: He wants to know what black community was here when you come to Eugene, Mom.

AM: Which one I come from?

JM: Well, we're talking about the one when you were here. When you first come here. You talking about when we first moved here or are you talking about-?

EP: Yeah.

JM: Well, when we first came here we used to live right over here up under, you know the bridge is over here? Ferry Street Bridge? We used to live on the back 00:01:00side of that in the campgrounds, okay? Then after we moved from there we moved over here with my father and my mother and my brother and sister. All this over here is where all the blacks used to live. Now they have this Ya-Po-Ah Terrace. I took Roosevelt on a tour with one of the groups that come up to show him where the blacks and people lived around here. We've been here, in this house, since 1948. My mother and my sister and my brother. We're all still here. Just like the Mims and the Reynolds and the Stubbs and the Jenkins and the Johnsons. Those are the five black pioneer families that'd been here.

UNIDENTIFIED: What are we going to do? John, maybe we should get you and have 00:02:00you sit next to mother.

EP: What was the biggest lesson that you told your kids about life?

JM: Talking about from her?

EP: Yeah?

JM: Well, she-

AM: I didn't hear him.

JM: He was asking, Mom, what was the biggest lesson that you gave us besides whipping us with a switch? No, I'm kidding [chuckles]. Well, she taught us a lot. She taught us to treat people like they treat you. My father was more kind of laid back and he taught us a lot of things just by observing him and being aware of the things that he was good-he was good at a lot of things. We were raised in a very loving situation, caring situation. She just like nowadays, she 00:03:00cared for us then and she cares for us more now. She always has. One of her biggest statements is, "I can't help myself. I just love my kids." You know, which is good. I think now one of the biggest things is that we probably don't spend as much time, because we all work, that we would like to, to be able to be with her. But we do what we can. We all have to lead our lives and do other things.

EP: What was the toughest thing you had to face as a parent?

JM: Mom, what would you think would be the-

AM: Which?

JM: The question was what was the toughest thing you had to face with being a parent? What do you think?

AM: Being a parent? [laughs]

JM: Yes. What was it.

AM: That's the toughest thing.


JM: That was the toughest thing itself, huh?

AM: Mm-hmm.

JM: Oh, okay.

AM: How to treat people and how to live. How to take care of themselves.

JM: Yeah, that's true.

AM: That was. Pretty hard to live anywhere. Teach them how to live anywhere amongst any peoples, all peoples if peoples treat them right. It's pretty hard to just remember everything it was. Everything that was taught to kids was right, that's what I taking up when I started to raise my family, that people 00:05:00treat them right.

RS: What stories did you tell your kids?

AM: Hmmm?

RS: What stories-

JM: She wants to know what stories did you tell us, Mom?

AM: That's something pretty hard to remember.

JM: Well, you were pretty good.

AM: There are so many stories.

JM: Well, you were pretty good at the Three Little Pigs and the bears. You did that pretty good.

AM: Hmm.

JM: Huh?

AM: I think you can tell pretty much more than I can.

JM: Well.

AM: What I did teach you.

JM: Well, yeah.

AM: Because lots of it, it just don't, I can't remember it.

JM: Well, she used to read a lot of, what, The Three Little Pigs and the bears. 00:06:00She was very active. She'd get out and do a lot of things, but she always had time for us. That's one of the biggest things that I always remember when I was a kid. It seemed like we always had the things that we needed and we didn't have to struggle, thank God for that. We'd fight and argue, just like any other family. There's no doubt about that. But we love each other. We took care of each other. We were always there. It was a lot of unity, more unity now than when people nowadays they don't have half the unity we had when we were growing up. I remember a time when you used to walk by black people and you would acknowledge black people and they would say hello to you, now. But I've noticed 00:07:00black people, nowadays they walk by and they look at you and you being black and they look at you like you're a fool. It's, sometimes I have to think about it and wonder where is everybody? This never happened before.

Why is it happening now? I think that's one of the biggest quotes probably you kids will probably learn later on in life is that saying about divided we fall, together we stand. I think that's one of the biggest things that we assume about our race and our people, that we don't stay as close as we should. It's like we're Republican Negros. That's always meant to me something like being nigger-rich. I don't know if you know what I'm saying when I say that. When I use that phrase I'm talking about like you don't have nothing and all of a 00:08:00sudden you get something and you become what we used to say uppity. You become better than other people. Well, how long is this going to continue, being black in a white man's world? You know? There has to be some consistency and it has to be the consistency of black people sticking together.

RS: What kind of day was Sunday?

JM: Church. We were all raised in the church. It was mandatory, church.

RS: How did you raise your kids? How did you raise your kids?

JM: How did you raise us, Ma?

AM: Every way you can think is right and was right that's the way my kids come up.


JM: Did you want to tell them about when you used to take us and drop us on our heads, or?

AM: [Laughs] Anything you know is right, that's the way my kids come up. Naming one by one is pretty hard to do. Just put it in a bigger lump. How to treat people, live amongst people of any color, in case of whether they treat them, they actually treat my kids like my kids treat them. That's the way they were raised.


EP: What was the hardest thing about being one of the few blacks in Eugene?

JM: Racism. It was the little white boys in their little Chevrolets with their little Confedy flags, and the nigger taunts that you had to accept. Then, late at night, my biggest ploy was taking my foot out of their posterior for them doing that to me. That was the way we were raised. You know, the white people were really stupid. They made you stupid with that, too, because you couldn't walk away from them. They wanted you to do what you had to do, and so you had to do it. Just like when I went to school, I was the first minority. We'd go to North Eugene. I had to put up with a lot of racism out there, they'd build 00:11:00crosses and little things on my door and stuff like that. I just simply told them, well, I'm not going anywhere. When you get tired of doing that and you get tired of everyday you see me, you're going to have to beat me up. If you slip one day and don't beat me up then there's somebody else that's going to be here that's going to get beat up. I guess that's going to be you. It's what I had to deal with from my freshman year and from then on out they'd seen that I wasn't kidding and I didn't have to worry about it anymore. There was a lot of racism. You just had to deal with it, you know what I mean? There's no way that you could buffer it and make it sound nice, okay? Some people say, diplomatic. Well, diplomacy doesn't have to do with anything. Racism, that's a disease. It's just like alcoholism. That's the way it was.


RS: What kind of future did you want for your kids?

JM: Mom?

AM: What?

JM: What kind of future did you want for us? Did you want us to be rich?

AM: No.

JM: No, okay! That's good. [Coins drop from pocket] There it goes.

AM: That's the hardest life, I tell you, especially if they intend to live with people they have to be treated like they are treated. If you give them a [unclear] and called them, they learned how to give it back. That's what I wanted my kids to come up and be treated like they treat people. When they treat you right if you treat them right. But if you didn't treat them right, I just 00:13:00let them treat you like they wanted to because they are human just like you are. That's the way I consider my kids. They're as good as any kids. We live pretty happy like that.

JM: [Makes phone calling gesture and exits].

AM: Amongst everybody. I treat them just like I wanted to be treated. That's the way I tried to teach my kids.

RS: Well, we'd really like to thank you for taking your time out to be interviewed.

EP: Thank you.

UNIDENTIFIED: Thank you Mrs. Mims. Appreciate it. Wanted to thank you for 00:14:00allowing us to come in and interview you. Thank you.

AM: You're sure welcome.

UNIDENTIFIED: Anything you'd like, a message that you'd like to send to the young people today?

AM: I don't think so. I can't think of, the only thing that's a message, all peoples are people. They're all human. I think everyone should treat each other, I don't care, color don't matter. It's the way you're treated. So, I think that's what's caused so much hate and why people can't get along with some people. The way they try to treat them. They want to treat a black person like 00:15:00they want to treat them.

JM: [Talking to someone outside of the interview] Hey, what's up? What are you doing?

AM: But they can't, they can't take it.