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The speaker is a 41-year-old Black woman with a high school education from Detroit, Michigan; she was recorded in 1967.
5:17-7:53


County: Wayne
State: MI

Commentary:
Detroit was founded in 1701 and has a fascinating history. The most important impact of the 20th century was the establishment of the automobile industry in Detroit, which brought many additional immigrants to the city, along with many Southerners, including a large number of Black people, to work in its factories. Its dependence on the declining auto industry in the 1970's and 1980's brought job losses and social problems, along with migration to the suburbs. While still ranked in the top dozen cities and metropolitan areas in size today, the city itself has lost more than half of its population since its peak in 1950.

The speaker relates problems and challenges of growing up Black in the city. (Shortly after the interview was taped, the race riots of 1967 broke out in Detroit. Today the city is over 80% Black.)

Inf: I would say so; as I was growing up, I knew these people and since it was never taught in our family, the difference in a person, we didn't know. Our family was all very fair, so we just accepted people.

[FW: Surely.]

And, I had never known the difference in nationality until I started school. When White children used to come up and ask me what nationality I was, and they couldn't believe that I was colored. And um, since none of our family had ever practiced trying to be anything other than what we were, we didn't feel ashamed of our nationality. Um, I experienced a few problems in school growing up where-

FW: Such as?

Inf: Uh, the White children that I had become friendly with that liked me, when I'd tell them I was colored, they turned away from me. And this made me try to make more friends with colored because I found out that

[FW: (coughs)]

uh they didn't accept you if you weren't one of them. Several of them used to tell me that I shouldn't tell people that I was colored because I didn't look it. And uh I still didn't feel this until I was older and started trying to get a job.

FW: How did it manifest itself then?

Inf: The first time was when I went to the telephone company. And I was very young. And I wanted to apply for a job. And the woman there, the, in personnel, asked me had I had any experience, and I told her no, that I had never held a job. And that I had no kind of experience at all. And she did say that, well, she felt she had a job that I would enjoy, that I could learn very well. And she started filling out an application. And she was filling it out until she came to nationality, and she asked me what was my nationality. And I was stunned because I had always felt that anyone could look at me and see what I was. And I told her I was colored. And she turned as red as a beet. And she said she was sorry, she didn't have anything for me.

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