Interview with Hugh Victor Brown, June 28, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:12 - Family's work as blacksmiths and the buying of freedom from slavery

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Partial Transcript: Well, I think we're plugged in and, and ready to go here. 'Course I know when your birthday is because I called you last week on the day--

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about his grandfather's work as a blacksmith and shoeing horses. This trade got passed down within the family. When his grandfather was a slave, he received payment for his horseshoe work and was able to purchase his first wife's freedom.

Keywords: 1829; 1859; 1891; African American man; Automobiles; Bicycles; Birth; Black man; Blacksmith; Born into slavery; Clothes washing; Enslaved African Americans; Family business; Family trade; Henderson (Ky.); Horses; Horseshoes; Masters; Maternal grandfather; Mike Brown; Mules; Paralysis; Paralyzed; Payment; Purchased freedom; Racehorses; Schools; Shoe horses; Slavery; Slaves; Strength of a bull

Subjects: African American business enterprises; African American families; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Southern States.; Slavery--United States.; United States--Race relations.

GPS: Henderson (Ky.)
Map Coordinates: 37.835556, -87.580833
00:06:05 - Growing up in Henderson (Ky.)

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Partial Transcript: What are some of your earliest recollections of growing up in Henderson? What was it like to, to grow up in Henderson as a very young, young person?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about the schools that he and his siblings could and could not attend depending on where they lived inside or outside of the city limits. Brown also talks about doing chores for A.O. Stanley, a Kentucky Governor and U.S. Congressman, and his wife.

Keywords: African American families; American politicians; Augustus Owsley Stanley; Domestic labor; Henderson (Ky.); Housework; Kentucky governors; Schools; St. Clements Episcopal School; United States Congressman; White families

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Employment.; Childhood; Governors--Kentucky; Kentucky--Politics and government; Politicians--Kentucky; Race relations--Kentucky

00:14:44 - Parents' jobs

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Partial Transcript: From what, uh, you--your sisters have told me, uh, all the children in the family worked, uh, quite a bit, uh, at different jobs--

Segment Synopsis: Brown details the work that his father did to provide for the family. He talks briefly about his grandparents, and he notes that his mother was a school teacher and always had the Bible around.

Keywords: African American families; Bible; Brickyards; Childhood; Clayburn Brown; Education; Family money; Fathers; Fireman; Grandparents; Marsha Brown; Mothers; School teachers; Tobacco factories; Working

Subjects: African American families; African American teachers.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Employment.; Teachers; Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

00:20:44 - Fourteen sisters and brothers

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Partial Transcript: You've mentioned you, uh, had several brothers and sisters.

Segment Synopsis: Brown lists off his siblings' names. He also mentions his aunt who taught him and called him Victor Hugo, but gives no further explanation.

Keywords: African American families; Large families; Names; Siblings; Victor Hugo

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Marriage.

00:24:52 - Relatives who moved away from Henderson (Ky.) to find work

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Partial Transcript: Did you then have a, a, a, a lot of relatives that lived around Henderson when you were growing up?

Segment Synopsis: Brown lists some of his relatives that left the Henderson area. He had one uncle attend Tuskegee and start a school in West Virginia. Some other uncles left to find work in Chicago.

Keywords: Chicago (Ill.); HBCUs; Henderson (Ky.); Historically black colleges and universities; Relations; Relatives; School teachers; St. Louis (Mo.); Tuskegee University; West Virginia schools; Working

Subjects: African American college students.; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Employment.; Family histories.; Family--history

00:27:21 - Integrated neighborhood in Henderson / Assaulted by one of the Mann brothers

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Partial Transcript: When, when you were, when you were growing up, were there, uh, were there white families around, around your house? Was it, was it a mixed neighborhood between whites and blacks?

Segment Synopsis: Brown grew up in an integrated neighborhood. Once, as a boy, he was assaulted by one of the Mann brothers because he called them by their first name like everyone else. He ran to his family's blacksmith shop and they went to the county attorney who refused to press charges. He then talks about saving up his money for railroad fare to go to Louisville to find work.

Keywords: 1908; Assault; Attorney; Blacksmiths; Elevators; Fare; Hitting; Integrated neighborhoods; Jobs; Louisville (Ky.); Mann brothers; Meir; Neighborhoods; Playmates; Post offices; Postman; Press charges; Racism; Railroad; Sue Soaper; Trouble; White families; White people; Working

Subjects: African American families; African American neighborhoods; African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Employment.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Racism; Violence

00:33:54 - Henderson community social activities

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Partial Transcript: Your mother taught you at home before you even started school.

Segment Synopsis: Brown's mother taught him before he was old enough to go to school. His church banned dancing, so he couldn't go to any community dances. He and other boys played baseball in vacant lots growing up. Twice a year, the "negro lodges" would hold social events.

Keywords: "Negro lodges"; African American mothers; Baptism; Baseball; Baseball games; Churches; Dancing ban; Mothers; Religion; Saving money; Social activities; Society; Suit; Teachers; Teaching; Vacant lots

Subjects: African American churches; African American churches--Kentucky; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social life and customs.

00:37:14 - Encouragement that led him to attend Hampton University

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Partial Transcript: Who was--who made the, the uh, biggest impression on you as a young man, and, and encouraged you to, uh, want to go to Hampton and want to, uh, save your money and get an education?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about the people who encouraged and inspired him to attend college. He talks about Hampton University (then called Hampton Institute).

Keywords: African American families; African American parents; Booker T. Washington; Episcopal schools; HBCUs; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Hampton, Virginia; Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Tuskegee University; West Virginia

Subjects: African American college students.; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Education (Higher); Hampton (Va.)

GPS: Hampton University in Hampton, Virginia
Map Coordinates: 37.022, -76.336
00:39:13 - Overcoming obstacles to attend Hampton University

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Partial Transcript: At this point in your life, where your mother was encouraging you to, to go off to school, to get an education, to, to work hard, did you--did it bother you the, uh, the irony of the fact that, that there were so many things standing in your way at the time?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about his determination to go to Hampton University. He talks about his pastor and H.F. Jones. He also talks about the beginning of the trip to Hampton.

Keywords: Baptism; H.F. Jones; Henderson Frances Jones; Louisville (Ky.); Pastors; Railroads; Resentment; Segregated schools; Social; Systemic racism

Subjects: African American clergy.; African American college students.; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Religion.; African Americans--Segregation

00:46:25 - First memories of Hampton University

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Partial Transcript: What were some of your first impressions of Hampton?

Segment Synopsis: Brown remembers first arriving at Hampton University and his first impressions. His roommate was a football player called "Zoom" Holmes. Most of the teachers and professors were white, except for the trade school teachers. There were very few students from Kentucky that attended Hampton.

Keywords: Black trade school teaches; Chimes; Danville (Ky.); Escorts; Football players; HBCUs; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Introductions; Kentucky students; Peer mentors; Professors; Roommates; Student workers; Teachers; Trains; Uniforms; White professors; White teachers; Zoom Holmes

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Segregation; Segregation in education.

00:52:11 - Working in the kitchen at Hampton University

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Partial Transcript: Had the, uh, the teachings of your mother and the--and your schoolteachers prepared you fairly well to do, to do the work at Hampton?

Segment Synopsis: Brown says he felt prepared for Hampton. He was a student worker who worked in the teachers' cafeteria/restaurant. He worked in the kitchen, but other students were waitresses and busboys.

Keywords: Busboys; Chefs; Cooks; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Kitchen help; Pictures; Preparation; Professors; Scrapbooks; Student workers; Teachers; Teachers' Home Kitchen; Waitresses; Working

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African American college students.; African Americans--Employment.

00:56:25 - Coming back to Henderson

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Partial Transcript: How many years were you there?

Segment Synopsis: Brown stayed at Hampton for 5 years before returning to Henderson. He was a teacher. In 1914, he returned to Henderson to give the commencement address at his sister's graduation at the segregated high school.

Keywords: 1914; African American universities and colleges.; Agriculture department; Commencement addresses; Education; Graduation; HBCUs; Hampton University; Harrisonburg, Virginia; Henderson (Ky.); Segregated high schools; Segregation; Teaching; Uniforms

Subjects: African American college students.; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Segregation; Harrisonburg (Va.); Segregation in education--Kentucky

01:00:19 - Concerns about World War I

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Partial Transcript: Did Henderson change much during the time you were gone?

Segment Synopsis: Brown doesn't remember how Henderson had changed when he came home from Hampton. He does remember talking to his mother about the prospect of World War I.

Keywords: 1908; 1914; African American mothers; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Henderson (Ky.); Military; U.S. Army; WW1; WWI; World War 1; World War I; World War One

Subjects: African American college graduates--Kentucky; African American families; African American universities and colleges.; African American veterans.; African Americans--Education.; World War, 1914-1918

01:02:52 - World War I / The Brown brothers

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Partial Transcript: What did you do after that?

Segment Synopsis: Brown was drafted into World War I and sent to officer's training school. The war ended while he was there, but he stayed to finish and become an officer. He then talks about his brothers. Two of this brothers were also in the military; one was a chaplain and the other was a first lieutenant.

Keywords: 1915; Army; Business majors; Chaplains; Commissioned officers; Draft; First lieutenants; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Military; Navy; Officer's training school; Preaching; Richmond (Va.); Virginia Union; WW1; WWI; Woodrow Wilson; Working; World War 1; World War I

Subjects: African American veterans.; United States. Army; United States. Navy; World War, 1914-1918

01:08:25 - Work history / Sister's work as a maid and cook

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Partial Transcript: So after you finished, uh, officer training school, then where did you, where did you go?

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about his work history and retirement. He says he wrote to ask his sister Mary to come to Hampton because "she had home economics" and could cook.

Keywords: 1924; 1958; Bachelors of science; College degrees; Columbus County (N.C.); Domestic labor; Hampton (Va.); Home economics; Retirement; Schools; Schoolteachers; Virginia

Subjects: African American college graduates; African American families

01:11:28 - Success of the Brown family

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Partial Transcript: And of course, uh, in the time you were here in Goldsboro, uh, uh, it was quite a long period of time involved in education here.

Segment Synopsis: Brown briefly talks about the books he wrote. Then they talk about the success of Brown's family. Brown attributes it to the training from his parents, primarily his mother. He notes, "my mother couldn't get out and, and she was always tied down with the, the raising of her children and grandchildren." The interviewer asks about a story that Annette Brown told about their grandfather getting captured by the Confederate Army. Brown was the associate pastor of the First African Baptist Church.

Keywords: A History of the Education of Negroes in North Carolina (Book); Books; Children; Confederate Army; E-qual-ity Education in North Carolina Among Negroes (Book); Education; Fathers; First African Baptist Church; Goldsboro (N.C.); Grandchildren; H. V. Brown; Home training; Mothers; Raising children; Success; Teaching

Subjects: African American college graduates; African American college students.; African American families; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Confederate States of America. Army.

01:16:22 - Racist violence in Southwest Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: I think it was your sister, Annette, also, who talked about the section of town in Henderson called Audubon.

Segment Synopsis: Audubon in Henderson was a place where African Americans knew not to go for fear of being driven out or experiencing other racist violence. While Brown cannot prove it and won't "put it on" Audubon, he seems to think that his father's murder may be due to the people from Audubon. Brown notes that part of Kentucky has a history of scandals. He notes Arnett's book, "The Annals and Scandals of Henderson County, Kentucky, 1775-1975," and the assassination of William Goebel. He talks more about the Mann brother who assaulted him.

Keywords: African Americans; Assassination of William Goebel; Audubon; Death; Driven out; Failure; Fathers; Henderson (Ky.); Maralea Arnett; Murder; Neglect; Officials; Racism; Racist violence; Scandals; Shot; Stoned; The Annals and Scandals of Henderson County, Kentucky, 1775-1975 (Book); William Goebel

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Social conditions.; Race relations--Kentucky; Racism; United States--Race relations.; Violence

01:22:06 - First wife / Siblings' employment and lives

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Partial Transcript: I, uh, I married a girl in, uh, in, in Louisville. Her father was a lawyer. She died in '48, then I married my present wife.

Segment Synopsis: Brown talks about how he met his first wife, and her father who was a lawyer in Louisville. He then talks about his siblings and their occupations.

Keywords: African Americans--Employment.; Brothers; Children; HBCUs; Hampton Institute; Hampton University; Harper Ellis; Historically Black Colleges and Universities; Lawyers; Louisville (Ky.); Marriage; Ministers; Music; Pastors; Preachers; Railroads; Summer schools; Sylvan; Teachers; Trains; Tuskegee University

Subjects: African American families; African American universities and colleges.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Marriage.