Interview with Audrey Louise Grevious, February 19, 1985

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:01 - Introduction / African American education

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Partial Transcript: My name is Audrey Louise Ross Grevious.

Segment Synopsis: Audrey Louise Grevious introduces herself and begins to talk about her life as an African-American student in Lexington. Although she didn't have access to the greatest resources, she was motivated to learn as much as she could. She also praises the inspirational teachers who prepared her for life.

Keywords: "Separate but equal"; Books; Teachers

Subjects: Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Segregation in education--Kentucky

00:04:50 - Growing up during segregation

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Partial Transcript: It was only when I went to school at Kentucky State and began to meet other students that I became more aware of the shortcomings here at Lex--in Lexington.

Segment Synopsis: Audrey talks about growing up as an African American during times of segregation. She acknowledges that they realized that they were deprived of some things, but were not fully aware of what they were missing out on. She describes what she would do for for fun when she was young.

Keywords: 1940s; 1950s; Entertainment; Jobs; Poverty; Restaurants; Theaters

Subjects: Race discrimination--Kentucky; Segregation--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:08:31 - Family life

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Partial Transcript: Our family was very very close. We had very little.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes the importance, and the tight bond of her her family. Her neighbors helped raise her and it was common for neighbors in black communities to be as close as families. She also mentions what it was like growing up with a single mother and how hard she worked to raise her family.

Keywords: Absent fathers; Discipline; Entertainment; Family bonding; Neighbors; Poverty; Roles of mothers; Single mothers

Subjects: Families.

00:13:44 - Her little brother Robert

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Partial Transcript: I had a younger brother who's two years younger than I.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about her younger brother in his youth. He was a troublesome child with discipline issues. He moved to Rhode Island to live with his father for a few years and he joined the armed forces when he returned to Lexington.

Keywords: Robert Ross Jefferson; Robert Thomas Ross; Younger brothers

Subjects: Families.; United States--Armed Forces--Kentucky

00:16:07 - Housing and automobiles

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Partial Transcript: Lexington was beginning to change. The only job I could look forward to as a teenager was to work in someone's home.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious tells stories about modern apartments and automobiles in Lexington during her teenage years. She highlights how excited she was about the thought of living in a house with indoor plumbing and heating that didn't require lighting a fire.

Keywords: Apartments; Aspendale; Automobiles; East End Lexington; Jobs; Model-T Fords; Teenage years

Subjects: Public housing

00:23:47 - Young adulthood

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Partial Transcript: Went away to school and, um, became familiar with--(coughs)--a number of students from the north.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious expresses her dream of making a change in the community for African Americans. She started out in college, dropped out and took on a few jobs then decided to go back to school. As she was going back to school, she decided to get involved with the NAACP.

Keywords: "The Town Crier" newspaper; Back to school; Black newspapers; Changes; Colleges; Department stores; Dropping out; NAACP

Subjects: Education; Kentucky State University; Schools

00:31:26 - Getting involved with the NAACP

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Partial Transcript: It was only after I had attended one of the national conventions that I was aware that something could be done.

Segment Synopsis: This segment is about the beginning of Grevious' involvement with the NAACP. She describes how the attendance of a national convention inspired her to be involved with the local level.

Keywords: Black teachers; NAACP; National conventions; New York; Refused service

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.; Race discrimination

00:33:48 - Working with the school system

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Partial Transcript: I was elected president of the Lexington NAACP right after the convention.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious describes her early action as president of the Lexington NAACP to work with the schools systems in Fayette County.

Keywords: Black teachers; Fayette County Public Schools; NAACP

Subjects: National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

00:37:10 - Working to increase job opportunities - grocery stores

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Partial Transcript: We decided that the first thing that we needed to try to change in Lexington were job opportunities.

Segment Synopsis: This segment is about the NAACP's fight to add job opportunities for African Americans in Lexington. They boycotted the use of, and protested grocery stores until they would provide job opportunities for African Americans.

Keywords: Black churches; First black employees; Grocery store boycotts; Grocery stores; IGA; Jobs; Picket lines; Protesting

Subjects: Boycotts; Protest movements.; Race discrimination--Kentucky

00:44:58 - Working to increase job opportunities - department stores

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Partial Transcript: Then we decided that we needed to branch out.

Segment Synopsis: Like the grocery store boycott, the Lexington NAACP fought for blacks to be able to get hired at department stores. Grevious tells a story about an organized boycott and picket line protest of department stores on Main Street in Lexington.

Keywords: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Department stores; Graves Cox; Main Street department store boycott; NAACP

Subjects: Boycotts; Integration; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Protest movements.; Race discrimination--Kentucky

00:50:21 - Working towards equality in restaurants

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Partial Transcript: After we had success there, the two groups decided...

Segment Synopsis: This segment is about the racial equality groups in Lexington working together to obtain equality in restaurants. Grevious recounts a story of facing physical abuse while protesting a lunch counter.

Keywords: Congress of Racial Equality (CORE); Lunch counters; NAACP; Peaceful protests; Police; Restaurants; Sit-ins

Subjects: Boycotts; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Protest movements.; Race discrimination--Kentucky; Segregation

00:57:00 - Protesting movie theaters and being arrested

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Partial Transcript: After that, we decided that we needed to go to the movies.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about how the equality groups were moving on to obtaining equality in movie theaters. Unlike her previous successes, protesting the movie theater resulted in arrests.

Keywords: Arrested; Arrests; Baths; Humiliation; Insult; Jails; Job suspension; Kentucky Theater; Movies; One phone call in prison; Police department; Police protection; Police stations; Protesting; Racial jokes; Scheduled for court; Secretary; Showers; Warrants

Subjects: Boycotts; Protest movements.; Race discrimination--Kentucky

01:00:34 - Conversations with superintendent / day in court for arrest at movie theater

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Partial Transcript: As I mentioned to you before at the time that I was the president of the NAACP I was working at Kentucky Village...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about a conversation she had with the superintendent of schools concerning her participation in boycotts. She talks about going to court for her arrest at the movie theater protest. She talks more about the students at Kentucky Village. She discusses how after being dismissed from court on the basis that there was no warrant for an arrest, she and her committee met with the movie theater managers in an attempt to work on a deal that would eliminate discrimination in cinemas.

Keywords: Ambitions; Black women; Bookkeeping; Committees; Delinquent boys and girls; Dismissed from court; Goals; Kentucky Village; Lawyers; Meetings; Ministers; Movie theater managers; NAACP projects; Newspaper headlines; Picket lines; Picket signs; Prejudices; Principals; Safety; School superintendents; Tried together; Typing; Valedictorians; Warrants; White women

Subjects: Boycotts; Protest movements.; Race discrimination--Kentucky; School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County; Segregation in education--Kentucky

01:11:53 - Black minister advocates for a reversal in NAACP progress

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Partial Transcript: And I found out how whites have the tendency to use blacks.

Segment Synopsis: When a well-respected black minister suggests the NAACP committee stop trying to integrate movie theaters, Grevious becomes all the more motivated to successfully find a compromise with theater managers. Eventually, her relentless efforts lead to ticket sales to black patrons.

Keywords: Advances; Black ministers; Blacks advocating for whites; Blacks being used; Loss of respect; Ministerial leadership; Motivation; Movie theaters; Progress; Slowing down the movement; Stand-ins

Subjects: Integration; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

01:14:12 - Integration of theaters and restaurants hurts black-owned businesses

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Partial Transcript: An unfortunate thing happened as a result of this.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about how when first allowed into white theaters, the black patrons were initially unimpressed, but attended because they felt they should be able to have that option. She discusses how similarly, with restaurants, they lacked the character of black venues, but African American owners failed to maintain quality and cleanliness and lost business.

Keywords: Black culture; Business shut-downs; Businesses closing; Change in managers; Country music; Disappointments; Discretion in spending money; Films; Kentucky Theater; Lyric Theater; Management; Restaurants closing; Soul music; Spending money

Subjects: Integration

01:18:12 - Deweese Street as the center of black entertainment and culture in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: When you walked down Deweese Street...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious gives a description of Deweese Street, which she says was the center of black culture and entertainment during the 30s, 40s, and 50s. This leads to a discussion of how integration may have led to a deterioration of places offering black fellowship and entertainment.

Keywords: Black culture; Black entertainment; Black fellowship; Black gathering places; Black streets; Churches; Curfews; Derby (restaurant); Deweese Street (Lexington, Ky.); Drugstores; Fourth Street; Hurricane (restaurant); Las Vegas; Looking out for one another; Neighbors; Ohio Street; Pool halls; Protection; Race Street; Teenagers; Third Street; Wilson Street

Subjects: Blacks in Lexington; Blacks--Race identity; Integration; Lexington (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.

01:22:33 - Finding work at Kentucky Village after college

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Grevious, uh, can you give me some information, uh, further information about that, uh, school for delinquents you were involved with?

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about how during her first day of work, she found that her college training could not prepare her for the challenges of working with such a varied group of children. She discusses how coworkers with differing teaching styles compounded the problem.

Keywords: "Separate but equal"; Conflict with coworkers; Delinquents; Diagnostic tests; Emotionally disturbed children; Kentucky Village; Lack of material; Lesson plans; Old Greendale; Reformatory schools; Teaching the alphabet; Third grade constitution; Weaving

Subjects: Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

01:28:56 - Taking a stand to integrate dining room sheds light on divide between black and white children

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Partial Transcript: Now the first day that I went to work I went to lunch with, um, a white lady who was working with the black girls as a relief.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about deciding to integrate the employee dining, thus causing an uproar with her coworkers. She talks about recognizing that the children see this example of a divide between the races.

Keywords: "Separate but equal"; Anger; Black social workers; Cafeterias; Cooperation; Divide between black and white; Employee dining rooms; Lack of unity; Togetherness; White employees; White teachers

Subjects: Integration; Segregation

01:33:13 - Integration of Kentucky Village

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Partial Transcript: It was many many years before we were able to convince them that they needed to integrate the colleges and it did not go well.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about the school finally agreeing to integration, and the many fights that ensue along with several uncomfortable situations for the students. She talks about how teachers also began to reveal that they were more prejudiced than Grevious originally believed.

Keywords: Adjustment; African American teachers; Black teachers; Commencement; Connotations of black; Entitlement; Expectation of failure; Failure to change; Fights; Limitations; Name calling; Political appointment; Prejudices; Typing

Subjects: School integration--Kentucky--Fayette County

01:38:19 - Assuming principalship at Kentucky Village

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Partial Transcript: We had an opportunity to go to school in fif--no sixty-seven or sixty-eight.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about how instead of getting her master's in education, she decided to take the principal job at Kentucky Village until it closed.

Keywords: Changes in school; Determination; Fayette County School District; Job offers; Kentucky Village; Master's degrees; Office memos; Prejudices; Principals; Quakers; Staff meetings; Summer school; Teacher-student relationships

Subjects: Fayette County (Ky.); Schools

01:41:48 - Teaching at Maxwell School

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Partial Transcript: And this caused me when they closed to come into Fayette County.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about teaching sixth grade at Maxwell School, while also working to help diversify the PTA to better represent the diversity of the school. She talks about handling accusations of prejudice from the black parents.

Keywords: Accusations; Central office; Conferences; Economic diversity; Educational philosophies; Grocery stores; Lack of diversity; Lies; Maternity leave; Maxwell School; Name calling; Parent-Teacher Association (PTA); Parent-Teacher Organization (PTO); Parents In Education (PIE); Patience; Prejudice; Racial slurs; Sixth grade; Suspensions

Subjects: Teachers--Kentucky; Teaching

01:52:35 - Double standard for blacks causes them to come up short

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Partial Transcript: With the change of all of these students coming in--and this gives you an idea...

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about noticing that black parents too often use their race as an excuse for their children, not expecting them to be high achieving. She argues blacks need to raise expectations for themselves if they want to make strides as a race.

Keywords: Beating teachers; Break the cycle; Change in attitude; Conflict avoidance; Defensive; Double standards; Jefferson Davis; Low expectations; Parenting; Passing up opportunities; Physical violence; Racial problems; Racial tension; Rockefeller; Vicious cycle; Welfare

01:58:51 - Current NAACP involvement

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Partial Transcript: Are you currently active with NAACP?

Segment Synopsis: Grevious talks about her current level of involvement with the NAACP and how her health doesn't permit her to do as much as she would like to.

Keywords: Advising; Bowling nights; Intellectual arguments; Involvement; NAACP; Power structures

Subjects: Lexington (Ky.).; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

02:01:13 - Lack of sense of unity for black students at the University of Kentucky

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Partial Transcript: You and I were talking earlier about, uh, the way the blacks feel about UK.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious discusses how she feels that UK hasn't found a way to give black students the college experience. She claims that many African-American students don't feel welcomed by the university.

Keywords: Adolf Rupp; College education; Fraternities; Kentucky State University; Lack of unity; Prejudice against UK; Sororities

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); University of Kentucky (Lexington, Ky.)

02:05:23 - Closing remarks regarding identity

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Partial Transcript: And I think that they need to have educators as their role models.

Segment Synopsis: Grevious urges blacks to prove to the world that they are just as capable in academics as athletics. The interview is concluded.

Keywords: Academic ability; Airline pilots; Athletic ability; Changing identity; Computer science; Soldiers; Sports

Subjects: Blacks--Race identity