Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with James W. Hammons, March 18, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Family history part I

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Partial Transcript: Give me your name please?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about his families ancestry, mentioning that he was descendant both of slaves and free men of color who owned slaves. He also mentions how his family had trouble identifying who was actually a member of the family and not a descendant of slaves owned by the Hammons family.

Keywords: "Negroes"; Black slave owners; Descendants; Free men of color; Genealogy; Sharrod Bryant; Slave owners; Slavery; White ancestry

Subjects: African American families; Racially mixed people

00:04:54 - Family history part II

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Partial Transcript: Now how bout the slave side. Uh, how did they--tell me what you remember about them.

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about his grandfather who was born into slavery. He mentions that all of his grandparents were literate and his maternal grandfather was a teacher. He goes on to talk about his parents background, mentioning their education and occupations.

Keywords: Educators; Family history; Fisk University; Literacy; Maternal grandparents; Murfreesboro (Tn.),Cotton picking; Parents; Simmons University (Louisville, Ky.); Slavery; Tennessee Normal; Tennessee State

Subjects: African Americans--Education; African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Economic conditions

00:12:41 - Family history part III

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Partial Transcript: So did you grow up an affluent person? Your family?

Segment Synopsis: Hammon talks about his family's financial situation, including the hard times the family went through during the Great Depression. He also mentions his father's death.

Keywords: Convington (Ky.); Employment; Family dynamics; Family life; Food lines; Grandfather; Grandparents; Illicit activities; Recreation; The Depression; WWI; World War I

Subjects: African American families; Depressions--1929--Kentucky; World War, 1914-1918

00:19:55 - Church

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the church.

Segment Synopsis: Hammons discusses various aspects of his childhood church. He talks about his church's ministerial leadership. He goes on to talk about the influence money has had on ministers in black churches.

Keywords: Baptist churches; Black church leaders; Church involvement; Communion; Ministerial leadership

Subjects: African American churches--Kentucky; African Americans--Religion

00:23:17 - Comparison of black communities

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Partial Transcript: Now what-- at what point--tell me now before we, uh, get to Louisville, uh, about your neighborhood?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons discusses what his childhood community was like and how overall the black community has changed. He mentions a possible reason the black community has changed.

Keywords: Black community; Black school; Child rearing; Community involvement; Community relations; Miss Matilda; Murfreesboro (Tn.); Parenting; Racism

Subjects: African Americans--Social conditions

00:28:23 - Moving to Louisville

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Partial Transcript: Now how--when did you get to Louisville? Lets start there.

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about moving to Louisville to live with his father's brother and his aunt. He goes on to talk about his uncle and the community they lived in.

Keywords: All black schools; Black community; Role models

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Kentucky--Louisville; Louisville (Ky.)

00:33:57 - Education

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Partial Transcript: Where did you go to school?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about his college experiences at the University of Kentucky, mentioning that he was the first black student admitted to his particular graduate department. He also tells a story about an incident where he felt he was discriminated against.

Keywords: Chicago College; College experience; Instructors; Public health; Race relations; Racial discrimination

Subjects: Kentucky State University; University of Kentucky; University of Kentucky.

00:42:44 - Employment experiences

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Partial Transcript: Now did you have jobs along the way in high school? Did you have to work?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about various jobs he had during and after college. He talks about teaching at an all black school in Hopkinsville, mentioning that the town was very progressive in regard to the black community. He also talks about the hospitals his uncle worked at in Louisville.

Keywords: Black community; Narcoticic Hospital; Progressive; Race relations; Redcross Hospital:General Hospital (Louisville, Ky.); Teaching

Subjects: African Americans--Employment--Kentucky; Discrimination in employment; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky State University

00:51:46 - Educational experiences in Chicago

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Partial Transcript: Now, tell me about um, your schooling after you left UK?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about attending the University of Chicago. He tells a story about an incident he had with his German instructor.

Keywords: Black students; German instructor; Historiography; Instructors; Racial discrimination

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); University of Chicago

00:58:26 - Practicing in Lexington

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Partial Transcript: So when you finished med school there you came back to Louisville to practice?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about coming to work in Lexington after his internship in Detroit. He goes on to discuss what his practice was like and his difficulty trying to work as a D.O. as opposed to a M.D.

Keywords: Black doctors; Central Baptist Hospital; D.O.(Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine); Dr. Bush Hunter; Fayette County Medical Society; Hospital affiliations; Medical internship; Patient makeup; Socioeconomic status

Subjects: African American physicians--Kentucky--Lexington; Detroit (Mich.)

01:07:38 - Working conditions / buying a house

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Partial Transcript: Now tell me about some of your other experiences in Lexington?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about what his working conditions were like as a D.O. in Lexington. He also discusses his neighborhood in Lexington, including the community's race relations. He talks about some the difficulties that he encountered when looking for a house.

Keywords: Community relations; Doctor referrals; Doctor relations; Dunbar High School (Lexington, Ky.); Open housing; Race relations; Realtors; Working conditions

Subjects: African American physicians--Kentucky--Lexington

01:27:42 - Living on Elm Tree Lane

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Partial Transcript: So how were you received once you moved into the house?

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about some of the racial tension and confrontations between him and some of his white neighbors.

Keywords: Black neighborhood; Community relations; Confrontations; Race relations; Racial tension

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions; Law enforcement

01:31:58 - Open housing

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Partial Transcript: Did you take part in the revolution in the sixties?

Segment Synopsis: Hammon discusses his involvement in the open housing movement. He mentions some of the confrontations he had while fighting for open housing in Lexington.

Keywords: Open Housing; Race relations; Realtors

Subjects: Discrimination in housing

01:36:38 - Changes in the black community

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Partial Transcript: Where do you think blacks are in Lexington, I'm speaking of with reference to the race.

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about the changes he has seen in the black community, mentioning that there are a lack of role models in the community. He also talks about how some black patients go to white doctors once they move up the social ladder. He also talks about the lack of professional courtesy some of his black patients show him.

Keywords: Black communities; Black professionals; Community support; Role models; White doctors

Subjects: African American physicians--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington

01:52:33 - Black community support / segregation on buses

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Partial Transcript: Have you run into any problems with other blacks in Lexington, uh, who well, I don't say ridicule...

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about some of the backlash he received from the black community when he moved into a white neighborhood. He goes on to talk about having to sit at the back of buses due to segregation.

Keywords: "Oreo"; Black community; Community support; Greyhound buses; John Merritt; Open housing; Public transportation; Racial identity; Segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Kentucky--Lexington--Social conditions

01:58:14 - Experiences with discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Now I ran in to a little discrimination down there because, uh, I know they told me my salary would be...

Segment Synopsis: Hammons talks about various incidents where he faced racial discrimination, including incidents where he was defiant. [The interview is concluded]

Keywords: Discrepancies in salary; Junior NAACP; Racial discrimination; Segregation

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Kentucky--Lexington; African Americans--Kentucky--Louisville; Teachers--Salaries, etc.; Versailles (Ky.)