Transcript
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Index
Search this Index
X
00:00:01 - Introduction / ancestors

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Today is September 26th, year of 2001.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his ancestors and where they came from. Both sides of his parents' families were from Kentucky. Most of his ancestors were farmers, but there were also some coal miners in Lynch (Ky.) on his father's side. He talks about his family's move to Danville (Ky.).

Keywords: African American families; Kentucky farmers

Subjects: African American coal miners; African American farmers.; Authors, American--Kentucky; Danville (Ky.); Families.; Farmhouses; Genealogy

00:04:25 - Anecdote about slavery

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Were any of your family slaves?

Segment Synopsis: Walker tells a family story about his great grandmother who possibly worked as a slave to a white master. The significance of the story is discussed, particularly in terms of the racial tensions involved.

Keywords: Abuse in slavery; Child rearing during slavery; Female slaves; Master and slave

Subjects: African American families; Authors, American--Kentucky; Families.; Genealogy; Illegitimate children; Race relations; Slavery

00:09:20 - Family / growing up

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell me about your immediate family growing up.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his parents, and their marriage and divorce. He was the oldest son among nine siblings and the only one to go to college. He lived in a housing project in Danville (Ky.).

Keywords: African Americans in Danville (Ky.); Education; Mcintyre Homes

Subjects: African American families; Authors, American--Kentucky; Danville (Ky.); Families.

00:11:13 - Accident, reading books, and eyesight

Play segment

Partial Transcript: There was one thing that probably kind of jump-started my interest in, in, in reading...

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about an accident when he was five years old. His arm was badly injured, so he had to stay home for a while. During this period, he developed an interest in reading the magazines that his mother brought home (from her job as a domestic worker). When he started school, he liked it. He also got a lot of support from his teachers, who gave him supplies for art. He also had poor eyesight, so couldn't play sports much. He recounts putting on eye glasses for the first time. He talks about learning how to read. Having no television in the house - because the family was Pentecostal and it wasn't allowed - there was more time to read.

Keywords: Childhood accidents; Eyesight; Learning to read; Supportive teachers

Subjects: Accidents; African American families; Education; Pentecostalism; Reading; Teachers

00:17:36 - Views on church

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned, uh, Pentecostal and I was actually going to ask you if your family belonged to a church.

Segment Synopsis: Walker's mother's family was Catholic while his father's was Episcopalian. After his parents' divorce, his mother went to live with her sister who was a minister at a Pentecostal church. He used to go to Bible study and other church activities initially, but once he got into sports he did not participate in them. He talks about how he asked difficult questions to the pastor and found many incongruities in the church. He thought that the church preyed on the poor and uneducated.

Keywords: Bible study; Church and sports; Church and the poor; Church ministers; Women in church

Subjects: African American churches--Kentucky; African American families; Pentecostalism; Religion

00:21:31 - Participation in church

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did, did you participate in some fashion in the church until you left home?

Segment Synopsis: Walker only participated in church activities that his mother organized. He played roles in plays and built things for other activities. He talks about how these plays were done. His siblings left that church when they became older. He also talks about acting in plays in elementary school and how he moved into athletics in high school.

Keywords: Church activities; Church plays; Plays

Subjects: African American churches--Kentucky; Danville (Ky.); Pentecostalism; Plays; Religion

00:25:59 - Mother and father

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell me your mother's full name.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his mother and why she was called Sister Faith. He talks about his father and the various jobs he held after the divorce (including one at Center College). He discusses his relationship with his father, which isn't very intimate.

Keywords: Father-son relationship; Women in church

Subjects: African American churches--Kentucky; African American families; Centre College (Danville, Ky. : 1819-1901); Families.

00:30:18 - Elementary school

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I want to go back to your school.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his elementary school, Toliver Elementary, and how it was an integrated school. He talks about integration in schools in Danville (Ky.). He recounts the history of Bate Middle School.

Keywords: Bate Middle School, Danville (Ky.); Integration in public schools; Toliver Elementary School

Subjects: Danville (Ky.); Education; Public schools

00:32:46 - Views on segregation in Danville

Play segment

Partial Transcript: At the time that you were coming along in Danville...

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his memories of the population diversity in Danville (Ky.). He shares his views on why there was less segregation in Danville than other places. Many African Americans, like his grandfather, were skilled in a number of jobs. This made them suitable for many kinds of jobs in the city. He recounts an anecdote about the participation of a slave from Danville in the Civil War.

Keywords: Segregated schools; Segregation in Kentucky; Skilled labor

Subjects: African Americans; Race relations; Segregation; United States--History--Civil War, 1861-1865.

00:37:48 - X in his name

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Tell me about the X in your name.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about how he came to include X in his name. There were various reasons for doing this, including his admiration for Malcolm X as a person. His meetings with Malcolm X's widow allowed him to learn more about X's personal life. He talks about the significance of a name.

Keywords: Artists' names; Inspirations; Malcolm X; Role models

Subjects: African American young men; Names; X, Malcolm, 1925-1965

00:42:10 - Learning about race relations

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Do you have any, uh, recollection about when you first started hearing or reading Malcolm X?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about not finding many books in the library that reflected the African American perspective. He was inspired after watching a play at Centre College when he was in high school. The play included all African American actors, who he found to be extremely talented. The play had a great impact on his self-esteem.

Keywords: Plays about African Americans; Representation of minorities; Self-esteem; The Wiz

Subjects: African American; Centre College (Danville, Ky.); Plays

00:46:39 - Going to University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What year did you graduate?

Segment Synopsis: Walker graduated from high school in 1979. There wasn't much support for African American students doing arts, so he had focused on math and science in his high school. He got a scholarship from University of Kentucky to study engineering. His mother had applied on his behalf and he himself was more interested in going to University of Tennessee. Growing up he didn't have one constant career goal, but always got good scores in the sciences.

Keywords: Career options for African Americans; Scholarships for African Americans

Subjects: African American families; Education, Higher; Higher education; University of Kentucky; University of Tennessee (Knoxville, Tenn.)

00:51:13 - Neighborhood while growing up

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Talk about the challenge of being, uh, obviously very capable in your neighborhood.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about the neighborhood in which he grew up. It was predominantly black, with many single mothers and people on welfare. He had a reputation of being smart and his mother had high expectations for him. He received a lot of support from his mother and aunt. He also talks about his relation to other children in the neighborhood. He did not see much of them because he was busy reading. He also got to participate in a lot of art projects in his school and outside.

Keywords: Art projects; Black neighborhoods; Family support; Smart children; Smart kids; Welfare

Subjects: African American families; African American neighborhoods; Art; Education

00:57:34 - Interest in arts

Play segment

Partial Transcript: How old were you when you first got interested in painting?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his interest in painting, starting from his time in elementary school. He talks about the art projects he did at an early age. His teachers recognized his skills and supported him by giving him precious supplies. Football coaches used to ask him to do sports-themed paintings. He thinks he should have gone into arts, since that is where his passion was even though he scored well in science and math.

Keywords: African American children; Arts as career; Career choices; Football coaches; Sports-themed paintings; Support for artists

Subjects: African Americans--Education; Education; Painting

01:01:12 - Early interest in writing

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I still have a journal from 10th grade...

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his initial interest in writing. His 10th grade teacher saw a potential in him. He had always been interested in making his own comic books, where he could draw and write. There was a lot of free time growing up, so he occupied himself with these activities. He talks about his own personality growing.

Keywords: Artists; Comic books; Personalities; Writing comics

Subjects: Artists, African American; Comic books and children; Drawing; Writing

01:08:02 - Jobs when in high school

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You mentioned earlier, uh, going to work some when you were in school.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his various jobs when he was in high school. His family needed the money and he worked since he was 15 years old. The money he earned was put in the family pool. He was working 30-40 hours a week, and much more during summer. He still read since he did not sleep much. He did not write much in high school, except for a creative writing class.

Keywords: High school students; Summer work; Writing classes in high schools

Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Education; High school students

01:12:11 - Time at University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So you graduated in '79?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his time at University of Kentucky. He learned a lot in 2 years. He did badly in all of his classes except English and history. He recounts the various factors that led to his bad performances, including various accidents. Nobody advised him to drop those classes, so he was stuck with those grades. He lost his scholarship as a result of his bad grades. He talks about how everyone he knew in Danville (Ky.) believed he was on a football scholarship (even though he wasn't). He didn't tell them otherwise.

Keywords: College grades; College scholarships; Scholarships for African Americans

Subjects: African American young men; African Americans--Education (Higher); Danville (Ky.); Education, Higher; Football; Football players.; Higher education

01:19:37 - Marriage and going back to university

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Well at what point did you decide engineering wasn't going to be for you?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about losing his scholarship and how that forced him to take up different small jobs. He felt that his place was still at the university and so went back to enroll at University of Kentucky (UK). He paid for his tuition by working part-time jobs before he became eligible for loans. He also started writing plays, and wrote poetry as a therapy. During his time at UK, he had married another student from Louisville (Ky.), but got divorced soon after they had a daughter.

Keywords: Life in Lexington (Ky.); Part-time school

Subjects: African American poets; African American young men; African Americans--Education (Higher); Authors, American--Kentucky; Education, Higher; Higher education; Lexington (Ky.); Student loans; University of Kentucky

01:25:05 - Writing class with Gurney Norman

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When you got back to school, now, Frank, were you taking any writing courses?

Segment Synopsis: Walker describes taking class with Gurney Norman in 1982 at University of Kentucky. Norman encouraged and supported him. Norman suggested him books by Ernest Gaines, Tolstoy, Chekhov, and himself. As a result of that class, Walker became convinced that he could be a writer. He was previously not known to people around him as a writer, but only as a visual artist.

Keywords: Inspiring books; Inspiring teachers; Writing classes

Subjects: Authors; Gaines, Ernest J., 1933-; Norman, Gurney, 1937-; Tolstoy, Leo, graf, 1828-1910; University of Kentucky

01:28:30 - Race related incidents at University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Were there any other teachers there then that you...?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about negative experiences at University of Kentucky (UK) that related to race. His drafting teacher in his second semester at UK failed him despite him doing all the work for the class. The reason she gave him was that he acted as if he knew everything. Failing this class led to the loss of his scholarship. He also recounts race related incidents in the student dorms. These events led to black students uniting together to form a fraternity, Phi Eta Sigma.

Keywords: Race issues at University of Kentucky; Race issues in Kentucky; Race relations at University of Kentucky

Subjects: African American college students--Social conditions; African Americans--Education (Higher); Race discrimination; Race discrimination--Kentucky; Race relations

01:33:00 - Support for Black students at the University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: At the point that you were there Frank, what level of support was there for Black students in the university?

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about the lack of support at University of Kentucky (UK) when he was studying there. There was an office of minority affairs but they didn't have any funding. His class of 1979 had the largest number of Black students coming in to UK, but there wasn't much support, so many Black students didn't successfully complete their education. The Black students transferred to the same floor in the dormitory for protection. Though there was a Black Student Union, it wasn't very active. Most events for Black students were organized by Greek student associations. There wasn't much in terms of curriculum that represented the African American population. But changes occurred slowly after that. UK had a negative reputation in the African American communities because of its history on race issues. He was ashamed of his association with UK.

Keywords: History of race relations in Lexington; Race issues at University of Kentucky; Racism at University of Kentucky

Subjects: African American young men; African Americans--Education (Higher); Race relations--Kentucky--Lexington

01:41:08 - Career options

Play segment

Partial Transcript: What did you, uh, major in finally?

Segment Synopsis: While initially a journalism major, Walker switched to English and minored in Studio Art. He was the founder and editor of a Black student newspaper and also wrote a regular column for the university student-run newspaper called Kentucky Kernel. Before he graduated, he accepted a job at the Knoxville News Sentinel as a staff writer but later did not join because of various factors. At UK he got the director's position at the newly established Cultural Center.

Keywords: African American student newspapers; African Americans in journalism; Cultural Center at University of Kentucky; Kentucky Kernel; Student newspapers

Subjects: African American press; African Americans--Education (Higher); Journalism; Knoxville News Sentinel Company; University of Kentucky

01:46:39 - Cultural Center at University of Kentucky

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So tell me about the Cultural Center at that point.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about the Martin Luther King Jr. Cultural Center in the Student Center at University of Kentucky. He was its first director. It was supposed to be open only for 4 hours, but became very popular and was open more than 8 hours a day for 6 or 7 days a week. He quit because of low pay, but got rehired with more pay. The mission of the Center was to provide programming for Black students on campus. He talks about incidents that led to the expansion of the cultural center. Petitioning by students played a major role in this development. His school progress suffered as a result of this job.

Keywords: Cultural center at University of Kentucky; Cultural centers

Subjects: African Americans--Education (Higher); Black Student Union (University of Kentucky); King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Minority students; Race relations; Student activities; University of Kentucky

01:53:51 - Involvement in cultural activities

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So in '87, you know, I, I, I didn't graduate, I didn't walk, I didn't have a degree.

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about his involvement in various activities besides his work at the cultural center. He started a theater group, a writing group, and also established the Bluegrass Black Arts Consortium in downtown Lexington. The Consortium provided gallery space for artists and art classes for children. The Kentucky Arts Council provided funding to rent a space for the Consortium. The theater group he founded toured and made money.

Keywords: African American culture; Bluegrass Black Artists Consortium; Kentucky Arts Council; Lexington (Ky.); Theater groups

Subjects: African American artists; Lexington (Ky.); Lexington (Ky.)--Buildings, structures, etc.

01:56:35 - Losing job and time in Alabama

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And there was a point in 1994 where the activities of the, of the consortium were so well-publicized...

Segment Synopsis: Walker talks about being forced to choose between closing the Consortium and losing his job as the director of the Cultural Center at University of Kentucky. He resigned as the director and took up jobs in Birmingham, Alabama, teaching at the Civil Rights Institute and at the Museum of Art. He was also hired by the State Arts Council there to work on integrating arts in classrooms. He got a studio space to live and so was able to work on producing artwork. He also wrote stories and poems at this time.

Keywords: Civil Rights Institute; Integrating arts in classrooms; State Arts Council (Ala.)

Subjects: African American poets; Authors, American--Kentucky; Birmingham (Ala.); University of Kentucky