Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Helen H. Holley, March 18, 1994

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:03 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Testing.

Segment Synopsis: Holley gives background information.

Keywords: Kentucky Historical Society; Welch (W. Va.); Women coal miners; Women of Coal Project

Subjects: Kentucky Historical Society; Women; Women coal miners

GPS: Welch (W. Va.)
Map Coordinates: 37.437222, -81.578889
00:00:36 - Background

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Partial Transcript: Uh, Miss Holley, if you would, um, we'd just like to get some background information.

Segment Synopsis: Holley, born in Boone, North Carolina, gives background information about her family.

Keywords: Boone (N.C.); Family history; West Virginia

Subjects: Families.; Genealogy; Kentucky Historical Society; Women; Women coal miners

GPS: Boone (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 36.211389, -81.668611
00:01:23 - Early education

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Partial Transcript: I spent some time in Boone with, um, my grandmother.

Segment Synopsis: Holley relates her early education experience in a one-room schoolhouse in Boone, North Carolina before moving to Columbus, Ohio. After moving to Gary, West Virginia, Holley attended a school that focused on the fine arts. Among the guest artists at the school were Oke Tanner (??), W.C. Handy, and Jesse Owens.

Keywords: African Americans; Coal towns; Everett Junior High School; Fine arts; Garret District High School; Gary (W. Va.); Jesse Owens; Milo Elementary School; Ohio State University; Oke Tanner (??); One-room schools; W. C. Handy; West Virginia

Subjects: Columbus (Ohio); Handy, W. C. (William Christopher), 1873-1958; Owens, Jesse, 1913-1980; Rural schools; Women; Women coal miners

GPS: Gary (W. Va.)
Map Coordinates: 37.361389, -81.536389
00:03:53 - College

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Partial Transcript: I went to--I finished Gary, uh, District High School in 1940.

Segment Synopsis: After high school, Holley went to Bennett College for Women, where she met Dr. Bethune, Benjamin Mays, and R. Nathaniel Dett.

Keywords: Benjamin Mays; Bennett College for Women; Dr. Bethune; Dr. R. Nathaniel Dett; Friendships; Greensboro (N.C.); Methodist churches; Pfeiffers; Rockerfellers; West Virginia State College

Subjects: Bennett College (Greensboro, N.C.); Bethune, Mary McLeod, 1875-1955; Dett, R. Nathaniel, 1882-1943; Mays, Benjamin E. (Benjamin Elijah), 1894-1984; West Virginia State University

GPS: Greensboro (N.C.)
Map Coordinates: 36.08, -79.819444
00:06:44 - Marriage / first employment

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Partial Transcript: After I came--after I finished college, I married my old high school boyfriend, uh, J. Harold Holley.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses marrying her high school boyfriend, J. Harold Holley, who was a graduate of the Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Sciences in Tennessee, and worked at U.S. Steel. She was first employed at Kimball High School in September, 1940. She describes the difficulty in commuting to work, and was relocated to Welch Junior High School, where she taught English and Social Studies, and also worked in the library.

Keywords: English; Gupton-Jones College of Mortuary Sciences; Kimball High School; Library Science; Social Studies; US Steel; Welch Jr. High School; Welch-Dunbar Junior High School; West Virginia

Subjects: English language--Study and teaching; High schools--West Virginia; Library science; Social sciences; Welch High School (Welch, W. Va.)

00:08:54 - Teaching in an integrated high school

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Partial Transcript: And, um, then, after integration, I went to Welch High School.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses teaching in McDowell County, West Virginia before and during integration. She was a member of various professional associations, and recounts with fondness trips with students to the state capital for Know Your State Government Day.

Keywords: Association of Classroom Teachers; Capitol buildings; Charleston (W. Va.); Citizenship Committee; Integration; International Reading Association; Know Your State Government Day; McDowell County Teachers Association; Parents and Teachers Association (PTA); Welch High School; West Virginia Education Association

Subjects: Association of Classroom Teachers; International Reading Association; McDowell County (W. Va.); Parents' and teachers' associations

GPS: McDowell County (W. Va.)
Map Coordinates: 37.37, -81.65
00:11:10 - Integration

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Partial Transcript: At first it was a little trying, but um, I had my, my younger daughter, um, was in the eighth grade when we went to, um, uh, Welch Junior--Welch High School.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses integration in 1969, when she went from Welch-Dunbar to Welch High School. It was a phased integration. She discusses the fact that some of the students and parents did not want integration. Holley attended graduate school to earn her Masters degree and her specialist in reading degree in order to bring the local level of reading to the national level. In 1978, Holley went to work at Mount View School.

Keywords: African American schools; Chamber of Commerce; Charleston (W. Va.); Gary High School; Integration; Kimball High School; Mount View; Special education schools; Specialist in Reading; Tri High Y; Welch High School; Welch-Dunbar

Subjects: African American schools; Gary (W. Va.); Race relations; Special education schools

00:15:28 - Car insurance model legislation

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Partial Transcript: And out of our group, this law in West Virginia, was suggested to our members of the House of Delegates that all drivers should have insurance.

Segment Synopsis: Holley explains how the students, who were learning about history and government, suggested model legislation for car insurance.

Keywords: Insurance; West Virginia House of Delegates

Subjects: Automobile insurance; Legislation

00:16:16 - Children and grandchildren

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Partial Transcript: My older daughter graduated from Welch--from--number one in her class at Kimball High School.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses her children, their education, and their careers. One daughter is a speech pathologist for the city of Cleveland, Ohio. Her other daughter graduated with a degree in consumer science, and is now a diversity trainer. Both daughters are married, and Holley has four grandchildren. There is a brief discussion of her pride in her grandchildren.

Keywords: Cincinnati; Cleveland (Ohio); Consumer science; Diversity training; Kimball High School; Ohio University; Speech pathology; Welch High School; Who's Who in America

Subjects: Cincinnati (Ohio); Cleveland (Ohio); Edgecliff College; Ohio University; Speech disorders

00:17:49 - Community involvement

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Partial Transcript: And, uh, I have been very active--(coughs)--in, um, community activities.

Segment Synopsis: Holley is involved in the community through various organizations, including Delta Sorority and Links Incorporated. These two organizations promote youth by giving college scholarships. Links Inc. is particularly interested in promoting young Black men through various functions and activities, including a beautillion.

Keywords: African American youth; Beautillions; Cleveland (Ohio); Delta Sigma Theta sorority; Habitat for Humanity; Links Incorporated, Southern West Virginia; Midwest Region; Scholarships; Young Black males

Subjects: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority; Habitat for Humanity, inc; Links, Inc; Scholarships

00:19:54 - Young Black males

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Partial Transcript: Let me ask you this question, since you worked in this area.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses disaffected youth and its causes. Schools with small class sizes and individualized instruction can help solve the problem. She sees students without breakfast and a chip on their shoulder due to neglect as a big problem. Self-esteem is part of the problem.

Keywords: African American youth; Alex Haley; Disconnectedness; Individualized instruction; Neglect; Self esteem; Young Black men

Subjects: African American men--Attitudes; Alienation (Social psychology); Broken homes; Education; Individualized instruction; Self-esteem

00:23:29 - Individualized instruction helps students

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Partial Transcript: One program I worked with was--they called it Reading Skills.

Segment Synopsis: Holley discusses some students whose reading level improved in her reading skills classes through use of the SRA program. Some college students heard about the success of Holley's class and asked to be able to use the materials to improve their reading ability.

Keywords: Reading levels; Reading skills; SRA kits; Vocabulary

Subjects: Education; Reading teachers; Science Research Associates. Reading Laboratories; Vocabulary

00:25:00 - Racism in her youth

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Partial Transcript: But, I, I, I tell you, what--another thing is, a lot of the things they see on television irritates them.

Segment Synopsis: Holley says that some of the hatred and prejudice that young people see on television makes them angry. It is difficult to understand where such prejudice comes from; in hard times, people look for a scapegoat. Entrenched institutional racism is difficult to combat. She mentions the use of the word "Colored" to refer to Blacks. Holley lived through the time when racial separation was a reality; having to sit in the back of the bus. The college president told the young Black women that they were not to ride the bus at all: they had to walk. The only time Holley rode the bus in Greensboro was when she was student teaching.

Keywords: Apartheid; Hatred; Institutional racism; KKK; Racism

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Apartheid; Hate; Ku Klux Klan (1915- ); Race discrimination; Race relations; Racism

00:31:13 - Resurgence of racism

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Partial Transcript: Do you feel, in terms of all of this, um, uh--I kind of, as I sit here and talk to you I kind of get two feelings.

Segment Synopsis: A discussion of the resurgence of racism, and Holley's frustration with racism coming back. Discussion of Abraham Lincoln and his thoughts on slavery. Holley goes on to discuss Social Studies textbooks and the lack of mention of the history of Black people.

Keywords: Abraham Lincoln; Black History Month; Ken Burns' Civil War; Martin Luther King Day; Racism; Underground Railroad

Subjects: African Americans--History; Lincoln, Abraham, 1744-1786; Martin Luther King, Jr., Day; Social studies textbook series; Underground railroad

00:36:37 - Life of Mr. Holley

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Partial Transcript: Well, let's see, let me ask you a question about...

Segment Synopsis: A discussion of racially segregated businesses. Mr. Holley worked at the Page Funeral Home, and then inherited it upon the death of Mr. and Mrs. Page. A discussion of funeral customs, as it relates to race.

Keywords: Funerals; McDowell County Library; Page Funeral Home; Washington

Subjects: McDowell County (W. Va.); Undertakers and undertaking

00:40:29 - Coal mining community of the past

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Partial Transcript: You've been in such an interesting position, teaching.

Segment Synopsis: A discussion of coal mining in the past. Gary, West Virginia was prosperous. There was a lively social life in Gary during that time. Holley's step father was a coal miner. Holley was well educated. When U.S. Steel moved out, the company tore down the homes in Gary. Educators of the 1970s tried to prepare students for work other than coal mining.

Keywords: Coal miners; Education; Leukemia; Teaching; U.S. Steel; Women in the coal fields

Subjects: Coal mines and mining; Teaching; United States Steel Corporation; Women coal miners

00:45:41 - Outlook for the future

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Partial Transcript: Uh, what do you see as the, as the, the future for, for West Virginia coal fields?

Segment Synopsis: Holley hopes there will be progress in education to prepare students for life. Holley is on the board of an organization that helps people to overcome cancer. Holley urges people to think about what has been going on, and to develop a good attitude toward change.

Keywords: Cancer survivors; Education

Subjects: Cancer--Patients; Education