Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Isadore M. Martin, Jr., February 24, 1987

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Philadelphia race relations in the 1910s and 1920s

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Partial Transcript: So it’s quite a while, a ways back...

Segment Synopsis: Martin briefly describes racial relations in Philadelphia between newcomers and the native Philadelphians, including Black natives. He also talks about poor housing, segregation and union discrimination in the city.

Keywords: Historical Society of Pennsylvania; Home Ownership; Philadelphia; Real estate; Segregation in housing; The American South; World War II

GPS: 40th Street, West Philadelphia.
Map Coordinates: 39.9495° N, 75.2033° W
00:03:31 - Housing discrimination in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: "It was, I would say, sort of an exploratory period there..."

Segment Synopsis: Martin describes housing until after World War II as racially segregated. He also explains how realtors prohibited Blacks from purchasing new homes.

Keywords: 40th Street; Philadelphia; World War II

Subjects: Advertising; Housing; Newspapers

00:05:30 - Philadelphia segregation: theaters

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Partial Transcript: "Can you tell me more about..."

Segment Synopsis: Martin speaks about Philadelphia's segregated movie theaters, and the NAACP campaigns in which his father and he participated to end that segregation in the 1930s.

Keywords: Adolf Hitler; Center City; Federation of Jewish Charities; Jacob Bilikopf; N.A.A.C.P.; New York; Philadelphia; Royal Theater; South Street; Stanton Theater

GPS: South Street, Philadelphia - Location of the Royal Theater.
Map Coordinates: 39.9418° N, 75.1507° W
00:10:09 - Segregation in restaurants and hotels

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Partial Transcript: Hm. How about in the restaurants?

Segment Synopsis: Martin explains dining segregation in Philadelphia during the early 20th century and how Blacks in Philadelphia found accommodations.

Keywords: 17th and Christian; Bellevue-Stratford Hotel; Booker T. Washington; Christianity; Horn and Hardart's; Hotel Dale; Liberia; NAACP; Philadelphia; The Philadelphia Tribune; YMCA

GPS: Horn and Hardart's Bakery Cafe
Map Coordinates: 39°57'14.5"N 75°10'02.7"W
00:13:44 - Segregation in housing, employment and education

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Partial Transcript: Right. Where else did one experience...

Segment Synopsis: Martin further explains the extent of segregation's impact on Black society. Early 20th century Blacks in Philadelphia lacked housing, education and employment benefits.

Keywords: Berean School; Broad and Pine; Dereks and Duncan; Drexel; Episcopal Farm School; Main Line; National Farm School; National Negro Business League; Paoli; Peirce School; Philadelphia; Swarthmore; Villanova; Wanamaker's; Woodrow Wilson; World War I; World War II; YWHA

00:19:10 - Benefits of living in the north

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Partial Transcript: "Hm. What then were the advantages for blacks up from the South..."

Segment Synopsis: The benefits of moving up North for southern newcomers include a more preferable job and a less biased judiciary, according to Martin.

Keywords: Chicago; Cleveland; New York; Philadelphia; The South; World War II

00:21:16 - Real estate discrimination & business practices

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Partial Transcript: "Okay. Let me move into the area of real estate..."

Segment Synopsis: Martin describes the methods that White realtors utilized to prevent Black home ownership, such as raising prices. Also detailed are business practices Martin and his father condemned, such as buying property and reselling to Black families at higher prices.

Keywords: NAACP; Philadelphia; Philadelphia Board of Realtors; West Philadelphia Business Association

00:24:50 - Early days of Philadelphia N.A.A.C.P.

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Partial Transcript: "Hm. Can you tell me a bit about the early days of the Philadelphia N.A.A.C.P.?"

Segment Synopsis: Martin recounts his father's involvement in the NAACP in Philadelphia, and the organization's push to desegregate Philadelphia.

Keywords: Amos Scott; Booker T. Washington; Fellowship Commission; Harrisburg; Henry Clay Patterson; Hog Island; Jacob Billikopf; Jim Crow; Marjorie Penny; NAACP; Negro National Anthem; Philadelphia; Samuel Fels; World War I; the South


Map Coordinates: 39.8719° N, 75.2411° W
00:31:44 - Opposition to integration in the black community

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Partial Transcript: Hm. Were there any philosophical differences between some of the

Segment Synopsis: Several groups within the Black community such as teachers opposed integration in Philadelphia. According to Martin these groups believed integration would cause competition with Whites, thus threatening their jobs.

Keywords: Jim Crow; NAACP; New York; Philadelphia; Reverend William Creditt

00:36:25 - Political ineffectiveness of black politicians

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Partial Transcript: "And many of the old-style black politicians..."

Segment Synopsis: Both Martin and Dr. Hardy discuss the history of politics in regions such as Philadelphia's 30th ward. It is mutually agreed that Black politicians in Philadelphia effectively brought positive change to their communities due to personal disagreements and the power monopoly of Irish ward bosses until the 1930s.

Keywords: 30th Ward; Austin Norris; Ed Henry; Franklin Roosevelt; Great Depression; Jesse Max Barber

00:41:03 - Philadelphia branch of the N.A.A.C.P. in the 1930s

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Partial Transcript: Can you tell me how you became active with the local organization?

Segment Synopsis: Martin explains that his father's involvement in the N.A.A.C.P. exposed him to the organization, which he joined in 1934 after college. Martin jokingly suggests the changing of leadership in the NAACP during the 1930s occurred because leaders prioritized supporting their families due to the Great Depression.

Keywords: Great Depression; Julian St. George White; NAACP; National Executive Committee; National Negro Congress; New York

00:44:09 - Equal rights bill of 1935

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Tell me the story then of what, if you can

Segment Synopsis: Martin discusses his involvement in getting the Equal Rights Bill passed in Harrisburg in 1937, which made discrimination in hotels, restaurants, theaters and places of public accommodation illegal.

Keywords: Equal Rights Bill of 1935; Harrisburg; New York Act; The Crisis

GPS: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 40°16'55.7
00:46:49 - Test cases and enforcing old equality laws

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Partial Transcript: So what impact did it have ?

Segment Synopsis: Martin discusses inter-racial organizations such as the Quaker Inter-Racial Fellowship that staged sit-ins at restaurants and theaters to test the enforcement of equality laws. Martin himself also challenges businesses to mixed results before passage of the 1935 Equal Rights Bill.

Keywords: Austin Norris; E. Washington Rhodes; Germany; Jacob Bilikopf; Quaker Inter-Racial Fellowship; Raymond Pace Alexander; St. Louis; The Stanley Company; William Goldman

00:50:48 - Lobbying for equal rights bill in Harrisburg and subsequent affect

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Partial Transcript: "Hm. Were you involved in the lobbying efforts in Harrisburg?"

Segment Synopsis: Not extensively involved in the effort, Martin explains the lobbying effort for the bill and several individuals, such as Hobson Reynolds, who personally fought for the bill in Harrisburg. Dr. Hardy then questions Martin on the effectiveness of the Equal Rights Bill. Despite addressing individuals who say otherwise Martin stands by his claim of the Bill improving equality in Philadelphia.

Keywords: Harrisburg; Hobson Reynolds; NAACP; New York; North Philadelphia; The Elks

GPS: Harrisburg, Pennsylvania
Map Coordinates: 40°15'54.4
00:54:28 - Martin's education at the University of Pennsylvania

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Partial Transcript: Why did you choose

Segment Synopsis: Martin talks positively about his time at University of Pennsylvania. Facing no discrimination from White students, Martin befriends students regardless of race and mainly focuses on his studies in order to pursue a career in real estate.

Keywords: Great Depression; University of Pennsylvania; Wharton School

00:57:48 - African American buildings & loans associations

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Partial Transcript: Well, let’s see. We’ve got a couple of minutes left. I think I’ll pursue

Segment Synopsis: Martin briefly describes the height of building and loan associations in Philadelphia and their downfall. A combination of cheap housing and affordable mortgages caused many Blacks to choose Philadelphia as an ideal location.

Keywords: Building and loan association; Home ownership; New York; Philadelphia; The South

00:59:57 - Early black banking and businesses in the early 1900s

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Partial Transcript: A hundred and twenty, 130 percent. I know my father was secretary of one

Segment Synopsis: Martin recounts business practices of Philadelphia's earliest Black real estate companies, such as St. Mark's Business and Loan.

Keywords: Berean; Old Philadelphians; St. Mark’s Building and Loan; The Tribune; the South

GPS: Location of the Philadelphia Tribune
Map Coordinates: 39°56'40.0
01:02:52 - Differences between old Philadelphians and newcomers

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Partial Transcript: What was the biggest problems they had, or obstacles they had to overcome?

Segment Synopsis: Martin criticizes Old Philadelphian lack of initiative to better their social and economic circumstances. Unlike southern newcomers, Old Philadelphians suffered from complacency and therefore did not take advantage of local universities. Martin also explains how Philadelphia was a difficult city to adjust to for Blacks migrating from the South.

Keywords: Alain Locke; Allan Ballard; Knoxville College; N.A.A.C.P.; Old Philadelphians; Philadelphia; Philadelphia College of Pharmacy; Philadelphia School of Pedagogy; Temple University; Urban League; William Lloyd Arms; YMCA