Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Louise Smith, September 24, 1984

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Childhood and education

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Partial Transcript: Now- And then my mother had a son.

Segment Synopsis: Born to former slaves, Louise Smith grew up in North Carolina. Part of a large family, many of her siblings lived with her Grandmother in Granville County, and they did not see them often. Educated until ninth grade, Louise determined she was going to travel North, to help her family, instead of attending Shaw University to further her education in the South.

Keywords: Childhood; Education; Slavery

GPS: Granville County, North Carolina Courthouse
Map Coordinates: 36.3120, -78.5875
00:05:19 - Comin' North: Granville County to Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: What made you decide to come North?

Segment Synopsis: The decision to come North was a practical one, rather than idealistic, for Smith. After her father was injured working on the railroad, Smith decided she was leaving to help the family. Smith's friends, Lilia Daniel and Lenore Austin, both died shortly after their journey to the North.

Keywords: 17th Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Durham School (Philadelphia, Pa.); Expectations before moving north; Lenore Austin

GPS: The Thomas Durham School, Philadelphia PA
Map Coordinates: 39.944, -75.169
00:07:59 - The Bright Lights: Atlantic City, New Jersey

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Partial Transcript: What they we're doin', I quit. I didn't go no more.

Segment Synopsis: The "Bright Lights" of the North are the reason that many young Southerners moved North. The city lifestyle is very different from that of the South. Instead of being tempted by this party lifestyle, Smith joins East Calvary Methodist Church, in Philadelphia, lead by Rev. Dr. Charles A. Tindley in 1910.

Keywords: Atlantic City, New Jersey; East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Prostitution; Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley

GPS: East Calvary Methodist Church
Map Coordinates: 39.941, -75.166
00:10:35 - Domestic work in Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: Because I got some good ones there!

Segment Synopsis: Upon arriving in Philadelphia, Louise Smith went to the employment office run by Miss. Pollette on Pine Street. Her first job was for Mrs. Rodgers in West Philadelphia. Smith made $3 a week to begin, but Mrs. Rodgers treated her nicely and even bought her an Easter suit from Wanamaker's Department Store.

Keywords: Domestic work; Employment offices--Philadelphia; First Police District (12th and Pine); Wages

GPS: 239 S. 41st Street Philadelphia, PA
Map Coordinates: 39.957, -75.219
00:14:03 - The "Red Light District": Prostitution in Atlantic City

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Partial Transcript: And she was a rat

Segment Synopsis: One summer, Louise Smith moved to Atlantic City in search of jobs that paid more than $3.50 a week. She lived with a friend of her sister, named Ada, who was a prostitute. Ada attempted to get Smith involved in prostitution in the "red light district" of Atlantic City. Smith would have nothing of that lifestyle, so she moved back to Philadelphia.

Keywords: Association for the Protection of Colored Women; Atlantic City, New Jersey; Domestic work; Prostitution

GPS: 199 North Carolina Ave. Atlantic City, New Jersey
Map Coordinates: 39.358, -74.422
00:21:38 - Advice from home

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Partial Transcript: Had your parents given you any advice, your friends told you any stories before you came up North?

Segment Synopsis: "Never take gifts from boys," is one warning that Louise Smith received from her mother before moving North. She received advice and warnings about the North before her move to Philadelphia from family, friends, and teachers.

Keywords: Advice about moving north; Parental advice; Warnings about life in the North

GPS: 57th and Jefferson Streets
Map Coordinates: 39.979, -75.235
00:32:00 - Life in Baltimore

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Partial Transcript: I was in Baltimore. That's the time when I was married to my first husband.

Segment Synopsis: After marrying her first husband, somewhere around 1917, Louise Smith moved from Philadelphia to Baltimore. It was in Baltimore that she becomes very ill and sought medical attention at Johns Hopkins University Hospital.

Keywords: Baltimore, Maryland; Domestic work; World War I

GPS: Johns Hopkins Hospital, Baltimore, MD.
Map Coordinates: 39.297, -76.593
00:39:11 - Back to Philadelphia: The Late Nineteen-Teens

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Partial Transcript: Now, when did you come back to Philadelphia?

Segment Synopsis: After the First World War, Louise Smith moved back to Philadelphia. Leaving her husband behind, she reacquainted herself with East Calvary Methodist Church. She believed that many people came North after the War, but they did not join the East Calvary congregation.

Keywords: East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley; World War I

00:41:05 - Louise's Struggles in Life

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Partial Transcript: And that's the time I was married to this husband

Segment Synopsis: Louise Smith faced many familial struggles in her life, most of them centering around her first husband, "the bad one." He treated her horribly and even cut her with a razor blade on her arm. The death of her father also took a toll on Smith, both emotionally and financially.

Keywords: 1522 Catharine Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); J. Robert Wood Funeral Home; Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley

GPS: 1522 Catharine St, Philadelphia, PA
Map Coordinates: 39.940, -75.168
00:52:25 - Domestic work for Miss Meredith and Miss Anna

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Partial Transcript: .. all through the years. She was a swee-, and but she died.

Segment Synopsis: Louise Smith worked for Miss Meredith at 924 Spruce Street at a boarding home for students of Jefferson Medical College. She thinks highly of Miss Meredith and spent many years working for Miss Meredith and after her death. After Miss Meredith died, Smith worked for Miss Meredith's niece, Miss Anna.

Keywords: 924 Spruce Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Domestic work; Philadelphia; Strawbridge and Clothier; Wages

GPS: 924 Spruce Street, Philadelphia, PA.
Map Coordinates: 39.945, -75.157
00:56:00 - East Calvary Methodist Church

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Partial Transcript: (Phone Rings) About East Calvary and Reverend Tindley

Segment Synopsis: A devoted member of East Calvary Methodist Church, Smith was very close with Rev. Dr. Charles A. TIndley. During the time that Louise attended the church, both the church and Dr. Tindley were very popular.

Keywords: East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley; Tindley Temple

GPS: East Calvary Methodist Church
Map Coordinates: 39.941, -75.166
00:59:32 - Guidance from Dr. Tindley

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Partial Transcript: If you’re there, you’ve got burdens or anything. But if you’ve got a burden, you could go to Dr. Tindley

Segment Synopsis: "If you've got a burden, you could go to Dr. Tindley," stated Louise Smith. She explained how Dr. Tindley provided guidance and reason throughout her life. Louise attempted to kill her husband one night. About to buy the gun, Smith heard something tell her "Vengeance is mine and I will repay," she put the gun down and went to church instead.

Keywords: East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley; South Street (Philadelphia, Pa.)

01:05:09 - East Calvary Methodist Church

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Partial Transcript: Now in Tindley Temple, with Reverend Tindley's congregation

Segment Synopsis: Tindley Temple, or East Calvary Methodist Church, is a very popular place. Smith states that most of the Southerners that attended the church were from Berlin, Maryland, birthplace of Dr. Tindley. She also explains the popularity of Dr. Tindley and the dynamics of the church.

Keywords: Berlin, Maryland; East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley; Tindley Temple

GPS: Berlin, Maryland
Map Coordinates: 38.323, -75.218
01:12:51 - Reverend Tindley

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Partial Transcript: Its true. One of the other things is that during the First World War, Ralph talked about how Dr. Tindley opened the church

Segment Synopsis: During and after the First World War, Dr. Tindley provided various aide to members of the African American Community in Philadelphia. The Church moved from Bainbridge Street to Broad Street, and the newer facilities allowed Dr. TIndley to minister to a much larger congregation, and provide aide to a larger group of Philadelphians.

Keywords: East Calvary Methodist Church (Philadelphia, Pa.); Masonic Order--Philadelphia; Rev. Dr. Charles Albert Tindley; World War I

01:27:30 - South Street, Philadelphia

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Partial Transcript: You know, the other thing I’d like to ask you about, since you go way back, and go back to 1910 in the city...

Segment Synopsis: Smith's brother-in-law was a Police Officer in the Frist Police District, and his beat included South Street. The street was a hub of activity in Philadelphia, and home to many theaters, including the Standard and Dunbar Lincoln. Smith knew about the theaters, but never personally attended the theaters on South Street. She also did not have any issues with Jewish merchants on South Street, although many others had run into these issues.

Keywords: Dunbar Theater (opened December 29, 1919, purchased by John Gibson in 1922); First Police District (12th and Pine); South Street (Philadelphia, Pa.); Standard Theater (1124-28 South Street)

GPS: 500 S. Broad Street, address of the Dunbar Theater
Map Coordinates: 39.944, -75.1656
01:31:19 - Differences between North and South

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Partial Transcript: Now back during the ninteen-teens when you were first here

Segment Synopsis: Louise Smith viewed life in Philadelphia as quite different from life in the South, although she had fond memories of her childhood. There was nothing exciting about moving to the North for Louise. She also believed that more Southern people moved to New York to open businesses than in Philadelphia.

Keywords: African American businesses--Philadelphia, Pa.; Domestic work; Education; New York City, New York; Veterans of Foreign Wars

GPS: 214 W. 127th Street, New York, NY.
Map Coordinates: 40.810, -73.947
01:42:35 - Civil Rights and Dr. Martin Luther King

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Partial Transcript: How about one final question then?

Segment Synopsis: Although not personally involved in the Civil Rights movement, Louise Smith met Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, in Atlantic City, NJ. In 1958, a woman, Izola Curry, attempted to assassinate Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr with a letter opener with many present. Present in Harlem that day, Smith did not personally see Dr. King get stabbed but met him shortly after the event.

Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.; Harlem, New York City, New York