Partial Transcript: The following interview was conducted with Lyman Johnson in in his home on Muhammad Ali Boulevard on May the 2nd, 1979 between two and five o’clock in the afternoon.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about how he feels called to debunk traditional ideas people have about history, especially American history. He says too often we tend to romanticize certain histories, and gloss over ugly aspects of history. He says that he doesn't like the history published of Maury County, his home county, because it ignores the presence of African Americans in the county. He talks about his time at the University of Kentucky, in the history department. He said a lot of the historians there were just trying to say something nice about their ancestors, and that historical societies are just formed to embellish the "nice", acceptable history of their families.
Keywords: Founding of America; History education; Maury County (Tenn.); Maury County, Tennessee; Puritans; Spanish Armadas; Spanish explorers; Whitewashing of history
Subjects: African American families; African American leadership; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Discrimination in education.; Education; Family histories.; Family history.; Race discrimination.; Racism; United States--Race relations.; University of Kentucky. Department of History
Partial Transcript: Could--could Murray County and--and the rest of the South have been, uh--have been developed without the--the work of the slaves, do you think?
Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks if Johnson thinks that the South would have been developed without slave labor, and Johnson says he doesn’t want to speculate. Johnson then gives his opinions about the people who founded America. He says that, while we are taught that America was settled by people seeking religious freedom, it was mainly people searching for wealth. He then talks about the beginning of the slave trade, and how culpable both the English and then, later, New Englanders were in this. He says that these settlers' treatment of Native Americans and African slaves was not Christian-like behavior.
Keywords: Enslaved; Enslavement; Enslavers; Founding of America; History education; Puritans; Slave economy; Slave masters; Slave owners; Spanish Armadas; Spanish explorers; Whitewashing of history
Subjects: African American families; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Education; Family histories.; Family history.; Race discrimination.; Racism; Religion; Slavery--United States.; Slaves--Abuse of; Slaves--Social conditions.; Slaves--United States.; United States--Race relations.
Partial Transcript: Lyman, this, uh, historical sketch of Murray County as you--as you said has almost nothing to say about, uh, uh, black people, almost nothing.
Segment Synopsis: They then return to talking about the Maury County centennial history report, and how there is no mention of African Americans in it. They then talk about how the contributions of African Americans in society are so often overlooked, even though most African Americans' families have been in America longer than white families. They talk about how there is no mention of black schools or black churches in the report.
Johnson then gives his views on Manifest Destiny. He says it's important for both white and black children to get a full, clear picture of history. Johnson talks about how he lived surrounded by the type of whitewashed rhetoric in the centennial report his whole life, and how some African Americans he knew also absorbed this rhetoric.
Keywords: Founding of America; History education; Maury County (Tenn.); Maury County, Tennessee; Whitewashing of history
Subjects: African American families; African American leadership; African Americans--Education.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Discrimination in education.; Education; Family histories.; Family history.; Race discrimination.; Racism; United States--Race relations.
Partial Transcript: Let me ask you--w-w-well before we leave there, were you ever scared as a--as a child, as a boy in Maury County, in Columbia?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about the fear he had of policemen in his childhood, the fear of what could happen if you got on the wrong side of white people. The interviewer gives a hypothetical, about what would happen if he hit a white man in self defense, and Johnson said that he would have been in a lot of trouble. He points out that all the lawyers or judges who prosecuted such a case would be white. Johnson says that keeping black men from defending themselves against white people is a holdover from slavery and the idea that it’s dangerous to let a black man stand up for himself. The interviewer points out that Johnson and his family had some respect in the community, and asks if they would still be treated so poorly. Johnson responds that their race would always define them, and negate any standing they had. He tells a story about his uncle experiencing racism in Atlanta, even though he was a professor and had a PhD. Johnson then talks about times he saw African Americans experience police brutality. He tells a story about being in college at Virginia Union, and seeing a black man who crashed his car after being chased by the police. Even though he broke his bones in the accident, the police still beat him. Johnson then tells another story about when he saw a black man get in a car crash with a white man, and then was beaten. In both situations, Johnson was unable to intervene, because he would have been beaten as well.
Keywords: Climate of fear created by police brutality; Criminal justice system; Eyewitness accounts of police brutality; Fear of law enforcement; Police officers; Virginia Union University
Subjects: African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Southern States.; Law enforcement.; Police brutality.; Police-community relations.; Police.; Racism; United States--Race relations.
Partial Transcript: Have there been any studies of the psychological consequences of this, uh, this atmosphere of fear, this climate of fear, on uh black males?
Segment Synopsis: The interviewer asks if there have been any psychological studies about the effect of violence, and the accompanying fear of violence, on black men. Johnson says there have been, and he talks about how this affects romantic relationships between black men and women. Johnson then talks about the plight of young black men at the time of the interview, 1979. He says that many young black men would rather be killed or be put in jail, because they have no future prospects. He also talks about how young black men have stopped fighting, because they have seen organizations like the Black Panthers be destroyed when they got too powerful. Johnson also talks about how fear shapes the way black men talk, that they always have to watch what they are saying so they don’t get in trouble with white people.
Keywords: Black Panthers; Government suppression of Black Panthers; Psychological effects of racism; Psychological trauma of police brutality; Psychological trauma of racism; Relationships between African American men and women
Subjects: African Americans--Crimes against.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Social conditions--1975-; Racism; United States--Race relations.
Partial Transcript: Um, at the very end of the tape last time, we were--you were talking about attending a white Citizens' Council meeting, and for some reason, the tape didn’t quite--didn’t pick up your voice as clearly as I wanted to.
Segment Synopsis: This is a continuation of a story that Johnson did not fully finish on the last tape. This story is abruptly cut off.
Keywords: Friends; Television; White Citizens Council meetings; White people
Partial Transcript: Could we talk a few minutes about, uh, uh--some more about black society?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson says that everything going on in white society was happening in black society, just in another part of town. He said that the African American servants of affluent whites had to be well-trained in etiquette to serve in the white people's homes. They then translated these etiquette rules into black society. Johnson says that there was not a clear class divide among African Americans, because for so long, none of them were allowed to be upwardly mobile. In black society, it did not matter where you came from, or who your father was, as long as you had enough money to pay to get into the party. Johnson then talks about his time in a fraternity at the University of Michigan, and the professions of people in his fraternity.
Keywords: African American domestic workers; African American fraternities and sororities; African American social gatherings; African American upper and middle class, early 20th century; African American waiters; Brown Hotel; Class divisions in African American society, early 20th century
Subjects: African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Economic conditions.; African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Louisville (Ky.)
Hyperlink: 2009ms131: Lyman Johnson and three men, Alpha Lambda, AΦA, Dinner-Dance honoring wives and Alpha man of the year, Lyman T. Johnson, Louisville, Wade Hall papers, 1876-1998, undated, University of Kentucky Special Collections Research Center.
Partial Transcript: Were there any clubs that based, uh, either officially or unofficially, I guess it would have been, membership on, uh--or would have excluded members because of their skin color?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson says that from 1910-1930, there was an attempt to draw a color line in African American society between light-skinned and dark-skinned African Americans. However, Johnson said that that kind of thinking couldn't get off the ground. Johnson said that if you were light-skinned, you would still have to be in African American society, because, if you had any black DNA, white society would not accept you. He does say, though, that some light-skinned African Americans had advantages that darker skinned people did not, if they had white fathers. He talks about his wife’s friends, who had a white father and a black mother. They were not married, but the white man supported the children financially, and sent them to college. Johnson said it wasn’t uncommon for white men to have relationships with married black women. Neither the woman nor her husband could do anything about it. This would lead to many black women having two sets of children. The interviewer asks if it’s true that some light-skinned people married other light-skinned people, to try to have whiter children. Johnson said maybe, but they soon realized that even very light-skinned African Americans would never have full entrance to white society. They also talk about skin bleaching techniques. Johnson then talks about the “Black is beautiful” movement, which encouraged black people to stop trying to make themselves lighter and embrace their own skin. However, he does say that he thinks this movement might have gone too far, and now he sees young black people who look disheveled. He tells a story about how, before he hired a young black man, he made him change his appearance to look more professional. The interviewer asks again if there were clubs in Louisville in the 1920s and '30s that would only let light-skinned African Americans in. Johnson says no, that the only reason you wouldn’t be let in was your economic status.
Keywords: Ancestors; Ancestry; Biracial; Black is Beautiful movement; Class divisions in African American community, early 20th century; Colorism in African American communities; Historically black colleges and universities; Interracial children; Interracial relationships in the early 20th century; Light skinned African Americans in early 20th century; Mixed-race; Multiracial; Skin color; Skin lightening techniques
Subjects: African American college students.; African American families; African American universities and colleges.; African American--Social conditions.; African Americans--Marriage.; African Americans--Race identity.; African Americans--Social conditions--To 1964.; Clothing and dress.
Partial Transcript: I remember going to this, uh, I remember going to this going to this fraternity meeting.
Segment Synopsis: Johnson describes the meetings of his fraternity and the different members of the fraternity. He talks about the different class levels of the members of the fraternity. Johnson says you make these fraternities in college, and have no idea what the standing of the men will be in ten or fifteen years.
Keywords: African American fraternities and sororities; African American social organizations; Historically black colleges and universities; University of Michigan
Subjects: African American college graduates; African American college students.; African Americans--Conduct of life.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Social life and customs.; African Americans--Societies, etc.; Greek letter societies.
Partial Transcript: Can--can black people be racially prejudiced?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about how widely unacceptable it is in the African American community for light-skinned people to try to get favors because of their light skin. He says there were maybe some light-skinned African Americans who wouldn’t marry anyone darker than themselves, but that idea wasn’t very popular. The interviewer asks if Johnson is talking from hindsight, and maybe that idea was popular, and, at that time, people might have been looking out for their children and grandchildren, and no one else’s. Johnson says that they should be looking out for other people's children, and talks about how those who look out for themselves are not acting like true Christians.
Keywords: Ancestors; Ancestry; Biracial; Colorism; Colorism in African American society; Family backgrounds; Interracial children; Interracial relationships; Mixed-race; Multiracial; Skin color
Subjects: African Americans--Marriage.; African Americans--Race identity.; Discrimination.; Racism
Partial Transcript: What--what kind of place is the Apythian temple?
Segment Synopsis: Johnson talks about a big African American social club in Louisville called the Apythian Temple, where most of the important parties in African American society were held. He also talks about another place down the street, Allen Hall, which was used for smaller gatherings. He then gives a layout of African American social clubs and societies in Louisville in the 1920s and '30s. He says that big dances would be held by African American sororities or fraternities, and smaller parties would be held by groups like the Elks Club or Mason Lodge, organizations for black men who did not go to college. He says there would be all kinds of music played there, both classic and contemporary. He talks about how, sometimes, groups would hold parties in a tobacco barn outside of town. He says that a black newspaper editor asked what kind of society they were establishing by throwing parties in a barn. Johnson said that it was very important for African Americans to have a society, and a social outlet, no matter the venue. He then talks about the African American social scene today. He says they are just as big, and now can be held in nicer venues.
Keywords: African American social clubs; Dances; Elks Club; Louisville (Ky.); Mason Lodge; Social gatherings
Subjects: African Americans--Recreation; African Americans--Social conditions.; African Americans--Social life and customs.; African Americans--Societies, etc.
Partial Transcript: Uh, let me return your pictures here, and I'm gonna ask you a few--
Segment Synopsis: In this section, the interviewer gives Johnson back the pictures that he had given him earlier, to be used for the Courier-Journal article about him. They then talk about the people in the pictures.
Keywords: Louisville Courier-Journal
HALL: The following interview was conducted with Lyman Johnson in in his home onMuhammad Ali Boulevard on May the 2nd, 1979 between 2:00 and 5:00 in the afternoon.
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: This was, uh, bi--this was a centennial history of Maury County?
HALL: What--what did you think about it?
JOHNSON: As a history teacher with some degree of graduate training in the fieldof history, part of my practice in the field of history, is to debunk the procedure and the output of historians until recently, and especially United States historians. We are too prone to embellish in the name of history what we 00:01:00fantasize as the good life. And I maintain that history includes the bad life as well as the good life, and therefore those who parade in the name of history are humbugs who pick out the glorious part and either gloss over or neglect or worse still, know and neglect the shady part of our existence. And I see no place in that which purport--purports to be a historical sketch of Maury County, very little if any reference to black people down there. The only place where I see 00:02:00there is any reference, and I didn't read it minutely, but in my perusal of the little book I see where they do say there were, in Maury County, at a certain time, say 1850, so many whites, so many slaves, and, uh, maybe 150 free people or color. There is nothing that I see to show what the, say, three or four or five thousand, maybe as many as ten thousand slaves were doing. They all show the--the, uh, people who lived on the backs of those people, who gained all the 00:03:00fruits of their labors and lived the good life, and they embellish the good life without showing, without giving any credit at all to those on whose backs they rode to the good life. And, um, with reference to the 140 freed people, I see no reference to whether they were good, bad, or indifferent. They just--just say 140 free people. And I expect my grandfather was one of that 140 people.
JOHNSON: My grandmother may have been another of those 140. But they were--theywere not--not otherwise recognized. 00:04:00
HALL: They weren't even there were they?
JOHNSON: Except for the foundation upon--they--it's just like the old mule outin the backyard. You got to town, but you never tell anybody you rode this mule to town.
HALL: (laughs) That's right. Or it's like the foundation of a house, you know--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah--
HALL: --you cover that up.
JOHNSON: Yeah, you never show the picture of the--it may be rickety andeverything else, but the house is still standing, and it's standing on something. And you very seldom show the foundation.
HALL: Well, that's kind of like, uh, putting all the black people in the balconywhere it's dark and that way you--
JOHNSON: --them out of sight--
HALL: --they weren't there--
JOHNSON: --now go up there, as my father used to say, go--they intend for you togo u--go up, out of reach, up out of sight in a dark place. You are black to begin with in a dark place. You won't be seen, and keep quiet. You do we won't let you have this--get this, -----(??), we won't let you have this privilege anymore.
JOHNSON: And when, uh--and one of the members of the board of educa--not board00:05:00of education, one of the high administrative officials at the board of education referred to me as, "How do you expect for the little colored children to--to gain any idea of culture and refinement?" I said, "How in the hell can you get culture and refinement by--by first giving up the avenues to culture and refinement?" Degrading yourself to pick up culture, isn't that cute? That--that--that's a--that's a joke in itself. I--I just love to debunk all such phrases and all such comments and--and things like that. It's a nice book for a--for people like that, and even up at the University of Kentucky when I went up there and I started taking work in the, uh, history department, uh, uh, I--I raised hell up there. They--we were talking about Kentucky history, and someone was talking about all these historical associations and how--how much good they 00:06:00were doing. I said they were just debunking the--they're, they're not saying anything except they're just trying to find something nice to say about grandpapa, their own parents, and when they find some reprobate in their family they--they snatch it out of the archives so that you never know that, uh, maybe one of their, uh, uncles was the--was the biggest, uh, reprobate in town. They--they--these historical societies are nothing more than just a group--groups of people to embellish the--the--the nice people in our families. They don't tell it like I do that, uh, I have one brother that didn't finish high school. One brother that did, one brother who I--I--I could just spend all my life talking about the one who did or the others who did. And then someone might say, "Mr. Johnson, I know something about your family. What about that 00:07:00other one?" Well, I don't want them to ever find out.
HALL: Could--could Maury County and--and the rest of the South have been,uh--have been developed without the--the work of the slave, do you think?
JOHNSON: Very much like--I'll answer that real quick by saying all the thingsI've done somebody else would have done it if I hadn't done it. So I'm not gonna kid myself into thinking that, uh, lo and behold the mountain was moved, and Lyman Johnson did it. Well hell, if there hadn't been a Lyman Johnson there'd have been a John Doe who would have. So I don't kid myself. Surely the South would have been developed.
HALL: Better or worse--
HALL: --or--s--what do you think?
JOHNSON: But I'm going to come right back real quick with a great big--great bigB-U-T, but it was not. It was--it was built on the--on the--on the backs of 00:08:00slave labor. Now it--it might have--you cannot prove, and the reason why I don't get caught up on that is that I cannot--you cannot prove what would have been, and I cannot prove that it would not have been, so it's a futile argument to talk about what might have been. I simply--I'm a historian.
JOHNSON: --I'm only concerned in what was.
HALL: Was, but--but it's interesting to speculate, ah, 'cause it's--as you say,it's--it's futile, but it's interesting--interesting to speculate about how this whole country, not just the South but this whole country would have developed had it not been for the presence of black slave labor. It's--
JOHNSON: --And see, I--I--I--I'm going to try to stick to historical principles,00:09:00guidelines, and all history people learn early to stick to the facts and don't fantasize, and don't--don't--don't predict. Don't fantasize about the past, and don't predict for the future. Just write what was, and I know full well that this country was not settled primarily as a means of extending the highest principles of the Christian religion. And that--i--it's--it's rough to--to say there, but we ought to tell our children the truth, and the truth was we came over here to get rich. We came over here for economic reasons. We didn't come 00:10:00over here for, oh, a handful, sure, handful of people, but I mean the multitude. A handful came over here for--for higher principles of--and lofty principles of Christian, uh, uh, living. But most of the--most of the people came here--now--th--th--th--the--the history is clear if you'll just open your eyes and see it. The Spanish and Portuguese came to North and South America to get rich, steal, if you please, gold from the Indians. And when they didn't find enough gold already made up to take back to--to embellish the--the good life in Spain and Portugal, and--and they lived--the lived a--a--an affluent life back there in the fourteenth and early fifteen century--centuries, but what they 00:11:00intended to do was if they didn't find enough gold, was to make the Indian go down in the gold mines and dig up more gold.
HALL: Now, the English didn't come for that reason, did they?
JOHNSON: English waited around for the French--eh, for the Spanish andPortuguese great big, uh, cargo ships loaded down, to rob them on the high seas, and that robs them of any idea--uh, that robs them of any idea of Christian principles. They start out to rob somebody else who had already robbed the people. The English and the French were the ones who were the--were the pirates on the high sea waiting for the--for the Spanish and the Portuguese to come to America and rob the Indian. And when they got halfway back, here would come 00:12:00these English and French pirates to rob Spanish, uh, uh, cargo ships. Then the Spanish proceeded to build up what they call the Spanish Armada, which was a fleet of battleships to, eh, encrust the one big cargo ship. And that was, uh, defeated, and England again, eh, eh, claiming what ma--many history people half-baked, claim that the British won the war. The British didn't win that--that war. The--most history books like to, uh, uh, make--say something nice about the British, the English and say that the British defeated the 00:13:00Spanish Armada when as a matter of fact it was the wind that blew the ships to pieces up there in the English Channel. It was the--it was a storm that--that--that--that broke up the Spanish Armada, the--the King of Spain sent--sent the Spanish Armada up there to wipe England off the map so we can continue to rob the Indians and bring all this stuff back. Now, why--why was there big controversy? Why was there a Spanish Armada except to prove--I mean, except that it does prove that the English wer--were--were--were--were hijacking the Spanish ships. Now, for anybody to come back and say that, uh, French and English came out here for Christian motives, they--they--they--they just a poo-pooing--
HALL: --what about the Puritans and the Pilgrims?
JOHNSON: I said a handful of people always, you'll always have a handful of00:14:00conscientious good souls.
HALL: And you think that the Puritans and the Pilgrims might have--
JOHNSON: --the Puritans might have--the Puritans could not worship as theypleased, so they, uh, kept getting kicked around, kicked around over in England. First the, uh, English people didn't, uh--who was it, Henry the VIII wasn't--, uh, couldn't--
JOHNSON: --couldn't have all the women he wanted and stay in the Catholic Churchand all that kind of stuff. I w--I won't get into all of that. I just--just allude to it, let you know that I--I--I--I got my sput--s--, uh, perspective based in historical fact. The--the English Church, I think it was Henry the VIII, uh, could not get along with the Catholic Church and do as they pleased, so they kicked out the--the--the pope and established the Anglican Church. The Anglican Church then became a--a Catholic Church without a bishop, without a--without a pope.
JOHNSON: But they did have a--a--a bishop. Now just as soon as the English got00:15:00their own a--version of a--of a church, short of a pope--the pope was down in Rome--
JOHNSON: Henry the VIII said I'll be your pope and your king too. I--we don'tneed a pope. Now, what are you going to do about these people who said you cleaned up that much of the--of the church, uh, uh structure, let's keep on. And they said, "Oh, hell, you a bunch of"--a--a---and the word Puritan was used as a--as--as a kind of a derisive term at first. "Oh you--you--you--you--you Puritans, if you don't like the way we're doing, get out." So then the Anglican Church, which in Amer--in--in America is called Episcopal Church, the Anglican Church was just as hard hearted toward those who were not conforming as the Catholic Church had been on the l--on the English. So then here are a handful of people who say, "Well, now, if you're going to purify--if--if, uh, reform the 00:16:00church, let's ref--let's--let's get out all the wrong." Well, as soon as--as soon as the Anglican Church got rid of the pope, that was as far as Henry the VIII wanted any reform. You continue to use the same song book, the same prayer book, the same order of service. The people down in the ranks never knew there was much of a change.
HALL: Well, they used English though, they tended to, after a while.
JOHNSON: Yeah, but the--but they--th--that was--that was not much change in theorder of service in the Anglican Church from the Catholic Church. Uh, it was only up at the top--
JOHNSON: --where there was a change. So that didn't accommodate just a handfulof--which--of--of people who were, uh, dubbed as disgruntled. "Now you disgruntled people, if you don't like what we've done now you get out." And so, um, then they were called Puritans, and they were called, uh, separatists, and they were called non-conformists, and they went over to, uh--went across the 00:17:00sea. I mean, across the--yeah, channel to, uh, Holland, Belgium and Holland. And they were not welcomed over there unless they conformed--it--they were getting back under the Catholic Church.
JOHNSON: Which made it worse. Now they can't go back to England, and when theopportunity comes to settle over here in Plymouth Rock, they--they relished it. They came, but along with them come all these--all these other people mortified--motivated by other elements, uh, o--other concerns. Just as soon as those people got established over here they started building ships. They entered into the shipbuilding industry--
JOHNSON: --in competition with England.
JOHNSON: Which becomes not religious. It's economic. And then they begin toplay--t--to ply the seas with their slave trade. Uh, if you remember your 00:18:00history, uh, what we--i--in the history, um, classroom we--we like to refer to the triangular trade.
JOHNSON: Shortcut England. Now, if you--what England wanted you to do was tocarry on the trade, but you start at England, go to Africa, get the slaves, take them down to the, uh, uh West Indies, dump the--what they call, uh, uh, I use the word, in quotation marks, "crude slaves." I mean the slaves who were not adjusted to--to white man's civilization.
JOHNSON: And drop them off on the plantations out in the--in--in the south--inthe, uh, Cari--uh, Caribbean, uh, and--and let them stay there for one generation and get adjusted to doing what the white man tells you to do. Then the next generation, the children of those people, then bring them up into South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, and--and--and whatnot. Uh, with this save--with this 00:19:00trade, start from England in English ships down to Africa, down to--across to the Caribbean, up from the Caribbean to the United States, and, uh, swap your slaves down there for molasses and sugar and all that kind of stuff, bring that on up here to the New England states, and New England states would, uh, make it into rum and take the rum--now, where you going? You're supposed to go--you're supposed to be under the control of the--of the money people of England. And England--England gets a little tax when you--wh--when you make a s--a--a trade in Africa, a little tax when you make a trade in the Caribbean, make a little tax when you--uh, bring your rum and molasses whatnot, make another tax. 00:20:00Every--every time you--you--you transfer something, England clips a--a--a little percent.
JOHNSON: Now, these people up in New England says no, if we make our own shipsand we run our own ships we'll go not a four-way angle, uh, a four-way trade, we'll cut out England, and we will go from New England to Africa to the Carib--uh, Caribbean to New England back to Africa again, and wherever there is a clipping we Yankees will make it. Now where--where are your Christians in all that. They--they--they got lost in the--in the shuffle.
HALL: Well, there's some though. There's some that, uh, there's a remnant maybein--in New England of good people, as you would say, who, uh, were opposed to the slave trade, were opposed to slavery. Were they perhaps the same kind of 00:21:00people who after the Civil War, then came to the South--
JOHNSON: --to run those schools.
HALL: --to--to run the schools. I mean, you see, is--is--is--
HALL: --that--that remnant there--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah, yeah. It's--it's--the--that--the--the--there's alwaysgoing to be some nice people, but, uh, I don't know why, but the history of mankind is that the good people are so scarce. Why, why, why? There a lot of people who--who are reasonably good, but they--they like to have the plaudits of the rabble, and therefore they keep their goodness, uh, kind of covered up, and--and--and then--then they become, uh, like I--like I told some of our local pol--uh, local officials here, uh, in--in--with reference to some of our local problems, you've got all the training and qualifications for being great leaders, but you like the--the plaudits of the rabble so much that you are just 00:22:00like any other damn no-good p--uh, uh, uh demagogue. Whenever--whenever you put your principles on the shelf and play to the rabble, then you--you--you are no good to--to--to the cause of Christianity. Um, you just look at the--look at the thirteen colonies, look at the colonies in all the thirteen colonies. They went to church on Sunday. They would go to prayer meeting, mid-week service, usually on Wednesday, and they had all sorts of scruples based in first rate scripture 00:23:00lessons. But how in the hell did they treat the Indians and the black people and the poor whites? Anyway except Christian. There is no way to square all the stuff that they were taught by their preachers and Sunday school preachers, and you just can't square.
HALL: Lyman, this, uh, historical sketch of Maury County as you--as you said hasalmost nothing to say about, uh, uh, black people, almost nothing.
JOHNSON: I know--I didn't find--
JOHNSON: --any place where they give the black people credit even of--of washingMs. Anne's dirty--dirty drawers.
HALL: Uh, how--
JOHNSON: --and she didn't want to--she didn't want to wash them herself.
JOHNSON: That is her--her linens. Now, let's--let's put it in decent language.Uh, there is no--there is no reference there as to who cooked for those banquets 00:24:00and how much did you--did you pay what the--what the congress is fussing about now, uh, a minimum salary? Did you pay? How much--what did--what did you--what did you pay for the man who was the, uh, constant house servant on call from before daylight until way at night? How mu--did you pay him a living wage?
HALL: Well, that was even after they were freed.
JOHNSON: I'm talking about, d--when that book was written.
HALL: O--oh, in 18--
JOHNSON: --which includes thirty years, just about twenty years after--afterfreedom and, uh, pur--purports--
HALL: --oh no, only about eleven years.
HALL: So, yeah, yeah, well--
JOHNSON: --uh, uh, from--from the--
JOHNSON: --from the beginning of the war then, sixteen years after the beginningof the war, eleven years, uh, after the war was over. Um, but--but therefore taking--taking, uh--supposed to cover, uh, eleven from a hundred would make it 00:25:00eighty, uh--eighty-nine years of slavery. So I'm still correct. What did they say about--did they--did they--did they pay them the--now--now let's go to--let's go to Sunday school on Sunday morning and love thy neighbor as thyself. Father, forgive us as we--as we pardon our fellow man you pardon us. Now, put the--treat people as you'd like to be treated. Now, do you think the man who wrote that book would like to go out in the field and work all day long for the price--for the wage they gave those slaves? I doubt it. I doubt it.
HALL: Um, there were approxi--a--a--approximately half of the population of00:26:00Maury County was, uh, black. In 186--uh, 18--uh, let me see--60--
JOHNSON: --yeah, there were about thirty-four thousand people.
HALL: Well, they say about forty-two-plus.
JOHNSON: All right.
HALL: Fourteen, well, almost fifteen thousand were slaves, and 143, uh, freepersons of color. So approximately half of the people, not--almost half were black and had been and had been there from the very beginning. Uh, one of the ironies of American history is that more--most black people can trace their American ancestors back a lot farther than most American white people, right. Eh, because--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah--
HALL: --your--your American lineage goes back much farther than most Americanwhites because most American whites came to this country in the, uh, 1800s.
JOHNSON: Uh, around 1842.
JOHNSON: Forty-two to, uh--
JOHNSON: --the big--big--big burst came in the forties and ea--early fifties00:27:00just before the Civil War.
HALL: But yet, at the same time that the blacks were--were in Maury County fromthe very beginning and where some of the founding fathers in this, eh, effect, they are almost completely ignored in this history.
JOHNSON: I didn't see any reference to the Baptist Church.
HALL: The--the black Baptist Church.
JOHNSON: In which, I--yes--in which I was a member.
HALL: I think they were all--
JOHNSON: --I--I--my daddy--my daddy was a member of Baptist Church, uh, mydaddy, my granddaddy was a member of the Baptist Church there. It was started in 1843. Why in the hell didn't the man say something about that church being established down there by a bunch of slaves, uh, established in 1843. If that isn't important--and the church is still going on.
JOHNSON: I made three different, uh, um, speeches, uh, you know, uh, anniversary00:28:00addresses. They--they call it an address. I just talk about--I just call it a talk. I--I--I don't make addresses. I just--I just talk to people. So, um, there's no mention of that. Mount Lebanon Baptist Church was established in 1843. They have in the records of that little Baptist Church, the fact--I mean, the--the--the--the, uh--the statement, I hope it's a fact--all--all that I understand about history, I hope it's--I hope it's the truth, that my father, my grandfather gave the first $100 to establish that church.
HALL: That was your--that was Dyer Johnson?
JOHNSON: Dyer Johnson. And that other people were giving $10. My dad--mygranddaddy gave $100. Well, if--if the general run of contributions were $10 00:29:00then hell, my--my granddaddy must have been--must have--must have--must have been quite a factor in that little group. Well here--here's a--here's a--uh, I'm not going to limit it according, uh, to what you give. I'm gonna limit it because of my ability, and he gave $100. He must have had something, and then the man doesn't pay that any attention. That's history to me.
JOHNSON: That's just as important--
JOHNSON: --that's just as important--
HALL: --excuse me--
JOHNSON: --to me as--as the, eh, uh, Presbyterian Church that they had that theywouldn't let Negroes come in unless they went up in the balcony. Or the Methodist Church. I--I--he mentions those. I know where they are. I know where they are.
HALL: Um-hm. Now, I can't find any references here to any black churches, blackschools either. Did you see any reference to your father, uh--
JOHNSON: --no, no.
HALL: Because the school that your father was principal of was in existence in 1876.
JOHNSON: Think we didn't--we did--that's the reason why I say it's not fair. Itis--a--and I raise hell at--at--at the Jefferson County Board of Education. I 00:30:00said I am--you're going to have re--bust me in the head with a sledge hammer and tap me a half a dozen times--times right square in my mouth to get me to--to lighten up on this. It is just as much a benefit to the white kid to get this point that I'm--I'm fussing about, as it is for the black kid to get it. As a matter of fact, the white kid ought to be told that all the history books that are written up until 1950 or '55, all the history books were just telling the white kid half, half of the story, and they went out with the--a false picture of what American civilization is like. Uh, they tried to hush me up when I was--when I was telling them all this stuff about, uh, how we started here in this country and what we--look, we--we were a bunch of thieves. Now you've heard me say this before.
JOHNSON: W--J--Jackson, Frederick Jackson Turner glorifies the push to the West.00:31:00He just thinks that that's the--that's the whole story of American history.
JOHNSON: And I said why don't you say it was the, uh--what he called manifestdestiny, why don't you just say it was just white superiority arrogance that pushed us to the West? Get out of the way, Indians. Uh, when they ran into the Spanish and--and Mexicans down in the southwest, we shot them down like--like we did the Indians. Get out of the way. We want all this ground. And we took it. We stole Texas in--in the--uh, Mexican, what is it, Mexican War of, what is it, forties? We--we just took over about sixteen states, and--and I think we ought to tell the children. Now, u--unlike England, when England finally owned up after World War II, but, uh, I--I'd say between--between World War I and World 00:32:00War II England owned up like this. When--when the Germans and all the have-not nations, especially the European nations, started begging England to--to share, England and France to share some of the colonies around the world, they said, no, go find some for yourself. And they went out and found that all the worthwhile places had been gobbled up by England and France. Then if they'd all been gobbled up, then the have-not nations come back and say, share with us some of those y--go get some for yourself. There are no more. Why won't you share some with us? Well, how did you get them, England? Well, we took them. Well, we--we are going to take some. No, no, we took them. We've got them. We're going to keep them, but now that we've got all that we want we're going to be good now 00:33:00and keep what we have, but we're not going to let you have any. And that brought on World War II.
HALL: But isn't that like families though, Lyman?
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HALL: A lot of wealthy families.
JOHNSON: Well yeah--well, how can you expect a country to be otherwise than people?
JOHNSON: And families are made up of people.
JOHNSON: And--and--and countries are made up of--of families.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, it's--it--what--whatever you--if you in your private life,if you are a reprobate and a scoundrel, uh, uh, when you get in office, you--you take your--your proclivities with you.
HALL: Um-hm. D--did you read this last paragraph in here?
JOHNSON: I think so.
HALL: It--let me read it to you, see what you think about it. "In view of all wehave said, in view of the richness of her soil and the salubrity of her climate--"
JOHNSON: --yeah, I read that--
HALL: "--in view of the water power and other resources at her command, in viewof the great progress made in agricultural and mechanic arts, in view of the intelligence and refinement of her people, their elevated, moral, and religious tone and their unswerving patriotism and chivalry, Maury can--Maury County cannot, consistent with her past history, fall back from her proud position 00:34:00among her sister counties. By every consideration, duty, interest, and honor, she is impelled to lead in the future as she has done in the past. Let the memory of our sires, who found this a wilderness but left it to their sons ready to blossom as the rose, stimulate us to carry on the work of improvement begun by them until, at no distant day, Maury County shall become what nature designed her to be, a terrestrial paradise." What kind of history is that?
JOHNSON: (laughs) Hogwash.
HALL: (laughs) Let's--uh, let's go back. We were talking at the end of our last session--
JOHNSON: --before you leave that--
JOHNSON: --on--on that very point, all my young life, I'll say all of the firsttwenty years of my life, I--I--I lived in the influence of that kind of stuff-- 00:35:00
JOHNSON: --down there, and--and for white people it was glorious living. I mean,the upper crust.
HALL: For the--for the wealthy ones.
JOHNSON: It was glorious living. And I don't--I don't blame the, uh, people at,um, at, uh, Vanderbilt College, Vanderbilt University who got together their little book and called it--
[Pause in recording.]
JOHNSON: --uh, uh, under the leadership of those mainly uh, Vanderbiltprofessors. "I'll Take My Stand," and it was to, uh, glorify that gracious living of the upper class of the people of the South that particularly applied to Maury County. I can remember when, uh, even, even the Negroes would, uh, 00:36:00would, uh, with a sort of a little point of, uh, pride refer to the--use the slogan that they were using when I was a kid during the--my past twenty years. They referred--they said, Tennessee was a very nice state to live in, but Maury County was the dimple of the universe.
HALL: Oh, is that right? (laughs)
JOHNSON: I can remember that expression. We--that was the slogan. Uh, it, it uh,it, it was the--
HALL: --most favored spot I guess.
JOHNSON: This is the dimple of the uni-, the garden part of the world. We have,we have the finest, uh, ground, you know the soil and climate and people. This is the finest in the world, and of course we, uh, we blacks almost like the--uh, one of the biggest, uh--(clears throat)--jokes I, I ran on, on the people when I went to Virginia, uh, there was so much prejudice and so much crudeness, uh, uh, 00:37:00between the races. When I got to Richmond, Virginia, to go to college over there, segregation on the buses, segregation everywhere and, and, and the niggers were--Niggers, niggers. Uh, you just hear the word nigger almost anywhere you went, uh, in, in, in white society. And, uh, when I'd get around to some of the rather ritzy, cultural, high-class Negro affairs, here would come some Negro talking about, uh, "I belong the FF League." I said, "What in the hell is FF League." (Hall laughs) First families of Virginia, first families of Virginia. Perhaps they need to put in there, first damn niggers of Virginia. Well now, that's, that's-- 00:38:00
JOHNSON: --that is, that, uh, is what I now look back on when we used to be, uh,using this slogan down there in Columbia. Where'd you, where'd you--in, in Negro society, where, where do you come from? We, we'd be just as, just as chesty the white people were when we were talking about, we come from the dimple of the universe, the garden spot of the world, Maury County. Boy, we were as proud as anybody else of Maury County. Okay.
HALL: Now, let me ask you, well, before we leave there, were you ever scared asa, as a child, as a boy in Maury County, in Columbia? Or you, you--did you, did you watch the, uh, play on television the other night, or have you read the book by Maya Angelou called "I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings?"
JOHNSON: I neither read nor saw it.
HALL: Well, she, she grew up in Arkansas in Hobbs, no, no, not Hobbs, uh--well,00:39:00a little town in Arkansas. And in, in the book and in the television play, her grandmother gets along because she has learned to accommodate the society. Uh, she's adjusted to it, and she takes a lot of, uh, indignity because she knows she has to because she has no, uh--there's no recourse. The law is not on her side. Uh, she is living at the mercy of, uh, the white society. In a sense, she's living, uh, in a, in an atmosphere of, atmosphere of fear because even without provocation or excuse, a black person could attack a, a--a white person could attack a black person and usually get away with whatever you going to do. 00:40:00What I'm asking is, do you recall in your family or your community other than that--the, the time of the riot that you told me about when, uh, when you were afraid?
JOHNSON: Um-hm, yeah. All, all, all of my--all those twenty years.
HALL: How was it?
JOHNSON: It, it--my father was a disciplinarian at home. He said, "Son--" Andhe'd tell all this to his daughter, he'd tell us all, "Behave yourself, behave yourself. Now, I'm going to be as strict as I possibly can be and then I will--let's just hope that you'll have such good discipline at home that when you get away from home, there will be no reason for the police to be picking on you." Now, that made a lot of sense. 00:41:00
HALL: So what do you mean by behave yourself?
JOHNSON: Just, behave means to be good.
JOHNSON: --now, you be good at home--
HALL: --but even if you were good--
JOHNSON: --and you get the habit of being good, automatic, just, just let itbecome a part of you to do the right thing and then you won't have, uh--you know what happened? Do you know what happened to, uh, Richard the other day? When the police came, they beat him up and then they put him in handcuffs and beat him up and then carried him downtown and arrested him or, or turned him to, uh, to the jail, but he'd already been beaten up. Now, that was story in my day. And my daddy didn't want his children doing anything bad out there being, picked up by the police, and beaten before you leave the spot of the, of, of the place where you pick them up. Now, no, uh--that isn't the policeman's job. He is not the judge. When he picks up a person for, for--when, when he comes to arrest you, he 00:42:00doesn't have to beat on you right off. Now, I, I had one of the biggest arguments that I had with one of those, uh, damn bastards down there in Tennessee, was one day I was down there and a certain politician was asking me if I would, uh, if, if, if I'd be for him. And I said, "Well, I don't know whether I will or not. I have to check you out and see. I have to learn a little more about you." And he was--he, he knew I carried quite a bit of weight in the town, in the, in the black community because of all my contacts down there and I, I--
HALL: --but even though you couldn't vote, you didn't vote there?
JOHNSON: I couldn't vote, but I had influence with the people. I, I could tellthem, uh, which one I would--I'd help them pick out which ones were the, were the right ones to vote for.
JOHNSON: And so he knew it, and he was trying. I said, "But no, I've got tocheck you out. I've got to find out why it is when you go to arrest the person, the first thing--if it's a black person, the first thing you do, you pull out 00:43:00you, your, your stick and start beating on him." He said, "Well, hell I'll beat on you." I said, uh, "Damn if you will." He wanted--he was running for reelection. He said, "I'll put you on arrest now." I said, "For what?"
HALL: Well, now, that was later. If you--were you a child--
JOHNSON: Yeah, but I'm showing, I'm showing that if, if he could talk to melater about that, what in the, what sort of--? I, I, I didn't have that nerve when I was twenty years of age--
HALL: --that's what I'm saying--
JOHNSON: --to look at him square in the face and tell him. But now, uh, my, myeyes are wide open and I know what I can or what, what--I could bring in the United Nations to help me out right now.
HALL: Yes, you have protection now. But when you were a child, you really--
JOHNSON: --I didn't have that protection.
HALL: You didn't have any protection.
JOHNSON: And, and therefore, I was--yes, I was afraid. I was afraid of the meanbrutes, and that's all they were. I don't care what the--I--I'm not going to go along with that damn fool there who embellishes that kind of society.
HALL: Uh, if, if you were on the sidewalk in downtown Columbia when you were aboy and if through no fault of your own--well, say a white boy had bumped into 00:44:00you and had gotten mad or maybe you dropped something and he bumped into you, what if he'd hit you? Now, I'm not saying--I mean, I'm just--
JOHNSON: --for me--
HALL: --in this instance--
JOHNSON: --I would have--
HALL: --what would you have done--
JOHNSON: --for me, I would've, uh, measured the cost, I would've measured thecost. I may, I may have argued with him. I may have, I may have, uh, raised hell with him verbally, but I'm not--I'm not sure that I would have--I'd be, I'd be thinking, weighing the consequence. I don't think I would've, uh, hit back. I just don't--I just can't see it. It wasn't, it wasn't cowardice; it was just a good common sense. 00:45:00
HALL: Yeah. Well, there's no, there's no way that you could've benefitedyourself in the long run--
JOHNSON: --no, it wasn't--
HALL: -----------(??) about that--
JOHNSON: --it wasn't that I couldn't win anyway you take it. There wasn't any point.
JOHNSON: I'd have had a white lawyer against me. If I had gotten any kind oflawyer for me, he'd have been a white lawyer, the judge was white, the policeman was white, the, the, the mores was white. -----------(??). Don't you know it was a cardinal sin whenever a person was brought in court and, say, he struck a white man? That's a carryover from slavery.
JOHNSON: You just--of all the things now, he struck a white man. Well, that's,that, that inflames the whole community. That's, that's where the mores come in. The mores call for 'don't let a Negro get the idea that he can fight 00:46:00back'--[raps on table]. Now, that's--that, that would inhibit me.
HALL: Um-hm, sure. But, but will you--
JOHNSON: --now, you've said there's fright, I was afraid. Say--you, youwould--you can, you can say that all you want to, but all I ask you to do is to, is to, uh, wait, before you accuse me of being a coward, you just look back and tell me what chance of keeping my head from--what little brains I did have from being smashed out right there, and nobody would do anything about it, nobody. How many times that I--I, I just tell you that the constable or the sheriff would beat up a Negro, and, and nobody ever thought of bringing a charge against the policeman for brutality, police brutality. You do that now, you, you hit a 00:47:00Negro downtown now, you beat him up, uh, damn it, you better have a mighty good reason. But, but in those days, that was part of the discipline of teaching black people, uh, a carryover from slavery. This was the best way to prevent a rebellion. Just have it in, in their mind, anytime you strike a white man, you shall be whipped with many strikes if not actually, uh, lynched.
HALL: But you--your family was a, a family of position in the black communityand in the town, so that, uh--
JOHNSON: --what did they tell my uncle down in Atlanta when he went down there,this college professor? They said, "Nigger, if you want to go downstairs, you can go downstairs and try on that, uh, that coat. But don't let anybody see you because we don't care anything about your degrees, you're still a goddamn nigger and don't forget it." 00:48:00
HALL: But, but if you-all--
JOHNSON: --one, uh, one--the, the young man right along the side of him was ayoung PhD from Harvard University. And uh, the old man, my uncle, and the young man, E. Franklin Frazier. I remember the young man. The young man said--looked up at, uh, Uncle Will and said, "Professor, are you going to let him talk to you like that?" And about five clerks ganged around and said, "If you don't like it, nigger, we'll take you downstairs and teach you some manners."
HALL: That was to the young man they said that?
JOHNSON: --that's right--
HALL: --or both?
JOHNSON: That's what they said to the young man.
JOHNSON: And, and my Uncle said, uh, "Come on, come on, uh, Frazier. Come on,let's, let's just, let's just leave the clothes. Let's, let's get out of here." And he said, "You damn niggers know full well how to talk when you come in here. Now get the hell out and stay out and don't come back anymore." 00:49:00
HALL: And your uncle knew too. He knew what--
JOHNSON: --he had brought up--
JOHNSON: --he had brought up--
HALL: --but then--
JOHNSON: --so here was this young, here was this young man, he had, uh--"You'renot going to talk to me like that," he said. Five of them ganged and they said, "We'll take you downstairs and teach you a lesson. We'll teach you some"--his expression--"we'll teach you some manners."
HALL: So what I'm saying is that there must have been a climate of fear. Itwould seem to me that--you see I, I, I can't know that because I didn't grow up on that--
HALL: --side of the color line--
JOHNSON: --that was, that was--that, that permeated all of southern tradition.Over in Virginia, I have got to put the records on--put the thing on the record. A bunch of us young students were seated out on the front porch at a, at a, uh, girls--not exactly a dormitory but a rooming house for students, female 00:50:00students. We--there were about five of us young men had gone over to, uh, spend the afternoon, uh, at the--at, uh, this sorority house. You know guys, always find their way to girls, all right. And girls dolled up and they were--well, here was a main street and here was a side street. This was in the days of Prohibition, and a Negro had been handling--(clears throat)--bootleg liquor. And the police had gotten--he was in, in, in a, in a Ford car--[car passes by]--and so he was trying to, to, uh, trick, uh, the police and, and, and get away from them. And he, he was zigzagging and zigzagging all back over this and that, uh, a neighborhood just taking and turning all--kind of corners and he finally came down this street, and he came down it too fast the cliff to either turn right or 00:51:00left. It was a dead end; he had to turn either right or left. Not a dead end, uh, it was the end of that street.
JOHNSON: But had to turn either right or left, and he, he, he couldn't make it.And hi-, his car bowled over in the, uh, in the, uh, pre-, pretty good size little ravine right, right over, bound over the wall and into the ravine and it hit upside down. And the fella had both legs broken and one arm broken. And the police came, said, "Oh, so you thought we couldn't catch you. Oh, you devil, you, nigger, you so-and-so." And now here were all of us young, young, uh, students up there on front porch. This was about six o'clock. It was beginning to get, uh, dark, not quite ready for the streetlights to come on just about that time, dusk dark.
JOHNSON: And so we saw ev--we saw all of it. And, uh, he wa--uh, two police00:52:00jumped out, "Get up nigger, and come on, get up." He said, "I can't. I can't move. I can't move." "Get up anyhow," and they started beating on him and then they dragged him out dragged him over and kept on beating on him. And the matron of the--a Negro woman. The matron says, "Oh my god, what--young man, don't, don't let them treat that man like that," and all of us sat still. And so she took it on her hand--on herself, and she came, uh, off the porch, down in about six steps and down to the gate, a nice, imposing little, uh, rooming house for the girls. And she stood there at the gate and said, "Officers, you see the man can't help himself, don't beat on him anymore." They said, "Nigger woman, you 00:53:00tend to your goddamn business, you heifer, you so-and-so," all sorts of vulgar language. "Go on back in the house and shut up, or else we'll do--treat you the same way." And there we--now, what kind of, what kind of a man, well, do you suppose we five youngsters are, and we, we were over there making the little girls think that we were just, uh, and just the, the saviors of the civilization, and here we were cringing like anybody, not one of us opened our mouths.
HALL: Well, what, what would've happened if you had?
JOHNSON: We'd all been arrested for interfering. We would, uh--interfering withthe arrest of, of a, of a suspect.
HALL: Or shot.
JOHNSON: Well, no. We had've been beaten up.
HALL: Well, what, what--
JOHNSON: --no. The first, first method is to beat us up. All, every one of uswould've been beaten up.
HALL: But if you were--if, if they, if they could've said that you were--
JOHNSON: --interfering with the arrest--
HALL: --or helping a, a suspect--
JOHNSON: --no, not--
JOHNSON: ---not helping him escape. We were interfering. Under thosecircumstances, the man couldn't escape.
HALL: Well, but they, but--
JOHNSON: --so, so they couldn't--that had been, uh--they, they--give themcredit. They wouldn't have brought charges trying to help in this--
HALL: --you don't think they would've shot at you?
JOHNSON: No, I don't, um--unless we tried to run. See--
HALL: --Well, if it's hard to reach you--
JOHNSON: --that's when--
JOHNSON: --that's when they, they shoot you. They shoot you when, when, when youturn your back. That's what makes them such, uh, un-, un-, unspeakable, devilish cowards. They wait until you turn your back and then they say you were trying to flee and then they wore you down, and they get away. They, they justify it. They, they somehow are excused on the basis that, you always, uh, apprehend your, your 'spect, your 'spect--what is it? Suspect. Don't let him get away, don't let him get away, cut him down. So if you start to run--
JOHNSON: --then you get killed. But if you don't run, then you get beat up.
HALL: So they, so they finally took him away though, I mean after they beat him up--
JOHNSON: --oh yeah--
HALL: --some more--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah. They finally got him in, in their car and took him away.00:55:00Another case, another case right there at my hometown, a man came down. He was mkaing a--a Negro fella. He came down off of that hill, down just to the curve right in front of my, my, my father's house. One Sunday afternoon, I was seated out there on the front porch, reading the paper, I heard this car coming down. I said, "Good god, why would anybody come down that fast?" Well, he'd just come from out on the highway, and at the top of the hill was the city limits. And so he hadn't broken his speed from what he was making out on the highway.
JOHNSON: And he's making about forty miles an hour. But when he got down to thefoot of the hill there, he had to make a, a, a right turn. And, uh, here came a 00:56:00car coming up the street, and that car had this side, and this fella came down, and he made a wide turn and plowed right square into this, uh, car, speeding on wrong side of the road, two charges. Police come, the first thing they do is start beating him, "Nigger, what in the, what in the hell you mean driving like that?" Bam, bam! He said, "Officer, officer," and he, "Put your hands down!" He said, "But officer, I admit I was speeding." I heard all this, I saw that, I was looking at it.
JOHNSON: "I admit I was speeding, and that's wrong. And then I was across theline--wasn't any line there, but I was over on the other, other, other fella's side."
JOHNSON: "I admit that, but officer." "Put your hand down." He said, "Well, lookin the glove compartment there, and get my insurance papers. My insurance papers 00:57:00are supposed to help me somehow," and they started beating him and said, "Oh hell, you must have a pistol in there. You just want to get a chance to, to, to, to break away," and they started beating on him again. "No officer." And then they made him down on his knees and, and looking at--he, he, he said, "Officer, officer, please get my insurance papers out." "Damn your insurance paper. What'd you want to run into this white man's car for?" and they started beating on him again. And I'm sitting up there on the front porch, what, what can I do? Go out there and get my head beat too?
JOHNSON: And it just broke my heart, and I didn't have guts enough to go outthere and get--but I'd have been interfering with the police--
JOHNSON: --making an arrest, and that's a serious crime in itself.
HALL: Have there been studies of the psychological consequences of this, uh,00:58:00this atmosphere of fear, this climate of fear on, uh, black males? You were talking about sitting on the porch with your girl friends in Richmond and witnessing an atrocity and not able to do a thing about it, whereas in a, in a, in a civilized society, you should, you should've been able to. When you see something wrong, you should've been able to help to right it. And do you know of--do you think that there's been any--that, that the black male has in a sense been emasculated--
JOHNSON: --sure, there are no questions about it--
HALL: --by that?
JOHNSON: And, and, and the black woman knows it. And part of it is there's ahangover. I mean, I, I, I maintain that that hangover is today when the white--when the black male is--as you put it has been emasculated, and the black 00:59:00woman says, in her mind, she may not--she may be compassionate enough not to rub it in. If she is intelligent, she knows what--and she might be considerate, compassionate.
JOHNSON: But too often, the black male can even see through it. He's already,uh, cringing from a, uh that status, and therefore, he sees through his lady friend's, uh, disguise that she is not altogether, not altogether frank. And, and therefore it hurts him, hurts him even more to know that here's, here's my 01:00:00girlfriend, uh, trying to, uh, trying to, uh, empathize with me.
JOHNSON: And that, that makes it--and what can I do about it? Not a thing. Whatcan I do about it? Not one thing. And, uh--(Hall clears throat)--then, (Hall sniffs)--perhaps the female then begins to use her body as a, as a technique of conquering this white person who has degraded her own black count-, uh, count-, male counterpart.
HALL: Reason I bring that up is it that seems to me traditionally, historically,the male has been the protector of the female or of, of, of the home--
JOHNSON: --in, in--
JOHNSON: --in, uh, what will you like to refer to as our brand of, uh, civilization--01:01:00
HALL: --western civilization anyway--
JOHNSON: --our, our--
HALL: --yet the black male was never able to do that--
HALL: --to fulfill that role--
JOHNSON: --yeah, well, the best word is, he's been robbed of his--Kunta Kinte, agood illustration--in "Roots." He just sees all sorts of evil going on to these, to these women, and what can he do about it? Nothing. Nothing.
HALL: And that--and the consequences of that are still with us.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah. It's, uh--an-, and, and whites are responsible forperpetuating it.
JOHNSON: Because too many, uh--surely there are some good people who wouldn't doit, but there's too many who, who, who will perpetuate that sort of, uh, uh, climate. 01:02:00
HALL: But even more so that--and even worse, it seems to me, is that the black,the black male probably believes it about himself. I mean he's been taught--
JOHNSON: -------(??). Except from, uh, from ni--that's, that's one of thereasons, um, we're having so much difficulty with the young blacks, uh, since 1950, since 1955, certainly since 1960. The young black man, uh, has just, just decided he's going to expose all this and, uh, and, and just, uh--(coughs)--he's getting so desperate, it's uh--to put in, in language, one of the, uh, young men, he said, uh, uh, "Mr. Johnson, you've tried, you've tried, they don't pay you any attention, and you see--[clanging]--I--they can't hurt me. I'm already down. I don't have any education, I don't have a job, I've been to the penitentiary--[clanging]--three different times. I, I got--I--I'll get along 01:03:00just about as well when they sent me to the penitentiary as I will out there on the street. So, so you go, you go ahead, Mr. Johnson, you go ahead. But they're not going to--[clanging]--treat me that way." And that's a rough cat to deal with. He is so despondent, there is no hope, so he doesn't give a damn if you, if you shoot him down out there on the street.
HALL: Um-hm. -----------(??).
JOHNSON: Now, that, that, that--that's a, that's a rough man to deal with andthat's what, uh--I'm, I'm afraid, I'm afraid too many of these young kids, and, and I got--I've got to deal with it out there at the board of education. There are too many of these young blacks being, uh, suspended and driven out of school, and some of them are coming in with that attitude, "Well now, I--I've heard of how they treated my ancestors throughout the years. And now, that there's no prospect for me to get a job, what is there for me? What is there to make me?" My daddy used to say, "Behave." 01:04:00
JOHNSON: And, and in that sense, in that sense behave means like the white manwants me to behave. I'm going to behave as I please, and that's, uh--these, these young cats, uh--well, I'll--but I'll say, uh, during the late sixties from about '68 to about '75, I thought we had almost lost the battle with these young blacks. I think that they're beginning to see.
JOHNSON: Just like I answered your question if somebody would mistreat me, uh,back when I was a child, what would I have done? I think the young blacks are beginning to see that even now, there is no hope by doubling up your fist and trying to fight it out. Eldridge Cleaver and uh, that bunch of Black Panthers found out, they found out, you jump on this white man, and they will mow you down. 01:05:00
JOHNSON: They--the old idea and, and, and, and this is, this is nationwide notjust in the South because, uh, the Panthers out in California were shot to pieces, and the classic illustration is when they broke in the place up there at Chicago. When they broke in there, they didn't give those, uh, people in the house a chance to fight. They knocked the door down and started shooting. The, the record is that many were, many of the Panthers were shot when they were not anywhere near a gun.
JOHNSON: The pretense was that they were--would, uh, uh, shoot back. Well, uh,the, the idea is let's just teach all these blacks a lesson that they can't win by jumping on the establishment, which means white establishment. Now, uh--(Hall 01:06:00clears throat)--uh, I think maybe after the Panthers were just surreptitiously wiped out, I think the young blacks have, have caught on, and, and they--they're beginning to say, "Well maybe, maybe the old folks were right." They won't say the old "Uncle Toms" were right. Maybe the technique of survival is to just keep your mouth closed and hope for a better day.
HALL: Have you ever been called an "Uncle Tom"?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah.
JOHNSON: --by, by black people.
JOHNSON: When I try to put the pedal on, soft-pedal--get them to soft-pedal and,and take it, take it on the chin, take it on the chin, fellas. You, you, you can't win. Oh, what do you mean I can't win? Go ahead Uncle Tom. See that's, in, in that sense. When I try to caution them, I'm trying to show them a technique of survival, and they're thinking I'm trying to encourage them to be cowards. 01:07:00"He called me black son of a bitch, do you think I'm going to take it?" "Uh, son, they've called me a black son of a bitch." And then, "Go ahead Uncle Tom, they're not going to treat me like, like that." "Well, you, you can get killed too." "Now, we know you're an Uncle Tom."
HALL: (laughs) Uh, it, it maybe in my imagination, but it seems to me that blackmales in particular have speech impediments that could be psychological in nature. I don't know whether studies have been made of this, but it seems to me--I've known a lot of black men and boys when I was growing up who stuttered, to give you an example. I wonder if there's any connection--and this is sheer speculation on my part--between the, uh, the climate of fear, the emasculation, the role of a black person, black male has had to play in our society through 01:08:00the years and this possible manifestation on it, the psychological aberration. Have you ever thought about that?
HALL: You don't?
JOHNSON: I don't, uh--
HALL: --I, I don't know--
JOHNSON: --I don't have any opinion on that. I don't know whether that would be--
HALL: --but do you know--
JOHNSON: --a valid assumption--
HALL: --do you know of, of black people who stutter? Of course, white peoplestutter too, you know. I used to stutter myself--
JOHNSON: --oh, I, I could--I'd be fantasizing then--
HALL: --and I'm just wondering--
JOHNSON: --I would be fantasizing now. I, I'll be, uh, purely--it'd be purelyspeculation. It maybe that, uh--and may be part of what I'm doing is, uh, uh, trying to choose my words so that I'll actually say what I want to say. And maybe I, I, I, I spend too much my time choosing my phraseology that it looks as 01:09:00if I'm stuttering--
HALL: --oh no--
JOHNSON: --and--now, I'm, I'm saying, uh, that it maybe that, um, I could, Icould speculate. Now, I want to be sure I say the right thing in the presence of this, uh, bastard, and I won't do anything except call him a bastard.
HALL: Yeah, yeah.
JOHNSON: I want--I, I--for fear I might say the wrong thing and get my head beaten.
HALL: Right. Oh yeah. I see--
JOHNSON: --I'm going to--
HALL: --what you're saying--
JOHNSON: --I'm going to be very cautious and, and deliberate in what I say. If I--
HALL: --you made your point--
JOHNSON: --were, if I were down--if I were over in, in, in a, in an all Negrocircle, and, uh, I'd be freer.
HALL: To make mistakes?
JOHNSON: Yeah, to make mistakes and not--
HALL: --to make a mistake--
JOHNSON: --and not run the risk of, uh--
HALL: --that's an, that's an interesting point. I hadn't thought of that.
JOHNSON: --get my head beat. But over here, for instance, uh, the--I, I, I'lltell you a little joke that I, I sometimes tell that will--would illustrate the probability of what I'm talking about. White man and the, uh, black man were 01:10:00shooting craps together down behind the barn one day, and the white man rolled the dice, and, uh, and he won. And he tried again, rolled them again, the white man won. Every time the white man would roll the dice, he'd come up with some--you know, uh, in, in gambling and, and especially among the crap shooters, uh, every time you rolled the dice, you got to come up with some vulgar, violent oath and, uh--
JOHNSON: --some cuss word, goddamn or something, so, "Nigger, I won again.Nigger, goddamn you, I won. Pay up, pay up." Then, then finally, the Negro starts to roll and the Negro, the first time he throws them out there, the Negro wins, and he, he looked up and looked all away around--and this, this is where 01:11:00the deliberation comes in. Uh, the white man had been cussing him all these other times saying all sorts of mean vulgar things. So, so the Negro around and then he says--(laughs)--"Well, goddamn everything around here." (both laugh) And then he looked up at, uh, and, and, and the white man, he starts laughing and, and, and, and the Negro feels like that allows him, he could go on a little step and he said--
JOHNSON: --"Mr. White Folk, I got you that time, didn't I?" (both laugh)
HALL: That's funny. Yeah, that's true. I hadn't thought about theor-, thattheory that, uh, the black man has had to be on his guard--(Johnson sneezes)--and is not as free to make mistakes. I mean man is a mistake-making creature, but the, but the black person has not been free to make mistakes like-- 01:12:00
JOHNSON: --without out having to--
HALL: --like speeding--
JOHNSON: --without having to, without having to pay hell for it.
HALL: Right, and I mean more, more than he should've been called upon to pay forhis, uh--I think that must be hell, do you think? No? So--
HALL: Boy, it must be a real siege--I mean, uh--
HALL: --to go up--
JOHNSON: --yeah, okay.
HALL: --against the, uh--I mean hit the ceiling--I mean the, uh, window.
JOHNSON: --if it's--if, if it's blowing the house somewhere, I want to knowwhich way it's going. Go ahead.
HALL: (laughs). It's blowing that way, yeah.
HALL: I think the wind's blowing that way. Um, at the very end of the tape lasttime, we were--you were talking about attending a white Citizens' Council meeting, and for some reason, the tape didn't quite--didn't pick up your voice as clearly as I wanted it to. You were talking about a family that was--that were watching television. You, you were in the meeting across from the Pendennis Club, do you remember?
HALL: And, uh a family that you knew were watching--01:13:00
JOHNSON: --a man and wife--
HALL: --watching television.
JOHNSON: A fellow teacher of mine--
JOHNSON: --William A. Tisdale was reading the paper after dinner. Wife waslistening to the--and watching the television newscast. Now, that's, that's, uh--
HALL: And, and then, and then, uh--
JOHNSON: --she said--
HALL: --she said--
JOHNSON: --all, all, all of a sudden, she, she said--she was cleaning up thedishes from the table after dinner, and she says, "Oh, Tisdale, there's Lyman"--
JOHNSON: --"sitting up there at the white Citizens' Council meeting."
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: Now. That's, that's, that's what I--
HALL: --I didn't get on the tape, I remember that. And there you were.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah.
HALL: Yeah. Could we talk a few minutes about, uh, uh, some more about blacksociety. You, you, you were telling me about, uh, clubs and, and, uh, sororities 01:14:00and fraternities, uh, that are still in, in existence. When you came to Louisville in 1933, uh, what, what was the black community like here? What, what did it consist of? Whe-, where, where was it located, for instance--
JOHNSON: --almost anything, almost anything you can conceive of going on in thewhite community in a segregated fashion over in the Negro side of town, you could find an approach to the same sort of cultural arrangement. Uh, uh, with this, uh, sort of, uh, uh, explanation of it, no question about it, Negroes have been domestic servants in the homes of the more affluent white. Now, obviously, 01:15:00the poor whites were not in economic position to have servants or many servants. The affluent whites could have servants, but the servants that the poor--that the affluent whites had had to be well trained to render the type of service that the affluent society called for.
JOHNSON: And what are the fine points of etiquette? When they serve the tablehow--what dishes do you serve first, what foods do you serve, how do you--what sort of silver do--how, how do you place a napkin? All of these things must be, must be right. 01:16:00
JOHNSON: Now, the, the, uh, ladies of the house saw to it that the, that bothmale and female servants around in the house were well groomed before they were turned loose to, uh, to help entertain, uh, a, a, a big social function. Now, that training that the servants picked up o-, over there in the white society was brought over into the black society. And, and the black society would therefore follow the suggestions, the ideas that these servants brought from the upper-class white people, which meant now on their own, they had uh, quite, quite an elaborate set up within the ghetto, within the uh, uh--behind the 01:17:00curtain of segregation within the black community, you might find as high type cultural affair as, uh--I, I don't want to use the word mimic, but as, as--within their capabilities, their economic capabilities, it was a pretty good, uh, replica of what, uh, what went on in the white society.
JOHNSON: Which put it so far above poor whites and middle--even middle-classwhites couldn't keep up with the upper-class Negro society.
JOHNSON: Now, the biggest thing that was necessary in the Negro society was tohave enough money to keep up with that kind of society.
HALL: How could you make--01:18:00
JOHNSON: --it wasn't, it wasn't necessarily based like in the white society on,uh, on family tradition and on, uh, on wealth--
JOHNSON: --or pardon me, on, on, uh, educational attainment.
JOHNSON: It--in, in the black community, if you have enough money and, uh, youdidn't, didn't become too big a reprobate otherwise, uh, you, you, you could, you could not exactly crash, but you can get in on and help, help set the social circle--the standards for the so-, social circles in the, in the black community.
HALL: How would you have made the--how would you have gotten the money that was necessary--
JOHNSON: --oh, there's a lot of--
HALL: --to be in the very top?
JOHNSON: of ways. First of all, if you are, if you were head waiter at thehotel, if you were the head waiter at the hotel, well, your, your, your tips would help you out quite a bit.
HALL: And so waiters could get--
JOHNSON: And then well now maybe, maybe, uh, the head waiter was known here andthere--here and wide and yonder as a, as, as a servant and, uh, and a waiter. 01:19:00But when he got back on the inside of town--and, and I have very much in mind, uh, a certain person who I, I think I referred to him as Captain Dan. He used to work at the Brown Hotel.
JOHNSON: Now, he had a very comfortable home down on--in, in this West End. Allthe time that he was a, a, uh, a waiter over there at the Brown Hotel, sometimes those big shots would come in and give him a hundred-dollar tip just to--"Oh, Dan, you're a nice fella, you're a nice fella, here." And, and, and he would do very much I guess like my, my, my granddaddy did just--and, and just take whatever he got, and he didn't, didn't blow it in, didn't let the wind blow it away.
JOHNSON: And, uh, three of his children he sent, uh, sent to college.
JOHNSON: And one of them became a principal in the school. Now, the principal,01:20:00uh, when he begins to go to social, uh--in, in the social swing of things on his level as a principal, he doesn't bring the badge of being a waiter. But how did he get his education except and--except from a father who was a waiter? Now, it's--you're asking too much of father and son to draw too close a wedge between them--a cleavage between them.
JOHNSON: They are still father and son. The son is highly educated, master'sdegree and, whatnot, uh, he, he, he received, uh, his economic subsistence when his daddy got tips down at the Brown Hotel. He can't disown his daddy, and of 01:21:00course, when he has--when the young man has a big dinner or whatnot, a big social affair, "Well, why, Papa was the one who helped me to be all I am, so he's going to be right in the middle of this thing. Now, if you folks don't want to come to him--come to this party because he was a waiter, now, you don't come." Now, you couldn't do that in, in, in, in, in, in high, high-class society, a white, white society. You, you, you've got to, you've got to keep up with the--[car passes by]--you, you've got to be within the--[car passes by]--if you're in Virginia, you've got to be in the FF Leagues, you've got to be in the first families. But in the Negro society--
HALL: --that would've been the next generation though you're talking about,wouldn't it--
JOHNSON: --no, I mean--
HALL: --when the principal came along--
JOHNSON: --I mean all along. No, now, uh, it's, it's just our, uh--our blacksociety has not been in existence long enough for us to establish a, a, a rigid 01:22:00class distinction. If you can keep up, if you can keep up, you, you somehow get in and you stay in as long as you can keep up--
HALL: --now I have heard--
HALL: --well, I have heard that there was a kind of caste system in blacksociety in the--(clears throat)--twenties and thirties, I guess, when the black society would have got, uh, got going, high society, and it was based--
JOHNSON: --whatever, whatever, whatever you heard along that line, uh, it, itwas, uh, too limited, too limited to, to have, uh, much, uh, validity to it. It was too limited. There weren't enough PhDs for them to have a decent society all 01:23:00themselves. There weren't enough lawyers to have a bar association all themselves. There weren't, uh, enough doctors. There just weren't enough any one of these. So what we had to do was to take all and rake across the top, now who can afford? Uh, when, when we, uh--when I was up at Michigan back in the thirties, uh, there used be a place where they would go out, the big shots would go out for, uh, uh, a weekend party at the--I think it was Idlewild, Michigan, uh, for a weekend. It was, uh, a, a resort sort of a thing. Now, the biggest thing, biggest qualification was can you pay the money, if you got money enough 01:24:00to go up there, and, and, and pitch one of these big parties.
JOHNSON: And, uh, tonight you--you're going set up everybody. Now, tomorrownight, you'll set up everybody, and the next night, you'll set up everybody. Next week, we'll be right back and, and now, if you can't--if you can't keep up with this kind of stuff, you don't--I don't care what you are, a dentist, doctor, or a lawyer or whatnot if you can't, if you can't blow in two or three thousand dollars. Well, I went to a party up at, uh, at Chicago, I went a party up there by a man who was the publisher of this, uh, Ebony--
JOHNSON: --Johnson. He's a member of fraternity. I'm talking about my, myfraternity. He gave a party for the, for the fraternity. We were having a national meeting up there, and he said, "I'm having an open house, uh, you folks"--it was announced, uh, two months ahead of time. "I have an open house 01:25:00down at my place, uh, you drop in if you, if you see fit." Well, the man spent about $14,000 just for that party.
HALL: What, what kind of party was it? What did he have?
JOHNSON: Oh, it, it was, just, just open, open hou-, open house thing, uh, horsd'oeuvres of all sorts. He had waiters around and, and, and, and all that kind of stuff, and he had food and drinks and, and, and that kind of stuff. And it was supposed to be a come-and-go affair, but they came and ate and drank and--
JOHNSON: --stayed, ate and drank--
JOHNSON: --ate and drank--
HALL: --did they have music?
JOHNSON: Oh, we had somebody over there sitting on, on the, um--there was somesort of an orchestra over there.
HALL: All right.
JOHNSON: And, uh, all, all that kind of stuff. Uh, he, uh, he spent $14,000 injust one night. And who, who came? Well--[banging]--whoever, whoever could get him a, a, a, a full dress suit and a bow tie. He didn't stand at that door and 01:26:00say, "Who's your pappy?" Now in--
JOHNSON: --in the white society, you go-, you've got to have some kind ofcredentials to get into a place like that.
HALL: Right. Well, but, but these people were members of the fraternity?
JOHNSON: Well, now, yeah. We didn't have enough people to fill up--oh, we couldbring our, our--what we called a guest.
HALL: What, what, what professions were--are in your fraternity? What kind--
JOHNSON: --we have everything you got from--
HALL: --like what?
JOHNSON: Everything from, uh, everything from, uh--I hope we haven't got toomany mafia in there--(Hall laughs)--up to preachers.
JOHNSON: We got college--
HALL: --I see--
JOHNSON: --presidents in our fraternity. Uh, in, in, in my--of, of those fourmen, uh, men's fraternities--
JOHNSON: --four women and four men. Of those, uh, four fraternities, uh--therewere sixteen colleges across the South, colleges like Kentucky State, Kentucky 01:27:00State College. There were, as I say, there were sixteen. At one time, thirteen of them belonged of them to my fraternity.
HALL: We are still talking about the exceptional leaders or the top of the--ofthe black, of the black society. What--(clears throat)--what about the, uh, the--a carpenter? What about, uh--
JOHNSON: --if a--
HALL: --a waiter--
JOHNSON: --carpenter, if a carpenter were, were a contractor?
HALL: Well, yeah. Just--
JOHNSON: --and I'm, I'm putting it on, can you keep up? Does--do you make enoughmoney being a contractor?
JOHNSON: Now, if you didn't make enough money to keep up, uh--(laughs)--you, youdon't, you don't join this club.
JOHNSON: You don't join. You, you can't keep up with that, uh, that, uh,high-class Negro society. But it's--the biggest thing is, do you have any money? 01:28:00
JOHNSON: And, and, and, and we are ha--are, are just in such a fix that wecannot afford to draw the line on who your pappy was because all of your grandpappies or great-grandpappies were slaves like all the rest of us.
JOHNSON: We all come from the same place, so now don't--yes, yes, my, my, my,my, my grandfather was a slave, now, what are you going to do about it? I could, I could--I, I couldn't do anything about it, and I dare you say anything about it. Now, that's, that's the general--that's, that's the pass card that you need in, in the Negro society to--I won't use the word crash, but I will say--to get admitted to top class society in the Negro race. Do you have enough money to maintain yourself? After your get there, do you have enough gentility to, to, uh, to be polite and courteous and go through the civilizing, uh, aspects of, of 01:29:00high culture?
HALL: Were there any clubs that based, uh, either officially--or unofficially Iguess it would've been, membership on, uh, or would've excluded members because of their skin color?
JOHNSON: Oh, uh, uh, I would say there were quite a bit of that kind of stuff,uh, operating around, say, from 1910 till about 1930. There's quite a bit of, uh, trying to draw the color line within, within the black community.
JOHNSON: And, uh, and that, that falls flat. It couldn't get off the groundbecause no matter how white, how light skinned you were if you didn't actually 01:30:00go on and pass for white, then you are likely to be ostracized by both groups. So then in self-defense, the, the, the light-skin blacks, the light-skin Negroes quickly--each one individually quickly came to the conclusion that it would be better to go on and be a good fella with dark- and brown-skin Negroes than to become the outcast of both groups. Now, you can't make it in the white society because once they check up on you and find that you have black, uh, connections--
JOHNSON: --then you are a black trying to pass, and they'd throw you back overinto the race, and these other people will say, "You tried to get away from us," 01:31:00and so now you're untouchable. So that, that prevents what you were talking about from ever having a sound basis for survival.
HALL: Well now, if you look at photographs, Lyman, of clubs, of college classesat the, at the black schools, say, from well, say, 1910 to 1930, you'll find that most of the black people are very light skinned, aren't they?
JOHNSON: That, uh, that--
HALL: --was there--
JOHNSON: --a lot of people would like for you to believe that and then evensome, some, uh, some, um, Negroes would like, like, like to perpet-, uh, perpetuate that, uh, concept. Uh, I, I don't think there's, uh--
JOHNSON: I don't know. I don't think--
HALL: --why did it happen? But, but you--
JOHNSON: --I don't--and some of the, some of the, some of the best graduates ofFisk and Virginia Union and Knoxville College and--were black people, black as they get to be.
HALL: But what about Howard? I've got some old photographs of Howard University,01:32:00Howard University, in Washington--(Johnson clears throat)--almost every one of them is light skinned. They're from, they're from the early part of the century. Why do think--? It, it was just coincidental that they got, uh--
HALL: --to, to go to school--
JOHNSON: --I, I, I will admit that many, many light-skinned Negroes got breaksthat black, the darker-skinned Negroes didn't get. I'll grant that. I'll grant that. I'm not--
HALL: --what kind of breaks--
JOHNSON: --I'm not going to, uh--I'm not going to say that they didn't, but, uh,but that's--
HALL: --I think it's interesting historically. That's why I am--that's thereason I--
JOHNSON: --yeah, well, I'm--
HALL: --keep, I keep--
JOHNSON: --I'm not--
JOHNSON: --prodding you for that--
JOHNSON: --going to, I'm not going to say they didn't get breaks. Some ofthem--for instance, uh, two of my wife's best friends, as, as a matter of fact, three of them--
JOHNSON: --come from Birmingham, Alabama. Now, their mother is very dark--oh, I01:33:00won't say very dark--ginger, ginger cake color and--which, I guess, you'd say as kind of a brown, not, not dark brown, not yellow, uh--brown complected, and, uh, they have three daughters. Now, mother lived about five or six blocks from where a rich white man lived. And he said to each one of the children, "I'm your father. I like your mother. I have loved her all--ever since I met her. I have no other woman in my frame of social contact. I live here, she comes up here and 01:34:00cleans up my house, takes care of me, fixes my meals, and then she goes back down and lives with you. It's the state law that won't let me marry her. It isn't that I don't like her, and I'm not disowning you, but you got to go to the Negro school. And you go on, go through high school, and if you want to go on to college, you won't need to suffer because of, uh, economics. Just go on to college, send me the bill, whatever expenses you have." He says, "I--all that you've got right now, you've, you've, you've gotten it because I have given it to your mother." Now, all three of these kids chose to go to Tennessee State College, in Nashville. And one of them was my wife's classmate. She 01:35:00had--[banging]--more money to spend than almost anybody around, and she's a very nice person. She knew she had to stay in the black community and so she meandered. She, uh, manipulated around and cultivated close friendships with black girls, with yellow girls, and, and, and girls her complexion. [car passes by] She is very light skinned, but she knew she couldn't go over there with her father's people.
JOHNSON: And if she used her color for special favors, in the black racejealousy itself would rear its head and, and clip her, cut her down.
JOHNSON: Well, one of them, uh, said--(laughs) "Well, well folks, uh--"
JOHNSON: --to the other two--(laughs)--"You can stick with education if you want01:36:00to, but, uh, I, I, I've had my fill." (laughs) "I--they barely let me out of this place and--(laughs)--I'm going to drop out." So she, she took up some of kind work, uh, that didn't necessarily require a college education. A second one went on and got a master's degree and started teaching and taught school in the Jefferson County system right here. And the third one went on and got a PhD and was a professor over at, uh, Central State College for quite a while, a professor in history I think.
HALL: Where? At Central? Where is that?
JOHNSON: It's, uh, uh, the--what used to be Wilberforce.
HALL: Oh, in Ohio?
JOHNSON: Yeah, in Ohio.
JOHNSON: Up at Xenia, Ohio.
JOHNSON: Now, there were three children, and they all were taken care of by this01:37:00white man, and they were all light skinned. I said the mother was, uh, light brown, but the father was as white as, as, as any, any other white man in Alabama would be expected to be, and of course, the kids were in that upper, upper color. Now, you--I can, I can tell you stories like that all the way through from Civil War days right on up until almost now--
JOHNSON: --where some white man recognizes his own children, and they are light colored--
HALL: --and then you said that--
JOHNSON: --and therefore, they get natural break--
HALL: --right. That's what I said--
JOHNSON: --I said they get, they get a break--
HALL: --that's what I said--
JOHNSON: --that the rest of them didn't get.
HALL: That's right.
JOHNSON: Now, when, when admittedly this castrated black father, he can't keep up--
HALL: --that's right--
JOHNSON: --with this--
JOHNSON: --[pounds on table.]01:38:00
JOHNSON: This man here who's writing his book, now--
JOHNSON: --he can go out and have a half a dozen babies in the black community--
JOHNSON: --para, uh, marital or whatever it is--extramarital relations. And ifhe is a man of high principle, he'll say, "And maybe, maybe, I, I would rather for my kids all to, to be white, but after all, still it's my child, and I will--" And they get their college expenses. Now, maybe a larger group of those--
HALL: --okay, that's--
JOHNSON: --people got a chance to go to Fisk--
HALL: --I think that's--
JOHNSON: --and Howard and, and, uh, and Atlanta. Now, some people want to saythat that, that those three schools--[banging]--were established just for them by these southern white, uh, plantation people who wanted to take care of their children right after the Civil War, and that is not true.
HALL: It's not?
JOHNSON: Yeah. These schools were established by these northern missionaries.01:39:00
HALL: Oh, that's right.
JOHNSON: They took advantage of the thing.
JOHNSON: They were glad that the northern mis--I expect the same people who tookadvantage, the same white people took advantage of it to see their, uh, children got into this schools, I expect that they also would be the ones who would be saying, "Get these damn Yankee carpetbaggers out from down here."
JOHNSON: But since they're here, since--
JOHNSON: --since they, since they have established Fisk--[banging]--Morehouse,Virginia Union, Howard--(Hall coughs)--since they've established it, I want to be sure that my child gets in there.
JOHNSON: And, therefore, uh, the light skinned if they could, if they could--ifthey had a, a, a, a white father who was, uh, reasonably motivated by-- 01:40:00
[Pause in recording.]
HALL: --uh, had, had--were married the, the uh--the black mothers who aremarried, and they had, uh--they had black husbands?
JOHNSON: In mo-, in most cases--
HALL: --some--most cases--
JOHNSON: --in, in most cases.
HALL: And of course they, they--the husbands had no say so? I mean--
JOHNSON: --that's, that's emasculation--
HALL: --that's emasculation--
JOHNSON: --in, in, in, uh, in operation.
HALL: So, so they, they usually had then, in, in effect, two sets of children?
JOHNSON: And the children were half-brothers and sisters--[banging]--in effect?
HALL: Uh, the, the light skinned ones were--had the, the white father and thedarker skinned had the, the black father?
JOHNSON: In the first generation.
HALL: That's what I mean, yeah.
JOHNSON: In the second generation, you might find a light skinned, uh--one ofthese light skinned ones--in the second generation, one of these light skinned ones looking around over--he can't marry into the white people because he's, 01:41:00he's disowned over there--
JOHNSON: --in his father's, uh, bunch. So then, when he gets ready to--when heor she gets ready to marry, may reach over here into the black community, and there they don't ma-, they don't marry on the basis of color. Some people want you to believe that. They don't marry on the basis of color. They marry on the basis in most cases of, uh, what, uh--can they keep up?
HALL: Well, now, but, Lyman, uh, di-, did--
JOHNSON: --and, and--
JOHNSON: --and then, their children maybe a, a light-skinned black, and theblack-skinned black marry and then they'll have that same, uh, gamut just like my daddy's--just like my daddy's kids.
JOHNSON: See? Because in the second and third generation--
HALL: --oh sure--
JOHNSON: --anything that's in the background is likely--
JOHNSON: --to show up.
JOHNSON: And, and you're not guaranteed. In the black community, the worstthing--this is the reason why I said, we can't afford, we cannot afford to, uh, let color, uh, have much effect in our social relations because once you start 01:42:00having babies, we find out who you, who--(Hall laughs)--your ancestors--
JOHNSON: --must have been.
HALL: Yeah. (laughs) Well, well now, Lyman, oh, wasn't it true though that somelight-skinned black people were attracted to other light-skinned black people because the--likes attract likes.
JOHNSON: I said between 1910 and 1930, there was a feeling that this is anescape. If, if I can get any favors out of this world by lightening up my complexion, then I won't marry anybody darker than myself--
JOHNSON: --from--for the benefit of the hope that my children, the lighter theyare, the more benefits they'll get. And that, that just about began to fade out, uh, that began to fade out, uh, after 1925. 01:43:00
HALL: Um-hm. After--
HALL: --about when?
JOHNSON: Nineteen twenty-five.
JOHNSON: Yeah. And by 1930, uh, it, it was, uh, it, it, it was just aboutassured that, uh, lightening up your, your, your skin color is not going to help you get a better job.
HALL: But, but, but there's a possibility.
JOHNSON: There were certain jobs you can get if you were a light-skinned Negrothat you couldn't get if you weren't. But for the general run, the best thing you, the best thing you can get to help your cause is to get you a good education.
HALL: Yeah. Well--
JOHNSON: --get you a good trade, work hard, and, and be frugal. And we've gotillustration after illustration, Negro banks all across the country, Negro insurance companies all across the country, uh, Negro business concerns all across the country headed up by black and brown people, and we--and, and they 01:44:00themselves say, "Don't come here talking about how you're whi-, that you are lighter than I am. Hell, if you can't, if you can't, if you can't type sixty words per minute sister, I, I can't use you."
JOHNSON: Now, that's, uh, that's one of these black men talking to some of thesegirls in these insurance companies.
JOHNSON: "Hey, look, don't, uh, don't, don't, don't bring me your color, I can'tuse it. Now, can you, can you type sixty words to a minute? If so, I need you. And don't, don't, don't--the white folk don't want you."
JOHNSON: "You're not white enough for them, and, and, and I can't use you." Upthere, go up there to Continental National Bank right, right now at Sixth and Walnut. You walk in there and try to get you a job because you're light, light, lighter skinned than, than, than the president of the bank, and he says, "Where, where do you get off?" I-, it's an insult to, to a, to, to a black executive for, for some light-skinned Negro to come in there trying to get, get by on--
HALL: --it would be now, but what was it--what--
JOHNSON: --well, I said, that began--
HALL: --about 1920--
JOHNSON: --that began about nineteen--. It, it had just about come to an end in,01:45:00in, in, uh, in 1930. I, I said up until about '25, they were still thinking, 'Maybe if I were just a little lighter, I could do a little better.'
HALL: Or you could pass for white.
JOHNSON: Yeah, well, but you got, you, you, you, you got to do a lot of dollingup to pass for white.
HALL: Well, what, what I mean is if you married--
HALL: -------(??)a light-skinned--
JOHNSON: --it takes, it takes too many gen-, it takes too many generations to upgrade.
HALL: But your children might--
HALL: --be able to go--
JOHNSON: --yeah, you see--
JOHNSON: --grandchildren maybe, each one no, no darker than, than yourself--
JOHNSON: --no darker than yourself. Well, now, that, that's, that's stuff, uh, you--
HALL: --you see, I can--
JOHNSON: --you'd have to wait a hundred years to, to, to affect that.
HALL: I can remember, Lyman, when a lot of black people in my part of Alabamabought, bought, uh, uh, ble-, bleach--
JOHNSON: --yeah, I don't know--
HALL: --skin--I don't know if they did any--
HALL: --and, and, and, and, and, and--
JOHNSON: --yeah, I know, I know--
HALL: --and stuff for the hair that straightened it, so--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yeah, yeah. Well, that was, uh, that was the, uh, fad of thelate fifties, all of the sixties. You just let your hair grow any kind of way-- 01:46:00
HALL: --well, uh--but, but that was the reaction though against the--
HALL: -----------(??), wasn'y it--
JOHNSON: --it, it, it was when they actually came out with the slogan, 'Black is Beautiful.'
JOHNSON: Let's, let's quit, quit, quit denying that you're black, your hair iskinky. But don't, don't, don't try to deny it. Just, just accept it, just accept it, and then look the world square in the face and say, "Who, who gives a damn?"
HALL: (laughs) Yeah.
JOHNSON: And then I think that, they, they went too far and got too disheveled? (laughs)
JOHNSON: Let themselves look like they were just, uh, not--
HALL: --hi, hi--black hippies
JOHNSON: --cared for at all--
HALL: --black hippies. (laughs)
JOHNSON: Yeah, and then, then, then the whites decided they were going to, theywere going to do the same thing and then it got ridiculous and it got to a place, uh--I remember at, at the, uh, Louisville Defender--
JOHNSON: --we had a fella out there, and, uh, a guy came in and wanted a job outthere, and Frank Stanley Sr., you didn't know him, did you? 01:47:00
HALL: Un-huh, I didn't.
JOHNSON: Frank Stanley Sr., he's one of these black executives. Incidentally, hewas, uh, oh, two or three shades darker than I am, but he wasn't, he wasn't whipped up in, in, in, this white, uh--let's-get-white syndrome. And, uh, one, one of these, uh, young black hippies came in, and he, he said, "What--do you think I'd hire anybody to work in my office looking like this?" He said--(Hall laughs)"Why, I'm insulted." He says, "I'm insulted you came in here looking like that." (Hall laughs) And they got into a big argument over it.
HALL: Oh, he had the big, bushy hair--
JOHNSON: --yeah, and he said, "Look, look"--
JOHNSON: --"first thing--" He says, "now, you've got the ability to do the job Iwant done, and I'll hire you. I'll put you on my payroll. But first thing I want you to do is go home and take a real good bath." (Hall laughs) "And then I want you to get you some conventional clothes, and I want you to do something about your hair." Now, if you think--(Hall laughs)--if you think more of, of those 01:48:00dirty blue jeans you got on and those dirty sneakers you got on and all that uncombed hair, now if, if you think more of that, then damn it don't come in this door again. I don't ever want to see you again, not in my office." Now that, that's a pretty rough--
HALL: Yeah. Now--
JOHNSON: --way to handle the thing--
HALL: --now, actually, I have heard that, uh, from the people here in Louisvillethat there was a time here in twenties and thirties when there were certain clubs that would not accept, uh, dark--
JOHNSON: --yeah, well that's--
JOHNSON: --no, that's fantasy, that's fantasy.
HALL: It's not true?
JOHNSON: --yeah, I, I, I never--I've been here since thir-, since 1930, and at,uh, uh, any, any club--
HALL: --you don't know of any?
JOHNSON: --any club that, that I didn't get in to, any club that I couldn't havegotten into was based on money and not color.
HALL: And it may have just happened--
JOHNSON: --any, any club--01:49:00
HALL: --once you had the money--
JOHNSON: --any club--[banging]--any club, any club that based on color was sodown, and I wouldn't, I wouldn't want to join not because, uh, of color. Uh, it, it just didn't have any, any, any actual substance.
HALL: Well, I know, but I'm not asking that. But, but were there certain such clubs?
JOHNSON: I don't know. I don't know of any one--(Hall laughs)--that survived. Idon't know any one that survived, you know, had, had, had--none survived. I don't know any that had, that had, uh--oh maybe--
HALL: --before you came?
JOHNSON: --a bunch. We have too few, too few. You've got to have a big bunch ofpeople from which to select.
JOHNSON: Now, when you have so few to select from, you've got to take allcomers. You got to take them all in order to have a few.
JOHNSON: And, and, and, uh, the nature of, uh, of, uh, these exclusive clubs and01:50:00whatnot is just like--it's just like the Hollywood bunch. That's a rough, that's a rough bunch to keep up with. And you want to keep up with them when you're in the money.
HALL: Well, you know, but--
JOHNSON: --you don't, you don't keep up with your--when, when you, when you'reoff the payroll out there in Hollywood, you're down and out. They don't care--I mean I'm talking about white folk. You, you, you don't have any standing out there when you don't have any money to keep those--
HALL: --oh, I know what you're talking about. But do you know what, whatsomebody told me--what a black person here in Louisville told me when I was doing some research for that, uh, piece I did on Bert Hurley.
JOHNSON: Yeah. Well, I've, I've read what you said. Go ahead, what, what did,what did he say--
HALL: --listen, I didn't put this in the, in the article.
JOHNSON: --yeah, what he said?
HALL: I was, uh--this person told me that, uh, that the Hurleys--oh, I don'tknow whether she said that they were all--but she said, the Hurleys are too dark to be, uh, in really high black society in Louisville, and they weren't. I mean they weren't really black, but they were. 01:51:00
JOHNSON: Oh, I wouldn't, I wouldn't, I wouldn't class that high society, andmaybe they couldn't get--
HALL: --well, -----------(??)----------.
JOHNSON: --well, look I would say in their circle, in their circle. But, uh,when I got to this town, the, the, the man who helped to set the pace for, for society in this town had been here for twenty years, and he was dark as get to be.
HALL: Who was he?
JOHNSON: Uh, Dr., Dr., Dr. White. He used to run--they call him doctor. He's apharmacist, and he used to run a very successful pharmacy store up at, uh, Sixth and Walnut right on the corner, right across the street from where the, uh, uh, domestic insurance company now is. He used to run a very successful thing. And he would, he would chew you up if you told him he didn't belong to the top of the society of this town. (Hall laughs) And, and, and he would look at you, and 01:52:00he'd say, "Well, you show me some of these yellow Negroes who, who own their own house and have a car and got money enough to send their children to school." They didn't have any money. If you don't have money, I don't care what color you are. And in any of the, any of the, any of the light-skinned Negroes who tried to establish a, a, a circle, they were, they were--the only thing they had in their favor was maybe they had blue eyes and maybe had blonde hair and may have been, uh, light skinned, but they didn't have any money. And I'm telling you, I'm telling you, the basis of Negro society is almost like what I've just said 01:53:00about w--white people out in Hollywood. As long as you got the money, you can get in. [car passes by] Now, once you get in, behave yourself. I mean to say act like a gentleman. Don't come in, don't come in preening and uncouth, behave like a gentleman. You may not be a college graduate. You may not be, you may not be a lawyer or a doctor, but if you pay--as I said up there in Idlewild in Michigan, when it's your turn to entertain, if you can fork up four--see, this is back in the Depression days?
JOHNSON: And you, you fork up $4000 for one night's party, hell, I don't carewhat color you are, you can come--
HALL: --were there--
JOHNSON: --on in--
HALL: --were there, were there black people in Louisville who could--
JOHNSON: --un-huh, no -----------(??)--
HALL: --have that much money for a party?
JOHNSON: No, no, not, not, not in those days.01:54:00
HALL: Now, how much money would--
JOHNSON: --now , now, I remember going to this, uh, I remember going to thisfraternity meeting--(Hall sniffs)--I mean, the--this, this fraternity that I'm a member of. I can remember going to the meetings once a month, once a month. Now, here's a man J. O. Blanton who used to teach mathematics at Central. He was a brown skinned fellow. He had a master's degree from Brown University in mathematics, a smart, real good fellow. He's a member of our fraternity, but he had gone on hard times. He had, uh, uh, been one of three people to open up a Negro bank about 1927. The Depression came along about 1930, and his bank was one of the first ones to fold up. The school system would not take him back. 01:55:00There he was out of a job at the bank, had no income. He could hardly feed and clothe his people, his family, two children. And from thirty to forty, he was on the rocks. When we would go--this fraternity, when we would meet monthly at his house--in those days, you, you, you, you couldn't do like they do now, and call up the Holiday Inn and say, "We'll be out there Friday night, uh, fix the, fix the--prepare for us, we'll eat, eat there and have our meeting and have dinner and whatnot." We couldn't do that in those days. In those days, we had to go to--from home to home. So when we'd go to this man's house--
HALL: --but, but you had black restaurants though, couldn't you--you--
JOHNSON: No, well, not prepared to take care of us.
JOHNSON: See we--culturally and economically, we'd outgrown our little hash01:56:00joints. No, no, no, there wasn't any place that could accommodate us, so uh, we had to go to each, each, each home. Now, when we go to this man's home, we knew ahead of time that his wife--[car passes by]--was going to serve baked beans, strips of bacon across the top, plenty of molasses, uh, maybe some few other things on the side, but that's all. That's all they could give.
JOHNSON: And we didn't ostracize the man, we didn't run away from him, we didn'tgo out and leave him because we belonged to a, a, a nicer bunch of people. When maybe--(Hall coughs)--the very next month, we'd be going down to Dr. Lattimore's house. Do you ever hear of Dr. Lattimore?
HALL: I'm, I'm not sure.
JOHNSON: He's the one who practiced medicine around here for fifty years. We'd01:57:00go down to Dr. Lattimore's house, and I can tell you, man, if you hadn't had a bath in, in, in, in six months, you, you, you soaked for about five months to, to--(Hall laughs)--you wouldn't have, you wouldn't have guts enough to go in that man's house without being just a pinnacle of culture and refined. And when we, when we'd had a meeting upstairs, and, and then finally a, a maid would come to the door and say, "Gentleman, dinner is served." We'd go back into a great, big spacious, uh, room back there, not, not the dining room--I don't know what in the hell this room was--but anyhow, a great big spacious thing. It, it could accommodate about thirty people, and there was that linen napkin--linen tablecloth, linen napkin, and three or four pieces of silver, and all that kind 01:58:00of stuff. Yes, and, and then about a seven-course of dinner served to you. The same bunch that last month had eaten beans, now, here we are--hell, -----------(??) didn't have any better than what we had at Dr. Lattimore's house.
JOHNSON: Then, the next, next month, we'd be, uh, down at Dr. Sweeny's house. Hewas a dentist. Now, Dr. Sweeny just before he died, uh--I don't know, three or four years before he died, he decided to move out from down here. And, and he's--he told me, he said, "Lyman, I've deprived myself and deprived myself and deprived myself," and, and, uh--he says, "I'm getting old and then I'm not going to live much longer." He said, "I've got a feeling I won't live long, but I've always wanted to live in a nice house and have a clean linen napkin placed at my 01:59:00table at each meal. If I come three or four times a day, every time I want a clean napkin at my table, a, a fresh, clean napkin at my table--at my plate." He said, "I want that." He said, "I think I'm entitled to it," and--
JOHNSON: --he said," I have, I have lived, I have waited on white people, andI've seen how they live, and I can now afford it, and I want to--I just think I've earned it." So he went out here on the highway between Lexington--between Frankfort and Louisville, bought him a big, a big house up there, biggest, big, 02:00:00big farm out there. He had cattle on there. He paid $13,000 dollars for one bull. He showed me the check where he paid $25,000 just to have the house remodeled, and I know a house must be worth something to put $25,000 just remodeling the joint--
HALL: --when is that?
HALL: How long ago was that, would it have--
JOHNSON: --oh, in the fifties.
HALL: In the fifties?
JOHNSON: Um-hm. And, and now, sometimes we go and, and eat at his--have, haveour meeting at his, his place.
HALL: His estate. (laughs).
JOHNSON: Yeah. Come on in fellas. Now, all of--you see what, what I'm driving atis all of us start almost from scratch with the Civil War coming to a close in '67, and we've got no background to, to brag about. What have we got? What did we got to be exclusive about, to be so -----------(??) about? Nothing. Color 02:01:00won't help you. Color won't help that man pay that $25,000, and he was a brown-skinned man. He had no sympathy there (??). So now, if you can't keep up with that kind of stuff, the worst thing you can you do when you get around here is to say, "Dr. Sweeney, you see I'm a little lighter than you, are you going to let me come out there?" "No, hell, when it's your time to entertain, you just entertain on your level, and I'll come and eat whatever. I'll come and eat your beans."
HALL: But that bankrupt banker could not have gotten into that club, your clubto begin with if he hadn't had some money you said.
JOHNSON: No, I said--
HALL: --once he's in, you didn't turn your back--
JOHNSON: --no, no, no, no. You, you missed, you missed my, my, my first pointabout, about these four fraternities. They start in college. You make it in college, and there's no prediction when you are--you make up and make it about the, the end of the freshman year or the first half of the sophomore year, and at the year and a half in college, there's no prediction that ten or fifteen 02:02:00years you'll be a doctor or a lawyer or a banker. Now, you're in the fraternity, we'll take you in regardless of what your color is or who your pappy was or whether you're--if, if you were making your mark in class. That's number one, the biggest thing that counts, are you keeping up in your lessons.
HALL: See, you're still talking about crme de la crme of society, not--ofall society not just black society. What about those blacks that didn't go to college? What about those that, uh, that, that never had--never got, never had that entre to go--
JOHNSON: --we have, we have--(Hall clears throat, sniffs)--uh, in basketball weta--uh--they say, you know, he--that fella came in the back door and got the ball in the basket. So we, we, we have little, uh, clause that, uh, provides for a fella who for, hmm, some reasons, uh, which we do not choose to explore, never 02:03:00finished college but his contributions--like, like, like my doctorate--
HALL: --like your, uh, like your doctorate, yeah.
JOHNSON: We, we give him our GED membership in our organization--
JOHNSON: --because he can do us more good than we can by keeping him out.
JOHNSON: And then we'd, we'd look silly trying to keep out somebody here whocan, who can buy and sell all of us.
JOHNSON: And, and, uh, make, uh--actually, actually will make a contribution tothe Urban League of a thousand dollars. When you need it, the NAACP can go and touch this fella who never went to college and touch him for a thousand dollars.
JOHNSON: --and when he has aspirations for the betterment of the race like this,we, we, we say, uh, "College might have ruined the guy."
HALL: Yeah, well, yeah, yeah. (Johnson laughs) What, what about, what aboutother clubs though? There were other clubs in Louisville where, where-- 02:04:00
JOHNSON: --well, I'm saying, I'm saying if they, if they based them on, on race--
HALL: --no, I'm not saying that--
JOHNSON: --I mean on color, then they, they were, they were shoddy or based on,on, on, on flimsy foundation, and they did not survive. They could not survive in the first place, and they did not survive.
HALL: But there were, there were social clubs like, uh, I think one was calledthe -----------(??) Club, do you know?
JOHNSON: Well, you know them, I'll, I'll--
HALL: --and they had parties at the--did you ever go to parties at the, uh,Pythian Temple?
JOHNSON: Yeah, sure.
HALL: What, what, uh--
JOHNSON: --every party I went--every party I've been to down at the PythianTemple, and I went--that was the only place we could go in the thirties. And every time I went there, there was a spectrum all the way from black to white.
HALL: What, what, what is the--
JOHNSON: --there wasn't basied--there wasn't any--there wasn't any basis on, onbeing light skinned.
JOHNSON: Now, maybe, maybe people had, had some sort of a feeling that,uh--maybe they had some sort of uh, uh, finicky, gooey feeling that light skin 02:05:00made you look pretty. But after the fifties, it was fairly well demonstrated that you could be, you could be dark skinned and pretty--
JOHNSON: --and acceptable--
JOHNSON: --and acceptable, throw that in--
HALL: --can, can black people be racially prejudiced?
JOHNSON: Oh yeah, yeah, yeah. Uh, um, we call it, uh, color line. But we, wehave little discipline within the Negro group that, uh, that if you, if you, if you get to be, uh, if you get to be, uh, uh, too much of a stickler for, for color, uh, you get frozen out so quick that you'll wish you hadn't brought up 02:06:00the sbject. --------(??) one of the worst things, one of the worst things you can do is to, is to let people think that you're trying to get some favor. Don't let, don't let the rest of us know that you're trying to get some favor because of--because you're lighter than anybody else.
HALL: But that's in 1979.
JOHNSON: I said it began to operate in 1930.
HALL: Okay. But before that, you, you will admit that there was--
JOHNSON: --I will admit that from nine--I, I'll--
HALL: --bad blood--(laughs)--
JOHNSON: --I'll put myself on the record there between 1910 and 19-, 1925,there, there was a, a, a kind of a feeling that since they treat us so bad according to our color, let's see what can we do to upgrade the coloration, what can we do to upgrade the coloration? And the general idea was, well don't marry 02:07:00anybody darker than yourself. Well, that didn't--that, that, that was not practical. It began to fall to pieces because what are you going to do with the two real black people, how will they ever upgrade?
HALL: That's their problem, not yours.
JOHNSON: How will they ever upgrade their children if the goal--
JOHNSON: --is to--? And now, in, in, in, in, in present day circumstances, welook around the world and see three--four-fifths of the people around the world are not white. So now, we say, "Oh, well, it was a silly thing to try to be white in the first place."
HALL: Well, sure, but, but that's hindsight. You see if you, if you, if youthink you could help your, yourself, your family, your children, grandchildren, then are you--you're not--you're going to be concerned about them not about somebody over here that, that may be-- 02:08:00
JOHNSON: --why not? Why not? Why not? Why not? That's what I--
HALL: --no, that's what it should be.
JOHNSON: No, no, that's what, that's what I've got against, our, uh--thepractice of our Christianity.
JOHNSON: We're only concerned about ourselves, and we ought to be concernedabout all of us.
HALL: Oh, I know we ought to--
JOHNSON: --ought to be--
HALL: --but the fact is--
JOHNSON: --well, the fact is some of us are. And that's when anybody say only afew people will be Christians.
JOHNSON: Only a few people would be interested in somebody else's children asmuch as you are--
HALL: --that's true--
JOHNSON: --your own and you ought to be.
HALL: But that applies to the black people as well as white people.
JOHNSON: I, I grant. That's--
JOHNSON: --why we've got so few black Christians as well as so few--
HALL: --white ones--(laughs)--
JOHNSON: --few white.
HALL: (laughs) Fewer white ones. (laughs) What, what kind of place is thePythian Temple? What was is it when you came here in the thirties?
JOHNSON: Uh, let's see--
HALL: --what is it? I don't know--
JOHNSON: --six floor, it was a six-floor, big, uh, big, uh, ballroom.
HALL: A ballroom?
JOHNSON: It was big to us. It's little compared with the ballrooms downtown,02:09:00but, uh, it was the biggest thing we had, and it was, uh, I think hardwood floor. Uh, it was uh--oh, bands got up there and tooted their horns and whatnot, and, uh, we, and we'd trip the fantastic up there and we didn't, we didn't know the white folks there had anything any better. We thought, uh, this was as good as anybody else's and so we, in our little colored circle it was tops. And you always--if, if you were one of those young social, uh, uh, fans or, or a person trying to keep up with the social swing of things, you always saw to it that you got an invitation. I did, I did.
HALL: To, to, to--(laughs)--
JOHNSON: --I did, yeah, man--(Hall laughs)--sure. Back in the zoot-suit days, Iremember one, one of those things where, where I had--
HALL: --I remember those--
JOHNSON: --on one side a pocket way up here, I had to get up on a stepladder to02:10:00get in my pocket up there over on that side and then, then to get down to a pocket on the right side, you'd get down on my knees.
HALL: (laughs) I remember those.
JOHNSON: In those days, yes man. The first two years before I married and thefirst two years after, that was the only place we could go.
HALL: Well now, wasn't there a place called the Allen Hotel?
JOHNSON: That was right around the corner here. It's still standing.
HALL: Is it?
JOHNSON: Right around the corner.
HALL: Did they have a ballroom--
JOHNSON: --well, it, it, it had the--a dance room there, uh, just aboutone-third the size of the Pythian, so therefore, you, you crowded out if there were more than two couples.
HALL: (laughs). Well now, the, the dances were given by clubs, weren't they--
JOHNSON: --yeah, yes--
HALL: --uh, fraternities, sororities, and then, then, then the non-college, uh--
HALL: --clubs too.
JOHNSON: Uh, there were among--the Negroes there were the Czars and, uh, I don'tknow what--Czars and the--no, wait a minute. I remember Czars. Uh, there were 02:11:00three clubs. Uh, usually, they were to take care of all of that big mass of people who didn't go to college.
JOHNSON: Now, many college people joined them.
HALL: Yeah, I see.
JOHNSON: But they were Elks Club and the Mason's Lodge and whatnot. Now, those,tho-, the Masons, the Elks, and, and now, this, uh, this, uh, uh, lounge--oh, not lounge, the Czar's Club, they had any number of big-shot Negroes in them. But they, uh, they were sort of, uh, arrangement for the non-college people, non-intelligentsia to have a social outlet. And, uh, they perhaps would be just 02:12:00as expensive, their parties would be just as expensive as any of the rest. But, uh, you would expect when you went to a--an Elks' party or in Masons or in Czar's Club, you would expect not to find everybody you bump into speaking correct English because they hadn't gone through high school. Uh, using best of etiquette because perhaps they hadn't quite absorbed, uh, the--(clears throat)--the, the, the, the, uh, fine points of cultured living. And the music might get to be a little more ratty and then, uh, then the party becomes a 02:13:00little more ratty. And then maybe you, you, you just throw away culture and just get down and just enjoy yourself. And--
HALL: --what kind of music would they have had?
JOHNSON: Well, they have the same, same orchestras that anybody else would have,but, but the orchestra, the orchestra leader knew whom he's, he's catering to and so he, he'd bring on, uh, music, jazz and whatnot, uh, whatever was going--
HALL: --well now, well now, at, at your club's, uh, parties, would theyhave--when there were, uh, big balls, what--oh, you would have had an orchestra.
JOHNSON: Yeah. I said the same, the same orchestra. We didn't have a--but, but,but two or three Negro orchestras in those days. We didn't have a white orchestra.
HALL: What, what kind of music would they play? Would they play jazz there too?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Just, just depends on what--
JOHNSON: --what, what the people call for. If, uh, my wife would like, uh, themost elegant of--high-class music.
HALL: And so you had the waltzes?
JOHNSON: Um-hm. And then, uh--(Hall sniffs)--but all of us, all of us couldn't02:14:00take that stuff and so some of us will say, "Come on, let's, let's have some"--
HALL: --let our hair down--(laughs)--
JOHNSON: --"yeah, let's have some, uh, jitterbug music."
HALL: I, I bought a scrapbook, uh, some--a year or so ago. It was apparentlykept by a black person in, in the thirties--twenties and thirties. And it has a lot of invitations in it to parties by various clubs. I mean there must be at least a dozen or so different clubs.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah.
HALL: Many of them had French names. There's one called -----------(??) treizehommes, "only thirteen men" I think is--I guess in translation. Uh, -----------(??). Who were these people?
HALL: --and who would they be--
JOHNSON: --you said they didn't have more than thirteen or fourteen or, uh,fifteen people. You see, in most of these cases, the regular meetings had to be 02:15:00held in the homes--
JOHNSON: --so you only have as many you can, uh, accommodate, uh, around your table.
JOHNSON: So you'd--you limit your club to about, uh--if you ever get up totwenty-five, you close the door--
JOHNSON: --say, "Go join another club," so everybody, uh, is starting, starting,uh, him a club.
HALL: --well, for regular people--
JOHNSON: --then go up and down, go up and down. These people have their day forabout ten years and, uh, boom, uh, another one is on the way.
JOHNSON: And so every, every--(Hall coughs)--every little, uh, group starts,every little group starts as, uh, as, a bridge club or, or whatnot. Yeah.
HALL: And then, then you'd have a big ball or a big--say like a New Year's orChristmas ball--
JOHNSON: --yeah, and then you invite everybody--
HALL: --Valentine. And then you'd rent.
JOHNSON: You rent a big place.
HALL: Big place like the, uh--
JOHNSON: --oh, wait, it's pitiful to, to, to leave the Pythian. It's pitiful02:16:00what we had to have. Uh, Pythian was the heyday in the twenties. It was on its way out in the thirties. And then there used to be a skating rink up at Seventh--up at Ninth and Magazine, a skating rink, and that was a hell of a place to have a dance. But there wasn't any other place to go. So we'd go up and buy up the place, rent up the place for a night, and they'd close down the skating and turned it into a dance floor. It was a hell of a place to go. It really was a hell of a skating rink, roller skate.
HALL: But you'd decorate and, and you would make it look good--
JOHNSON: --oh yeah, the, the decoration was the thing that saved us. Wedecorated out--sometimes, we'd spend as much on the decoration as we did on renting the place--(Hall laughs)--just, just trying to make it look, uh, elegant. 02:17:00
HALL: Well, you mean--
JOHNSON: --and then--(Hall clears throat)--one of the saddest things was wayback at Ninth--I'll, I'll remember as I long as I live--between Ninth and Tenth on the other side of Hill, just south of Hill, there's an old tobacco barn--(Hall coughs)--and we could rent that old tobacco barn that was no longer being used. And dance on that place. It was a big--it was a great big barn and on that floor, you dance with the--we, we, we danced with the, with the wave of the floor, up and down all the way across from one end to another. We just always tried to skip the little place where splinters were sticking up on the floor because that's all we had. And one--I'll never forget the damned son of a gun--one of the editors of our Negro papers wrote us up one time, and he said, 02:18:00"What kind of culture can our schoolteachers think they are establishing?" There were three of us schoolteachers who would put on the thing out there and, and, and hitting us. They say, "You go to, go to Hill Street in a car, and you take your lady friends in their high-heeled shoes and long flowing gowns and their mink coats and whatnot, their furs and bedecked in all the jewelry you can find. Or rent." (Hall laughs). "And get out of your car and walk almost a half a block in mud to get to the tobacco barn to have the greatest social event of the year. 02:19:00Where is there any culture?" I remember that editorial. But we had to have some release, some social outlet. Now, the only place we, we could get, and there we had it.
HALL: But the Pythian was top--that's the top floor of the Y, right?
JOHNSON: Yeah, on Tenth and Chestnut.
HALL: The, uh--what was the black YWCA?
HALL: I, I mean the YMCA.
JOHNSON: Tenth and Chestnut.
HALL: And so it was only about--
JOHNSON: --and the, and the, the, the place is still up there. They use it as a--
JOHNSON: --as a kind of a dormitory, uh, when, uh, when I was athletic directorat Central. When a team would come to town, I had no place to send the team, the hotels wouldn't take them, I call up the Y. They put up, uh, say, twenty-five cots up there in that big old, uh, ballroom and, uh, I could send them up there for a dollar a night.
JOHNSON: So they use it for, uh, uh, uh, bunches of campers come to town theyw--w--want to put up overnight, they'll stretch out those cots up there. I think they do it even now.
HALL: And is the--but is the Y still open? The Y is still there?
JOHNSON: Oh, yeah, sure, sure.
HALL: Uh, where, where, where, uh, balls and dances, big dinners held today--
HALL: --in Louisville right now--
JOHNSON: --anywhere you can, anywhere you can go. If, if you got the money there to--
HALL: --what--where, where, where are they usually held?
JOHNSON: Oh, I don't know.
HALL: You don't use the Pythian anymore for that?
JOHNSON: Oh no, no, no. We haven't used the Pythian--(Hall sniffs)--for, forforty years--thirty years. We out-, outgrew the Pythian when we started going to these, uh, these other places, the staking rink and the--I said the evolution is, is pitiful to tell, uh--Brown--uh, Allen Hotel, uh, Pythian, and then the skating rink and then this barn idea and then finally, we got the Sheraton at, uh--it was the Seelbach in those days. We got the Seelbach to condescend to let 02:21:00us have the tenth floor. Fourth and--Fourth and Walnut, uh, in those days and--
HALL: --they would rent it to you and let you use it in--
HALL: --at night?
JOHNSON: Yeah. Uh, um, any of these, uh--let's see, the last one we had was atthe Holiday Inn at Rivermont. Uh, uh, we've been at the Holiday out at Fern Valley, and we've been--I've told you this once before, we had several of our affairs over at Robert E. Lee over in--
JOHNSON: --New Albany. Uh, we've been to, uh, the Marriott in, uh, Jefferson andClarksville, and--
HALL: --are the, are the parties as elaborate as they were when you first came02:22:00to Louisville? Are they as--
JOHNSON: --except we don't have to, uh, decorate now because, uh, first of all,the place is, is, is--
HALL: --looks, looks better--
JOHNSON: --it, uh, set up for parties, and that's part of what we, what we payfor now.
JOHNSON: Perhaps we pay more for the place now than we used to pay, but, uh,that's what--part of what we buy. So we don't--and then we, we can't go nailing and tacking and, and, uh, plastic, uh, tape, uh--taping stuff all over. A, a, a place that's already well appointed for a dance.
JOHNSON: You don't go in there and mess it up with a lot of additional decoration.
HALL: Do, do as many black people go to dances and big dinners as they used to--
HALL: --would you say--
JOHNSON: --just about, just about. I, I would say it'strue (??).
HALL: Because, because a lot of the young black people go to the big concerts,02:23:00don't they, at, uh--
JOHNSON: --um-hm, yeah--
HALL: --I guess at, at Memorial Auditorium--
JOHNSON: --when, when, when, when we give, when we give a dance--for instance,uh, I'm invited one--to one, uh, Friday night and one Saturday night right now. Even with my arthritis. I, I, I told them all, I don't intend to bring any, any lady friends--(Hall laughs)--you know. I feel my limitations along that line now, physical. Well, I plan to go to one Friday night and one Saturday night.
HALL: Where will they be?
JOHNSON: Uh, Friday--Saturday night will be over the Colonial--at theLouisville--[banging]--Gardens, Louisville Gardens now--
JOHNSON: --Louisville Gardens--
HALL: --Louisville Gardens. Um-hm. [banging] Uh, let me return your pictureshere, and I want to ask you a few--[banging]--and let's, let's check them all 02:24:00because I want to make sure I've got them all.
JOHNSON: Well, it's down there.
HALL: I--I'm sure they are because I just--I, I checked them when I dropped themoff there.
JOHNSON: What, what, what did they think about it?
HALL: They all liked it very much. And I'll show you the ones that--I didn'tsee--I, I saw the layout. And by the way, if you don't get your--if, if something happens and you don't get your doctorate, the Courier-Journal will have awarded you one. (both laugh) And so you're going to have it one, one way or the other--(laughs)--so. Because we--I would--I'll, uh--
JOHNSON: --you're going to say what--
HALL: --just use the caption one time, and I'll use it at the end of course.This is the, the picture. These are the, uh--I mean they're all here because I counted--
JOHNSON: --yeah, wait a minute--
HALL: --when I came.
JOHNSON: That's it, that's it.
HALL: And, and--
JOHNSON: --see, another one, (??) and pick out some particular one--
HALL: No, and I'll, I'll--
JOHNSON: --yeah, I have to have--
HALL: --I'll show you--
JOHNSON: --I just assumed that--
HALL: --the ones--
JOHNSON: --that they're all there--
HALL: --that they--I think they're using that one. I think they're using thatbecause they made copies of them, uh, and this one. Uh, that one they made 02:25:00copies of because I've got a few extra ones here I'm sure. That one, this one, copies of that, I know. Made copies of that. Let me see now, here, here are a few extra copies that they, they gave. These, thi-, this is enlarged a little bit.
HALL: So you can see you a little better there. (both laugh) And, uh, they'vegot two copies of that, I don't know why they have two of those.
JOHNSON: Now, this was the son of the Negro doctor right there.
HALL: Is that right?
JOHNSON: And his father, his father was a doctor was as dark as this fella right there.
HALL: Is--oh, my god.
JOHNSON: And that shows how it can come out in the--
HALL: --yeah, yeah, yeah, right. And then she, she's, she's, she's very white.
JOHNSON: She--because I expect her father was white.
HALL: Um-hm, I bet.
HALL: --and look at that fella there. Look at that. I swear he--02:26:00
JOHNSON: --and Bertram Stevenson. He's a doc--his daddy was a doctor.
HALL: I swear he's white, he looks white, absolutely white.
HALL: --okay this--
JOHNSON: --now, wait a minute, now let me show you. When we'd get ready to playbaseball--(Hall sniffs)--right here. Where am I?
HALL: Are you right there?
JOHNSON: --the way the light's showing--
HALL: --that's you.
JOHNSON: Um-hm. Now, I--with him, one, two, three. When we get out there to playbaseball, there's nobody else to play with. We can't have a, a, a, a football--
HALL: --that's right, yeah--
JOHNSON: --we can't have a football--I mean--
MALE 1: --how you doing?
HALL: Fine, pretty good.
MALE 1: Yeah--
HALL: --pretty good. We got some, we got some good stuff here.
MALE 1: Okay.
HALL: Gonna have a good article coming out too.
MALE 1: When?
HALL: Uh, maybe a week--
HALL: --week from Sunday.
MALE 1: -----------(??) magazine?
HALL: Um-hm, in the magazine. Um-hm.
MALE 1: Um-hm.
HALL: Uh, you're in it.02:27:00
MALE 1: I am?
HALL: Yeah, I'll mention you. I hope you don't mind.
MALE 1: Oh.
HALL: I think, uh, if they haven't--
MALE 1: --here (??)--
HALL: --they haven't put you out, you're in it.
MALE 1: Oh, okay. (Hall laughs) I think if you're going to do that, maybe youshould've had a little talk with me first--(Hall laughs)--
HALL: --well, I just--
MALE 1: --too long a talk.
HALL: No, I just mentioned--
MALE 1: --now, there's few things I would like to find out from you about theother things.
HALL: Well, we'll just have to have a talk.
MALE 1: There are some time (??)--
HALL: --okay, let's do it. All right, we'll see you.
MALE 1: Well, I'm glad -----------(??) Louisville now.
JOHNSON: Help yourself.
HALL: Okay. Yeah, that's right. It's coming out pretty soon.
JOHNSON: --now, as--[door bangs]--
HALL: --that's right. You couldn't have team could you?
JOHNSON: How could, how could, how could we have any society--
HALL: --no, you couldn't--
JOHNSON: --we were not white.
HALL: You are right.
MALE 1: -----------(??) some.
JOHNSON: Now, if you have any--you've got, you've got to make friends with this guy--
JOHNSON: --and this one--
JOHNSON: --and this one, and we better not come in, "Hey, Joe, you want to playwith my team?" (Hall laughs) "We'll take you with your-------(??)."
HALL: Yeah, he's black.
HALL: That's right, that's right.
JOHNSON: You take me.
HALL: That's a good picture. Do you know, she looks more like an Indian, I mean02:28:00you know India Indian than she does like anything--
JOHNSON: --doesn't she?
HALL: -----------(??) because your father is so distinguished looking.
JOHNSON: Yeah, yeah, yeah.
HALL: That--that's another, that's--so--and so that--
JOHNSON: --so, you're going to leave these?
HALL: Yeah, yeah, right. There's a few extras there that, uh, they had madeafter--[door bangs]--they thought, they thought they had some more--
JOHNSON: --yes, and that's nice.
HALL: Yeah. They are very nice, I think. But the layout--[banging]--is veryattractive. I think you're going to, I think you're going to like it. Uh, it's going--
JOHNSON: --where do you want--
HALL: --to be the lead--oh, I'm sorry. We forgot I had it on there.
[End of interview.]