Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History

Interview with Robert Darryl Banks, September 7, 2018

Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History, University of Kentucky Libraries
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00:00:00 - Moving to Hopkinsville as a child

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Partial Transcript: Okay, well good morning, um, my name is Alissa Kellor, and I am sitting with Darryl Banks, um, we are at First Presbyterian Church in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, um, today is September 7, 2018, and we are going to be discussing, um, the African American experience in segregated Hopkinsville

Segment Synopsis: Banks grew up in Madisonville, Kentucky until he was around eight years old and then moved to Hopkinsville in 1958. Banks's mother taught history until she became a guidance counselor. His father taught agricultural science. Banks immediately noticed the larger black population in Hopkinsville and the prolific black community, despite the presence of segregation. Banks's family had to shop at white-owned stores as well as black-owned businesses.

Keywords: African American businesses; African American businessmen; African American owned businesses; African American teachers; Attucks High School; Black American history; Black owned businesses; Black professionals; Black teachers; Doctors; FDR; Movie theaters; Movies; Professors; Rural Electrification Act; Second World War; World War 2; World War II

Subjects: African American business enterprises.; African American history; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; African Americans.; Agriculture.; Barbershops.; Black people--Segregation; Black people.; Discrimination.; Family history.; Farmers.; Farms.; History.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky State University; Kentucky--History.; Lawyers.; Minorities.; New Deal, 1933-1939.; Physicians; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people; Racism.; Roosevelt, Franklin D. (Franklin Delano), 1882-1945.; Rural Electrification Administration; Segregation.; Teachers.; World War, 1939-1945.

00:11:14 - Travel and racism / World War 2 and segregation

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Partial Transcript: It, it, you know you, you went along with the program because you were a kid--

Segment Synopsis: Banks said there was a change in the air regarding segregation and racism in the 1960s. JFK, Martin Luther King, Jr, Nashville sit-ins, and the Vietnam War were important political factors. They took summer vacations, but didn't go through the deep south. Banks describes the one time they went through any part of the South. His dad was a combat medic in World War II. The enrolled men were heavily segregated, but the Black press put pressure on the government to create an iconic Black regiment.

Keywords: Baltimore Afro-American (Newspaper); Black press; JFK; Louisville Defender (Newspaper); MLK; Nashville sit-ins (1960); New York Amsterdam News (Newspaper); Sit-ins (Civil rights); Summer vacations; Traveling; WW 2; WW II; World War 2; World War II

Subjects: African American history.; African American newspapers.; African American press.; Black newspapers.; Black people--History; Black people--Segregation; Civil rights demonstrations.; Crockett, Davy, 1786-1836.; Discrimination.; Family history.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kennedy, John F. (John Fitzgerald), 1917-1963.; Kentucky--History.; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.; Mason-Dixon Line.; Minorities.; Monticello (Va.); Nashville (Tenn.); New York.; Philadelphia (Pa.); Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people; Racism.; Segregation.; Tennessee.; Thomas, Jefferson.; Travel.; Vacations.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; Virginia.; Washington (D.C.); World War, 1939-1945.

00:23:13 - Childhood home / Biology teacher at Attucks

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Partial Transcript: Okay, so speaking of home, actually, where, you move here in Hopkinsville when you were about eight years old, where did you live?

Segment Synopsis: Banks describes his childhood home and education. Banks went to Booker T. Washington elementary school, then junior high at Attucks High School. His neighborhood was not purely Black. At Attucks, his class was in a separate part of the building in what was known as the "Green Hut." By his time, segregation was starting to fray. Banks discusses his biology teacher, who was White. He mentions they were studying arthropods and they would go to caves to study them, and in the classroom they had to share a limited number of microscopes.

Keywords: African American communities; African American neighborhoods; Black communities; Black neighborhoods; Caves; Microscopes; Schools

Subjects: African American history.; African Americans--Education.; Biology teachers.; Biology.; Black people--History.; Black people--Segregation.; Discrimination.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School buildings.; Science teachers.; Segregation.; Teachers.; Teaching.

00:31:55 - Support system at Attucks / Transition to integrated school

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Partial Transcript: What was it, I guess at that point you didn't know any difference, but I say you're going to go to Attucks and be in a segregated system for the bulk of your educational career

Segment Synopsis: Banks mentions his English teacher, whom he thought highly of, and discusses the support he had at Attucks. Banks discusses the expectations of them as students. He says the teachers knew they were capable, but told them that as Black students they had to work harder than the White students in order to possibly be treated as equals. Banks talks about the hardships of integrating the school and how the administration at Hopkinsville High didn't care about Black students.

Keywords: African American students; Attucks High School; Black students; Integrated schools; Learning and scholarship; Segregated schools

Subjects: African American history.; African Americans--Education.; Black people--History.; Black people--Segregation.; Discrimination.; Education.; Equality before the law.; High schools.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School integration.; Schools.; Segregation.; Students.; Teaching.

00:45:20 - Segregated social life

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Partial Transcript: Um---th, th, th, there's a guy who was I guess an iconic teacher up until that point at Hoptown, old guy, he was a, always called him Captain Woods because he was a captain in the navy

Segment Synopsis: Banks discusses a chemistry teacher at Hopkinsville High who gave him his copy of some chemistry reference materials. Banks says they could interact with White classmates as friends during school but not out of classes. Societal gatherings and social clubs were separate. The golf team practiced at a segregated club, so there were no Black students on the team. Banks also describes a segregated hamburger restaurant.

Keywords: Bands; Chemistry teachers; Clarinets; Marching bands; Science teachers; Segregated restaurants

Subjects: African American history.; African American students.; African Americans--Education.; Black people--History.; Black people--Segregation.; Chemistry.; Discrimination.; Education.; Equality before the law.; Golf.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.; Sports.; Students, Black.; Swimming.; Teachers.; Teaching.

00:53:55 - School band

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Partial Transcript: Unless you were in the football team, or, I was in the band--

Segment Synopsis: Banks played clarinet in the school band. The marching band had to practice on pavement, and rehearsed before school and during last period. On Thursday nights after dinner, the band would rehearse at the stadium at Kaufman. On Monday, they watched recordings of their performances, which were then critiqued. Banks had to miss a game and the band director asked if it was for a "civil rights thing." Banks's father talked to the director about this incident and went to parent-teacher conferences to support Banks.

Keywords: Band directors; Bands; Big Ten conference; Big Ten football; Concert bands; High school bands; Intergroup relations; Interpersonal communication; Interpersonal relations; Marching bands; Rehearsals; Social interaction

Subjects: African American history.; African American musicians.; African Americans--Education.; Black people--Segregation.; Civil rights movements.; Clarinets.; Discrimination.; Equality before the law.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Musicians, Black.; Musicians.; Practices.; Practicing (Music); Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.

01:02:25 - Awareness of Civil Rights Movement

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Partial Transcript: So sometimes when I think of Hopkinsville, you think of it being like such an insulated little place, um, but in the 60s there's so much of a movement happening nationwide, how much do you, how clued in were you as a teenager?

Segment Synopsis: Banks states that the student Civil Rights Movement was thriving. Hopkinsville was in an insulated bubble, but the movement was building outside. Banks discusses how he became increasingly aware of the Civil Rights Movement. Seeing how civilian life continued while people were dying in the Vietnam War, as well as MLK and Robert Kennedy dying, were eye opening for him. Banks continues discussing politics.

Keywords: Assassinations; Democrats; Inequality; Kentucky politics; MLK; Martin Luther King Jr.; News; Politics; Robert F. Kennedy; Soldiers; TV news; Tet Offensive (Jan 31, 1968 – Sep 23, 1968); Tet Offensive, 1968; Walter Cronkite

Subjects: African American history.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; Black people--Segregation.; Civil rights movements--Southern States--History--20th century.; Civil rights movements--United States.; Civil rights movements.; Cronkite, Walter.; Discrimination.; Equality before the law.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968.; Kentucky--History.; Kentucky--Politics and government; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968.; Minorities.; Nashville (TN); Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; Voting.

01:14:18 - Military draft

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Partial Transcript: Um, how long were you in Europe?

Segment Synopsis: Banks stayed in Europe for six years and compares the social climate to the U.S. Banks felt there was less overt racism. He graduated in May of 1972. Banks discusses how college was a way to avoid the draft. He describes the summer before going to Oxford, in which he was required to report for pre-draft physicals. Banks remembers an interaction with a young man whose best option was to voluntarily enroll. He says his grandfather's generation was intrigued by another, possibly better option for life by joining the military.

Keywords: Draft dodgers; Draft dodging; Drafts; Medical examinations; Medical exams; Mines; Mining; Physical examinations (Medicine); Physical exams

Subjects: African American history; African American students.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; Black people--Segregation; Discrimination.; England.; Equality before the law.; Europe.; Farmers.; Farms.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.; Students, Black.; Travel.; Universities and colleges.; University of Oxford.; Vietnam War, 1961-1975.; War.

01:30:03 - World War 2 and family history

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Partial Transcript: Your dad, did your dad get drafted for World War 2?

Segment Synopsis: Banks' father was drafted for World War II. Banks has been connecting with a man who was in his father's regiment. Banks' dad was in the medical battalion. The units were segregated; they could look out at the officers co-mingling with German prisoners of war. But Banks also says he didn't experience that degree of segregation in the army until they had to switch to the Colored car in Texas. Banks mentions a woman in Lucca (Italy) who wanted to connect with them again.

Keywords: Second World War; Segregated travel; Trains; WW 2; WW II; World War 2; World War II; World War Two

Subjects: African American history.; African Americans--Education (Higher); African Americans--Education.; Black people--Segregation.; Discrimination.; Family history.; Fort Huachuca (Ariz.); Hopkinsville (Ky.); Italy.; Kentucky--History.; Lucca (Italy); Military history.; Minorities.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; School integration.; Segregation.; Travel.; Universities and colleges.; Wars.; World War II.

01:41:01 - Class reunion / Reflections on childhood

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Partial Transcript: Um, so you're back in town for your high school reunion, what are you wanting to get out of that?

Segment Synopsis: Banks talks about what he wants from his high school reunion, particularly reconnecting with former classmates. Banks says his childhood was fairly idyllic. Banks tells a vignette about getting away with having BB guns that weren't allowed. He learned about the strength of family and how to rely on others. Banks discusses the food they had as a family, including fresh vegetables and country ham.

Keywords: Air guns; BB guns; Christmas country hams; Confidence; Family recipes; Fried chicken; High school reunions; Kentucky country hams; Self confidence; Social interactions

Subjects: African American history.; African Americans--Education.; Black people--Segregation.; Childhood.; Children.; Class reunions.; Classmates.; Communities.; Cooking.; Discrimination.; Equality before the law.; Families.; Family history.; Food habits.; Food.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Minorities.; Mothers.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people.; Racism.; Segregation.; Vegetables.

01:53:21 - Teachers' influence, nightclub scene, and first integrated class to graduate

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Partial Transcript: Well, you, you've talked a lot about, um, different people, was there any, anyone or a set of people, or any number of people from Hopkinsville that really influenced you?

Segment Synopsis: Banks mentions his teachers as people who had a lot of influence on him. Banks talks about going to a Methodist church. Banks was a little young for the famous nightclub scene, but lists some famous people who came to Hopkinsville. He looked at going to the integrated school as a challenge. Banks didn't feel like there was pressure on him externally to do well, but he was self motivated.

Keywords: Chesterfield; Ike Turner; Little Richard; Otis Redding; Self motivation; Skylark; Tina Turner

Subjects: African American history; African American musicians.; Christianity.; Church.; Education.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Kentucky--History.; Learning.; Methodist Church.; Musicians, Black; Musicians.; Nightclubs.; Religion.; Religious; Schools.; Teachers.; Teaching.; Values.

02:01:35 - Career path

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Partial Transcript: You know, once trajectory is, I said the pace, the safe path for my career would have been easily--I could illustrate mine, my career's been, um, an interesting circuitous, not circuitous, but an interesting path.

Segment Synopsis: Banks says his career path was determined by him pursuing projects that prevented him from being bored. He did a post doc in science policy and worked for Ted Kennedy in the early days of genetic engineering. Banks then worked at Rand (National Security Research Division), and went to New York to work alongside the EPA spending time trying to clean up the environment. Banks then headed a group focused on sustainability by using technology and the environment. Banks left to work at a big engineering company, then consulted on his own, and eventually ended up at the Center for American Progress.

Keywords: Carbon trading; Clean energy; Clean energy consulting; Cleaning up the environment; Consultants; Consultations; Dorothy Hodgkin (British chemist); Environment; Environmental technology consulting; Environmentally sustainable technologies; Genetic engineering and state; Global policies; Green technology; Learning and scholarships; Legislature; Networking; Policies; Science policy

Subjects: African American history.; Air--Pollution.; Black people--History.; Carbon offsetting.; Careers.; Center for American Progress.; Ecology.; Engineering.; Engineers.; Environmental engineering.; Environmentalism and politics.; Environmentalism.; Environmentalists.; Genetic engineering--Government policy.; Genetic engineering.; Hodgkin, Dorothy, 1910-1994.; Jobs.; Kentucky--History.; Laws.; Pollution.; Rand Corporation. National Security Research Division.; Science and state.; Science.; Scientists.; Technology and state.; Work.

02:16:11 - Concluding remarks about childhood and the future of civil rights movements

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Partial Transcript: Ok, well, before we finish up, is there anything, what's the question you wished I'd asked?

Segment Synopsis: Banks tells an anecdote about traveling on the train alone before the 1960s. He then tells a story about going out in the country and seeing someone making sorghum molasses. Banks mentions a hip/stylish clothing store he remembers. Banks discusses how he feels influenced by his past, and thinks we're beginning to see a renewal in human rights issues, especially with gender and race issues.

Keywords: Childhood; Countrysides; Melting pot; Multiculturalism; Sorghum molasses; Sweet sorghum; Trains; Traveling

Subjects: African American history; Children.; Civil rights.; Country life.; Cultural pluralism.; Discrimination.; Equality before the law.; Family history.; Home economics, Rural.; Hopkinsville (Ky.); Human rights.; Kentucky--History.; Landscapes.; Minorities.; Misogyny.; Race discrimination.; Race relations.; Racism against Black people; Racism.; Respect for persons--Law and legislation.; Rural.; Sexism.; Sorgo.; Travel.; Women's rights.