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Interview with Emogene Williams, July 11, 2014

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:31 - Attending segregated schools

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Partial Transcript: We want to start off, Emogene, and do some historical reflections.

Segment Synopsis: Williams describes growing up in Covington, Georgia on land that her family has owned since the 1860s. She talks about attending a Rosenwald school until it burnt down. She discusses going to school in churches until a new school was built for Black children. She also explains how African American children got used books from the white school.

Keywords: Black property owners; Rosenwald School; The Great Depression; education; family; school bus; segregation

00:13:30 - College education and Charlayne Hunter-Gault

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk some about, ugh, I called him Mister Mitchel because he was my elementary school principal too.

Segment Synopsis: Williams describes the influential role of her principal in preparing her and her sister for college. She talks about her relationship with Charlayne Hunter-Gault whose grandmother lived in Covington. She also describes witnessing the integration of the University of Georgia.

Keywords: courthouse; education; lawsuit; segregation

00:20:26 - Early life in Covington, Georgia

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Partial Transcript: Can you go back to Covington and talk about growing up in Covington?

Segment Synopsis: Williams describes how her mother made sure the family always had food during the Great Depression. She talks about her family's involvement in Bethlehem Church, and she discusses the history of education in her family. She also talks about racial and economic divisions.

Keywords: Black churchs; Garden; employment; livestock; racism; religion

00:27:46 - Experience with the Ku Klux Klan

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Partial Transcript: The times were not as good. You thought you were in a battlefield sometimes and sometimes you were not.

Segment Synopsis: Williams describes how the KKK took over Covington to meet and parade on Saturday nights. She talks about how they burnt crosses and harassed Black people on the streets. She also talks about working in a laundry where she had to iron the hoods of KKK robes.

Keywords: racial violence; racism; segregation

00:34:58 - Dealing with segregation

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Partial Transcript: The park on the city square where they have music on Thursdays. I had this job of keeping a little white girl on Thompson Avenue.

Segment Synopsis: Williams describes witnessing the affects of segregation when she was taking care of a white child. She talks about being unable to buy drinks at drug stores, visit the library, or hang out in the park. She mentions how her family doesn't have old photos because no one would develop them for African Americans.

Keywords: Black schools; Jim Crow laws; Turner family; discrimination

00:42:49 - Graduate school and segregated cemeteries

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about after you finished Morris Brown and you getting ready to go to graduate school?

Segment Synopsis: Williamson describes her difficulty trying to find a graduate school that would accept Black women. She talks about how the University System of Georgia paid for her tuition at Northwestern University. She also discusses the segregated cemetery in Covington, talking about her role in removing the fence.

Keywords: Confederate graves; Turner family; education; segregation

00:49:19 - Interactions with Sam Nunn and Lester Maddox

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Partial Transcript: Can you talk a little bit about teaching down in Wilkinson County especially?

Segment Synopsis: Williams talks about her interactions with elected officials as a teacher. She describes discussing low teacher salaries with Sam Nunn, mentioning how Black teachers were paid less than white teachers. She discusses contacting Lester Maddox, the Governor of Georgia, to help repair a Black school. She also reads a statement she wrote for the 1986 reunion of Washington Street School.

Keywords: Herman Talmadge; education; employment; government; racism; school to prison pipeline; segregation; social security; wage discrimination