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Interview with Bennie McKinley, July 11, 2014

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:00 - Interview introduction

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Partial Transcript: Okay, it is July 11th, 2014. We are in the Russell Gallery of the Special Collections Library at UGA in Athens, Georgia.

Segment Synopsis: Alexander Stephens and Bennie McKinley introduce themselves and the main topics of the interview.

00:00:37 - Early life and family

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Partial Transcript: So, to start out with, could you tell me a little bit about where you were born and where you grew up?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley shares memories from her childhood in Athens and talks about her family, schools, church, and community. She discusses being forced to move when UGA bought land and displaced the predominantly African American community living in Lyndon Row.

Keywords: 1950s; 1960s; AHIS:Hancock Avenue; Athens High and Industrial School; Athens, Georgia; Broadacres Homes; Hill Chapel Hill Baptist Church; Lyndon Row; Reese Street School; Rocksprings Homes; Snelling Dining Hall; University of Georgia; Urban renewal

00:05:02 - Segregation in Athens

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Partial Transcript: Could you tell me about some of your earliest memories of segregation in Athens?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley describes her early life in Athens during segregation. She discusses her mother's efforts to protect her and her siblings from violence.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Discrimination; Domestic workers; Downtown; Horton's Drug Store; Kress's; Lynchings; Racism; Terrorism; Woolworth's

00:09:34 - Deciding to join sit-ins

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Partial Transcript: So, you decided to demonstrate--

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses her decision to participate in local civil rights actions. She talks about how witnessing opposition to the desegregation of UGA influenced local youth. She explains that many of the young people forced to move from Lyndon Row participated in the demonstrations.

Keywords: 1960s; Charlayne Hunter-Gault; Civil rights movement; Displacement; Hamilton Holmes; Integration; Lyndon Row; Racism; University of Georgia; Urban renewal

00:13:00 - Activists, mentors, and nonviolence

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Partial Transcript: Um, could you talk a little bit about who the, the young folks were with you who were demonstrating, where--how y'all met, how you knew each other, and I guess, some of the names of people who, who were involved.

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses the youth and elders who led the Athens civil rights movement. She describes their training in nonviolent resistance. She explains that young people drove the demonstrations because many parents were concerned about losing jobs.

Keywords: Abe Thomas; Deacon Morse; Discrimination; Ebenezer Baptist Church, West; Eddie Gillam; Elizabeth Taylor; Geneva Blasingame; Gloria Weaver; Hill Chapel Baptist Church; Jacob "Red" Weaver; Katie Thomas; Mitchell Tate; Nonviolence; Rev. Hudson; Segregation

00:17:23 - Demonstrations and opposition

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Partial Transcript: Could you take me through the first time you participated in a demonstration? Describe that?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses the activists' strategies and their demonstrations at various downtown locations. She describes interactions with the police and the responses of white Athenians. She talks about opposition from the KKK, blocking traffic on Milledge Avenue, and the role of music in protests.

Keywords: Ain't Gonna Let Nobody Turn Me Around; Athens, Georgia; Chief E.E. Hardy; Courthouse; Desegregation; Ebenezer Baptist Church, West; Horton's Drug Store; Kress's; Ku Klux Klan; Marching; Nonviolence; Rev. Hudson; Shane's Rib Shack; The Varsity; Tony's Restaurant; Woolworth's

00:30:05 - Women leaders

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Partial Transcript: Um, we hear a lot about male civil rights leaders, but it sounds like there were a lot of young women involved in the movement here.

Segment Synopsis: McKinley talks about some of the black women leaders in Athens during and after the sit-ins movement of the early 1960s. [Post-interview, McKinley added Virginia Walker to her list of black women leaders.]

Keywords: Athens City Council; Clarke County Board of Education; Evelyn Corene Neely; Gender roles; Miriam Moore

00:32:42 - Support from Hot Corner

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Partial Transcript: And I know that you, you said earlier that you kind of got more familiar with Hot Corner during the demonstrations.

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses the role of Hot Corner as a safe gathering space for young activists. She talks about restaurants and their owners who provided free meals to demonstrators.

Keywords: Hot Corner; M.C. Wilson; Manhattan Cafe; Morton Theatre

00:35:21 - Ending segregation

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Partial Transcript: So how did the demonstrations get resolved here? Was there an ordinance passed?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses the final demonstration at The Varsity and the integration of Athens restaurants. She explains that black police officers were not involved in arresting demonstrators. She describes her philosophy of change. [Post-interview, McKinley added James Billups to her list of black police officers during the time of the demonstrations.]

Keywords: Archibald Killian; Donald Moon; E.E. Hardy; George Maxwell; Police; Robert Smith; The Varsity

00:40:49 - Athens after desegregation

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Partial Transcript: So after the buses turned around, some people were able to go back to these places and get served. Did you ever go to any of the places you'd been sitting-in?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley talks about going to previously segregated establishments. She discusses the responses of white and black communities to desegregation in Athens.

Keywords: Civil rights; Horton's Drug Store; Kress's; Woolworth's

00:43:42 - McKinley's life after the movement

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Partial Transcript: So what came next for you after that? What did you end up doing?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley discusses her career after graduating high school. She talks about the persistence of segregation and racism in Athens and the lack of knowledge about the history of local civil rights actions.

Keywords: Athens, Georgia; Belgrade Sewing Factory; Big G; Desegregation; Education; Gabrielle Fulton; If We So Choose; Kmart; Nicole Taylor; Special Collections Library; University of Georgia

00:48:11 - Passing down history / Interview conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Why do you think it's important for the younger generation of people to know about what y'all did?

Segment Synopsis: McKinley talks about the importance of sharing civil rights history with young people and encouraging them to stand up for what is right. She mentions her experiences at Hot Corner today. Interview concludes.

Keywords: Education; Hot Corner; Manhattan Cafe; Morton Theatre; Youth