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Interview with Walter Allen, Sr., September 20, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:40 - Growing up in Allendale

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Partial Transcript: What I want to do- I know you are from Allendale, South Carolina...

Segment Synopsis: Allen discusses growing up in Allendale, South Carolina, in the 1930s and '40s. He touches on subjects including community dynamics, his parents' values, and his childhood responsibilities, which included working in cotton fields, caring for pigs, and running a newspaper route.

Keywords: SC; family; farming; parents; poverty

00:09:05 - Allendale County Training School

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Partial Transcript: Speaking of the school, describe the school.

Segment Synopsis: Allen recalls going to an all-black public school in the 1930s and '40s. He notes that the upper grades emphasized agriculture classes for male students and home economics for female students, and he discusses the relationship students had with their parents, teachers, and the principal.

Keywords: dualism; education; public school; segregation; vocational training

00:20:05 - Injustice in Allendale

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Partial Transcript: Well we didn't have an NAACP and all that when I was a kid growing up in South Carolina. We had to play on the hearts of the ministers.

Segment Synopsis: Allen explains that poor race relations led to social injustices and economic inequality in Allendale, and he tells stories about how his generation attempted to redress their grievances by questioning white authority figures and protesting.

Keywords: discrimination; inequality; race

00:28:28 - Learning music in school / Lamar Dawkins

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Partial Transcript: And when did you get into music? That was in school right?

Segment Synopsis: Allen discusses his participation in school music programs, from singing and playing a drum in first grade to becoming a member of the high school band. He says that he earned a college scholarship through his band program, but the funding later fell through, which led to his relationship with mentor Lamar Dawkins. Allen further discusses the importance of music to black Americans, as well as the need to teach children music from an early age and financially support college students.

Keywords: Claflin University; South Carolina State University; college; high school band; mentor; scholarship

00:38:24 - Military service / Athens High and Industrial

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Partial Transcript: And you left Claftin, I believe went into the military-

Segment Synopsis: Allen talks about being drafted during the Korean War and playing trumpet in the military band, through which he met a contact who recommended Allen's teaching services to Athens High and Industrial School. Allen talks about directing the band and teaching music appreciation, and he mentions the low quality of the school's infrastructure.

Keywords: Fort Jackson; Korean War; Reese Street School; directing

00:45:31 - Popular music styles / Practice makes perfect

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Partial Transcript: Ok, let's talk about your instruments again. I know you said you learned to play several instruments- what were they?

Segment Synopsis: Allen talks about the popularity of choir music and the blues during his childhood. He says these styles were more about emotion than technique. Allen also talks about playing music in school and community settings, and he shares his philosophy on the importance of practice and expectations.

Keywords: Bernie Harris High School; blues; drums; gospel; spirituals

00:53:41 - Directing school bands

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Partial Transcript: I guess you was working for Clarke County, but you started band programs in the other counties.

Segment Synopsis: Allen talks about the experiences he had while directing school bands around Georgia. He explains that he wanted to promote music education for black students by creating free after-school programs. Allen also mentions working with Superintendent Sam Woods, who he says was visionary in his views of integration.

Keywords: Bernie Harris; Ford Valley; Greensboro; Monroe; Patty Hilsman School; integration; social change

01:05:33 - Athens music scene

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Partial Transcript: Before we close out I want you to talk a little bit about the general music scene in Athens during your life.

Segment Synopsis: Allen mentions various influential artists and bands who played in Athens in the mid-twentieth century, including Silas Green from New Orleans, Neal Pattman, and even some of his own students.

Keywords: Morton Theatre; Silas Green Show