J. Michael Graves (1915-1996), a native of Charleston, graduated from the Avery Normal Institute in 1932. In this interview conducted by Edmund L. Drago, Graves discusses in detail his family history and genealogy. He recounts his upbringing in Charleston, his father’s position as a Pullman porter, and his parents’ focus on family pride, self-worth, and appreciation of culture. This uplift philosophy was evident in Graves’ academic as well as musical pursuits. The interview focuses on Graves attending Avery Normal Institute from 1926 to 1932, talking in detail about various Averyites, teachers, classes, and rhetorical and musical programs. Graves also refers to issues of exclusivity and skin color within Avery. The second part of the interview elaborates on Graves attending Fisk University, where he graduated in 1939 with a degree in Physics. Graves was a lifelong educator; after serving as a substitute teacher at various schools in the Lowcountry area, Graves then taught at Laing High School from 1939-1945, ultimately becoming Laing’s principal. The interview also covers Graves’ time in the military at the end of World War II. Further, Graves mentions inter- and intra-race relations in Charleston. He also recalls activities of the local branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) and the formation of a Junior NAACP at Avery, as well as involvement in sit-ins, equalizing teacher salaries, and the Hospital Workers’ Strike of 1969. The last part of the interview focuses on Graves returning to Avery as a teacher, particularly recounting the transition of Avery’s student body to Burke High School in 1954.
In this third interview conducted in 1985, Eugene C. Hunt (1890 – 1995) talks at first about taking music lessons with Charleston’s most renown music teacher at the time, J. Donovan Moore. He refers in detail to his upbringing in Charleston’s Radcliffeborough neighborhood by mentioning several local families and Avery teachers that lived there, such as the Dashes and the Andersons, Ms. Simms and Ms. Clyde. Regarding religious affiliations, Hunt emphasizes his break with Central Baptist Church and joining of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church. Talking about long musical traditions in his family, Hunt recalls singing in several church choirs throughout high school. Inquiring about Charleston’s East Side and its bad reputation, Hunt elaborates on the varying ethnicities comprising the mixed neighborhood. Hunt mainly attributes the acquirement of his vast knowledge in African American and Charleston history to the schools he attended, his family, and people he frequently interacted with, such as Dr. John McFall. Referring to his parents’ professions, Hunt describes his family’s economic situation as poor. However, he emphasizes his parents’ desire to provide a good education for their children. Hunt mentions Ms. Jeannette Cox’s influence and guidance on his academic interests in Communication, English and Speech during his years in college. The interview then talks about the importance of storytelling and narratives in the African American community before concluding with insights on race relations in Charleston, especially Hunt’s relationship with the Stoney Family.