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Avery Research Center Oral Histories

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Oral History Interview with James Michael Graves
Oral History Interview with James Michael Graves In this interview, James Michael Graves (1915- 1996) begins by discussing his biographical background and his childhood in Charleston, South Carolina. He mentions being unaware of negative race relations while growing up in his neighborhood and mentions that although times were segregated, he was not aware of injustices due to the community ties. He also stresses the positive relationship he had with white children in the neighborhood and discusses gender - including gender-specific school courses, games children played, and expectations of each gender. Graves also examines the opportunities which were available to black men and women and details the rare training provided to black lawyers. He reflects on his time as a student at Avery Normal Institute (circa 1930) and discusses the teachers who influenced him, Avery as an educational program, and his subsequent employment as a teacher at Avery. Graves disagrees with the notion of Avery as a black elite institution for lighter skinned African-Americans and mentions various students and teachers to defend this position. He completes the interview with information pertaining to his role in the Voting Rights Act as well as his experience as a teacher during Civil Rights Movement. He mentions serving as Chairman of the executive committee for the NAACP.