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.
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 interview, Anna D. Kelly (1913-2007) relates her life experiences as she grew up in Charleston, discussing her teaching career and involvement with the Young Women's Christian Association (YWCA). Kelly's father originally ran a magazine shop, but began to work with the Presbyterian Church at the advent of the Great Depression. She recalls her early schooling, including her attendance at the Immaculate Conception school as well as her transition to Avery Normal Institute in 1928. While at Avery, Kelly attended the teacher training program and recalls the courses as well as teachers, including Dr. Benjamin Cox, which influenced her later years. She speaks fondly of her extra-curricular activities, and of the expectations that were placed on Avery students. Upon graduation in 1932, Kelly discusses her years of teaching in rural Colleton County and St. George Parish, and the difficulties she faced while teaching in impoverished and illiterate areas. She also describes the years of schooling at Fisk and Atlanta Universities, focusing on social work, and the teachers with whom she worked. To prepare for her Masters thesis from Atlanta University, Kelly performed field studies in Chicago. Upon graduation, she became heavily involved with the Charleston YWCA, first at the YWCA as Teenage Program Director then becoming Branch Executive until 1955. She recalls a specific instance with the Highlander Folk School, where she attended several workshops on race relations and community development (1952), and encouraged Septima Clark and Esau Jenkins to attend workshops and become involved with the Highlander Folk School. After moving several times, Kelly returned to Charleston to work with the YWCA building campaigns, leaving in 1966. Kelly became director of a foster grandparents program (1966 until 1978) and remained heavily involved in community development and social work during this time period.
In this sequence of interviews, Eugene C. Hunt details his family history, including his father's profession as a ship steward as well as his mother's occupation as a nurse and seamstress. He also elaborates on his parents' efforts and expectations to send all their children to college, despite the monetary challenges they faced. He focuses on his early education, speaking about Avery, its teachers and administration, as well as the offered curriculum. He specifically analyzes his interest in music, drama, and elocution. He refers to the expectations of African American students concerning "the advancement of the race," schooling, college, and the pride associated with Black History. He recalls the lasting impact of Benjamin F. Cox and his wife, Jeanette, on Avery's student body with their emphasis on striving for academic excellence and counseling. He further remembers the American Missionary Association's involvement as well as the dismay of the white community towards Avery, and its degradation into a public institution. Hunt lastly emphasizes the impact of Avery graduates, such as Septima Poinsette-Clark, not only on Charleston's black leadership, but on a national level throughout the Civil Rights Movement. He also recalls Burke High School under Principal William Henry Grayson and its rivalry with Avery. During the second part of the interview, Hunt elaborates on numerous social conditions and discrimination faced at the time, especially racial inequality concerning teacher salaries, the implementation of the national teacher certification examination, as well as an ordinance prohibiting public school teachers from being a member of the NAACP. During the November interview, Hunt focuses extensively on the equalization of teacher salaries, detailing the lawsuit filed on behalf of the NAACP with litigants Malissa Burkhalter and, subsequently, Viola Duvall. The interview concludes with a description of Hunt's participation in the Harvey Gantt case, in which Gantt became the first African American student to be admitted at Clemson University and, through his attendance, desegregated the South Carolina university system.