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Interviewer
Drago, Edmund L (11)
Hunt, Eugene C (6)
Jones, Cherisse R (1)
Childs, Margaretta (1)
Hunt, Eugene (1)

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African Americans -- E... (7)
African Americans -- S... (6)
African Americans -- S... (5)
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Date Recorded
1924-11-24 (1)
1980-08-28;1980-11-04 (1)
1980-09-11 (1)
1980-09-25;1980-10-09 (1)
1980-11-20 (1)
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Avery Research Center Oral Histories

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1.
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Oral History Interview with J. Michael Graves, 1985
Oral History Interview with J. Michael Graves, 1985 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.
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Oral History Interview with Anna D. Kelly
Oral History Interview with Anna D. Kelly 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.
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Oral History Interview with Felder Hutchinson
Oral History Interview with Felder Hutchinson Felder C. Hutchinson (1921 - circa 2009), a native Charlestonian, provides a detailed overview of the history of St. Marks Episcopal Church, referring to its founding on Easter Day in 1865; the composition of its congregation, mainly consisting of free persons of color; and influential leaders such as Anthony Toomer Porter and J. H. M. Pollard. He further mentions the difficulties of St. Marks being accepted in South Carolinas predominantly white Episcopalian convention, as well as St. Marks refusal to join the Reformed Episcopalian movement. Hutchinson refers to controversy surrounding St. Marks supposedly very fair-skinned members, as well as rumors regarding miscegenation. He mentions St. Marks flourishing days from 1890 on with its famous Sunday School until the years of the Great Depression. He hereby also points to the historical development of several other Charleston churches, such as St. Philips, St. Michaels, Calvary and Grace Episcopal Church. Hutchinson later elaborates in depth on race relations in Charleston between whites and blacks, the issue of varying color complexions within the same family generation, and personal discrimination he faced in several instances from both sides being very light-skinned. The interview also discusses the changing terminology and meaning of words such mulatto and black, as well as Congressman Thomas E. Millers efforts to improve the lives of his brethren. Further, the issue of inter-marriage by free persons of color committing race suicide is addressed. The second part of the interview inquires about the founding of the Owls Whist Club in 1914, original membership consisting mainly of barbers, as well as the importance of their annual social ball. Hutchinson further provides a detailed chronology of his grandfather Rufus E. Felders barbershop, which was very successful from its inception on Wentworth Street in 1892 to its closing on King Street in 1941. He also refers to experiences and the relationships with predominantly white customers. The final part of the interview focuses on Mr. Hutchinsons family history and his educational career. Hutchinson, for example, recalls his paternal grandmother being a former slave who came to Charleston unmarried with three mulatto children. After attending Mrs. Susie Dart Butlers kindergarten, Hutchinson went to Avery in 1928 until graduating in 1939. He recalls the head of the teacher training program, Mrs. Birdie Clyde, as a controversial figure and remembers Averys rhetoricals and musical traditions, as well as the chapel meetings. He also mentions being on the staff of Averys only annual publication in 1939. The interview abruptly concludes with a discussion of the state of South Carolina supporting African Americans with scholarships to attend colleges outside the segregated South during the 1940s.
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Oral history interview with Dr. Joseph Hoffman
Oral history interview with Dr. Joseph Hoffman In this interview, Dr. Joseph Irvin Hoffman discusses his life in Charleston, South Carolina: first as a boy educated at various Charleston schools, then as a professional doctor on Johns Island. He recalls his fathers career as a butcher, his family origins, and details the trade by including his own experiences. Hoffman describes other trades held by prominent blacks of Charleston, as well as the prevalence of white and black doctors. He discusses his education at great length, first at a private school run by Miss Winslow, then St. Peters Catholic School, including his experiences with the nuns and religious influences, and then with his attendance at Burke school, where he mentions the activities of several teachers including Miss Grimke of the infamous Grimke family. Hoffman also details his school days at Avery Institute, including his social and academic experiences and the various black and white teachers he encountered. Of note are several recollections of various speakers, including Thomas E. Miller, a Republican congressman during Reconstruction. Dr. Cox, principal of Avery at the time, is also mentioned with fondness; Hoffman gives descriptions of the programs Cox initiated that caused Avery to become more like a college than a high school. Also of note are the numerous political activities that Hoffman witnessed, noting that blacks were often discouraged from voting. He mentions his presence at Dr. Kings speech in 1963, the hospital strike in Charleston in 1969, and his participation in several sit-ins." Throughout the interview, Hoffman shares his general feelings regarding his awareness of segregation and prejudices from the white community, as well as the effects of having light skin vs. darker skin. NOTE: The sound recording is hard to understand due to extremely low volume.
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Oral history interview with Ruby Cornwell
Oral history interview with Ruby Cornwell Ruby Cornwell (1902 – 2003) recalls her early life in South Carolina, and her experiences with segregation. She talks about her grandmother, Isabella Reeder Chavis, who graduated from Avery Institute in 1873, and her roots in Charleston. She discusses issues of class and colorism and her experience growing up as a light-skinned person coming from a free black family background with mixed white and Native American heritage. She recalls growing up as the child of an American Methodist Episcopal minister, Durant Percival Pendergrass, who was educated at Hampton Institute and worked as a wheelwright and latrine cleaner before entering the ministry. She refers to her first school experiences and what it was like to live in the country-side, where life was still organized around a race-based economic system like share-cropping. She describes attending religious revival meetings and how her father dealt with root medicine and other non-Christian spiritual beliefs. She discusses moving to Charleston to live with her uncle, Rev. P.J. Chavis, the pastor of Mt. Zion AME at the time, to attend Avery for one year and then meeting Mary McLeod Bethune and following her to Daytona, Florida. She mentions teachers at Avery, including the principal Benjamin F. Cox, whom she described as a good teacher but not a particularly good administrator. Cornwell concludes by discussing attending Talladega College, moving to Brooklyn to work at the YWCA, and returning to Charleston to teach English at Avery with Edith McFall.
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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.
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Oral History Interview with Julia Craft DeCosta
Oral History Interview with Julia Craft DeCosta Julia Craft DeCosta discusses her experience at the Avery Normal Institute from fourth grade to graduation in 1916 and living in the city of Charleston, South Carolina. The interview begins with Julias earliest recollections of school, and a discussion of her parents schooling. Regarding Avery, she discusses when she first attended, who her teachers and classmates were, the caliber of the education, her graduation experience, the switch from white to black teachers and issues of colorism, wealth, and class. She states that what defined ones status was not ones color but ones economic status and that whether one could afford tuition determined whether one attended Avery. She also discusses the limited professional opportunities available to students after graduation, mainly in the tailoring and teaching industries. When probed about her recollections on segregation, she states that her parents and her did not take part as they were people who wouldnt make issues, but that they were involved in St. Marks Episcopal Church. She mentions her mothers family as being descendants from the Kinloch clan in Scotland who arrived in Charleston in the 18th century and the role of religious education and the American Missionary Association. Additionally, she talks at length about individual classmates from a class picture, recalling where they went, whom they married, and who their parents were. People she mentions during the interview include Ellen Saunders, Dr. and Mrs. Benjamin Cox, Sally Cruickshank, Herbert DeCosta, Jr., Frank DeCosta, Connie Morrison, Maude Smith Atkins, Geneva Pinckney Singleton, and Beautine DeCosta.
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Oral history interview with Marcellus Forrest
Oral history interview with Marcellus Forrest In this interview, Marcellus Forrest emphasizes his attendance of the Mission School on Nassau Street, conducted by the Reformed Church and attended by African Americans, as well as his fathers life as a former slave and subsequently as a freedman. He talks at length about his education and upbringing, his fathers job as a teacher, and focuses on several Charleston area schools and teachers, including the influence of the Episcopal Church headed by Bishop Stevens. Forrest mentions Avery, where he attended one year, and his apprenticeship and subsequent career as a tailor in Charleston, including the difficulties of the job. He also mentions his immediate family, including his sisters attempts to be a schoolteacher in Charleston and the difficulties that black teachers faced. Of special note is the discussion of Forrests father (who died 1904), a former slave originally from Culpepper, Virgina, who was sold to John Blake White of Charleston, South Carolina. His father constantly referred to his owner as his master and benefactor, stating that White was a kind master with two sons who taught the former slave to read and write. He talks of his fathers duties as a slave, his experiences during the Civil War, and his attempts to contact his family after the end of slavery. Once free, Forrest's father, with the benefit of his slight education, held several jobs and became involved with the establishment of the Reformed Episcopal Church in Charleston in 1870. Also of note is his discussion about black politicians during Reconstruction, including Robert Smalls escape from Charleston on the Confederate steamer, The Planter, and the operation and popularity of black newspapers. NOTE: The quality of the sound recording is very difficult to understand, especially the interviewee.
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Oral History Interview with Peter Poinsette
Oral History Interview with Peter Poinsette In this interview, Peter Poinsette discusses his family background including his fathers birth as a slave on Poinsette Plantation near Pinopolis and his position as a messenger during the Civil War. He was traded or sold to Colonel Gabriel Maingault and then traded to Mayor Charles MacBeth after Maingaults wounding. Also, includes information about Peter fathers first marriage to Emmaline Douri and their child Alice Poinsette. He continues at length about his father work for the Womens Exchange catering service and his father serving at the St. Cecelia Ball and the Cotillion Ball, including Peters assistance at the catering service, in which he served the Metz Band. He continues with information regarding Mr. Metz as a director of several bands. Peter mentions his fathers working on the Isle of Palms, and explains the process involved with making the trip. Mothers background is included. She is from Haiti and was brought to Florida by her uncle, William Duburst, a cigar maker. Peter talks about his siblings, including Septima Poinsette Clark. Education is discussed, including Peters time spent at Shaw school and Burke Normal and Industrial School. He mentions his teachers were all white and his decision to transfer to Avery was made after watching his sister Septimas commencement exercise in 1916. His profession is discussed as well. Beginning in 1911 when he went to work for German grocers until his time at the Post Office (1936-1970). Lucille played the piano, Peter played the violin. He took music lessons from Saxon Wilson, James Logan, and Miss Highsmith. Played in the Utopian Orchestra-band members include Merton Gillard, Percival Green, Miss Gibson, Frank Hat, Fred Hay, a Cook, Jullian Bryant, Lucy Poinsette, Lydia Anderson and Mr. Blake a member of the street band for Jenkins Orphanage. Peter discusses Avery as an exceptional institution including Mr. Cox as principal, drama at Avery, Shakespeare plays, rhetoricals, Mr. Moore and the chorus, Mrs. Dumont, the director of choir. Also includes information about visitors to Avery, such as Dr. W. E. B. DuBois. When asked about the attitude of white people towards Avery students, Peter says, they were not antagonistic because Avery got the better type of kids. Kids that wanted to advance themselves higher in education.
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Oral History Interview with Louise Mouzon
Oral History Interview with Louise Mouzon H. Louise Mouzon speaks of her family history, including her fathers numerous professions as a shoemaker, a carpenter, and a Methodist minister at several Charleston, South Carolina area churches. She also mentions her mothers career as a teacher and her mothers family background, including their history with Avery. Mouzon describes at length her time at Avery, class of 1914, a period of transition when Avery faculty were changing from all white to all back. She includes several reminisces of white and black faculty, particularly under Principal Stevens, and mentions several faculty by name. Mouzon was a graduate of the normal school, and discusses efforts by Congressman Thomas E. Miller to include black teachers in the public school system. After discussing Avery graduation, she includes her own experiences as a school teacher, moving between Latte, Marion, and later Charleston. During the interview, Mouzon makes note of several social conditions within Charleston, speaking of streetcar segregation, the presence of colorism among teachers and students at Avery, the participation of Gullah island students within schools, jealousy from the black community against Avery, and the differences between Burke Public School and Avery.
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Oral History Interview with Eugene C. Hunt, 1980
Oral History Interview with Eugene C. Hunt, 1980 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.
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Oral History Interview with Eugene C. Hunt, 1985
Oral History Interview with Eugene C. Hunt, 1985 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.