We got along well with them. Of course, we knew our limitations

Posted by | April 1, 2014

“My parents were share croppers. My mother and dad separated in, I guess it may have been ’36 that they separated, and my daddy continued to work on the farm, and my mother went to Richmond and stayed and took care of babies and she got a job in Fayette County where she was called a nanny to a white family of children.

“We lived with our grandparents. Grandpap John and my step-grandmother Gilmer. Because mother’s mother died when she was five years old. We were in an integrated neighborhood. There was some well-to-do white people that lived in our neighborhood and there was some poor whites that lived in that neighborhood And we were sort of mixed in with all of them. My granddad owned 86 acres that ran back, and his land kind of connected with a well-to-do white man that had oh, I guess he had 300 acres back in there.

“They’ve always been in my family. My grandmother did laundry for these people, and my granddaddy killed hogs for them in the fall, and one of my uncles worked for him for a number of years before he went to Cincinnati to live. So, they’ve always, you know, been more or less friendly with the family. They were called the Deatherages. The James Deatherage family. And, I remember, you know, distinctly most of the . . . uh, uh . . . around us, most white people in the neighborhood called my grandmother, Aunt Emma.

“We got along real well with the, you know, neighbors and that, and whenever, you know, they wanted favors or wanted to borrow something from the family, they would come and borrow it. They borrowed my granddad’s tools. They would come and borrow things from my grandmother. We got along well with them. Of course, we knew our limitations.

Civil Rights march in Richmond KY, 1958
Civil Rights march in Richmond KY, 1958

“We speak and talk with them, and sometimes on Sundays evenings, if we were out playing, that was one of our entertainments on Sunday, and especially in warm weather was have a big ball game out in the lot, a baseball game, and they would come and join us and play baseball with us. The neighbor and white people around. And we all just got out there and had a lot of fun playing baseball. We played until dark and then everybody separated and went home. This was a Sunday evening activity.

“I went to . . . I finished Richmond High School there in Richmond, the 12th grade. And I went two years at Kentucky State. I wanted to be a dietician. I worked in the cafeteria at Kentucky State, and I remember the labels of the can goods being shipped to Kentucky State for Negros. That was what was labeled on the outside of the cartons that they came in… it was Kentucky State for Negros.”

Mrs. Lillian Ballew Gentry
b. 1927 in Madison County KY
April 1, 1992 interview
conducted by A.G. Dunston,
Eastern Kentucky University,
History Department

Source: www.library.eku.edu/collections/sca/oralhistory/1993oh146.pdf

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