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Almarie Billups

Almarie Billups

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:44 - Introduction to Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Mrs. Alma Billups for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Alma Billups is introduced

Keywords: Billups family; Birmingham (Ala.); Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century; Oral history interview

GPS: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:01:05 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: I just want to start by asking a few general kinds of questions about your family.

Segment Synopsis: Billups explains where her parents were born, when they moved to Birmingham, and their occupations; she also mentions her siblings.

Keywords: Family

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Camp Hill (Ala.); Irondale (Ala.)

00:04:50 - Childhood and Education

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Partial Transcript: Tell me a little about your childhood. Where did you start elementary school?

Segment Synopsis: Billups recounts how she started school early to go to school with her brothers, her experience at Irondale Senior High, and the people who most inspired her at school.

Keywords: Elementary school; High schools

Subjects: Elementary school teachers; Irondale City High School (Irondale, Ala.); Science teachers

00:08:29 - Irondale Community and Childhood Memories

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the community that you lived in. What kind of work did the people do? What did you do for recreation? What do you remember as a child?

Segment Synopsis: Billups recounts how Mt. Hebron Baptist Church served as a community hub for the Irondale area with many activities, and she also talks about how her family's middle class status allowed them to host parties for the community.

Keywords: Church; Mt. Hebron Baptist Church

Subjects: African Americans--Recreation; Irondale (Ala.); Mt. Hebron Baptist Church

00:13:07 - Meeting Her Husband, Charles Billups

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Partial Transcript: What did you do after high school?

Segment Synopsis: Billups describes how in 1947, she started working at a meat factory in Woodlawn, Alabama where she met her husband, Charles Billups, whom she married a month after they met, and remained married to him for 22 years until his death in 1968.

Keywords: Irondale (Ala.); Woodlawn (Ala.)

Subjects: African Americans--Marriage; Billups, Charles

00:17:06 - Involvement in the NAACP and ACMHR

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Partial Transcript: Your husband was very active in the NAACP. Were you active in the NAACP?

Segment Synopsis: Billups talks about how she, and her husband especially, were involved with the NAACP and the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights, including assisting others with voter registrations, and going to meetings.

Keywords: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; National Association of the Advancement of Colored People

Subjects: Civil rights organizations; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Voter registration

00:23:23 - Beatings and Bomb Threats

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Partial Transcript: It was horrible at first, because I was not disgusted, I was afraid that something was going to happen to the children. And, see, in '57 was when my husband was beaten up.

Segment Synopsis: Billups recounts how in 1957, her husband was beaten after using a white bathroom, which resulted in a two weeks' hospital stay, during which they received bomb threats.

Keywords: Bomb threat

Subjects: Abuse; Attempted murder; Death threats

00:31:40 - Working at University Hospital

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Partial Transcript: Well, I'm sure that on your job, what occupation did you have?

Segment Synopsis: Billups explains how she worked at University Hospital as a Licensed Practical Nurse, and how she faced discrimination from her supervisor and other doctors.

Keywords: Hospitals--United States; Nursing--United States

Subjects: African American nurses; Discrimination in employment--United States; University Hospital, (Ala.)

00:38:17 - The Difficulties of Being Married to an Activist

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Partial Transcript: What was the most difficult thing you had to endure as a result of being the wife of Rev. Billups?

Segment Synopsis: Billups describes how being married to an activist was challenging since it meant they were sometimes rejected for bank loans, jobs, and even experienced having their phone bugged; she also expressed how she personally felt frustrated at times.

Keywords: African American political activists; African Americans--Marriage; Billups, Charles

Subjects: Civil rights movement; Discrimination in commercial loans; Discrimination in employment

00:41:50 - Demonstrations and Movements in 1963

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Partial Transcript: What do you remember about the demonstrations of 1963?

Segment Synopsis: Billups recalls the different demonstrations, including one where her husband and others knelt in prayer and did not have hoses or dogs turned on them; she also describes when she and her daughters almost encountered the Ku Klux Klan.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Non-violence

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century; Ku Klux Klan

00:45:58 - Alabama Christian Movement Mass Meetings and Operation Breadbasket

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Partial Transcript: And, then, he became involved in Operation Breadbasket.

Segment Synopsis: Billups details her husband's involvement in Operation Breadbasket, and describes what the March on Washington and the mass meetings of the ACMHR were like.

Keywords: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Mass meetings

Subjects: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom (1963 : Washington, D.C.); S.C.L.C. Operation Breadbasket

00:48:12 - Relationship with Police Brutality

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Partial Transcript: And the policeman was coming in and some kind of way, accidentally, Charles brushed against him or something and they brought the paddy wagon right there to the meeting and threw him up against the paddy wagon.

Segment Synopsis: Billups recounts how the police would aggressively throw her husband against the paddy wagon and how there were times where the police would dismantle and hide stop signs in order to arrest him for "traffic violations."

Keywords: Billups, Charles

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Discrimination in law enforcement; Police brutality--United States

00:51:53 - Charles Billups' Other Jobs

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Partial Transcript: And what kind of work did he do?

Segment Synopsis: Billups talks about the job her husband got in Chicago at the National Tea Company, and how he moved up quickly to Director of Human Relations.

Keywords: Billups, Charles; Human Relations; National Tea Company

Subjects: African Americans--Employment; Chicago, Ill.

00:57:29 - Charles Billups' Death

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Partial Transcript: Well, how did your husband die?

Segment Synopsis: Billups explains how her husband was shot and that his death was not heavily investigated.

Keywords: African American civic leaders; Billups, Charles; Death

Subjects: Chicago (Ill.); Murder; Murder--Investigation

01:01:21 - Reflection on the Movement

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Partial Transcript: If you would look back in the days that you were in Birmingham and if you had the potential of changing what took place, say between the time that you were married and 1963, what would you change?

Segment Synopsis: Billups talks about how she hopes the past movements will inspire the education of young people, and that she would not change anything about her husband's involvement in the Civil Rights Movement.

Keywords: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; Billups, Charles

Subjects: African Americans--Education; Change

01:03:52 - Importance of Family Support

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Partial Transcript: Is there anything else that we have not touched on that you would like to include on this tape that's related to the Movement or to your family?

Segment Synopsis: Billups talks about her parents who were supportive of her and her husband and how people in their past also gave support, include Reverend Robert Alford.

Subjects: African American families; African American religious leaders; Alford, Robert

01:06:56 - Conclusion of Interview

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Partial Transcript: Well, you have been a strength. Not just for your children and family, but for a lot of people in the community. So I would like to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to sit with us today.

Segment Synopsis: Conclusion of the interview

Keywords: African American history; Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: Historical interview