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Annie Levison

Annie Levison

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:30 - Introduction to Interview

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

Segment Synopsis: Annie Levison is Introduced

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.); Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.); Levison, Annie

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

GPS: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Hyperlink:
BCRI Homepage

00:00:47 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: I just want to start by asking a few general kinds of questions. Tell me a bit about your parents.

Segment Synopsis: Levison says that her mother was from Montgomery, Alabama, and her father from Huntsville, Alabama. They met around 1928 on the southside of Birmingham. Her mother worked at American Peerless Laundry, then later at Miro's Grocery as a meat cutter, and her father was a truck driver. She mentions that she has one brother and one sister.

Keywords: Family

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Montgomery (Ala.)

00:02:36 - Education and Childhood

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Partial Transcript: Where did you go to Elementary School?

Segment Synopsis: Levison describes the most influential teachers, and compares her educational experiences at Ullman and Parker High Schools; the differences being that Ullman, at the time, had been a traditionally white school. She then continues to talk about her experience growing up in the Southside neighborhood in Birmingham.

Keywords: Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: A.H. Parker High School; Birmingham (Ala.); Cameron Elementary School; Ullman High School

00:08:23 - Perspective on Desegregation in Schools & the Birmingham Educational System

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Partial Transcript: Well, we always thought that prior to desegregation of schools, when the schools were "integrated" then the schools would be better. How do you view that?

Segment Synopsis: Levison talks about how some aspects of desegregation caused some harm due to cultural differences between Black and white teachers when dealing with students and parents. Then, she states that schools are not adequately teaching Black history, resulting in a disinterest in the topic.

Keywords: Education--Alabama

Subjects: Children, teachers, and learning; Discipline of children

00:14:05 - Involvement in ACMHR & Mass Meetings

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Partial Transcript: You went on to Parker. After high school, what did you do?

Segment Synopsis: Levison talks about how she moved to St. Louis, Missouri in 1951 until returning to Birmingham in 1957. She describes how she felt it was necessary to get involved in the Movement after seeing the significant difference of the treatment of African Americans in St. Louis in comparison to the discriminatory practices in Birmingham. Her involvement started through participating in the mass meetings organized through New Pilgrim Baptist Church, pastored by Rev. N. H. Smith, Jr.

Keywords: African American churches; Birmingham, (Ala.); Mass meetings; St. Louis, (Mo.)

Subjects: African Americans--Segregation; Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; NAACP; New Pilgrim Baptist Church (Birmingham, Ala.); Rev. N. H. Smith, Jr.

00:17:12 - Becoming a Registered Voter

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Partial Transcript: When you returned, were you a registered voter?

Segment Synopsis: Levison describes her experience in becoming a registered voter in 1957, which included a pole tax and lengthy, written questionnaires asking about constitutional amendments and family history.

Subjects: Poll tax; Voter registration

00:18:38 - Arrest & Experience in Jail

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Partial Transcript: You became active in the Movement, you told me why. You thought it was just that time, were you ever arrested?

Segment Synopsis: Levison recounts the time of her arrest in 1957 for riding at the front of a bus in downtown Birmingham along with other members from her church. She and others were put in jail twice, once immediately after their arrest, and again after returning for their court date, and were kept there over a weekend. She then describes the poor conditions within the jail itself.

Keywords: Arrest--United States; Rev. J. S. Phifer

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Birmingham City Jail (Birmingham, Ala.); Segregation in transportation--United States

00:24:37 - Activities During the Demonstrations

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Partial Transcript: This was obviously very early in the Movement and that was really just the beginning, laying the foundation at the time. After that, were you involved in the Movement?

Segment Synopsis: Levison details her continued involvement in the Movement, which includes her attending mass meetings. She eventually pulled back from marching during the demonstrations in 1963 due to her job as an insurance writer for Protective Industrial Insurance Company. She also describes a time where her brother was arrested while he was still a student.

Keywords: Insurance writer; Mass meetings; Non-violence; Protective Industrial Insurance Company

Subjects: African Americans--Employment; Arrest--United States; Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama; Students--Civil rights

00:29:37 - Economics & Black Business in Birmingham

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Partial Transcript: I would teach the Black people how to keep their monies in their pockets and keep it in the Black areas.

Segment Synopsis: Levison states that the most effective method of advocating for change in the future lies in economics. She suggests that strategically spending money to support and develop Black businesses in Birmingham will help the future generations.

Keywords: African Americans--Education

Subjects: Black businesses; Current issues in economics

00:36:46 - The Future of Birmingham

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Partial Transcript: Well, Mrs. Levison, is there anything else that we have not covered that you would like to briefly talk about that's related to the Movement or to Birmingham, or maybe even solutions?

Segment Synopsis: Levison expresses that the communities in Birmingham need to unite to maintain progress, which would include working with Mayor Richard Arrington, Jr. and improving the educational system through enforcing discipline.

Keywords: Arrington Jr., Richard

Subjects: African Americans--Education--Southern States; Birmingham (Ala.)

00:39:09 - Conclusion of Interview

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Partial Transcript: Thank you Mrs. Levison. You have been quite a help to us today.

Segment Synopsis: Conclusion of the Interview

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.); Oral history interview