Alice Wright Interviewed on November 10, 1995

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:21 - Introduction to the Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Alice Wright for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral
History Project by Bennie Miles at Miles College on November 10, 1995.

Keywords: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute (Birmingham, Ala.); Miles College; Miles, Bennie; Wright, Alice

Subjects: oral history project

GPS: The Birmingham Civil Rights Insitute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
00:00:35 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: We are talking about the Civil Rights Movement during some of the early years.
Let me ask you this about your family. What part of the state are your parents from?

Segment Synopsis: Ms. Wright describes growing up in Bessemer, Alabama and belonging to a family of farmers that moved from Livingston, Alabama.

Keywords: Bessemer (Ala.); Birmingham (Ala.); Livingston (Ala.)

Subjects: Personal narratives

00:02:52 - Educational Background

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Partial Transcript: What about your education? Did you finish elementary and high school?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes graduating from Dunbar High School in Bessemer, Alabama and furthering her education at Booker T. Washington Business College. From there, she went on to mortuary school at Jefferson State Community College and took a real estate course at the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Keywords: Bessemer (Ala.); Booker T. Washington Business College; Dunbar High School (Bessemer, Ala.); Jefferson State Community College; University of Alabama at Birmingham

Subjects: Education, Higher--History; Education, Secondary--History

00:04:16 - Wright's Role in the Movement & Donations Made to Fund the Movement

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Partial Transcript: How did you get involved in the Movement?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes her role as a bookkeeper during the Movement. She first became involved through her employer at the funeral home, Mr. W.E. Shortridge, who was a treasurer during the Movement. She describes the mass meetings that occurred on Monday nights and the demand for her bookkeeping skills because of the continuous flow of contributions to the movement. She talks about the people such as doctors who made large donations but wanted to keep their contributions anonymous for safety.

Keywords: Shortridge, W. E.

Subjects: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights

00:07:09 - Assassination Attempt on W.E. Shortridge

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Partial Transcript: However, they never did do anything at the funeral home but they did at Mr. Shortridge's home.

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes the assassination attempt on W.E. Shortridge in his home. She states that bullets were fired at his home, but that no one was hurt. This did not discourage him from fighting in the Civil Rights movement.

Keywords: Civil rights movement; Shortridge, W. E.

Subjects: Assassination attempt, [date]

00:08:03 - Bessemer Police-Community Relations

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Partial Transcript: How were the police during that time in terms of the neighborhood where you lived, and
also were you worked?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes how police relations were in the community of Bessemer. The police were always nearby but only offered lip-service.

Keywords: Bessemer (Ala.)

Subjects: Police-community relations

00:08:46 - Personal & Family Involvement in the Movement

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Partial Transcript: What about your family, were they fearful for you, were you afraid for yourself?

Segment Synopsis: Wright states that she never was discouraged from attending the meetings or being part of the Movement. Her son was part of the demonstrations and marches.

Keywords: Civil rights demonstrations

Subjects: Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama

00:09:58 - Connection to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Partial Transcript: Did you ever meet Dr. King?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes first meeting Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the funeral home she worked in. She describes him as a wonderful man. She describes how other people in her church and in the community were intimidated or scared by Dr. King's presence because of bombings.

Keywords: Civil rights movement

Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968

00:11:46 - Son's Experience with Voting

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Partial Transcript: M: Your son went to college?
W: Yes, he's a graduate of Miles.
M: Did you instill in them the importance of voting?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes how she encouraged her son to vote. She discusses the unreasonable tests that black voters had to take in order to become a registered voter. The interviewer briefly touches on the poll tax that was enforced on black voters as another obstacle to being able to vote.

Keywords: Poll tax

Subjects: Voting

00:12:39 - Police-Community Relations

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Partial Transcript: What was your community's relationship with the police department as you grew older?

Segment Synopsis: The police never came into the community of Bessemer unless a crime was committed. Occasionally, the police could be spotted patrolling the community in their cars.

Subjects: Police-community relations

00:13:15 - Community Organization Involvement

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Partial Transcript: Were you a member of any community organizations other than the Movement?

Segment Synopsis: Wright was a member of the Voters League in Bessemer, Alabama, but she did not hold an office in it.

Keywords: Bessemer (Ala.)

Subjects: Voters League

00:13:36 - Decision to Join the Movement & Involvement in Mass Meetings

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Partial Transcript: You said you got involved in the Movement because of where you worked and because your boss was involved, was it something that you saw that you really just wanted to do, or was it something, because you worked there that he wanted you to do?

Segment Synopsis: Wright describes her role in the movement as a personal choice, not something she was subjected to unwillingly. She talks about the Monday meetings which were normally very crowded, and talks about the presence of police officers at those meetings.

Subjects: Civil rights movement

00:14:29 - People Arrested During the Movement & Parents' Concerns

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Partial Transcript: Did you go to jail at any time during the Movement?

Segment Synopsis: Wright was never taken to jail, but she talks about two influential men who were arrested during the Movement, Reverend Fred Shuttlesworth and Reverend Abraham Woods.
She discusses the concern her family had for her well-being as she played an active role in the Movement as a bookkeeper.

Keywords: Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Woods Jr., Abraham Lincoln, 1928-2008

Subjects: Arrest

00:15:38 - Church's Noninvolvement in the Movement

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Partial Transcript: What church were you a member of during that time?

Segment Synopsis: The church Wright attended was not active in the movement at all. She believes the minister, Reverend Ravizee, was fearful of harm coming to the congregation, such as church bombings.

Keywords: Bessemer (Ala.)

Subjects: New Zion Missionary Baptist Church

00:16:19 - The Hiring of Black People as Result of the Movement

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Partial Transcript: Because of the Movement, what kind of benefit would you say that you, your family and
your community did you realize?

Segment Synopsis: Wright states that one of the most obvious benefits of the Movement was the hiring of black people in roles they were never before seen working in.

Subjects: Job creation

00:17:21 - Personal Vision for Improvement & Items Related to the Movement

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Partial Transcript: If you were in control of the Movement and you could go back and change some things, would you change anything?

Segment Synopsis: Wright shares her opinion of the Movement and states that she would not have done anything differently in concern to it. In the interview she is asked if she held on to any artifacts of the movements such as the receipts from her bookkeeping. She states that she did not, but that many artifacts such as letters from Dr. King and Wyatt T. Walker were in the care of Mrs. Fred Shuttleworth.

Keywords: Bookkeeping; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Walker, Wyatt Tee

Subjects: Birmingham, (Ala.)

00:19:10 - Advice to Young People of Voting Age

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Partial Transcript: Today, what do you think of the Movement? What do you think of youngsters today as it relates to the Movement, those that are of voting age?

Segment Synopsis: Wright believes that younger African Americans do not have the gratitude they should toward voting rights, because they do not think about the sacrifices it took to achieve that right. She encourages citizens to utilize their right to vote.

Keywords: Voting age

Subjects: Voting-United States

00:20:11 - Conclusion to the Interview

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Partial Transcript: Well, we certainly thank you for taking the time and sharing with us today.

Segment Synopsis: The interviewer concludes the interview with Alice Wright and thanks her for her time.