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Catherine Burks Brooks Interviewed on April 29, 1996

Catherine Burks Brooks Interviewed on April 29, 1996

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:00 - Introduction of Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Catherine Brooks for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's
Oral History Project. I am Horace Huntley. We are at Miles College on April 29, 1996.

GPS: Miles College
Map Coordinates: 33.481, -86.9089
GPS: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.5161, -86.8145
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:00:30 - Family and Early Education

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Partial Transcript: I would just like to start by asking you some general questions about your background.
Were your parents from Birmingham?

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks talks about where her parents are from and growing up in Birmingham school systems.

Keywords: Sardis; Sardis City (Ala.)

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.); Birmingham family

00:02:45 - Community Background

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Partial Transcript: Then, as you grew up, what do you remember about your neighborhood when you were in elementary school?

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks discusses growing up in Birmingham community.

Keywords: Alabama By-Products; Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.); Stockham Valve; Tarrant City

Subjects: Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:04:15 - Blackness and High School

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Partial Transcript: Little school? I think at that time we were the largest Black school in the country. That's right. The Thundering Herd.

Segment Synopsis: She talks about her experience at Parker High School about being the first black majorettes, discussions about the difference between black, brown, and white, as well going to 3 elementary schools.

Keywords: Black; Brown; Lincoln; Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.); White

Subjects: Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:11:48 - Getting Involved in The Movement at Tennessee State

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Partial Transcript: After you finished high school, what did you do?

Segment Synopsis: She talks about participating in The Movement, learning how to protest in peaceful demonstrations at Tennessee State University.

Keywords: Demonstrating; Non-Violent Protest; School; Sit-in

Subjects: African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century; Civil rights demonstrations--Tennessee; Freedom Rides, 1961; Tennessee State University

00:17:36 - The Freedom Ride

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Partial Transcript: This was during the Freedom Ride.

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks explains her Freedom Ride with seven of her friends from Nashville to Birmingham.

Keywords: American Baptist Theological Seminary; Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Fisk University; Tennessee State Univerisity

Subjects: Anniston (Ala.); Birmingham (Ala.)--Maps; Birmingham--Jail; Bus Burning (Anniston,Ala.); Freedom Rides, 1961; Nashville (Tenn.)--Maps

GPS: Nashville, Tennessee
Birmingham, Alabama

Map Coordinates: 36.1627, 86.7816. 33.5186, 86.8104
00:20:31 - The Freedom Ride-Arrival in Birmingham, AL

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Partial Transcript: When you arrived in Birmingham, what was the reception?

Segment Synopsis: Her first trip with the Freedom Ride from Nashville to Birmingham, where they encountered Bull Connor who picked them up and took them up to the Tennessee/ Alabama border.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department; Birmingham Jail; Birmingham News; Black family; Bus Station; Bus driver; Train Station

Subjects: Ardmore (Ala); Birmingham (Ala.); Bull Connor; Cullman (Ala.); Freedom Rides, 1961

00:26:07 - The Freedom Ride- Return to Birmingham After Encounter With Bull Connor

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Partial Transcript: So you came back to Birmingham?

Segment Synopsis: Her second trip down to Birmingham where they lost their bus driver and waited 18 hours to find a new one.

Keywords: Bus Driver; Jackson (Miss.); Kennedy, Robert F., 1925-1968; Montgomery (Ala.)

Subjects: Birmingham, Ala.; Bull Connor; Freedom Rides, 1961; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011

00:28:06 - The Freedom Ride-Arrival in Montgomery

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Partial Transcript: What was the reception in Montgomery?

Segment Synopsis: After their group arrived in Montgomery they were swarmed by an angry mob and had to leave the bus to seek shelter and protection.

Keywords: angry mob; black community; black taxi cabs; church; police protection

Subjects: Bull Connor--Commissioner of Public Safety--Birmingham--Alabama; Montgomery (Ala.); Segregation in transportation

00:33:05 - The Freedom Ride-Arrival in Jackson, MS and onto Parchman Farm (Mississippi State Penitentiary)

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Partial Transcript: So, from the church did you go back and eventually get to Jackson, Mississippi?

Segment Synopsis: After arriving in Jackson, Mississippi, Catherine Burks Brooks and her friends were arrested, sent to Hines County Jail, and onto Parchment Penitentiary for 26-27 days.

Keywords: Mississippi jail; Parchman farms; Prison living conditions

Subjects: Freedom Rides, 1961; Hines County Jail (Miss.); Jackson (Miss.); Mississippi State Penitentiary; Parchman (Miss.)

00:38:39 - Involvement and Formation of Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)

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Partial Transcript: Were you a member of SNCC?

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks involvement SNCC and help from organizations like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Raleigh (N.C.); Southern Christian Leadership Conference; The Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (Atlanta,GA.)

00:43:57 - Involvement With Robert Williams, Head of NCAACP Monroe, NC Chapter

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Partial Transcript: Well, I was not with SNCC at that time. I was working at that time in the north.

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks talks about being involved with the President of the NAACP North Carolina branch, Robert Williams, and how he got in trouble with the organizations due to using less non-violent protesting practices.

Keywords: Kidnapping; Marriage; North; Violent Protest

Subjects: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Robert Williams, President of NAACP--Monroe, North Carolina

00:46:57 - Violence and Fear During Demonstrations

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Partial Transcript: Yes. But, backing up some. Before that, there were non-violent demonstrations. His group was protecting the non-violent demonstrators.

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks discusses the times during the movement where she felt most afraid.

Keywords: Fear; Non-violent demonstrations; Riot; Shooting; Sit-in

Subjects: Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights; Ardmore (Ala.); Bull Connor; Nashville (Tenn.); Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011

00:49:20 - Moving On From Movement, Start of New Life

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Partial Transcript: I think we have talked about probably up to 1963-64 or so. What happens after that period when you were so actively involved with SNCC and SCLC? How does that period of your life end? Do you simply drop out of the Movement? Or, now that you're living up north, you simply go back and you get a job?

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks talks about moving on from the movement and her Husband starting a business in Afro-Pick afterwards.

Keywords: Business method patents; Combs; Family business; Make a living; Race--Marriage Records

Subjects: Afro-Pick; Detroit (Mich.); Lancaster (S.C.); Ottawa (Mich.)

00:54:08 - Recognition of Involvement in Movement from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Well, I just want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to come and sit and talk with us because you have really enlightened us in relationship to the freedom rides and your activity.

Segment Synopsis: Catherine Burks Brooks receives recognition from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for her Freedom Ride she was on.

Keywords: recognition; scholarship; students

Subjects: Freedom Rides, 1961; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Tennessee State University; The Grand Opry (Nashville, Tenn.)

00:54:09 - Interview Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: Okay. Well, I just want to thank you for taking time out of your schedule to come and sit and talk with us because you have really enlightened us in relationship to the freedom rides and your activity. At some later date, we may want to sit down and talk with you again.