Rev. John T. Porter

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

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Reverend John Thomas Porter for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral History Project.

Segment Synopsis: Reverend John Thomas Porter is introduced.

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

GPS: Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:00:30 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: I'd like to ask you first of all, were your parents originally from Birmingham?

Segment Synopsis: Porter states that he was born in Birmingham, Alabama and grew up in the Titusville neighborhood. His parents lived in Pittsville, Alabama and came to Birmingham, where his father and mother worked for the president of the Alabama Company.

Keywords: Alabama Power Company; Birmingham (Ala.); Martin, Thomas W.; Pittsview (Ala.); Titusville Community

Subjects: African American families

00:09:50 - The Titusville Community

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Partial Transcript: What was Titusville like in those early days that you were growing up?

Segment Synopsis: Porter describes the community in Titusville and how his school, Washington Elementary, fit within it. He also compares the maintenance difference between the white & Black neighborhoods.

Keywords: Booker T. Washington Elementary School; Titusville Neighborhood (Ala.)

Subjects: Communities, contexts, and cultures

00:15:42 - School Experiences & Leadership Development

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Partial Transcript: After Washington Elementary, then you went on to some other little school?

Segment Synopsis: Porter details his experience in attending both Ullman & Parker High Schools, and how he became involved with the student council. He led small political movements, one of which involved boycotting & protesting a faculty member at Parker High.

Keywords: Ullman High School (Birmingham, Ala.); student activism; student council

Subjects: Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.)

00:19:57 - How Birmingham Impacted a Worldview

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Partial Transcript: How did this period of living in Birmingham impact upon your life as the way that you would view your future and view your world?

Segment Synopsis: Porter describes how his acceptance of the status quo shifted into unrest as he became older, especially when he became aware of segregation and the discrepancy of how he was addressed as opposed to white people.

Keywords: Introspection; Self-evaluation

Subjects: Birmingham (Ala.); Protest, culture and society

00:24:12 - Relationship with Siblings

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Partial Transcript: You being the younger of the children, what kind of relationship did you have with your brothers and sister?

Segment Synopsis: Porter describes the positive relationship that he has with his siblings, despite somewhat growing away from them due to his moving to college. He also recounts times where one of his brother would proudly introduce Porter to his friends as his "college brother."

Subjects: African American families

00:26:17 - Experience at Alabama State University

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Partial Transcript: What was your transition like then from high school to college?

Segment Synopsis: Porter recounts his time at Alabama State University, where he took on many leadership roles. In his senior year of college, he became ill with tuberculosis, which caused him to take a break for two years before returning.

Keywords: African American college graduates; Tuberculosis

Subjects: Alabama State University

00:31:35 - Meeting & Working with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Partial Transcript: When you returned then for your senior year, you then had an experience to meet an individual that would have an impact upon the entire country and the world.

Segment Synopsis: Porter details how he became involved with Martin Luther King, Jr., which included working with him at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church. After graduating from Alabama State, Porter worked with Martin Luther King, Sr. at Ebenezer Church.

Keywords: African American preaching; Dexter Avenue Baptist Church (Montgomery, Ala.); Ebenezer Baptist Church (Atlanta, Ga.); King, Martin Luther, 1899-1984

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

00:40:47 - Pastoring in Detroit, Michigan

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Partial Transcript: After you finished up at Morehouse what did you do?

Segment Synopsis: Porter recounts how he moved to Detroit, Michigan to pastor at First Baptist Church for four and a half years. He then returned to Birmingham to pastor at 6th Avenue Baptist Church.

Keywords: 6th Avenue Baptist Church (Birmingham, Ala.); African Americans--Michigan--Detroit; First Baptist Church (Hamtramck, Mich.)

Subjects: African American preaching

00:44:58 - A Knock at Midnight and The Three Horses of the Apocalypse

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Partial Transcript: At your installation service, Martin Luther King preached the sermon?

Segment Synopsis: Porter recalls how Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, preached A Knock at Midnight at Porter's installation service. Porter then led the march on Palm Sunday with A.D. King and N.H. Smith.

Keywords: King, Alfred D.; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968. Speeches. Selections; Palm Sunday; Smith, Nelson H.; St. Paul United Methodist Church (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: African American churches; Civil rights demonstrations--Alabama

00:51:44 - Arrest & Jail

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about that experience, just the arrest itself.

Segment Synopsis: Porter recounts a time where he, Nelson Smith, and A.D. King were arrested by the Birmingham Police, which resulted in an overnight stay in jail.

Keywords: King, Alfred Daniel (1930-1969); Smith, Nelson (1930-2006)

Subjects: Arrest--United States; Birmingham (Ala.). Police Department

00:57:04 - Reinvigorating the Movement

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Partial Transcript: During this particular time, the movement, of course, was at its height.

Segment Synopsis: Porter describes the challenges he faced in trying to continue the energy of the Movement after the marches. Porter attributes the success of the movement to ideal timing and the social climate.

Keywords: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963; Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011

Subjects: African American students; Connor, Eugene, 1897-1973

01:02:43 - The Statue of the Three Kneeling Ministers

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Partial Transcript: I want to go just for a minute to the incident that took place here in Birmingham.

Segment Synopsis: Porter shares how the statue of ministers kneeling at Kelly Ingram Park were originally intended to depict the exact likenesses of A.D. King, Nelson Smith, and himself, but the heads were replaced with generic ones.

Keywords: King, Alfred Daniel, 1930-1969; Shuttlesworth, Fred L., 1922-2011; Smith, Nelson, 1930-2006; Woods, Abraham, 1928-2008

Subjects: Historic monuments

01:10:04 - Conclusion of the Interview

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Partial Transcript: Well, Reverend Porter, I want to thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to come and sit and talk with me today.

Segment Synopsis: Conclusion of the Interview

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