Emily Thomas Ellis

BCRI Oral History Collection
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00:00:19 - Introduction to Interview

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Partial Transcript: This is an interview with Ms. Emily Thomas Ellis for the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute's Oral History Project by Dr. Horace Huntley at Miles College.

Segment Synopsis: Emily Thomas Ellis is introduced.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.); Ellis, Emily Thomas; Miles College

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

GPS: The Birmingham Civil Rights Institute
Map Coordinates: 33.516200, -86.813870
GPS: Miles College
Map Coordinates: 33.4810, -86.9089
Hyperlink: BCRI Homepage
00:00:34 - Family Background

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Partial Transcript: Thank you for coming out and sitting with us today to talk to us about your experiences in the Civil Rights Movement.

Segment Synopsis: Ellis begins by describing her family; her father worked at Fairfield Steel, and her mother was a housewife. Ellis is the second oldest of six children.

Keywords: Fairfield (Ala.); Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.); U.S. Steel

Subjects: Fairfield Steel; Industrial High School (Birmingham, Ala.); U.S. Steel

00:02:03 - Educational Background

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Partial Transcript: Where did you start first grade?

Segment Synopsis: Ellis describes the schools she attended in her childhood, and she goes into detail about her experiences at Parker High School; she talks about her personal development during that time as well as all the teachers who helped her and other school administrators. She also speaks about how she worked for Head Start and then taught at Price Elementary School.

Keywords: Daniel Payne College; Head Start Program (U.S.); Miles College; Parker High School (Birmingham, Ala.); Price Elementary School (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: African American school principals; Birmingham Public Schools (Birmingham, Ala.); Head Start Program (U.S.)

00:07:09 - Student Protests & Demonstrations

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Partial Transcript: What do you remember about those days, let's say prior to the big demonstrations of '63?

Segment Synopsis: Ellis recounts her experience in the 1963 demonstrations walking to 16th St. Baptist Church after arriving at school to discover that the gates were locked. She states there were about 500 students from Parker High School that marched there. She also describes the injuries she received during the marches.

Keywords: King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968; Williams, Hosea; Wren, Tommy; Young, Andrew

Subjects: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963; African American student movements; King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968

00:16:34 - Circumstances of Arrest & Reactions from Social Circles

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Partial Transcript: Tell me about the day you were arrested. How did the day start?

Segment Synopsis: Ellis details her arrest after sitting at the lunch counter at Newberry's, and then tells how her family members and teachers responded to her experience after being released from jail.

Keywords: J.J. Newberry (Department Store); Nonviolence

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

00:28:11 - Discrimination in Birmingham

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Partial Transcript: I got on the bus one day, there were no seats and there were plenty seats up front.

Segment Synopsis: Ellis speaks about racial discrimination she faced in Birmingham including riding the bus downtown, not being served in retail spaces, and how she watched her friend's school grades dramatically decrease once she was integrated into West End High School.

Keywords: Birmingham (Ala.); Roosevelt City, (Ala.); West End High School (Birmingham, Ala.)

Subjects: Discrimination in education--United States; Discrimination in retail service; Segregation in transportation

00:33:51 - The Bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church & Its Effects

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Partial Transcript: This particular time, in 1965, '64, of course, there are a number of things that are taking place. All this started in '63. The bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church, do you remember that?

Segment Synopsis: Ellis recalls the community's intense anger after the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church.Also, how she saw more African Americans employed in Birmingham businesses after the Civil Rights Bill was passed.

Keywords: United States. Civil Rights Act of 1964; Wesley, Claude

Subjects: 16th Street Baptist Church Bombing, Birmingham, Ala., 1963; African Americans--Employment

00:38:25 - The Movement & Future Generations

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Partial Transcript: If you had the opportunity, if you had the wherewithal to be able to change anything that you went through at the time, what would you change?

Segment Synopsis: Ellis summarizes her feelings on the Movement and reflects on how its success left a positive impact for the future generations, including her daughter. She emphasizes how the values of nonviolence are key to the continuing improvement of society.

Keywords: Future of children; Nonviolence

Subjects: Civil rights movement

00:43:19 - Conclusion of Interview

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Partial Transcript: Mrs. Ellis, I want to thank you for coming today and we certainly do appreciate it.

Segment Synopsis: Interview is concluded.

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