Civil Rights Experiences

Experiences: The civil rights experiences of the Bennett College women are a unique collection and have historical significance. The civil rights movement was a social and political upheaval in the US South and much of the history of this movement is documented. Yet the impact of the women of Bennett College is not typically included or explored.

The interviews cover the actions of women from Bennett College in the historic 1960 Sit-in demonstrations at Woolworths lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina. These demonstrations resulted in a wave of similar sit-ins. The non-violent Greensboro demonstrations are significant landmarks in the integration of public facilities. The Novak interviews are important in giving documentation to the way women made socially conscientious decisions and how those decisions impacted on their continuing commitment to social change.

A special feature of the civil rights interviews are that they can be accessed as fully searchable stories using technologies developed at the Entertainment Technology Center (ETC) at Carnegie Mellon University.

http://www.idvl.org/JohnNovak/

 

Frances Herbin Lewis

Frances Herbin Lewis was born in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1942. Greensboro at the time was segregated, with separate school, church, and recreational facilities for blacks and whites. Black people had separate bathrooms and water fountains, and they could buy food at a lunch counter but couldn't sit down to eat it. Ms. Lewis recalls that from an early age she was encouraged by her teachers to study government, to recognize the injustice of black people's daily lives, and to become an active, informed citizen of Greensboro.

  • Date Interviewed: Sunday, 01 August 2010
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #25

Henry Revell, Jr. Part 1

Henry Revell, Jr. Part 1

Henry Revell grew up the oldest of 12 brothers and sisters on a farm near Selma, North Carolina. Their grandfather was a former slave who had been given the farm and property as payment from his former master. Mr. Revell describes his early experiences playing baseball, winning public speaking contests, and participating in a 4-H group. He explains what it was like to play baseball while in college, in the military service, and for the Negro League, travelling up and down the coast for exhibition games. He majored in agriculture at North Carolina A & T, spent the next two years stationed in Fort Lewis, Washington, where he was the only black player on a white baseball team, and eventually made his way back to North Carolina to marry and work as an agriculture agent.

  • Date Interviewed: Thursday, 14 January 2010
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #22

Henry Revell, Jr. Part 2

Henry Revell, Jr. Part 2

Henry Revell began playing baseball with his family at age 9 and loved it "more than food to eat." He learned how to pitch from his father, and used to play three innings during his lunch break from farm work. During his four years of high school, the only person to hit a home run off of one of his pitches was George Altman, who became the first black player for the Chicago Cubs. Mr. Revell hadn't seriously considered attending college, but after a day-long try-out with a North Carolina A & T coach, he was awarded a baseball scholarship to A & T, where he majored in agriculture. He entered the service after graduation and played ball there as well, doing his best to focus on his technique while facing discrimination as the team's only black player. He says, "It’s just been a beautiful experience and I wouldn’t trade it for anything."

  • Date Interviewed: Sunday, 01 August 2010
  • Interviewer: Noah Purcell
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #22

Yvonne Revell

Yvonne Revell

Yvonne Revell was a Bennett College student, living at home, during the sit-in demonstrations at the Woolworth’s lunch counter which began on Feb. 1, 1960, Greensboro, NC. The interview recounts her student days at Bennett College, the demonstrations in February 1960, how these events impacted on other events in her life, and her years as a schoolteacher in segregated schools.

 

 

  • Date Interviewed: Friday, 28 May 2004
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #1
 

Gwendolyn Mackel Rice

Gwendolyn Mackel Rice

Gwendolyn Mackel Rice was born the fourth of five children in Natchez, Mississippi, to parents who were active in the 1940s and 1950s civil rights movement. Although her childhood was comfortable and protected, she remembers racial slurs, separate restrooms and drinking fountains, and not being able to try on clothes in department stores. In 1956, just before Ms. Rice's senior year in high school, her family moved to Chicago after being "run out of Natchez, Mississippi by the Citizen's Counsel." Ms. Rice attended Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., where her instructors were "fiery," "dynamic," and influential in expanding her worldview. She was present when Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke at Bennett, and actively participated in the demonstrations at Woolworth's and the Carolina Theater in Greensboro, N.C. After graduating, she began a career as a social worker and has worked in public welfare, community-based programs for the elderly and youth, especially black males, and college preparatory programs for underserved youth. In the interim, she earned the Master's in Social Service Administration from the University of Chicago after which she served as a senior program officer for a local foundation and later, as a not-for-profit consultant for organizations in underserved communities. She is currently at Developing Communities Project, a faith-based community organizing institution that addresses youth violence and advocates for transportation and environmental equity.

  • Date Interviewed: Friday, 10 June 2011
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #27

Roslyn Smith

Roslyn Smith

Roslyn Smith was born in Princeton, West Virginia, the fifth of six children. Her mother was a domestic and her father was a railroad laborer. She was raised by her mother, grandmother, and aunt, who taught her about the "place" of black people in the South, for example, never using the public library, sitting in the back of bus, using the back door of a white family's house, and addressing white people as 'miss' or 'mister.' Ms. Smith received a Merit Scholarship to attend Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. and made the move from small town to big city in 1957. She and other Bennett women became inspired by their personal experiences and their expanding knowledge of the outside world to join the fight for civil rights. With the support of their teachers, community leaders, Dr. Willa Player (then president of Bennett), and fellow students from nearby A & T University, they targeted Woolworth's in Greensboro as the stage for the 1961 sit-ins. Looking back on her experiences now, Ms. Smith worries that Bennett women's involvement is being written out of the official history of this integral part of the civil rights movement.

  • Date Interviewed: Wednesday, 12 May 2010
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #23

Esther Terry

Esther Terry

Esther Terry grew up the youngest of 12 children on a farm in Wise, North Carolina, and became the first in her family to attend a 4-year college. In the fall of 1957 she began classes at Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, North Carolina, where she became part of the group of men and women participating in the sit-in demonstrations at Woolworth's lunch counter in 1960. Ms. Terry recalls those days in Woolworth's, and describes some of the people who most influenced her during this time, including her parents, her closest friends, and Dr. Willa Player, the first female and the first black president of Bennett College. After graduating from Bennett, Ms. Terry earned a master's degree from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and a PhD from the University of Massachusetts Amherst.

  • Date Interviewed: Tuesday, 11 May 2010
  • Interviewer: Dr. Dena Scher
  • Marygrove Archives ARC-SP 0100 File #21

Detroit Journeys Collection

Detroit Journeys Collection

The Detroit Journeys Collection features interviews focusing on the experiences of individuals migrating within the U.S. or from outside the U.S. to Detroit, Michigan.

Experiences Collection

Experiences Collection

The Experiences Collection features two sections. The first section includes interviews with women from Bennett College who participated in the Woolworth's Lunch Counter civil rights demonstration in Greensboro, North Carolina. The second section includes interviews with migrant workers from Homestead, Florida.

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