Interview with Augustus Hawkins
Interview with Augustus Hawkins
Interview Date: May 12, 1992

Camera Rolls: 314:42-46
Sound Rolls: 314:23-24
Interview gathered as part of The Great Depression .
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Augustus Hawkins , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on May 12, 1992, for The Great Depression . Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of The Great Depression.

*
INTERVIEW
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[camera roll: 314:42] [sound roll 314:23] [slate marker visible on screen]
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QUESTION 1
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And, marker.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so, tell me about the types of people that lived in your Los Angeles community in 1934.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The community was just beginning to change, in 1934 the community in South Central. The demographics were largely, about fifteen or twenty percent black, and the rest of it was white. Very, very few Hispanics, and virtually no Asians. It was a rather settled community, in that the population was stable. The exodus to the city was not really at its zenith at that time.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The people coming in would be southerners.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

If we could stop for just a second?

[cut]
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QUESTION 2
[slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Mark.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, I need you to just—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

That was take two.

INTERVIEWER:

—give me the question, the answer again, and I need to know what the community was changing from, when you tell, also tell me what it's changing to. OK?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

In 1934, thereabouts, the South Central community was pretty well isolated. It was beginning to change. The change was primarily from a white neighborhood to a black and then with a sprinkling of white as they remained, but most of the whites were moving out to the suburbia. The blacks who were coming in were primarily Southerners, and rather of the lower income group. Higher income groups were moving to the west side of Los Angeles. It was quite a community in transition.

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QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

OK, what, do you know what attracted those Southern blacks to California?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The promise of a better life. I think sometimes, those who were attracted to Los Angeles felt that it was a land of milk and honey, and obviously, they were also running away from things in the Deep South, that is, lynchings, and bad economic conditions, segregation, inferior schools, and things of that nature. They thought that the West promised them a new life, altogether.

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QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

OK, you mentioned that your particular community only had a few Asians, but what about Chinese, Japanese, Mexicans, did you see them in other parts of the city?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The South Central area was not a 'multicultural' type of population. It was primarily those who had, older white residents who had stayed there for a long time, and were only dislodged by new Southern blacks. As to the Chinese, the Asian population, the Asian population was concentrated elsewhere, primarily in downtown Los Angeles, so there was very little mixture between the Asians, and the native whites, and the new blacks who were moving into the area in great numbers.

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QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

OK. I'm gonna ask you about the movies now. What did you enjoy about going to the movies back in '34?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Oh, back in '34, as far as a Hollywood connection, I recall that at that time, I was just graduating from college, and I had been hired as a delivery boy, in a way, to deliver material to the studios. The studios were quite popular, of course, and my job was to deliver, to the studios, copies of acting bits so that the directors could choose a particular character for a particular scene. It was a very exciting thing for me, beside being a job, of course, that I had an opportunity to go in and out of the studios. The studios were quite discriminatory in a way, very few blacks were in roles at that time. There were one or two blacks, including one outstanding one, Clarence Muse, who was a semi-director, and an actor who acted some parts, but primarily, the best parts were, in my opinion, not of the ideal type. The step-and-fetch-it type of acting, where some humor was provided, or they needed someone to act as a servant to one of the stars of that time.

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QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

So—so how did you, it felt very, how did you feel about that, that they got these roles?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

I was not too excited about the role of minorities in Hollywood at the time, and I thought primarily, the image that was conveyed of minorities in the movies, reflected really a slavery type, as the plantation type, and that that did not give us, in my opinion, any uplift in the community or nationwide, that blacks were beginning to get into the mainstream of American life, it was just the opposite.

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QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

OK, so when you saw a film, and there was a primarily white cast, and, what did you think of the, what did you think of the people portrayed in those films? How did you identify with those people in the primarily all-white films?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Well, it's pretty obvious, as I was describing Hollywood at that time, it did not to me come across as portraying the type of roles that should be portrayed. It was the old attempt of the minstrel days. If a character happened to be of a prominent type, it was a white person blackened to make, to be made into a black in order to portray the role, so that we did not have, at that time, the entrance of the Lena Horne type of a white complexion, black person. The carryover of prejudice and discrimination—one must remember, that California at that time was not a very progressive state, there was a great discrimination primarily against the Chinese, against the Filipino, and later against the Japanese. Across the main streets of Los Angeles, one could, as one walked down them, see signs in the windows, 'No Colored Persons Allowed', or, 'We Do Not Cater to Blacks',
** and that was quite, quite prominent, so that bigotry was very heavily displayed in Hollywood, it reflected the times.

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QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

When you actually went to the movies yourself, what was your favorite part of going to the movies?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

When I had an opportunity to go, and a lot of times, we didn't—let me indicate that as far as the theaters were concerned, there was no discrimination in the theaters. That is, blacks were not confined to the so-called "peanut gallery." But the movies, obviously, were just beginning to change, it was very exciting, because we could see the first sound pictures. The new technology was just beginning to come through. Al Jolson type [sic] in the movies was quite an exciting experience, and Al Jolson, of course, was again portrayed [sic] the type of a white person blackened up in order to provide entertainment, and that was quite extensive. The movies were not, from an artistic point of view, the very best, but they were the source of enjoyment, and a new technology. Along with the radio, which was coming into prominence about that time, it was an exciting, new experience for all of us. I made a little radio sets on the side, in order to pick up a little extra money, and we had a little crystal set, a little rock, what we call a crystal set, and earphones, so we're talking about a very, very crude, technologically, age.

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QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

OK. You told me that your mother had played a large role in your becoming a Democrat, and I was wondering if Franklin Roosevelt also had any influence on you? Or were you a Democrat before?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

We're talking about what-

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

—were the major influences on me at that particular time—

INTERVIEWER:

We're going to stop, we have to change the camera roll. Oh, excuse me.

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QUESTION 10
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll: 314:43] [sound roll 314:23]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Mark.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, when you went to movies, and you saw films, and these were films that had white people, maybe inside a house with a white picket fence, everything's going swell, this is the picture that they're putting out in Hollywood, did you identify with those people, in those films?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The question of whether or not one identifies with a film that seems foreign to that individual's culture, is a rather exciting one. I would say that the films of that particular period, and I'm talking about the 30s, were more or less, looked at from an artistic point of view- you weren't really judging it critically, or philosophically, but you went there for entertainment, and that's about what you got. As to whether or not it was actually portraying something, it was so exciting as a new experience, that I suspect that one would overlook the ideological aspects of it, and while it did not portray, let us say, black America as black America was, or as we had hoped that it would become, was not really the important thing at that time. Later we became more critical of entertainment as such, because we could see that it was shaping the image of people, and influencing, politically and socially, American life. But in the early days, we were thrilled, really, to see something on the screen.

INTERVIEWER:

OK,  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] 

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Yeah, it's not that  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] .

[cut]
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QUESTION 11
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INTERVIEWER:

OK. Were you aware of the economic power and the political influence of Hollywood at that time?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

At the beginning, one had very little thought of the tremendous influence Hollywood would have on America, and on the world, for that matter. It was seen, from a technological point of view, and the acting was the "Charles Chaplin Type," that is, you looked at it as a person who was a good actor, good actress, and so on. It was only later that we discovered that acting was not only entertainment, it was also politically motivated, that it was a means of shaping things, of shaping our lives, creating lasting influences on people. Then it became a rather controversial [sic], and I guess this led to the later inquisition, in which liberal writers and liberal actors were somehow ostracized by Hollywood, because they were beginning to change American life. But at the earlier period of time, that was not so.

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QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

OK. But the motion picture industry did provide jobs for blacks, not necessarily on the screen.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The motion picture industry from the viewpoint of employment of minorities, was not a great source. I would say there would be many more blacks employed as caterers on location, or let us say, in more or less, the "lesser" occupations, custodians, preparing actors for different scenes, of that nature, but, and as chauffeurs, and so on. So that was only indirect employment, it was not a major source of employment for minorities. As a matter of fact, even in the case of dramas where Mexican actors were supposed to be featured, many times they were not Mexican. It was not just black, it was a cultural bias that extended across the spectrum.

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QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Now I'm going to go back to the question about your influences, what made you become a Democrat. Do you, you were a Democrat when it wasn't very popular to be one.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The question has sometimes arisen, that, why did I, in a sense, become a Democrat, in an area that was highly Republican at that time? And in the 1930's, the area that I lived in, and that I represented later in Congress, and earlier in the legislative branch of state government, was just beginning to change. The greatest influence, I would say, at that time, on myself, was that I had struggled to get through school, to go to college, only to find out that I had no better opportunity than one who hadn't gone to school at all. To me, the situation was, that Republicanism was obsolete for blacks. Blacks were still Republican merely because it was the party that had presumably freed the blacks and brought them out of slavery, but they were being starved to death under the Hoover policies of that day. President Hoover, in a sense, drove blacks out of the Republican party, into the Democratic ranks, but that was just beginning. When I decided I was a candidate for office, my influence came through my mother, who was a Democrat, and wondered why my dad, who had lost all of his money in bank closing under the Hoover administration, and when we were thrown without employment, and as a family had to depend on surplus food and so forth, she couldn't understand it. So she shamed my dad into becoming a Democrat, but in a sense, she started me out as a Democrat, and when I ran for office, I ran as a Democrat.

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QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

OK. You already answered a couple of my questions, so I'm gonna move on to Upton Sinclair for a minute. Did the Democratic Party welcome Upton Sinclair to the fold?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

During this time, there were many "erratics," I would say, in terms of departures from normal living. In California in that period of time, that is, throughout the 30s, we had various movements. The so-called "Townsend Movement" to give everyone two hundred dollars a month, and we had the "Ham and Eggs" proposition that every Thursday everybody was going to get a certain sum of money. Nobody ever asked how these things would be financed, but they were dreams that people dreamed, because times were tough. Huey Long was doing the same thing in the State of Louisiana, and in California, we had the rise of an author, Upton Sinclair, and he had an idea that he was going to "end poverty in California." That's where the so-called "EPIC Movement" started. He was, in effect, a Socialist, and was viewed as a Socialist, not as a Democrat, and was not really accepted in the Democratic Party. He was a great influence on the politics of that day, and obviously he became the Democratic nominee, because the rest of the Democratic candidates were too conservative, and too Republican-like, to make a difference. So Upton Sinclair really upset the politics of the state, and brought on a great opposition of all of the forces throughout the state: the established groups, the religious groups, the so-called establishment of the conservative business people and so on, and frightened the people so much until, fortunately or unfortunately, depending on one's view, he lost. But by sweeping the state with a great movement of that type, he did get elected a progressive set-up in the state, that is, Congressmen, state legislators were primarily elected as a result of this movement.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can we cut a second? I wanted to show you a couple of things that I brought along-

[cut]
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QUESTION 15
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll 314:44] [sound roll 314:23]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Mark.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so I showed you all that, that anti-Sinclair prop, stuff, did you think that propaganda was fair?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

During the so-called EPIC Movement in California, and the candidacy of Upton Sinclair, I would conclude that the state was shocked and highly motivated, in reaction to the type of thing that was done in politics at that time. Upton Sinclair was a very believable type of individual, but he was not a convincing politician as such, and I think that people were not quite ready for the type of statements that were being made. So it was fairly easy to scapegoat things by portraying Upton Sinclair as a Communist, even beyond being a Socialist. People were not quite ready for change. The minorities, who had recently made some gains, were obviously conservative in trying to protect those gains, and so Upton Sinclair, as far as the minority community, for example, did not make many inroads. Obviously, the role of the minister in many communities was a great influence, and by and large, the organized churches, organized religion, was heavily against Upton Sinclair, so that was a real force throughout the state. But the type of things that were circulated is hardly believable. There was, the whole idea of the state was, if Upton Sinclair was elected, California would almost sink into the ocean. I think the propaganda was such that eventually, it was just too much to overcome. There are those who say also that some of the elections were manipulated in certain areas, and I wouldn't doubt at all that ballot boxes were changed in conservative areas where they could get away with it. There was a determination that Upton Sinclair was not going to be allowed to win, and he didn't. But the fortunate part of it was, that a lot of
** good people, rather liberal, forward-looking people, were elected at that time.
** I recall that Culbert Olson became governor, later, because he was elected a state senator in the Sinclair landslide, and he built on that and became governor of the state, and proved to be a good governor.

INTERVIEWER:

Right, right, OK.

INTERVIEWER #2:

Actually, could I ask you repeat one  [ gap: ;reason: unintelligible ] , it was very noisy in it, you were talking about minorities who made gains during that time period tended to be more conservative? Can you talk about that again? Because there was a lot of street, and honking behind it.

INTERVIEWER:

Do you remember what you said?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

We were talking—

INTERVIEWER #2:

I can, I can refresh your memory, you were saying that many people were not ready for the kind of changes that Sinclair proposed—

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Oh.

INTERVIEWER #2:

And in the minority communities where people had made, recently made some gains were conservative and wanted to protect them.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Yeah, in the period of the mid-30's, when minorities were beginning to get a toehold on the state, in terms of political office, in terms of breaking down discrimination in the unions, when they were beginning to become judges for the first time, and to be integrated into the postal service, that they were, in a sense, becoming middle-class. And, as such, we had a movement that blacks becoming more conservative, politically, and not the type— they were getting a piece of the action, and they wanted to protect it. I suspect that many, just becoming a part of the middle-class, also did not enter into the EPIC Movement
** as such. Professionals tended not to be supportive of the EPIC Movement. I recall that my own brother was a practicing physician, and to him, Upton Sinclair favored socialized medicine, and I recall that I went into one of the Sinclair headquarters, invited to give my own views because I was a candidate, I indicated that I favored a pre-paid health insurance, but not the socialization of medicine. I recall that as a result of that, I was not supported by, not endorsed by the EPIC Movement. In the primaries, after I won my primary, in the final analysis I was a part of the Democratic ticket, but not in the primary, and I think that illustrates the conservative trend that was developing at that time.

INTERVIEWER:

So, you weren't, you weren't an EPIC endorsed candidate, but they seem to have claimed you in their victory-

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Well, all of those who became Democratic nominees were a part of the so-called "EPIC ticket" in the general election, and that is the way it came about. I was not opposed to the Sinclair movement, I just did not take a real position on it, and as I say, because of one or two issues that I had expressed myself on, I was not endorsed by Upton Sinclair in my primary election.

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QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

OK, generally, just to repeat, go over something that you said in the middle of another question, blacks didn't respond very well to Upton Sinclair?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

As to whether or not blacks as such responded to the Upton Sinclair movement, I would say that it was very, very lukewarm. They were just becoming Democrats, and I think that that change was fast enough for them, for most of them, they weren't about to change from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party, and then overnight become allied with what was termed a Socialist movement. It was just too shockingly quick. I think that in the final analysis, they voted for the Sinclair ticket in the general election, but that's because they were then becoming strong Democrats, and their economic conditions made them more allied with the new Party, even though Sinclair was a part of it, than with the older party. And consequently, I would say that the support of Sinclair in the black community was lukewarm. The ministers, who exercised quite an influence, were not pro-Sinclair.

INTERVIEWER:

Were they anti-Sinclair?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Well, you can phrase it as being anti-Sinclair, I would not go that far. I would say that they were supporters of the Democratic ticket, and more a matter of splitting that ticket than it was a matter of being strongly anti-Sinclair.

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QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

OK. Did, did Socialism scare the members of the black community?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The black community has never really been scared by Socialism, and I'm not trying to identify necessarily that voting for or against the EPIC Movement on the basis of the fear of Socialism. Socialism, during those days, was not a great  [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

And audio ran out. There is no more audio left.

[cut]
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QUESTION 18
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CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Marker.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, let's talk about what attracted the blacks, or what didn't attract blacks to the EPIC Movement, and that they were attracted to the Democratic Party.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Ready?

INTERVIEWER:

Mm-hm.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Well, let me state in terms of that particular time and the politics of that particular time, it was not a separate movement as such, but we had several movements that coincided. Blacks
** as such were not attracted to the EPIC Movement as such,
** they were never a strong part of it; the leaders were not, let us say, involved in the movement. The movement had very few minority leaders as such, as a part of the EPIC Movement. But blacks were changing, they were becoming Democrats, and the election was not only an election that featured Upton Sinclair, but it featured a lot of other candidates, including myself, as an example, as a Democrat, and I was running as a Democrat—

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

—who happened to be on a ticket with Mr. Sinclair in the run-off, but the whole—

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Sorry, we just ran out.

INTERVIEWER:

We ran out, we ran out of film.

[cut]
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QUESTION 19
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll: 314:45] [sound roll 314:24]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Wait for my mark, call, thank you—mark. Second to mark.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so tell me about you running as a Democrat. Explain how you weren't necessarily an EPIC candidate.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

During the EPIC Movement in California, let me make it clear that I was not actually running as an EPIC candidate, I was never a strong EPIC supporter, no particular reason, I had no ideological objection to most of the program. I was, however, a Democrat, a new Democrat, who was running as a Democratic candidate. It was tough convincing many of my friends and supporters, as a Democrat, that that was the right thing to do, but I just happened to be a Democrat, and I ran as a Democrat, and while I disagreed with one or two things in the EPIC Movement, it doesn't say, doesn't mean, that I was opposed to the whole idea of changing things across the state. There were many things that needed changing. And so it just happened, we just happened to converge. I think one must put into proper perspective, that that was not the only thing that was happening, particularly in the minority community. Minority was just beginning to break through many barriers. In those days, we had a terrific time to get a black judge elected, the first one in the state, the first supervisor in the post office,
** the first woman, black woman in the post office, and so forth,
** and all of these things were happening at the same time as the EPIC Movement was happening, so it was not a monolithic community, it was a community that was undergoing a great transition, and as such, people, I think, I think a majority did vote Democratic, and consequently, for the EPIC ticket. And so those two coincided rather than one being the cause of the other.

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QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

OK, thank you. When Social Security passed, oh, let me ask you about, I have one more EPIC question, did you hear about some of the scare tactics that were used for businesses?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

During the EPIC Campaign, I think that most of us do recall the tremendous pressure that was put on everybody, throughout the state, to oppose Upton Sinclair at least, the top of the ticket. I recall that in business after business, throughout industry, employers would call their employees in just before the election and say, now look, if Upton Sinclair is elected, you're not gonna have a job. I can recall that in many household, blacks who were in service, and that was a great number of them, were told that, if Mr. Sinclair is elected, I won't be able to hire you to continue in employment. And that type of pressure was throughout the state, and that was a tremendous dis-incentive to vote for the top of the ticket.

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QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

OK. All right. Social Security. Why did African-Americans feel so happy when Roosevelt signed the Social Security bill?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

For a long time, African-Americans were not the ones who enjoyed government benefits. They had been denied this in the Deep South, and even in the north, and also in the West. The idea of the government helping them was somewhat foreign. In 1935, when the Social Security Act was passed, I think one must remember that the Act included not only protection for the elderly, but it also began protection for children. For the first time, child aid became a reality, and that was an important part of the Act for blacks, and the Act also provided help for the disabled, and led also to such later programs as Medicare and Medicaid, and whatnot, and these were tremendous benefits to the black community which had been denied them, even when they had been offered to others. But for the first time, everyone enjoyed the benefits of something, under the Social Security Act, and I think that to blacks it was a great life-saver. It's pretty difficult to visualize what type of security people didn't have, in those days. Instead of Social Security, the elderly were confined to what we call, then, 'the poor houses', it was a place that was set aside for the elderly, where they were, in a sense, incarcerated, in a poor house, when they became elderly. The mental cases were actually locked up, those who did not have families, and families, the families just put their mental patients in a—

[telephone rings]
AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

—in a room—

INTERVIEWER:

 [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

[cut]
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QUESTION 22
[slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

This is take eight.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, so, once again if you could tell me why African-Americans felt very happy about the passage of Social Security.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

With the adoption of Social Security in 1935, to blacks it was almost like the Emancipation Proclamation, or something comparable, or something like the Magna Carta in the English tradition. For the first time, blacks considered themselves, having something which others had, and which was guaranteed to them, which could not be denied. Everything that happened that was good was somehow denied to African-Americans, but under the Social Security Act, there was no such distinction made, and so it was a real breakthrough. To them, it simply mean, meant, at that time, that as they grew older, they knew that they would gain this as a matter of right. They knew that their children, under childcare, which later became the AFDC and Medicaid, and so forth, they knew that this was an opportunity that they could pass on to the next generation. So it was revolutionary, and a great, great day, not only in American life but I think an outstanding day, similar to the Emancipation Proclamation among African-Americans.

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QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

OK, were folks angry that domestic workers were left out of this, though?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

At first, obviously, there was this omission, there was the omission of domestic workers, but that was soon repaired, and on the state level we moved to do it, we moved to get those benefits for domestics on the state level. But at that time, and later, obviously, domestic service was not as important to blacks as other occupations, and are we getting, sort of anticipating a later period, when domestic service was no longer the major activity or source of income for black Americans.

INTERVIEWER:

Can we cut a second, please?

[cut]
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QUESTION 24
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INTERVIEWER:

OK, 1934, what were your hopes and fears, your personal hopes and fears?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

In 1934, we in the state were highly involved in civil rights, I would say that we had a civil rights movement prior to the one in the 60's. I have indicated that there were signs throughout the state that indicated that blacks were not welcome in places of public accommodation. Traveling was a problem, at first it was directed against the Chinese, Orientals, who could not ride street-cars in some places throughout the state. At that time we moved to strengthen our civil rights act, we had a civil rights act in California very early, but it was not very strong and it was very poorly enforced. So we moved to strengthen that, and I would say, in the period from about '32 to about '40, that the great impetus was in strengthening the civil rights act. We were not as much concerned with other issues as we were with the one, great issue of civil rights.

INTERVIEWER:

Was this your personal feel, [sic] hope?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

It was my personal hope that, as a member of the state legislature, we could strengthen the act, so that we could in effect allow minorities to ride undisturbed on street-cars, to testify in the courts where white persons were concerned, in order to break down segregation in the schools, the schools were highly segregated, and also—

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

—we were just starting out to strengthen the law which would protect minorities against restrictive covenants. They couldn't buy in certain neighborhoods, because they were restricted.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

OK, we're out of, we're out of film for right now.

INTERVIEWER:

Oh.

[audio cuts out]
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QUESTION 25
[slate marker visible on screen] [change to camera roll: 314:46] [sound roll 314:24]
INTERVIEWER:

OK, tell us what motivated you to run for State Assembly.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

I'm often asked, what motivated me to run for public office at that time, to run for the State Assembly. One, I think, has to put it into proper perspective. In the state of California we had one official, one African-American elected official, and that official happened to come from our community. The individual was very conservative, a dyed-in-the-wool Republican, who did not really do much in terms of the needs of the people, was not concerned with jobs, and housing, and civil rights, and so forth, but merely because he was black, was supported rather with great pride by a community that felt that that was the only official we had, he's ours, and we've got to elect him. And so, a group of us, young people, having graduated from college and without jobs, felt that that indicated to the, to the state and to all forces throughout the state, that we were not really meaningful, we had no power, we had a voice that didn't speak for us, and so we decided that that individual had to be defeated in order to turn things around. We supported a candidate in 1932 in order to defeat that individual. The candidate lost, because the candidate had really been put in by the opposition, and so we decided that, among this little group of young people, that we had to put one of our own up, and I happened to be selected by that group, and supported. For that reason, I ran, and happened to be elected in that election.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, thanks. Can you cut?

[cut]
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QUESTION 26
[slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Marker.

INTERVIEWER:

OK. In 1937 there was the so-called Roosevelt Recession. What effect did this recession have on California?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Near the end of the decade of the30s, there was a reaction to the New Deal programs. Business interests that had really profited under the New Deal, decided that it was too revolutionary, that in some way various activities would be nationalized, or that the so-called private enterprise would be somewhat diminished by national regulations and social programs. A recession developed, and we began to see unemployment again, that we had escaped a decade earlier. As a result of that, the New Deal was hard-pressed to think of new programs...Mr. Roosevelt persisted, however, and at first there was an attempt to balance the budget. When that failed, failed to produce the kind of economic activity that was needed to put people to work, Mr. Roosevelt just thought of new agencies, and just kept thinking of new agencies to put people to work, to provide for those who were in hardship, or distressed, and so we began to see again some of the agencies that were earlier created, such as an extension of the Works Progress Administration, the Public Works Administration, and so on. So, instead of having people idle, or go on the dole, we had new agencies that created jobs, building bridges, preparing buildings that needed preparing, the concept being, put people to work doing that, which would not compete with the private sector.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can you cut?

[cut] [slate marker visible on screen]
INTERVIEWER:

There were, there must have been cuts in California, as a result of this.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

All of the activity that I've indicated was happening on the national scene, was duplicated, on a smaller scale, within the state. The state was beginning to develop some huge projects, which did employ people. We had to go over to the Colorado River to get water, so that we had to build a transmission line. That employed a large number of individuals. We had to go three hundred miles to the high Sierras to get a water supply for the city, so the metropolitan water district became a most important thing for the development of Southern California. And so in terms of building flood control, getting a water supply, irrigating the farms of the various valleys, individuals were employed. This was a type of work which gradually we got minorities into. Proud of that time. Many had been sent over the mountains, what we call the mountains was a ridge route to San Francisco, in order to pick cotton in the valley. That was a temporary type of work. Harvesting the crops, but-

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QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

So, so, so when they cut the money, what happened? When there was less money in the state, did these projects fall through?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The projects were primarily supported by taxpayer's money. The metropolitan water district consisted not only of Los Angeles, but every small town in Southern California that needed a water supply. So the money came from bond issues, and the people taxing themselves in order to support them. The generation of power from the Colorado River, the old Boulder Dam Project, as it was earlier called, was federally supported, but it was a regional project, localized primarily in California, which needed the power more than any of the other states in the Southwest.

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

But indirectly, there were such projects as this, that kept the people employed.

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QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

OK, all right. What, at the end of the decade, basically the New Deal started unraveling. What did you feel about this?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

Well, as the, as the Work Projects idea became obsolete, or didn't employ enough people, we began anticipating the arming of the country for the, what became World War II. So along with such international episodes as Mussolini going into Ethiopia, the Germans going into Czechoslovakia and so forth, there was a great amount of activity started in California, because of its climate, in, in preparing for a defense posture, and that began to employ people. While it accelerated much more, later, it started about '35, between '35 and '40, 1940.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, can we cut?

[cut]
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QUESTION 29
[slate marker visible on screen]
CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

Mark. Go.

INTERVIEWER:

OK, go ahead. Well, tell me about the sense of lost as the New Deal closed in California.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

In California, we never really marked the close of the New Deal. I would say that we suffered less than the rest of the country. California was a progressive state, is, much more progressive than even now, and we were moving ahead in order to anticipate an increased prosperity. We were beginning through universities, through California Technology, through Stanford, University of California system, and such universities, to develop outstanding products and actually, we were on the, we saw the verge of growing technology, and in many places we were quite advanced. Now, I'm not saying that that kept up, but at that time with respect to the rest of the country, we were doing extremely well. Agriculture was highly productive, we had mechanized farms, we had specialty crops, and I would say it was to a long time of a leading industry [sic].

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QUESTION 30
INTERVIEWER:

What about the War? Did that have any effect on the state, the coming of the War?

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

The, of course, the war effort was more highly developed in the 40's than in the decade of the 30s, but our defense industries were developed, and ship-building, aircraft, and allied industries. So we were ahead of the rest of the country.

INTERVIEWER:

Were people coming from other places to—

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

It's pretty obvious that out of this activity we attracted people from all over the country. We, as a result of that, had problems—

[camera cuts out, audio continues]
AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

—because we not only attracted engineers and scientists and professionals, but we also attracted individuals who were, in a sense, the victims of poverty elsewhere, and—

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

AUGUSTUS HAWKINS:

For a long time we had problems with that, because California had earlier attempted to put up a blockade to stop people at the border, which was declared unconstitutional, fortunately, but we accepted them in terms of welfare benefits. It was said that our benefits were better than most of the other country, other states', however that is no longer true.

INTERVIEWER:

Right, OK, we're, we're out of film.

CAMERA CREW MEMBER:

 [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] 

INTERVIEWER:

OK.

[audio cuts out]
[end of interview]