Camera Rolls: 102:34-42 (Pilot)
Sound Rolls: 102:22-23 (Pilot)
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Dave Moore , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on June 27, 1990, 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.*
Mr. Moore, in the late '20s, why were people attracted to Detroit?
People were attracted to Detroit like they were attracted to any place. That's where there's money and possibility of better living conditions or better ways of supporting their families. Blacks were attracted to Detroit for many reasons, well, I won't say many, but for one particular reason. At that time, the exodus was taking place from the South, if you remember. And this was right after World War I. A lot of black servicemen had returned to the South. Even though they'd been fighting for democracy and all that, and they didn't find it. And with the industrial revolution beginning right after the World War I, and the opening of jobs in the industrial areas, especially here in the city of Detroit, blacks and a lot of Southern whites were lured to Detroit because of possibility of getting jobs, number one, and getting better conditions to live for number two.
What'd your father say to you?
What did he say to me?
Yeah. Your father was interested in coming to Detroit. What did he say to you?
Well, you got to back a little bit in my family. I was originally born in South Carolina. My father was a fireman on a train in South Carolina. They wouldn't, a white man would not fire a train in the South at that time. That was below his dignity, to be a fireman on a train. The white persons in the engine would only be there as engineers, running the train. I had an uncle living in Columbus, Ohio. And my uncle had told my father about how much money he could make by coming to Columbus, Ohio. Instead of firing a train there, he could probably get a job in Columbus, Ohio firing a train. Lo and behold, when he got into Ohio, they wouldn't hire blacks to fire trains in Columbus. It was vice versa from what it was in the South. That was too, that was a job that no blacks could have. And after we settled in Ohio for some time, about five years, my daddy had been working as a construction worker, and he and my mother came over to Ohio, over to Detroit one weekend to see a cousin. He was on a, what you call, an excursion. They would run excursion trains from Columbus, Ohio to Detroit. Most people were coming to get some Canadian whiskey, liquor. You know, at that time it was, you know, well, well, go to the Motor City and you can get whiskey from Canada. My mom and dad, you know, neither one of them drank it. But anyway, I had a, he had a cousin working here, and somehow he convinced my father he could make more money in Detroit than he could in Columbus. And my father, back and forth on the weekends, he and my mother would come over. So finally he decided to come over and give it a trial round. And, and that trial round resulted about three or four months later in my mother and father moving to Detroit. That's what brought me to Detroit, Michigan.
How'd he tell you to move, I mean, the news of this? How did he tell you that?
Well, we were all going to school. You've got to remember, I came from a large family, with seven boys and two girls. And he would write letters back home, and finally he came home on the weekend, he got us all together, and he told us we, that he and my mother had decided to move to Detroit because of the money involved, and we could get better, he could get better pay, and all of us could be going to school here in the city of Detroit, which would make it better, and how much money his cousin was making over there. I didn't want to come. In fact, when my older brothers, I, out of the seven boys, I'm between the first three and the last three, the two girls were older than all of us, none of us seemed to want to come at the time, but my uncle had a lot of kids our age. But we finally decided, and he broke it to us that, "No, this is upsetting, again, but I think it'd be better if all of us stayed together. Let's go to Detroit. There I can get a job that pays much more money. You can go to school there. There's possibilities after you get out of school. You can get a job with General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, and that's where the bulk of black people are." Well, it was Negro people at that time, or colored people. There was some hesitancy on the part of my older brother, the two older brothers. But anyway, we came. And my father did get a, get a job, and he was making $5 a day. That was some big money. And I ran away three times, going back to Ohio. I didn't like Detroit. Last time I ran away I had six cents in my pocket over in Toledo, Ohio, going back to Columbus, Ohio November the 11th. My daddy, the state police called him, told him, "Come over and get this guy." My daddy told me, "It's the third time you've run away. I'm taking you back to Detroit, and if you do it again, blah, blah, blah." And I heeded my daddy's advice and stayed here. And that was the beginning of my full-time residency here in the city of Detroit.
In 1929, something happened here. What happened to Detroit in 1929?
Well, to know what happened to Detroit in 1929, you would have to live here in 1929 to see what happened. In fact, all hell broke loose. The bottom dropped out. That was the beginning of the Depression. People called it the Great Depression. Banks closed. They would run on banks. People who had had some savings began to go to banks and got what money they had out. People who were living, we called at that time, high on the hog, middle class and the upper class, they began to be the first ones to get to the banks. And, as a result of that, the Depression set in. The factories began to lay off. People became unemployed. And you had a lot of suicides here in Detroit, people committing suicide because they lost their money. And from 1929 on, it got worse. It didn't get any better, got worse. And the, some of the trials and tribulations that people had to go through during that Depression, sometime I, I'd even been a little reluctant to talk about it, because being an eyewitness to it, and to survive it and still be around brings back a hell of a bitter recollections and memories.
If you walked down the streets of Detroit in 1930, what would you see?
If you would walk down the streets in Detroit in 1930, you would see people standing on street corners. You would see people, a few people having apples on the corner, selling them. You would see people discussing what should be done. You would hear people saying the leadership in Washington wasn't worth a damn. You would hear people say, "Where in the hell is the 'chicken in every pot'? The 'two cars in every garage'?" And you would hear them discussing, "Let's form our own party, the Republicans or Democrats aren't worth a damn." You would hear, you would go and see people on street corners holding meetings, or in the lot holding meetings. Each and every group who that leader was speaking to, that leader has his own opinion about how to survive, or what the country was not doing or what it was doing. You saw people hungry. You saw young men and women, parents who could no longer afford to, afford to send them to school. You saw people going up in alleys, looking in garbage cans to find what you'd, what was eatable [sic]. You saw people being evicted from their home because of non-payment of rent or because non-payment of mortgages or not paying on the home if they were buying it. You saw people discussing ways and means of, at that time, saying, "Let's march on Washington." You saw veterans who had been in World War I going to the veteran's post, the American Legion post, and saying that they had been betrayed. You saw church people asking you to come to church and pray to God for salvation and to relieve this way of living, the plague that had been brought on them. Then you saw people say that, "We're not going to take this any more" as the Depression went on. Then you begin to see formations of different organizations. You had the hate groups, you had the togetherness groups, you had the veterans groups, you had the beginning of the formation of the Unemployment Councils. You had—
Let me put a question to you first, before you go on. There's Detroit in 1928. Then there's Detroit in 1930, '31. What's the difference?
Detroit in 1928 and Detroit in 1930, '31 were hell of a lot of different. People
were working in 1928. And in 1929 that's when it hit. In 1930, from 1929 on, that's
when the Depression hit and it was downhill. 1928, everybody was working. People were
living [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] each other. There was a
lot of social gatherings going on. The parks were filled every Sunday and Saturday
afternoon. You had the theaters going, and you had the burlesque going, you had the
speak-easies going. You know what a speak-easy is? You've heard of them, no doubt.
That was before Prohibition [sic], if you remember. And you'd go to one of these
joints and knock on the door, and the guy'd look out, and if you're all right you can
come and you can buy yourself some beer or some alcoholic beverages.
And you had the big bands, you had your dance halls.
** Detroit was a hell of a town. It was real good, it was. The different nationalities were living close together. There were no outbursts of racism. Seemed, everybody seemed to, was congealed to a certain extant, that was one of these things that you could consider to a certain extent, you, "We are our brother's keeper," you know. But then 1929, when the Depression hit from then on, it was a different Detroit altogether, from the standpoint of unemployment and the attitude of the people, when I say Detroit differently altogether from the standpoint of living conditions, unemployment.
How important was Henry Ford in Detroit?
Henry Ford was important to Detroit in many ways. A lot of people who lived in Detroit worked for Henry Ford. To, to a certain extent that was pretty good because of the income. Henry Ford was also a detriment to the city of Detroit because of the conditions in the shop and the way that you had to almost give up your manhood to get a job there. The other one, about the different type of people he employed as the overseers of the Ford plant, goons he had hired to prevent unions from coming in, ex-cons he had on as service people. He would get them paroled from the different prisons he had here in Michigan, and he would hire them for the sole objective of preventing unions in hope to keep order in the plant. He was an individual that I would say in certain ways contributed a lot to the economy. But then contributing to the economy, he took that back by doing, as I said before, preventing unions, had a financial stranglehold on the city of Detroit, and, to a certain extent, on the city of Dearborn and some of the outlying communities. Because if you've got to remember, Ford was the first one to offer five bucks a day. That was a hell of a lot of money at that time. And when that was announced, you had people coming from everywhere to work for Ford Motor Company. The difference is, you, the question you asked was, the bottom is line from 1928 to 1930 and on, from 1930 on, 'til 19--, 'til the war began, was that, financially, from 1928 to 1930 Henry Ford was, I would say, I key figure in the economy of the city of Detroit.
At one point you said in you, in your tape interview that he, he was the kingpin. He ran Dearborn, and he wanted to run Detroit.
That's right. He, he ran Dearborn, everybody who, practically, well, not everybody, but he had a lock hold, financial lock hold on Dearborn. And he dictated the policies of what the city of Dearborn should do, when they'd do, and how they'd do it. And he had laws passed where you couldn't pass out any literature on the streets of Dearborn. He financially, by paying taxes to the city of Dearborn, he controlled it.
What'd he want from Detroit?
All Henry Ford wanted from Detroit was some hell of a manpower to work in his plant. And he would like to have also controlled Detroit politically. But, to a certain extent, that didn't happen. Most certainly, he had people in high places in Detroit, elected people in high places in Detroit who catered to Mr. Ford, who bowed to his wishes, but in the main, I think, most of the politicians were, to a certain extent, independent, and far beyond, well, the, what the politicians of the city of Dearborn were to Henry Ford.
How did your family get by?
Well, we got by just like any other family had to get by. We were, as you remember, back at that time, they didn't have gas furnaces. We burned coal to keep your house warm in the winter time. All of us would go outside in the winter to shovel sidewalks, to haul ashes out of basements of people, 15 cents, 15 cents was a hell of a lot of money. Shovel a sidewalk, and carried out all of their ashes out of the basement, dump them in the alley. We would go to the market to help the farmers unload their food. We would jump on the train to keep warm in the winter time, a freight train, when it was loaded with coal going down over here on the East Side. We would throw off coal, take home, and challenge the railroad detectives. Not only my family did it, all families did it, black and white families. That's what I think is missing today. The black and white families at that time were, they, they was under the same roof. Nobody could claim, "I'm better than you because of my income," because everybody was getting kicked in the rear because of the Depression at the time. And they had acknowledged that. Their own appearance showed it. Their living conditions showed it. Their homes showed it. And you've got to remember there were seven husky boys in my family, and just only two girls. And it was hard. I left home along with my brothers, sometime, when we would, my mama would cook dinner just to make it possible for my younger brothers, my sisters, my mom and daddy to eat. I wouldn't eat. My other brothers'd do the same. I was hungry as hell, but my mother and my dad, well, they'd say, "Come back! Sit at the table, come on and eat." So, "Well, now, I'm going down to Brewster Center, down to the gym, and work out." We played basketball in the winter time, played baseball on the playground in the summer time. But hungry as hell, but what we would do, the Eastern Market wasn't too far, not too far from here, say, we all ate apples that, that, that'd been injured, that the farmers discard, try to the sell them, well, we'll take them. Take that rotten part off and eat the good part. Bring it home and peel it, have your mother make some apple jelly, or make some fruit out of it. Boil it, fry it, or whatever, what, potatoes the same way. You got to remember, we still had Grosse Pointe. Grosse Pointe is the, was, and still is the financial... uptight, upper crust part of the city of Detroit. You had millionaires living there. But they also had their trials and tribulations, because the income they'd been accustomed to was not as great as it had been. But they were still living 100,000% better than we were. But they needed our services. Services included, again, I repeat that, cutting their lawns in the summer, having your mother, your sister, doing domestic work for them, or my father chauffeuring for them. My mother never did do any domestic work. My father never did do any chauffeur. I think that was because my mother had a large family. We were proud that we were able to have her stay home with, with us. And we would do they work, whatever we could get. You got to remember, the cost of living was so far down, it wasn't high like it is here, you could get a quart of milk for four cents. You could get a dozen eggs for three cents. You could get a slab of bacon like that [gestures] for 35 cents, that's a slab of bacon. But where in the hell was you going to get the four cents? Where were you going to get the 35 cents? That was the big question. You could get a steak dinner for 40 cents. You could get a rib steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, cup of coffee, apple pie, ice cream on it, for 40 cents. That was a big deal.
You asked how we got by, that was how we got by, by doing whatever we could.
Mr. Moore, could you describe, where were you standing when you saw this, this March 30th, March 1930?
Do you remember where you were standing when you saw that?
I was standing on the front of the old Roxy Theater on Woodward Avenue.
I'm sorry, could you start again? I, I stepped in your word.
I was standing in the front of the old Roxy Theater on Woodward Avenue. And the parade itself was, again, an indication of dissatisfaction of the people with the situation they had to live under. And I think it was not only dissatisfaction but it inspired many people to move on, to try to move to see what else could be gained by being together. Of course at that time, as I say, Detroit was a city of despair, a city of uncertainty, a city of many ethnic groups, a city who'd seen the promises that seemed to have existed before had completely gone. And the question is, where the hell do we go from here? The question was at that time, where do we go from here?
OK. Can you describe, you were involved in, your first action was involved in an eviction which you witnessed. Can you tell me about that eviction? Be as vivid as you can.
Well, you know, I indicated before, so many people were unemployed. They had no kind of financial income at all. They didn't have any finances for food. They didn't have any finances for clothes. They didn't have any finances for medical care. They didn't have any financial aid for any kind of a support at all, and especially those people who were renters at the time. And the landlords, they were suffering also, but homeowners, who are the property owners, I would put it, who owned these homes that were being rented to people, they were being pushed to pay taxes. They didn't have a damn thing to pay taxes with. In turn, they pushed the people who were, they rented these places, too, to pay the rent. In turn, those people couldn't pay the rent, because they didn't have any money coming in to pay the rent. So what would happen, they would go to the courts and get eviction notices, permits, rather, to evict these people. The evictions was something real bad to see. January, when you see families being set out in the snow, three and four and five inches of snow, and with the mother holding maybe a two months old baby or maybe a three months old baby, and the others huddled around her and the husband, and it was hard as hell for people to take. And this went on for some time, and out of that came some resistance. The resistance came from a lot of people in the neighborhood. I remember the first one I saw, I didn't know what the hell it was all about, but we were behind on our rent, five months behind, at the time. And they had evicted a family on the block that I, where I lived. And one of the guys said, "Well, let's send them back in." We wanted to beat the hell out of the process service at the time, but they said, "Look, I'm getting 75 cents to do this," that's what they were paying these guys, 75 cents to go out to evict them, "and I don't give a damn what you do after I leave." But that's what we decided to do. After he, they would leave, we'd go put the people back in. That, that, that began to spread, not only our block, all over the East Side. And the police at that time was paying the police officers at that time $23 a week in scrip. They weren't getting back in American money. The policemen were being paid in scrip. So they had a hell of a hard way to go. So we decided that any time they set anybody out in our neighborhood we was going to put them back in the house. That's what we did. And that's how I got involved with the Unemployment Councils. Most of the people who were doing this were men or young men, whose mothers, whose fathers belonged to it, or mothers and fathers belonged to it, the Unemployment Council, or some of the leaders of the Unemployment Council there. But, mostly, it was just neighbor supporting a neighbor. If your family was being evicted we'd say, "What the hell are you doing here?" We would challenge those people, we would say, but, again, I repeat that they, they had their work to do, they were victims themselves. Some of those who were setting out people had got notices themselves. So it grew and grew and grew, 'til we really had a situation here in Detroit that, as fast as they would evict people, we would put them back in. And the police, what they were, they would turn their heads sometime and go the other way. They would try to put you back in. So what would happen, you would be what they'd call challenging the order of the court, or you would be in violation of a court order. But the same judge who gave that eviction notice, he himself had to get elected by these people here of the city of Detroit when election time came. And he was a little hesitant to send you to jail, you know, because he wanted to make that little buck what he was making to retain that job. But, all in all, I, I would say the, the, the evictions that took place on the east side of Detroit was one that if you could have some documentation of, movies could've been made of it, it would've been worth a million dollars today, to see some of the young men, and woman, young men and women, who formed brigades to help go back and set people back in their homes. And that's how people stayed. So, finally what happened to people who owned the homes, they couldn't keep up their mortgages on it, so they lost them, because they couldn't pay the mortgages, the owners couldn't. The people who were renting couldn't pay the rent. The, the city, who was expecting money from the owners, pay taxes on that home, wasn't getting any money. And the policemen who were supposed to be enforcing the law, they had been ordered by the judge to not to let these people—he was reluctant to do it because he himself was facing eviction. What the hell could he do with $23 a week in scrip [sic]? Not in American money, now. He had to take that money to a grocery store, that scrip to a grocery store to buy groceries, or to buy him a pair of shoes, or buy his wife a dress, or his kids something to eat. So that was the beginning of a possibility of a hell of a revolution, not, you know, the city of Detroit but all over this country. I don't think it was just confined in Detroit, but Detroit was one hell of a place at that time.
Now Mayor Murphy was a good guy, wasn't he?
Yeah. Murphy was a good guy, because you have to, to know why Frank Murphy was a good guy. He himself had seen his people persecuted in Ireland. Frank Murphy saw the British army drag some of his relatives behind a horse hen he was in Ireland growing up. And I think that had a bearing on Mayor Murphy for many, many years, in fact, up until he died. And once he was elected mayor of the city of Detroit, in his own way I think he tried to send a message to the people of the city of Detroit about how he felt personally about the plight, the hardships and all of the things that they had to live under, the families, the non-financial conditions they had. And definitely he was a good governor. You know, he went on to be governor of the state of Michigan. I don't know whether you wanted to make the jump from mayor to governor.
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
OK. And while he was mayor of the city of Detroit, I think there was, the people began to see in Murphy some of the things that they would like to have seen happen, if he could do some things for them. But the city of Detroit was broke, didn't have any money, just like any other city around, you know. But, well, federal help was coming in, was not enough to even make a dent for the unemployed people and the people that were living in Detroit. You didn't have any federal programs like we have now. You didn't have any kind of medical care. You didn't have any support for pregnant mothers. You did not have any Social Security. You didn't have any Medicare. You didn't have any social services agencies who's going to give you some help. What, hell, the Welfare Department they themselves went broke. The city didn't have any money to finance the department anymore. So Detroit, that's what I say, they had to resort to scrip. They didn't have any more money. And the only money they had was left in Detroit was what few banks stayed open and what money the big shots had out at Grosse Pointe.
And it was one of those cases then when a few had all of it and many didn't have a damn thing.
Could you tell me how you got involved in the Unemployment Councils and what they were like?
Well, yeah, as I indicated before, I got involved in when I got involved with these evictions. And the Unemployment Council was just what the word said, unemployed, you know, because so many people had been effected by the plants closing and the Depression. They were unemployed. And they were, the Unemployment Councils were something that, this was needless, "Why can't we be working? We're willing to work. We can make some money, we can spend some money." But it went beyond just unemployment, you know, discussions at the Council, you know. They got into the political part of it, the individuals who was holding public office come under either praise or attack. And finally those, one of these got to a point where, "Let's all of the unemployment councils get together, merge from all parts of the city. And, somewhere down the road, let's put on one hell of a display. Let's march on Ford. Let's march on General Motors. Let's march on Chrysler. Let's march on Thompson Products. Let's show our strength by our togetherness by letting them know that we've had it and we're going to show them that together we're going to get something." Then you had all different kinds of individuals who was espousing their thoughts about it. Some were Marxists, some were socialists, some were Democrats, some were dissatisfied Republicans, those, some were just individuals. Some were veterans from World War I, you know. And, but they all were, all of them had an objective. And that objective was, why, and what can we do to eliminate this situation that we all are confronted with. And the answer to that was, in my opinion, was when they decided they was going to put on this march. And a lot of people amazed that they did not think it would be involving the number of people that were involved. You had people that wasn't involved with the Unemployment Councils who took part in the march. But, to their credit, by block, by block, and by neighborhood, by neighborhood, the Unemployment Council was so effective practically everybody knew each other. And they, and by this knowing each other, and they said the [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] knew the Jones, the Washingtons knew the Stikowskies, the Stikowskies knew the Altmans, the Altmans knew the Gonzales, the Gonzales knew the, it was on and on, a mixture of ethnics and different nationalities, different religions, different colors, different neighborhoods, all of them confronted with the same thing. And to this day I give the Unemployment Councils much credit for bring to the attention and galvanizing and organizing the people in the city of Detroit to have some kind of way of expressing themself [sic] to reach, to try to reach some goal, to bring to the attention of the powers that be at that time in Washington, D.C. that this was a warning. This is a day that you're going to remember. We're going to have a day that you're going to remember. Whether it's today or whether it's tomorrow, you're going to recognize, or you're going to understand, or you're going to see some things that you won't believe that we will be willing to do to make this a better place to live. And that took place.
Can you describe how that came about? What did you see?
I saw it leading up, I don't know whether you want me to go into this or not, to the...
Well, maybe you could talk about Grand Circus Park, and what, how you saw it building up.
Yeah, well, here's, I, I, some time ago I told you, man, you had all kinds of individuals who were good speakers. I don't think they were good just because they had went to school to take public speaking. I think they were damn good because the conditions they had to live under. They were giving their own opinions about how their family suffered. And they didn't have to give it because everybody knew it anyway. And when you take a group of people, I don't give a damn who they are, who've been subjected to unemployment, no income, and seen their families suffer over a period of time, the string is going to snap somewhere. And the meetings they used to have at Grand Circus Park, the meetings they had at the different neighborhoods, Polish neighborhood, all of them began to get together. And when that happened, one meeting of my group on the Unemployment Council on Erskine and Hastings Street in the city of Detroit, a resolution was put forward by a guy named Nelson Davis that we'd ask all the Unemployment Councils to join in a mass demonstration. And, well, nobody thought it would have the effect that it did, but I don't think it was the resolution itself that did it, I think it was just the attitudes and the minds of the people. And out of that came an agreement all over the city that they would have a march. And this march would be on Ford Motor Company for jobs. And it took place, 1932. But the history of that march, and the people who suffered, the people who died, the people who were injured, the people who were put in jail, drew the attention, not only nationwide, but, I think, worldwide, because, if you remember, there were five or six people who got killed in that march. Not because they did anything wrong, not because they had destroyed anything, not because they had fought anyone, but because the Ford Motor Company saw fit to stop it by bullets and clubs. And that's what they tried to do. I don't know whether you ever saw any pictures of that march on, on Miller Road, and what took place that day, but the outcome of that march, I, all kinds of estimates were given, 75,000, 100,000, 125,000, I don't know many, much, but I know there were many. Every nationality, every political line of thinking, every religious line of thinking, were put aside. There was no division along, on black and white, on Protestant and Catholic. The objective was to demonstrate before the Ford Motor Company that the conditions they, the people of the city of Detroit, and the suburbs, you had people from Melvindale, you had people from Lincoln Park, you had people from Highland Park, you had people from Hamtramck, these are all suburbs of the city of Detroit, I don't know whether you know about them or not, converged on the Ford Motor Company. Marched all the way from Detroit to Dearborn, crossed Dearborn line and into the city of Dearborn, onto the plant there on Miller Road. But he brutality that the Ford Motor Company resorted to was something that I'll always remember, always be in my mind, you know.
Can, can I stop you there?
Do you remember, you talked about Ford's Service Department? Who ran the Service Department? What kind of power did they have?
There was a guy named Harry Bennett. He had unquestioned power. He had unchallenged
power. And he had power far beyond the imagination of many people. And that power had
been given to him by Henry Ford himself. And it was a brutal system that they had. And
the answer to any resentment, or any kind of challenge to the Ford Motor Company why,
why you paid with your life in some instances. You got the hell beat out of you
physically, in some instances. And that was a, a real,
when you asked
** who, who gave you, how do you have the power,
** who had the power, well, the power was bestowed to him by Henry Ford himself.
** Harry Bennett ran the Service Department for Ford Motor Company. He was a ruthless damn no good son of a bitch. He's dead and gone, and I don't know whether he went to heaven or hell, but if he's down there in the furnace room I hope he burns.
Mr. Moore, can you describe that march, March 7, 1932?
Well, the march itself started in many communities, primarily it was in the city of Detroit. Ferry and Rivard street, where most you had up there were people from the Ukraine. You had Czechs. You had Romanians. You had many people from the Baltic states. Further down in the city you had the black neighborhood, Hastings Street, St. Antoine Street, Rivard Street. Then you had the Jewish community. Then you had the Italian community. And you actually [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] the, the march started here in the city of Detroit. But, and as they began to move out of Detroit into the, going through the other areas of the suburbs, like Dearborn, then you had people from what you call the down-river, Inkster, Ecorse, River Rouge, Dearborn, Lincoln Park, Highland Park, Highland Park, Hamtramck, all joined in. We had no trouble 'til we got to the city limits of Detroit, went into Dearborn itself, place called Bebe Creek Park. And there all of assembled, and going from different parts, and we're going to march up to Miller Road. And when we got to Miller Road and Dix, that's when we were challenged by the Service Department and the City of Dearborn Police Department, and they told us we couldn't go any further. A quick meeting was held. And, but you've got to understand there were thousands and thousands of people. I don't know how many it was, some of the newspapers gave all kinds of versions of it, 75,000, 100,000, 125,000, 150, all in arms. But there were people who had never seen each other before from all of these communities, and from the city of Detroit, who has joined in the march. And we were challenged at the, the Miller Road and Dix Avenue, by the Service Department and the Dearborn Police Department. A quick meeting was held, and it was decided that we would march on. As the march began, the Ford Motor Company people opened up with water hoses, and that didn't stop, so another 200 or 300 yards, that's when the gunfire started. And, naturally, with thousands of people being involved and with the police, with the Ford Motor Company people shooting, the Police, Police Department wielding theirs club, blackjacks, and whatnot, naturally, people began to retreat, like any human being would with gunfire. We didn't have anything. Best thing we had probably was a match and a cigarette. But as the people began to fall, you could see blood. You could see one woman holding a young man in her arms dying. You could see police driving men and women, holding them, beating them, and, all in all, it was one hell of brutal display of terror by people in the Ford Motor Company's Service Department and the City of Dearborn Police Department. But the outcome of that was not only, in my opinion, many of us had expected since the, the unnecessary brutality that they displayed on that day, with the approval of the third largest corporate giant in the world, and that is the Ford Motor Company at that time. And I say with the approval, because damn sure they were representatives and no doubt had the orders from the top management of Ford Motor Company do, to do exactly what they did, and that was murder, number one, that was brutality, number two, and that was insensitivity to any people, number three, and on and on. But those people who died on Miller Road that day died for a cause. They died because they wanted to see a better country. They died because they knew that in this country where we live they should not, and their families should not, have to suffer like they were doing, as they were at the time. And they, they died because they was firmly convinced that, somewhere, something was wrong. And that day I, I grew up to be a man that, that time. And I saw the blood that was on Miller Road, and I saw those people being shot down. And that day I decided that, from then, whatever it takes, I was going to do whatever I could to correct the situation. Well, I did it. Some people say, not only me, others as well. Some called me a radical. Some called me a communist. Some called me a no good so-and-so-and-so. But people who brand people with these kind of names, whatnot, people who didn't have to live under these conditions, people who didn't see this brutality take place, people who didn't see women being clubbed like animals, people who didn't see young men in the boom of their life, eighteen, nineteen, twenty, twenty-one years old, being murdered, openly murdered, without... there was no resistance, you know. Just say, "We're going to march." And, to this day, the blood of those people is on, on the hand of the Ford Motor Company. The blood that flowed that day between the blacks and whites on Miller Road brought together a togetherness that still exists in the Ford Motor Company, among the workers of the Ford to this day. Many who took part in that march have passed on, but they have sons, they have grandsons, or daughters or granddaughters. Some of them are still working at the Ford Motor Company today. Those who paid with what, the last thing they had and that is life itself, I don't think the payment was in vain, because it paved the way, later on, for the union to get in Ford's. And the blood that flowed that day on Miller Road between the black and the white people was blood that banded together the black and white people of the city of Detroit and some of the suburbs, especially those who had been employed by the Ford Motor Company or laid off, and especially those who later became employees of the Ford Motor Company. And it made possible a friendship among the—
Can you tell me, can you tell me about your friend Joe York?
Well, Joe York was a friend—
[ gap: ;reason: inaudible ]
But let, let me go back a little farther before I tell you about—and at that day, what happened that day, paved the way, later on, for the union to get in Ford, because if it had not been for that march, and the people who participated in the march, and the people who survived that march, I do not think the Ford Motor Company would have been organized by the union as quickly as it was. Because, if you remember, Ford was the last one of the Big Three to be organized. General Motors was organized first, Chrysler was second, and Ford—we organized General Motors back in 1937. And it took us all the way from 1937 to 1941 to organize Ford. And Chrysler came [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . But the people who, who survived that march and the participation that they engaged in later on to help bring the union into Ford, into, into the Ford plant, made it possible for a lot of other people to be where they are today. And it was the blood that flowed between the black and white on Miller Road that day set up a bond of friendship between the blacks and the whites in the Ford plant that still exists today to some extent. Because out of organizing Ford Motor Company, the Rouge Plant, also came organization of Local 600. And you still see in Local 600 the brotherhood, the tranquility, the friendship, and the togetherness of that you'd never see any place throughout the whole UAW in this country. You'd never see that kind. Ford Local 600, through its black and white membership, pioneered many progressive things.
Were Henry Ford and Herbert Hoover linked in your mind?
Well, you've got to understand, at that time, Herbert Hoover was a president that had no consideration for the people at all. He had no consideration for the people at all because he didn't do anything to try to make it possible that some people, that people in the country could get some—
So Ford and, and Herbert Hoover were great friends. How, did they share the same philosophies in your mind?
In my opinion, they did, because, I indicated before, Hoover didn't seem to give a damn about the plight of the people. And Henry Ford didn't seem to give a damn about the plight of the people, only when he did, it was to his advantage, not to the people's advantage. And the relationship between Ford and Hoover at the time was such that, during the time that Hoover was president, that they had much in common. They had much in common from the standpoint that they... Hoover did not do anything to have Ford Motor Company, as the President of the United States, to say, "Well, we're going to...if, if you're going to lay off people like this, the federal government will try to do something to help you. What can we do?" And Ford didn't ask for a damn thing. And I don't think it was necessary for him to ask for him to ask for anything, because of the relationship that he had with President Hoover at the time. Now, I don't know, I can't give you any authentic answer about what knowledge I have that they were close friends. I don't know. I can only go by what I witnessed at the time, and the experiences that I had to go through at the time when both of them were at the height of their power, he being the President, and Ford being the owner of Ford Motor Company. He didn't do anything from a federal level to help the unions get into Ford. He didn't do anything from a federal level to protect the workers of Ford Motor Company. He didn't do anything from a federal level to offer anything to the veterans who were in World War, who were employed at the Ford Motor Company at the time. In fact, the veterans themself [sic], as you mentioned a little while ago, they had to demonstrate themselves by going to Washington. And you know what happened there. MacArthur ruthlessly beat the hell out of them. And many of those veterans who went to Washington were also former employees of Ford Motor Company. And, answer to your question, in my own thinking, yeah, I think they was close friends of understanding to preserve the status quo and to not do anything that they thought would help better the situation. I don't have any proof on my own that, of this, but actions speak louder than words.
OK, I'm going to go back to the other, the other thing. What was the press reaction to the, the events of that march? To the, to the massacre?
I know probably you've seen some of the headlines of the at that time. The was owned solely, hook, line, and sinker, by a guy named Randolph Hearst. And Randolph Hearst had never been friends with the working people. But they had to question whether it was necessary that the brutality had been waged by the service people of the Ford Motor Company and the Dearborn Police Department. Was it necessary they had to resort to this kind of brutality onto the people who was in the march? Then, then Ford made the accusation, Ford made the accusation that all of these people were communists.
Can you say, starting that again, "Ford made the..."
Made some accusations—
Could you start by saying Henry Ford, because we need to identify him.
Henry Ford had said the communists had tried to take over his plant. And the newspapers played that up to a certain extent. But both, there were three newspapers at the time, at that time. There were , the , and the . Two of them are still in existence now, that's the and the ; the closed some years ago. But the press, what's, the question you asked was, what was the reaction of the press? The press reaction was mixed, whether these people were trying to take over the Ford Motor Company plant, or whether they were just ordinary working people who were seeking some answers to the unemployment problem. As I indicated, the said they questioned whether it was necessary for the Ford Motor Company to resort to the measures that they did in taking away the lives of these people. But the press being what they were at that time, naturally, we didn't get any, I don't think we got any favorable publicity, other than that one statement made by the at the particular time that questioned the, whether it was necessary for this kind of action to be taken. And whether the government was going to interfere. The press being the press like they are, they're no different, in my opinion, than what they are now, they will always side with the powers that be. The press will always try to stick to the status quo. You may find some individuals who write for the press may take a little different line once in a while, and, like it was at that time. But, in the main, the press didn't do anything to help the cause, other than mention about was it necessary to resort to this kind of action.
OK. Can I ask you, they played "The Internationale" at the funeral. Do you remember that?
They did what?
They played "The Internationale."
Yeah. Yeah. They played "The Internationale" at the funeral. Yeah. Yeah. I never have said, even up to this day, that there wasn't some communists there. And I never, and I won't back off of that, because some people who admitted they were communists gave leadership. They were, they helped organize the march. They was involved in the Unemployment Councils. And there were other people who were not communists who was involved in the, in the Unemployment Council. There were many people in that march didn't even know how to spell the word "communist" at that time. There were individuals in that march who were preachers. There were church people in that march. There were workers in that march. There were women in that march. There were men in that march. There were kids in that march. And if they played "The Internationale," which they did, what the hell that had to do with it, you know, if they played "The Internationale"? If they played "The Internationale" from a standpoint that this was something of togetherness, that all the people who were being oppressed, all the people who were pushed aside, all the people who were denied, all the people who were seeking a better way of life, what's the difference of playing "The Internationale" because, at that time, I think most of the people didn't have any faith in playing the national anthem. The national anthem had been played over and over again, but there still, the conditions still existed. And I don't say just because "The Internationale" was played it was going to better the, the condition, but you got to also remember that the national anthem was played also. That's, a lot of people don't mention that. They want to make hay out of the fact it, it, well "The Internationale" was played, and this must've been sponsored or been part of a world revolution that was advocated by Russia. That came into play. All of that was said. But out of those thousands of people there, if all of them had been communists, I'm damn sure it would've been a different situation than what it was, and that nobody can tell me that all of those people who took part in that march were all communists. I'm going to say yeah, some were, and they openly admitted that they were, some were not, and some were opposed to the communists at that march, opposed to them because of, number one, because of the, the political aspect, but not from the objective itself. And they would express themselves that way. But to try to make hay of this because "The Internationale" was played, as a justification to protect the Ford Motor Company, those people don't know what the hell it was all about, who would, who would, those people who would make that kind of statement, if indeed that was the cause of them making the statement, to say that "The International," inasmuch as "The International" was played that all of these people were communists. No. I don't buy that.
Mr. Moore, could you please tell me what you saw during the massacre, when Joe got killed?
During the mass what?
During the Ford March, right at Gate Three, when Joe got killed?
Well, a few minutes after the gunfire opened up, I saw Joe turn and hold his chest [gestures] and fall to the ground. And I went over, another guy named Chris Alston and I went over to Joe, and Chris put his arm under his head, and all I can remember seeing Joe's eyes blink like this [gestures] and his head dropped. And it was something that, to see a friend of yours pass out like that, it was real bad. People began to scream, and I saw the guys begin to fall. I saw a black woman holding Coleman Leny in her arms. Coleman had been shot also. He died on Miller Road. And people began to scream and holler, "Go away! Go away! They got guns! They got guns!" And to witness people being shot down in the presence of you, it was not a good thing. I could see if it was a time of war, maybe, you'd been prepared for it. I could see if it was some hostility that you know you were going into it expecting some kind of a fight back from whoever you were confronting. But not expecting it, and to see people you'd been acquainted with and friends of dropping at your feet, is not a good experience. And it's, it's hard to talk about it, but I guess sometimes it's necessary to let people know what actually happened there. And I appreciate that you asked me the question because I feel as though that, even at this late date, the people should know actually what happened at, in that march on Ford Motor Company, 1932. I don't claim to have all the answers as to what happened there. I can only speak for what I saw and what I experienced. And what I saw and what I experienced, I hold it totally against the Ford Motor Company to this day. And I will never forgive them. And I will never forget. The people who gave their lives that day to make it possible for this country, the city of Detroit, would have a better way of governing the people, be a better way for people to understand and to live together, and I'll also never forget that, to me, again, it was the opening day for the union to come into Ford, because it did later on, some years later. And those who did die on Miller Road that day, we owe them a debt that we will never be able to pay, because they gave all they had, that is life itself, to make it possible for some of us to survive.
You were a pallbearer, weren't you? Can you describe...?
I was an honor guard, yeah.
Can you describe their funeral?
Hundreds of people passed, thousands of people passed the caskets into Hall up on Ferry and Rivard. And the funeral procession was long. Many thousands of people took place, participated in the funeral. You had expressions of sympathy coming from many, many different people. You had the press was there. And the families of those who were the victims of the, of the Ford Motor Company's attack were both black and white. And it brought us... at that funeral was a real sad affair. Sidewalks was crowded. The many friends of those who, who even were not at the march showed up. And it'll be a day of remembrance, especially those of us who are still around, it'll make us know that what those guys did, and the things that they wanted to see happen, some of the people are reaping the benefits of it today, because if it had not been for them, I don't think this town would have been the town that it turned out to be later on, because people were prepared to, not only here in Detroit, to do something real drastic. I don't think that we'd have, we, as a country, we'd have had the same way of governing ourselves as we have now. I think the people, whether it would've been good or bad, I do not know. But the people were, in this town, and I believe other places as well, were prepared in organizing to do some things on their own, because they could not continue to live under the conditions that the federal government and the corporations had imposed on them. It was a day of sadness in this town on the day of that funeral.
When Henry Ford closed his auto plant in August 1931, what kind of effect did that have on the city?
Well, I mentioned before, it had a hell of a financial effect on the city, because a lot of people who lived in Detroit were employees of the Ford Motor Company. And when he closed the plant, naturally, that had an economic effect on, not only the people who had been laid off, but on the city as a whole. And it didn't improve, it got worse, because they had no other place to go. Chrysler wasn't hiring. General Motors wasn't hiring. In fact, they began to lay off, themselves. As you've got to remember, this was an auto-industrial town. There was no other economy here. This whole town was built around automobiles. And if you wasn't an auto worker, you were in a plant where they made the automobiles, you're working in a place where they make parts for the automobiles. And you can see the effect it, what Ford did, and depending on some of the parts, glass and different places like that, tires, all of it, began to suffer. Some of the plants who supplied the Ford Motor Company were suffering, supplied General Motors, they had to lay off. But what you had was an area of starvation. What you had was an area and a time of deprivation. What you had was an area, a time of non-care on the part of the federal government and, to a certain extent, the city government, because the city government could only do so much without the help of the federal government. And as a result, it had an effect on everybody that lived in the city of Detroit. In fact, it boiled down, just a few had every damn thing, and the many didn't have anything. That's what it had, it just was a...well, to survive, you had to be strong, you had to suffer, you had to see your family be deprived of certain things, you, you had to beg, you had to plead, you had to ask, and you were denied in most cases. But again, I repeat, it was the many, the many didn't have anything, and the few had it all. They money was tied up just by a few people, not only...especially here in Detroit. It was the auto barons who had the money, the auto barons and the property owners. They had the money. And when Ford laid off, and they held theirs, the auto barons held their money, and the people who were depending on them for survival or for financial income didn't have anything. And I could go back again, you didn't have any federal agencies looking out for you, now—
Can you tell me about Joe, Joe York?
Joe York was a typical young, energetic man, young man, who came along, time of the Depression. I got acquainted with Joe during the Unemployment Councils. And Joe was one of the first guys that I got acquainted with by helping people back into their homes after they were evicted. And I struck up a relationship with him that lasted up until his death. In fact, on the march, Joe and I, from time to time, was marching together on our way to the Ford Motor Company. And he was a guy that color didn't mean anything to him. And he demonstrated that in many ways. He and I, Chris Alston, another young black guy, Chris is still alive today, struck up a friendship where we always did some things to help the people. And Joe went out his way to do things, such as if he had anything that he thought other people could share it, he would do it. For example, Joe would be throwing coal off the freight trains over on the Pere Marquette Railway, put them in a basket, and he'd come back through the neighborhood and share that coal with some of the neighbors in the neighborhood, take the rest of it home. One, I used to see him help elderly people cross the street. Again, I emphasize this, it wasn't white people, it was black people, even though Joe was white himself, he would try to do things to help people who couldn't help themselves. And he was a guy that always, in my opinion, that wanted to see things better for people, and to see things better for those who wanted to see things better. I don't know what I can say other than to say he was a, he was a man of the people at that time, a young man in the bloom of his life, just beginning, his life just beginning to bloom. And he, if he had've lived, if he hadn't been murdered, I think he could've made a lot of contributions to the city of Detroit for his understanding of people, and his interest in better living conditions for the people, and also his thoughts about togetherness of all people. He, not only he, but the others who was murdered on that day, was young men that most of us had the same problems. There were no different problems whether you were black or whether you were white. All of us were same, were faced with the same problems. And Joe's willingness to participate and to defy the gods of the Ford Motor Company, was, indeed to me, an act that, he'll live forever for those who saw what happened on that day. And to give up his life, his life to be taken by the Ford Motor Company, like it were a... had a bearing on many of us who survived that march. And out of that, we were determined that those who died that day, they did not die in vain, and we was going to do everything we could to carry on in the tradition the Joe York, Coleman Leny, Curtis Williams, and the others who died did not die in vain, but were going to do whatever we could to make it possible their dream would live on. I, I know it lived on, because we organized the plant later on. The conditions did change. And they changed because people themselves made it change when they elected Roosevelt in 1932. If you remember, Roosevelt was elected in 1932, and in 1933 he enacted many—
Sorry, we're, we're past our time. I can't go on to Roosevelt. That's for the next film.