Camera Rolls: 317:32-33
Sound Rolls: 317:17
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Beulah Pinkney , conducted by Blackside, Inc. on , 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.*
—thirty-two, sound roll seventeen, take one.
I want you to try to remember back to [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] . If you can, give me a sense of why you think it was so important, what was new and fresh and important, what was it doing that was so vital for young people?
At that time, young people were then, young black people, I would say, becoming aware of limited opportunities for them. Economically, socially, otherwise. And the young people's forum gave that opportunity to them, to search and find solutions to solve that lack, give them a chance to express what they felt. You must remember, that was a time when the economy was very bad, it was during the Depression, the Great Depression, too. Most of them had just completed high school, there wasn't much of a future unless they could go on to further their education, and three quarters of them found it an impossibility, financially. The young people's forum offered a chance to solve that problem, by exchanging ideas, seeking information, that wasn't offered anywhere else.
Great, thank you. What kind of, what kind of an impact did the forum have on you, on your life, personally? What did it mean to you?
Well, you must remember, I was very young then, and I guess, somewhat rebellious. So it gave me a chance, it made me feel, that here is my opportunity to say what I wanted to say, to do what I wanted to do. I didn't feel any inhibitions because of my color, and I couldn't understand why I should. Here was the big chance, I thought, to say something about it.
What, what kinds of things did it offer you the opportunity to 'say' about, what were some of the issues that were burning about, about—
Education was one. Though I was an only child, finances were not there to go on, and I wanted that very much. I did acquire some of it, through my own efforts. It's hard to say.
OK. Now, let me ask you, and let me go back to that time, and if you can tell me, if you remember, we talked about this the other day, what your reaction and your family's reaction, your father, and mother, and you, to the, to the Armwood lynching back in '33? It's a pretty traumatic Maryland experience.
It was horrible. You felt a deep anger. It was a frustrating anger.
** My father, I remember him walking the floor, talking about it to my mother. I remember him saying, What they did to that poor man for no reason, no reason. Didn't have a chance. It was then that I understood, just, the bitterness and the frustration that our people felt about those things, because there was so little being done to fight it. It was at that time when they started to fight it.
What did the, what did the young people in the forum do to fight it, what kinds of activities—
They walked picket signs, they wore their picket signs. They walked the streets, right in this area, with signs, "Stop the lynching." They chanted, and they did it with dignity.
What, what do you suppose, what was the purpose of the, the purpose of the demonstrations?
The purpose of the demonstration was to make others aware, to give them the courage to denounce that behavior, that inhuman treatment. Because, at that time, our people were afraid. It was an inherent fear that, I guess, was inbred, from before. This was there to give them courage, the courage to denounce it, and to stand up and fight it.
Do you remember the Druid Hill March itself?
Do you remember much about any of the people, can you describe, was there a sense of anger, was there a sense of silence, was there—
There was silence, and pride.
Just, 'cause, sometimes we're overlapping, so let me finish, and then—
So, again, so tell me what being on the March was, and if you could start by saying 'Going on that march...'
Going on that march, you felt a sense of pride. You were together, there was a camaraderie. You held together, there was no boisterousness, but a deep dignity. In other words, we did it to show the best that we were. It attracted attention.
Could we cut for a second?
Would you like some water?
You told us, the other night, you told us about coming to the Forum and seeing Walter White, and I know you don't remember exactly what he talked about—
But it did give you a particular feeling about seeing this man up there, speaking to the Forum. Can you go back and...
Well, very proud, extremely proud.
I'm sorry, I'm sorry for interrupting, but you have to sort of incorporate, you have to tell me what you're talking about because they're not going to hear my voice.
That's right, that's right.
So, if you start with something like "When Walter White came to the forum..."
I'll do that. When Walter White came to the forum, there was a great deal of excitement. To begin with, here was a man, a black man, who we felt had reached a height through his own efforts, and it shown [sic] us, it was not impossible for all of us to reach. We were very proud, very impressed, and it also gave you the ambition to try, to live up to what he represented.
Moving, moving along to... cut for a second [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] , thanks.
—the, the Donald Gaines Murray case at the University of Maryland, what significance did it have for you and for the community, when it was going on, what, what did you think would happen, how did it turn out?
To be perfectly honest,
nobody believed, no one believed, that he would win, that he would be allowed to enter. Yet, they were hopeful, and you know we pray a lot.
** We believe in prayer, and there were a lot of prayers, but we frankly did not believe that it, that he would be able to get in there. And when he did, oh, the excitement, the cheering, the pride we felt.
** And we prayed that he'd make it, and he did.
Did you, were you actually at the trial itself, did you actually go to the trial?
No, no, I had to read about it. That was not carried very much in the daily paper, most of it we read in .
Now, you told me the other night, were you a little concerned that he was, when you said make it, did you mean that he was going to-
Be able to go through successfully.
But you had talked the other night about anxiety, and how the community felt anxious—
Were very anxious.
—happen, and what that would mean. So maybe you should talk about...
You want to try that?
Start again, and talk—
About how this community was nervous—
And incorporate, mention Donald Gaines Murray.
We did feel a great deal of anxiety. We didn't know—
I'm sorry, [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] interrupt you, can you start by saying, "When the Donald Gaines Murray case came up"?
When the Donald Gaines Murray case came up, we felt a great deal of anxiety, we as a community. After all, he was the very first to make that effort to get into the University of Maryland, the first black. We didn't know what kind of repercussions there would be. We were afraid for him, and afraid for us. And I think I said, that, we weren't too sure he had a chance.
So what do you recollect, now, we're talking about the early '30s, back in the forum days, your recollections of the young Clarence Mitchell, the reporter, the guy who went to Princess Anne on his own.
Young Clarence Mitchell was greatly admired, even as a very young man. He was very intense in his desire to improve his life, and the life of others. He was very charming, a very pleasant young man. I don't know anyone who didn't admire, even then, admire him, and respect him.
What do you think drove him to do something as scary as going out to, going to the heart of the beast, so to speak. [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] do that [ gap: ;reason: inaudible ] ?
I think, as I said before, Clarence Mitchell had a desire to improve things for others, and his people. Though it was dangerous for him, he was not afraid. I don't think he knew fear. To go and try and do whatever it took to improve the situation, and make others aware of what was happening.
Great. What about young Juanita? [clears throat]
Sorry, I was clearing my throat, that's why I coughed, so—
[laughs] Young Juanita, though very, very young, was one of the most remarkable young women of her time. She too, like her future husband, then, was anxious to make things better, to improve the opportunities for her people. She too worked diligently, at that time with her mother, who, to me, was the spearhead of the push to help the blacks in Baltimore.
Was Juanita herself an inspiring—?
Very inspiring, oh, Juanita was very inspiring. She, she was never without a smile, never withdrawn at any time, and always there to offer encouragement to others. It made all young women want to be like her.
Great, thank you. Cut.
So, after the Armwood lynching, what kind of this activity, to get, because it was a federal anti-lynching bill, what did people do to get it passed?
After the Armwood lynching, it was discussed, naturally, in the Forum, and it was suggested that we write letters to the—
I think we have to cut.
After the Armwood lynching,
Clarence told us, in detail, exactly what happened.
** We were horrified, there were tears. In the course of that, it was suggested that we write to the Senate, protesting, and that a bill be made, passed, to make it a criminal offense, lynching. The young people wrote, and the parents were fired up, and they wrote too. I think we bombarded them with letters. That's the best I can do.
That's great. Thank you.
Cut. Thank you.