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Title: Dr. Mildred Hill-Lubin
Series Title: Dr. Mildred Hill-Lubin
Physical Description: Book
Publication Date: 3/27/1984
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Summary: UFWS 1 Mildred Hill-Lubin April 24, 2003 18 pages – Open Pages 1-3: Lubin discusses her interest in women’s studies and relates why she felt the establishment of a Women’s Studies program was so important . Lubin describes the various individuals that emerged and took the initiative to get a Women’s Studies program started at the University of Florida in 1977. Lubin goes on to describe the process for establishing the program, including hiring staff, establishing a curriculum, and going before the University Senate. Pages 4-6: Lubin talks about the opposition the Women’s Studies program encountered from the very beginning. Lubin analyzes the reasons behind the resistance from both men and women in establishing this new discipline. Lubin describes the University’s initial “hands-off” attitude in supporting the Women’s Studies program. Lubin points out the importance of the Association of Women Faculty, as it had many of the same members as the Women’s Studies program, played a crucial political role, and used its data collection and analysis to influence university administrators. Pages 7-9: Lubin describes the process of developing the curriculum as the program itself was being established. Lubin states her initial role was as a class consultant for the Women’s Studies program. Lubin discusses the obstacles she faced as an African-American woman involved with an, at least initially, white, middle-class women’s organization. Lubin compares the first students of the Women’s Studies program to those involved with the discipline today. Pages 10-12: Lubin examines the role of minorities in the Women’s Studies program and concludes that minorities are not involved to the point they should be today. Lubin talks more specifically about her direct role in the Women’s Studies program, including specific courses and programs she suggested the program implement. Lubin states her views on the current state of the Women’s Studies program at UF and gives suggestions for where she would like to see it move in the future. Lubin discusses the change in public perception of Women’s Studies from the 1970s to today. Lubin says the scholarly community has evolved into thinking that Women’s Studies is a significant discipline. Pages 13-15: Lubin points out the feminist thinkers and authors who had the greatest influence on her life and career. Lubin describes her childhood as one of great independence, and she relates that background to her interest in feminist thinkers and Women’s Studies. Lubin discusses her active involvement in the Civil Rights movement as a mother, student, and faculty member. Pages 16-18: Lubin discusses comparisons between the struggle for civil rights and the struggle for gender rights and concludes that, for her, the two issues are very difficult to separate. Lubin discusses the evolution of Women’s Studies as a discipline and is pleased with the program’s high level of acceptance in today’s university community. Lubin concludes by describing the practical applications of Women’s Studies.
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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida










UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA


ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM

Interviewee Dr Mildred Hill-Lubin

Interviewer Audrey Brown

Date March 27, 1984


UF 135




B Dr Hill-Lubin, this was very gracious of you to participate in the project Can you tell us about
your early life?

H Yes I appreciate the honor of being interviewed for this project I knew that it existed, since I
have met Dr Proctor and talked with him He knows that I am interested in folklore and folk
history Although my area is literature, I am looking at folklore as it now appears in literature
Regarding my early life, I was born in Russell County, Alabama, which is not too far from Phenix
City, Alabama and Columbus, Georgia

B If you do not mind, just for myself, I always askthe question, were you delivered by a midwife?

H Yes I was delivered by a midwife and believe it or not, there is a long story behind that So
much so that I have received a name that was my name long before I even knew it My mother
always used to tell me that when she measured me by the size of one of those little
hand-lamps--those little lamps that people used to hold--I was so tiny that the midwife said I was
dead So she put me aside, saying that she could not do anything about me, that I was dead And
my grandmother--and I suppose this is why I am very fond of my grandmother--looked at her and
said, "You mean you are not going to even try to do anything for her?" She said, "I ain't God," and
walked away My grandmother picked me up and started blowing in me and hitting me and patting
me, and finally I bloomed--I started hollering, and I continued to live I say all of that because I tell
people that I am sure God left me here for some purpose, and I feel that that is one of the reasons
why I have been going as I have The midwife felt so uncomfortable about the situation that she
did not ever come back to find out how to name me She just filed a report based on what she
knew about our family and so on For years I did not know any of this until back in 1971 when I
needed to get my birth certificate, because I wanted to get a passport to go to Africa Of course,
people had to be around to certify that they were present at my birth Finally I did get this
certificate and discovered that I had another name other than the one I have, but I am not going to
tell you what it is The midwife had everybody's name mixed up Actually I could tell you, I was
named after my paternal grandmother The midwife named me Katie, but all of my life I have been
known as Mildred, so I continued to be Mildred

B Oh, isn't that interesting? Do you know the midwife's name?

H No, I do not I am sure my mother would They told me but I cannot exactly remember her
name

B So were you raised in Alabama?










H Not exactly We lived in Alabama for I know about the first two years of my life This is
interesting because my parents just celebrated their fiftieth wedding anniversary, and I have the
history of the marriage and the family I tried to recall some of the earliest things that I remember
I remember when I was a young girl I used to crawl around and drop the silver into a little hole in
the floor My sister, who is a year younger than I, would look in the hole along with me I
remember that My parents say that the third sister was born in Columbus, Georgia, which means
that we left that area when I was three, because we are all around the same age However, we
moved back to this home, which was the family home of my parents and my grandfather We did
not live there long because this house was burned down

B Was this in the country?

H This was in the country, and I do not remember a great deal I do remember that it sat back off
the road, and that I had a little tricycle that I used to ride When I would ride on this tricycle, since
the house was sitting on a little incline, I would get down to this big tree near the road, run into a
sand bed, and I would always fall So that was an unpleasant experience, I did not like that
Another thing that I remember very well about it was a storm Zora Neale Hurston has written
about this tornado that came through the South around this time and everybody who knows
anything about Southern history knows about it It must have been in the late thirties when it came
through the South and really did a great deal of damage I was a little girl at the time I remember
my mother was sitting doing her hair--she had very long hair--and I was looking out at the weather
and sitting on one of the old-fashioned trunks I said, "Oh look, it has really turned white outside, it
is really white out here And she turned around and she looked and she saw it was stormy, and
she said, "Oh Lord, it is storming, save me, save us, save usl" And so from that day on I am afraid
of storms I remember that it did a great deal of damage in that area because we were supposed
to go to town that afternoon, and Mama started to town with us, but there was so much damage
done that it was very hard I do not remember how we got to town, but when we did get from the
rural area where we were living to where my maternal grandmother lived in Phenix City, we saw all
this damage My grandmother's front porch had blown off and Miss Sealy's ice house--I can
remember all those little details and things about that Shortly after that, we moved to Phenix City
into the city part I must have been something like four years old or so, because I started to school
when I was five and by that time we were not exactly in the city, but in the Phenix City area We
lived with my grandmother for awhile She used to live up on a very high hill--the highest hill in
Phenix City--overlooking the rest of the town We did not stay there very long because the
family--my mother and father and the three girls--moved to the section of Phenix City that people
used to call the back road I remember all of that We lived in a shotgun house I remember all of
that because we only had these three rooms

B Shotgun house Now what do you mean by that? Somebody listening to this tape might not
know what that is

H The shotgun house was a typical house that was a part of Southern living for many black
people It was built on a long ramp and had three rooms You could almost look from the front
door all the way back to the back door I have now learned that it is supposed to be a carryover
from African architecture, because most of their activities are geared towards the outdoors or
toward the porch where people sat I do remember many days sitting on the porch I remember
my mother had ferns all over in big flower pots We did washing outdoors in pots and things of
that nature It was a common kind of house for poor people living in the South, and interestingly
enough we lived in one of the worst conditions because we lived behind an easement on the back
of other houses that faced the street But it was a very good childhood in a sense The biggest
problem I had in growing up as a child--well, there were two problems One, my mother was very
ill all the time, and I did not know what was wrong with her except I knew it had something to do
with having children She would have miscarriages sometimes twice a year I was the oldest child
and I remember she used to have to go to the doctor a great deal, and I would sit on the porch










wondering when she was coming back and why she was ill all the time My second problem
growing up as a child had to do with my belief that judgment day was coming I would go to these
religious ceremonies and churches and they had these fire and brimstone-type sermons--you
better get your soul right and all that I would sit there on the porch worried that every day was
going to be judgment day At night, instead of my viewing the sunset as a beautiful red sun, I
could just see the fire burning and that would really worry me Well, I would rationalize to my little
mind that it cannot be judgment day at this hour because they said it was judgment "day" and this
is night So therefore, it is not going to come tonight and I could go to sleep and rest, and wake up
the next day and start all over again worrying about it I guess those were about the two biggest
problems We did not feel that we were poor, although I knew that we just did not think about
being poor because Mama made our lives pretty happy My mother did not work outside the
home My father did My father was not a very loving husband and father when we were young
He gambled, he drank, and did all of those kinds of things He would come and fight and that was
very repulsive for us

B What kind of work did he do?

H He did not keep jobs very often, but he finally overcame practically all of this When I
remember him now, I understand that one of the reasons he left--I should go back and say that my
mother was a very quiet woman, very good My father was just the opposite When he was a
young boy, he left home and hitchhiked his way all the way to the North because at that time
people were going there He hitchhiked on trains Well, while he was up there, he never could get
over my mother He kept talking to people and one man finally told him, I think that is your wife,
you should go back So he went back to marry my mother and to bring her back north This was
at the beginning of the Depression, so he never did get a chance Furthermore, my mother,
although she may have been very good, was very adamant about certain things She did not want
to go back north She said, I just want to stay here near my folks If you want to go, that is your
business You can go I suppose if he had really coerced her, she probably would have gone,
because she did eventually move with him His family had always been farmers and
peddlers--they had a vegetable market I do not think he wanted to do that with his own family
So that was one of the reasons why he left He tells us that he did chauffering work for men, and
this is the odd thing that gave him the vision to go away from the area He was a laborer, I guess
that is all I can say He finally did get to work on the railroads, and when I came to know him as a
little girl living in Phenix City on the back road, he was working on the railroad I can remember at
Christmas he would tell my mother that she would have to bring all three of us to go and pick up
his paycheck and all that, and she would go I do remember all of those kinds of activities

B So there were only three girls?
H There were three girls for a long time But see, she was having these babies all this time but
she could not keep them For about two years there were these three girls in the family I guess I
am going ahead, but we started to school in South Girard That was called South Girard rather
than Phenix City because it was the southern part of Phenix City We were going to the South
Girard Elementary School and then the school burned down Now that I look back over it, I am
sure that the Klan or somebody burned the school down because this was during the period when
blacks were really struggling to get an education We did not have anywhere to go to school
Well, fortunately, the Catholic missionaries came to Phenix City and set up a mission Even
before we started going, my mother had started going to the Catholic school They used to have
what they called a rummage sale, and she did not have very much money She would go and get
these clothes and she would start making them over by hand She did not even have a machine
or anything Finally she got so good at doing this, people would comment on how attractively
dressed the three little girls were They did not realize that all of these were really
hand-me-downs--clothes that had come from the North She would go through the rummage sale
and then start making them over to the point where she had started sewing Finally she got a
machine that you had to pedal Because she was ill all the time, she could not do this excessive










pedaling because that would have made her flood and all this She did train us to get behind the
machine and pedal it when she needed it She would just sort of brush her knee up against the
machine and I remember the two older girls were the ones who kept the machine going I as a
little girl always enjoyed reading All of my life I enjoyed reading I never can remember anyone
teaching me to read I started reading the signs on the buses, and the billboards, and I would be
reading these signs and talking to Mama My mother would say to me, "You are going to walk into
something always trying to read those billboards" When I was pedaling the machine, I would
have a little book or a magazine and I would sit there reading this book, waiting on her to give me
the nod to go ahead and pedal I would read while she sewed She finally got so good at sewing
that people started asking her if she would make clothes for them, and this gave her a little extra
money to do more for us Meanwhile, the Catholic school--the South Girard school--burned down
I do remember that before I came to school I could read And I do not remember anyone teaching
me My mother also used to take in washing for a lady, but she had to give it up because she was
having all these problems This white lady did not want Mama to send us to the Catholic school
She used to say, "Oh, you should not send them I do not remember the white lady's name
Anyway, she did not want us to go Finally the nuns started coming and visiting, knocking on the
door because the school had been burned We were going to school in churches at that time, but
Mama decided that she would let us go to Catholic school I went to Catholic school until I was in
tenth grade Actually we finished ninth grade We were the first students who attended what is
called Mother Mary Mission Now it is the big high school there, but it grew out of the Catholic
nuns coming into our homes

B Were you Catholic?

H No I did take, not officially, the catechism and so forth and wanted to become Catholic, but my
mother always wanted us to go to church with her When we were growing up, we had to go to
Mass on Sunday morning because that was part of the requirement to go to the school Then we
would have to leave Mass and go to Sunday School at our church, which was the Methodist
Church, and stay on through the service At that time, it was forbidden for Catholics to go to other
places, but she wanted us to go with her Finally after talking about it, I decided I wanted to be
with my mother more than I wanted to be Catholic, so I stayed on and did not become Catholic
But that does not mean they did not influence me tremendously I always laugh now because the
sisters used to tell us you should not even think evil, and I was this naive, little idealistic girl, trying
not to think evil But, anyway, we went to Catholic school and the nuns discovered that I liked to
read and I was smart in class and so they started giving me all the books that they could find
They would give me the Bobbsey Twins I do not know whether you remember those

B Oh, I remember them

H Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm, and all the Catholicjournals and magazines I would read those
I remember one, I cannot remember the name of it too well, but I remember it was about Saint
Teresa She was the patron saint of children or something Anyway, children would die and they
would have them in these caskets, and I would read the story of the children's lives and all that
kind of stuff I did quite a bit of reading at that time Finally, as I said, about two years after we
had lived on the back road, my mother got pregnant with my brother and she had him around 1940
or 1941 I remember because we moved from Phenix City to Columbus, Georgia, on VJ Day I
remember VJ Day very well That is when the War ended I remember we got our first radio I
remember when we had our first Christmas tree, but we did not have any lights at that time I
remember that we did get the radio, and I heard some things when Pearl Harbor was bombed I
cannot remember the details But I do remember VJ Day because we were moving with all our
items on top of a truck, going through the city, and everybody was out parading and hoolng and
hawing over VJ Day We did not know anything about this All we were excited about was that we
were moving What happened is that we were moving and all we knew that we were going to have
electric lights and then we were going to have three rooms, so we could have our own room We










did by that time have a brother The younger brother had been born It was somewhere around
1942 that he was born, I cannot exactly remember But I know he is about ten years different from
me Then we went to the projects, keep that in mind That is the other thing We were moving up
from this little shotgun house to the projects and into the city That was another big move for all
the family

B You were changing schools, too

H Yes, well, did not exactly change schools We decided that since we were going to Catholic
school and liked it very well, and since these were the best schools, we would continue In a
sense, the doctors and the professional people in Columbus paid for it We were paying by this
time You had to pay according to your means--we were paying for their children to come to
Phenix City to go to the Catholic school So many of the black professionals--as a matter of fact, I
will tell you who, you know Marilyn McCoo? Her mother and father were the doctors for the
Catholic school I went to I cannot rememberwhether she attended the Catholic school, but I think
she did I know her sister was a part of it That meant it was mostly all the professional people, so
my parents then decided that somehow they would keep us going to Catholic school We would
ride the bus back from Columbus over to Phenix City, which was not anything big because it is just
right across the river Now, I should tell you that I lived in Phenix City when Phenix City was a sin
city You remember that Phenix City was the city that was so terrible that they had to do a film on
it I remember quite a bit about it We did move over to Columbus and we would ride the bus
back Some days we tried to walk, because there was a group of us coming from town But--and I
tell you this because I was talking about it with my class in African Literature when we were talking
about some of the parallels in the situation--the town at that time was deeply segregated
Everything was segregated So you rode the buses, but you had to wait until all the whites got on
before you could But occasionally we would want to walk and that was the most horrible
experience Although we enjoyed the walking, we would have to come through a white section of
the town, and inevitably the children were going to start a fight with us--the white kids And we
could not fight back That was the worst part of it, because if you fought back, whites would stop
their cars, and get out and help these children fight us Therefore we were really very helpless in
terms of defending ourselves The only way we could defend would be to fight with our
elbows--you know, to try to get out of their way We would try to run through, or all of us would
group together and just the ones on the edges would get the licks and so forth The bad part
would be you would be called names, and all this "get out of here, nigger," and things like that
We could call them names back, so we would do that

B What do you think

H Made us do that?

B Yes, looking back on it now

H I do not know I think we just were enjoying it because we would do other kinds of dangerous
things, too For example, to cross the river, we would have to walk across the trestle instead of
the bridge Occasionally we would do that

B That was a way for you

H I did not do it It was just finding exciting kinds of things to do as a child I did not do the trestle
often, because I was always scared a train was going to come after us

B You said you stopped Catholic school at the ninth or tenth grade, so this was all before that
time










H At that time they were graduating you from the eighth to the ninth--you know, a middle school
type of affair So I graduated from Catholic school I was in the first graduating class, and this
was in the heart of the War at that time You could not even find nylon stockings and all that But I
remember a friend of our family--by then we were living in the projects--this lady who lived next
door helped me find some stockings Mama was still sick After this brother was born, my mother
had two more sons So we tell people we have a two-part family There are the three sisters--two
other sisters who are about the same age as myself Then there is a ten year difference and then
we have the three brothers It is always so interesting because they came when I was in my last
years in high school, and I remember this fellow trying to talk to me and wanting to come to visit
me I told him, 'you cannot come to see me And he said, "why can't I come to see you?" And I
said, "because my motherjust had a baby" But anyway, he was one of those determined persons
and he did come to date and all that Then when I got into ninth grade, we did go one more year

B There were seven students in this class

H And most of us were young women except for one fellow We were going through this
growing-up period and we were just getting to be ridiculous for the nuns Each year they had been
adding a class, but that year they decided, we have had enough of you all They decided not to
increase the school that year, and then we transferred into the public schools in Columbus I
transferred in the tenth grade to Spencer High School, which was in Columbus I graduated in the
eleventh grade, because they were not going up to twelfth grade at that time, so that meant I spent
the tenth and eleventh grade at Spencer High School

B So, where did you go to college?

H Oh, I should tell you a little bit about the high school That was a very good experience The
reason I am telling you all this is I am trying to tell you some of the obstacles that I have had to go
through By the time I went to high school, my father had gotten a bit better He had almost had a
conversion and then he had become active in the church with my mother, so the home was not
very bad He had even started running his own business He first started out pushing a vegetable
cart He was working at the foundry

B This is the railroad foundry?

H No This one here, he was no longer at the railroad He then moved to what is called an iron
foundry--a welding foundry--as an iron carrier, actually He carried this hot iron and all We used
to laugh about how we would go down to find him He started working at night at the foundry He
then started peddling with this pushcart, pushing it up the hill and back and forth--he had started
this even before we left Phenix City Then he moved from pushing the cart to getting a truck He
would go to the market and sell By the time we got to the project, he was really very much
engaged in selling vegetables One of the highlights of our lives growing up was that I did not
have to help him sell, but my younger sisters did, particularly the youngest sister of the three of us
She used to sell and it was a very bad experience for her because she would hate asking people
for money Now we look back and thinkthat those were good experiences because they taught us
a great deal At that time one of the things we had to do was get up early in the morning on
Saturday and shell peas and butter beans so that he would have those

B Already shelled

H We would shell butter beans and peas until the peelings would be stacked up over our heads,
the whole family would be up shelling until ten or eleven o'clock Finally I reached the point when I
went to college that I said I would never eat another butter bean or pea--I did not want to even see
them Anyway, I went to the high school By that time I was in the tenth grade and most of the
students had already been put in classes They assumed that they were pretty good students and










that was it We were not put in ten-one, I was put in ten-two Interestingly enough, there were two
other young women who came in with me at the same time and we became very good friends and
took over the school We became the people who started running the school in the tenth grade

B What do you mean by that?

H Well, we became the student leaders in the tenth grade

B These were still segregated schools?

H Yes Spencer High School was my school Immediately I was elected secretary in the class
At that time that was the only thing they were going to give a woman anyway There were three
sections of tenth graders, and I was elected secretary of my class Finally my English teacher
discovered that I was really very good in English She was one of these persons that, you had to
know her roll and you had to know your lessons so that when you came to class--at that time you
did parts of sentences more than you did writing--you would have to stand up and say, this is a
complex sentence, and this is the independent clause and this is the dependent clause Well, I
could do that very, very well Then all of my classmates started depending on me at lunch time
They would get me off in a corner and I would help them with that But we also were popular
People thought the three of us were very attractive At that time, they had football teams and then
you were running for Miss Spencer So the three of us were elected to run as the representatives
for Miss Spencer, and my friend won But anyway, all three of us were sort of competing against
each other It got to be very good in a sense That was part of it, not all of them were pleasant
The girl who won--and we still are good friends, that is the way I respond to practically all kinds of
problems--was my good friend, and the three of us would visit each other's homes Now keep in
mind, I lived in the projects Neither one us was wealthy, because she was living with her aunt
She had come from a place called, I think, Cuthbert, Georgia, and her aunt and uncle ran a liquor
store on the street in front of the school

B Main Street?

H Not the main street, the main street of the black neighborhood They were kind of well-off in the
community, and they took her in I think she was one of their relatives That was her aunt But
she started trying to go with my boyfriend When I would go to her house, this same fellow I told
you would say, I am going, too We sang in the choir and all that kind of thing, so that is how he
met me We would go to her house and eat We would eat at each other's houses on Sundays,
we would go to one another's houses She would get on the telephone and she would say,
Mildred, why don't you call Bean, and he would say, you had better watch your friends I really
was naive
B You did not think any evil

H No, I did not at all As a matter of fact, one my teachers told me that later But I just let her, we
would still talk and all Well, one time, on Valentine's Day, I was at her house, and I saw this card
on the mantle, plus she had a box of candy just like mine And I said, "Mae Carol, how did you get
that box of candy?" Well, she was supposed to be going with a soldier named Johnson But when
I reached to get the card, she grabbed it She said, "Oh, my aunt would have a fit She would not
want you to see the name on it" Well, I still was just as naive, never thought anything, so I just
left Well, we had an Easter fashion show and we were both in home economics, but I could not
sew at all

B Your mother could sew

H Keep in mind, my mother had learned to sew I would have to slip my stuff out to let my mother
help me get it together again Anyway, we had this fashion show and my boyfriend was going to










try to play both of us Since her aunt had this whiskey store right down the street from the school,
he was going to run and take her to her aunt's and get back, and that is when I discovered that
they were really seeing each other Now that hurt a great deal to discover that But that was not
the only thing, because I told you we were sort of competing against each other in terms of class
Both of us were in the honor society--one of us may have been even president or something--and
we were both in this class, I think it was in economics Well, somehow I made an "A" in the class
She made a "B," and apparently she went to the instructor and told him that I laughed at her for
getting this "B" or something He came to class and, boy, he really dressed me down I told him I
did not even know what it was all about, but all he kept saying was that you cannot be laughing,
and I am not afraid of your father, all of this kind of stuff I still did not say anything about it, but I
knew that she had been responsible for that I think he even took my "A" away and gave me a "B"
I did not say anything, but I always was saying in my mind, when I graduate from here, I am going
to tell him off, but I never did do anything about that part I finally went on through school We
only had about two more years Well, it was time now to come up for graduation, and all during
this time I was being very active Well, when it got time, they did not have the rule in school that
unless you had been at the school for all four years, you could not have first or second honors
Then that was made Well, that meant that I could not have first or second honors Earlier when
we first got there, they were just beginning to start French in the school They selected people
whom they thought were going to go to college Therefore, because I was a poor girl, they did not
select me So I did not take French when I was in high school But now keep in mind, I had just
gotten there, so they really did not know anything We had moved over from Phenix City, sothey
did not know anything about our family You know how those high school instructors are, even in
the black community, so that meant that they did not do that So when it came time for graduation,
they were still doing those kinds of crazy things By that time, I had been established, but here is
what happened The Deltas had a contest where they were awarding prizes Now this was the
Delta Club here, but it was a regional kind of thing Well, anyway, we took this test and apparently
I won I did not even know that I had won and the regional office did not know that the people took
it away from me They published it in the paper, these are the winners Then people were telling
me, congratulations, you won I did not even know anything about it So then I went to the lady
who had asked me to sign up, and I asked her what happened She said, "Well, we did not think
that you were going to college and we wanted to make sure that the person would become a Delta
and therefore we did not give it to you Now of course, these things hurt a lot

B But you did get it?

H No, I did not

B Oh, they did not give it to you?

H They took it back and gave it to another girl I said, well, I hope to go to college Now, it is true
that my mother had said to me, "Mildred, we are not able to send you to school We do not have
any money to send you to school If that touched me in any way, this table is jumping up at me,
because I was just so sure I was going to school somehow I did not know And nobody in my
family had ever been to college, so I did not know what you did or what you were supposed to do
But I was going to college That was my aim Anyway, I finally was given fifth honors in the class
They had to establish it Now it is true that all of us were smart, because the fellow who received
fourth place, Mae Carol--the one that was in competition with me--was third, and two other
fellows--all of us now have doctorate degrees So it was not so bad

B What college did you go to?

H I went to Paine College

B Where is that now?











H That is in Augusta, Georgia One of the reasons that I went there was a lady that was a
graduate of Paine College, and was a tremendous influence in my life at Spencer High School I
saw this woman and she was just as involved as any black woman you have ever seen in any
school She ran the school in a sense She was an attractive lady She was a graduate of Paine
College She acted as assistant principal, but she ran the school I should not say that She was
just really an active person She conducted the oratorical contests, which I was in The Elks and
all those people held those things I really liked her because she was a nice person

B I want you to say that again because it might not have come out You were in oratorical
contests for the Elks?

H Yes, and she was the one who would train us for it She would also help us with ourwriting, our
speeches, to get the newspaper out, the annual, the yearbooks, and all of that She was just very
much involved in it She also taught English She did not teach me, because by that time she was
doing administrative work as well When I looked at her, I said, I would like to be like Miss Walker,
but I want to get married Although Columbus is a fairly large city, it is not so large that you do not
know all the black gossip And the gossip was that she had been going with a man in the
community for years, who was a barber He never would marry her, and people thought this was
terrible I thought it was terrible too, because I had always said, I want to be just like Miss Walker
But I wanted to be married Those were my goals I made those two goals, and I suppose I made
them even earlier than this, so I should have told you already I told you I did not like the tricycle
because I would fall Well, apparently that had a great deal of impact upon my life I never was
well-coordinated in any of those kinds of things so that even when I had another little bike with
wheels on it that some white lady gave to my mother, I would fall So I just did not like bikes The
last time I can remember Santa Claus coming, mother said to us that Christine, the sister next to
me, wanted a bike She said, would you like to get a bike? No, I do not want a bike Well,
Mildred, what would you like Santa Claus to bring you? I said I would like Santa Claus to bring me
a Schaeffer ink pen and a doll So I already had thought over my goals This was the kind of thing
that I continued when I went to school I had applied to Paine and I had applied to Talladega
because I had been in another contest and they had given me some type of small scholarship It
was not a really big one, and they planned to pay, but I never did get very much information from
them I still was going to college So I remember my mother made me a few little clothes and I got
ready I did not have one statement that said you have been admitted, because I did not know you
were supposed to get one I went to Paine College, and got there, and they gave me all these
entrance tests They were asking me you know, had I been admitted, and where was my
transcript They did not even have my transcript or any of that So they told me that they did not
have any of that on me But, by the time they had discovered that, they had given me all the tests
and I had made the highest score of anybody They could not let me go So they let me in, and
then they started helping me to get my transcripts and so forth back I also got a scholarship that
paid for my tuition and a job working in the library Now by that time, my father was doing pretty
well, but he was also saving money to try to buy a house Now keep in mind, I never lived in this
house very much because about then I left the projects to go to college He was saving money to
try to help out by that time, but he would send it so grudgingly and it did not affect me too much
My mother and all of them think one of the reasons I dropped out of school and got married was
that I was having such a difficult time with the financial situation and so on

B So you dropped out and got married?

H I did not drop out I really did not drop out I went to work a year before that I had been
working at the hospital, but this year I wanted to do something different For one thing, the student
nurses at the hospital would look down on the others who were there, and I did not want to go
back to where they were going to be looking down at me So I decided that I was going to find
another job I went to the YMCA, and my father did not like that Don't you bring all these soldiers










home, and all that, and he gave me this long lecture But I did I was working just weekends at
the YMCA in the place where they prepared food--sandwiches and all This man came up and
started talking to me I was waiting cause I knew that if I brought any roughneck home, my father
would have just said no, you are not going out with him So I thought if I brought home a
chaplain's assistant, it would beO K And this is what happened First I met another fellow who
was a chaplain's assistant, and he then brought my first husband over to meet me He had the
prettiest eyes and he was really good-looking and handsome So he talked to me and he said he
was a chaplain's helper Well, I thought, that sounds pretty good, so I then brought him home But
I had this boyfriend from the past, you remember I told you about the one, and he was acting up
because since he had been trying to go with my other girlfriends, I had decided that I would start
dating my husband Walter But we did not date very much because the summer was over, and it
was time for me to go back to school But apparently he wanted me very much One of the
reasons that I say he wanted me was because he wanted to have sex And I told him no, I could
not have sex until I got married Well, he was determined then that we had to get married But
then I told him, my father had said to me that I should not get married until I finished school I
wanted to finish school and he wants me to finish So he said, I'll let you go back to school, but
why don't we talk about getting married? And I said, Oh, no, you better not ask I said, you have to
ask my father after I leave Well, sure enough, he did Now we had not known each other very
long, but he did ask my father about Christmas time could we get married Oh, my father went to
the sky No, we could not get married That made me very sick Finally people convinced my
father that it was better for us to get married than to have to marry, and so he fairly reluctantly
agreed that we could get married Well, we prepared our wedding We were going to get married
in June, but it was about July by the time I got through

B So you had finished a year of college

H I had finished two years--no, I finished one year, was into my second year, and at the end of my
sophomore year, I got married This was with the understanding that I was to come backto school
that next year Well, my husband did not exactly want me to come He was getting ready to get
out of the army I mean he told me that he was going to get out, but he still had another year or so
to go He was in the army, by the way And my parents were very helpful They would let him
drive their car down to visit me and all this Well, also during this period, my mother announcedto
me that she was pregnant again This is the third sister--the fourth girl and the third sister Now I
am in college, and I hear my mother say to me that she is pregnant That was unbelievable Oh,
Mama, how could you be pregnant? By then I was also married They would let Walter bring the
car occasionally to get me I went there my junior year I was in the theater and all of this kind of
stuff and they had come to see me perform, and that is when she told me this Well, then Walter
started worrying me about dropping out of school It was coming up to the end of the first term in
my junior year, and he said, "if you do not come home, I am going to kill you," and all this kind of
stuff So I decided, well, during the break I would go home to try to convince him to let me go back
to school and stay, but he did not want me to stay He wanted me to go back So I left all my
clothes down there--it took almost the entire year to get my clothes back--and we moved to
Charlotte, North Carolina He was out of the service by that time We were not getting along very
well We fought because he was extremely jealous, but we were trying to keep going

B He was from North Carolina?
H He was from North Carolina In an effort to try to keep my marriage together, I decided to go to
North Carolina with him We were staying with his mother for awhile and then we moved into
another housing project It was a little apartment complex While we were still living with his
mother, I was determined that I was going to try to go backto school I knew that I was not too far
behind my classmates because I had been taking a pretty good load all along, so I convinced him
to let me go to school at Johnson C Smith for the summer to take some classes that would allow
me to continue with my class But by the end of the summer, I discovered that I was pregnant










B All right


H That was the end of my world Oh, I have never been so upset I really literally went crazy I
mean literally climbed walls Because I had worked so hard to get things in form and fashion and
shape so that I could go back and finish with my class, and here I was pregnant

B And in those days, pregnant girls did not go to school
H No, no, there was not any way to go back I really was sick for about three months, and then
after that, I finally reconciled to the fact that I was pregnant and was going to stay home I had the
baby, but I would not say to you that I ever gave up I was constantly saying I am going back to
school I would go to commencement at Johnson C Smith, and every year I would vow But then
my husband started a campaign of not helping me to go back He had not finished college As a
matter of fact, he had not even finished high school He was doing everything to keep me from
going, and that created a lot of problems for us, but I was still determined

B So when did you finally finish college?

H Oh, about ten years later Ten years later after we had gone through all kinds of problems as a
couple I had left him finally, and I would try to get money to go to school I remember writing to
the Pickett Hatcher Fund to try to borrow the money, but you had to have a policy He objected
even to the policy people coming to try to do that We would separate numerous times, and
people used to ask, is she here or there? I was always trying to go back and keep my vow I had
one son by that time Well, five years later, after the first son, I was still trying to go and then I got
pregnant again By then my husband was running around and all that So I decided that I was
going to leave him, and I had this three-month-old son One of the major things that he did was
fight And I thought, now I can fight He taught me how to fight And not only fight, see He was
the type of person, he would go out, and then he would come back just to start a fight First I
learned, do not say anything and that will probably reduce the argument Because the minute I
would argue he would start slapping me or something like that I was never one who was not
going to respond Well, then he kept on doing so I would even be in bed and I would not say
anything, I would have the cover up on me and he would pull the cover off me So I started taking
a shoe and putting it down by my bed--I would make sure that the shoe's heel had a spike with a
tap in it so doggone, if you hit me, you are going to get your head burst open Finally I decided I
cannot keep doing this fighting, I am going to leave him My second son was three months old,
The first time he stayed away from home was when his second son was born

B When the second son was born?

H Yes Another friend had to take me to the hospital and that was a very bad experience

B So after your marriage broke up, what school did you finally get into?

H O K I then took my two children and went back to Columbus and lived with my parents My
younger son was three months old We did get back together even after that for a year, but we
only stayed until he was about fifteen months old I then started working as a photographer's
helper in Columbus I was saving money because I was determined still that I was going to
complete college At that time, Atlanta University had an off-campus course coming to Columbus
for teachers who wanted to upgrade their degree and all I said to my mother, "Mama, I am saving
money to try to go backto school Do you think I should try to take this course? It might help me"
It was a course in counseling, and she said she thought it would be good It would be a way for
me to meet people and all that So I went to this course I enjoyed the course, but I also learned
that there were fellowships and scholarships and loans available that you could go backto school
on, and one was the NDEA loan










B National Defense Education Act


H So I then wrote Paine College and asked them if they had this kind of loan and if I would be
eligible for it They wrote back and said yes With fifteen dollars and my parents agreeing that
they would keep my children, I went back to school That was not good, because you see my
younger son was only about two years old about that time, and it was a bad experience for him
As a matter of fact, I have taken a severe suffering from it, he has gone through so many things
But anyway, I did go back That was in 1960 That, of course, was at the height of the sit-ins and
the civil rights movement and so on I went back but I was not involved in the civil rights
movement too much Many of my classmates were, and I heard what they were saying, but it was
my goal at that point that I had to finish school I did not participate in the sit-ins, but I would go
with them to meetings and so on I did finish in one year, in 1961 Interestingly enough, I finished
at the first of the class In this instance they did not take the award from me I did share it with
another young woman, and both of us were named Hill I was at that time Mildred A Hill Patsy
Hill and I shared this valedictorian award As a result of that, I also won a fellowship to go to
graduate school as a part of being the first honor student I could go anyplace I wanted to By that
time, a lady named Dr Ruth Bartholomew, who was my English teacher, was chairperson in the
English Department There were other teachers that were interested, but she had become very
much interested in me She had a great deal of influence and she had persuaded the president to
hire me as a teacher at Paine because she thought that I would be very good One of the
stipulations was that I needed to have my master's She convinced me that I should try to go on to
graduate school and get my master's She had attended Case Western in Ohio and received her
doctorate there She realized that I had relatives in Cleveland, and that possibly I could even stay
with them to cut down on expenses, so she agreed that she would call my folks and ask them if
they would keep my children another year, because that would mean so much But she was very
much interested in helping me to go on to school She would give me some money and she would
lend me some money She did not want to give me all the money because this took away from the
feeling of independence So she gave me some money and then she loaned me money, in
addition to the money--it was not very much for a fellowship to go to school So I went to Case
Western Reserve that summer It was a very agonizing tough, tough, summer for me because I
decided to take the two most difficult courses I should say this, I did not have any trouble getting
into graduate school My credentials were satisfactory not only in regard to my grades but also I
even had the required courses I do not feel bad about my education at a predominantly black
college, and I feel very proud that I did not have any trouble getting into graduate school Now, it
is true, I did have trouble once I was there because I was introduced to a certain way of thinking
and talking about material that I had not been accustomed to

B Analytical?

H Analytical and that kind of thing I did go for that summer, and I took what I considered two of
the most difficult courses As you know, one area in English you have to take is the bibliography
course Everybody has to take that Then I had to take the Chaucer course, which was in middle
English Now those were two difficult courses for an English major to start out with, but I took
them I was so upset that I was not going to do well Sometimes it was such a heavy burden I
always remember this because at that time, I should add, we could not go to any of the graduate
schools in the South So during the next year when I decided to go full-time to graduate school,
Georgia helped to pay my way so I would be in school

B They would pay your tuition in those days, if you would go out of the state

H Yes, and I had never even seen the University of Georgia, although I had been living in Georgia
for a good while I made an "A" in bibliography, and a "B" in Chaucer, and I jumped up sky high
when I got my grades because I was so pleased Then I went back There were only two blacks
in English at Case Western Reserve at the time when I was there Her name was Linda Bragg










Brown The two of us struggled through English
B Did you do a master's thesis?

H I did not do a thesis I took extra courses, but at that time you had to take a seminar I did
practically all my work at Case Western Reserve in British literature, not American literature I
finished my master's and it was a really good experience Then I got a job working for a person
you may know, Dr Marvin Sussman, who is a very important figure If you are in social work, you
may know him He did some of the projects with Shaker Height and some of those others They
were at the time beginning to integrate communities

B So you worked in Cleveland?
H They had this part-time job working for him as an editor for his books He was publishing and
things like that He agreed that he would like for me to continue working that summer for him and
he would help me pay for my children to come up and be with with me At that time I vowed I
would never leave them again They did come that summer and they were so small Then were to
go back to Augusta to work, so I did go back to Augusta I went there and I will not go over all of it,
but I worked in Augusta from 1962--l finished in 1961, so I started in Paine in 1962 and I worked
there until 1972 I did have one break in there, because during this period in 1964 and 1965
people were beginning to become interested in black colleges, so they had an exchange program
for black colleges with some of the colleges in Minnesota Not only could we go to teach out in
some Minnesota colleges--I taught at Hamline College in St Paul, Minnesota--but we could take
courses It was all funded by the Hill Foundation, which is out of Minnesota We could take
courses at the University of Minnesota and that is where I first got involved in American literature,
that is where I received my background Keep in mind we still have not done very much black
literature at all during this period

B You were teaching at Paine? What did you teach at Paine?

H At Paine I taught everything Because, you see, at small colleges you were an English teacher,
so you taught the survey courses in American and British literature I taught creative writing, that
was one of the areas where some of my students are still writing and very much interested As a
matter of fact, I know of at least three students of mine that I taught while I was at Paine who have
doctorates That is where I also became interested in writing and dialect I also conducted
institutes There is a woman still at Paine who was interested in improving English, and we started
working with teachers in high schools Then we changed the focus to working with teachers in
elementary schools because we thought the problems began there I also was having trouble
because black students at Paine had problems with language and grammar I could see myself
failing entire classes because if you followed the instructions you had been taught, you would do
this So I said, now this is not right Something has to change I have got to do better I cannot
keep failing people So then I became interested in dialect But of course, if you know black
colleges, they did not want to deal with any of that kind of thing because it reflected on them You
just teach standard English and that is that Well, this other lady had written proposals to the
federal government for improving English I worked with her She had asked me to teach
composition and so forth in these institutes, and we started doing those in 1968 I taught two
years for her in those institutes working with teachers to improve the teaching of English Then
finally the whole issue of desegrated schools came into being, and we got grants that would
combine the teaching of English with helping the humane section of the segregated schools In
addition, she became interested and decided she needed to go back and get her doctorate Then
she said, "Mildred, I think you should be the director of the program" I became the director and
became very much involved with it This was in the era when people were rioting and everything
I cannot remember, but part of it was that you had to have white participants and all this Just
when we would figure we had everything all ready to go, they would have a riot, and you would
have to go through it again Oh, my goodness
B But tell me, how did you get from Paine to the University of Illinois?











H I am coming to this now As I was telling you, when we were doing these institutes, this
instructor left and went back to school In 1972 she came back and she had her doctorate By
that time I was becoming fairly important in doing consulting I decided that if Paine did not want
to deal with dialects etc at that time, then when I did my institutes, I could get people working in it
I was doing very well at consulting and you know how people look upon you if you do not have
your doctorate--you are not quite an authority Well, she came back and she said, "Well, honey, I
think you ought to go and get your doctorate," and I said, "Oh, Vivian, I do not think so My oldest
son by that time was graduating from high school and was in his first year of college I had been
teaching ten years Now why would I need to go back to go to collegeWell, somehow she gave
me this material from University of Illinois She said, 'Well, why don't you apply? They have this
program, they have money and all this so you apply Sure enough I applied and I was accepted
But then in addition to being accepted for that, I received my first grant to go to Africa for that
summer Of course, I had always wanted to go to Africa

B Who wasthat from?

H This was from the African-American Institute In addition to receiving a fellowship to go to
school at Illinois, which included tuition and dependents and everything, I was also made a
Danforth Associate This gaveyou a free trip to Colorado, money and awards

B This was through the Danforth Foundation?

H But it was not the Danforth Fellowship It was an associateship--an award for good teaching
We had people who had come to our institute, some of our consultants, and they recommended
that I should be named one of the awardees I was also directing the program, but we did not get
re-funded that year I thought maybe I should go to graduate school, but it was a big, big decision
I would have to uproot my youngest son, who at that time was just beginning junior high, and take
him with me By the way, the reason I said he has been through everything, not only was he left
when he was a baby, and finally brought back to be with me in Augusta and everything, but his
first year of schooling, he was one who integrated the schools in Augusta So he was involved
even then I should tell you that while we were in Minnesota, my husband and I went back
together We were doing fine We stayed in Minnesota for fifteen months and were doing fine as
long as we were there, but when we got backto Augusta, problems started all over again, because
there were more blacks and he was not educated and then we were doing the institutes He felt
insecure and all that By that time, we discovered that we were just not going to make it and we
separated during this period Then I got this fellowship in 1972 to go to Illinois It was a good
experience because I had really worked hard with all those institutes and de-segregation of
schools By the way, I finally got to see what the University of Georgia was like, because in part of
our institutes we had to make arrangements to be paired with a university so that the teachers
could get credit People--even whites--were coming We had to get the cooperation of the school
board districts because they were sending their teachers to get information from our institutes I
went to Illinois and it was a very new and good experience I have always enjoyed school When I
went to Minnesota I made it a rule that I was no longer going to be under any more pressure about
having to succeed for the community, for my family, for everybody in the world I just had to do
what I had to do at this moment and do my best So when I went back to Illinois I went with that
kind of concept It was a good experience for the most part We were just beginning to get black
literature into the curriculum and into its place, and getting the acceptance of black people at
Illinois, so we had to really work

B What was your dissertation on?

H My dissertation was on, basically, what I am doing now in my writing It is called 'The African
Aesthetic, African-American Literature and the Teaching of English "











B 0 K That is when you stimulated this interest and then the doctoral studies sort of crystallized
it

H It allowed me to do some work I went there with the notion that I was very much interested in
trying to improve the writing patterns of students One of the ways that I thought we could improve
it was to give them confidence that they did have a heritage that provided them with the basis for
writing One of the ways that you do that was to look at black writers and others who have done
writing Then I had to find patterns that I could use to show them that there does exist this written
heritage, that there have been black writers and this is what they wrote about Their patterns of
writing are somewhat different from the traditional western patterns--where did they come from and
where do they have their background? That has led me a great deal into African literature

B So apparently when you finished your doctorate, you came directly here

H I did

B How did that happen?

H I had come from Paine I was on leave of absence to go to Illinois to complete my doctorate
and come back People wanted me to teach courses so I taught a course in the black experience
or something They gave me permission to do this because I had had this kind of experience I
didn't have any problem with money the first year I went to Illinois on what is called a triple-T
fellowship Those were the fellowships designed to train teachers Well, that was the last year
those awards were in effect, so they said that if I did well at Illinois, they would certainly find ways
of supporting me I took this course--we had two persons teaching African-American literature
One was a white man by the name of Ken Kinnamon, and he asked if I would be his assistant for
the next year, so that meant that I had a teaching assistantship This was unusual because, you
see, they did not give teacher's assistantships to blacks They are just beginning to give a few
teaching assistantships here at the University of Florida So I had this teaching assitantship and in
addition I had received a United Negro College Fund grant, which said that you were supposed to
go back to your school after you finish your doctorate I was also getting money from payments as
a faculty development grant which supplemented my income so that I would have almost my
salary But all of that meant that I was to go back to Paine Well, I was not really looking to go
anyplace other than Paine, but all my professors knew people here at Florida They were
University of Illinois people who had graduated from Illinois and come to Florida They kept
reminding me that they were at that time looking for black instructors to come down here, and I
told them I could not go there I could not go anyplace because I had all these obligations to
return to Paine But they said, well, why don't you just go for the interview and see them? So
Ward Hellstrom [Ward Hellstrom, Professor of English and Chairperson, Comprehensive English,
(1961-1971)], who at that time was the chairperson of the English department, and Harry Shaw
[Harry Shaw, Associate Dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and Associate Professor
of English, (1973-1977)], who is now the dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences
downstairs, came upto interview some of us who were there at Illinois They convinced me, "oh,
you just must come to Florida We will pay your way So I said, 'Well, I told you no, that I am
supposed to go back to Paine, but maybe the next year I could consider it" So they said, O K,
come on So I came down At first I was not very pleased with Florida At first I just could not
believe it, because I am coming to the South, I may as well go on back to Augusta In addition, I
was not too happy with the English department I do not know why It was a large department
They were fairly friendly, but they asked me all those kind of questions that white people usually
ask you, and I do not know how I can explain it

B You mean your bitterness










H They wanted to know about my dissertation, and because I was writing a dissertation which
said that things that had been looked upon as negative in black life could be positive, they could
not understand it at all They could not understand--but aren't you confirming the stereotypes?
So I was not very pleased The major factor which helped me to decide was that they had one
black secretary--she was not exactly a secretary, she just was an assistant in the office--but she
sat at the desk right at the door in the main office over in Anderson As many English departments
as I had gone through during this period, I do not recall any black people I knew that that was a
terrible experience for us Everytime you go in one of these offices you never saw anyone that you
could identify with So I thought, look over there, they do a have a black person there, so maybe
they are trying They kept writing me about coming backto Florida, and they were just offering me
all kinds of good offers They wanted me to come to direct the English program for the Special
Services students, and I told them I could not

B What does that mean?

H The Special Services students are students who are admitted into the University who do not
meet the full requirements The University is under order that at least ten percent of their students
may be admitted without fulfilling the requirements that are stipulated These students are usually
placed in what they call Special Services courses For the most part all of these courses used to
be under the direction of one or two persons--that is, they were in special classes, but the English
department insisted that they had to be in control of the English courses They wanted somebody
else to help direct it There was one lady who was directing, but they were still looking for
someone who had had some experience at that So they were asking me to come to direct that
In addition I insisted that I had to teach a literature course along with this, and they agreed But
the major factor was that we had this money obligation So the arrangement was made that if I
would come, they would pay off my debts The major debt they felt would be the UNCF

B That is the United Negro College Fund

H That one definitely stipulated either you paid the money back or you went back to the other
school Well, at that time I probably might not have been able to come to Florida if the first black
president of Paine had continued to live, but he had a heart attack and died At this point, things
were in flux, and the person acting just did not exactly know how to do everything When I would
try to talk with him, I could not get very much either, so I decided well, all right, I am going to come
on to Florida and let them work it out Well, sure enough, as soon as I agreed that I would come to
Florida, they sent me a statement saying please send us a check for ten thousand and some
dollars Boy, I was really in for it at that point Well, then I went to the chairperson and hewent to
Dr Marston, who had just come on, and Dr Marston wrote to the president at Paine By that time,
they had gotten a new president, Dr Scott They worked it out with him by saying, she is one of
your graduates and do you want to stifle her career? So Dr Scott wrote back and said, no, we do
not want to stifle her and so on So anyway they made the arrangement that the major part of the
money, especially the part that was for the faculty development, because they did not have any
funds, and would just write it off But the UNCF part would have to be handled with the UNCF
That still has not been resolved, so that if one day the UNCF is looking through its records
The president did give me a letter stating that they would pay it off, I hope that I still have that in
case they did not do that

B What was it like to be a female and a black American faculty member on a faculty of a university
that was just starting to be integrated and plus had not had women on the campus that long?

H I think I have tried to give you a view of the kind of person I am in terms of meeting obstacles
and problems and so forth I should say it was not terrible It really was not terrible I must give
credit to Dr Ward Hellstrom for being a very concerned chairperson who really was working hard
to try to make things better here at the University He says to us that we taught him a great deal,










and he not only learned but he would transmit it to others Dr Hellstrom is no longer here

B Were you the first black female on the faculty?


H No, I was not the first black female at the University

B How many others were there?

H Apparently there had been others

B O K Hattie Bessent [Hattie Bessent, Assistant Professor of Education, 1970-1970)] was with
the School of Nursing then

H She was in the College of Education

B Oh, was she?

H I know she taught some here, but I did not know whether at the time I came, she was still a
student or on the faculty

B And Fay

H No, Fay Harris was not on the faculty Fay was not on the faculty until afterwards But Lela
Llorens [Lela Llorens, Associate Professor of Occupational Therapy, (1971-1971)] was on the
faculty A number of us came to the University in 1974

B Which was one year after the beginning of integration?

H I should say that there were others before me who had come They had started integrating the
schools back in the sixties As a matter of fact, I met a young man, Judge Emerson Thompson,
and Annette Kashif, they came I think it was 1964 or 1965, so they had graduated here before we
came And even people in the law school and in graduate school They had had some

B Well, why did they say it was 19737 Maybe it was that Gainesville began to have integrated
schools

H Well, I suppose they had had students here, but then in 1970 or 1971, they had this big uprising
where a large number of the students were expelled for sitting-in in President O'Connell's office
because they were trying to improve their conditions here Practically all of the the black students
who were here at that time were suspended and expelled as a matter of fact A few of them were
able to come back, so that by 1973, they were just beginning to try to start doing something to
make a difference in life here O'Connell had resigned by that time and in 1974 Marston was
coming on
B So about how many of you came at that time?

H Oh, I would say thirty was the largest representation of blacks that they had here, and there
may have been about ten or more

B Dr Shaw was already here?

H Dr Shaw was here, and there were another two in sociology, one of whom was a woman
Grace and her husband were a couple, husband and wife, in sociology They were here the
previous year They were here when we came There was a young woman by the name of Joyce










Taylor who was on the staff, but she was still a graduate student more or less So she was here
when we came Now, the two persons who have been here the longest, are Carlton Davis
[Carlton Davis, Professor, Food and Resource Economics (1970-1980)] in agricultural economics
He was here He is the oldest black that had been on the campus Then Ron Foreman [Ronald
Foreman, Associate Professor of English, Director of Afro-American Studies, (1970-1970)] was
here Ron was in this department when I came By the way, Harry, Ron, and I all are University of
Illinois graduates So there had been other black women, but most of them at this point are no
longer here I think I am the only one that is still here

B How did the students react to you? You have spoken about the faculty

H I should say I also supervised graduate students here as well as some of the faculty who taught
the courses in Special Services Most of the faculty were rather responsive There were
incidents, but the graduate students were quite impressed with me and felt that I could teach them
a great deal and they asked me advice By that time I was also not only just supervising, but I was
preparing the curriculum more or less, and even selling it to the faculty and they were very
impressed with that I, in a sense, am responsible for some of the programs that are going on in
the Office of Instructional Resources Because one of the very things that I initiated when I came
here was that these students have to have tutors as well as the regular courses Now, Ward
Hellstrom said we do not have any money, we cannot have this writing clinic I said you do not
have to have a great deal of money What I would like for you to do is just find me one or two
good dedicated persons who really feel they want to teach and will respond to students So he
agreed that they would help me, they would pay for one or two persons One of the persons that
he hired was a young woman by the name of Deborah McDavis, who is Dr Rod McDavis's wife
We would do tutoring and in addition, the teachers would have conferences with the students I
planned programs and suggested books and so forth like that We really began to see a
difference in the students Then I started working to get rid of all of these "labeling" kinds of
courses, and try to initiate a program where we will have a complete tutorial program That was
bought from me I should say, it was stolen from me, but anyway, it was done That is one of the
other things that I have come to I have resented a great many instances that I have had ideas,
but because we have not been the writers, I talked to someone who immediately picked up my
idea and developed it and got the credit for it This happened with the whole business of black
dialect We did not write about it and so on And the same happened with some of my projects
here They were selected They will more or less tell you if you meet people downstairs in the
Office of Instructional Resources They will say that I was more or less responsible for these
because I presented the proposals to them But then later it was picked up and developed But
again this part of it, I also used to say as long as the job gets done, I will be satisfied I am not
quite saying that now I am not saying that now Because I do think that we deserve to get some
credit for some of our efforts

B What would you say was your most rewarding experience as a faculty member? I do not want
to get to the administration yet because I am coming to that
H 0 K I should say I had an experience Sunday that has been the most rewarding in my whole
life

B Oh, well tell us about that

H I received an invitation from Dean Scott last week to attend a leadership workshop that was
being conducted by some noted authority, his name is Milton or something, I cannot remember the
full name It was being conducted from one to seven o'clock all day on Sunday, and I said, my
gosh, I do not want to go to his workshop that long, but maybe I should go because I do work with
students and I think it will be a benefit I said maybe you go to these workshops and you learn
something that you can pass on to another, but I do not think I am going to stay through the entire
workshop for seven hours They wanted you to respond to say whether you were coming or not,










so I called them and said yes, but I hoped I did not have to stay all the way through Well, I did go
to the workshop I got there about 1 30 and it was just starting, and one of the activities--I am
going to try to cut it as short as possible--was that we were to form a big ring It was a
predominantly white audience with mainly students, practically all the people from student
services, and a few other faculty members who had agreed to come I knew a few people The
director of the program had said, we want you in this group to select one individual that you are
going to work with all evening long, and try to make it difficult Now do not go and select your
friend Or do not go and select someone that you know Be sure to select a person that is difficult
Well, while I was standing in the circle, I kept looking around, that is what all of us were doing I
said, maybe I ought to select a disabled student because I feel a bit uncomfortable with disabled
students--I feel helpless or overbearing or something, so maybe that will be good And then I
thought, no, not a disabled student because that person will just feel that you are doing it out of
sympathy So then finally I was looking around and a kind of elderly lady looked at me, and our
eyes met, and I thought, maybe I will select her So when he told us go select this person, I went
immediately and selected her and I discovered that she was a woman who works with the staff in
student health But then we went back with these partners and then when we settled down he
said, I know you thought that it was all done and you do not have to go through that anymore now
now that you have selected one, but that was just a trial run I am going to send you back, and
you have got to do it all over again He said, I know you are getting all upset, but before you go
back, write down whether you are a picker or a pickee I checked that I was a picker, and he said
if you were a picker this time, don't you go picking You let other people come and pick you And
then if you have trouble saying no to people, then work on saying no to the person that would
come to pick you Well, I picked both of those people, so I said, all right, and we went back to the
circle Sure enough, nobody picked me the first go round It was quite a number of us that were
left out there, including the lady whom I had picked earlier Well, we all got into this big circle and
we started He then said, about how often do you pick in life? People went around, some saying
fifty, sixty, seventy I said, about eighty times I have picked But anyway, finally one girl did come
up and I said no to her, but it did not bother me too much because these people are accustomed
to feeling rejected, so it did not hurt them or anything But anyway, we finally paired off and I went
with a young fellow who was a Filipino He impressed me very much, too, because he was a
young student, short and thin, you would not look at him as a leader, but you could tell there was a
great deal of self-confidence and he exuded a great deal of personality about him Then he
started telling me that he was an English major and so on and we got to know each other and felt
very comfortable with each other in talking Well, then the director said, I want people to get up
and talk about this experience, what if felt like being selected or not being selected and all that
Then he made a statement to the effect that in our culture we have been taught that you do not
speak of yourself You speak objectively and you do not say "I," but I want you to use "I This
has become a part of my life,too, so I started reacting to this I said, that may be true in the
majority of cultures, but that is not true with black people We are very personal in our
relationships with people and we do not mind saying "I "

B Right

H As a matter of fact, I wanted to tell him that is really one of the problems that got us in trouble
with writing because in writing we wanted to talk about "I When they said, no, you must say
"one" and "we" and all that, it made it very hard for us to be good writers Well, I wanted to stand
up and say that then, but I thought, no, one of your other problems is that you talk too much, so sit
down and do not say anything Let other people talk So I sat there and sat there, and other
people got up and they talked about their experiences about being handicapped, disabled, how it
felt, you got eye contact Well, all these were things that had gone through my experience, so
finally the woman I picked at the beginning got up and said she was sad because she is a picker,
and yet there was one person who was a faster picker than she So when she finished, I decided I
would get up, and when I introduced myself I said, "I am Mildred and I am on the faculty," and I
said, "I am that person who picked her" I said, "One of the things that I have learned as a black










woman, if you are a black and a woman you better be a picker or you are going to be dead" And
then I went on to explain other things I had gone through

B Why did you say that? What did you mean when you said you better be a picker or you will be
dead?

H Because if you are not assertive and try to make a place for yourself, people are not going to
pick you They are not going to, you will be left there I even followed it up by saying that you also
learn not to be too sensitive and overly hurt if you are not picked, because you are going to
experience this many times and you cannot allow people to think they are hurting you You have
to come around and find a way to cope with this and then go right back out there again and keep
pressing And basically this has been the way that I have dealt with being here at the University of
Florida You do not allow all of those kinds of obstacles or problems or situations to knock you
over I mean sometimes they will almost knock you to the ground, but you just have to find a way
to come back and be one of those pickers You go out there and say, well, here I am, you have
got to deal with me In the process of that afternoon, we went through and we interacted, we
wrote in ourjournals, and we talked with people we had to meet and all Finally the director came
around to say, now, you have been interacting with other people all evening I would like for
everybody to go now and select one person in this group that you admire or that has impressed
you a great deal druing this afternoon's workshop Do you know about six people came over and
touched me on the shoulder? You were just supposed to go over and get one Six people came
over and touched me on the shoulder Well, that in itself was shocking enough, but then I did find
a lady that impressed me She had spoken to me during the meeting She had said something
about what I had said in that earlier situation, but not only did I like her for that, but I liked her
because she was older She told me her name was Myrna She said she was in counselor
education and had gone back to school, and I suppose I selected her because I saw myself in her
I told her that I knew she was going to be successful and so on, and so I selected her But we
had to then take all the people who were on our shoulder over to meet the person, so here I go
with all these people touching me, wading over through to where she was to touch her Then one
of the comments that the director made was that the reason you are impressed with this person
that you touched is that the beauty in that person is the same beauty which is in you So what we
want to do now is to turn around and tell this person what is that beauty that you see in this person
that also must be in yourself Then they had to come and tell me all of these kind of things We
had been divided into groups of six and two of them were out of the group I had been working with
There was the lady, the Filipino fellow, and another young man who was in the group who had
talked with me He said that he was with Pi Lamba Phi and one of the things that he was
interested in was my reaction to this fraternity He had been talking a bit about that and I
expressed my feelings about it and so on But then others were people who had just I guess seen
me or heard me talk I had mentioned to you earlier when I got up to speak, I did tell the director
that although it was not a bad experience for me when I was not selected, the next time you have
to put this shield over you to make sure that you are not always hurt so badly by these remarks
and rejections I said, but now I want to say one other point that I am working on I do not mind
doing this, but I do not want to be antagonistic I said, I go to meetings and I am quite analytical
when I am sitting in them One of the problems that I face has to do with what happened here In
your remarks, you said that the majority of cultures makes us very objective and will not allow us to
express our feelings for them I said, that is true, but in predominantly black cultures, it is just the
opposite We do not mind expressing our feelings I mentioned this to him So he agreed to that
Well, this one young woman said that she was just so impressed at my making this kind of a
statement But anyway, she did say to me that that was one of the reasons that she selected me
because she felt that that required a great deal of courage and strength to be able to say that in
that kind of setting and so But others said all kinds of things like--you just exude beauty of spirit
and you just seem so friendly and you seem so down to earth and you seem so--they went through
all of these adjectives until I told them, I said wait, please don't you all tell me anymore because I
cannot stand it--it is too touching, it is too wonderful This Filipino fellow said something like he










believed that if God was getting ready to destroy the world and there was only one person left on
the earth and that I was that person, that he believed God would save the world just for me to stay
around on

B That was rewarding
H I have never experienced anything like that before in my life I have had people give me
compliments and so forth--as a matter of fact, the black graduate students had this award banquet
for me when I finished over at the grad school They got up and they made speeches similar to
this
B How did you become involved with the Black Graduate Student Union?

H O K, wait, I want to answer your question about the student reactions and so forth It has not
been very bad all along Of course, I have had some obstacles For example, one faculty member
to whom I had told something about a new critic, said, oh, you know the new critic? As if I did not
have the same education that he had I have been through the same English program We get all
of these kinds of things Then there are the other kind of subtle racist things that happen--I will
come back to them to say a little bit about that in the discussion on my administrative position All
right As you recall, I told you that I worked for three years as director of the Special Service
English Program By that time I really had sort of worked myself out of a job I do think I could
have been given another position either in the English department or supervising some other
program, but I am not going to cry over that I have this feeling that somehow it was taken and I
was not acknowledged

B It was taken and it was not acknowledged

H Yes For example, if they were going to change the program, I will give you my feeling about
this Although Ward Hellstrom had done very well getting me tenured, one of the points was that
during this period I did not do very much writing If you are involved in all this kind of work, you do
not do that much writing But he did go to the faculty and I came as an associate professor That
was one of the requirements that I came I went up for tenure in 1977, and he did go to the faculty
and explained what good work I had done People tell me that you just cannot imagine all the
good things he said about me There was no way that they could deny you tenure at this point
But on the other hand, they changed the operating procedure of the English department I do not
think I have ever expressed this to anyone but you, what I am going to say They decided that
they were going to have a director for freshman English I had been directing the Special Services
Program and had been directing faculty and graduate students in this project They said that I had
been doing a very good job, but when they decided to hire a person to direct the entire freshman
English program, no one asked me if I was interested or would I even be considered for that That
hurt me a little bit to know it is still going on I did not want to do that, but I think I was just as
qualified as anyone else to direct it I am sure they would feel they were not quite ready for that
because it would mean directing the whole program in freshman English

B I understand

H So those kinds of things that you have faced all along

B I wanted to get to the Black Student Union and then I wanted to go into your stint as
administrator

H All right The Black Graduate Student Union I was not involved with them except when I went
to the graduate school I was always involved with activities with black students here on campus
You also asked me about students and I have not responded

B Maybe I am unclear, are you not the advisor to the











H Yes, but that only occurred after I came back on leave for a sabbatical
B O K, so then we need to go back to student reaction, administration, and then to that summer

H Regarding students, I began teaching both in the Special Services where most of the students
were black, and then I was supervisor-teacher, so the relationship was fairly good I must say to
you that I do have a record for being a very tough teacher Everybody will tell you

B I have heard that

H So most of the black students knew that I was very tough, but they also would say that I was
fair That is another thing, I will help students out a great deal, so that is part of my record So
that is the way many black students feel Many of them come to me because they are impressed
with me They know that if they work with me theywill profit in many things because I not only will
work with them in the class, I will spend extra time with them There have been a few who have
come through who really recognize me for what I am, and these are the students who are not
afraid to work They will get to be very good friends of mine Right now there is a couple at
Harvard in Boston who are my prize students from theUniversity of Florida They were good
students when they came, of course For example, I could pass on to them books to read and we
could exchange and so on I have a few white students, too As a matter of fact, I have had two
or three who took some classes from me and wanted to know whether they could major in
African-American literature I told them, surely, because of my two major professors in graduate
school, one was black and one was white I always began my course with that book

B What book are you referring to?

H Black Writers of America The white instructor that I served as an assistant to was a white
man by the name of Dr Ken Kennamon So I would tell the white students, yes, you can major in
African-American literature One young woman did go on--I cannot remember her name at this
moment--to Massachusetts and she did take more courses and we kept in touch for a good while
There have been other students, many of them white For example, right now I have one white
young woman in a class that is her third course from me I have had others that I used to have a
lot of trouble with I think the white students are getting much better about having black faculty
There were students at that time who decided that a black person could never be right so they
were always challenging me They always felt that they knew as much as or more than you, and
you would spend long battles in class arguing over trivial kinds of things You do not find that quite
as much now I do see a change in that

B We were going to go on to the administration
H I think there is a difference in white student attitudes now They do see

you as an individual who can provide them with information The newer group students does give
you that I have found quite a number of them who appear to be quite reflective and come over
and want to talk and so on I must say this, I had an interesting experience For practically all of
my classes I usually end by inviting students over to my house In my African-American literature
classes, I will even cook food and go to black church, all this because I am trying to emphasize
that the folklore continues in the written word Even the white students, most of them will come to
the black church and most of them would come to eat and help with the preparation But I have
had some American literature classes and I was the only black in the group because all the
students were white So this time I have introduced them to some blackwriters, particularly black
women writers Alice Walker's The Color Purple had just come out, and I had suggested that
maybe some of them would like to read it Well, several of them did read it while I was out I went
away and that was an assignment for them I thought it would be good to have them at my house
so that we could talk about it in an informal manner Well, I invited both of the classes and there










were eighty in the two classes--forty in each class Well, the interesting point was that several of
them eased up to me and said, do you think it is all right if a white student comes out to your
house? I had not had that happen in a good while I thought, this is quite interesting, we really
have not gone too far, because I thought that we had passed this stage I said, sure, they could
come out to my house Well, several of them had agreed to come, but the night that they were to
come I started getting these telephone calls similar to what used to happen back in the 1960s
when I first started working with whites and blacks in schools, giving me some type of excuse
Finally I think about ten students showed up out of the eighty students in the two classes But I
have not had too much of a problem, excepting some time in there when I was not teaching
African-American literature With that class I do not get it as much, but with the American
literature, if I introduce black subjects, or even in writing about literature, I may talk about racism or
some other topic, they would tend to say that I talk about blackness or women's issues all the time
These are the kinds of comments I will get on my evaluation So those were the kinds of
experiences that I have had with students Now about my getting into administration, this was in
1977 They had advertised that they wanted someone to come over as an assistant dean, and at
this point they wanted to have two full-time persons coming over I had read the ad, but I just sort
of pushed it aside because I did not think I would be eligible for that position One of my
colleagues, Irene Thompson [Irene Thompson, Associate Professor of English, (1967-1975)], who
is also the Director of Women's Studies--I had worked with her on the steering committee of the
Women's Studies Program--came up to me and said, why don't you apply for one of the positions
in the graduate school? She also knew a little bit about my program in terms of my not being
asked to participate as director of the freshman program I said, well, I do not know that I qualify
You know they have all of these long lists of qualifications She said, you could go over and talk
with Sisler [Harry Hall Sisler, Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Chemistry,
(1956-1973)] about it So I decided that I would go over and talk with him He apparently was
impressed He said, why don't you make an application? So I did and apparently a number of
other persons were making applications because they called me in for an interview, and we talked
and met with the people One of the points I must emphasize is that when I was appointed to the
position, it did not say you are the dean of students for minority affairs, it said you are an assistant
dean in the graduate school I would definitely not have applied for that, but Dean Sisler also
emphasized when I came for the interview that he did not want a person just to be in charge of
minority issues He wanted me to feel that I was a full-time member of the staff And I said to him
then that I would, I had that same feeling, that I would not want to be in a position which named
minority However, I do feel that as a minority woman, I have both an obligation and a privilege to
do something about minorities and women's roles in the University if I have the opportunity So
anyway, they kept interviewing and then they asked me to come back for a second interview In
the second interview, they told me that I had the position So I went over and it really was--let's
see what adjective I could use for it--a great learning experience I learned a great deal I
suppose one of the biggest problems I faced in the graduate school had to do with gaining access
to power if you ever had any or if you were ever to get any There was a great deal of protection,
and these were the kinds of problems I thinkyou face I did assume numerous roles By the way, I
was the first black woman in the graduate school as an administrator I did assume numerous
roles that normally would have just been the for the dean For example, I was the chairperson for
the graduate curriculum committee I was responsible for the graduate coordinators I was also
responsible for helping to get the graduate catalog done each year Those were my jobs
However, I would run into problems occasionally with most of those positions Either people would
decide that they had to protect me in some way--and I hope you understand what it means to
protect When you are a minority person, there is a feeling among some of the supervisors that
they think you will not be accepted well by another group over here, so therefore they will either
intrude on your position and try to do these things, or else they will try to assign them to someone
else so you would not apparently be involved But this is a problem for you because you are
always feeling, this is not right I do not like this feeling of your having to protect me--let me do
this If I am supposed to do it, let me do it The other problem had to do with territorial rights, and
that included the entire University One of the major goals that I had when I first came over there










had to do with trying to increase the number of black graduate students there One of the roles I
had, in both instances I was to be the director of the fellowship for those minority graduate
students and women Of course, later the women one was taken away from me I have an idea
why it was taken the white women students would have to come to me also, and so it was better
for me to just deal with only minority affairs Those were the kind of things that happened But in
addition to that, Dean Sisler had said that he wanted me to come up with programs, so I made out
schedules and projects and programs of how I thought we could get these things done Quite
often we would have battles--I mean literally He would tell you that he had certain kinds of rules
and I would say that the only way we can do this is to do this and do that and we would argue
That was kind of exhausting and traumatic, because here I am screaming--literally, I would be in
meetings screaming at my supervisors and it was not a pleasant feeling But I had to try to get
him Before I left, he said that I had taught him a great deal

B You learned from each other
H I said to him that I was tired of teaching people I think that now it is time for people to be
knowing some of this I mean, people say I taught them all of this When will the day come that I
will know that some results have occurred and I will not have to keep doing it? But anyway, he
would bend and give me a few more rights I remember the one time that I had the biggest
problem occur He set up this fund that if I went out recruiting and found a good student, I could
award a fellowship to this person and we could come back to the department and try to get the
student admitted Well, one time I did that with one department and of course, no you cannot do
that We are the ones who have to accept this person and blah, blah, blah It was these kinds of
problems that you ran into all the time

B You did not have the authority to go with the role

H In addition, it was very difficult to get into the maze of power You know, who is it that you are
supposed to see? People were really very stingy and reluctant to introduce you to it You would
have to work so hard to find out who it was, and then you would get the runaround See this one,
see that one, see this one, see this one But I kept working on it

B How long did you do this?

H I stayed there for three years Now there were some interesting problems that happened One
thing that I am not going to tell you about had a great deal to do with the vice-president He
decided that he was going to change the entire office and he did He did change the entire office
of vice president for academic affairs, and even Dean Sisler was removed When Dean Sisler was
removed--now I must say that Vice President Robert Armistead Bryan [Robert Armistead Bryan,
Interim Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of English, (1957-1974)] and I have an
interesting arrangement For some reason I think he liked me, but on the other hand, I think if I
had gotten him as a mentor in the beginning, we would have had a much better experience But I
really did not have access to him until after I got into the office and then I did not use it well What
I needed to have done was to have cultivated his mentorship much better He has done a great
deal right now He has given me money to go on trips and things, and I can go and talkto him at
this moment about various things But I think I did make that bad choice, but it was because I did
not realize that I needed to do that in the beginning So I think those were just some of the
problems that I faced there

B So you stayed three years

H He was quite helpful in helping me with projects and finally he decided he was going to
reorganize the program It was assumed even when I went over that this was a rotating program
You are supposed to go back to your department and all But I think I was doing an effective job
when it was decided we were going to reorganize We cannot keep paying people to do this kind










of work These are the kinds of statements I was doing a number of things, but this was what I
heard--that the graduate school just cannot afford to keep it I had really organized that program
and we were doing very well I had even stopped recruiting myself I had a young man helping
me Well, they end up hiring this young man who did not have all the information and knowledge
about how to do all kinds of things, but then they finally appointed Paul Kotey [Paul Kotey,
Associate Professor of Linguistics and Humanities, (1972-1976)], who is going to be an assistant
dean part-time You cannot do all of that work part-time

B They removed Sisler?
H He is gone now Now they have Rod McDavis [Roderick McDavis, Professor of Education and
Acting Assistant Dean for Graduate Studies, (1974-1984)] I was mentioning about my being
rewarded, following this project on Sunday evening, this very heartwarming touching experience, I
had brought my clothes so that I could dress and go up to the visitation banquet with black college
students from the graduate school One of the points that Rod McDavis made there, he
introduced me at the meeting and said, I want this lady to stand up because I do not think she has
received the recognition she deserves, she is really the one who got all of these things started in
the graduate school, and we are actually carrying on some of herwork But now you ask me, what
are the other kinds of rewards? On the very same program they announced that Quincy Hilliard
had just defended his dissertation and he was now Dr Quincy Hilliard I remember talking to
Quincy Hilliard on the telephone about coming to Florida as a graduate student and the problems
he was facing I have seen his wife get her master's and all that The students--I really enjoyed
working with them They not only depended on me for helping them with financial affairs, but I
could give them encouragement because I would tell them that there was no problem you could
bring to me that I have not experienced I have experienced every problem yet

B Where do you go from here?

H I must tell you about this banquet they gave me before I left Both the black graduate students
and the law students joined together

B Before you left in administration?

H In administration They gave me this big, fancy banquet--I cannot even tell you--and they got
up and made these testimonies and they gave me plaques They gave me a beautiful bracelet,
engraved and all this So I have plenty of memories and I feel that I did do a great deal at it, but as
I told them, the biggest reward they can give me is to get their degree and then in the years I will
read about all of the good things that they have done

B That is a teacher's reward

H 0 K Now where do I go from here? I turn around from the graduate school As you know,
during this period, I re-married My husband and I commuted I do feel that I have found a very
good mate because we are both in the same field He is a scholar in his own right, and we do not
exactly have to compete with each other There may be a little bit of it He teaches at Howard
University so he went back there after we got married I thought that I needed to join him, but I
was not given a sabbatical at first I was only going to be given one semester of what they call
time to get back into teaching And then I was to come back I was talking with someone and they
said, well, maybe if you apply, they sometimes have some left-over sabbaticals that you could get
So sure enough, I wrote a proposal and sent it in, and was awarded a sabbatical So I was the
first black to receive a sabbatical at the University at all I asked for the entire year at half-salary
and then I went to Washington to stay with my husband Well, we were doing pretty well We did
not get a family and I will not go into all of that, but while I was there I decided that I would
probably like to stay on another year Also, while I was in the graduate school, I had made a
number of contacts One I had even got elected to national offices I gave a paper similar to this










of what it felt like being a minority dean at the counsel of graduate schools meeting The wife of
the new president of this body heard me, and she apparently told her husband about me, so they
formed a task force on how to improve the status of women--even graduate dean women
administrators as graduate deans--and they asked me to serve on that So that was my first role in
the larger academic arena After serving on that committee, I was then elected to serve on the
committee of graduate students A number of the people there became impressed They even
wanted me to serve on some of the offices for southern graduate deans and so on So I met a
number of people in those organizations I also wrote several grants for the graduate and
professional educational programs--they are called G-POP I wrote, and I met people in those
organizations and it became quite educational

B You mean the G-POP program that they have here, you did that?

H I wrote that proposal

B Oh, that is wonderful

H The first time we wrote it, we did not get funded I kept working on it, and the second time we
got funded Not only did we get funded, we became one of the model programs They even were
telling people to see us about it

B Now the G-POP program, is it academic or federal government?

H Federal government, but in the federal government programs they knew that the year that they
decided to cut back--the second or third year--we received more grants than any other school,
even the bigger schools

B You did that while you were graduate dean?

H I was over at the graduate school I wrote those at the G-POP

B There is many a student that has you to thank

H Well, that is true Of course now, they get to re-write them each year But they are basing it on
the information that I gave them

B That is just renewal That is not writing a grant

H Well, anyway, I was the one who developed it--who wrote the proposal, got it out, went to do all
of the bit and so on Also, while I was out there I met Donna Shavlik, who is a part of the
American Council on Women in Higher Education When I was getting ready to go to Washington,
I wrote to Dr Pelzar, who is the executive director for the Council of Graduate Schools whose
office is in One Dupont Circle, and to the American Council on Education, Donna Shavlik He also
suggested that I write Emily Taylor, who was a part of the council, who was a director then of the
Office of Women in Higher Education, in the American Council on Education In writing and talking
with them, I was asked to come to the American Council on Education as a consultant during that
next year, when I was on second year Actually, it was during the end of the first year

B At the end of your sabbatical?
H Yes At the end of my sabbatical Since that time, I have been doing workwith them One of
their goals, as you know, is to prepare or to help advance women into higher education
administration, particularly for the presidency Now one of their major goals--and the one that I
came on for--is to help improve and to promote the advancement of minority women in higher
education administration That is how I came on as a consultant One of the points that I should










make is that while minority women presidents or even vice presidents or deans are relatively few,
they do have a better record in the predominantly black schools as vice presidents, deans and so
forth, than they do in the majority institutions In the majority institutions, most of them are serving
as assistants to the president or an affirmative action officer to a vice president It is changing a
little bit, but that is about the status and we are still working on all of those

B Well, do you think that you might be selected for the presidency?

H I was interviewed, I was selected I should say to you that not only have I worked for American
Council on Education, I also worked as a consultant for the Council of Chief State School Officers,
and I got that through the work with the American Council on Education That is the comparable
body to the secondary and elementary schools as the American Council on Education is It
consists of the superintendents of state schools, of the state departments of education in those
bodies So those were high-powered places and I got to meet a lot of interesting and fascinating
people I also read proposals for the United Negro College Fund At this body, I have met a
number of important black educators The one who has been a very outstanding figure is Dr Sam
Nabrltt, who is also on the board of trustees for a number of black colleges, and on the board of
directors at Paine, which is my alma mater So while we were reading these proposals, the man
who is now president of Paine who was once my student, was also reading proposals This year,
Paine was looking for a new president because Dr Scott resigned I met these people and I did
not think that they were saying many things that good, but when we finished, the president of
Paine called me and said that Dr Nabrltt had said my folder and vitae must go into the pool for the
applicants for the presidency That really came as a shock I had thought maybe I would, but I
was going to try to go through the stage of first being vice president of academic affairs, which
interested me I am very much interested in developing curriculum in that role--be strong but yet
innovative and so on I thought about it and my husband said that he would be in favor if I decided
to go, and so I applied The next thing I knew, I was one of the five remaining out of a hundred
and some applicants Then we were brought in to interview Now that was another experience I
tell you, it was unbelievable because I then experienced sexism to its highest I had heard of
sexism and talked about it and lectured on it, but I had not experienced it, and it was in that
situation that I experienced it to the point that you realize that they really feel that a woman could
not, at this point, guide a predominantly black college

B You might be more successful at a women's college

H But you only have two women's colleges

B Predominantly black women's colleges

H Predominantly black Now, I do not know that I would limit myself to either one of them You
ask me, where am I at this point? After two years, I did return to full-time teaching here I am still
active in some of those organizations I serve as a consultant for the American Council, and I
serve as a consultant for some of the others, too I help in some of the higher education issues
and discussions, and I like that I am now back in my department and I am enjoying that Above
all, I am beginning to do some writing, and I cannot tell you the projects and the papers that I have
ready for me to begin work on right at this moment, that have just been piled up as I have been
pursuing all these others I do want to write It is now sort of like an urge inside of me that I need
to have fulfilled What I am thinking I must do at this point, I must get two books out Because as I
said to you earlier, I believe I am a very idea-oriented, creative, innovative person who has put a
number of good ideas in the education world, but I cannot get credit for them because I did not put
them on paper

B Well, you put G-POP on paper










H I did But I am now determined that I must put down some of these others One is the area that
I am dealing with in research now about criticism for black writing I do think that literary criticism
in general is in a crisis at this moment, and a great deal of it is the result of African or ethnic
studies and women's studies coming into the curriculum, the restrictions for these programs are
now being broken down They are nowdoing all kinds of new things in criticism, and I am
convinced it is the result of what happened in these programs You see, traditionally they said that
you must be objective and you must see art as this, and life over here Well, all ethnic literature
had a great deal to do with what was going on in their lives right then The women's studies came
in, too Now one of the advantages that women's studies did for all of us is that--and the same is
true when we are talking about breaking down inequities in our open world--for some reason, the
women started writing much faster and even more productively than blacks have done Therefore
this literature got into the arena and they have started arguing so forcefully that these people
cannot continue to hold on to some of these ideas

B Of separating art and life

H Yes For example, the people in literature and psychology have come to the realization--what
we call the de-constructionists and the re-constructionists--that people do see a work of art as it is
related to them When they criticize it, it has to reflect their experiences It used to be that you
were not supposed to do this, and this is where many of us suffered so much in our development
through literature courses Because we were told, you cannot--that is not in the book

B I want you to tell me about those two books you have got

H All right

B One is with the publisher

H The first book is related to what I am saying One of the criticisms about black literature has
been that it was always criticized from a perspective of the majority literature without the
recognition that it had another literary heritage And that heritage is black--of the African folklore
heritage Now it is true we have had a great deal of problems in our writers trying to adhere to this
western or Euro-American literary tradition Inevitably that African folklore, just as we now are
discovering even in our real life, would creep in So what I am now trying to do--I started it and this
is why I need to get my writing done--is to try to come up with a certain way of describing and
talking about black literature Assuming that it is a product of both the Euro-American literary
tradition and the African folklore heritage, both have come through the same process I have been
writing on this book even while I was working My dissertation basically comes out of this, I am
continuing on it and I am fairly far along in the writing of this book It is difficult to write because
you are dealing with new territory and you even have to come up with a new language to write
about it It does require that you be knowledgable about European criticism as well as African
folklore So you are doing a great deal of research in criticism, plus in all of the themes and topics,
because that is where it is divided thematically as well as stylistically So you have to deal with a
great deal It takes a long time for me to get it done I still am committed to trying to get it done
There are people now beginning to do the same kind of thing I have done, but again, it is a long
process Most of them are still, in the books that have come out, talking about the need to do it

B But you are trying to do it

H But I am trying to do it And it is requiring a great deal of work Now, out of this grew my book
on the black grandmother That is one of the areas where I have seen a pattern between writers
in black American literature as well as African-American literature However, the same theory
could go if we were doing French-African literature, or Hispanic-African literature--you would see
the same kind of pattern It has to do with the family Now, I have done papers on topics such as










religion, the one on rituals music and so on, but what happened, I was asked to do a paper for the
National Council of Teachers of English on taking the best from the past and using it for the future
So I decided, well, why not begin with the black family In my dissertation, I had also talked about
the extended family concept, that is one of the patterns that you find in black literature But the
grandmother is the major force in the extended family that has survived Then I started working
trying to find all of the material I could on this, and I thought well, nobody has written a book on
black grandmothers We know that there are places where it exists, and I had gotten a project, I
was doing this paper I did my paper when I had my African-American literature students to start
doing projects with me One idea consisted of their going and helping me with the bibliography,
gathering as much material as they could that had been written about her Secondly, they could
find poems or other works that had been written about her in this type of bibliography They could
also interview or write creative works themselves about the black grandmother So out of this
project and my own concern, I have come up with this book, and people will say, why did you stop
on the other book? Well, this book was easier to put together because what I am doing is more of
an anthology with basically an introductory essay So I finally have given two papers out of that,
and another paper is being considered for publication, too So actually, I first did it for black
Americans Then I saw that the same pattern exists in African literature, so I did a paper for the
African Literature Association meeting I did it with both African-American and African literature,
and that paper is being considered in one place I also have written a paper concentrating only on
African-American and it is being considered elsewhere--the manuscript now is with Howard
University Press I am doing a big book, which consists of excerpts from prose works with the
grandmother as the figure, and many poems I have done a fairly comprehensive job on that Oh,
it does begin with an introductory section of sociology essays about the African family coming
over, and even one or two persons have written on the role of the grandmother The final section
consists of some works my students did on the black grandmother So now it is with a fairly
extensive bibliography

B So you have one that is with the publishers, that is the black grandmother, and the one that you
are working on So I hear you saying that really the scholarly life is quite fascinating and rewarding
for you

H I have now two other projects that I have not even talked about I do not know whether I should
talk about them because I have talked about them with some people One is an oral project that I
am hoping to do, and I have talked with Dr Proctor and Joel Buchanan about this It is called, In
the Tradition of Solourner Truth In many instances they are not well-educated, but they are these
role model figures for people like us, because they are active in their churches and they are active
in their communities, and they are these dynamic women with these voices and speaking skills
which combine wit and common sense They are powerful I know several of them in this
community that I would like to have perform For example, some of them can pray One lady has
just become a minister, and she talks about the struggle that she has gone through to even
become a minister But this lady can pray better than any man I have ever heard She really is
good And there are others They speak in churches, various places They do just about the
same thing that these men, and they are powerful, and I want to do a book on them as well as
record them in their forte, doing what they do, because you have to hear them to understand what
I am saying Then I have another one--I am AME, I am African Methodist Episcopal

B You mean you belong to the African Methodist Episcopal Church
H I saw an exhibit in Washington, "Nineteenth Century Black Women," and in this exhibit there
were all of these outstanding women who had been a part of the African Methodist Episcopal
Church Not only that, but they had also made other kinds of contributions People, women and
young people in the African Methodist Church know nothing about these African women

B They only know about Richard Allen










H They are just beginning to know about Richard Allen But they know nothing about these
women I want to do an exhibit with a story that will show these women It will travel from AME
churches only I mean I would love to travel everywhere, but because we have this heritage of
women in the African Methodist Episcopal Church that we do not know anything about, I want to
do that I wanted to make it available first to members of this denomination I have many others I
am interested in Two of my favorite African writers are Chenua Achebe and a woman by the
name of Ama Ata Aidor I have written on Chenua Achebe, he has been over to Gainesville

B I must interrupt you You did not tell me about your African tripexperiences










H I am telling you now a little bit


B We have got about fifteen minutes, so let's get a little bit of that in here Now many times,
where did you go, what did you do?

H I have been to Africa twice The first time I went in 1972 with the African American Institute on
a scholarship as an educator and it was a truly rewarding experience

B Where did you teach?

H We were really students and we stayed at the University of Cape Coast, in Ghana However,
we did travel at that time in Ghana, Nigeria, Togo, and what is now Benin I was there when
Nkrumah was brought back from exile and buried, and I even went to his funeral In the summer
of 1978, I was there about six weeks We stayed at the University of Cape Coast We traveled
around on a bus and went to classes, and I also conducted a workshop on Chenua Achebe at the
University of Ibadan Then in 1978, since I had been here at the University of Florida, I wrote a
proposal to the Humanities Council and was granted some money to go to Africa I also received
additional funds from the Center for African Studies I went with my niece on a project just to
interview writers I am very much interested in their use of English, their writing skills, and where
and how they made English their own I have all of those tapes that I need to edit and work on
and transcribe While I was there I met Ama Ata Aidor, the writer that I am very much interested
in Since that time I have invited her back here to Florida She came as a visiting writer at the
University of Florida in 1980 I am very much interested in her writing and I am writing about her I
have written three articles about her already I am planning to write another one because I have
been invited to participate in an African folklore conference in Budapest, Hungary this year I am
planning to write about her I have been fascinated by her because she and Chenua Achebe, my
other favorite African writer, are two persons whom I feel have blended so beautifully into this
double heritage that I am talking about You can see that they are grounded in the Western
tradition What he has done with the novel, she has done with the short story

B Well, we want to talk some more about you, because we are winding up now, so let me see
what we have here

H I have two sons I did not tell you

B Well, what do you want to tell me that I have not asked you?

H To say that I am active in the community Wherever I go, I try to become a part of the
community Most people are very surprised at me in the sense that when they discover that I have
a doctorate and yet I still am able to associate with the highest people as well as the lowest
people When I got married, you should have been at the reception to see the range of people I
am active in my church, which means that the people of the community were there as well as the
highest officials of the University People tend to think that that is really good I feel that is good,
because what I am doing is trying to bring these worlds together I feel that is important

B It sounds like you have done an admirable job

H I am also very much concerned about being a good mother and wife, and as I said, I feel I am
quite religious When I say that, I mean that I have quite a strong faith, and that I could not have
come to where I am now if I had not had that I believe and I am grateful to God that I do have
that I am not ashamed of admitting that in any way I think it has played a tremendous role in my
life to bring me to this point

B What is your youngest son doing?











H My youngest son is my prodigal son He is at home at the moment, and he is still struggling to
try to get himself together My oldest son lives in Miami and is doing very well One is
overambitious--that is the older one He is now starting his own business He had worked for
awhile He did finish college He started at Morehouse, but he ended up going to Miami and he
finished at Florida International University He worked for awhile at the University of Miami
Medical Bookstore, but then out of that, he decided to open his own business, particularly
providing medical supplies and so forth in the Caribbean and to doctors all around He is married
to an obstetrician, and people all tease him that he selected a wife just like his mother in many
kinds of ways She is a rather ambitious person

B Well, this has been a tremendously interesting interview

H You ask me what else I wanted to do As I have said to you, I am somewhere between
deciding whether I want to be an administrator or a full-time faculty member I am feeling quite
comfortable at the moment where I am I want to continue writing and so on, but if a good
opportunity comes into focus--I just finished reading proposals and people are constantly saying,
why Mildred, you need to be president of this I do have a few fears, particularly the black
colleges that are struggling so hard I am still interested in the black colleges, but I really do not
know It seems very bleak I do not know how far we have come in terms of a good society that
you can be effective in even in the administration of the majority

B I was getting ready to say it must be difficult to put yourself out on the line for the job because
if you get the job, you are really on the spot because you want to succeed of course, and there are
so many forces that can work against you over which you have absolutely no control

H That is so true Those are the kinds of things that I think about

B Especially, as you say, with the black colleges

H And in the majority institutions It is one of those big problems of being able to find your role in
the power structure of these institutions Not only find your role, but even surviving is just a great
deal of effort We still have a great deal to accomplish yet

B A long way to go

H So we just have to keep working in there I am not afraid of challenges I enjoy challenges in a
sense because I see them as giving great rewards when you finally overcome them I always say
although my life has been a struggle, I would live it again I really would I think it has been quite
challenging

B It sounds that way Well, I thank you very much This is the end