Oral Histories

"If you get the time, or if you’ve taken the time, read up on the ‘60s, the Civil Rights Movement, as much as you can. Because it’s really a strong learning tool about mankind. I doubt that we’ll have anything like that again, especially in my lifetime - maybe in yours - if not, that intent may be close to, but I don’t think so. There are some things that only happen once in a lifetime. And I think that was one of them..."

 

                              - Bonnie Collier

 

Bonnie Collier is a native to Anderson, Indiana, and grew up on the South part of Anderson. Growing up Bonnie and her brother were the only two African Americans to attend grade school at Washington Elementary School—where they witnessed, personally, very little racism within the school or community. During the Civil Rights era she worked at General Motors, and she describes the emotional toll the Civil Rights took on the nation. Bonnie dedicates much of her time working at the Madison County Historical Society where she has constructed exhibits about the influential African-Americans that lived in Anderson. Bonnie devotes personal time and passion to the remembering of history so future generations will respect and appreciate what those have achieved in the past for their community and nation.

 
Bonnie Collier

See the full interview here.

Johnny Wilson was born in Anderson, Indiana in 1927. He grew up in the city of Anderson, playing several sports throughout his life, particularly excelling in basketball. He went to Anderson College and continued to play basketball, breaking several records, and was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame and the Anderson University Athletic Hall of Fame. He also traveled with the Harlem Globetrotters for several years! Wilson defied the odds of becoming a sports legend despite challenges throughout his life based on the color of his skin.

 

 "...The downtown office wanted to call it Abraham Lincoln or a few other names such as that, the students said “no, we want it to be named Malcom X.” And so now they changed the name to Malcom, and a lot of people say that you working at Malcom X College first thing they think it’s a religious school for black Muslims, but it was not. It was the oldest junior college in Chicago." - Johnny Wilson

 
 

See the full interview here.

"1966, 1967, 1968 were years that a lot of the Civil Rights Movement and the issues had moved more to the North, and so there were a lot of people that were unhappy with the way the situation was. And they were protesting and - peaceful protests often disrupted into something else."

 

                                    - Becki Clock

 

 

Born and raised in Muncie Indiana, Becki Clock is a graduate of Ball State University and a retired school teacher. During her first year as a teacher at SouthSide High School, the infamous South Side riots happened. Becki might be retired, but she is still very involved in the community. She currently serves on the Martin Luther king Dream Team board.

 

See the full interview here.

" And it seems really strange… you know..to… the… for that to happen in New Castle like you know…30, 25, 30 years after the initial  thrust of the civil rights movement from the 60s. But I guess it was just the complacency of the community…you know back in the 60s that everything was status quo and you know people had employment and people had their homes. New Castle was initiating community that…you know…majority of African Americans there owned their homes, had jobs, there was not any abject poverty that was going on in that community. The community never had more than…at any one time had more than 4-500 African Americans living in that community at the time. It was probably less than that now. But times change you know" 

 -Rick Cottman

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rick Cottman is a New Castle native who collaborated with Reverend Charles Harrison after the latter arrived in New Castle as the pastor of United Methodist Church in June of 1986. Mr. Cottman and the community improvement association committee met with the former Mayor of New Castle,Bud Ayers, to improve employment opportunities for Blacks in the town. When that failed to bear fruit, Mr. Cottman helped organize and participated in the New Castle March for Equal Employment in the summer of 1987.

"When it...a girl who was about three years younger than me, her brother and I went to school together. She was a reporter for the Elwood paper and she came and asked me if she could do an interview. And I said, Sure!" you. I'm not...I'm tired of people being afraid of the Klan and so she did an interview and published in the paper...the Elwood paper. Well then Indianapolis news on Channel 6 got a hold of it. They interviewed me on camera and then uhh I guess then...the story went nationwide because some friends of my dad's said they were in Florida and heard about it. So uhh Good Morning America wanted to interview me but that never...I don't know what happened but it never came about. But yeah I was...I was freely giving interviews and letting it be...you know...get out there about what happened and that things needed to change in Elwood." 

                               -Rebecca Murphy

 

Rebecca Murphy was born in 1949 and was raised in Elwood. She grew up in a middle class family, her father owned Morrow's Texaco station and her mother was a housewife. She went to grade school at Oakland School. In middle school she began to realize how different life was for Whites and Blacks when civil rights marches started. She continued to be an advocat for civil rights throughout high school and married a man named Ron with whom she had three children. Once her and her husband divorced, she moved to Elwood with her children. After being threateded by the Klan, she refused to leave right away. She ended up moving to Anderson with her boys and lives there now where is very close to her family. 

“Just stand up for yourself, but you don’t need to do it in a violent fashion or anything like that, you just gotta make your voice be heard, make sure that people know what’s right and what the truth is and then… eventually the truth will take hold and if you give it to people enough times it will just take hold. But if you resort to violence… you know… you’re kind of stooped to the level of whoever your oppressor is, whether it’s because you’re Black or Hispanic or Gay. If you stoop to their level then you’ve instantly lost your credibility and our fight’s going nowhere.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

At 10 years old, Micah Mitchell experienced an act of racial discrimination and hate. His experience subsequently altered the way that he viewed his town and the police officials appointed to protect its citizens. More importantly, through witnessing his mother and her bravery in the way she handled the situation by turning to activism, Micah was more inclined to stand up for himself in other areas of his life, without becoming hateful in the process.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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