... REMINISCING ABOUT THE AFRICAN
rather wave or say hello to somebody
that you don't know than to miss
somebody that you do. . . "
Everlyn Louise Swales Holland (1932
(2 minutes, 16 seconds)
I think there is a difference
between White people and Black people in
our society and that has to do--. It
doesn't have to do with physical
difference. It has to do with a
difference in perception of how people
are perceived. It has to do with social
status. It has to do with money. It has
to do with power and it has to do with
how people value you.
example: If you are an African American
or a Brown baby born in the United
States, you should be deducted 10%. Take
10% off of everything that's important
in life. Take 10% off of your
healthcare. Take 10% off of your
education. So, you start minus, or 10%
off. You start at 90%. If you're White,
you start at 100%. . . .
are things beyond our control that
dictate whether you are poor or not. So,
that's--that's just the way I, I view
the difference between White people and
Brown or Black people, or
People-of-Color is a better way to put
it's our-If you look at how we look at
things in the world situation, it's-it's
amazing to me. But if you have the
power, mostly money, anything is-you can
buy anything. [chuckle] You can buy
people's loyalty. You can buy their
death. You can buy anything. . .
William Alonzo Gaskin (1951 - ) (audio only - 35 seconds)
Mary's County, if I walk in a store and
say, "Hello," You know, I'm going to
have a half-dozen people say, "Hello" to
me. It's just because it's part of our
community. It's just, you know--. It's
just the way it goes. You know. And in
St. Mary's County, you're better off--.
You'd much rather wave or say hello to
somebody that you don't know than to
miss somebody that you do [know]. . .
wave going down the road.
friends] say, "Well who is that?"
know. I'm not sure. It's just, you know,
instances, life is better where there's
been much improvement in the way of
life. Yet, I don't see the closeness of
communities as they used to be. Maybe
it's because the communities have grown
so much larger and many people moving in
the different areas, but it doesn't seem
to be the caring in the communities that
it used to be. Everybody's going on
their own little turf. I'm going this
way, and it's- "I'm here in need." Well,
you know, I'm sort of still going. It
doesn't seem to be that closeness. . . .
Just don't feel connected, you know, as
somebody's sick: "Oh, you know
so-and-so's sick and in the hospital."
they? How long have they been sick? Oh,
go on their merry way.
time, if somebody was sick, "Oh, who's
home with those children? Who's doing
for those children? How they being taken
care of? What can I do to help them?"
. . . I'm
not talking just about Afro-Americans.
I'm talking about all people. I dread to
think that the Afro-Americans that they
would all come together and they would
share and leave everybody else out. I'd
like to see people getting along
together as people regardless of color.
Sharing with one another, regardless of
color. Doing things together, you know,
regardless of color. . .
think that we are any more or any less
humane today than we were a long time
ago. I think we might be just a little
bit more indifferent-- indifferent to
other peoples' situations. Not overtly
so, but in more subtle ways indifferent.
Not so sensitive to people. So, maybe
that's different. . . .
remember in my grandmother's time, she
used to have this big table and she fed
everybody. People came off the street,
you know, and there wasn't any soup
kitchen, but, "Come on in. Sit down."
And, fed everyone, which doesn't happen
anymore. So, that's what I mean that
people have become a little more
insensitive to each other in feelings,
and you find that even in families when
you get that kind division or something
there. Rather than being supportive and
listening to your family members, that
doesn't happen. And the sad part, to me,
is people can't say, "Well, it
started--." There's no time when it
started, and they don't know what
happened . . . just the growing apart
for no apparent reason.
then, you respected your elders. You
listened to what you were told and
anybody would correct you if they saw
you doing something wrong. And of
course, at the time we thought it was
bad; but later on, we found out how
great it was. Everybody in the community
looked out, basically, for everybody
else: children, adults, whatever, and
that part to me, was a lot better then
than it is now. Of course, living
conditions and financial conditions are
a whole lot better now than they were
back then. But, born poor, living poor,
you didn't realize how poor you were
until later years. I mean, you can't
miss what you never had. . . .
then, people didn't argue with kids.
What they said went. I played hooky one
day in school the whole time I was
going. I went up there and I made sure I
missed the bus and I went home, and my
grandfather never mentioned it, but he
got the crosscut saw out and hung me on
the crosscut saw until lunchtime. Well,
we went in to eat and I'm going to eat
slowly so that I can get a long break.
got done eating, he said, "Come on, son,
ain't finished eating yet."
we went back out and we were on that
crosscut saw until dark. Then, I had all
of my regular chores to do after that.
And the next morning, I was there
half-hour before the bus came. I wanted
to make sure I didn't miss the bus
because that saw was still waiting. But,
this is the way they got their point
across. They didn't argue. They didn't
do a lot of talking, but you knew they
chore I had was pulling baskets of grass
for the hogs -- honey grass in the
field. But you wanted to get by. So,
you'd go out and you'd pull grass and
fluff it up in the basket so it would
look like it was full and you'd look and
[Grandfather] was nowhere in sight. But
one of the corners you went around, he
was there. He pushed that grass down in
the basket and it'd go way down. Well,
you didn't get to go back to fill it.
You went and dumped that in the pen,
then you went and got a full basket. So,
it was a lot simpler to fill it the
first time, then you wouldn't have to
make two trips. And I mean this is the
way they got their point across.
supposed to get in buckets of water at
night. If it was 11 o'clock at night,
frost on the ground or whatever, when
the water went [down] in the buckets,
you went and got more water. Even if it
was 11 o'clock at night, they got you
out of bed, but you still went and got
that water because you should have got
it [earlier] that evening. You knew you
were supposed to do it.
better to get all these darn things done
while you can still see and get around
than going out in the middle of the
night to do these things. So, you
learned to do what you were told. . . .
you get out of the community, you start
to look around. "Hey. This is different.
I don't have to go in the back door.
Why, when I go back home, I'm gonna have
to go in the back door? Why can't I sit
down at the restaurant and have a cup of
coffee? I mean, Mr. Charlie's sitting
here having a cup. Why can't I have a
cup, too? And you know, you don't start
to think until you get out of the
community, get out of the situation.
You're introduced to somethin'
different, and that's what happened with
the colleges. You know, you see another
aspect. You see another side. This is
what-"This is not what we do back at
home. Well, if I can do it here, I go
home I want to do it, too. Not only do I
want to do it, I want my kids to be able
to do it. I want my parents to be able
to do it." And so, that's where the
change come. . . .
. . . the
idea was you know, you get out of the
situation. You get away from home, what
you've been-what you were born with,
born and raised all your life, that's
all you know. Then, you get away and
you're introduced to these foreign
ideas. This is acceptable. This is what
the normal people do. Then, you start to
think, and that's bad when you start to
think because then you want change. And,
we saw the change. . . .
is something else. We talk about the
segregation. You know, before we said
[when you] went to college; you get your
eyes open. You get your eyes open or
whatever. Now suppose you stay in the
community. How do you fight it then? I
mean, I'm in the community. I've got to
depend on Mr. Charlie for the job. I
want to go to the store to get something
to eat. Where do I go? Do we have any
black stores? No. I mean, you know,
they - The resource just wasn't there. You
fight it and it's kind of like cutting
your nose of spite of your face. What do
you gain? So, you've got to realize, you
know, get your priorities in order.
Which is more important?
maybe sometimes [African Americans] --
some of us -- have lost that desire to be
informed of certain activities that we
made progress in. See we've done a lot
of things that have not been recorded -- a
lot of inventions. And I think we need
to know that and that gives you a pride
in your race. "Look, there's a man just
like you, same color, same features and
everything, and look what he's done;
he's made progress in life. Instead of
being a nobody, he becomes somebody. And
it just makes you feel better. I don't
know whether everybody feels that way or
not. Can't talk for other people. But I
know a lot of us do. And that's probably
why they got that display down at the
library, to let people know that there
are people that contributed something.
And through their contribution, they
should be respected. And that's the way
I see it. . . .
teenagers out here today that is good
people. They are mannerly; they have
respect for theirself; they have respect
for other people, but that's the way
their parents raise them. And to me, a
lot of the teenage problems today go
back home. They have no home training
and that would really tee some people
I said, I've been driving a bus, school
bus [for] 35 years. I'm hauling
grandchildren of some of the first
students I hauled. Not their children,
their grandchildren. And, it's just as
much difference in the kids that I'm
hauling today and the kids I hauled 30
years ago. It's just night and day. They
are loud; they're abusive. A lot of them
have nasty mouths and the parents -- well,
they're not like that at home.
not an angel at home and a devil when
they step out the door. It just don't
work that way, but it's just the
teenager of today, or a big portion of
them, has no resemblance of the teenager
35, 40 years ago. I mean, they just--.
They're different. . .
the country. I never liked the city
because I always was afraid in the city.
It's quiet and you get to know people.
There's a little bit of closeness
although it's not as close as it used to
be, but I just feel a little freer in
the country. . . .
came along, discipline was handled in
the home. A child wasn't sent to school
for the teacher to discipline. This was
done in the home and I think there's
been a fallacy in upbringing and the way
children are taught in the home now.
There's so many things-They're allowed
to do so many things. They have too much
freedom. Number one, starting with the
TV. And when it's just one-parent
family, they don't know what the
children are looking at. They don't know
what they're seeing. And, they have to
work. So, I think it's the home. It's in
the home. It's the home situation. It's
out of the cradle, out of the crib.
It's: Now, I'll wait until you're three
or four, but you can't wait that long
anymore. You can't wait. Didn't wait
with us. . . .
know what I would have done without
having the opportunity to teach and to
work with people. I'm a people person,
and I just like being with people and I
like working with people. You know,
regardless of what I'm doing. Nothing's
too small, too low for me to do as long
as I'm with people and helping people.
Not without people! [laughter] And
couldn't done without the Lord and my
work as a teacher and helper.
Although St. Mary's County is only 60
miles south of Washington D. C. it has
been a forgotten isolated peninsula for
most of its 400 years of history since
the first European settlers arrived.
Countians have dealt with their
isolation in traditional as well as
innovative ways. During the timeframe
discussed in our oral histories (1865 -
present), local African Americans not
only had to surmount the challenges of
rural poverty and the effects of Jim
Crow, but also had to overcome the
difficulties arising from a lack of
infrastructure that is typical of
Maryland's tidewater counties.
the stories of African Americans in
Southern Maryland, we can learn about
the important contributions people have
made to build this vibrant community.
With this knowledge and understanding of
the subculture, we then can better
locate ourselves in the present and plan
for our futures.