Clinton Perkins Interview
Tape 1 of 2 - Side 1
BS: Your father probably knows about our recent addition to Delaware State University.
CP: Donald Byrd; what's he doing?
BS: He's our, uh, resident scholar, resident.
CP: Is that right? He probably does know about that. If he doesn't I'll mention it to him. He's a resident scholar there?
BS: Uh huh.
CP: At Delaware State University? Donald Byrd huh?
BS: Donald Byrd. And every February he puts on a concert. He'll have an art show
CP: At the University?
BS: Uh huh.
CP: Is that right? I never knew that.
BS: And he collects art and maps.
CP: Art and maps?
BS: Arts and maps. And he had a couple of exhibits.
CP: Huh. Donald Byrd huh? I didn't know that.
BS: And last year it was, I forget the name of the exhibit but it was all African art. Pretty contemporary work. And then uh, he had the concert. He likes to uh, show off his students.
CP: Uh huh. Well I didn't know that. Del Burg huh. I wonder if my father knows that?
BS: And the University of Delaware jazz group accompanied and backed him up.
CP: Is that right?
BS: Uh huh. And the sax player, I've seen him around and I can't remember his name, teaches at the University of Delaware in the music department. And just unobtrusive, he's just there. And you really have to pay attention to uh, to get the full appreciation of it. Byrd also did a, he's writing his, putting his father's sermons, he was a Methodist minister, to music.
CP: Is that right?
BS: And they had a concert in Florida, the Methodist Church performed, and anyway he got the quartet from the University of Delaware Del State a couple of years ago or so, and uh, classical musicians playing the score. And uh, I remember I was sitting on the front row and talking to Burt's wife and this trumpet player turned red and blue in the face trying to hit the chords that Burt wrote and I looked at her and I said, "Burt wrote that by himself. Nobody else could do that."
CP: Couldn't do that.
BS: And she was recording and Burt heard that and he got a kick out of that. Oh man, I mean that guy had to go rest for awhile after that.
CP: Let me ask you something real quick. What is this for? I mean, is it something going to be published interview? If it's something that's going to be published
CP: I mean, in what form? Paper or book?
DH: What we did originally, as you know, is interview about ten people on the Riots. And that was, I did, there was a woman named Alysa Diller who's a Presbyterian minister, but she also heads up and AmericCorp program over at uh, University of Delaware now. She had done interviews up in New Jersey [Plainfields] when the race riots occurred. And she thought to start this. And what we did was when we finished those interviews, we used that. We didn't, we invited people to a conference and they talked about their experiences in a conference. So none of that ever got to paper or anything. But, you know, we made a stop at that point. But we never did talk to anybody who had been in the streets. We talked to National Guards, we talked to
DH: Yeah, like, the National Guard guy had been a captain at the time and he started with the '67 Riots because the '67 Riots, which weren't big, got the National Guard to begin to train for riot control. And he was so proud of that he spent the whole damn time talking their training procedures. Uh, and then we talked to Littleton Mitchell, NAACP:. He had nothing to do with it, really. And we talked to Jim Baker, who was, I think, pretty good because he was a [Vista] worker.
DH: Did you ever work with Jim Taylor as one of the young people who was interested or involved with ?
CP: No, I didn't work with him.
DH: From the neighborhoods?
CP: I didn't work with Jim Taylor or uh,
DH: Jim Baker.
CP: Oh yeah, I'm familiar with Jim Baker.
DH: Yeah. Jim Baker is who I meant.
CP: I met him when he first came here from Vista. He came here, he lived on 7th Street? Between Madison and Jefferson. And uh, see, I knew some more guys, they were living in that house there and we used to go in and just chit chat and he'd kind of give us direction, you know, in life, you know, and keep us on the right track. And he's always been like that, every since he came here. We didn't know him. He didn't know us. But he reached out to us. Right away. And I, I'm familiar with Jim Baker. I've seen him grow in this town from the Vista worker to the president of uh, City Council.
DH: Did you know that he's thinking of running against Mayor Sills?
CP: Uh huh.
CP: So I've had uh, some contact with Jim.
DH: And then uh, yeah so, and he was telling us how he rapped with people, chatted with people and how he tried to introduce African culture and history and stuff like that and brought in some of his own artifacts and films and stuff like that and some statuary and paintings and stuff like that. And so then we interviewed Mayor, I mean, not [Babiars], we couldn't get that, we didn't interview Haskell, but we interviewed the City Solicitor, Biondi, and he was, to tell you the truth, a fairly pompous creature.
CP: Uh huh.
DH: You know, he had felt that everything was under control because he was the City Solicitor.
CP: He still feels that way.
DH: Yeah. And we were just, we got some good interviews and, you know, I told you Andy Taylor, who was a young cop
CP: Andy Turner?
DH: Andy Turner. Why do I keep saying Taylor? And then uh, Matt Shipp. Those were both cops. Black cops. And they talked about how tough things were.
CP: Yeah, they were the pioneers, Blacks in the police department.
DH: Yeah. But he's now thinking of writing a book about Civil Rights.
CP: A book
DH: And he's trying to get a handle on it. Civil Rights in Delaware.
CP: So that's what his interview could end up.
DH: It could end up
CP: In that book.
DH: Uh huh. Or part of it.
BS: The way I see envision this is to try to uh, edit, edit all the oral histories, put them in, in looking at the raw material and looking at how folks speak and, with everything, sometimes I've seen repeat, repeat, repeat. So what I'm trying to do is get this into a form where people can take a look at it and get an understanding of uh, this particular person's perspective of the Riots of '68. Uh, I, uh, and these are some of the questions I wanted to ask you. Was it a riot? Is that a good, even a good uh, description of what happened and things like that. And uh, or was it a, a political protest. You know, trying to get an idea on how to define what actually happened. And edit that out and then put in editorial comments about backgrounds. Like, there was a, Biondi talked about going to Washington DC meeting before the [McClellen] Committee. Uh, I associated McClellen with uh, the uh, uh, recall act which he introduced until I, and then I talked to a colleague at the University who's doing similar work on businesses and Affirmative Action programs and so forth, regarding Black businesses, and he said, "Oh, McClellan was investigating uh, the impact of the '67, well the whole riot period on businesses." And so this, Biondi mentions McClellan going to DC but never an explanation on what actually happened, who he was, what happened. And so a reader going through that it would raise a question, "Who was this guy."
CP: What was he all about? Yeah.
BS: In the introduction or maybe the editorial comments to explain each and every interview, some of these points that he brought up and trying to hold every, the oral histories as close as possible but yet making them clear. So like editing memoirs or something like that.
BS: And when I talked to uh, Deborah, one thing I noticed was uh, we should probably extend the interviews beyond uh, police, National Guard, politicians and so forth. Who, what about the Commemoration for Martin Luther King, Jr. on Rodney Square? Who was there? It sounded like students going there and showing their grief and to commemorate Martin Luther's life just as a public expression of that. Who was there? And should we talk what about business here? Black owned business. Uh, owners in the area, what was, and to try to get a broader picture. And I, so Deborah mentioned that uh, that you do, you had uh, you have a perspective on the whole, whole affair and I thought it would be a great idea to talk with you about that.
CP: Yeah, okay.
BS: I guess with any interview we always begin with you introducing yourself, your name and some of your background.
DH: Yeah. Say it on the tape so that we have it on the tape.
CP: Okay. Well it's on right?
DH: It's on now but you haven't given your name.
CP: Oh, okay.
DH: 'Cause I just turned it on while we were chit chatting.
CP: Oh, do I give it to you now?
CP: My name is Clinton Perkins and uh, you just want some background?
CP: Well, I was born and raised here in Wilmington, Delaware. Uh, went to school here. Graduated from Howard High School. It was Howard High at the time. I guess it's Howard Career Center now.
BS: When did you graduate from Wilmington High, I mean Howard High?
CP: Howard High. '68.
CP: Yeah. It was Howard. Don't say Wilmington High. It was, we were rivals at the time. Nah, Howard High. Uh, '68. The year of the Riots. April, I came out of school in June of that year. I went to uh, where you are now, Delaware State College for a couple of years. Went there in '71. '71 and I stayed 'til '73. I stayed for two years. Came out and been working every since.
BS: So, you went to Del State in '71?
BS: And so, were you aware of what was happening on the campus in '68 at the same time?
CP: I wasn't aware of what was happening on the campus. No, I wasn't. The campus, Delaware State Campus?
CP: No. No.
BS: Okay. Apparently the Governor sent troops there.
CP: To the campus?
BS: To the campus and uh closed the school and sent in the National Guard.
CP: You know, it vaguely, I might have heard something like that but I'm not sure, you know. There was too much going on in Wilmington at that time.
BS: Can you tell me about where you were and how you felt about the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.?
CP: Well I remember where I was. Uh, I think like everyone else at that point, when you hear of a person of that status being assassinated at first it's just a shock, disbelief, just, "Wow, I don't believe it." Then as the reports come over the TV and radio you, you know, it finally sets in that, yeah, he is dead. Somebody killed him. It was uh, it was just a depressing time. It was depressing because of what he meant to everybody. Not just Black people but white people. 'Cause he was for everybody, you know, and uh, it was, it was, it was shocking. You're like in a state of disbelief for awhile.
BS: What did he mean to you personally?
CP: Well, he was someone that I, at that time, see, back in the '60s I was in, I was still a teenager. So up until then it was never, I never have seen a person stand out like that and speak for equal rights for everybody. Uh, and there were people who spoke out for Blacks but this guy was, he was for everybody. And he just meant, he just meant to me that he was alone. He was like, he was on a level all his own, to me, and uh, that's like, that's how I see him, is he's just out there. He was bigger than, bigger than anything out there, you know, in his work, in his belief, in what he was trying to do. Bigger that way.
BS: Did he inspire hope or ?
CP: Oh yeah. He gave hope to myself and to people, uh my peers around me. There was hope. There was actually people, you know, he had an effect on people that I know that may have resorted to violence and because of Martin Luther King they looked at it another way. Maybe there's a passive way we can get things done without violence. Of course, you know, he couldn't make everyone think that way but there were people that he did change in that way.
BS: You, you, can you recall what your, any of your experiences before the assassination while you were in high school at Howard?
CP: An experience?
BS: Uh, just day to day uh, life in high school, on campus.
CP: What is was like in high school?
BS: Yeah, yeah.
CP: Well, it was just, well it wasn't, life, you just went to school, you probably had too much fun in high school. I always say my, I always say the last year of high school was the most fun in my life, I had a lot of fun in school, probably too much. But it was a good time. High school was a good time for me. I went to school every day, you know, and I didn't miss a day in high school. I'd never had any intentions on not going for whatever, you know, kids play hooky. I never had intentions on doing that. So to me school was a pretty nice place, you know, all my friends were there, you know, I got to see my buddies. And if I did play hooky where would I go? All my friends were in school. So, you know, so. But I never, we weren't taught that, of course from the home I come from, that, that instilled that in us to go to school. So that's what we did.
BS: So did you walk to school, were you close enough?
CP: I walked to school. I walked to school until uh, see, I live on the west side. Howard was on the east side. Most kids went to Wilmington High. There wasn't bussing then, bussing wasn't even heard of. Most kids from the west side just automatically went to Wilmington High, High School. And then you get, get the kids from the east side, Southbridge and north east, they're more likely to go to PS or Howard. But I went, I kind of like broke that tradition. All my brothers and sisters went to Wilmington High, I went to Howard.
BS: Why was that?
CP: Because I was aware, I was aware of the Black school. Even back then, I wanted to go to a Black school.
BS: And what did that mean to you?
CP: Well, it meant a sense of pride to me. You know what I found out when I went to Howard? When I went to Howard they had teachers there, those were good teachers. They were serious man, they were serious about teaching you. And if you didn't get it it's because you didn't want it but they were excellent teachers down at Howard. Those teachers cared. You know, they, back then they didn't have a problem with staying after school and helping kids get their work. I mean, if you needed help they'd stay there with you.
BS: You, your brother and sister going to the other school, did you ever share your experiences and were they different experiences since they went to the other school and you went to Howard? Did you ever talk about that?
CP: No. Not too much. I don't think I ever did. With my brothers and sister? Not too much.
BS: So they never mentioned what life was like at Wilmington?
CP: At their school? No. No.
BS: What was the best part about Howard? How did ?
CP: I've still got allergies, that's why my eyes water.
DH: I've got some Kleenex here if you want, and there's some
BS: So you felt uh, uh, pride in going to Howard and Howard fulfilled that, your expectations? How so? Besides the dedication of the teachers?
CP: Uh, how did they fulfill the pride other than the dedication of the teachers?
BS: Or your expectations. When you went to Howard you mentioned you had, it sounded like you had some expectations and the dedication of the teachers being one.
CP: Well, I guess it's just being around people that I felt comfortable being around with at that time. Uh, people that I could relate to and that could relate to me. You know.
BS: How long have your family uh, lived in Wilmington?
CP: Oh, they lived in Wilmington until I was grown.
BS: How about before you were born?
CP: My mother came from Maryland, my mother came from Maryland. My father came from Virginia. And I guess they met in Wilmington.
BS: And when did they move ?
BS: Or why?
CP: Oh, I don't know.
BS: And when did they move?
CP: I don't know, I don't know when they moved. They were already here when I was born so I don't know.
BS: Did you ?
CP: I was born in '48 so they were at least here by then.
BS: Okay. Did you have other relatives in Wilmington?
CP: Here, uh huh. Yeah we have uh, well my father's brothers and sisters here. My mother's an only child.
BS: Did your brothers uh, I mean your father's brothers and sisters, did they come with them after or before?
CP: Hmm. I think, you know that's a good question. I don't know if my mother and father were actually born here and that's where their parents came from. I think they were, that's a good question. That's a good question, I don't know.
BS: And your, in your neighborhoods uh, were there uh, do you know if folks that lived there for generations or were they, as we say in Delaware, non-natives? You know you almost have to live here for 300 years to be a native.
CP: Yeah. Well the kids that I grew up with they, they were all born and raised here, right in that area. But where their parents came from I'm not sure of. I kind of thinking that their parents were here also as small children but I know the kids that I grew up with were. Very, very few kids at that time came from out of Delaware, that I grew up with. Uh, as I got older it seemed like I started noticing that a little more. Some of the kids would come from out of state. But for the most part as I was, you know, preteen and early teens, they were right, home grown, so to speak.
BS: Were you aware of the desegregation movement in education that was going on in Delaware at the time?
CP: Well, uh, kind of. I was more aware of it nationally than, than I think, than Delaware, myself, 'cause uh, I would hear things from the paper or the TV would give me a national, you know, view. I don't remember to much about Delaware. The only thing I remember about Delaware was the [Realto]Movie, it stayed segregated for a long time when other movies were integrated. The Realto was still the only one that was still segregated.
BS: Did you ever go to that?
CP: I never went to the Realto.
BS: How did you feel about that?
CP: Well, I just thought it was, I didn't think it was right. I would never have gone anyway, even when they did integrate it. I would have never gone.
BS: Because it was segregated.
CP: Right. Because it took so long for it to change.
BS: Uh, it sounds like you, you, you have a keen awareness of uh, civil rights at that time.
CP: Oh yeah. I did.
BS: How did that come about?
CP: That's a good question too. How did that come about? I don't know if something happened that sparked it or it's just or maybe it's the way I was treated. I don't know where it came from. Uh, I've always had an awareness of who I was, you know, my color, you know. But it had to happen through some experience but I can't put my finger on it. I can't say, "Well I had this incident and this happened and then that happened." I can't say that 'cause I don't know right now. I don't know. You're asking some good questions that's making me think. 'Cause that is a good question. I know it's always been there. It's always been there even when I was young. Maybe it just come from pride. Just pride never being that, never accepting that I was less than someone else, you know, never believing that. Because I don't think anybody, you know, no race should feel that way.
BS: Where did you go to elementary school?
CP: [Mary C.I. Williams] They're not there now. You know what's there now? The [Adams Ford] shopping center. Are you familiar with Adams Ford? Shopping center over on the west
DH: No but my daughter went to [Mary], it's a beautiful school that they tore down. The said they were going to have this marvelous shopping center. It barely goes.
CP: Well they have one there, I don't know how marvelous it is but it's a shopping center.
DH: Yeah, yeah. And it was beautiful. It was like Howard. It had wooden floors, tall ceilings, majestic. The auditorium was beautiful. There was nothing wrong with that school. And then they closed it when they started the integration.
CP: Your daughter went there?
DH: My daughter went there the last year. She's 29. She went there, she loved it. And [Elliott Molok] was the principal. Did you know him?
CP: Uh uh.
DH: 'Cause he's gone on to sort-of oversee the Fame Program for minorities into engineering. And he's been a wonderful influence. A bright wonderful Black man who
CP: They had a big playground. It was like a whole square block.
DH: Yep. Yep. Gorgeous school. A lot of us tried to keep that open and it didn't do any good because economically that was going to be a marvelous sale. You know.
CP: And wasn't that around the same time when they started building that freeway too, wasn't it? 95?
DH: No, no. Freeway was much, well
CP: That was before the school?
DH: She must have gone to Mary C.I. at about, about '74. Just before they tore it down. But the freeway was there before the '68 riots in the early '60s. Because I know that Jim Baker talks about how that was one of the things that tore the city apart. They cut out the guts of the center of Wilmington to make that highway, which they didn't need to do. And you look at it now and nobody needs that road anyway. If you want to go to Philly from the south you go 495 so it was a stupid decision. And that's when they also torn down a lot of housing.
CP: Oh, they tore a lot of housing down.
DH: He must have feelings about that too. But you were across the way so you weren't affected by that.
CP: Yeah. I wasn't too far from there when that, 95 was built. I was real young though. See, I was real young. I don't even know, I still remember, I remember at about, about '74. Just before they tore it down. But the freeway was there before the '68 riots in the early '60s. Because I know that Jim Baker talks about how that was one of the things that tore the city apart. They cut out the guts of the center of Wilmington to make that highway, which they didn't need to do. And you look at it now and nobody needs that road anyway. If you want to go to Philly from the south you go 495 so it was a stupid decision. And that's when they also torn down a lot of housing.
CP: Oh, they tore a lot of housing down.
DH: He must have feelings about that too. But you were across the way so you weren't affected by that.
CP: Yeah. I wasn't too far from there when that, 95 was built. I was real young though. See, I was real young. I don't even know, I still remember, I remember them dynamiting, you know, to clear, to make way for the 95. I still remember the dynamite going off. But I don't remember, see, I was so young then. I couldn't put that in perspective as to what that meant to the people. I'm sure what it would mean to me if I lost my house and it depends on what they paid them. But it happened, that happened when we were living on Jefferson Street. When I stayed with my, we were living with my grandmother, and she had a home that we all lived in, my mother and the kids. And uh, they came through, Urban Renewal, and that's where Quaker Hill is now, the Quaker Hill area around there, 3rd and Jefferson, 2nd and Jefferson. And they came through there so we had to move. My mother, my, my, my grandmother was pretty fortunate that her house was paid for and what they gave her bought another home. It was actually better. The money that they gave her to uproot her was actually enough to buy a better home. I think she owed, like after she went to sell it, you know, like she owed $2000 on it. So it turned out, didn't turn out too bad.
BS: So where did she relocate?
CP: She relocated at uh, on 207 West 19th Street.
BS: And what were your feelings about it?
CP: At that time?
BS: About that, getting settled into a house and then leaving.
CP: Well it was different. Because we had been there, we grew up there, we had been there about 16, 17 years, on Jefferson Street. You know, that's where I grew up. That's where the riots were, in that area. You know and that's where I hung out, that's where my buddies were, so, it was, it was different, you know, it was different. But by that time I was in, I was beginning, I was just about, maybe in my early 20s by then. So it didn't affect me much because we were actually moving to a better area. So it was a good thing but it was different. You were like, leaving your old neighborhood and your old friends. But at that point I accepted and I knew it was time to move on. Things change. You know, so it doesn't, it didn't bother me that bad.
BS: In uh, elementary school, was it desegregated?
CP: It was, it was integrated.
CP: Mary C.I. Williams was.
DH: Was that a, uh, a grade kindergarten up? Because by the time my daughter went it was the four, five and six.
CP: No, it was, you went from the first grade to the sixth grade there. And then from there, if you were over where I lived you went to [Biart], seven, eight, ninth grade. And then you went to Wilmington High, like I said, most people went to Wilmington High in tenth, eleventh and twelfth grade. See it was elementary school, it was junior high is what they called it then, and they call it middle school now, and then it was high school.
BS: So that was originally a white school?
CP: Mary C.I. Williams? Well it was mixed. But originally it might have been, I don't know what it was originally. But when I went there it was mixed.
BS: Okay. And what were your feelings about that. 'Cause that was right at the beginning of integration, or desegregation.
CP: What did I think about what?
BS: About going to school in an integrated environment.
CP: I don't remember what I felt. When I went to Mary C.I. Williams I was five years old. You know, so I don't, that didn't register at that time whether there was Black kids or white kids in there. A lot of that had to be taught to you and you has to be instilled in you from someone else. At that time it was just kids. All I saw was kids. Whether they were Black or white, I didn't have any experiences, you know, where somebody called me a name or, you know, related to my color. I don't remember any experiences like that so there was no reason for me to, to really focus on that. I just went to school with kids there. The only thing I remember was I was so young and that was the first time I was away from home I think I cried and they called my mother back and she had to take me home my first day of school. That's about all I remember about that. I remember a teacher there named Miss Wilson, but this was like, I was ready to come out then, I was like in the sixth grade. And everybody feared her because she wasn't, she didn't play. She was strict. She made sure you got your work done, she was a Black teacher. And uh, I guess that was kind of unusual back then to have a Black teacher in an integrated school but uh, she was good, she was one of the best. I'm glad I went there. I'm glad I had her because
BS: Was it the discipline or ?
CP: Oh yeah, it's the discipline and it's seriousness. The same thing I got at Howard. You know, they wanted the kids to learn because you know, those teachers they, I mean, I'm assuming, they came up kind of rough. They knew the importance of education and they didn't want us in there playing games and messing up our lives because they knew how important it was. I guess they felt like, you know, we already had to do a little bit better because of our color so they wanted to make sure we went out of there prepared. You know when I went to Delaware State, the reason, I'll tell you the seriousness that I'm talking about, the reason that these teachers had, the reason why I came out of Delaware State, because I was for uh, uh, education, I was going to major in education. I came out and did some substituting and I'm glad I did because I found out that
End of Side 1
CP: Yeah. I didn't, I didn't feel like I had the dedication and I didn't feel like I wanted that on my conscience that I spent all these years in school, even a year, and didn't care, you know to be serious enough, to be really serious enough to teach a child. And I didn't feel like it was right to just go in there to get a paycheck and have summers off. I wanted to, if I was going to be there I wanted to be there for real and be serious about it. So that's the reason why I stopped. I came out because I didn't want that on my conscience that I ruined some kid's life 'cause I didn't care if whether he got it or not. You know, and I didn't feel like I had it in me, I just didn't feel like I could be a good teacher. I didn't think it was there so I came on out.
BS: Do you uh, recall the Wilmington Youth Emergency Action Council?
CP: WYEAC? Yeah, briefly, yeah, a little bit.
BS: Can you tell us what you remember about it?
CP: Hmm. Man, you're going way back now. WYEAC, I forget what WYEAC was for. I remember WYEAC, I remember uh
BS: I think it was something Jim Baker
CP: Yeah, Jim Baker had something to do with it but uh,
BS: So, so you weren't involved with WYEAC?
CP: I wasn't involved with it. I remember it. WYEAC, it came out around that time.
BS: Can you remember when that was?
CP: I think there was a guy named [Tizzy Miller] that might have been involved in WYEAC.
BS: Uh, do you recall the student ceremony the day after Martin Luther King, Jr.'s assassination on Rodney Square?
CP: The ceremony? What kind of ceremony?
BS: The ceremony
DH: The rally.
BS: The rally.
CP: After the, after the uh ?
BS: The day after.
CP: The day after. Uh, vaguely. I don't even remember if I was there. I might have been there. I don't even remember if I was there or not.
BS: Could you tell us any of your recollections?
CP: Well that's what I'm saying, I don't remember, I don't remember that rally. I don't remember the rally to tell you the truth.
DH: 'Cause that sparked off you know, as people left that rally they started doing some damage as they went down Market. So that was kind of a trigger point. So you don't think you were there that day?
CP: I don't know. I might have been at the rally. I was on Market Street, but I don't know if I was at the rally.
BS: Well, what do you recall about that day?
CP: Well, I recall there was a lot of, there was a lot of people. I remember, that's me right there. This is probably the day you're talking about, because this is the day of the riot. There's another picture of me inside.
DH: If you want some copies I think I can get to the copy machine.
CP: That may not be now this paper came out like, let's see, what's the date on that one? They, they do something like every ten years.
CP: Yeah. See they do something like every ten years. '78, '88, and '98. And then they uh, that was probably the day that you're talking about. Uh, I vaguely remember a rally but I don't, after the rally, that might be the [?3.7] that you were talking about.
DH: Yeah, that's what we did. That, I have a disk. This is, were you around then?
BS: No, I was out of town.
DH: Yeah. I mean, it was wonderful, we really had a good day that day, you know.
CP: Is that uh?
DH: That was at Arden. We sponsored that.
CP: Is there a picture ?
DH: [?4.1] Merryweather was there to report it. I was good. [?] But I don't have this one.
CP: Okay. This is me also, right there.
DH: This was photographs again, this is '98, so, we'll, we'll
BS: What, what was going on? Can you remember what was going through your mind?
CP: Somebody else asked me that. I showed it to a buddy of mine. He said, "What was that guy saying? What was that cop saying to you?" I said, "I don't know what he was saying. That was 30, 30 years ago." I don't know what he was saying. He was probably just trying to keep peace. He was probably just, uh, let me see, let me see something before you take that. I want to show you if it's in this one. There's another picture I want you to see.
DH: [?4.8] It's probably every morning or every evening or, you know, they had different names then.
CP: That's me too.
DH: Yeah that's [next] one. Okay.
BS: So you were marching?
CP: Yeah. So that's what I say, this might have been the day you were talking about. Because this was the actual day, this was like the day before the riot, I think. Or it might have been the day after. I don't remember if it was the day before or the day during. But most of the riot time, it was actually, we weren't on Market. We're on Market here, that's Market Street. And it might have started after the rally. This is while we're on Market Street, probably. It probably what you, what you're talking about. But I vaguely remember the rally but I don't know.
BS: What, what, what was happening here? Can you remember why you uh, what motivated you?
CP: Maybe the rally, uh, I guess, because a lot of people came together at that point and everybody was frustrated because it was right during that time that uh, Martin Luther King was assassinated. And they were just, probably just taking frustration out. Just marching and, I don't know if anything, bricks or anything were thrown at that point but, I don't know. See I don't remember if this was, when this happened in relationship to the actual riot. See the actual riot was on the west side. West of Market. The actual riots were west of Market between Second and Ninth.
BS: Uh, I uh, at the risk of asking you to repeat yourself but what was the frustration? What was the feeling?
CP: Well it was frustration that uh, another, another person that has spoken up for everybody, including minorities had been taken away and it was just, it was just frustrating because he was, see like at that point we didn't really have too many people speaking out nationally or even internationally, for, for Black people. And uh, I'm covering the mike there. Oh, it's coming that way, oh okay. Yeah, so I think the frustration was just uh, and people had been, people had experienced discrimination through the police department, through jobs: and through other areas. So all that probably just came to like, and they just released it at that time. See, that, the assassination of Martin Luther King just probably came, brought their frustration to a boiling point. And at that point, I mean, with the mob there, I mean, they just felt like that was a good time to take it out on uh, on whoever.
BS: And, and you, you had the same sense of discrimination, or ?
CP: I didn't experience a lot of direct discrimination. I saw a lot of it, you know I saw things. But I didn't, I don't remember experiencing a lot of discrimination myself, personally, you know. I remember when I was little, uh, I was probably, maybe 10, 11, maybe not that young, I remember, and when these things happen you don't forget them, I had a little white friend of mine and I went in his house with him. And uh, and his mother, his mother looked down, she was upstairs, and his mother looked down and said, "Get that nigger out of here." You know, like that. And I'd never experienced anything like that before. It pretty much, not since then, and I wasn't even 10 years old, I don't think. But when that happens, you, you don't forget.
BS: Uh, did you have a, did you ever have a sense of disenfranchisement, or not able to fully participate in uh, society or politics or, or equal economic opportunity? Did you ever have a sense of that, of disenfranchisement?
CP: Of not being able to? No, I didn't. I think if I wanted to participate in it the opportunity was there. Uh
BS: So do you feel that you were a part of this general frustration? Did you ever feel that it just swept you up into marching?
CP: Oh yeah. Oh yeah. I was swept up into it 'cause I was right there. I was right there and I was probably feeling the anger and frustration that everyone else felt.
BS: Did it, during uh, during the let me just ask you this, in your opinion, was there a riot? Or, or you know, how would you describe what?
CP: A riot or a political demonstration?
BS: Yes, how would you describe it?
CP: I don't know if it was a political demonstration because usually those are organized. This wasn't. It was spontaneous, more than anything. We didn't sit down and plan to have a riot, it was spontaneous. Martin Luther King died and, and we just, you know, we reacted. We reacted at that time the way we thought was the right way to react. Out of frustration. When you react out of frustration and anger you don't always react the way you would if you did sit down and plan something.
BS: So I, I'm looking here at buildings burning on this newspaper and over here some sort of discussion, I'm not sure if it's even a confrontation with the Black police officer and then I saw the other photograph of you marching on Market Street. It seems like a big difference between this sort of discussion, marching and then the buildings burning.
CP: It is different. Because that was part of, on Market Street I think. I think that's a part of when we were on Market Street. But this was the actual riot here. This is when the riot had started.
BS: How do you explain the, the movement from, maybe an angry demonstration, but a peaceful demonstration non-the-less, to this? Burning of buildings?
CP: I don't know. See I don't know when this was, if it was, it might have been on the same day. When this starts usually, it , it only takes a couple of people to start it. All you need is a couple of people to throw something. Or, or set something on fire. And then, like you were saying, everyone just kind of gets swept up in it. Then they start taking out their frustrations and everybody starts throwing. But the main object, when they were rioting and burning, it was, you know, it was a demonstration of their frustration and the targets were mainly the police. Because in that, during that time there was very few Black policemen and, and the white policemen weren't that friendly toward Black folks during that time. And uh, I don't know if it was just come from lack of training or their lack of understanding of the Black community but I think that one thing the riots did do was to bring about more integration of the police department. And uh, we got more minorities on the police department.
BS: And, and could you repeat where the, the uh, burning of building occurred, the at the center?
CP: That was mostly the west, well, the majority of it was on the west side, west Wilmington. Mainly between Market, west of Market between Second and Ninth and it could go up as far as, maybe Clayton Street, to the hilltop. Mostly in that area. And there's a picture of, of the area, that it's mostly, it shows a sky view, like a plane or helicopter. And it shows you the city, city burning. But, see during that time, policemen, they were really disliked in the Black community, they were almost hated.
BS: Why was that?
CP: Because they were, they, well they mistreated people.
BS: In uh, in what way?
CP: Harassing them. Running them off. Stopping them for no reason at all. Stopping people for walking down the street. Uh, and I had that feeling that that was a national feeling, it wasn't just in Delaware. I think people all across the nation at that point had had a hatred for policemen. See, during that time, that's when the Black Panther party was involved. And see, the Black Panther party stood up to the policemen. And they uh, patrolled the policemen in Oakland, California. They patrolled the police. Because you know, that's uh, like a, shot at the city there.
BS: Madison Street.
CP: Yeah, Madison Street, that's right in the heart of the west side. Madison street, Jefferson Street, were probably the two main streets, Madison and Jefferson.
BS: Do, do you have this?
DH: No, but let me get this one.
BS: Yeah. Uh, how close is it to your home?
CP: Oh, it was there. I mean, I was in the middle of it. We lived on Second and Jefferson. So, we, we were right there, we were right in the middle of it pretty much.
BS: How, how close did your home come to being damaged?
CP: Uh, we didn't have a problem with that. There were a couple of stores on each corner, I think they were looted.
BS: Who owned those stores?
CP: Uh, they were Jewish people. At that time. One of them was. I don't know, I guess both of them were Jewish. I think both of them were Jewish at that time. There was a corner, there was a place around the corner called Franks on Second and [Paris], it's a little, short street, between Jefferson and Madison on Second. Then there was a store right on Second and Jefferson right, two or three doors from where I lived. And then there was a store on Third and Jefferson, up the next block. There were several stores in the area. Just little mom and pop stores. And uh, I forget the name of the one, the one, I think it was Al's, on Second and Jefferson. Yeah, but they were little corner stores but after that, after the riot they were gone.
BS: Was, did you think there was any personal animosity towards the store owners or was this just, again, general ?
CP: No, I don't think it was personal. No, it was just that they were store owners and they were white. And that's, that's pretty much who was attacked. The white, just white people. You know, I remember seeing a guy come up uh, a gentleman come up Jefferson, Jefferson Street. Right on the corner of Sixth and Jefferson, and he was in a truck and he had a little boy with him and I seen a mob, the mob attack him and didn't, you know, I guess they didn't care that there was a little boy in there but they attacked him with bricks. And he kind of got, I think it came out later in the paper that that guy got hurt and I, I saw that and uh, that was, that was something you don't, you don't forget that because you actually seen that. You could see a rain of bricks coming down on this guy's pickup truck.
BS: How did that make you feel?
CP: Well, I didn't feel good about that. You know, I knew that that guy, whoever he was didn't have anything to do with killing Martin Luther King, that's for sure, and he might not have had anything to do with our conditions and the way we were treated, you know. But I didn't, you know, I didn't, that wasn't a good scene there.
BS: Was uh, in the neighborhood, was there, before all of this, did you notice any feeling of, once again, disenfranchisement, uh Black folks can't get access to uh, store ownership or uh, in general, was there a problem with the general housing conditions and landlords? Did you hear any of that?
CP: See then, no, see then, I wasn't aware of that. I wasn't tuned in that, I wasn't, you know, that could have been all in front of me but I wasn't aware of that, housing, I wasn't aware of that. I didn't have a concern of that, I wasn't, for some reason or another I just wasn't involved in that. That wasn't a part of what I was. Like, the guys I hung out with, we didn't know nothing, we didn't see anything, we didn't know there might have been a housing problem. I don't think I even read the paper back then, that much. And that's probably where I would have gotten most of it from. Would have been the paper. Or just being around people that knew about the housing or knew about the conditions at that time. See, I was 19. I was 18 and 19 and those things weren't, housing, 'cause I was okay. See my house was okay. So I wasn't, I didn't have that concern at 18, 19 years old, how people were being discriminated against on jobs: and stuff. I was still in school so I didn't have to look for a job so I didn't experience anything like that. My house was okay so I didn't experience any bad housing so I don't, I couldn't relate to that. If there was bad housing, people discriminated because they couldn't get, you know, because of the color of their skin, I wasn't aware of it, you know, I didn't know.
BS: Did you have any friends or did you know anyone who the police harassed at that time? Or before or since then?
CP: Sure. A whole lot. Me.
BS: What was that like? Can you ?
CP: Well, uh, they'd ride by and they'd stop us. We'd just be walking down the street and they'd stop us and they'd search us and say where are you going, what are you doing, that type of thing. Uh, that happened all the time.
BS: How did that make you feel?
CP: Oh, it just, mostly it built up the frustration that led to that. That's how it made me feel. It made me feel bitter toward policemen and it lasted a long time.
BS: Did you have any sense of why they were doing it?
CP: Well, I just thought they were doing it because we were Black. Because we were Black and uh, I don't know, I just felt like they were uh, it was something for them to do. It was easy for them to do. They could do it and get no repercussions from, from doing it.
BS: So you felt like it was almost uh, entertainment for the police or something?
CP: Well, it probably could have been. Who knows?
DH: Could I ask a question? I heard that people who were on the streets heard the Guard cock their guns as if they were going to shoot. Did you feel they were ever going to shoot you?
CP: Uh, not after the riot. Not after the riot. You know, after that I didn't feel they were going to shoot me. I didn't have any feelings like that.
BS: What type of uh, who was on the scene during the uh, riot? Police, or was there any one other than police on the scene at the time?
CP: The firemen tried to come on the scene but they were prevented from coming on the scene because they were bombarded with bricks and Molitoff Cocktails and the police had a hard time getting in there for awhile themselves. They, they faced the same thing. When a police car drove up they would get attacked with whatever they could throw at them.
BS: Uh huh. You saw them?
CP: Uh huh. Oh yeah. I saw it. And I participated in it, in the attack of the police.
BS: Did you feel threatened by the police?
CP: At that point? Not at that point I didn't. Because they didn't know where I was.
BS: You felt in control of the situation?
CP: No. Somewhat. It was like uh, it was like a sneak attack. See they didn't know where the bricks were coming from and they came so fast, they didn't know, whatever was being thrown they didn't know where it was coming from.
BS: How, how did that feel? How did you feel about that?
CP: I felt about that? Pretty good. I felt pretty good about that.
BS: And, and why did that make you feel good?
CP: 'Cause I was getting back at people that I felt had harassed me for years. So now, now I felt like I had a change to, now it's my turn.
BS: Did you feel like it was a war zone?
CP: Yeah. It was pretty bad. I've never been in a war zone but I've seen pictures. It was pretty bad. Especially the day after. You know, and then, you know, you asked if it was a war zone and it was bad. Fires were everywhere and people were looting and running and throwing bricks and fighting the police. But you know, the sad part about it, the next day when the day come by, and you walk through the streets and you survey, and you see, actually that was the Black community. There were white stores in there but that was a Black community. And then, you know, the next day reality hits and you say, "Man, this is our community. Look at it, it looks like a war zone."
BS: How, how did that make you feel? The reality?
CP: Well it didn't make me feel good because we felt like, did we accomplish anything? Did that accomplish anything? You know, this is still our community, it's still Black people's houses, it was predominantly Black at that time. And you know, it had to, a lot of clean up had to be done. At that point almost all of the stores left. They didn't, they didn't fix up and open up again. They left. So that left vacancies, boarded up homes or boarded up store fronts, and that kind of thing. There was a bank there, a bank on Sixth and Madison, I think it was, they broke in the bank, they couldn't get anything 'cause it was all locked up with bolts. But they broke in the bank and the bank, everything, everything there that was white owned pretty much left after the riots.
BS: May we break at this point, 'cause I'm
DH: Uh huh.
CP: Those stores did leave.
DH: Uh huh. I got a bottle of that for you too. And you have the date of the publication you need to find out, you know, want to get more of those newspapers.
BS: Yeah, and uh
BS: I need to go through the papers after that time.
DH: Del State University does not have news journal microfilm?
BS: They're lacking a lot of things.
CP: See, a lot of white people that did live in the city left at that time. It was called the White Flight. They also got, the stores left.
BS: Are we on?
DH: Yeah, we're rolling.
BS: How, how did you, were you aware of that white flight at the time?
CP: Uh huh.
BS: What did you think about that?
CP: Well, I don't know. I don't know, I don't know what I thought about it at that time. I saw it but it didn't really affect me. I could see the For Sale signs going up and I could see the white people leaving but I don't know if I had any thoughts at that time. I just, it was something that I saw and uh, you know, sometimes when things don't affect you directly, you kind of like, you have a tendency to ignore it. So I mean, I saw it but there was no feelings. It was almost, it was like, well, so what?
BS: Did you know why they were doing it? Why they were leaving?
CP: I knew why they were leaving.
BS: And what was the reason?
CP: Well I felt the reason was they just wanted to be in an area that they felt safer, like we did, like Black people did. You know, they wanted to feel safe, they wanted to bring the kids out to play, they wanted to not to have to lock the doors at night. But uh, but, but now, now in '99, I don't know if there are too many safe places. You got so much stuff going on outside the city now that it's almost no different. It's just that the city gets more, more uh, publicity in the paper, I guess. 'Cause it is a city paper.
BS: Do you think it was uh, given, given that that in, in your opinion there's no safe place now, do you think at the time that was uh, a false sense of insecurity? Driving the white away? Were they truly ?
CP: Well, they might have had a reason, they might have had a reason to feel that way. They may have had a reason. Because at that time it was a serious, the way Black people felt toward white people at that time was pretty serious. They didn't, you know, because of the way they were treated by them. I mean, you mistreat a person for a long and they're not going to be your best friend. So they didn't have too many good feelings towards them. And it wasn't, at that point it wasn't good because they took it out on anybody that was white, was the enemy to them, you know. But anybody that's white wasn't the enemy, you know. But that's, you just put them all, categorized them in one group because they're white, you know. And the same thing that probably they did to us we turned around and started doing because, you know. All white people weren't the cause of our discrimination problems that we had.
BS: Let's go back to the uh, the day after and your reassessment. When you reassessed what had happened the day and night before, uh, what did you think?
CP: Uh, it didn't feel too good. You know, this is our neighborhood. I had to go up there. I had been there for, at that point, I had been there for a long time in that west side, west area. And we walked down the street and it was still burning, some, you know it was still smoking, smoldering, the buildings and the shops were still smoldering. There was smoke coming up and this was like a day later. And uh, and it was just sad, it was, looking at it now we just, now where do we go from here? Now what?
BS: Did you have any ideas about where, where we were going?
CP: No. I didn't have any ideas at that time, at that age. Nope.
BS: How did, where did you think you personally were going to go after that?
CP: I don't know. You're talking 30 years ago. I don't know where my thoughts were. I don't know.
BS: Was there any thought of Martin Luther King, Jr. at that time? The day after?
CP: I guess there probably was thoughts of Martin Luther King, Jr. Probably one of the things that came to mind was we were doing what he was against and that was violence. And that's what he was definitely against.
BS: You think some folks did see the irony?
CP: Oh I'm sure they did. Yeah, couldn't help but see it, you know. I'm sure, I'm sure they did.
BS: Uh, when the National Guard, when Governor Terry introduced the National Guard to Wilmington, what were your feelings about that? And declared, in all essence, marshal law.
CP: Well it wasn't a good feeling because you see, they just looked at the National Guard the way they looked at the police. You know, they weren't well received in the Black community anyway uh, because we just felt like they were more people who were going to harass us. And more people that's going to look down on us and treat us like we're in some prison or, you know, that's pretty much how most people felt when the National Guard came in.
BS: Did it feel like you were in a prison?
CP: Well, you look at that, you know. When you wake up in the morning and you see this in your community and they're patrolling with all these guns and rifles and such you know, how can you feel good about it? You know you feel like you're in a prison somewhere. Feel like you're in a war.
BS: Did you feel like that?
CP: Uh huh. I felt like I was in some kind of military camp. All these guys went around with rifles, you know.
BS: Was there any talk about the promise of Martin Luther King, Jr. in the Civil Rights movement failing?
CP: Well, well kind of. People at that point, people that he had probably won over as uh, that went from violent to non-violent, well at that point a lot of them did feel like, what's the use of being non-violent? And, you know, at that point they just felt like they do whatever is necessary to get whatever they deserve.
BS: Do you recall the NAACP's presence in Wilmington when you were growing up at that time?
CP: During the riots?
BS: Before and during.
CP: I remember reading things about it. I remember reading things that they many have done, you know, tried to accomplish.
BS: What did you feel about them?
CP: Well I had good feelings. I had good feelings about them. I mean, you know, they were doing some things that other organizations weren't doing and trying to get equal rights, they were trying to promote equal rights and make sure everybody got a fair shake. You know, I had a good feeling about them.
BS: Here in Wilmington?
CP: Uh huh. In Wilmington, yeah.
BS: So there was a, you think there was a general sense that
End of Side 2, Tape 1
Tape 2 of 2
BS: So, so do you think there was uh, a general feeling that the Wilmington chapter of NAACP: was uh, accomplishing something or creating change, moving towards civil rights?
CP: Yeah. People felt that, but people also felt that they weren't aggressive enough. They, they, see at that point, everybody well, most people, were looking to do something. I mean, a violent act, to get what they wanted, wasn't no problem at that time, wasn't a problem to participate in something violent because they felt like that's the only thing they understood. So at that time they thought the NAACP: was a little too passive.
BS: What, what were your feelings about the Vietnam War?
CP: Oh. The war. Uh, I didn't uh, I didn't have a desire to go there.
BS: Why is that?
CP: Well, see, when I was, during that time, in the 60s, that's when the peak of the Vietnam War was, well I was of that age. And I didn't have desire to go there at that time. A lot of Black people felt like it wasn't our war. You know, we kind of felt like Mohammed Ali felt when he objected to going. Mohammed Ali, he made a good point to me, he said, "No Vietcong ever called me a nigger." You know, so it's, we didn't have no fight with them. You know, we had, our fight was right here in the United States. We had more problems here than those people over there, didn't bother us.
BS: Did you see any relationship between the Wilmington riot and the Vietnam War? The [Ted Offensive] of just uh, occurring right at that particular time?
CP: Yeah that was right around the same time, wasn't it? '68. Ted Offensive happened right around, in '60 I believe it was. I don't know, I don't see a correlation, anything to compare it to.
BS: Do you remember any of your friends talking about the Vietnam War and ?
CP: I remember friends going and not coming back. A couple guys I came up with. I guess everybody can, so many people died over there, I guess everybody knows somebody that went there and they didn't come back alive. Yeah, there's a couple guys I came up with went over there. But then there were guys that, yeah, they'd talk about it. And there were some who didn't want to talk about it, you know. But there are some that came back and they talked about how bad it was.
BS: What about during high school? Did you, your friends talk about uh, the potentiality of going to the Vietnam War, or ?
CP: I don't remember too much discussion about that.
BS: Uh, the guys that came back, when they talked about the war, do you recall what they said and how they felt about it?
CP: Uh, I don't remember too much about what they said. They just, I remember someone describing the area where uh, and saying a lot of times you'd be out there and you would know that the Vietcong were around them but they couldn't always, they didn't know where they were. But they'd know they were out there somewhere and, you know, they, it wasn't a good situation for them.
BS: They, when they came back, were they involved in the uh, in the Riots and marching?
CP: I don't know of any people that came back from the war that was in the riots, that was involved in that. Uh, most people that was involved didn't go to Vietnam or they were still over there at that time. See, when I, see, they would have been too young. See I was, when the riots happened I was 19 years old. So a lot of guys I hung around with, a lot of guys that went to school with me were actually in my class, were actually younger than me 'cause I came out of school two years late. So they were, they wouldn't have went anyway, at that point. You know, they might have been turning 18 or something like that, you know. They wouldn't have been in Vietnam yet or anywhere, any kind of service.
BS: When the uh, when the Guardsmen came, do you recall ever seeing any Black Guardsmen?
CP: I think I saw one.
BS: What'd you feel? How did you feel about that?
CP: I was wondering how he felt. I was thinking about how he felt.
BS: How do you think he felt?
CP: Well he probably felt, he probably felt awkward having to patrol
his own race and he's the only one, one of two Blacks and there's all
these white guys patrolling his people so I, I don't know, I guess he
felt kind of, I don't know, I don't know if he felt like he was betraying
us or, or what he felt. Well, I guess, at least what I think he felt,
I'd hate to have felt anything but I would think he would feel kind
of, kind of awkward.
CP: No. I never thought of asking them anything.
BS: Did you ever talk to any of the Guards?
BS: Were you ever, did you ever feel like you should or you just couldn't or, how did you feel?
CP: I could have talked to them. I could have talked to them if I wanted to talk to them. I had nothing to say to them. I didn't know what I would talk to them about.
BS: Did you see them as the enemy?
CP: Kind of. I saw them like policemen. I saw them as the enemy so I guess I did.
BS: Do you recall uh, a shooting incident by the National Guard?
CP: Uh huh. Yeah I remember.
BS: Was that an accident or on purpose?
CP: I don't know. I don't know uh, there are a lot of, I don't know what that incident was but there's a lot of incidences just across the country that are called accidents that are not accidents. You know, when it's policemen shooting someone else, or police and a gun going off and somebody being shot, you know. I, I've seen reports in the paper where people have been shot 12-15 times and they call that an accident. So whether that was an accident or not I don't know, I wasn't there, so uh, maybe it was, maybe it wasn't.
BS: What do you recall the uh, any of the detail of this uh, shooting?
CP: I don't remember. I don't remember any of the details. Uh, I don't remember. I read it and I remember it then but now, 30 years, uh, I don't remember all the details.
BS: Did anyone get shot?
CP: Besides that person? Not that I know of. No, I think that was the only incident where someone got shot. I think, I don't, that's all I remember.
BS: What was uh, you recall any uh, any talk on the street about it?
CP: About the Guards?
BS: About the shooting.
CP: Oh, yeah, well they, yeah, there was talk about it. There was talk that it wasn't an accident. Sure there was talk. There was talk that it was done deliberately and it wasn't an accident. I think the paper tried to portray it as an accident. But whether it was or not, and that's a Guard that knows. He knows whether it was an accident or not.
BS: Yeah. Uh, do you recall any gang activity? Like the uh, Black Liberation Army? Uh, maybe that's not a good reference to call
CP: Local gangs in Wilmington?
CP: Yeah. Yeah, there were local gangs.
BS: Do you recall, do you remember any gang activity in the housing projects uh, for example there was uh, any reports of beating up FBI agents?
CP: Uh huh.
BS: What, what do you think, do you recall having thought about that?
CP: I thought about it. I didn't feel that bad. We felt about them like we did the policemen. I remember that happening.
BS: Do you ever recall wondering why there were FBI agents in the projects?
CP: Uh, I might have. I might have wondered why they were there but I didn't give it too much thought.
BS: Do you recall the Black Liberation Army?
CP: In Wilmington?
CP: I don't recall the Black Liberation Army. Not by that name.
BS: What was the name of it?
CP: Well, I don't know. I don't remember anything about that name. Black Liberation Army, what was it, a gang?
BS: Uh, it was uh,
CP: Was it a political organization or ?
BS: Apparently, apparently. Well, let's get a little perspective on it uh, there was a discussion that the Black Liberation Army had come to town and uh, going to instigate or inspire a general Black uprising in the city. Whether there was a Black Liberation Army or not is uh, is the question.
CP: I don't think so. What about, it might have been but I didn't, if there was a Black Liberation Army I might have known about that. If they was going to do some kind of uprising I might have heard something about that. I don't remember, I don't remember about that.
DH: What about the guy who was named Blacky Black? Who was supposedly stockpiling weapons?
CP: [Flowers?] Leonard [Flowers?] Might have been. He might not have been the only one doing that, that wasn't so unusual to be stockpiling weapons. But he wasn't no Black Liberation Army. No he was; actually, he was a splinter group from the West Side gang. The Blacky Blacks was a splinter group from the west side gang.
BS: Who were the Blacky, Blacky Blacks?
CP: They were, they were a small gang. They were a small gang.
BS: And what were they all about?
CP: Actually, see, during that time there was a gang called West Side gang. That was probably one of the biggest gangs. Blacky Blacks was like allies with the West Side gang. They were like a splinter group. Just like Israel is allies of the United States. Like they were allies with West Side gang. And they would, sometimes; if there were a fight going on then Blacky Blacks may come in and help if we needed them. Just like sometimes Israel comes in and helps the United States if needed. So that's what they were. But they were a smaller branch of the West Side gang. See the West Side gang encompassed the west side and they had allies like, downtown was east side. Down on Second and Poplar and Third and Poplar. The Hilltop, which sometimes went by the name of Jayhawks and the Blacky Blacks.
BS: Do you recall any gang activity associated with the uh, fires and the subsequent riots?
CP: Uh, gang activity? Like what do you mean?
BS: Inspiring that or
CP: Oh they might have inspired that.
BS: Taking the lead?
CP: Oh yeah, they might have helped inspire it.
BS: Why would they do that?
CP: Well because they felt the same frustrations that everybody else felt. So when it come to, when it came to releasing their frustration against the police and anybody else that was in authority that they thought was oppressing them then they were uh, yeah, they truly did inspire that. A lot of gang members were involved in it. That might have been one time when gang members came together as one. Not against each other.
BS: So were these gangs political groups?
CP: Political, they became political after the riots. Before the riots they were just gangs who fought each other. You know, but after the riots, it kind of like, after the riots the gangs kind of like, they kind of evaporated as gangs. They came together more as political, more unity in the Black community at that point. And they stopped, a lot of gang violence stopped. That might be one good thing that came out of the riots. A lot of that stopped. People started taking pride of their race, Black people did. They took more pride in who they were and doing more for each other, in unifying, you know what I'm saying. And I think that unification scared some people. I know it did because, you see, when they were divided and they were fighting as gangs, that was okay, you know it ain't no problem, you can fight with each other and shoot each other. But when they became unified and they started looking at the political scene rather than just he local fighting each other and what they can do for each other to better themselves and holding white folks accountable then I think that, I think it instilled some fear. Because there was unity in Wilmington among Black people that was never seen before. And that was kind of scary. And then, you know what I noticed after that? You know what I noticed after everybody got unified and everybody was, see that was, there was the riot, the gang fight, there was the gangs, there was the riots and then there was the Black power movement. The Black power movement came after the riots when Black people started getting together and you know what came after that? Drugs. Drugs came in and broke up the Black power movement. See it broke up the unity. And where did the drugs come from? Well, there's some, there's a thought on that where it came from.
BS: Where do you think?
CP: Well I think, you know, I think, you know, the people in control they saw the unity there so they sat down and said, "How are we going to break this up?" They sent some drugs in there. See we thought that back then and now it's even more being publicized on a national scene. But that's what, we saw it then. You know, guys used to go away and come back and friend, and their friends that were like, yeah they would hang together, they were decent people you know, they went to work and they did the right thing. They'd come back and they'd see them all strung out on drugs. And it didn't take long either. It seemed like a wave went through the city, a wave. And the next thing guys are strung out with heroine and all kinds of stuff. You know, and it, it just happened overnight, like just came within a year. People that were upstanding and decent people were down in the gutter, begging and stealing to get drugs. And I think that was planned. I think it was a plan. You know, because there was so much unity and togetherness in the community so, you know.
BS: What, what did the gangs do after they got together? For the community?
CP: What do you mean?
BS: When the gangs stopped fighting each other and came together did they do anything in an organized manner for the community?
CP: They did a lot of things. See that's when they started trying to get out. Like you were just telling me, Debbie, that housing thing started. See, that thing came from, a lot of people in gangs had their hands in things like that to bring that about. WYEAC was a lot of ex-gang members. WYEAC was ex-gang members a lot of times. A lot of ex-people that was in the riots, you know, a lot of, a lot of different organizations came about from, from that. And the gang members participated in a lot of things that they thought were unfair. That we were being dealt, that we were being treated unfairly. They did a lot of things to better, better the community and the people. Started organizations like WYEAC and a lot of other different things. So they started a lot of different things, a lot of organizations, a lot of things came out. We started getting money from the government. The government started sending money in to sponsor different organizations, and that kind of things. Different groups that were doing things to benefit people.
BS: So, so they uh, applied for Federal grants and
CP: Uh huh. Sometimes they, depending on what they were, you know, what they were all about, depending, they didn't just send money in. 'Cause you asked for it. But if they had something that looked really like it was worth going after then they would get funded.
BS: Do you recall any particular projects besides the one project?
CP: We actually ended up with the most. There's probably a lot of them but I just don't know about them, I'm sure. Just like, uh, I can't remember right now. We were one of the first ones.
BS: Any Black Panther activity or any presence?
CP: They didn't have a chapter here. They didn't have a Black Panther chapter. But there were people that were uh, that were pro Black Panther. I was. I was. And those people there supported the Black Panther Party and uh, they probably would have joined if there had been a Black Panther Chapter.
BS: Well how does, what was uh, in what form was the support?
CP: Well, just vocal. And uh, they would have uh, vocal support and they would have, a lot of people would wear Black Panther sweatshirts and different things like that.
BS: Was there any uh ?
CP: Black, we used to have pictures of Hughy Newton, buttons with Hughy Newton seal on it.
BS: Was there any attempt to replicate a Panther type of organization that watched the place. Or National Guard for that matter?
CP: Not a serious attempt at it. There might have been some talk about it. But nothing came out of it.
BS: No watchdog?
CP: Not, not on that, not like the Black Panther Party there. See they patrolled the police with guns back then. The party had guns in their car and they, of course the law said that they could, and then so that's what they did. They did within the law. So then they changed the law so that they couldn't do it.
BS: So there was an effort to monitor police activity in Wilmington?
CP: Yeah, there was talk about it. They might have been, actually, did it on a certain level. I just don't know about it. It might have actually occurred but I don't know about that. You know, I guess they were monitored through individuals, they were just monitored. Uh, when you brought something at that time, when you brought something to someone's attention, whenever to take a complaint to, about the police and nothing was hardly ever done about it anyway and that probably pretty much hasn't changed today. And so, that's uh
DH: Remember Eldridge Cleaver?
CP: Uh huh.
DH: I voted for him for president.
CP: Yeah, I remember Eldridge Cleaver.
BS: Do you remember when [Stoggy] Carmichael came to Delaware State College at the time?
CP: I remember hearing about it. What I don't, I wasn't there. I wasn't there and uh, I didn't participate in that.
BS: What, what did you think about Stoggy Carmichael coming, at least to the area? Did you think about it?
CP: Well I thought it was good. I don't know what happened but I would have like to have been there. But I didn't, I didn't make that. I thought it was pretty good. I thought it was a good idea.
BS: In what way?
CP: Well, I just thought that sometimes you need to hear from someone outside Delaware that's on a national level. Just get some feedback from him so you, that can help broaden your scope as to what's really going on. See, 'cause this is just one small town here. It's good to know what's going on outside this town because sometimes those things can affect you in this town. But it's just good to know what's going on around this country and actually, he was an international leader so for him it would have been around the world. So
BS: I sorry.
CP: No, go ahead. I was just going to say I had went through Philly once to see uh, Hughy Newton. He spoke at Temple. And I went up there but I didn't get in. There's too many people. We, some of us didn't get in.
BS: Yeah, uh, it's uh, interesting, Stocky Carmichael, he had the same ideas that you said about the infusion of drugs into the Black community. Were you aware of uh, his uh, his ideas about that?
CP: That's what he said? That's what he believed? I wasn't aware of that at that time.
BS: Actually he believed the FBI gave them cancer.
CP: No, I don't know, I don't know. I don't have any idea at all. But in the case of drugs in the community I know a lot of people who believe that.
BS: Well, given the recent CIA uh
CP: Uh huh. We felt that back then in the '60s.
BS: Uh, you, have you heard of Roy [Wagstaff]?
CP: Hmm. Yeah I think I have heard the name. It sounds familiar.
BS: Roosevelt Franklin?
CP: Yeah. I don't know those guys.
BS: Let me ask a name, Reverend [Dandridge]?
CP: No, I don't know them.
BS: Reverend [Herring]?
CP: Reverend Herring. Yeah I remember hearing about Reverend Herring.
BS: Well, what do you remember about him?
CP: I just remember that he was blind. You talking about him? Is that the guy you're talking about? That's all I know. I just know he was blind. I know he did a lot of community, he did a lot, a lot for a person that's blind. He did a lot of things like uh, I think he has uh, like his church, out of his church he does a lot of community work. He helps a lot of people. And he helps in the housing area and uh, he started a day care for mothers and he's done a lot of things.
BS: What is, what would you think about the role of uh, I mentioned the NAACP, what do you think about the role of the church during all of the, do you recall any presence?
CP: I don't remember a big role from the church that they played. Uh, at that time I didn't go to church so I don't know what went on during church services on Sunday, they might have vocally said something but actually to be in the streets to try to quell the riots or to calm the people down and keep peace, I don't know that there was a church presence there. There probably was a couple guys out there from the church but I wasn't familiar with them.
BS: Skip Taylor?
CP: I don't know those guys. I don't know them. I don't, the name sounds familiar but I don't know.
BS: August, August Quarterly? During that year.
CP: Oh, during that year? I don't remember that year about an August Quarterly. I remember the event every year that's called the August Quarterly, but that particular year I don't know.
BS: Uh, it was held in, uh, that particular time, was it, what was
DH: I don't know.
BS: They still would have been here.
CP: Yeah. The Guard would have still been here.
BS: Uh, what about Senator [Holloway]?
CP: Uh huh.
BS: Were you
CP: Yeah. Was I familiar with him?
BS: Yeah. At the time. What was your feeling about ?
CP: He was uh, he was good. He was fair, he was honest, he got me a job. So he's all right. He got me my first job. I still in high school. I was still in high school and uh, I think it was my first job working at, the State Building used to be at 9th and Kings and he got me a job working in there after school, cleaning offices.
BS: That was when you were still in high school?
CP: Uh huh. I was still in Howard and he got me a job in there, and uh, I got my job because I, uh, my mother was pretty much raising five kids by herself. And I got that job not necessarily for me but for my mother. So that would be one less person she had to buy school clothes for or she had to do this for or that for. So I mainly got the job so she wouldn't have to take care of me, she could just concentrate on the other four kids. That's why I got the job.
BS: Did you go to him for the job?
CP: Uh huh. I went to him. Uh, someone sent me to him and I asked him uh, I want a job, I want to work. So he said uh, I got something for you, you want to work here? And he said clean offices so I cleaned them. And uh, bought a car with that money, bought my own clothes, had a car when I was in high school. You have a car when you're in high school you're pretty cool. In my high school anyway. Not too many guys had cars when I was in high school. If they did their mama bought it for them.
BS: Well what did the other, what did the other kids think about that? About having a job and getting a car?
CP: They thought I was a big shot. And I, I let them believe that too. I encouraged it. Yeah, they thought I was cool
BS: Were you aware of some death threats against Senator Holloway, during the riots?
CP: No. I didn't hear about that. Was it?
BS: Uh, what?
DH: I don't know.
CP: I didn't hear anything. I'm not surprised but I didn't hear anything. Why, because he was doing too much?
BS: Uh, I don't know. I don't know.
CP: He was a good guy as far as I know. He was fair and he was one of the guys, I guess he was one of the guys that we, one of the guys that we looked up to.
BS: What about present Mayor Sills?
CP: The present mayor?
BS: Yeah, during that time.
CP: Oh, I don't know about uh Mayor Sills at that time. He was, he was out there too. He was out there doing, doing what uh, what I thought was right and he was out there trying to keep people on the right path and talk to folks and just get them to do the right thing. Yeah, he was a good guy.
BS: What was his capacity at the time?
CP: I don't know if he was a Councilman at the time, or, 'cause one time he was a Councilman and uh, then he was a professor at one time at the University of Delaware. But I don't know what he was at that time, in '68. But I remember him always being for, for justice. He's always being, like I said to Hollaway; those two were always for the good of the community. Always.
BS: Well were they seen as someone you could go to with a grievance? For example, uh, did you ever talk to Senator Hollaway about police harassment?
CP: I never had. No, neither one of them. Never talked to either one of them.
BS: Did you feel like you could have if you wanted?
CP: Uh huh. I feel like I could have if I wanted to.
BS: Do you feel as if they could have uh, done something to redress those for you?
CP: Well I think they probably could have tried but I don't know if they would have. Maybe that's why I never went to them. 'Cause I think if they were going to come out they would have taken the initiative, to at least attempt to do something. And that's probably what was good about them, they would try to do the right thing, Sills and Holloway.
BS: By not going to them did you think that even though they would have tried to have done something they lacked power to have accomplished anything?
CP: Probably. That's how, I think that's how I felt at that time. Yeah.
BS: Do you think that was a general feeling in the African American community here?
CP: Well, I don't think everybody felt like that because some people did go them. A lot of people did go to them. And whatever their complaint was maybe they would have gotten it accomplished or maybe, I don't know. But people did go to them, yeah. I just didn't go.
DH: What about Herman Holloway, Jr?
CP: I don't know too much about him.
BS: Were you aware of [Dick Gregory]?
CP: Dick Gregory? Yeah I was aware of him.
BS: Did you like him?
CP: Yeah, I liked him.
BS: Uh, as a comedian uh, Civil Rights leader?
CP: I liked him as a comedian and a Civil Rights leader. I liked him too. Thomas Lewis.
DH: Yeah. He just died a couple years ago.
BS: Tell us about Thomas Lewis.
CP: Thomas Lewis was probably the most involved white person, that I knew anyway. His church was right in the heart of the riots. Where the riots were, his church was on 8th & Washington. His church was right there and he would come in the community and he would talk to the kids. He got me a job too. He got me job down at the Experimental Station, DuPont Experimental Station. I knew him for a long time. He was Reverend Lewis then. See he was like a reverend in that church there and then he became a lawyer. But he would come into the community and he would talk, I mean, he'd be right there in the thick of it. But nobody bothered him, you know, because he came
End of Side 1, Tape 2
Side 2, Tape 2
CP: Yeah, uh, Mr. Lewis came with sincerity, he came with sincerity. And he was uh, and he did a lot for the people in the community as far as jobs: and he would go in, like I said, he would go to Holloway and see those guys. He would try to do the same thing; he would try to get different things done.
BS: How successful do you think he was?
CP: Well, I don't know. You know I don't know whatever comes out of stuff like that, I don't know if I saw a direct accomplishment like, we go to [Hillman] and, say, just for example, we go to Hillman and say we want a street sign or a stop sign put up here, cars are running through here. And we'd tell him and the next day there's a stop sign up there. I don't know if he got anything, you know, I don't know if anything like that happened, it might have happened later and I wasn't aware of it but I don't know if anything happened. But he was a good guy.
BS: Do you recall any concerns like that? Just uh, traffic speeding through the neighborhood and uh, folks getting upset?
CP: Yeah. There were a couple incidents where there were uh, they thought, felt like stop signs should have been put up. That's probably why I used that as an example. And uh, they, eventually they did. They did put a sign up.
BS: In, in uh
CP: I don't know exactly where it was, and I don't know who they approached to do it but I remember that being an issue at one time.
BS: Statewide's uh, garbage pickup, these kind of things, were they of concern?
CP: I'll tell you what happened if you want to talk about garbage pickup. You know, uh, Haskell, Mayor Haskell? He was a good mayor. He was one of the better mayors. I remember one incident where, see, back then when we lived on Jefferson we had alleys. The alley went from one end of the street down to the other. Like it would run from Second Street all the way down to Third Street. And the alley was like, if we lived on Jefferson Street, the next street over would be Madison, would be Madison Street. So an alley would separate our back yards. And sometimes people, after awhile, there would be, trash would be in there, old mattresses would be in there, everything would be in there, all kinds of junk. So we called Mayor Haskell to have it cleaned up. And I've never seen a politician respond that fast. I don't even think it was an election year. I've never seen a politician respond that fast. I think within two days he had cleaned back there, he had cleaned that alley up, spotless, back there.
BS: Now when was that?
CP: Whenever he was mayor. I don't know what year.
DH: '69 to, he came with uh, Peterson. That, '69 to '73.
CP: Uh huh. Whatever it was that, and that happened. And he had concerns about being for all people, Black and white. And uh, Black people will tell you they, he was their favorite mayor during that time. Because he seemed to be fair. He did what he could for the city, not just Black people, but for the city and we were part of it so we benefited too.
BS: Uh, do you recall any other white members of the community that you could count on or were not interested in police harassment and that kind of thing? But you could go to?
CP: I can't. No. Not like him. There might have been some but he stands out.
BS: What did the Black community think of that? You've only got one white person who you could talk to?
CP: Well, there might have been more. There might have been more. I guess I'm pretty sure there was more but I only dealt with him.
DH: But that was your neighborhood, right?
CP: Uh huh.
DH: And that church since burned and they've rebuilt it.
CP: Uh huh, they have. He was on Madison Street. He lived on Madison in the ten hundred block.
BS: Getting back to Dick Gregory, were you aware he came to Delaware State University?
CP: Yeah, I think I remember.
BS: Do you recall anything about his presence?
CP: No. I don't remember. I just remember hearing that he was going to be there but I didn't make it down.
BS: Here in, growing up in Wilmington, who were your role models?
CP: Can I go to the bathroom first?
BS: I've just got a couple more. I think we left off with role models?
CP: Uh huh. Who was my role model coming up, during that time?
BS: Or role models.
CP: Harry Gardner. A guy named Harry Gardner. He was a worker, councilor and uh, [John Oats] and [Doc Gil], Nathaniel Doc Gil.
BS: And why were they role models?
CP: Because they were uh, they had some kind of accomplishment. They had uh, they could relate to the people on the street and they were, they lived a life like a person you would want to look up to. They lived their life in a decent manner and they were good advisors and if you had a problem you could go to them and for the most part they'd take care of whatever problem you had. Just, not necessarily on discrimination, on anything. Just a life problem. A problem at school, a problem with a date, anything, and they'd be there for you. And they were always there for you. They never was too busy and they always gave good advice, they were wise guys. They were really wise people. You could learn from them. They'd teach you about life, teach you about being a man.
BS: Are they still alive?
CP: Yeah, all three of them. All three of them are still here.
BS: Uh, when growing up, did you, within the African American community, did you notice uh, any class distinctions well established here in Wilmington, maybe uh, prosperous ?
CP: Black people?
CP: Not really. There was a judge but, Judge [Carter]. Then Lenny Williams came along but we didn't look at them as a different class.
BS: So you saw no class distinction?
CP: No class distinction at that time. No. None that I can remember. It wasn't like they came through the neighborhood in big fancy cars or something like that. Or lived in a big house that we knew of. If they did we didn't see it. So it wasn't obvious to us. It wasn't apparent.
BS: There were no overt signs of what we call classes.
CP: Right. There wasn't none of that.
BS: Uh, do you recall any uh, I mentioned the FBI presence and even in regard to the National Guard and the police, do you remember any uh, informants or spies, you know, Black spies for the police? Or rumors?
CP: Yeah, rumors. But I don't know, I didn't see anything that I knew, that I could put my finger on and say, "Yeah, that guy's definitely an informant." But there was, oh yeah, there were plenty of rumors.
BS: Can you talk about them?
CP: Well, I don't know what to talk about on that except that is was just a rumor. Nobody actually was identified. Nobody was, there was just talk that certain people came in that we hadn't seen before, like from another town somewhere and they became friendly with the neighborhood people. And then some people would get arrested and the next thing you know they're gone, you don't see that person anymore. So uh
BS: Was this before the riots, during the riots or after the riots?
CP: I think that was after. That was after the riots. See that's when, that's when we were unified. When they was fighting each other they didn't need informants. They had them where they wanted them, when there was gang wars and fighting each other. They didn't need a spy, there wasn't no threat to nobody. But this happened after the riots and uh, when the gang members and uh, most of the other members of the community and the women became unified and, you know, Black Power was the cry. And unity. And uplifting yourself. Having pride in yourself and your neighborhood. See that's when the informants came in.
BS: Did you know anyone who disappeared?
CP: Well there was one guy that, I don't know, that came and then some arrests were made and then he left. He disappeared. You didn't see him anymore. There was one guy I know of. Yeah, I do recall there was one guy, yeah, and people would, there was talk about him. I think I remember one time, and it kind of confirmed it, there was something going on and there was a big ruckus and people were being arrested and I saw this guy. And he was our friend, hanging out with us, I actually saw him grab somebody and help them in the police car.
BS: He was supposed to be your friend?
BS: So you knew him well?
CP: Yeah, he came in, he was called Spain. The guy's name was Spain. Whether that was just his little cop name, undercover name or not, that's what we called him, Spain. I remember that, I do remember that.
BS: Do you know anyone who was arrested as a result of some of this?
CP: Well, that person he helped hustle in the police car. I guess he was arrested.
BS: Do you know why?
CP: No, I don't remember what it was.
BS: But there was uh, there was a general concern in the community that they were infiltrated?
CP: Uh huh.
BS: What about any talk of residents from the community who were possible informants?
CP: No, not really. Not in the community.
BS: So, so
CP: People always [telled, I mean] if you get arrested, I mean, there's always something. You get arrested it doesn't have to be related to any riot or anything. Just for burglary or purse snatching. If you get arrested they'd always try to get you to tell who was with you. You know and some people do to save themselves. They offer them some kind of little deal, if you tell we'll let you off. We don't want you, we want this guy, he's the main one and, you know, they do that all the time. Been doing that for years. They still do that now. So there's always that going on. But this guy was different, this Spain guy. He was on, he was on some kind of mission. He was different. He was actually sent here and planted, he was planted here by whoever.
BS: And you discovered this after uh, after he left?
CP: Well it was never no proof. But I know what I saw that day, and after that I didn't see him any more. And that, ever.
BS: Why was the person arrested? Do you know?
BS: The person who was arrested. Why was he arrested?
CP: I don't know. That's what I was saying, it was some kind of ruckus. I remember a ruckus. There was a lot of people going on, see, and that kind of like camouflaged him, this Spain guy, so nobody really knew what was going on there. But I saw him and uh, I saw him do that. But I don't remember why there was a ruckus or what was going on. You know, back then there was always some kind of ruckus.
BS: Was this, was this right after the riots?
CP: Yeah, I think it was after the riot, it wasn't before the riot. I think it was after the riot. I'm not sure but I think it was.
BS: How, how was your uh, as a summary question, how has your life changed after the riots? After they ended?
CP: Directly after the riots?
CP: Up to now, today?
BS: Up to now. Directly after and up to now.
CP: Well directly after, you know, we still had hostility. We still had the same feelings about our life in Wilmington and the situation that was going on. We were still discriminated against and we felt there was still discrimination. And you still had the same kind of animosity towards the police and, you know, some of the people downtown, politicians and all. So that didn't change right after the riot but then you got into the, then you kind of like focused more on being a better person and bettering your community. At that time, that's when the Black Power Movement came through. And then, you know, then after the drug thing went down and people started getting hung up on drugs and stuff. And it was around that time that I moved away, I started moving away a lot of friends that I had at that time. Because I didn't do drugs. I never did drugs. And so I moved away from that environment and uh, I started looking at my life from there on, my future at that point. Then I started associating, mainly by myself, or with people that had things in common that I wanted. It was at that point that I started thinking of what I wanted to do with the rest of my life. What did I want to be? What do I want out of life? And so I started, you know, I think around that time, that's when I went back to Delaware State and that's when I went to college. Uh, and I came out of there and I just started working. When I came out of there, at Delaware State, then that's when uh, Mr. Lewis got me the job at the uh, Experimental Station, DuPont Experimental Station. So, now, you know, actually he offered me a job on the police department. But I said, "No thank you." He was going, he was going to get me on the police department. But uh, see I had a police record. And I said, "I don't think I can get in the police department with a police record." But he said, uh, you can have it taken, you can have your police record I guess expunged, is that what it's called? So uh I said, "That's okay." But you know what? Looking back at it, hindsight, that wouldn't have been a bad move. Because, see back then there was still a little animosity there and see, guys, the riots opened up positions in the police department for minorities. That's one of the things that came about, they started hiring more. But see, at that time you were still, if you were a cop you were looked at as an Uncle Tom, see that's what they called it. You were like a sellout. See, and that's the kind of stuff I look at now and I say, "Man, that was stupid." If I had gone on the police department then I'd be retired now. I'd be retired and would still be working at Zeneca. And getting the, some of those guys that did go and retired now, they're in pretty good shape now. Still young and making, getting that pension or whatever they give you at city, and still working in good jobs. So you look, you look back at that, hindsight, you see a lot of stuff that if you had it to do over again you'd do it a whole lot different. But you know that's life. So I passed that job up and got a job at the Experimental Station. Turned out okay there. I stayed there for eight years. Then I left and started my own business. And after that, I did that for about four years. But I think of all things, you know as you get older you change, mature, you learn more, you learn from experience, hopefully you learn from your experiences, and people that know me now could never see me marching down the street. "Oh no, that couldn't have been you." Because, now you know, and it's probably true, they see me as a decent young man, you know they're probably right but. They could never; there are people that could never believe that I did anything like that. I'm not saying that it was a bad thing but they just couldn't see me being involved in anything like that at that time. So today, at 51, I see things a whole lot different. Quite differently, you know. I don't have any animosity towards anyone. I have a good job, a real good job and uh, I've got a, I'm getting ready to be married next year.
CP: Thank you. The first one.
DH: It is?
CP: The first marriage, yeah.
BS: A confirmed bachelor.
BS: Another one bites the dust.
CP: Yeah. So you know, things are a lot different now. There has been some progress but there's still a lot more to be done. Still a lot more to be done. You can see progress but I'll tell you, me and, my fiancée and I, we're going to get married in April of next year and we're going to buy a home. So, this is one of the differences, the big differences. We've been looking at some developments, you know we're thinking of having something built, so we've been riding around looking at different developments. You know what we've noticed? In those developments 150-200 thousand-dollar homes, there's a bunch of Black folks there. There's a lot. And I mean I didn't know it until I started looking for a home. I mean, I heard of people living out there but I mean I'm still in the city. So, and I started getting, wow, I said, "Wow man, these people must be doing okay." They're doing okay, I mean, you go into some of these developments, these are brand new and just, and some of them being still built and it looks like sometimes the majority of them are Black. I said, "This is kind of nice." You know they're keeping their yards up and stuff and keeping the place up. You'd better if you spend that kind of money on a house. So I said, "That's really good." So, you know, there's been some progress made. I mean, you can see it just, guys on my job. Black guys on my job, they're doing well, you know, they have homes, nice places, a good job, cars, some have invested their money right, wisely. So there's been some progress. But there's a lot of stuff happening man, there's still a lot of things that need a lot of work, need to be done.
BS: Do you think you had anything to do with the progress?
CP: Maybe not directly, but indirectly. You know, I think that maybe, just because of what came out of that era. A lot of things that are happening now came out of that. You know, as bad as it might look when you look at that picture, you see your community burning up, but you know, it woke a lot of people up and it made people act. It made people realize that, you know, there is a problem, there are some problems. Things need to be done. So I might have had a little bit to do with it.
BS: Was that a defining moment in your life?
BS: Was that a defining moment in your life?
BS: At this time.
CP: Around that time. Right after that is, I think, is when the Black movement came through and I think that was probably a defining moment that made me look at, 'cause see, I was starting to get a little bit older, I was still young but that was time for me to start looking at my future, what did I want the next 20, 30 years. You know did I still want to be doing what I was doing then? 'Cause, at that time I was in the street a lot. You know, I was running around with the guys in the neighborhood, we was doing our stuff. I was a member of the West Side gang too, so I wasn't doing a lot of good stuff. So at that time, after that, I did look at the picture a little differently. Who I wanted to be and where I wanted to go.
BS: Did you ever become uh, a community activist?
CP: Nah. Never did that.
DH: Not yet.
CP: Well, not yet. That's not me. A political activist. I have never done that. Never had the desire.
BS: Well, this has been, as far as I'm concerned, a very uh, enlightening.
DH: Good interview.
BS: And I think uh, uh, this is uh, something I hadn't read or heard.
CP: Is that right?
CP: Mr. Gardner had a thing, Mr. Harry Gardener, one of the people that I looked up to that I was telling you about, he had a, some kind of a, I guess like a conference or something, and he wanted to, he invited people that, he invited people that had been where I was, had been in the street in trouble. See I was in Ferris School too. I was in Ferris School twice. But he wanted to show, he went back to Ferris School and he wanted to take people with him that had been to Ferris School and gotten out, been in a little trouble, got in a little trouble with the law, but now are okay. Working, doing okay. And uh, he invited me to that but I didn't make it. I don't know what happened, why I didn't go. But maybe he told me I had to get up and speak and maybe that scared me. Maybe that's why I didn't go. I got too [? 22.2], "Get up and tell the kids about your experience. Tell them how you were, where you were and how successful you were at Del." In the first place, I didn't feel like I was successful. And another thing I don't know if I could talk in front of nobody. So I didn't go. But he gave me a little plaque, I got a little plaque for it.
BS: That's the Ferris Industrial School?
CP: Uh huh. Right, that's what it's called now, I guess. Back then it was Ferris School. It's called something else now, some kind of detention center or something.
DH: Yeah, and it's turned around you know, they had some awful years. I mean, people were punitive, treated very punitively. Through all the system. And now they're doing a lot more stuff over there. They've got a lot of mentors.
CP: Good, that's good.
DH: Yeah, I've heard it's turned around.
BS: Were, were you there before the riots?
CP: Yeah, I was in Ferris School man, I was only 12 years old when I went the first time. And then the next time I went I was 15. That's where I lost the two years in school. That's why I came out of school two years late. I never had a desire to drop out just because of that. I never, I always knew I was going to finish high school. Because it was always stressed. And even then I knew the importance of at least finishing high school back then. See, now it's a little different. You need a high school plus some more, but back then you could do okay with a high school education.
BS: Yeah, well, it's to the point now where a four-year degree isn't enough.
CP: Yeah, you need that and some computer skills.
BS: That's true. Yeah, that's really true.
CP: One thing I do now in this, I've been doing it for the last three years, this would have been the forth year but I didn't do it this year because, well, I'm getting married and that's going to cost a little bit of money, what I've done for the last three years I've always wanted to, always said I wanted to give something back, I want to do something for someone. So what I did three years ago I started coats for kids program. Now the first year, I don't like asking people for money, even for a good cause, I just never have, the first year I bought coats. These are brand new coats, not no used coats, second hand coats, something somebody gave you, these are brand new from the store. I said I want to do something so, well first, first, what gave me the idea, I wanted to do something but I didn't know what I wanted to do. I didn't know if I wanted to volunteer to homeless shelter, but I wanted to do something. It's always been there. So, I was watching Oprah one day and she had this guy from uh, the Washington [Bullet], the Washington [Wizards] now, basketball team. And she had different people like that; athletes and entertainers that do things that other people don't care about. So I'm watching it and this guy, he still, I forget his name but anyway, he had a program called Clothes for Kids down at Washington. And he donated ten thousand coats to kids down there. So I looked and I said, "I can do that." Not ten thousand coats but I could do that, I could get a couple kids' coats. I want to do that. That'd be a good thing. So I uh, I actually called him up down there to see how he did it but he never called me back. But uh, so I said okay, and my goal for that, that was around the end of summer so I wanted the kids to have the coats by the end of September so I didn't have a lot of time. So I said, I want to do it now, I don't want to put it off I want to do it right now. I said, "Even if I give one coat away that's going to make me feel good." So I had flyers printed up and I actually went to people, some people on my job at that time, I was in a clothing department store and my family. But I just told them what I was doing and asked for donations. So that year I was just, I was looking for maybe two or three coats; thirteen coats. And I went to people that I knew, mostly word of mouth to find out, I wanted to give the coats to someone that came from a working family. Because the reason why I did that, I didn't want to discriminate against people who were on welfare but I didn't want to give to people on welfare and the reason was because I feel they get a lot, they get a lot, I mean they get food stamps, they get housing they get medical. I wanted to help someone who was working and struggling. Because there's a lot of people out there who are working to have their kids, and struggling. So that's who, that's who I wanted to target. So I got the word out and I told them that's the criteria, they had to be working, the kid had to be between the ages of five and ten. And so that year I did thirteen coats. And these were nice coats, long winter coats with the hood on them and everything. Brand new. Still in the paper. So then the next year, I don't like asking people for money so I stopped, I said this year I'm just going to do it on my own. My own money, whatever I can raise, I'm going to do it. And so the next year I did fifteen and that was just my own money. I didn't ask nobody for money. And then the next year, the following year I did about 15-16. So this would have been the forth year but I didn't do it this year because I've got to save for a wedding.
DH: Right, right.
CP: So I didn't want to take away from that so next year I'll probably do it again. Get back on it.
DH: Are you going to go on a honeymoon?
CP: Yeah, we're going to go on a honeymoon, we're going to try to go on a honeymoon. We may go, we were going to go to Jamaica but we kind of like, put that on hold 'cause we started looking at the money part. And our main concern right now is getting a house. She's in the city and she wants to get out. I'm in the city
DH: I think that's an important thing.
CP: I want to get out. So we both agree. We're both in favor of it. That's kind of like, forget about that long trip, maybe somewhere local for a few days. But let's take that money and start saving for our home, you know, because we want a house. Uh she has a house, her house is paid for and I have a duplex, my duplex is paid for. So we're going to save up, maybe another year after we get married and sell her house and take our saving and put it down on a house and use my duplex as income to pay the mortgage. That's how we've got that planned.
BS: My wife and I, I didn't take her on a honeymoon 'til eight years after we got married.
CP: Right, right.
BS: And that was a free trip.
CP: That's all right, I'll take a free trip for a honeymoon. But you know that the coats for kids thing is really, that's really something that made me feel good, to give those kids something, give those kids those coats and see the smiles on their faces. And their parents [28.7], one guy even tried to pay me for the coat. I said, "No, you don't have to pay nobody for this. It's a free coat." But she was serious. I just took five dollars but she made me take it.
DH: Some people like to give back.
CP: They do, they do. And that year what I did, because I realized everybody, see I didn't want to do, what happened to me. I didn't just want to go after Black kids 'cause I'm Black. I had that first year, I gave to Black kids, I gave to white kids, had Hispanic kids, all had coats. So I gave to everybody. That's the way it always is. That's the way it always will be. So that was, was something that I really got a lot out of. I actually felt kind of bad because I couldn't do it this year.
DH: Well, you'll do it next year.
CP: Yeah, I'll make up for it.
BS: Pretty soon it will be an institution.
CP: Yeah, I don't know, I don't know. Not with me giving up the money. Maybe if I give donation, but with me just giving the money it will stay around 15-20 kids each year.
CP: As long as I have access to my source of, for the coats. Because I don't know how much longer he's going to be there at his location. He's talking about moving back up to Philadelphia. I could go there to pick the coats up.
DH: Shall I turn it off?
End of side 2, tape 2