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Black Appalachians Oral History Project
Interview with Christine P. Price, Interview 1

Date of Interview: 4 March 1991; Blacksburg, VA
Interviewer: Michael A. Cooke, Assistant Professor of History, Virginia Tech
Transcriber: Cindy Hurd

Note: This interview was done in 1991 as part of the Black Appalachian Oral History Project (Ms91-019) by Dr. Michael Cooke of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University. In this project Dr. Cooke conducted 22 oral history interviews (on 25 tapes) of and about blacks in Appalachia, predominantly in Montogomery County, Virginia.
Note: Underscores (e.g., ______) indicate parts of the tape that were unclear.


{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - }


Begin Side 2

Cooke: OK, you were talking about WJ Sears but then you talked about that the Sears lived right below you right?

Price: No, that was the Carrolls that lived, the house on the other side of Carrolls' house was Sears' house but it was down on Jackson street down below where the Snells live now.

Cooke: Right next to the fire station.

Price: Yeah, it was down there.

Cooke: Could you talk about that property a little bit more. We just changed tapes here, you were talking about how they wanted to build the firehouse and there was some question about whether or not about the property where they could be added on to or moved or what have you.

Price: Well see the town bought it to build the firehouse and whoever bought the Carroll's property over here bought the house and had it moved over on the corner of the lot.

Cooke: You mentioned before that a black had wanted to do the same thing and the town said, "No, it couldn't be done."

Price: Yes, that was one of the Carroll sons' wife. They owned that and she wanted to build on the ________ and the town told her it wasn't large enough to build on.

Cooke: When did this happen?

Price: That's been several years ago, I tell you time...

Cooke: 60's? 70's?

Price: Time goes by so fast.

Cooke: Maybe the 50's? Was it the 50's?

Price: No, I don't believe it's been that long.

Cooke: The 60's?

Price: Yes, something along that...

Cooke: The 60's or 70's?

Price: 70's, yes.

Cooke: What was the impossible now was possible. Why do you think that was the case?

Price: Well, I don't know. I guess because they were black they wouldn't let them build on it. But still after they moved the Sears house from down on Jackson and put it over there...

Cooke: And a white person owned that property?

Price: Uh huh.

Cooke: Hmmm, that's interesting. Well, I'm trying to think of anything else we haven't touched upon. Do you think black people get equal justice, now that we're talking about the issue of justice, by the court system? When black people got in trouble were they punished more severely than whites? Did you have problems getting for instance goods and service? If you wanted to have garbage pickup or something did you have to sometimes have to wait and go over and get services and trash pickup?

Price: No, I can't say that I did.

Cooke: OK. I can't think of any other thing to ask you.

Price: No, I just happened to think now of Lewis Carroll, one of Carrolls, that big stone building between these houses over here, now he did run a cleaning shop. One of the Carroll boys.

Cooke: So that was another business?

Price: A business, right, he did run a cleaning shop over there. Now I think the whites made it living quarters, students live in that now.

Cooke: Well, so much has changed. Like all the fraternities which were family homes and as those houses got older and I guess people wanted to more modernize their...

Price: Well see after the parents died and the children all left and didn't need to come back anymore.

Cooke: That's a good point. Before we end I guess we should ask one question. Why did so many blacks leave this area? Why did so many of the children and offspring, cause at one time, I was looking at the Census, there was a substantial number of blacks living in this town and now it's drizzled down to maybe around 400 or 500 where at one time there might have been over a thousand. What led to so many people leaving? In fact, what happened to Newtown? It's kind of like a ghost town.

Price: It is.

Cooke: The Bells left. The Greens, Mrs. Bell, they didn't keep their properties or sold their properties or other properties that had just been boarded up for instance.

Price: Ours up there, the Mays' is in court now for sale. Alexis sold hers.

Cooke: That's right. The Mays' is the property that our church is involved in. I should have thought about that. I have a church meeting today we'll be talking about the Mays' property again. Anyway, I'm not going to talk about church business. Why did so many people leave this area and where did they go when they did?

Price: Well, I guess they went to better jobs. I guess that's it.

Cooke: There weren't many jobs open?

Price: No, nothin' but the house cleaning. Many were working for the white families here and I guess...

Cooke: For boys I guess that wasn't much of a...

Price: No, it wasn't much a challenge for them and the girls I guess decided they wanted something better and you know white folks catch them.

Cooke: What about VPI? Did they hire people? A lot of blacks or did they have very few blacks?

Price: They had very few blacks. There was an infirmary over there, now my Uncle Preston, the Mays' house again, he worked there until he wasn't able. And then Richard Christian used to be my neighbor lived in that little house up there, he worked there.

Cooke: But not many?

Price: Nuh uh.

Cooke: So when the mines got played out and other employment didn't seem to have as much opportunity, so a lot of people just left. Do you know what kind of places people tended to go? Are there some places that a lot of people tended to go to?

Price: Well, my sister and right many of them, the Saunders girls up here on the hill, they went to Washington, I think. ____________ jobs. Now my sister married a fellow she met up there and she still live in Maryland.

Cooke: That's very typical. I interviewed some other people who lived on Jackson Street. Would Jackson Street be considered Bitter Hills?

Price: Jackson is where Ethel Dawbins lived?

Cooke: Yes, that's the person that I'm referring to. Would that be considered Bitter Hills?

Price: No, I don't think so. It was just on up above here I think.

Cooke: Yeah, up past ___________ and then going up past ___________. Ok, then that would be considered?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: Getting back to the Dawbins, there sons, almost all of them went to Washington.

Price: Well, see they finish at the high school and went to college and they seen...my oldest boy finished over there and he went on to Hampton and then he got his medical degree in Richmond, and then he went...

Cooke: Oh, now I remember seeing him in the paper. I was reading a clipping, there was a big write-up about your son. He was the first black that they could document the received a MD degree. So it was your son. Which son is it?

Price: That's my oldest son over there.

Cooke: What's his name? I forgot.

Price: James. James H. Price. We call him Jim.

Cooke: And he went, I believe, to the Medical College of Virginia.

Price: He did, MCV.

Cooke: And graduated first in his class, right?

Price: Yes, he was first in his class and all.

Cooke: Even the white newspapers had to write about that.

Price: And then my other son, Allen, of course he wasn't _______ but he did go on up to New River and he went into the ministry.

Cooke: So the family, it seems did well!

Price: And Clarence, my third one, he's in Colorado Springs. He's the one I told you ______ his eldest son. He started VPI, I guess he went about a year and a half to VPI.

Cooke: What did he think of VPI?

Price: Well, he quit and went in the service and he got his BS at Nebraska, University of Nebraska when he was stationed there in Nebraska.

Cooke: Was he one of the first blacks to go to VPI?

Price: No.

Cooke: I guess they'd been...

Price: But see they wouldn't let Jim go.

Cooke: That's right. Did he apply?

Price: Yes, he applied but couldn't get in.

Cooke: Well, that serves them right.

Price: Because they said there was so many more black colleges that offered the same. See he was going in medicine. When he was a little kid he said he wanted to be a doctor. But they said there was so many other schools here in Virginia doing the same thing.

Cooke: This was before desegregation?

Price: Yes.

Cooke: I guess before Brown vs. the Board of Education?

Price: Yes. See now Clarence finished CI and missed the banks so that ______________ made him stay in music and wouldn't let him take Algebra so they claimed that he didn't have enough mathematics to get into VPI. So we sent him to Lynchburg for a year and then he came back and then he decided that he was going to join the service, the Air Force. He just retired here, ___________ and then he turned around and got a government job in the same building. He's doing the same thing, computer. He got his Masters...

Cooke: Was he an officer in the...?

Price: Oh yeah.

Cooke: What was the highest rank he held?

Price: I forget what it was. It was about the highest cause anytime his boss would leave he'd have to stay there and take care of things. He pulled his...

Cooke: Your family did real well?

Price: Uh huh. Now Philip the next one, well Ryan is the next one but he didn't go into the service. He couldn't go, he tried to enlist but he ________ had an accident and Ryan _________, I think that kept him out. But Philip, he meant to make it a career too but he got blind. __________. He's supposed to get him Masters from _________________ in June, this June.

Cooke: Well, I'll tell you this family of yours is something else. Done very well?

Price: Yeah, he wouldn't give up. I went up there the year before last, and he and his wife both graduating up in Denver Colorado, but he decided that wasn't enough for him so he went after his Master's. He feel like he ought to _________ cause he's blind.

Cooke: I think we have covered all the ground at this point. I'd like to thank you for you helping me with my project here.

Price: Glad too. Alice she went to Richmond and went to business school.

Cooke: And came back to this area?

Price: Yeah, both my girls did.

Cooke: On that note I guess we'll close it out.

Price: And my youngest boy, he's teaching down in Shawsville.

Cooke: Shawsville? Does he live there?

Price: Nuh uh. He live out here in Heathwood.

Cooke: Oh, he lives in Heathwood and commutes to Shawsville. What's your youngest son's name?

Price: Thomas. Thomas L. Price, we call him Tony.

Cooke: Tony Price. What sports does he coach?

Price: Oh, basketball. Girl's basketball. He did have boys and girls, but he gave the boys up. He's got the girls now. _________.

Cooke: OK, on that note we will end for the final time. Thank you again.


{ Tape 1, Side 1 - Tape 1, Side 2 - }


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