Ep 1: A Grandfather’s Journey Through The Civil Rights Era
Produced by Zarah AISV
Podcast: Family Matters Ep 1: A Grandfather’s Journey Through The Civil Rights Era – Podcast: Family Matters Ep 1: A Grandfather’s Journey Through The Civil Rights Era, Produced by Zarah AISV
ABOUT Podcast Author
Zarah AISV, a 14-year-old VACS’s FLAP Summer 2020 fellow, brings her heart and mind to work in creating her own original podcast for her FLAP capstone project.
In this episode, Zarah will be focusing on the Civil Rights Era in America during the late 50s and 60s – how one African American man navigated those times and the effect it had on his family and community. She is joined by her maternal grandfather, Johnnie L. Stubbs, Sr. former President of the NAACP Conference of Branches in the State of Maryland. The NAACP, which stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was one of the most important organizations fighting for Civil Rights during this era.
[Family Matters Intro (0:20)
ZARAH INTRO: (0:44)
Welcome to Family Matters, Ep 1: A Grandfather’s Journey Through The Civil Rights Era, this is Zarah, reporting from Kigali Rwanda in August 2020.
In this episode, we will be focusing on the Civil Rights Era in America during the late 50s and 60s. how one African American man navigated those times and the effect it had on his family and community. I am joined by my grandfather, Johnnie L. Stubbs, Sr. former President of the NAACP Conference of Branches in the State of Maryland. The NAACP, which stands for the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, was one of the most important organizations fighting for Civil Rights during this era.
JLS (00:00-02:06) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 1 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM August 17, 2020 [evening recorded in two parts]
Born in 1935 in Greenville, Mississippi, a “highly segregated” part of the USA.
“Black people had no power at all.”
Grew up in rural Southeast Arkansas on a small farm. There were two groups of people: white people and black people, “who worked hard and had no power.”
JLS went to an all-black elementary school that differed from white schools in several ways: The school year was shorter
The books were handed down from the white schools; they were never new.
ZARAH (0:28) Brown vs Board Question
The inequities between black schools and white schools in terms of the buildings, books and teachers were part of the problem of the segregated system of “separate but equal” that led to the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka Kansas, a landmark 1954 Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled U NANA MUS LY that racial segregation of children in public schools was UN CON STI TU SHUN AL.
https://www.history.com/topics/black-history/brown-v-board-of-education-of-topeka#:~:text=Brow n%20v.%20Board%20of%20Education%20of%20Topeka%20was%20a%20landmark,in%20pu blic%20schools%20was%20unconstitutional. History.com – Brown vs The Board of Education
JLS (02:06-02:41) (DELETE)
served in the U.S. Army for three years.
He went to college then to graduate school in 1960 (for 18 months), graduating in early 1962.
ZARAH (00:04) First Civil RIghts Moment
What was the first major Civil Rights moment that you remember?
JLS (02:44-03:45) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 1 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM I lived in Pine Bluff, Arkansas, just 45 miles from Little Rock, the capital of the state where the “Little Rock Nine” sought to integrate the High School in 1956. Arkansas Governor Faubus refused to integrate the high school. President Eisenhower (IKE) had to send in federal troops to protect the Little Rock Nine.
ZARAH (01:45-2:29) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day2 Vid 1
What did you think of them? Would you have joined them?
JLS Yes I would have joined them
I went to college then to graduate school in 1960 (for 18 months), got married then got out of graduate school in early 1962.
My first job was at the Naval Weapons Lab in King George’s County, Virginia as a mathematician.
What did you work on at the lab?
JLS (05:30- 6:08)
I worked on guided missiles that came out of submarines, which in fact made me a rocket scientist!
ZARAH:(6:10-6:19) ep 1 day 2 vid 1
Was that job integrated?
JLS (6:21- 8:10) interviewed ep 1 interview day 2 vid 1
There was a low percentage of black people working here. At that time to get a job at the U.S. Department of Defense, they looked at your transcript and how well you did in school. So if you fit within that criteria anyone could get the job. They expected the same out of you as they would anyone else, so we did get the same wage. However, my wife who taught at the local black high school in King George’s County got paid half the salary of what a white person would make.
JLS (1:13-03:28) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day2 Vid 2
It really wasn’t integration per se that caused the problem, not only in the federal government but it was that quite often a black person would not be promoted from one level to the next level. When I went to Annapolis I and another woman were the only two black people who were in a high position. When the time came for me to get a promotion, I was denied, later on I was however promoted because I was the best thing they had at the time. I became the first GS-13 at that laboratory , at the Marine Engineering Lab.
ZARAH (00:19-00:34) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day2 Vid 1 (delete) What did you major in?
Mathematics and physics
What was your housing situation?
JLS (04:26-05:09) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 1
Virginia was highly segregated.
We lived on the military base as “there were no places for black professionals in rural areas.”
how did you feel about the atmosphere in Virginia?
JLS (03:26-04:52) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day2 Vid 1
I grew up in a situation that was very unfair.so I knew that it was unfair that they required the same thing out of black people but they would not sell them property, and you couldn’t buy housing in a white community.
ZARAH (0:03): schools question
And what about the schools?
JLS (8:10-8:25) ep 1 day 2 vid 1
Schools were segregated because black people were not allowed to teach white people and vise versa. As well as black and white people’s wages differed.
ZARAH (00:05) Question about Civil Rights Effort
What was your first major Civil Rights Effort?
“I was dying to get involved in Civil Rights.”
Half the people of King George’s County were black. Only a few were registered to vote.
The registrar had an office in the middle of a tobacco field. He had two lists, a long one of white voters and a much shorter one of black voters.
ZARAH (00:07) BLACK VOTER LIST QUESTION
Interesting, so because there was such a small black community in the area, did you recognize anyone on the Black Voter list?
JLS (00:00-00:54): Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM I joined three women in organizing the registration of “a few hundred black voters.”
ZARAH (00:04) FURTHER EFFORTS QUESTION
How did you get further involved in Civil Rights efforts?
JLS (00:54-02:07): Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM Most counties had a branch of the NAACP. I joined a small group of mostly older women. Within a year and a half, they elected me the President of their local branch (in 1964).
JLS(06:26 -06:48)Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day 2 Vid 2
I felt like I had a duty to do my part to help make America what it claimed to be and absolutely was not.
JLS(02:08-03:11) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM However, the Department of Defense no longer provided housing on bases for civilians, so we moved away from Virginia.
I got a job in Annapolis, Maryland, which is located in Anne Arundel County, and moved there in 1965. I got involved in the local NAACP branch there. I worked on voter registration in 3 southern Maryland countries.
ZARAH (00:04) NAACP ORGANIZED HOW QUESTION
Can you describe how the NAACP was organized?
JLS (03:11-4:20) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM Each state has a “conference” that includes the county branches. I attended state meetings, and a close friend of mine decided to run for State President of the NAACP in Maryland on the condition that I run as the First Vice President. We won in 1968.
JLS(10:10-10:54)- Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day 2 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM A friend of mine, Walter Black decided to run for president and said he would only run if I ran for vice president.
JLS(04:53-05:36) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM The NAACP Maryland State president learned shortly after his election that he had a position at the national headquarters of the NAACP in New York. The NAACP organization does not allow people to hold state and national positions at the same time, so he had to resign from the position of president.
JLS(11:43-14:42) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day 2 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM There were members of the NAACP who didn’t want me to be president because they thought I was too militant…but I was a believer in the Constitution. People wanted me to resign because I was new in the state…but the forward thinkers wanted me to remain…
JLS(06:20-06:30) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day1 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM This situation left JLS, at age 33 and only resident in Maryland for three years, as the new President. JLS offered to resign as well, but the NAACP state organization insisted on following the rules and he remained president for five years — until 1973.
Zarah :(00:05 )
Could you explain why you decided to resign after five years?
JLS(17:46-20-57)Family matters ep1 day 3 vid 2
One of the reasons that I decided to get out early (from his presidency of the Maryland Conference of branches of the NAACP) was it seemed that the older people were not…
Anything new, they didn’t quite believe it. They saw themselves as in the height of whatever was going on. Like when President Truman — many saw him as very constructive. Well, he did force the military to become integrated. But he was another Southerner; he was from Missouri, a border state. We never saw Truman as a great leader in Civil rights because he wasn’t! And my point is that what is in the forefront today might be in the middle twenty years from now. So we have to be able to move forward and to let younger minds and people who see things very differently become the leaders. And there are always some good things that we can contribute, but just like athletes — you are LeBronn James today, but five years from now somebody else will do you in because you perform an error. So, we have to be able to move forward – is what I am saying.
Zarah ( 00:05 ) what were some other problems the NAACP helped address?
JLS: (8:26- 9:27) family matters ep 1 interview day 3 vid 1
We had to fight a lot of individual problems, for people who felt and were being discriminated against. Housing was a problem all over the State of Maryland, but the biggest problem had to do with schools. If you were in a particular neighborhood you were assigned to a school.
Zarah:( 00:20) fair housing movement
Fair housing was an issue for the black community because the tax money paid for the schools. Housing discrimination against African Americans meant that African Americans were forced to live in lower income neighborhoods, so their tax payer money was less and their schools therefore were of lower quality.
ZARAH (00:03): civil rights in maryland question
What was the history of Civil Rights in Maryland?
JLS (7:34 – 11:50): “Maryland was a ‘Free State’ during the Civil War.” But even though Maryland did not secede from the Union to join the Confederacy, it was a slave-holding state and remained segregated well into the 1960’s. For example, in Anne Arundel County (where JLS lived in Annapolis), only 10 out of 84 public schools had been integrated by the mid-Sixties. The local government congratulated itself for “Ten Years of Achievement” in getting to this desegregation result.
Under JLS’ leadership, the NAACP petitioned the U.S. Office of Education to move faster. The NAACP perspective was that the past ten years represented “Ten Years of Continued Discrimination,” according to JLS. The NAACP recommended that Anne Arundel County integrate another “10-20” schools. In fact, the county moved forward to successfully integrate all 84 schools.
JLS (14:43 -15:44) Family Matter Ep 1 Interview Day 2 Vid 2 on 8-16-20 at 9.19 PM
We integrated all of the schools in Anne Arundel county, and most of the schools in State of Maryland. We went all across the state instituting housing, because one of the problems is that they had communities that they did not allow black people in, even in the State of Maryland. We felt that that was not what the Constitution stood for: either we were citizens or we weren’t.
Zarah: (00:00- 00:33) Family matters ep 1 interview day 3 vid 1
What was the hardest part for you and your family during these times, for example when you had to change housing or when you moved into a white neighborhood
Jls (1:15- 4:28)family matters ep 1 interview day 3 vid 1
When we moved to Annapolis, Brownswood, it wasn’t a fully developed community which we lived in for three years, but we bought a house in Heritage and it was not as difficult as you might think because all the houses were funded by the Veterans Administration. We were the first black people to move into that neighborhood. My family and I did not have much trouble living there. Our children got along fairly well with the rest of the children.
Zarah: (4:28- 4:40) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
Did redlining affect you in any way?
Jls ( 4:42- 6:09) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
Redlining didn’t affect us personally because of our neighborhood being financed by the Veterans Administration, they could not deny us our housing.
Zarah: (6:25- 6:33) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
Did redlining affect the NAACP policies in any way?
Jls (6:36- 8:04) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
Every town was different, and when there was redlining the NAACP would do what we could, in terms of clearing things up. But generally speaking in many neighborhoods they simply would not allow black to be or to buy in those neighborhoods. After the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, you could buy a house in almost any neighborhood.
zarah(9:32-9:45) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
You mentioned that the NAACP national leadership had particular views about you. Could you explain what you meant?
JLS (9:46-12:35) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
In 1968 most black people were in the Democratic Party. At the time there was a senatorial election involving two candidates: incumbent Democratic Senator Daniel Brewster and there was a Republican congressperson, Charles Mathias. Senator Brewster was the favorite to hold his seat, but the Maryland NAACP had our political action chairman investigate Senator Brewster’s voting record and Congressman Mathias’s voting record. Even though there were less than five percent of black people in Congressman Mathias’ district in Western Maryland, we found that his civil rights voting record was superior to the Democratic Senator Brewster. We told the NAACP that we found Mathias’s voting record for civil rights superior to Senator Brewster of the Democrats.
JLS ( 13: 28- 15:45) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 1
The NAACP called me and said that they heard that we had endorsed Republican Congressman Mathias; we had not. We simply said that his voting record was superior. The national office had asked me to rescind that information, and I would not do it, then they said that I had to resign from the NAACP and were denying the fact that I had been part of the NAACP at all.
JLS (00:00-02:28) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
A couple of years later, Mathias won and became the Republican Senator. The national NAACP was upset with me and so forth. (Then) President Richard Nixon tried to appoint two southern people to the Supreme Court who did not have a good voting record on civil rights. The voting for Judge was tied (in the Senate) with the exception of one Republican Senator, Charles Mathias. Charles Mathias voted to reject Nixon’s nomination. Later on Mathias said that he voted the way that Johnnie Stubbs (me) would have wanted him to vote. And then I became a hero for the NAACP. (laughter). The very people who wanted to kick me out now said what a wonderful person I was. I could see things that others couldn’t see.
Zarah ( 00:31 ) Senator Mathias
Senator Mathias was elected to the Senate in 1968 for the Republican Party. He had previously been a member of the U.S house of Representatives from Maryland’s 6th district. He was re-elected three times and was part of the liberal wing of the Republicans. He was known for frequently clashing with the conservative wing of his party. Despite being isolated from his conservative wing, Mathias played a big role in fostering African American rights throughout his career.
JSL (2:41- 4:13) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
Virginia, Maryland and DC was the seventh region of the NAACP. We were the smallest region, and we always voted rather conservatively. But after I was president (of the NAACP Maryland
Conference of Branches), Virginia, Maryland and DC moved over to what they called the “liberal area.” That’s just the internal politics of the NAACP. I was never great friends with the national office, but they respected the accomplishments that we made in the state.
zarah(4:24-4:50) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
When you were talking about your family. Did your daughter or children benefit from integration?
JLS(4:55- 8:42) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
Well, Johnnie Stubbs Jr. and Lavette started off in schools that were recently integrated. Did they benefit? Well, they benefited because the schools they attended were the (same) schools that the white kids attended. And they were required to be good students. Their mother was a well-known good teacher and their father was a good student. His children always got that lesson and were good students. And, in fact, I was a consultant, a management consultant at the time.
Yes, they benefited from integrated schools because they were required to be good students at whatever school they attended. They always performed. At the time, TV was limited. They didn’t like it, but years later they did… Ah, and, I have been pleased and all three of them graduated from high school and all graduated from colleges. And turned out to be very good people, all of them.
Zarah: (00:12 and 00:25) inconvenience 1&2
At the time this audio was taken, a few network problems occurred, i would like to clarify that the missing part of the sound was summarized. “If the schools had not been integrated yes the children would have not been picked on; however, their education was the most important. Because the education they would have gotten including other children might have lacked in some ways, and of course the second hand supplies were a problem for students in black schools.”
Zarah (8:43-9:03) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
Were there any reasons why they didn’t benefit? Or you didn’t benefit from integration — because of how people acted?
JLS: (9:04-11:20)family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
I would say that when the schools were first integrated, there were certain problems. Anne Arundel County had 4-5 levels of classes. For example, in tenth grade there were 4-5 levels. My children always had to take classes in the top level. That was OUR requirement. Sometimes if they were in the top level, they might be the only black kid in there. And, so, Johnnie Jr. and Lavette handled it well. Your mother didn’t.
zarah(14:05- 14:25)family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
I wanted to ask. Did you meet any of the great leaders that talked about Civil Rights. MLK Jr.? what did you think of them?
JLS:(14:25-17-46) family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
I met many of the great leaders. Fact of the matter is when MLK was killed, a close friend of mine (a roommate in college) and I flew from DC. We flew to Memphis just prior to his funeral after he was killed. We were trying to get to Atlanta.
(Initially, Delta Airlines didn’t have enough planes. But they put some more planes on)DELETE
We flew and went to his funeral. And marched in Atlanta. Several of my close associates: John Gibson and Doug Sands and others were from Atlanta and had participated in MLK’s group (SCLC). I was never a member of SCLC, but we contributed. In fact, we contributed to all the black organizations.
(So, I was not a personal friend of any of them. But Roy Wilkins, the head of the NAACP, conversed many times.)DELETE
Zarah: (21:38-21:51) family matter ep 1 day 3 vid 2
What helped change public opinion . You mentioned meetings that helped bring races together. Was that a useful tactic?
Or what were some small ways you helped change someone’s perspective?
JLS(21:53- 30:55)family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
well yes. For instance. When I worked in Annapolis at one of the jobs. There was a guy who was very liberal. Will Anderson. After we moved into Heritage (neighborhood in Annapolis) for three or four years. I ran into him at a meeting. He asked me: “How ya’all doing over there in
Heritage?” I replied: “We’re doing alright.” He said (laughter), “How are your children getting along with the white kids.” I replied: “They’re getting okay because I teach my children that they are no better than the white kids!” He got as red as a beet and said, “No better THAN?!” I said: “Yes, Will, you expect me to teach my children that they are AS GOOD AS white folks.” And you teach your children “no better than.” You’re going to regress to the mean from the top, but you want black people to regress to the mean from the bottom. You’re just a racist like the rest of ya’all. He stopped for two minutes and listened to me. He said: “Johnnie, you are absolutely right. I never thought about that.”
Could you explain that more profoundly?
JLS ()family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
See, there is a significant difference when you are telling people “You are just as good as” — I didn’t tell my children that. I raised my children, letting them know who they were, but my point
is that in race relations. Quite often, not only then but now, when President Obama, who they see him as a black man. And I see him as a half white man: his mama was white; his daddy was black. But they see him as black. They are right. But when he became president; half of the country, especially some of the leaders wanted to make sure that he didn’t succeed. They’d rather see the US go down. They hate that a black man was the most powerful man in the world. They’d rather see the country… people in a boat and pull the plug to keep it from reaching the shore even if it would sink them too!
You mentioned that you raised your children letting them know who they were, so how does that add up to your view on race and how you taught them?
JLS family matters ep 1 day 3 vid 2
The term race is a young term. When I say young. People have been on earth for a million years. The term race is only 400 years old. A person was from India, and was called “Indian.” not native americans, but people from SE Asia. Canadians were from Canada; Egypt/Egyptians. Egyptians from the south were dark; those north were light (not white), like Palestinians and Arabs. There was no white or black. White and Black … when I was in grade school, they didn’t know how to. We were called “Ethiopians” — others Caucasoid; Mongoloid. (laguther). They came up with white and black. Race is a new term. The Christians were trying to justify their treating people like horses and mules, and so they had to come up with some sort of excuse for doing that when it became economically favorable. So much for that! Nothing to do with your project, just a thought that needs to be in your head some place!
Zarah:(00:24) Thank you Granddaddy
Thank you so much granddaddy, for taking the time to share your story and knowledge with us! So many people in my age group do not have someone in their life who lived through the civil rights era, and worked so hard to change our society.
Many of the issues you dealt with in housing and education continue to plague us even now. Do you have any suggestions of things we could do to make our country more equitable?
ZARAH: (00:12) See you next episode
Thank you so much for listening to our first podcast of Family Matters, Ep 1: A Grandfather’s Journey Through The Civil Rights Era!
This is Zarah, reporting from Kigali Rwanda, see you next episode!