Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Dora Scott Miller, June 6, 1979. Interview H-0211. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Routines and racial composition at Liggett and Myers

Miller describes her daily routine in the Liggett and Myers tobacco factory, where she used a butting machine to "cut the butts off of the tobacco." She worked nine hour days at twenty cents an hour, taking a thirty-minute break for lunch. Most of the employees were African American, overseen by white foremen.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Dora Scott Miller, June 6, 1979. Interview H-0211. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

DORA SCOTT MILLER:
I went to work in the factory, January 19, 1925.
BEVERLY JONES:
What type of job…
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
I worked some on the buttin' machine.
BEVERLY JONES:
A buttin' machine?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
A buttin' machine'd cut the butts off of the tobacco.
BEVERLY JONES:
How much were you paid?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Twenty cent a hour.
BEVERLY JONES:
You worked from what…
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Worked from 7:00 to—we made nine hours a day—went to work at 7:00, nine hours a day, twenty cent a hour.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you have any breaks like lunch?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Yes, we had lunch period.
BEVERLY JONES:
How long was that?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Thirty minutes.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you have any other breaks in the time?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Yes, we had to go to the rest room.
BEVERLY JONES:
You could just go on your own if you wanted.
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
No, we didn't go on our own. We had somebody to relieve us to go.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did you have to ask a foreman?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
No, they'd come around and ask you permission when you got ready to go.
BEVERLY JONES:
Who's they?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
They have a extra lady to do that.
BEVERLY JONES:
In the area that you worked the butting machine, were they all women working?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
On the buttin' machine it was, but men put the work up for us—they put the tobacco up for us. We had to feed it on this machine, and a woman cut the butts off of it. We put it on a conveyor.
BEVERLY JONES:
So you worked for nine hours.
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Twenty cent a hour.
BEVERLY JONES:
Do you recall what other jobs women were doing in the factory?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
Yes, they had machines. They had stemmin' machines—I worked on the fourth floor. They had stemmin' machines on the third floor, and they had another department on the second floor. Women worked on all them floors. They had hand stemmers, they had all that.
BEVERLY JONES:
Did black and white women work together?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
No, no white. They had white men as foremans.
BEVERLY JONES:
So what were the white women doing?
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
White women worked in the cigarette department. You didn't have but a very few white women at that time; they worked across the street in the cigarette department.
BEVERLY JONES:
You said only a very few. Is that because they didn't need…
DORA SCOTT MILLER:
No, they just didn't have but a few white ones workin' at that time. Now, most of it is white.