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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Mill jobs for African American men and the process of unloading coal

Dodson returns to the subject of racial segregation, describing how it functioned both in the factory and in the mill village. Instead of working in the weaving room or the spinning room, African American men could only do demanding physical labor such as firing the boilers. In addition, Dodson describes when he worked unloading coal cars.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Geddes Elam Dodson, May 26, 1980. Interview H-0240. 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

Who would fire the boilers?
They had black men that fired the boilers. And then I remember [chuckle] back when I was a boy, they had a great big old trestle there, way up high as this porch. And they'd bring them carloads of coal in there, with a drop bottom. And old man Baker was the outside bossman. And us boys'd see a carload of coal come in, and we'd run to Mr. Baker and say, "Mr. Baker, how about letting me unload that carload of coal up on that trestle?" And we got five dollars a carload to unload it. We'd take that big old wrench and let them down. It'd pour out on there. But if you could get one where there wasn't much coal under it, why, you didn't have much trouble. But it'd pour out, and then you'd shovel it out so the rest'd come pouring out. And I remember one day I had that wrench, and it'd come down with a crank on it. I went to let the bottom down, and that thing slipped and hit me right there and knocked the breath slap out of me. But it didn't knock me off. I happened to just hold on, but I was lucky. And so I went ahead after I recuperated [chuckle] and unloaded it. And then one time there come a load of coal in a carbox. And I was little; that was too much for me. I got it, and my daddy went up there that night and helped me unload it.
Were there any other black people involved around the mill besides firing up the boilers?
Not too many. Used to, back at Woodside everybody. . . . I had a wood stove when I moved in this house. Back then they had that four-foot cord wood come in, and us boys would get Mr. Baker to let us unload that. And he'd pay us to unload a carload and pay us to stack it. Oh, we stacked that wood up high as that porch there. A stack of it, oh, as far as from here to the other side of that house over there, several stacks. And they sold it to the help.