African Americans' economic negotiations
Here, Clark briefly reflects on raising her children and the first home she and her husband bought. The excerpt is a snapshot of how one African American family found a way to secure a home despite their relatively meager income. In this case, Clark and her husband made an informal arrangement for an inexpensive home.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Rebecca Clark, June 21, 2000. Interview K-0536. 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
BG: Tell me about your children. What was it like raising your children?
RC: I feel humble. I never had any trouble with my two boys. There was any trouble for them to get in ( ). They had nothing to do. When they went to school, I gave them twenty-cents a week, that’s all the money they could get because I wasn’t making any. And there was a theater on the corner, Graham Street and Franklin Street, where they opened a theater of Friday night. And that’s what it cost going to the movie. And back then children had a habit of ( ) and losing things. If I had to buy a cap or something, that was taken away from the little bit or bread or whatever we had to do with.
So I’ll never forget: it was time to go to the movie. One of them didn’t have the cash. I said, “No movie.” He said, “Ma, let us go.” I said, “( ). I’ll be whipping on you now ( ).” And I never believed in slapping a child. I had a friend in the country when I was a child. Her head was one-sided. She had this robust father. And then only had one child. Always wanted to know why ( )’s face was one-sided. They said her daddy slapped her one time and that’s where it stayed. I said I don’t like spanking the children because it can injure a kidney. And I don’t like to spank them on the hand because it causes bruises in the blood vessels. Getting a cane switch where I can tickle their legs a little and let them jump while you hold their hand. That’s enough. But I didn’t have to do a lot of that. Didn’t have too. Because they were punished. My oldest son, if you punished him, sent him to the room, all he needed was a funny book. He’d read all day long. Didn’t make him no difference. He was kind of lazy anyway. It was the other one that was real active. ( ) was real active, more active than John, Jr. ( ). That’s all he want.
So back then, they had nothing to do. No swimming pools at their young age. And when we moved down here where we now live, where this house now sits, there was a lot. The house was next door. They would play football—no basketball courts then. My husband knew folks on campus would give them a football. And the neighborhood children would come here and play baseball and football. I’ll never forget I said to my husband, “Let’s buy that lot so the children have some place to go.” “No, I’m putting a garden out there. I’m not buying no lot.” I said, “Well, if somebody build there, it’s going to take from us.” He didn’t care.
That was during 1942. I wanted this lot so bad. We had been living in here since ’41. ’42, my husband went into the service. And when this ( ) for blacks, blacks wanted the university to see that they, through FHA law, build them some houses. So they sold off to relatives. And I found out that this lot belonged to Mr. Geddy Fields. So I found Mr. Fields and asked him, “Mr. Fields, how much you want for this lot?” He said, “350 dollars.” I said, “I don’t have a lot of money. How much do I have to put down?” He said, “Give me twenty-five dollars. Pay me when you get it.” My husband was already then in the service. He told me he wasn’t going to buy the lot. So ( ). So despite this rationing of food and what little the government gave me, I’m still working for seven and a half dollars a week, going to the laundry with my children, taking care of them, I went on and purchased this lot but it took me about five or six years to pay Mr. Fields for it.