Documenting the American South Logo
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Nate Davis, February 6, 2001. Interview K-0538. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Black parents work low-wage jobs

Davis discusses his parents' employment, which was consistent with many interviewees' descriptions of African Americans' job status in the segregated South. His mother stayed at home to raise Davis and his siblings and worked as a maid, and his father worked as a janitor at the Varsity Theater and a court custodian at the Chapel Hill Tennis Club. His father's work at the movie theater allowed him and his siblings a privilege not afforded to most black children: they could watch movies there.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Nate Davis, February 6, 2001. Interview K-0538. 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

RG: What did your mom and dad do for a living? ND: Well my mom, with that many kids it’s kind of hard to get away from the house and work a lot, so my mom kind of, you know, stayed at home and raised us. My dad, when we was growing up he worked at the Varsity Theatre as a janitor, and that gave us the opportunity to go and see some of the movies. As you know, back in the early ’50s and the ’60s and maybe up into the ’70s, you know, you were not, African Americans was not allowed to go the movies. So we did have an advantage by going with my dad to work sometimes, to go in and watch some of the movies. I think dad probably worked there until I was abut 11 or 12 years old, then he started working at one of the fraternity houses in Chapel Hill, and he worked here until he retired from that, and then he did odd jobs. My dad was, he was pretty, not sick, but he was sick a lot. He was a diabetic, and I don’t remember the exact year, but at some point in time both his legs was amputated because of that, and that’s something that runs in my family. But he worked up until the time, probably until the year he passed away, even with both his legs amputated. He worked at the Chapel Hill Tennis Club maintaining the tennis courts for a long time. So yeah, both my parents was around, and my mom, she did do some work every once in a while. She worked at the Carolina Inn as a maid, and you know, odd jobs working in different homes and things like that. RG: Did she take laundry in, did she do ironing, things like that, or no? ND: No, no, she didn’t. RG: She just worked out of the house? ND: Yeah, out of the house when she did work. RG: You mentioned that your dad worked at the Varsity Theatre and that African Americans couldn’t get in there. Did some of the movie houses allow African Americans to come in and stay in the balcony? ND: Not to my knowledge. You know, we went with my dad when he went to work and he would turn the movies on. Never attempted to go when the movie was open to the general public, you know. RG: So you got to see the movies as a private showing? ND: Yeah, kind of like a private showing.