Title: Oral History Interview with Mary Moore, August 17, 2006. Interview U-0193.
Interviewer: Thuesen, Sarah
Interviewee: Moore, Mary
Abstract: Mary Ann Moore was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1948 and was an active participant in both the civil rights movement and the labor rights movement throughout the second half of the twentieth century. Moore begins the interview with a discussion of the segregated school system in Birmingham during the 1950s. In the early 1960s, Moore became a high school student at Carver High School in Birmingham. Moore recalls that her parents' generation was somewhat reluctant to become too involved in movement activism because they feared negative ramifications at their jobs. Young people like Moore, however, became quite actively involved with the support of their parents. Moore recalls in particular how Martin Luther King Jr. called young people to action during a speech at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Shortly thereafter, Moore and her peers participated regularly in civil rights marches, facing arrest and violent intimidation from Mayor Bull Connor. Moore proceeds to explain that her interest in issues of social justice was largely influenced by her father's union activities. An employee of the Birmingham Tank Company, Moore's father saw labor organization as the only avenue for improving conditions and opportunities for African American workers. Moore draws connections between the labor movement of the 1950s and the burgeoning civil rights movement, which she explores more closely in her discussion of her own labor activism beginning in the 1970s. After completing her bachelor's degree at the Tuskegee Institute, Moore was recruited by the Department of Veteran Affairs to earn her certification as a medical technologist at the University of Alabama at Birmingham before accepting a position at the VA Hospital in 1971. Moore worked as a laboratory technician at the VA Hospital for thirty years. She describes in great detail how various forms of racial and gender discrimination operated during her years of employment. She offers numerous anecdotes about inequitable working conditions for black employees, and she cites repeated efforts by the hospital administration to discredit her because they believed her advocacy made her a troublemaker. As an active member of the union, and later its executive vice president, Moore campaigned for more equitable working conditions for African Americans, often appealing to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Following her retirement from the hospital, Moore became a community politician, eventually seeking election to the state legislature. The interview concludes with Moore's comments on lingering racial and class divisions in Birmingham, which she hoped to assuage in her capacity as a state legislator.