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Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007).
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  • Abstract
    Annie Mack Barbee's family lived as sharecroppers in South Carolina for much of her childhood. Barbee describes her parents' values and how they passed those along to their children. She relates how her life changed following her mother's death as she assumed greater responsibility in the household. When Barbee was an adolescent, the family decided to leave the countryside and go to Durham to work in the factories.

    In Durham, Barbee went to work in the Liggett & Myers tobacco factories. The overall environment of the tobacco factories harmed the women's health, but Barbee explains how segregation and racism worsened conditions even further. She lists the reasons she did not strongly support the unions and then reflects on the many differences race made in her life, even affecting the color of uniform she wore. Using an illustration from her own work experience, Barbee insists that African American women must learn to stand for themselves, refusing to give up their rights even when the white men in authority demand it.

    Because her father feared that she would be sexually assaulted on the walk to and from school, he forced Barbee to quit school before she wanted to do so. She describes how she tried to continue her own education even after she stopped attending classes. She reflects on the opportunities African American children had to further their education and the pressure they felt to succeed.

    Barbee did not marry until she was in her early forties; she bore a daughter, Louise, a short time later. She describes how being an older mother made her a different parent and explains her basic parenting philosophies.

  • Learning to value money and hard work
  • Memories of her mother
  • Memories of the Miller family farm
  • Race relations in a rural southern town
  • Barbee highly values education
  • Experience with the inequities of segregated schooling
  • Child-rearing philosophies
  • Moving to Durham
  • Various jobs open to African American women in the tobacco factories
  • Racism worsened working conditions
  • Unions and racism
  • Racism reflected in workers' uniforms
  • Maintaining her dignity in poor working environments
  • Deciding to use Eleanor Easley as her ob-gyn
  • Conflicting ideas of motherhood
  • Restrictions during her pregnancy
  • Reflections on work and racism
  • Learn More
  • Finding aid to the Southern Oral History Program Collection
  • Database of all Southern Oral History Program Collection interviews
  • Subjects
  • Religion and politics--North Carolina
  • African American women tobacco workers--North Carolina
  • The Southern Oral History Program transcripts presented here on Documenting the American South undergo an editorial process to remove transcription errors. Texts may differ from the original transcripts held by the Southern Historical Collection.

    Funding from the Institute for Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this title.