Browse Exhibits (26 total)

Minnie Whitney

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In two separate interviews conducted in March of 1984, Minnie Whitney (1902-1995) recalls her journey from the Eastern Shore of Virginia to the city of Philadelphia. After spending 16 and a half years working on her family farm, Whitney ran away from home in 1919 and traveled north on a train headed for Philadelphia. Whitney shares the story of her time spent in domestic service working for a harsh and demanding woman. Whitney's strong work ethic and sense of determination influenced her decisions to move, and then remain, up north.

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Ralph Jones

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Born and raised in Philadelphia, Ralph Jones (1906-1991) witnessed the arrival of Black southerners during the Great Migration and experienced the tensions between them and the established African-American community. After graduating from Howard University in 1931, Jones returned to Philadelphia, where he enjoyed a long and successful career in journalism, serving as editor for The Philadelphia Independent and the Afro-American, and as executive editor of the Philadelphia Tribune. Jones also worked as a public relations specialist for the City of Philadelphia and was the first African-American to become sergeant of the County detectives. Jones was also an accomplished author, of a novel, The Pepperpot Man, and a biography, entitled Charles Albert Tindley, Prince of Preachers, published in 1982. 

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Ruth Wright Hayre

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The daughter and granddaughter of two of Philadelphia’s most prominent African-American businessmen and civic leaders in the early 1900s, Ruth Wright Hayre (1910-1998), was born in Atlanta, Georgia and raised in Philadelphia. In her 1984 interview, Hayre talks about the lives of her father, Richard Robert Wright, Jr. (1878-1967), who moved to Philadelphia in his late twenties to continue his education, and her grandfather, Richard Robert Wright, Sr. (1855-1947), a former college president who came to Philadelphia in 1921 to start the Citizens and Southern Bank with his children. Like her father and grandfather, Hayre was an educational pioneer, as Philadelphia’s first African-American high school teacher and principal, and the first female head of the Philadelphia School Board.

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Walter A. Gay Jr.

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In two 1984 interviews, Walter Gay (c. 1902- c. 1994) shared his experiences with racial violence in Georgia and his family's move to Philadelphia in 1917, his early observations of life in the city, and his role in the rise of Black Democrats during the political realignment of the 1930s.

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William Fields

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William E. Fields (b. 1889) the son of a farmer in Denton County, Texas, left home at the age of 17. He soon married, started a family, and moved to Dallas, Texas. Though he had a good job, Fields in 1917 hopped a train for Philadelphia. Fields traveled up on the free transportation the Pennsylvania Railroad offered to those willing to work on the railroad, but never did a day’s work for them. Instead, he worked at Baldwin Locomotive Works in Eddystone, Hog Island Shipyard, and elsewhere. Fields spent the next seven decades living in Philadelphia and during that time, the City of Brotherly Love became his home. 

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William Steffens

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William Steffens (b. 1897) was born to Fannie and Manuel Steffens in Jacksonville, Florida. Life in Jacksonville exposed Steffens to discrimination and racial violence at an early age. On April 5, 1917, he took a boat from Jacksonville to New York City. A few weeks later he moved to Philadelphia, where he would work as a carpenter and contractor for the next to 65 years.

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