Dorothy Bolden oral history interview, 1995-08-31

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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CHRIS LUTZ: Talking to Dorothy Bolden, August 31st, 1995, in Atlanta, Georgia.

DOROTHY BOLDEN: [inaudible]

LUTZ: Um, let's go back into the past to start with.

BOLDEN: huh?

LUTZ: Um, well...can you tell me when and where you were born, please? Uh, tell the, tell the people

BOLDEN: Let me get up close to you because sometimes I'm hard-of-hearing, eh

LUTZ: Okay, [sigh] I want to ask some stuff about your childhood.

BOLDEN: My childhood?

LUTZ: Yeah, before we get onto the other stuff.

BOLDEN: Oh, my childhood was a sweet childhood. I remember two of us children and we were the first grandchildren -- a boy and a girl. I had a grandfather who had come out of slavery. He was just tickled pink because he had two grandchildren. And he picked me to be his lover. [Laughing] And, uh, we didn't have a hardship because we had our grandparents bringing food to us 00:01:00back and forth to us up there. You know, canned goods, you know canning vegetables, green beans and things been canned. So, we didn't have no food problem whatsoever.

LUTZ: Where did they live?

BOLDEN: They lived in Covington.

LUTZ: You lived up here in Atlanta?

BOLDEN: Uhuh, Yeah, and we lived up here.

LUTZ: What year did

BOLDEN: Both of us was born at home with my mother. We was born over there in Vine City.

LUTZ: At home?

BOLDEN: Ah, hah. My mother didn't trust the hospital.

LUTZ: [laughter] She was right.

BOLDEN: [laughter] Plus some babies had gotten mixed up down there. And she didn't want to go to no hospital.

LUTZ: What year was that?

BOLDEN: because…huh?

LUTZ: What year was that?

BOLDEN: That was back up in the twenties.

LUTZ: You are not going to telling the exact . . .[laughter]

BOLDEN: Yeah, I ain't going to tell you the exact date. But, she didn't want to have us in the hospital, she had us at home.

LUTZ: Mmhmm

BOLDEN: We were birthed at home.

LUTZ: Mmhmm


BOLDEN: The boy was first and the girl was last. She said she wasn't going to have any more children, and she didn't. We went back and forth to my grandfather back to home, back to my grandparents. I went to school there, and I went to school here. This was during the Depression, you had to survive. And, uh, we didn't have a [inaudible]. I could see my grandfather coming up Decatur Street in the wagon [laughter] bringing us food and eggs and stuff like that, bacon and slabs of bacon, and country ham.

LUTZ: Oh, god, I didn't have breakfast this morning. [laughter]

BOLDEN: We had good eating, but you didn't have anything else, you had good eating. Everybody that immigrated up to Atlanta, they have a room, you didn't have a house because you couldn't afford to get a house. And, um, it was 00:03:00always with some friends that come before you came or some of your relatives came. And we had relatives scattered all around Fishburg, Summerhill. We had them scattered everywhere. because…lemme answer this phone [Break] You couldn't find jobs, you took any kind of job, you know. My mother took in laundry. My daddy was a chauffeur. And, you know, yard maintaining, cooking and everything else. So, my mother went into cooking too with him. And, because the fight began to come, the Jews stay over there in Summerhill, so you could do the laundry. They like for you to do the laundry for them, and not too much of a house work. But laundry. You had more laundry than you had anything else. 00:04:00Everybody in the house had somebody they was working for. We children would go get the laundry [laughter] in the wagon. You would carry it back in the wagon.

LUTZ: Did you have a horse?


LUTZ: Did you have a horse?

BOLDEN: No, no. We had a little wagon that you pull. A little pull wagon with the little handle. Kelly Street was Jews. Jews owned everything on Georgia Avenue, that was when they were coming in, see, they was coming in at that time. That's where they settled all around the state Capitol

LUTZ: Okay

BOLDEN: Around part of Summerhill, east Atlanta. Everybody had a chip in it, probably make a dollar and a half, a dollar, according to how much laundry and linen they had. You had to iron that by charcoal.


LUTZ: [laughter] How did you iron it by charcoal?

BOLDEN: You have heavy irons. Two or three in the house had five or six ironing boards up, ironing you know? Very cooperative with each other because if one gets through before the other one, then they would help you with that garment for somebody else, you know and didn't want part of the money. They just let you take the money and they would take what they made out of theirs. Some people went very swiftly, some worked slow. They looked out for each other and looked out for the children. You didn't have no problem with people taking care of your children.

LUTZ: Mmhmm

BOLDEN: It was some fine children raised in those days. You know because everybody looked after everybody's child. When they feed one child, they feed all. And it, it wouldn't mind…I'm going to let it ring, it wouldn't mind, this is going to my children, it was all divided equally among friends,


LUTZ: Yeah

BOLDEN: Neighbors. Didn't nobody go hungry, you always had a little bit to eat. If you didn't get enough, some children eat more than other ones, didn't have enough, momma would give up her plate. The neighbor would give up eating and say, 'You gave up yours yesterday, I'll give up mine today.' Always going to have somebody that ain't going to have enough. You know, everybody laughed over it. We didn't wanted to embarrass the child.

LUTZ: Yeah

BOLDEN: Back in them days, you treated children as children, and they respected you for it. They was obedient.

LUTZ: [laughter] Yeah [inaudible]

BOLDEN: You receive that respect because you were nice to them. You wouldn't try to embarrass them, you know, make light of them. Everybody just loved everybody back in those days. I don't know what happened to these here now a days. But anyway, it was a good raising. Raised, I was brought up in church. 00:07:00I was baptized before I got ten years, way before I got ten years old. I was about six or seven.

LUTZ: Was that real young to get baptized?

BOLDEN: Mmmhmm, I got baptized…because I was a child..I had…-- I lost my eyesight when I was a child, I fell from the upstairs of a tall three story house. I fell on the concrete and knocked my eye nerves out of the bed. One of them cracked my head open,


BOLDEN: But it just knocked my eye nerves out of the bed. So, one eye went this way, one eye went down that way. So, when it came back and I did get them straightened out, I couldn't see because it affected my my sight, you know

LUTZ: Mmhmm

BOLDEN: My vision. I couldn't see. That worried my mother, my daddy. It kept it down [inaudible]. They wouldn't doing anything, said I was born that 00:08:00way. My daddy told them, 'Don't say that because she wasn't born there.' They didn't have a record of it. Usually when you are born in a hospital they examine your eyes and everything. They didn't have no record of me. He just took me home one day, got out on the corner, was crying. Somebody told him, white lady was standing there, she said, 'What is the trouble?' He told her the trouble. 'I had my baby in and out for a year and they did nothing for her and she can't see.' She gave him the name of a specialist. He took me to a specialist. So, they treated me. And, uh, very nice doctor, I will never forget him. [laughter] But he was very kind, he bandaged up my eyes. 00:09:00I don't care how you can't see. You got to bend the light that comes into your eyes. He bandaged them up, and he started giving me shots, painful shots. He started them back here, very painful. because see, your eye nerve lies back here and that's where I fell. They were just trying to get these nerves to move. The nerve was just so weak, he couldn't make a move. That treatment went on for a pretty good while. So, finally one day, I told him I wanted to get up and go outside. He said, 'No, I don't want you to go out there, the light is too bright out there, it's daylight out there. You stay in here, and keep your, shades down, so the light won't come in. I'm going to change your bandages this morning', he said. When he changed it, I seen what color 00:10:00bedroom suite my mother had, she had a green one, a real light green bedroom suite.

LUTZ: I bet it was pretty

BOLDEN: Back in those days, they had different colored bedroom suites. He said, 'You see that?' I said, 'Yeah, I see it.' He said, 'Let me put the bandage back on.' I told him, 'I didn't want it back on.' He said, 'No, I got to keep it bandaged, so you can get strong. I don't want to do no damage to you.' So, I kept it on for a while. Finally, got it off and I was cock-eyed. [Laughing] He said, 'You couldn't see that when you first started. You couldn't tell that when you had that first bandage off. But, when the second one came off, that's when they were crossed.'



BOLDEN: And, so 'Oh my gosh! What can I do about that.' He told mother to bring me into his office and he'd be waiting for me. [Inaudible] Had to go through the back door. We got in there, but anyway he bandaged them up again and told momma, he said, 'I'm going to cross them up this time, tape.' He did, he crossed them up. I was crying because I could see a little. I enjoyed what I had seen and I didn't want to lose that sight. My mother cried, she was crying, my mother she prayed. I could hear my mother pray every night. I was the only girl, she didn't have but those two children. 'She is my child and messed up for life now.' And, she just really thought that I wasn't 00:12:00going to be able to see nothing. I was going to disfigure my face and she didn't want that.

LUTZ: Was your father…


LUTZ: Did your father give up hope?

BOLDEN: No, neither one of them. She would say that when people come in. People have to put their sadness on somebody else that will listen to her. I got all right.

LUTZ: Yeah

BOLDEN: I got a chance to go to school for awhile, but

LUTZ: Must have felt pretty grea….

BOLDEN: Started giving me a lot of trouble because it started running real bad with water, like I was crying sometimes. I couldn't see nothing, you know water being around you, you can't see nothing. I told her I couldn't see too good when I read in school or write because of the white paper. He told her, 'I want to tell you, but I don't want to discourage her right after 00:13:00this thing. I was going to tell you that later on she is going to have problems.' I still have proble

LUTZ: When did you get glasses?


LUTZ: When did you get glasses?

BOLDEN: Oh, I've been wearing glasses all the time. I took them off myself when I got [inaudible]. That did a lot of damage to them too. I should have kept them on, make them strong, make my vision strong and my nerve beds better. I kept them off.

LUTZ: What school did you go to?

BOLDEN: And yeah, I got some new ones. I just love to wear them. You know, you get custom to a pair of glasses, you miss them when you -- [inaudible] After that?

LUTZ: Mmhmm

BOLDEN: I stayed in school till I got out in eleventh grade. [Inaudible]

LUTZ: What school did you go to?


BOLDEN: Washington. We didn't have but one high school.

LUTZ: That's right.

BOLDEN: We had a junior high, David T. Howard.

LUTZ: What was Washington High like?

BOLDEN: It was a very good school, very good. You didn't have as many children as you got now as, uh, when you had when my children was coming along or the children before them. You had a few children and everybody knew everybody's child just about because there was so few children. And, uh, you had to walk a long way. You had to walk from Summerhill to Washington High.

LUTZ: That's quite a distance, isn't it.

BOLDEN: Oh yeah. You had to get early, it be dark when you would leave for school. Didn't nobody ever bother you, you didn't find children dead. Everybody was kind and respectful to children back in them days because children was respectful to them. What you give is what you receive. We was taught that. That's the way you carry yourself. So, that was very clear to us. We 00:15:00didn't get out of line, I tell you that.

LUTZ: Did you, uh, uh, get courted by any boys?

BOLDEN: Yeah, I courted when I got time to court. I never have been a girl that jumped at boys. I was very particular about boys. And I wasn't, as my mother said, 'A fast girl.' I was a very slow acting girl. I was more like a mother-type child. I loved people and I was always around older peoples. I always be doing something for them, whatever they asked me to do, I would do. And I wasn't a streetwalking girl. I like to dance, I like to go out, but that was it. I wasn't like somebody who just jumps up, you know, a boy say, 00:16:00"I like you" and I would catch onto him, but I didn't do that. And, used to tell me I was pretty, that never bothered me, never touched me. And I didn't accept it in that term or in that way. Look at girls now, you know, a boy just walks up and starts talking and she goes bazooka over him. And come to find out, he ain't the kind of boy that she needs to be with, you know.

LUTZ: I will tell that to my daughter later. [laughter]

BOLDEN: [laughter] Yeah, they are so anxious to get out, you know. I taught my girls this. I told them, I like a very strict life within myself. You have to put that strict within you, so you don't stumble over and fall. And, uh, I don't think people realize that about children. We need to go back to grandmother, you know let grandmother have a hand for it. Now, children think grandmother is fruit-headed. You know, I make lectures at school, college. 00:17:00They think his momma is -- you know. All the wisdom she have, you wish you have. She said, 'She could pass it onto you and you could be a great scholar if you would just listen.' But, uh, see, my grandfather, both of my grandfathers, both of them came out of school and married both of my grandmothers. One of my grandfathers was professor. He went to school while my grandmother sold flowers during slavery. The quarters she would make, she would save them. She sent him to school. He got to be a preacher, minister, and then a teacher and then the principal. He had to be all three of those in order to, to, uh, take care of the children that were left in the classroom. You go to school in the country from eight in the morning to four in the evening. You had 00:18:00two recesses. Just one classroom and you had to divide that classroom up into different classes. While you had one chapter of class teaching, you had the other one studying. They turned out some pretty good children, you know. And, uh, I remember when the Jews came over.

LUTZ: Uh, huh, To Atlanta?

BOLDEN: Yeah, that's where they settled over there in Summerhill. Capitol Avenue, Georgia Avenue and that's where the curb market, there used to be a curb market right there at the State Capitol except it would be on the curb on the streets. They called it a curb market. And, uh, that was a hill, they kind of narrowed it down a little bit, but it was a hill. Capitol Avenue would go around this way. I look at it now, you know, you can still see the Jew houses 00:19:00sitting up on that little hill when you come around the state capitol. They tore that down and put state buildings there. I remember all of that. If you think about it and you live here and think about it at home when you're in the bed that your history is still around you, it don't go nowhere. People may try to get rid of it, but it never gets out of you and people don't realize that. If we go back now and study some of these peoples and look at it and listen to them talk, we can tell you a great deal about the city of Atlanta. I can tell you everything that was downtown then and what corner it was on. [laughter] It is just saying that we got Northerners that comes in and upsets the whole systematic design of the city of Atlanta.

LUTZ: The Yankees? Yeah?

BOLDEN: They come in with bright ideas. They are not going to stay here forever. They tear up the best thing that we had that was here, was the terminal station.


LUTZ: What was that?

BOLDEN: It was the train station, beautiful train station. And they put the Russell building up there. Now we don't have a visiting center worth nothing. When I spoke of this in Washington to, uh, to the committee that they could take charge of the Union Station now and make it a visiting center. because it seemed a shame that all these cities that I was traveling in with the government. All these cities now is getting rid of the train stations. I said, 'That ought to be a visiting center.' It is, it should have been that. It's been the heart of the town. And, um, now they want to bring the train back, but they 'aint got nowhere to put them. You see what I'm talking about? So I just said, 'Well, If anybody lived in a city, like I have lived in the city and traveled through other cities and looked at them, they are far 00:21:00different. Because Northern cities is nothing like a Southern city. A Southern city is where roots were established and where the boundary of, uhhh, history begins.'

LUTZ: What else do you remember about Atlanta? What

BOLDEN: Oh, I remember back in those days when you couldn't go to different places.

LUTZ: Mmmhmm, Was there a movie theater..

BOLDEN: You know Buckhead was black once.

LUTZ: No, I didn't [laughter]

BOLDEN: Yeah, Buckhead was all black and they were moved out of there. Everywhere we had a root at, they moved us out and turned it into another community. And, uh, that hurts, hurts real bad. You think about that. And, you know, we weren't able to mix and mingle with the other because their children was taught different from us. They taught to say certain, taught to 00:22:00say certain things to us, it would hurt. You took it because you had to work. They would call you names, the children would and you didn't have nobody to tell it to because parents wouldn't believe them. And their children would tell you that they wouldn't believe them. They got away with a lot of things. I remember a lot of things that wasn't clear then, but that's over with now, you live through it.

LUTZ: Where did you go for the, uh, pleasant things?

BOLDEN: Oh, I traveled a lot when I was a young girl. I have traveled to different states getting jobs as a maid, I worked as a maid.

LUTZ: Yeah

BOLDEN: Everybody had a job that would come and see that I was a good worker. Your people would go up and all, your peoples would. Couldn't find and didn't know how to find a maid there, and they would come home and see that 00:23:00it's a nice maid across the street, over across the streets there, and maybe she would want to travel and get out of the city. They approach you, pay your fare, give you more than you are making here. You were making a dollar and a half to three dollars a week. If they offer you twenty-fives dollars a week, that was some money. You would pick up and go.

LUTZ: Where did you go? BOLDEN: You go to Chicago, New York, Detroit. [Interruption] Housework, live-in.

LUTZ: Okay, how old were you when you started traveling?

BOLDEN: When I first started traveling, I was about seventeen.

LUTZ: Okay

BOLDEN: Mmhmm, I was working here as a maid making a dollar and a half a week. 00:24:00Everybody said I was very attractive, I don't think I was. I never thought of that, you know. I had long hair that I could sit on. I cut it off. [laughter] Keep it cut now. I just feel like that maybe I like more than most young women [inaudible]. Because my mother would let me go. She said, 'I trust her.' And when you have a mother that can trust a child, they give the child confidence within that self. It gives all the confidence that a child needs, 'I won't let my momma down because my mother trusts me.' I didn't. I would call her when I said I was coming home. I would call her when I'd get here. I would leave my baggage at the train station. We had two train 00:25:00stations. Sometimes I would come in on the Union at the Union Station. Then, I would come into the Turner Station according to which way I was coming, if I was coming far. Soon as I get another job, I'd tell her, 'I'm leaving.' And they would say, 'You going to let her go.' She would say, 'Oh, she can take care of herself.' I did. I was more mature than most young people was. And, uh, I had very good taste, I had the brightest ideas. And as I told you, I wasn't a fast girl with boys or men. Nobody could pass me on, nobody could show me any money, I wasn't a money lover. And, I am that way now, I don't love money, never have. And, uh, so

LUTZ: Were you


BORDEN: I was able to do what most girls that leave home couldn't do. They couldn't resist the temptation that people would throw at them. I could, I could walk about it and forget it.

LUTZ: Were you religious?


LUTZ: Were you a religious girl?

BOLDEN: Yes. I believe in God, I believe in him, very strongly. And I would talk to him when I would be walking, just him and I talking along. That is your best guide, your best protection. Young people don't know that today, God can talk back to you.

LUTZ: How?

BOLDEN: It's very, very, very scary. Sometimes when it starts off, it sounds like a thundering in your chest. But, you really feel the spirit and it makes you listen to him.

LUTZ: When was the first time that God spoke to you?



LUTZ: When was the first time that you had this feeling, that God spoke to you?

BOLDEN: It is just when you meditate with him, God will talk to you. God will not put himself off on you. Always remember that now. God never throws himself to you, you have to throw yourself to God. God is an independent God. He is not going to give you no more than what you asked him for. If you don't ask, he don't give any. You have to want it and you have to ask him. You have got to believe that he will bring. That's how I was taken care of. I believe in God because if I started this with no money, you see how far it has gotten me in twenty-nine years.

LUTZ: [laughter] Some angel had to be on your side up there. [laughter]

BOLDEN: He took care of this, and I was very happy because I didn't have any money and I wasn't begging for no money.

LUTZ: Let's go back to when you were just leaving home, the first time.

BOLDEN: Oh, when I first left home it was a jolly thing. It was fun, riding the 00:28:00train. I tell you you had a lot of things throwed at you, you know, men walk up to you. There when you are attractive, dress real nice, you know, looking clean and neat. You have everybody looking at you, speaking to you, you know. And, uh, they can tell when you are from the South because you are scared to get on the train, you know, you are waiting for your turn.

LUTZ: [laughter][inaudible]

BOLDEN: When somebody is being polite to you, you are kinda scared to accept it because from being down South. And they can tell where you are from because that's the way people react. Southern people don't treat you that way, they are kind. Northerners are different from the South.

LUTZ: Where was the first city you went?


LUTZ: What was the first city up North you?

BOLDEN: Chicago.

LUTZ: Chicago.

BOLDEN: Mmmhmm, pretty place in them days. All the restaurants, you know -- bands playing on the sidewalk and stuff like . . . and you enjoyed it, you 00:29:00called them honkey-tonkeys. You go to one honkey-tonkey, you go to another honkey-tonkey. [laughter] So, you enjoyed it, that was very clear. I got to missing [inaudible] Then, I met a young man, I married him, then a child was born. And, uh, I was sorry I married him. Went through a wrestle there. It was a long time before I married again. I come right back on the same traveling trip and met another man, but it was a railroad man. That is my husband today.

LUTZ: What's his name?


LUTZ: What's his name?

BOLDEN: Abraham Thompson. I'm a Thomson, Dorothy Bolden Thompson. Some got Bolden on it, some got Thompson on it. In the books, they got Thompson. So I could never [inaudible] Sometimes I forget my name is Thompson.


LUTZ: Yeah, I know.

BOLDEN: I said, 'I better start using it.' Because you don't want to mix your career with your marriage. I always have been liberated. I never been a person who had to take orders from any man. My momma said I had always been independent. You can't push it because you know how pushed you want to go. That is true. And, uh, as long as you are not wild about life, you can guide yourself. See people sit down and I sit down and talk much to them. You see, my children are just as easy going. They are just like I was. They not man crazy. I didn't have no problem coming out, I bore them the same way. I had bed babies and they are still bed babies. They are grown mens and womens now, but they go to bed early.

LUTZ: [laughter]

BOLDEN: I trained them that way. Nothing in the streets that is going to help you, when it's dark.


LUTZ: Mmmhmm, what years were your kids born in?


LUTZ: What years were your children born in?

BOLDEN: My children born in fifty and I had one born in forty-one. That's the one that is retired now. He's going on fifty-five. I feel that we don't put enough effort behind the children. Too busy getting caught up in other things. Now, I could have -- I married a man that really loved his children, when I had to go somewhere, he kept them. And That's sharing. You go to bed, you get your homework, you go to bed and get a good night's sleep and get up the next morning and ready to go back to school. You have to make good grades, you have to work just as hard -- what one can do, you can do better. You don't copy from nobody, you have to think for your own. And if you don't 00:32:00think -- because what I give you, may not be right. So you have to learn to use your computer, which is your brains. And, uh, if you are looking at some [inaudible] and you can see what you need to do. So, I taught some good while I was out here fighting in civil rights. I had to have somebody that I could trust with my children, I trusted my husband. I had my grandmother die. That was a great deal of [inaudible]

LUTZ: Your grandmother was still living?

BOLDEN: Yeah and my mother was living too. And, that was a good thing to have because they never did what you said. That helps. You would be surprised to know how your mother can help guide your children. You think your mother still 00:33:00got those -- that's old time. But old timing, if you examine yourself, you didn't get into anything. You didn't get into no trouble. You weren't running wild, you weren't anxious to go and do things. These children now are more eager, and God got you prepared for this too. He told you that children are going to be more weaker to hear the temptation and no wiser to accept it and that's what they are. We can't fault anybody but ourselves because we didn't give the right teaching and the right guiding. We need some help. God always asks you not to leave me out of raising your children. They are mine first, he lets you know that. I had a lot of help from God with my children.

LUTZ: You were lucky you had your grandmother, your mother and God.

BOLDEN: I had a lot of help for me to be able to go on. I participated in PTA 00:34:00all the way through their schooling. I was in the school room about three times a week. I really was. [Interruption] I set up some times now and smile over it. Wasn't it a beautiful life to live with six children. I had nine, but six of them was living.

LUTZ: Boys or girls?

BOLDEN: The three girls are dead, three girls is living and

LUTZ: Three boys

BOLDEN: Three boys is living. I'm proud of them. They don't give me no trouble, and I don't give them any. They are married and got their own lives. My oldest son just got married. That's somebody that's set in their own ways, but I don't have to work it out. Him and his wife going to have to work it out. [Inaudible] To marry, you got to accept his way. I don't know how to 00:35:00feel about that.

LUTZ: Of course some of them were set in their ways in their twenties too. [laughter]

BOLDEN: That's where they are because of their mother. They think everything ought to be like momma. Mother forgot to tell them, don't look for anybody like me. There ain't but one me and that's what I used to tell my children. Aint' but one me. You are not going to find anybody else out there like me, so don't go looking for nobody like that. Learn to do your own laundry, learn to do your own housekeeping and your own cooking, because I won't be around you forever. That's why I say, you look for yourself. You know, I tell young people that I was counseling, here and there, 'Don't go looking for momma.' 'I want a wife just like my momma.' You will never find her. I tell them that now, today, that they won't come up with anybody like your 00:36:00momma. What God gave momma, he ain't going to give it to your wife. That is true. God don't give two people the same, so you ain't going to find what they can divide it up with you. I think this is the most important thing. I worked for me all my life. I love the children, love the babies. My most job was babysitting babies. And, I did what you call nursemaid, take care of the child and his clothes and his, their room, fixed the food.

LUTZ: Were the people that you worked for very rich?

BOLDEN: Yeah, they was rich people. They weren't no poor peoples now. I worked for one or two poor people and they were more nicer than the rich people, they paid more money. That is where you made your money with the poor people 00:37:00because they had to work and had to have somebody look after the children. You didn't have daycare. They didn't have a place they could leave -- She probably -- him and her moved here when they first got married. The mother was living somewhere else. She didn't come until on Christmas or Thanksgiving she lived here until Christmas then she is leaving. They need somebody to stay after the child year around. They paid you more. Where you were making twenty-five, you made fifty because you were doing all the work. You were doing the cooking, the cleaning, staying after the babies and the children. You had one or two more you had to stay after. If they had any school, you had them to be worried with. You were playing the role of a mother as well as the cook as well as the laundry lady as well as the housekeeper as well as guiding the children. You had a lot of children I worked for that nobody -- the birds and 00:38:00the bees when they got sixteen, seventeen years old. You had to teach that to them. You had to teach the girls not let little boys touch them. You are not to be touched and everything private. I said, you know, your body is private, you are not supposed to let him see too much about you, and those kinds of things. My children got some good guidance back in those days. That is why they rather their nanny taught them. Give them some good talking. And, uh, some of these women worked in these homes work thirty-five years. And, then, when their mother died, they, their daughter wanted to come work with them and be with my children. That is how it brought it on down to each generation.

LUTZ: Did you move from family to family a lot?

BOLDEN: No, I didn't. I would go from -- it was like if I was going out of town. They had a wedding here, somebody would come in that with the children. 00:39:00I was good with the children. And they had been noticing that. They would entice me in there with more money. They would buy you off with more money. They would probably tell you that they would send you a ticket, get your address and everything. Then, they would send you a ticket, train ticket. And, you didn't have no flying because you didn't have that much flying. So, you took the train, what have you. They pick you up at the train station.

LUTZ: Where were you during World War II?


LUTZ: Where were you during World War II?

BOLDEN: I was traveling then when that came and went.

LUTZ: What do you remember about the war years?


LUTZ: What do you remember about the war years especially?

BOLDEN: The what. [inaudible] World War II?

LUTZ: Yeah.

BOLDEN: Oh gosh! I ain't got no close relatives - no men relatives -- living. They went to war. I'll never forget. My mother married again and my 00:40:00stepfather, he was very sweet to us. And, uh, he got legs, knees, they had to put bolts through his knees to hold him together. After he was dead, they took them off. You could see them, see the bolts through there. It's like you put a bolt on and turn it. And, uh, think about how much money, he didn't get but forty-three dollars. We was still waiting for that five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten dollars of that. Didn't get nothing off of them. [laughter] And you had to scuffle to try to survive. Children was always looking out for momma. See you wait for momma till she would get home. You would give momma 00:41:00what you made in order to stretch it. If she wanted to buy something. We didn't have electricity, we didn't have electric lights, we didn't have refrigerators, we didn't have that. We had to prepare for all of that with your money that you chipped in and gave it. You didn't worry about -- if momma made you a dress, a skirt, blouse. She could take a shirt and make you a blouse, a man's shirt. On the elbow, she would cut if off up there and make you a pretty blouse and embroider something in it, it was pretty. All people that immigrated from the country knew how to sew. See, pongee was silk, pure silk. You could get it real reasonable. I had a lot of pongee colors. You know, my mother made me different colors, Gone with the Wind skirts. Pink top 00:42:00and a pretty flowered bottom with pink in it. It was just a pretty thing. You got clothes. I had an aunt who was a seamstress. See, back in them days, you learned how to sew. That was your best ambition to sew. White people would hire to make a suit, make a coat. Go down to Rich's and let them look at it. It was cheaper than what you were going to buy at Rich's or J. P. Ada That was the life that people depended on. You got through, you got to live much better. And, uh, it was, it was a very sweet life as I told you, I had a large family. My daddy came from a large family. He had the only two grandchildren at that time. [Inaudible] My brother was the oldest one and I was the next oldest. 00:43:00Because my grandfather had a son about the time my brother was born. They grew up together, and I was right behind them. So, all three of us was right together. We all acted like we was brothers and sisters. It was just an amazing thing. My mother's grandmother had cancer of the breast. She was ninety-four years old. [Inaudible] And, because, she wasn't [inaudible] They took it off.

LUTZ: She didn't trust Grady?

BOLDEN: You lose part of your body. That's what God had got you prepared for, to lose, you gain. You gain something. You gained a soul. Taught her how to take care of it, so she would hid it. I never forget, I had to wash the pads 00:44:00she put on. You didn't have pads like got pads that you go to the drug store and buy. You had to take sugar bags, flour bags and bleach them, boiling them, wrench them and wrench them and wrench them. Trying to make them a real pretty white. You see the little hummingbird? Kind that go out and peck on corn. They lived in little brown. Uh, let me see, what do they call that [inaudible]. I went out there and put them in a little jar, sterilize the jar. [Inaudible] put that all around. And she was dead. A lot of things -- earth will heal a lot of things back in them days because you didn't have the doctors.

LUTZ: What else did you do to get things healed?



LUTZ: What other kinds of ways did people heal things?

BOLDEN: Well, we, we did pretty good, I think. We brought out some good children. Taught us some things. I believe nerves, because nerves stimulate and clean out your body.

LUTZ: Yarrow.


LUTZ: Did you ever use yarrow?

BOLDEN: Yellow root?

LUTZ: Uh, yarrow, the thing that has got the kind of ferny leaves, white flowers.

BOLDEN: No. Mmm mmm

LUTZ: No? I heard you made tea from that


LUTZ: Did you use yellow root?


LUTZ: Did you use yellow root?

BOLDEN: No, none of that stuff. My grandmother used to pick out the herbs that she would make different tea and stuff with.

LUTZ: What kind did she use?

BOLDEN: I don't know,

LUTZ: Can't remember?

BOLDEN: I can't remember all of them. It kept you clean, you was healthy.

LUTZ: I just ask because [inaudible] [laughter]

BOLDEN: It kept me up to where I am now. I got arthritis now, got arthritis when I was out there dealing with these colds, started in my feet and went all 00:46:00the way up my leg.

LUTZ: Let's get onto the civil rights and the union too.

BOLDEN: I was at home, my children was small then. And I was at home, and I was sewing, I be sewing at night for my daughters. And I would listen to Doctor King on television. That's when not everybody had a television. Some people didn't have one

LUTZ: Was he still in Alabama then?


LUTZ: Doctor King. Was he over in Alabama?

BOLDEN: Yes, he was over in Alabama. He was there. I remember when Parks wouldn't get off the bus, they were showing that. I was telling her to sit there. I know she couldn't hear me, but I said, 'Sit on down honey, don't move. You tired, I know you is.' And, uh, because I knew how it was. I have rid the bus here, Georgia Tech students, Emory students would stand up over you 00:47:00and take their elbow and hit you in the head. And, you know. You would get up and move and then, he got the seat because you didn't want him bopping your head. There was cruelty, a lot of cruelty with teenagers in them days. You couldn't pay a black child to do that, but white men did it to us. And, uh, you would just get up and move and get on farther back. You would be packed back there, but you'd squeeze in there some kinda way. And we took all of that. That was rough, but we took it. There had been some hard days with us women riding the buses trying to get to the houses to clean them up, and work, and. If you bring a pan home sometimes, it would knock you down, knock the pan out of your hand with food in it. Y-you stayed out till 8:00 o'clock or 8:30, 00:48:00then it would be 9:00 or 9:45 when you get home. They tell you to take the food home, what's left and feed it to your children, so you wouldn't have to cook. But, sometimes you didn't have any to take because they had knocked it out of your hand. It was some cruel days. They come down Peachtree, it was awful. They would jump out the car and go over there and go around pee up against the building. They did some horrible things. Nobody knows that, but people as old like I am that lived through it and seen it. We had everything on Peachtree [inaudible] you name it, we had everything on Peachtree, come down on Peachtree. And, uh, Whitehall Street would end right there at Five Points. Peachtree would pick up right there and go back on up, then you had West 00:49:00Peachtree. I looked, I saw it, boy, do we have to go through life like this all the time? So, during the war, it didn't get no better. It really didn't get no better. And, uh, if it had of been, you would have made more. Mens coming back home making seven dollars to ten dollars. It was a day, sometimes about a week. That was bad, that was sad, sad because that is the reason children got out of the way. Parents didn't make enough money to take care of their needs, so they had to do it that way. And, I remember my brother went to World War II. They stripped him of his arm, and just left him a half of an arm. And it makes me cry now. He thirsts for alcohol because due to the effects. He's helpless. Took the [inaudible] out of his leg, back of his leg. He was 00:50:00wounded like that. He sat over there and froze when they had the measles. And he got shot, blasted in the head by a bullet. And, uh, he just wasn't the same when he came back. They don't ever be the same. You think about it. I had an uncle [inaudible] been dead long years ago right after he got out of the service because the the nightmares that they went through was just awful. They would talk about things. They were [inaudible] stronger than the white were because they did travel away, but the alcohol overtook them just like alcohol overtook these white men. Remembrance, they would try to get rid of it. You 00:51:00can't do that. You see two or three, twelve people get killed or blown up, how can you forget it? You can't walk away -- your buddy over there too, there's one or two of your buddies in that crowd that got blown up. You can't forget that. You just get a drink of liquor and you feel more jolly. That is what happened to him. You see the soldier coming back now, they are not happy. You think anybody is happy to see anybody get killed over there? They went in together and I'm coming back and he's not here. It could have been me the same way. That makes it hurt, it hurts deeply. This country don't have the guts enough to take care of their veterans. They are always putting themselves in a position to make more money, and they get more money. Now, 00:52:00I'm listening to all this now that is going on. When I was coming on, I remember when the Republican was in office.

LUTZ: Were you

BORDEN: Stole you dry. That's how they got to be millionaires. That's the truth, they stole you dry. Hoover, Hoover will promise you anything so he can get elected, but Roosevelt beat him out. Hoover hadn't thought about no Social Security. Hoover hadn't thought about better housing projects for black and white. Roosevelt thought of all those things.

LUTZ: You were a Roosevelt lady, huh?

BORDEN: Huh? And

LUTZ: You were a Roosevelt lady

BOLDEN: Yeah, I was, I really was because he was a man that showed some progress. You made little money, but could survive. A [inaudible] guy…Know where I got my first Social Security card at? Right here at Western Union. It 00:53:00was on this side, it was on the front part, not on the side, it was the front. That was the Western Union Building and you flew up there to get it. You heard it on the radio, go to the Western Union and get your Social Security card. My mother sent me up there flying. And then my brother and I got a Social Security. They laugh at it now. You got your Social Security when they first given them out. I laughed mmhmmm [laughter] They can look at the numbers and tell. I feel that we have made a little progress. Because this race relationship is hard and it is still a little bit hard. See, they haven't taught their children any 00:54:00different. Young children have got more head on them now then they had at that time.

LUTZ: When Truman became president the war was over --

BOLDEN: He was a pretty good president. He was, he was a pretty good president. Well, if it hadn't been for the Democrats, we wouldn't haven't come this far, none of us.

LUTZ: Mrs. Bolden, are you a yellow dog Democrat?

BOLDEN: Uh huh, yeah. I never change. Because when I looked at the Republican when I was a young girl and I listened to them, I never forget the words that I heard. 'You see that nigger laying over there. He may be sleep now, but when he wake up, he going to want everything you got.'

LUTZ: Mmhmm. That's senator Dil?

BOLDEN: He run for president, you know?


LUTZ: No, I didn't know. [laughter] Thank goodness he didn't win.

BOLDEN: No, he wasn't going to win. He knew that he wasn't going to win, so he didn't get out there strongly. Hoover was the one. All of us said the same thing. Um, welfare now was created for the white, it wasn't created for us. I know that definite. See, the truth has never been told, it got to be a political football. Everybody can bounce when you are running or throw the ball. It was created for the widows from World War I. That's what it was created for. They didn't have anything from World War I. They had to have a living, didn't they, so they created the Welfare Department. They called it 00:56:00relief. You know what our relief was?

LUTZ: What?

BOLDEN: Coal, ice, dry eats, peanut butter if we were lucky, canned beef, if we was lucky, yellow meal, yellow grits, no rice, and no, uh, huh, no flour.

LUTZ: Is the memories of that is what got you involved in the civil rights movement?

BOLDEN: Sure. [inaudible] You was treated like you was animals through the treatments. And, um, it wasn't pleasant. It's like I told you, you could be 00:57:00coming home with a pan and knock it out of your hand on the street car. We had street cars then. That would break your heart because the children would be hungry when you get home. You probably had some while you didn't have it. Children would have to go bed hungry, and that wasn't pleasant. They did some awful things to you, you know, to make you want to fight them.

LUTZ: What was the first battle that you got in on the civil rights movement?

BOLDEN: I didn't get in any. The first real battle that I got in was the board of education.

LUTZ: Tell me about them.

BOLDEN: They wanted to take the eighth grade, the seventh grade out of the Washington High School. That was when they were converting it into a junior 00:58:00high. And, we had a junior high when I was in school, and I know that wasn't going to work too hard. They sent them downtown to…what was the name of that school….the old war school, but it was downtown. It will come to me, been some years but it will come back to me. I didn't want my children downtown. I had all five my children coming right behind each other. My sixth one had already graduated and he was in the Korean War. And, that wasn't a pleasant sight. I'm thinking, he went off to war and my other children going to school. I was praying for him to come back home. And he did come back home, come back home all right. I was thankful for that. But, um, I was having the 00:59:00biggest knock-down drag-out with Dr. Letson, but I won over him. He even had to call me and told me he admired my courage. I told him that I had great courage, going to last forever, I wouldn't give it in. And if he wanted to give in, just send his child down there, and I'd let mine go, I wouldn't bother him, wouldn't hassle him no more. I know they would get the same books that your children is getting. But, he didn't do that. So I told him that I wasn't going to stay. And so he promised me a school through the bond issue. I said, 'I'm tired of your promises, don't give it to me and I'm going to fight for it.' I fought for it and I won. There's Kennedy School over there, over on Baldwin Drive. He said he didn't have anywhere to put it. I said, 'Well, you find somewhere to put it.' He said, 'You help me.' I said, 'You're not paying me to help you. I'm not supposed to go down in here 01:00:00and help you find anything. I'm paying taxes, I'm not suppose to help you find a place to put a school. I said, you find it or get some of your men down there to find it. It's up to you now.' So, the civil rights division from Washington came in. They sit down and talked to me and laughed. They said, 'She ain't giving in.' I said, 'No, I'm not giving in, I'm not about to give in to this man. You are not going to put my child where you want him to be. I tell where my child is going to school. I don't want my child to be exposed to downtown because I had seen what happened to other children when I be going to work.' Have to go through town, if you stop at a 10 - cent store, Newberry's or Woolworth's, getting locked up if he even picked up something and looking at it. I didn't want my children in that category. I told them, 'No, wasn't going to do that.' Wasn't going to establish no PTA, wasn't going to do either one of them. I was out because you see I wasn't 01:01:00going to give up. He told me that I was a good spokesman for them. I have to tell you, y'all got a strong woman. I told him, 'Yeah, I was going to be stronger, having my children.' I had to be a strong woman, I birthed all them children. The strength was there. I could let it last forever if you want it to be that way. I was very hostile with him because I was angry. Went to school, all of them did, the day before school closed to tell us about it. That's how they done. That's what you call hypocritical. A person who is supposed to be educated, supposed to have the knowledge to educate your child and here he is acting a darn fool, holding information back that will damage the child. You got the uprooted child and that's not pleasant to the child because he has made his friends all the way through them grades and now you got to have to break it loose and that breaks a child's heart. You don't know 01:02:00how it tears a child apart inside to lose his best friend. I told him, 'Put yours down there and see how it is going to break his heart, I dare you to put him down there.' So, he went on and got that school for me. I did, I told him [inaudible] you put him down here, I'll lighten up on you. Up until then, I'll stay on your back.

LUTZ: About what year was this?

BOLDEN: 1964.

LUTZ: '64.

BOLDEN: They were just old enough for me to go and fight for them.

LUTZ: What happened next?

BOLDEN: I marched with Dr. King every time he came to town. I went to rallies, I was the most vocal person there. I stayed that way and Dr. King sent SNCC and 01:03:00all the rest of them: "Look Bolden up down there, she'll help you."

LUTZ: What did you think about the SNCC kids?

BOLDEN: Oh they was good. They was excellent. They helped me boycott the school board. We stayed up all night some nights. I would go home so sleepy, then go on to work.

LUTZ: Besides Dr. King, who stands out in your mind from that time?

BOLDEN: Dr. King would always stand out in my mind, he's the strongest one of them. He had help, he had women like me. He had Parks. He had women like, the Mississippi name . . .

LUTZ: Fannie Lou Hamer?

BOLDEN: Yeah, he had women. Strong women that didn't back down. You couldn't ride they back. Nothing you offered them would make them change. I 01:04:00was one of them. Anything you offered me, I wasn't going to change, I didn't take money. Those kinds of women don't love money. They love what's doing right, more than they do the money. They didn't care how bad you needed it, you didn't take it. Nobody could buy me off like that. I believed in everything he said. It's a whole lot of rumors, lot of rumors like there's out on me. They would put rumors out when you get to be top leadership. They try to discourage you by bringing you down. You have got so much strongness and strength in you, so much encouragement to pass it off to somebody else. They don't know how to accept it because they don't believe in you. They want to tear you down, they have got so much evil to think about. 01:05:00They want to bring you down to their level. They are weak and they want you to be weak. And, um, I appreciate what white peoples did in the civil rights. We had to struggle, we had to really struggle. We had focus at our eyes because you never know who is behind you. We had a lot of them behind us that didn't mean us any good. We lived through that. Dr. King was my idea of -- I just [inaudible].

LUTZ: Do you remember the KKK and those types of --

BOLDEN: Oh shit! Excuse the language, baby. They called me and cussed me out when I organized the maids. Told me that the bitches wouldn't work for the money that I was asking for.

LUTZ: Yeah

BOLDEN: They would do that every day. Because I was on television advertising 01:06:00about organizing. Course all television was causing it.

LUTZ: When did you start?

BOLDEN: 1968.

LUTZ: 1968. Tell me what happened with it.

BOLDEN: I'm still here. Oh, we get to cussing out each other on the telephone. The [Inaudible] told me I was a damn fool. I told him, 'I ain't your fool, you don't scare me.' They talked about whipping my behind. They wouldn't say behind, they would say ass. I told them any time they wanted to, come on over and grab it. You've got a chubby ass to whip. Then, I would hang the phone up. I never told anybody because it didn't scare me, didn't bother me. It made me angry, it made me determined to do what I had to do.

LUTZ: Some people say the best way to deal with a bully is to sta--

BOLDEN: It encourages you to keep on doing what you are doing, it makes you much 01:07:00more stronger because they don't see who you are fighting, all you hear is the voice. That is what makes you angry because they are cowards, see. That made me mad, I'd cuss them out and slam the phone and later that evening he would call me back. 'You still out there. [Inaudible] you is a bitch, you is a whore, you were something.' It was always a nasty name. It didn't bother me, darling, God led me through it all just like it was a bird riding on my shoulder saying, 'Tet, tet' and going on about his business. [inaudible] I got angry to see how they was treating peoples. They weren't just weren't going to come bolting into Atlanta and do that, see. They knew better. I knew that too, but I was nervous when I went out like landing in the middle of a 01:08:00field in Alabama, landing in a field in South Carolina. That frightened me because it was dark. I used to tease them, 'What the hell did y'all bring me over here, to kill me?' I was organizing the women's lib, then.

LUTZ: Some people say that the domestic worker's union was a kind of women's liberation.

BOLDEN: It was. I was that…I told you that I was right in the midst of it. Telling them, you have to put off your apron, honey, in the kitchen, you have to come out there now, if you want to be free. They will never let you be free if you set there now.

LUTZ: What made you decide to do it?

BOLDEN: Well, It is like I told you, my grandmother was not the best counselor. She was living with me. I told her that I had seen Dr. King at a corner. I had talked with him several months before then that I wanted him to help me organize. I wanted somebody in the group to help me organize the household 01:09:00workers. Because we couldn't be going to integrate the schools out there barefooted, because they weren't making no money buying old shoes. And we could patch up these shoes going to our school here in the city. I didn't want to integrate my child into a society like that didn't have no shoes or decent clothes to put on. He told me, 'You do it, and don't let nobody take it. I know they will have a fight on their hands if they try to take it, because you will fight them while you are fighting for them.' I did.

LUTZ: How?

BOLDEN: I had to fight off dark men, I really did have to get the unions off of my back. They still wanted me to work for them. I told them I didn't want to work for them because I 'aint a money woman, I don't love money. No money 01:10:00in these United States to pay me to give up these women's rights. All I had to was give them the names. I didn't want them hassling the employers and the maids too. I didn't do it. It kind of got turned around on me, trying to tell the maids to switch, that's when I went to South Carolina. The lady I left in charge, you see it down there, it'in Georgia State. I told them that I had to go on vacation with the people that I was working with. I told them, 'Y'all can take it on and carry on then.' I wasn't intending to take it on and carry it on. My grandmother told me that I was wrong because God had given me the basic idea and can't nobody carry it out like you can!' And you going to have to follow through!' [inaudible] So, they came to my house, and they got me. They told me that I had to come back. I told them that I didn't have to come back. My grandmother said, 'Yes, you are going back.' I knew I wasn't going to sass at her and I wasn't going to talk back. I 01:11:00come down and carried on. I made a lot of changes. I met a lot of peoples, I made the Congress and the Senators all listen. I finally got a minimum wage bill through. I told them, 'We don't work for minimum wage.' Nobody work here independent, so Congress and Senators can set their salaries. If you run a business, can anybody tell you what the price is that you put on that piece of bread over there? If you want to sell it for $1.79, can you tell somebody that you can't buy it? You don't tell nobody. I have to pay the same price for lights, I have to pay the same price for water. I have to pay taxes like you do. I have to buy groceries like you. I have to clothe my children. What do 01:12:00y'all expect us to damn make? We ain't making nothing now, but I ain't going to work no more on my knees. I better not see another woman on her knees working, and I meant that. They tell you, anybody tell you I said it. They had me testify, so, shit, I testified in what I believed in. I told them, nobody takes that belief from me. I know it's a better pay. Y'all got the money, you did. I asked for high, and I mean that. And you going to get none of them to come to your house if I say don't go. And they didn't. That's how you picked up your increase. Quitter goes somewhere else, somebody else offer you something, tell them you won't be back. That's how I talked to them. Some of them threatened to kill me, you can kill me at the Governor's Mansion if you want to. It don't make me no difference, you don't set no tone here 01:13:00with us. If that's the case, you should have been done set one then. If you haven't set one up to this date, don't even mention it. I don't need it. This is when they came up with this. I noticed this [inaudible] the other day, you think I am kidding. This is a bill, see.

LUTZ: Okay, Bill forty-nine in the senate.

BOLDEN: Mmhmmm

LUTZ: Being entitled to an act, an act to establish a minimum wage for domestic employees.

BOLDEN: That's how many employees didn't make that kind of money, wasn't making no money. We were some pitiful folks. Told them I was tired of that. My child don't know where he is going to wake up the next morning. And they all dropped their head. I told them you are being shamed on because you brought the shame on. I said, 'It's been going on this way since slavery, and we sure ain't slaves! So, they agreed. I made a lot of changes, now, back then. 01:14:00I raised hell everywhere. I made changes everywhere I went. I would bite my tongue. I went to Tarrytown, New Jersey, where the Congressmen go and turn it out. Told me, they would come up there and have conference and [inaudible] what they were going to do to women. You just don't do this. We are going to be part of the planet for now on. We are part of the planet. They are meeting to shake my hand. I can't remember, you know, they say, 'Bolden, I heard you in Tennessee or somewhere, you know. I said, 'Thank you, darling.' Because really, I fought for both races, I didn't fight for one. I told them that I 01:15:00didn't want nobody knocking on nobody's door, representative knocking on the door. I give the communication here and establish that. I did it. I meant it. They was proud of it. They went to [inaudible]. I was just out here to be hollering. I was out here for a cause and a reason. The reason was women and the cost wasn't making anything to live on, survive on, their children. They had to pay for books, if somebody stole your book, you had to pay for it, you didn't graduate. I wasn't going to take that no more. Then, we had to buy all our utilities to cook with in the kitchen after school, I told them that we weren't going to damn buy that no more. Said, 'I'm not going to buy no damn more cook pots and pans, now.' I mean that, and they knew I meant it. I was just that bold with it. I had to be that way just to let them know that rights stands over all wrongs. I was strong enough to bring out right, and 01:16:00wrongs go [inaudible] and I meant that.

LUTZ: Did any of the civil rights men support you?

BOLDEN: Oh yeah, all of them supported. Although they would have a meeting. They called it [inaudible]. I picked out the politicians. They would come up here and tell me they wanted us to meet. I would go back out there and tell them that I would be there tonight. Julian Bond was [inaudible]. They called me on my job and wanted me to come. I told them that I couldn't come and bring no children with me to no civil rights meeting. And, um, I'd be there at night. I told them what to do and we had a rally. They asked me, 'Bolden, why don't we call Reverend King?' 'We don't need Reverend King right now. We can do what we have got to do right here in Georgia. Who run it? Dr. King run it?' 'No, Bolden.' I said, 'Well, get your butt out there and 01:17:00got ready to run.' Got behind Maynard all of them. He was the force behind that. We worked, thirty-eight thousand of us were women. That's a big crowd of women to fight. And, um, I know I had to [inaudible] for him. They knew I had and they was following me.

LUTZ: Do you think Maynard was a good choice?

BOLDEN: Well, he started off being. He ended being a bad choice.

LUTZ: How come?

BOLDEN: Well, I don't know the ego got in the way. The ambition, happy I'm in -- all this stuff brings you down. You can't find the direction to guide you into helping peoples. He didn't do what I thought he was going to do.

LUTZ: What about Andrew Young?


BOLDEN: Andrew Young was a civil rights man, not a politician. You can't have both of them. Anybody ought to know that Andrew ain't no politician. Stayed going all the time. He was just the forerunner for Reverend King just like John the Baptist was the forerunner for Christ. He fell away for King to come through. You can't be a politician and be that too. God will give them to you both now.

LUTZ: What about John Lewis? Do you think he was a better politician?

BOLDEN: Well, John Lewis had been out of civil rights -- he was out of it.

LUTZ: I think you are saying tactfully that he was a politician.

BOLDEN: Uh huh

LUTZ: Politician

BOLDEN: Yeah. He had to be molded into what he did because he stepped out of civil rights. He gave it up. That's when Stokely Carmichael took over. That 01:19:00was sad. I missed John when he wasn't around because he kept -- Reverend King sent to me.

LUTZ: What did he send them to you for? To talk with you?

BOLDEN: Yeah, to help him organize. I knew Reverend King way before I knew John Lewis. John Lewis caught the bulk of everything. He got beat up more than anybody. That hurt immensely, but it helped us some. He's holding it now. You can't give a man a warrant to crack his head, you can give him one to crack yours when you don't understand what he is. They can't prosecute 01:20:00John. They can't say nothing too nasty about him because he knows how to operate what he was doing. He really knew how to operate SNCC. When he left, SNCC got out of hand. When he was there, it was in good guiding hands. So, that is something different.

LUTZ: While we are on politicians

BOLDEN: [inaudible]

LUTZ: I saw your month from the inaugural celebration. Were you a Clinton woman?


LUTZ: Were you a supporter of Bill Clinton?

BOLDEN: Yeah, I'm always supportive of Democrats, any Democrats. We got some good Republicans. They get in there and get greedy too after they get in. Some Democrats does that. You have to kick them out of it.

LUTZ: [inaudible]

BOLDEN: President Carter, he always wanted a Nobel Peace Prize.


LUTZ: He should have gotten one too.

BOLDEN: Well, you have got to do -- you can't get anything til God give to you.

LUTZ: Did you ever get to meet President Carter?


LUTZ: Jimmy Carter.

BOLDEN: His mother was the honorary chair of my organization.


BOLDEN: Yes-sir-ee. I campaigned for him. I left my position in Washington to campaign for Carter. I was with the Republicans, but I was a Democrat. They knew I was a Democrat. I told them before they even appointed me. I am a true Democrat. I'm not a pickee, not a little woman that you can pick on. I can raise some hell and turn over some tables. I said, 'I am a faithful, truthful Democrat and I'm not going to change.' I'll help you organize the Republican system, but I will not join it. I don't believe in what their method is. What they do is underhand stuff. I don't appreciate that. I have 01:22:00doing knowing that from a child up. I watch you. I knew what I was saying, and I won't ever forget it. I don't like Republicans, they are petty thieves. They are cutting off all these programs and watch, half of them will end up being rich. I'm not kidding you darling. Half of them go in there rich. They are hollering the wrong -- I can show you a paper. Now, I served in HUW and can show you more on welfare that -- white peoples are more on welfare. I went to South Carolina and they wrote it in the paper, and I brought the paper back. There's more whites.

LUTZ: Okay, now, when you were in Washington, you were working for HUW?

BOLDEN: Yeah. I was a consultant on women's rights.


LUTZ: Uh huh, and when was that?

BOLDEN: That was in 1971. I stayed up until 1978 when Carter got -- they wanted me to stay, but I couldn't stay. I ain't going to stay. See, Carter went in there and reorganized. That's where he made the biggest mistake. See, he wanted to make it like Georgia, human resource. I said, 'Oh, shit!' He come and turns the whole government around. It's messed over. They still have got to finish the plan. You don't do that till your second year, second term reorganize, because everything falls apart. There ain't nothing picked up right since. Look at it now, nothing picked up since, darling. You can change the system that a man built that it ain't brought him through. You can't go 01:24:00out there and change it so quickly. I told you in your face, I don't know. His mother, she and I was very good friends.

LUTZ: What was she like?

BOLDEN: To me she was a common, ordinary lady. She liked me because I was common and ordinary. Roosevelt Greer told her, she and I one day was walking in Washington, she said, 'Come on and let me show you how to make you famous.' She said, 'We don't need nobody to make us famous, we are famous already. We are famous on our own, we don't need nobody to make us famous.' She is a [inaudible]. I cut loose on her. She said, 'See, I told you we was famous.' She can't tell it, I can. We talked with each other on the telephone and all this. They tried to get rid of me, they said I was too 01:25:00powerful. They had me investigated. I called her. I said, 'I don't know what they are saying.' She said, 'I tell you this one thing, they are going to leave you alone.' They did. She got to call it in and made them pay me for the damage they caused me. She did, she made them pay. I appreciate that. She died, and she was my dearest friend. She was a country lady, raised in the country. Brought her children up in the country where she was a spokeswoman and a real ambassador for women. Anywhere we would meet up, everybody knew us. We get to hollering at each other from across the room. She tell you, 'I know who that is sitting up there, I don't see nothing but the back of her head, 01:26:00but I can tell you who it is, that's Dorothy Bolden.' I said, Miss Lillian, 'You tell everybody before they even get to know me.' She said, 'Well, I'm introducing you, let them know who you is.' We had a good relationship. While they were welcoming him into it, you know how they get in line. They would have us setting in front. She was sitting right there, I was sitting right next to her. He looked over at her, he said, 'You all tired?' She said, 'Yes, we are going to rest right here. Now, you tend to your business over there, and we will tend to ours over here.' He said, 'Yes ma'm.' He was humble to her, he was humble to her. She didn't talk nasty to him, but she just said, 'You tend to your business now, and we'll tend to this over here.' People that been greeting us, I'd be greeting them. That's true. They go around and greet us. You know, we were sitting down there and they would shake our hand.

LUTZ: Why shouldn't they?

BOLDEN: Yeah, she said, 'We get it too.' She looked at me and winked. We 01:27:00had a good time. I called her that night. She send the letter and straighten out everything. 'The nerve of them, as much as you done did for everybody down there, and here too.' She said, 'Around this country, ain't stumbling just wait till I get through with Jimmy.' So, I went off with flying colors. They wanted this organization bad because there was so many women in it. They got their cabinets full of nothing but women. They wanted it. So, they tell a lie that I was taking money and that I wasn't administrating no money. I didn't have any money. I was using my own money 01:28:00to take care of things. I said, 'Y'all are crazy.' We can't prosecute a woman taking all the money and spending. We can't even question where she get it because she got a husband and a grown son working as the chief of the fire department. She ain't got to sit up there and beg nobody for anything to help her with it now, so I didn't. It's just amazing how people will try to do you in to keep you from getting that kind of strength. You think all women is weak. I don't like to see a weak woman begging, pleading with a man. If you have his child, birth them and you are married to him, if he want somebody to take him where he can't go, he is going to have a strong woman. But, if you make her weak before she get there, you are going to have both weak going down the drain, you won't have nothing. You see women stand up for their man 01:29:00and jump in there first. I believe in doing that, protecting whether he's been so good to you, but to let him know that you ain't going to bulldoze him while I got him. Now you can do what the hell you want to do with him after you, you get another woman. She isn't going to be as strong as I am. You better not do it while I am here.

LUTZ: You wonder if he is smart.

BOLDEN: That's what I am saying. I tell him in a minute. I ain't handle no man. Now. Pleased with the one I got. And how we get along is our business, and that's the way I felt. My husband never got in my way of traveling. I was free to travel anywhere. I made it that way. I made it that way because I figure God had something to do with it.

LUTZ: Bolden, if you had to look back and say those are the things that I am most proud of, what would you point to as your legacy?


BOLDEN: Those women out there. The strength and courage of those women.

LUTZ: The women involved in the Domestic Workers Union?

BOLDEN: Mmmhmm, that was when they exposed theirselves to death. Sometimes I lay down and cry and think about it. I seen a little old lady one day and had no stockings on and it was freezing cold. They told us that she take every dime and try to please her children, her grandchildren, her daughters. I bought a pair of stockings. I bought her some long handles. because she was a little old lady, you know. She was trying. Her husband told her when I brought them to her the next day and she cried. She said, 'Nobody ever thought about me.' I said, 'Well, I did.' I sat down and cried and told my grandmother about 01:31:00you. I said, 'My grandmomma gave me this money to buy you this. So now you put them on in the back of the bus and the rest you put in your bag.' We always had shopping bags. They used to make me kind of mad when they call up and told me the maid took some butter, I said 'Shit, come on, ain't nobody take no butter from you. Let's get a better understanding of that, don't do that.' I said, 'Butter will melt, egg will crack and it will run everywhere through that paper bag she got. If she turn that pocketbook any kind of way, it's going to bust and the butter is going to melt in there and it is going to come out the cracks somewhere because that pocketbook ain't that tight. It 01:32:00will find a way to get out of there.' She said, 'Oh, Bolden, you are a mess. I can't talk to you right now.' I said, 'Well, hang up then.' I had to talk that strongly because how many people would they spread that to? That hurts, saying you are stealing.

LUTZ: Did you hear that a lot?

BOLDEN: Oh yeah. Come on, I'm not going to send nobody to steal nothing in your house. They'll back off. Quit them. Some of us hire people and don't know how to treat them, we are too bossy. People just can't stand that. Before they say anything to you, they walk off and leave. Some of them will cuss you out and be ready to fight you.

BOLDEN: They would be one of my children. I don't know if they wanted it or not. I'm not doing too much of anything because I have been sick with rheumatory arthritis. Rheumatory arthritis go all over your body. Sometimes it 01:33:00allow you to come out the door and then again it don't. It's just like multiple [muscular] dystrophy. You can't move your bones, not your joints. Your bones will not operate with you. They won't cooperate with you. I have to pick my knee up, it hurts so bad to move it and move it down easy. It's according to how the weather come in. All this summer I have been hop, skipping and jumping. Oh, I have been having fun, honey, but I am beginning to feel it now because fall is coming in. I step down yesterday and felt it in the back of it. Gosh it hurts so bad. I hadn't been going to the doctor because I told her I didn't need it because it wouldn't [inaudible]. I didn't have to have it. Now, I have got to go to the doctor because that is the only thing 01:34:00that can relax the pains in it and muscles [inaudible]. They lock up on me. Once it is locked up on me, it's hell. It gets up here and you can't do anything but this. It will skip, you can feel it when it skips. You can feel it. It will get on the side of your face, get up there on the top of your head. It just hits everywhere it wants to hit at. Anywhere bone and muscle are at. It hurt, oh it was painful, honey. I hope you don't get it. Now, see, because the fall is coming in. You have got to feel this muscle. I had to get up and get in a hot tub of water. I saw all the devil will catch hell now because it ain't going away.

LUTZ: Well, we still got dog days to come through. What do they call it? 01:35:00Indian summer, so you get a little break in the Indian summer.

BOLDEN: I get a little break. It is starting to lighten up at the end of spring. And then I could pull off all them clothes that I wear to keep my body from -- you have to keep steaming -- know your blood will slack up on you. Then, you will start having cramps. That's not good because you will get cramps in your chest. And I haven't had all of that this summer. and I have a [inaudible]. And it will get tangled up with that arthritis and, boy, it get -- This morning it was hurting in here. You think you got cancer, you think everything is wrong with you. All of a sudden it will move on you and no cancer. It will get back in you and skip for you. Then, you wonder it never 01:36:00got back there before. You know it is moving now. It is working up to a new place. It is coming in because the cold is coming in. I said, 'Now, let me get the pad, I done got the pad. Kind of house shoes I am going to wear, all lambs wool. I got my long footsies that I am going to wear. I got my long johns that I am going to put on. I got me a jumpsuit. You have got to have all of that. You are as cold as ice.

LUTZ: Does liniment help at all?


LUTZ: Does liniment help at all?

BOLDEN: No. Liniment don't help, no. Rheumatory is the joint and the muscle. The muscle cross over your joint, see. Always over the joint. Then, you fall 01:37:00over. That is just bad to have too much weight and don't have enough. The reason I tell you that -- you see all them knots?

LUTZ: Yeah.

BOLDEN: Them bones stick up there. They are ready to react now, then they will swell. And you can't move nothing. And you can't pick up nothing. I lost my, this is a new wedding band. I lost one, it's wide from here to there, in that bathroom it fell off and I didn't even know it. See these joints get slim. That is the reason why I have got my wedding band on this finger. I can't wear it on that. I have lost some weight. You see my knuckles? Look 01:38:00at them, all them was sores on my knuckles like O. J. Simpson. That actually comes and it comes on your toes on the top of your toes, them knuckles right there. They run, run infection.

LUTZ: Does it make it hard to wear shoes?

BOLDEN: That's where you see a lot of people -- no, I had mine, mine never made it to my toes. All it got to was this right here. See, look at my skin. Look at my skin, it looks like it is rusted, but it is not. I took a scrub down bath this morning. See that right there?

LUTZ: That's the rhumatory [rheumatoid] arthritis?

BOLDEN: It was all over me. It makes your fingernail split. You see that finger there?

LUTZ: Yeah.

BOLDEN: I can't use this finger. Once you lose you nail, a certain portion of 01:39:00it, you can't even button up your dress. Imagine people losing all of their nails.

LUTZ: Well, I hope you have an easy winter.

BOLDEN: It is a thing that maybe my two daughters got it. It moves on down. My daddy had it. I've seen after him before he died.

LUTZ: Who runs the National Domestic Workers when you are --


LUTZ: When you, uh

BOLDEN: Oh, I don't let nobody come in. It is so much of history in here. It is definitely history.


BOLDEN: I would sit down and tell you everything that some of these women have been through. It would take me a whole two or three weeks.


LUTZ: Well, tell me one thing. [laughter]

BOLDEN: I don't like to tell it, I like for some of them to be around, one or two of them to be around to tell how you they was treated. It hasn't been pleasant because a lot of people really hate blacks, but they will hire them just to get a chance to be

LUTZ: Ugly?

BORDEN: A boss over them and tell them what to do.

LUTZ: Do people then sign up with the domestic workers union and then employers call you and you send them out like electricians?

BOLDEN: They fill out an application. Yes, I have to send them out. Yeah. I got a - let me see, I thought I had one out. I have some here that is an application that you use. Let me see. But, you have to fill out an application.

LUTZ: Tell me if I can lift anything for you?


BOLDEN: [inaudible]

LUTZ: Well, don't worry. I can always drive by and [inaudible]

BOLDEN: I'm up here. I don't take any calls like I used to. When they call me, I got a job now that I can give to somebody, but I tell them to call me back later because I'm not [inaudible] healthy. A high hernia makes it mess with your heart. It cross over your heart. It makes you have an irregular heart beat. This is what this one does to me. It hasn't worried me since my arthritis -- whenever my arthritis acts up, that is when my hernia going to act up. Arthritis is all up in here. When you start messing with the muscles, 01:42:00bones and chest and stuff that makes you intestines to run up. Your intestines [inaudible]

LUTZ: As you are talking, I'm getting all the sympto[laughter]

BOLDEN: It's pretty bad, it is not a beautiful thing.

LUTZ: No, it sounds very painful.

BOLDEN: It's not a beautiful -- I thought I had the application here. [inaudible] I'm into the community now trying to save Vine City.

LUTZ: Tell me what you are doing with Vine City.


LUTZ: How are you trying to save Vine City?

BOLDEN: Well, they want us to tear it out as a historic community. I brought a young lady, a young lady moved there. I liked her. I don't like hustling for money. She done applied for three or four places for money, big money using my 01:43:00name. That hurt me. I have got to deal with her. I'm going to deal with her. I called those prosecuting the community. You know, con artists. You know we had a few of them during the poverty program. When I went going through to serve on the rights and responsibilities of women, I found a lot of it, black and white. I had to report it. I begged for not no sentence but just take them off the program and waste all the money. It is just a waste of throwing the government out money, this city. She asked for $250,000 block rent money, got 01:44:00my name. This is a new thing, CDC, Community Development Corporation. She got that. This is my name, but I didn't give her permission to use it.

LUTZ: Aaaaahhh, I see.

BOLDEN: I told her that I was too well known throughout the United States for her to do this. I said, 'I have been in every region that the government has and organized household workers'. I told her that I was too well known. I'm going to deal with her. I don't want her to think she is going to get the money. [Inaudible] Then, she went over here to another place. I was going to let her mastermind this money. She couldn't. Now, you don't show me 01:45:00your bank receipts, canceled checks. There's something wrong. Show me the statement that come from Plaza twenty-five. That is right up there on Northside and Martin Luther King in the new apartments. I told them when the -- anybody, you know the labor department wanted to go over there to that building and protest it. And Andrew wasn't there, so I defeated him. And, um, I told Bill whoever come into that, develop that, they are going to have to feed something in the community because we are tired of going to the government and can't get nothing. When it comes throughout the city, the city takes it and that makes our community go down. I said, 'The next person come in here, they are going 01:46:00to feed back into this community off the [inaudible] and give us something.' And, so, we get a hundred fifty thousand dollars every year. And that can renovate your community, revitalize your community. She wants it, but if she can't mastermind no better than the fifty thousand dollars that she got, she don't need it. [laughter] You understand what I mean? I wasn't in on the planning after I gave her the money. Didn't say thank you. She stopped speaking to me. When I know my name is down at the city hall. And now she headed up to the empowerment program. So, what are you doing, prosecuting to get money. I said, 'Well, she may just leave town when she get all this money.' I get enough of what I think she wanted. They bought vans, you don't buy vans like that, big equipment things when you first open up a program. So that let me know that she can't administrate. I told her that 01:47:00they are not dealing with a fool or a dumb woman. I don't think the president of the United States would prank me and thought I was dumb.

LUTZ: Um…well, she will learn an important lesson.

BOLDEN: I have to do this to her. I'm going to have to do it because she wanted to be [inaudible]. I told her not to put name or use my name nowhere because I don't want to beat down your door. I told her at the negotiation table that I'm not on her board and don't want to be on it. She went right on and stuck my name -- it was like I was a child. I didn't know about it. You know. That hurts. Your name is what your daddy gave you, it's precious. He didn't have a boy to carry on his name and you carried it on. I don't want you to damage it, that's my daddy's name. Bolden is my daddy's name. 01:48:00I don't want nobody to tamper with it. I don't have a brother that carries the name. My brother died from the sickness that I told you he had. And so I don't want nobody do that. I told him that [inaudible] I've got three or four lawyers, ready to grab you.

LUTZ: Um, Bolden, if you could look back in your life and say I would like to live that moment over again.

BOLDEN: I wouldn't.

LUTZ: Wouldn't choose it?

BOLDEN: Mmmhh mmmhhh, No. It builds a lot of enemies for you and it builds a lot of love for you, but to keep both of them fighting each other within you, so it's not good.

LUTZ: Okay, The past is the past, let it go.

BOLDEN: No, that's not necessarily good. because you are sad one day from what you getting from the one from what you are getting from the one that don't like you. Here comes one that picks you up, the one that loves you. So, it is not a good way to live. You can't please everybody. Have no 01:49:00intention of doing that and they think you should, but I have no intention of trying to please everybody. It's no way, God can't please them. Why make me think that I can please them? So, I can't please them, so I have to deal with that kind of life. They come up here and see this and they get angry.

LUTZ: Why?

BOLDEN: They get mad.

LUTZ: Why do they get mad?

BOLDEN: I don't know, darling, I have asked that question to God many a times. They get angry. If I wasn't sure that I was going to run the meeting, it was really [inaudible]. I think one of them got it. I left it in her car because I was fixing to do it over again. I had gotten most of that stuff I had to put in there and I think she got it. She come up here one day and she see me. She said, 'Gosh, did you get these?' I said, 'Oh, that's not all of them, I 01:50:00have half of them at my house.' I said, 'I don't go nowhere to get them, they send them to me. I don't come to no banquet, I don't come to anything to receive any award. I'm not out here for an award. I'm out here to make women stronger and take a part of their life and have some control over it. I know they are not men, but they have got something that they can contribute to make this a better place to live with peace in it and not something that we can set up and say, 'Makes it glorify me.' It don't glorify you. You have got some women that act like they are men, they are not men, God intended for you to be a woman. He put you here, but he can make you a strong woman, and he glorifies strong women. He know he can count on them, depend on them.


LUTZ: If you could stand in front of a room full of young people and give them advice, an infinite number of young people and you get to stand up there and give them advice, what would you say to them?

BOLDEN: I would say to them that you have got to show yourself that you can be independent on your own. You don't have to follow. Why do we have to follow Tom, Dick and Harry to anything when we, uh, have the strength to be ourselves and be what we ought to be. What do you want to be? Ask yourself. Get in the mirror and look at yourself and say, 'So what do I want to be, what do I want to do? Where do I want to go and how do I get there?

LUTZ: That's good advice.