Alvin Burrell oral history interview, 2018-04-26

Special Collections and Archives, Georgia State University Library
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00:00:00 - Beginning and introduction

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: Okay, so before we get started, I'll just remind you of a few little disclaimers--

Segment Synopsis: Alvin Burrell was born in Atlanta,GA in 1949. His father studied mathematics at Emory. His father lost both legs in combat during World War II. His mother was from New Jersey and moved to Atlanta with Burrell's father. Burrell discusses his father's family and their ties to the south.

Subjects: Education; Southern states; World War (1939-1945)

00:06:04 - Childhood years, segregation/integration

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Partial Transcript: ALVIN BURRELL: Do you want me to go on a little bit about my childhood years?

Segment Synopsis: Burrell's father worked in Warner Robins, and then they moved to Bibb County. He discusses segregation within schools. When he was 8, they returned to Atlanta. He remembers his parents supporting integration. When he moved to Alabama in 1961, race was a significant topic of discussion in everyday life (discusses George Wallace, segregation). He also discusses the 16th Street Baptist church bombing. He mentions his school was integrated in 1964 (in Alabama).

Subjects: Civil rights; Civil rights movements; Segregation; Sharecroppers; Violence

00:17:29 - Youth surroundings, discussion of parents

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: In growing up in Warner Robins and then Sandy Springs and your dad's affiliation--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses his surroundings in the South (mostly involved with intellectuals who were not necessarily Southern). Yet, he states they were surrounded mainly by conservatives (believed in 'separate but equal'). Burrell discusses his father's disability (lost both legs). Burrell also discusses his mother and her political involvement.

Subjects: Mothers; Prejudices; Southern states; Veterans

00:28:12 - Siblings, youth interests, influential celebrities

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: And so you have one brother?

Segment Synopsis: Burrell mentions he has one brother and one sister (they are twins, born in 1957). Burrell describes himself as an introvert. He was a Boy Scout and liked reading. He worked for the school newspaper. He discusses Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X as influential cultural figures. He also discusses music of the time and the Vietnam War.

Subjects: High schools; Literature; Newspapers; Twins; Vietnam War (1961-1975)

00:42:19 - Early interactions with African-Americans, University of Tennessee years

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: And growing up your father's parents, like when you're living in Warner Robins--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses his grandparents. Burrell also discusses his early interactions with African-American people (sharecroppers, his family's maid). After high school, Burrell attended college in Knoxville. He became involved in issues around campus (women's issues, African-American's issues, free speech). During this time, he became much more skeptical of Vietnam War and became involved in initiatives against poverty.

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; College students; Poverty; Sharecroppers; Women's rights

01:00:14 - Kennedy campaign, politics and events of late 1960s

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: And when you had volunteered on the Kennedy campaign, what sort of work were you doing?

Segment Synopsis: Burrell would help staff the campaign office for Robert Kennedy's political campaign. He discusses the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. and the politics of 1968 America. He discusses politics surrounding student organizations and student protests (anti-war). Burrell dropped out of school for a quarter, but returned quickly.

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Campaign management; Political participation; Politicians; Student protesters; Students

01:12:08 - Socialism, underground newspapers, anti-war organizing

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: Okay, we're coming back after a nice break and some side conversations--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses returning to school in Spring 1970 (after dropping out for a quarter). He joins the YSA (Young Socialists of America). He sold newspapers for the YSA. Burrell was studying sociology in school. He discusses underground, youth newspapers of the time, including The Great Speckled Bird (Atlanta newspaper). In late 1970 and early 1971, Burrell worked on creating an anti-war organization on campus.

Subjects: Counterculture; Socialism; Sociology--Study and teaching--; Underground newspapers; Youth--political activity

01:26:33 - March in Knoxville, Post-Kent State demonstrations

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Partial Transcript: ALVIN BURRELL: We came back and we organized the march in Knoxville--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses the student anti-war march in Knoxville. He discusses student politics/protest after the Kent State shootings.

Subjects: Anti-war demonstrations; Demonstrations; Protest movements; Vietnam War (1961-1975); Violence

01:36:24 - Post-college life, The Great Speckled Bird

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Partial Transcript: ALVIN BURRELL: Back to -- anyway, after '71 things started quieting down--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell graduated University of Tennessee (December 1972). Burrell interviews with The Great Speckled Bird, but he isn't hired (1974). Burrell and his girlfriend join the newspaper later. Burell was the circulation manager at the newspaper (he did not write much). Burrell also discusses how he first became acquainted with the newspaper.

Subjects: Newspapers--Circulation; Underground newspapers

01:48:41 - Impressions of Atlanta

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: Can you talk a bit about, a little more about what you--your impression of Atlanta--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses his early impressions of Atlanta (seeing his grandparents). He discusses Atlanta's growth (getting faster by the late 1960s and early 1970s). He discusses Atlanta and the election of a black mayor (Maynard Jackson). Burrell discusses the excitement of his time in Atlanta (freedom from establishment).

Subjects: African-American--Politics and government; Politics; Southern states

01:55:07 - Settling in Atlanta, The Great Speckled Bird moves, the collective

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: And so when you come, get to Atlanta in '74, where do you settle?

Segment Synopsis: Burrell and his girlfriend worked at The Great Speckled Bird when they moved to Atlanta. He worked full time at The Bird, but also did smaller odd jobs around Atlanta. A friend named Krista showed Burrell around Atlanta (introduced him to people around town). Burrell helped The Great Speckled Bird move locations. Burrell also discusses being a member of the Bird collective.

Subjects: Labor; Underground newspapers

02:03:31 - Inner workings and staff at The Bird

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Partial Transcript: ALVIN BURRELL: The people that worked there, I mean, at the time that I was there--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses specific significant staff members at The Bird. He discusses the shared responsibilities of The Bird staff (typing, layout).

Subjects: Newspaper employees; Politics; Staff meetings; Underground newspapers

02:15:48 - Day to day operations at The Bird

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Partial Transcript: ANDREW REISINGER: Okay, so we're coming back from another little break--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses the details of everyday work at The Bird. Burrell states that on a regular day, there would be about eight staff members at the office. He explained that there was often a stressful atmosphere.

Subjects: Newspaper employees; Staff meetings

02:21:24 - Social issues and politics at The Bird, coverage of environmental issues

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Partial Transcript: ALVIN BURRELL: I was, as I think I've made clear, I was not the most disciplined leftist, Marxist in the group--

Segment Synopsis: Burrell discusses his closer friends at The Bird. He also discusses politics and social issues at The Bird (burgeoning gay and lesbian issues). He also discusses issues of feminism. Burrell also discusses his own interests in environmental issues.

Subjects: Counterculture; Feminism; Gay men--Political activity; Lesbians--Political activity; Newspapers; Pollution