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by Sophie Ward...
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NARRATOR: Sophie Ward
INTERVIEWER: Candice Willie, Marymount Student
Date: September 30, 2001
Location: The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY


INTERVIEWER: My name is Candice Willie, and in collaboration with Marymount College and the Hudson River Museum, we are trying to trace the roots of African Americans who migrated from the South into Westchester Yonkers. We call it the Black Migration. I'm here now with a narrator who's going to tell us her story. Okay can you tell us your name please and your date of birth?

NARRATOR: My name is Sophie Ward. I was born August 31, 1942.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, Sophie tell us a little about where your family is from. Can you describe your hometown for us?

NARRATOR: I'm from Fayetteville, North Carolina. Ahh, that's about 600 hundred and some miles from New York. Ahh, it was a town that there was some slavery and we had a slave market in the middle of our town. Umm, pretty nice town, pretty large size with a couple of forts--Fort Bragg and an air force base.

INTERVIEWER: Umm, what was life like for you and your family growing up in North Carolina?

NARRATOR: Well, we were pretty, you know, we were pretty not well off, but we weren't really poor. We didn't you know. It was…it was not really bad.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, what did your family do for a living?

NARRATOR: Well not… they weren't all educated people. They were…my grandmother who actually raised me…great grandmother, she was just a everyday worker. Ahh, you know, worked in different homes of different, uh, white people.

INTERVIEWER: So basically your family, they survived through, through working for others. Your great grandmother you said.

NARRATOR: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Umm, a little about any other members of your family?

NARRATOR: Well, umm. They were all about the same. Not a lot of educated people.

INTERVIEWER: Okay

NARRATOR: Just, you know, modest living people.


INTERVIEWER: The men in your family…the type of work that they did?

NARRATOR: Ahh, my grandfather who who reared me also, he was a brick mason. Umm. The others were just umm, people who worked in the field or wherever.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, can you tell us a little about what a brick mason is?

NARRATOR: Those are persons who help to build houses and umm…I don't know a lot about it. But I know it's…

INTERVIEWER: Basically carpentry.

NARRATOR: Basically carpentry, yes.

INTERVIEWER: Umm. So schooling in the South, was it easily accessible for African
Americans?

NARRATOR: Umm, yes and no. Ahh, those who were better able to afford to go, you know to…maybe to college, which in the years that I was growing up was basically teachers…ahh could go, but basically not everybody. I don't, I don't remember anyone in my family who was.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Did you yourself ever attend school as a young girl in the South?

NARRATOR: Did I…

INTERVIEWER: Attend school.

NARRATOR: Yes I did. I went elementary school through high school, and I went a couple of years of college.

INTERVIEWER: Umm. Was it an all black college?

NARRATOR: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Was there still segregation?

NARRATOR: Pardon?

INTERVIEWER: Was there still segregation in the South at that time?

NARRATOR: Yes it was. Yes it was. When I was coming up it was. In fact, ahh during the early sixties, I was in some of the sit in demonstrations there.

INTERVIEWER: Can you tell us a little about that?

NARRATOR: Ahh, well it started with being not able to go into town and sit at different counters and being able to just go into different restaurants, and eat, so I was in some of them. (Chuckles)

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, do you mind telling us, uhh, about some of the discrimination you yourself faced if any?

NARRATOR: Well in traveling…I…I had umm an occasion to travel ahh when I was in tenth grade from Fayetteville, North Carolina to Alabama. And as I noticed most of the, ahh, bus depots, trains depots or wherever they had signs up…"colored occupy first vacant." The same thing was in our buses. At home we had to always occupy the first vacant rear seats. Ahh that was some of the things we were…that we encountered.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, the church?

NARRATOR: Well my church upbringing was Seventh Day Adventist. I've been a Seventh Day Adventist all my life. In fact, ahh, that's…it's about five generations of Seventh Day Adventist. We were…more or less…yeah most churches were segregated. We didn't have black and white.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, in dealing with the church did you meet every Sunday…what was church life like in the South…in North Carolina?

NARRATOR: Well, we went to church on Saturday.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, Seventh Day Adventist.

NARRATOR: Seventh Day Adventist, and umm…yes we met every…every Saturday. It was no big problem with the churches. You know, no big problem with, ahh, any kind of violence or any kind of thing that would effect our churches.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm. Now how old were you when you left North Carolina?

NARRATOR: I was actually about 19 when I actually came to… ahh New York to live. Umm, I came in the summer months to visit my mother who had been here for many years before I came. She came in the early forties when I was only a baby. Umm, but I used to visit in the summer, but I was actually around 19 when I came to really live.

Interview: Okay so you had visited New York prior to coming here to live?

NARRATOR: Yes.

INTERVIEWER: Exactly what made you leave North Carolina? What made you make the decision to come to New York to live?

NARRATOR: Well, actually my reason was just to be with my mother (laughs). That was my reason at that time. Uhm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: What did you know about the North? You had visited your mother here. Did you feel that the North had better opportunities?

NARRATOR: Yes, umm…yes, uh, but for me I wasn't…again I wasn't really looking for you know better opportunities. That probably was my mother's reason for coming. I…I knew some about the North, but I mostly liked the suburbs because I never really stayed in the city. I mostly stayed out in the suburbs.

INTERVIEWER: Which part of the suburbs?

NARRATOR: White Plains, we first started living.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Umm Hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Umm, on your journey up here to New York, what means of transportation did you take?

NARRATOR: Mainly…in the early years that I started coming to New York, we use to come by train. And then as I got older…in my teens, I would come by bus.

INTERVIEWER: Okay, how was it traveling on the trains?

NARRATOR: Well in…in the days that I came up umm…the black folk mostly had to sit…I believe it was in the back of the trains, which weren't very convenient. By the time you got off the train you were dusty and greasy.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm… on your travels here to New York, did you normally come alone or with any family members…friends?

NARRATOR: Most time I came alone.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Umm hmmm.

INTERVIEWER: Umm, on your journeys you had visited your mother several times, but
when you came to stay…what did you bring with you?

NARRATOR: In what respect?


INTERVIEWER: In the respect, did you bring any, like, souvenirs…any tokens from back home…type of clothes you were wearing in your suitcase?

NARRATOR: Not really.

INTERVIEWER: …Any… no bus tickets, trains tickets?

NARRATOR: Umm, probably bus tickets or train tickets, but not necessarily. Cause what…what actually happened with me, when I came in the summer, I would always get things, like clothes, that was up to date. You know, that I would call, that we didn't have in the South. So I mainly had things that was already, ahh, you know from the North.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: So it wasn't nothing in particular that I brought brought with me.

INTERVIEWER: So besides you and your personal belongings umm in your suitcase per se…

NARRATOR: No.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Not that I remember anyway.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. No problem.

NARRATOR: (Chuckles.)

INTERVIEWER: In the South…what did you leave behind in the South…in North Carolina?

NARRATOR: Well, I…I left behind family members mostly and memories. Not a lot of ahh you know memorabilia or anything like that, but mostly family members…

INTERVIEWER: Yeah.

NARRATOR: …That my grandparents who were very old at the time when I left, and umm, that's it, really.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…so your family members and your memories…your memories are very important to us. Can you tell us some of the memories you have about growing up in North Carolina?

NARRATOR: Well I tell you it…it. There are a lot of memories. There…uh…possibly the way we ate. The nice cakes and pies and whatever you know else…families, get-togethers. Umm…friends that you were you know…we use to walk. We use to walk from one end of town to the other. That kind of thing that you know your used to doing. And umm just leaving behind those that you loved.

INTERVIEWER: All right. So…on your journey, exactly what type of fears did you have 'cause you were leaving behind basically all that you knew. You had your mother here, but you know that gave you some sort of hope, but on your journey, what type of fears, what type of worries?

NARRATOR: Fears of venturing out to things that I had not been used to in the South. For instance, umm, I wanted to go to school for nursing, but it was just ahh…it was…seemed…to me it seemed like ahh just something that was really a big deal to do. So I never felt…I never had that kind of, umm, initiative to really do those kind of things because those were not things that, you know, we were…I was really pushed to do.

INTERVIEWER: Exactly what type of goals did young women in the South have? You weren't pushed to do nursing….You weren't…(trails off/ inaudible)

NARRATOR: Well umm…I think…It may have depended on what, uh, family you were brought up in. Uh…if you were in a family possibly where there were people who were educated or pursuing an education, then you felt that you know, that you felt that push. But if they were people who were not umm educated or who had just minimal education, you weren't always pushed. Now that wasn't always the case, but you weren't always pushed and you know. My grandparents that raised me were just grade school people so they didn't. It's not that they didn't want certain things, but they didn't know how to you know make you want to do those kind of things.

INTERVIEWER: All right umm…you been to New York prior, stayed with your mother…

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: …but your first day when you were here to stay. Describe that first day.

NARRATOR: I don't even hardly remember that first day. (Laughs.)

INTERVIEWER: If you want to take a minute maybe it'll come back to you.

NARRATOR: Ahh…it was just a…It was a mixed feeling I guess of fear and glad to be able now to just stay here and not you know going back and forth. Umm, and of course I had smaller siblings at about this time so to stay and stay with them was sort of exciting.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember anything in particular about that day…was it…you know any specifics about that day?

NARRATOR: No, I really don't.

INTERVIEWER: Sunny…rainy?

NARRATOR: I…I don't remember.

INTERVIEWER: All right. It's not a problem. Umm, when did you arrive in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Yonkers, I possibly arrived about twenty-one years ago. I lived other places before I came to Yonkers. I lived White Plains and Mount Vernon…that I stayed many years. But around twenty-one years I've lived in Yonkers.

INTERVIEWER: All right umm, what made you choose to come to Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Actually, it…it was not my choosing. It's just that I found an apartment in Yonkers. By this time I was married and had children.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: So umm I…I moved to Yonkers because it was convenient there to have a place to live.

INTERVIEWER: About how many children did you have?

NARRATOR: Six. (Laughs.)

INTERVIEWER: Six?

NARRATOR: Yeah. (Chuckles.)

INTERVIEWER: Were they your pride and joy? How did you feel about your children?

NARRATOR: Oh yeah. My children…I have six boys.

INTERVIEWER: Wow.

NARRATOR: They are my pride and joy. Umm, they're all grown now of course. But umm…they are my pride and joy.

INTERVIEWER: Umm, did you feel that your family would have had better opportunities here in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: No…I don't…I didn't feel that way when I first moved to Yonkers, no.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Ahh…Yonkers was a place that I was not very fond of. (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: Why was that?

NARRATOR: I don't know. I heard rumors about Yonkers, and things that happened in Yonkers.

INTERVIEWER: Such as?

NARRATOR: Crime and so forth so I had my own feelings about Yonkers, but umm it is were my children went to school.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, getting situated here in Yonkers. How did you learn about your new home here in Yonkers? What…who did anyone help you? How did you find out about living in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Umm…no not in particular. Just looking around for a place. I just…

INTERVIEWER: Through the newspaper?

NARRATOR: Yeah.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm, when you came here to Yonkers, where exactly did you live?

NARRATOR: Right around here. Right down in the square. Right down on Main Street.

INTERVIEWER: In a house?

NARRATOR: Huh? Apartment.

INTERVIEWER: An apartment building?

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Umm. So it was exactly who and you who lived in your house?

NARRATOR: Umm, me and all my children. All six at the time. (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: (Laughs) Umm, your life in Yonkers? Tell us a little about that?

NARRATOR: Well I…as I said I been here twenty-one years. Ahh… I've really not found any difficulty after I moved here. Ahh…I started to work here in the museum fourteen years ago. Ahh…I worked…I came here because of ahh a friend. But it was at that time also a convenience.

INTERVIEWER: You came here to Yonkers or to the museum?

NARRATOR: No to the museum.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Umm…I don't want to get ahead of you. (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: (Laughs) Okay umm…so your life in Yonkers for twenty…prior to you working at the museum, what exactly was your general routine here?

NARRATOR: In Yonkers?

INTERVIEWER: Umm hmm.

NARRATOR: Umm, nothing in particular. Just…I just lived here.

INTERVIEWER: Any occupations?

NARRATOR: Ahh…no. Well I'm a receptionist here so that what I've actually been.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…you said that your…your children had gone to school here.

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: Do you have any idea of how they felt about school here in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: Well, after they ahh were used to going to school here, it was…it was no problem. They became friendly with…they met friends. Actually, I'm…I'm thinking that it were ahh it was my younger boys who actually finished their high schooling here in Yonkers. And ahh…as I said after they met friends, and everything, they were fine here in Yonkers.

INTERVIEWER: OK…Umm…the community here in Yonkers. What type of community did you live in?

NARRATOR: Well, I lived right in this area here. Right, uh, down about a mile away.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…for those of use who are not really familiar about the area, can you describe it a little.

NARRATOR: Okay. I didn't find umm the area where I lived to be too bad. It was in the general downtown section of Yonkers. So we lived right in the area of the shopping centers. Umm…there were again museums. There's a museum on...down over I think it's Philips Manor. Ahh…they always use to go in and play in the yard. Ahh…they use to come out here to the museum. And they probably know more about Yonkers then I do actually. (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: Did you feel that the community was, you know, integrated or wasn't it very integrated?

NARRATOR: Oh yeah. Yes it was. When I came, it was.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…the quality of the education here in Yonkers. Do you feel that your kids got a good education here in Westchester, Yonkers?

NARRATOR: I didn't find it, umm, too bad when my children was coming up. Umm…my memory doesn't allow me to remember too many things. But I didn't find that it was really bad. Ahh…they didn't have…we didn't have any particular problems.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…if you could make a comparison between education here in the North that was accessible to you in comparison to education in the South, what would you have to say about that?

NARRATOR: Now or then?

INTERVIEWER: Then.

NARRATOR: Then it was umm…not the best in the South. Uh, had they come up in the South in the area that I was there, I wouldn't have found that it was the best. There was a lot of things there that weren't accessible to us like different histories. Black history and like that. Ahh…which you probably got here or some…

INTERVIEWER: And we're trying to help develop it a little better.

NARRATOR: Yeah…right. And there were other things that I don't…I don't recall exactly how much difference it was in the South, but I think the education here would have been better for the kids.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Umm…if you don't mind me asking. How far did you pursue your education?

NARRATOR: (Chuckles) Not far enough. I went two years of college. I was majored in elementary education, but I didn't finish.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Umm…how far did you want to pursue it?

NARRATOR: Well I would like to have gone further. I think I would have changed my umm majors. I think I would have done something else. Don't know exactly what, but I don't think it would have been elementary education.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. For your children, what kind of umm goals did you have for them? How far did want them to pursue their education?

NARRATOR: Well, I actually wanted them to all be…which really didn't happen, but I really wanted them to all be, you know, finished…to have finished college and done…ahh, excelled.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So basically if I'm not wrong, your…the goals that you had for your children, as…through generations and from moving from the South to the North, goals that people had for their children tended to go up. Do you have anything to say about that?

NARRATOR: I didn't quite understand the question.

INTERVIEWER: The goals that you had for your children. You explained that when you were going up you had wanted to be a nurse…

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: …but you know it wasn't really pressed upon you because of the circumstances that your family had been in. Your grandparents had only finished grade school, but you having finished two years of college, do you feel that that in any way made you have further goals for your own children.

NARRATOR: I think so.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Umm…the job opportunities. Looking back…

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: … when you were about nineteen…twenty. How do you feel the job opportunities compared here in the North, here in Westchester, compared to that in North Carolina?

NARRATOR: The job opportunities I'm not quite sure of because I really didn't have many jobs. (Laughs) Umm… I can tell you one experience that I'm sort of regretful of was the fact that when I came to New York. I think ahh one of the companies, maybe IBM was just starting. And I believe that I could have had an opportunity in there because the person that my mother worked for ahh told my mother because I had been a couple of years to college that I should. But I didn't pursue that. Umm in the South we didn't have many job opportunities umm because remembering in my late teens I use to always want to get here so that I could sign up for some kind of job for the summer because we didn't have that kind…that kind of opportunities there. But of course I was always a little later than times to really, you know, purse that.

INTERVIEWER: Umm…here in the North, in New York. What other jobs did other members in your family have?

NARRATOR: Now?

INTERVIEWER: Umm, then. Like what did your mother do?

NARRATOR: Well my mother was just…she was just, um…she was just a day worker here, too.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…you said that you had been married. Your husband?

NARRATOR: Who me?

INTERVIEWER: Umm hmm.

NARRATOR: Yeah I was married…I was married, in the early sixties, but my husband and I, we separated early.

INTERVIEWER: I'm sorry to hear that.

NARRATOR: (Chuckles)

INTERVIEWER: But do you remember what type of work he had done?

NARRATOR: My husband was into auto mechanics and umm that's really mainly what he liked. He was also a professional painter, but he mainly liked that kind of…that kind of work.

INTERVIEWER: Umm…comparing your life as a young woman in Yonkers. How do you feel that your life compared to when you were a young woman in the South?

NARRATOR: Umm…the comparison. Umm there were more…more opportunities I suppose than in the South, then. And umm…yeah that's basically it. Uh, more opportunities.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. So opportunities was a really important thing. Umm…Southern folk as I like to say.

NARRATOR: (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: They have a lot of rituals; they have a lot of routines. They cook a certain way; you know, they dress a certain way. Did you bring any of that with you here?

NARRATOR: My accent. (Laughs) Good old Southern accent. Ahh…no because I…ahh…I guess so though because I learn to cook early. Ahh when I was younger, and a lot of that kind of things. You know, the different recipes. The cornbread the collard greens, the biscuits or whatever. Yes I did bring some of that with me here.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…umm. The church.

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: In the South played a very big role in your life. How did the church play a role in your life here in the North?

NARRATOR: About the same. Ahh…about the same. My religion doesn't…it doesn't really change too much from one… because it's a worldwide religion, it doesn't really do too much changing, varying from you know. When I grew up, it was just about he same as it is now.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…umm. Did you and your family attend church here in Yonkers?

NARRATOR: I now attend church in Yonkers. We've attended churches around the
area.

INTERVIEWER: Can you name some of the churches you've attended?

NARRATOR: I was first a member of a church in White Plains.

INTERVIEWER: Do you remember the name?

NARRATOR: Pardon?

INTERVIEWER: The name?

NARRATOR: Yeah. First Seventh Day Adventist Church in White Plains. I was also a member of a church in Mt. Vernon. Ahh… The Fifth Avenue Seventh Day Adventist Church. Now I am a member of the Riverdale Avenue Seventh Day Adventist Church here on Riverdale Avenue.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…umm, Miss Sophie. How do you celebrate your religious holidays such as Christmas and Easter?

NARRATOR: Well yes, we celebrate them pretty much in the same way as other religions. We don't…yes we do. Christmas…

INTERVIEWER: Comparing it to the South.

NARRATOR: To the South? Oh pretty much the same. We…there's no change. There's no change.

INTERVIEWER: Tell us a little about how you celebrated. What was Christmas and Easter like in the South?

NARRATOR: Well Christmas in the South for me was a big thing. Not so much religious wise, but we were just happy to see Christmas come around for the you know different little things, toys, the eating that we prepared for, the foods that we started preparing for before…

INTERVIEWER: So of the foods? What kind…

NARRATOR: Huh…oh…oh my goodness.

INTERVIEWER: We got time. Go ahead.

NARRATOR: What we call pound cake. That my mother…my grandmother. This was really funny though. She would start in November making cakes, and she had a can, which we don't do here that she put here cake in. And she put all kinds of fruits down in this can with…to settle with this fruit…this umm pound cake so that by Christmas this had all these different fruit flavors. We also made umm fruitcakes. That was one of our big things to have fruitcakes, and something that I haven't heard of in a long time, jelly cake. You make layers and then you put jelly in between it. So there were different things that we…that we you know that was different that I have…don't remember doing since I been here. (Chuckles)

INTERVIEWER: What was the house like during Christmas and Easter?

NARRATOR: Oh it was… the house…the smell cause you had not an electrical gas stove. You had an old wood stove that was ahh lit up you know. And that's where everything with warmers up top where you kept the food nice and warm. But it was…it was just ahh…it was just a good feeling. Because you had all these smells and all these different things you know during the holidays that made you feel very festive.

INTERVIEWER: What did the dining table look like?

NARRATOR: Well it was filled with everything; fruits, nuts, candy, all kinds of things that were again…

INTERVIEWER: You had a big turkey?

NARRATOR: Yeah we had a big turkey.

INTERVIEWER: Sweet potato pie? (Laughs)

NARRATOR: Sweet potato pies. (Chuckles) Lemon pies, coconut pies, all that.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Um, collard greens?

NARRATOR: Collard greens, candied yams.

INTERVIEWER: Oh you're making me hungry.

NARRATOR: (Laughs)

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…your family. Who was over on Christmas and Easter? Who came over? Who celebrated with you?

NARRATOR: Umm…everyone, ahh, would come over. Cousins, your aunts, uncles ahh other grandparents you know would come over. It was just one family, big family affair.

INTERVIEWER: You had said that you don't remember really making the same things that you had in the South. What is Christmas like now here in New York?

NARRATOR: Well I tell you the truth. Now ahh…I have a pretty large family because my mother has lots of children. I have children and grandchildren. She has grandchildren. Now we are really, it seemed to me a bigger family, and we're always together. And it's always…what we do now though that we didn't do then was that one person mainly was there to cook the meals. But now we just help one another. Everybody brings a dish of something and we…we celebrate that way.

INTERVIEWER: All right it sounds like fun. Umm…when you came to Yonkers you said that your community was pretty well integrated.

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: But did you and your family ever face any discrimination?

NARRATOR: Ahh…not that I remember. No.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. Your most vivid memory of living here in Yonkers? What stands out in your mind the most?

NARRATOR: Ahh…I think what stands out in my mind the most is…actually being here at the museum. Ahh…working here at the museum. Where I've met lots of people, and I think that's one of the main things that really stands out.

INTERVIEWER: How does working here at the museum make you feel?

NARRATOR: Ahh…pretty good because umm…the time that I've lived here, we've been, …the staff has been like a family. We've all you know, whoever comes they see me first. (Chuckles) Really. Whoever they talk to is mainly me first so I've really sort of a fixed myself to a lot of people, a lot of things.

INTERVIEWER: Umm…have you ever returned to North Carolina since you've been here?

NARRATOR: Yes, I've returned quite a few times. I don't have too much reason to return as much now because most of my family members, ahh…my father's people and my mother's people are mostly gone. Ahh…I have a lot of cousins there, but I'm not even sure where a lot of them are so I don't go there as much anymore.

INTERVIEWER: Okay umm…so when you used to go before. You said they've gone. Have they moved? Have they…

NARRATOR: Well a lot of them have died.

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: Umm hmm.

INTERVIEWER: But if you can look back, think back a little, when you used to go, where did you stay?

NARRATOR: I always stayed with my grandparents until they passed away. And then I used to stay with my father's aunt…I mean father's sister, who was my aunt that I used to live with her, but they're, like I said most of them are…have deceased now.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. What feelings did you have when you went back? How did you feel about going back home?

NARRATOR: It's always a feeling of you're always…you always feel happy when you we go back. There's been times that umm we have…my mother and I…we have decided that maybe we wanted to stay, but umm it's not really convenient for us at this time. Although the South is more built up from when we were there, but it's not convenient for us because of the fact that we don't drive. (Chuckles)

INTERVIEWER: Okay.

NARRATOR: And it's so broad now that we would have to be able to you know get around do things. But it's always a good feeling when you go back where you started from.

INTERVIEWER: What do you miss most about the South? About North Carolina?

NARRATOR: Umm…just the memories now. Ahh, I don't…as I said I don't have too much family to miss. So it's just the memories of childhood, the things that you used to do, the friends that you left behind.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…umm. Do you feel that you've changed and that your life has changed since you left the South? Like how do you feel you as a person have changed?

NARRATOR: Oh I've changed in a lot of ways. Ahh…my lifestyle is nowhere near the same. Things that were simple there ahh could be somewhat complicated. I don't know exactly how to explain that, but it's such a difference. It's such a vast difference from when I was growing up to now because things are so, I guess modern ahh whatever. Ahh…I think that would be the…how I would feel about it.

INTERVIEWER: Are you happy that you decided to make the decision to leave North
Carolina?

NARRATOR: Ahh…in a way I am…in a way I am. Umm…I may have…umm…things may have been different had I stayed there because I would have just been adjusted to that lifestyle. But ahh now that I left…I don't really feel any remorse you know or any reason to go back at this point.

INTERVIEWER: All right. When you had left as a young girl at that time would you have recommended others to do the same as you had done? To leave?

NARRATOR: No…no.

INTERVIEWER: How come?

NARRATOR: Ahh…for no apparent reason. I just, I just didn't. (Chuckles)

INTERVIEWER: Umm…I heard you tell me that you thought you were old, but I don't think you're old. So what do you still wish to accomplish in your life? Do you still have any dreams, any goals?

NARRATOR: Not much. Just to see my, possibly, grandchildren now excel and achieve goals in life.

INTERVIEWER: Okay. What kind of goals do you have for your grandchildren, for your family?

NARRATOR: Well, that they will get an education, be productive, be prosperous and live happy lives.

INTERVIEWER: Okay…umm. How do you feel, from your own experience, about the African American migration from the South?

NARRATOR: I…I…I feel in umm some ways that those who were able to migrate from the South, and who have been able to make good accomplishments, I think it was a good thing. There are those who stayed who still have excelled, and that you know, but those who were able to and those who felt the need, I think that it…you know I think that it was a good thing.

INTERVIEWER: I've pretty much asked you all that I have to ask you, but I want, you know, to give you the opportunity you know that if you had anything else to add just… your feelings about the whole topic, feel free to share.

NARRATOR: Well, I appreciate having the opportunity to be able to add whatever I could have to this umm conversation. (Chuckles).

INTERVIEWER: Well, I'd like to thank you Ms. Sophie Ward.

NARRATOR: Your welcome.


Sophie Ward

Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY, Museum Purchase Fund.
Photograph 2001 Hudson River Museum
, Yonkers, NY




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© 2001 Hudson River Museum

 

 

 

Cotillion photo of Sophie McNeil, Smithsonian High School Yearbook, 1959 Sophie McNeil is in the front row, second from left