Rev. James Hull
INTERVIEWER: Valerie D. Avinger-Jones, Marymount Student
Date: September 30, 2001
Location: The Hudson River Museum, Yonkers, NY
INTERVIEWER: My name is Valerie Delores Avinger-Jones, and I am sitting here
with Rev. James Hull, Pastor of Joy Temple Church of God in Christ. Rev. Hull
has agreed to share his story with us, of his migration from the north-- from
the south to the north. Rev. Hull could you please tell us a little about
what it was like living in West Virginia.
NARRATOR: Living in West Virginia, as a child I-uhm basically was raised
by my father and brother. I did have a home. Uh, I saw a lot of-- I would
things that really I didn't understand. For instance, I--I know my
father had worked a long time in the coalmine and he never got ahead. As a
result we always wanted to-- I always wanted to get ahead. I wanted to do
something-- ahh that I could make my own living. Even at an early age, so
I started carrying newspapers at ten years of age.
INTERVIEWER: Ten years-- do you remember the name of the newspaper?
NARRATOR: Yes, it was the Beckley Post Herald and the Raleigh Registry.
INTERVIEWER: Could you tell us a little more about-uhm-- where in West Virginia
you lived-uh-- we didn't touch on that-- where were you born.
NARRATOR: At that time I was born in-uh, Pennsylvania-- but my father-- he
migrated around in the coalfields-- to make a better living for us. Uh, my
grandfather also-- he lived with us until 1941-- and-uhm we would ask 'em,
uh I'd ask him a lot of questions, cause I was very inquisitive and this is-he
would always say "Don't stay here."
INTERVIEWER: This is what your grandfather told you--
NARRATOR: Yes, "Don't stay here."
INTERVIEWER: So, you did work in the coalmine also.
NARRATOR: Yes I did--
INTERVIEWER: And-uhm, what was it like working in a coal mine?
NARRATOR: Working in a coal mine was one of the best jobs you could get at
that time in-uh West Virginia. But the thing of it was that you-- you work
most of the time on your knees. Uh, dangerous yes, and everyday you didn't
never know whether you gonna come back-- or not because of the danger, you're--
say-- five or ten miles under ground-- and you work there, uh on your knees
and you loaded coal and did everything necessary for the coal that people
were doing at that time. Coal, coal at that time was very important in this
INTERVIEWER: How so?
NARRATOR: Because they didn't use oil-- they didn't have-uh-- natural gas
wasn't a big thing. But all the factories used coal. People in Pennsylvania,
Bethlehem Steel, all those places used coal so that's why it was one of the
INTERVIEWER: I guess-uh, coal was also used for the locomotives for the--
trains at that time also--
NARRATOR: Yes, it was
INTERVIEWER: OK, can you tell us, uhm-uh, you spoke about working in the coalmine,
uhm-- what made you leave?
NARRATOR: I left because I didn't see an out. I had became a young man and
I had children and look like I wasn't getting anyplace and then I heard the
words say what I-- in me from my grandfather said, "Don't stay here,"
and one day I went to work and-uh, all of a sudden as I was going underground
and I got down to the bottom and I turned around and came back and I said
INTERVIEWER: What brought that on?
NARRATOR: I- had a bad experience at that time and-uh, it was a family experience,
and I just decided that that would be the best thing to do. So-- I had left.
I had four children.
INTERVIEWER: And you left-- you left West Virginia--.
NARRATOR: I left West Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: How did you come to Yonkers?
NARRATOR: I left there and went to Detroit, Michigan and left Detroit and
came to New York, went to Maine, then came back to New Jersey then back into
INTERVIEWER: Ok, when you left from West Virginia to Detroit what was in Detroit?
What made you--?
NARRATOR: Reverend James Hull Well, I felt like it was better because I could
get a job there-- I thought--
INTERVIEWER: Did you get a job there?
NARRATOR: I did get a job there, being a Veteran; I was able to get a civil
service job in driving the bus and which I did-uh work for the city of Detroit
for five years--
INTERVIEWER: How did you like that?
NARRATOR: I-- did like it-- to a point-uh, but when they laid us off-- I felt
like-uh, I-- I was supposed, I felt like I should've stayed on. I thought
I had enough security in the job but five years I had wasn't--.
INTERVIEWER: So, you were laid off and you decided to move on and go to New
York and what brought you to New York?
NARRATOR: Uh, a friend of mine was here, he kept telling me to visit him.
And I did come to see him and in doing so, I found out I could get some work
here. That I could support my family.
INTERVIEWER: What type of work did you do?
NARRATOR: I worked in dry cleaners-uhm, here in New York. I was always a--
I was a presser. I did lots of jobs, trying to find the most money and I was
a presser and I-uh, got a job here working three dry cleaners-uhm, to make--
you know, money to take care of my family. I did move up into a position wherein
that I was able to work for a gentleman and he sold me his store. And-uh,
I was living in Manhattan and when he sold me the store, at the time he sold
me the store I moved into Yonkers and I had my own dry cleaners in Larchmont.
INTERVIEWER: In Larchmont-- where was it-- where was it located in Larchmont?
The dry cleaners--
NARRATOR: On Boston Post Road at Palmer Road. It was-- the name of the store
was Victor's Dry Cleaners and I had that and he wanted me to have it because
he said I--I would do that, he said, [owner of dry cleaners] "You have
opportunity for a chance here and I'm going to give it to you."
INTERVIEWER: And he gave it to you--
NARRATOR: And he gave it to me-- practically. (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: You were living in Manhattan at that time and working in Larchmont?
NARRATOR: I was then, but after I bought the store I moved right in here--
INTERVIEWER: You moved into--
INTERVIEWER: Yonkers. (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: And-uh-- you mentioned that you left Yonkers or left New York
and moved to Maine, and then came back tell us a little bit about that experience.
NARRATOR: I had a brother in Maine, and he had kept asking me to come up there.
And-uh I found out that that was worse than West Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: Really, in what way?
NARRATOR: Uh, I was working ten hours a day for a dollar an hour. And that
was good wages, [a] dollar and ten cents and-uh-- of course that wasn't going
to do-- so I had to leave.
INTERVIEWER: Let's-uh-- let's talk about family. You-uh, mentioned you, you
had to leave your family in West Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: Uhm, did you ever meet up with them again--
INTERVIEWER: Uhm, and-uh talk a little bit about your family.
NARRATOR: I have a very nice family. I think I got-- good kids. I had brought
my kids here-uh, very young-- lived in the heart of the dope center in Manhattan
and it was a lot of drugs around. I had took time with my children. And I
would load them up and carry them up onto 125th street so they could see the
INTERVIEWER: Why did you do that?
NARRATOR: I had wanted them to see just what drugs would do for you, and I'm
thankful to God that-- they all listened and I was able to get outta, get
out of that. Uh, they're very good kids. I have a son that's teaching. He's
in Dallas, Texas.
INTERVIEWER: That's great, his name?
NARRATOR: His name is-- well, his name, he changed his name-- but I always
told him once a tomata, you can't make corn so, name-- his name is-uh, Mohammed.
INTERVIEWER: Jamal Mohammed, and what was his given named that you gave him?
NARRATOR: His given name was James Edward Hull.
INTERVIEWER: You have how many children?
NARRATOR: I have six biological children, and I have-uh, two young children--
INTERVIEWER: Oh wow, that's wonderful, Okay. Uhm, speaking about family--
do you remember when you were at home in West Virginia, uh the experience
that you had with your Mom and Dad and if there were any-uh-- things that
you had to live through-uh with discrimination or segregation--
NARRATOR: Yes. (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: --Did you have to experience any of that? Did you watch your
NARRATOR: Yes I did and that helped me make up my mind to leave. I had seen
my father one time uh, I remember when
they just got electricity in
the area where we lived and uh, my father, I seen him almost cry when the
man come and said he owed a bill and tore it out. Now
he pulled out the
electric, but we had candles and we had kerosene lamps that we used. Uh, I
come to find out that the man didn't like him because of the color of his
INTERVIEWER: And decided to-- (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: Uh, my father had a very good reason for that. Very good reason,
I didn't know it at that time but I did find out that, what had happened is
that-- his father had ran away from the south--
INTERVIEWER: Your grandfather-- yes. (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: Yes, my grandfather. And brought them north because of segregation.
And he had got involved with the-uh, how I say the-uh, landowner and he got
in trouble by killing him. So he had to run, make a run for it and come north
and he brought my father with him and leave his wife there. Uh, somehow another
I feel my father had that in his mind a lot and he wanted to do something
but he wasn't in position but he-- I see him knuckle down to those people
and I didn't like it.
INTERVIEWER: Did you understand what was going on at the time?
NARRATOR: I didn't understand it ...
INTERVIEWER: How old were you, at that time?
NARRATOR: I was-- at that time I was about ten years old. I was carrying newspapers
when I saw it. I was around ten or eleven.
INTERVIEWER: Now when you came to-uh where, where did your father bring you,
I mean-uh, you had a journey you left from--
NARRATOR: Left from there-- (Speaking at the same time) well he was in West
Virginia so, I left from there and went to Detroit. And even though I was
in Detroit there was a lot of stuff going on there too as far as segregation
INTERVIEWER: Hmm-- give us a little more information.
NARRATOR: Oh yeah they had race riots and all that-- out there--
INTERVIEWER: Race riots
? (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: And-uh I begin to think there was nowhere you could get away from
this. And going to Maine, felt like I was going to the end of the earth--
INTERVIEWER: How so?
NARRATOR: --to get away from this, and when I got there I found it there.
And-uh, it was a journey-- so.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, lets talk a little bit about-uh-- religion. Uh, the role
of the church. Uh, did your parents attend church?
NARRATOR: My mother did.
INTERVIEWER: Your mother did. And what church was that?
NARRATOR: She was in the Church of God In Christ.
NARRATOR: In West Virginia.
INTERVIEWER: In West Virginia and you attended that church with her.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, and at what age did you decide that you wanted to become
NARRATOR: Uh, after migrating away, I was in Detroit when I became-- I didn't
decide to become a Reverend, I never wanted to be--
INTERVIEWER: No? Why not?
NARRATOR: I just seen the way that reverends were treated, I saw there wasn't
a lot of money-uh, and I had a brother that's older than I am that was already
preaching and I seen things that-- I don't know if he liked it or not but
he was doing it and I didn't like to see it.
INTERVIEWER: What type of-things?
NARRATOR: Such as, gleaning money and all this, I didn't understand it but
I-- I couldn't see myself doing these things.
INTERVIEWER: Gleaning money you said?
NARRATOR: Yes, they would go out and go into different areas and ask for money.
INTERVIEWER: I see-- (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: They call it gleaning.
INTERVIEWER: And you didn't approve of that.
NARRATOR: I didn't approve because you had to take a lot of flack from people.
Nine times out of ten you would walk in a bar and-uh you got to listen to
all the slurs that they would throw at you and I couldn't take it. But he
took it but he came away with the money-- but that wasn't the point. There
is a scripture in the bible that says, "What profits a man to gain the
world and loose his soul." I 'da lost mine maybe so I wouldn't go.
INTERVIEWER: How did you end up becoming a-- [minister]?
NARRATOR: I became a minister-- I was driving a bus in Detroit and my spirit
on one day seem to connect
with the spirit of God whom I do believe do speak to man-- some people say
something told me, but it said to me-- it says, "I want you to hear what
I say," and I listened and I heard the story of Moses, leading the children
of Israel and then the lord said, "You think I'm not calling you to preach,"
as though he knew my mind and he say, "You contact someone and get this
man's name," which he gave me say he I called the same way. So I did
just that and then when I did that that's when it all broke down.
INTERVIEWER: Now you-uh you pastored a church but you had to have been ordained.
Where were you ordained?
NARRATOR: I was ordained here in New York by Bishop [Owen E.] (inaudible)
Kelly. He was the Bishop of all of New York for the Church of God in Christ
southeastern district of the Church of God In Christ.
INTERVIEWER: And you also-uh practice baptism in your church.
NARRATOR: I do baptize.
NARRATOR: That's one of our ordinances that we do.
INTERVIEWER: Okay, now-uh compared to living back in the south are there any
NARRATOR: Oh certainly-- (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: -- the practice of religion?
NARRATOR: Oh certainly, uh in the south we were baptized in what we called
INTERVIEWER: In the creek?
NARRATOR: A creek was-- you stopped up the water that was running down before
the day of baptism and
you go out there and baptize the people in the creek. But here you baptize
in pools or (inaudible) One day that old southern feeling hit me and I said,
"I wanna baptize people in the water." So we got a committee and
went out to Orchard Beach and we baptized the people in Orchard Beach.
INTERVIEWER: And what brought that feeling about? What made you decide that
you wanted to go back to nature and not do it in a man made pool?
NARRATOR: I just felt like-- (pause)-- I just felt like, I just wanted to
see how it would feel to do that again and in doing so we baptized I think
about fifteen people--
INTERVIEWER: Fifteen people --
NARRATOR: Yeah-- and then we-uh automatically gave the-uh invitation to anybody
that was around that would want to be baptized.
INTERVIEWER: And out of all of them, it was fifteen.
INTERVIEWER: Wonderful. Uh can you tell me a little about-uh, I think we covered
family, uh living in Yonkers. Tell me a little about living in Yonkers. What
it was like when you moved here-uh, what year was that by the way
NARRATOR: I moved in Yonkers in nineteen and seventy.
INTERVIEWER: 1970. Okay
NARRATOR: And-uh, on 116 Levine Avenue. And-uh, Yonkers was having its problems
at that time.
INTERVIEWER: What type of problems were they having?
NARRATOR: Well, just segregation problems they were having and-uh I hadn't
faced segregation for quite a while I mean to say face it-uh, I did run into
NARRATOR: I was uh, when I had my store while backing the van out and it
was snow and I pulled it over to the side. I had the swinging doors you know.
Garage doors going up and down weren't too familiar. But I pulled it over
to the side, just as I got out to go shut the doors uh the police came up.
Now two or three cars went by they had the room but he just wanted to jerk
my chain as people say.
INTERVIEWER: And what happened?
NARRATOR: He told me to move my van and I told him I said, "I'm not going
to put it over here in the snow, I won't be able to get it out." He [police]
said, "Move it" and I said well, "I can't move it over there,"
and he said, "Well I'm the man." And he tipped his thing on his
holster and I said, "Yeah, you're the man with the gun."
INTERVIEWER: And so you moved your van.
NARRATOR: So I moved my van. Yes. (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: You had to succumb to him.
NARRATOR: So, I was kind of disheartened because I was trying to get away
from that. I didn't want my children under that.
INTERVIEWER: How did it make you feel? As far as living in Yonkers
NARRATOR: I just-- I don't know, I just--I was very angry. But I never said
anything about it, which I should have. I never said anything about it. But-uh,
that was a terrible time for me at that time.
INTERVIEWER: Uh, tell me about-uh, your Mom's cooking. What kind of food would
your Mom cook?
NARRATOR: Well to let you know in the south, my family was not my mother's
cooking all the time.
NARRATOR: My grandmother lived with us. And before-uh, that my great-grandmother
she was there also. And families, but we were very close but-uh, they were
together and they did the cooking.
INTERVIEWER: They did the cooking. So do you remember what was served?
NARRATOR: Oh yes.
INTERVIEWER: What type of food did you have? (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: And I remember my father cooking. I didn't see my father very often
because he worked at night. In the daytime he would go to work early in the
morning and he'd come in late at night. And get back up before we'd get up
to school and go back in but-uh, my grandmother was the one that did the cooking
and she would cook pies, cakes, and-uh cornbread, collard greens, and we had
something that they called poke salad.
INTERVIEWER: Pork salad?
NARRATOR: Poke-- P-O-K-E.
INTERVIEWER: P-O-K-E. (Speaking at the same time). What is that? What's it
made of? (Both chuckle)
NARRATOR: It's a salad, it's a green that grows, uh but they take a paper
bag, like we get for groceries, a
paper bag, before these plastic bags and they call them poke. They call the
bag, this is a poke and
they would go out and they'd load that thing up with this, these greens, and
they would cook that like greens and-uh, you know, that was delicious.
INTERVIEWER: It was made similar to collard greens, just stewed down?
NARRATOR: It's similar to collard greens but they'd stew it down, they cut
up onions in it and they'd do a lot.
INTERVIEWER: Season it up-- (Speaking at the same time).
NARRATOR: Yeah, and when you eat it, it was just like greens.
INTERVIEWER: Oh gosh, what are-uh, and these are going to be the last final
questions, what are your fondest
memories of back home?
NARRATOR: My fondest memories are of playing football.
INTERVIEWER: Playing football?
NARRATOR: Those are the most fondest things-- playing football I was able
to vent my anxieties.
INTERVIEWER: Where did you play football? With whom?
NARRATOR: Back in Beckley West Virginia Stratton bulldogs. We-uh, was the
champions for two years.
And-uh, state champions. And we were ready to play, the gentleman that I just
State Teachers College. [Referring to another NARRATOR met just before this
because of the age, they were men and we were children and they wouldn't let
us, but we were
ready for them.
INTERVIEWER: You were ready for them. (Chuckle)
NARRATOR: We were ready for them. (Speaking at the same time).
INTERVIEWER: Reverend Hull we will have to end these questions? Is there anything
else that you would like to
add? Have we missed any-- I, I don't feel like we've had enough time, but--
INTERVIEWER: Is there anything you'd like to add?
NARRATOR: I'm just thankful to God that-- I 'd just like to say this, "If
the younger people would have the opportunity to sit down with their grandparents
and listen to them." "They could get a wealth of information just
like we did, from my grandfather and grandmother and great-grandmother."
INTERVIEWER: I agree with you. Thank you very much Reverend Hull.
NARRATOR: You're welcome.