Black Ladies Working in LUMBERYARD in Bogalusa, Louisiana (undated)
“Negro Women Have ALWAYS Been In The Workforce!”
These are the experiences, observations and words (verbatim) of our mother, Lucy Mae Dawkins Williams, who is usually referred to simply as, Lucy Mae.
Sh-h-h-h…hush! LUCY MAE IS SPEAKING!
“I don’t know who they (the white media) are talking to, saying “since American women began working out of the home…since women have entered the workforce and all”, they surely are not talking to US, to Negro women. Most Negro women I know have always worked outside the home. Who are they talking about? Not us for sure. There were always a few ladies with husbands who were able to earn enough money to totally support their families, but that was not too common.
We Negroes are not Americans I guess. Anytime they say (in the news), “most Americans…”, they are NOT talking about black people. Ain’t that something? We are the ones who built this country and built it for FREE! (Mama would use “ain’t” to emphasize her point!)
I would tell any white person who was interviewing me for a job, “Look I am not one of those slavery-time Negroes, so you may not want me to work for you!” I was not about to do all that “yes ma-am-ing and flunky-ing around” for nobody”. I am just as grown as they are. I would tell them upfront! I would respect them and I expect the same treatment. They could either respect me or KEEP THEIR JOB!
Note: Per the postcard. Google Great Southern Lumber Company (1902-1938) for information if you are curious about it. Specifically, the book excerpts of “The Tribe of Black Ulysses, African American Lumber Workers in the Jim Crow” South by William Powell Jones also provide an interesting perspective.
1889 Postcard – Arbuckle Coffee Company Saundra Williams Blackman Collection
Note: Lucy Mae was a highly sought after caterer and pastry chef. She was intelligent, slim and trim and simply lovely. Mama always considered herself to be as important as anyone else of any race. She’d say that someone may have more things than you, but that does not make them better than you. (One of her Jim Crow-like experiences is noted below.)
“That Little Gal Called Me A Nigger”
When I was a young woman in the 1930′s, I was preparing for a big fancy dinner party for this (white) Hattiesburg, (Mississippi) family. Now I was just there catering that day for the party. Well, “Miss Ann” had nothing better to do than to ask me to fix lunch for the family. She had some nerve, trying to have lunch cooked and served. I was not her maid. I was not there for that. She could have prepared her own family’s lunch.
Well I went ahead and fixed the lunch. As I was setting the table, the little (white) girl, who looked to be about 5 or 6 said to me, “That’s not my knife.” You know I didn’t pay any attention to that little gal. She said it again and I ignored her again. A few moments later, as her mama came into the dining room, do you know what that little heifer said? She said, “That nigger wouldn’t give me my knife!” Her mama handed her a butter knife and said to me, “She always uses this butter knife”. I then said to her mama, “Did you hear what that little gal said? She called me a nigger!” You won’t believe this! That white woman looked at me with a funny expression on her face that seemed to say… “Well that’s what you are. You ARE a nigger”. Well, I swanney! Oh no, she had the wrong one!
I just went into the kitchen, took off my apron, rolled it up, put it in my pocketbook and honey, I HIT THAT BACK DOOR. I went down that sidewalk through the alley to the street and caught the next bus HOME! Who in the devil did that white heifer think she was fooling with not to correcting child? Now remember, I was barely halfway through cooking for that big fancy dinner party. Too bad, let her figure it out.
I was quite tickled with myself since she didn’t even know I was gone. I didn’t even care about collecting my pay. I WAS GONE! Well, that’s not all. When I got on the bus, I sat near a (black) lady I knew. I told her what had just happened and that “Miss Lady” was going to be “up the creek” with a big party with no caterer and no food. Well now, I found out a few weeks later that the lady I met on the bus went to work at the house, telling that white woman that I WENT HOME SICK AND SENT HER IN MY PLACE. I was hot enough to “ketch a fye”. (vernacular again) I didn’t speak to her for the longest! I learned a good lesson that day…TO KEEP MY MOUTH SHUT!
(Daddy always said it was a miracle that Mama never got lynched back in the day. He was serious.)