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Dorotha Smith-Simmons interview, Part 1
Rogers, Kim Lacy
Topics Include: Events she participated in while in Core, Scary situations she found herself in due to police and white brutality, Her experiences in Jail, how she now maybe would not have made the decisions she made back then
0:30 Wasn't born in new Orleans, but came when she was 2. Born in Benson, MississippiSecond oldest. Has 10 children, 5 girls and 5 boys. Dad works in a cement company, Mom was a housewife. Grew up in the 9th ward. Born May 30th 1943. Family talks about the things they would do when they were growing up. 2:45 First experience with segregation: New Orleans was different because there wasn't necessarily a black section and a white section. Kind of went street by street. As a kid blacks and whites played together up until a certain point where this wasn't allowed. This happened around the age of 8 or 9. When this happened they couldn't play or talk anymore. 4:30 Parents weren't really able to explain the situation very well. She got involved with Civil rights through NAACP, and ended up in core after they came to one of the meetings. Asked to join a protest on canal street. 7:00 Went to meetings with picket fences, she enjoyed this. Dropped out of NAACP, joined core. Her mom was upset and scared over this. She feared that her daughter would become violent, that didn't happen though. She surprised herself because she is usually a fighter. 8:45 Sit in at a police station to protest Police brutality, was arrested and went to jail for the first time. Arrested for contributing to delinquency of a minor in 1946. She thought jail was "wonderful" at the time. She didn't know what to expect at jail. They put the 9 females arrested in a cell that was supposed to hold 2 people. Stayed in there for about a week until transferred to another prison. 11:00 Went to parish prison. Once inmates found out why they were in prison they were protected. This happened less than a year after graduating high school. Family was actually supportive. Jerome Smith friend of hers. 14:00 Tried to integrate the movies with a sit in, was arrested again after this. Most frightening experience was a test freedom ride to Mississippi. When they got to Miss the bus station was closed, and when the photographer got off the bus and took pictures he was beaten. When they went to the bus station again later on they sat at a lunch counter and someone poured hot coffee over George Raymond. Then they were all beaten after with brass knuckles and kicked. She didn't know how they all got away. The black section of town knew what was going on and they didn't do anything about it. She thought she was going to die. They finally got back together and a doctor helped them out. This incident was spread by pictures and word of mouth fast. 20:00 Angry about this because the police did nothing when this was occurring, FBI agents also did nothing. She had to give a statement at the FBI office, and the FBI agents didn't really listen or believe the details of her story. 22:00 This experience made her want to go out again, she thought someone had to do it so why not her. Knew Core could have taken her life. Core group she was in was like family. She had to work in the office when other people were able to do edgier kind of work. Felt denied when other members spent 40 days in a jail and she wasn't there. 25:15 closest to the Thompson sisters and Ruthie Wells. Some members in core who weren't dedicated enough were thrown out. Too much partying was going on. Police harassed everyone back then if they interacted with whites. 30:15 Took people to see a movie in Bogalusa, Klanwas very active there and she didn't call anyone to let them know that they were going over there. Luckily nothing happened but she was yelled at for not following the rules. Took another trip back, and took a wrong turn and ended up being chased by the Klan. Thought she was going to die again. 34:00 Often looks back at her decisions and thinks that they were very foolish and she was very lucky. Being religious, she thought everyone was equal, and she realized there is prejudice and that people were willing to kill to prevent blacks from being a part of society. Now she knows it was just facing reality. Considers herself an idealist now. 36:30 Thought blacks could get equal rights, get better jobs, and vote without problems. Was not reality at the time. Felt local ministers should have gotten more behind their cause, so the same few people wouldn't have to keep protesting and having to go to jail. Unsure why the ministers weren't involved. Ministers could have told congregation what to do and they would have listened. 39:15 Greatest accomplishment was when lunch counters and restaurants and buses were desegregated. Accomplished a lot for having no real economic power. Would of still joined core but would have went about it differently. Would deal economically more. Would try to get jobs first then focus on desegregating. 42:00 Had a few mentors who taught her a lot. She also learned a lot from the people within the group as well. Were more women participating in this movement than men. Took off school to for this. Eventually got a degree from southern university in New Orleans. She majored in business administration. She is somewhat politically aware more than active at the time of the interview.
New Orleans (La.)
Amistad Research Center
Rogers.Smith Simmons 7.27.1988 Item 5-01
Box 8, Item 5, Side 1, Kim Lacy Rogers collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. Copyright laws.