Ms. Linda Frances Interview
Ms. Frances at the Detroit Marathon - her bib reads "For Mama Birdie", my beloved grandmother.
[[00:00:00]] PG and Ms. Frances in middle of convo about pictures found in museum basement, Ms. Frances got to see BBA exhibit.
[[00:03:00]] Introductions – Ms. Frances gives verbal consent
[[00:06:00]] Ms. Frances talks about background – born in 1951 – talks first memories, living in grandmother’s home
[[00:09:00]] Ms. Frances lived in heart of Black Bottom – talks about Brownson Elementary School on Maple Street – moved out, went to Cass Tech and Eastern Michigan before law school in New York
[[00:12:00]] Goes back to Detroit, her “home” every February for figure-skating competition – 2017 Detroit Half-Marathon discussed
[[00:15:00]] Memories of Brownson Elementary – going to penny candy store on Chene, church (Greater Macedonia Baptist), pulling sled in winter and red wagon in summer – trying to climb apple tree in her backyard, making decorations with fall leaves
Ladies on the steps outside of Greater Macedonia Baptist Church:
Ms. Frances' Grandmother: second row and fifth from the right (light dress and corsage) Ms. Frances' second grade school teacher (substitute): first row and second from the left (white hat with little flowers) One of Ms. Frances' piano teachers: second row and second from the right (3 string necklace)
[[00:18:00]] Used to listen to music, interesting detail about shining shoes with an old biscuit for church – wonderful community – grandmother was a domestic worker and political activist, campaigned for Mayor Jerry Cavanaugh; supporter of radio personality Senator Bristoe Bryant
[[00:21:00]] Multiple job possibilities were open to Black folks in the neighborhood – everyone knew each other from church or school
[[00:24:00]] Recalls Weber’s Grocery Store, the ice delivery, grandma’s boyfriend
[[00:27:00]] Memories of Christmas in Hudson’s and clothes from Crowley’s department stores
[[00:30:00]] Ms. Frances talks about how church meetings were almost like political conventions to her as a kid – discusses mother’s history
[[00:33:00]] Great-Grandmother at age 65 went back to Eastern to take a typing class and teach Ms. Frances typing
[[00:36:00]] Great-Grandmother lived in what used to be a funeral home, very well-travelled from down south – heavily-involved in church and community – Ms. Frances saw a lot of funerals presided over by CW Morris, the undertaker at the Greater Macedonia Baptist Church
Ms. Frances and her grandmother "Mama Birdie" in 1983 when Ms. Frances first moved to Manhattan.
[[00:39:00]] Grandmother came first, mother followed – came from Milan, Tennessee, but Ms. Frances never visited the south and has no details.
[[00:42:00]] Ms. Frances talks about her experience as a figure-skater
[[00:45:00]] says she has “not one iota of interest in family history. Absolutely none. My whole world is and remains my grandmother.” – grandmother's brother and sister-in-law would visit grandmother’s house to make conference calls to Tennessee once a month
[[00:48:00]] Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. used to speak at Greater Macedonia – recalls stories of Rev. Franklin and Aretha Franklin, Dinah Washington, and Brook Benton
[[00:51:00]] Memories of watching Johnnie Mathis and Richard Kiley on Ed Sullivan on Ed Sullivan on TV with everybody there – talks about computer punch-cards in old job.
[[00:54:00]] People in Black Bottom proud of their community and education – Ms. Frances’s grandmother and great-grandmother wrote letters down south on behalf of those in Black Bottom who reached 65 and needed documents for social security
[[00:57:00]] Mentions trip she took on Chene bus by herself as a kid – grandmother’s sister greeted her – while working as a domestic, aunt bought a huge house on Illinois and had many roomers
[[01:00:00]] Ms. Frances and her grandmother moved out because of the demolition -- Beautiful buildings torn down for freeway – area stood vacant for years, nothing built – “I’ll be interested if you find anyone who did see the things actually built” – “If you would walk along the street, along Mt Elliott, and come to the side of Elmwood Cemetery, farthest from Jefferson, and put your back to Mt. Elliott, stand by the cemetery, all back over in there is where the Black Bottom was.”
[[01:03:00]] Elmwood was the cornerstone of the Black community
[[01:06:00]] Ms. Frances and grandmother eventually moved to Jefferson and river – wherever she lives to this day, she tries to stay by the water.
[[01:09:00]] Ms. Frances: “the person everyone knew was Rosa Parks” – discussion about community boundaries
[[01:12:00]] Ms. Frances’s confidence comes from being raised in Detroit – went to school with Judge Wendy Baxter – Palmer Park homes mentioned
[[01:15:00]] Growing up in Detroit “gave me a view of my possibility. Black people did everything. And it was like, if you didn’t do that, you didn’t want to do that”
[[01:18:00]] Detroit opened up possibilities for film festivals, opera, Detroit Institute of Arts – location of old Detroit Symphony Orchestra Hall discussed
[[01:21:00]] Ms. Frances saw the symphony annually at Ford Auditorium and never knew Symphony Hall as Paradise Theatre.
[[01:24:00]] Ms. Frances says she left Detroit in 1979 – she and schoolchildren used to go to place on East Jefferson
[[01:27:00]] Ms. Frances talks about “nicest” homes on East Side that are now mostly dilapidated and wonders how area can recover without tax base
[[01:30:00]] Ms. Frances recalls how a white guy in law school didn’t know things she learned on Maple street – remembers ethics of community taught by Black Bottom – street parties on Maple
[[01:33:00]] Respect for others’ religion was taught – no diversions like nowadays – more of a focus on community
[[01:36:00]] Ms. Frances notes it wasn’t called “Black Bottom” until after she moved out – birth father and mother graduated from Miller High - history buffs – as a child she would read Michigan Chronicle
[[01:39:00]] Didn’t learn that her church deacon went to the US Supreme Court to stop Black Bottom's demise until she attended law school at age 50 – shocked her deeply – as a child would sometimes go back, but it wasn’t the same
[[01:42:00]] PG recalls they haven’t talked to anyone from Maple Street except someone whose uncle/cousins owned a juke joint there – Ms. Frances says that might have been an older person on another block – recalls how a friend of hers who grew up with her didn’t know what “Black Bottom” referred to
[[01:45:00]] PG and Ms. Frances discuss how the area was mostly Black in the ‘50s and ‘60s – PG says they’ll look up Ms. Frances’s address, see if Burton Historical Collection has a photo
[[01:48:00]] Ms. Frances describes Greater Macedonia Baptist Church in detail, though it was torn down – PG discusses digitization of city records
From here on are tangential discussions
Ladies in the basement hall of Greater Macedonia Baptist Church: Ms. Frances' Grandmother - back row and fifth from the right (light dress and corsage)