“The ceiling had opened up a little bit more. Black people were able then to move.”
Produced by Sydney Jarol with interviews recorded by StoryCorps, a national nonprofit whose mission is to provide Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs with the opportunity to record, share, and preserve the stories of our lives. www.storycorps.org
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Transcript for What Kind of Legacy
I was involved in Mayor Hatcher’s ascendency and in the Mayor Hatcher legacy. I felt then, and still do, that he was a great man, and had the community left him alone and let him and his advisors do the things that needed to be done, Gary would be the city that we always wanted it to be and that was second class only to Chicago.
Being in Gary at the time, I was very proud. I was thinking black power was a good thing, and it wasn’t just in Gary. It was actually a pattern, you know. Think about it now. Mayor Hatcher became mayor; now that’s only two years after the Voting Rights Act when he was running. And that was just the natural progression of things. It wasn’t just in Gary, it was in Cleveland, eventually down South it started to happen. In other words, the ceiling had opened up a little bit more. Black people were able then to move. I mean, these were very brilliant people, who never had an opportunity to go past their own community, and now here’s one that’s actually going to take over the whole city. And I think it shocked a lot of people. You know, “How could that be? How could somebody like that run our city? Why we’ll go do to the tubes…” or something like that. I’ve never understood it.
What surprised me most was the anger that was felt by so many African Americans when the whites left Gary. And I’ll go back to the crab fests and the cookouts and stuff back in Washington and Baltimore when my father and them, when his brothers would laugh about, “Well, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave. We’ll get some houses now.” But over here, when I came this way, people were actually, “Mayor Hatcher… if it hadn’t been for Mayor Hatcher, the white folks never woulda left here. We’d a been equal, we’d a been…” And I’m thinking what kind of legacy are they crying about?
Well, there was actually kind of a split among Gary. You had those who wanted him to be successful and supported him and then there was a group that began to splinter off and became an anti-group. I did have problems with this anti-Hatcher group, which to me was an anti-black group by black people. I just felt very proud, like I said, to be a part of what was going on; it was historic community struggles, fighting the system, it was part of my background. I don’t know any other way to operate. I can’t just sit around and just look at things and say, “Oh, well, that’s the way it is.” We were taught that this was our country and that we were to be proud of our country but we had to make our country do the right thing cause it’s always going to be a fight one way or another.