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Neighbor to Neighbor Oral Histories: Thelma Bryant

Mike Vance interviewed Thelma Scott Bryant about her long and storied life in Houston, Texas, on March 15, 2007 when she was 102 years old. Mrs. Bryant shared stories about her family, her experiences during segregation, her husband’s notable career as a Houston educator, and much more. Press play to listen to the interview and follow along with the transcript below.

Vance: Mike Vance interviewing Mrs. Thelma Scott Bryant , and it is the 15th of March, 2007, and we’re at her home. And I’ll just set this right over here, and we should be good to go. All right, we’ll start with the easy one: when and where were you born?

A young Thelma Scott Bryant with her parents, Ella and Walter Scott.
A young Thelma Scott Bryant with her parents, Ella and Walter Scott.

Bryant: I was born September 26, 1905. I was born in Houston, Texas, at 3003 Live Oak Street. All babies were born in their parents’ homes because at that time there was not a hospital in Houston that would accept us. And so I don’t care how sick you were, the doctor had to come to your house or you went to his office. So I was born at night, and Dr. Ferrell came to my house in his horse-driven buggy and went inside and sterilized his instruments on a wood-burning stove, then came into the bedroom. Some relatives held the lamp light while he delivered me, and I was a bouncing baby girl. My mother worried about I didn’t have any hair on my head. For the first six months I was baldheaded. Then when it did start growing, it really grew, but of course it’s falling out and thinning now again. But I am proud of my heritage, because my grandfather—my paternal grandfather—Horace Scott, was a Texas slave. He was born in 1952 (sic). Of course, that meant he was a teenager when the war—the Civil War—was over. But he was auctioned off the block with his mother. Generally, when they were selling these Africans as slaves, they let the children come along with the mother, as long, I guess, as there wasn’t too many of them. And they broke away from the father. He never knew who his father was, you see, but the child would generally come along with the mother. So he was auctioned off at South Carolina—Oxford, South Carolina—and he was bought to Houston, Texas, so he—my heritage goes back to Horace Scott. Notwithstanding the fact that he couldn’t read or write at that time, he somehow learned how to read and write. We always thought that while they were teaching the children how to read and write, he listened in and learned, and sometimes the children would slip their books to the servants. Some called him servant because he was in the house. You know, they had the house Negroes and the field Negroes, so he was in the house, and so sometimes they would—see, the old master wouldn’t allow them to have a book in their hand. They would whip them if they found out they were trying to learn how to read and write, but somehow or another he developed a friendship with the children, we believe, and we know that happened. Sometimes the children would let him have the books at night and get them back in the day—in the morning. So in that way my grandfather was a leader after his being freed as a slave. He was the first black mail carrier—the second black mail carrier in Houston. He was also the founder of the Methodist Church. And he was also a founder of the Masonic Lodge. I’d say he was really, in his day, with the little basic learning that he had, he would become a leader. And I have written another book that I don’t have here. The last book I wrote since I’ve been 101, and the name of this book is—one of my boys is going to have me some more made. I’ve given them all away. But it is—the name of this book is Pioneering Grandfathers. And I tried to show there that my—what I saw—this is the way I said it—when I. D. Bryant married Thelma Scott Bryant in 1932, this was the uniting of two families whose history can be traced back to the pre‑Civil War days. And of course I come on through with some of the 00:06:17 (???) (inaudible) from the other books. But I take it on from there. Anyway—

Vance: What year did your grandfather come to Houston?

Bryant: Well, he came I suppose as soon as he was auctioned off, but I don’t know whenever—when that was, see? I only know that he was born in ’52. And it didn’t say he was born in Houston. I think he was already born over there in North Carolina—off the coast of North Carolina. I can’t—I can’t always get those figures, you know, from way back.

Vance: Sure.

Bryant: But all I know is, I do have a listing for him as being born in ’52—1852—and see, if I trace that back, he was thirteen years old when the Civil War was over. But now, where he was born or how they knew it was ’52, I don’t know the surroundings of that. Now, my husband’s people come out of Waller County and Houston, Texas, and of course his mother was a Starks there. And of course she, too, was a leader after finishing Prairieview in 1900. She married her college sweetheart. Now, I ramble a bit. I’ve gotten off the subject, but—

Vance: That’s okay.

Bryant: I have to kind of get it wound in some kind of way.

Vance: That’s okay.

Bryant: Well, I’m just still talking about this book that I wrote, you see? I’ve got to tell this story. This man, a Dewey Starks, became a leader in the government of Waller County. And I have that from a record in Waller County. The black folk called him “judge.” He wasn’t any judge, you know, but he was some kind of officer in the government of Waller County. Now, that was why I wrote the book, because I’m trying to bring those two families together, you see? But now, I’ll come back to that later on. I’m going back now to the beginning of my family. As I said, I was born and my parents took me to this fashionable church downtown on Bell and Travis. And I stayed with them going back and forth on the streetcar. That’s what we rode in those days. And finally, I decided that I was going to join the neighborhood children and come on to this little country church in 1908. You see, my parents, Walter and Ella Scott, were Freedman Town residents. They grew up in Freedman Town. They went to the same school that I went to, which is old Cullen High. It didn’t even have a name at that time. It was on 303 West Dallas. But we used to call it San Felipe. That San Felipe Street starts further out. It used to start down there in town, but all that’s been formed into streets now. Right across from where the Doubletree Hotel is now. You know right there, where it is?

Vance: Yes, ma’am.

Bryant: And so, there’s just nothing there now but streets, but that’s the way it was laid out at that time. Now, my mother was—so according to my dad—my mother only finished the eighth grade. And my grandmother, her mother, didn’t want her to marry him, my father, because he was eight years older. But in the meantime, my grandparents on my mother’s side were not highly educated, but they were very strong, moral, industrious people and always worked for wealthy white people. And so they wanted to move with them to Kansas—their employers were going to Kansas—and so they wanted to go there for 00:11:39 (???) (inaudible) getting out of the south. So my mother thought that was the end of this romance, now she was going to take my mother on up to Kansas. But my dad kept writing and writing and writing until she finally said, yes, you can just go on and marry him. But you must marry her—must allow my brother to marry you in Austin, Texas. He was a preacher, Reverend Calhoun. So they went to Austin to get married. Now my mother was very poor, and she had a good friend who was well off, we would say. And that lady became my godmother and did a great deal for me as I was growing up, helping out. And her name was Rosadette Wilson. So she had had a big wedding, and she allowed my mother to marry in her wedding dress. I had a picture of that, but it got away from me. It was a beautiful dress. But anyway, they went up there on the train, my godmother and my father’s best man, and they came back and settled with his father who lived in Freedman Town. Now they stayed there two years with the Scotts, and by this time Freedman Town was getting densely populated. And so people were spilling over into the Third Ward at that time. So they bought this home. William A. Wilson was the developer of a lot of little homes out here. This was like the country. Third Ward was like the country. There was a lot of trees and a house every now and then. So this house cost $1,500.00—$15.00 a month—and that’s where I was born. That’s where I got married. And then my husband I built this house while we were—engaged, I’ll say. Well, my husband—I knew him in high school, but I did not know him well. I just knew he was in the class—not in my class, but in the school, because he was a country boy from east Texas—Caldwell, Texas—and they moved here—his parents moved here in 1920. And at that time, I was in tenth grade. And he would have been in tenth grade but for the fact that we had a very eccentric old principal—the same principal that I was under and my parents were under. So he said he could not allow him to make the school grade coming from the country, because he had not had Latin. You were required to have Latin. So he put him back two whole years. And that placed him two years behind me, and so I didn’t know him very well. After he moved here, his mother died of diabetes right away. She had a surgery and had diabetes. And they didn’t know much about diabetes at that time. So the old man then, he looked like he wanted to jump in the grave and not live at that point. So a short time afterwards, he had found him another lady I think he’d been looking at the whole time. And he moved away to Alabama. He took a position in Alabama. He was principal of a school, you see, in Caldwell. And something happened up there so that he had to leave and came here. And so now he gets a position over there and goes off and leaves the three boys to fend for themselves. So the boys was only like fifteen, sixteen, and seventeen, my husband in the middle. So they banded themselves together and got them a little—little old lot in the Fifth Ward and found them some jobs. My husband’s job was, after he got off school at three o’clock, he was to report at the Brazos Hotel. And the Brazos Hotel at that time was on Franklin right across the street from where the Post Office is now, but at that time it was a railway station. You knew about that, didn’t you?

An image of the Hotel Brazos captured from an old postcard.
An image of the Hotel Brazos captured from an old postcard.

Vance: Oh, yes.

Bryant: Used to be a station. They had a little station down the way from that, but that was a time when we had a lot of railroads coming in here. I think they had a logo or sign that said, “Where nineteen railways meet the sea.” So my husband went there and washed dishes until twelve o’clock at night at this Brazos Hotel, which is across the street from where the Post Office is now. Then he caught the streetcar, went to the Fifth Ward, and had to go to school the next morning. I’m trying to tell you what a hard time he had. He was a self‑made man, you see? Going through all that and then go on and finish and got his doctorate degree. He really was a self‑made man. So now, back to my book. I’m sort of rambling between his family and my family. So after I started going to Trinity East with the neighborhood children, I also started at Douglass Elementary School, which was on McGowen where the YWCA had its beginning. The Blue Triangle Branch was after that. Douglass School moved further over on Trulley, but at that time they were in about the 2,800 block, I think, on McGowen. And we went from first to the seventh grade, and then we had a big commencement and later on went through high school, four grades, eight to eleven, at that time. Twelfth grade was added on later. But now, as a little girl, going to Douglass School, we had very strong dedicated teachers. When you finished high school—when you finished elementary school it was like finishing high school. You knew so much. And I remember we had what you called departmental work. That is, when you got in the fourth grade, you had a special English teacher, geography teacher, mathematics teacher, cooking and sewing teacher, the boys had a little manual training, so we were really taught well in the elementary school. We didn’t have a lot of athletics, but we had baseball. The boys played baseball on the prairie out in front of the school. And we didn’t even have organized athletics in high school until—I guess I had finished high school. We had a little makeshift athletics in high school. Mr. Ryan, who was the principal, paid somebody to teach the boys how to play football. Some of them bought their own uniforms. And they had a little round‑robin of teams that they played in Beaumont and Galveston and Bryan, Texas, maybe four or five little towns. And you just got there the best way you could. I remember a lot of times we just hung on to whoever could get hold of a car in those days, because cars hadn’t been available to everybody, but a few people had automobiles. So we’d hang on and go to pull off in Beaumont. It was a great day for us, but as I look back over it, we were real limited in a lot of those games. Now I’m going to stop and let you bring me back to some point you want me to talk about. I ramble.

Vance: No, no. You’re doing great, and you covered several things I would’ve ask about anyway. Tell me, physically, what the high school—well, what Douglass was like and what colored high school was like.

Bryant: You’ve seen the picture of Douglass School, haven’t you?

Vance: Yes, ma’am.

Bryant: In my book.

Vance: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).

Bryant: Yes, well, all the high schools—all the elementary schools—looked just like that. Douglass was one of the largest schools, but some small schools where you didn’t have a lot of students, they might not have had a large building like that. But all of them were—it was like a three‑story building with a basement underneath and then the second and third floor. When we got there, somebody played the piano for a march, and you lined up and marched on up the steps. And we had the devotions out—sort of a hall like a—kind of a common hall. My principal there was W. S. Francis. He was a West Indian, very cultured old gentleman. He had finished some school in the West Indies. And he was musical, and he had them teaching us all these songs. When I finished the seventh grade, that was a time that the First World War was taking place. And we had all these patriotic songs that we were singing at that time. And when I finished, I was the salutatorian. And my subject was, “America’s share is our share.” We were all talking patriotic stuff, you know? And we had a very nice auditorium, which is where the Jesse Jones Building is now downtown. It replaced what we called the city auditorium. But I remember we would have our closing out there. And they had a little run around. We loved to go out there and rehearse a little, do just a little run around, going up to the first floor and the second floor. And we always had, besides our speakers, we had a little play or operetta. And it was like heaven to us, we would say. And then after the war came to an end—we had entered this war late because we were trying to help our allies, France and England, and we had this old erratic leader, Kaiser Wilhelm, just like Hitler was in the Second World War. They were trying to take over Europe. So we weren’t in the war—I mean, America wasn’t—but we were sending supplies to our allies, but we didn’t get in the war until ’17, I think it was. We were out of it in ’18. The others had gone in 1914. And that particular time that we heard about the war was ending. You see, you didn’t have a television and all that to tell you what was going on. We’d gone to school that morning, and when we got there, Mr. Ryan met us out in front and said, “The war is over. You all can have a holiday today.” So we just came away, making merry, just like we do now with all these things. And that was the end of that war.

Female Interviewer: How many people were in a class?

Bryant: Huh?

Female Interviewer: How many people were in your class?

Bryant: In the class? Oh, I would guess, when I finished, there was about thirty‑five or forty. Now, when I get to high school, they were kind of divided, like A, B, and C and all that. Lower A’s, high—lower A’s, A, lower A’s, B, lower A’s, C, you see? And the same way all the way up, you see? In other words, when we got to high school, that kind of division, the teachers must have met and said, well, these students, they’re going to college, so we’ll put them in lower A. And they that was lower, the ones that were not quite so smart, they put them in B. Maybe they’ll become cooks. They had it all rigged out. We didn’t know what was happening, but as I look back over it now, I can see. I was always in A because I was a smart little girl at that time. But when I got to college, I fell to a C. I was real smart. Well, I would say I was—I wasn’t brilliant, but I mean, I could study and get it without the—I got to be a socialite in college, and I didn’t study, and I wasn’t making those good grades anymore.

A young Thelma Scott Bryant with friends on the last day of the school year in 1921.
A young Thelma Scott Bryant with friends on the last day of the school year in 1921.

Female Interviewer: You were a party girl.

Bryant: I became a party girl. That’s it. I don’t try to fool anybody when I tell them about my life. I was smart, and then I was lazy. And then I got smart again in my old age.

Female Interviewer: That’s good.

Vance: Before we get away from high school too much, tell me about the high school, what that building was like, and what kind of—

Bryant: Pardon?

Vance: What the building—the high school building—was like, what the social life in high school was like.

Bryant: The social life—well, we didn’t—I’ll tell you, my people reared me—I was an only child and kind of a sheltered child. And I wasn’t allowed to have company—you know, man company—the whole time I was in high school. That’s why I—I guess I failed so when I got to college.

Female Interviewer: That’s right. Make up for lost time.

Bryant: I was really trying to see the little boys, but I don’t know why the boys like these so much. I was a little skinny gal and kind of back woods. I wasn’t a girl that the boys sought out, I would say. But I’m trying to—as we’re sitting anyway—and I’d make up little stories in my head. This is my beau. And even in the second or third grade, there was a little boy that I liked. And I was—I’d tell everybody that he was my beau. And he wasn’t even looking at me. The same way, all the way through elementary school. But when I got to high school, I did have one or two little beaus. And when I finished high school, I didn’t have any beau. But I was going to—I’m trying to slip out and go with the girls whose parents granted them more privileges, you see? And what we did was to have a little—we called it a 00:30:30 (???) (inaudible) party. Every Sunday, we gathered at somebody’s house where the parents would allow boys and girls. Generally they were brothers and sisters. We’d go to somebody’s house and somebody’d play the piano and we’d dance and have a good time, because our little beau was there, but we didn’t have any big affairs. These were house parties. Sometimes on Friday night—well, my mother would take me and come back and get me if I went to any kind of a little party in the night. And I can remember having house parties, and 00:31:13 (???) (inaudible) parties. And that’s about—oh, we went to the theater. We had a black theater downtown. It was called the Lincoln Theater. You ever hear of the Lincoln Theater?

lincoln theatre
The Lincoln Theatre in Houston, Texas.

Vance: Sure, the DuPrees owned that.

Bryant: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). On Prairie—711 Prairie—between Milan and Louisiana. Well, that was our little segregated theater. O. P. Dewalt was the operator of that. Of course he was killed by someone—somebody who worked for him. Did you ever hear about that?

Vance: You know, I’ve heard two different versions of that story.

Bryant: Well, the version that we have was: There was some picture that the white people wanted to have first, because they could get these Negroes to sit in the balcony. And that would help that.

Female Interviewer: The box office.

Bryant: Yeah. But somehow or another, O. P. Dewalt got this particular picture. It was something that had blacks in it. I don’t know what it was about. It was some picture from way back. And so they teamed up with this guy who was operating the machine, and as Dewalt came down the steps, he was shot. For a long time, they didn’t know who it was. But they found out it was Julius Frazier, a person that we knew, and he served time on that. But Lincoln Theater had movies, and we liked to go there on Saturday because they had serials, like Pearl White in the Lightning Raider, and Ruth somebody—Ruth Lord and somebody, and Tom Dickerson somebody. But they’d keep you coming back. You’d get to that suspense and then say, “See the rest of it next Saturday.” So you know it was the Lincoln Theater on Saturday. And later on, they had—we had black theaters all over. But when I was a little girl, they had just one, and that was the Lincoln. Now what else did we do?

Vance: What—one last question about when you were in school. Tell me physically what the building was like.

Bryant: When I—the high school building?

Vance: The high school, yes.

Bryant: Well, it was a two‑story—or three‑story—building, basement underneath, with two stories. It was built in 1893. And the first principal was Atherton. The school was named for him in the Fourth Ward area.

Vance: Fourth Ward, right.

Bryant: At that time, Mr. Ryan was a teacher. He was there from the beginning. So Ryan was a teacher out of Navasota. As soon as he finished Prairieview, he started teaching. And he stayed a teacher until Atherton left. Atherton decided to go up to Prairieview and teach. And that was 1912. And he became principal from 1912 to ’26, when they built the new Jack Yates. But now, later on, the top of that building was condemned. And they had to take it off. See, there was a bell tower on the very top. And they first condemned that and took the bell tower off. And then they condemned the next highest wall, and they took that off. Well, when they got through, 00:35:42 (???) (inaudible) in there, and it was called then, you didn’t even recognize it as the same school.

Vance: Yeah, I’ve always wondered what happened to that bell tower, because the old pictures—it’s this pretty building with the bell tower up there. And then later, you see pictures and it’s gone.

Bryant: Yeah. Well, it was condemned. That’s why it was changed, because I guess from ’93 up to that time, it was just wearing out.

Vance: Now, you went on to teach in HISD. Tell me about where all you taught and what the schools were like when you were teaching.

Bryant: All right. I came out of school in 1926. It was hard to get on because the teachers weren’t needed, and there weren’t many places to get on, so they encouraged you to go to the country, I’ll say, first and then, when you could get a vacancy, you could come back in. So I taught at Houston County Training School, which is near Crockett, Texas. Then in 1926, that year—the year I went to the country—they were designing a new school. And then in 1926, a new school was organized for the Fifth Ward children. See, one was for Third Ward children and the Fifth Ward children. So I came in to Wheatley one year after it had started. My first year was the fall of ’28. And we just ’28 and ’29. At that time, Wheatley was just given an old school called the McGowan School on Lyons Avenue, and there were a lot of little shacks, we called them. You know how they build all those temporary shacks all around?

Vance: Right.

Bryant: So I could have one of those little shacks, two teachers to a shack. So there was another—a fellow came on that needed it more at the same time I did. He taught mathematics. I had to teach English the first year I was out. But by the next year, the new school was built, which is E. O. Smith now, but that was Wheatley facing Gray, and this old school just was used for cooking, sewing, and mechanics and drawing for the boys. So I worked from ’29 until ’41. At that time, my husband was needing me a lot for this help that I gave him in writing his books and all. And I felt he could take care of me then. By that time, he had become a principal, and I said, “Well, if you give a man a start, he ought to be able to keep it.” I’d help him get the house going. And we had a car and on top of everything. I didn’t realize he was going to go off and leave me, eighteen years and I’m going to be here struggling and trying to make ends meet. But at that time, it was a whole new picture that I saw out there in front of me. We’d both leave about the same time. He was taking care of me and do the best he could as long as he lived. But we had saved a little money, and if anything happened, well, I’d have enough to take care of me. Well, you know I had to get rid of all of that. I built this little house next door. I had to sell it, get rid of it. Everything I had, I had to—to survive—I had to just get rid of it. But anyway, I’m here, by the help of the Lord, and he must have something for me to do. He has me to keep on living.

Vance: Your husband was principal at Booker T?

Bryant: Yeah. My husband was—my husband had a lot of ambition. When he came out of school—and I met him, again, on a blind date. He didn’t know where he was going. And when he got to my house, he found out it was old Thelma Bryant: that he knew in high school. He came back to Houston on a two‑week visit. And his best friend brought him by my house. And so then, in the two weeks, we decided, well, we’ve got something going for us now, and we were going to get married. He said, “I don’t want to get married until I get my Masters degree, and I want to build a house of my own.” Those are the two things we decided on. At that time, I was just throwing money away, just spending my whole pile because I didn’t have to pay anything then, and just having a good time as usual. But anyhow, he made me settle down and start saving money, I’ll say. So we worked to that end. And he went to the University of Kansas, got his Masters, then he came back after three summers. I was building this house. It was almost ready. But now, he was a—as I said, a self‑made man. At that time, he thought he was going to stay in Chicago. That’s where he was—after finishing, he went to Chicago. And he was going to go to Northwestern. And that’s when he came on back down here and met me and saw that all his friends were prospering in the south. At that time, they were trying to get out of the south, but he saw that they were all trying to make it, all of his men friends. See, before that, they thought about teaching as woman’s job more or less. And so, then he had so many friends who were teaching, he said, “I believe I’ll put in my application.” This was April, and he said, “I’ll come back in September and follow through.” And when he came back in September, they gave him a job at Wheatley. And he was teaching sixth grade social science. And at the end of two years, the head of the department died, and he had gotten his reputation so as a good teacher that they jumped him to the head of the department. And he stayed there but continuing to go to school. And I guess when they saw he was just progressing so, then this school—the principal of the high school, Mr. Miller, was going to—well, I’ll say they were going to kick him upstairs, make him a supervisor. He was an old man then. But anyhow, he went on over there with Mr. Miller and stayed nineteen years 00:44:19 (???) (inaudible). Now, the Kashmere Gardens School had been built for white people. We always knew they built them better for the white than they did for us at that time. But by the time they finished the school, the blacks had moved all around it, and they had to give it to the black folk. So they came on over and said, “Do you want to go to the new school or do you want to stay at Booker Washington until we build a new school in the Heights?” He said, “Well, I’ll go to the new school.” So he took most of his honorary teachers to Kashmere Gardens. And he stayed there until—they was going to play a trick on him. See, my husband was always outspoken for our race. And they didn’t like that at all. So there had been a great—a panel at Rice University. And my husband had written his dissertation about that they didn’t offer the blacks the vocational education—they didn’t equip them with skills to get good jobs. So that was what he wrote on. And of course he was called in to be a part of this panel. And The Post and The Chronicle then played him up as expressing himself, and the whites didn’t like that at all. So they maneuvered and said, well, we’re going to divide the junior and senior school, and we’re going to let you stay at the junior high school. And your assistant principal, we’re going to put him over the senior high school. Well, that was George Haynes. My husband had groomed him all along to be his assistant. But anyhow, George Haynes betrayed him by going around to all the—some of the teachers that he liked and said, “Now, I’m going to go to the new school. I’m not going to take all you Bryant: folks over there.” And so we knew what was happening because he’s running his mouth so much. But anyway, my husband wrote out his resignation, and when they finally told him—he carried it every day in his pocket waiting for them to tell him that. And he said, “You’ll have my resignation on your desk by three o’clock this afternoon.” So that afternoon, they had first‑page coverage in the paper about I. B. Bryant: resigning. But he went on to Dillard in New Orleans because his best friend was the president over there, and he knew he could get a job in the college. And he had worked part‑time at the Houston College all the way from the beginning. From 1933 he had worked in the college here. He’d leave school at three o’clock, working for a dollar an hour. Well, he had two classes, but he was going to stay overtime and help out the president and do everything else they wanted him to do. He’s just a workaholic. So that’s how he happened to come out early.

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Vance: Tell me a little bit more about the general attitude that you had to deal with, with HISD being segregated and with Houston in general being segregated.

Bryant: All right. What I had to deal with—?

Vance: Well, everybody.

Bryant: Everybody. Well, you see, in general, we’ll say, the Negro knew his place, and he stayed in his place, and he didn’t get in trouble, you see? Do you know about my uncle, Uncle Emmett Scott?

Vance: Yes.

Bryant: Well, you see, my Uncle Emmett was a person—he was very modest and all. But after he went over there with Booker Washington, I mean, he was outspoken enough for them to select him to be the assistant to Newton Baker, the Secretary of War, in 1917. And that was really—I’d say a feather in his cap—because he saw to it then that—that Negroes could become combat soldiers. Before that, Negroes had to be ditch diggers and cooks and all that. But then, after he asked them to train them—there was this training camp in Des Moines, Iowa. And in one year’s time, they had trained all these soldiers in time to go over there and help France—they were just about to overrun France—but they went along with the French soldiers and turned the tide and brought defeat to old Kaiser Wilhelm. So my Uncle Emmett not only did that, but they put ROTC in the black colleges and did a lot of other things for the benefit of the Negro—I say Negro all the time because I came up saying Negro and colored. And then by the time they were saying black—black is easier to say. And then we became African‑American, and that was kind of hard for me to say because it’s so long. But anyhow, I answered to whatever they called me by. But anyway, so far as segregation is concerned, this—what’s this man’s name that—for Texans—talking about Texans—?

Female Interviewer: I don’t know.

Bryant: He’s on TV all the time and—but anyhow, it’ll come to me after a while. See, I can’t think of the names all the time. But he came out here and interviewed me. And he said, “Well, how did it feel when you were a little girl and you’d pass by all these white schools and have to go all the way downtown to this—?” “I didn’t think about it at all. You know, we just took it in stride, just took it in stride. That’s all.” Yeah.

Vance: But you said the schools—obviously the white schools got more money and—

Bryant: Huh?

Vance: The white schools got more money and—

Bryant: Oh, well, that was all determined at board meetings. They’d always appropriate more money for them. For instance, when my husband went over to Kashmere School, it was done overnight. They announced—they used to announce the board meetings. You could listen to the board meetings. You knew everything that was going on. They’d all get ready for it at night. And they said, “Tomorrow Kashmere Gardens will open up, and I. B. Bryant will be the principal.” Honey, they broke out over there to see what it was like. We didn’t really know. My husband got over there with his friends. They were moving out all this stuff. They didn’t mean for us to have it, you see?

Female Interviewer: Oh, I see.

Bryant: They give us two machines, and give them a dozen, see? And typewriters, they give them twenty of them, and give us three or four. So when he got out there, they were moving all these things out. And my husband says, “Put it right back in. Don’t take one thing out of this building.” So, that’s the first thing, they were mad.

Vance: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).

Bryant: He was an outspoken person. He didn’t care. When they started integration, they came to him and said—somehow or another these black teams were beating up the white teams—and the white head man said, “Don’t let your teams beat up our white teams. You send the same team, the third team, in there.” He said, “No, I’m going to leave that first team in there, beat ‘em up bad.” And he was just like that. He had a sense of humor, but he was firm in his convictions. So there were so many things that came up that made him mad, they were ready to demote him, we’ll say. And he wouldn’t take it. See, they had done the same thing to Holland at Jack Yates. When Mr. Ryan died, Holland had been an outspoken person like my husband. And they said, “No, we don’t want him to go to a new school.” But, see, Holland went on and stayed and took it. He took the junior high school and let somebody else come on to the high school.

Vance: That would be the new Yates?

Bryant: Huh?

Vance: That would be the new Yates?

Bryant: Yeah. See, and everybody liked Holland, and they tried to petition them, but it didn’t do any good.

Vance: One last thing that I want to ask you about. After you got to be married and all that, did you go out to listen to music very often?

Bryant: Did we what?

Vance: Did you go out to listen to music very often?

Bryant: Go out to listen to music?

Vance: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). Like at music clubs and—you and your husband?

Bryant: Well, I’ll tell you, my husband and I—we kind of gave up a social life, because he was such a workaholic, trying to make money to give me, and so when I stopped teaching, I became a big card player. I always liked cards. I’m a big game player, you see. And I was a party girl, giving these big parties, and all the ladies coming in, trying—you try to outdo one’s service, you know? I told it to my girl today, I said, “Honey, I had fine sterling silver, fine china, boy, everything for big entertainment.” But I’ve given it all away now, because I’m at the end of the trail. A lot of folk who’s helped me, I just turned around and gave them my silver and my china. I don’t need a thing now.

Female Interviewer: What kind of cards did you play?

Bryant: Oh, well, we started out playing 500. It was something called 500. We had sixteen. And most of us were college—teachers right out of college. And then Bridge came in, so we learned how to play Bridge. And then, in my old age, Bridge became a little difficult for us to keep up with, all these rules and regulations, so we started playing little simple games like Bonanza. You ever hear of Bonanza?

Female Interviewer: Yeah.

Bryant: You ever heard of it?

Vance: No.

Bryant: Well, we started playing this simple game, and then, in my old age, we have a lot of foursomes. You see, originally we had sixteen, but we stopped playing. I guess everybody got sick or their folk got sick and we got apart. And so there are just four of us. Any four people who wanted to play Bridge, well, we’d eat breakfast and wouldn’t serve anything. Just run to somebody’s house at ten o’clock and wait for them multiply. So I had several of those foursomes. Every Tuesday, I played with this four. Every Wednesday, I played with this four, and the like. But I became quite a card gal.

Female Interviewer: Yeah. That’s like my mom—

Bryant: She plays cards?

Female Interviewer: Yeah. She had—every Tuesday she has Bridge, and then every Thursday she has another set of people she plays with.

Bryant: Uh‑hunh (affirmative).

Female Interviewer: The entertainment.

Bryant: Yeah, well, anyway, then afterwards I got into this book thing, and like I said, I just do a lot of that. I can’t do it anymore now because of my eyes.

Female Interviewer: Oh.

Bryant: Uh‑hunh (affirmative). But I regret that because I—my bedroom has books all over the bed, and I’m just reading and writing and keeping up with things.

Female Interviewer: That’s nice.

Bryant: And that’s what has just kept me going.

Female Interviewer: That’s good. That’s good.

Vance: Well, I thank you.

Bryant: I know I haven’t answered all of your questions, but—

Vance: Oh, you’ve done—you’ve done wonderfully. You have done wonderfully.

00:58:35 (end of audio)