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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Public roles for African American women in Atlanta during the 1920s and 1930s

Previously, Josephine Clement discussed how her father set an example for her in terms of challenging racial discrimination; here, she talks about how her mother also set a strong example through her participation in community organizations, particularly the YWCA. In addition, Josephine asserts that there were a number of strong African American women in Atlanta who assumed public roles during the 1920s and 1930s.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with William and Josephine Clement, June 19, 1986. Interview C-0031. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

WALTER WEARE:
He was more the role model, then, than your mother, in your immediate family?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Um . . . They were very different; both very strong, very strong characters, but my mother had a very sweet and soft-spoken way, she was a very gentle person, whereas he was more forceful, and she was completely of the old school, deferring to his wishes on everything, so that she never had any problem there. But my mother was an unusual woman, in that she worked in the home, we had company, I never heard her complain about anything, like that sewing, doing - making sure that the family came first.
WALTER WEARE:
Was she a clubwoman; in addition to being an Eastern Star, was she in the National Association of Colored Women, for example?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Well, she was president of the YWCA, and I told this story when I was speaking to the YWCA on one occasion. I thought - well, they were talking about civil rights and integration, and I told them I thought the story of my family illustrated the changes that we had come through. My mother was president of the Phillis Wheatley branch of the YWCA in Atlanta, which was completely segregated. She took a great interest in the Y; I can remember, now, that she gave our Victrola to the Y. We had one of those, with records from Caruso to Bessie Smith. I came here, and somebody told them that I was the Y worker; I was not the Y worker, it was my mother, but anyhow, I couldn't get out of it, so they put me on the board there. And I didn't do a lot outside the home, then. I worked with the Scouts - Bill mentioned the Scouting program - and I had the Cub pack, I was a den mother, and I worked for the PTA, and so forth. But I did go on the board, and that was the time of integration: during the time I served on the board, they integrated the Y - the YWCA - and they put two black women on the central board, and each year, they put two more, to integrate it gradually. That meant I was one of the first two that went on.
JUANITA WEARE:
They would have been proud of you.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Yes, but then our daughter, our oldest daughter, who lives in Potomac, Maryland, outside of Washington, has just finished a term as the president of the greater metropolitian YWCA. So I thought that was interesting, and told the story.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you remember black women in Atlanta who were leaders and role models, that you looked up to?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
Yes. My mother had a black physician, with our last two children, Dr. Georgia Dwelle.
WALTER WEARE:
How do you spell the last name?
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
D-W-E-L-L-E. Georgia Dwelle. She had her own clinic.
WALTER WEARE:
Do you know where she took her training - at Meharry Medical School in Nashville.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
I don't know . . . (to her husband): do you?
WILLIAM CLEMENT:
No, I didn't know her very well.
JOSEPHINE CLEMENT:
But she had a clinic on Boulevard, and Mattiwilda and June were born there, I remember. I can remember black women in Atlanta as teachers, businesswomen, clubwomen, like my mother, who presented themselves well, dressed well, were leaders in the church, those activities. Atlanta was a great society town; there were a lot of wealthy people, black people, in Atlanta. I had a friend who I grew up with, lived about two blocks from me, and we were classmates all the way through, whose father was a physician. The mother had her own car (that's back when I was growing up), and she would take us places. Not many black families had two cars, and not many black women drove, in those days. And she would take us to events, and so forth, and so forth. I think there were a lot of role models among black women in Atlanta.