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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Deciding to use Eleanor Easley as her ob-gyn

When Barbee became pregnant, she defied community convention and paid to attend a private woman's clinic ran by Dr. Eleanor B. Easley. She describes how she took control of her body and her health care.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. 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

BEVERLY JONES:
How long did you work while you were carrying Louise?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
I worked a whole season, 'cause she was just born in December. I worked up until—we got out before Christmas, yeah. And he looked at me, he said, "Annie, I don't think you can …
BEVERLY JONES:
You were standing up while you were pregnant?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah. He said, "I don't think you can lift this tobacco." He came to me, I didn't ask him. He said, "I'm going to give you a job sweeping. You're not in a position to lift no tobacco. From now on to the season, you just mess around and sweep." He came and told me. He said, "I'm going to give you a job sweeping, and only mess around." So I swept and messed around. I was sick though, heartburn. Physically fit but just a heartburn. I had it so bad, I declare. And other than that it wasn't… And my doctor, I had Dr. Ethel Easeley, she's my doctor. I went to a private doctor. I wasn't taking no chances, I was scared as what. And so she, Dr. Evelyn Easeley, Dr. Richard Pierce and Dr…
BEVERLY JONES:
That's at the Women's Clinic.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah, that's where I went.
BEVERLY JONES:
Right, that's where, okay, I know where …
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah, that's where I went.
BEVERLY JONES:
Yeah.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
You see, let me tell you. That's why I got to—if Louise come home, I've got to get to her fast. It's nice for people to work together, if it was black and you're white. But when things—I'm not talking about nobody, 'cause I married the man—when you know things ain't right, god gave you a head and some sense. That's your body. I knew I wasn't going to Duke's Clinic. And I was working, making on my own money, and I went where I wanted to go. You see, being married don't mean that your husband controls your whole life. You all work together. If he didn't have no money, no job, fitting to do, then he might have resented it anyway. I'm not saying that he did. But I knew what I was going to do. That was my life and I was carrying his child, it's true, but I was going to look after myself which was number one. And I went to Dr. Easley from then on until my baby was born. Oh, I was talked about like a dog. Mandy Black was one of 'em. "You went to—oh lord, Duke." I said, look Mandy, I had to get her told, 'cause that was my body. And I knew at the age I was fixing to have a baby anything could've happened. And I said, it was my money. I shut her up there one day. She didn't speak to me for a whole day. "I went to the clinic." I said, yeah, you've had more than one child too. And I imagine you had your child before I had mine. I said, now that's my money. And I went where the doctor's going to look after me. She said, "They do the same thing at Duke." I said, yeah, but you got to go through so much rigamarole. I said, you sit there all day. And that's another thing, who got something to do with it. Oh, she laid me out. "How come you went to a private doctor." Nurse Douglas said something to me about that after Louise was born. "You went to a?" I said yes I did. "Well you know you can't," so and so. I said, I went out there and had the baby, so what. She made me so mad. Running your business. That was my money. I was paying them folks. I'm not going to no Duke. Then when I got to him, he said, "Lewis used to work for him, show you about white pecks." He said, "Who recommended"—Dr. Easeley was my first doctor—"Who recommended you to Dr. Easeley, most women go out to Duke's." I said, Dr. Pearse, I have been to Dr. Easeley before. "Oh I didn't know that." I said, I went to her. Something happened to me and I went to her. I didn't go into details, he didn't have nothing to do with it. And I said, when I saw I was pregnant, I went back to her. And then I told her I wanted to go to her 'till my baby was born. And I said, your money was spent anyway. He said, "I didn't mean no harm." Well you see I had to go by three doctors incorporated. Dr. Richard Pearse and Dr. Evelyn Easeley and another doctor. Roberta, she knows him. There are three of 'em incorporated together and I had to go through all three of 'em so if wouldn't be on the call the other. They had to know the case history. And honey, he looked at me so funny. He said, "Now, did Lewis know you're coming to me?" Oh that made me—honey, I got so mad at that man I could a kicked him. I said, you get your money regardless of who knows what. He said, "I didn't mean no harm, I didn't mean no harm." Dr. Easeley saw me first, she confirmed the pregnancy. Next time I had to see Dr. Richard Pearse, which Lewis used to work him. I'd been at his house plenty a times. And the last one was a little young doctor. And the night Louise was born, he didn't come to help Dr. Greenfield to meet me at the emergency. And he ain't done a durn thing but he called Lewis and told him that it was a girl. But I felt good because I knew I was in good hands. That was important to me if it's for a thousand dollars. 'Cause this is my body. Oh lord, they talked about me like a dog. "Well if you're going to get in the habit, they know you went to a private doctor, you couldn't get." I said, who asked them. I laid her out in my house. Who asked for any. Who asked for any help. That's niggers for you. And laid me out 'cause I went to a private doctor. Seeing about me through my whole pregnancy and they thought that was just terrible. What was so terrible about that Beverly?
BEVERLY JONES:
Nothing. I mean you were just mainly concerned about your health and the health of your baby. And at that age that was the most wise decision you could've made.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
That was it. At that age, the age was a factor in it. Forty-three, you having a baby. Honey I was talked about. "Going to a private doctor. You can go to Duke." I said I knew about Dukes. I said, sure I could've gone to Duke. I said, I didn't want to go there. I went where I wanted to go. And I was taken care of. Because I know Dr. Evelyn Easley is a woman specialist. Do you know her? She is a woman specialist. Because I had been to her before and she had my record there. I had a flowing spell, a long time, about two weeks. And when I got better I went to her. And she had that on record. Because you see Dr. Austin Secatur; I went to him first, I'd been to him. That was Ms. Carrie's doctor, you know. When he got through I said, Dr. Secatur what's wrong with me, do I have a cancer, something's bound to be wrong with me. He said, "Take these pills and this stuff and you'll be all right." I said, well when am supposed to come back. I want to know something. He said, "You'll be allright." And kind of grinned, it made me hot. He gave me some beige and red pills to take after my meals. Listen to this good Beverly. And some kind of nerve pill. And I kept on messing around, that fool ain't told me. I got hot then. He ain't told me nothing. So I called, told Pansy to make an appointment, he said Annie, it's not going to be about 'till Monday. I said I don't care how long it'd be, let me get to her. I said I ain't staying with Secatur 'cause I was mad with him. I went to her and in about fifteen or twenty minutes she confirmed it.
BEVERLY JONES:
Confirmed what?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Pregnancy.
BEVERLY JONES:
So that's what it was coming from.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
But how come I didn't have no symptoms. Secatur had done given me all this here durn medicine. I didn't vomit, I didn't do nothing. You see the picture.
BEVERLY JONES:
Right, so actually he was just trying to …
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
He had them confirmed but he wouldn't tell me. I begged him. I said Dr. Secatur. He said, "No." I said well I'm married, and it's no harm to tell me that I'm pregnant. "You'll be allright. Take this medicine, this medicine, and when this give out you can get some more." I said to myself I'm going to take all of this but I'll never see you no more.