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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 >>

Reflections on work and racism

Barbee ends her interview by reflecting on racism in the factory and the way it continued to affect the lives of the African American women who had worked there when she did.

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:
Okay, anything else you want to add in reference to your experieces at the factory.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Well, one thing I can say is this. A mass—of course it could be better now—a mass of black women working for a large company like that, no. If the conditions is allright in the beginning, maybe it's better. But you see, in the early twenties when I went there, maybe they weren't paying much nowhere. But I'm saying about what you have to do. You're over here doing all the nasty dirty work. And over there on the cigarette side—I don't know what they get—the white women over there wear white uniforms. See what I'm talking about. Wearing white uniforms and white dresses. And you're over here handling all that old sweaty tobacco though, you see. There's a large difference. We both going to smoke the cigarettes, oh yeah. I don't smoke but some women do smoke. Now if you got a group of people and both of 'em are making your product, why not make working conditions equal, why not do that. I've thought about it. Don't you think I have, but I have. Why not make it equally. If you don't want to work 'em in the same place, make the working conditions better where they are, whatever they're doing. Okay, here come the machine. I'll tell you another incident. The very day we quit working up there, here come the machines. We worked on a Friday, I'll never forget, on the part I was working in. And it was our last day up there. Here come the machines and the white man was up there putting up signs for the bathrooms—White Only. Putting up signs. That's up there at Liggett and Myers. So the white women went up there, and they didn't need to put no signs. No, I'm sorry—he was putting up signs for the white women and so some of the women said they was going in the bathroom. He said, "You can't go in that bathroom there." Putting up signs. I guess the white women went over there, or something. They had had to do in the part that we were coming out of. So we—I don't get anything from Liggett and Myers. I haven't even been up there to see about it. Some of those employees are getting a little small check, I imagine. But you know your daddy was still working up there, so he got his shares and everything else. But the mass of black women didn't get a whole lot of nothing from them. Of course you get your social security, that's yours. But I'm talking about direct from the company.
BEVERLY JONES:
Yeah the benefits.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Direct from the company only, see, direct from the company. I don't get nothing from 'em.