Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Lillian Taylor Lyons, September 11, 1994. Interview Q-0094. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Describing the African American community in Oxford, North Carolina

Lyons discusses the African American community in Oxford, North Carolina, where she grew up during the early twentieth century. According to Lyons, Oxford had a high volume of African American business owners and homeowners. Additionally, she stresses the centrality of church and churchgoing to the African American community in Oxford.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Lillian Taylor Lyons, September 11, 1994. Interview Q-0094. 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

EDDIE McCOY:
What was your life like growing up as a kid in the community? Give me some ideas about the community and your neighbors and the people in the community, how close-knit you all were and you had close families and everybody worked together.
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
It was a very close neighborhood. The property on the street where I lived was owned by two families, the Hicks family and the Lassiter family. Mrs. Lassiter and Mrs. Hicks were sisters and their children grew up and went away to school just as my sisters and brothers did.
EDDIE McCOY:
Who were some of the outsanding people in the community that went around helping people? If you needed them, you always could depend on them.
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
We had an orphanage in Oxford at that time, which was supported by the Masons. Dr. Pattilla, who was principal of the graded school when I finished, his father was a Baptist minister and also taught school. The house where Professor Patilla was born is still in erection and in good condition on Raleigh Street in Oxford.
EDDIE McCOY:
Whereabout on Raleigh Street? Give me an idea what vicinity the house is—.
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
It's in a thickly-settled, all-Negro vicinity. All of the Negroes around owned their own homes, then, and other businesses now.
EDDIE McCOY:
Can you tell me something about your church you went to and what role your mother and father and how close-knit y'all were to the church?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
We were—my parents—I grew up in St. Peters Methodist Church.
EDDIE McCOY:
Where was that church located at when you grew up?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
It was on Orange Street—.
EDDIE McCOY:
And Hillsborough?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
On Hillsborough Street in the 200 block. And it was a part of the North Carolina Methodist conference, which meant that we had several different ministers during my lifetime: Reverend [Newsome], Reverend Baxter, Reverend Cook, who was uncle of Miss Annie Lassiter who had taught me. He went to Harvard University in Massachusetts. He has one daughter living in North Carolina now in the Raleigh area, but I haven't kept in touch with her.
EDDIE McCOY:
Were your mother or your father a Sunday School teacher or were your father a deacon? What role did your father and mother play in the church?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
My mother and father were both very close. Practically every Sunday at the end of the sermon, my daddy had to get up and make his speeches. Course, some people in the church probably got tired of listening to him. But Papa didn't sit down until he felt like it. He was typical Richmond Taylor—at church, in the community and in the town, and very well-known. Both him and my mother.
EDDIE McCOY:
Did y'all walk to church and walk back?
LILLIAN TAYLOR LYONS:
We walked to church. All of my life we didn't—it was just about a mile away from us, so it wasn't—we had no inconvenience from attending church. I am now a member of the same congregation, St. Peters United Methodist Church. I am the oldest member of the church as of this date.