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Title: Oral History Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005. Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Electronic Edition.
Author: Delany, Lemuel, interviewee
Interview conducted by Hill, Kimberly
Funding from the Institute of Museum and Library Services supported the electronic publication of this interview.
Text encoded by Jennifer Joyner
Sound recordings digitized by Aaron Smithers Southern Folklife Collection
First edition, 2007
Size of electronic edition: 156 Kb
Publisher: The University Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Chapel Hill, North Carolina
2007.
© This work is the property of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. It may be used freely by individuals for research, teaching and personal use as long as this statement of availability is included in the text.
The electronic edition is a part of the UNC-Chapel Hill digital library, Documenting the American South.
Languages used in the text: English
Revision history:
2007-00-00, Celine Noel, Wanda Gunther, and Kristin Martin revised TEIHeader and created catalog record for the electronic edition.
2007-11-07, Jennifer Joyner finished TEI-conformant encoding and final proofing.
Source(s):
Title of recording: Oral History Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005. Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0346)
Author: Kimberly Hill
Title of transcript: Oral History Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005. Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Title of series: Series R. Special Research Projects. Southern Oral History Program Collection (R-0346)
Author: Lemuel Delany
Description: 171 Mb
Description: 43 p.
Note: Interview conducted on July 15, 2005, by Kimberly Hill; recorded in Unknown.
Note: Transcribed by L. Altizer.
Note: Forms part of: Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007): Series R. Special Research Projects, Manuscripts Department, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Note: Original transcript on deposit at the Southern Historical Collection, The Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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The text has been entered using double-keying and verified against the original.
The text has been encoded using the recommendations for Level 4 of the TEI in Libraries Guidelines.
Original grammar and spelling have been preserved.
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Interview with Lemuel Delany, July 15, 2005.
Interview R-0346. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007)
Delany, Lemuel, interviewee


Interview Participants

    LEMUEL DELANY, interviewee
    ESTHER DELANY, interviewee
    MRS. DELANY, interviewee
    KIMBERLY HILL, interviewer

[TAPE 1, SIDE A]


Page 1
[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]
KIMBERLY HILL:
This is Kimberly Hill, and I am at the home of Mr. Lemuel Delany, and we're going to talk about his family history, and we're also here with his daughter Esther Delany. It is July 15th, 2005. Thank you for having me Mr. Delany.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Good evening Miss Hill, afternoon, good morning, whatever in the world it might be.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Good morning.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Okay.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Can you tell me some about your family and especially about growing up?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Growing up. I grew up in the segregated South. Born July the 17th, 1920. That's two days from now.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Happy birthday.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Happy birthday. I'll be eighty-five Sunday. I had a very interesting child life having been born the middle child of Lemuel Delany and Julia B. Delany, Julia Brown Delany in the city of Raleigh, which was divided between white Raleigh and black Raleigh. I lived in black Raleigh. I had very little contact with white Raleigh because white Raleigh didn't want me to have contact with them.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Where was the border between black and white Raleigh?
LEMUEL DELANY:
The border was, let me think—east and west. East and west primarily. East and west primarily. That's saying, when I crossed over into the west side of Raleigh, none of my natural wants and desires took place. In other words, I didn't get hungry; I didn't get thirsty; I didn't have to go to the bathroom. Only when I

Page 2
crossed back over into the east side of Raleigh and then all these things came to pass. But as long as I was on the west side, they did not happen.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Because you couldn't do anything about them anyway.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, you couldn't do anything. I guess nature took over and said just don't get thirsty, just don't get hungry, don't have to go to the bathroom. Don't do any of those things. That was basically it. What else would you want to know about that?
KIMBERLY HILL:
What were your parents' jobs?
LEMUEL DELANY:
My father was a medical doctor. My mother was a speech teacher. She was a speech teacher at Saint Augustus [Augustine] College, and he was a surgeon at Saint Agnes Hospital. Both segregated from the top to the bottom. In fact I had a white doctor to tell me one time that "if there was any such thing as a black man being a gentleman, your father would be it."
KIMBERLY HILL:
If there was any such thing.
LEMUEL DELANY:
"Any such thing." Uh huh.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How many other children did your parents have?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I had one brother and one sister. I was the middle child. I was the middle child and the hellraiser among those three and the only one still living. The other two are gone on to be with their Maker. Now what else?
KIMBERLY HILL:
What kind of trouble did you get into?
LEMUEL DELANY:
All kinds. You name it; I claim it. I never went to jail. I was just mischievous. If they said, don't do it. I tried it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Tell me a couple stories.

Page 3
LEMUEL DELANY:
Stealing, I would for example go with the boys on Saturday morning in the summer out in the country, and we would steal the man's corn and potatoes and apples and oranges, not oranges but apples. I would go along with them, and I would do the stealing, and when I got, within a block of home, I knew I could not carry this stuff home. Because my daddy knew I didn't have any cornfield. He knew I didn't have any banana, no apple orchard. So I couldn't carry them home. So I would be carrying this heavy sack of watermelons or whatever they was on my back all the way to almost home, and I must've been a little retarded because I did it more than once. I did it many times. I did it many times and knew I couldn't bring it home because my daddy would've tried his best to kill me. It wasn't like it is now a days. They'd come after your life and hope some of what's left when they get through beating on your butt. You hope some of it's left.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So what did you do with the fruit? Did you give it to—
LEMUEL DELANY:
Had to give it to these other fellows that could carry it home because this was right after and right during the, right after the 1929 depression. Everybody, you made a living the best way you could. You got a living. The boys that worked had to give the money they made that three dollars a week, to their home for food and shelter and clothing. I didn't have to do that. I worked when I was eighteen years old, and I worked for the city of Raleigh on the garbage wagon. I made twelve dollars and fifty cents a week. My daddy made me put ten dollars of it in the bank. I had two dollars and fifty cents I could spend like I wanted to, which was a lot of money, which was a lot of money because a hot dog was five cents. A soda was five cents. Everything was a nickel. I had lots of money.

Page 4
KIMBERLY HILL:
Even with putting most of it in the bank. You must've saved up a lot by the time you were thirty or forty.
LEMUEL DELANY:
By the time I was thirty I had found out what girls were, then I didn't have a dime. I didn't have a dime then. It was all over. If you're going to say when I was twenty, yes. I might say yes. But when you're talking about thirty or forty, it was too late then. [interruption] What year did I get married, in '42?
ESTHER DELANY:
'42.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I got married in '42. That made me twenty-two.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Then you spent it all on your wife?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Wine, women and song. Okay, you name it, I did it in that order. Wine, women and song. So that's basically what you're talking about.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So what are some of your favorite memories of your mom and dad?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Too numerous to mention. The ones that made the most impressions was that whip, that strap that he used to put on my back. He thought he was one of these people in the circus that had the lions in the cage because he didn't believe in holding you. You were running around that room any way you want and he'd pop you. If you run up under the bed, he'd reach, turn over the bed and keep going. What did they say?
ESTHER DELANY:
The door. The door.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, oh. For example see my mother was a speech teacher. She would, my daddy would come home in the winter time, and the door would be open and he'd say, when y'all come in here, shut the door [pronounced do']. Mama

Page 5
would say, "Lemuel, that's not a "do'. That's a door" [pronounced properly] He said, "Well, I tell you what you do. When you make enough money to support this family like I do with your teaching, then I will call it a door but until right now while I'm supporting it, it's a door [pronounced do']. Now shut the damned door [pronounced do']." See he didn't play. He had his dogs and his flowers and his you name its and that sort of thing that we had to take care of with his supervision. He got all the credit for it, but we had to do all the work. He knew how to, with his medical knowledge he had us out there vaccinating flowers with a hypodermic needle. I've never seen anybody else vaccinate a flower before nor since then.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I haven't either.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But he had it. He also said dinner was at five o'clock. Dinner was at five o'clock. You come at five minutes past five, no dinner. He said, "I go out. I work. I make the money. I buy the food. I get somebody to prepare it for you. I can get home at five o'clock for dinner, and you all don't have a damned thing to do but be here at five o'clock. So if you're not here at five o'clock, no dinner." And that was period. That didn't mean later on, that meant no dinner. He was a stickler for that.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you ever show up late?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Hell yeah. I did all that. I told you I did everything wrong. I didn't do everything right. I did everything wrong. Of course you learn how, if you're hungry you don't show up late. But if you've been out stealing apples and got a bellyful of green apples, you don't particularly worry about it. Don't particularly worry about it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you see your grandparents much when you were growing up?

Page 6
LEMUEL DELANY:
Not much. My grandparents—my grandfather on my father's side was the first elected bishop of the diocese of North Carolina for the Episcopal Church in North Carolina. I only knew him as Grandpa. He died when I was nine years old. My grandmother moved to New York with her children, and I only saw her when I went to and from New York. Of course she lived until I was a grown man. So I did get to know her very well. I got to know her good. On my mother's side her father was just as big in the Baptist church as my daddy's was in the Episcopal church, and he lived in Hertford County, North Carolina, and his name was Calvin Scott Brown. Keep going.
KIMBERLY HILL:
What about your mother's mother?
LEMUEL DELANY:
My mother's mother was at least half Indian. Her name was Amaza what?
ESTHER DELANY:
Drummond.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Amaza Drummond. Her name was Amaza Drummond. She was born in Virginia, and her father or either her father's brother was her, was the governor of the territory of Virginia. Her mother was probably Indian. Her mama was probably Indian. Of course everything was Governor Drummond. I don't know whether that was her father or uncle, I don't know. But they lynched him. So it doesn't make any difference. They lynched him because he wanted to side a little bit with the north during the war. Huh?
KIMBERLY HILL:
So he was the governor at the time of the Civil War?

Page 7
LEMUEL DELANY:
Uh huh. [transcriptionist note: There was a William Drummond Governor of Albemarle, NC from 1663 to 1667 who was hanged because of his sympathies in Bacon's Rebellion.]
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
It was the territory of Virginia. I don't think Virginia was a state. It could've been. I don't know. But he was governor. They lynched him. I know that. There was Amaza Drummond, and of course she married my grandfather who started a school in Hertford County, Walter's Training School for Young Blacks, and they changed, they finally changed the name to Sears Brown High School, and is there a high school there now, Esther?
ESTHER DELANY:
Uh uh.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, no high school. They've got a museum in his honor down there.
ESTHER DELANY:
Winton.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Winton, North Carolina. W-I-N-T-O-N, North Carolina.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How often did you go to New York to see the rest of your family?
LEMUEL DELANY:
In the summer for two or three weeks and we went to camping, New York state, which was still a segregated camp, but it was under the auspices of the Episcopal Church.
ESTHER DELANY:
What was the name of the camp?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Camp Guilford Bower. Guilford Bower. That was up in the Catskills Mountains. I didn't like it.

Page 8
KIMBERLY HILL:
Why didn't you like it?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Because my boys weren't there. My boys weren't there. It was organized. I didn't like to be organized. I didn't like to be organized. I liked to do my thing which was always the wrong thing. So but my brother and sister, they enjoyed it and I was there with them. They were active part of the camp activities. I was . . .
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you do a lot of things through the church back home?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, I'm not a church orientated person even though I do believe in the principles of the church.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did your dad make you go to church?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Sunday school, went to Sunday school and went to church on occasions. A lot of times, went to church a lot of times, but I never got interested in it, never got interested in it.
ESTHER DELANY:
Trash truck, the garbage truck.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I worked on the garbage truck in the city of Raleigh when I was eighteen years old. I had a good time.
ESTHER DELANY:
Drove his mother crazy.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Every now and then the truck that I was working on would pass my mother on the street, and I'd holler and she'd turn her back and ignore me like I wasn't even there. I had to take my clothes off when I came home in the back yard and before I could go in the house.
ESTHER DELANY:
Tell her why you worked on the trash truck.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Why?
ESTHER DELANY:
Um hmm.

Page 9
LEMUEL DELANY:
For no reason. I wanted muscles.
ESTHER DELANY:
And the money.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I wanted muscles. I wanted to play football and basketball and that sort of thing, and I needed muscles.
KIMBERLY HILL:
And money too.
ESTHER DELANY:
And the money was better.
LEMUEL DELANY:
The money wasn't important because I couldn't spend but two dollars and fifty cent of it. All of my buddies were working at the drugstores and the grocery stores riding bicycles for three dollars a week, and I was making twelve-fifty. Then I took a job as a lifeguard. I worked in segregated pools and that sort of thing as a lifeguard.
ESTHER DELANY:
Jones Lake.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Jones Lake in the eastern part of North Carolina. I was the, what, I guess I was about the second lifeguard they employed there. Fifteen dollars a week and I was moving up the ladder there. I was "moving on up" as—what was his name?—George Jefferson said.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Moving on up to the East Side.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, now where do we go from there?
KIMBERLY HILL:
How young do you think you were when you first learned about segregation?
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's an interesting question. I don't think we called it segregation. I don't know what we called it because I lived in a black world. I had no dealings with the white world. Even though every day I passed the white high school

Page 10
going to the black high school, but this was not important to me. I didn't, I lived in a black world. I didn't live in a white world and didn't have any dealings with the white world per se. So when you passed the school, you realized it was a school and so I don't know. After I got to be big and started dealing, being forced to deal with these people, then I realized there was such a thing as that going on. In other words when I started having to go up town to buy something and realized that this restaurant did not serve colored people. That's when I became aware of it. But as long as I was in east Raleigh in a black neighborhood dealing with black people all day long and seeing their plight in the black neighborhood, it didn't bother me. I saw the white man come and read the gas meter, the water meter, and all that thing, but I didn't even know he was there. He wasn't interesting to me. He was just something there. Only when I started to go up town to buy a pair of shoes or something and I was told you can't try the shoes on, you can't try the suit on, then I knew it was something wrong. I didn't know exactly what it was, but I knew there was something going on. Of course no television, radio, I think I always remember a radio. Periodically this jackass that y'all call Senator Jesse Helms was on the television talking about the outhouses that the colored folks had and laugh[ing] about the tubs that they had to bathe in and all that. He thought that was real funny. He used to tell all those sad jokes about the colored folks and toilets and that sort of thing. But I knew I wasn't going to run into him. Wish I had had an automobile, I'd run over him.
ESTHER DELANY:
Don't put that on tape. Cut that out.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I would have.
ESTHER DELANY:
You've got to shut up now.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Sure as hell.

Page 11
ESTHER DELANY:
[To Mrs. Delany] Come get your husband.
MRS. DELANY:
Now you knew he was going to do one thing wrong. You knew that. [Laughter]
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yes sir. But he did it. He was on the radio, and he had a good time talking about you colored folks bath tubs and toilets and all that kind of stuff. But I really didn't—
LEMUEL DELANY:
I never really experienced trouble with white folks until I got semi-grown, semi-grown, and then I had a few run-ins with them. But for example I had a car, automobile that had got damaged for some reason or another. I carried it to this automobile shop to get it repaired, and they repaired it. There was a strip of molding that was supposed to go on there, and the man kept telling me he couldn't get the strip of molding. It was a Chevrolet truck. So I took it upon myself one day and went to the Chevrolet garage and asked the people there did they have this strip of molding. They said, yes. I went back to the man and I said, "Sir Walter Chevrolet has got this strip of molding." "What are you doing questioning my, questioning me about the strip of molding." He went on and on and on and on. It got to be real nasty. So I went to his boss and his boss told me, said, "Delany," not Mr. Delany, he said, "Delany, I know he's a jackass, but he's a good mechanic, and if I fire him, I've got to hire another jackass that might not be as good. So I can't fire him." So he said, "But I know what you're talking about." Incidentally a Jew owned the automobile shop per se. But he had all these crackers working for him.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you ever get the molding?

Page 12
LEMUEL DELANY:
I think so. I don't know. I think the man intervened and made the man get the molding and put on the truck. That was basically what that was, that kind of foolishness.
KIMBERLY HILL:
You grew up in Raleigh. Did you stay here your whole life?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. I've been in New York for sixty years.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I lived in New York for sixty years.
KIMBERLY HILL:
When did you move to New York?
LEMUEL DELANY:
What was it? In '42.
ESTHER DELANY:
Then you came back.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, came back in '98.
ESTHER DELANY:
No, you came back in between.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I came back for a short period of time, short period of time, but basically I was in New York from '42 to '98, and I was a funeral director. I buried the dead people, oooo. What a horrible thought.
KIMBERLY HILL:
[Laughter] I'm not that scared of dead people.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I've never seen one hurt nobody. I've seen a whole lot of live people hurt somebody, but I've never seen any dead people hurt anybody.
KIMBERLY HILL:
True.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Never seen dead, they just don't hurt you. Uh uh.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Why did you move to New York?
LEMUEL DELANY:
A better way of life. Couldn't make any money here. Couldn't make any money.

Page 13
KIMBERLY HILL:
At that time were you doing the lifeguarding?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, at the time I left here, let's see. When I got married in '42, I was working for the Raleigh Bonded Warehouse for eighteen dollars a week. I took that eighteen dollars toward a train, went to Washington, DC, rented a hotel room at the Logan Hotel, went to Upper Marlboro, Maryland and got married and stayed in Washington two or three days and came back to Raleigh. I still had a part of that eighteen dollars in my pocket.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How did you meet your wife?
LEMUEL DELANY:
She was a student at Saint Agnes School of Nursing, which was for black nurses. Of course it's for black nurses or Saint Augustine's College. You know about that.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I know some about it.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Okay. So she was student there and that was the beginning of that. She was a pretty girl. Of course I didn't know any ugly girls. I didn't know any of them. I didn't play that game. I found out that you could be pretty and sweet at the same time. Didn't have to be, ugly girls could be sweet too. Don't think they can't. They can be sweet too, but if you can get sweet and pretty together, it's just that much advantage you got. So I went for both ends, pretty and sweet.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How long did you know each other before you got married?
LEMUEL DELANY:
A year or two, I guess.
KIMBERLY HILL:
We should talk a bit about your family's history with Saint Augustine.

Page 14
LEMUEL DELANY:
It's basically in the book that you read [Having Our Say: The Delany Sisters' First 100 Years by Sadie and Bessie Delany]. It's basically there. There's very little else to tell about that except that the real story to that thing is my grandfather was born a slave. He grew up in Fernandina, Florida. He came to Raleigh to go to this Normal School, which is Saint Augustine's and married and had ten children. All ten of those children got an advanced degree in their chosen profession when it was almost impossible for one child to get an education, a black child to get an education. All ten of those children got an advanced degree in their chosen profession, as doctors and lawyers and schoolteachers and musicians and what else?
ESTHER DELANY:
Dentist.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Hmm? Dentist. And all those things. All of them got advanced degrees. Not one of them fell off the log.
KIMBERLY HILL:
That's—
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's a story. That's a story.
KIMBERLY HILL:
That's rare for anybody, black or white, even now.
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's a story. Unfortunately Sadie and Bessie's book Having Our Say detracts from that story and they now are the story of the Delanys. You see what I'm talking about. They now are the story of the Delanys. In other words I used to be Dr. Delany's son. Now [people ask,] "Are you related to the Delany sisters?" I am no longer Dr. Delany's son. "Are you related to the Delany sisters?" I am no longer Bishop Delany's grandson. "Are you related to the Delany sisters?" The book is deceitful in one respect, one primary respect. That is it paints these two old ladies as

Page 15
sweet, charming, sweet Bessie and sweet Sadie, you see. Well, that wasn't true. That wasn't true. Number one, and I'm going to let you use your imagination.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Give me your description of an old maid. Give me a description.
KIMBERLY HILL:
My description of an old maid?
ESTHER DELANY:
Maiden lady.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, old maid. An old maid. Give me your description of an old maid.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Umm. They have a job they like?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, you're self-centered. You're self-centered. You're selfish, and you don't give a damn about nobody in the world but yourself. No that's what the old maid is. Now you can glorify it and paint it in any of those pictures you want to. These two old ladies were old maids. They were old maids. Now the book paints them as sweet little Sadie and sweet little Bessie. They were old maids. They didn't give a damn about nobody in the world but themselves.
KIMBERLY HILL:
They seem to spend a lot of time looking after other people.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Who did they look after? Who did they look after? Who did they look after?
ESTHER DELANY:
Cut. Cut. Hush.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay, I remember her story about a cousin.
ESTHER DELANY:
Yes she did. That's true.
KIMBERLY HILL:
That they gave medicine to.

Page 16
ESTHER DELANY:
They did.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Who?
ESTHER DELANY:
Cousin Daisy, that's true.
LEMUEL DELANY:
This is because she was no threat to them. They lived in the damned mountains up there in Virginia somewhere in a log cabin. She was no threat to them.
KIMBERLY HILL:
But you don't think that they helped other people who were closer to them?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Hell no. I know they didn't. When they died with their multi-million dollars, all their nieces and nephews got $5,000, and they gave all the rest of it to Lord knows who else. No, they didn't give a damn about their offsprings. They loved their brothers. They loved their brothers. There was nothing in the world good enough for their brothers. They had six brothers. The book cites one of the, most heartbreaking things that happened to them is when this little nephew, Hubie, died.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, I remember that.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Well, Hubie was their sister's child. One of their brother's children died before Hubie died. They didn't mention a damned thing about him.
KIMBERLY HILL:
No, they didn't.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Didn't mention a damned thing about him, and he was probably the first one after their daddy that died. Henry was the first one, and they didn't mention a thing about him. When they died, all of their real property they left to their sister's children, not to their brother's children. Not to their brother's children but to

Page 17
their sister's children. In other words, they didn't care what, but there was no woman in the world good enough for their brothers. But their sisters, that was all right.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So that's why they couldn't really get along with their brother's children.
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's right. They got along speaking and all that sort of thing and out of respect for their brothers. Sure I stayed in their apartment when I went to New York, but that was all. That was all.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I can understand that. We were talking about that going on in my own family at a reunion about two weeks ago.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, but that's the way that goes. But there was nobody in the world good enough for their brothers. They worshipped the ground that their brothers walked on.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How did they treat their brothers when they were living?
LEMUEL DELANY:
My father was the oldest and he was the boss, and anything that Lemuel said you did not question. That came from the fact that when their daddy was living, he was the boss, and anything that Papa said was the gospel, truth and gospel. Once he died, my father took over. Anything that he said was gospel. When he died, then Sadie took over, and she was the next in line as far as age was concerned. She took over. She used Bessie as her mouthpiece because she wouldn't say anything. She'd just sit there and look and give Bessie the eye, and this I meant talk and this meant shut up [motions]. So that's the way they did their thing.
You agree? Sounds plausible, doesn't it?
KIMBERLY HILL:
It sounds plausible, but we don't—

Page 18
ESTHER DELANY:
You—
LEMUEL DELANY:
Shut up. [Laughter] But that's the truth. That's the truth. But as I say if you are real and accept the definition, the real definition of old maid, then you've got Sadie and Bessie. Now if you want to pretend that they were different from all the other old maids in the world. But they wouldn't even have a telephone in their house. If they want to see us, they can come up here to our house and see house. They didn't even a telephone in their damned house, all that kind of crap.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, I guess that's why they didn't call themselves old maids.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But the book paints them as sweet little thing, Bessie and sweet little Sadie.
KIMBERLY HILL:
They're outspoken. I guess you wouldn't say they were entirely sweet.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Sadie wasn't outspoken. Bessie was.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah.
LEMUEL DELANY:
She was a rough-tongued sister. She didn't bite her tongue about saying what she wanted to say, and of course everything they said in there she said was not quite correct, not quite correct.
KIMBERLY HILL:
What things were wrong? Do you remember?
LEMUEL DELANY:
When she supposed to went out there messing with those people out there in the streets smoking pot, and she goes out there and tells them all "if you don't get away from here, I'm going to call the cops and, here now, my sister is on

Page 19
the phone." That's bull crap. That's bull crap, but it made good reading. It made good reading. It made good reading. It made good reading, right.
KIMBERLY HILL:
It was good reading.
ESTHER DELANY:
Cut.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Now they are, let's see, the play. I have seen it maybe a half a dozen times, and the most of the play producers cannot accept the fact that even though these ladies were old, they were still proud. They did not, they want to be depicted as old women, all bent over, and the plays (most of them) they have them all bent over and shuffling a little bit. Well, they would've rather died than not stand up straight like an arrow and that sort of thing. They just didn't like to be, but most of the plays show them as 100-year-old people walking around like I do. But they objected to being bent over. In fact Sadie broke her hip because they gave her a walker that you had to lean over, and she was too damned proud to lean over the damned thing and fell and broke her hip.
KIMBERLY HILL:
You're not shuffling and bent over.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I'm bent over, pretty bent over pretty bad.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Not as much as you've seen.
LEMUEL DELANY:
See this is the way I stand now [standing up slightly bent in his shoulders].
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah. But it's not like in the play or anything for that.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But see this is me. Now look at this, see, I can do that. This is where I'd like to be, but I can't be here. I'm here.
ESTHER DELANY:
But you were in a car wreck.

Page 20
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's part of it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Do you think everybody in your family has that kind of pride?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Basically. Wouldn't you think so, Esther? Basically, yeah. I have told a couple of the producers that those people didn't want to be portrayed as Bessie helping Sadie up the steps. That didn't happen. When I say, it didn't happen [and] nobody could see it if it happened because they were too proud to be that kind of thing. They were very proud old ladies now. If you want to give them very good credit, they were proud.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So did you live in their apartment as soon as you moved to New York?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Live when?
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you live in their apartment?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Not their apartment, not their—
KIMBERLY HILL:
Oh okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, I got my own. I got my own. I still haven't ever put me in that spot. No.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Were you living in Harlem?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Um hmm. Harlem USA. There's no other place. I had the privilege of meeting and knowing just about everybody that was who's who in black America at one time or another. I had [connections] because my Uncle Hubert was a prominent attorney in New York, and most [members] of "Who's Who in Black America" either knew him or were one of his clients. When these people found it

Page 21
necessary to come South for one reason or another and hotel accommodations were not what they wanted to be, Hubert would call my mama and ask her, can Paul Robeson stay at your house, can Marion Anderson stay at your house, can Cab Calloway stay at your house, can Duke Ellington stay at your house? The answer was always yes. So all of those people at one time or another stayed at my house.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Wow.
LEMUEL DELANY:
So I met all the WEB Dubois, the Paul Robeson, the Marion Andersons, the Cab Calloways, the Duke Ellingtons. You name them. I met them all at one time or another.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Which one did you enjoy the most?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Cab Calloway.
KIMBERLY HILL:
When they came did they tell you about all the stuff they did?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. No. They were just there. At that time celebrities did not need or have an entourage to follow them everywhere they went. In other words, in Joe Louis's heyday you might see him walking up and down Seventh Avenue by himself any time. You might see Duke Ellington. You might see Paul Robeson. You might see them walking up and down the street and Adam Powell and all those people. They didn't have any entourage following them around, and they were only Who's Who in white America. In other words at the Cotton Club in Harlem, Cab Calloway was many times the featured entertainer. But they didn't allow black people in the congregation, in the audience at the tables. So he was big to them.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Not so much to the black audiences.

Page 22
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, the only time we saw them was at the Apollo Theatre. He came to Apollo Theatre you see him. But in between shows he'd be out there on 125th Street like everybody else. He wasn't all that "who's who."
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, everybody uses an entourage nowadays.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, but you have to have a group to go before you and then and your group comes and another group behind you. But now they didn't have that. That goes for E. Franklin Frazier, John Hope Franklin—
ESTHER DELANY:
E. Franklin Frazier was married to his aunt.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Oh really. Wow.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Do you know—

Page 23
[END OF TAPE 1, SIDE A]

[TAPE 1, SIDE B]

[START OF TAPE 1, SIDE B]
KIMBERLY HILL:
How do we have different mindsets?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Joe was the boxing machine. He didn't have it up here. He didn't have it up here at all. He didn't have it up there at all. I used to go down to his hotel room in the [unclear] Hotel all those pretty girls lined up, and he's sitting there like he didn't even know they were there. He couldn't, he didn't even have a conversation for them. Didn't even have a conversation for them. They tried to force themselves on him. But he was a nice guy, quiet, unassuming. Everybody stole his money, took his money and everything.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Poor guy.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Took everything away from him. Joseph Louis Barrow.
KIMBERLY HILL:
He didn't have much when he died.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. He was a receptionist in one of the casinos on Las Vegas. In fact Max Schnelling paid for his funeral. Frank Sinatra befriended him quite a bit.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, I wish I could prove I was related to him.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Why would you think you were related to him?
KIMBERLY HILL:
My dad, relatives on my dad's side they say were second or third cousins.
LEMUEL DELANY:
You know, You can do it. Now when I say that you can do it, by tracing my history, which has been done pretty thoroughly, I know the story of my great grandfather. I know the story of the birth and growth of my grandfather. I know a lie in the book. They said Sadie and Bessie said that he was the houseboy on the Mork

Page 24
plantation in Saint Mary's, Georgia. Number one, the Morks, there was no such thing as a Mork Plantation in Saint Mary's, Georgia.
ESTHER DELANY:
There was Mrs. Mork.
LEMUEL DELANY:
There was a Mrs. Mork that lived in Saint Mary's, Georgia. But tracing the deeds and everything in the courthouse—
LEMUEL DELANY:
There was no Mork Plantation. So we are assuming that—
ESTHER DELANY:
No, I know now.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, but we are assuming that maybe somebody somewhere owned a plantation in Saint Mary's, Georgia.
ESTHER DELANY:
I know the truth.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Huh?
ESTHER DELANY:
Mrs. Mork had some slaves, but she didn't have a plantation.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They had slaves.
ESTHER DELANY:
She only had house slaves, and she had maybe about three.
LEMUEL DELANY:
My grandfather crossed the Saint Mary's River into Florida when he was three years old. So he could not have been the house boy for the Morks. But the book says he was. I think the book said he was, doesn't it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, it says he—
ESTHER DELANY:
He was a slave. He could've been a little slave for—
LEMUEL DELANY:
But three years old he couldn't have been much slave.
KIMBERLY HILL:
No. He would've hardly done any work.

Page 25
ESTHER DELANY:
But he definitely was a slave because he was born before emancipation.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But the boat was stopped. To show you how white folks keep history, the boat was stopped when it crossed over into Georgia because they thought there were run away slaves. In checking they found out they weren't runaway slaves, but the archives in Florida listed the name of everybody that was on that damned boat including little Henry who was three years old, three years old. So if you dig deep enough, now that thing that Alex Haley told, Roots. That was a figment of his imagination that the white folks bought lock, stock and barrel. They bought it, and they made him rich. That was a figment of his imagination. See it's almost impossible.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I give him credit for going back to Africa to look, to research it though.
LEMUEL DELANY:
He went back to Africa but research from where. You've got to have a point to start from. He didn't have any point to start from.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I guess he, he found a country somehow.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Huh?
KIMBERLY HILL:
He found a country somehow.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But he didn't have any place to start from because when they took all these slaves and put them in a boat, they didn't list where they came from. They just put them in a boat, and you don't know, once they got over here, they were one, two, three, four, five, six, ten. They had no name, no pedigree, no nothing. So it was impossible to trace that. I look at Oprah says she [traced her family] through DNA. Now she says she's traced herself to be a what?

Page 26
ESTHER DELANY:
A Zulu.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, she's a Zulu or something.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Zulu?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Something on that; through DNA she traced hers back to the Zulu tribe or something like that.
ESTHER DELANY:
Hush.
LEMUEL DELANY:
But Alex Haley's family took a mule and wagon according to Roots from Spotsylvania County, Virginia and went all the way to Tennessee as runaway slaves. Them white folks had all them hounds and dogs and horseback riding, and yet he made it all the way to Tennessee. Some things just don't happen that way.
KIMBERLY HILL:
It's possible.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Don't happen that way.
ESTHER DELANY:
Just go to the facts.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They were paying white folks to catch runaway slaves. They were paying to catch runaway slaves.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, let's talk some more about your life in New York.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Undertaker, funeral director.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How did you get that job?
LEMUEL DELANY:
How did I get that job? After my wife and I separated and I went to New York, and my uncle was a funeral director and I passed his place one day. He was out sweeping the sidewalk, and we were talking, and he asked me what I was doing, which was nothing, and he suggested that I go to school and learn the business. I did it. I did it. One thing lead to another and to another and another and another, and

Page 27
here I am today. But I have, I have never held a job long enough to get a paid vacation. I've never had a paid vacation in my life.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Wow. But you have had vacations.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, except I paid for [them] myself. But anytime I saw an opportunity to work for myself I took it. I took it. So consequently I never stayed on a job long enough to get a paid vacation because I was always looking because I didn't like bosses. I didn't like bosses so I tried to wiggle myself out of there. Every time I saw a little crack somewhere I'd shoot through it and then go for myself. See I've had two or three grocery stores, poolroom, dry cleaning, soda fountains, made false teeth. What else in the hell have I done like that?
KIMBERLY HILL:
That's a big variety.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, yeah.
ESTHER DELANY:
You got your fingers cut off.
KIMBERLY HILL:
How did that happen?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Working in a machine shop, working in a machine shop. Interesting. When my finger got cut off, the boss came and looked at them, first thing he did was walk over to the time clock and punch my time out. They took a piece of cloth and wrapped it around my finger, and I had to walk a mile and a half to the doctor's office. The doctor put me on the table. The doctor put me on the table in his office and sewed this thing up and gave me some kind of pills, I don't know what it was, and five cents, and I caught the subway and went home. Caught the subway and went home.
ESTHER DELANY:
That was in the 1940s.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I can't imagine any pain medicine would be enough.

Page 28
ESTHER DELANY:
And never, did you get a dime?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I got $5000. That's ninety percent loss of the right hand. I got that from the compensation. It took me three years to get that because the compensation board said, if we give you the lump sum, you'll go out and buy a car and then come back and want us to support you. So I had to fight hard to refuse their little twenty dollars a week that they were going to give me to live on. I refused that. I finally got over and took the five thousand dollars and built a building with the $5,000 and built a building with the $5,000.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Was that for a business?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Huh?
KIMBERLY HILL:
Was the building for a business?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yes, I went in the pool room business then. Went into the pool room business then. That's when I moved back to Raleigh for two or three years. That's when I moved back to Raleigh from New York for two or three years. But I just had been in New York. My daddy wanted to send me somewhere to learn how to be left handed, but I rejected that. I rejected that. I learned how to use this to the best I needed. I don't need it. I'm never going to do any typing.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So you still write with your right hand?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Uh huh. What little writing I do, I don't do much writing. I'm borderline palsy and not serious, but I don't do, I do very little writing. You didn't know that. That's something you didn't know. But that's the truth.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So what did you do for fun while you were in New York?

Page 29
LEMUEL DELANY:
What did I do? Went to all the shows. Went to all the dances. Went to all the bars. Went to all the, what else? Everything, they said you go to, I went to.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you feel any difference being out of the segregated South?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Segregated in New York too. It was segregated in New York too. I was, here again, back in Black New York, Harlem. I wasn't in white New York. I was in black. The only difference was that you accumulated job friends. In Raleigh, you accumulated friends. In New York, you accumulated job friends. In other words you worked together. You sat down and ate lunch together. When five o'clock came to get off work, you went your way and they went their way. East is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet. That started again the next day. But if you wanted to say you were comfortable around the white boys that worked on the job and the Jews that worked on the job, okay. For that eight hours that you were there, you were comfortable around them. They always had the better positions, but my daddy said, when you agree to take the job here for "ABC" number of dollars, you ain't got a damned thing to do with this man over here makes. If you aren't satisfied with the salary they offer you, don't take the job. You don't have anything to do with what this man makes. But I didn't, I didn't pay that too much attention. I didn't pay that too much attention.
KIMBERLY HILL:
What were your brother and your sister doing at this time?
LEMUEL DELANY:
They were in education. They were in education.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Were they at Saint Aug's too?

Page 30
LEMUEL DELANY:
No, they were in the various Sunday school systems. See my sister was, she taught at Shaw for a while. Then she went to St. Louis. She taught there for a while. Then she went to Detroit and she taught there for a while. Then she was the head knocker for the AKA sorority in Chicago. She was the head knocker for the Lynks office in Washington, and she came here and subsequently passed away. My brother was the head of Model Cities in Asheville, North Carolina, and when he retired, he came here. He eventually passed away.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Were any of you involved in the NAACP?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I have a sad tale to tell.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
My brother was a life member. My sister was a life member. My mama was a life member. I assume my daddy was. I was not. I was a funeral director in New York City when Roy Wilkins died. Roy Wilkins at the time was probably the best known black civil rights leader in the United States. They carried him to the white folks to be buried. They carried him to the white folks to be buried as many funeral directors as there were in New York. I carried a picket line to the funeral. I carried a picket line to the funeral. I got into discussions with the NAACP, and because of their power and that sort of thing, they outweighed me right quick. For example, one of the things they told me is that it was Mrs. Wilkins's job [to] request that he go to Walter B. Cooke's funeral home. I knew that to be a lie; I don't know it to be a lie, but she was old. She didn't know a damned thing about a funeral home in New York City. So the powers to be went to her and said, "Ms. Wilkins, we'll take care of everything," which they did like this jackass—and I'm not talking about the boy because he's dead.

Page 31
What's the boy's name that died the other day? The singer, Luther Vandross. As many black funeral homes as there are in New York.
KIMBERLY HILL:
He went to a white one.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Hell, yes. That thing B.I.G Biggs that got killed.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Notorious B.I.G.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They all got to go to the white man. All the big niggers got to go to the white folks to be buried. As a result—
ESTHER DELANY:
Stop using that word.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Well, that's the truth. As a result I have and when I was in the funeral business, I did bury some people that were indirectly close to the NAACP. I never got any flowers for their funerals from a black florist. The NAACP always sent flowers from the white florists to their little ones funerals. So I have never been a NAACP lover. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
ESTHER DELANY:
You're bad to the bone.
LEMUEL DELANY:
You see that's—Martin Luther King said there was certain advantages to longevity. He didn't say too damned much about disadvantages of longevity. Babies, these children and old folks can say any damned thing they want to, and people either put it on their youth or their age. So I don't, I'm enjoying it. I just say anything I want. I don't care. You're either too young to understand or he's too damned old, don't pay him any mind. So that's the way that goes.
KIMBERLY HILL:
My mom likes to take that privilege now that she's over fifty.

Page 32
LEMUEL DELANY:
She's a baby. Your mama's a little baby. Your mama's a little baby.
ESTHER DELANY:
Still smokes cigarettes.
LEMUEL DELANY:
And I still smoke cigarettes and drink whiskey and chase young girls. I don't chase any old women now because they're slow and I might accidentally catch one of them, and what am I going to do after I catch them. The young ones are fast. I can't, don't have any chance to catch them. I chase them all over the place. Don't got any chance to catch them. That's it. I play cards. I go to Atlantic City, and I play poker. I play slot machines and I play whatever they've got in the Atlantic City. I win my money and lose their money. Lose my money and win their money.
KIMBERLY HILL:
You stay busy.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I've got a garden out the back. I've got some tomatoes and eggplants, string beans and okra and cucumbers and peppers and stuff in my garden.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you learn that from your dad?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, partly. Partly. And just something I decided to do besides look at this thing all day [meaning TV]. I'm getting a little too old for that now. I can't get down. You've got to get down to the dirt to till the soil. You can't stand up straight and do this.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Who helps you with the gardening now?
LEMUEL DELANY:
My wife. In fact I help her now.
ESTHER DELANY:
Go on.
LEMUEL DELANY:
I help her.

Page 33
KIMBERLY HILL:
So you were upset with the NAACP because they weren't catering to black businesses especially the funeral business.
LEMUEL DELANY:
That just happens to be one example, but the florist business as I say, they had their office downtown Manhattan. They never called a black florist and say, look so and so is dead. We want to send a bouquet of flowers to so and so. They didn't call the black florist. They called a white florist. All that kind of [foolishness], and yet you're calling yourself a leader in civil rights and black growth. I don't like that. That's two-faced to me. I don't like that.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I never knew that.
LEMUEL DELANY:
That's exactly what they did. And, as I say, Roy Wilkins he was a nice fellow. I know him personally, and I talked to him several times, not about civil rights, just personal friends. But and so I'm not condemning him because he did not select the funeral home he went to. Their excuses were stupid. "Well, we find it convenient to have the funeral in midtown Manhattan." Now you're going to have the man come all the way from California to New York to a funeral and can't go another hundred blocks to a Harlem funeral. That was one of their excuses. The vice president came from Washington all the way to New York to the funeral, but he can't come another hundred blocks to Harlem to a church to a funeral. That's the kind of stupid stuff that they gave me. I told them it was stupid.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did any other people complain too?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I had my picket line there, and Jesse Jackson is the only one that broke ranks and came over there and congratulated us and said he was on our side, gave me his name, address and everything in Chicago and said get in touch with

Page 34
him. We wrote him a dozen letters and never heard another word from him. Never heard, that was when he was running for president. He told him you'd better leave those niggers alone.
ESTHER DELANY:
Hush.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Well, that's what they said. Y'all keep talking about—I call a spade a spade. I'm not calling it a shovel. It's a spade. Yeah. But—
KIMBERLY HILL:
At least he made the effort to come say something.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Yeah, at the funeral when they were coming out of the funeral. See, now here's the—the white funeral home and the chauffeurs were the pallbearers for the funeral.
ESTHER DELANY:
White chauffeurs.
LEMUEL DELANY:
The number one, and the white chauffeurs were limousine drivers. That's their number one black civil rights leader.
KIMBERLY HILL:
It was completely catered by white businesses.
LEMUEL DELANY:
The same thing happened the other day with Luther Vandross. As many white, and believe me all the funeral directors in New York, white and black, go to the same school. They all have to pass the same exams. There are at least a half a dozen funeral homes, black funeral homes in New York that are top rate, first class funeral homes. See, so the white folks aren't the only ones that have top-flight funeral homes. If that's what you're talking about. Now you've got a lot of store front kind of funeral homes, but the top flight ones, they've got a half a dozen top flight funeral homes that could've handled big Luther Vandross and his mother too. That's, those were the things that ticked me off about your people.

Page 35
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, I can understand why.
LEMUEL DELANY:
See now when I say your people, see that? [Laughter]
KIMBERLY HILL:
I just, I never did much of anything with the NAACP. I never got involved in college.
LEMUEL DELANY:
You see now when I was a kid in elementary school, the teachers were selling twenty-five cents memberships in the NAACP, and you were almost an outcast if you didn't have one of those twenty-five cent cards in your pocket. See. They were doing a good job. But after they changed it from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People to National Association for the Advancement of Certain People. It just kind of lost favor. Now they're in big trouble now. They're in big troubles now.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They're in big troubles now.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Political trouble too.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They're in big political trouble. But the black church and the NAACP, you've got to give them credit for our existence because without them, we wouldn't have made it. The black church—
KIMBERLY HILL:
What do you mean?
LEMUEL DELANY:
The NAACP and the organizations like that.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I agree.
LEMUEL DELANY:
We wouldn't have made it.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Did you get involved in the movement, in the '50s and '60s?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Oh yeah.

Page 36
KIMBERLY HILL:
What kind of stuff did you do?
LEMUEL DELANY:
You'll have to cut this thing off now. You'll have to—
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay. [Recorder is turned off and then back on.]
LEMUEL DELANY:
They found one and they were getting ready to build a building. They estimate that there were about 2000 people buried in this thing, right in the legal system in New York, right down Wall Street and all down in there. I got involved in that, and then I didn't know it but the people that I was involved with were trying to make money out of, they were trying to make money. I didn't know this. See because mine was strictly volunteer, and they didn't have enough money to pay me to volunteer to do anything. When they found out that I didn't join their team, they dumped me. They dumped me, but I had the privilege of going down and they dug out and seeing all these bodies and everything, and I took some of the bodies up to—and that's what made them dump me. I took a wagonload of bones and stuff up to Lehman College in New York and they told me when I left there that some black Ph.D. at Lehman College would meet me there and we would be assured that the bodies were stored properly and respectfully. So I said okay. When I got there, sure enough this black Ph.D. came and looked in the window of my car, and I saw him no more. I saw him no more. Well, they carried the bones in the building and everything, but I was not satisfied with the way they did it. I wrote my group a letter, and told them just what the hell I thought of it. I never heard another word from them since then. They never contacted me one more time since then. The bones finally wound up at Howard University, and now they are talking about building a monument down at the black cemetery site, but these were all slaves in New York. They were buried in there. They could see where the bones were crushed when

Page 37
lifting heavy things and being beaten. They were able to determine, you know how they look at bones and decide this and that and the other and the artifacts that were in the graves with them. The only thing if they say there were 2000 people. They think it's estimated there were 2000 people buried in there, and the space that we were working in I would say would accommodate 200 people. So that means that 900, one thousand, nine, eight hundred of them are buried under them buildings down there when they built them buildings. They didn't pay them people any mind. Just went on and pushed and plowed them under. That's what happened.
KIMBERLY HILL:
So what did you think when you found out that schools were being desegregated?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Desegregation is a bad word because . . . Why? We had black businesses. We don't have them now. We don't have them now. We don't have them now. We had black hotels, black restaurants, black everything, barber shops, nightclubs. We don't have anything. We don't have that now and everything is owned by the white folks; their money made it. They might call it black, but it's owned, if you check the bottom of it, you'll find out the white man owns it. We don't have that now.
KIMBERLY HILL:
What would you call it instead of desegregation?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I don't have any words for it. I just wish that desegregation does not mean I give up mine to move to you. Hell, you can give up some of yours and move to me. All mine isn't bad and all yours is not good. This is what desegregation is. We give up our black schools. We give up our black teachers. Y'all take them out there to your white schools. Our good black teachers, you take them out to

Page 38
your white schools and let them teach white children. That's what they did when they started. All the number one black teachers were assigned to white schools.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Yeah, I've heard a lot about that.
LEMUEL DELANY:
They were assigned to white schools. That was it. Eventually the black schools closed up. When I say closed up, they, Lucille Hunter School over here where I went to school, the elementary school is still there. But it's no longer a black school. The name was Lucille Hunter School. It's now Hunter School. They have dropped the name Lucille and Lucille Hunter was a black lady. She was a black lady.
KIMBERLY HILL:
They don't want to remember her.
LEMUEL DELANY:
The only one that I know that they kept the name on is Mary Phillips.
ESTHER DELANY:
It might be Phillips now.
LEMUEL DELANY:
It isn't Mary Phillips.
ESTHER DELANY:
I don't know. I think it's just Phillips.
LEMUEL DELANY:
You think it's just Phillips. Mary E. Phillips, I think it's still Mary E. Phillips. I think it's Mary E. Phillips. Cosby Garfield, is that still a school?
ESTHER DELANY:
No. No.
LEMUEL DELANY:
It isn't any Cosby Garfield now?
ESTHER DELANY:
Uh uh.
LEMUEL DELANY:
See that was a black school.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Which one, what was the name of that one again?

Page 39
LEMUEL DELANY:
Cosby Garfield. But Washington High School, which was a black high school, no longer exists. Of course Needham Broughton, which was a white high school, no longer exists either. I don't know whether it's Needham Broughton or Washington, I don't know. One of them, but anyway. One of them doesn't exist. One of them doesn't exist. Keep going.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, now that you're older, how often do you see your extended family?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Not too often. You see I let's put it this way. I have one, two, three, four, I've got four first cousins that I can say that we know each other. I have other first cousins that I wouldn't know them from [anyone]; I've never seen them. I'm that much older. These that I'm talking about that I know I'm still much older than they are. So we don't do too much of that. I got some nieces and nephews and their relationships are plus and minus to some degree.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Do you have reunions for the family?
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. My granddaughter who recently graduated from UNC in Charlotte is playing with that idea. She's playing with that idea. Whether she's going to follow through on it or not, I don't know. She's got too many irons in the fire now. She's talking about going back to school and she's got a job. She's belonged to the AKA since she's belonged to the Lynks, and I don't know what all that child has done. She's a busy young lady.
KIMBERLY HILL:
She sounds very busy.
LEMUEL DELANY:
My mother was the first president of the NAACP chapter in Raleigh. She was the first president of the NAACP chapter in Raleigh.

Page 40
KIMBERLY HILL:
Do you keep up with what the NAACP does now?
LEMUEL DELANY:
I know they're looking for a new president. In fact I dare think they just named him, and I don't know what he was. I know that [Kweisi] Mfume was in trouble for favoritism while he was in office. I take that with a grain of salt. It doesn't make me any difference. I think that's what you're supposed to do with positions. See that's the problem I've had, not serious problem, but with black mayors and black governors. They all want to be the mayor of the city of which they are in. Mayor Koch for example who was in New York was a Jew. He let the world know he was a Jew. He was always doing something for Israel and that sort of thing. The black mayors are not doing anything for the Negro College Fund. They're not doing anything for the NAACP. They are mayors of the city. I'm the mayor of the whole town.
KIMBERLY HILL:
They don't have a broader focus though.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Huh? They're still black; so let's do something for the black folk. Let's do something for the black folk. The white folks do something for the white folks. They do something for theirs. The Italians, they get in office, they look out for the Italians. The blacks, oh no. "Got to have a qualified man." I don't care what color he is or anything else like that. He's got to but the white man says, number one he's got to be Italian. If I'm Italian mayor, my assistant's got to be Italian. Now you might have a brown brother or a white brother over there that's better equipped, but he's not Italian. So that Italian plays a part. The black man says, "No. The most qualified person, black, white, blue or green." He always turns out to be white.

Page 41
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, I'll just ask you one more question. Can you think of any values that you learned from all of your family members when you were younger that you would like the younger members of the family now to know?
LEMUEL DELANY:
Let me see if I can think. A little poem about height of great men. "Reached and kept were not attained by sudden flight, but they while their companions slept were toiling homeward through the night."
KIMBERLY HILL:
The value of hard work.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Um hmm. That make sense?
KIMBERLY HILL:
Um hmm.
LEMUEL DELANY:
These basketball players, they reach their height, but it's not kept. Reached and kept. You're going to be a Ph.D.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No. You aren't going to get rich being a Ph.D. You're going to get rich doing what you can do with your Ph.D. Getting your Ph.D. doesn't mean anything. It's what you do, it just opened the door for you. The Ph.D. opens the door for you. Once the door gets opened, you've got to go through it. That's what it does. What you do with it after you get in the door is going to be another story. When I get my hundredth birthday and pick up the paper and see where you are running for, where you've been elected supreme court justice of the United States. I can say, I know her. She used to come interview me.
KIMBERLY HILL:
That would be nice.
LEMUEL DELANY:
See, that's what that's all about. But the Ph.D. will get you in the door. It's what you do with it after you get in the door is your business.

Page 42
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, you and your family members sure said a lot for doing things with your education.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Oh yeah. They've done wonderful things with it. As I say, I'm still, I'm still in favor of Sadie and Bessie's book. I don't condemn that, but it took away the real story. The real story is this little slave boy and the success that he and his offsprings had. That is a remarkable story. That's a remarkable story and that's his picture thing [pointing to a shelf of photographs]. That's, this one on this end is my father. That's his parents next to him. The lady on the other end is my mother. Those are her parents.
KIMBERLY HILL:
That's nice. We don't have any pictures that old in my family.
ESTHER DELANY:
You'll have to start some.
LEMUEL DELANY:
If you don't start it, they're never going to have any.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Oh we've got some. If the Hills have anything, we've got photos. Just not so many of my grandparents and great grandparents.
LEMUEL DELANY:
See, I've got some pictures of me when I had hair. Believe it. I used to have hair.
KIMBERLY HILL:
I'm sure you did.
LEMUEL DELANY:
No kidding. I used to—I have a picture of me with one sock up and one sock down and sneakers smelling like somebody did something else on them. But I've got those pictures too.
KIMBERLY HILL:
Well, thank you very much.

Page 43
LEMUEL DELANY:
Well, after, I would like to show you ten minutes of a film I have. [The film was a silent home video from the 1930s showing Lemuel Delany, his father, grandfather, Aunts Sadie and Bessie, Cab Calloway, and various St. Augustine's students on campus, at his family home, and at a Raleigh swimming pool.]
KIMBERLY HILL:
Okay.
LEMUEL DELANY:
If my wife will set it up. Will you set it up for me?
MRS. DELANY:
Of course.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Do you think she could set it up?
MRS. DELANY:
If it will keep you quiet. [Laughter]
ESTHER DELANY:
You said a mouthful there.
LEMUEL DELANY:
Now they don't want to tell the truth. They say oh hell, he's old. He don't know what he's talking. He ought to keep his mouth shut.
END OF INTERVIEW