The setting for this interview with Mamie McFadden was done in her home at 10786 S. Peoria, Chicago, Illinois. The house is a brick cottage with a concrete based metal rail porch. Mrs. McFadden welcomed me at the door and mentioned that her cleaning lady had recently departed and that she was excited to do this interview. Walking in the door at 12:30 in the afternoon, I was greeted with the aroma of cooking cabbage from the rear kitchen area. The living room, where the interview would take place, appeared to stop in time. There was no doubt that this home was decorated in the prime of her life during the 1970s. The orange plastered walls contrasted with the crème ceiling, along with the square tiled mirrors on the south wall, took me back to the days when I was a little boy and my aunt had a similar styled living room. It occurred to me that most African American women, not only share a sisterhood in trials and tribulations, but also in taste and decorations.
Mrs. McFadden stands at 5’2”with slightly hunched shoulders. She is caramel-skinned with brown eyes and weighs about 120 pounds. She is a survivor of two bouts of cancer and was recently released to return to her duties as a Sunday School Teacher. She is a widow, whose husband passed in 1994. She wears a brown contemporary wig and dresses more modern than most women her age.
I began the interview asking “When were you born?” Her response was “September 30, 1940.” She continued with a big smile on her face saying, “I am 71 years old.” My mind immediately went back to the 1940s and the conditions that many African Americans were facing during the Great Depression and World War II. Mrs. McFadden told me she was born in Milledgeville, Georgia. She repeated it with pride, spelling it out slowly. She could tell by my expression that I had no clue about the spelling of Milledgeville. She informed me that she was the fourth child of nine and pointed out that they were Baptist. Mrs. McFadden’s mother was always a church-goer for as long as she could remember, but her father converted later and began to attend church with the family. My mind wondered where her father was during the times they were at church. I thought of Zora Neale Hurston’s writing on the “Juke Joints,” which was an alternative source of entertainment for African Americans in the South. I didn’t want to pry and end this interview in offense, since she is still recovering from her last operation. Sometimes it was difficult to understand Mrs. McFadden’s slurred speech, due to the interference from the surgery to her mouth; however, it was easy to read her face as she spoke of her early life with pleasure and a sense of ease.
Mrs. McFadden made the point that they were church-goers, moral and decent human beings, and that none of her siblings got into trouble. They did as they were told and helped babysit their younger siblings. She made a point that (coincidently I would be using in my main paper this semester) the African...