Maureen Elgersman Lee
Joanna Boley-Lee was born in Newark, New Jersey in 1937. She graduated from California College of Art in the late 1960s with a degree in art education; she later received a master’s degree from Howard University. She worked as a graphic artist, a flight attendant, and a public school teacher. As of this interview, she had spent eight years as the Director of Affirmative Action at Bates College. In this interview, she discusses the details of her work and accomplishments at Bates, the Many and One rally, her experience moving to Maine and becoming part of the Lewiston community, racial and economic disparities in the Lewiston area, her experience working with the Black Panthers’ Breakfast Program in Oakland during the civil rights movement, prominent African American citizens and businesses in Lewiston, and the history of African American mill workers in Lewiston.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Emma Jackson was born in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1941. She and her husband John Isaac Jackson had three children, and at the time of the interview she had been living in the Lewiston-Auburn area for forty five years. She spent the first ten years of her life in Maine doing domestic work, and then worked in the nursing field for thirty years, at a number of different facilities owned by Central Maine Medical Center. She discusses her life in Lewiston, challenges in finding housing she and her husband faced when they first moved to the area, prominent African American citizens and businesses in Lewiston, her husband’s career in area shoe factories, and her religious life and family history with Christ’s Temple Church.
Jackson, Rev. Albert and Clemmie
Maureen Elgersman Lee
(Clemmie not pictured)
Rev. Albert Jackson was born in Slabfork, West Virginia, in 1942. At the time of this interview, he had been living in the Lewiston Auburn area for around forty three years. Clemmie Jackson, Rev. Jackson’s wife, was born in Marengo County, Alabama, in 1948; at the time of this interview, she had been living in Lewiston Auburn for around three years. The couple had three sons. Rev. Jackson graduated from high school in Lewiston Auburn; Mrs. Jackson graduated high school in Alabama, and received a degree in sociology with a minor in social work from Miles College, where she worked as a counselor for a number of years after her graduation. Rev. Jackson served as an assistant pastor at Christ Temple Church, and as of this interview had just been installed as the church’s pastor.
They discuss the founding and history of Christ Temple Church, prominent African American citizens and businesses in Lewiston Auburn, general reflections about living and raising a family in Lewiston Auburn, the 1965 Ali-Liston fight, and the Ku Klux Klan presence in Maine.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Neville Knowles was born in Exume [Exuma], Bahamas, in 1929. He and his former wife immigrated to Maine in 1950, and settled in the Lewiston/Auburn area. They had six children. After his arrival in Maine, he initially worked as a butler and chauffer for the Bieg family in Turner Center, and then for Shapiro Brothers Shoe, and at Poland Spring Job Corps. He and his wife opened a beauty parlor, Miss Lee’s Beauty Bar, in Auburn, which she took ownership of, and ultimately sold, after their divorce in 1971. Knowles also worked for Maine Savings Bank for eighteen years, and as a custodian at Bates College. He was instrumental in forming the Central Maine Branch of the NAACP in 1961, and served a number of terms as its president; he also spent ten years as vice president of the Northern region of the NAACP, covering New England and other northeastern states.
He discusses being mentored by Thurgood Marshall and Roy Wilkins, the Maine Jewish community’s support of the NAACP and civil rights, the African American business community in Lewiston-Auburn, the 1965 Ali-Liston fight in Lewiston, challenges he and his former wife faced looking for housing in the Lewiston area, the Maine African American religious community, the civil rights movement, the Ku Klux Klan in Maine, and his efforts to get Jesse Jackson listed on the State of Maine presidential ballot in 1988.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Wahidah Muhammad was born in Chicago in 1948. She moved to Maine in 1991, and at the time of this interview had been living in Lewiston for about six years. She worked as a registered nurse, and graduated from the University of Southern Maine in 2003 with a master’s degree in social work. She has one child, and one grandchild. In this interview, she discusses prominent members of the Maine African American community, the African American experience in Lewiston, the African immigrant community in Lewiston, the Ku Klux Klan and the Many and One rally.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Margaret Nichols was born in 1923 in Lewiston, Maine. Her mother was a domestic worker and her father was a caretaker for Dr. Remrick, a prominent heart surgeon at Central Maine Medical Center. After graduating from high school in 1941, she attended secretarial school at Bay Path in Massachusetts, and spent time working for the Health Department in Hartford, Connecticut, before moving back to Lewiston when her son, Jim Taylor, was born in 1946. She began working in the registrar’s office at Bates College in the early 1950s, and retired as the registrar in 1992. She was an active member of the Auburn United Methodist Church and the Women’s Literary Union, and volunteered with the Franco-American Center and Maine PBS.
Maureen Elgersman Lee
Jim Taylor was born in 1946 at Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston, Maine, to James Horace Taylor and Martha Louise Taylor Nichols. His parents divorced when he was three years old, and he and his mother lived in both Auburn and Lewiston; his mother worked as assistant to the registrar and subsequently as the registrar at Bates College. He graduated from Lewiston High School, spent a year at Maine Central Institute, and another year at the University of Maine at Orono. He enlisted in the Marine Corps, and served from 1966 to 1968, including thirteen months as a machine gunner in Vietnam. Upon returning from Vietnam, Taylor worked briefly at the Bates Mill in Lewiston, as well as for a sprinkler installation company and at Bath Iron Works. He then worked for nineteen years as a teacher’s aide in the Lewiston public schools, and as a football coach at Lewiston High School and later at Bates College.
He also discusses growing up African American in Lewiston, the Ali-Liston fight in 1965, the Ku Klux Klan presence in Androscoggin County, and his experiences in the segregated South when he was in the Marines.
Rachel Talbot Ross
Richard Tarrence was born in Cleveland, Ohio, in 1945, the second-oldest of seven siblings. His parents moved to Ohio from the South in the 1930s; his maternal grandfather was a bishop in the AME church, and his paternal grandfather was a sharecropper. He was drafted in 1965 and spent four years in the Air Force, including time in Vietnam. He married his ex-wife, Loretta Wilson, who was from Maine, and they moved to Portland in 1975. He completed a degree in Criminal Justice at USM in 1979, and spent twenty-two years working for Allstate Insurance. The family lived in Portland, South Portland, and eventually settled in Gorham. At the time of this interview, Tarrence was the chairman of the board of Green Memorial AME Zion Church, and was involved with the Health 2000 AIDS awareness program there.
Tarrence discusses his family traditions, religious community, experience as one of the few black families in the greater Portland area, and his participation in the local theater community.
Lucille Young was born in Jackson, Mississippi in 1928. Her father and her five brothers and sisters lived on eight different plantations throughout Mississippi during her childhood; her mother became ill and died when she was an infant. Lucille attended school up to tenth grade, then worked at the Swift Packing Company, a box factory, and as a house cleaner and nanny. She married and had eight children, seventeen grandchildren, and fifteen great-grandchildren.
She moved to Portland, Maine, in 1967, after her eldest daughter got a JobCorps position in the city. She initially got a job in a store downtown, then at Fairchild. In the interview she discusses her service and leadership in her church, caring for neighborhood children, the African American community in Portland, and family traditions and lessons passed down from her parents.
Edgar Anderson was born in Chicago in 1950, the second-oldest of six children. On his mother’s side, he has black, German, and Cree Native American ancestry; on his father’s side, he is descended from sharecroppers and former slaves from Mississippi. He attended high school in Chicago, and then went to the Military Academy at West Point in 1968, where he was one of ten black cadets in his class of 1200. He spent time in the Army as a basic training officer, and then received a graduate degree from Yale in business management and human resources. He moved to Portland, Maine, in 1985. He has one son from his first marriage, and two children from his second; at the time of this interview he also had three grandchildren. At the time of this interview, he worked in human resources for UPS. He served as the vice president of the NAACP New England Area Conference, as well as serving on the Portland NAACP’s executive committee.
In the interview, he discusses raising a biracial family in Maine, growing up in Chicago, his experiences as a black cadet at West Point, family reunions and traditions, an incident in South Carolina in 1975 where he was nearly killed for dancing with a white woman, and his active involvement in raising his children.
Beverly Bowens was born in Portland, Maine, in 1934, and grew up on Munjoy Hill. She had one older brother. Her father was born in Kenosha, Wisconsin; her mother’s family had been in Portland for generations. She graduated from Portland High School, attended Mercy Hospital School of Nursing, and then moved to New York City to attend Teacher’s College at Columbia University; as of this interview, she had a bachelor’s degree in nursing, a master’s degree in nursing administration, and a master’s degree in institutional education. She married a surgeon and they had one daughter; her husband died when their daughter was eighteen months old. As of this interview, she had two grandchildren. She had a long career in nursing.
She discusses her nursing career, differences between living in Maine and living in New York City, her experience raising her daughter, lessons learned from her parents, growing up on Munjoy Hill, affirmative action, and a picture she brought to the interview of herself and her brother at Rankin’s Drugstore in 1937.
Rose Jackson was born in Louisville, Mississippi, to Willie O Clayton Hathorne and Bertha Ophelia (Young) Hathorne; she had three sisters and three brothers. She left school at fifteen to marry her first husband, with whom she had five children; after his death, she married John Jackson, with whom she had another daughter. She worked as a cleaner and hairdresser, and received her diploma from Portland High night school. At the time of this interview, she had been living in Maine 40 years; her family moved here because she had a brother-in-law who had been a freedom rider.
She discusses growing up on her family's farm; their relationship with their white neighbors; attending Green Memorial Church and other churches throughout her life; her grandparents, children, and grandchildren; working with the police to run a community center for low-income children; other work with community and church groups; differences between Maine and Mississippi.
University of Southern Maine
University of Southern Maine
James Mathews was born at Maine General Hospital in Portland, Maine, in 1941. He had four siblings; his father, Oscar Mathews, Jr., was a cook for the railroad that ran between Portland and Boston, and his mother, Llewena Hill Mathews, was one of the first graduates of the Gorham Normal School. His father’s family emigrated from Nova Scotia. As a child, he lived with his aunt and uncle in South Portland; the family moved to another home in South Portland when the state took their home to build I-295. Mathews graduated from Portland High School in 1960, and graduated from Southern Maine Vocational Technical Institute with an associate’s degree in electronics. He worked for AT&T for thirty seven years. He married Lorene Mathews and had five children. At the time of the interview, he had been a member of the NAACP for thirty five years, serving as the president in the early 1970s, and was an active member of the Green Memorial AME Zion Church. He discusses raising children, family traditions, and what makes the Portland African American community special.
June McKenzie, a fifth-generation Mainer, was born in Portland, Maine, in 1929, one of twelve children. Her mother, Florence Eastman Williams, was a Portland native; her father, a truck driver, was a graduate of Tuskegee Institute. She graduated from Portland High School in 1947; she attended Northeastern Business College for one year, and took several classes at the American Institute of Banking while employed at People’s Heritage Bank, where she worked for twenty-two years. She married and had eight children, and at the time of this interview had two grandchildren. She is a longtime member of the NAACP in Portland, and an active member of Green Memorial AME Zion Church. She has been active in the civil rights movement in Maine, including organizing and participating in protests and marches.
James Sheppard was born in New York City in 1924, to parents who had just emigrated from Antigua. He was the eldest of four siblings. He graduated high school in 1942, and served in the Army during World War II. He worked as an aviation mechanic after the war; in 1957 he was hired by the Federal Aviation Administration as an inspector, a job he continued until he retired in 1985. He married twice, and had five children and seven grandchildren. His family moved to Westbrook, Maine, in 1971, when the FAA transferred him to work at the Portland Jetport. He was an active member of the Lions Club, and mentored local students. He discusses raising children, his family history in the Caribbean, discrimination he has faced as an African American throughout his life, Portland’s growing community of African immigrants, and cultural differences between Maine and New York City.
"Home Is Where I Make It": African American Community and Activism in Greater Portland, Maine The "Home Is Where I Make It" project recorded, via interviews and photographs, the oral histories of African American subjects in Portland, South Portland, Gorham, and Lewiston-Auburn, Maine. The interview subjects are all native or longtime Mainers. The project was directed by Dr. Maureen Elgersman Lee, of USM, and Rachel Talbot Ross, and took place in two phases: the Greater Portland area in 2001 and Lewiston-Auburn in 2003. Julia Wise and her Portland High School class helped create the interview questionnaire and conduct the interviews. Williams Temple Church of God in Christ provided interview space and helped identify potential interviewees. Green Memorial AME Zion Church also collaborated on the project, with several interviewees being drawn from that congregation. People from Texas, Mississippi, Ohio, Illinois, and New York are represented in this study, as are many native Mainers. "Home Is Where I Make It" highlights African American history and struggle for community in southern Maine while celebrating the participants' activism, in both their formal organizational memberships and day-to-day activities. With widely varying experiences in Maine and abroad, these individuals continue to leave indelible imprints on their communities as keepers of tradition and as agents of social change. They have bravely and frankly confronted what it means to make their homes in Maine, while investing their time, energy, and resources to make the state a better place for people of color.
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