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.
1929, Bahamas, Exume, 1950, immigration, racial discrimination, Miss Lee’s Beauty Bar, Lewiston/Auburn, Turner Center, Shapiro Brothers Shoe, Bates College, Poland Spring Job Corps, Maine Savings Bank, James Reese, Gerald Talbot, George Ross’s Ice Cream Parlor, NAACP, Bates Mill, Christ Church Evangelical Covenant, Green Memorial AME Zion Church, Williams Temple, Christ Temple, Thurgood Marshall, Roy Wilkins, Black Panthers, Jewish community, Muhammad Ali, Freedom Rides, Lester Maddox, Ku Klux Klan, African American experience in Maine, Jesse Jackson
Lee, Maureen Elgersman, "Knowles, Neville" (2003). Home Is Where I Make It Oral History Project. 10.