Aretha Williams



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Mrs. June McKenzie Full Interview

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.

On Education:

“Well, growing up, when I was growing up you didn't hear much about Black history, only from my Dad. When were bad, he wouldn't punish us-you know-spank us or anything. He'd make us read poetry and read about Black historians and about Black history. And he always told us, you have to be better than everybody else. If you do something-as well as somebody, you always have to be better because, you know, they tend not to give you credit for what you do…”

"Well, first of all, I had really good kids, so I was lucky that way. You have to train a child when they're small, values and things. And when they go to school, you have to be a part of whatever they do and be a part of the PTA and things like that because if you don't take an interest in what your kids are doing, then the people at school won't take an interest in them, either. I mean, if they know you're there for your children, then they get better care, you know. And I work a lot with the NAACP and I try to tell parents that if your child is in school, even if you can't speak the language, go and let them know that you're interested in your child's future, you know. Like when my daughter was in the seventh grade and she was getting ready to figure out what she was gonna be and she applied. She was gonna go to college, and the teacher told her, 'You can take that off of there, because you're not college material.' And she came home and told me and I said, 'If she's willing enough to work hard to go to college, you have no right to tell her that she can't.' But otherwise if l hadn't been interested in what she was doing, then I would never know that that happened. And it happens today all the time, you know. They try to put kids of color in one group and so parents have to vigilant. I mean, they say even though the civil rights movement cleared up a lot of that stuff, you still have to be vigilant.”

Publication Date



University of Southern Maine African American Collection




African American Studies | American Studies | Cultural History | Digital Humanities | Education | Genealogy | Higher Education | History | Labor History | Oral History | Other American Studies | Other Education | Other History | Public History | Race, Ethnicity and Post-Colonial Studies | United States History | Women's History

Mrs. June McKenzie on Education



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