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Interview with James Nar Williams, 1983 March 2

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Creator:Williams, James
Creator:McCallum, Steve
Title:Interview with James Nar Williams, 1983 March 2
Date:1983 Mar. 2
Description:

In this interview, James "Nar" Williams talks about the various jobs he's held, especially working at the TCI steel mill, as well as discusses his views on segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Williams worked jobs in construction, as a brick mason, and for a railroad. For a period of years, he was a barber, even after they changed the law so that people couldn't get a licenses if they were working out of their homes. He did what he calls "bootleg barbering" and was arrested for it once. Williams spent most of his working life at TCI, first on a labor gang, then as a millwright's helper and finally a millwright. He describes the way blacks were kept from advancing. He also recalls how he dealt with racism on the job. He says whites "like you if you're a fool, and they hate you if you've got any sense." He didn't have any problem telling white men he worked with the truth instead of telling them what they wanted to hear. This attitude sometimes got him in trouble. His coworkers didn't like him because he wasn't "Uncle-Toming" like they were, but the big bosses respected his opinions. Williams describes the hiring process, and he also talks about a worker's retirement. On his last day, he would come to work dressed up and spend all day talking and not working, but still getting paid. He also recounts several accidents he saw. He talks about violence to "scabs" during union strikes and explains that in later years, the company ran a "closed shop," which meant that you had to join the union to be hired for a job. Williams ends by talking about segregation, especially with regards to eating. He talks about his opinions of Martin Luther King, Jr., George Wallace, and Justice Hugo Black, the latter of whom he says had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan but who was a fair judge who supported blacks.

Interviewed by Steve McCallum on March 2, 1983.

Types:Oral histories | Transcripts | Sound recordings | Sound | Text
Subjects:Williams, James--Interviews | King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968 | Wallace, George C. (George Corley), 1919-1998 | Black, Hugo LaFayette, 1886-1971 | African American iron and steel workers--Alabama--Birmingham | Discrimination in employment--Alabama--Birmingham | Labor unions--Alabama--Birmingham | Strikes and lockouts--Steel industry--Alabama--Birmingham | Discrimination in restaurants--Alabama--Birmingham | Ku Klux Klan (1915-) | Birmingham (Ala.)--Race relations | Birmingham (Ala.) | Jefferson County (Ala.)
Collection:Working Lives Oral History Project
Institution:W.S. Hoole Special Collections Library (University of Alabama)
Contributors:William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library
Online Publisher:William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library | 2012
Original Material:

Archive of American Minority Cultures

Rights and Usage:

To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.

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Forms part of the online collection: Working Lives Oral History Project.

Persistent Link to Item:http://acumen.lib.ua.edu/u0008_0000003_0000075