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Exploring Primary Sources: Braden Exercise


Oral histories are invaluable primary sources, because they capture the personality and perspective of an individual's story in a way that physical documents cannot. Although a diary or manuscript may contain much of the same information or content, listening to an individual tell their memories and experience connects listeners to the raw emotion and humanity of their story. Tone of voice or pauses can give unique insight into the individual's feelings, emotions, confidence, and convictions.  

Below, you will find partial transcripts from oral history interviews with Anne Braden and Andrew Wade. The interviews were conducted in 1989, decades after the events discussed. As you read and listen to each person’s experience and consider the perspectives represented, think about what unique knowledge we gain from first person accounts through oral histories.  

The Louie B. Nunn Center for Oral History provides access to a wealth of interviews focused on many topics in Kentucky history. There are multiple projects concerning social issues in Kentucky, but only a few excerpts from one project are used in this module. To the right you will find links to the oral history interviews corresponding to the selected transcript excerpts below. In addition to discussing the interview excerpts below, students are encouraged to visit the corresponding links to listen to the selected excerpts and/or more.  


Brainstorm. List 10-20 words or phrases about the documents/items. Start with the details of the document, like topic, names, publication, etc. What do you find interesting? Strange? Do you find anything appealing or disturbing? Things you don’t understand or are unfamiliar with?

Bias. Identify some biases in play. What do we know or what can we infer about the speakers? Whose perspective is represented? Who is the target audience? 

Context. Think about the when and why of this source. What gives their voice authority? What should we be wary of? What makes this a valuable resource to the topic? Hint: remember these oral history interviews were conducted decades after the events-- what might be some implications of the distance between the event and the recollection?

Language. How are these topics and perspectives sensationalized through the language used? Identify some key words or phrases that are meant to elicit strong reactions.

Reflections. What can we learn from these materials? How is our understanding of the topic enhanced through these first-hand recollections? What are some avenues for further research on this topic? Why does this matter? 

Interview excerpts

Interview with Andrew Wade, November 8, 1989 – Anne Braden Oral History Project 

(00:00:00) FOSL: --November the 8th, 1989. In Louisville. Okay, um, now I think some of this might be a little redundant for you so I'll try not to, you know, go into it too much, but, um, wh-, what did you think was gonna happen when you first started this whole thing?  

WADE: I really felt that I would end up buying the house of my choice. That was the basis of the whole thing. But too many, um, individuals and realtors, legal advisors and whatnot had, had advised me that I should buy where I was designated to buy. And after looking around, and I did look around quite extensively--I became very much, um, dissatisfied with, uh, what I had seen. And I wanted to buy a house that I wanted to buy--  

FOSL: Um-hm.  

WADE: --I would see a house that I liked, then it occurred to me that this was in a forbidden area. And I said, "This doesn't make any sense." I served in the services, and, um, felt highly, uh, right in trying to buy what I wanted to buy with my own money.  

FOSL: Um-hm.  

WADE: I wasn't begging. I was ready to buy, so, uh, why not get what I want? And I saw that there's a, a wall built that I'm not supposed to penetrate right in this own, my own country. Then I'm gonna penetrate the wall and get what I want. So, I really felt that there would be a repercussion that had to object to me coming in on the, uh, forbidden area.

(00:02:00) FOSL: Um-hm.  

WADE: But I figured right would prevail, and I would end up with what I wanted.  

FOSL: Um-hm.  

WADE: And then after these experiences, and all, there came a time when I thought that may never be. Made me more determined.  

FOSL: Well, uh, in terms of the--(clears throat)--neighborhood reaction, did that--you hadn't expected that much--  

WADE: No--  

FOSL: --response.  

WADE: --it happened that the builder that dev-, developed, uh, that area, um, he lived right in the same neighborhood.  

FOSL: Right.  

(00:03:00) WADE: So, I talked to the builder's son, and I told him that, uh, he should have no objection to me moving in. That, uh--he was a young fellow and he had a future ahead of him, and, uh, how could he live in a democratic kind of, uh, a society and, and aid or abet such a conspiracy to keep me out of the neighborhood. I just tried to shame him out of it. But that didn't work.  

FOSL: What did he--what did he actually say or do?  

WADE: He said, "I'll talk to my dad." And his dad was very much worse than him. And his dad wouldn't listen to reason at all.  

FOSL: And yet it was in that son's yard that the cross burned? Right? Or was it--  

WADE: No, it was in a, in an adjacent lot to where I was, but, uh--  

FOSL: Owned by them?  

WADE: --uh, perhaps they, they hadn't built, uh, a piece of property on it.  

FOSL: I see.  

(00:04:00) WADE: So, they may still have owned it. But, um, I remember one day, one or two days after it was discovered that I was black, um, a little kid came up--a white kid came across the street with one of the builder's grandchildren and walked into my property. And the mother-- (Fosl clears throat)--of the builder came over and grabbed the child by the arm, by the wrist--just drug the child all the way across the road back to the ------------(??) just a cussin her, and just ----------(??) so that let me know there was an extreme amount of antagonism. 

Interview with Andrew Wade, November 8, 1989 – Anne Braden Oral History Project 

(00:21:40) FOSL: How do you feel today about what you did, and what, what happened to you and the Bradens? You talked a little bit about this whole thing of opening up the housing thing, and I wasn't taping. And I'd like to hear-- 

WADE: Right.  

FOSL: --some of that, and anything more.  

WADE: Yeah. Well, I thought in the beginning that, uh, it was such a ridiculous thing to, uh, have guys coming back into the, uh, country 00:22:00from out of--overseas, uh--  

(00:22:00) FOSL: Um-hm.  

WADE: --war and whatnot. And, uh, those that never left even were just as entitled to it. And every man is basically, uh, a master of his home. Of his castle or whatever he wants to call it. Then why should he be subjected to letting his children grow up knowing, knowing that he can't, can't even buy a damn house. You know? So, my feeling was very deep to break ----------(??) in any way I could.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Just tear it down. I got vicious about it.

FOSL: Right.

WADE: But I didn't want to hurt anybody.

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: But I did feel that it was my responsibility, if nobody else took it, to tear it down. And I think everything I did, uh, was well justified.  

FOSL: And it certainly did have an impact.

WADE: Right

(00:23:00) FOSL: I mean--you know, in the short term, not the one you'd expected but--in the long term-- 

WADE: Right. Right.  

FOSL: --it seems to have, you know.  

WADE: Yeah, I could see many avenues, uh, that may have gone maybe twenty more years. So, it seemed like we were expected to wait a hundred years for progress.  

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: Uh, even our grandmothers, uh, older people in the family would tell you, you gotta be patient. You must turn the other cheek. All this crap to me was just a dead issue. I said, "No," I said, "They turned their cheeks, and they hit them on both sides."  

FOSL: Um-hm.

WADE: I said, "I'm not gonna do it." 

Interview with Anne Braden, March 7, 1989 - Anne Braden Oral History Project

(00:06:00) BRADEN: And that's what I was trying to remember before you turned the tape recorder on that exactly what Aubrey Williams said one time--I don't think I'll remember his exact words. But it was the id-, but it was something to the effect that he said, "You know, I've seen this whole issue of race break the hearts of so many white people in the South." And his sort of point was and I don't know why he was saying it, except he tended to get dismal at times, was that, "I don't want to break your heart either." But that was a ridiculous point. But, it--and I think that's true. I think that that, that the, that the issue of race has totally shaped our li-, our lives, everybody's life whether they realize it or not. In the South, and actually in the whole country. And I think that the only difference in the way with somebody like me is that I begin to realize that consciously, fairly young in my life, as a young adult when I could begin to deal with it somewhat consciously--but it was shaping my life long before that. And I think that it--and it shaped everybody's life in rather obvious ways when I was growing up because of the obvious nature of segregation and so forth. I think it shapes everybody's life today. And, um, in everything, in personal relationships, in social relationships, in economics, and everything. And, and I guess the other thing I think and this is kind of thing I wanna really sort of think through as to what this means, um, I think that probably within my lifetime, or within any one lifetime, there's no real solution to the question. Um, and--that it can create, it creates a lot of havoc in everybody's life. Um, and I think the, I think anything that I would want to write about in my life, I would want the main message of it to be positive, which isn't being, I don't think being a Pollyanna, or just trying to do that for effect, to me it is positive. I feel like, that I've lived a positive life within the framework that the society gave me, and what was possible in my, in the period of history I lived in. 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

(00:09:00) BRADEN: But that doesn't mean that I haven't had a lot of problems. And that there haven't been a lot of problems created because of the unresolved issue of race. And that, um, and I think the way that I've tried to deal with that and live in this dilemma that exists because of race and racism, um, is the best way to live. And for me, it's been a happy way to live. So, I mean, in general, I'm positive about it, but I don't think we've solved the problems. And I think it's, it's, there's been a great many problems in my life, which I take as just part of living in part of this, the period of history I live in. But I think that, um, as I say, I don't--I think there's a universality to that. 'Cause I think it affects everybody of all colors, really. But it affects whites in different ways obviously from the way it affects blacks. And it certainly shapes the lives of blacks and other ethnic groups which I always did tend to leave out. 'Cause I don't think that I -----------(??) so black and white, which of course, it isn't anymore. But, um, for us, for my generation, it wasn't for the South, it has been pretty much that. And, I think any black person who's honest has to say that no matter what he or she does, that the basic things that shapes his or her existence is the fact that he or she is black, and that's all there is to it. There's just no way of ever getting around it, I don't think. But I think that's true for those others that are whites, too. There's no way of getting away from the fact of how this shapes everything. So, I would want to look at that as it's affected my life, and the way I try to deal with it. That's, that's one question. And I think that's the basic question. But, and the other question--well, there are a couple, two or three others, actually, that I'd want to look at, would be, um, the question of class. 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

(00:11:00) BRADEN: Because--and the more I thought about my own life, and the conflicts and the contradictions and so forth in recent years, the more important that has seemed to me. Although I still think race is the basic thing, and I can theorize as well as anybody else about the intersection of race and class which I, I don't think its race or class and that sort of thing. I would, had--I wouldn't have if I were writing something, a desire to get into a lot of theory about race and class, but they do intersect. But the class division is a chasm. It's an absolute chasm. And I thought about that some, reading Sally's book, um, and I'm not sure if she braves that one yet. But think that--you can see, and that's why I want to read it more carefully--the struggle she went through to break out of the prison, of in her cl-, case, of class, and wealth, and power, and race. All of them. And I can empathize with part-, of class and race--I never had the wealth, I never had the power. I mean, I don't think we had the kind of power hers did. But, but I'm not sure she totally understands that. Um, which I would need to deal with her in my book. But it's kind of been interesting to me, because she sees everything through the prism of feminism. And she does see the class differences, and she certainly sees the race differences, but she mainly sees feminism, which I, I, I don't think is the key, although it's important. But I'm not sure she really sees the class thing and I, come back to that, and give you an example. But, um, but I don't, it's, it is such a chasm in terms of, if you're, if you are born into a privileged class that there are just assumptions that you have from the time before memory, really that are very difficult to break away from. And, um, and create great divisions among people. Um, and, and so that I think that the great--the major kinds of decisions that I made in my life young were certainly that I had to oppose the system of segregation and the racial patterns of the South. But in a sense, I think, in a way the more emotional decision was switching my class allegiance. And that was a big, big step. And if you, and was what created the chasm between my parents and me. And they never really understood that, I don't think. 

Interview with Anne Braden, June 17, 1999 - Anne Braden Oral History Project

(00:35:10) FOSL: Um, and then what about this other fella's question of how you felt about the fact that, uh, uh, he was the one going to jail? 

BRADEN: Oh, I didn't have any-- 

FOSL: Versus your-- 

BRADEN: --feelings about that. I didn't think about it that way at all. And what we were always thinking about was how you get what we're trying to do done. And if I was out of jail, I could do things I couldn't do in. And when they postponed my trial in, you know, February '55, and then March '55 and April '55, and I've often said I still don't know why they did it. 

FOSL: Um-hm. Um-hm. 

BRADEN: It's the one aspect of the case I've never understood. They lost their nerve. Maybe it's 'cause I was a woman, I don't know. But I didn't think of that at that time. I don't know why they did it. But if they had put me in jail then, it would have certainly crippled us. 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

(00:36:00) BRADEN: I wouldn't have been out. And you imply there, or somebody does this, that I'm the one who sort of fought this case. Well, I did while Carl was in prison. 

FOSL: Right. 

BRADEN: But after he got out, he was doing more than I was. 

FOSL: Right. 

BRADEN: You know, we were doing it together. But, um, but if we'd both been in jail, I'm not sure he'd a gotten out, then we wouldn't have raised the bond, and stuff like that. So it did make a difference. And we just, and so it was more we were thinking about how we get things done. And like when, then when we decided to stay in Louisville, so we were gonna have to have a way to pay the grocery bills. And we had ra-, I don't know how we lived those few years. People gave us money. 

FOSL: Right. 

BRADEN: And-- 

FOSL: The Bill of Rights Fund gave you quite a bit of money-- 

BRADEN: Well, they gave us some. And we had some, we had to have money to print the brief and stuff. We had money for travel. And we had money to live on. And that's what people were giving it to us for. We weren't misusing it. 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

BRADEN: So we could fight the case. So we didn't have any guilt feelings about it. But we always had enough to get by. So we weren't even looking for a job until we said, "Okay, well we gotta settle down." And we were gonna stay here. And, and we just assumed that I would be able to get a job more than he would-- 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

BRADEN: --because I was a woman. And that seemed okay. Then that's what we should do. I didn't have any bad feeling-- 

(00:37:00) FOSL: Right. 

BRADEN: --about it. 'Cause we gotta have a way to live. If I can do it, he can stay home and take care of the kids. And he did. You know, while I worked at the Clean Company (??). And, um, so, and then when the--(laughs)--the thing about the subpoena, you may be right, 'cause it was a woman. But the way it happened was that when we drove up that day at the O'Conners' house and, um, no, Harvey drove to meet us. We'd been eating (??), we hadn't been up to the beach. We'd been up to the Common, I think they call it, or down to the Cove. We'd been out somewhere in the neigh-, in the area, and here came Harvey and his car. And he said, "There's a federal marshal down there looking for you." (Fosl laughs) And we thought he was kidding, but he wasn't. So we got down there. And this fairly nice guy, he didn't know what it was all about. And he had these subpoenas. And he said that the Un-American Committee, well, we knew, 'cause of course we'd organized the protest, or been a part of organizing it, against the hearings in Atlanta. And there were, he had two subpoenas. And, um, he said that Representative Walter would send us money to fly down. And I said right then, I said, "Well, you call Representative Walter." He was the chair, you know. 

FOSL: Right.  

BRADEN: Right back and tell him, or he would send his airplane tickets, and tell him to send two more airplane tickets. 'Cause I said, "I've got two children. And I ain't gonna leave 'em here on the beach. So, you just tell him to send four airplane tickets." So he said, well, he'd call him. And it was about an hour later I got a call that my subpoena had been postponed. So, you know--(laughs)--maybe it was 'cause I was a woman, I don't know. Or maybe they couldn't justify flying two children to Atlanta. I don't know. But I didn't think I was--(laughs)--being cut out, because, and it turned out it was quite convenient. Because, there again, if we'd both gone to jail-- 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

BRADEN: --who would a carried on the educational campaign that SCEF carried on while Carl was in jail? 'Cause we, by that time, see, and it was fairly conscious. But, well, it wasn't very conscious by then. But I've mentioned that so many times that what we'd learned, one of the many things we learned from the sedition case, basically, and we just did it then as a matter of surviving. But I realized later what we'd done is that you use every attack as a platform-- 

(00:39:00) FOSL: Right. Right. 

BRADEN: --from which to reach people. And we did it on every attack that was ever made on us throughout the South. And we did it on that. This was something we could use. And then Jim Dombrowski was all for it. Jim was there at the hearings. And, and, 'cause when we got our subpoenas, I remember we called Jim. Jim loved a good battle, too, as quiet as he was. And we called him from Little Compton, told him, you know, we had the subpoenas or, and stuff. And he said, "Well, here we go again." (laughs) And he came to Atlanta. And he saw this as a, you know, chance to, um, organize this thing, and it was his idea to have the big conference we had in Chapel Hill while-- 

FOSL: Um-hm. 

BRADEN: -- Carl was in prison. And he said, "This is the time we can do something about this," you know. 

FOSL: Hmm. 

BRADEN: We used it that way. So, you know, I didn't think about, wasn't too bad 'cause I'm a woman. I didn't get put in jail. I was out and could do these things. And Carl was just kidding when he said, "Well, I go to jail and she writes the books and pamphlets." 

FOSL: Right. So y'all never really even thought about it, do it, having to do with your being a woman, too much? 

BRADEN: Not that much. Not that much, really. 

(00:40:00) FOSL: And so in a way it was just-- 

BRADEN: Although it may very well have been. But it didn't give me any, it was just that we were looking for a way to get things done. 

FOSL: Right. Right. 

BRADEN: And if, you know, if getting things done meant we go, me going and getting a job and him taking care of the children, that's what we did.