0:00

PRESTAGE: This is an interview with Dr. Mae Coates King for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. The interview site is Atlanta, Georgia. The date is February 5th, 1994. The interviewers are Jewel Limar Prestage and Shelby Fay Lewis. This is tape one of the interview process. Dr. Mae King, please tell us something about your personal background, if you don't mind. Things like where you were born and when you were born, if that doesn't cause you a problem. Where did you grow up, attend elementary and secondary school and a little bit about your family and childhood.

1:00

KING: Well, thank you. I was born in Old Ten (??), uh, in the county of Lee, Arkan-, the state of Arkansas, and I was born, uh, June 24th, 1938. Uh, I moved to Aubrey, Arkansas when I was about six and a half years old. I come from a very large family. I have five sisters and four brothers and, well, we were a very close-knit family, uh, as well. My parents, uh, were farmers. My father was a farmer and a Baptist preacher. My mother, a housewife, and I loved the farm. Uh, growing up as a child I always remember the, the beauty of the outdoors. I 2:00remember the type of house I was born in. I think in those days- -(laughs)--most African-Americans were seen in the rural, in rural America were born in what was called a shotgun house. The other type we called a slope house, and ours was a slope-type house with this, uh, porch that went almost all the way around the house, and I lived there with my sisters and brothers and also my father's father, uh, Grandpa Robert. I always remembered him so much because I think if I think of any person who probably had an impact on my thinking about Africa, it was Grandpa Robert. Uh, he was the first one I remember who actually disputed my mother because we always had a saying, uh, "Where are you going?" If you said, "Timbuktu," that was supposed to mean, in effect, that you weren't going anywhere, and I used to, I said to Grandpa once, I said, "Grandpa, where is Timbuktu?" And so he told me that Timbuktu 3:00was way across the water, uh, in Africa and then, of course, I went to Mother and I was asking Mother the same question and she told me, "Girl, there's no such place." And I went back and told Grandpa and Grandpa said, "Dot doesn't know what she's talking about." (laughs) He said there is such a place and it's way across the water in Africa. And he used to--

PRESTAGE: Was that the beginning of a positive image of Africa for you?

KING: It really was. It really was, uh, and, as I reflect on that, I remember things that he used to do around the house. Uh, he would make chairs, for example, out of cane and because we were a large family, um, whenever we had our meals, I don't care what you were doing; everybody had to come to the table to sit down. (laughs) And, of course, in those days I suppose it wasn't, it wasn't at all easy for my 4:00parents to have these regular dining tables as such, so Grandpa used to make, uh, the chairs, and he would make the, he would make the chairs and then he would make these little benches, uh, so that we could sit around the table--all the kids could sit around the tables on, on the benches eat as well, so it was a positive thing. I also remember how he used to cut wood and carving all so neatly. He would have these neat piles of wood, et cetera.

LEWIS: Mae, you talked about growing up on a farm. Um, I'm wondering whether you actually did farm work, um, during or after-school hours, uh, and whether or not in Arkansas children of African descent were held out of school during the periods, uh, when farm work, uh, like cotton was, uh, very, very much in season.

KING: Yes, uh, in fact the school terms were, uh, planned to coincide 5:00with the harvest season so that we had what we called split terms and, uh, you would go to school only when it wasn't, uh, cotton chopping time or cotton picking time. So that was, that was very common, uh, in those days and, um, I did field-work. I, I worked in the fields. In fact, my father raised cotton and corn and soybeans and, of course, the other kind of, uh, not really cash crops, but crops that people used for food, you know, sorghum. I never liked stripping sorghum. (laughs)

LEWIS: You're a kitchen gardener.

KING: Yes. (laughs) And gardening was very much, uh, uh, a part of our household. Mother loved to garden and we all had to help with the garden, and we would grow, uh, watermelons and, of course, you learn a lot about how you grow food because we grew most of our food and we 6:00raised our meat. I always remember, uh, we would raise, uh, not only the cows and hogs and chickens and guinea fowl, ducks, it's kind of like you name it, it seems like we raised it. So that was very much a part of farm life.

PRESTAGE: Would you say that your family then was a, a self-sufficient unit?

KING: Very much so. Very much so. It was, it really was a self- sufficient unit. We, uh, provided, we raised and provided our own food. Uh, we tilled the soil, um, and my father was always determined, you know, to buy his own farm. I suppose when I was about, uh, six years old, about six and a half years old, that's when he bought his own farm and he loved the land. Um, and even after he was ordained as a Baptist 7:00minister, and there are several instances where he had these offers to go to the, to a church in a small town or city, but my mom never wanted him to go. She loved the farm, too. They really were, they were a good couple. They were married, of course, for fifty-nine years and, um, eleven months and fourteen days. I don't know, my mother always remembered that, and he--there was never a Christmas that he didn't spend with his family. And, of course, I lost my father in December of 1988, and it was, uh, it was a sad occasion, but at, on one level it was also an occasion to look back and reflect and be thankful for the long life that they spent together, and that was the first Christmas my mother had ever been alone, uh, from the time they were married, fifty-nine years.

LEWIS: Mae, your description of life growing up suggests that your 8:00family was not very much impoverished. That the self-sufficiency, the ownership of the land, uh, put you in a category in rural areas, uh, that usually called those who own, with the black families who owned. Were you in that category, and how did you relate to other black families in, in that area? Was there a strat-, was there stratification in your rural area?

KING: Um, I suppose, on reflection, that there probably was. Uh, well, as I said, my father did not own a farm until I was about six and a half years old but, actually, he came from a family which owned land. Um, and my grandfather, Grandpa Robert, that Robert Hayes (??) King, lost his farm during the Depression and, of course, he always said 9:00that he didn't lose the farm, that the white people took the farm away from him. And my grand-, I suppose it was about, it was at least hundred acres, about hundred acres of land down in a little place called Vineyard and they took it all except the, except the house seat, because apparently in Arkansas, under Arkansas law, you couldn't take the house seat, you see. So as children I remember we would often go by there and look, and Grandpa Robert, uh, always said that that was their place. And he actually took his case--he had a lawyer and he took the case, uh, to the Arkansas Supreme Court, in fact. It's a part of the books and he won the case, but after he won the case and he was on his way home one night and he was ambushed, um, and he, uh, then he was left for dead and was taken, uh, to the undertaker. And I guess in those days they didn't start embalming immediately, and so the 10:00next morning the undertaker came in and my grandfather was wiggling- -(laughs)--on the table, you know. It's terrible but it was--I always remember them talking, you know, about this, but, uh, he, he never forgot that. And my great-grandpa, Robert Hayes King, would never celebrate the Fourth of July, I must say. He would always say that black folk--and, incidentally, he would refer to us as black folk--he said, "Black folk didn't have anything to celebrate yet because we really weren't free." And then he would tell my, uh, mom, he said, "Well, okay." He called her daughter. He said, "Daughter, I compromise because July 4th is your birthday too, so because it's your birthday," he said, "I will celebrate," he said. "But, uh, we're not really free yet." And he felt very strongly about that. Now my, my, mother, my father's mother, died when she was, uh, in her thirties and so he grew up essentially without a mother, but my grandfather, Grandpa Robert 11:00King, never remarried. Uh, my mother's parents were also landowners. I guess now that you asked me this question, I reflect on it. They were also landowners. They were from a little place called Coffee Creek and, uh, Grandpa Aaron Hill was a--he was a schoolteacher and he was a carpenter and he was a preacher--(laughs)-- and he was a farmer-- (laughs)--and--

PRESTAGE: Multiple careers.

KING: Oh, multiple careers. Multiple careers. Multiple careers. And Grandpa was also what you'd call a Mason and, uh, this is Grandpa Aaron. He was a thirty-two degree Mason, he said. As so this is how I first learned about the Elaine, uh, Rebellion because he always called it the Elaine Rebellion. Grandpa would always come visit, uh, in a children's day, holidays. We always looked forward to it, you know, and so, during the Elaine Rebellions, the black folk had organized 12:00down there in Elaine, Arkansas. It really is an area where black people owned a lot of land and somehow or another, before they were protesting the injustice that the whites were perpetrating against them by not paying the proper prices for their cotton and so forth and so on. In any event, as I recall it, they decided they would organize and do something about it and before the Rebellion, before they had made their plans, uh, all together, someone let them know. Someone, uh, let, somebody in the white community know that the black people were planning something. So, as a result, they did not plan, get their plans completely in place. So their work, uh, there was a lot of resistance. The white people came down, of course, and they, uh, 13:00started searching every house, including my grandparents' house and they took my grandfather away, um, and I'm not sur-, I can't really remember exactly what happened but somehow or another it seems that Grandpa Aaron was able to escape, because for some weeks they came back to the house looking. They were rounding up so many black folk in the areas and trying to take the guns because, you know, in those days we always had, uh, shotguns because people always hunted and hunting--

LEWIS: They killed snakes.

KING: That's right. Killed snakes and this, and this was a part of--

LEWIS: The rural life.

KING: The rural life. Very much a part of the rural landscape. So they never really caught him and he went away, uh, up North for some time and I'm not sure exactly what that did to the family but it could not have been a pleasant time for the children because my mom also comes 14:00from a family of eight children.

LEWIS: Well Mae, you, you, you appear to come from a family that, uh, knows and cares about its roots and, uh, its heritage. Did you get in elementary school and high school, teachers who were also concerned and who shared with the students information about, uh, Africa and about the history of African-Americans?

KING: In-, information was particularly shared about African-Americans in elementary school. That was the part of the regular training session. We used to have what you called devotion in elementary school every morning and so, after you had sung the, uh, National Anthem, of course you would always sing, well the Negro National Anthem as we would say then you would sing the Negro National Anthem and, uh, you would also 15:00say the US Pledge and that hour was spent, uh, talking, really, about our history. You would have each teacher. Teachers would take turns to bring before the students a model, uh, that you, a model for life. And so that really is how you heard about Nat Turner. That's how you heard about Sojourner Truth, Denmark Vesey for instance. Um, you would, that's when you also heard more stories about the meaning of the African-American, we called it Negro spirituals then, for instance. Although I think that, on the Negro spiritual side, it probably was my grandfather, Grandpa, uh, Aaron, who really taught us first about how those Negro spirituals were not only spirituals but they were also songs of liberation and there was this song, for instance, uh, "Sinner, Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass" and I realized, uh, as he would 16:00explain it to me, those words actually concealed a plan for, um, uh, rebellion. You know, you would say, "Sinner, meet the hill in the valley by the river's bend." They were supposed to meet there. "There God's children gonna meet again." Um, "We gonna gather in, we gonna gather by the river after evening tide, about evening tide. Don't fear because God's gonna be our guide." Now that was really a signal and then they would also say, uh, "When the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls. Uh, when the lightning flashes and the thunder rolls, don't fear because God's gonna save our souls." Now that was a signal to say that, tell people not only where they were going to meet but the time after evening tide, for instance, and then the time of the year, whenever there was a big storm, because at that time, uh, you could be, slaves could get out, uh, without being detected as easily and so that 17:00really was the way some of these rebellions were planned. And so, in one sense, growing up I, I, I heard about, you know, I got that kind of education but we also got it in elementary school again, so it was reall-, it was a kind of reinforcement. Um, the--

LEWIS: Mae, tell us a little bit about that elementary school. About the physical setting.

KING: It was, uh, it had one, two, three rooms. (laughs) It was called Newsome Training, Newsome Training Elementary School and when I started to elementary school, of course, I had to walk three miles. It was about three miles from Old Ten to that site of Newsome Training Elementary School and, in fact, I have a scar--(laughs)--on my jaw now. It's been there, well, from the time I was about six years old, uh, because it was so cold that morning and I wanted to go to school and of course my, uh, older brothers and sisters didn't want me to go, they said "Mother, it's too cold for little Dolly to be out there this 18:00morning," but I just insisted and Mother and Dad finally said, "Okay, let the baby go, you know, you'll just make sure you look after her," because we were always taught you had to look after each other and so, uh, as I was walking to school that morning, uh, I didn't see the, uh, the barbed wire. (laughs) You know, we had to walk across this trestle and they we'd cut across a field going to school and then I, the others ducked beneath the barbed wire and, of course, it just came right to my face and it cut me there. Well, I did all right because it was so cold I didn't feel it until I got to the classroom. You know, they had the pot-bellied stoves there and then when I got to school and one of my classmates said "Oh, she--you've been cut." And then the whole school heard me, you know. So, it was, it was that kind of physical setting and we had, uh, three teachers initially. Um, we began to add more 19:00teachers but I don't ever remember us having more than four teachers for that school. Um, but we always--we had history, we had math and we had reading, naturally. But something that also impresses me. You know, we never got new books. We never got new books. We always got the books, uh, that had been used by the white school and then they would send them down to us.

PRESTAGE: That was apparently a rather common practice. Uh, what about, uh, supplies and I think we are near the end of the first tape. Let us, uh, just stop here, please.

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: This is tape two in the interview with Dr. Mae Coates King 20:00for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. Interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis, February 5th, 1994, Atlanta, Georgia. Dr. King, you were discussing the provision of textbooks for your elementary school and you indicated that, um, you never got new textbooks.

KING: No, never. No, we never got new textbooks and, of course, anything else in terms of supplies, the parents had to buy them for their own children, um, and we, well, of course naturally we would walk to school but I do remember about this time the white kids had a school bus that would go around and get them, bring them to school but all the black kids, of course, had to walk and that was common practice in those days.

21:00

LEWIS: Mae--

PRESTAGE: What were--

LEWIS: --could you indicate whether or not there were any particular teachers at your school who might have influenced you, who may have paid particular attention to your abilities and your interests, uh, that served as models for you.

KING: In elem-, yes, in elementary school I think it was, uh, Ms. Mary Moore. She was such, she was a good teacher and she was the, she was a history teacher and I liked history. Uh, she would make history come alive and she would teach us, uh, not only US history but she would teach us a bit about African history as well, the peoples of Africa. Now, that wasn't in the textbooks and that's what I always found very interesting, that, in addition to what was in the textbook, these teachers always supplemented what was in, uh, the text with stories from 22:00real life and that's when you really learn a lot about African-American history, as well as being introduced to African history. Um, I think people of her generation also tended, like my grandfather, like Grandpa Robert, to refer to us more as black people, even though by then people of my mother's generation were referring to themselves as Negroes. But, uh, she was more the age of my grandfather, for example. In addition to Ms. Mary Moore, there was also a Mrs., uh, Irma Jones and of course, the Wilsons who are still living there in Aubrey, Arkansas. Ms. Wilson loved her programs and she always had a play or plays for every season and, uh, for Negro History Week, as it was called then. 23:00All that week you had to sing in devotion, uh, Negro spirituals, and you also had to learn about some as she said, Negro hero. And every, each student would also have to write something about this and often you couldn't find this. In fact, you could not find references to a lot of these in, uh, in the textbooks that we had, so we often found ourselves going to the pl-, the pages of Crisis magazine. You know, that's when one was introduced, one began to realize the importance of these newspapers now. Crisis magazine and also Dad would always buy the Chicago Defender and the Pittsburgh Courier. We got a lot of our education from those black newspapers. Uh, occasionally, Jet Magazine but coming up to Negro History Week, you knew you were going to have 24:00to do these programs so you would be looking out in these papers and Dad would come back in town to see, okay, which black person was going to be profiled, uh, today. And we also, we had to do scrapbooks and that's something that you always, uh, remembered. So that was a very important education for me, even though it was in this segregated setting. Uh, we had teachers who really cared and it was reinforced as well in the church, uh, because you not only had the school doing this but you would also go to church and you would hear the preacher preaching, usually in the sermon sometimes, these African-American figures, historical figures, uh, as models of courage. And so that had quite an impact, had quite an impact on me, elementary school.

PRESTAGE: You have mentioned two teachers, both female. Were there any male teachers at this elementary school?

KING: That's, yes. Uh, but the male teachers were always in short 25:00supply. There was one male teacher when I first started school and that was the principal, uh, Professor Hinkle. That was the principal. The principal was usually, uh, the male in the school. Uh, later on, in high school of course, it was different. I had more male instructors.

PRESTAGE: Now, was this a comprehensive school that you attended as an elementary school student? Uh, did it go, in other words, from first grade to senior high?

KING: No. It went, it was called a grammar school. The elementary school was grammar school. Uh, it went from first to eighth grade and then, well, it was a bit comprehensive and then, um, they consolidated the school system and then we went to tenth grade. Uh, by the time I was coming along, now at that point, uh, we all had to go elsewhere to high school and when I look--admit that my mother and dad had to pay tuition and room and board for us to go to high school because I went 26:00to high school in Marianna, Arkansas, for instance, uh, but, uh, and we boarded there and the same thing for my older sisters who went to high school. They went to high school in Helena, Arkansas. There was, there was a high school in Aubrey, Arkansas but it was for the white students, so that the black students were, it was assumed that you wouldn't go any further than eighth grade or if you went any further than eighth grade or tenth grade, your parents really had to, um, pay fees and your room and board. So, when you look at it, uh, in one sense they had to pay not only for your university education, but they really had to pay for your high school education as well.

LEWIS: Mae, on the boarding, um, I know when my mother had to go to school to board, there were no boarding houses, hostels, dormitories. You had to find a family to live with. And who did you live with and 27:00do you remember them fondly or just, what is that experience like?

KING: Oh, yes. That's a very good question. Yes, I lived with the music teacher, Mrs. Saunders, which was also an educational experience because it turned out that Mrs. Saunders was not only the music teacher, uh, for the high school there, but she was also the widow of a Baptist, a Methodist, minister and she grew up, uh, part of her childhood was spent in Liberia. So, it was a very interesting kind of, uh, education and Mrs. Saunders, um, was, she was always very--she had a lot of faith in me. She used to say "Mae Coates, you will go places". Just, she'd tell me that I had a good mind. "Just study and continue to study and a way will found for you to go to the university," for example. Uh, she was a very good model and she, uh, I didn't take piano lessons. As I look back, I wished I had but at the 28:00time my parents did not have the money to pay for my piano lessons, as well as for my room and board, you know, and fees. But every now and then Mrs. Saunders would call me and my and another young lady who was rooming with us, Naomi Smith, around the piano and would, uh, ask us to sing, you know, and she also would love to do these,uh, African- American spirituals and I loved, I loved African-American Spirituals. I do. I have found it, uh, those a source of strength sometimes when I've been in all kinds of situations and I start focusing on singing "Sinner, Please Don't Let This Harvest Pass." (all laugh)

LEWIS: Very good, Mae.

PRESTAGE: Now, if you can recall, uh, Dr. King, the transition from elementary school to high school. Uh, was one marked by considerable attrition? Among those who were able to successfully make the transition 29:00to high school, that is, to manage to get the fees for board as well as tuition, what was the numerical relationship between boys and girls? Were there mostly boys or mostly girls who went on to high school?

KING: Um-hm. There were mostly girls. More girls went on to high school than boys and I think in one sense that was related to perhaps in one way the parents looking at occupational, you know, possibilities, professional possibilities, because, you know, in those days the occupations open to African-Americans, primarily that of teaching. Uh, you could be a doctor, of course or a nurse, for instance, and I think it's interesting in my family when I think of my sisters and brothers, all of us finished high school except my, uh, most senior brother. The 30:00oldest one in the family, Willie, he always said he wanted to be the biggest farmer in Arkansas. (laughs) He didn't. He wasn't. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: Did he become a farmer?

KING: He is a farmer. He's a farmer and so he, uh, I suppose he decided that, um, I don't think he really had a serious desire to go on to, uh, a college but he probably would have been more interested in going to high school. Uh, I'm just not sure about the dynamics of that because I was still a bit too small, I think, to understand but I do know that he did help on the farm and then after he finished grade school he went to work for a while in Memphis, Tennessee, I think. But then he came back to the farm. He loved, he loved to farm and so he is a farmer. He's a farmer. And, of course, my other, my senior sister, the rest of us are in education. I have, my senior sister is a teacher, uh, in the public 31:00school system in Corpus Christi, Texas and my next sister, Beatrice, is a nurse and then my next sister, the one before me, Mildred, is a teacher in the public school system in Jonesboro, Arkansas and then I'm next, uh, and then my brother Sterling, well he has a Ph.D. from UCLA, um, and he's in health administration. So, by then, by the time he came along, I think there was more of a possibility. Of course, my two younger sisters, um, all graduated from college, MA degrees.

LEWIS: Are all of them teachers?

KING: Uh, no, Emma is but Mary Jean is in real estate and she works now for the state of Colorado, um, and of course Calvin, her baby, who had one brother who was killed, uh, he was in the Navy but he finished the University of Southern California and was just getting ready to come back and start a business in Arkansas. Uh, he was killed. Calvin Richard, the baby, is a business person. He is the Executive Director of the Arkansas Land and Development Corporation and he, 32:00his organization works to, uh, started off certainly helping minority farmers retain their land and of course it's expanded now but.

PRESTAGE: Is that the brother who was the winner of one of the coveted MacArthur Fellowships?

KING: Yes. Yes he did.

PRESTAGE: He's quite a distinguished, uh, belongs to quite a distinguished group, then.

KING: Thank, thank you very much. We're very proud of Calvin.

PRESTAGE: Now, uh, in your high school, were you active in extracurricular activities?

KING: Yes. In fact, even I started in, uh, grammar school. I might say I did graduate valedictorian in my class, uh--(laughs)--from grammar school and in high school, yes, I was, uh, active. I was a member of the Glee Club. But the 4-H Club, uh, I was very active in the 4-H Club which was very much an organization for rural Americans, you know, and I was, uh, in fact I never lost an election. (laughs) 33:00I ran for, I ran for, uh, vice-president, president, um, and was able to go to Washington, D.C. My first trip to Washington, D.C. was as a high school student. I think this was in nineteen, uh, four--1955 and there was such, such an exciting time for me because my whole family got involved in it. As would often be the case, whenever Daddy got ready to, uh, when we were ready to go off to college, he would say, "Look, okay, the first bale of cotton we pick, this is going to be, uh, Mildred's bale of cotton or, or, or my older sister's sister, Melvia's bale of cotton or Bea's bale of cotton or Emma's bale." So this was, you know, when I got ready to go to college, it was the same thing but, uh, in preparing for this trip, of course, to have money to, to spend. Um, we would, uh, Dad never liked for us to chop out, 34:00chop what we call out cotton because he always wanted to keep his eyes on his children and he didn't quite trust the way some of the white people would treat their laborers. So he said he would always, he always tried to keep enough cotton of his own he said for us to chop but on this particular occasion he did allow us to chop our cotton and this was supposed to be, this was to help support my trip to, uh, Washington, D.C. So, I always remember that trip because that was, uh, the first time I, I realized, I saw segregation operating at a different level because we would have to ride so far and you know how the roads were in those days. And we literally could not stop any place to just have something to eat so we had to pack our own food and everything and then hope that we could find a family along the way or some black-run, uh, restaurant or store along the way to get water 35:00or something to drink, a soda drink, for instance. And of course, when we got to Washington, D.C., there was only one place you could stay, I suppose, that was the Pitts Motel in D.C. So that's where we stayed, Pitts Motel. I'll always remember that and we were looking forward to meeting the President of the United States. Eisenhower was president and I recall preparing for this trip. My uncle was telling everybody in the village that Dolly was going to Washington, D.C. and she was going to get a chance to meet President Eisenhower because I had told him, which I really thought, that we would get a chance to meet President Eisenhower because the white students who came up on a similar trip certainly met the president and they had showed us pictures, you know, of this in the local papers and so forth. So I could see myself meeting President Eisenhower. Well, I, uh, was very disappointed the president didn't meet us but the Secretary of Agriculture--(laughs)--met us. He substituted for the president. Somehow or another, I never really forgot that and I never have met a U.S. President. I had an opportunity to meet, uh, President Kennedy 36:00when he came to Houston, Texas, uh, the day before he was assassinated and it was like at the last minute I decided that, uh, along with a colleague of mine, that we really didn't want to go and, uh, be mixed in with all of the huge crowds which we were sure were going to be there greeting the president. But that was, but so, in high school that was, uh, the 4-H Club was very important for us. That was, uh, it was the kind of club where you not only learned practical skills, um, but they also taught us leadership skills. You have to take a project, a project in crafts for instance, a project in leadership or a project in gardening and canning, uh, for example. I was never very good at sewing and I never got my Parker House rolls together--(all laugh)--so, so I decided Mrs. Kennedy, who was my teacher, uh, Lucille Kennedy, who was my, uh, home economics teacher, made me take these seams out so 37:00many times. I will always remember that dress as long as I live, so I also knew that I could never be a seamstress and would not be very good at designing anything. But, uh, but nevertheless, I look back and I think that those were some very good experiences really for us.

LEWIS: Mae--

PRESTAGE: Who taught civics, American government and social studies courses?

KING: Uh, back to ----------(??). Now, in, uh, you know, in high school, Mr. McGoy (??), I, I always remember him. He was a very good teacher. He taught, um, civics and, and he, and also history because, you know, you wouldn't just teach one course. You would teach several- -(laughs)-- in those days and so, he, he taught civics. He taught, uh, history as well. In terms of American government, actually you just got your American government kind of mixed in there with your civics or history. We didn't--I don't recall having a American government 38:00listed as a course but you did have civics in high school and of course I remember focus on things like the Declaration of Independence. Now I always-, I always lik-, I always remember the part which says "We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal." (laughs) You know, "That they are endowed with inalienable rights under the," and so forth and so on, so I always remember--

LEWIS: And the irony of it.

KING: And the irony of it. That was always, yes, the irony of it. And that's interesting because, you know, uh, my father would say, I have heard him say on more than one occasion, he said, "You know, this little Dolly of mine, she keeps me on my knees." (all laugh) I would take these things very seriously and I recall when I was in high school, uh, the white students would raise money. They would have 39:00these little fundraisers, you know, getting ready for their prom and so forth, and one way that they would raise money was that they would catch people, this was in Marianna, and they would catch people jay- walking and you were supposed to give them a nickel, you know, or a dime if they caught you jay-walking. So, this little, uh, white girl, well actually we were about the same age and size, she was collecting money for, uh, Whitman High School and so she said, "Oh, you're jay-walking. You must give me a nickel or dime." And I looked at her and said, "I'm not going to give you a nickel or dime," I said "because you were jay-walking too." (laughs) "You were jay- walking."

PRESTAGE: We seem to be approaching the end of this tape. Let's pause a moment until we can turn the tape. We will turn the tape and resume the interview with Dr. Mae--

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: This is tape three in the interview with Dr. Mae Coates King for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. 40:00The site of the interview is Atlanta, Georgia; the date is February 5th, 1994. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis. Dr. King, in 1957 the effort to integrate Central High School in Little Rock was national and international news. Could you tell me how that played in Marianna?

KING: It was a story that the whole community, of course, was interested in and I think that people really began to think how is this going to affect the immediate community because, if they integrate the school in Little Rock, Arkansas, then does not the law say that Aubrey High School, for example, should be integrated? And it was a subject that 41:00everybody would talk about but it's kind of difficult to think how individual families reacted to it but in our own high school setting, uh, for example, um, we, we would talk about it and the question was always posed, if you were in that situation, what do you think you would do? Would you like to be in that situation? I think that I was sensitive to the concern that parents had about the security of their children, as well as about the quality of education that they may get. So, it was something that the church talked about, uh, and, of course, you would hear talk about it in school and the principal would address the subject every now and then too but I didn't think the principal of 42:00the high school, for instance, really knew so much how to, to handle that. Uh, but by then, by 1957, I was really away from Marianna proper because I was, I was now at the university, at Bishop College, for example, and we would talk about it on the campus there, yes.

LEWIS: Mae, can I ask about the transition from high school to college? One, how the choice of a college was made? Who entered into that? And, secondly, um, did you, during your high school days, develop an interest in political science or social sciences and, uh, did you know when you went off to college that that's what you wanted to study?

KING: Uh, well, in terms of a choice of college, in one sense my 43:00parents, my father kind of had a part to play in that in the sense that I think I knew for some time I was going to go to some religious college, because my sister, of course, had gone to Baptist and then to Bishop College and I wanted to major in religious education and that's what I started off majoring in, religious education at Bishop College. Um, I, I'm not even sure when I decided that [recording error] was not the area for me, but it might have had something to do with my experiences, uh, coming back and working with the Southern Baptist, uh, uh, the Southern Baptist Convention. They had a relationship with Bishop College, for instance, and we used to have these student missionary programs for example and I remember one summer I worked in Memphis, Tennessee. In fact, this was the summer of '57. The summer 44:00of '57 really was a summer when race relations was very much the number one issue. I was working in, uh, vacation bible school with, uh, two other white students. Uh, one was a young man, uh, and the other one was a young woman. So we would go out together as teams and we would work in the, I guess you wouldn't call them, we called them ----------(??) areas. I don't know why we called them, it was more or less working with kids in the black community and then you would teach vacation bible schools. The white students could always work in our community but even though I was a part of a team, I could not work in the white community. I could not work in the white churches and I would oft-, I raised that question with them. I remember there was a Reverend Tucker who was kind of a director of the program who was a white minister and, uh, uh, Nathan, and the, uh, a white guy and the, uh, white girl's name, I think was Ann. And so Ann and Nathan and I would go out together. I recall one day we were on the bus, uh, uh, 45:00coming back from across town. I think it was Shiloh Baptist Church. But, in any event, we would get on the bus together and I would have to sit in the back of the bus and they, of course, would, if they sat, they would always sit ahead of me and I remember this one day we got on and, of course, there was this one seat left and you know, in those days, the black folk also had a way of, uh, getting more space for themselves because, if you get on, if you would get on the bus early and you'd just kind of say, this is the line. You sat there. It meant that all the white people who got on the bus were supposed to sit ahead of you and, if there is more white people got on of course, they would ask you to get up. And so since there was this one seat, it wasn't clear whether or not this was the black line or the white line, you know. And, uh, I sat down in the seat and that meant that Nathan and Ann--(laughs)--had to sit, had to stand up and, of course, 46:00the bus driver kinda looked back and, and as they would say in those days, he said in essence he told me to get up, you know, and let them, they didn't want to sit down and so that's just the way it played out that particular day. But it was, those were the kinds of experiences where every day you were reminded of the, the humiliations really and the pain of racism. But we did work together in that and this was a religious group and yes, it did start me to thinking what is the meaning of all of this and I was in the university and then I was also involved in what was called then the Student Christian Association. I was meeting, meeting students, uh, many white students. More white students actually than African-American students from around the country, uh, and I was even elected as vice-president of the Student Christian Federation but that, there was always something that was not quite right. And so in one sense I guess I really developed a very restless spirit in those days because there were so many feelings that 47:00I had which I could not fully or did not fully articulate and express to our white colleagues I was actually feeling about these things. And, at Bishop College, of course, I took these courses in religious education and I remember Dr. Rollins and Dr. Thompson and, of course, Dr. Banks and Dean Jenkins. Dean Jenkins was a very important person in my life. She taught school. She taught courses in religious education and I think I probably stayed in that area longer than I should have simply because Dean Jenkins was teaching--(laughs)--a course in it and I liked her and I admired her very, very much.

PRESTAGE: Dean Jenkins was quite an effective, uh, in change agent. Quite an influential person in terms of, uh, one's sense of self, 48:00sense of direction and a sense of integrity and, uh, in spirit and she was a part of my life too as an undergraduate student and, uh, she was Dean of Women.

KING: Yes.

PRESTAGE: And I never had any encounters with her around religious education but, as I look back at the persons who had, uh, an influence on me, an impact on my decision-making and my way of life, even until this day, and I'm still in touch with her, she certainly is a part of that.

LEWIS: Who else, Mae, in your college life before you switched to political science, influenced you and maybe, uh, assisted you in making the change that you did make?

KING: Dr. Banks. Dean Banks. He was the Dean of Social Sciences and 49:00a doctor, Dr. Christine Cash, uh, very special woman. She was one of the early, I suppose, black women who received a Ph.D. in education. You may not necessarily consider Dr., Dr. Cash was not the type who would go to church every Sunday but she just had--

LEWIS: Spirituality.

KING: Spirituality, spirituality and she was just such a great teacher in terms of African-American education as well. And Dr. Gardner, uh, for example. Um, Dr. Cash and Dr. Banks would particularly talk about blacks in politics. That's where you began to hear people talk about, uh, uh, blacks trying to vote, for example, in Texas and I guess it was probably Dr., uh, Dr. Banks and Dr. Cash telling about the white primary in Texas that really ignited my interest in 50:00politics and also even in working, uh, finding out the, the mechanics of how what you go about voting if you could vote, for instance. And I think Dr. Banks explaining this whole issue of, uh, how the system had managed to deprive blacks of political power by giving them the illusion of participation. He was one of those first person, people, I guess, I was hearing using this term about illusion, you know, illusion of power or illusion of participation and, in the case of the white primary, kind of a situation whereby the blacks were not allowed to vote in the primary election. They could vote in the general election but by the time you got to the general election, the decision had already been made because we know then the South was a predominately white Democratic, uh, uh, South. So, it was only participation in the 51:00primary elections which really would make a difference in terms of, uh, your sharing in that choice. So I think it was teachers like that, uh, teaching social sciences, for instance, uh, teaching sociology, that made me think in a different kind of way about religion. And somehow or another, I'm not sure how I connected in my mind, I saw a linkage here I think from a very early time between religion and politics and I think somehow or another I made that connection because I could see all the black people over here in this church and the church was such an important institute-, such an important institution in our, in our coun-, in the black community. That was the place where, even in Aubrey, Arkansas, when you couldn't vote, uh, you would hear people talk about, you know, possibilities, for instance, of participation. 52:00So, in the, in the church you saw the mobilization taking place there and you could, and I experienced this in Texas for instance, I was a member of this Jerusalem Baptist Church and Reverend Cornelius, who was very active in the local politics there, um, was, he was a minister but he was also interested in how people in Marshall, Texas would vote, for instance, who they should vote for. And, of course, he would give advice from the pulpit. So, somehow or another, early on I did not really see, um, I saw a linkage here I guess you may say, between religion and politics.

LEWIS: Did you perhaps see yourself as bringing to the church setting some knowledge and skills to continue the mobilization and the education about politics and blacks in the political arena in the church?

KING: At, at one level, yes. And I think I particularly saw that if I had remained in religious education, I think that if I had remained in that area, I would have been one of those persons who would have 53:00been out there looking at, uh, you know, looking at the church as an agent for informing people about how they could take, participate in the political process and, uh, informing them about the candidates, for example.

LEWIS: But I guess my question, really is, did you see yourself functioning in the church but using the knowledge in political science and taking it to the church and is that how you decided to go into political science and that would be the connection? You would be functioning in the church but political science would be your knowledge base.

KING: Oh, I don't know if I really thought about it in that logical kind of way at the time but I certainly saw that there was a linkage there and I could see how I could use, uh, knowledge of politics and the organization of the church base. Somehow or another, I saw those bases as being very, very important for the African-American community and 54:00I think I saw it even more so in the university when I, uh, continued certainly participating in student religious groups, even after I was no longer majoring in religious education because I was very active in the Student Christian, in the YWCA for example, the Young Women's Christian Association.

PRESTAGE: Uh, Mae, it was about this time that you became active in the Civil Rights Movement. Since I have been in Texas, I have learned a lot from case studies about the student demonstrations in Texas. I've learned a lot about Bishop College and, from time to time, your name surfaces as a leader in that particular movement. Could you tell us a little bit about just what went on at Bishop College in Marshall, Texas about that time?

KING: Yes, I was one of the students, about ten of us initially, and then the group began to expand. Uh, we, for some time, we had been 55:00concerned about how students, how black people, really, in Marshall, Texas, uh, were treated and so, in those days, we would gather and just talk about, uh, what racial segregation, for example, meant. Um, before the sit-ins took place, I had had this experience, a rather humiliating and frightening experience to me. I was taking my first airplane ride and this was in 1958 and I was going to New York City. I was, uh, a member of the YWCA Council at the time and so.

PRESTAGE: This is the National Council.

KING: Yes. That's right, the National, uh, Young Women's Christian Association Council. So, I was on my way to New York City, my first airplane ride, and the airplane went through, uh, Shreveport, 56:00Louisiana. Well, I haven't, I hadn't, uh, ridden in an airplane before and they didn't, I suppose they did have segregated waiting stations but there were so few blacks riding airplanes in those days apparently through Shreveport, Louisiana that they didn't see it was really necessary to have a whole separate waiting room for black folk. So, when I got off the plane, naturally I was the only black person on the plane. I got off the plane and I went, of course, in the same area that, uh, the other white passengers went because I was changing planes there for New York City and while I was sitting there, of course, uh, I was, some, um, person, black person came to me and which the white manager, I suppose, had sent to tell me that I was not supposed to sit in that area. And it wasn't so much that I was opposing as much as I was just frightened. I didn't know where I was supposed to go and I wanted to make sure that I did not miss my plane, so he was, he came 57:00up and he said, "Child, you know this is a white folks' area. You can't sit in this area." And I said, "Well, sir," I said, "I don't see any other area where I can sit and I don't wanna, I don't want to miss my plane." And so, he said, "Well, I don't want you to start any trouble now." And he said, "Well, why don't you come and follow me?" and I said, "No sir." I said, "I don't, I don't know you," you know. (laughs) And so, uh, in any event, I sat there and he, again they sent another emissary around and this was becoming a little frightening to me and so I finally decided said, "Well, okay, I won't sit down. I will just stand up." But I went there and stood by the door to wait until I, until the plane came. And then he showed, he was showing me a place where I was supposed to go way around the corner somewhere. I never saw what was called then, I guess, the colored waiting area. I think it was an area where the janitors and the cleaning people would go, really, uh, to do whatever they needed, but they really didn't 58:00have, I don't think, a separate waiting room as such. Now I go to New York City and, having had that experience, and somehow or another along the line, we, we have been told that the North was supposed to be different. But I remember even then I sensed that, uh, essentially there wasn't a major difference in terms of the North and the South, you know, substantively speaking, because the part of Manhattan that I was in, I saw all white people and I kept saying I want to see the black people. I really want to go to Harlem. So, even there, you got the same kind of, of response. Now, um, there were whites. Again, these are religious people. (laughs) Uh, these were students who were in the Christian, the Student Christian Movement and they are adults who are also involved in the Student Christian Movement but immediately again I saw a connection here between religion and, and politics. Now, with that experience, that just kind of in-, intensified my 59:00concern about the whole issue of racism. So then we come back to Bishop College in 1960, uh, when, after I suppose the sit-ins at Bishop College took place after, you know, the sit-ins had already taken place in North Carolina, uh, North Carolina and, um, we decided that, what would happen if we go down and just insist on being served in the same place where the white people go to be served. As young people, I guess you just, you take chances then because Marshall, Texas was not exactly a place that you took chances in, in those days. But we did and, of course, I was right, I, I, uh, was in there saying, "I think we should do it." (laughs) And I could hear my father say, "That's just like Dolly." I said, "I think we should do it. We should go down." So we decided, we planned our strategy, we planned our strategy, how we would go down in pairs, um, a girl, a boy, male, female, and of course, 60:00my, uh, pair was Willie James Smith and, uh, it was a frightening experience. Of course the police came in and arrested us and they didn't do it gently at all. Uh, they threw us in jail and even though I was in jail for only two nights, somehow or another it seems to me like an eternity because just to be inside of the jail and they put all of us, uh, in this cell which was really constructed for one person and there were about ten, uh. Initially there were about five of us and then as soon as heard that we had been arrested then others came down. And so it ended up, uh, about twenty of us was in this cell for one, uh, for one student and then the, for one person that is, and the, we started smelling gas, uh, and that was really very frightening. We 61:00weren't sure whether the policemen were doing that, uh, deliberately or whether or not we were in a jail-house that was just, um, you know, a bit dangerous. But it was a frightening experience. I was the last female that they let go. Um, and before I was released they isolated me from the other students because they, the policeman came up for me and said he heard something special about me and I don't think I would mention the rather mean words that he said when he took me down stairs in this terrible, um, looking place, which is a part of the jail, and then he said, uh, I must promise him that if anybody asks me how was I treated, he said, "You will tell them," he, in essence, said that I must tell them that I was treated very well and he said, "Now, isn't 62:00that right?" And I suppose to this day if I ever saw a person, whenever I see a person with greenish eyes, it reminds me of that experience. Um, it was frightening. It was emotional. (laughs)

LEWIS: Well, Mae, all I can tell you is it's probably good you didn't put in jail in Shreveport, Louisiana, which is the airport nearest me. Uh, it is, uh, my home, at least it, at that point it did not have a black college community and you may not have fared as well. But, but--

KING: It was terrifying.

LEWIS: But were--how did your university react?

KING: Uh, that's--the, uh, the university, certain university teachers unquestioned (??) was very supportive. In fact, I think the university was supportive. I remember that, uh, Dean Jenkins, um, uh, Dr. Banks, uh, Dr., Dr. Curry, uh, and there was a Dr. Wilkerson, but the 63:00university really rallied around us to protect us. That's, now look at the Marshall experience. That's the thing that kinda stands out to me.

PRESTAGE: We will now turn the tape and continue with the interview. We will now turn the tape and begin tape four.

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: The continuation of the interview with Dr. Mae Coates King for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. The interview site is Atlanta, Georgia. The date is February 5th, 1994. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis.

KING: Yes, that sit-in experience is one that I will never, uh, forget. 64:00I, I recall that the city would not release us from jail unless our bail was put up in property. Uh, they wouldn't take cash money but it had to be property. So, in that respect, it meant that the, the community in Marshall, the black community in Marshall, had to provide support for us and that is really what happened. At the time, uh, I was also the, the national president of the National Student Council of the YWCA and I remember the national offices when they heard about the sit-in and apparently there had been some pictures in the paper and I guess on television as well and they knew that I was involved and they were going, they, uh, offered to provide bail for me. Of course, naturally, I was not going to leave jail and leave my colleagues there. 65:00Uh, so that, I think, again, we saw the African-American community actually coming through and protecting, uh, the children, you may say, in the best way that they could because those persons were prepared to put their property up to go our, to go our bail for us.

LEWIS: Mae, was there any, uh, cooperation between the students at Bishop and Wiley? Because Wiley College was, is also in Marshall, Texas and I wondered whether there were collaborative efforts and, you know, a spill over.

KING: Yes, there were collaborative efforts and the students at Wiley also became involved as well. Uh, more than one sit-in actually took place. So, I was a part of a first wave and then after that we had people from Wiley certainly participating and more students from Bishop 66:00participating as well, so it, that there was a collaborative effort and, uh, there was something that you knew would never be the same again, even in terms of yourself as a person because, once you had really faced death and that literally was what we were doing in those days. You had to be ready to die if you were going to take that kind of action in Marshall, Texas at the time and I think we were ready to do that. Uh, we were blessed at the time that none of the students were actually killed, although one in our group, one pair, did have a gun placed to their head, you know. So, those were, in those days, to break that barrier of segregation was not something that was done easily. It's like you were confronting the whole power structure of 67:00not just the South but then you began to realize that it was a national power structure as well because you, you realized in a way that you perhaps didn't realize before. That that kind of system could never have been maintained and have that kind of strength unless it was nourished nationally.

PRESTAGE: Mae, it seems that all of your life you were pushing the system to the brink from challenging the jay-walking fine charged to you to finally challenging the whole system of segregation. As you look back on that in retrospect, is there anything you would have done differently?

KING: I don't think so. (laughs) I don't think so. I think that I, I 68:00just could not live. I often think about that. I, my, I don't know that I could have, have just lived peacefully under overt racism as my parents did. And I think that was one of the things that bothered my father too, he kind of saw it early, you know, in life. Um, I don't think I could have and I often felt that my mother really made the right decision not to move to the city because if they had been in the city and I had not had all of that space to play--(laughs)--in Arkansas that I had, you know, that I could really roam and she could always keep her eyes on us, you know, that I surely would have gotten 69:00into something, you know, because I just wanted to explore. And I think that my parents kind of accepted that but, but they were also, they were also, they were always concerned, especially after the sit-ins, because my moth-, my parents received all of this hate mail, you know. I don't know how they found our address and route run, box 211, Marianna, Arkansas but somehow or another at that time there was my colleague who was the president of the Student, National Student YWCA, was a white guy, Jim All (??), uh, from Princeton University and of course, as was quite, I guess, common then, if the president of the YWCA and the president of the YMCA always had their picture taken together and you would appear in a magazine and all of that together. And so, that picture went out nationally and people saw it and, and how they figured out where I lived in Aubrey, Arkansas I don't know.

LEWIS: Mae, it's, it's interesting. You said a bit earlier that your father's comments that he, you would always keep him on his knees and 70:00I suspect during this time he needed knee pads. (all laugh) But what about your siblings, your sisters and brothers? Were they involved or just how did they support or respond or react to this whole series of events?

KING: Yes, um, they were involved. My younger, uh, sisters and brothers certainly became sensitized to this whole movement. In fact, my brother, Sterling, was very much involved in that whole, in establishing this Lee County clinic, for example, in Marianna, Arkansas which the whites at that time really did not want us to establish because, at the time, they saw it as a clinic which also involved a kind of inter- racial effort. So my brother and Ollie Leon in Marianna, Arkansas, were 71:00very active in establishing that clinic and it turned out, even though the whites were resisting it very much, that clinic serves about as many whites as blacks now and it really is like the only clinic. So, at that level, yes. Uh, they were involved and certainly supported what I was doing. My two younger sisters--(laughs)--well I involved them, um, kinda involuntarily. This was the Christmas of '66 because we decided that, uh, the movie theater in Marianna, Arkansas, we wanted to go to the movie night, actually there was a movie playing which we wanted to see-- I remember, but I can't even remember the title of the movie now but it wasn't playing at the Blue Heaven Theater and so we decided that we were going to the Imperial Theater which, of course, was a white theater. Now we could go to the Imperial Theater but we were supposed to go upstairs. We chose to sit down stairs that night and so there was quite a commotion and my father, I must say, was really annoyed with me about that for involving my two younger sisters 72:00like that but the three of us went in and sat in this theater and of course naturally white kids started throwing paper balls at us and then we called the police. (laughs) We went and called the police and so, uh, and then came back into the theater and was pointing out to the policeman, uh, these kids that were throwing paper balls at us and we said they were assaulting our persons. (laughs) That I always remember--(laughs)--and Marianna, Arkansas. And so, uh, and of course again they took our names, of course, and we would come back and, and to my father. This again back to my father and said, "Preacher King, you know, you'd better get more control of those children, et cetera." So I, at any rate, my father said that I shouldn't involve my younger sisters, uh, like that without their knowledge, he said. Of course, Mary Jean and Emma were right in there with me. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: Could you tell me what political science courses you took, if we might return to, uh, that for a moment? What political science 73:00courses did you take as an undergraduate at Bishop?

KING: Now, Bishop College did not have, I took an introduction, uh, course in American government and national government, for example, uh, state and local government. But Bishop College did not have a political science department, uh, an independent political science department. You could major in what was called, uh, social studies or history and so my major was social study with a minor in history and that was the, uh, that was the introduction. That's why when I went to graduate school I really had to take much of, uh, several courses that normally I would have taken while I was in undergraduate school if Bishop College, uh, had had a political science program. But, uh--

PRESTAGE: But, uh, now you've taken me a step further in this process. You did complete your undergraduate degree in 1960?

74:00

KING: Yes, I did.

PRESTAGE: Did you go directly to graduate school?

KING: I did. I went directly to graduate school. Uh, I had won a National Defense Fellowship. I'd applied to the University of Chicago. I applied to Bishop, to, uh, University of Idaho and, um, I think it was Minnesota. I don't know why I wanted to get way away from the South then but apparently that was as close to Chicago as I could find. (laughs)

LEWIS: Probably was your memory of the Marshall, Marshall, Texas jail. (laughs)

KING: Yes. (laughs) But I chose, I chose Idaho because, partly, probably for financial reasons, as well as for, uh, what I knew about the political science program, you know, which really was not very much at the time but I knew that they had a reputation of, um, their graduates doing very well on foreign service examinations and at the time I really was thinking about going into foreign service. Uh, so I went to the University of Idaho. Well--

75:00

LEWIS: But Mae, I'm, I'm interested, um, in finding out whether or not there were any particular experiences or particular individuals who influenced you to think about and get, get involved with national, international events and affairs. How did you transcend the, the provincial Arkansas and go on to Idaho to look at international affairs and really get involved in a lot of international activities?

PRESTAGE: Was it possibly traceable to your grandfather?

KING: My, uh, to Grandpa Robert, uh, and also in terms of a university setting, Dean Jenkins, Dean Jenkins somehow--that international perspective was always there in terms of my involvement with the, uh, the YWCA because I had an opportunity to meet students from other 76:00countries, for instance, at our national meetings even. Uh, so, I think that, uh, if I go way back to my childhood, Grandpa Robert certainly was a person who put the idea of Africa in my mind, you know, at first. And then I think that the church, my father's, um, ministry, also brought an international perspective to me because we were always doing these things called home missions. I mean, the foreign missions, for example. And in the church you actually learned about Africa because we were always raising money for foreign missions so Liberia I heard, heard about very early in childhood. That was an international kind of linkage there. So when I became involved in the YWCA, that was just a further expansion of that. Then I had, at Bishop College, I 77:00became aware because we had international teachers. Uh, Dr. Bechtler (??), for instance, uh, from, uh, from France, um, and, uh, Dr. Ba-, Bakari (??) from Lebanon, for instance and, uh, we had, um, actually I was always calling him Israeli but he was actually Palestinian. I met my first Palestinian, of course, at Bishop College and became aware--(laughs)--that was a very interesting experience, became aware at a level that I, you know, I had not before, that, uh, I was meeting a person who had been uprooted from his home in, uh, Palestine. And I would always call him, I thought he was Jewish. He said, "I'm not Jewish." Somehow or another I had the stereotype image of Jews and so I always told him, I said, "But you look just like a Jew." (laughs) You know, it's very, it's very interesting.

78:00

LEWIS: They are Semitic all (laughs).

KING: So I became, uh, uh, that was an international experience, yes. So--

PRESTAGE: Now that you are at Idaho, uh, tell us a little bit about what that adjustment was like.

KING: Wow. That was a rather difficult one because educationally, of course, I did well. Um, I made mostly A's and I made a couple, maybe three B's, you know. But academically I did very well. But there was always something missing in terms of social life because, at that time, there just was so few black students there. In fact, in the graduate program, I was the only black person there.

PRESTAGE: In political science?

KING: In political science. In political science. In fact, as far as I know, in the whole graduate school, uh. (laughs) Now, there were some undergraduates there. Mostly, uh, young men. Very few but 79:00who were involved in sports and then there was one Mulatto girl, um, Florence Griffins, for instance. This was my first year there but she was a senior, undergraduate. And, of course, in the political science program there were only two women started out in that program. Myself and Nancy Brothman, a, uh, white girl. So, uh, in terms of women and blacks, political science, as you know Jewel, in those days, were very, very--

PRESTAGE: You were 50 percent both.

KING: (laughs) Fifty percent, 50 percent, 50 percent of both. Um, Idaho, of course, was a small school. We had an enrollment then of about seven thousand students. But it was probably good in terms of that setting for me. You know, moving from Bishop College then to a relatively small university where you could have the kind of attention probably in classes that you wouldn't get, if you, if I had gone to a 80:00very large university. Um, I enjoyed political science. I think the constitutional law course--

LEWIS: Did you go there with the decision to get the doctorate or were you going for a master's and then decided once you were in the setting that you would go ahead and get the doctorate?

KING: I went there with the view of getting the doctorate, although I almost changed my mind-- (laughs)--while I was there. But I did go there with the idea of entering the doctorate program. So--

PRESTAGE: Who were some of the, um, persons there who, uh, had a major influence on you, who served as your role models or mentors?

KING: Well, that's a very difficult one because, in the whole political science program, there were no women. There were no women, uh, 81:00teachers, of course. So, in one sense, in that level, you didn't really have a role model as such. The only models you had were male models. (laughs) But, uh, I suppose that Dr. Borning was probably the teacher who probably influenced me most. And it's interesting. I didn't know at the time that he also had an interest in Africa and he later went and did some research in Nigeria but he was, he, he seemed to have been, he was a teacher, I think, who really did care. Dr. Hosack, of course, was my major advisor and we often didn't quite see eye-to-eye--(laughs)--on certain, uh, issues regarding politics because, you see, I did my, I did my master's on nationalism in Ghana today. And then I did my Ph.D. dissertation, of course, on the United 82:00Nations and the Congo crisis and I was, I was very excited about Africa and, of course, um, you know, I was quite a fan of Kwame Nkrumah, um--

LEWIS: Patrice Lumumba.

KING: And Pat-, oh, Patrice Lumumba. I carried that, his picture around with me for some years. (laughs) I was really, his death, his assassination really did affect me. Because I had gotten, that's just how deeply involved at that time I was with my dissertation and at, at that time you really didn't have people at Idaho who were really focusing on African politics, as such. So, it meant that you had to do a special kind of persuasion to say, "Look, this is what I want to my, uh, master's thesis on. This is what I want to do my doctorate on. I am interested in Africa." But Dr. Borning was supportive. And Dr. 83:00Hosack, uh, was too when he saw that I was absolutely convinced that, if I were going to do a Ph.D., it had to be on something I was really--

PRESTAGE: There were not a lot of published works then by political scientists in these areas. Were there any particular authors or outstanding scholarly works in the discipline which had a major influence on you?

KING: Well, I remember that Thomas Hovet's work, uh, was a work that I, and of course, Basil Davidson, although he was not a political scientist as such, but that historical I was always interested in history. So that was there as well. Um, and, um, I, in terms of the, in terms of, uh, the, the writings you knew, uh, ----------(??) for example, um, but I think in terms of initial interest it was reading 84:00the current events and of course the general works on nationalism, uh, that got me interested in the sole issue of nationalism as it applied, for example, to Ghana. I did have an opportunity in my dissertation also to, in fact that was one of the arguments that I may say that Dr. Hosack suggested to me was going to make it difficult to do a dissertation, uh, in that area, uh, because of the relatively limited resources that were available. And he did make an arrangement for--that I would meet, uh, Dr. Hovet for example. So, one summer after I finished doing my course work et cetera, I did spend a summer in New York City and did some further field-work, uh, for my Ph.D. dissertation and it was a very interesting summer. That's when I met ----------(??) Hubbard but I also met key figures at the United Nations, for instance, um, the man from Tunisia, uh, Slim, what was 85:00his name? And, and from India, the Indian representative Singh, because these were major players then and, uh, Quaison-Sackey from Ghana who was Ghanaian representative at the time. So it was a very fruitful experience that summer, that field research.

PRESTAGE: You got an opportunity then to not only deal with the academic side, the scholarship, but to meet some of the practitioners.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: Mae, was, uh, was there any thought at that time that you might go abroad to do some research on Africa or did that idea come to you later?

KING: (laughs) Uh, the, no, the idea was there then just to do, I wanted to go to the Congo to do research. It was called the Congo then. 86:00But my, I had a language, there was a language problem. I couldn't, I didn't speak French. So, in the absence of that, then New York City seemed to have been the best, second-best place. But, uh, to do research in Africa later, it was like continuing to pursue that idea of going to Africa and I, I must say that I had, I wanted to go to the Peace Corps, to work in the Peach Corps in Africa and I applied to go to the Peace Corps. But I guess I'll always wonder why didn't I get a chance to go to the Peace Corps in Africa? And I must say, I wonder if my jail record had something to do with that? (all laugh) Somehow or another I said, I, I've often wondered, if we look at the African- Americans who are going to participate in the Peace Corps, how many of those who were selected in the early sixties, you know--

PRESTAGE: But, what year are your talking about here?

KING: Well, I wanted to go in '64, you see.

LEWIS: And the, and the argument was that too few African-Americans 87:00applied?

KING: Well, I applied, I applied in '64. I had this, uh, you know, I graduated summa cum laude from my, from college, you know, Bishop College. I had this very good academic record at the University of Idaho. Um, I wondered what would disqualify me. Now, my brother went but he didn't go to jail either. He didn't have a jail record. (laughs)

LEWIS: By '64, I had already spent two years in Africa and Peace Corps people started coming over and there were a few African-Americans with the groups that came but they were really very, very few and they were all from the North.

KING: That's interesting. All from the North.

PRESTAGE: Shelby and Mae, I believe we are approaching the end of this tape. Let us pause and, uh, turn the tape and, uh, begin tape five.

88:00

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: --Political Science Association Oral History Project. The date is February 5th, 1994. The site is Atlanta, Georgia. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis.

PRESTAGE: Uh, Dr. King, tell us, uh, something about the financial aid package that you received at Idaho. In retrospect, was it one of the best available at that particular time?

KING: It was. It was, uh, what was called a National Defense, uh, Fellowship, National Defense Education Fellowship. Yes. And it was for, uh, three years and it paid my tuition and room and board. I can't remember the exact, uh, figure at this point but it was 89:00sufficient to take care of my tuition, my room and board so it really fully paid my educational expenses. It was the best. And that was really a part of helping me to choose the University of Idaho because it offered the best financial aid package.

PRESTAGE: You started at Idaho in 1960. When did you get your master's?

KING: In 1960, actually '62. I finished all the course work and everything by '61 but it was too late for graduation at the time.

PRESTAGE: And when did you receive your Ph.D.?

KING: In 1968.

PRESTAGE: Okay, tell us a little bit about, uh, that particular period. Did you stop out for a while?

KING: Yeah, I did. I, uh, finished all of my course work for the Ph.D. and took my exams, comprehensive exams, uh, the spring of 1963 and 90:00I left Idaho in '63 and went to work at Texas Southern University teaching political science in the fall of '63 and I re-, that's where I met Mack Jones. (laughs)

LEWIS: Well, that's what I'm saying--(King laughs)--well that's what I wanted to ask--

KING: --Mack Jones--

LEWIS: --Mae. If you would tell us about some of the colleagues that you worked with at Texas Southern. Your first work experience.

KING: Yes, that was my first work experience and Mack Jones and I shared an office together. He was very inspirational. He always was on exactly the right track in terms of politics. (laughs) Black politics, you know. He was like a re-enforcing kind of, uh, situation in many respects--

PRESTAGE: I believe that Mack was ABD then as well.

KING: Yes, yes he was.

PRESTAGE: Other than you and Mack, I believe there was the chair, Dr. 91:00William P. Robinson.

KING: Dr. William P. Robinson was the chair of political science and, uh, uh, after him a Dr. Richardson. Dr. Bonsali was also a member of the political science department at Texas Southern and Dr. Shane. So we were kind of international there, as you might say. (laughs) Houston, Texas, in those days, was, uh, an interesting place to be because in '63 the Civil Rights Movement, of course, was very much in high gear. I became involved in something called the Harris County Council Association and it was a kind of civic group involving black people who were bringing pressure of course to change their political status in the city of Houston. That was my first experience in terms 92:00of attending the, uh, party conventions and going around, uh, to these, uh, the ward areas. That's when I met Barbara Jordan and also, uh, there was a man called Francis Williams and Curtis, Curtis Graves. So the black people in Houston were really becoming involved in that time in local politics. And that's when, of course, I began having the, you know, you encounter the system. I remember the whole housing situation. That was a thing which annoyed me so much when I realized, I was trying to get housing and, of course, segregation was very much intact then and I would call these places and ask about vacancies and in some instances evidently they weren't able to tell from the voice that I was black and of course they had a vacancy and I would go and 93:00show up. It's the same experience which so many of us had and the vacancy, of course, would disappear once they saw your face. But those were, uh, those were things that really did bother me deeply. I must say my soul was often troubled in the South then. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: Mae, and Reverend King was on his Freedom March--(all laugh)- -again.

LEWIS: Mae, I gather that, uh, those experiences shaped your view, your world view, uh, and I gather that at least your department at Texas Southern was one that was not an ivory tower. It was very much involved in the community. Was that unusual?

KING: Yeah, well, I'm not sure if the involvement so much was a conscious institutional kind of involvement in terms of the department. As an involvement on the part of individuals who were in the 94:00department and sometimes the involvement of the individuals, probably did trouble, you know, the leadership at some point in that department. But, uh, Mack Jones and I, of course, were there in 1966 during what we say was a police riot certainly. And when the students were killed on our campus and we went to, I went to class that morning, I always remember that, how all of the male students were just gone and many of them were in jail. So, uh, it was also a time when tensions were so high. I was on my way to church. Uh, this was on a Sunday morning and I was arrested for driving too fast and I'm sure that I couldn't have been going over thirty-five miles an hour and they gave me this ticket and of course I, I didn't pay the ticket. I was going to challenge 95:00the ticket in court and it turned out that that particular, uh, summer, this was, that was '66, I went to Idaho to do some more research on my, uh, dissertation. In any event, they came to the door where I was in Idaho. I had filed this complaint, you know. I didn't pay the ticket and I filed a complaint with Civil--

PRESTAGE: They came to arrest you?

KING: No. Well, to, to interview me. I'm never quite sure where the people were from. I don't know if they were from the civil rights division or what, or where they were from but any rate, they came to 515, you know, Almond Street.

PRESTAGE: To interview you?

KING: Yeah. They wanted to know about, uh, you know, an incident and well, I can't even recall all the details of it. But, in any event, I 96:00didn't really pay that, I didn't pay that ticket.

PRESTAGE: Not ever?

KING: You know, I really didn't. I wrote a lot of letters about it, um, and I'm not sure, now that you, I'm not sure how that eventually got resolved. I guess that's why I didn't get into the Peace Corps. (all laugh)

LEWIS: Mae, if you keep adding all of those reasons why you didn't get in the Peace Corps. There are some others, right?

KING: It was just, it was just a--

LEWIS: The reasons are urgent--(King laughs)--they are urgent. That's right, before Baptiste (??), Baptiste, right.

KING: I just felt that I had been treated so, you know, unjustly. And the same thing while I was at Texas Southern University one, uh, spring. You know we used to have this, uh, what was it, the Southwestern--

PRESTAGE: Yes, Southwestern, Southwestern Social Science--

KING: Social Science Association. You remember they met in New Orleans one year--

PRESTAGE: Yes.

KING: And I decided, I drove down and Chris Bonsali, who was a colleague of mine, also went down with me and again we, uh, ran into a problem 97:00because, uh, we stopped to have, uh, lunch and Chris is Indian, you know, and, uh, they wanted to put us back in the very back of this restaurant and of course I didn't want to go.

PRESTAGE: In New Orleans?

KING: No. This was on, this is in no, it was in a little Louisia- , it was in a little town outside of New Orleans. No, it was on my way to New Orleans, you know. But, in any event, there again I decided that I was going to file a complaint with the Civil Rights, you know, Commission. And so all of that stuff apparently just kinda got in the record. I don't know how those things were resolved but the point is that they were on the records and people would come to interview you and ask what happened.

PRESTAGE: Well, I guess we can say that you are well documented. (King laughs) Tell me please, Mae, um, what, uh, courses did you teach as a new faculty member at Texas Southern?

KING: Well, the introductory course to National American Government, 98:00I taught. Um, and I have two sections of that course and I taught, uh, state and local, Texas government. I taught Texas government, um, which was an interesting course, I must say because I could focus on practical--(laughs)--that's how the conventions became very important to me. And, uh, those of the major courses I taught at Texas Southern and I taught a course, I started teaching a course in theory. Political theory has always been an area of interest to me. But I did teach international relations--

PRESTAGE: How long were you at Texas Southern?

KING: Uh, from 1963 to '68.

LEWIS: Mae, um, this being your first job and your have told us that you had good role models, support, mentoring. This is the first time 99:00that, uh, you were in the role of mentor. Did you have any particular students that, uh, were, in your estimation, outstanding and who have since proven to be quite good, during that period when you were at Texas Southern?

KING: Do you know, Nolan Jones was my student?

LEWIS: Is that right?

PRESTAGE: Dr. Nolan Jones.

KING: Dr. Nolan Jones. That's right.

LEWIS: All right. But the role of mentoring.

KING: Uh, um, that's a good question, Shelby, because I'm trying to remember faces and, you know, but uh, certainly I would like to think that I did perform that role, uh, although probably less at the time I was at Texas Southern then in later years. But, uh, there was also, 100:00uh, Mr. Dotson and I'm trying to remember. There were a couple of students from Africa that I taught at Texas Southern University. I cannot really, 'cause in those large classes in those days, I can't really remember the names as such but, when I was in, uh, uh, Ghana, one student walked up to me and said, "I couldn't believe, it was Ms. King." He said, "You, you were my teacher. You were my teacher." And so that was really quite an interesting, quite an interesting experience.

PRESTAGE: Now, you left Texas Southern in 1968. What did you do after that, Mae?

KING: I went to, uh, teach in Norfolk State University.

LEWIS: Now, that was with for--

KING: And I was--

PRESTAGE: Departmental chair from Texas Southern.

KING: Yeah, that's right. That's right. Uh, Dr. Robinson had gone there and I was there for only, for a year and I think by then I was 101:00ready for a kind of change from the university, uh, job, the university setting. Because I hadn't quite, I hadn't quite got out of my system the fact that I wanted to be in foreign service and I always said I did.

PRESTAGE: And you had gotten your Ph.D. too.

KING: And I had gotten, I had gotten my Ph.D. in 1968 and kind of wanted to move forward.

PRESTAGE: All right then. Uh, if memory serves me correctly, it was shortly after that that you became involved with the American Political Science Association. Share with us, please, how that happened.

KING: Um, well, I was attending a conference, uh, in, uh, at Southern University. (laughs) That's when I first met, uh, you, Jewel. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: Yes, I recall that.

KING: That was, and Shelby. Uh, that was a very important event for 102:00me in my life, um, and that was a conference on blacks in political science. I had never met as many black political scientists before as I did at Southern University. And at that conference, Jewel, uh, Dr. Evron Kirkpatrick was there and I was a young Ph.D.--(laughs)--just out of Idaho, looking for a job because actually, at that point, I had decided as I sometimes did in my life that I wasn't sure where I was going to be working the next year but I decided that I didn't want to, uh, go to Norfolk for another year. Uh, and it so happened Dr. Kirkpatrick was there and, uh, he, I got to meet him. He talked with me and I'm sure he talked with Jewel and, uh, he later offered me a job at the American Political Science Association. And that was quite an 103:00experience. (laughs)

LEWIS: How long were you at APSA, Mae, and what was your position and what kinds of things, uh, were you responsible for?

KING: Uh, well, I went to APSA in 1969, the summer of 1969, and I was there until 1975 and when I went there I was initially, uh, working with what later became the Committee on Status of Blacks. Even before I was there, I'm sure that Dr. Kirkpatrick had decided, no doubt in response to this conference at Southern University, that, uh, there was a need to do something for the American Political Science Association to take some kind of action which could, uh, facilitate the entry of blacks in political science and which also could, uh, you know, give their association itself an image of being supportive of bringing in more blacks into the profession. After all, this was a 104:00time when politics in this country was very much, uh, focused on race relations and at the time at APSA there were no, uh, blacks in any professional capacity at APSA. In fact, there were no women as well in a professional capacity at APSA. So, I was the first person to serve as a member of the professional staff who was both black and female. I worked with the Committee on the Status of Blacks and I also worked with the Committee on the Status of Women, uh, initially, and those were the most dynamic, I think, and also difficult committees to work with at the time because, in a very, you know, short kind of way here, you were dealing with these variables of race and gender and I came out of a particular experience. Uh, my experience with America had certainly been an experience where the racial variable was always present. It 105:00had always been a kind of barrier to things that I had attempted to do. Uh, at the same, one, the kind of political actions that blacks were taking in this country at the time obviously was a kind of action which sensitized other groups, including women, I suppose it's been like historically, to their own subordinate position in society. So, here I was involved with two committees which the association felt at the time that it had a very special kind of responsibility to do something very positive, uh, about, to increase the numbers of women in the profession as well as increase the number of blacks in the profession. And so I was call-, I was involved in both of these movements and often it was a situation, sometimes it really was a situation of, uh, tension, but you know, uh, it, it wasn't easy at that point. (laughs)

106:00

PRESTAGE: As I recall, the meetings of the Executive Council were very frequent. The meetings of the committees were frequent and complicated. It was just a different time in the life of the association.

KING: Um-hm.

PRESTAGE: Uh, could you tell us a little bit about what your work week was like at APSA during this period and, uh--

KING: Well, um, there, there were two projects that I got involved in fairly immediately and I must say that Jewel was also on the council at the time and that was very, very important to me. I just have to say here in terms of, of looking there, you're talking about a role model. Now, at this point, it was Jewel Prestage who became a role model for me, observing how she participated, for instance, in the 107:00executive council meetings, often, you know, fighting what I often felt like were just lonely battles--(laughs)--you know ----------(??). Um, members whom I wondered if they were listening, listening, but not understanding or understanding but had no intention of acting on the basis of that understanding. But, uh, becoming involved in these two projects, uh, in the case of the project Committee of the Status of Blacks, for instance, with, uh, the association first established this Committee on the Status of Blacks, so I became a staff person for the committee. We were meeting frequently. Uh, the committee had all kinds of suggestions that it felt the association of things that it thought the association ought to do in order to facilitate the entry of blacks, not only in political science, but take some very positive, uh, actions to encourage universities to be receptive. So 108:00one of the things that was put forward fairly early, I don't know, maybe Jewel was one of the first persons to propose this but it was this program, uh, for black students, a black scholarship program for example. Um, sponsor more conferences involving African-Americans and, uh, the Conference on Black Politics, which was also sponsored by the association. This was as early as 1970. And I was--really, really very interesting conference. I worked with putting that, helping to put that conference together and, of course, Jewel, uh, probably still remembers everybody who was there but certainly--(laughs)--at that conference we had some of our early black politicians attending.

LEWIS: Mae, just to divert just a slight bit. I have been, the last few years, quite a lot of work on women's issues in the work place, um, 109:00primarily with women from across the world, not Americans. But when you mentioned that not only were you the first professional woman on staff but the first professional black on staff, it occurred to me that a number of work place issues probably, uh, arose. Were there any in particular that you had to deal with on a daily basis that, that, uh, you've remembered whether with, uh, good or bad thoughts and you think that they were significant in shaping your life?

KING: Well, I think that first, if you look at the composition of the professional staff at APSA at that time--

PRESTAGE: White males.

KING: White males. That's right. Dr. Evron Kirkpatrick, Earl Baker and Walter Beach and myself. Uh--

LEWIS: Was Tacheron on staff?

110:00

KING: We can't, uh, yes, but more on a kind of part-time basis, you know, because he worked with the Congressional, uh, Fellowship Program.

PRESTAGE: We're talking about Don Tacheron.

KING: Yes, um, and Walter Beach also worked with that program as well but, um, do you know, it's kind of difficult to say there were certain things I suppose that happens it's very difficult to articulate. First of all, there was a, a, the, uh, situation of these white males getting used, let's say, adjusted to working with a professional black woman. Now I'm also very young in the profession, uh, as well. But I, uh, and there was also--okay, let's just talk about this for a minute. (laughs) I wish you all see--

LEWIS: Nowadays those issues --

KING: I saw the same thing at APSA that I had experienced in one sense, 111:00that I had experienced with the YWCA, for example, uh, the National Student Christian Federation. And that was the issue of, of you're being given the, uh, on paper, the responsibility to do certain things but yet, uh, not really giving you the authority and there was always this behavior which would suggest in a thousand ways that they weren't really sure whether or not you could actually handle it. And I suppose that, in one sense, throughout my life, that was the kind of thing that would enrage me most about white people, uh, because I had, this was like an extension at APSA, the same thing I had experienced at the National Student Legacy, I'm president, for example, and then we go abroad, for instance, then so we're in Geneva, Switzerland whereas I am the president, I am the one who's supposed to be representing the US, uh, you know, YWCA. And I insisted on things like that and I'm 112:00sure that was one of the things which would make it uncomfortable, uh, for some of the white people as well who were, who was, who were working with me because it was like they wanted you to participate but to participate on their terms. And I always wanted to participate on equal terms and wanted to demand that kind of respect. So, certainly there was that in the APSA. Uh, that you, while I was supposed to be in charge of course it was nevertheless necessary to have a Walter Beach or to have an Earl Baker, for example, go along. And, of course, later when I was working with pre-collegiate education, to have a tone (??) man, for example, going along. And yes, that enraged me because there was never any question in my own mind that I could not only handle these things but, if there had been some infrastructural support, you know, uh, that I could do them much better. And after all, my grandfather had always told me that. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: That kind of assurance early on--

113:00

KING: Yes.

PRESTAGE: --that's very important.

KING: Yes. So that was really very important. So, I became sensitive very early in APSA, uh, to the role of information, for example, in being able to do your job very well and when I first went there, I think I was involved in, initially, in quite a few of the inner sessions, so to speak. Uh, the, the meetings. But, as I said, these were times of tension and I suppose in one sense you have a person on the staff and you're not quite sure if that, uh, person's perspective is in sync, let's say, with the, uh, association, of course you'd be a bit cautious. I don't know. But, yes, that was, that was that problem at work I guess. That was that problem.

LEWIS: Mae and Jewel, I think we'd best pause now and, uh, turn the 114:00tape. Uh, this is the end of tape five. We will begin tape six.

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: --for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. The interview is with Dr. Mae King. It is February 5th, 1994, Atlanta, Georgia. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis.

PRESTAGE: Uh, Dr. King, please, uh, continue to discuss your tenure at the American Political Science Association. During that particular political period you had a chance to meet the top members of our profession in the United States and around the world. What were your 115:00most memorable experiences at APSA? If it's possible for you to, uh, ferret out from that, uh, memorable time.

KING: Perhaps the most memorable experience was shortly after I arrived, when, um, the black political scientists, for example, were in attendance at the annual meeting in New York City. This was the year when David Easton was president of the American Political Science Association and the black political scientists had made certain, um, demands, you may say of APSA and were not really satisfied with the kind of response that they had received from the association. So that was a year when we also saw some of the blacks, certain walk outs of the annual meeting. But what was also interesting about that is 116:00I think it was a year when we saw the issues of race brought before the association in a way that probably had not happened before and certainly not in the presence of as many African-American political scientists as we had that particular year. I guess also I sensed that, um, uh, David Easton seemed to have been rather sensitive, you know, to the concerns of, of the political scientists. That was one and then, of course, the meeting in Los Angeles, California. That was a second year, uh, which was also a year that involved tension and boycotts. Now, I am the staff person for APSA, uh, so there's always this, uh, tension of evaluating your role as a member of the professional staff 117:00and at the same time, as an African-American political scientist who, after all, was expected in terms of the association to do certain things and to function in such a way as to facilitate the entry of blacks into the profession. So, I felt that in order to do that it was also necessary that the staff person identify, you know, with the kinds of concerns that black political scientists were raising and I tried very much, uh, to do that. Uh, I'm not sure if that was always fully understood by all of the members of the association, but I think that in the case of Dr. Kirkpatrick that, after everything is said and done, it seems to me that, uh, he did understand in a way that probably, uh, was unusual for somebody of his--

PRESTAGE: Generation.

118:00

KING: Generation, yes.

LEWIS: Mae, while you were at APSA in the nation's capital, um, you did keep your hand in, uh, in the, uh, university community and you taught at least one course at Howard University. Um, was there something about being in the classroom that sort of informed your, uh, understanding and made you a better staff person at APSA?

KING: I think so. That maintained that linkage with the university community was very important for me and at the time I taught this course in race and foreign policy and I developed that course at Howard. Of course, I think when I left they stopped teaching it-- (laughs)--but it was, I found it to be a very interesting course and, uh, also, yes, helped me to, I think, perform my duties better at APSA. 119:00Uh, it also sensitized me more to, uh, you know, the, the some of the other issues that APSA was involved with, for instance in terms. I never worked with the Congressional Fellows Program as a major staff person but I would be involved in a very limited kind of way, uh, in some of the orientation sessions. For example, uh, ----------(??) fellows and, um, that experience was good but, yes, maintaining that linkage was very important for me. Um--

LEWIS: When, when did you, uh, move, as, uh, I guess your, your father would say, "Make the big move across the pond." Uh--

PRESTAGE: Shelby, before we leave APSA, there are a couple of things I'd like to--

LEWIS: Certainly.

120:00

PRESTAGE: --to, uh, say. Uh, when you were on the professional staff at the American Political Science Association, you staffed two committees on which I served. One was the Committee on Pre-Collegiate Education and the other was the Committee on the Status of Women and I was also the council liaison with the Committee on the Status of Blacks. I want to call particular attention to the National Science Foundation Pre-Collegiate Education Project. Now, if memory serves me correctly, you staffed that particular project. And Dick Snyder was the chair of the committee and Charles Quigley, uh, Richard Longaker, in fact, Shelby, you were involved with the elementary project. But in that, 121:00uh, particular instance, you not only staffed the general work of the committee but also this particular project and, uh, if memory serves me correctly, there was a project at Federal City College and certain other places around the country and that seems to have been, uh, quite a, uh, Herculean task. Also, with the Committee on the Status of Women. If you will recall, that's when that--

KING: --national project got started.

PRESTAGE: --got started. Uh, the survey of the profession.

KING: --of the women, yes--

PRESTAGE: And you staffed that.

KING: Yes I, yes.

PRESTAGE: And I remember, uh, Jim Prothro and myself working in that office on, uh, Wisconsin and Albemarle--

KING: That's right. Yes. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: As I look at that, that was not only a period of transition in terms of the issues and concerns that were being raised. It was also a 122:00period of, uh, excessive workloads to, uh, really create some empirical data so that decisions could be made around that. I even recall a meeting in Pacific Palisades.

KING: That's right. Yes. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: And the necessity to drive back-and-forth and into the city of Los Angeles.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: Jewel, Jewel, I would say Mae and I both remember that--she forced me to drive that big car. (King laughs)

PRESTAGE: Yes, but, uh--

KING: Those were cooler (??).

PRESTAGE: When I look back at that and I realize that, in addition to our full, uh, share of responsibilities at our home institutions for teaching, research and service, this work was done on, and, uh, on top 123:00of all that and we, uh, did have it on the Pre-collegiate Education Project, for example, um, several former presidents of, uh, APSA and it was just a period of great activity and great vitality and the fact is you did serve as the staff person for all of that. Uh, I must say, in retrospect, that the association owes you a great debt of gratitude. Now, I realize that we're interviewing you but that is, uh, some information that I would not like to see lost and, uh, it was not only you but the whole staff at APSA. Uh, it was just a different time.

KING: Yes.

PRESTAGE: Because all of the elections were contested--

KING: That's right. Oh yes.

124:00

PRESTAGE: --if you recall. It was necessary to do a mail ballot.

KING: Yes. Yes.

LEWIS: Poor Mae, but I just wanted to add to that that there were a number of young political scientists in undergraduate and in graduate school who were able to see you in that role. You, as a black political scientist who wasn't in the classroom and yet was earning a living and seemed to be doing work that was valuable, so that, uh, I, I think that, uh, your role as a model, uh, for them and for women was a significant one. We were always happy to know that, uh, when we went to meetings that, uh, you were there. It was, it was really reassuring.

KING: Well, thank you. It was, it was a very special time for the American Political Science Association and the association expanded in areas that it had never been involved in before and what we did in those critical years actually served as a foundation for developing the 125:00later, uh, education programs that the association now has. And they were very critical and formative years for the association and I, I, it was a time that, which I enjoyed. Uh, and it was a time of creative tension I may say. (laughs)

LEWIS: Well, it's now, if Jewel will permit me, I would like to get back to your move to Africa because uh--

PRESTAGE: Permission granted. (King laughs)

LEWIS: I appreciate that. My understanding is that this was a significant period in your life. Not just, uh, your career but in your social life as well. Can you tell us something about the decision to go to Nigeria? Where, uh, what you were doing and just what it was about that experience that, uh, I suppose was just so exciting and, 126:00and, uh, expansive?

KING: Yes. It goes back to, to 1972 when I was at the American Political Science Association and I persuaded Dr. Kirkpatrick to, um, give me a little longer leave. I wanted to visit Africa. I wanted to go to Ghana and I went to Ghana and I was able while in Ghana to attend, unofficially, a meeting of the Association of African Universities and this was my first trip, of course, to Africa. And at that meeting of the Association of African Universities, I was able to meet, um, um, political scientists from Africa and social scientists, really, from Africa. Well, from all over the continent. And I knew, or knew let's say, that I wanted to go to Africa to, to work either 127:00in the position of teaching or doing research. I was prepared to do either. I recall at the time APSA would have these personnel, uh, you know, sections set up at the annual meeting and I applied for a job at ABU. Uh, that is Ahmadu Bello University in Northern Nigeria and at the time, it's an interesting story. I don't think I should go into all of that but, in any event, the chair of the department at the time was an American, a white American. Well, in any event, he didn't accept my application and I figured I had to find another way to get to Africa. I was a bit concerned then, this was a university in the north of Nigeria, that that political science department would be staffed by a white American. That didn't last for very long. But in any event, when I was in Ghana, that gave me an opportunity to make some, uh, you know, explorations let's say of my own, in terms of 128:00possibilities of working in Africa. So, in, uh, uh, 1972 and again in 1973, Shelby, we both went together. Remember the, the association, the social science, uh, um, associ-, the African, this, uh, African, Africanist, Africanist International Congress, which was meeting in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, was another opportunity for exposure in Africa. And throughout I was always concerned about this whole issue of education and curriculum because, while I was at the APSA, one of the things that I also did working with that pre-collegiate, working with not only Pre-collegiate Education, uh, Committee but also the Committee on Education, was to look at political science curriculums around the country and I went to, I had traveled, uh, to several universities in the U.S. and looking at political science curriculums and did a report for this, for the association. Uh, and that turned out to be something 129:00that was very significant in my life because, when I decided to go to Nigeria, I applied for a teaching and research job at the University of Benin, Benin City, Nigeria, and I got the job and I wanted to go for only a year. I asked the association for a sabbatical leave and so Dr. Kirkpatrick indicated that, uh, at that time, the association had no provision for a sabbatical leave but I asked him if he would take it to the council for me. I wrote him a letter and he promised me that he would take it to the council. He did take it to the council. Of course, the APSA council did not approve of a sabbatical leave for me with pay. But they did say that I could, you know, go for a year. At least, Dr. Kirkpatrick said to me that I could go for a year. And, in essence, he agreed, uh, to keep my job open for a year if I wanted to come back and did carry on my, uh, benefits for that first year. 130:00Of course, at the end of that year, I decided to stay on in Benin City but the experience that I had developed in looking at curriculums and developing curriculum really came in, uh, uh, served a very good purpose at Benin because it turned out that I was the most senior political scientist, as they said then, on the ground in Benin City. And so I, I took the responsibility for putting together the first political science curriculum at the University of Benin because the senior Nigerian who was supposed to help do that was still abroad at the time and so the curriculum had to be put together and that had to go through the regular process and so forth. So I look back and I can see how, uh, that, uh, the experience at APSA was very important for me in that respect. Um, Africa, what can I say about Africa? Just a 131:00fantastic experience. (laughs)

LEWIS: We'll, we'll talk about it. I just wanted to make one little point here. Both you and I were very much influenced by Jewel Prestage and it's interesting that she would send us off to Africa, uh, explaining that we should have no fear and that all would be well and we would do well and she made contacts for us and she held the home front while we--

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: But the, but it is, it is very interesting that for both of us who spent a lot of time abroad, our inspiration came from Jewel.

KING: Yes. Jewel, Jewel is the first black female Ph.D. political scientist that was and certainly the first one that I ever met with a Ph.D. in political science. I think at the time, um, you and later Inez Reid, I think and there was one other person.

132:00

PRESTAGE: In 1969, there were five African-American Ph.D. holders. Uh, Nellie Varner, then Nellie Varner, Inez Reid, Mae King, Lois Mooreland--

KING: Lois Mooreland.

PRESTAGE: --and myself. Lois was actually number five. I learned that earlier today in an interview with her.

KING: (laughs) Oh, is that right? Okay--(laughs)--okay, all right.

PRESTAGE: I always had a very healthy interest in Africa and I finally did take the opportunity to go. But I had this really, uh, very funny feeling. Uh, I suppose it's another indication of my overprotective, uh, orientation toward my children but I refused to leave the United States until the youngest of the five, I felt, was able to take care of 133:00himself. And, uh, I, uh--

LEWIS: But the point, the point being made is that you encouraged others to go.

KING: Very much so.

LEWIS: And that this, this was a good thing. That it was a very good thing that we could turn to you and saw no contradiction in your sending us out.

KING: --that's right, that's right, that's right--

LEWIS: I think it was, was a very good thing.

PRESTAGE: Well, the other thing is that, in many ways, you, uh, people prepared the way for me--(King laughs)--in Africa. As a matter of fact, when I landed in Africa for the first time, in Zimbabwe, Shelby I went to your house. That's where I lived--(King laughs)--and then when I went to Kenya, it was your classmate who was there working at the university who, uh, was very kind and generous to me. So that, in many 134:00ways, sending, encouraging you to go was my insurance that, when I got there, everything would be all right. (King laughs)

LEWIS: Mae, Mae, we must know by now that you're not going to get the last word with us so maybe we'd better go back to the, uh, main point of the interview and talk about your experiences.

PRESTAGE: There are, uh, I think there are--

LEWIS: But just let me say on the African trips--

PRESTAGE: --three more things that we need to do. One is to complete this section of the interview that deals with your experience in Africa and I know we've hardly scratched the surface. Then I want to talk to you just a little bit about your research and then about the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

KING: Yes. I'm glad you mentioned the, I wanted to come back to the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, in fact, because that's also related to my APSA experience very much so. But let me 135:00just say yes, in, um, in Nigeria I went initially to teach and do research for a year and I was interested in doing research on local government because I felt that one of the best ways to get to know a country was to understand the local foundations. So the first year in Nigeria was spent trying to develop, developing, uh, some information base for writing a proposal dealing with local government and also trying to seek funding for that local government project. It was something that I could not finish in a year's time and even if I had finished it, I realized that I was not really ready to come back to the U.S. I was just beginning to explore Africa, uh, in Nigeria and 136:00so I decided to stay on for another year--(laughs)--a second year. And, of course, the longer I stayed, the more I became involved in, uh, academia in Nigeria and became involved in, uh, doing research for this book, for my book on local government, which I, which is called, uh, Localism and Nation Building and I got to know and appreciate, I think, much about Nigeria during that project because I didn't just go to the large cities, you know, Lagos or Kano or Kaduna. But I had an opportunity to go out in the country, in the bush, so to speak. And I felt a kind of affinity almost immediately with Africa when I would go to Warri, a little place called Roni (??), uh, Ogbe ijaw (??)-- 137:00(laughs)--and so forth and so on. All of these were, were places, were communities, small communities, villages, small towns which were just so alive and I found myself just observing life in those areas and trying to make some political sense out of some of it as well. But, this was also an interesting time to be in Nigeria because when I went in 1975 the, a coup d'etat had just taken place, uh, against the Gowon regime which, of course, was the regime in Nigeria that, uh, was in power during the civil war. So, with the 1975 coup, the new head of state was, uh, Brigadier, uh, Murtala Mohammed who turned out to be a very popular leader in Nigeria but also was assassinated, uh, within 138:00about a year's time. But it was a dynamic time for foreign policy as well as for local and national politics I think in Nigeria.

LEWIS: Mae, now, um, as you know, I started to work in Uganda in 1962 and one of the things that I noted was that, when you went out, especially to rural areas as opposed to urban areas, there were so many similarities to rural communities in the South. I'm certain that, uh, Aubrey and Marianna, Arkansas or very big towns unlike Plain Dealing where I was born and grew up. But did you find, as you went from village to village, that there were similarities not only in, uh, lifestyles and customs but perhaps even in the whole pattern of govern- 139:00, governance? Sort of the informal governance.

KING: Informality, yes, uh, but there were similarities. There were times when I had the feeling that, oh, this could be back home in Arkansas, in Vineyard, in Old Ten. (laughs) In Aubrey, you know. Uh, and the, the, the sense of community that one also experienced there was very, very important. How I had an opportunity to meet the city elders, so to speak. Uh, and how I also became aware of the fact that I was doing something which a woman in those days was really not expected to do because I was driving in my little Beetle car, as you 140:00remember Shelby. (laughs)

LEWIS: Yes, I do recall. (laughs)

KING: And here, here I am. I would take this little car and go to these villages where I had never been before, had no idea of what I was going to, to meet but would just hope that I would get where I was going without having a flat, uh, before sundown. And I always felt that, somehow or another, if I got to the little village, if I got to the town, that I would find somebody certainly who could speak English. And I had also made some preparation because some of my colleagues had also given me names, you know, contacts that I should make, uh, when I got there and, of course, I was working from Benin City as a base, so I also coordinated with some of the people in local government there who would also give me letters, to, of introduction to their counterparts in these local government areas. But it was really, it was really a fantastic experience and I was lucky that, um, most of the people--

LEWIS: And Grandfather Roberts would have been very pleased with--

141:00

KING: Oh, I, you know, that's interesting that you make because so many times I found myself--

PRESTAGE: Did he live until you went to Africa?

KING: No, he didn't. No, unfortunately he did not. But there was so many times when I would find myself tooling along in this little Beetle and I would think, Grandpa Robert, you would really be proud of your little Dolly. (all laugh) Because, because I would think, you know, you're right. There is not only an Africa. I know there has to be a Timbuktu too. (laughs)

LEWIS: Now, Mae, you, you apparently you start talking about where you moved and, uh, the friends that you made and you put down some roots. How long did you stay in Nigeria?

KING: I stayed in Nigeria for fourteen years and a few months. (laughs) I went to stay for one year and I ended up staying fourteen. So, in those fourteen years, I put down family roots, you see. Um, Aladay 142:00(??), whom you met, ----------(??) and Compliance, my daughter, you've met. (laughs)

LEWIS: Yes, yes, which is wonderful.

KING: You see, so--

LEWIS: That's, that's as we call generations, that's about, uh, three generations. If you, you know, college generations. At least three generations in Africa. That's a long time in one place. You, you must have learned quite a bit about, uh, local government there and, uh, I'm sure that not only did you make many friends but you made your mark on Benin City.

KING: I like to think so. I like to think so. I made many friends certainly in Africa and particularly in Nigeria. The thing about being in Nigeria is that it also gave me an opportunity to visit other African countries as well. And, uh, the, uh, interaction among African, uh, university people, I thought was really, uh, great. In Ghana, 143:00Sierra Leone. I taught students, of course, from all over Africa and particularly West Africa and East Africa. I was at the University of Benin which really, uh, for a while it was the most favored university in Nigeria in the late seventies and that, it was a new university and it also ended up being kind of like the favorite one. And perhaps that was because of the, the uh, pluralism in the university, the ethnic make-up of the university because Benin City is, uh, in Delta State in what was then called, uh, Bendel State actually. Part of it is known as Delta State and the other part is, uh, is Edo State. But then it was called Bendel State and you kind of had a, a microcosm of the whole of Nigeria, uh, in terms of the heterogeneity of the population, for 144:00instance and then religion as well, a significant Muslim as well as Christian element, but also traditional religions as well. So that was really fantastic and I can think of so many interesting experiences in Nigeria, including experiences regarding religion.

PRESTAGE: We will now turn the tape to continue the interview with Dr. Mae King.

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: --seven in the interview with Dr. Mae Coates King for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. The interview site is Atlanta, Georgia. The date is February 5th, 1994. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis.

PRESTAGE: Dr. King, you, uh, have, uh, shared with us some aspects of 145:00your experience in Nigeria in terms of, uh, your research and other dimensions of that. Are there any other things that you'd like to say about your teaching, your research or the other kinds of things that you were involved in while in Benin?

KING: Well, I like to think that I had a positive influence on some of the women students coming into political science. At the time I went to Nigeria, the first political science class that I taught was a class of about seventy-six students and in that class of seventy-six there were three women students. And one of those women students, Rose Aforebo (??), went on to become very much involved, uh, in, not 146:00only in teaching political science, but she also became a member of the Constituent Assembly and was even thinking about running for governor. So I kind of felt good that that was one of my, one of the first students that I taught and I, uh, and she's also a student who has come back to say that, uh, I was a model for her. So, it's those kinds of pleasures about teaching you appreciate when you look back. Because political science in Nigeria, as is true in the US, is very much a male profession and so in Nigeria there were so many instances where I would go to the political, Nigerian Political Science Association Meeting and, of course, I would be the only female political scientist there. There were about, there were three of us who were political scientists teaching, uh, political in the country, women, females, when I first went there.

PRESTAGE: In all of Nigeria?

147:00

KING: In all of Nigeria in the political science, I mean African and Nigerian women political scientists there were probably some white female political scientists there, uh, but of the African political scientists on their--

PRESTAGE: I--

LEWIS: There were two plus you.

KING: That's right.

PRESTAGE: --I understand that you held a position of leadership in the Nigerian Political Science Association?

KING: Yes, uh, I did. I was the secretary-treasurer of the Nigerian Political Science Association. Uh, I served in that position for two years. I was also on the, on the council, uh, of the Nigerian Political Science Association and also served on the council of the Nigerian Society of International Affairs. So, those were very important experiences for me.

PRESTAGE: During your stay in Nigeria, did you encounter any political science scholars or any particular outstanding works in political 148:00science that had some influence on you or that garnered your interest, interests or curiosity?

KING: Well, it was good for me to meet colleagues, uh, like Claude Ake, for example, who, uh, had been, very active political scientist. Uh, he had written this book on political integration. He studied in the United States so it's kind of good to meet him in Nigeria. Um, and, of course, Nole (??), who also had, uh, written on, written a couple of books on political science and particularly dealing with foreign policy. Uh, Aloupol, for example, uh, and of course, uh, Bola Akeyemi who was also the foreign minister of Nigeria at one time and also a political scientist. These were people I met when I first, 149:00went the first year I guess, when I went to Nigeria. And they were also writing. Uh, Edang, for example, who wrote one of the earliest books on Nigerian foreign policy, Nigerians that is. He wrote a book on Nigerian foreign policy. So these were all people that I had met and some of these were persons who were not only in academia but they later became involved in politics as well. The former chairman of my department in, uh, University of Benin, at the University of Benin was, the first one was Omo Omuri (??), uh, who is now the director of the Centre for Democratic Studies in Nigeria and was also a member of the Constituent Assembly and people like, uh, Sam Oyovbaire, who was also Minister of, uh, Information, I believe, and is also a political scientist. So, um, Achubu, uh, Ocatba (??) of course. Actually, he 150:00and his wife, Merian, studied here at Howard University and, of course, Achubu was, was very active in the Second Republic in Nigeria.

LEWIS: Mae, you, you're naming a lot of, uh, Nigerian political scientists, uh, some of whom I know and I have met through you or met on the continent. One of the things that, uh, I'm certain was interesting to you was the fact that not only Nigeria but in Ecowas period all around you was a political laboratory. There were all kinds of things going on that, uh, from a political standpoint, um, broke the paradigms. Um, what, uh, in your estimation, um, about life in the nation-state, uh, in, in Nigeria, in Africa, um, just did not mesh with 151:00any of the things that one is taught in, in the schools in the West?

KING: Hmm, that's a--(laughs)--well, there, in the West, when, when you were taught about Africa in the universities, and that's been relatively recently that we had any substantial number of courses on African politics. In fact, when I was in university you didn't really have courses as such on African politics. This always came in as a part of international relations but not really a whole area itself. But certainly, um, uh, you were confronted with the, with the reality of African politics, the economic community of West African states, for example, was something that, uh, actually I had not heard about in the 152:00U.S. Well, they just came into being really in 1975 but the wonderful thing was that you saw the Africans throughout West Africa interacting with each other in an academic kind of setting but also in a social setting as well. So, you saw, um, differences, yes. You saw a range of differences but at the same time, you also saw the possibilities of those differences being harmonized. And I think when I look at Africa as a laboratory, while I see differences, I also see, uh, harmony as well and the possibility of those differences not really clashing necessarily. Some of them certainly did but the efforts that would be underway, uh, developing a foundation, you may say, for harmonizing.

LEWIS: Dr. King, you, uh, talk about this cross-national fertilization within West Africa. People really crossing state boundaries, relating 153:00to each other at the economic level, the social level and at the political level and, given myself of course being in political science studying African politics, the notion of self-contained states where this kind of fertilization was not taking place, uh, is what we left the classroom with and your personal experience suggests that, especially in West Africa, that is not true.

KING: No, it's, it's not true. You, in any of the major West African cities, uh, take Lagos, for example, every Monday morning you would go to any of the motor parks and you'd see people leaving by the hundreds going to other capitals in West Africa. To Accra, Ghana, for example, Lome, Togo, uh, Cotonou, and these, they're engaged in 154:00economic activities. They're engaged in economic activities but, uh, at one level that is very important. But at the universities we also have, in Nigeria, we have people from throughout West Africa attending the University, for example, of Benin and I suspect that you get some of this in other West African countries as well. I traveled a great deal in West Africa and I was always impressed with Africans from other countries that I also met in West Africa, particularly Nigerians, in part I know that's due to the size of Nigeria because, uh, Nigeria is the largest country population-wise in Africa and, of course, it's understandable that you would see more Nigerians in some of the other countries than you would see other Africans, such as Sierra Leoneans or Ghanaians or Togolese, uh, Togolese for example in Nigeria or Yorubians 155:00(??). But, nevertheless, they do come. They come. I suspect that you'd probably find more interaction at the economic level, uh, and maybe that, that's related no doubt to the traditional patterns of trading between and among certain peoples of West Africa. So that, if you looked at the, uh, clientele or the character of the customers, let's say, who were traveling from one area to, you'd probably find more people were traveling, who are traveling, were involved in business than in any other line of, of, uh, in any other application I suppose.

[Pause in recording.]

LEWIS: Mae, when you returned to the United States after fourteen years of life in Nigeria, of course, having come back-and-forth, was the transition a difficult one for you and I'm asking this in light of 156:00my own experience and the experiences that others have shared with me. Uh, there's two points I'd like to ask if you would speak to. One has to do with perception of the U.S. and of Africa since you have lived in both. Um, since you are a been to, as they say in West Africa and I say it's very important to have been a been to and been back to because then you get a different perspective. So, was your perspective on the U.S. very different having lived abroad? And, I guess, the second point is, what about the reception that you got when you came back? Were you seen as an African specialist? Were you seen as an individual bringing us special, uh, knowledge to the university so, 157:00your transition and your perspective and your reception?

KING: My perspective of the U.S., I think, had certainly changed as a result of my living abroad. Somehow the U.S. was, was different from the way I remembered it. (laughs) Uh, I can recall living in Nigeria when I would be undergoing such, certain experiences and I would think, Gee, it's so much better in respect to this particular thing, you know, in the U.S. than here and so forth. But I think the thing that struck me perhaps most is there, either are things about the U.S. which were here before I left but I didn't see them in the way that I see them 158:00now or they weren't here and the U.S. has just changed. And I'm not altogether sure which it is but I do know that, since I've come back, I've seen things in the US which reminded me, uh, of things that we thought existed only in a third world country. For instance, either there's been a kind of deterioration in terms of certain, uh, material aspects, I guess, of our lives that wasn't so when I left. Um, but, on another level, I think that coming back, uh, I was very much aware of this lack of community, it seems to me, in the US, uh, that just wasn't 159:00true in Nigeria. Somehow or another, that sense of community and where I was there were people who always not only knew you but you always felt a part of that community. Somebody was always concerned about, uh, where you were, how you were faring. There was no such thing as, as living, for example, in your house all week and not meeting your neighbors, for example. If people just knew, that sense of community certainly was there in Africa. I think that, that, uh, that that the standard of living, the U.S. has undergone a lot of economic changes. One of the things that's really struck me is the cost of living when I returned was much higher than it was when I left, you know, in '75. I was also really interested in the change in income tax laws, as well. 160:00[recording error] (laughs) I really could not believe that changes of that magnitude had taken place. You see, when I left here I was doing my own income taxes and, and certainly before 1975 the rate of taxation on people making higher incomes were certainly greater, uh, than they were when I came back. And that really kind of, you know, that stuck with me. I was thinking that this is kind of a turn around. I had heard about the changes taking place during the, the Reagan era and the Bush era, for example. But somehow or another it didn't strike me that it had been this great. So there had to be a lot of economic dislocations that occurred in the United States between the time I left and the time that I returned. I think in terms of how I was received when I came back, to how, and I think it, one, one sense, yes, I certainly the people who hired me and how and I think considered 161:00me as having a special kind of knowledge of, of Africa and would be an asset to the faculty there in international, in political science and particularly focusing on international relations. Um, and I hope that I'm not disappointing them. I don't think so. I certainly continue to teach a lot of African students. Now I'm supervising five people with Ph.D. dissertations and I'm definitely overworked. (laughs) I tell them that's too much. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: My former student, who is now one of your dissertation advisees, is very, very pleased with his experience with you at Howard and of course we're looking to him completing his dissertation.

KING: Oh, yes, Chris. Chris Ouitea (??). Oh, yes. He's a very good student, really. And he's well on the way with his dissertation.

PRESTAGE: I want to ask one other question about the transition back to the United States. Uh, how do you find, uh, your experience there, 162:00back in an American university, in comparison with the experience that you had for those years at the University of Benin?

KING: Hmm, well--

PRESTAGE: Are the perks different? Are the perks different?

KING: (laughs) Now this, this is a bit ironic in one sense because, at the University of Benin in terms of perks, I had more perks there than I have at Howard. Um, I, well, I don't know if I should go into the specificities of them but, uh, my physical, even the physical surroundings at Uniben were better for me. I think Shelby visited my office at the University of Benin. I had this office to myself, which was a nice office, carpeted floors, air conditioned, little conference table in my office. So, uh, there was space where you could, uh, 163:00uh, consult, have your consultations in private with your students. You could advise. If you had colleagues visiting, there was a place where you could sit and discuss and so forth. At Howard University, of course, it was kind of a surprise to me to come back and have to share an office with two other persons, uh, associate professors and professors. Now, this is something that, uh, is too typical I think, of, uh, our historically black institutions and maybe I'm generalizing too much but I think perhaps this says something about, still, the, uh, deprivation in terms of the physical resources that our institutions of higher education had to endure. But, comparatively, my perks at Benin, at Uniben were better than at Howard.

PRESTAGE: That's very interesting that--

164:00

LEWIS: I would imagine your teaching load was lower as well.

KING: My teaching load, my teaching load was lower. It's not, uh, surprising, for example, that I was at the University of Benin when I gathered the material and wrote my book. Uh, so, because there was actually more time to do research and the university encouraged me, encouraged us really to do research and provided some support for us.

PRESTAGE: Speaking of research, some of your initial research efforts early in your career had to do with women in politics and the study of African-American politics. I'm thinking particularly of the piece published in the Social Science Quarterly, focused on the political implications of the stereotyping of black women and of your interest and study of the politics of Lee County, Arkansas. Have you had any 165:00thoughts about, uh, going back in that direction a little bit to look at African-American politics again or women in politics?

KING: Um, yes. I think in one sense there is, there's not really been a complete break with that interest because my work on politics in Lee County was really looking at local government in an American setting. So, to do research on local government in Nigeria, uh, you still, it gave me a comparative perspective on research in local government. I think, in terms of women, I, uh, I am still interested in women in politics. In fact, I gave a paper at the International Political Science Association meeting in, uh, I think this was what, 1990, 1992, in Buenos Aires, which, uh, dealt with women in politics in capital 166:00cities and it was, uh, it was to be a comparative study of women in politics in Washington, D.C. and in Lagos, Nigeria. I was able to do the Washington D.C. part of it but I didn't get a chance-- (laughs)- -to finish the Nigerian part of it because the dynamics of politics there can change so fast some of the people that I really wanted to interview, well that's another story. But, in any event, I'm still interested, I'm still interested in women in politics.

LEWIS: Mae, I think you also did, uh, a paper at the National Conference of Black Political Scientists, did you not, on, on women?

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: Um, and, while we're talking about it, um, the YWCA experience has held up because did you not go to Mexico City?

KING: I sure did. (laughs) The first, yes--I certainly did. In 1975 to that, I guess perhaps the first International Women's Conference in 167:00Mexico City and I was one of the delegates with, uh, with the National Council of Negro Women. Uh, that was really quite an experience that I won't forget. (laughs)

PRESTAGE: Well, you had quite a few experiences, uh, Mae, uh, in research and teaching and in civil rights activity and, uh, higher education. But there's one other dimension of our profession and discipline that we could hardly end this interview without, um, broaching, in some way. And that has to do with the National Conference of Black Political Scientists. You were a founding member of that organization and, uh, performed several various financial services during your tenure at the American Political Science Association. Could you tell us a little bit about your experience with NCOBPS?

168:00

KING: Uh, that, my experience with NCOBPS is one of the most enriching experiences, I think, professional experiences of my life and particularly coming as it did, simultaneously with my work at the American Political Science Association. Uh, I saw my participation in the National Conference of Black Political Scientists not only as an experience which was enriching to me personally but it was also an experience which gave me a better perspective on what American, the American Political Science Association ought to be doing in order to, uh, carry out what it had said was its goal and objective in terms of, uh, uh, engaging more African-Americans in the profession. And so, uh, serving as membership secretary of NCOBPS, for example, secretary- treasurer of the National, uh, Council of Black Political Scientists 169:00Assistantship Program, were experiences which not only put me in but kept me in continuous contact with, uh, African-American political scientists. So that, as a result, I was not just at the American Political Science Association, uh, as an individual who was, who had, who was now in touch with black political scientists and I think here again that, uh, we owe Jewel Prestage so much. I don't think there are any African-American women political scientists who do not owe Jewel Prestage, uh, whether they realize it or not. How she just, uh, not only opened so many doors for us but was always there encouraging and plugging for us, even when we got in hot water and I did get in hot water--(laughs)--at the APSA. But it was kind of nice to know that 170:00there was this strong woman.

LEWIS: Jewel, I mean Mae, perhaps if you would allow me I would add that I don't think we can limit that to the female political scientists, the black ones.

KING: Yes. Yes.

LEWIS: I think that the profession, as a whole, those of us who are in political science and we might extend that net. Jewel has simply been a good model for, uh, for many, many people, including a number of white women.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: And a number of white men.

KING: Yes.

LEWIS: Young scholars have been, uh, nourished by Jewel. A number of young scholars.

KING: Yes. In fact, um, I, I've often said, I've often wondered, you know, how different the profession might have been and I must say this. If there were white women counterparts of Jewel Prestage who would nourish black students in the way that Jewel has also taken white 171:00students under her wing and nourished. I think it takes a special skill to do that in the kind of society that we are, that we are living in and somehow or another she has managed to do this with such comfort and ease and I can never, I can never, uh, forget what a model she's been for me and how she was always there to advise. Even when I was thinking of doing some things that might have been rather stupid-- (laughs)--you know.

LEWIS: Well, Mae, Mae, could I just pull a little bit. Are you saying, uh, that, as a political scientist, that the individual who has been 172:00the most influential on your career as a political scientist has been Jewel Prestage?

KING: Jewel Prestage. Jewel Prestage was always a person out there who not only advised but she was always, you know, pointing, uh, to opportunities that you may take advantage of. And Jewel, I will never forget this, you know, she would recommend. She had faith in you when other people didn't and that's, that's so important for young, for young women coming into the profession. And she was still young herself then. (laughs)

LEWIS: So you moved from Ms. Jenkins to Ms. Prestage?

KING: That's right. That's right. (Lewis laughs) At, from, that's right from Dean--

PRESTAGE: This is all very, very, very generous--

LEWIS: We do not give you license to stop yet. Mae, this is part of Mae's life. We didn't stop when she talked about Mrs. Jenkins--

KING: That's right --

LEWIS: And I think we give Mae a chance to talk about the influences on her life.

KING: Yes. And you know, I didn't even realize for some time that, uh, 173:00Dean Jenkins, I always called her Dean Jenkins because she was also the Dean of Women at Bishop College, but she was also a teacher. She also taught courses in religion. I did not realize until sometime afterwards that she was also Jewel's teacher.

PRESTAGE: She was my dean of women and my mentor.

KING: And your mentor --

PRESTAGE: And role model.

KING: And role model. So, uh, it's not surprising to hear I should come into contact with Jewel Prestage and see the kind of strength and discipline, and a disciplined mind and this hard work. I never could figure out how Jewel could do all of these things at once.

PRESTAGE: One of the most interesting pieces of advice given to me by Dean Inez Jenkins was given to me when I graduated from Southern University and I still have the autograph book in which she wrote it. And she told me to marry Jim Prestage--(all laugh)--and forty 174:00years later, after marrying him, that's still very good advice. (King laughs)Yes, she was a very wonderful person. When I tell people that they are a little surprised because they did not, many of them did not know that particular side of Dean Jenkins and Dean Jenkins is, uh, alive and well and, uh, we talk frequently and she talks about your involvement in the student protest movement as one of the highlights of her own personal career which, as you know, has been long and distinguished.

KING: Yes. Yes.

PRESTAGE: So that I think that particularly sharing is, uh, something that brought us together. In fact, she--we were talking once and she said, "You know, of all of my students that I had over the years, if I had any pets they were you and another young woman, Mae Coates King." 175:00And I said, "This is very interesting because Mae is one of my best friends." We are now near the end of this tape and, thus, we will go to the next tape and do the concluding question or two. Mae, I hope that you aren't too exhausted as a result of this experience but--

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: --King, for the American Political Science Association Oral History Project. It is February 5th, 1994. The site is Atlanta, Georgia. The interviewers are Jewel Prestage and Shelby Lewis.

PRESTAGE: Mae, as I indicated, we are near the end of our interview but, 176:00uh, let me ask, Shelby, do you have a question that you'd like to ask and I'll try to formulate my final question while Shelby is doing that.

LEWIS: It isn't a question. Uh, you, when Mae comes to the end of her comments, um, I think this ends this very, very historic and enjoyable interlude that we've had. And I simply want to say that it's been a pleasure being a part of this interview, Mae, and both Jewel and Mae, uh, I'm very pleased that this interview, one of the interviews for the APSA Oral History Project made history at my home. So I am very, very pleased that, uh, you were here and that I had the opportunity to hear more about your formative years and your experiences and I learned 177:00something about Aubrey, Arkansas and, uh, I just want to say that, if your father were alive today, he would be on his knees because your spirit and your, uh, unwillingness to suffer lightly injustice anywhere is obviously still burning bright and it's been a pleasure working with you here.

KING: Thank you.

PRESTAGE: Mae, we have covered a lot of items, um, in this interview. I'm just wondering if you are now ready to deliver your valedictory as a part of this particular interview process. There must be something burning inside that you want to say that, uh, I have not been insightful enough to inventory through some of the questions raised. 178:00So, uh, this is your opportunity to end this particular interview.

KING: Nothing has been more important to me in my life than my formative years and my family. Growing up in a big family. I learned so much from that experience and, as I became, when I became an adult and found myself not only a long way from Old Ten and Aubrey, Arkansas and the county seat of Marianna, in the county of Lee, but also out of the country itself in another international setting, I found that the foundation that I was given in my family setting was very important in sustaining me as I encountered people from different cultures and 179:00different religions. And I suppose I, I remember a question I, I asked my father some time ago--(laughs)--about, uh, religion, which in once sense included pathways, I guess, to God. And so I said, "You know, Christianity is there." I became aware of different religions I think fairly early in my life, particularly when I first started at the university, when I encountered people with other religious faiths and so I said, "I just cannot imagine that, uh, God is a god who would send all those good people to hell who share those other faiths." And so, Dad, he kinda looked at me. He said, "Well, I'm sure you're 180:00right, Dolly." He said, "Because there's so many things that we don't understand about God. That I don't understand about God." But he said that, uh, "I hope, though, that wherever you are that what we have taught you will provide the kind of guide for you in how you relate to people from those different faiths that you talk about." And then I said, "I'm quite certain that, uh, just as there are people who speak different languages and are say the same thing, that the same also must be true in terms of religion. That there are different pathways to God and even though we can't understand the specificities of those faiths like we can't understand the language, that doesn't mean that we're not saying the same thing and on our way to the same place." (laughs) He 181:00didn't really answer that so much but he just kinda looked at me and said, "You know, you always ask some interesting questions." And he said, "I remember that, uh, you said in September, in 1956, that you didn't plan to pick any cotton after that year." (laughs) "And I told you that there was nothing wrong with finding something else to do other than picking cotton. But just make sure that you're good at it." And so, somehow or another, I always, I always remember, I always remember that. I wouldn't give anything for the family. We're still very close. Still very close. So, I met my grandparents. I didn't meet a great-grandparent but I have pictures of them and that's a joy. So, 182:00it's a long way, uh, from Old Ten to Lagos and old Kingdom of Benin. But I also found that there were a lot of other things in common, uh, in both places and somehow or another, I felt at home in both.

PRESTAGE: Thank you, Dr. Mae Coates King, Dr. Shelby Lewis. This concludes the interview with Dr. Mae Coates King.

[Pause in recording.]

PRESTAGE: Thank you, Dr. Shelby Lewis, for hosting this interview at your home in Atlanta, Georgia.

[End of interview.]

Search This Transcript
SearchClear