Interview with Ruth Batson
QUESTION 13
JACKIE SHEARER:

When you were growing up in Boston, was it your perception that this was the cradle of liberty in terms of race issues?

RUTH BATSON:

Um. As a small child in Boston I think I had maybe a more unique bringing up. The, though there, there were many people who I know um, had this same um

JACKIE SHEARER:

That's OK. You can just

RUTH BATSON:

Um. I--When I grew up in Boston ah, my parents were from Jamaica. And ah, my mother was a Garveyite. By that she was the devotee and a follower of Marcus Garvey. And so every week, every Sunday, there were meetings held in a hall that was called Toussaint L'Ouverture Hall. And my mother was o-one of the Black star nurses. And I would have to go with her to these meetings. And at these meetings I heard Africa for the Africans at home and abroad. And we heard racial issues constantly being discussed. And so as I grew up I was not swayed as much as some people I knew by this business of Boston being such a wonderful place to grow up, being such a great city with the cradle of liberty. I knew, even though I wouldn't have expressed it this way, that there were flaws in the cradle of liberty. I know I used to go home and tell my mother things that the teacher said or did and s--and she would go up to school and say something to them but it was an, it was an unusual um, upbringing that I had. The thing that I remember most about being a little girl in Boston was that when my mother would take me downtown you wouldn't see any Black people usually. Ah, you know, the shopping area. And that when I would see somebody coming, a, a Black person coming I would pull my mother's coat and say, "Ma, there's a colored lady across the street," or "there's a colored man across the street," because you saw very few Black people in certain areas of the city. Um, and so um, I think I was always aware. And my mother talked about it constantly. She talked about the people who didn't treat you right. She used to say, "If somebody calls you a name, just take up a, a--if you got an umbrella, take anything and hit them with it." And we used to laugh, you know. We di-didn't think she really meant it. One of my, my s--most serious memories about being a small child in Boston was one day I was taking dancing lessons and we had to go over to the um, conservatory to rehearse for our recital. And I had money to go to the restaurant. It was a White towel restaurant that sold hamburgers and hot dogs. And with some of my friends we walked around to the corner to get ourselves something to eat, then to go back to the, to the conservatory. And all of us ordered hot dogs, something cold to drink. And the man put the hot dogs on the, on the counter. And when I bit into mine it was raw. And I turned to the--my playmate at my side and I said, "This is raw. It hasn't been cooked." And she looked at hers. And I turned to the other one. And the other um, kid said, "Well, I, I like, I always eat raw. I always eat mine raw." Stood there and the tears just came down my face when I realized what this man had done. And I never, never told my mother because I knew she would be ashamed that I sat there and paid for this hot dog. I've never gotten over that memory. So you know, I'm, I'm not saying that this couldn't happen in any city but it happened to me in Boston and I remember remarks the teachers would make and so forth. And so um, I, I wouldn't say that this doesn't--as I said before, that this doesn't happen every place. But um, I was well aware that there were attitudes and that there was, that racism abounded here in Boston.