Interview with Ethel Mae Matthews
QUESTION 10
JACKIE SHEARER:

No, you told me a story when we talked on the phone about your four year old granddaughter holding up a sign, and about how it wound up with you taking your granddaughter to jail, and being happy to go to jail. Can you tell us that story?

ETHEL MAE MATTHEWS:

Yes. You know, a lot of us who were able to work and who could work and who wanted to work, well they, ah, built the, ah, World Congress downtown. They built the World Congress downtown. And they didn't, you know, too many poor peoples jobs. And we felt that poor peoples needed jobs, too, if it meant making up cement and toting bricks and things like that. So, Father Austin Ford and Reverend Joseph Boone, and a lot of us, and a lot of Organization on Welfare Rights Organization[SIC], we went downtown. We called first and asked if you know, the manager, of World Congress, could we come down, and talk to him about some jobs, and he said, "Yes." But when we got downtown, he was nowhere to be found. So we sent, you know, some of his peoples, his employees, what worked there, sent them downstairs to tell them that we had arrived. He sent word back that he would be up in fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes, he never did get there. So we waited, we waited, we waited. And he never did get there. And so all of a sudden all of us had a sit-in. We sit in and we went to singing, we went to praying, and all of a sudden we looked around, there were state troopers, there were policemen, there were detectives, there were the fire peoples and everybody, like we had murdered somebody. And they came in, you know, we was in there kneeled down on our knees.

JACKIE SHEARER:

I'm sorry. We are going to have to pick that up, because we ran out of film.





JACKIE SHEARER:

OK, Mrs. Matthews. I'd like you to pick up where you talk about how you looked up and you saw all these police and whatnot.

ETHEL MAE MATTHEWS:

As I say, we was, you know, some of the senior citizens--

ETHEL MAE MATTHEWS:

Can I say something? I have to talk they way I have to talk. Because I know you all are going to censor it, anyway, so, my language is my language.


JACKIE SHEARER:

So you were saying that you looked up and, OK.

ETHEL MAE MATTHEWS:

Ah, we looked up, and we saw these policemens, all these, ah, state troopers, the FBIs, the detectives, they came in, and they locked the door, locked all the doors up on us. And they came and told Reverend Boone that he would have to stop praying. So Reverend Boone, he continued to pray. Father Ford, he continued to pray. And we continued to sing. We continued to sing and clap our hands. You know? And we just going on like we was in church. But they stayed there with us. Had us all hemmed in. And they stayed there with us, and when- when Reverend Boone got through praying, then they came up to him and said, "You all are under arrest." And Reverend Boone said, "What have we done?" Said he, "Disturbing the peace." And Reverend Boone said, "We were trying to get the manager's attention." He said, "He promised to come up here and talk to us. So we're down here trying to get some jobs for the ones who are able to work." But still, he say, "You all are under arrest, and you are going to jail." And they had ten paddy wagons out there waiting on us. And my little four year old granddaughter was with me. Because I exposed my grandchildren to what's going on, so when they get up they'll know what the struggle is all about. So I the only one had a grandbaby there. So they took us all to jail. And they herded us out, unlocked the doors, and herded us out of the building to the paddy wagon. They put so many of us in one paddy wagon put so many of us in another paddy wagon. And so all of us got in the paddy wagon. And when the, um, policemen who was driving the paddy wagon--we was just singing and clapping our hands, and we was happy. When he stopped the paddy wagon at the side of the street, we thought he was going to say, "Well, y'all can get out and go home," but he didn't say that. He looked back at us, he say, "What kind of peoples are you all? What kind of peoples are you?" And we say, "What?" He say,"I have never carried a happier bunch of womens to jail like you all before! So what you so happy about?" I said, "Well, one thing about it," I said, "you're taking us to jail." I said, "We don't have nothing to eat at home," I said, "When we get locked up, we will have a good dinner and a good supper." And he shook his head, you know. And he started, you know, the paddy wagon off again, and we just had the most fun, and we was happy. He took us all to jail. Now, our welfare right lawyer's name is Haines, Margie Haines, so we had to stay out there all the evening, but she came, and she bond us out. And so they pretend like they were going to send us to prison. But they didn't send us to prison, I don't know what she did, but our trial didn't come up. So my grand- little granddaughter, she was four years old, and at that time they was trying to take her away from me. And the policeman had her head, and I had her feets. And we was pulling, pulling, pulling. But I was stronger than he was, so I jerked her away from him. Because I knew, if they had have took her, they was going to carry her to the juveniles saying that I didn't have no business with her, you know, in a demonstration in the first place. But I didn't let him take her. So we went on to jail, they were- had us all in jail, and we were locked up all the evening. But we got out. But that didn't dim our spirit. We kept on marching, we kept on protesting, you know, for the rights of all peoples.