Interview with Ethel Mae Matthews

Where did you come up?


I was born and reared in the country to two sharecroppers. My mother was Black woman, my father was an American Cherokee Indian, and my father and mother worked on the farm sharecropping. And it was very, very hard. I went to school, but when the cotton got ready to be chopped and to be picked, I had to come out of school. And, when you get ready to go back to school, you be so far behind that you don't know where you stopped. Now, a lot of peoples, you know, they criticize a lot of peoples, for not knowing how to read and write. But, they have to take under consideration, that everybody couldn't go to school because if your parents were sharecroppers, you had to come out of school and help harvest the farm. And, it's, to me, you know, um, we shouldn't have to be criticized because we don't know how to read and write--some of us; you know, we called it, illiteracy. And, we just looked at one race's illiteracy. But you have to understand there are some poor White peoples is more illiterate than you are, but we just point and look at one race of peoples and that's poor Blacks. But, if you go down the line, you could name a lot of races who are illiterate, see. Now, I stopped school, and when I was in sixth grade; not because I wanted to, but because I got in trouble. And, when I mean in trouble--not going to prison--but, I got in trouble, I got pregnant at twelve and I married at twelve and I became a mother before I got thirteen years old. And, that's why I stopped going to school. But, I moved to Atlanta in 1950. And, Father Austin Ford, he, ah, had an adult school for adults who wanted to go to school. So, I started to going to school back at night. And, I went to school, and I learnt that, that I left off in the country. And, I graduated and I got my GED, and I'm very proud. Because, that night when we had commencement, and I walked down that isle with my long White dress on, to receive my diploma, my children were sitting out in the audience. I had five children. They were sitting out in the audience. And, I was really worse than they were. And, they were sitting out there, you know, clapping, and saying, "That's my mother! That's my mother! She's getting her diploma tonight!" And that made me very happy. And my motto is this: you can be anybody you want to be, you can do anything that you take out to do, with God in front, you can do these things. And, I don't let nobody, as I told you the other day, when you talked to me, I don't let nobody, I mean nobody, tell me what I can't do. Or what I can do. Because, I'm like this, I'm a strong believer in God. I believe if I put him in front, I could do anything that I take to do. Now a lot when I first started this work; it was hard--very, very hard, because we got criticized--


I'm sorry. I think we ran out of tape right then. So--