Production Team: B
Interview Date: June 13, 1989
Camera Rolls: 2131-2132
Sound Rolls: 262
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Minnie Dunlap, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on June 13, 1989, for Eyes on the Prize II: America at the Racial Crossroads 1965 to 1985. Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
OK Mrs. Dunlap, tell me about when you first moved to East Garfield Park, where you lived and then where you decided you wanted to try to move to.
OK, when I moved to East Garfield Park in 1961, I moved in the 3400 block in, on Adams, and that's like a predominantly Black neighborhood, block. Then I wanted to move into the 3500 block which was a better block, th- the block of people, the block was better. So I went up there and spoke to the landlord, the, ah, caretaker that was taking care of the building, about moving into an apartment up there, and he told me that we don't rent to coloreds.
OK Mrs. Dunlap, what happened when you moved into East Garfield in 1961?
In 1961 when I moved into East Garfield Park, I moved into a block, 3400 block on Adams, and that block was predominantly Black, but then later I wanted to move up in the 3500 block which was, the neighborhood was kept up a little bit better and I wanted to move up in that area, and the building was better also. When I went to the door and asked about moving into the apartment, they t- the landlord there told me that they didn't rent to coloreds.
OK Mrs. Dunlap, I'm going to ask you the same question again. Tell me about when you first moved into the East Garfield section in 1961.
OK, in 19 and 61 when I moved into East Garfield Park neighborhood, I moved to the 3400 block on Adams. That block was predominantly Black. Later I wanted to move up in the 3500 block which was a better block, and it was predominantly White. So I went to the, to the building there to ask the landlord about moving into the building, and spoke with the caretaker that was there. He told me that they didn't rent to Blacks. As a matter of fact, he just said, "Lady, we don't rent to Whi- to, to Black, to colored people." I said, "OK," and I left.
Why, why did you say OK?
Because in 1961--
Why you said OK--
That was acceptable in that time, it was acceptable to say, t- to accept what he said, so I just accepted and left.
The reason I, that, when he, cut a second. Just want you to give me this last part, "The reason that, uh--"
OK, Mrs. Dunlap, take a breath. So the caretaker who was White told you that they, that they didn't rent to coloreds and you said, "OK." Why did you say, "OK" at the time?
Because it was acceptable in that time.
Tell me, "I said OK--"
OK. I said OK because it was acceptable at that time.
And you didn't question--
No, I didn't question him, because it, in that time, people just accept whatever they said, especially if they were the owner of a building, you didn't question that. You just, you take it or leave it.
All right, OK, let's So when did you come up from Mississippi?
I came up from Mississippi--
Mrs. Dunlap, what was, what was different about the White people up in the North as opposed to the South? I mean, you know, you lived in Mississippi, what was different about living down there with White people as opposed to living up here with White people?
The difference in living in Mississippi is if White people didn't like you they just said they didn't like you, so they didn't fool with you. But when you came here, it was different. They appeared to act like they like you and you was very good with them until you attempt to move in or do something with them, and then they put up a tremendous resistance.
So when you went over to that neighborhood, the 3500 block and the caretaker told you that you this wasn't for coloreds, what did you think? I mean--
I think he was just acting like White people act here in Chicago.
So tell me again, I mean tell me a little more, how did you feel this caretaker was acting?
I feel like he was acting like White people act here in Chicago. That, ah, that they don- "We don't want you close to us, you're acceptable in other things but not acceptable to live next door to us or something of that nature, or even work close to us."
All right, I see. So then the next year you moved into, you moved into a section where it was more predominantly White in your building. What was the, what was the services like in that building that was mostly White?
When the White people were in that building they kept the services up because we had a White caretaker there when we first moved into it, but later on, then the White people moved out and the services started to go down.
What happened, what, like what, what didn't--?
The man stopped fixing the building or stopped doing, stopped doing the repairs, and we lived there like on a weekly basis where we pay rent on a weekly basis so that took in all the utilities and everything, including the repairs, the upkeep, painting and all of that, in the building. But then he later stopped doing that, and then we got a Black caretaker and we didn't hardly get it at all.
They just stopped doing work altogether.
Yeah, the work services altogether went down.
In `62, your family moved over to the 3400 Madison block. What happened? I mean it was three-quarters, ah, three-qua- had three, let's stop. See, even I get nervous, see I can get nervous sometimes. Let's start over again.
In `62 your family moved over to the 3400 block on Madison and three-quarters of, of the building was White. What happened when you moved into that building?
When we moved into that building the services started to go down after we, after Black people moved in.
Can you start again and say, "When I moved into the new building on 3400 Madison--"
Oh, OK. When I moved into the building on 3400 Madison, it was predominantly White, and when, when Blacks start moving into that building then it seemed to, seemed like White people just moved out overnight. They were there. And the services started to go down, he stopped painting, he stopped doing any repairs and things in the building**. If a doorbell goes out and he wouldn't repair them.
What else was happening, anything else? They stopped painting, they stopped collecting the garbage, what else?
They, ah, he just didn't do any, he didn't give any services in the building like he had Wh- when the White, when we had the White caretaker there.
I see. How did you feel? How did you and the other tenants in the building feel?
Well, I asked him to fix my doorbell and he came up and knocked a hole into the wall and left the doorbell hanging down in the wall, and the hole was big enough for my two-year-old son to get in, and I was afraid of him getting electrocuted by the wires 'cause I'm, I'm just afraid of fire, and I was afraid it would catch a fire. So when I called him to come fix the wall and the doorbell, he came up and fixed the doorbell but he left it hanging into the wall, but he didn't fix the wall. So I wanted him to fix the wall and he wouldn't fix it so I stopped paying my rent.
All right, so you was telling Judy that you got to the point where you were about ready to go to jail, what did you mean by that?
I felt that he was going to take me to court. He said, he said he would make me move, and I told him I was not going to move, so by that time I was ready to go to jail with him.
So what happened? You, so tell me about the people from the King's organization coming to see you.
We had two organizers to come from Dr. King's movement, and they had been pushing literature under the door continuously, but being the kind of person that I was, a working person, I just stepped over it and put the paper in the garbage and kept going, but still angry with him. And then when he came to collect the rent I still would not pay him. So they came in to talk to me about him, two of them, to the door, and said, "Could we talk to you about your landlord?" And that got my interest. So I said, "OK." So we sit down and started to talking about it and he said, "Well, this man got 45 buildings, do you want to do anything about your hole in the wall?" And I said, "Sure." They said, "Well, if you come to a rally tonight and tell your story over there, we'll get your wall fixed."
Great, cut, very nice, that was very nice, that was a very nice answer.
OK, Mrs Dunlap, you were invited to the rally at the church, right?
And you came back, and what did you do when you came back to your building?
I went back to my building to work with the tenants that was there 'cause I felt very enthusiastic that something would be do- could be done. So I sort of made myself a, an organizer, and started talking with the tenants that were in the building about holding their rent** and maybe we could get something done 'cause Dr. King was going to come over to our building. They were very enthusiastic, all of them was enthusiastic 'cause that would mean an opportunity, they would get a chance to see Dr. King. So I got only about seven of them to say that they would work with me at that particular time; the others I felt that wanted to work with me but were afraid because they were on fixed incomes, particular public assistance, and they were afraid that the landlord would get their checks cut off**, so that was their only mean of income, so they wouldn't get involved to that degree. But right after that, the following week, the landlord sent someone in there and fixed my apartment and painted the whole apartment so by the time the ralliers got there, I didn't have the hole in the wall.
That was good.
OK, Mrs. Dunlap, the landlord, tell me about this landlord who had the 45 buildings. What did he do with his other buildings after Dr. King and his organizers started to come into the community?
After Dr. King and the organizers started coming into the building, I start to work as an organizer with other people because I had gotten some work done in my building, and the landlord started to fix the buildings up after that.
And you, and, and so people felt that--
People felt that they could do something about it and of course after that we started going to court with some other problems that we wanted a whole tenant, landlord change.
OK, so what happened with this particular landlord after he started making changes in your, after he made some changes in your building?
Then, after he made changes in my building, I started working with--
Why don't you just say, "After the landlord made changes in--"
OK, after the landlord made changes in my building, then I started to work with other tenants in the other buildings that he had. And people found out then that they could make changes themselves without having someone else to come in and do it for them. And we started to mobilize and organize other tenants.
Very good, good, thank you.
OK, Mrs. Dunlap, you know, you're from Yazoo, Mississippi, what was the difference in terms of how White people reacted toward you in the South as opposed to how they acted toward you when you came to Chicago? Just tell me a little bit.
OK. In the South, White people liked you, they liked you, and they would go all out to help you or do something for you. But when you get, when I got here to Chicago I found that to be different. But if they didn't like you, they say they didn't like you.
OK, let's do it again, let's start it again.
In the South, White people, if they liked you, they like you, and they will go all the way out to help you or do something for you. But if they didn't like you, they would say they didn't like you, they would not pretend like they liked you if they didn't. But here in Chicago, it was quite different. You know, you, you'd be around White people here and they pretend like they are all ready for you and all good with you and anything that you did they are ready to help you to do it, but once you start to do that, then the whole attitude of them change and they move away from you and after this that you are somebody that they don't want to be around, or somebody that they don't even know.
OK, good. Cut.
Now it really seems, Mrs. Dunlap, that they did a lot of marches into White sections to bring, or bring about the, talk about the issue of open housing. Now you didn't go, what were you doing but when you watched it on TV and you watched the hostility, what were you thinking, what were you feeling?
I felt angry, I felt sad--
You have to tell me that, "I didn't march, I was cooking."
Oh. I didn't march, the Saturday before the march was, I sta- stay in and cook 200 dinners and by that Sunday I was sick because I have a, I have a breathing problem, so I was sick that Sunday. But when I watched it on TV I got angry, I got sad, I got upset. You know when I watch that kind of ho- hostility and that kind of prejudiceness that I did not understand, so I just couldn't see why they would do that. And I, and looking at that I said, "Gee, I'm not as nonviolent as I think I am," especially and Dr. King wanted us to be nonviolent 'cause if I had been there and they had threw those rotten eggs and had spit on me I think I would have just hit back**.
OK, Mrs. Dunlap, what were doing the night before some of the marches, like the march to Gage Park, what were you doing and what happened the next day when you didn't go to the march and saw it on television?
I was cooking. On that day I was cooking, Saturday before the march I was cooking 200 dinners so we could purchase buses to go on that march, so people could go on that march, and that eve- that next day I got sick and couldn't go on the march, but when I saw that on TV I was angry----I was upset, I was--
Let's cut. That was good. Get the door--
OK, Mrs. Dunlap, tell me about the, the, that you were cooking 200 dinners the night before the march and you got sick and you couldn't go, and what you saw when you watched the march on television the next day and how you felt.
Saturday before the march we wa- co- I was cooking 200 dinners to sell so we could purchase buses to go on that march. On, and then the next day when march was, I got sick and I couldn't go, so I watched it from my TV. And I was upset, I was angry, I just could not understand why that kind of hostility was going on and, and all the prejudiceness that was in there. And when they start throwing those rotten eggs and rocks and start turning over the buses and one of the little cars that we had got, that someone set it on fire, I just wasn't quite as nonviolent as I thought I was 'cause I think if I had been there I would have just hit back.
OK, good, good, very good.
Mrs. Dunlap, how did you feel when, ah, you heard that Dr. King was going to be involved in organizing, ah, a movement, becoming a part of the movement in Chicago?
I felt very good about that and my first reaction was--
--when I heard that Dr. King was coming to Chicago.
OK. When I heard that Dr. King was coming to Chicago--
I was just talking on top of you, go ahead.
OK. When I heard that Dr. King was coming to Chicago I felt very good about that 'cause my first reaction was, "Gee, thank you Jesus, you've sent someone to save us from the depression and the oppression that we have been getting." So he was like a Christ to me that come in to lead us out of like the wilderness or the depression that we were in, and lead us to something that was going to be different. And I, I really felt like we were being led to the promised land, in a sense, and that was promised land was out of the oppression of the way we were being treated, especially as tenants.