Edward H. Nabb Research Center for Delmarva History & Culture Enduring Connections: Exploring Delmarva's Black History


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Interview with Anne Dashield, 13 July 2004

Audio Recording

About This Recording

In this interview, Anne Dashield describes her experience growing up as an African American in the Salisbury area in the 1930's and 40's. She speaks of her education, the civil rights movement and strife in the 60's, as well as some of her experiences with discrimination.

This interview is part of the Teaching American History Program. For more information, see the Edward H. Nabb Center Finding Aid.


Interviewer: Janis Robinson
Narrator: Anne Dashield
Date: July 13th, 2004
Keywords: Civil Rights Movement, Segregation, Mental Health Care, Annapolis, World War II, Fruitland, Annapolis

Janis Robinson (JR): My name is Jan Robinson and I'm interviewing Anne Pollitt Dashield, who graduated from the Fruitland Elementary School in 1935 [Anne Dashield speaks, inaudible] Salisbury High School in '39. What are your memories of Fruitland Elementary School?

Anne Dashield (AD): Well, Fruitland Elementary School was a very enjoyable to a certain extent as far as learning to get along with our fellow students and enjoying the teachers who were very dedicated to us. And we often were able to enjoy ourselves by the games we played and we sort of enjoyed learning the subject matter that was taught. Although we had an inferior education due to the lack of educational materials that we had. But we enjoyed it and it was quite an enjoyable school.

JR: When did you first realize that you weren't getting the education that your white peers did?

AD: Well, I quite a bit—my dad would always discuss things, problems that we would have in going to the stores to shop and we would go into these stores and there were other customers there who came in the store before we did and we were never waited on. Sometimes we were just, we're not—we were ignored and we were not able to get the service as we were supposed to do, supposed to get. But that was one of the main things that we observed and other places that we were not supposed to go because we knew that there were signs like "White only" and that were other signs that made us realize that we were supposedly inferior to the other people.

JR: (You've been through a lot in your lifetime ... were you involved at all with the Civil Rights Movement?)?

AD: I wasn't exactly involved in the Civil Rights Movement because of how we were involved and how we got the news and what was going on as far as what was taking place. I remember in 1964, but this was before the Civil Rights Act, that we realized that things were happening and that there were protests going around and we saw in the papers, and my father would read the paper to us, and we would find out that way. And in conversations with our fellow friends and what not, we would hear information about things going on.

JR: [Do you have a human rights leader or figure at the time that you can ...(inaudible)?]

AD: Well, most of the time there were pastors of the churches were, and sometimes we always, were very familiar with the leaders of Cambridge. They were to be—[H.] Rap Brown, he was one of the main leaders that took place. He was visiting Cambridge and I think maybe that was the cause of the riot, he caused the riot in Cambridge area and we were very upset about that.

JR: [about the riots?]

AD: About the riots taking place and we wondered, we were wondering why people could not get along, why the both races could not get along and we continued to hear about other places that were taking on as far as the protests that were going on.

JR: [Do you have children?]

AD: Oh, yes. I have three children.

JR: [Did they go through integration(inaudible)?]

AD: They did not go—it was not until the schools were integrated in Salisbury, 1964 I believe, something like that.

JR: [Were they, did they go to the (inaudible)?]

AD: They were the first, first classes they were, yes, I had a son and a daughter who entered the first class of integrated schools and they—

JR: How was that [compared to ___?]

AD: Well, I could see there was quite a lot of stress on my daughter. She was denied enter into the cheerleading squad, she wanted to be in a cheerleading squad at one time. So finally, she did make it and it was through a fellow classmate that caused her—spoke up for her and was able to get her a letter. Athletic, or a school letter for the school. And then there was a teacher who also helped her to feel at home with the teachers because she, because this particular teacher, he was a male teacher who saw that they sat together and he made them feel—he tried to make them feel that they were just as good as their fellow students.

JR: Whats the best thing thats come out of the Civil Rights Movement, [inaudible]?

AD: I think the best thing that has come out of the Civil Rights Movement is that a lot us negroes who had become very disappointed, depressed and disenchanted about the past have now become sort of acclimated, and were able to get along with others in spite of the struggles they had in not being able, or not having the opportunity to get along. Due to the arts, I think the arts. I think the arts have done lot to help incorporate this, come together.

JR: [Do you think ... are there any bad sides to this new era?].

AD: The bad side is that there is still some stigmatism and prejudice still existing among and among different people in the light of—the fact that some people, although they are qualified to get jobs, they're still being denied. And that's due to, I guess, the lack of understanding and not being able to face what is very, very important in life.

JR: Do you have [inaudible], what would you tell him?

AD: I think I would tell President Bush that he should in spite of, for instance, the what's going on now. I think the the organization, NAACP is now having their convention and I think he has refused to speak. And I think he should actually be a part of that, admit that, and make sure that he would attend and he would find that things would be better for both sides.

JR: Do you have any advice you'd like to give to future generations? [inaudible]

AD: So you see, I have a, for an example, I have a daughter who sometimes is trying to get further education. She has a bachelor's, so she's getting the second bachelor's and everything. And I don't—I think that there's not much that I can give her because she has her own agenda and that she can stand up for herself.

JR: [What would ... what part of ...?]

AD: Something in particular I would like, I think, one of my experiences having been—having visited New York. It goes back to the fact that I was involved in a hobby and the hobby was joining contests. And I read about this going on and they had a convention in New York, and I traveled to New York alone. Well, when I got to the Hudson Hotel—I don't know whether it's still there or not in New York—but the hotel was a large, too large hotel. But anyway, I went alone and I entered the convention. I had my ticket. I was supposed to register, but I got there so late, that I couldn't register. So when I got there, the place was crowded and the door was open. So I was standing up there and the fellow president, and I never shall forget his name, President Wrinkle, he was a Wrinkle, from Tennessee. And he was speaking at the podium. He saw me standing up there and he said, he didn't say anything, I said, "Well," and they told me at the registration, he said, "You should've registered, I don't think people can get in at this time because you were late entering." So I sit up there and I asked one or two white women there, that were sitting and I said, "Do you have registration?" "Oh, we got here late." So I said, "Well," he said, "Well, go on ahead." So when the president saw me, I went in midway of the auditorium and I sat beside the white couple, who I later discovered they were German, and the president said, "No one is allowed in here without a registration, without having registration." Nobody talked, nobody moved. So when I got there and I sat down, and he repeated it, and I said to them "I couldn't register, I couldn't register" and they got the message right away, they said, "Stay right here, stay right here." So finally he kept repeating, I just got up so they would know who they were talking about. So I walked out, and that evening, during that, the crowd that came around me as I was crying and I was just so disappointed and angry. And they said, "Come on Anne," said, "Come on up to the hotel room and have a beer." I said, "No, I don't feel like having a beer." So, the next morning—he never did apologize—they got around me, and I said, "I think I—I wish I knew Ralph Bunche's name I would call him." He was a well known black lawyer, you know. So the rest of the time I got, it was all right. You know, I got over it, you know, because he didn't say anything else to me, he didn't apologize but the people who I'd sat besides, they told me, "You know what?" and he got all kinds of messages under his door professing what he had done. So—

JR: Were you the only African American?

AD: The only African there, you can't imagine, I didn't see another one.

JR: What kind of contests did you enter?

AD: Oh you have to, like, you name things, you know like, there's different one, I've met people who had won a lot of money at the time, I had won a mattress, (inaudible phrase), and also I won to name the rooster at the old grocery store. I'd run (inaudible). So that's one of the main, there're others too, but.

JR: Is there anything else you'd like to share?

AD: I was wondering, when I went to college, of course, I wasn't like, prepared for college, because in high school, you know, going through the inferior education, and I spent two years there, but I majored in physical education. And while there, I was able to meet Mrs. Mary (inaudible last name), and another person, Dr. Drew(?), who was responsible for the blood bank, and also Dorothy Height, who was the president of the YWCA in D.C. and there was a black doctor who, Dr. Caredy(?), who I was a friend of her nieces and we would go out together. But I was able to get my lifeguard certificate, and that summer, during the summers I would return to Annapolis to be a lifeguard for, and a counselor for kids coming in—underpriveleged kids with the exception of this college and (inaudible) a few miles from Annapolis. Every year we would have Christmas in July, and walk to Annapolis and do the Christmas shopping and come back, you know, and we would have bonfires at night and we would go take them to the beach every day. We would walk to the beach, because they, there was a black private beach, so they allowed us to go and I think there were cottages on the beach and one I met Cab Calloway's daughter once there, and also Mary Church Terrell, who was one of those activists (inaudible, audio too faint). And we would go there and shop and we'd come back, and of course we had one kid that he tried to hitchhike their way back to Washington. "Like it?" and the kids would tell us, "If we misbehave you can't hit me because I'm from D.C." you know. Then they were very good kids, you know, but then they'd have Lone Lake(?) on Sparrow's Beach, and during the summer you would hear these jazz bands coming off the water, they would have a summer jazz program every year. Every time, we heard this music off the water coming off the sounds of the beach, and we would take the kids out on the water, I don't do that now, rowing, you know, on this lake, you know, we'd come back and that's just an activity for the kids, that was a good experience.

[Robinson may have asked a follow up question, otherwise AD: pauses for a moment]

AD: My work experience was a bit difficult, you know, at times, we basically worked at the Delaney factory, and also, when I got older, of course, I pulled out of college and my sister had gone into the WACs, the Women's Army Corps, when she came out from the service she suffered a nervous breakdown because she had been in the postal unit in Germany right after—in England, right after Germany had bombed England. And when we got there, there was difficulty in finding her a hospital because she was black. So, the Dr. Purnell, a nice doctor, who treated her, but we knew she needed more help, you know, psychological help. So, we called a lady, our friend in Philadelphia and told her what problem we were having, and she said, "Bring her up to Philadelphia and see what we can do." So we took her to Philadelphia, we took her to the Naval Hospital as she suggested, and they could not believe it—why we were up here, we couldn't find any service for her to help. They didn't realize the extent of segregation in Maryland. So we took her there and they hem-and-hawed, like, couldn't believe it, I guess. So this lady said, "if you don't take her, we're going to leave her here just like this." So they got busy, and they got on the phone and they called, not Franklin (inaudible) Hospital, there's another she went to near the Naval Hospital and they transferred her by ambulance all the way to Chicago for her. So we had to visit her in Chicago. Once we finally got her put on medication, they wanted to give her a lobotomy, but we did not like that, you she wasn't (too different?). So we did not approve of that. But finally, she came back, with the medication, she was able to function pretty good after that.

JR: During the war, (were there big changes?) Here in Fruitland during World War II?

AD: Well, the changes were, we weren't aware of that, only that we missed out brothers and our sister and what changes? They weren't as bad, I guess, as other places in the time, (inaudible).

JR: Was your brothers in the army?

AD: Yes, my brothers were in the army, both of them, and they went overseas also. They were in the World War II, that was World War II.

JR: Do you think (inaudible)?

AD: Yeah, they were. I think there was a riot over in England [the 1943 Riot of Bamber Bridge], (inaudible) between black and white soldiers, or something, I remember correctly.

JR: (inaudible) ... Is there anything you'd like to close out with? ... (inaudible).

AD: Well, this is something that really, I'm glad is taking place because we need to hold on to our history and the younger generation needs to know these stories, and hopefully that they will get involved in knowing about our history more.

[Robinson and Dashield chat for a few more seconds, too faint to hear. Audio ends]