Interview: Thomas Grant


In this interview, I’m asking Thomas Grant, the interviewee who was born and raised in Philadelphia, questions about the Civil Rights Movement, his childhood, his education, and things that were happening in his neighborhood. A couple of questions he doesn't know, but his answers to other questions were things I never knew about. This 67 year-old man witnessed a lot of things during work, school, or even when is at home, but he never participated during that time. When you read and/or listen to the interview, you might learn new things that you never would've guessed.

During the interview, Thomas brought up the Million-Man march. He said that he seen a couple people from his job who went down to Washington D.C. When I researched that event, it said that it happened 20 years ago (October 16, 1995) at Washington D.C. and the website Million Man March says: “The Million Man March was one of the most historic organizing and mobilizing events in the history of Black people in the United States.” The person that led the march was Minister Louis Farrakhan who is the leader for Nation of Islam, but besides that he was a black religious and social leader.

      Interview Part 1

Tyrone: Okay, hello, name is Tyrone Grant. What is yours?

Thomas: Uh...Thomas Grant.

Tyrone: Okay, you remember your parents?

Thomas: (chuckled) Yes.

Tyrone: Okay, so what were your parents like when you were a kid?

Thomas: parents, but demanding. They were religious and um...they made sure we had everything we needed. As children growing up, we were fed, clothed, sheltered, they were good and it was a good time.

Tyrone Okay, okay, so where were you living when you were a kid? Outside the state or…

Thomas: I was living in Philadelphia.

Tyrone: So, when you were younger, did you see any role of race in society?

Thomas: Yes, on the news for one, just with the police department how blacks were treated compared to the whites. Certain neighborhoods if you went into them, they would stop you, and harass you. It was...a time where when you stayed in your neighborhood, you were fine.

Tyrone: Oh wow, so how about your parents? Did they see any types of discrimination?

Thomas: Uh yeah, well my dad fought in World War II, and he was born in the South and he had to leave the South and came North because of racism.

Tyrone: Alright, so that’s pretty interesting. So what was it like being you know...a son of a man who fought in the war?

Thomas: He didn’t talk about the war much. He was more into providing, so he spent his time trying to make a...make it so we can survive. At one time, I was told he was making $0.76 an hour, so money was not there like it is today. I’m blessed because I’m able to make a lot more. (giggling)

Tyrone: So that’s pretty interesting. So have you witnessed or involved, or were involved (correcting myself) in anything about the Civil Rights Movement?

Thomas: I’ve witnessed...well basically what you saw on the news; police brutality in Philadelphia. We had riots back in the 60’s because of prejudice and racism. Martin Luther King as you know, being on the news and seeing what he was fighting for. Knowing and heard of the...people talk about it; athletes who’ve played basketball, saying that they couldn’t go in the front door of a restaurant where they was going to go to eat. The Boston Celtics, the center for them talked about it, people talked about it, but coming up when we were coming up, it wasn’t too much we could really do.

Tyrone: Okay, so you’ve mentioned riots and stuff in Philadelphia, correct?

Thomas: Yea.

Tyrone: Okay, so were you involved in those riots?

Thomas: No I wasn’t involved in them, but...they were basically in our neighborhood. Police...attacked a boy and before anybody realized or knew what was going on, people gotten together and four or five blocks away from where I was living, Columbia Avenue and Susquehanna Avenue, they were tearing up, destroying stuff, breaking into the stores, and they brought out the National Guard. So yea I’ve seen it, I didn’t get involved in it.

Tyrone: That’s interesting, umm so have you ever witnessed any other types of segregation against others?

Thomas: Yea, uh it hasn’t been as I got older; I kind of stayed away, but yea I’ve seen where people wouldn’t allow you to do things. You couldn’t go into certain neighborhoods like I said before. I was less of a “out on the streets” type of person, I was more home and when I travel, I travel to a place and came back. I didn’t really hangout.

Tyrone: Oh I see, now I know where I got my laziness from. (laughing)


   Interview Part 2

Tyrone: Alright, so did you know anybody that participated in the Civil Rights Movement?

Thomas: Yea, I people-I knew some not a lot, but I knew a couple of people during the Civil Rights time with Martin Luther King. They went to Washington, the million-man march. Not personally, but knowing them from maybe working with them or their parents, not working but...parents who went on the march.

Tyrone: Alright, so you said working, so what job were you working for?

Thomas: Well, I worked for Septa and I wasn’t working during the Martin Luther King march because I was still in school, but I’ve been where they had other marches, so yea I knew a couple of people, but not many.

Tyrone: So um, did you ever attend a school that had segregation?

Thomas: Segregation (whispering), No, because basically the schools I’ve went to were basically black.

Tyrone: So how was it like going to an all-black school?

Thomas: Well you don’t know any difference because it is all black and nobody is being treated any differently. You know, it’s not like going to a school that’s half and half, you can see things, but when you to a school that’s basically all black, you don’t get that.

Tyrone: So, in the all-black schools, did you have like cheaper supplies and like...what I mean by supplies, I mean like books and stuff than the white schools?

Thomas: I can’t answer that because we didn’t know. All we knew was that we had books and we did have books, and we had the pencils, and the paper and all that. Let’s say another school had more than our school, it wasn’t put out there because the media today is so much more, and information is passed around so much easier. Back then, you’ve got your books, and we didn’t have basically what you have today: computers, and calculators, and everything we did had to be done by hand and by memory.

Tyrone: So was it tough in school for you?

Thomas: Well you don’t know because you don’t know the difference...we had nothing to measure one from another.

Tyrone: I meant like..just know. Like right now, it’s tough for me in school so I’m saying on a daily basis doing work and was it tough?

Thomas: I mean, I made it through if that’s what you’re asking. I graduated, but when you  saying tough, I guess all schools had their bullies, but listening to the news today, it was nowhere near as bad as it is today.

Tyrone: I have a quick question, so it’s a little bit off topic. How many brothers and sisters do you have?

Thomas: One sister, two brothers.

Tyrone: What were their names?

Thomas: Joyce, Troy, and David.

Tyrone: Okay I know Joyce, but tell me about Troy and David.

Thomas: What do you want to know?

Tyrone: What were they like?

Thomas: Oh, well we got along fine, everybody was good. When I went to high school, my sister was married, so she was gone. My brother went to the military, my oldest brother went to the military. My youngest brother, when he got out of school, he went to the military.

Tyrone: That’s interesting. Did you lose anybody that you knew personally like a family member because of discrimination and segregation out there?

Thomas: Did I what?

Tyrone: Did you lose anybody?

Thomas: Oh, no. Not that I can say no. To my knowledge, I don’t know anybody in my family that died because of segregation.

Tyrone: Okay, well that’s good, that’s good. Have you ever faced any types of segregation like you personally?

Thomas: Personally, I’ll say no cause I don’ no, personally no.

Tyrone: Okay, well that’s it. Thank you for your time.

Thomas: My pleasure.