Interviewees

In this project the UAL Field Team has gathered the stories of several individuals from West Baltimore whose life experiences represent the essence and spirit of the Pennsylvania Avenue Arts District between World War II and 1968. The stories of our interviewees have been used to fuel the two interactive portions of this exhibition: Our children’s book: Billie Back in Baltimore and the West Baltimore Memory Map. The children's book characters are each inspire by an interviewee, while the Memory Map provides an opportunity to geographically experience the landmarks, historical sites and life events from the community of West Baltimore. Below are the stories of our interviewees that have fueled this exhibition:


Interview with Susan T. King
Mrs. Susan T. King
Always Essential:

Mrs. Susan King is a prime example of the importance placed upon education as an essential skill, paving a way for others to follow.

Throughout her life, Mrs. King has set a standard of excellence. Growing up in Baltimore, Mrs.King was raised in a family that prioritized education and encouraged her to strive for the best life possible despite the rampant segregation and discrimination. 

Mrs. Susan Taylor King grew up on 600 Carrie Street in a community that was more than a set of homes. Rather it was the foundation of West Baltimore’s diverse Black middle class.

West Baltimore was home to some of Black America’s most revolutionary figures; such as Elijah Cummings, Thurgood Marshall, and Victorine Adams. And like Mrs. King, a majority of these individuals did not collect such prestigious accomplishments due to a desire of fame and fortune, but rather due to a set of intrinsic values held together by community expectations.

Said expectations were made up of a drive to move not only oneself, but one's community forward. Mrs. King is the exemplification of this understanding, since her service to her nation was primarily due to values instilled in her from her upbringing which emphasized that one should not stand by idly during times of uncertainty. With the option of either attending college or working after an early high school graduation, Mrs. King chose to be trained in riveting at the temporary industrial school at the end of Freemont and Schroder Street. 

Little did Mrs. King know that her contribution would make her one of the few Black Riveters who were essential to the assembly of World War II aircrafts. Mrs. King found herself constructing aircrafts at a company called Martin’s Marieta Group, which would later be called Lockheed Martin. 

Although Baltimore was extraordinarily segregated during the early 1940s, federal mandates prohibited segregation in the Martin factory. That being said, women of all shades assisted in the effort to construct American made bombers at a speed that would support war efforts. The faster these riveter’s worked the more likely America’s victory against the Axis (Germany, Japan, and Italy). This section of Mrs. King’s life before attending college proved to be one that would cement her legacy in the halls of American history. 

At the close of World War II, Mrs. King received documentation approving her to leave Martin’s in order to attend college. Mrs. King was persistent in receiving a quality education and thus attended several Historically  Black Colleges and Universities before she graduated from Morgan. During her time at Morgan, she met her husband Mr. King, a biology teacher trained by George Washington Carver. Mrs. King would soon find herself to be not only a teacher but a counselor in Baltimore City’s public school system. As a teacher, Mrs. King began teaching at the 4th grade level at Baltimore Elementary school 107, but would eventually find herself teaching high school biology at Edmondson high school.

King’s career in education lasted for thirty-two years, and led her to the position of a high school guidance counselor that assisted her students to think of what contributions they could make in order to uplift their communities as well. However, during her time as a teacher King saw a dramatic shift in her West Baltimore community.


Interview with Ronald Bailey
Mr. Ronald Bailey:
The Music of West Baltimore

During its heyday, Pennsylvania Avenue was known as an epicenter for the Black community. Baltimore was a popular hotspot for musicians, performers and audiences alike. As a musician, Ronald W. Bailey was immersed within the thriving entertainment district of Pennsylvania Avenue. Pennsylvania Avenue was a Jazz mecca that hosted top tier artists such as Billie Holiday, Diana Ross, and many other entertainers who performed in venues such as the Royal Theatre. Having so much to offer the community, “The Avenue” became a major stop for Black entertainment during that time.

Ronald W. Bailey was born in 1943 and was raised on Edmondson Avenue until the age of twenty-five. From an early age, Bailey learned how to read music and different scales. At the age of twelve, he began playing the clarinet and then playing the flute. He began mastering different woodwind instruments throughout his primary education. Later he attended Fredrick Douglass High School. After graduation, he applied to the Peabody Institute, which is a renowned preparatory school for musicians. From there he decided to leave the school in his second year because Black musicians were not allowed to join the orchestra. In 1963 he attended Morgan State University, studying music. During his time at Morgan State University, he played in a band with some of his other musician friends. His band specified in no genre, playing anything from rock and roll to jazz, to generate money for school. 

The prevalent segregation during the sixties made Bailey’s music career difficult at times. Bailey was told his band could not perform for several venues because of the discrimination prevalent in Baltimore City. The assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. tremendously shaped the culture of Pennsylvania Avenue. The abrupt change of The Avenue was a catalyst within Baltimore City and fostered the redevelopment of a nation.


Interview with Barbara Hunter
Ms. Barbra Hunter:
A Life Designed

Ms. Barbra Hunter is a multi-talented individual whose priorities have shaped her life's work. It can be inferred that her work has represented the epitome of truth and service, a concept enhanced by her alma mater Howard University, but instilled in her by her father Herman L Taylor. Her father, a lawyer educated at Columbia University, decided to begin his practice in North Carolina, a state with harsh segregation policies and racial prejudice .

Taylor built his practice during the early 1940s where in the segregated South police brutality was at an all time high, and the second World War was creating cultural dissonance on a national level. Barbra Hunter was born in Richmond Virginia in 1940 shortly before her father set up his practice in North Carolina. This relocation was a part of the 20th Great Migration, where millions of Black people relocated for the sake of better opportunities. Ms. Hunter repeatedly mentioned the quality of her education in the segregated South. This can primarily be attributed to the lack of state and or federal concern with free education systems at the time, especially those mandated for Black children.

Ms. Hunter’s explained, that there are only so many subject matters that could be taught within state education mandates at the time. These mandates allowed room for educators to “improvise” when developing curriculum. Many Black educators took this opportunity to enhance free education curriculum. They included a variety of core subjects such as arts, home economics, humanities, and sciences. Due to this robust education, Ms. Hunter began sewing at the age of six or seven due to her home economics course. Ms. Hunter began sewing dolls due to the lack of Black dolls that were sold at that time, and thus, took her first step in a journey of life’s work. Although he was proud of his daughter's work, Mr. Taylor would have preferred for Ms. Hunter to be a lawyer. However, she was determined to be one of the top clothing designers in the country. So she graduated college from Howard University in 1956  as a clothing and textiles major.

She continued on to the Fashion Institute of Technology in 1957 where, due to the support of her community and unmatched ambition, Ms. Hunter entered her design training with a large resume spanning her many years designing. She regularly designed for the one and only Ebony Fashion Fair, which she had been attending since the age of fourteen.

Years later Ms. Hunter had her first child, Joy Hunter in New York, who like her mother showed early signs of being an avid reader with impeccable comprehension skills. So in 1971 Ms. Hunter and Joy moved from New York to the Baltimore/ Washington Metropolitan Area in search of opportunities and a higher quality education.

As Ms. Hunter’s career grew so did her familial support system. Ms. Hunter’s mother also relocated with them to serve as a caretaker for Joy and for the other children in her community. Ms. Hunter encouraged Joy's participation in her fashion shows. And as a result of her Mother's efforts, Joy would grow up to become a successful model and dancer.

Ms. Hunter continues to make history as an educator pushing her scholars to reach unmatched heights and ambitious goals. She regularly reminds her students of their potential, and encourages them “To be better than her.” This goal is one that is sure to usher in a new wave of Black designers for years to come. Thanks to the life's work of Barbra Hunter inspired by a legacy of truth and service.


Interview with Tasha Collins-Faty


Interview with Jae Boston


Interview with Melosong Edwards
Mr. George “Blue” Kellam 
The Baltimore Arabbers; A Community Lifeline:

Arabbers like George “Blue” Kellum, were horse lovers, committed to self reliance. The Baltimore Arabbers, located in the state of Maryland, are individuals who have sustained a practice over generations to become an institution in Baltimore by servicing industry and the community. They are distinct in their calls and decorated carts, each Arabber travels a specific assigned route bringing fresh produce and fresh seafood to the doors of Baltimore community members. To this day, you can still find a few Arabbers in Baltimore city selling fresh produce on horse-drawn carts. 

The Arabbers culture links many elements to the essence of Baltimore. Baltimore is a port city on the Patapsco River that empties into the Chesapeake Bay, and is known for its seafood. Baltimore is also a hub for trade as well as the city where boundless numbers of people migrated to find employment with the port as one of the main employers. Even the Arabbers come to the docks to load up with fresh seafood and goods. 

Baltimore was a major hub in American slave history. In addition to it being a place that shipped in tons of agricultural products, it was also a funnel for Black lives as slave labor.  After the abolition of slavery, it was a major stop for those migrating from the deep south. This is a part of the story of George “Blue” Kellam, Melosong Edwards and Jae Boston.

As Mrs. Melosong Edwards, Mr. Blue’s daughter explained about her father, "this job wasn’t easy.” Just as her father sometimes came in completely exhausted from driving the cart all day and into the night, Mr. Blue could be so tired he couldn’t eat dinner. However, he still had to pack away the cart, feed, brush and prepare the horse for sleep; and return to the family before rising up to do it all over again the next day.

Mr. Jae Boston, Blue’s nephew, recalled that Blue was one of the men who helped to raise him, and used the culture of Arabbing as a vehicle to impart lessons on to him that he equated to rites of passage for him and his cousins. Mr. Boston learned from his uncle how to care for the horses and stables, how to do signature Arraber calls, and how to load-up and sell from the carts. Blue regularly reminded Jae to always have a business that he could operate independently. In addition, the men taught the boys life lessons and behaviors they associated with manhood. Though Mr. Boston did not follow this path of am Arabber, he appreciated learning life's lessons from his uncle. He described his family as aspirers. He recognized that the transitions they made, be it leaving Virginia to Arabbing in Baltimore, were all in aspirations to make a better life for themselves and their families.

With far more regulations now than in their heyday , there are still Arabbers trying to keep the Arrabing culture and practice alive. The Arabbers, to many of a lower economic status, were a great source of community based public welfare.

 Mr. Blue was an Arabber known for his generosity. If someone along his route did not have enough money for food, he would not let that family go hungry. Mr. Blue made it part of his responsibility to help his fellow human. And, he had a special place in his heart for the elderly. Mrs. Edwards attributed it to the love he had for the elders in his family. The Baltimore Arabbers are still present today so if you are in this city and see one with their beautifully painted horse-drawn carts , you are witnessing a piece of history.


Interview with Peggy S. Jackson
Mrs. Peggy S. Jackson
Education Through Community:

Mrs. Peggy S. Jackson embodied both the pride and industrious nature of The Avenue. Mrs. Jackson is a native of Baltimore born in 1939 at Provident Hospital. Since childhood, she has created opportunities for herself and others through the means of entrepreneurship and education.

In her interview, Mrs.Jackson spoke to how she worked hard by balancing multiple jobs to provide for herself and her family growing up. As a child, Mrs. Jackson exaggerated her age so that she could hold a job in a dry cleaner. Unbeknownst to her parents, she juggled an obligation to watch after her younger brother to go work her one hour shift folding and packing laundry. She held this job for 3 weeks before her father became the wiser and called an end to it. Mrs. Jackson worked there long enough to have saved enough money to buy fabric at the local fabric store for her roller skating  outfit. 

Though the Avenue and Baltimore had a bustling shopping scene, including the likes of The Charm Centre, Pauline Brooks, Henden’s, Lindolens, Stacey Adams and the Alpha shoe store, fashion was just as integral for the young girl and her skating gear. Thus she had sewn her outfit and adorned her shoes with her newly purchased shoelaces and pom pom accessories. Still a youngster, she tapped into a sense of fearlessness and self reliance that has carried her throughout her life. 

The same juggling of talent, time, commitment, pride and fearlessness proved itself as Mrs. Jackson ascended the ladder of academia and career. Throughout her adolescence and adulthood she has maintained multiple jobs such as a saleswoman of baked goods, a postal worker, a waitress at Sampson’s Restaurant, host and even a bartender at Garrison Lounge . Contemporarily, she ascended the hierarchy in academia. 

After graduating from Frederick Douglass High School (as her mother did and daughter would), Mrs. Jackson began her collegiate matriculation at Coppin Teachers College, where her Sharon Baptist Church Sunday School director Miles Conner was an administrator. Mrs. Jackson is centered in a matrilineal line of five generations of educators, four of whom have taught in the Baltimore Public school system, as shared by her granddaughter Mrs. Tasha Collins-Faty. Mrs. Jackson would be one of three generations of Coppin women. 

Mrs. Jackson left Coppin because she was “too in love” to finish college. She later finished her degree at Coppin, and served as a teacher at Carver and Northern, as well as a vice principal at Lake Crofton and Forest Park. She then served as a principal at Mary E. Rodman. 

During this time Black schools in many areas of the country prioritized the teaching of skills that granted students autonomy in their day to day life. “Action Jackson”, as they sometimes called her, was a very hands-on social studies and civics teacher who was keen on teaching Black children about their own history, identity and strength. Mrs. Jackson’s sentiment was that if anyone could make something happen, then so could she. Her success came in that she set a plan, then she worked her plan. With this same advice, she has reared her children and her students with the ability to foster their own success.


Interview with Brenda Brown
Ms. Brenda Brown

Ms. Brenda Brown is a Baltimore native born in 1958, who has witnessed the tides turn in her beloved city. Once she graduated from Douglass High School, Ms. Brown continued her collegiate education at Morgan State University.

Ms. Brown recalls the pleasant days where she could walk “any and everywhere” and still feel safe. Growing up in the McCulloh Homes project, Ms. Brown recalls a happy childhood with her siblings. She was closest to her mother Doris, who struggled as a single mother to care for her and her siblings. Memories of trips to the Salvation Army on Saturdays to buy “new to you” clothes accompany memories of trips to Levi's Shoe Store to buy new black patent leather shoes for school. 

When she was younger, her family lived on Catherine Street and attended Shiloh Christian Community Church, under Rev. Baynard. She recalls the church being a staple in her community. Ms. Brown also attended public church events on Argyle Street, within the same community she currently lives in.

Ms. Brown found solace in another institution of the Black community usually only sought out at the time a loved ones’ life ends - Rice’s Funeral Home (now Estep Brothers Funeral Home of Baltimore). Back in the day, it  was known to be a staple in her community. As a child, Ms. Brown and Mrs. Rice shared a friendship. By the age of 12, her family would entrust the Rice Funeral Home with laying her dear mother to rest. Mr. Rice and the Estep Brothers would go on to prepare final rites for all her family members who had transitioned.

Ms. Brown’s father, S.B. Brown, migrated from Alabama to Baltimore when Ms. Brown was still a young child. For all that she could recount, Ms. Brown had only known her father to ever work at the Chesapeake Corporation (who absorbed Baltimore Paper Box Company in 1961). He would bring home toilet paper, sanitary products, books, and other paper based items for his family. After about forty years, he finally retired. He still lives here in Baltimore. 

After her first degree, Ms. Brown attended Cornell University in New York and worked an internship with the US State Department in Ghana. Her trend of traveling Africa and the world would hold steady throughout her life, however Baltimore would still remain home. 

Ms. Brown still teaches in Baltimore schools, even after retiring from a twenty-six year career at Morgan State University. Throughout her life experiences, she has seen the systemic impact of racism in schools and community, and attributes this to the blight of Baltimore. She has always recognized that the only constant in life is change.