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Working Lives Oral History Project

Interview with Ella Pegues

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In this interview, Ella Pegues recalls life during segregation as she recounts her active role in the events of the Civil Rights movement. Pegues remembers the difficulty of dealing with segregation. She says she was active in boycotts of and sit-ins at establishments that would not serve blacks. She recalls being in jail a couple of times for this passive resistance, and she remembers Martin Luther King, Jr., visiting them to instruct them on how to behave. She also recounts stories of problems on public transportation. Pegues says that older folks didn't think the marches and other efforts to push civil rights would accomplish anything. She says they seemed even more excited about the successes because they didn't know it could be done. Pegues remembers the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church. Afterwards, she said she felt empty: I didn't exactly feel angry because we had been conditioned... not to be angry with anything that happened. But she questions why it had to happen, especially to innocent children. Pegues describes segregation as stupid. She says that it didn't make any sense that she could work with whites and be a wet nurse to white babies, but could not eat with whites. Another example she gives is of an old boss: Lord have mercy! I cook her food. I couldn't come in the front door. Wasn't that stupid? She also describes segregation as wasteful because the building of separate facilities was expensive. Pegues discusses the hypocrisy of whites. She says she hates it when whites say they like black people but do so in a condescending way, heard in the way they would say it, and the terms they would use. She says this is still a problem, and it will take generations to correct. Pegues also discusses Fred Shuttlesworth and her experiences with Martin Luther King, Jr. She recalls Gov. George Wallace's Stand in the Schoolhouse Door. She also tells the story of a friend of hers who was a nurse to Bull Connor. The woman tormented him subtly for a time, but Pegues convinced her to stop. Pegues says she believes his attitudes were a result of his raising.
Pegues, Ella
Hamrick, Peggy
Date Created
Physical Description
2 audio cassettes
Physical Description
2 transcripts
United States--Alabama--Jefferson County--Birmingham
Pegues, Ella -- Interviews
Document Types
sound recording-nonmusical


William Stanley Hoole Special Collections Library
Repository Collection
Archive of American Minority Cultures

Part of

Online Repository
The University of Alabama Libraries Digital Collections
Digital Collection
Working Lives Oral History Project

Additional Information

Digitization Funding
The digitization of this collection was funded by a gift from EBSCO Industries.
Access Conditions
  • Collection may be protected under Title 17 of the U.S. Copyright Law.
  • To obtain permission to publish or reproduce, please contact the W. S. Hoole Special Collections Library.
EBSCO Industries
The University of Alabama Libraries (Tuscaloosa, Alabama)