acumen 3.0ɑ
Working Lives Oral History Project

Interview with James Nar Williams

Permanent URL:
In this interview, Jesse Nar Williams talks about the various jobs he's held, especially working at the TCI steel mill, as well as discusses his views on segregation and the Civil Rights movement. Williams worked jobs in construction, as a brick mason, and for a railroad. For a period of years, he was a barber, even after they changed the law so that people couldn't get a licenses if they were working out of their homes. He did what he calls bootleg barbering and was arrested for it once. Williams spent most of his working life at TCI, first on a labor gang, then as a millwright's helper and finally a millwright. He describes the way blacks were kept from advancing. He also recalls how he dealt with racism on the job. He says whites like you if you're a fool, and they hate you if you've got any sense. He didn't have any problem telling white men he worked with the truth instead of telling them what they wanted to hear. This attitude sometimes got him in trouble. His coworkers didn't like him because he wasn't Uncle-Toming like they were, but the big bosses respected his opinions. Williams describes the hiring process, and he also talks about a worker's retirement. On his last day, he would come to work dressed up and spend all day talking and not working, but still getting paid. He also recounts several accidents he saw. He talks about violence to scabs during union strikes and explains that in later years, the company ran a closed shop, which meant that you had to join the union to be hired for a job. Williams ends by talking about segregation, especially with regards to eating. He talks about his opinions of Martin Luther King, Jr., George Wallace, and Justice Hugo Black, the latter of whom he says had been a member of the Ku Klux Klan but who was a fair judge who supported blacks.
Williams, James Nar
McCallum, Steve
Date Created
Physical Description
3 audio cassettes
Physical Description
3 transcripts
United States--Alabama--Jefferson County--Birmingham
Williams, James Nar -- 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)