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African-American Women Recall Subtle Methods of Resisting Segregation

During the Jim Crow era, when overt resistance could lead to a lynching, many black people found subtle ways to combat the humiliation that they were daily subjected to. For Georgia Sutton, methods of coping included maintaining a cheerful facade before her white employers, while Olivia Cherry simply refused to answer when called by a humiliating nickname.

Sutton: My mother told me nobody ever knows what goes through your head. She used to say, that lady that I work for is foolish enough to believe that I really like her. She said I'm not thinking about her one way or the other. Just pay me what she owes me. And I learned, too, that I could smile on the outside. 

Cherry: And she would call me, I would be upstairs cleaning the bathroom, and she said, "Susie." They loved to call me Susie. "Susie." And so I didn't answer. I was a spunky kid then. I was like thirteen or fourteen, and I didn't answer. And finally, she come to the steps and said, "Ah, Olivia, you hear me calling you?" I said, "Now I hear you. Now you said, 'Olivia.' That's my name." And then there was this white man and his girlfriend. They had a raspberry farm. Here goes my name again. The man said, "Hey, Susie. Susie. You missed some on your row." Well, I knew he was calling me, because this was my row, but I just kept on working. And he said, "Susie, don't you hear me talking to you?" I said, "I told you before, my name is Olivia. Olivia. Can you say that?"

Source | Georgia Sutton and Olivia Cherry to Stephen Smith et al, "You Don't Know Me," circa 1994-1996, from American Radioworks, Remembering Jim Crow,, http://americanradioworks.publicradio.org/features/remembering/resistance.html.
Interviewer | Stephen Smith
Interviewee | Georgia Sutton and Olivia Cherry
Rights | Transcripts from "Remembering Jim Crow," an American Radioworks ® documentary produced by Stephen Smith, Kate Ellis and Sasha Aslanian, © (p) 2001 American Public Media. Used with permission. All rights reserved.
Item Type | Oral History
Cite This document | “African-American Women Recall Subtle Methods of Resisting Segregation,” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed October 19, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/986.

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