Venerine Branham Interview, 2004

Venerine Branham discusses her relationship with Louis Stokes, her memories of Cleveland growing up, Carl Stokes, and the desegregation of Cleveland schools.

Participants: Branham, Venerine (Interviewee) / Nazelli, Alisa (Interviewer)
Collection: Academy of American History
Institutional Repository: Cleveland Regional Oral History Collection

Interview Transcript

Alisa Nazelli [00:00:00] Okay, we're ready. All right. Excellent. So I'm really glad that you called back after. After we were here initially. And the reason I wanted to tape our conversation today was because you told me a particularly great story about how Lou used to escort you to church on Sundays. So. But before you. Before you talk about that again, we were talking on our way here about why everybody called Lou “Billy.” Do you remember why they called him Billy?

Venerine Branham [00:00:44] It's a name that his family called him. And so when we met that Stokes family, he was Billy. And I think all of us knew at a certain point his name was Lewis, but we always. Everybody just called him Billy because that's what his mom called him. That's what his grandmother called him. And Carl was always Carl, but, you know, Lou was always Billy. And once she start those habits early on, you know, you don't break them, just like he always calls me “Baby.” Well, certainly my name is not Baby, but I think it's a pattern that you get into, and it's. You just don't break it. Unless the person would say, oh, don't call me Billy anymore, you know? But he doesn't.

Alisa Nazelli [00:01:38] Okay, good. So how about when. Yeah, you were telling me on the phone about how he escorted you to church. Can you talk about that a little bit more?

Venerine Branham [00:01:51] Okay. Well, I would, you know, by living right next door. And I knew that he was always, you know, he was very structured in his life and goal oriented, and he went to church. Church was very much a part of his lifestyle. And so I would see him, you know, getting ready, and I would know that he was leaving for church. And I would wait until the last minute, literally, to say, Billy, can I go to church with you? And he would just kind of shake his head and said, oh, yeah, come on, hurry up and get ready. And, you know, so I tag along, and he was really just a big brother to me, even though I had a brother whom I loved very much. You know, it was something, you know, I was like his little sister, and I enjoyed that.

Alisa Nazelli [00:02:48] Good, good. In terms of back to Outhwaite. I really like what we talked about last time, but I forgot to ask you, were there any programs that they provided for kids, or were there any organized activities there that were provided for you at that age there or anything that you recall along those lines?

Venerine Branham [00:03:15] There were excellent programs available at POC. POC stands for Portland Outhwaite Center. And I don't know if that building is still there. It may or may not be but it was right across the street on, I believe, 46th, across from Kennard Junior High school. And I know Kennard is no longer there, but it was a center that you would go to after school, and certainly during the summer months for arts and crafts and swimming, although I did not swim, never was interested. My brother was a swimmer, and many of the children who lived in the projects did go there. In fact, the lifeguard at that swimming pool. And as I said, her mind, just her name leaves my mind, but I will get her name for you. And she was the swimming. Well, she was a lifeguard, but she was also swimming teacher. And she eventually became one of the first African Americans on the police force. And so she too. She's deceased, yes, within the past couple of years. But she too, was one of the first. And then. But she. All the guys really loved her because she was a very pretty young lady, and even into her as she aged, she became very beautiful. But anyway, she was the head person over the swimming program. But, yes, they did. And prior to POC even, they had a place that was on Woodland, maybe about 38th and Woodland. And I forget the name, but I think they called it Woodland Center. And again, you could go there, and they always just had activities that the children were attractive to, maybe just games and crafts. Those are the kinds of things I remember. Yeah, they had a great program. Then, as you went into, say, your early teen years, they had what we call Project Hall. And Project Hall was a place where they had dances on Friday night, and maybe the dances would start at maybe 7,7:30. And they had little singing groups, which was just a group of kids who decided they could sing and we would dance. And you never had to worry about walking to or from. And the kids got along. Every once in a while there may have been a scuffle, but we were never involved in that. And, you know, it was a fun place, and I think it was out. It would go on Friday nights maybe until about ten or 10:30, and at 10:30, you know, you better be on your way home. But they did have things for us to do. And in these courts, remember I told you they were like courts. Each court had swing set, and they had sandboxes and sliding boards. And, you know, the children played there regularly, too. They had a fenced off area for the courts in which they had gardens, and the adults could plant vegetables or whatever, flowers. And so it was really a rich environment to grow up in.

Alisa Nazelli [00:07:36] One other thing that we didn't get on tape, you wrote down a list of names of all of your contemporaries that came out of the Outhwaite community. Can you talk about a couple of people that particularly stand out for you?

Venerine Branham [00:07:56] Connie Harper, who is the editor, and she has another title, if you want to turn that off. I'll go and get my list, because I wrote it down. You did? We didn't get those on tape, but.

Alisa Nazelli [00:08:08] You'Re going to have to say that again.

Venerine Branham [00:08:09] Okay. Her name is Constance Harper, and we call her Connie Harper. She's the executive vice president and editor of the Call and Post, which is a weekly newspaper that talks. Its patrons are usually the black community, but they have offices in Columbus and Cincinnati. And so. But Connie and I would walk to Case Woodland school when we were in elementary school. So she's one of the persons, and I think she was one of five girls, and one of her sisters became a judge in the Cleveland municipal courts. Her name is Sarah Harper, and she's retired now, but she served a pretty long time. And she married a judge, too. And he didn't grow up in the project, though. Let's see, Bob Madison, who is the, with Madison architectural company, Madison International. And, of course, he's very famous. Let's see. Doctor Timothy Stevens was a noted orthopedic surgeon. He grew up in the project, and he's still around.

Alisa Nazelli [00:09:57] And these are people that you grew up with?

Venerine Branham [00:09:59] Oh, yeah, yeah, I grew up with these people. Carl Character. Carl Character also became a judge. He is now ill with a deteriorating muscle condition, but his mind is still pretty good. And so. Grew up with Carl.

Alisa Nazelli [00:10:28] So. Yeah. That's quite a list of names.

Venerine Branham [00:10:30] Oh, yeah.

Alisa Nazelli [00:10:31] And then the Stokes brothers.

Venerine Branham [00:10:33] That's right.

Alisa Nazelli [00:10:34] You're honestly remover and shaker, really, in terms of education and everything that you do. Okay. Just a little bit more about that general time period. Now, at the onset of World War II, we're used to still living in Outhwaite.

Venerine Branham [00:10:58] Yes, because that's when Lou went to the service, too. I was asking him. He went to the army in 1943. The war began in 1942, and he went to the service in 1943. And, yeah, we exchanged letters all the time. You know, his mom was worried, just like any other mother was. But he went and he had some stories to tell, too, because the services, there was still a lot of existing prejudice. And even though they were integrated, maybe as far as the kinds of requirements, you know, the training and so on, if they were stationed in the southern states, then, you know, they were very restricted in the kinds of things they could participate in. So, you know, but you would have to get the story from him. But it's, you know, it's sad, but anyway. Yeah.

Alisa Nazelli [00:12:13] Was he drafted or did.

Venerine Branham [00:12:15] He was drafted, so he had to go. Yeah.

Alisa Nazelli [00:12:22] And what was that parting like?

Venerine Branham [00:12:24] It was very sad. I couldn't. It was sad for me. And it's mom and I can remember riding on a streetcar and something. You girls don't even have an idea of what it was, but that's just what it was. A metal streetcar with metal wheels and made a lot of noise. And there was a, what mom told me was a cow catcher on the front. And I guess that was for a long time ago, when they still had cows roaming, I guess, in Cleveland. But it's called a cow catcher now, whether or not, you know. But I think people by vintage would know what I was talking about. And kids used to jump on the back of the streetcar and purposely disconnect this. It's like a rod, but it was the metal connection or wires that kept not only the streetcar, helped it to stay on track, but also supplied, you know, electricity to the car itself, so made a lot of noise. But anyway, we don't. You know, I went with Lou and his mother down to the train station, which was in the Terminal Tower, which is now Tower City. But it was altogether different because the trains would come into Tower City. It wasn't called Tower City, Terminal Tower. And the trains came in and you could go down and, you know, just like maybe in New York or the other cities that have train stations. And I can just remember crying all the way home. I don't think I cried going down, but it was a sad moment. And likewise, my brother went to the service. I can't even remember when my brother went to the service, but. And it may have been a couple of years later, and he was in the navy, but I, too, I was just crying then. And to the extent that my father took me to Evanston, Illinois, that he was. My brother was stationed at Great Lakes Naval Station, and he took me there, I guess, to help me get through the trauma of my brother being away. He was, what, four years older than I.

Alisa Nazelli [00:15:04] It's an interesting.

Venerine Branham [00:15:05] Yeah, the war was going on, and I can remember when the war was over, my mother. My sister had asthma all of her life, and so we would always have a vacation, but my mother would take my sister because she had asthma in case she became ill. My father always took me. And so my father's family was from Virginia, and so, you know, we rode the train. There was a lot of prejudice on the trains. At that time, you know, African Americans had a, you know, had to sit in a special car, either right in back of the engine, usually was right in back of the big engine. And so, you know, as a child, I didn't feel it because your parents protect you from everything, but they were always very careful that we would not be touched by the prejudice that was just apparent. And, you know, we all knew it. So, but, you know, you are at a certain place, you sat on the trains, and even, like Lou in service, he had to sit, you know, on a certain section, too. So those are true stories. And I guess what makes it so significant is that, you know, it's within your own lifetime. And young people now maybe cannot relate to it, and soon our era is going to fade out. But they can't. But we know what the struggle has been and just simple things like that. And even in Virginia, when I went to this movie with a cousin, all of my cousins were very fair, blue eyed blondes, and you really would not be able to distinguish them as African Americans. My father's family, too. My father was my complexion, but his brother was very fair. And all of his children, maybe ten or eleven, maybe two or three daughters, and the rest were sons. And my father was responsible for all of them coming eventually to Cleveland, Ohio, and he had gotten jobs for them. And so one of kind of a family them joke is that they would always go to Virginia. This Eanes family, my maiden name is Eanes, and my father was like me, brown skin. His nephews, whose names were Eanes, too, were very fair, blonde hair, blue eyes. And they would, you know, get on this train. And then at a certain point, I don't know if it was as the train travel crosses over from Ohio into Kentucky or wherever, but at a point, you know, you sat in a different section of that train. And so the conductor came through and, you know, my father was to move, and I wasn't with him, but my father, he was supposed to move. But they don't bother his nephews. And so, of course, the nephews, they were really quite their story in themselves. And one said, I don't see anything about that on my ticket. I'm not moving any place. And I don't know what happened, but that's always been kind of a standing family joke because he said he wasn't moving anywhere and nor was my father going to move.

Alisa Nazelli [00:19:19] Good. Good. I mean, I think I'm glad you just told that story, because kids today, my students, need to hear those stories, and they will. Yeah, they'll hear it for sure.

Venerine Branham [00:19:32] African American race is an interesting race. You could probably tell me about your ancestors and where they came from and so on. Our race is really mixed. You know, my name is Eanes, and I don't know how many black families, you know whose last name is Eanes. I don't think you may. But if you do, then they're my relatives. But my mom, I told you, she was born and raised in Detroit. Her father was a French Canadian, and he was married to an Indian person. And then. So that side of the family is mixed, you know, my mom's side and on my father's side, you know, they were from Virginia. And as I said, you know, he had a brother. Nephews were his brother's children. And so whether, you know, he had to be fair, I've never seen any pictures of him. But, you know, for there to be that variance in complexions and other family traits, that means that there was some mixture going on. They grew up in Huddleston, Virginia. That's where the family farm was. All of them were very close. You know, there may have been prejudice in Lynchburg or all around, but the family that lived right across from my father's family, the Eames family, their name was Nichols, and that family is still there. They were very close, and they were a white family, but, you know, there was no problem at all. And so that's always been interesting. I guess. I've never taken time to research it, but it's an interesting. That's another story, you know, to be told.

Alisa Nazelli [00:21:34] The PBS series Africans in America, where it's amazing. Oprah and this Harvard sociologist.

Venerine Branham [00:21:45] And Gates.

Alisa Nazelli [00:21:48] Yes.

Venerine Branham [00:21:48] Louis Gates.

Alisa Nazelli [00:21:52] And the music producer Quincy. They trace their ancestry, and it is just amazing. Yeah, it's really a good series.

Venerine Branham [00:22:06] Yeah, yeah, I saw that series you did? Uh huh.

Alisa Nazelli [00:22:10] Isn't it?

Venerine Branham [00:22:10] And I have gone to Senegal not to research anything, but I went with a big group to Senegal or Dakar when. Oh, it's gotta be, what, six or seven years. Okay, maybe more. And so I went through, and you may have heard, you know, this is just an aside, about “the window of no return” in [inaudible] Dakar. And so you wonder how the slaves, why they didn't revolt, how they, you know, actually got on these ships. And when you go there, and it's a different. There's an island, and that's where this slave encampment is. As I sit here, I'm trying to think of it Gorée. It's Gorée, and it's really. It's the island where one of the islands that the slaves were taken to board the ships to America. And the slave encampment is this big. You know, it's like a big, big building. And then you see the cells. And this was actually. I mean, this is what is there. And so the cells are so that they had the women and children in one area, and the men separated in other cells. And there are no windows. There are slits, long slits in the wall, but it's just dark. And then the guys who were selling the slaves had their quarters up above the slave quarters, which is airy and all open and so on, but that is still there for people to see. Well, in this area where the cells are, they have this place called the window of no return. And it's maybe about. Maybe not quite as wide as that one door there, and it's certainly not that high. It's maybe up to maybe three fourths of that. And you go through this tunnel area, just wide enough for one person to go at a time. And, of course, they were chained together. And if they did not continue going, then, you know, you were poked or whatever. But at the end of this window is a drop off to all of these black rocks, you know, boulders. And so you either walk and jump down or whatever they did, or, you know, that's. And because I've always wondered, I said, well, why didn't they revolt at some point? And then also in that same quarters, they had, like a cave. It was literally like a cave, and no larger, not as large as, say, under this table. And it was all completely surrounded with. Enclosed with rocks. And slaves who acted out were put in there for punishment. They had to remain in there. And the guy who, you know, is the curator, one who talks, tells you about the different parts of these slave quarters, said that when Nelson Mandela visited Gorée, he just. He went in and he was just moved to tears, you know, by the circumstances and so on. If you go there, you could go in to it, too. I did not. I didn't choose to go in. But I'll tell you something else. This is something you may or may not want to even record. The people, it doesn't bother me. You can always erase it.

Alisa Nazelli [00:27:03] Yeah. I mean, I'm loving everything.

Venerine Branham [00:27:07] But the people, like with the tour group, those who had come back or had been over there to Gorée, and I had not. They were saying how moved they were, and I was determined. I said, you know, they were literally crying. I said, you know, I'll see it. But I. You know, that is not, you know, part of life, and I'm not going to be moved to that extent. I tell you, after I had gone through there, I just. I really was speechless, you know, because it's just something that you think about and you wonder about the human spirit and the, you know, the strength of the people who endured that, wonder how on earth they could live through it. And as I said, I did not cry, but I just really could not say anything. It was almost like I was struck mute and unable to express my feelings. I did keep a diary, and I won't continue on about it, but I kept a diary about that day's experience, so it'll give you more of a feel. You don't have to record it, but I think you would even have a little more insight into my own personal reflections. But some of the tourists were literally weeping, and people from all over the world, all nationalities, go through there. And, you know, it's an eye opener.

Alisa Nazelli [00:29:02] It's an intense chapter of history. Okay, I don't know how to. How to segue into my next set of questions. When we talked on the phone last time, we were talking a little bit more about desegregation. Oh, there's a deer.

Venerine Branham [00:29:29] Oh, there’s horns. They're always, you know, you seldom will see one without the other.

Alisa Nazelli [00:29:41] That's funny.

Venerine Branham [00:29:42] I saw some real little fawns, and they were just so precious.

Alisa Nazelli [00:29:49] That's great. So we spoke a little bit about desegregation and your experiences working in the Cleveland public schools, and I wanted to. We both wanted to talk a little bit more about that. But before we get into that, I want to ask you about Carl and how you think he affected race relations here in Cleveland, how he.

Venerine Branham [00:30:19] Carl's whole personality and his demeanor was so different from Lou's. Carl was just one of the guys, but always probably more intentional or as intentional as his brother, but he was just one of the guys, and always, you know, kidded around, just full of personality. All of the young ladies were attracted to him, and he did not do anything to discourage that. But he was just a fun person, and I guess his peers looked upon him as well. If you can do it, then I can, too. I think he served as a major role model because, you know, I think that even at one point, he either quit school or had the intention and then, you know, because of his mom and his brother, you know, eventually got back to school. But he was not one who graduated from high school and then went on to college and so on, and so forth. And he did. He went to the service, too, but I think that, you know, his peers always looked to him, looked at him as one of the guys, but. And knew that he was very aggressive, I would say, in achieving his goals. I mean, he kind of set his sights on what he was going to do, and he was going to do it, and nobody was going to sidetracked him from it. So, you know, when he went ran for mayor and he lost the first time. But that did not dissuade him. You know, he went right back at it, and that made all of us proud. Even though I was never active in any of neither Carl nor Billy's political. You know, like, maybe people would get involved in going to the rallies and so on. I didn't do that. But whenever there was always a financial need, we would contribute, my husband and I, what little we had to contribute for political events. And when he won, we were all very, very proud. It just made you kind of stand up and cheer.

Alisa Nazelli [00:33:08] Do you think that that was motivating to the African American community and Cleveland? Do you think it changed the way that people saw each other here in Cleveland?

Venerine Branham [00:33:25] Oh, I think it changed in a variety of ways. Not only, you know, kind of raised expectations of. Of African Americans in general that, well, if they can do it, then I can, too. But it also. They both served as a role model for younger people. And I think at that time, younger people paid more attention to people who were doing the right thing, so to speak. Also, it changed because Carl did not achieve just by himself. He was always one who reached out to somebody and helped them, too. He put blacks in his cabinet and in different political areas that they would not have had the opportunity to go into, you know, whether it was with the police or with the not juries, but with the legal system. He just opened up some doors that probably would have been open eventually. But I can say that he was a forerunner in making sure those opportunities, if they were available, and he made some available, and he was just that kind. He would get right in your face. And you didn't have to wonder what he was thinking, because he let you know what he was thinking and knowing his personality, and they were persuaded that they were going to cooperate rather than fight him. And he was outspoken. I admired him. Some things you admire about a person, and you know that a major influence is that person's personal drive and their own personal ethics and values. You may dislike some of the things they do, but you can't admire. You can't help but admire that they have the strength enough to do it. See, some people think all these things. Oh, I would like to see, and why can't you do this? That. But they won't do a thing to help you. But both Lou and Carl, if they said something, you could count on them fighting for you, so to speak, and supporting your efforts.

Alisa Nazelli [00:36:07] That's great. Where do you think they got that? From?

Venerine Branham [00:36:12] Their mother. See, neither one of them really knew their father, so it had to come from the mother. The mother was a very small built lady. Her voice was so soft. Do you know Lou's daughter, Angela? The one who's a judge? No, she's a judge. Angela Stokes. Angela Stokes. Mm hmm. Okay.

Alisa Nazelli [00:36:37] Okay.

Venerine Branham [00:36:38] And she is a very. Has the softest voice. Whenever she's speaking, you know, I always have to listen very carefully because her voice is so soft. But she looks. She's a spitting image of her grandmother Louise. Misses Stokes was always just a sweet, soft spoken lady. But you did not have to. I mean, no one ever tested her because they knew her manner could be very deceiving. When she said something, you know, you paid attention. You know, if she would see any of the children, not only me, but anybody, doing the wrong thing, and she would speak, or Josh and them, and they would listen.

Alisa Nazelli [00:37:34] Good. Okay. I wanted to talk just a little bit more about your experiences as an administrator during the desegregation years in Cleveland. What do you recall the most about that time period, and how did it come to an end? When did it stop? What brought the efforts to a halt?

Venerine Branham [00:38:09] The desegregation? Well, the court ruling brought it to a halt. I think George White was a federal judge who did not feel it was any longer necessary that the schools were as desegregated as they could be. You know, felt that, you know, things were on the right track, so to speak. And, you know, there was no continuing reason. I'm not too sure of those details. And so I think it would be helpful for you to research the reason. I guess, as an administrator, my focus has always been on not what they're doing downtown. And let me say that I felt, and as I reflect on the people who were on the board of education at that time when the deseg orders were coming down. And there were, I think, a couple African Americans on the board. And I, as I reflect, I often have questioned, why didn't they do more? Why didn't they say more? But at the same time, can appreciate their positions. Sometimes it's better to be on the inside, learning different things than it is to be on the outside looking in. And I think that they may have sensed, well, maybe I can do things, but maybe in a more quiet manner inside than I can just being outside saying, well, if I were there, I would do this, that, and the other. So maybe that was all a part of it. But I've often thought about and would like to really hear from people who had supervisory or management positions or were on the board. I don't think they spoke out as strongly as they could have.

Alisa Nazelli [00:40:29] What would you. What would you like them to say? What is it that you would want them to say?

Venerine Branham [00:40:35] Want them to say if they did anything or if they said anything. You know, when you see all of these things going that is affecting black children, what did you say? Did you protest about it, or did you just say, okay, well, I'll make accommodations for half day school for these children? When the schools were just really bursting at the seams in the black neighborhoods, and then there were empty classrooms elsewhere, you know, why should this be? Or why do you allow this to continue? And that influenced my saying, if I ever became a principal, that my children, my school, my staff would have the same things on the east side as they have on the west side. And, you know, people think that that's just saying something, but they were different. There was no comparison, the schools, whether it's with materials or the number of children. I was an assistant principal at Anthony Wayne's school, which is at 116th and is that Buckeye? 116th and Woodland, you know, where Sunbeam School is, school for crippled children and so on. Anthony Wayne was the big, I think it's Jesse Owens Academy or maybe some other kind of name now, but it was Anthony Wayne's school, and I was an assistant principal there, and that school was very well integrated. There were as many, I would say, at least, if not 40%, non minority. It was at least 30, 35%. And maybe the other children were minority children, but it was well integrated. But yet when the children finished 6th grade, they went to any school they wanted. They left there and went to junior high, because it wasn't middle school then, it was a junior high. The school they should have gone to was Audubon, but they went to any school that they wanted to. And right there, that's a deliberate segregation of children. African Americans may have tried to go there, applied, but they were not. It wasn't an open opportunity. And so then those are the kinds of things that perpetuate segregating students. It's no reason in the world, why Audubon should be full of minority children when another school, and I think then they may have been going to maybe Wilbur Wright, or there was a school down off of, in the fleet Broadway area, junior high school. They may have been going there, but they weren't going to Audubon. And, you know, now that's deliberate. And certainly, as I said, perpetuated and hastened school segregation.

Alisa Nazelli [00:44:26] So did the desegregation order help to alleviate that deliberate?

Venerine Branham [00:44:32] Well, that was part of the plan. But the Greater Cleveland community interpreted the desegregation order to be to mix the races. It really wasn't. Desegregation order was to offer equitable opportunity for good teachers and materials. That's the basic reason. And by the children coming together, the benefit is that all children see that they have more in common than there are differences. And I always said that no matter what, because a lot of people even now, will say, well, what is your impression? Did desegregation serve its purpose? It did to a certain extent, but it was certainly more limited than the intention was. The intention was to not only bring children together, but to raise the level of teaching and to help people be just as determined to teach these children. And, yes, everybody can learn. And that was the perception that black children can learn or they learn differently. Well, yeah, all of us learn differently. I probably learned differently than you and you learn differently than she, but it does not mean that you can't learn. And once the schools were desegregated, I think the beauty of it was that the children could see themselves as being just like the minority, and the non minority were really just the same. I told you, I will not ever forget the first day or so of when they transported the kids. It seems because my kids, the minority kids, went west and the other school kids came east when they got off the bus, and there were just very few in comparison. But when they got off the bus, it was almost like those kids who always are just, you know, really pistols, I always called them, the ones who were just full of everything, and they just automatically made friends with those kids who were just like them. And they were really, I never do not ever recall. And that's the beauty of being a child. There was no intimidation. There was no fear on their part. You know, you made them feel welcome, and they, you know, got together and had a good time. There was no fighting or, you know, wrestling or anything. It was really a very worthwhile experience. And there was a lot of training for principals and a lot of training for the faculty through the principals and through different seminars or workshops they had, because that was the fear that the building administrators would. Well, they felt you had to be very intentional about mixing the children, not having, you know, even when you made your assignments to a classroom, having, you know, so many. Well, just, you know, you just had so many numbers to work with. But they wanted to make sure that there was not one class that was full of white kids and another class full of black students, and you had to seat them so that you didn't have that separation, so that some are in the back and some are in the front or some are huddled together. You really had to be very intentional as a building administrator and as a classroom teacher that that kind of thing did not occur. And it didn't occur. And so. But it could have occurred if people hadn't been sensitive to the importance of making sure that the children feel welcome. They feel, you know, don't feel isolated at lunchtime. You had to make sure that they sat together. And there's a book out about why are the children sitting at the table or something? And we as adults can understand it because you got things in common. I mean, you like the same music, you do the same thing. But so, you know, there are different reasons for everything people do. But in elementary school, you had to, you know, you kept working at it. So. But I can say it was a learning experience. And parents who would come from the west side, and many did, they wanted to see the building. They wanted to meet the teachers in both ways. You know, my parents traveled west, and so it was, you know, parents, a parent will go where their child is. It may not be convenient, but if they are willing to have their child transported rather than go to, say, a parochial school, then the parent had the interest to come. And, you know, it was always very open and there was no problem.

Alisa Nazelli [00:50:46] Right. So overall, your experience was a good one during those years?

Venerine Branham [00:50:52] I think so. I really, I have faith that it was good, and I think it was beneficial. It was beneficial because, and I say today, because a lot of people say, well, you know, you went through all that and nothing worked. And, well, yes, it did, because children will know that basically everybody is alike. There are those of us who learn quickly and those of us who struggle. We have happy times and we have sad times. Those are the common. Commonalities of humanity, and none of us are really different. That's my feeling.

Alisa Nazelli [00:51:40] I think that's a great ending.

Academy of American History

These interviews were conducted between 2004 and 2006 by public school teachers in the Teaching American History (TAH) grant-funded Academy of American History summer institute at Cleveland State University, sponsored by the US Department of Education. The project was a collaboration between CSU, the City Club of Cleveland, Western Reserve Historical Society, and St. Clair-Superior Community Development Corporation. Interviews in this series focus on the Civil Rights movement in Cleveland, Carl…