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Interview with: Martha Whiting
Interviewed by: Nicolas Castellanos
Date: December 21, 2009
Nicolas Castellanos (NC): Good Morning, and we are here for the oral history project at the African American Library at the Gregory School, today is December 21, 2009, and I am joined here today by a Mrs. Martha Whiting. And Mrs. Whiting, thank you for coming, would you please state your name, your birthday, and where you were born for the record.
Mrs. Martha Whiting (MW): My name is Martha Counting Whiting I was born in Marshall, Texas….I am the…
NC: What year were you born?
MW: I am the youngest child of Jack Yate’s children, my mother was the youngest child.
NC: You told me earlier that today you are today 97-years-old and you were born March 24th 1912, in Marshall, Texas.
MW: In Marshall, Texas.
NC: You just discussed that you are the granddaughter of Jack Yates…and you had said…What was your mother’s name, and what was she like?
MW: My mother’s name was Nanny Yates, she was a baby child, and they were a bunch of the children were born in Virginia, but the young child, in 19…I mean 1887, their mother, passed…and my grandfather had another wife, her name was Miss Freeman to step in and take over the two girls, but he did not find that did not work very well…he came home and he did not like what he saw, so he was working then for the…for the people of…out of…at that_____…church, churches, people to come in and help them on what they are doing.
MW: He had a…a school up in…the other part of town. He did not come with all of his [Jack Yates] children to Texas He came after some of them, the young one particularly that…had to be sent to Texas when slavery was over, those that…the elder ones were sent on before the younger ones. And my mother and her sister were the two younger ones, and when they got here, he…he came home one day and he did not like what the step mother was doing, so he…tried to improve on their education.
NC: you are here, you were born here in Marshall Texas and you went to the Gregory School, you said you attended the Gregory School roughly about 1919 – 1923, is that correct?
MW: Yeah that is probably correct. I…check and see if I got that correct…I know when he was hired…to be a teacher at the Gregory School it was the same year that Dr. Olson was hired to be over the schools in Houston. And that time on, she was a first grade, a second grade teacher and she loved to teach.
NC: Good afternoon again, we are here at the oral history project at the African American Library at the Gregory School and Mrs. Whiting was just talking about her aunt Pinky Yates. What do you remember about Aunt Pinky Yates in relations to the Gregory School?
MW: I think she loved to teach and I think that they…the parents knew if they…if it was cold she was going take them in and treat them and she…and… if they were late, she was going to keep them until they got there and picked them up, so the neighborhood children and their parents, they always called her Aunt Pinky. That is where she got it from, Aunt Pinky.
NC: So she acted more than just a teacher, she was…a…say…a confident person in the neighborhood, people trusted her.
MW: Yes, they knew they trusted her with their children and she was going to keep them until they picked them up.
NC: And you said she began teaching here the year that the Gregory School was included in the Houston School District?
MW: I think she just loved to teach and she just loved children. She never turned a child away.
NC: Do you know how long she was a teacher here? How long was she a teacher here? Do you remember the years?
MW: To get that correct…I would not want to…
NC: You are doing a great job, do you think she was a teacher here for ten years? More than ten years?
MW: Oh, she was a teacher for longer than that.
NC: About twenty years?
MW: Yeah, in the twenties or something like that. We need to get the correct_____.
NC: And you said Pinky Yates was your Aunt, your mother’s sister.
MW: I was the youngest and she was the next youngest. She loved to teach…always like…she never turned a child away, if he was hungry, she fed him, if it was warm, she leave him on the porch and she would keep him until that parent came and picked that child up so she had a string of children…taken them over here. She had them walk with their hands together and come on in.
NC: Sounds like a wonderful woman. Do you know when she passed away? What year?
MW: Do you remember? [asking Mrs. Martha Goodard, her daughter ] 1964…
MW: What did you say? 1962.
NC: 1962, I would have liked to have met Pinky.
MW: All the neighbors all they called her was Aunt Pinky, she got the name from the neighbors.
NC: What was her birth name? Her birth name was not Pinky?
MW: March 24th.
NC: Oh no what was…Pinky’s birth name was Pinky?
MW: She…her birthday was in March…March 26th.
NC: Oh, well you two share a birthday close together.
NC: Let me ask, did you spend time here in the Fourth Ward, as a young child, as a young lady? And what do you remember?
MW: I remember Fourth Ward definitely, of course, all the people seemed to work together to improve Fourth Ward.
MW: And it…and everybody called her Aunt Pinky, Aunt Pinky Yates.
NC: Pinky Yates.
MW: And working together they got many things that they would not have achieved if they had not worked together, and they had…we had, small children in Fourth Ward that could…and they finished Colored High [Houston High School] they could go off to college, and you know, and…you know…it’s so she had, a way of getting parents to make them come by and keep their children and free their children and help them any way she could, she loved to teach.
NC: Let me ask you Mrs. Whiting, when you finished school, and you became a young lady, what were some of the organizations, or what were some of the institutes that you participated in?
MW: When I became a young lady.
NC: From a child, when you became responsible.
MW: When I became a young lady we had rules you did not break…you had rules that you did not break and…and if you caught one of your neighbor’s children doing what they had no business…they would spank you.
NC: We actually have heard a lot of that…it was a neighborhood that raised children.
MW: They worked together.
NC: As an adult you were able to reprimand and discipline other children.
MW: You saw them doing wrong you were going to get it.
NC: And it was friendly.
MW: Yes, they were going to correct you.
MW: And if you were out of your place and a neighbor caught you doing what you had no business, you were going to get it from the neighbor. So that really kind of kept them pretty straight.
NC: And the neighbor would be thanked by the parent afterwards?
MW: Oh yes they would thank…that’s why they left them on her porch because they wanted their children taken care of and feed before they get home and study the lesson you just did not play, you had to study that lesson for the next day.