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 home >> Civil Rights History Project >> Survey of Collections and Repositories >> Collections >> Collection Record

The Civil Rights History Project: Survey of Collections and Repositories

Oral history interview with Calvin Armstrong

Repository: University of Washington. Special Collections Division

Collection Description (Extant): Pre-World War I migrant to Seattle.

Calvin Armstrong left Platt City, Missouri at the age of 17 and arrived in Seattle on April 2, 1909, at the age of 22. Before arriving in Seattle, he had lived and worked in Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri. He moved to the Northwest at the invitation of his sister who was living in Seattle. He worked at a variety of jobs in western Washington including street-paver, hauler and transfer agent, construcion worker on the city reservoir system, railroad porter and dockworker. From 1920-1935, Armstrong hauled garbage for the City of Seattle. Later, he purchased and farmed land in eastern King County until the early 1950s.

Armstrong discusses life in Western Washington as he found it upon his arrival in Seattle in 1909. Talks about his search for employment and the various jobs he undertook. Through his experience, Armstrong provides an understanding of the limited employment opportunities available to black men in the Northwest, prior to World War I. Identifies World War I as the event which opened up the Seattle waterfront to black employment. Comments on the role of blacks as strikebreakers during the strike which opened the waterfronts of all West Coast cities to black employment. Armstrong also describes a near fatal attack which he survived when he and eight other black strikebreakers were set upon by striking white waterfront workers while riding on a trolley car in downtown Seattle. Armstrong briefly discusses black politics and the reasons why most black people in Seattle switched their loyalty from the [Republican] to the Democratic Party. He mentions Lawyer Black and Horace Cayton, Sr. in this context. In the remainder of the interview, Armstrong reacts to a series of questions about black/white relations, the message of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the meaning of 'Black Power'.

Date(s): 1968

Digital Status: No

Existing IDs: Manuscript Coll. No.: 4691

Extent: 2 sound cassettes (ca. 120 min.)

Finding Aid URL:;cc=uwfa;view=text;didno=ArmstrongCalvin4691.xml External Link

Language: English

Interviewees: Calvin Armstrong

Rights (CRHP): Contact the repository which holds the collection for information on rights


African Americans--Employment
African Americans--Washington (State)
Black power
Civil rights movements--Washington (State)
King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
Labor movement--Washington (State)
Washington (State)--Race relations


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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