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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

Montanans at work oral history project

Repository: Montana Historical Society

Collection Description (CRHP): See, in particular, the following interviews, which discuss African American life in Montana communities, as well as the conditions Black workers faced on the job.

3 tapes (3 hr.), Summary 5 pages. Topics include Charles D. McDonald's (Kootenai, 1897-1995) childhood on the Flathead Indian Reservation; defending Indian rights; the Wheeler-Howard Indian Rights Act; the CCC; and his work as a packer and a scaler for the Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA), Forestry Branch, and the U.S. Forest Service. He notes that Indians were treated "like the colored guy in the South." Describes various experiences with "colored kids" from Tennessee and Kentucky in early 1930s in northwest MT forests and the CCC, how some pack mules were scared by "colored kids", helping one to open his can of fruit and mailing letters for him, negative attitudes others had toward Blacks, especially in firefighting. Remarks that toughness of Chicago Blacks led to their being shipped out; describes his relationships with these coworkers.Interviewed by Laurie Mercier on the 20 and 23 Apr. 1982 in St. Ignatius, MT.

2 tape(s), Summary 4 pages [1 hr 45 min]
Austrian-American Frank Zogarts (1899-1986) worked as a foreman at the Anaconda Company smelter in Anaconda from the 1920s-1950s. Describes Black workers at smelter; their jobs which were ones the white workers did not want. Reports that segregation existed at the smelter because whites did not want to work with Blacks. Interviewed by Laurie Mercier, November 18, 1982, Anaconda, MT.

3 tape(s), Summary 5 pages (2 hours, 40 min)
Albert Clark (1912-1990) discusses welding and other work for the Anaconda Copper Mining Company smelter in Anaconda, Montana, from 1928 to the 1960s. He also describes an Opportunity, Montana, area ranch leased from the Anaconda Company, the depression years of the l930s, and his participation in the International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers. Clark talks about the Black air line workers in the smelter and how they got the dirtiest jobs (e.g., working in arsenic). He also discusses how Blacks and whites worked together (or stayed segregated), how the Austrian foremen were hard on the Black workers, and how the Company laid off Blacks to create jobs for white workers. Describes how a "Negro" neighbor was afraid to show up for work at the wire mill, resulting in conversation with wire mill superintendent & foremen. Interviewed by Laurie Mercier, November 19, 1982, Anaconda, MT.

3 tape(s), Summary 3 pages (2 hours, 10 min.)
Hugo Kenck (b. 1892) and Margaret Kenck (b. 1907) discuss music teachers, musical groups, and performers in Butte, Montana from 1900 to 1940. They describe Bob Logan [Robert Canada Logan], a Black friend with exceptional singing ability who declined an invitation to sing at the Silver Bow Club annual meeting as his wife/accompanist would be denied admittance' a white Presbyterian minister's wife telling Mrs. Logan she had to go to the "colored" church & not the former. They describe Logan wearing his "old [Lew] Dockstader Minstrels" coat to dinner at their house, and his studying with the director of the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Blacks were not welcome at Gamer's restaurant, and name-calling occurred "if you had too much to do with the Negroes." Interviewed by Laurie Mercier, Dec. 8, 1982, Butte, Mont.

2 tape(s), Summary 2 pages (2 hrs)
William Lintz (b. 1914) discusses his work in Deer Lodge, Montana from 1936 to 1974 as a fireman and engineer on the Milwaukee Railroad. He also discusses his involvement with the Brotherhood of Locomotive Firemen and Engineers (BLFE). Interviewed by Laurie Mercier, March 11, 1983, Deer Lodge, MT.

OH 483 Walter Duncan, Perdita Duncan, Elmo Fortune, William Fenter interview
3 tapes (2 hr., 35 min.); Summary 4 pages.
Topics include the African American community in Butte from about 1910 to the 1940s; African American employment, social life, churches, and clubs in Butte; the Silver City Club; physicians; and prevalent white attitudes towards African Americans. Families discussed include the Flaggs, Browns, Fortunes, Duncans, and Fenters; other topics are the Homestake community, boarding houses, exceptions to Blacks working in Butte mines (i.e., Brown brothers), employers of Blacks (ACM Club, construction, private homes, Butte as railroad terminus), Black businesses (Silver Dollar saloon, Duncan medical practice, Silver City Club, Missouri Club, and Finley's). Also discussed are various forms of discrimination and integration, churches, and reasons for decline of black and white populations in Butte in the late 1930s. Interviewed by Laurie Mercier on 24 Mar. 1983 in Butte, MT.

Collection Description (Extant): Statewide in scope, this oral history project was the first implemented by the Montana Historical Society. Interviews were conducted with Montanans who lived and worked in the state from 1910 to 1945. The project focused on three major occupational areas that dominated Montana's economy during this period: mining, agriculture and forest products.

This project consists of 400 interviews with Montanans working in the mining, agriculture and forest products industries. Interviews were also conducted with people in auxiliary occupations include merchants, logging camp cooks, teachers, cattle buyers, and railroad workers, augment the recollections of sheepherders, ranch wives, miners, and sawyers. This collection reveals the interplay between livelihood and family life, the formation of public and private identities, and the impact of occupation on definitions of community.

Access Copy Note: Unless otherwise indicated in abstracts, collection is open for research.

Date(s): 1981-1986

Digital Status: No

Extent: 400 interviews

Finding Aid URL: External Link

Language: English

Related Archival Items: See also interview with Mary Duncan Colley (OH1812), the sister of two of the OH483 interviewees, for a different perspective on some of the same issues.

Interviewees: Charles D. McDonald, Frank Zogarts, Albert J. Clark, Hugo Kenck, Margaret Kenck, William R. Lintz, Walter Duncan, Perdita Duncan, Elmo Fortune, William Fenter

Rights (Extant): The Montana Historical Society is the owner of the materials in the Research Library and makes available reproductions for research, publication, and other uses. Written permission must be obtained from the Research Library before any reproduction use.


African American musicians
African Americans--Montana
Civilian Conservation Corps (U.S.)--Montana
Discrimination in employment
International Union of Mine, Mill, and Smelter Workers
Mineral industries--Montana
Montana--Race relations
United States. Forest Service--Officials and employees


Sound recordings


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   May 15, 2015
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