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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

Dr. Cornelius Allen Alexander interview tapes

Repository: Kalamazoo Public Library. Clarence L. Miller Local History Room

Collection Description (CRHP): A number of interviews in this collection specifically address the experiences of African Americans in southwestern Michigan between 1930 and 1990. Topics related to civil rights include the VanAvery incident, desegregation of Kalamazoo Public Schools, inter- and intra-racial prejudice, and old-guard activists vs. newer radicals. Interviewees of special interest include Charles Sutton (Black Action Movement) , Walden Baskerville (educator, public schools and Western Michigan University), Norma Russell Cash (intra-race prejudice, passing for white), Ollie Chambers (Upjohn employee, blacks in the corporate world), Bettye A. Daly (businesswoman), Dolly Brown Davis (longtime Kalamazoo resident), Alan Frasier (police officer), Pauline Byrd Johnson (first black schoolteacher, Kalamazoo), Dwight King (fire marshal), Beverly Moore (first black woman mayor), Umar Abdul-Mutakallim (black Muslim), Jeffrey Patton (Family Health Center, hospitals), Guyron J. Philbert (church life), Charles Pratt (judge), LeRoi Ray Jr. (director of Black Americana Studies Program at Western Michigan University), Duane Roberts (activist), Jane Alexander Robinson (daughter of black physician C. Alexander), Donald E. Thompson (VP for Research, WMU, VanAvery incident), Gwendoyn Russell Tulk (first black substitute teacher), Arthur Washington (activist), Emma Russell Woodford (public school system). See also interview with Edward Thompson, a white resident of Kalamazoo who relates a story about desegregation.

Volume 2 of "Social Changes in Western Michigan" includes edited transcripts of these interviews; volume 1, "C. Allen Alexander. M.D.--An Autobiography" includes Dr. Alexander's own reflections.

Volume 3 of the series, "Progress in the Practice of Medicine," includes interviews with several African American physicians who do not necessarily have links to Kalamazoo. They are Leonidas H. Berry (Provident Hospital, Chicago), Hackley Woodford (Benton Harbor, MI and San Diego, CA), and anesthesiologist Jack L. Moore (Martin Luther King, Jr., Hospital in Los Angeles).

Interviews were transcribed by Sue Brower, Samantha Hager, Catherine Larson, and Edith Linton at the Dept. of Local History, Kalamazoo Public Library.

Collection Description (Extant): A distinguished community leader, Dr. Cornelius Allen Alexander, one of the first black surgeons in Kalamazoo, began an ambitious oral history project in 1987. He personally taped more than 150 hours of interviews with a select cross section of representatives from a wide variety of ethnic groups he had encountered in his practice over a sixty year period, as well as colleagues in the medical profession. The result is a brimming treasury of 117 cassette tapes, replete with colorful evidence of the changes in society and culture that swept through western Michigan in the most crucial years of the twentieth century.

Access Copy Note: Available to view by appointment only.

Condition Note: Unknown

Date(s): 1987-1990

Digital Status: No

Extent: 117 audiocassettes

Finding Aid: None

Language: English

Related Archival Items: Partial transcriptions are held at Kalamazoo Public Library and Western Michigan University. Together these two collections form a complete transcription of the audiocassettes.

Interviewees: Charles Sutton, Walden Baskerville, Norma Russell Cash, Ollie Chambers, Bettye A. Daly, Dolly Brown Davis, Alan Frasier, Pauline Byrd Johnson, Dwight King, Beverly Moore, Umar Abdul-Mutakallim, Jeffrey Patton, Guyron J. Philbert, Charles Pratt, LeRoi Ray Jr., Duane Roberts, Jane Alexander Robinson, Donald E. Thompson, Gwendoyn Russell Tulk, Arthur Washington, Emma Russell Woodford, Edward Thompson, Leonidas H. Berry, Hackley Woodford, Jack L. Moore

Rights (Extant): Kalamazoo Public Library has the rights to the tapes.


African American businesspeople
African American doctors
African American educators--Michigan
African American judges
African American nurses
African Americans in medicine
African Americans--Civil rights--Michigan
Black Muslims
Civil rights movements--Michigan
Discrimination in medical care
Michigan--Race relations
School integration--Michigan


Sound recordings


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   September 26, 2018
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