African-American Oral Histories
Mrs. Dorothy McPhaul
Clip 1: Transcript
African-American Owners I
Running Time: 7 min 33 sec
AA: Did you ever, or did your grandfather or anyone ever have problems being a Black business owner in Austin?
DM: Yeah! A lot, a lot of problems!
AA: Because in 1918 there couldn’t have been too many--
DM: Oh, of course it was, but I tell you what, even though there were a lot of people, see, like Papa, they would buy cheap. Now, regardless whether you’re Black or whatever color, if you have something good that’s cheap, and you’re getting more, way more than your money, it didn’t make any difference what race you was, see? So that’s the way Papa started his business. He could find it cheap, he’d sell it cheap. Plus, he worked it different, you know, you had to work at, this was just his love of selling. But yeah, he had a hard time, he had a hard time. But I think the way Papa and my auntie overcame that is having good merchandise at cheap prices. You know you could find it, you could buy it cheap. You could get, there’s a lot of people would even give stuff. But it was people’s antiques, you understand. Plus you go in at sales and things and buy. Within the Black community there was antiques because a lot of times, you know, when you worked on a job, a lot of times they would give Blacks a lot of their antiques. You know?
AA: Like the rugs that your mother got?
DM: Like the rugs, like furniture that they no longer wanted. They would give it to their maids and glassware and stuff that they no longer wanted they would give to the maids. So that’s how a lot of stuff came up.
AA: It stayed in the community.
DM: It stayed in the community. And that’s the way we mostly bought at that time, was from Blacks that no longer wanted it either. You see, and didn’t know what they had. It was just like in the period that the furniture was made of and antiques are structured so much better than modern, to me! You have skill in antiques, it’s man made. You know, it wasn’t factory. When automation came in, everything factory made, well, most antique pieces are handmade with love and patience, you see? Where now they just send it through a machine (laughs).
AA: Right, right, everything looks the same…
DM: Everything looks the same. You have reproductions and stuff but it can never take the place of antiques. You can tell right away. I can tell. So yeah, we’ve had a hard time. And right now you have a hard time.
DM: Yeah! For the simple reason sometimes, and I know I have good merchandise. And sometimes just by me being a Black, having real nice merchandise, they just as soon, I can have, let’s take this picture. I can have this picture for, I might have it for, let’s say a hundred twenty-five dollars. Another picture a person might have, a Caucasian might have this same piece and her piece might be two hundred and some-odd dollars. With the same signatures and the same things, they as soon buy it from that person than buy it from, from me. Yeah!
AA: That doesn’t make any sense! (laughs)
DM: It doesn’t make any, it doesn’t make any sense but it’s a reality. And with me, everybody want to know, “Where do you find this stuff?” and a lot of times, it all depends on how the children was raised. If they was raised under prejudices, they’ll be prejudiced. And a lot of times they’ll just look at, once they find out, I can. Look here, a good example: if I invite you to my booth, and you and I are sitting in my booth, we’ll have customers come in, and rather than come to me, asking me about, “Let me see something,” (snaps her fingers) Every time they’ll ask, they would ask you!
AA: You think so?
DM: I know so! Because a Black can’t have this. (laughs) I have it all the time! Because see I have many, many friends, you know, that doesn’t, doesn’t care anything about, and myself, it never, it never bothers me. Now, now I’ll let you know that it never bothers me, for the simple reason all of my life, I‘ve been around all different races and the people that my mother worked for would always tell me, “Jean, you never look at race or color or anything. You have the same,” You know, she’d, I love her. A lot of my values come from the people that my mother worked for. Because they said race is not a issue with anything. You make it an issue. You see? So I respect each other’s, each person’s rights to believe the way they want to believe. If you don’t like Blacks, that’s your business. I still respect you as a person. You understand what I’m saying? So I wasn’t born in slavery, so I don’t have anything to worry about any of that. Uh-huh. And I like a person for who they are, not for the color of any skin tone or anything. And I think the majority of my customers that know me like me for myself, regardless of what race. Because most of the shows that we do, it’s mostly it’s mostly one Black dealer, or maybe two or three dealers, Blacks.
AA: Out of hundreds …
DM: Out of hundreds. And when we first started it used to be only just us in this show. And it never made any difference because everyone accepted us as dealers. You see. So, I just, if you start thinking about race you’ll never get anywhere. You can’t dwell on what’s happened. You just have to better yourself and accept everything and have God on your side. That’s all I can say.
“Oral Narrative as History.” Students received class credit for this work, and were under the supervision of Dr. Martha Norkunas, director of “The Project in Interpreting the Texas Past.”
Every effort has been made to transcribe the audio recordings exactly. On occasion a word, or phrase, was difficult to hear and this is indicated by a question mark in brackets.
Date of Interview:
February 21, February 28, April 7, 2005
Mrs. McPhaul’s home Austin, Texas
16 bit .wav file recorded using a Griffin iTalk microphone adapter plugged into a 2004 20GB Apple iPod.