Oral interview with Nell Stokes

Albany Institute of History and Art
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00:00:02 - Introduction

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: Alright it is recording, it is April the 20th, 2023, I am here with Nell Stokes doing an oral interview for the Albany African American History Project at the Albany Institute of History and Art. Thank you again for doing this Nell.

Nell Stokes: Thank you so much for asking me. I feel so privileged.

Lacey Wilson: We're very excited to hear your story as we go through, but we
ll start at the beginning. When and where were you born?

Segment Synopsis: Wilson begins the interview by asking Stokes about growing up in Alabama. She shares memories of living in Clio and moving to Montgomery. Stokes also gives details about her mother, father, and sister.

Keywords: farming; growing up; share cropping

Subjects: Alabama; Clio; Montgomery; early life

00:03:57 - Community Life in Montgomery

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: What do you remember about the community of Montgomery while you were growing up?

Nell Stokes: Well we, actually we lived, there were several different communities of black people.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Nell Stokes: And as everywhere else, I think different segments like middle class, lower class, and poor, and upper middle class. Those groups were in all different parts of Montgomery.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes explains what it was like in her community. She shares the conditions she grew up in, which included no running water or electricity. Stokes also explains the importance of literacy and how it helped her family.

Keywords: hunger; lower class; poverty

Subjects: classes; literacy; poverty

00:10:20 - Education and Faith

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: And school was reading, writing, and arithmetic?

Nell Stokes: Yeah that was about as very basic and our school books, everything was already used. It was like, pages had been ripped out, names were written in them. All kinds of stuff like that, especially in elementary school.

Segment Synopsis: Stokes discusses going to school in Montgomery, switching to Catholic school, and how that affected her faith. She shares how her father played a role in religion and how she practices today.

Keywords: faith; interactions; school

Subjects: Baptist; Catholic School; Church; faith

00:13:43 - The Bus Boycott

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: Alright we are recording, it is April 27, thank you again Nell for letting me come back and get some of the things we had missed from the last time. So I think we were going to start when you became involved with the Montgomery Bus Boycott. How do you remember hearing about that, first?

Nell Stokes: Actually, in school.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes describes the role she played when the bus boycott began in Montgomery. She talks about the volunteer work she did and the people she worked with.

Keywords: boycott; organizing; volunteering

Subjects: Bus Boycott; Montgomery; Rosa Parks; volunteering

00:20:40 - Voting in the South and Coming to Albany

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: The other thing I want to specifically talk about in terms of your time in Montgomery was what voting looked like there. Cause I think a lot of people in this day and age don't really understand the many barriers in front of voting for a lot of black people in the south in particular. So I'd like to hear about what your voting experience looked like in Montgomery before we then go to Albany.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes explains what is was like to vote in the South when she was a teenager. She then goes on to tell about her arrival in Albany and what it was like living there compared to Alabama.

Keywords: inequality; rights; voting

Subjects: Albany; low-income; the South; voting rights

00:30:52 - Community and Voting in Albany

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: At this point now, you've been living in Albany for quite a number of years, so did the disappointment weigh in?

Nell Stokes: Yeah.

Lacey Wilson: Like the community around you, did you become one with them? How did that part start?

Segment Synopsis: Stokes discusses how the community of Albany was able to help and guide her through hard times. SHe also shares what it was like to vote in Albany and how it differed from the south.

Keywords: Church; community; voting

Subjects: Albany; Church; community; voting

00:36:03 - Beginnings at the YWCA

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: So the next thing I have down is the Youth Program director at the YWCA.

Nell Stokes: Well first I was, actually before that let me tell you about this job. I was a stay at home mom most of the time but, a lot of times I had part-time jobs in-between sometimes.

Segment Synopsis: Stokes speaks about her jobs before and after working for the YWCA. She shares what it was like trying to balance work, getting an education, and taking care of her children.

Keywords: outreach; program director; youth

Subjects: YWCA; program director; youth

00:44:49 - Working With Albany Youth

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: Is that when you suddenly got more black people going there?

Nell Stokes: Right.

Lacey Wilson: Was it after the switch to the new building? Or was it after you started doing programs and getting young girls from Arbor Hill?

Nell Stokes: It was after the switch to the new building.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes delves into what work she did as the Youth Program Director at the YWCA. Stokes gives examples of activities and workshops the girls would suggest and participate in.

Keywords: activities; culture; organizing

Subjects: YWCA; activities; organizing

00:51:29 - The YWCA Essay Contest

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: Where did you take them around in Albany?

Nell Stokes: Well, the Albany Institute of History and Art.

Lacey Wilson: Fantastic.

Nell Stokes: And there's a couple other museums in Albany and if there was some sort of activity, a play, or something like that going on I would take them to something like that as well.

Segment Synopsis: Stokes speaks about museum outings in Albany she would organize for the YWCA. She also mentions the formation of her essay contest and its legacy.

Keywords: contest; organizing; outings

Subjects: YWCA; black history; essay contest

01:05:10 - Joining the NAACP

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: I do want to get back to the NAACP, because I don't think we've actually talked about them yet and you described them as "your organization". When did you join the NAACP?

Nell Stokes: Oh so long ago.

Lacey Wilson: In Montgomery?

Nell Stokes: No, here in Albany.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes discusses the importance of the NAACP to her, personally, and why she joined. She speaks about how she's involved today and why others should join too.

Keywords: intention; recruiting; voting

Subjects: NAACP; recruiting; voter registration

01:08:56 - The Black Women's Association of Albany

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: So what other volunteer, well actually I do want to focus on the Black Women's Association of Albany that you cofounded.

Nell Stokes: Yes.

Lacey Wilson: So when did you cofound that? And who did you cofound it with?

Segment Synopsis: Stokes discusses cofounding the Black Women's Association of Albany and how that helped the community. Wilson asks about more volunteer work and stokes shares her experiences volunteering in Albany.

Keywords: community; volunteering

Subjects: Black Women's Association; Uplifting youth; community

01:20:12 - Final Notes

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Partial Transcript: Lacey Wilson: So I think the only organization we didn't cover that we covered before, is the League of Women Voters and the Underground Railroad History Project. Did you volunteer for the Underground Railroad History Project or were you just a member?

Nell Stokes: I'm a member and whenever they have activities I always go.

Lacey Wilson: Okay.

Segment Synopsis: Nell Stokes discusses the different organizations she has been a member of and the role she played in them. She also talks about her YouTube Channel and gives some final notes.

Keywords: Youtube; organizations; voting

Subjects: League of Women Voters; Underground Railroad History Project; Youtube

Nell Stokes

Date: 1/19/2023
Publisher / Location: Albany Institute of History & Art
Medium: Audio / MP3
Catalogue Number: DM 003

Nell Stokes began her collaborative activism journey assisting in the Montgomery Buss Boycott.  After moving to Albany with her children she joined organizations that made a difference in many lives.  Listen to hear how she worked within education, political advocacy, the arts, the Black American Essay contest and more.