Winifred Y. Smith and Philip M. Smith

Recorded August 25, 2007 Archived August 25, 2007 38:44 minutes
0:00 / 0:00
Id: GRS000434


Mr. and Mrs. Smith discuss their families, their education and the Oakland of their youth.

Subject Log / Time Code

Their families knew each other before they even knew each other. They are approaching their 30th year of marriage.
Philips parents are from Louisiana. They came to CA during the war to work for the shipyards. Winnie’s dad is from Guyana and her mom is from Central Valley, CA.
Winnie’s grandfather was a physician. When he came to CA blacks could not treat patients at the hospital. Her dad was the 1st physician to be able to treat patients at the hospital. Phillips grandfather and dad were patients of Winnie’s grandfather.
There were many black businesses in the E. Bay area in their youth. At the same time that civil rights movement was happening so was redevelopment. Middle class blacks moved to the hills. Black businesses suffered. Gentrification came to the black areas of Oakland.
They had a desire to establish themselves and to be leaders before marriage and children. They married after college and waited until they could buy a house before having children.
Many family traditions: Christmas time, dinner time discussions, Music.


  • Winifred Y. Smith
  • Philip M. Smith

Recording Location

- Oakland MOAD

Venue / Recording Kit



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00:06 My name is Philip Smith. I am 56 years old born on 22651. Today's date is August 25th 2007 and I am currently in Moab in San Francisco. The woman sitting across from me is Winifred Smith. Who is my spouse benefits Smith. I am 57 years old. Today's date is August 25th 2007. I am at Moet and the gentleman across from me is my husband Philip.

00:41 Let's start. Okay. I think we agreed to talk about both of our families. We have a unique arrangement in that our families knew each other before we got married. Why don't you go with that? Oh, okay. Well, we're coming up on our 30th anniversary. And so I was trying to think about what I wanted to say about my family and women want to say about our coming together and clear looking back from our having had a wonderful and interesting 30 years together. I thought will what made that possible and I think for me what made that possible with having the support and love and caring of of a of a family like the one I had and I thought that that was certainly worth honoring

01:28 Are coming together in some ways it started with my dad emigrating from Guyana and meeting my mom while he was a resident at home Angie Phillips in the thirties and my mom and dad at my mom's from the Central Valley sheet and my dad were both one of nine children and I remember them both talking about one of the things they had in common and I guess what brought them together they were members are very large and very close family. Anyway daddy wind up in a medical school at Meharry after having been educated in Guyana and I'm at my mom we were supposed to be from St. Louis, Missouri where my uncle was practicing and my dad was going to join my uncle's medical practice, but it came out to California to meet my mom's relatives in the valley and took one look at California and close up his practice in Kansas City and they moved out here.

02:24 So he started his medical practice in Oakland right after the war when lots of black people were migrating to was actually the begin in the middle of World War II because lots of black people were migrating out to work in the shipyards here and it's really the beginning of the black community in the Bay Area and in fact the East Bay and he had a medical practice down on 7th Street.

02:51 And one of his patients was your grandfather and that's before your dad. Mom even got together. So, you know interesting. My my family background is almost the antithesis of that with the same kind of family structure emanating from a different background. My my my my parents are from the south both. My parents are from Louisiana one from my father from Shreveport that area Shreveport known as Cedar Grove, which is a black section of Louisiana and my mother from from Bastrop, which is now or maybe a suburb were part of the Monroe, Louisiana. It is his true the same diaspora brought my family out here. My my paternal grandfather came out during the war and 42 and the rest of his family came out in 4043 to work in the shipyards.

03:50 These people at that time were in their mid-forties and came out to work in the shipyards my father graduated from Central colored high school and Shreveport after the 11th grade because that was as far as black people could go and the high school system there and he and his cousin came out by train and 43 and immediately upon coming here within a few months was drafted to go into the war. My paternal grandparents were although not very well educated by our current standards standards of the day. I had had an average education especially at a a probably a better than average education for black people of the day decided that working in the shipyard might not be the best thing as the war was going forward and was probably going to come to an end. So they they purchase the cafe. This Cafe was located on 12th and Chestnut.

04:50 And the Oakland area and while they're my grandfather sought out of physician that position happen to be doctor Fitzroy Edgerton young. Okay, who is my wife's father interesting enough my grandparents and and my my father-in-law to be more of the same same age group and actually knew each other and end in like to have a lot of respect. Although they they they weren't, you know, buzzin buddies. They did know each other and when my dad came home from the war, he was a patient of dr. Young interesting enough as time went on I ended up going to El Cerrito High School and a guy who had had graduated a few years earlier from El Cerrito High School. When I start it was a guy by the name of Fitzroy Edgerton young Jr. Who obviously is my brother-in-law on now and more so in the

05:50 He is he is a second brother. I should say that the reason my family background is a little different from my my wife's. Yes, her both. Her parents are are one of nine children each respectively both my parents are only children and the amount of cousins are that I would have first cousins Arctic zero. My wife has everybody in the known planet as cousins and but but the kind of families that the came about from those two unions one family from a lot of Dove of siblings and one from none interesting love we found each other in and had similar backgrounds. If we did for black people coming out to the West Coast during the war because at that point, I think the black population in the Bay Area have been very small. Although folks have been here for a long time.

06:50 It was a community of of black folks. In fact, we we we know them and talked a lot about kind of what it was like to be one of the very small community or a few of a very small community of a black people really from the turn of the century here and then the explosion of black folks that came out during the war. But when my my dad came out here, none of the black Physicians had privileges to treat patients at hospitals in the East Bay and I can't recall now with it. That was true San Francisco as well. But he was thrown of the beginning of the black medical community out here. There were one or two general practitioners every few black practitioners, but but actually very few and when my dad came out here, they couldn't admit patients into the hospitals in and I'm proud to say that my dad was the first person the first physician to obtain privileges to treat page.

07:50 Hospitals at any hospital, but he coming into this family with the youngs. I used to sit down and talk with my father-in-law who is a a

08:06 He was the he was the consummate actor academician very accomplished individual Phi Beta Kappa and everything that one would need and you would think that end in America that would get you a long way, but he Not only was a physician but early on was a board-certified physician and an individual who met all the challenges and all of the the requirements to be able to be set at the top of the Pinnacle that didn't mean that he was going to be the granted the accolades or the Privileges of being the top of the Pinnacle, but he did not shy away from going out and in using those tools that he had to not only make him successful and to pave a way for his family, but to make other black people behind him successful and bring them along.

09:06 I think that that when you mentioned the struggle of black people during that time during the war and right after the war there were quite a few black businesses and in Oakland people think of of San Francisco because San Francisco is the largest city and there was a Fillmore area in San Francisco. And there was the the Dogpatch Hunters Point area in San Francisco, but the vast majority of black people live in the East Bay and there was there was there were many more black businesses everything from from grocery stores to to nightclubs the the the family no chicken circuit, which had the Duke Ellington's account Macy's all of the musicians and entertainers and whatnot. That would come through they came through and did chosen in in in Oakland.

09:56 Interesting enough my my family and I know my my my wife's family were people who not only free quilted those establishment, but they were also people like my parents. I can remember during the fifties the the younger black crowd before the days of militancy and things of that nature who went out to try to integrate restaurants Who Am I by my in-laws case integrate neighborhoods by buying and purchasing properties and I think that the struggle to them was a struggle of we're going to make things happen and and make them better for our family and those black people who are coming along which was very important that time things really change. It's funny. We sound like Oakland boosters, but things really change kind of it in the sixties. When a lot of it that the struggle civil rights struggle began happening so many other things were sort of Commons.

10:56 Riding with those events Redevelopment corrodes really broke up what was upset obtrusive black community center in West Oakland with a lot of thriving businesses in a thriving community in a community in which most black people lived professionals not blue collar pretty much everybody lived in and around that community and it was driving and

11:24 Once Redevelopment which coincided with her prosperity and allowed a lot of the professionals to move out and moving to the hills, which is kind of where they lives now that all I bend it and it was in some ways. It was sad because when I hear an animal you tell more stories about your grandparents having their Cafe and sort of all the people and interesting people and things that went on that really cook came to an end to came to an end and end it came to an end in an interesting way because as you know, I always say that look at things a little differently if we look at things from the standpoint of being a person from Northern California or an individual from Oakland are the East Bay what you've just said is is absolutely true and then in and black

12:16 Businesses and things of that nature came up can't kind of came crashing down because of a gentrification of certain areas. But if you look at it the way I have a tendency to look at it the gentrification of certain areas in particular those that were the black areas of the East Bay or San Francisco or whatever in this in Northern California began to be gentrified when people felt that the dominant people in the area felt that they had lost control over certain segments of the of the of the city the the the areas of Oakland and backed up on downtown downtown was a Thrive you remember when he was arriving area and it did rival San Francisco at every store in San Francisco, but for a couple and when you began doing Redevelopment in areas that for maybe the last 25 years or since the war had been predominantly black then you

13:16 Stop people moving to East Oakland East Oakland. If you remember when we were kids was totally white the Oakland Hills were totally white. There were there were covenants. We now live in Montclair in the Oakland Hills there covenants on RD no longer enforceable that would not allow black people or Indians or Jews or or or mixed race people to to have homes in those areas and when these people were

13:44 Call it displaced they ended up moving to East Oakland and we know it as quite flight. They went through the tunnel out into a Renda and Concord and further out and things like a bag came into being Association for Bay Area government to control the inner city, which still had businesses in it, but in the evening those businesses and those people who were predominantly white were all gone and you left an inner-city that was predominantly black predominantly Hispanic and in Hispanic and after Vietnam a lot of agent who did not have the means and it currently exists now to support themselves and unfortunately Oakland became a place that if you hear about it, but for the Oakland Raiders in the Oakland A's is a place that is thought about by people throughout the country is crime-ridden and it is but there's only one of the most beautiful places in the world.

14:44 So, I don't know what's funny as we're sitting here talking I think about feeling kind of lucky that we we live where we grew up and we still have watched a lot of things happen. Cuz what comes to mind is when the Black Panthers in the sixties when we started, sort of a black panther. I guess it's the most recent was the anniversary so lots of books and stuff for reading when I look at some of that and I think I would live through that program and Angela Davis and a cow when I was a freshman and I remember somebody says go see you here this sister talk and I think it was up in one of the labs. One of the labs are all the black students came to hear her talk about what was happening with the Black Panther Party in you know, why we should all join and kind of went from there, you know, it looks like we do that because I think one of the interesting things and we mention we were going to do

15:44 Do these interviews Winnie and I come from families who emphasized education education was important. I have one sibling and I have a brother my dad after the war ended up going to UC Berkeley my mother who did her high school here at mcclimans and subsequently Berkeley High was counseled not to apply to the University of california-berkeley. Although she was I think number three in her class coming out of Berkeley because she was told that you know, what you need to get a good job as a secretary and she did go to San Francisco State but those were the things were happening then both my wife and I have laughed many times and we have two children a Daughter Alexis is 26 in the son Philipp who's 23 we laugh often because

16:44 The Cosby Show that was on was indicative of the families that we grew up in everything from the sweaters. The mannerisms the family talks the the kidding around with each other nice environment to grow up in parents are both professionals. That was was how we grew up and there was never ever a sense that I can see in in my family or in chatting with my in lock that that wasn't what you were supposed to grow up in or it wasn't what you were supposed to expire and that you were also supposed to when you get to a certain level make sure that you do what was necessary so that those who dominate the culture looked at you and didn't you do you didn't no way shape or form?

17:38 Cast an evil Shadow over those who were going to be coming behind you and you let a hand back to pull pull them along as we were coming but it's funny because I'm sitting here right now six foot four black guy with a pair of Saddle oxfords on and I've had saddle oxfords for 37 years and they're just part of who I am very

18:05 Oh, well, we went to arrival Universe. Well, we went to a party actually we knew each other.

18:15 Over the years. I'm trying to remember I guess really After High School. We always kind of known each other. He was filled with somebody who was part of a community of people we knew but we weren't really friends. He was friendly with my brother and tell the truth when we I was two years younger than you and you wouldn't even pay attention to me when you were at Berkeley hot beautiful college and then I used to see you out and about and then I saw you a Ghirardelli Square with your ex girlfriend and we stopped and chatted and I guess I am seeing that guy in a really long time and then we ran into each other except party and I was studying for the bar.

18:58 And I think I just taken the bar. I had I think I just finished your swimsuit and Brenda who's coming over to our house for dinner tonight. So it made me get up cuz I was going to sleep. I was so exhausted maybe get up and go to what she said. Come on go to Otis is party and Otis was known for giving great parties. So I said, okay, so we got up went over to the party and Philip was there and we stopped and talked and we talked the whole evening and in fact

19:30 We started going out after that and that was thirty some years ago. And in fact Otis posted that party is still a very good friend of ours and he and his wife are still close friends and Brenda the woman that convinced me to go to the party who is a friend. We all knew this was somebody we all knew anyway, but there are there still very dear friends of ours and you know, we were in each other's wedding and she Michael who we knew who we know when and who we met at Stanford when we were the three of us were students and we were all tight have remained very close friends. We had two kids together. They have sons are our children's ages and in fact our younger son.

20:12 Are younger child Philip and their younger son Shawn are very good friends and have been close friends. So our parents are friends. We've been friends and our children friends. So we kind of continue the tradition.

20:27 At what point did you decide you want to get married when she decided about 3 years before we got married and actually today would have been a 62nd birthday of my sister Sheila and I mentioned that tan her but also she had cancer she was young she died at 32 and she had cancer at the time and I had had had it diagnosed and she was 21 Men as the years went on it and she became sticker and

21:05 She was at home at that point. She was executive editor of essence when I when she died, but she became too sick to work and when she came home there. We were all focused on taking care of her and in fact Phillip and I were going out and he was sort of involved in that whole process of our struggle with her and her illness and then not long before she died. We made a decision to get married. It was the summer before that summer 77 when we decided to get married. She died in the fall and we got married in the following June, you know when he started at Berkeley and transfer to Stanford.

21:53 And I was a Berkeley student and during the. Of three years that you were asking. When did we decide to get married during the last two years we were together. I was in graduate school. I'd come back to Berkeley to work on a and NBA and

22:15 Although we had talked about getting married at least in my mind it it was and I'm sure and hers the idea of getting married while in school just was not something that was going to be.

22:31 It wasn't it wasn't practical we needed to be able to have the incomes that would come from both of us working and it it it was it was just a good thing to to to wait and to get married when both of us were going to be able to be young Professionals in and bring into will incomes and to that end. We made the same kind of decisions when it came to having children. We waited a couple of years before we decided to begin having heading toward the house to take a step back if I'm a what are the things I think is it very very interesting about what was going on with us in the 50s and the 60s and we talked about our families. I mentioned the Cosby family type is that I think the one of the things that was was quite unique

23:29 With both Winnie's family and my family was the desire to

23:40 Go out and establish ourselves and be leaders. Now when I say leaders, I don't mean going out and and having to to carry the the race on your shoulder or anything of that nature, but we've been raised such as that when he was in in in the Hill area Donnelly white area. She and each of her siblings were always the only ones in classes the only black kids in classes at Clermont Elementary School and whatever but that was also indicative of me growing up not going to Shield Hill area and we were in public schools. Both of us. We were the only kids only black kids who could could be in the advanced reading classes were the advanced math classes are science classes going to to Junior High School. Same thing tract in the college prep classes High School NM

24:39 One of the things that was very very interesting was that

24:45 We came to a system that was the beginning of the beginnings of or the Genesis of integration, which was something that that I have said nothing. My wife would probably agree with me immigration was probably the best thing that ever happened to black people and the worst thing that ever happened to black people because if the worst is it it it begin to dissipate that family nucleus it existed around here, but the the good things were it give us opportunities and give us opportunities to go to Stanford University to go to the university of california-berkeley to matriculate through in Dubuque, as in my wife's case a judge for me to have a decent professional career and it it it allowed us to go forward while understanding what it was like to be the only one in a class when you're in elementary school or junior high school or high school and know that you are black to take that forward while understanding you have to get along

25:45 Everyone. Yeah, but you know if only thing that's about that is true, but it smells what's also true is it we were credibly lucky. I mean in the sense that our parents guide us through that privately and we broke in the sixties. I'm telling you it was if I look back on. Well not only are just being young and crazy but being young and crazy Berkeley in the sixties a lot of different ways and is it turned out, you know, it really was sort of the guidance of you know, our parents wouldn't get us through all those things that kind of allowed us to feel like we could be successful in baton twirling children. I mean, I appreciated and probably now more so than ever, you know, that that my folks sent me to call if you know they do what they're graded. My greatest gift was my education in my case. I was lucky.

26:45 Running out of collagen. We're going through that same process, but I can't tell you if they're not here anymore. But I think my parents and my lucky stars pretty much every day cuz it's it's a struggle but I have one left my mom's gone. He'll be doing one of these storycorps things and he and my godfather and it's and it's people like our parents.

27:12 Lucky for us. Those it when we got married our parents were friendly and friends, but we were lucky that we all became one big family. I mean that that's what happened for everybody and I really have always appreciated in the fact that that our parents loved us each other they loved each other and we were able to sort of not only come together in and get married when we had they all had a previous relationship. But we will they all became one big family that because

27:50 Even my grandparents befriended you and that befriended loved you were big fans of of of my in-laws and my in-laws were big fans of theirs. I mean, you know that you hit on a very very interesting point. I hope that that exists now. I hope that that that there are families out there that love to have that n n i e. I, I think that our children are raised to have that understanding and will perpetuate that but it really is you're absolutely right. It's it's somewhat serendipitous but

28:29 You know, maybe not maybe it's something that you you instill in your children. Maybe it's the Cosby effect. I don't know two kids. They have a few cousins and wanted some of my best memories are of my cousins that you know, my mom is one of nine. My dad was one of 950 for first cousins and we were buying large all clothes. I mean my dad's side of the family after a lot of them or in Guyana and emigrated so I didn't get to know them until I was an adult but my mom's best friends were her six sisters and and two brothers and we grew up with our cousins kind of like our siblings in World close now, and I'm sorry that our kids won't be kind of have more of that sort of big family experience. We are everybody cares for you and I are only parents and

29:29 Only having beginning with second cousins. I have cousins that I I I care for but I do miss the large families get-togethers at Thanksgiving and Christmas be simply because people have died off now but I think that having two children was just fine and they say I did want more children we can afford more children. I just think that as I think back on on my childhood in my experience a lot of lot of my really fun memories are of hanging out with my cousin and going to my aunt's house for Christmas maybe 50-60 people in the house and you know, everybody cooked and it was all gray and we don't do no eat ourselves into a coma and and and enjoy each other's company in some of that.

30:20 People don't have no children in a lot of that is just not really possible for them. But I think our kids are close and they don't want to create their own history and they'll create their own memories.

30:40 Well, I can start one of our family traditions was Crispus was a big deal with this. I think one of the things that surprised Winnie when we got together was we we always had a huge tree as as X went on and we had families head houses with high-ceiling. That's the trees were high, but they were always big trees and Christmas was not just about one gift. You bought multiple gifts for it for individuals and Santa when when Santa was still a a a a a moving force in our lives and you didn't want to stop believing in Santa gifts came and they were unwrapped under the tree and they miraculously appeared on Christmas morning when he came into the family.

31:35 It was really neat to see her eyes when she came by my grandparents house and it would multiple gifts for her. I mean some of them were you know, where monetary and she was like. Wow. This is this is kind of neat. Not only the gifts but one of the Traditions to be specific to your question was that it Christmas we collected ornaments.

32:00 Winnie and in and I now have a tradition of collecting and keeping her ornaments hopefully to be given to our our children and and obviously what split them and give them on the tradition of collecting ornaments on Christmas and on my side of town with my mother was a voracious reader and a tradition in my family was

32:27 Sitting down the four of us and in having discussions discussion about current events. Remember now they the what was going on during the time that I was in high school and in college and I will Junior High School has was the Vietnam War and it was broadcast into your room your your your your your dining room every evening you'd come home and there is is some Walter Cronkite or or the old people with now retired. We're dodging bullets behind tanks and things of this nature and you knew that in maybe four to five years. This might be you it was be there if you weren't in school. It was good and send it for being in staying a little think I said, but one of the Traditions was getting together and just having discussions discussions about how you felt as a young person a teenager about what was going on in the world and it gave you the ability to express yourself and gave you the ability to have to truly think because

33:27 My parents is not know when his parents bright people. They were going to question what you were what it was that you were saying. You can have an opinion but you better make sure that your opinion was was reflective of you had more than just a feeling about something you needed to know you needed to understand you need to express and I think that that's a tradition that the carries over in our family right now. We just visited our son at Hampton University and talking to him about things was very very interesting. That's one of our choosing our house was weak, but it was something we always look forward to but we have four kids, you know big family, I guess fire description and

34:12 It was a celebration but we didn't make nearly the celebration out of its your family didn't I remember that the first Christmas if we were together and I don't know I got play the money I said whoever Marion of this family money, but that was a lot of fun. And now we have these huge Christmas trees and I'm the only one who kind of resist still because to me, you know, you don't have to have the biggest Christmas tree on the lot but aren't you'll dhryn a million little house come home and it was not the biggest tree in the ArmaLite. They're not happy. So it's fun decorating. That's one of those one of those traditions and Philip actually is family more than mine or what you might want to talk about. The sushi Edition that was in your family of your mom taking two of the kids. It's time to eat.

35:12 I haven't thought about that. But when I was growing up, my mom believed that you know, you got to take travel with your children. And when my older sisters were 9-11. She took them on a trip around the across the country in that was in the early 50s. And in fact, they took the train and they one of the stops was New York and you know, we stopped to see pay stubs Ephraim in St. Louis, but you took them to a number cities to show my Washington DC and then when my brother and I were 9-11 are we flew and it was a month trip and it was a month trip to see the country and that was that was a tradition that we experience in our family. And in fact, we have tried to do the something similar which is to take our kids and take them around the country to see things and experience in both of our families. I love of Music That's my wife's father play the jazz piano.

36:12 During the I guess would have been the twenties to work through work itself through to work to pay his way through college and part of medical school and and my father is was a strong devotee of of of jazz music and our daughter.

36:31 Is probably the quintessential Jazz person to this day as matter fact had a radio show when she was at UC Santa Barbara. It was a jazz radio show my son having declared and gone 5 years graduating as a biology major decided medical schools at it. He now wants to be an electrical engineer. He's in the music. He likes he likes music, which is what his his his uncle Fitzroy. It is. He's in double A W on high school, which would have been like the late 50s early 60s when that really wasn't popular and she had a huge Jazz collection. And in fact used to write the music reviews for Essence in the very early days, and I used to get a lot of free music. And so yeah, you know one thing that I think also has a tradition of both of our families my mother-in-law

37:27 And many of the people in my family and all of my mother-in-law's siblings everybody enjoyed laughing. They enjoyed my brother. We just got back from from from Martha's Vineyard and my brother and I are out on the golf course, he's four and a half years younger than I am. We are just laughing our heads off out in the middle of a golf course because we're thinking about stuff that took place when we were kids and we're we're we're laughing at Old pigmeat Markham records and and talking about people who are you know, God Rest her soul now dead and things of that their idiosyncrasies, but I think on both sides of our family that there was there was a a a desire to want to enjoy life is about enjoying life.

38:27 Best Legacy, which is what we were taught to enjoy life and we were lucky enough to be able to enjoy life. And that's a good thing. That's that.