Oral history interview with Arlene Wilkes, 1999


Wilkes, Arlene (Interviewee)
Michaels, Sheila, 1939-2017 (Interviewer)
Oral history interview with Arlene Wilkes, 1999
Other Titles
Reminiscences of Arlene Wilkes, 1999; Oral history of Arlene Wilkes, 1999
In this interview with Sheila Michaels, Arlene Wilkes recounts her life and involvement in the civil rights movement. with a focus on her experience as a field worker for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) between 1960 and 1963. Wilkes describes the curriculum for Black students at the William Penn High School, and the conditions under which High Point's Black citizens were educated. Wilkes dis cusses the inspiration for High Point's student demonstrations, as well as the planning, training, and preparation undertaken for the High Point sit-ins. She recalls the responses of local business and local government responses to student actions. Other topics of discussion include the economic impact of the civil rights movement on the Southern economy; Wilkes' desegregation efforts at High Point public facilities; and her travels on behalf of CORE to Gadsden and Birmingham, Alabama and Baton Rouge and Hammond, Louisiana. She discusses the support she received from her family and the community support she and other protestors received. Wilkes also describes the disrespect Black women and men experienced at the hands of government officials, particularly in the legal system. She references the "Miss Mary" Supreme Court case (Hamilton v. Alabama)
Collection Name
Sheila Michaels civil rights organization oral history collection
Civil rights movements--History--20th century.--United States; Civil rights demonstrations--United States; United States Race relations 20th century; Wilkes, Arlene; Congress of Racial Equality
oral histories
Physical Description
68 pages
Note (Biographical)
Arlene Wilkes was born in 1942 in Brooklyn, New York. Wilkes was the middle child of three. Her mother was a domestic worker and her stepfather worked in a bakery. Wilkes' family relocated to High Point, North Carolina where she attended its segregate d public schools. She graduated from William Penn High School. During high school, she became active with the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), and she served as a field worker from 1960-1963. Wilkes moved to New York and provided childcare for a Westchester family. She studied nursing at Bellevue Hospital and spent her entire professional career there. She worked in several departments, including the Emergency Room and Tuberculosis unit
Interviewed by Sheila Michaels on February 11, 1999
Note (Provenance)
Sheila Michaels, Gift circa 1999-2005
Library Location
Columbia Center for Oral History, Columbia University
Browse Location’s Digital Content
Catalog Record
Also In
Oral History Archives at Columbia
Time-Based Media
Time-Based Media
Persistent URL
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Available digital content for this interview.