Mary M. Elston


Rita Wicks-Nelson and Ancella Radford Bickley



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This interview is one of series conducted concerning Oral Histories of African-American women who taught in West Virginia public schools. Mary M. Elston discusses her family in great detail throughout the interview, and this includes: relatives (some of whom were slaves), growing up in a racially mixed family, meeting her husband, her marriage and family life, working at the same school as her husband and information about his educational and employment history, her children and adopted children, taking her children to events, and the competitiveness at school and in her family. The subject of divorce also comes up in this interview. She also gives us information about her childhood, such as recreation. Apart from marriage and family, she discusses her education: she attended Genoa High School and Bluefield State College. She tells us about a bombing at Bluefield State, her daily life while she was in school and working, classmates from school, as well as her sorority (Delta Sigma Theta). She gives her employment history outside of teaching, and also in-depth information about her career as a teacher and then her retirement. Race relations is another big topic, including segregation in her life, her own non- traditional views on race and ethnicity, how she has not let race affect her life, social classes among African-Americans, the Civil Rights Movement and racial integration in the world, and she recalls the desegregation of schools. Women's rights and the Women's Movement are also topics in this interview. There are many other discussion points, and some of them include: church and religion; women who influenced her; her current activities at the time of the interview; her self- perceptions; regrets she has in life; organizations she belongs to; how she has changed over the years; and thoughts on her life in general.

Publication Date






Library of Congress Subjects

Elston, Mary M., 1927- -- Autobiography.
Genoa High School -- Oral histories.
Bluefield State College -- Oral histories.
Delta Sigma Theta Sorority -- Oral histories.
African-American teachers -- West Virginia -- Oral histories.


Interview is included in the Marshall University Oral History Collection. The index number is OH64-793.


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Oral History Interview: Mary M. Elston