Doris J. Payne


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. Doris J. Payne started teaching at Cannelton Elementary School in the 1950s. She gives us detailed information about her family throughout the interview, including members of her family who were slaves, white and Native American relatives, education in her family, her brother serving in the Navy, family life, as well as the death of her mother. She also discusses her childhood. Education is another large topic, and she tells us about a one-room school she attended (Cannelton Elementary School) and her education at Bluefield State College and West Virginia University. She also played on a basketball team in school. She then discusses her teaching career, recalling coming to work at Cannelton Elementary, teaching in Logan East and Marshall University and at Pratt in Kanawha County (WV), explaining how she came to work at Pratt, and problems she had with a principal at Pratt. Other education-related topics include: her teaching style; students remembering her later on in life; an anecdote about students throwing water on her and her response to that; different types of students she taught; and how schools are changing. She remembers the desegregation of schools as well, and trouble she had getting a job because of her race. Race relations is another focus of the interview, and she describes race relations in Cannelton, segregation and racism, slavery, how black women face more discrimination than white women, how she doesn't want a company hiring her for no other reason than her race (a "token" position), different treatment of black and white students at schools, and the importance of including African-Americans in committees, organizations, classes, etc. Women's rights and women's issues are also discussed. There are numerous other discussion points in this interview as well, and some of them include: physicians she knew; coal companies; slaughtering hogs; indoor and outdoor toilets; a local prison; her sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha); organizations she has belonged to; alumni associations; her self-perceptions about her childhood; her self-perceptions in general; unfulfilled dreams in her life; the importance of being able to read and write; and many other subjects.

Publication Date






Library of Congress Subjects

Payne, Doris J., 1930- -- Autobiography.
Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority -- Oral histories.
Bluefield State College -- Oral histories.
Cannelton Elementary School -- Oral histories.
Family -- Oral histories.


Interview is included in the Marshall University Oral History Collection. The index number is OH64-805.


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Oral History Interview: Doris J. Payne