Federal Writers' Project - Life Histories/2015/Fall/Section 018/Mary Hines

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Mary Hines[edit]

Mary Hines (1887-1954) of Monroe County, Alabama, was a daughter of a freed slave. [1] She became a teacher after her third year of high school.[2]

Biography[edit]

Early Life[edit]

Location of Monroe country in Alabama[3]

Mary Hines (maiden name McCants) was born in 1887 in Monroe County, Alabama.[4] She was one of seven children. Her father, David McCants, was born into slavery, but he was freed along with his parents after the Civil War. The surname, McCants, was adopted from his master. No information regarding the identity of McCants's mother is available. When McCants's was four, her father moved to Wilcox County, Alabama to be a tenant farmer. Later in 1911, they moved to Escambia County, Alabama where farming conditions were better.

Mary lived with her parents until she went to a boarding school to earn a degree to become a teacher.[5] She attended the Colored Industrial Seminary at Snow Hill. There Hines paid for her board by working in the laundry room. After she finished eleventh grade, Hines took the state examination to become a teacher. She worked as a teacher for three years before she married and became a housewife.[6]

Adult Life[edit]

McCants was in a relationship when she was an adolescent, but her mother disapproved it and ended it. At the age of twenty five, McCants married Dock Hines, a fellow teacher. His wife had died in childbirth. After their wedding, Hines moved to Camden, Alabama with her new husband. They lived there for twenty-five years before they moved back to Escambia county so that they were closer to Hines's parents. Hines had nine children with her husband, four of whom died. The cause of their death is unknown. Around the time of the Great Depression, Hines’s husband became blind from a cataract, which covered the lens of his eyes. Having no source of income, Hines brought her children to work in the field picking cotton and strawberries to keep them from starving. [7]

Hines lost her home during the Great Depression. She and her daughters worked to redeem their home later on in life. Because all of her daughters were professionally employed as teachers, the Hines family was well off compared to other African American families.[8]

Social Issues[edit]

African Americans in Education[edit]

African American schoolroom in the 1930s[9]

In the 1930s, the classroom conditions for African American schools were extremely poor.[10] African American intellectuals conducted a survey regarding the condition of these schools during the Great Depression, and they found that these schools were operating in old churches and Masonic halls that were falling apart. Regardless of whether they were publicly or privately owned, African American schools were in dire need of supplies and equipment.[11] The buildings lacked adequate lighting, heating, and plumbing. The classrooms often did not have desks or chairs. In her autobiography, Marmie Garvin Fields described her first day of teaching at a South Carolina elementary school in 1909 and she stated, "The children took me through the woods and the bushes to Humbert Wood School, a two-room, darkly painted school...you couldn't find the school for the weeds growing around it...the school was just an old wooden house with two rooms...benches inside had no backs...don't have no blackboard...no crayons."[12] Such undersupplied and worn down facilities were the conditions of most African American schools were in.

African American schools were overpacked with students, and they were far more populated than white schools. Often times, an entire school would only have one teacher who would be responsible for all the students. In addition, African American teachers had less training in teaching compared to white teachers.[13] Southern born African American teachers also earned significantly lower wages than white teachers.[14]

African Americans in the Great Depression[edit]

During the Depression, many tenant farmers lost their jobs in southern agriculture. This family was evicted from their farm in 1938[15]

Prior to the Great Depression, the Southern region of the United States was the most impoverished. African American had no economical or political power because of segregation and most of their families survived on a income that was less than a hundred dollars a year. [16] When the Great Depression hit, it pushed African American further into poverty. They lost their jobs at twice the rate of white workers. In her book, Greenberg referred to the unemployment of African American as "last hired, first fired."[17] In southern cities, slogans such as, "No Jobs for Niggers Until Every White Man Has a job" were plastered everywhere.[18] As long as there were unemployed white Americans, African American would be fired from their jobs.[19] Many African American protested this unfair treatment, and they held hunger marches and mass demonstrations to prevent African American families from being evicted from their homes.[20]

Footnotes[edit]

  1. "Mary A Hines in the 1920 United States Federal Census." Ancestry. 2015. Accessed October 12, 2015.
  2. Life History, Mary Hines, January 2, 1939, folder 2, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940, The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  3. Benbennick, David. "File:Monroe County Alabama.png." Family Search. March 31, 2012. Accessed October 20, 2015.
  4. "Mary A Hines in the 1920 United States Federal Census." Ancestry. 2015. Accessed October 12, 2015.
  5. Life History, Mary Hines, January 2, 1939, folder 2, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940, The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  6. Life History, Mary Hines, January 2, 1939, folder 2, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940, The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  7. Life History, Mary Hines, January 2, 1939, folder 2, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940, The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  8. Life History, Mary Hines, January 2, 1939, folder 2, Coll. 03709, Federal Writers’ Project Papers 1936-1940, The Southern Historical Collection, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
  9. Brooker, Russell, Adekola Adedapo, and Fran Kaplan. "The Education of Black Children in the Jim Crow South." America's Black Holocaust Museum. Accessed October 20, 2015.
  10. Fairclough, Adam. ""Being in the Field of Education and Also Being a Negro...Seems...Tragic": Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South." The Journal of American History 87, no. 1 (2000): 68.
  11. Fairclough, Adam. ""Being in the Field of Education and Also Being a Negro...Seems...Tragic": Black Teachers in the Jim Crow South." The Journal of American History 87, no. 1 (2000): 68.
  12. Fields, Mamie Garvin, and Karen Elise Fields. Lemon Swamp and Other Places: A Carolina Memoir. New York [u.a.: Free Press [u.a.], 1983.
  13. Fultz, Michael. "African American Teachers in the South, 1890-1940: Powerlessness and the Ironies of Expectations and Protest." History of Education Quarterly 35, no. 4 (1995): 402.
  14. Card, D., and A. B. Krueger. "School Quality and Black-White Relative Earnings: A Direct Assessment." The Quarterly Journal of Economics 107, no. 1 (1992): 151-200.
  15. Trotter, Joe W. "Impact of the Great Depression on African Americans." Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression 1 (2004): 8-17.
  16. McElvaine, Ed. Robert S. "Great Depression in the South." Geographic Overview 2 (2004): 910-17.
  17. Greenberg, Cheryl Lynn. To Ask for an Equal Chance: African Americans in the Great Depression. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
  18. Trotter, Joe W. "Impact of the Great Depression on African Americans." Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression 1 (2004): 8-17.
  19. Greenberg, Cheryl Lynn. To Ask for an Equal Chance: African Americans in the Great Depression. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2009.
  20. Trotter, Joe W. "Impact of the Great Depression on African Americans." Edited by Robert S. McElvaine. Encyclopedia of the Great Depression 1 (2004): 8-17.