"BATTLING THE BLESSINGS"
From Chapter - One
|20 YEARS IN THE MAKING
2 YEARS TO WRITE
OVER 50 YEARS OF HISTORY
"GOD HAS TRULY BLESSED ME"
|Author : Terry Fulgham
|Life time membership as a UAW member,
Supporter of all Unions.
" Together We Stand Divide We Fall "
Send mail to contact battlingtheblessings with questions or comments about this web site. Copyright © 2008 Terry Fulgham. No part of this web site including photographs may be reproduced in any form without the express written
permission of the author. Last modified: July 5,2013
Author Terry Fulgham
|Excerpt From Chapter - One
On a cool autumn day in 1956, I was 9 years old, sitting on the front porch, waiting for my grandfather, Papa
Manchester, to come home from work. I couldn’t help but wonder what I would say to him when I saw him. I
was looking up and down the neighborhood, not for any real reason, but mostly trying to get my thoughts
The number one songs on the music charts that year were “Don’t Be Cruel/Hound Dog” by Elvis Presley and
“My Prayer” by The Platters. The President of the United States was Dwight David Eisenhower and the Vice
President was Richard Millhouse Nixon.
While I was thinking, I was remembering that just five minutes earlier, I had gotten a whipping from my
grandmother, Big Mama.
Why I got this whipping will come later.
My mother’s parents, Shawn Fred Manchester, who we all called “Papa Manchester” and Ellen Jane
Manchester, who we all lovingly referred to as “Big Mama,” were the greatest grandparents anyone could have.
My two sisters, Ranae and Sherrie, and I were truly blessed to have grandparents like them in our lives. I was
the oldest. My sister Ranae was a year-and-a-half younger than I was and my youngest sister, Sherrie, was
four years younger than me.
I also had two half-brothers, Tyron and Donte, and a half-sister, Debra, on my father’s side. We had the same
father, Daddy D.P., but different mothers. Ranae and I were being raised by Big Mama and Papa Manchester.
Sherrie, my youngest sister, was with my mother, Cara Ann and my stepfather, Daddy James. My father’s
parents, Daddy Clack and Mama Clack, were raising Tyron, Donte and Debra.
Papa Manchester and Big Mama were from the South. Big Mama was from Kenneth, Missouri, and Papa
Manchester was from Forest City, Arkansas. They came to Flint, Michigan back in the early ‘20s, when
“colored people,” as they were called back then, emigrated to the North for a better life, better jobs and
My grandparents shared plenty of stories with us about what Flint was like in the ‘20s, ‘30s and ‘40s. Big Mama
related these stories so many times, she said.
Back then, General Motors was recruiting and hiring people of all walks of life for employment. Col-ored
people who had come here from all over the United Stated were living on Main Street and in the surrounding
This street was right off Industrial Avenue, which was on the North end of Flint. People back then believed that
General Motors had set up en-tire neighborhoods for its workers. A few blocks east of Main Street was
another “colored” living area off St. John Street, which was also believed to be set up by General Motors to
house mostly the “colored” em-ployees.
Just east of St. John Street., across the Flint River, was Flint’s East Side, which housed many white employees
of General Motors who had also emigrated to Flint from the South.
The Flint River was like a great dividing line that separated the North End, which was mainly occu-pied by
blacks, and the East Side, which was mainly a white neighborhood.
At that time, it seemed that what-ever color, size or shape you were, Flint, Michigan, was the place to come for
a better life.
My grandparents weren’t the only ones who shared these stories of what Flint was like in the ‘20s, ‘30s and
‘40s and how people of color were being treated. All my life, I have heard stories from the old-timers who were
a part of that era (uncles, cousins and family friends) who loved to tell their stories about what Flint was like
then, and what it was like working for General Motors at that time.
The big difference between colored people and white people was not just the living arrangements, but how the
colored were treated on the job.
They worked separate jobs, and often, the lower scale job like janitorial work was the main kind of job that
colored were allowed to do for a long time. White men were allowed to work on the production line or do
There are a lot of stories to be told and shared about the history of Flint, Michigan; but for so long there has
only been one story being told: that of the whites. Colored people have never been able to really share their
stories about life in Flint, Michigan; only with each other. My grandpar-ents would say to us that Flint is rich
with colored history.
Big Mama said jobs, pay, housing and living conditions were better. However, life was still the same between
colored and white as it had always been in the South.
People moved to Flint for a better life, but they brought with them those same old ideas of whites and blacks
living and working separate from one another. It was a requirement that they live separately, if not an actual
law. At the time, there was no Equal Housing Law in Flint. And even in the workplace where they were not
only separate; better jobs went to whites, while coloreds got the janitorial jobs at GM.
This was no surprise because during that time, our United States Armed Forces saw fit to separate colored
people from whites. Papa Manchester was employed at the Chevro-let Downtown Plant, which is now closed.
My grandmother was employed at A.C. Spark Plug, an-other GM plant.
They were one of the first groups of colored people to live in the Main Street area at that time.
Being colored in Flint was not easy. There were only a few places where colored people could live, move or
purchase a house, even if they could af-ford to buy one. One place was on the South End of Flint and the other
was on the North End; nowhere else was even an option.
The suburbs of Flint, like Grand Blanc, Michigan, were mostly farm land then. And many small subdivisions
were off limits anyway.
Most colored families moved to Mt. Morris Michigan area, which was all farm land, and reminded a few of their
southern homes because of the rural set-ting.
My grandparents made a decision to stay in the city of Flint. In the ‘30s, on the North End of Flint, houses
became available for sale because the white, mostly Italian people, who came from “the old coun-try” were
moving out in what’s commonly called “white flight.” My grandparents found and purchased a large house on
East Jamieson Street.
All the homes on Jamieson Street were beautiful. In the backyard, were two large cherry trees, two peach
trees, and a large grapevine (18 feet wide and 20 feet long) which was held up on four sides; a seven-foot-tall
person could walk under it with no problem.
There was another small house also in the backyard.
That little house had two bedrooms, a bath-room, kitchen, and basement. On the side of the main house was a
large cherry tree; in the front yard was another large grapevine, which was just as high as the one in the
backyard, except this grapevine covered the whole front yard and most of one side of the house.
Theirs was the only house in the neighborhood that had a grapevine in the front. It also was the only house on
the block with a large front porch, plus two large bedrooms downstairs, a kitchen, bathroom, and a basement.
Upstairs, there were three larger bedrooms, a bathroom, kitchen, and a large upstairs porch that looked more
like a sunroom.
Later, my grandparents rented the rooms out for extra income. The back house was also rented.
They purchased the house next door that had a store on the lower level and three apartments above, and they
rented that out.
They also purchased three more homes and two apartment buildings and rented them out.
My grandmother quit her job at A.C. Spark Plug and opened a grocery store next door to their new home. They
named the store Manchester Grocery, which became the neighborhood store.
My grandpar-ents had the only colored store in the area.
My mother, Cara Ann Manchester, who we all called Madera, was born in the early ‘30s, in Flint, Michigan. She
was their only child.
|Chapter - One
On the Porch
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