The idea for collecting interviews for a history of blacks in Blount County started in 2007 when an Alcoa resident, Mrs. Geneva (Iga) Johnson, celebrated her 100th birthday.
Due to Mrs. Johnson’s deteriorating health, her granddaughter, Felicia Moss-Samuels, and Mrs. Sally Belle Carter agreed to be interviewed in her place. The interview went very well, with a wealth of information gleaned about not only Mrs. Johnson’s life but also the life of many in Blount County. Unfortunately, shortly after the interview, Mrs. Carter passed away. That led the committee to realize an urgency to preserve, in an accurate and positive way, Blount County’s rich Black History.
Charles Pride, Dorothy Kincaid and Jo Davenport decided to form a company, CDJ Media Production, to conduct and record interviews with black Blount County residents who helped shape the community during and after the integration of the schools in 1969. The project’s title became “Blount County’s Black History – As Told by Those Who Lived It – Then and Now.”
To share some of the stories with the public, a panel of Dorothy Kincaid, Ron Coffin and Tanya Martin will discuss the project and share some of the history.
“Blacks in Blount County History” will be presented at the Blount County Public Library on Thursday, January 22, at 7 p.m. Featured guests will be interviewees who participated in the project along with the developers of CDJ Media Production, and they will be available to answer questions. At the conclusion of the program, 2 DVDs and accompanying booklets will be donated to the Blount County Public Library collection. Also, audience members will be able to place orders for DVDs & booklets if they so desire.
Speakers: Ronald S. Coffin, a native of Blount County, was born August 23, 1947, and reared in Maryville. Educated at the W. J. Hale School, a segregated school for “colored students” until 1963, Coffin became one of the first four students to integrate Maryville High School on September 3, 1963, just six days after the March on Washington led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (51½ years ago).
Coffin is a veteran of the Vietnam War, serving in the United States Army from March, 1968, to November, 1971. His overseas tours include Korea and Nationalist China (Taiwan). He is a graduate of the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, with a B.A. in Psychology, a minor in Black Studies and MSSW in Clinical Social Work. He is a retired federal administrator with 33+ years of service. He is a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Maryville and is active in several of its ministries.
Tanya Darlene Martin (née Henderson) is the first of five children of Cecil and Freddie Mae Henderson, and she represents the fourth generation of her family to live in Alcoa.
She attended Charles M. Hall School, a segregated school, from the first through tenth grades. In September, 1963, as part of an effort to integrate the city’s public schools, she was among the first 15 African-Americans to attend Alcoa High School. In 1965, she became one of the first four African-Americans to ever graduate from Alcoa City Schools.
After graduation, she married Ray Martin (now divorced). They had three children—Scott, Tammy, and Terry—all of whom also attended Alcoa City Schools. Tanya Martin spent much of her career with California State Automobile Association (CSAA). She rose in the company to become a District Manager with responsibility for six branch offices throughout the greater Las Vegas, Nevada, region offering travel assistance, insurance, and other services.
After retiring in 2008, she returned to Alcoa to care for her parents. She continues to be active with her family, church, and community.
Constance (Connie) Hooper Scott was born on February 22, 1948, in Maryville and attended W. J. Hale School until June, 1963. On September 3, 1963, she became one of the first four students to integrate Maryville High School. Scott was the first African American to be inducted into the National Honor Society at Maryville High School. After graduating from Maryville High School in 1966, she attended Knoxville Business College where she received an Associate Degree in Business/Accounting.
She was employed at the Aluminum Company of America in 1967 where she spent 30 years in the Accounting Department. Retiring in 1997 from ALCOA, Scott became the Administrative Assistant at St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church, Maryville, where she has been an active member all of her life. She takes pride in being a member of the St. Paul Sanctuary Choir and many other boards and organizations of the church. She has been married for 46 years to Roy Scott and has one son, Rodney.
Sylvia Y. Porter, one of the first four students to integrate Maryville High School in September, 1963, was born in Maryville on September 23, 1947. Porter attended W. J. Hale School until 1963. She has one son, Travis Darnell Porter, and one granddaughter, Payton Simone Porter, who lives in Cincinnati, OH.
Porter went on to attend and graduate from Knoxville Business College and then worked at Aluminum Company Of America, Inc. for nearly seven years before taking a job at Oak Ridge National Laboratory where she retired after 36 years of company service. She is a member of St. Paul A.M.E. Zion Church in Maryville and enjoys singing in the sanctuary choir as well as serving on several boards. She is also an active member of The Beloved Community Outreach Foundation, Inc.
Other interviewees on the DVD, many of whom plan to be in attendance at the program, include Dexter and Marjorie Stewart, Sharon Ferguson, Bill Murrah, Garry Hill, Stone Carr, Judy Knight, Sylvia Porter, Felicia Samuels, Cora Goss, Kaye Tate, Mary Scott, Geraldine Upton, Dan McCord, R.J. Miller, Jr., Paulette Pace, Juanita Usher, Thelma Brown, Dorothy Mynatt, Richard Turney, Charles McNear, Larry Brown, Robert and Alma Davis, Clara Stevens, Darlene Sudderth.
Free and open to the public, the program is sponsored by the Blount County Public Library, located at 508 N. Cusick Street, Maryville. For further information about library programs or services, call the library at 982-0981 or visit the Web site at www.blounttn.org/197.