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The Long Struggle for Civil Rights: Black Oral Histories from King County

In her interview for the Bicentennial Oral History Project, Arline “J” Stewart Yarbough tells of a life in which even the mundane details formed some sort of civil rights protest. She sold desegregated cemetery plots, worked in a theater in the early days of their integration, and stood up to discrimination when it came her way — for example, refusing to move to the periphery of the theater at a movie when the ushers approached her.

“I guess I was always kind of a nervy, feisty gal. I had more courage than sense,” she chuckles in the recording. “They were showing a rerun of a Joe Louis fight, and I wanted very much to see that.”

The Washington State Archives’ Bicentennial Oral History “Black Project” — part of a six-project program — contains 69 interviews of King County residents, conducted in 1975-1976, and includes snapshots of life from homesteading days through the depression, WWII, and civil rights movements.

Written by Erika Prins Simonds