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Rosemary Braziel Butler Interview Clip


Rosemary Braziel Butler Interview Clip


Rosemary Butler talks about race relations in Mobile, including segregated theaters and her husband's fight for the position of State Housing Commissioner .


Rosemary Braziel Butler
National African American Archives & Museum
Museum of Mobile


National African American Archives & Museum
Museum of Mobile


August 20, 1999




Oral history interview




Kern Jackson


Rosemary Braziel Butler


470 West Creek Circle, Mobile, AL 36617


Jackson: Um, tough question? Um, as a historian and this is a big, broad question but whatever you wanna say about it would be fine. Could you comment on race relations in Mobile?

Butler: I’m having to give some thought to that. Actually when I was growing up, I didn’t notice it too much. ‘Cause we all, you know, it was just a thing, and we just walked down to the Saenger and go up in the balcony and we had such a good time, you know, everybody you knew would be up there in the balcony, so it really didn't matter. We would see some of our friends standing in the line at the white theater but we knew not to speak to them when they were in that line because we knew that they were passing.

Jackson: What is that?

Butler: Passing for white. There were some who were light enough to pass for white and I won’t… They would go to the white theater. So, and we would pass on our way to the Saenger we would sometimes pass the Crown and we would see these kids in the line over there but we it was an unwritten rule that we didn’t break that, you know, even though we were all in school together.

Jackson: You think that’s something that went back to the times of the Adam Onas Treaty…

Butler: I think so. Uh, huh. But nobody knew that they were passing. The people if they knew they didn’t say anything. But ah, like I say, even when even when I had to go through that at the Welfare Department, it just really didn’t bother me because it was I figured that you know, I was going to achieve over and above whatever they threw at me and so you know I had that inner desire and inner feeling that you know whatever happened I was gonna withstand it because I was gonna I was gonna be above it.

Jackson: Uh, huh.

Butler: So, I just, I guess ah, when did I first begin to really, really feel bad about it, maybe during World War II. That might’ve been when uh, I begin to have my first feelings about the differences and wanted to fight and be a part of a fight that would happen.

Jackson: In your memory, how did that that notion of fighting take shape and what form did the fighting come for you?

Butler: The form and the fighting came for me really rather late and it came through my husband. We had moved back to Mobile from Boston. He had gone to school at Boston University. And we stayed on a while. Then, because the family being here, we decided to come back to the South. And uh, he was working for the Mobile Housing Board and he saw no future there.

Jackson: You didn’t tell me his name.

Butler: Herbert Butler. And he was working for the Housing Board and we saw no future there. And this exam came up for state housing commission. So, he took the exam and was the only person to pass the exam. And we he was the only person to pass the exam. Governor Wallace abolished the position. So we decided that, that was not going to be. So, my husband was a friend of Senator, the first black senator, Senator Edward Brooke, who had gone to school together in Boston. And we wrote Eddie and he got the justice department involved and the justice department sued the state of Alabama. Made them give Herbert the job as State Housing Commissioner and made Governor Wallace pay him all the back salary that he would have earned if had hired him two years earlier. And Judge Frank Johnson, who just died, was the one who made the ruling. And in that ruling which still have upstairs, it opened the way for all blacks to be hired within the state, in state offices.

Original Format



4 min 11 sec



Rosemary Braziel Butler, National African American Archives & Museum, and Museum of Mobile, “Rosemary Braziel Butler Interview Clip,” Mobile Public Library Digital Collections, accessed August 8, 2020,

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