This oral history interview with Johnnie Maxey was conducted by Aaron Brand at Maxey's home in Portland, Oregon, from February 25 to June 30, 1994. Charles Britton Maxey was also present and occasionally contributed to the interview, which was conducted in five sessions.
In the first interview session, conducted on February 25, 1994, Maxey discusses her family background and early life on a farm in Kilgore, Texas. She speaks at length about raising and preparing food; describes her childhood home; and talks about her early education. She then discusses attending Texas College, including meeting Charles Britton Maxey. She also talks about her mother's health, attending the AME Church, and racism she experienced. She discusses relocating to Portland in 1943; talks about the jobs that Charles Britton Maxey held; and describes her journey by train.
In the second interview session, conducted on March 31, 1991, Maxey revisits the topic of her early life in Kilgore, Texas, including her experience with rheumatic fever as a child, celebrating Juneteenth, and the community she grew up in. She also talks about her siblings and their families. She then discusses her life in Portland, including her social life, raising her family, and Charles Britton Maxey's career as a barber. She also talks about discrimination faced by the black community in Portland, including the lack jobs open to black people after World War II, the hostility towards black people in some neighborhoods, and the aftermath of the Vanport Flood. She discusses running a small grocery store, called Maxey's Better Buy Grocery, next door to her husband's barbershop.
In the third interview session, conducted on April 25, 1994, Maxey continues discussing Charles Britton Maxey's career as a barber and running the Maxeys' grocery store. She also talks about the experience of having two barbershops and their home seized by the state for the construction of the I-5 freeway. She speaks at length about dealing with customers; talks about other grocery stores in the neighborhood; and discusses her involvement in the community, including serving as president of her local parent teacher association. She also talks about school segregation and busing. She speaks at length about raising her children, and talks about their careers, as well as the racism they experienced.
In the fourth interview session, conducted on June 10, 1994, Maxey continues to discuss raising her children. She also talks about her relationship with her neighbors. She discusses her involvement with La Femme, which taught traditional etiquette to young girls, and talks about her involvement in her church, including its choir and working to promote black history to its congregation. She talks about racism she experienced in Portland, and how conditions for black people in Oregon have changed since the 1940s. She then briefly discusses Charles Britton Maxey's involvement with the Republican Party; shares her opinion on busing; and describes issues she had with some of her children's teachers. She also shares her memories of the civil rights movement.
In the fifth and final interview session, conducted on June 30, 1994, Maxey continues sharing her memories of the civil rights movement, and talks about how conditions for black people have changed in Oregon. She talks about black-owned businesses in North Portland, changes in the neighborhood, and changes in Portland's black community. She also briefly shares her political opinions. She speaks at length about her children, their careers, and their families. She closes the interview by talking about her grandchildren and her hopes for the future.
Maxey, Johnnie O. (Johnnie Obina), 1919-