Search This Blog

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Grit, determinination, sacrifice: lessons from our ancestors

Eva Carman talks with Tomi Johnson in 1978. (KET photo)
When I think about strong black women, I recall talking to Eva Carman of Irvington, Ky. Born May 5, 1884, I interviewed her when she was 95 years old. At that age, she walked ahead of me and dressed like a movie star. What an incredible woman! She must be dead now, but I couldn't find her obituary online. She still lives in my memory as a great freedom fighter for black people in rural Kentucky whose legacy of equal rights is an inspiration today.

"Put it in a bag, you can't eat that in here," was the racist attitude she found herself up against before restaurants were desegregated near Louisville.

"I had to fight for my people," she explained about her work with the NAACP.

Born in Dogwalk (Dogwood), she washed dishes for food as a child; cooked, ironed handkerchiefs, and cleaned house for $3-$4 a week, midwifed for $5 per baby, and started teaching other blacks in Hogback, Ky. at the age of 17.

"I wanted to help my people get out of their rut," she said about the importance of education. Her ambition was to let blacks know that uneducated people are only fit to serve, and educated people are not fit to be slaves.

The first $75 she made, working for an undertaker, was put away for her son to attend school at Lincoln Ridge, later named Lincoln Institute, which was the only high school blacks could attend in the Commonwealth.

"What I want to be remembered for the most is fighting for my people."

Update: Dr. Carman's oldest living grandson, Douglas Williams, contacted me 16 years to the day after her death and supplied her obituary. At a time when I felt like giving up, Dr. Carman has spoken to me again!

I ask myself, where have all our fighters gone? Are you one?

1 comment:

  1. Eva Carmen was my grandmother's oldest sister. My grandmother was Mary Essie Watts, she was two years younger than Aunt Eva. Aunt Eva daughter is alive and about 95 years old living in Ohio. Ohio is where most of the relatives are now.


Please leave a comment or email your comments to