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Partners of the Heart
The Film and More
Early Years
Pearl High
Living with Segregation
Pivotal Decisions
African American Medical Pioneers

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Living with Segregation: At Work

  At Work | At School | At the Movies | On Public Transportation | Facing Violence

He went across the hall and went to Dr. Blalock's office and said, I would like my pay. The way you talked to me this morning, I can't take that. I wasn't raised that way. And I want my pay.
-- Nat Crippens, North Nashville community historian, describing Vivien Thomas's reaction after an angry Dr. Blalock swore at him.

Quitting a job was often the only way to resist mistreatment on the job. The few labor laws that existed did not protect black workers. Talking back and openly resisting abuse was dangerous. Under the conditions of Jim Crow, African Americans frequently changed jobs, leaving whites complaining about the shiftless nature of black workers.

African Americans were confined to the least paid, least desirable, most dangerous and unstable jobs. White workers often went on strike to prevent black workers from being employed in "white" jobs. Black women were almost entirely limited to working as domestic laborers.

Video: Nat Crippens
Nat Crippens
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In the end, Vivien Thomas could work or not work for Dr. Blalock. He could go someplace else, and Dr. Blalock knew it... I think we have to understand that race relations and Jim Crow were not just a static system. There is a lot of negotiation going on between the races at all times.
-- Don Doyle, historian

He actually apologized to this nineteen year old youngster.
-- Nat Crippens, North Nashville community historian

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