Oral history interview with Calvin Armstrong, 1968  PDF

Overview of the Collection

Armstrong, Calvin
Oral history interview with Calvin Armstrong
1968 (inclusive)
2 sound cassettes (ca. 120 min.)
Collection Number
4691 (Accession No. 4691-001)
Pre-World War I migrant to Seattle
University of Washington Libraries, Special Collections
Special Collections
University of Washington Libraries
Box 352900
Seattle, WA
Telephone: 206-543-1929
Fax: 206-543-1931
Access Restrictions

Open to all users.


Biographical NoteReturn to Top

Pre-World War I migrant to Seattle.

Calvin Armstrong left Platt City, Missouri at the age of 17 and arrived in Seattle on April 2, 1909, at the age of 22. Before arriving in Seattle, he had lived and worked in Kansas City and St. Joseph, Missouri. He moved to the Northwest at the invitation of his sister who was living in Seattle. He worked at a variety of jobs in western Washington including street-paver, hauler and transfer agent, construcion worker on the city reservoir system, railroad porter and dockworker. From 1920-1935, Armstrong hauled garbage for the City of Seattle. Later, he purchased and farmed land in eastern King County until the early 1950s.

Content DescriptionReturn to Top

Tape recorded interviews conducted by Larry Gossett on 2 and 23 March, 1968.

Armstrong discusses life in Western Washington as he found it upon his arrival in Seattle in 1909. Talks about his search for employment and the various jobs he undertook. Through his experience, Armstrong provides an understanding of the limited employment opportunities available to black men in the Northwest, prior to World War I. Identifies World War I as the event which opened up the Seattle waterfront to black employment. Comments on the role of blacks as strikebreakers during the strike which opened the waterfronts of all West Coast cities to black employment. Armstrong also describes a near fatal attack which he survived when he and eight other black strikebreakers were set upon by striking white waterfront workers while riding on a trolley car in downtown Seattle. Armstrong briefly discusses black politics and the reasons why most black people in Seattle switched their loyalty from the Repuplican to the Democratic Party. He mentions Lawyer Black and Horace Cayton, Sr. in this context. In the remainder of the interview, Armstrong reacts to a series of questions about black/white relations, the message of Martin Luther King, Jr. and the meaning of "Black Power".

Use of the CollectionReturn to Top

Alternative Forms Available

Listen to the audio recording of this interview on the Libraries Digital Collections site.

Restrictions on Use

Creator's literary rights not transferred to the University of Washington Libraries.

Administrative InformationReturn to Top

Names and SubjectsReturn to Top

  • Subject Terms :
  • African Americans--Employment
  • African Americans--Washington (State)
  • Black power
  • Civil rights movements--Washington (State)
  • Labor movement--Washington (State)
  • Personal Papers/Corporate Records (University of Washington)
  • Personal Names :
  • Armstrong, Calvin--Interviews
  • Cayton, Horace R. (Horace Roscoe), 1903-1970
  • King, Martin Luther, Jr., 1929-1968
  • Geographical Names :
  • Washington (State)--Race relations
  • Other Creators :
    • Personal Names :
    • Gossett, Larry (interviewer)