James L. Jones, aka "Buddy" Jones, was born in Union Springs, Alabama, in 1912, the son of a sharecropper. At age 7 the family moved to Matewan, West Virginia, for his father to work in the coalfields. Trouble soon developed when his father became involved in the UMWA's effort to organize coal miners in the region. Jones recalls being evicted from company housing and having to live in a tent. Company-hired "detectives" fired upon the tents at night in the buildup to the infamous Matewan Massacre in 1921. Jones later served in the US Army in Western Europe during World War II, where he first became aware of racial discrimination. He tells a great story about being in Texas during his wartime military service and refusing to sit in the back of a military bus. Jones also discusses his postwar migration to Cleveland, where he lived in Glenville and, later, East Cleveland. He worked in "heat treating" metals at National Acme in Collinwood. He also tells about supporting his friend George Forbes for city council and forming the Ghana Social Club, which operated in various bars and clubs in the early 1950s.


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Jones, James L. (interviewee)


Jones, Leslie A. (interviewer)


Provost Summer Program



Document Type

Oral History


159 minutes

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Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 3.0 License
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