Rev. Garther Roberson Jr. was born in
Ypsilanti, Michigan on August 1, 1927. He is the second
youngest of the six children of Rev. Garther Roberson
Sr. and Estella Roberson.
Roberson Jr. graduated from Ypsilanti High School in
1948. He went to work for United Stove Company for a
year and then began working for Ford Motor Company in
1950. He was drafted into the Army shortly thereafter
and spent two years serving overseas in the Korean War.
After his discharge from the Army, Rev. Roberson Jr.
returned to Ypsilanti and semi-skilled trade work at
Ford Motor Company.
immersed himself in the work of his father's church,
Second Baptist, and eventually became a deacon. In 1977,
Rev. Roberson Jr. announced to the church that he would
go into the ministry.
time, he had also earned an associate's degree in engineering
from Washtenaw Community College and had been working
a number of years as a salaried engineer for Ford Motor
Company in Saline, Michigan.
Jr. became the pastor of Mt. Olive Baptist Church in
Ypsilanti in 1979. Rev. Roberson Jr. is president of
the Huron Valley Missionary Baptist District Congress
of Christian Education and president of the Washtenaw
County Ministerial Alliance.
work has involved him with the faculty and programs
of several of the local higher education institutions,
particularly with regard to prevention work in health
care. He is currently involved with the volunteer work
of the Hope Clinic sites in Ypsilanti.
about the support system in place to help family members
who migrated from the South to Ypsilanti
Would you to talk a little bit about the family meetings
that were held to help people who came from the South?
this was not unusual. This was an important part of
family. As families migrated, they always had to have
some source, some area where they would be able to find
refuge, were able to find a place to stay. And so, families
that were moving up from the South for the same conditions
as my father had would automatically write to the families
that were existing, say, like we here in Ypsilanti,
and let them know when they were leaving, when they
were going to arrive. The family that was already here
would plan this occasion and it was always a great occasion
when a family would come up from the South.
can remember very well as when they would arrive, all
the families in the community or the surrounding area
would come together, and we would meet at one home.
Food was prepared, large amounts of food, and this to
us was the greatest time because we knew that there
was going to be a lot of food. Then again, all of our
cousins and everything would come together. And we,
as children, would just be having the greatest time.
We were introduced to our new cousins that we didn't
know, and we would bring them in, and we all would be
out playing and just having a good time.
we were, as children, enjoying this great occasion,
the family would be back in the kitchen, and they would
be very seriously talking to those who had just come,
and relating to them the situation. They would find
out if there were families that maybe had four, five,
and some six, seven children. The question would be
where would they be able to live until accommodations
were found for them. And the family would make a decision.
The children would be given to the aunts and uncles.
Everyone would take a part of this. And the adults would
be given to another family that they would be able to.
And so they would more or less surround and take care
of the total family until they were able to get work
and then find a place to stay.
one of the things that made it very difficult to take
census from Afro-American families, because that was
the way they carried out their own problems. They solved
their own problems. They worked out their own problems.
And sometimes a household may have been adequate for
three or four children, but there might be seven, eight,
nine, or ten because of families. Many times aunts raised
the children completely through the years. They just,
they kept the children. Even though the parent was here,
there were just too many children for them. Any time
there was, where a young girl made a mistake, and had
a child out of wedlock, the family would automatically
come around and work with that young girl. And many
times, they would take her in. If there was death in
the family, and the father passed, and there were three
or four or five children, the family would take the
children so that the children wouldn't be at a loss.
This was a normal thing at that time.