Thursday, February 19, 2015

Julia Williams

Julia Williams
Circa 1846-1937

The Works Progress Administration did many incredible things to provide work during the Great Depression. One of the projects was to document the lives of the African Americans who were born into slavery. On 10th of June 1937, Forest Lees interviewed Julia Williams who lived in Wadsworth.

Julia (MACK) Williams was born into slavery around 1846 near Richmond, Virginia. After the Civil War and Emancipation, Julia reunited with the rest of her family. She married Richard Williams in the south around 1868.

In 1876, the Wadsworth area experienced a series of coal  mine strikes. To break the strike, the owners imported hundreds of African Americans from Virginia. Among them was Richard Williams. When the miners discovered what the owners had done, they threatened retaliation on the strike breakers. The mine owners built blockades and dormitories for the imported workers. Some of the workers, fearing for their lives, returned to the south. Others, like Richard, sent for their families and put down roots in the area.

The Williams family were founding members of the First Baptist Church in Wadsworth.* The census tells us that neither Richard of Julia could read or write. They had a large family. Richard worked in the mines for many years before becoming a laborer for the Wadsworth Streets Department. He died 19 February 1915.

It was fortunate that the WPA workers interviewed Julia, as she died just six months later:

Medina County Gazette  3 December 1937 page 6.

Julia tells about her life as a slave in this interview:,+Julia)) 

*Wadsworth Center to City Eleanor Iler Schapiro, editor. 1938.

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