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Interview with Dennis Rogers

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  • Rogers 1 Oral History Project-AME Zion Interviewee: Dennis Rogers Interviewer: Scott McKenzie Date: November 23, 2004 Location: Jackson County, NC Duration: 16:01 Scott McKenzie: My name is Scott McKenzie. The narrator of this interview will be Dennis Rogers. We are in Breese Gym. The time is 3:30, the date is 11/23/2004. Are you aware you are being recorded? Dennis Rogers: Yes I am. SM: Do you consent to this being recorded? DR: Yes, I do. SM: Could you give us your birth date and place of birth? DR: My birth date is January 31st, 1958. I was born in Sylva, North Carolina. SM: So, you were born in Jackson County. DR: Yes. SM: Have you always lived in Jackson County? DR: Yes I have. SM: How long have you been a member of the AME Mt. Zion Church in Cullowhee? DR: I was born into that church, so 46 years. SM: What makes the AME Mount Zion Church special to you? DR: The fellowship and the fact my great grandfather was one of the co-founders of the church. SM: Who would your great-grandfather be? DR: I am trying to remember, Lewis Rogers. SM: Do you perform any special roles in the church? DR: At the time, I am only the trustee board. I have held a preacher's steward. I have been a treasurer for twelve years. Of course, I have been a choir member. A lot of other positions I have held by myself at times. SM: You say only a trustee board member, that sounds pretty important. DR: Laughs. SM: Does your church participate or lead any community programs? DR: They do? Rogers 2 SM: What would those be? DR: At different times, maybe feeding the elders, people in the nursing homes. Take food by there, have prayer. SM: Outreach? DR: Outreach. SM: Does your congregation participate in any events or functions with other churches in the community? DR: We have. We do at times when the arrangements are made. Sometimes joint services or just fellowship. SM: Are you familiar with the "Feast-of-the-Wilderness." DR: Yes, I am. SM: Can you tell me about that? DR: It has been a long time. But I always remember as children, we would go there and it would be just like one big field trip. We had the music and all the food you can eat. Different churches, different denominations having a field day and having a good time. SM: That was all the African-American churches in this county that would get together, and that was the fifth Sunday? DR: Yeah, fifth Sunday. SM: I got this information from Victoria McDonald. DR: Yeah, I vividly remember that as children, because that was a huge feast, you know, and all the children was playing with something else. That was good fellowship. SM: Does the churches, other African-American churches, do you feel like they are interconnected in this community? I am going to give you a contrast. As a white church member, it was like this our church and that's it. Everyone else was separate. DR: In the past, we had fellowship with other African-American churches and at times it tended to be a little difference. Sometimes, we tend to schedule programs during the same time, so you would have to go one church or the other instead of checking with other churches, seeing if maybe you could alter your program. Sometimes they would conflict. SM: Right. I understand. Do you understand what I am saying. I mean, as a white church community, I think there is more separateness. What I am trying to get at, especially after talking to Victoria McDonald, that there was much more of an interconnected nature between African-American community. DR: Yes, yes. I'd say there is a tighter bond. I guess music, you have different groups for... most everyone would turn out for the singings and the fellowship. It is closer, yeah. Rogers 3 SM: How do you feel about having a female pastor at your church? DR: l think it's great. The one we have now, the church has really prospered. She is doing a lot of work with the students, Western especially. SM: What is the current enrollment of the AME Zion? DR: Active members, probably 15. The students, as long as they are in school, are allowed to be associate members, so they can carry out any acts in the church. While they are here, the don't have to join, but they can still...it is really hard to say. But I would say 15 active members. SM: How do you feel about having students in the church? DR: It is been assets to us. I mean, yeah it is a big help. SM: Any from Asheville? DR: All over. SM: All over? DR: Yeah, some from Asheville, but more from down in the eastern part of the state. SM: What is the earliest childhood memory you have of the church or of your life in Jackson County? DR: That's a good one. My granddad, you know, was very active in the church. SM: Who would that be? DR: Will Rogers. SM: OK, I have heard that name before. DR: Yeah, yeah. SM: He was a reverend, correct? DR: He wasn't a reverend, but he very well could have been. Both of his brothers were pastors, one in Washington, D.C., the other in Johnson City, Tennessee. But, being kids like were, we would have our suits on and stuff like that, and we were out wrestling around in the mud with our suits, and granddad, we didn't see him, but he broke of a branch off a tree .. SM: He didn't take off his belt? DR: No, he made us come in like we were. We had to sit there real straight like and we were hurting. We didn't get to change our clothes. SM: He switched you with your clothes on? DR: Yeah. SM: As you may be aware, WCU had the church and graveyard relocated during the 1920's. How do you feel about that? Rogers 4 DR: Not really sure how I feel about that. I do know that it was unfortunate, the graves had to be dug up and moved which my granddaddy was the overseer of that. Uh .. the fact that the bodies had to be relocated, of course they built the church for us, [inaudible]. I have mixed feelings about that about disturbing .... SM: Since WCU was responsible for the relocation of your church, do your or anyone you from the congregation have any hard feelings toward the university? We have gone over that. Do you of anybody else that might have had? DR: I am sure there was, more than likely, yeah. But, we've had good relationship with the university. lf there was any damage done, if there was any damage done, it was pretty much smoothed over. SM: Good. How long have you worked for the university? DR: Twenty four years, eight months, no ten months. SM: Are you aware of other members who have worked at WCU? DR: Yeah. Of course, my mother, we are pretty much a family oriented church. A lot of my aunts and uncles and stuff, my aunts are still in the church, my uncles have passed. But they are all pretty much here at Western. SM: Yeah, I talked with Victoria McDonald. She said it seemed to be more people from the church worked here in the past. It seems to be less in the present. DR: Right. SM: Why do you think that is? DR: Probably pay. I'd say a lot of them. SM: Low pay here? DR: Yeah, compared to other places and a lot of them tend to not want to be stuck in one place, they want to move on because of the ... really the lack of black people in the area, a lot of them want to move on. SM: That's a good point. I have some population figures for African-Americans in Jackson County. lf l can find them. .. here it is. It never really varies much, maybe from the high threes to the low sixes. Why do the think the population remained stable? DR: I'd say it was lack of something to do. I had always heard earlier, most of the blacks went up north seeking better jobs and didn't come back. You know, now, I'd say again it was lack of something to do. The younger people have come in. l don't know, but there are some that still that go away and they finally come back. They don't like to come to the Cullowhee area, you know, it as far as Asheville or something like that. SM: It is interesting, and I don't know, but looking at these figures, it remains stable. The community hasn't really lost, but it hasn't really gained. It has kind of remained, and maybe you have the same group of people here, I don't know. I just thought that was interesting. Do you have any other memories or feelings about the AME Zion church you would like to talk about? Rogers 5 DR: Not really right off... just that I wish we could do it. In the process of doing it, is having our church as a historical building, because it was moved. The agreement with the university was the we would never have to move again from our current location. We were hoping it would never happen. With the university growing as it is and it is slowly moving that way. I could tell and one time we were going to have some trees cut, but the boundaries, where they run we weren't sure if it belonged to Western or us. The university wouldn't cut the trees and we were going to have them cut ourselves, because the way boundaries ran back then they didn't, it wasn't the perfect deed. They had the cornerstones and trees and stuff that shift, you know stones that shift and we had to get everything surveyed. We certified before we could cut the trees because some of the boundaries ... SM: So is there a fear that Western will take that building? DR: I think with some people there is, the way they are constantly needing more storage space. Storage buildings that already been built adjacent to our church there, that belongs to Western. SM: The building right beside the church belongs to Western? DR: The storage building, yeah, pretty much right beside. There some other properties that run through that area right there, we don't know if the university expands they would need this, even though in this agreement, we would never have to move again, I don't know how true the paper work is to that. SM: So, let me get this straight, if they designate it a historical building, Western could not take it over? DR: Right and we really don't know what we have to go through for that, we are checking on it. Some people are interested some of the… Do you know Joe Rhinehart? SM: No. DR: He's white and he was, they do a lot of churches and stuff like that and a certain time of year they have a tour of all the churches in the area. They take us to the arts department or council, whatever, and they have tours. They stop by our church and they done a lot there, but they didn't get to all the churches in this area. There are some that are one hundred years old ... It is an historical building. The benches and pews were hand made by one guy, Dallas Gray. SM: I didn't know there was only one guy. DR: Yeah, Dallas Gray. I heard my daddy talk about him, he was a master carpenter. Very little education, but he had the talent and skills to do it. SM: Excellent. That's all the questions I got. Do you have anything else you would like to add? DR: That's it. SM: Well, that's it.
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Object’s are ‘parent’ level descriptions to ‘children’ items, (e.g. a book with pages).