WHO WAS MATTIE?
Life as a Drunk
Mattie Jamison was a Black washerwoman living in 1939 Charlotte, North Carolina at the time of her interview. She did not talk about her childhood or early life besides remarking to the interviewer that she had lived in her home for nearly sixteen years and she had made her living so far by cooking as well as washing and ironing clothes.
Mattie once worked for a white woman called Mrs. L. S. Croxton. Mattie said she “use-ta be a bad n***er” because she was always drunk when she went to work for Mrs. Croxton. Fortunately, her employer was good to her and simply told her that she should act better; however, Mattie’s drinking got so bad that she was let go. After being fired by Mrs. Croxton, Mattie found work at the Elk’s Club as a cook but her sole personal motive for working there was to “git all de liquor [she] wanted.” Mattie said nobody cared that she was a drunk as long as her cooking was good.
New Found Religion
One day at this new job, a coworker asked Mattie if she wanted to go see a bishop and promised to cover her shift if she went. She went to the tent that the Bishop, called Bishop Grace, was at and saw him praying for people. She overheard two women sitting on the stage near Bishop Grace whispering about him after he grabbed a bottle of olive oil, saying he was fooling the people. The Bishop overheard them as well and said he wasn’t fooling people but anointing them and that the two ladies should be careful lest they have to be “toted” out of the tent. The two ladies then fell out and did indeed have to be carried out of the tent. Mattie, herself, was anointed with the oil and fell out “as if lightning had struck [her]” into a pile of black and white people that was “waist high.”
A Woman of God
Mattie kept a framed photograph of Bishop Grace in her home and whenever she was sick, rather than go to the doctor, she stood in front of the picture and was healed. Once when she was washing clothes, Mattie felt sick so she first stood in front of Bishop Grace’s photo then laid on the ground outside and prayed to God and she was healed. Mattie told the interviewer that poor black people had a hard time and she, herself, made four dollars a week; but, she had her religion and “dat was worf de whole worl’.”
Mattie believed wholeheartedly in Bishop Grace and his preaching. There were rumors that Bishop Grace was just stealing money from black people. He was also taken to court once and accused of stealing church members from another preacher’s church. But still, Mattie and people in the church followed him and did things like save money to get his car fixed. Mattie even relied on Bishop Grace to pray for her teeth since her income could take care of the rent and food and nothing else. In spite of all her hardships, Mattie trusted in the Lord. She strongly believed that you had to be humble to God. She explained to the interviewer that Jonah from the Bible got swallowed by a whale because he wasn’t humble to God. At the end of her interview, Mattie prayed for her interviewer who wasn’t saved and told her not to forget to pray.