Clara Mae (Thomas) AustonX

Born: August 7, 1905

Location: Lumpkin County

I am Clara Mae (Thomas) Auston. I was born August 7, 1905 in Lumpkin County, Georgia. Georgia, as the rest of the South, had lots of laws and customs obliging racial separation and inequality from cradle to grave. With encouragement from W.E.B. Dubois, Joseph Winthrop Holley founded what became Georgia Normal and Agricultural College in 1903 in Albany Georgia. The institution provided elementary education and teacher training for “colored” people. I received my teacher training certificate from the college July 10th, 1924. President Holley signed my certificate. I worked with “troubled” children in a segregated rural Georgia school. My husband, Effie Auston, was four years younger than me and worked as a farm laborer. I was 23 years old when our first child, Effie Will, was born. In 1929 the nation’s great economic depression was just beginning. That year my family, like millions of other “colored” people, left the South seeking jobs and a better life in the North. We left Georgia traveling north to Chicago with our infant daughter. We lived with my husband’s relatives when we first arrived. I gave birth to two more children, a girl--Authurnetta, and a boy--Gene, within five years of arriving in Chicago. We eventually moved to a first-floor apartment on Wolcott Street, not far from the newly opened Chicago stadium (replaced by the United Center today). My husband worked factory jobs. I raised three children and also worked in factories. I worked the longest at the well-known Case-Moody’s pie factory until it shut down in the 1950s. I’m standing next to one of my grandchildren in the picture. The pie factory is one block down the street behind us on my left. I departed this world in 1963, leaving grandchildren, who called me “Big Mama.” I now have several great- and great-great grandchildren in the Chicago area. One great-great grandchild now lives in Australia, and I have two great-great grandchildren who were born and raised right there in the Copper Country. That makes them “Yoopers,” I guess.

Contributed by: Willie Melton III, Houghton, Michigan