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This is a complete and accurate transcript of the oral history interview of Consuella York (CN 397, #T2) in the Archives of the Billy Graham Center. No spoken words have been omitted, except for any non-English phrases which could not be understood by the transcribers. If the transcriber was not completely sure of having gotten what the speaker said, "[?]" was inserted after the word or phrase in question. If the speech was inaudible or indistinguishable, "[unclear]" was inserted. Grunts and verbal hesitations, such as "ah" or "um" were usually omitted. Readers should remember that this is a transcription of spoken English, which, of course, follows a different rhythm and rule than written English.
... Three dots indicate an interruption or break in the train of thought within the sentence on the part of the speaker.
.... Four dots indicate what the transcriber believes to be the end of an incomplete sentence.
() Words in parentheses are asides made by the speaker.
 Words in brackets are comments by the transcriber.
This transcription was made by Christopher Easley and Paul Ericksen, and completed in July 1992.
Collection 367, #T2. Interview with Consuella York by Robert Shuster on July 19, 1988.
SHUSTER: This is a continuation of the interview with Mother York, which took place on July 19th, 1988. You were talking about how [pauses]...how you were born again.
YORK: I...I was down...I was down in Nashville, Tennessee, and...staying with my grandmother for that period of time prior to coming back to Chicago. And there was a church up on the hill on 33rd Ave. north there in [?] Nashville, Tennessee, called First Corinthian Baptist Church. Now I attended Sunday school there, and it was there that I accepted Christ my personal Savior. I was twelve years of age. And I was baptized. The pastor's name was Reverend H. G. Hockett [?], I mean, and I accepted Christ as my Savior then. And it made a difference and it's b...was a lasting thing. And as I look back over it now, I see the Lord had this thing all arranged in all the things I've gone through, it was for my betterment, 'cause I...I loved the Lord, And [pauses] when I was younger, I...I used to think that I was just being good because I was being good; I didn't want to do wrong. But I realize now that it was only through Christ that motivated, because when he's the Lord of your life, he makes the decisions. You think you're making the decisions; you want to give yourself credit for it. I realize now it was him, all the time. When you're young, you...you think it's you. But I...I realize now it was him. He was the one making decisions. He didn't let me do the things that the other folk were doing, you...because my...si...my sister...my second sister got married, and...and... and...and...and...you know, we were not at liber...allowed to drink or smoke, any those kinds of things, I mean. And when she got married and came back from Chica...from Washington D.C, she...I don't know...she'd been drinking some beer. I was just...I said, "What are you doing drinking that stuff?" I mean, and...and...and...and I just...I mean...I mean.... And I just had a dislike for her. And so...and so I realized then, "Now I know it was God," you know. And my...my...my stepfather was a spiritual [pauses]...spiritualist preacher, I mean, and he made herb medicine, and...and...and...and he put gin in the herb medicine, you know, I mean...I mean for [unclear] diseases and what not, I mean. And I put a teaspoonful in my mouth. I said, "That's nasty tasting stuff." [Shuster laughs] "Gracious." I said, "No, they won't have no trouble out of me." And then I had a...a...a...a...my...my...my sister had [pauses]...drank some beer. I said, "That stuff looks like horse piss." [Shuster laughs] I said, "That nasty stuff," I said, "will make your eyes bulge." I said, "No, I don't...wouldn't want none of that, because I see these people." I said, "They get to drinking." I said, "Their eyes are bulging, they talk out of their mouth," I said. "They go out with somebody, have sex with somebody. They don't [?] know the father of their child." I said, "I don't need anything to make me talk. I talk enough." [Shuster laughs] I said, "I...well, that's not for me," I mean. And then...and then I had a cold once, and they said, "What you need," (I had a bad cold), "is a hot toddy." So they put a little...they...they made the medicine up, and they put the tea and what not and they put a little alcoh...a little whiskey in the thing. And they said, "This is...." I said, "What...? They said they called it a hot toddy. But I'd seen my aunt drink it. I saw her follow up [?]. I said, "What are you following them for?" And she said, "Well," she said, "but I like it." I said, "No, they won't have no trouble out of me about that." And then when I...I drank that hot toddy for that cold, I noticed I felt kind warm and swooning. And I felt, "Uh-oh! That I'm never taking that kind of stuff." And...but I realize now, that was the Lord giving me a distaste for anything that would affect my Christian testimony. I mean, I...I didn't smoke because one day...I...I...I mean, my sister sm...my older sister smoked out of my father's presence. He didn't know it. She almost swallowed one once because [Shuster laughs] he didn't allow it even when we were grown. My father, if you came to the house, he never allowed any of that, period. So I...one day I picked up my sister's cigarettes, and I went to the mirror and looked. I said, "Now don't you look brazen." I said, "That'll ne...I...never me." But see...but now, I thought it was me. It was God giving me a distaste for those things I would put into His house. This body's His temple. That would bring shame to His name, so I give Him the glory. It wasn't me. I mean, I thought it was just me. Well, why me out of all...of our family? I just didn't do it. No, he just didn't allow me. And now I thank Him. And He...and now He's putting me in the midst of all these folk who do all these things. And so they think that maybe I've done all of it and I haven't done any of it. But I keep it covered 'cause...you know, so God can be glorified, you know. But...I mean, and I've seen now that from that time on, Jesus has been the center of my life. In everything I do I try to think, "Well, what would He say to this? How should I respond in this regard?" I discuss everything with Him, you know, I mean. And I say, "Well, do You... don't let me do this." I be talking to Him. Yet when I get with other people, I don't try to flaunt my self-righteousness, because it's not me anyway. So the...they see [unclear], "I don't do that, you know." "She thinks she's better." No, not better. Better off, you know. Ju...just the Lord, you know. So that... because there's a little boy at our church named Jason Coal [?], and he accepted Christ as his Savior at Moody [pauses] pre...pre... pre-school, and he accepted Christ as his Savior. And...and I said, "Jason, are you saved?" He said, "Yes, I'm saved." I'd said, "How old are you?" He said, "Six." I said, "Well, what do you mean you're saved?" He said, "Well, I confessed my sin, the Lord forgave me, and now Jesus is Lord of my life and that means he runs everything." So that's what He has to be, Lord, and so He runs everything, you know. I mean...I mean, even the stuff I...that I...that I think that I like to hold on. I said, "But now if you don't want me to do that, let me know and that's it." And so it makes you clear as regard to people; it makes you try to keep from getting involved with a lot of things because He is the Lord of you. He said, "No, you just know," you know. I was just thinking, prior to this, last week...this week, I mean, they're having a service for me at the jail on Thursday for my birthday. They're going to have a service for me Friday at the church for my birthday, I mean, and then I'll be going away all next week. And I was just...on the fourth of July we were having service. The Lord says, "Since you gonna be [with?] all these people, why not give me seven days of fasting before you get into it so you won't [pauses] be talking, you know what I mean, on your own, you'll let me be glorified." So I said, "Okay, you're the boss, you know." And so last week, I fasted every day 'til six o'clock, I mean, without any food or any water. And last week was an extremely hot, extremely hot, but the boss, the Lord said "Do it," so I didn't give anybody any trouble. I wasn't arguing with anybody, talking about "Oh, why would you let me fast like this?" He...I said, "You're the Lord. You're in charge, so do what you want to do." And that's it, I mean, and that's it. And in all the things of your life you do, you find out that if He's Lord of your life, then he wants to run it, and anything your doing He can't run, you ought not to be doing it. See, so He wants to...He wants to rule it. We sing a song "Have Thine Own Way Lord," but we really don't mean it. I said, "Lord, do what You want to do with me. I'm yours. If You say go through or if You tell me to do it, You're going to help me do it, so it won't be me, it will be you anyway. You'll just give me credit for it, but then that's to glorify You. And...and that's it, you know. And now...as...as I look at it now, He's been running it all the time.
SHUSTER: Do you remember anything about the service where you became a Christian, about the sermon, or about any of the...?
YORK: I don't remember the sermon. I know...I just know that man said, "Anybody who'd like to accept Christ as their Savior, come up to the front." And I came on up there and accepted Him into my heart, I mean. And I was baptized then. But then...and when... when I came back to Chicago, I mean, then to submit to the will of God was not an effort, you know. And I had to face the changes of my mother and my father had gone through because they were separated. But I wasn't disturbed with my father, I wasn't upset by my mother, I mean, [pauses] and I wasn't a disturber with [pauses] my stepfather. I didn't...I mean, none of that didn't bother me. I just took...I said, "Whatever, Lord, You're doing, it's alright." Being young, I didn't understand it you know, 'cause my sister...my sister had gone to the world, and she...she was disturbed, even though she was still at home. But I could do... whatever I had to do didn't seem to be a problem. And so I realize now that it was the Lord's doing it then, you know. And the folk that I deal with in the streets today don't know my background. So they think I've been in the penitentiary. They think a lot of things because I [pauses] "become all things to all people that you may win one for Christ." [1 Corinthians 9:22] So they don't know my background. You have the privileged honor [whispers], I mean. But...but...but, I mean, I...I...I don't flaunt it so...
YORK: ...so...so that they...they won't even know. So if...if you...they brand you as being one of them I just let the brand go on. I mean, they said, "Mother York has done time, she's hip to what's happening. Look man, she...she knows exactly what's going on." All their...all their vernacular I learned, all the phrases that...that they use, I learned. So I...I...I...I...I relate to them in their manner. And then when...when they...when I get them to a point when then I tell them about Jesus, so they don't even know, you know. But I think about it, it's been...He's been in charge all the time, all the time. I think I told you before, I mean, that all the time I've been pastoring, (my church being small and dealing with people from broken homes and ex-convicts and addicts and alcoholics, and like that), our congregation was small, and I signed for all the...the...the church bills...all the responsibility of the church. We started in a storefront, I mean, we started in a basement, and then we moved to a storefront, and then we moved to a funeral home and had...made it into a church. And then we left there and came to where we are now, which is a regular church building. But I signed for all the things, because we had a small congregation, so I felt responsible. I've always had a mimeograph shop. Didn't make any money because I...I taught little kids and I paid all those kids. When I finished all I had left was my tithe money. But...but all those years, I'd sign for the bills and I said, "Well, I may be poor but I'm going to be honest." So I paid the bills. So thirty-three years later, I'm still paying the bills. The church has increased, but I mean, and...and they're giving the orphans more, but I have signed for them, so naturally on the third Sunday, which will be...they select the third Sunday to be the pastor's Sunday. Well, that's the third Sunday and that's the [pauses]...bills are due. So if I took a salary home, I wouldn't have any....any...any money to pay the church bills and they'd be behind. And they always...they got members, I got to pay their rent, pay their light and gas, this one's having a problem. Or I have an inmate who's with aftercare and I have to dole out the money to them. So when I...on the Pastor's Aid Sunday, which is the third Sunday, I'm at the altar, everybody comes up to ask me a question, so when I get through, the little money they given me is all gone out from the pastor's aid, and the regular offering that would be mine goes to pay the church bills. So all these years, I couldn't...I didn't put nothing into social security because there wasn't no money put in. So now I'm sixty-five. Well, I mean, but I get a...a check for a hundred and sixty-one dollars. It was a hundred and eighty-three. Now they take out Medicare, 'cause I'll be sixty-five next week, the Lord willing, the twenty-sixth of July. So...so...so after pastoring thirty-three years, I've never received a dime's salary, so...but nothing taken out for social security, so I had no social security check come. But I've got blessed assurance. See, I mean, and the Lord has sustained me, and I...and I pay tithes, or what I like to get, I mean, and I know they were taking off a thousand dollars a week, for me to be able to maintain the obligation, so I pay a hundred dollars a week, I mean, for a tithe to the church, I mean. If whatever we have here, if we have the big project, I say, "Well, we're gonna make a sacrifice, and I like for everybody to sacrifice a thousand dollars." I'll go to the bank and because of my credit rating, they'll...they'll...they'll...they'll...they'll give me a loan and I'll pay my money first, and the Lord always sees me through. So you just keep on going, you know. You don't have anything, but you just keep on doing [what] the Lord said do, and every week He...He gives me the money. I mean...I mean, and... and my son...my son helps me, I mean, somebody helps me with something, I mean, that's it. But the Lord has sustained and brought me through. So I said, "Well, you run it, you know. You're in charge." I mean, and there...all the obligations are...but what has to be met, that's it. They gave me some money for something, and then they...they used to give me some money for myself. I'd take it out to the jail and give it to the...I mean, buy stuff for the jail. So they said, "Don't give her anything." But then somebody sent me a letter in the mail. I said, "Thank you Jesus," and go and just sing. So I thank God that I can drive. I can drive, go buy what I want, for whoever I want to buy it for, take it by the house and leave, and take it to jail, and distribute it, and come back home. They'd say, "Where you been?" I'd say, "Out on my mission. [Shuster laughs] But it...it always works out. I mean, He...He's in charge of what we do for Him, so there...there's never any...any.... I tell the Lord to Him, I say, "You know, I'm old. Looks like you ought to give me tomorrow's today." He said, "No, by the day, so you won't...so the folk don't know how poor you are, but you know so you can't run off, you know." I mean...I mean and after...and every time I get secure a little bit, the Lord always comes on. There's the bank where I do banking at, the lady all these years (see, I call...I called her little white angel)...all these years, she's...she was the assistant vice president, and she'd tell me downstairs, "Now don't send any Christ Way Church checks back, 'cause Rev...the Lord's going to give Reverend York the money.
SHUSTER: That's quite a testimony.
YORK: I mean, I mean and she [pauses]...it had been down through the years...down through the years, and when my son became involved in his rehab, he...he had...it was a check for I think $25,000, and it hadn't cleared or something. So they...they know my connection with my son, so they started to monitor. Of course, they do at all the banks now, they monitor. So they...she says...now she says, "Reverend York, now, I mean, they...they don't call me anymore and tell me about your checks, so be watchful." I said, "Yes ma'am." So, I mean, every Monday morning I get up, I say...they...I said, "I'm on my way. Here I come." I mean, and...and she'd said...I said, "You pray." She'd say, "Yes, [unclear] Reverend York, I'm praying." And she's a Christian believer; she prays. I said, "Miss Bockrich [?], the Lord's gonna help me." She said, "Yes He is. He always comes through just in time." I mean, so everybody in the bank...and the folk think I'm rich because everybody in the bank knows me, "Hello Mother York. Hello." And they keep up what I'm doing in the jail. They'd be waving. They say, "She's one of the biggest depositors." [Shuster laughs] I said, "You...you ought to go behind the scene and ask the lady." I said, "She'd tell you how many times I'm on the overdraft." And she...they said, "Oh, you just...." I said, "Well, just check it out." But you see...but...but the Lord...it's amazing to me how the Lord does.... I said, "Lord, look like you ought to...." "No," He said, "I know how to do it." See, you can't run off, see. If you get plenty of money, doctor, you can run of and get important and get grand. He said, "I'm not going to expose you, but you know you're going by the day so behave yourself wisely and [unclear] for your assignment and work good. And in the morning, fifteen minutes before time for the man to pick up that thousand dollar check, I'll send it to you. Not before, so you won't ever be able to say, 'I did anything.' You're gonna say, "To God be the glory for the things He's done.'"
SHUSTER: Amen. What was your grandmother like? You mention you lived with her for a few years?
YORK: My...my...my...my...my grandmother was Christian woman, and...
SHUSTER: This is your mother's mother.
YORK: My mother's mother, uh-huh. And...and...and...and...and now, I...I...I've been exposed to other religions and so when I deal with anybody, that's a blessing from the Lord, because my grandmother, (she'd never go to a Baptist church)...but she belonged to Church of Christ. They use to call it Campbellite. They were down near Nashville, Tennessee, too, so we...we...we go up...up...we go up to the Baptist church with my...my...my aunts and uncles, and then my grandmother belonged to the...the Jefferson Street Church of Christ. I mean, and every Sunday we had to go to church, and then I'd go right on down on Jef...26th and Jefferson, and go to...and we'd go...we...we...we'd have...go down to the service down there. And that was af...that was before I was [pauses] baptized, but she never kept us from going up on the hill. But then, we had a lot...they had a lot of Bible in...in...in the Church of Christ...they have a lot of Bible reading. They don't have any set minister. They have a lot of lay people, and they call them all brothers and sisters. And I had [pauses] teach...such good teachers...named Sister Mallone. And then at the end of each quarter, they'd give you a...a prize, if you knew all the subjects and golden text that the Sunday school doesn't record it [?], you get a prize. Well, I'd stay in my book and I...I...I'd know where the Scriptures were, and every...they'd give us a little testament or something. And so my grandmother was a quiet woman, but she...and she'd have all the grandchildren. She had [pauses] four...she had four...four daughters and two sons. But...and always...then sometimes she'd [unidentified crashing noise in background] always have the...have the grandchildren then. So everybody got out on Sunday and went to church. It was a must, I must admit. My grandmother.... And listen, I tell the kids the time about discipline. My...my grandmother was a stratistition [sic, strategist?], where all the grandkids would be in the...back in the kitchen back when there was a big bed, so we were there for the summer. I mean, of course...I mean, 'cause I was there for four years, but some kids just come in the summer months, and we'd be in the bedroom, and we'd be back there just playing, and my grandmother was in the room and she said, "Hush that fuss back there." And somebody would tickle somebody on their foot, I mean, and then they'd break out with a...with a big laugh. Listen, my...my grandmother was a stratistition [sic]. She had her shoes off. I mean, she'd come right back there, and they...they would be giggling [?] and sniggling [?], up under the blanket. My grandmother would come and with one hand she'd pull that blanket, with the other hand she'd have that peach tree switch, [Shuster laughs] and she'd swat. "I'm not going to do that no more, Grandmother, I'm not going to do that no more, Grandmother!" [Shuster laughs] She had peace in a few minutes. [Shuster laughs] I tell folks...I said, "You all don't know how to get peace. My grandma knew how to get peace [pauses] with no problem. And she gave us all the same. She treated us all the same. The only trouble...but she loved my mother so, because my mother, living in Chicago...my mother [pauses] did day work after she and my father were separated, and she worked out in the den. She'd make seven dollars a week. But...but she worked for a lot of Jewish families and they were very liberal to her. They'd always give her dishes and sewing machines, I mean. And without any word, everything, I mean, that my...my...my...my mother saw that my grandmother could use, she'd take it and ship it down to Tennessee. And...and when my mother...a little bit before my moth...a week before my mother died...my mother had always told my grandmother...said, "I want to come home to die." And my grandmother and my youngest aunt, (who's in her eighties now, I'm going to see her next week, the Lord willing), they came up on the L & N train, and to my fa...to my stepfather said, "Now," my...my grandmother said, "now, Consuella is sick now, and I'm going to take her back home." He said, "She may, but she's very sick." My grandmother said, "If she dies on the road, I'm going to take my child back home." I mean, and my aunt...my grandma took my mama, brought her back to Tennessee and she lived four days. And in that front room, where we spent all our time, my mother died. But my grandmother showed me the sewing machine my mother bought her, and all the dishes. And my mother, they call her...they call her "Bud" because she was very quiet. She said that..."She's...she's our choice, she's our love." And she never argued back, and so she'd always kept contact with my grandmother, and always send her about seven dollars a week. She'd always make sure that my grandmother had everything that she could to help out without saying any words. So whenever we come home, we'd never worry because mama had always done what she could. So my grandmother brought her back. That's the kind of fidelity they had, I mean. And....
SHUSTER: So she's buried in Tennessee?
YORK: She's buried in Tennessee. See they...they had property. They...they...she was actually born in Kingston Springs, Tennessee, but she came up from Springs...Kingston Springs, and...and she went to A & I State College. It was called Tennessee...Tennessee State College, I mean...I mean, and they went to school there. That's where she met my father, 'cause my father came from Bolivar [?] there. That's how they met. And then my father went to the army in 1918. When he came back from the army, then they came to Chicago to live. They came...moved here to Chicago. My older sister was born there, so they came here in 1919. He left...the war...he was over in France. And he came back and they came to Chicago. But when she got ready to die, she wanted to go back home. So she...she went back home and we buried her in 1942 [pauses] in October.
SHUSTER: When people think of Chicago in the 30's they usually think of Al Capone and gangsters. Did that affect you at all or have any...?
YORK: No, they didn't affect us because we were too poor to be affected by any of those things. And a matter of...and we...we were not far from some of the area 'cause there at 31st and LaSalle street, I mean...I mean, there were a lot of Italian restaurants and what not, and...and, I mean, and in those areas. But there were not a lot of...lot of prejudice or anything then. That wasn't even known of then. And so we were just down there a lot, [pauses]...a lot in that area, but we didn't...they didn't bother us because we were just trying to survive off the little monies we had. So it...it...it didn't bother us. We just...they had areas where there was sin going on. They had a red light district then, I mean, so you knew when you came down in that area what you were looking for, what was involved in it. But it didn't bother us. See, we...we had the milkman on the horse and buggy, we had the coal man on the wagon, but...but it didn't bother us. They had a place where you can get surplus. I mean, now it's called public aid, but then they called it charity, then. They had certain places, I mean...we could go down to the fair store, and buy shoes with the order, yellow and white...yellow and green order. Shoes a dollar...dollar ninety eight cents a pair. They didn't ever fold up. When I got my first pair of nice shoes at Hannon's shoe store, I could roll them up. I said, "Gracious alive!" I rolled the shoe 'cause the other shoes, they...they...they didn't bend, they broke, you know.
SHUSTER: They're stiff, yeah.
YORK: Stiff, yeah, that's right, stiff.
SHUSTER: How did most of the people in the church get by? How did they make a living or what...what did they do?
YORK: You mean then or now?
SHUSTER: Well, then when you were growing up...
YORK: Oh, oh...
SHUSTER: ...in your father's church for example.
YORK: Oh, oh, well, but you know, a lot of those folk...a lot of them people did day work. They worked out in service, you know. I mean, some had small business. Most of them, they worked out in service. Other ones who did...didn't work in service were on the public aid, you know. There were...there where others who where in like policy business, where they...they were able to...to make it, but most of them just off their small menial means that they...they'd survive. A lot of them were on aid, a lot of them would start buying property, you know. And...and they start...those who were conservative and wise started saving their little monies and out of their little meager means they started buying little houses, you know, in that area. They buy...then property was not high. You could buy a house. I mean, of course, again rent was of course only fifteen dollars a month or thirty- three dollars a month. When our church first started, the landlord didn't charge me but fifty-five dollars a month for the storefront, for...for the rent. And then I had to buy coal. That's the young man I was dealing with in the prison now...in the county jail now, who used to be my coal man. And he sold me coal for fifty-five cents a bag, and then we had wood fifteen cents a bag. And when I was housing ex-convicts and alcoholics and addicts then, and it was a halfway house. It was just a storefront. And I had folks sleeping on top of counters, and three folk in...on the rollaway bed and whatnot. He said, "Reverend York, you're messing around with these people. They don't...they don't want to do right. They're using drugs, and they...running out. You trying to help them out. You can't save these people." I said, "I'm going to try." I mean...I mean I had to buy coal on credit. I said, "Abe, bring me two bags of coal up here and three bags for Miss Batchelor and two bags for Miss Troop [?], and bring five bags of coal in the church, and four bags of coal over here to the mimeograph shop," 'cause I had four working for me for a dollar an hour. I mean, and he said...and he let me have it on credit. And...and...and when he got forty years of age, after his children were grown and going to college, he started...in getting involved with drugs. And...and now he's going to be fifty-five years old. I think last week he was. In the end it breaks a guy forty years old to be involved. And the first time I saw him in jail, I blowed on him. I said, "Man, my own coal man!" I said, "You're the one that told me not to help folk in jail, and here you are sitting in jail." I said, "But I've got to help you, 'cause you helped me and sold me coal on credit." I mean, and...and...and after he arrived then allowed sin to bring him right on down. See, the thing you've got to be careful...the Bible said, "Let he that think he stands take heed lest you fall." [I Corinthians 10:12] I said, "When you sit on a pedestal you never know when you're going to fall. You could be...it's...." I said, "Be careful, 'cause you never know what tomorrow gonna bring. And if you haven't got Christ in your life, you'll soon sink down." See, he didn't realize what I was doing was to the glory of God, and because the Lord willed his soul [?], what he was doing he was doing on his own volition. But you can get caught when you think you're smart in your own right, and you can soon get trapped. And now...and for the last ten years he's been in and out of jails. His children have grown. They live in Evanston. And he's back in jail now because he shot at some...some boys who tried to buy [unclear]...end up in...in...in the dope house, using dope after...after he was...he was forty years old. So you...you never...you'll never be sure of anything but Jesus.
SHUSTER: Amen. [Pauses] Did you ever get any help from the alderman or anything of your...
YORK: You know, in all these years, I've never...I've never gone to any political realm, 'cause I realize that poli...politics are controversial. And I...I...and...and what made me realize that early, when we were small children, we used to go to the political meetings because they had all of the political meeting at churches. And we...and that was a little church down the street from us. And the...and all the...the alderman and the councilmen would come, and...and preach to the churches to...and...and tell the people about voting. So we were going down to...to this church in...and...and...I mean, and the man's name was, I think, William Dawson and William Wendell Green, and whatnot them was [?], and they were staunch Republicans. And we said...but we as kids, we'd just go down to eat the hot dogs and pop they had. And they would be talking, we're just listening. And then a year later, they'll show up, the same men, but Democrats. The next [year], they were Democrats. And I...and so...and my sister...my sister and them would...would... would work on the proposal and what not. They said that...that they...they'd get the money from the Democrats and go in there and vote Republican, back...back and forth. So...and I realized early that if folks gave you things that are in the political realm, you'd be in a bind and...and...I mean, and what goes around comes around. If you...I mean, you got...if you're going to get the help, you're going to reciprocate. So I said, I remember, "No, I don't want to be involved," I said, because if I get involved in politics, I mean, and then...then I'll...I'll...I'll...I'll...I'll be in jeopardy. So I won't be involved, 'cause I got to stand up and say, "Please vote for Dr. Shuster." I mean, and then...and then I... "'cause he's the man for the job." I mean, and then if you don't get in, then they say, "Well, you told us to vote for the man." See, so I said, "No, use the courage of your conviction and do like you want to, and then they'll come." Now I know they always say, "If you want something done, go to your alderman." It's almost against [?] the Lord, you know, 'cause that verse says, "The king's heart is in your hand. And that's the reason why you're turning the way you are." [paraphrase of Proverbs 21:1] So now, and then I read in the seventy-fifth Psalm it said, "Promotions don't come from the [unclear]. They come from God. He put one up and put another one down." [paraphrase of Psalm 75:6-7] So I said, I...I...I...I wouldn't get involved 'cause it'd make me in a bind, so I can deal with all of them, so whoever's in the office or is involved, I mean, I mean, that they...they all know me, but I...I don't go to them for any favors. I said, "Lord, you just have to give it to me." And then like with the work I'm doing, I never went to a lot of places, 'cause they said, "Well, you come and...and we'll give you something." But most times they make me stay there five or six hours, and then they give me twenty dollars, and then wouldn't even do what I want done, and then, I mean...and putting me in a bind. So I said...it...somebody...the Lord...just like with my work when I'm feed in the jail, at Christmas.... I mean, Charles Chamberlain and Charles Knoblob [?] from the Associated Press came out there and got the story, and that story went across the world, even to Stuttgart, Germany. And a man up in New York City saw the article, a Mr. David Oppenheim from the Max and Victoria Dreyfus Foundation, he saw the article and...and Mr. Chamberlain said, "Reverend York, every time I write a story on somebody, it goes around the world." So he said, "You just pray that the story will go around." And I stood there in the gym and prayed with him. I said, "Lord, let the story go." And that man saw the story and he wrote a letter to the jail, said, "I see what your doing," told me how I feed the jail and whatnot. He said, "I see what your doing and I'd like to help you. And do you have 501C exempt status?" [Gifts given to tax exempt organizations are deductible from the tax payment of the donor.] I said, "No, I've never even heard of it before." Of course, I'd...we just had a local charter from the state, you know.
YORK: But I...I didn't know anything about another exempt status. I said, "Never heard it, but I'm so grateful that you want to help me, 'cause I've been praying that...that the Lord will send somebody to help me." And then he...and as the Lord will have it he said, "Well, the...the jail is a federally funded institution. I'll send it to the jail in your behalf." I mean, and that's what happened. I mean and...and he....
SHUSTER: So they, like, opened up an account for you at the jail?
YORK: Yeah, it...it...it had...we had to call it the Cook County Department of Corrections and Jail Ministry. And once a year, the Dreyfus Foundation would send the money in and whenever I wanted to buy something for what I'm doing, I mean, I...I go to the store and buy the stuff, and take...take the check out to the jail. I keep the checks. Then I fill it out and then take it to jail, and then one of the officials, you know, have to countersign it. And I take it over to the bank, 'cause they know I take the check over to the bank for whatever I use, 'cause I use much more than what the check affords. And they was supposed to only help me one time. And...and...and I wrote Mr. Dreyfus... Mister...Mister Oppenheim a letter and thanked him and told him how many folk had made...been made glad because he...he...he had helped me out, I mean. And...and so he said, "But now, I can't promise you anything next year." But during...during June and July, I'd sent him a letter and telling him what I was planning to do. He said, "My dear Consuella, Reverend York. I...I...the board meets in October. I'm going to consider it then." And so he said, "Send it the next time." I mean...I mean, and so for five years [pauses]...they sent me ten thousand dollars the first time; and then the next year, they sent me four thousand, and nothing next year, five thousand. And I told him how many numbers we had, five thousand six hundred men, so he sent me six thousand dollars. So...with no strings.... I mean, and...but through him, I got that 501 [tax exempt status], because there were...he asked me about it. Then I went downtown and asked about the exempt status, how did you get it. And then...and then I...then I had all the paper. They said, "Well, we want three years of your...of your annual report [?], how much money your church had took in, and...and what it had paid out, and your by-laws and your...all the things involved in the church. And so I...I...all the things I'd been doing, and everything that I'd done, I'd been...had kept all of my records of it. And so they said, "We see that you...that all yours [pauses], it's exempt. And so they gave me that 501 status. So I wrote him a letter back. I said, "You're a blessing to me. Because of you I got that status." So now, anybody who sends me anything across the United States, I mean, it means...it's tax...it's tax deductable. But...but...but I don't have...the Lord's my sponsor.
SHUSTER: The Lord's your alderman.
YORK: Oh yes, and the congressman and my president and everything! I mean, because listen, [pauses] this experience here makes me know what the Lord can do. I just...I mean, I've al...I said, "But, I want to tell my story to somebody," you know. I mean, I mean, and I just go out there and work because I set my own time, I go when I please, I stay as long as I want to. I mean, I mean, if I get some money, if I spend it, nobody will say, "What did you do with that dollar?" I said, "Don't even try it." I mean, I said, "I...I gave it." See, I mean and that's why I do it myself by grace of God, because, as you know, that in the administrative things, there're a lot of operating expense and what not. See, so if I gave it to somebody, by that time they got it to the inmates...
SHUSTER: Won't be much left.
YORK: Won't be much left. So I say, "Young man, now I'll take it myself." So I got...got a case of soap. I know the inmates get the soap. I take it in there. I tell...I tell all, "So I...you...I give you yours off the top, so you don't have to worry about it. Here's your bar." So, oh my, I said, "That's right. Take it. You may [unclear phrase]." [whispers] He said, "Sure did." I mean, and so that way, what I get I can take right to the men. If I tell them I'm going to jail with it...if somebody sends me something, they said, "This is allocated for the jail," I make sure that every dime of it goes to jail. See, and I go...I mean, I watch all these exhibits and things. Now, there's a thing that was going on last week; I didn't have me the money, so I didn't go. It's called...it's called Transworld Exhibit, where all the manufacturers come together and show their merchandise. So that whenever they...I see advertisement, I fit it in the form [unclear word or phrase]. I go to different places, I say, "I got so many folk to deal with, I can't buy retail. I got to get it wholesale." And so I just go. They say, "Here she comes. Oh, it's going to cost us something." I said, "You're right." I mean, and...and so when I get the stuff, I do exactly what I said I'm going to do with it, distribute it to the men and the women, to help to make it nice. And now out here, a church in Barrington, the Lutheran Church of the Atonement, they...they...they read about my work in the newspaper, 'cause it was in the newspapers. I gave you one of those, I mean.
SHUSTER: Uh-hmmm, you gave me a lot of clippings.
YORK: Yeah, yeah that.
SHUSTER: I don't think you gave me that one, no.
YORK: It...it...it...well, it was...I think it...it's supposed to been in...it was suppose to been in the.... That's...that's the article that man wrote and that was in '81. And...and...and they observed it, I mean.
SHUSTER: Oh yeah, I guess...yeah, I did get this article, yeah.
YORK: I mean, and...and...and...and...and...and every year at Christmas, they...they adopt fifteen children from our church [pauses], fifteen families rather, and they'd help those families. But they helped me with my jail ministry. When I get ready to feed, they would send someone to help me, and I...I [unclear phrase] out to the church and spoke. And whatever I get plus all I can get [unclear], I put it where it's supposed to be. If somebody say, "I give something for the church," I use it for the church. And I want you to, in your prayers, remember a lovely lady. She lives in Hinsdale, Illinois, and she saw me on Channel 38 [Chicago Christian television station]. They've been marvelous to me in giving me some publicity. I mean, I mean, and she saw me on the air and she said.... (Her husband died. He was an official of AT&T. And she had some extra money.) And she said, "Now Lord, what am I to do with the money?" So she...she helps a lot of different causes, I mean, I mean, and she had it all...she had them spread out, and she said, "Now Lord, who must I send this money to?" And she said the Lord told her to send it to me. She said, "Here's a check for ten thousand dollars." She said, "Now, this is not for the jail. You might need a car." And God knows I needed a car. I don't have no private car. I got a station wagon 'cause I got to haul stuff back and forth.
YORK: ...I mean, I mean, and Dr. Shuster, I mean, that woman had never seen me other than television and talked to her on the phone, we've had prayer. And that woman sent that money, I mean. And I used five thousand dollars to pay some bills or whatnot, and put the other five thousand dollars on the car. I mean, and every month she would send me two hundred and fifty dollars, I mean, and she'd be consistent. And a year ago she said, "With taxes and interest so high, I'm sending you this money to pay your note for a year." And she did. But now just...I gotta...I gotta...I've gotta send her a letter now. She just wrote me a letter last [pauses] month when she sent me the check. She said, "Well Consuella, I want you to pray that the Lord would give back to me the seed money I've invested in your ministry and others, because the AT&T, they...they... they're stopping my [pauses] widow's benefits now, I mean, and...and...and....and...and I have to subside off of half the amount that I had before." So I've just...I've just been praying, "Lord work a miracle for her...
YORK: ...because she's been...it's been two years now, she has not missed a single month, sending me two hundred fifty dollars a month to help me at that jail, because I spend about...I spend from two hundred fifty to five hundred dollars a week getting stuff for the jail to distribute to the inmates and whatnot. And every month she has never failed. I mean, and so I just...we stopped at the...the...the soap store, stopped at a wholesale house and pick up stuff, and just put in my wagon and go from cell block to cell block, you know, and whatever chance I have left to go around.... [After preaching from the Bible, York distributed the gifts she brought.] But listen, I said, "After the Word! [laughs] After the Word...and bringing some word, they say, "What's you... Mama, have you got some toothpaste? Have you got some soap?" I said, "Oh yes." And down...down in the bag I go, and that's it. And oh, Doctor, you'd be amazed at the outreach. I get a chance to preach and just [unclear] about sin and just tap everything [unclear phrase]. I've got these little goodies here, you see. I mean, and that's it. And I tell myself it's been...it's been difficult yet pleasant. It's exciting, you know. You figure, "What the Lord's going to...wonder what He's going to do today? What's He gonna do next?" you know. And yet...then you're not bound, because I know all the gang leaders and all the dope peddlers and pushers. But they...they said, "Mother, we can...." I said, "No, you can't help me. No, uh-uh." Uh-uh. I can't fight against and then deal with it too. A big dope dealer sent me two hundred and fifty dollars for a Mother's Day gift, a beautiful card. It said, "Please pray for me [pauses] that...that I'd do better." But I knew that was blood money. So I took that blood money, took it right back out to the jail, where the...for the...for the men of that category, and...and put it right back in there, 'cause I said, "I can't use his money." And they said, "Oh, this is a...oh I wish he'd send me two hundred fifty dollars or more." Uh-uh, no, no, I don't want that, 'cause I know it's the price of somebody's blood. So I just go on. They say.... And so if a gang leader says, "Mother York, you're gonna see such and such a person from my gang?" I say, "I might." "If you see him would you give him some soap or something?" "Yeah," I said, "I will." "We can give you something," he says. "No, don't give me anything, 'cause if you give me something, you're are going to tell me, 'Mother York, I gave you fifty dollars to take to him.'" And that day I may not be even going in his division. "So if you don't give me anything, whenever I see him I'll remember that you wanted me to share something with him, I'll buy it myself, I'll...what I have or somebody had given me. And then when I get there with it I'll take it." And when I go into a cell block, I never go in and take anything unless I have enough for every Black, White, Latino officer, cadet, or civilian worker. I got enough for ev...when I go I got enough for everybody. If I'm limited, I got a half for everybody. So everybody gets something, nobody is left out, nobody is...is ostracized or criticized. Everybody gets something. So I'm in favor of all of them. So no man ever said, "Mother York came in and played favors." No, no. I said, "If I had a choice of color, I don't know which one would be my brother," I said. So...if I'm...and if I'm short of any item...once in a while I say, "I'm kind of short today." "Mother just...would you just give out 'til you're through." I said, "Okay, one Black, one White, one Latino, 'til it's all gone." So everybody get's some, you see. And that way...so you're not bound. I know the Muslims don't eat any pork, so I make sure that what I...cookies I have or donuts I have...have vegetable shortening in it, you know. I mean, and...and I don't break the dietary laws, but you just distribute. But I tell them...I say, "You're going to hear about Jesus. It's a must. And I don't care what you believe. When you get through, you've got to hear about Jesus, because He's the only Savior, and 'at his name every knee must bow and every tongue must confess.'" [Philippians 2:10-11] I said, "And that's it." I said, "If you don't like my apples, don't shake my tree!" [Shuster laughs] I said...I said, "So I'm...I'm taking the start now." The Islamic brother Sasia [?]...they say, "[phrase in Arabic?]" I said, "But remember Jesus," I said, "because in your holy Koran are the words from my holy book, the Bible. You left out some that you wanted to but you've got to believe it." I said, "You believe that Jesus is a prophet, but I know that he's prophet, priest and a king. He's the only savior," I said. "So remember, He gave it to you, so keep in mind. Don't talk anything against Jesus, because without Him you wouldn't be getting this [unclear]. I said, "Thank you, Jesus! Thank you Jesus. Oh yes, come up with it, you know."
YORK: He...He...He's the one, you see. All these things I bring them are just means to ends, I mean. I mean, and I said, "Jesus had the human side." I said, "And that mandate is "I was in prison and you didn't visit me." [Matthew 25:43] So I'm gonna make sure I do what He wants done. By the same token, when He finished preaching, He sat them down and gave them something for their physical bodies. I said, "I know that you've got physical needs. When I get through preaching, I mean, I'm gonna give you some of your physical needs so you won't lose your manhood for a bar of soap or a bag of cookies. But when you get through keep in mind, He sent me here with it. I'm just the mail lady. He sent me here with a message from His book. And all the things I do for you, if you don't accept Christ your savior, you...you know you're not fulfilled. You just got a goody, but He's the answer."
SHUSTER: When you came back to Chicago in '35...and you said you graduated from Wendell Phillips High School?
YORK: Yes, that would be in 1940, uh-huh.
SHUSTER: 1940. And when did you meet your husband?
YORK: I was married twice before. We were in school...we were in high school together. He lived at 35th and Wentworth and I lived at 37th and Federal and we went to high school together.
SHUSTER: So you...you grew up together.
YORK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. Basically, you know, we go...see back and forth everyday to school, we're going to school.
SHUSTER: Were you married then when you were in high school or did you marry after...?
YORK: No, no, no, not.... After high school. No, no, no, after high school. No. My father, you know, you...he said, "Boys and books don't mix." [Shuster laughs] No. "You get...get your...get your lesson, get your lesson now." Because we were allowed...we [pauses] were not allowed to run around, definitively no, and to...I mean, I mean, you...you had to go to school. No. I mean, it's "If you get your mind on boys, you won't have your mind on your books. You have to finish." So I graduated...I graduated from Wendell Phillips Elementary School, 'cause I came back in '35, and I graduated from Wendell Phillips Elementary School in '36 and then Wendell Phillips High School in...in 1940. And then I took a year and a half apart and did some business, 'cause my stepfather had a business and then I always had a little business. So I did typing and whatnot all the time so I took a [pauses]...I mean a...I took a business course from 1940 to 194...
SHUSTER: Where did you take that?
YORK: ...1. I mean, at Wendell Phillips Evening School, you know. Typing...now, I learned the system of typing from a to f and from j to semi-colon [a touch typing system]. But when...but I had an old typewriter in my stepfather's office, and it had two sets of keys, a set of lower case, upper case. So...so I...I...I started typing any way I want to. So right now I use three fingers, you know. [Shuster laughs] I...I...I use three fingers. But I did mimeographing. I...I had a mimeograph and print shop for years. I mean, using those three fingers. I taught the kids how to cut stencils, how to fold paper, how to run the mimeographing machine. My first mimeographing machine, I bought from Spitapin [?] Corporation. They just [rustles paper] sold out to another company. But when I first...I first started my business...when my...when...when [pauses].... I started my business in 1950, 'cause my first husband and I were separated and divorced, I mean, and I got married to Mr. York in 1948. And then, after we had married I said, "Oh Lord." I mean, I...I...I knew I shouldn't have done that. But I had...I had...I had two small children. They said, "You're such a young woman. You need somebody to help you with children." I said, "I should have consulted the Lord," 'cause He's married to me [?] the husband anyway when it's over and done. Then I...then I came to the South Side, and over there...when I was on the North Side, we had a lovely place to stay. But rather than have...my...my boy who's dead said to me one day, said...'cause he saw how...my husband lo...he'd drink once every two weeks, but that once every two weeks was enough to send you up the wall. Just once one every two weeks. He worked at the Chicago Public Library. I mean, he got two hundred...paid...got paid two hundred fourteen dollars every two weeks. I'd go downtown to pick up the check and pay all the bills. And the money he drank was just the about twenty or thirty dollars he had left for...for...that was...we should have been saving on a house or something. I mean, I mean, and...and when he was sober, he just detested a drunk, you couldn't stand it. But...but that...that one day, that once every two weeks were just more, and he would...so he'd become belligerent, you know. And I told him, "Don't ever get violent, 'cause I know I'm not going to curse or call or anything like that, do all the things that a wife is supposed to do, please." But I remembered that children have to have a good bearing. And then I reflected upon my mother and father's life. And one day my boy was in the backyard and he said to a lady, he said, "You know what I would do if I was twelve years of age?" She said, "What?" He said, "I'd kill my father for misusing my mother." That was actually his stepfather. I said, "No, I can't stay here." I said...I said, "I'm gonna be in one corner praying, using another corner cursing. It won't be the compatible thing for a child of his age to encounter. So I'll...I'll just go over to my sister's." My sister lived in a storefront. I mean, I mean, but over there.... Now listen. So I call my s.... You see, when you make a commitment to the Lord, you think...see, I never believed in divorce until I got one. And I still don't believe in it now, because I realize...I could have...I mean, I could have just went on and reared the children myself. But I...I...I...I said, "Well, if they have a father...." And my...my husband...my second husband was very helpful with my ministry and work, and...and...and with work at my school, because he just had once every two weeks when he was like that. But I realized that it wouldn't be sufficient, 'cause I didn't want the children to end up with murder, for the sake of a nice home that you go through these changes. And yet when I...when I left and came to the South Side, wouldn't you know the Lord put me in the...right into the midst of the choicest drunks in the.... I said, "I thought I...." But see, I got on my knees and I prayed. Listen. I said...I mean, I mean, after my husband...first husband had left me and we was divorced, and we hadn't written [?], of course, because he wouldn't support the children, and I had to work, take care of the children and whatnot. And Mr. York was older. It seems that I thought that he'd...he'd make me a good husband. So I got on my knees. I said, "Lord, give me this man. I think he'll make me a good husband." It wasn't but six months later, I said, "Lord, I know now I can't play with You, but You need to take him back." But see, I tell folks, "Stop dictating to the Lord." I said, "Now Lord, if this's best for me make me know it." I went there dictating. He just gave me what I thought I wanted. And...and...and...and then for thirteen years...but I never got a divorce. I said, "I'll ne...that's why I never get a divorce." I said, "I'll never marry no more." The Lord done never had no more trouble out of me. "I'm not going to argue with Him about one thing, at all...at all. I'm gonna...I'm...I'm gonna be York 'til I go to the grave." I said, "I'm not going to worry the Lord one bit at all." I mean, and when I came to the South Side, the Lord put me right in the midst. I wasn't over there but for a week or two, I mean, I mean, and...and I started my mimeograph place. I said, "I got to take care of these children. I got three children now and I got to provide for them." I was still in the semin...I was still going to Baptist Institute. I hadn't graduated. I was still going outside [?], got to work. So I started...and I bought a typewriter from Star Typewriter Company, and I paid six dollars a month as a note. And the first big job I got I did six hundred catechisms for the Catholic Church. That's how I knew about Catholicism and all whatnot. I mean, my sister was Catholic. And the Saint James Catholic Church at 2942 Wabash, I mean...and so, I mean, and Sister Polita was the principal of the school. And I...I said, "Well, I've got to maintain maturity [?], that's because I'm going to teach these boys to fear God. I'm going to live right. So the result of it is, it was that same setting where the Lord called me a preacher at. But I moved there in 1950 and I started my mimeograph shop. I...I'd been doing mimeograph from the church and so they gave me an old machine. I was doing it at home. So...and then I got...I bought this typewriter. I mean, and then my sister said that the church, I mean the Catholic church, was going to revise their catechism, and they...they want it done. I mean, and...and so I did six hundred catechisms for the Catholic church and I cut all the stencils. And I didn't...I didn't have no status for getting paper wholesale, so I asked Sister Polita. I said, "Sister Polita, I'm going to start doing you all's catechism. Where I can get paper?" She said, "There's a paper call...paper company called Pyramid Paper Company at 3530 West 5th Avenue." And I...and I...my name is already in the red book, 'cause...'cause I'd started my business. So I went over there....
SHUSTER: You mean in the directory? [Chicago business directory}
YORK: In the red...yeah, red book. And so I went over there and Mister A.O. Miller was the president, God bless him wherever he is if he's alive. I mean, and...and I said, "I...I want to open up, I mean, a charge account with your company and get paper on credit." And he said...I said, "Will you let me have it?" He said, "Are you in the red book?" I said, "Yes sir." And I used to...my sons and I, we used to get on the bus and ride the bus over to 35...you know that 5th Avenue? I don't even know if you...I mean, we'd be on the bus. We'd bring four reams of paper, five reams of paper. And anytime I'd go there, if he had any excess paper, he'd let me have it. And I did those six hundred catechisms for the Catholic church. And I learned about Catholicism, about all the things, because I'd cut the stencils and ran them. I mean, and I started running off the paper and getting kids to help me, teaching them how to do it. Now listen. In the...in the...in that area was a gandy place where the Pennsylvania Railroad and the B & O...where the men who work on the railroad tracks, they let their men work and then they come in on payday every two weeks and get their check. But most of them would be alcoholics and they'd get drunk. So they were such good workers, they had a gandy place for them to stay in. They'd stay right there. But in the meantime, 'til the next time the next shipment, the men would be there, they'd be up the street drinking, and they'd start knocking on the door. They'd say, "Miss Connie, will you give us a quarter?" And they'd be right in my face. I said, "I thought I got away from the drunks. I thought I got away." They started coming in one behind the other. They started coming in, I mean, and I give 'em a quarter, I paid 'em a quarter. They said, "Please [unclear]." I said, "If you get whiskey with this quarter, you're gonna get sick." So one man tried it and [unclear phrase] to get sick. So from then on when I give 'em a quarter, they said, "Mister, would you change this quarter? Reverend...the...Miss Connie done prayed on this one." [Shuster laughs] So, I mean, and so I...I...I...I got...I got a automatic alcoholic center. I just look in their eyes, I mean, and they...and they all grab me and hug me and I just started helping them. And just...and I just say the truth [?]. "What? You think you're going to escape? You've really messed up." And you can't help but love them 'cause they'll be in your face. And you...you end up being a part of it. So they said, "You must have drank everything in the world." I said, "No, the Lord gave me some good training." So they don't...they don't know the whole story.
SHUSTER: Well, how did you...how did you come to re...to enroll in the Chicago Baptist Institute? How did you decide to....?
YORK: Well see, I was...I was doing...I was doing public speaking, I mean, I mean, and so they were getting...they were having...they had a oratorical....
SHUSTER: Where were you doing public speaking at?
YORK: At the different churches, you know. You'd be working in the conventions and the...and the...and the district associations, you know. I mean, I mean, they...you have a certain topic. They're gonna to have a group of Christian women. They're going to speak on different kind of topics.
SHUSTER: So you were only speaking to women groups in the....?
YORK: Women, everybody, you know. Youth groups, 'cause I was young, so I was...I was in the young people's department. See, I mean, so I was always speaking. So they had this oratorical contest. And the...and the prize for the oratorical contest was a year's, I mean, tuition to the Baptist Institute. So...so they had an oratorical contest and I entered it, and it was held at the Progressive Baptist Church that night, and...and...and I won the contest and I got a year's tuition to the Baptist Institute.
SHUSTER: Do you remember what you talked about?
YORK: I don't remember. I don't even remember what I talked about. I know...and...and so my first year, I did so good. The second semester...and I started helping everybody, so the second semester, a lady named Miss Pearl Marsha [?], who lived on Iowa and Michigan, she paid my second semester. And the third semes...the... the...the...the...I mean the third...the third year, I was helping all the ministers with their lessons, so they got together, and all of them got together and paid for my tuition for the third year. And I...and I took my children to the school, Doctor. I mean, I had my small children; I took the children right to school with me. I trained 'em. I said, "You're going to go to school with me. I'm not going to leave you home to be burnt up and get into fights." Every time they say, "Here Consuella and...here comes Consuella and her sack full of babies." I took my kids right to school. I mean, I was out...the reason why I had to stay in seminary four and a half years is 'cause my son John was born in April. So...so...so I had to...I had to be out from April to June.
SHUSTER: And he was your third son?
YORK: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the third...the baby boy, John, the one that's a preacher. And I was still...I was still nursing him. And I'd...I mean, and the oldest boy, Luke, he'd...he'd take the diaper bag. And my...my boy who was nursing, [unidentified rustling noise], I had a little cuddle seat, I put him on my shoulder. Before I left the North Side, I took them with...I took them to school, I mean, from...on the EL, but then when I moved to the South Side, I could [pauses] ride around there. And they were right there. They...all them four years I was in school, my kids were right there with me. And there were some vacant seats. I'd sit them down there; I'd give them some paper. But didn't have no disciplinary problems at all. They sat right there. If John whimpered, I just put a...put a handkerchief over my bust and nurse him, (and that's the one who's preaching now), so he was in the midst of all that. I mean, and...and...and...and so the last semester, I mean, the other ministers paid so I was able to go there those four years without any...any problems.
SHUSTER: Do you think a woman who becomes a preacher has any special problems?
YORK: They have problems with men because of, as I said a traditional idea or whatnot. And a lot of women, I mean, in their...because of rejection, they start picking up masculine tendencies and traits, which is completely out of the will of God. Do what You...I said, "The Lord knew what I was when He called me. I'm going to function as a woman in that capacity." I mean, and...and I try not to usurp authority over men to the manner where they'll be threatened by what I know. If there's a man in the midst, I try to act in a feminine manner, and do what the Lord says do, without any controversy. I mean, they have problems because a lot of times, when you're rejected, you have a tendency to...to flaunt your...your...your position or your background, or to become a threat to others, and that's not it. We're just servants of the most high God, we're just servants of the church and servants of God. So I try to always keep in...that in perspective. But they have a lot of problems because a lot of men know that women know their lessons well, and they will be...appear to be a threat to them. So I'd [unclear phrase] said they give them a lot of problem. And then a lot of women act out of order. They don't know how to...a lot of women don't know how to do, you know. They...they... they...they...they start protesting, and you don't argue about a thing that's true. If the Lord's called you, He'll open the door for you. Now if you called yourself, you got a problem. But even if the problem you have, if He calls you, He'll take you through it. So that was it. And [pauses] I know, the men who fought me, I wrote their sermons for them. I mean, the folk who were against my program, I...I feed them and their families too, without any problem. I say, "I do it because the Lord called me. He made me a undershepherd so I gotta do what He wants done. I mean, and I'm...I'm not here to be a threat to you. I'm here to help you. I mean, I mean, I...I...I've got some men in my church now who don't know and don't know that they don't...don't know, and won't let you teach them. I said, "Let me tell you something brother. You don't know your lesson." If you go somewhere and make a flop they say, what she's gonna do [?]. Reverend Hutchin's [?] my pastor. I say, "I want you to know your lesson." I said, "So don't be threatened by me. You...you don't have to go any place and tell folk how you got this good merchandise. Just go on and deal with it. I said...I said, "But don't...." I say...and I try not to be domineering, you know, I mean. I tell women...they say all the time, "You're always for the men." I say, "I want you women to be...behave yourselves." I say, "You want to preach and you can't clean your house." I said, "I want you to do what you ought to do." I said, "You've got a congregation right there. Preach to them, you know. Tell them about the things in life, you know," I said...I mean, "and you try to deal consistently because...so you won't be out of order because the Lord is the one who is to be glorified. We are representing him." I tell them that all the time. In all these years I have been to jail, I've only had two me to challenge me about preaching. One man said, "Reverend York, Sister York, Mother York," or whatever he said, "I don't think a woman should preach." I said, "I don't think a man should sin." That was it. And another man said, "What you preaching about the Lord calling me? Well, I don't think I should do it." I say, "If you were out in Lake Michigan drowning, and you knew I could swim, there were no men around, would you allow me to come rescue you?" "Yes ma'am!" I said, "When you get your mail, I mean, if you've got a check coming, do you...are you concerned whether it's a mail man or mail lady? No, as long as you get your check." I said, "I just happen to be the mail lady." I said, "If some of you men would get up and do as you were...the Lord told you to do it, He wouldn't have to call so many of us." I said, "But His Word's got to get out. If you refuse to do it, He's going to let it get out if he has to...." I said, "If he can use a jackass and use a rooster, he can use a woman." I said, "But, we're just used, we're just vessels. We're not the medicine. He's the medicine. He just wants us to be clean vessels, so that He can let His Word go across." I said, "But," I said, "and so loud women, they...they...they go to meetings, and say, 'I know you don't like us.' I don't deal with that. I just deal...I say, "You called me to preach? You didn't call me in here to argue. Let's get into the Word. You can call it speaking, you can say an essay, you can call it whatever it is, you know what it is when you get it." And I ask the Holy Spirit to do the work so that the Word can get across. He's important. And I...and I fast and pray so that I can be used of Him. So they won't see me. "There," I say, "close your eyes and you can see Jesus. And that's it. So...so...so, I mean, and...and you don't have to flaunt it. You don't have to get upset because folks don't accept it. Just go on." And the Lord fixes things for me. He called me to preach. I mean, I went to jail the fourth Sunday in February 1952, and looked. Listened at this. The next day He called me to preach. I didn't think about this 'til a year later.
SHUSTER: So they were very close together.
YORK: The...the next day. So it means that I.... "You got a whole big...two or three thousand folk. Now, you don't have no just...since I called you just...just start dealing with it, you know. And you're not...you won't be threatened here, you won't be intimidated, and...and they're not hearing anything much so they get a chance to hear it [?]. Just get your lesson." And I...I didn't realize until later on, what the Lord was doing. I mean, I mean, and...and if you know your lesson they'll let you tell it. If you don't know your lesson, they'll tell you, "Now...is that what that book really said?" They'll help you do it. See, and the Lord...if the Lord calls you, He has a place for you. It may not...not be what you want to be, 'cause I wouldn't have thought of going to no jail. I planned to be a public school teacher. I didn't plan to be a jail bird, you know. But He's the Lord, remember. He's in charge, so whatever He says go, you just go and do what He wants done. And He knows how to give you some on the job training, I mean, and teach you how to do it His way, use His method and read all the things involved. A lot of folk are of the opinion that we go to jail, that you smuggle their sin.... I call sin, Dr. Shuster, like I see it. Open the book and tell them about the...the outside clean but the inside dirty. I mean, I mean, all those men are unarmed, I mean, and hungry and upset. I can, I mean, tear down and tear out and uproot the core of that sin, and then put some healing balm and the oil of gladness in...down inside. But I tell them I think it's because they have a chance to listen. I said, "Actually, you're getting what your hand called for. You've misused folk, you've abused people, you've taken advantage, and what goes around eventually comes around." I said, "Cause the Bible says, 'Be not deceived. God is not mocked. Whatsoever a man soweth, that should he also reap.'" [Galatians 6:7] I said, "So you're gonna reap what you sow, but...but He's going to give you some mercy, 'If you accept me as your savior.'" And I tell them about Paul. I said, "Paul criticized the church. He...he...he...he persecuted the Christians. He...." I said, "He was on his way when the he...when the Lord struck him to...to persecute and put in prison, women and men who were members of the Way." I said, "But he had a person to person encounter with Jesus. He struck him from his horse, and blinded his eyes, and said, 'Saul, Saul, why persecute thou Me." [Acts 4:9] And I tell the gang banger, I said, The gang leaders didn't start with you." I said, "Paul had a group of rabble rousters." I said, "And they were on their horse, and they were going through." I said, "But can you imagine the leader of the gang blinded by light. And...and he got to be led down to Straight Street," I said, I mean, "to see another man who was fearful of him until the Lord said, "He's a praying man.'" I say, "And Paul suffers the same things that he put the Christians through. But Paul said, 'They're...[unclear phrase].'" I said, "He had to reap what he sowed. He had to suffer like he made other Christians suffered. But he took it. He said, 'I reckon the sufferings of this world not be compared to where I am with the Father.' [Romans 8:17] So he went on through, he went to jail, but I never once saw that he complained about having to go to jail. He suffered because he...that's what he had done to others. It happened to him. And yet, because of the grace of God, (he said, 'His grace was sufficient.' [paraphrase of 2 Corinthians 12:9), he went through it." "So...so," I said, "So that's it." I mean, so you tell them in love, 'cause a lot of folk do this kind of work...I mean, they have...they...they...they've got some right [?]. Maybe somebody in that family had been killed four or five years ago. So they say, "I'm going to get saved now. And I'm gonna go to jail, and I'm gonna...." I mean, I mean, you got a discipline in love, and according to the dictates to the Lord. I talked to a hard man the other day, and he was very bitter. He was mad because he had been misused by an officer. And...and he was going to sue the officer...was gonna sue because he was hurt. And...and...and...and he wanted me to come and see him. I went on the catwalk to see him. Now he's already bitter, so I didn't go in there. By feeding and winning souls is wise [?]. I didn't want to argue with him like a lot of them do. I just pick him up and grab him by the...[unclear]. I saw he was angry already. I said, "Now Jacky, that's not the right method." "Mother York, I'm upset with society." I said, "No, they gave you a separate trial from your brother because they believe that...that there's something different about you." I said, "But if you become embittered, they'll say there's no difference. And you'll be getting the same time you had before." I said, "As you remember, this officer brought me back, I don't like her. But remember, she didn't have to let me come back here to see you. It was off the record." I said, "Now, think about that some. Think about what you said." You see, [pauses] I could have said, "Listen, you're no good or your mother wasn't any good, your grandfather...." I said, "But I love you, 'cause you came from bad stock, bad seed." But you've gotta use wisdom. I ask the Lord, "I'm gonna give this man...I've gotta reach him. And then after I reach him, I got to teach him. And after teaching, then the Holy Spirit has to convict him. And then after he's convicted, he can accept You." And then he can find out that even while he's paying off, He's got some mercy instead of justice, you know.
SHUSTER: Well, that might be a good point for us to end now. We're almost out of tape, I see. [York laughs] We haven't really gotten into your jail ministry too much, but, I mean, the Lord has certainly been active in your life and I'm very grateful for your willingness to talk about it and willingness to share it with others as they will hear it through this tape.
YORK: Well, it's just the Lord's doings. I...I want to be used of Him. I said, "At sixty-five I'm not going to retire, I'm going to refire. And it takes the Holy Spirit, my associating with my...my...my overseer of our church, who is a Pentecostal woman who...who dealt with living right and living clean so you can just have a full ministry, has been certainly important because through her encouragement I continued to labor in that vineyard, and I'd rather die than switch.
SHUSTER: Amen. Thank you again.
END OF TAPE