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Mary Staton interview, 2022-11-28

Identifier: rwhc_ohp_2022_003.wav

Content Description

From the Collection:

Oral history interviews recorded by students in the Real World History class at Center for Inspired Teaching.


  • Creation: 2022-11-28


Biographical / Historical

Mary Olivia Johnson Staton was born April 11, 1942 in Wilson County, North Carolina, to Viola Farmer Johnson and Clarence Johnson. Ms. Staton grew up with her six younger siblings (Clarence, Marvin, Katy, Roberteen, Leroy, and Jane) on her grandparents’ farm, where they “raised some of everything.” From a young age, Ms. Mary’s parents taught her the importance of education and expected her to set an example for her younger siblings. After graduating from George Washington Carver High School in 1960, Ms. Staton attended Fayetteville State College and graduated in 1964. During her summers in college, Ms. Staton lived with her aunt in Northwest D.C. while working. As her parents wished, Ms. Staton’s siblings followed in her footsteps with all of them pursuing some form of higher education, most at North Carolina Central University. In 1965, Ms. Staton married Benjamin Staton and the pair lived in Rocky Mount, North Carolina. During this period, Ms. Staton began her career as a teacher. Ms. Staton moved to the D.C. area in 1969, when her husband began a job at the Department of Financial Revenue in Washington, D.C. Though one of the Johnson daughters was living in D.C. at the time, Mr. Staton’s job was the sole reason for the move. At first, the couple lived at the Lynn Hill Apartments in Hillcrest Heights, Maryland. Eventually, they moved to their home in Suitland, Maryland where Ms. Staton lives to this day. Ms. Staton did not have a job upon arrival in the D.C. area, and she worked several jobs—such as a registrar in retail—before returning to education. When Mr. Staton met Mayor Walter Washington through his job, the mayor offered to help Ms. Staton find a job teaching in the city. However, Ms. Staton preferred to avoid the “loud rat-race” that was D.C. Instead, she taught at Baden Elementary for three years before transitioning to William Beanes Elementary School, where she would spend the majority of her 35-year career in education. At William Beanes Elementary, Ms. Staton worked her way up from teaching first grade to eventually retiring as the school’s Math Specialist and Assistant to the Principal. Despite dealing with arthritis, Ms. Mary continues to be an active person and very involved in her community. For almost as long as she has been in the area, Ms. Staton has attended Rehoboth Baptist Church in the Congress Heights neighborhood of Southeast D.C. She remains devoted to the church, taking part in three bible studies per week, serving as a member of the Pastor’s Aide Auxiliary as well as the Women’s Ministry, President of the Scholarship Committee, and advisor to the Child Development Center. Ms. Staton has also been bowling for fun since she lived in North Carolina and continues to bowl once a week. Ms. Staton remains connected to her upbringing in North Carolina by serving as the president of the Metropolitan Baltimore Alumni Chapter of the George Washington Carver High School Alumni Network, a chapter that her husband founded. Though her travel is limited today, she hopes to add to the list of 39 states she visited with her sister, Katy, during annual trips. Of all her trips, Hawaii was her favorite, recalling that she “has never eaten so much pineapple.”


From the Collection: 27.1 Gigabytes (DIG_0029)

From the Collection: 228 Files (DIG_0029)

Language of Materials



In this oral history interview, Ms. Mary Staton, a longtime D.C. area resident, discusses her life and experiences moving from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to the Washington, D.C. area. She recounts her upbringing in Edgecombe County, North Carolina, and how her family’s emphasis on the importance of education coexisted with the responsibilities of growing tobacco, corn, cotton, and more on their farm. She discusses her experiences with segregation and her involvement protesting in the Civil Rights Movement as a student at Fayetteville State University. Ms. Staton talks about her 35 year long career in education and notes the differences between teaching in North Carolina compared to in Maryland. Throughout the interview, Ms. Staton is prompted to reflect on the differences between her life in North Carolina and her life in the D.C. area. Ms. Staton discusses her involvement in her church community at Rehoboth Baptist Church in D.C. Ms. Staton reflects on what her move North means to her and the connection to North Carolina that she maintains. This oral history interview was conducted by a D.C. high school student as part of a class assignment on the Great Migration in Real World History.

Repository Details

Part of the The People's Archive, Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library Repository

901 G Street NW
4th Floor East
Washington DC 20001