Skip to main content

Jean Washington interview, 2022-11-30

Identifier: rwhc_ohp_2022_004.wav

Content Description

From the Collection:

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


  • Creation: 2022-11-30


Biographical / Historical

Mrs. Jean Washington (née Parham) was born in Birmingham, Alabama, in 1931. Her mother, Maggy Parham, was a seamstress and her father, Floyd Parham, worked as a skilled laborer in a steel plant in Birmingham. She had 2 brothers and 1 sister: Charles, Donald, and Constance. Mrs. Washington lived on the outskirts of Birmingham and attended East Thomas and Lincoln Elementary Schools. She then attended Parker High School, known for being the largest black high school in the world. Mrs. Washington went on to attend Miles College in Fairfield, Alabama. After graduating from Miles College, Mrs. Washington worked as a schoolteacher in Birmingham while also working in a department store. In 1954, she got engaged to Frank Washington, who then joined the Navy and completed a tour of duty. On his way back to Birmingham, Mr. Washington visited Washington, DC, and Howard University, liking both. He enrolled at Howard and brought Mrs. Washington up to D.C. so the two could be married. In 1958, Mr. and Mrs. Washington were married in the Andrew Rankin Memorial Chapel at Howard University. After this initial trip, Mrs. Washington returned to Birmingham to gather her things before moving to D.C. for good. Mrs. Washington and her husband initially stayed with one of Mr. Washington’s cousins before moving into an apartment on Holmead Place in Northwest D.C. This is where they had their first child, Donna, in 1960. They went on to move to Fort Totten Drive NE before settling in their current residence on Kennedy Street NE. Over the years, Mrs. Washington and her husband had two more children: Karen (1967) and Frank (1972). Mrs. Washington continued her teaching career in Washington. She taught kindergarten at Rudolph Elementary, which was an all-black school at the time. While teaching, Mrs. Washington also attended graduate school at George Washington University. After teaching at Rudolph, she moved schools and taught at Keene Elementary School until her retirement in 1995. Mrs. Washington enjoys writing in her journal, doing puzzles and baking. She describes herself as loving, kind, and prayerful.


From the Collection: 27.1 Gigabytes (DIG_0029)

From the Collection: 228 Files (DIG_0029)

Language of Materials



In this oral history interview, Mrs. Jean Washington, a long time D.C. resident, discusses her life and experiences moving from Birmingham, Alabama, to Washington, D.C. Beginning with her early life, Mrs. Washington discusses her upbringing and educational experiences in the East St. Thomas neighborhood of Birmingham during the 1930s and 1940s. She also talks about attending Miles College, beginning her teaching career in Birmingham, and moving to Washington, DC, with her husband in 1958. Turning to life in the District, Mrs. Washington discusses her neighborhood—both at the time of her arrival and during her old age—her career as an elementary school teacher, and her church community. She also reflects on her life throughout the interview, sharing life lessons with the interviewer. Mrs. Washington concludes the interview by talking about her day-to-day activities as an older adult. 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