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LaDoris Payne interviewed by Martha Ackelsberg , April 10-11, 2005

 File — Box: 38
Link to transcript of LaDoris Payne interview
Link to transcript of LaDoris Payne interview
Link to video
Link to video

Scope and Contents

The interview provides a wealth of information on LaDoris Payne's growing up in segregated St. Louis, MO, the relationships within and among her family, her struggles with illness and depression, and, ultimately, her coming into her own as an activist and organizer. It is rich in discussion of both the strengths of the black community in St. Louis before Brown v. Board of Education and the personal costs to those children who, like LaDoris, were among the first to go to integrated schools. The oral history gives a sense of her own personal trajectory as an activist, of the ways she was able to use government programs (e.g. War on Poverty programs) to pull herself out of poverty; and, most dramatically, of the vision and energy that have gone into the establishment of WomanSpirit, the Imani Family Center, and David's House. There is also considerable information about her engagement with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women and GROOTS, as well as with UN-related and other international organizations whose meetings she has attended. (Transcript 68 pp.)

Dates of Materials

  • April 10-11, 2005


Conditions Governing Web Access

At the direction of the narrator, the recording of this interview may only be placed on the web if access is restricted to the Smith College community. Please consult with special collections staff at to inquire about the existence of or access to digital copies. The interviewer and narrator for this interview have agreed that the transcript may be placed on the web.

Conditions Governing Access

This interview is open for research use without restriction.

Conditions Governing Use

The interviewer and narrator have transferred copyright of this interview to Smith College.

Biographical / Historical

LaDoris Payne (b. 1948) was born and raised in St. Louis, Missouri, and has spent much of her life there. She is currently director of the Imani Family Center, which was established in 1993 and is located in a former Ursuline convent. She also directs WomanSpirit in St. Louis, an organization formed in 1984 to provide a place for women to gather, talk, and support one another in their struggles against poverty. WomanSpirit has received funding from a variety of organizations and foundations that have enabled it to develop programs such as Enterprising Women, a microenterprise training program; the Imani Business Incubator and Technology Center; and the House of David shelter, a transitional home for homeless disabled veterans. Payne has been affiliated with the National Congress of Neighborhood Women (NCNW) and with GROOTS (Grassroots Organizations Operating Together in Sisterhood) since the early 1990's. She served as a delegate to the United Nations 4th World Conference on Women in 1995 in Beijing, to the UN Conference on Sustainable Environments in 1996; and to the UN/Economic Commission for Europe preparatory meeting on the 2000 review of the implementation of the Beijing Platform for Action. In 1994, on the 10th anniversary of WomanSpirit, Inc., the mayor of St. Louis declared WomanSpirit Day in St. Louis, and LaDoris was also named the Homeless Service Provider of the Year for her work in opening the House of David shelter.

Language of Materials