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Story: Martha Gaynor


Martha Gaynor was born in Irwinville, Georgia in 1916 and came to Newark as a girl in 1926.  She traveled for three days by coal powered train in and recalled black passengers being seated near the engine because it was dirty and having to give up their seats to white passengers when transferring in Washington.  Her father was a sharecropper growing peanuts, potatoes and tobacco.  She and her brother would carry sacks of cotton for her mother who she remembers could pick 300-400 pounds in a single day. 

Whereas in Georgia all children were educated in one classroom, in Newark she was put in the 1st grade and was such a diligent student she worked her way through 3rd grade by the summer.  In high school she opted for night school at Barringer Evening School while working days in a factory manufacturing children’s clothing.

portrait of Martha Gaynor Photo by Bill May