AA is a Cult, part 69

​The third all black Alcoholics Anonymous chapter started also in 1945, in April. It was founded by Dr. Jim Scott (Dr. Jim S.) in Washington DC. This is the group often mistakenly believed to be the first black AA group, although two others preceded it. Dr. Jim was the first black member to have his story appear in the Big Book (editions 2, 3, 4) under the title “Jim’s Story”. He is probably the best known black early AA member thanks to this inclusion (for which, of course, he was not paid. Only Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob got royalties.) 

While AA admitted its first white woman in 1939, it would not be until 1948 that a black woman, Jimmy Miller, was ” accepted ” – with extreme limitations. She called the South Bend, Indiana phone listing, only to be told scornfully they had “no set up for colored people” and that AA served white people. Three days earlier, a local black man Bill Hoover had also called and initially been given the same gruff response. But an Irish AA member Ray Moore felt compelled to “do a twelfth step call” and met with Bill H. When Jimmy called, Ray brought Bill H. to meet her. 

Initially the two were sponsored by Ray, and met just the three of them in various living rooms. After some time Ray was able to negotiate with the white South Bend group to allow Jimmy and Bill H. to attend open, but not closed, AA meetings. The two black members were segregated to the kitchen, able to hear only whatever words drifted back from the front of the house, and forbidden from speaking, when they were admitted at all. They were offered only broken cups, an intentional racial slight reported by early black AA members at other white groups. 

After six or seven months of this, Jimmy and Bill H. decided to force the issue. They began attending closed meetings, sitting with white members, and speaking. There was hostility. Meetings were often held in private homes, and some white alcoholics barred their entry. Ray tried to remind white members “An honest desiure to stop drinking is the only requirement for membership”. Bill H.’s then wife contacted her cousin Earl Redmond, 1945 founder of one of the first black AA groups. 

Earl came to visit, and after much resistance, was grudgingly permitted to chair a meeting. Soon after AA founder Bill Wilson visited the South Bend group as part of his national speaking circuit. He gave his blessing for an integrated AA group and Jimmy remembered him quite fondly in the last years of her life. Bill H. ended his first marriage and wed Jimmy. Their reward for persevering in the face of racism was cult membership. 

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