How many daughters do you have?


Thelma Wells: Two daughters, matter of fact. They're in their 30s. How many years have you been doing "Women of Faith" now? What do you most enjoy?


Thelma Wells: I started Women of Faith in August of 1996. This is my eighth year. I most enjoy seeing the people who come leave renewed, refreshed, rejuvenated, restored and revived.  And I most enjoy getting the letters, face-to-face communication, emails and cards from people saying, "This changed my life." In your bio, it mentions that you've had to overcome racism to get where you are and that God has brought you through many trials. Can you give me a couple of examples of situations you have faced? 


Thelma Wells: I was born in 1941. I don't mind telling you I'll be 62 this year. That was, of course, during the era of segregation, particularly, in the south. I grew up during the era when there were signs that designated "colored" and "white" on the water fountains in public and on the public transportation (which was a streetcar at that time). You could not go into any restaurants unless they were owned by blacks. You could not stay in hotels. When we went to conventions, we had to stay in people's houses because the hotels and motels would not permit blacks. 


So all of those things were the order of the day. But I was never, in my heart, part of the order of the day. When I would see a "colored only" water fountain, next to a white water fountain, I had to see what color the water was in the white one, and what color the water was in the black one. I discovered that the color was the same, but the temperature was different. In the white fountain, they had cold water.  The black fountain just had regular water. There was a difference. 


Also, in terms of public transportation, they had these flip-over colored and white signs on the streetcars. If you'd get on there, and there were more whites on there, well, you had to go to the back anyway. You also had to get up and give a white person your seat. And that didn't set well with me and sometimes I didn't get up. But I was not a Rosa Parks, either. I wasn't trying to demonstrate. I was just being rebellious, I guess. 


When I graduated from high school in 1959, in Dallas, I wanted to go to a secretarial school. I called to register, and I guess they could not tell whether I was white or black.  They invited me down to register and when I walked into that office building in downtown Dallas, the atmosphere immediately changed. They told me that I could not go to school there. They used the "N" word. I'm trying to tell them that I just called and before I could get it out of my mouth, their guy had taken me and literally thrust me out on the streets of Dallas. I was humiliated, I was angry, I was upset. It was detestable.