The Manhattan Project

In partnership with the National Museum of Nuclear Science & HistoryNational Museum of Nuclear Science & History

Jackson Square

Valeria Steele Roberson's Interview

Cindy Kelly: Tell us about your work and what you’ve learned about the African Americans who worked here in Oak Ridge during the Manhattan Project.

Valeria Steele Roberson: I became interested in this project when I was a little girl. My grandmother used to tell us stories about the ‘40s, how they came here and left their children back in Alabama with their grandmother. She would always talk about giving one day to the bomb, and about the rats, and the plank sidewalks, and all those kinds of things.

Valeria Steele Roberson

Valeria Steele Roberson is the granddaughter of Kattie Strickland, an African American who moved to Oak Ridge from Alabama with her husband to work on the Manhattan Project. In this interview, Roberson discusses her family’s experience at Oak Ridge. Roberson comments on how Oak Ridge presented African Americans with higher-paying jobs and an opportunity for a better future with the prospect of social and economic advancement, despite pervasive segregation, discrimination, and continued inequality.

Hal Behl's Interview

Cindy Kelly: Okay. I am Cindy Kelly. I’m here in Albuquerque. It is Wednesday, October 12.

Hal Behl: Okay. I’m Harold Behl. B as in boy, e-h-l. Known as Hal.

Kelly: Okay. I just want to have you tell us when and where you were born and a little about your childhood.

Paul Wilkinson

Paul Wilkinson got a job at the Y-12 Plant Oak Ridge after graduating college. He supervised calutron work and some of the “calutron girls,” including his future wife, Dorothy. Wilkinson.

Dunell Cohn's Interview

Cindy Kelly: It is January 14, 2014, and we are in St. Louis, Missouri. And I want to ask the first question of you, which is to tell us your name and spell it. 

Dunell Cohn: My complete name is Dunell Edlin Cohn, D-U-N-E-L-L. Edlin is E-D-L-I-N. And the last name is Cohn, C-O-H-N.

Kelly: Very good. 

Dunell Cohn

Dunell Cohn was born in Oak Ridge in 1944. Cohn’s father, Waldo, was recruited to work on the Manhattan Project in Chicago in 1942 for his work on radioisotopes at Berkeley and Harvard during the 1930s. Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to Oak Ridge, where he developed a method to separate the fission products from the nuclear reactor. He also pioneered the radioisotope program at Oak Ridge, producing radioisotopes in large quantities that could then be used for medical and biological research.

Helen Jernigan's Interview

Cindy Kelly: My name is Kelly. I am with the Atomic Heritage Foundation. And I am in Oak Ridge, Tennessee today, which is Friday, September 6, 2013. And we are very fortunate today to have Helen Jernigan. And I am going to start by asking Helen to say her name and spell it.

Helen Jernigan: Jernigan. H-E-L-E-N, J-E-R-N-I-G-A-N.

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