Mabel Hamilton was born in Mechanicville, New York, and as a child, moved to North Adams. A singer, Mabel began as a young person to perform as a soloist at various community events. She married and moved with her husband to Mitchell Air Force Base on Long Island, then moving back to North Adams, where her husband had a job with Sprague Electric and then Lamb Printing Company. Mabel raised the family, eventually moving to Williamstown, where she saw Martin Luther King speak in 1964. After she and her husband divorced, she moved to Pittsfield in 1968, and quickly became involved in education and social justice, starting with Action for Opportunity with Reverend Durant, working with Head Start and as Parent Coordinator for the Follow Through program, still singing at weddings, funerals, and in church choirs. Mabel was involved in two productions at the Berkshire Theatre Festival. She is now a member of AME Zion Church. She would like to express deep gratitude for guidance and support to Julia Levenson and Jean Hunter. “Back when it was Community Action and AFO and we were being trained by Saul Alinsky, who also trained Obama, right, and they were sent, instructors and all, from Chicago. The experience was … how to organize a community. … If you tried to leave a legacy, the drugs [that affected the kids] just wiped it out.”
“Our family sang together even after a funeral service, we’d get together and sing…everybody would get into the harmony and all of that.”
The full interview audio will soon be available through Special Collections and University Archives at the UMass Amherst Libraries.
A full transcript of the interview can be accessed here.