Described in one article as "Black Panther Mom," Frances Dixon is mother to Aaron and Elmer Dixon who co-founded the Seattle chapter of the Black Panther Party and to Joanne and Michael Dixon who were active in the party. Frances grew up in Chicago where after finishing college she met and married returning war veteran Elmer Dixon Jr. A talented artist, Dixon worked as an illustrator for the US army and the family was living in Champaign, Illinois, in 1957 when he received a job offer from the Boeing company in Seatle . "Boeing moved us here," Frances explains succinctly when asked how the family came to Seattle.
Like most Black families trying to settle in the intensely segregated city, the Dixons had trouble finding a place to live and struggled with various uncomfortable lodgings during their first years in the city. Eventually they were able to buy the Madronna home were she lives today. It was difficult too for Frances to find work. Downtown department stores used the excuse that she was over educated when in fact most stores refused to hire Black folks except as custodians. Virginia Mason initially directed her to the kitchen. Eventually she found a position as a medical assistant first with Virginia Mason then with Group Health, where she worked for many years.
Looking back on her life in this interview, she remembers her husband, who passed away in 1985, and in a moving sequence reads the poem he wrote in 1955 about the lynching of 13-year-old Emmett Till. She talks about the educational experiences of her children and the political awakening that led to the founding of the Black Panther Party. She remembers too the scary phone calls from ill-wishers who warned that they planned to "kill your son." She took it in stride ("It didn't really bother me...I felt kind of tough") and she and her husband did what they could to protect their activist children. "We were young and whatever they did we supported them."
This interview is part of Keepers of the Dream: Seattle Women Black Panthers, a film by Patricia Boiko and Tajuan LaBee available at https://seattlewomenpanthers.com. Work on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.ork on this interview was made possible by a grant from 4Culture/King County Lodging Tax.