An Oral History

With

Willie T. Allen













Interviewer: Worth Long













Tougaloo College Archives



















This interview was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation Project.

Funding for this project was provided in part by the Mississippi

Humanities Council, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and

the Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

Biography



Mr. Willie T. Allen was born February 26, 1930, in southwest Grenada County, Mississippi. He started school as an eight-year-old. He was graduated from Grenada Colored High School in 1951. When he finished high school, he was drafted into the Army. In 1953, Mr. Allen returned to Mississippi. He was graduated from college in the fifties, and took his first position working at a school in Holcomb, Mississippi. He worked in schools, both as a teacher and as an administrator, from 1956 to 1980.



In 1957, Mr. Allen registered to vote and was subsequently informed by the FBI the he was on the Ku Klux Klan's "list." Despite harassment from racist organizations and individuals, Mr. Allen was active in the civil rights movement, assisting other African-Americans to register to vote.

Table of Contents



Childhood 1

Army life at Fort Benning, Georgia 4

College years 6

Anna T. Jeannes Fund 7

Working at Holcomb School 7

Registering to vote 12

Poll tax 14

Getting drafted 16

Ku Klux Klan 18

Helping others register to vote 22

James Meredith 22

Marching for integration 24

Gladys Noel Bates 27

Segregation on buses 28

A.B.J.W. Museum 30



AN ORAL HISTORY



WITH



WILLIE T. ALLEN



This is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with Mr. Willie T. Allen and is taking place on February 18, 2000. The interviewer is Worth Long.



Long: Would you tell me your name and where and when you were born, please?



Allen: My name is Willie T. Allen. A-L-L-E-N. I was born February 26, 1930. This is February 18, and next Saturday, February 26, I will be seventy years old. I was born in southwest Grenada County, and I lived there all my life except the two years I was away in the Army, and three years I was away in college.



Long: Mm-hm. What about your early childhood? Tell me about growing up.



Allen: My early childhood, I was brought up in southwest Grenada County, out by a church. We said where we were from according to the community. Mount Carmel and the Sweet Home, both of them are churches, and they are still in existence. That's where I was brought up. My mother--. We lived so far from the school, my mother wouldn't let me walk, and I didn't start to school until I was eight years old. There were no compulsory school laws at that time. In fact, the plantation owners or the farm owners didn't care whether you went to school or not, if you were black. It didn't make any difference. Just so a parent had a lot of children, is all they were concerned about, to work the crops.



Long: OK. So, what was the economy in that area?



Allen: The economy in that area from 1930, and 1940, was very poor. If I had had a tenth of what I have now, I'd have been considered a rich person. But we didn't have. The economy was very poor, and my daddy worked a many-a day on the WPA and the PWA for fifteen cents an hour. He used to walk from southwest Grenada County to Grenada, the town of Grenada, about ten or twelve miles. Walk and work for fifteen cents an hour, and they went up a quarter. And they didn't go up to forty cents until around 1940 when Camp McCain[?] was built. World War II. I'll say it like that.



Long: Mm-hm. Now, were people in your area treated equally?



Allen: No. They never have been. And until this very day, they're not treated equally. No.



Long: What do you mean by that?



Allen: I finished high school in 1951. Grenada Colored High School. And I have never ridden a bus a day in my life. When I went back, to teach out at Holcomb about ten miles west of Grenada, they had buses for black folk. But I walked to school and the white children rode to school. I don't know where they were going, where the school was because we went--. Well, a school was at every church. And the Sweet Home School was one of the first schools I went to. I went to the Mount Carmel School a few days. I don't know how long, but I was living right across the hill. But when we moved over to the Sweet Home Community, I was living about four or five miles from the school, and I started when I was eight years old. And I went there until I finished the third grade. When I moved to Grenada, I was fourth grade.



Long: Mm-hm. So, what was your perception of Grenada from that early age?



Allen: From an early age, my perception of Grenada is it was home. I loved it. I still do. I go back. The museum is on Old Highway 51, used to be. And it's Martin Luther King Boulevard, now.



Long: Which museum are you referring to?



Allen: A.B.J.W. Museum. It's a community museum, but the A.B.J.W. stands for Allens, Berry, Jones, Week[?]. Those are my family and my wife's family.



Long: OK. So, your perception was, this was home for you.



Allen: This is home. This was home. It's still home. When I say, "I'm going home," my wife understands. A lot of other people don't understand. You called me in Jackson, but home is Grenada.



Long: What are your best memories about?



Allen: Oh, the best memories are going to the black school. They had empathy, moments of empathy for us. They said, "You have to learn in spite of." Otherwise, as poor as I was, I would have never been educated. I would have never finished high school, if they hadn't had empathy. I was a pretty good football player fifty years ago.



Long: What position did you play?



Allen: I played quarterback. I weighed 190, and I couldn't get to 200. A hundred and ninety, fifty years ago, was a pretty big man. And I played quarterback. I played both ways.





Long: Uh-huh. Now, quarterback was different then, wasn't it? Did you have single wing? Or (inaudible.)



Allen: We had single wing. We had double wing. We had a little T-formation, but mostly it was single wing. And my junior and senior year, I believe, we had a man came in to coach us, and they taught us the T-formation.



Long: I see.



Allen: Yeah. But we started off with single wing. No guards over your face. Just plain, old helmet (inaudible)-grained, red-grained, and (inaudible)-type helmets.



Long: Now, where did you get this equipment?



Allen: Hand-me-down. We got it from the white school that later became John[?] (inaudible) Runnels[?] School. And the home economics department, if our top or pants got torn, they would sew them up the next day. And the shirts were, before forty-six, we had some football shirts in 1946, but in forty-four and forty-five, we had sweatshirts with numbers painted on them. But in 1946, we got some red jerseys; my number was twenty-nine.



Long: And twenty-nine, you were a--?



Allen: Quarterback. Now, you can look at the number a fellow has on and tell what position he plays, but then, you could not. My number was twenty-nine, and I played in the back field and quarterback. I also wore the number sixty about 1950 because I finished school in fifty-one, but I went up to Oxford, and wore number sixty because they were looking for me. I had made three or four touchdowns in the game before, and they were looking to stop me, so I just changed numbers with a fellow, and I had run three touchdowns before they realized I was the same fellow they were looking for.



Long: That's pretty good. What other good memories can you think of from your family life?

Allen: Oh, my father and mother were very supportive of me. I did not have to go to school, but my daddy used to ask me questions at night. The states and capitols and the presidents. In fact, I used to brag, when I finished college, you could give me a blank map of the world, and I'd fill it out. Mountain ranges, oceans, rivers, countries, anything you want, and the memories in Grenada at that time, everybody was so helpful. I owe my being now to so many people (inaudible.) Mrs. Rayford[?], she was a black medical doctor's wife. Ms. (Inaudible), she was the principal. Mr. Buchanan, he was the principal. Ms. Reid[?], she taught second grade under me, after I had finished college and went back and was the head teacher. There are so many people. Ms. Clark, Mildred Williams. You name them. (Inaudible.) You just name them, they helped me and helped everybody else they could help. But (inaudible) is hard.



Long: Yeah. What about advanced education? How did you get inspired to take a chance--?



Allen: I went--. Take a chance. I went in the Army. When I finished high school, they put me in the Army, and I was with the fellow that taught me. I was a clerk typist in the Army. A service record clerk, and the fellow that taught me had finished at NYU, and his last name was Jones. Another fellow that taught me finished at the University of Kansas. I was with fellows from UCLA, Colorado, and Illinois. You name it. And quite often they would talk about things (inaudible.) And in the Army, I was down in Fort Benning, Georgia. They had a good library, and I would go to the library. And sometimes I wouldn't understand it, and I'd come back. Those are the good experiences in the Army, but telling me what to do day and night and what time to get up--I didn't like it. And I spent two years, and got out, and went back to college.



Long: Yeah. Now, all those men you talk about, did they have a common experience of having been born in black communities?



Allen: No. They weren't black. Owens, I remember him. He was from the University of Kansas. [He] is the one that taught, actually taught the typing class. Jones was black. He had finished at NYU, and one of my fellows with me, Stanley, he was from somewhere in Connecticut. I don't remember the person from UCLA, but he was there. No, they didn't have a common experience. All of us were in the Army. That was common. The Korean War was going on.



Long: I see. So, had President Truman at that time, already--.



Allen: Truman had integrated. Truman integrated in the late--. I mean he gave the order to integrate in the late forties, but when I went in there--. I was talking to her about that last week. When I went in I came from Fort Jackson. I took my training at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, from fall of fifty-one to spring of fifty-two. And I stayed at Fort Jackson a while and went on to Benning. And at that time you could have--.



Long: To Fort Benning?



Allen: Fort Benning, Georgia. At that time--. At Columbus. And Fort Jackson is at Columbia, South Carolina, where the Rebel flag hangs over the capitol, now. But I went down to Georgia, and I went in the barracks about eleven o'clock, and they could have civilian clothes hanging on the wall. And there's something about clothes, at least then, that you could tell the color of the person wearing them. And I said to myself--. Was nobody there but me, and somebody had given me (inaudible), they had given me the bed and the sheets and assigned me a bunk. And I looked up at the clothes. I said, "There are no black folks here." And sure enough, when they came home at twelve, wasn't one black in there. I was the first black, and that afternoon, Stanley--. I don't know his first name. I forget the first name, but I remember he was from Connecticut. He was black. Real black. (Laughter.) And he came in and a lot of us came in after then. Jones, that taught me was black, and he was from NYU, but he lived in our barracks.



Long: Mm-hm. So, they were putting the different soldiers together?



Allen: Yeah. Sure. I never was in a segregated outfit. We took basic training in an integrated outfit, and where I worked, when I went down to Fort Benning, and I worked in the personnel office (inaudible) and it was integrated.



Long: Right. Now, how did that compare to your growing up?



Allen: It was different. The first real contact--. Real. I had contact with a lot of whites in Grenada. Dennis Bakery, on Green Street, in Grenada--.



Long: That's what bakery?



Allen: Dennis. D-E-N-N-I-S. Dennis Bakery. It was on Green Street, and I worked there. Mr. and Mrs. Dennis [were] both white, and they helped me out a whole lot. And anyways, [if] I could work, I would work. We had to work. Wasn't any giveaway program like now. I believed in work. When you called me for this interview, I was working. Getting ready to paint.



Long: The ceiling.



Allen: The ceiling, yeah. (Laughter.) Painting it with a roller.



Long: Yeah. Well, I'm happy that you're here for this because you already have given me some information that I think is very valuable; that lets us see the time that you grew up in.



Allen: Yeah, from thirty till--. I've talked about from the time I was born, 1930 until fifty-one or fifty-two when I went back. I finished college in fifty-six. I went year-round[?] when I came back.



Long: Where did you go? Tell me about coming back during the time of the Korean War.



Allen: I came back in 1953.



Long: And you had been--



Allen: I had done nine hours at Jackson State University here in Jackson and six hours at Savannah State while I was in the Army. I went there and took some extension courses. When I came back in the fall of fifty-three, September fifty-three, I had fifteen hours of college work, and I went year-round. That's the reason I got out in three years, and I got out in 1956. And my wife had finished college, Jackson State University, in 1954. And when we got married, I wanted to be at home, Grenada, Coffeeville, Winona, Greenwood, or somewhere. I applied all around there. And they took me out at Holcomb[?] which is ten miles from Grenada. So, I stayed at home every night. And I got a B--.



Long: And that's what you call Holcomb?



Allen: H-O-L-C-O-M-B. Holcomb.



Long: Holcomb. OK.



Allen: Holcomb. Everybody in Grenada, around Grenada, knows where Holcomb is.



Long: OK. And the superintendent for the schools--



Allen: At that time, they had a city superintendent, separate school district superintendent, and a county superintendent, but later on because of the size of the Grenada pupil population, they put it all under one superintendent, which was the Grenada Municipal Separate School District, and the Board of Supervisors appointed three, I believe. And the City Council of Grenada appointed two board members to the Board and the Board naturally ran, manned the school.



Long: What was the influence of the 1954 school decision on your schools up in Grenada?



Allen: That's when they started building. They called--. They built the school so fast, they called them, "nigger blocks." They started throwing up buildings, schools for black folks.



Long: Cinder blocks?



Allen: Yeah. Cinder blocks. And they were durable, but they started throwing them up as stack barn[?] instead of a running barn[?]. They started throwing them up in a hurry in the 1954 school decision. I was living in Jackson when the 1954 school decision came down. Somebody versus the Board of--. Brown. Brown versus the Board of Education. I used to didn't forget all that, but I'm old, now, and I forget a whole lot of stuff.



Long: Yeah, but you remember a whole lot more. (Laughter.)



Allen: Yeah. I guess.



Long: Be proud of that. So, that school decision impacted your community.



Allen: Every community.



Long: So, that means the person who hired you, evidently knew something about you?



Allen: Yeah, the person who hired me was a Mrs. Lola Moore[?]. She was a Jeannes supervisor [an Anna T. Jeannes Fund supervisor], and a Jeannes supervisor, at least in Grenada County, had a big say-so in the black schools. See, this was 1956.



Long: OK. We're going to need a little history about that. The Jeannes program. Tell me what that was and where the grants went.



Allen: The Jeannes--. I don't know a whole lot about the Jeannes. I just know that people that I used to know were Jeannes teachers and I think they got the name from a person whose last name was Jeannes.



Long: Mm-hm. It was kind of like Rosenwald.



Allen: Yeah, I remember the Rosenwald School. In fact, I was over a Rosenwald School over at Oxbury[?]. From Holcomb about ten--. No, Holcomb is about ten miles from Grenada and Oxbury is about a mile and a half or two miles from Holcomb. And I was over Holcomb School and a school at Oxbury. And the school at Oxbury was a Rosenwald School. I think back to the Jeannes supervisor. Miss Moore, I think was the Jeannes supervisor, and she had known me, I guess, through high school. And when I applied, see, men, in those days, my age, a lot of black men either didn't go to school, or Daddy wouldn't let them, or put them in the field. But my daddy wasn't an educated man by his standards, but by my standards, now, and while I was teaching, he was a very smart person. He was very, very smart. But she hired me. That's about the--. I don't know the history of the Jeannes teachers, but I know they had a whole lot of those at black schools. I believe they got the name from a person named Jeannes. I don't know.



Long: Yeah. But they were trying to uplift the African-American schools.



Allen: Yeah. Mm-hm.



Long: Mm-hm. That's (inaudible.) So, in what department were you put?



Allen: I majored in social science, but out there in the black school, when they built the school out of cinder block and brick, they built it in a hurry, and they had a clinic there. Well, everybody that got sick, I took them home, anyway. And in the clinic, I took my carpentry skills and built some shelves. And books of science. I put orange paint on the books of black history; I put black paint on the books of--. (Inaudible) I put green paint on them and I'd tell all the children, "Go in the clinic and library," I called it. "And get you a book with black paint on it." The color. I had a color scheme instead of a Library of Congress or whatever thing.



Long: They were color coded.



Allen: Yeah. Color coded. A long time. We had banks, credit union. Our school was set up kind of like the Congress is set up.



Long: Right. So, you had the Allen Dewey Decimal System. (Laughter.)



Allen: Yeah. I guess, if you really want to call it that. I had a Congress, and in the Congress had the House and the Senate.



Long: Right.



Allen: I had a president. I had a Supreme Court. And they could do everything but punish. They couldn't punish. I was the czar. I was the punishment. They mete out (inaudible.) And at that time, I was teaching, I believe, eighth grade history or something. Or seventh grade. We used to go out on the highway. Highway 30 ran right by our school, and I would--. At that time, the numbers of the county--. Grenada County was number twenty-two, and a car would pass. Eighty-one was Yalobusha[?], I believe, or Tallahatchee[?] or something. But anyhow, all the cars that passed there, this was Mississippi history, and I didn't want them to learn eighty-two counties in Mississippi was all there was. And I told them, and we learned it very well. And I was talking to a person that I taught in fourth and fifth grade about two years ago, that had a Master's degree. And she is working in Chicago, now. And she said, "I had that kind of stuff forty years ago. A man named Mr. Allen taught me that."



(Inaudible) said, "What kind of school did you go to?" See, what happened, a lot of people didn't care whether black poor folks learned anything. I didn't have a telephone. I didn't have a secretary. I didn't have anything. I didn't have a librarian. I served as all of that. And so, I (inaudible), the first day of school the teachers I had, had to start teaching because over the summertime, I had got some city workers to do the bookcards, the bulletin board, and the names in books. So, we didn't have a reason not to start teaching. We started teaching the first day of school, and we quit the last day of school.



Long: Mm-hm. Now, where did your books come from, early on?



Allen: The books came from the state. See, the books are--. Governor Paul Johnson started a free book program, I think it was forty-one, when I was still in the ordinary school. The first few years, I had to buy my books, but by the time I got back and started teaching, all the books came from the state. We had books.



Long: Right. OK. And they were in good condition?



Allen: Yeah. Our books were. Most of them. Yeah. Most of them were. The books, the last four or five years, we got new books. And put their names. And books and book cards and bulletin boards, that's what we did in the summer. City workers.



Long: But, let me summarize the way you organized for education.



Allen: Mm-hm.



Long: Your pedagogy was that you got people involved. You had a Congress and a--.



Allen: Yeah. Supreme Court. Congress, House, and Senate, and then, Supreme Court, and the president.



Long: So, if I were a student, how would I get to be a Congressman?



Allen: Two or three ways. I know the number one way, but two or three ways. I'd tell them the right way. And I think, they were elected like Congressmen now, from the grades instead of the districts. From the grades. The Senate, I believe it was upper grades. It's been so long ago, but I don't know how I got the Supreme Court. I remember, if you were a student, you had a chance to be any one of those branches.



Long: Yeah. So, based on your seniority, and then based on what else?



Allen: Grades.



Long: Grades.



Allen: Eighth-grade people had better judgement, I thought, than the first-grade folks.



Long: OK. So now, what if some important person's child came in? How would you handle the question of--?



Allen: I don't know about important people. Everybody in that school was important to me. Every child in that school was important to me. I have never--. Because out of all those good treatments I had, I told you about, I did have some bad ones because I was poor. People just don't like poor folks, and I was brought up (inaudible.) Be clean. I'm dirty, now. I've got holes, and my wife--.



Long: You've been painting.



Allen: Yeah. Yeah, I was painting. I was working in my shop and painting.



Long: But one thing is to be clean, and the other? If you're poor, you're trying to?



Allen: Get some book-learning, as my daddy would have said. Education. And there was no such thing as marijuana and cocaine and stuff. I didn't know about anything but "white lightning"; that's a type of whiskey. And that's all I knew about at that time.



Long: That's bootleg.



Allen: Yeah, bootleg.



Long: Alright. And so, you say: keep your self clean. Keep your clothes clean, too.



Allen: Mm-hm. Keep yourself clean. Keep your clothes clean.



Long: And then, you say education.



Allen: Education and work.



Long: Uh-huh. And stay away from the distractions.



Allen: Yeah. Yeah. It's going to be plenty of distractions to distract you and me and everybody else. Stay away from it.



Long: Mm-hm. And that way, you're respected, even though you're poor.



Allen: I am respected by the older folks now. The younger folks don't know me. I've been away too many years from Grenada except when I go back up there. And I served eight years on the city council before I was--. The governor summoned me to Jackson to serve in his cabinet.



Long: Mm-hm. So, we'll talk about that, later.



Allen: OK.



Long: But, let me talk about what led up to that. Now, you were working in the schools in Grenada.



Allen: Yes, from fifty-six to eighty.



Long: Eighty.



Allen: Yeah.



Long: Mm-hm. OK. Let me hear about what happened when freedom came. What questions arose?



Allen: Well, when freedom came--. By the way, I used to quote the Constitution verbatim from the First Amendment. At that time, it wasn't but twenty-seven. I don't know how--. I think it's twenty-seven now, but at that time, it wasn't but about twenty-one or twenty-two amendments to the Constitution. I can still tell you about the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments, and the First Amendment and some other--. But I believe it's the Twenty--. But anyhow--.



Long: Now, the Thirteenth did what?



Allen: The Thirteenth abolished slavery.



Long: OK, and the Fourteenth?



Allen: Fourteenth give the right to citizenship and the Fifteenth give the right to vote, or vice versa.



Long: No. You did it.



Allen: It's somewhere in that area.



Long: Due process in the Fourteenth. Yeah. So, you--.



Allen: And a person born or naturalized in the United States is subject to the jurisdiction of the state wherein they reside. That's the Fourteenth Amendment.



Long: A citizen of the United States.



Allen: Yeah, a citizen.



Long: (Inaudible.)



Allen: Yeah.



Long: You're entirely correct. I had to memorize it to help people take the exam.



Allen: Oh, I took the exam. (Laughter.)



Long: Tell me about that. What kind of exam are we talking about, here?



Allen: We're talking about a stupid exam to vote. I have to back up and tell you about that. I went to school, as I told you, out to Jackson State. And I had a professor named Dr. E.L. Tatum, and all the time, we called Dr. Tatum crazy. People wouldn't go to him unless they had to go. I went to Dr. Tatum six times, and when I went to register to vote, I filled out a legal sheet, and one of the questions was about the levee board, 1927. And I wrote what the levee board was designed for, why it was established, and the man looked at me at the Grenada County courthouse and said, "What do you do?"



I said, "I am a school teacher, ever since 1957." And I took the paper back up there to him.



And he said, "You didn't fill out the back."



I just said to myself, "There's enough questions on the front. I didn't know it was the back, too." And one of the other questions was: The military government is subservient to the civil government. Or something like that. And I explained that. And so, I took my wife back in there the next day.



The first thing the man asked her, "Are you Willie T. Allen's wife?"



And she said, "Yes, sir. I am."



Said, "We're closed." Same time I had gone there on Thursday; we went back [Friday].



She said, "Thank you. I'll--."



(End of tape one, side one. The interview continues on tape one, side two.)



Allen: [She said, "Thank you. I'll] come back Monday."



When I went in to [register to] vote, I told my wife, "You stay in the car. Keep the motor running." Because it was dangerous to register to vote, but the next day when I took her back I said, "I'm not going to stay in the car. I'm going to be in the hall, right by the door. But the car is outside, and I'm going to come in the hall by the door." And I heard him. I was standing outside the door.



He said, "Are you Willie T. Allen's wife?"



She said, "Yes, I am."



And said, "We're closed."



She said, "OK. I'll be back Monday." And after both of us got on the book, I haven't missed a time but once. I have missed one, since 1957. This is 2000.



Long: Give me an estimate of about how many people were on the books.



Allen: Black folks?



Long: Yeah.



Allen: I don't know about the white. Fifty.



Long: Uh-huh. And what general occupation were they? In Grenada County?



Allen: People who the white people wanted to vote. It was random. One person I know couldn't read. He was a black man, but he was favored by the white power structure and Ms. Johnson[?], the principal of the school, was on there. My wife and I, and this person that couldn't read. I could call his name, but I don't want to. They didn't have many, but I don't know how--.



Long: Well, this person you were referring to, whose name you won't call, is still alive?



Allen: No.



Long: Oh, I see.



Allen: No, he's not alive, but he's got some relatives in Grenada, but he couldn't read.



Long: Can I ask just one other question?



Allen: Yes.



Long: What kind of work did he do?



Allen: He was a business man. If I told you, the business profession, I mean, people would know. But he was a business man.



Long: OK. So, I won't ask another question. I won't ask if he was a barber or ran a restaurant.



Allen: I don't want to denigrate anybody.



Long: We're not doing that kind of interview. And I respect what you're doing here, but I did want to kind of understand what kind of relationship he had to power, so, that's why I was asking.



Allen: I don't know. I think he knew a lot of big white folks. I think. I don't know, but I know he was on the books, and he voted.



Long: OK. Now, did you register as a Democrat or Republican?



Allen: No. No. No. I had to pay poll tax for two years and had to have two consecutive poll tax receipts.



Long: OK. How much was poll tax back then, if you can remember?



Allen: Two dollars, I think. I think it was two dollars.



Long: And where did you have to go to pay that?



Allen: At the--. Shoot! The same place you payed other taxes, your property taxes. I believe.



Long: OK. Now, you were registering to vote and willing to vote at a time when it was dangerous to do that. I mean, why would you do that? I don't quite understand it.



Allen: Why I would do it? You know, I told you about Dr. Tatum and the Constitution? I was teaching a book, eighth-grade American history called This Is the American Story. And I knew it so well. Of course, I had studied at night. I never opened a book in class. And a person in the class said, "Mr. Allen, do you vote?"



I said, "No." I said, "But next time you ask me, I will have tried."



He said, "Oh, no! (Inaudible) I didn't mean that." He's in Chicago, now. I could call his name, too, but I mentioned it to him since they opened the museum. He was standing, looking at all the stuff.



I said, "You know, you are the--." I will call his name because he's still living, and it was good. His name is Joseph Rayford Homan[?].



Long: Mr. Homan?



Allen: Yeah. He is and was a smart, smart person. He said, "No, I didn't ask you for you to get in trouble. I asked you because you know all of these things." As I told you, I could probably quote the Constitution. You asked me the rest of the Fourteenth Amendment; I can't go any further than it went. (Laughter.) The rest of it didn't mean a whole lot. There's a whole lot more to the Fourteenth, and you know it, and you know what I didn't know. That's why--. I mean, that's one reason. Other reason is, I had been thinking about it. In college, in speech arts, you had to write a thirty-minute speech, a five-minute speech and so on, and my five-minute speech was on voter rights.



Long: And that was at Jackson State?



Allen: At Jackson State back in the fifties. Fifty-four and fifty-five.



Long: Right. And who would have been teaching that back then?



Allen: She wasn't teaching it. In speech arts, she asked--. You had to write a speech, and that was in a speech. I wrote it, and I practiced it with a mirror, and everybody else practiced lip movement and eye contact, and all of that, and part of [a] speech. And that was my speech. She wasn't teaching it. Other than Dr. Tatum, Dr. Tatum taught Constitution, he wasn't talking about civil rights. He was teaching constitutional government.



Long: So, the U.S. Constitution is what he would teach.



Allen: Yeah.



Long: Constitutional government.



Allen: Constitutional government is what he was teaching in speech, is what she was teaching. Naw, they didn't teach me. Somehow it embedded in me that I know these things, and I know a lot of people--. See, other words, you couldn't be a notary. You couldn't serve on a jury. A lot of things you couldn't do, if you wasn't a registered citizen. And to be a citizen, you had to be registered to vote.



Long: Uh-huh. Now, you were in the service?



Allen: Yes.



Long: You didn't have to be a registered voter to be inducted into the service?



Allen: I guess you didn't. Guess you didn't because I went in service in fifty-one.



Long: Uh-huh. Now, did you volunteer?



Allen: No! Lord!



Long: Tell me about that.



Allen: They drafted me. That's all I can tell you. They drafted me.



Long: How old were you, then?



Allen: I was twenty. I didn't want to go to Canada. I didn't want to be a draft-dodger, so, I went into the service. For two years. Hoping I didn't go to Korea.



Long: Uh-huh. Did you go anywhere other than Fort Jackson?



Allen: Fort Jackson and Fort Benning.



Long: Fort Benning.



Allen: And I had, I guess it was a critical (inaudible.) We in the personnel office sent people to Korea and to Germany and most all of them wanted to go to the European theater or (inaudible), that was called the place command, (inaudible.)



Long: That was in Japan.



Allen: Japan, Korea. Well, they didn't take soldiers, but most of the fighting was going on in Korea. North and South Korea. And it was mainly South Korea because when they got up the Yellow[?] River, I believe, that's where North Korea started.



Long: So, you were an administrative person. So, you had to do the paperwork.



Allen: Sure. I did a lot of paperwork for people to go over there. Paperwork for discharges. Paperwork for AWOL. Paperwork for anything else in the company.



Long: Was there any contradiction in the fact that they could draft you into the service as a citizen, that you could fight for your country as a citizen, and that you could not vote as a citizen?



Allen: Yeah, it was a contradiction I thought of when you asked the question, but I didn't challenge it. I was going to spend two years there and get out. I knew that when I left, that I was going to stay there as long as they required me to stay there, without getting into trouble.



Long: But you got home, and you were willing to get into trouble? After you had been in service?



Allen: Sure. I wasn't--. I am not--. I was not doing anything illegal. I never have. I've always worked for what I get. I either ask you for it. If you were to leave thirty cents, now; when you get back, it would be thirty cents there, because I wouldn't bother it. If I needed it, I would ask you for it. "Lend me this." And, "Lend me that."



Long: Yeah. So, the question I guess I have to ask is, was your country being honest with you?



Allen: No. No.



Long: So, what did people do? Say, people returning from service and other people, what did they decide they were going to do during this freedom [movement]?



Allen: I think they'd have helped because the company that I was in, everybody went to Korea, and about three months after I was there, I called him my boy, but he was a man, soldier named Alford[?] wrote me a letter back, and he told me that he had got his leg blown off. And a boy from North Carolina and his last name was Cronk[?]. We called him Baby. [He] had got killed and Elwood Cobb[?] right here in Jackson had shrapnel in his chest. He's still living. I see him quite often.



Long: He was Mr.--?



Allen: Cobb. Elwood Cobb. He has a Purple Heart now. He was a schoolteacher up at one of the high schools there, up where I lived. I believe. But anyhow, he had a Purple Heart. And the company got all messed up, and that wasn't the company I was in, but as I told you before, I had false teeth. And I was taking all the (inaudible) to go to Korea at Fort (inaudible) Washington with the rest of them. I believe it was Fort (inaudible) Washington, somewhere. I don't know (inaudible) the rest of them. And we were supposed to ship out on Tuesday, and it was Friday and a person down at the dental clinic said, "You don't have to go, soldier, if you don't want to."



I said, "What's wrong?"



He said, "You can stay here and get your teeth fixed."



I said, "Well, I'm going to stay." And then I went down to Georgia. That's why I didn't go to Korea. I had to have my teeth fixed.



Long: Mm-hm. But you were in a central area, and you were saying--.



Allen: Yeah, when I went to Georgia I was in a central area, and they told me to be a service record clerk, and, I must say, I was good at it. I was very good. Efficient. In the Army, you don't have to type a whole lot of words a minute. You have to be correct serial numbers and (inaudible) this. It has to be correct. I was pretty proficient. When they wanted to write to the Third Army Headquarters in Atlanta, they called me. That was before I left office, not when I first went in there. (Laughter.)



Long: Yeah. Now, were there other veterans who were doing what you were doing?



Allen: Yeah. Yeah, there were. (Inaudible) to name one?



Long: Yeah.



Allen: Charles and Medgar and all of us came--.



Long: Charles and Medgar who?



Allen: Medgar Evers.



Long: Uh-huh.



Allen: Medgar Evers was younger than I am. See, Charles is already about seventy-five or seventy-six. I'm just seventy. Just seventy. (Laughter.) But we came up there. A lot of veterans, they had been--. A lot of them went to Korea. I don't know which of them went, but a lot of them went to Korea and fought. I didn't fight. I was just in there during the Korean Conflict. Fifty-eight thousand folks were killed, but it was a conflict. It wasn't a war. I was just in there, and there was a lot of them did what I was doing, and more. I'm not a hero by a long shot. I just believed in standing up for my rights. That's all.



Long: But it was about as dangerous to register to vote, wasn't it?



Allen: More dangerous. Because where I lived in Grenada was Eddie[?] Street, and it turned around. They couldn't go by my house; they had to turn around at my house, and a lot of nights I'd hear cars. I could hear them because the driveway (inaudible) turned around at my house. The police had to guard me one night. Six of them was out there.



Long: And who was it? Who do you think was out there?



Allen: A lot of policemen I didn't trust.



Long: Uh-huh. And who was driving by?



Allen: I don't know. I never would go to the window to look out. By the way, the FBI came and said, "You're on the Klan's list." And I didn't ever go to the window and part the window to see who was turning around. I didn't know.



Long: Yeah. But they came and told you.



Allen: Yeah. The FBI came and told me, "You're on the Klan's list."



Long: Now, what was that list? What would they have done?



Allen: Then, if they told you you were on the Klan's list, you were in danger. I don't know what. Probably death, like Vernon Dahmer and the Philadelphia Three and a lot of-- Barry[?] in Grenada. Barry was my cousin. A lot of people got killed in the Delta, and they're trying some of them thirty and forty years after they--.



Long: So, let's talk about how, when freedom came, and you were in the school system, how you got involved.



Allen: Well, I'll tell you. I'm not going to (inaudible) it was embedded in me and knowing the Constitution as I did and knowing something of our rights, and everybody that was in the movement wasn't like Dr. King. They'd tell folks to quit their (inaudible) jobs. And I'd get right up in the church and say, "You'd better keep your jobs. I can't take care of you." And I had a consultation with them and on the city council and in the governor's office. It's not black and white. It's right and wrong. Do right. Tell the truth. Work. And a lot of those people would tell those youngsters some wrong things. And me, and I started going, try to keep them on the right track and try to, at the same time, exercise their Constitutional rights.



It was wrong for me to have to go to the back door to get a hamburger, and whites could go to the front door. And a lot of those whites, all they had to do to stay out of the Army was enroll in school. And I tried to enroll in Jackson State, and it was war for me. But at the same time, if I could have gone to Ole Miss at that time, I'd probably have got killed, but if I had been allowed to go, I wouldn't have gone in the Army. I'd have got a deferment until after I finished school. And that is why I fought as hard as I did. I wanted to right a wrong. A lot of black people are so black they're mad. I guess I'm mad, too, but I don't believe in doing folks wrong just because your skin is different from mine. I believe in doing right. And I served eight years on the city council and four years in the governor's office and nobody can ever tell you--. That's the reason I answered your question about important people's children. Everybody was the same. And, in fact, one teacher said, "Old Willie T. Allen treated us all just alike. Just like dogs." (Laughter.) So, I'm not--. I've been accused of a lot.



Long: You were impartial. (Laughter.)



Allen: Yes. I was impartial. And a lot of black people don't like it. They don't like it if you're impartial because you come straight down the middle. And one thing I always told them. You know where I stand.



"Oh, I thought--."



"I thought nothing! What did I tell you? That's where I am. That's where I'm coming from. Whatever I told you. Doesn't matter what you thought."



Long: Now, you came up during the time, you mentioned at least four people who were involved in social change.



Allen: There was many of us. Ms. Annie Devine up at Canton[?]. Ms. Winson Hudson over in Neshoba or Kemper County, somewhere back over there. Charles and Medgar Evers, James Meredith. Oh, in Grenada, it's any number of people.



Long: Right. Who would be important in Grenada to remember based on their participation during those years?



Allen: Oh, you could talk to Jasper Neely. You could talk to Floyd Beauclair[?].



Long: That's Daphne Lee?



Allen: Jasper Neely.



Long: Oh, Jasper Neely.



Allen: Jasper.



Long: Your protege.



Allen: Yeah.



Long: OK. Jasper Neely.



Allen: Yeah. Billy Joe[?] could tell you and Floyd Beauclair.



Long: And Mr. McCain was there when you were there? Billy Joe McCain?



Allen: Oh, he was a little, old boy. I'm much older than Billy Joe. So, Billy Joe was a little, old boy. He didn't have a--. No, he wasn't there. He was still--. I guess he was in Cleveland. He's been from Grenada a long time, but we always kept in contact.



Long: He said Dr. King and Abernathy stayed at his house when he was here.



Allen: Oh, they did. They sure did. His mother was living on Bell[?] Street.



Long: That's over near the school?



Allen: It's right in front of the old school. Colored school. Sure did. Yeah. He still owns the house, over on Bell Street. I know exactly where it is. Yeah.



Long: OK. Let me just hear this, then. Let me hear how when freedom did come to Grenada, can you name the different episodes of how? Let's start where you want to start.



Allen: Oh, well, ask me a question and then I will start. I don't know exactly where to start.



Long: When you got back from service, went to college and came back as a teacher--.



Allen: Came back as a teacher in 1956.



Long: Fifty six.



Allen: Uh-huh. I registered to vote in fifty-seven.



Long: You voted in fifty-seven. OK. Give me another one. We're doing a chronology. What else can you think of? Going on up--.



Allen: At the, somewhere, in the late fifties or early sixties, they wanted to name a school after me, and the reply of one of the board members, "That [is the] nigger down there trying to teach them to register to vote."



I said, "Yeah. What's wrong with that?" And they named the school after another person, (inaudible.) And in fact, I went to the person and told them, "I'm too young." Said, "You've given all your life in this county for nothing." By the way, I was making $2000 a year. And she probably wasn't making--. She had worked all her life, and she probably didn't make $1000. But I was making $2000 for eight months.



Long: So, they knew that you were a person who believed in the U.S. Constitution?



Allen: I don't know. In Grenada--.



Long: Mr. Allen, let's put this down. You were encouraging people to go down and register?



Allen: Sure.



Long: OK. Now, how would you do that?



Allen: Go register to vote? Simple. I wouldn't beat around the bush. Never did. Go, register to vote. Stay in school. Learn all you can. That's (inaudible) my message. And it still is my message. At the museum, this coming summer--. I was in Grenada the other night, and the reason I was so late, I was trying to set up a reading program for this coming summer, for children. And I can probably teach seventh- or eighth-grade math, but we need--. A lot of children are flunking math and sciences and you have to pass the ACT, and they need that kind of training to do that complicated algebra and trigonometry and geometry. And some of it I can teach; and some of it I can't. And that's still my message. Go to school. Don't let your child watch television all night. He needs some time to study. Read a book. Reading is fundamental. If you can read, you can learn on your own, some things. So, that's all I ever taught. That's what I'm doing now.



Long: OK. So, then, you registered to vote yourself. Your wife registered to vote. This was early on.



Allen: In the fifties. Late fifties.



Long: Then we moved to the sixties. What happened in the sixties?



Allen: All hell broke loose. Especially when the black folks in Grenada, sixty-six, is when everything happened. One of the Hollywood stars--I'll call his name in a minute--came down and tried to take people to school. And freedom of choice. And they got beat half to death. And they went to the federal court in Oxford. And I went up there every day, and the boy was there. They wasn't kidding. Boy, he was just picking this foot up real fast and putting it back down. He wasn't kidding.



And people pulled pistols on the principal. Pulled pistols on people, and the principal did some unkind things to black students that he hadn't been doing. We had all kinds of problems.



Long: We'll talk about some of those. But let's see. You're saying that at that time--. And you're talking about what time?



Allen: In the late fifties. And we're talking about sixty-six right now. Nineteen sixty-six.



Long: Nineteen sixty-six. Why was all of this pressure coming down in Grenada? That's what I'm asking.



Allen: James Meredith started a march against fear. I believe it was up in Hernando County, somewhere up near Memphis. And he came to Grenada and some people with the march was over asking the superintendent to pitch a tent on Woodrow Wilson school campus, and at the same time they were asking the other (inaudible) putting a tent up, and they supposedly got mad about that. But they were going to get mad about something, anyway. They just didn't want the marchers there, and about a week after the marchers left Grenada, they started arresting black folks. "I heard you was in the march. I heard you was in the march." And they came back and stayed there about two or three years. And had meetings every night. Hosea[?], Leon[?], Cotton Reeder[?]. Dr. King came about three times. Ralph Abernathy[?]. J.T. I don't know J.T.'s last name. You probably were in that. I don't know, but that's what happened.



Long: I just came through.



Allen: Big Lester.



Long: Big Lester! (Laughter.)



Allen: Yeah. You know Big Lester?



Long: SCLC. Yeah.



Allen: Yeah. He was there. Everybody was there. The Deacons of Defense. I believe they were from Louisiana.



Long: Bogalusa.



Allen: Yeah. Somewhere down there.



Long: Now, was this in response to the Klan? Or to the situation? Or what--?



Allen: It was in response to everybody. The situation and the Klan. I don't know why.



Long: The march came through Grenada.



Allen: Came through Grenada.



Long: Proceeded to Jackson. They had the big rally out at the capitol, and then why did people come back to Grenada?



Allen: Because they had started arresting. That's why they came back to Grenada. The local--. I don't know whether it was the NAACP, but a lot of local folk asked them to come back. Said, "We're being treated rough here. Y'all come back."



Long: Right. And what happened when they did come back? What kind of marches did they do?



Allen: Oh, they marched for school. They marched for integration of theaters. They marched for integration of public facilities, like cafes, and those transits. Public transit at the time was not big enough. They marched for everything.



Long: You mean in 1966?



Allen: Yeah. We tried to build a store, and they took the money.



Long: Uh-huh. That's amazing. And what was that about? Tell me about that.



Allen: They said we were a secondary boycott trying to put a man out of business.

(Inaudible.) We had raised $31,000. We had spent about half of it on the building; they took sixteen. We still had sixteen left in the bank, and (inaudible) took it all and tied the land up, and they sued folks that had been dead for ten years, in Bellflower City[?]. Johnny and Neely and Charlie Ladell[?] had been dead a whole long time.



Long: So, people in Grenada were trying to build their own grocery store?



Allen: Their own grocery store.



Long: Pack and Sack? Or what?



Allen: Pack and Sack. The man was named Gilbert. No, B and P. It was going to be Black and Poor, but Pack and Sack, Gilbert Allen[?], the nearest store to it--.



Long: Wait a minute, now. You said it was going to be Black and--?



Allen: Poor. B and P.



Long: Y'all were going to name the store what?



Allen: B and P.



Long: For Black and--?



Allen: Poor.



Long: Black and Poor.



Allen: I think that's what it stood for. (Laughter.) But anyhow, it was B and P.



Long: Yeah.



Allen: And the judge up there ordered us to pay $114,000, and they brought it to the Supreme Court and said that was an excessive thing. That $114,000 was too much, and they threw it out. But we still had anything that any of those plaintiffs in the case owned tied up for six or seven years.



Long: Yeah. So, the people who were in control of the situation in Grenada got scared basically, and started--?



Allen: No. We couldn't hurt them. Economically, I guess we could, if people had owned a store, they would have gone for the store, but we weren't able to build it.



Long: So, why was the establishment turning on the black people?



Allen: Black folks. Black folks weren't supposed to do anything but scratch their head, and grin, and be glad to have what they had. That's what had turned them. They still don't want you to do anything worthwhile, but sell drugs and go to jail and pay fines. They don't want you to do anything worthwhile. I'm preaching, "Stay out of trouble. If you know selling dope is against the law, then you quit selling dope." Just take a hold of them and talk to them. Get black youngsters against[?] fast money. And you talking about getting rich quick.



Long: Yeah. OK. Let's do this one thing. I want to focus on the demonstrations. And we'll spend just a little time on this. You can just tell it as a story. You can go ahead and tell me what--.



(End of tape one, side two. The interview continues on tape two, side one.)



Long: [You can go ahead and tell me what] was happening when people decided to come back from Jackson and start these demonstrations. Tell me where they happened. Just describe the situation.



Allen: They came back from Jackson, and demonstrated all over.



Long: Who?



Allen: Basically Leon Hall[?], R.B. Cotton Reeder, and Hosea Williams[?]. But Abernathy and Leon Hall, R.B. Cotton Reeder, Hosea Williams, Big Lester and somebody named J.T. It was five, or six, or seven. Maybe ten of them. I don't know, but I remember the Deacons for Defense was there. SCLC, NAACP had kind of a back-seat role. SCLC was the leader. And Cotton Reeder and Hosea and Leon were working for themselves. See, and they demonstrated about everything. Everything that was wrong, from the movie theaters that were segregated. The one uptown is torn down, now. Uptown Grenada. Most of Grenada is out on Highway 8, now, but at that time it was downtown. And I ran for city council in 1972. It's a division of Grenada called Pine Hill, I wanted in the city limits there, and got all around within the city limits, and this Pine Hill was the place I grew up. I wanted it in the city limits. And Holiday Inn, way out there next to [Highway] 55 wanted to come in and Pine Hill is way back over there close to the town. And they hadn't come in there. And I didn't have any objections to Holiday Inn coming in. They needed water so they could get better insurance rates, and I wanted them. But I just asked, "Why haven't you taken Pine Hill in? I'll vote for Holiday Inn when you vote for Pine Hill." And I was the only one, and they could all vote them in, but they didn't want to. I had uncovered something.



Long: Right. Now, can you centralize your focus on the Confederate monument downtown? Did you hear about or did you--?



Allen: Jefferson Davis, monument in the square?



Long: Yeah.



Allen: Yeah. Sure.



Long: Tell me about that particular incident.



Allen: I don't know when it was put there, but I know it was there. Well, one night there was a great march and the highway patrolman said, "There was a mile of niggers back there." So--.



Long: The highway patrol said there was what?



Allen: "A mile of niggers."



Long: A mile of them?



Allen: I don't know how many there is, but it's a mile of niggers back behind me. (Laughter.) See, they was guarding. The FBI and a lot of other people. Some do-gooders, from everywhere was there, and they didn't mean us a whole lot of good. I had one stay at my house. So, they opened the courthouse up at night and let us register to vote. One night, just about, the square, (inaudible) statues in the square and Leon or Cotton Reeder or somebody (inaudible.) The next night they had a big ring of black men around it. Every one of them was taken from Parchment, and, oh! Jesse Jackson was one of the ones that came in there, too. Yes. Yes, sir. Jesse's been in Grenada. Marian Wright, one of the first black--.



Long: Marian Edelman.



Allen: Edelman. Marian Wright Edelman was one of the first black lawyers I saw. And one of the white businessmen came out of the courthouse one day and says, "That Negro girl up there talking," says, "white lawyers here can't hold a candle to her." Says, "That Negro girl knows the law." And he was talking about Marian Wright.



Long: Yeah. So, they had these demonstrations to dramatize what issue?



Allen: They had the demonstrations to dramatize injustice, and every segment of life was segregated in justice. We couldn't get jobs. We didn't get pay. And when Gladys Noel Bates sued the state of Mississippi, I was living with her mama over on Pearl Street. Gladys and her husband was in Denver the last time I heard from them. I don't know where they are now, or whether they are still living or dead.



Long: And what did she sue the state for? Equalization of pay?



Allen: Equalization of pay, black and white teachers. Mm-hm.



Long: And what was the outcome?



Allen: She won, but she lost her job.



Long: Let me hear that again.



Allen: She won the suit, but she lost her job. Nobody in Mississippi would hire her, so she went to Colorado.



Long: Hm. Isn't that something?



Allen: Yeah.



Long: What if you decided that you wanted to get an NAACP card, and you were a teacher?



Allen: Oh, you got fired. You kept it a secret if you joined the NAACP. In fact, when I was in college we used to have social science forums. One was held at Millsaps. One was held at Tougaloo. One was held at Rust. You notice that I didn't say Alcorn, Jackson State. You noticed that Mississippi State?



Long: I noticed you didn't say that.



Allen: All private schools. And let me tell you, if they found out they went to one of those social science forums, you got fired. And the way they knew, used to, to get a job as a teacher, you had to write the five organizations you belonged to and five organizations you made contributions to, and I would fill up my page with Sunday school, church, and harmless organizations, and then didn't have any more room.



Long: Right.



Allen: And that pretty well--. Well, the teachers' meeting, Mississippi Teachers' Association and other teachers' organization that was the white organization. They didn't budge. They came to Jackson at the same time, but the black teachers met over at Jackson State. I don't know where the white folks met.



Long: They met separately.



Allen: Yeah. Mm-hm. Separately.



Long: Right. Mm-hm. OK. So, now, you've described situations that relate to education and educators in the state. What else? You were saying folks were marching against equality. What else can you think of?



Allen: Equality. Riding on the bus, and when I was in the Army, there was a curtain. As long as white folks got on, they could go all the way to the back. You had to move that curtain. It was leather or rubber or something. It wasn't an iron curtain. But it was a curtain on the bus. So, Fort Benning, Georgia, is on Highway 80, about 400 miles due east of here. And you can get on one bus at Columbus, Georgia, and come on to Jackson, Mississippi. And you get on the bus from Columbus, Georgia to Winona, Mississippi, and then I'd get off (inaudible) highway and thumb, but I'd be in Grenada by the time my bus got there. My bus got there at eight and the bus got to Winona at six. That's twenty miles, and at that time, if you had a uniform, people would pick you up, but they were marching against the seating arrangement on the bus. Train. I don't know. I didn't fly. I'd never flown, then, until much later. I don't know where they'd put black folks on an airplane. I guess I never did know anybody who flew. They either went on the car. They were marching the cafes, theaters. You name it.



Long: Uh-huh. So, if I were driving through Grenada and I was doing interstate commerce, coming from Georgia or from Memphis, and my wife wanted to go to the bathroom, where would she go?



Allen: Oh, the bathrooms they had: men, women, and colored. She'd go in the colored bathroom, if they had one.



Long: Mm-hm. And if they didn't have one?



Allen: If they didn't have one--. I used to have the thing: "Where is your bathroom?"



"Around there."



"OK. Fill my car up with gas." All the service stations then were attended. You didn't put your gas in yourself.



"Fill my car up with gas."



[But if they said,] "I don't have one."



"OK. Thank you, sir." Drive off. So, that's the way (inaudible) to stop. (Inaudible) way to stop in the road.



Long: Right.



Allen: But they were demonstrating against everything. All the (inaudible) activities in the schools and federal money and anything else that came in. We didn't get any of it. I told you we had hand-me-down (inaudible.) We did have new books. We did have new books, but everything else was used. And I used to say, I guess I was (inaudible) because we had new books. I said, "The black schools didn't get anything new but coal. And they couldn't figure out a way how to burn the coal and give it to us secondhand. So, all the coal we got." (Laughter.) We didn't have the steam heat that they have now. Central. You had to fire old pot-bellied heaters with that coal. In the country, the trustees of the school brought the wood. In town, we had a coal house and I said, "The only thing we got that wasn't used was coal. And they haven't figured out how to burn that and then give it to you."



Long: Yeah. So, that's why people were marching.



Allen: Yes.



Long: This was men and women?



Allen: Yeah. Men, women, and young folks. Folks my age, walking on a stick couldn't march, but it was a lot of old folks that marched, but basically it was young people.



Long: Yeah. Now, what about if school was going on? How--?



Allen: Usually they marched with folks that weren't in school, but when school was out, there was a lot of children. I went to school. When I was a teacher, I went to school every day. Seven fifteen I was standing out there, and I stayed there till four o'clock, but after four o'clock, I always let them know, this happens after. My First Amendment rights give the me the right to assemble anywhere I want to assemble. I told the superintendent, and these are the words: "If the board don't want me to march, they can put it in writing (inaudible)." They wouldn't. They never did tell me to put it in writing.



Long: Yeah.



Allen: Never did.



Long: Yeah. So, you pretty much were standing up for your rights even though you were in a kind of--?



Allen: I was a principal of a school, and I told my niece the other day, I said, "Not many black teachers hired, but at the time you were hired, I hired you." And especially, since she's from Alcorn, and I'm from Jackson State. And we don't like one another. It's usually during football season, that we are big rivals. I said, I pulled for McNair[?], and I hired her. And I used to pull for--. And when Jackson State didn't beat Alcorn or McNair, (inaudible.)



But the rights of folks are more important than anything I know. And that's what I was setting up for. If you don't get an education, you're lost anyhow. You're going to be (inaudible.) The black folks are going to turn against you, if you don't know what you're doing. We got a majority council, four out of seven, in Grenada now. And in Jackson, I think it's four out of seven or six or something. They care more about how they're going to do it and how they're going to do than we did. We didn't try to make a name. We just tried to do right. I served on the council eight years, and I believe I could have been serving now, but the one they got now, don't stand up for right and wrong. It's not black or white. Right or wrong.



Long: OK. Let's stop here.



Allen: OK.



Long: And I want to thank you for giving me this time, and I want you to know that this is one of the tapes that will go into the museum. You said you wanted it for the museum.



Allen: Yes. Yes, I do.



Long: OK. And this is the general tape, and I recommend that we do a follow up tape. They'll go ahead and process this tape, but I do recommend that we do a follow up because you've got so much history. Did you feel that that helped you in what you may want to read in your library? What else would you include?



Allen: I need pictures. In fact, what I have in the A.B.J.W. Museum, which is at 308 Martin Luther King Boulevard in Grenada, Mississippi, [are] artifacts. Old washing machines, old tools, old--. Now, pictures can be of anything. I just have finished a board of people who served, rank, name, branch of service, and the year you served. Thank you. I got another board over there of those who lost their lives in war. Thank you. And I got pictures, and I see the Rebel flag up there in the corner (laughter), and I got all of the--. Not all of them, but some of them from forty-five to eighty of the colored high school, when the people finished there. I got pictures of the principals and pictures of people and pictures of important people because they are--.



Long: Well, you've got a history museum.



Allen: --historical.



Long: And I hope this will be helpful to it, and I will try to think of other things that may be helpful to you, but I think I may want to go up and talk with your protege Mr. Neely and interview him about that same thing.



Allen: Yeah. He's in the building. He can give you a whole lot. On 308 Martin Luther King. I still say, "Commerce"; 308 Martin Luther King. It's old Highway 51. You won't forget that. Maybe not. We won't forget Martin Luther King, either. But anyhow, it's on the outside in big letters.



Long: OK.



Allen: A.B.J.W. Museum.



Long: OK. That's fine. Thank you, again.



Allen: OK.



(End of the interview.)

 
 

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