was transcribed as part of the Civil Rights Documentation
Funding for this
project was provided in part by the Mississippi
the National Endowment for the Humanities, and
Department of Archives and History.
Mr. T.B. Bankston was born
in October in the early 1900s, on a Mississippi plantation.
As a child, Mr. Bankston helped his father farm in the Duck
Hill community. As a young man, he worked mule teams with
a breaking plow to clean new pastures. From various "root"
healers, he learned to make herbal remedies out of plants,
animals, and minerals. As an adult, he married and raised
a family by sharecropping, scrapping cotton, and hunting.
During the civil rights movement, he found the courage to
stand up to the Ku Klux Klan.
Early childhood 2
World War I veterans 3
Plowing with mules 6
Cooking in a chimney 8
Herbal remedies 9
Farming in Grenada 14
Scrapping cotton 17
Ku Klux Klan 30
Automobile accident 35
Near drowning 37
AN ORAL HISTORY
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Mr. T.B. Bankston and is taking place on October 16, 1999.
The interviewer is Worth Long.
Long: OK. Can
you tell me your name and where and when you were born?
that's something I can't tell you because I don't know exactly.
All I know, it's in October. It was in October. See, when
we were coming up, the people wouldn't tell you. Your parents
wouldn't tell you because they said it would make you mannish.
You know, make you leave home. All that. They wouldn't tell
us. Papa didn't tell me until I got twenty-two, and that was
in thirty-nine. He told me that, then. We was down at Tie
Plant, a place called Tie Plant on Ben McElrat's[?] plantation.
Fellow called Ben McElrat.
Long: OK. Now,
do any of your brothers and sisters know how old they are?
the closest that you can think of? Who know?
I'm the oldest.
me how old do you figure you are?
look, when I told you I was forty-three when I come in, I
was older than that, and I know it, but the day I don't know,
because Papa told me--.
Long: So, you
were forty-three when you came to--
was forty-three, and I came here in fifty-five.
to what place?
here. Over in Gulfport, and then come on over here.
Long: I see.
Papa wouldn't tell us. Him and Mama separated in thirty-nine.
In thirty-nine. And I was around twenty-two or twenty-three
years old then. You understand?
he let me start to smoking when I got twenty, and I had been
smoking for years, two or three years before then, because
I was smoking up there on the Dan Jordan Plantation.
where was Dan Jordan Plantation?
out north of Duck Hill. Place called Duck Hill. That's out
north of Duck Hill. Out towards that Indian reservation. You
know where that Indian reservation [is] up there?
Long: Up near
Duck Hill, Mississippi?
the other side of Duck Hill. Way in yonder. About sixty or
seventy miles back yonder way.
were y'all doing up there in the first place?
me about it.
Papa moved up there to try to, you know, to raise us up and
get us a fair living. You know, where he could get something.
Long: But he
moved from where?
down there at Duck Hill. Out north of Duck Hill. That's way
up in there, around Swetman[?] and Lodi[?]. You heard talk
it was up in there around Tupelo. We moved up in there on
a plantation up there they called Mr. Henry Riley's[?] plantation.
Called it Steeden[?] Place. They called it the Steeden Place.
That's where all them bad Abrams[?] was, killed colored folks,
you know. I forget that little, old creek. Anyway, it's up
there. You remember when Uncle Sam bought that, took all that
land up there when they put Camp McCain[?] up there? And they
found that white lady, Ms. Lily Day[?] had all that big, old
pretty house. They didn't tear it down. You know they didn't
tear down Mr. John Bauden's[?] place when Uncle Sam bought
that, up there.
Long: You mean
that was World War II?
It was before then.
now. It was before World War II?
was. Them other soldiers, that war, they were coming in with
them leggings wrapped around them up in here and them old
was World War I.
let me tell you. You might would know. We were big, old boys.
Sometimes, it would be a month or so, folks be coming through,
two or three men, sometimes one man, with all that big pack
on his back. They done been over there fighting war, and they
were coming back home, walking. You know, they'd sleep all
beside the roads and everywhere. They had them leggings up
to here; wrapped from here up. You know how them leggings
was on them.
them big, old Army coats way down here. Well, that was then.
kind of looking men were they, coming back?
and black. White and black, coming back out of the war. See,
they just put them so far and turned them loose. They had
to walk home.
Long: Is that
That was way back yonder. Well, this other war, they--.
Long: How big
were you, then?
that come up?
you saw them?
I was like this. (Gesturing.) I was like that. If I could
get to Mr. Dan Jordan's cemetery and find that tombstone,
I could tell you about how old them is. That was way back.
I tell you what. You remember when Lindbergh flew over Mississippi,
the first plane.
he flew overseas?
come over here.
Long: I didn't
even remember it.
he come over here. Lindbergh. Well, that's when my brother
run from the plane, talking about, "There's a devil up there,
flying." (Laughter.) And then, I'll tell you something else.
You remember when that high water was in thirty-two? Wasn't
it? Thirty-one or thirty-two. And that colored woman paddled
that boat, that old skiff, across the Mississippi River, and
had that pig and two babies and a dog in there? You know,
she made it safe to this side. What was the year? Was that
in thirty-one or thirty-two? That high water.
Long: It was
in the thirties.
water drowned all them folks' cows and hogs and things. And
that woman paddled across the Mississippi River with her children
and the dog and the pig.
let's see this, and then you can tell me something else, but,
the people came from the war before the high water came?
They would sometimes be two or three men, walking. You know,
just going. They done give out. They just was going. And whenever
they'd get tired, they would lay down there and sleep there,
because, you see, they would stay warm with the clothes they
had on. And they had them leggings. You know them leggings,
what I'm talking about. You wrap them on up to here. They
had them on. Them old Army coats, with them old, big shiny
buttons. And them old hard hats.
They were roundish-looking hats.
Right. Hard. I had one one time. Somebody took it. I had one
I dug up out of the woods. Somebody done took it.
So, let's go back and be sure that we understand that your
name as far as you know is what?
what my really name was T.B. Bankston.
Bankston. B-A-N-K-S-T-O-N. Bankston.
Long: I see.
now, when they set up in the war, drafted me out to service,
Mr. Johnny Heath[?], I think it was, he was the head of the
local board in Grenada, and he told Mr. David "White Dude"
Whittaker[?], David DuBard[?] that he going to do away with
my name. And he done it.
what was the reason he was doing that?
me from going overseas. Keep them from sending me overseas
and have me taking aspirin that upset my heart. You understand?
I go to where they welding at, and sit there all day. They
have me to sit there all day, so, say that would upset my
eyes, too. You know.
Long: So, what
were they going to do with you if you didn't go?
they were going to send me on in the service.
Long: I mean,
I know that the draft board was going to take you, but the
people you were working for who had you--.
were working me on the plantation. And in them deadwoods,
cleaning them new grounds. Cleaning, building pastures for
miles. Because Uncle Sam would let them have them cows to
raising them on halves, you know.
Long: Who did
plowing? Me, and all the rest of them.
kind of? Did you have a one-horse team or--?
I had, sometimes I had two mules. Sometimes four mules. To
a breaking plow.
bet you don't remember what the names of the mules were?
I tell you one of them. See this scar? See right here?
used to wear a leather bracelet on there.
down by your wrist?
over here. Big leather band, I used to wear it on this. OK.
This mule named Bill. We got him from overseas. His name was
Bill. He done killed two or three men. He had three splits
in his ear, and he hit at me to get me and busted that off
my arm. So, I put him in the stable and tied him with a trace
chain to the stable and whipped him. And he got mad, and he
was going to kill me. See, he was going to kill me. His name's
Old Bill. He a big yellow mule. And he weighed 1200 and something
pounds. He was going to kill me. He come from overseas. You
know, back then, we was eating the mule meat. You know, the
big middling, like that. You don't remember that big middling.
Mules. That was mule and horse meat. We eat it when that war
was going on.
Long: I see.
And why did they bring him to Grenada?
he was a good mule. He was a good mule, but he was bad. His
name was Old Bill, big yellow mule.
Long: As a
mule. Weighed 1200 pounds. Old Bill. You could put him to
a log this tall and turn him loose. In other words, just carry
him to where you land the logs and carry him back to the log,
and you'd stay there. He'd come. He'd carry that log to somebody
at the landing, from here to my house, unhook him, [and] he
would come back to you. And you hook him to another one, and
he'd do the same thing. You didn't have to follow him. He'd
go back to the log.
Long: He was
trained. He was a mule. Aw, he was a mule.
would make a good mule?
really, to make a good mule, Mister, look, you've got to feed
him, and curry him, and keep him clean. Bathe him, and all
that. You know we used to have to ride them out in them lakes
when we'd come out of the field in Lake Henry and bathe the
mule and shear him off. Then we'd turn them loose with the
horses and feed them. You see. But every evening, we had to
bathe them mules. See, but us colored folks, we just curry
them good, you know, and take old greasy dishwater and bathe
them. You know. Rub them and keep their hair pretty and black.
And feed them all kind of--. You know, like we take medicine,
we'd feed the horses and mules that, and it makes a real good
mule. It really do. And mules get down sick, you can take
turpentine. You'd be surprised what you can do with turpentine
with them. His navel. You take a teaspoon, put it half full
of turpentine, put it under that mule's navel, you can see
it going up. Put it that far from it, and you'll see it going
in his navel.
boom, dry. And if he's sluggish, you'll see him go to moving.
You'll see him go to moving. And get that Brown Mule Chewing
Tobacco and chip it up in his food, you know. Brown Mule.
what will that do for him?
that cleans him out. It'll make him stronger. He'll eat more.
See that tobacco gets the worms and things out of him. You
understand? And you better not have that old homemade tobacco.
You chip it up in his food, you know. In his corn and stuff.
You understand? Like them charcoal you burn out of oak wood.
You put that in his food, too. See, he eats that. See, that--.
Long: And what
would that do for him?
him, give him more pep. Oh, sure, man. Give him pep. Hogs
the same way. Hogs, cows. You know a cow got a wool in them,
you know what to do to get them wools out their back, don't
Long: Is that
coal oil. Just drop a little on him. He'll come out himself.
Some of them be that big. Buried in their back and in their
shoulder. Just like a rabbit. Just like a rabbit.
Long: So, you
use turpentine and kerosene or coal oil?
Long: And what
it'll do? It'll make the--?
that wool come out of them. Out of the cows, too.
Long: The wool.
They call them wool. They'll be in their backbone. Some of
them be that big. You see them cows with them knots on them
and their hair standing up?
a wool in there. Well, you've got a rag under him with that
and touch him. Rub him. He coming out of there. He coming
out. See, if you don't, somebody kill that cow and see, when
they skin him, they see that wool fall out, they won't eat
him. You see? You get that all out of him. Man, it's a lot.
Long: In the
old times, people used to do a whole lot of things.
That's the way I learned it. You ever eat a rabbit cooked
in the chimney?
ain't never eat nary one? Look, you dress that rabbit; you
musk that rabbit.
it. Get that musk out of it. You get all kinds of seasoning,
and mix it up. And get that aluminum foil and wrap him. First
wrap him in that wrapping paper. Then, wrap that aluminum
foil around him. Put all that seasoning on him. Thick. Wrap
him good. Then, get you some brown paper and roll him up in
there. Go up on top of the house. Lay you a piece of iron
across the chimney and put a piece of wire on it. Let it hang
down about that far. Let him stay in there two or three days.
Go in there and get him out.
that's hanging down about--?
or four foot. You understand? Tie him in the middle of that
rod laying up there on top of the chimney.
him in the chimney?
him in the chimney. Let him stay. You know in the winter when
it's real cold, you keep a fire all day and night, don't you?
you let him. Don't--. Hang him up there. Let him stay two
or three days. Go there and take him down and put him on your
table. Take your time and open that up. And you talking about
eating! You're going to eat bones and all. All that seasoning,
clean through. You'll chew the bones up. See, a lot of peoples
don't know that. Now, if you want to do it right, so you won't
ever have to take no medicine, you get you a hickory tree.
You get you a hickory tree, and cook him with that. Then,
make your bread up and put them ashes back, and put that meat
in there. Put your bread over in there and cover it up with
them ashes. And let it cook, and eat that. You don't have
to take no medicine.
medicine would you have to take, generally? What medicine
would it replace?
kind of working medicine. That there will work you out.
work you out?
I say it'll work your cold out of you. Hickory ashes. And
this here red oak is good. But, see, these folks don't know
nothing about this.
did your mama give you, say, if you seemed like you were going
to have the flu or something?
Jimsonweed. Or else hog goo.
Long: Hog goo?
goo. And you know what a hog pistol is under here? Where his
pee come out? When you dress him, you cut all that out, you
know? Well, papa take that and cut it up and split it open
and wash it out, and he put it in a skillet and fries it till
all the grease come out, and he strain it. Then he get him
a little tallow and put in there and put it in a jar, and
when we get a bad cold, he give us a pill of it.
Long: And then
(Laughter.) You've got pneumonia? Ain't nothing. Ain't nothing.
Ain't nothing to it.
happened to that old time medicine?
folks just quit making it and the law went to--. You know,
they were going to put me in jail until I told them that I'm
doing it to try to save the folks. I'm not doing it to try
to make no money. And the law told them, said, "Leave him
what you were doing, you were doing old time medicine?
Just like you got tonsilitis. Say "T., my tonsils. I'm going
to have to go to the doctor."
I say, "No, you ain't."
You say, "T.," say, "Will you
I said, "Yes." When I cure
you and you hear tell of the law got me, going to lock me
up, you're going to go up and tell them, "Don't." Ain't you?
that's the way it was. They were going to lock me up. They
said they were going to send me to the pen. But I was helping
did they call you an old time doctor?
Long: Did they
think you were a root man?
Long: You was
a root? What? What was you?
Just like you got tonsil trouble? You tell me. Tell me, and
I'll cure you. One dose. If I don't, I'll eat you. Just like,
you got diarrhea? And, I went to my uncle. I didn't know he
was sick. I stayed about ten miles from him. I asked Aunt
Freddy[?], "Where is Uncle Sam?"
She said, "He in there." Said,
"T., you know Sam is dying?"
I said, "What's the matter
She said, "He got the diarrhea,
and the doctor can't cure him."
I went in there. I said, "Uncle
He said, "Uhn." Foam all down
him, just white. His eyes couldn't hardly open.
I said, "Uncle Sam, you want
me to cure you?"
He said, "Uhn-huhn."
I said, "Aunt Freddy, where
She said, "Go around in the
chimney corner, T. Or else, look in the garden and get it."
I got it, went down the path, and I go to a blackberry briar
root. You know what a blackberry is. Not no dewberry, now.
A blackberry. I dig it up. Go to the well, and draw me a bucket
of water and wash that root off and let you chew it. And you
swallow one swallow. Don't swallow two. It'll lock your bowels.
And in a few minutes, you'll hear your stomach go to saying,
"Rrrrrrrr." I laugh at you. But you will get scared. Think
you're dying. Look, the next morning, you'll be up.
fellow we had--. You heard them talking about Big Bill, here?
Bad Big Bill used to be on the police force.
I heard of him.
his wife's sister is in Natchez, now. And her brother was
at my house at night, and his mother called from up there
down here, and asked was Charlie there. And she told them,
Said, "Could I speak to him?"
Say, "Yeah." Well, she told
him, said, "Charlie, your mother on the phone." About eleven
or twelve o'clock. Said, "She got to be in the hospital in
the morning. To live." Say, "She ain't eat in three days.
Won't eat nothing." Said, "And she gone to smelling." Her
name is Tempe[?].
So, he said, "T., I heard you
say you could cure the tonsil trouble."
I say, "I can."
He say, "You can't."
I say, "Yes, I can."
He say, "Will you get up and
tell Mama what to do?"
I got up. I told her. I said,
She said, "Yeah."
I said, "Well, you get your
knife point. Get some sulfur and pick up what you can pick
up on the end of a knife point. Get a piece of brown paper."
Now, you know brown paper sack? "And tear it like this. And
put it right in the middle of it, and roll it up like you're
rolling a cigarette. You open your mouth and blow it down
your daughter's throat. It's tastes like flour." You know
how flour tastes?
that's the way it is. If you've got to take two doses, your
tonsils is gone. You don't take no more. No more tonsil trouble.
I raised all of my children, sisters, and brothers. Never
been to the doctor.
You know sulfur. Old yellow sulfur.
I know. That stuff you put around the house?
Now, what that do when you put it around the house?
the snails and snakes and things away. But you take that.
That's the best medicine in the world. They tried to outlaw
it to keep us from going, so we can go to the doctor. They
tried to outlaw it and say it's poison. But I was raised up
on it. I got some at the house now.
Long: So, you
wrap it up in a--? What kind of paper?
You know a paper sack. Now, a brown paper sack. You tear you
a piece about that long and about that wide. (Gesturing.)
Long: So, that's
about as long as your hand, then?
about that long. Like a cigarette. Just like. Look a-here
now. You look at me. You watch what I'm doing now.
Long: I see.
You took out your knife.
You see where I can take this knife and pick up on the end
of it. I put it right in the middle of it. And, look, I take
that paper. I roll that paper just like a cigarette. You open
your mouth and you stick it down in there and blow it in there
on your tonsils. It tastes like flour. You know how flour
tastes. No taste, is there?
that's what it is. You never feel nothing.
Long: So, you
blow it one side and then blow it on the other.
just stick down there and blow it one time. Blow it out. That's
it. And like you've got diarrhea. You know, there's a lot
of folks die with the diarrhea, and I sees them when I go
to the hospital, and I go to telling them, I say, "Y'all,
I can cure you."
"I'm scared of that. I'm scared
Look, you know ice? Ice. Ain't
poison, is it?
live off of ice, though. I told a woman lived next door to
me what to do to save her mother. You know what she told me?
"I ain't going to kill my mother." Nothing but put some ice
in a bag, and put it to your leg. And put a band around it,
and freeze it out.
part of your leg?
part where it hurts. Got ice in a bag. Put it behind there
and hold it till you can't. When you can't, you take it off.
When you feel like it, put it on. Freeze that cold. Then you
take stuff to run it on out of you. And she told folks, "T.B.
is wanting me to kill my mother." I wouldn't do that, Mister.
I won't do that. I know too much.
the worst thing you done cured?
worst thing? Well, I cured my uncle. I cured mules, hogs,
cows, everything. I say, everything. They get down and can't
get up, and ain't going to get up, but when I get through--.
That white man stopped me. He had the cows. He give them all
to me, and the cows. He had other ones around back. He stopped
me. He said, he was going to let them die. He'd let them die
before he'd give them to me. I had a pasture full. See, you
know, the calves used to be born. You know, they used to give
colored folks the calves. He quit that.
Long: Why would
they do that?
making too much money. You making too much money. Look at
me. I moved on the place. The man told me, said, "T.B., I
don't want nothing but half of your cotton."
I said, "Yes, sir." I planted
thirty acres of corn.
where was that?
up there at Grenada. I'm from Grenada. The place they called
the Hard Time Plantation. The Hard Time Plantation. Out towards
Coffeeville, a place called Coffeeville. And I planted thirty
acres of corn. I planted about fifteen or twenty acres of
sorghum. You don't get none of it. He done told me, "Plant
two or three acres of peanuts." That's everything, you know.
Well, I know he's going to take half of the cotton. Well,
I made so much corn, and I went to the co-op. I didn't know
what to do. I heard the folks talking about the [co-op]. I
went there. I told them I had so many hundred bushels of corn,
and could they get the co-op people to come get some load.
He said, "No, T. I called Arkansas,
way in the North, some big feed places." Said, "And they sending
them eighteen-wheelers in here."
I said, "Well, do that." And
the boss man seen them two eighteen-wheelers in there, he
come down there. (Laughter.)
And he said, "What these so-and-so's
I said, "I had them come in
here and pick up this corn."
"Well, they don't pick up no
more, T.B. That's too much money for you."
I ain't going to tell what
he said but, "That's too much money for you."
Long: You split
the cotton with him, but you didn't--.
he told me I could have the corn and the peas, sorghum, all
the other stuff. He wanted half of the cotton. That's all
he wanted. He don't want nothing else. See, he ain't ever
had nobody that would work like me. You know. I was making
100 bushels to an acre on corn. See.
Long: And how
many acres did you have?
thirty acres of corn. See? And the next time, you know what
he told me?
you don't plant but five acres of corn."
I said, "Yes, sir." Planted
cotton and stuff for him, and I had to work it.
did you buy with the money you got?
Well, the money that he didn't get, I bought me a truck, buy
me food, buy me cows, buy me some hogs to feed my family.
Long: How many
did you have by then?
many in the family?
how many? Was this your own family by then?
this is my own family.
me who they were.
me see, my boy, John Lee. Oh, wait, to start, my stepboy.
Let me see, James Lee, Billy, Willy Louis.
Louis. They found him dead in the North.
And who else?
Ollie B. And Banella.
That was a girl?
That Charles' mother. We named her after her mother. See,
her daddy raised her. He was a drunkard, and she was good
to me, and I wanted her. And I married her. That's the only
time I ever been married in my life. So, we had children.
Long: You had
had three stepboys, and I raised them. But they pay attention
to what the white folks and the rich colored folks. See, when
I go in the field in the morning, and come out at three o'clock,
it's a bale of cotton, on whatever I empty it on. They tell
me to empty it on, it's a bale of cotton. I'd get my rifle;
I'd go over in the swamp and kill squirrels or coons and bring
them home and skin them to feed my folks, and I kept them
fed. You understand? So, they didn't like that. And so, there
was a preacher called Reverend Monroe[?].
Long: Who was
Monroe. He was a preacher.
kind of sounds like Montgomery or Reverend?
I know is Reverend Monroe.
right. His children up there now. They crazy about me and
my chaps. Well, the white man went over there and went to
gigging about [how] many it was. And he was a young man, like
me, but he had them children. He told me that. He said, "T."
I said, "Sir?"
He come over in the field where
I was picking cotton. I stopped. Sat down on my sack with
him. He said, "Tomorrow morning," said, "you'd better get
in the field." Said, "Son, I'm coming at you."
I said, "Reverend Monroe, you
can't touch us."
He said, "Son," said, "I'm
going to tear you up." He said, "I'm quitting now."
I said, "Y'all chose all of
them." Wife and all. His wife was out there. Had a little
wife, but all them children. They went home, and they had
a shoat about that tall. They killed that hog, and they all
eat a bellyful of meat. It ain't nothing to laugh about. Well,
the next morning, the news hit us. He eat so much meat till
he died that night. Reverend Monroe did. He was going to try
to race with me. They couldn't do nothing with me.
you mean you could do one-hundred?
hundred what? A hundred pound of cotton?
hundred. Seven and eight hundred [is] what I pick every day.
you put it?
my sack. Look, Mister, when I leave the cotton house, I leave
with three nine-foot sacks. Nine-foot sacks. You can put 110
[or] 120 pounds in one sack. When you turn around and put
this on [there] and hold that sack.
it with your both foots. You got them other tied on the back.
You don't have to quit and go up yonder to get your sack.
You got your sack right here. Untie one off of here and untie
one off the back. And just leave them there till you fill
them all up. And my children. Ooooh! My wife didn't go to
the field. I told the man. He got sore with me till he found
out something. He didn't have to come in the field over me.
He didn't. And he will tell anybody down
there. He'd tell anybody, "You don't have to go in the field
on T.B." You look at me. I'll tell you what I did. After he
started taking the corn and stuff on halves, I used to go
around on everybody's place, like you had a place.
And I would say, "Mister, y'all
through picking cotton?"
I'd say, "Can I have your scrapping?"
And you'd tell me, "Yeah."
I'd say, "Would you put it
on this piece of paper for me, please?" And then you put it
on your paper and put number 100 on there. This is what's
on my truck. The white folks put that on my truck. Number
100. And they put it on there. Well, when everybody get through
picking, I take my boys and my truck with my side plates on
it. I put four sacks in there for myself. Put four in there
for every one of the boys and the girls, on my truck. We're
going over in the Delta. We hit that man's cotton fields,
where that big square is. You know that cotton ain't never
been opened. It done opened up and thick in there. We pack
that truck full. There's a bale on the truck. Then we pack
them sacks full. I tie them on that truck and up the top,
and we head back to Grenada. I had six houses up there, empty.
I go in there. And, see, I had keys to them. And Mr. Davis[?]
told me to put all I wanted in them houses. Empty sacks of
cotton in them houses. And when it's about a week before Christmas,
I go to Mr. Darden[?]. Hey, that's the big man, you know.
Buys all the cotton.
He said, "T.B., I want to buy
all of your cotton. I'll give you $200 a bale for it."
I say, "Yes, sir." See, and
I get eighty or ninety dollars a ton for the seed. You understand.
Sometimes I had fifteen or twenty bales. Look what I've done
Now, you're talking about this scrapping. What is that?
You know when you go in your field to pick the cotton, you
know it's got low places in there, that cotton never opened
till the frost hit it. Well, all that cotton there, the folks
ain't going back to pick them snags[?]. I'm going and pick
everything in there, me and my children. I bought them new
boots, raincoats, underwear, and everything. Then, when I
leave home, my wood pile is full of pine and wood. I cut me
a heap of wood with my chain saw. We put it in the truck.
When we get out there, we go build a fire in two or three
places. When we get cold, we go to that fire and warm because
the fire already burning. We don't lose no time. You understand?
Right back picking that cotton. And we didn't move the truck
until we get ready to go back home. Because we done put that
cotton on that truck. Carried it there and emptied it. Well,
there's a week or two before Christmas. I go to Mr. Darden.
I say, "Is you ready for me?"
"Yeah, T. Anytime you want."
I say, "I'll be here in the
He say, "I'll have it open."
Like, my truck sitting out there, I go over there and borrow
a trailer from my boss man. Six-bale trailer or eight-bale
trailer. I'd hook it behind my truck or get two and hook behind
it. And me and them boys would load it at night.
(End of tape one, side one.
The interview continues on tape one, side two.)
that morning I'd take off to the gin with them two trailers,
and my truck loaded and the trailers, yelling. He stopped
what would you call it? Scrap--?
That's scrap cotton. Scrap cotton. See, you know them cotton-pickers
go in there and just mess up that cotton, and them bolls don't
be open until the frost. Well, all that's open. And I go there
and pick all that and sometimes from here to there over yonder,
I done picked a bale of cotton.
Long: How much
you paying for it?
ain't paying them nothing. They gave it to me. Just like you
got a farm, you know. And your hands done quit. The cows out
there, and mules. You tell me, "Go out there and get it, T."
Well, T. goes and gets it. And I planted all them peas and
me and my children get out there and fill them houses up and
I go around to--. You know the white folks keep pea thrashers.
I found one. Got a good pea thrasher.
I go to him. "Mister, can I
get you to thrash my peas?"
"You got many of them?"
"Oh, yes. I got two or three
"OK. I'll be there such and
such a date, T.B."
I say, "Yes, sir." Well, I
go buy me two or three hundred croker sacks, you know. Or
else any kind of sacks I want. And have them there. And when
that man sees that pea thrasher there, he goes and talks with
that white man, I'm in trouble. (Laughter.)
"I'll bring my sacks tomorrow."
Long: He wants
to share it.
got the half of it. If he don't, he'd take every bit of it.
I say, "Yes, sir."
But at first, what he tell you? He just wants half?
of the cotton. That's all. But he changed that thing. I told
you. Mister, look, I had to learn it the hard way. Papa told
me how to do, you know. And I done it, and they [took] it
from me. They took it from me. Ooooh, Mister.
Long: But you
still, look like, you still did good. Your family, they were
healthy. And did they eat good?
Did they? I'll tell you what. A gallon of molasses would last
us two meals, [or] three meals. (Laughter.) See, I killed
plenty of hogs, and hang them up. Get that, what you call
that? What kind of salt you call that? That's Morton salt.
You know, you salt them down in Morton salt and take that
meat up and wash it. It all tastes just like bacon. You can
smell it all over this town cooking. You know how bacon smells.
Well, they cured it with Morton salt. They don't know what
that is down here. They don't know what Morton salt is. Man!
Lord have mercy!
wait till it got cold?
kill my hogs. And I got a big box. Built it. That tall. Long
from here over yonder. (Gesturing.)
did you hang them up on?
know how you put wire up there and have a two by four running
across and put wire up there, hang down and drive a nail in
it? Then hang a ham [or] middling on it. You understand? When
you take it out of the box, wash it off. You understand? Meat.
Then, you get a bucket or old tub or something and put sand
in there and keep you a smoke in there. That's to keep the
flies and things out of it. You understand. Man, there ain't
nothing to it. Oh, Lord!
Long: And y'all
lived pretty good.
one of my children, fat as a pig. (Laughter.)
tell me one thing, though.
about them hard times?
Well, I'll say it like this: the hardest time I had, it was
about three or four years. Oh, Lord! We had them horrible
white folks. That was when--. Who was that, the president?
Was it Hoover or Truman? Was so hard on us. When that WPA
Papa said, "Children. Y'all can't go to school. You got to
stay and help Daddy. Daddy can't make it." Well, he was working
for the railroad, and a crosstie fell on him and busted his
foot. They brought him home in a section car and laid him
on the porch. And I had to take over there. I kept Papa two
was his name?
Bankston. He look like that picture up yonder? Yeah. Now,
he lived to get a hundred and something. That foot was this
big. (Gesturing.) I went out there to the clay dirt. I got
me some clay dirt in a tin tub. Put vinegar, all my medicine
in there and made it up a poultice. And I put it around Papa's
foot. First put a rag and then poured all up in here. I wouldn't
put it tight. Papa's foot was done turned dead black. It went
to turning back to lose the color. I'd get up every morning
and take it off. Wash it and bathe it and put it back on.
And he would smile, and say, "Son, you good to Daddy." We
could hear him hollering and groaning all night long. He be
laying on the floor, you know, on a pallet.
if it had turned blue?
if it turned blue? I'm going to work with him. Who? I know
what to work with him. Get some jimsonweed. You understand.
Get that poison out of it. And keep sulfur in it. Keep sulfur
in it. Man!
Long: But wait.
You can't blow the sulfur in it. How you going to do it?
him lick it. Let him lick it. Just lick a little bit. Just
lick it. And he go and do it. Don't take it when it's raining,
though. You'll swell up. Just try to keep from getting wet.
Long: How you
get all this knowledge?
you know, they used to sell us from over yonder. They sold
Aunt Sally Alba[?] over here, and she didn't have no folks.
overseas. Africa. She was staying in a house across the street
from us. Across the road. And she would have them charley
horses. She was by herself. Didn't have no folks. The white
folks, she done got too old to work, and they put her out
on her own. And she stayed in an old house, across the street
from us. Aunt Sally Alba, she didn't have no folks. Didn't
know nothing about her. So Mama and Papa make me go over there
and stay over there at night with them. And when she had them
charley horses, and fall out the bed, I had to put her back
in the bed. So one morning before day, Aunt Sally, "Come here
to me." I jumped up. She said, "Grab my (inaudible)." (Whispering.)
"Pull the curtain back." Looked on the porch and this is the
way he was (gesturing), the white man, putting a black man
in the hole dug in her floor. Pulled the planks up. Dug a
hole in the porch and put him in there.
Said, "Boy, don't you tell
nobody about this here."
Said, "They'd kill every one
of us." You hear me? Well, I wanted to tell Papa and Mama,
but I was scared. She told me, "Don't." You know. I didn't
know what Papa might say, you know, cause all of us to be
killed. I can go to that place now. That man's down there,
in a clay hill on that [side] of the road. Aunt Sally Alba.
She learned me that. Oh! She learned me, but I done forgot
so much of it.
Long: Did she
know anything about the healing medicine?
knowed everything. She learned me. She learned me.
Long: And her
full name, what was it?
Sally Alba. Big, dark heavy-set woman. Looked healthy, fine,
but she was old, and she just wouldn't--. You had to be really
known for her to talk to you. She wouldn't talk to you.
Long: Did she
dip or smoke?
don't remember her doing none of that. She didn't do none
of that. There was a sassafras tree, she used to keep that
limb in her mouth. She'd keep that limb in her mouth. She
always would keep that stick in her mouth.
on it. Her teeth were just as pretty and white. Aunt Sally
Alba. She learned me what I know. That was way back yonder,
Long: She ever
tell you any stories?
not too much, because she was mostly scared, because that's
when them white folks were killing us, you know. And she didn't
want to get killed. You had to keep your mouth shut.
were they killing you for?
just most anything. If they'd tell you, "Run," and you didn't
run, they'd kill you. And if they--. Just like we'd be sitting
off. See them boys sitting off out there?
I see them.
truck would drive there, say, "Hey, boys. Come on, I got two
or three hours of work."
"Yes, sir. We want to make
some money." Well, they'd carry you off and keep you till
night or just first dusk. They'd come back with that truck
and slow down to about thirty miles an hour and go to raising
that bed up. You'd better jump out that truck. If you don't,
they'd carry you back. The next time they didn't have to tell
you to jump out. If they didn't kill you, they would beat
you so you won't never be no more good.
Long: How much
they pay you?
pay you then, when they whipped you. You didn't do to suit
them. They won't give you nothing. But dump you out on that
highway, then they speed up and go. Oh, man. Just like I'd
be setting down at home some time, truck drives by. "T.B."
"You want to make thirty dollars?"
"Take this truck and go get
you two or three men and go over yonder to So-and-so." Carry
me to it. He said, "Now, you see this patch here?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
"This is mine. You load it
up and bring it to me, and then I'm going to give you your
"Yes, sir." He's stealing that
man's watermelon! And getting me in there! See that would
get me killed! You see? But what happened, the man didn't
kill me. He come to my house and asked me. I said, "Yes, sir.
That man told me them was his and sent me over there and give
me thirty dollars."
He said, "I'll get that so-and-so."
And sure enough, frankly, he would kill him or something.
Or shoot him. Because I done told him the truth. Man! Lord!
you trying to tell me that area up there near Grenada, that's
so beautiful, land so rich, that there's mistreatment up there?
you were coming up?
Hmph! Mister! Look, we used to be going to Sunday school on
a Sunday morning. Mama would make us all go. And see them
white boys coming in them trucks, Mama hit the bushes. You
know how a partridge do when they see you coming?
that's the way we had to do behind Mama's little ribbons to
the creek. We carried Mama across. So, look, and them white
folks would be in behind us. And you know them slings, how
long them ropes is? And if he's got a rock up in there that
big, if he hits you up in here, you're going to die. You'd
better stay out of the way of him.
they call a slingshot.
Long: A real
real sling. Got a rope on it, and it's waxed with wax. They
swing it and turn this end a-loose. It'll bust that car wide
open. Boom! Oh, man, they had a way of getting us. Lord have
mercy. I hate to talk about it. And that man they call Old
Man Lon Thomas[?]. You could hear him for miles. "Oooooh!
You goddamn niggers! Move up over there." And we'd be in the
field plowing on this side, but we'd be mocking him. He'd
set up in a great big rocking chair. Great big hat. And them
Negroes. Woooooh. And he steady cussing, day and night. Old
Man Lon Thomas. You could hear him for miles. "Oooooh! You
goddamn niggers!" I nursed one or two, and they got away with
"T.B. Come here and get them
niggers off me."
were you nursing them for?
were dying, and they wives had me to come, and they would
pay me a dollar a day, or so much a week, to stay there with
him. He'd be dying. Some of them, they'd take them a month
to die. You understand?
Long: How would
you ease their pain?
them. Rub them with stuff. And they would be good to me, some
of them. But them there sure enough done killed so many folks,
they couldn't be good. "Get them niggers off of me!" And they
wives had to come in there and bathe them down. "Oh, them
niggers is at me."
Long: But they
knew that you knew how to nurse?
Sure. Oh, they would be so good to me.
if I burned my hand and I had fire in it? Or I had heat in
it? What could you--?
I forget what that was I put on it. It's a heap of things
you can put on that for to burn that fire, to use. But I done
forgot it, now. It'll come back to me.
Long: You ever
seen anybody that could talk it out?
would you do?
was them old folks would do that, would talk it out. But we
put medicine on it and draw it out. It's a little simple thing.
I forget what it is. Girl got burnt back here, and I put it
on there, draw it right out. I forgot what it is. See, folks
don't know nothing about it; they'll laugh at you about this.
And they'll make you look silly. And so, I just quit. Yeah,
I know heat, man. I just don't fool with it, now. See, and
the doctors here, they want to rebuke you and make you tell
it. The law will get up, "T.B., you going to have to tell
it, now. You going to have to." I don't have to do nothing,
but die. Can they hear me out yonder?
that's wrong. That is wrong, Mister. What I know, it ain't
killed nobody. Leave me alone. Either I'm right or wrong?
Long: And you
Long: And when
you're nursing them, you help them. When you were nursing
you were nursing them, you were helping them.
Sure. Sure. "Put that nigger in jail!" Like they put me in
jail over yonder because I cut my brother. Here's the way
it was: my brother [was] working at Gulf Hills. I'm working
in the woods and painting white folks' houses at night to
make money. I was going back to the Delta to get my wife and
children and bring them here. And I rented a house from Willie
Jackson in Ocean Springs, to get my folks here. Mr. Magee
sells furniture over there in Gulfport, a furniture store.
I bought all my furniture, refrigerator, and stove from him.
Put it in that house. And my brother said, "T.B." Said, "I
hadn't got a place to stay. Me and my wife, Rena[?]." They
didn't have no children.
I said, "Well, W., you can
stay over here with me till you get you a place."
"T., and I'll pay you."
I said, "OK." Went on two or
three weeks and he didn't give me nothing. So it was a Friday,
I went to him. I said, "W." I said, "Now, you ain't give me
nothing. Friday will you give me something?"
He said, "Yeah, T., I'll give
you something." Well, that Friday I got paid, and I went down
to Mama Tera's[?] to pay her for whiskey I had got from her,
a pint or two, you know. And get me another half-pint of V.O..
And I got me two that Friday evening, and I was going on back
by Froggy Bottom. I see W.
I say, "You going to give me
When he got up to me, "Yeah."
I said, "Wait a minute, W.
I'm your brother. Don't do me like that, W. I'm worried about
my children." All my hair was black, then.
And he said, "Yeah. Goddamn
it. I ain't put nothing on you. I'm fixing to put something
I said, "No, you just met your
Daddy and met him drunk." And I reached and got it. You know.
I'm glad he run. He run to the jailhouse about a half mile,
mile. And I was steady reaching down and cutting at him. And
when I knowed anything, he'd run in the police door, and I
run in there. (Laughter.) They grabbed me right there.
did you have in your hand?
knife. It had done split his coat all over him. He knowed
to stay out of the way of me. And so, they put me in the county
farm without a trial. Over there in prison. Jackson County.
Long: How bad
did you get him?
I didn't cut him nowhere. I just bruised him with my fist
where I hit him. I just cut his coat. That's all. And they
took all my furniture and sold it, and done around, and put
me over there for six or seven weeks.
camp did you go to? Do you know?
County in Pascagoula. Over there. You know, they had it right
beside the road. I worked all on Delmight[?] Plantation. See,
I'm a fence man. Mr. Delmight had me putting up all them fences
for him. And so, they made me mad about something, Captain
Ivory[?] did, and I told him, I said--. He was talking about
how he'd whip us niggers. I told him, "Don't whip me. If you
do, me and the Lord's going to walk around."
Now, he didn't know what it
means, and old one-eyed Webber[?] put his pistol on me, talking
about carrying me to the beach at night.
I said, "Don't do it." I said,
"You going to have me to kill."
And (laughter) he called Grenada
home and Mr. Clayton Carpenter[?] told him, said, "Don't hit
him." Said, "If you hit him, you've got him to kill." Say,
"You're going to have to kill him." Said, "He's a sworn shooter."
And they come back in there,
I said, "Yeah."
"Mr. Clayton Carpenter said
you can hit anything you want."
I said, "I can."
He told them, said, "Pull them
shackles off him, and them handcuffs." I had shackles and
handcuffs. "And don't carry him on the road no more." And
so in about two weeks, my boss, I was working for the Woods[?],
come got me.
He said, "T." Say, "You ain't
got to pay nothing." Got me out. See, they worked me over
there all that time. Had me on that white man's plantation.
I'm the one put down them big fences on there. There where
that oil refinery is. See, didn't pay me for it or nothing.
See? Then took all my furniture and stuff. I had to start
all over again. They hard on me. They don't like me. But here
the thing is: I will fight back at them. And I will fight.
See, I got into it up there. The way it was, I was going to
a fellow called Clem Gordon[?], to get me a fifth of whiskey,
because I had them women, two women. And I slipped off from
my wife and had them, but Clem Gordon got a quart, and I was
going back out through the cornfield row. And Vernon Mack,
poor old white fellow, had a fellow down there called Jay
Black, and done beat all this out of him and was stomping
him. Get his mouth straight. All that dirt was going.
I touched him. I said, "Mr.
He looked up at me. He said,
"Yeah." Quit beating him.
I said, "I want to get by."
"If you get by, you'll tear
that corn down."
I said, "Thank you." I walked
back and got in that truck and backed up. Put my foot on the
gas and plowed that corn back in the road. (Laughter.)
And the women looked back,
said, "T." Say, "Here he comes. Here he comes to get you.
He's going to beat your teeth out."
I said, "No, he ain't going
to beat my teeth out." And I got up to ninety miles an hour.
Someone said, "T.B., you ain't
no fool." Said, "Quit that. Quit that running that truck."
I quit. And he went to come around me and went to turning
over, down the road in front of me. Look, I just stayed along
beside him till he stopped. When he stopped, I stepped out,
and he got out and tried to get his automatic shotgun out.
And I said, "I'll take it."
And I went off on him. I whipped him down and took that automatic
shotgun and throwed it out in the field and went on about
my business. So that night I come in from Grenada in that
fork. I seen all them horses standing up there and them white
folks had them sheets on, and when I made that left turn to
go off the highway, a slug came in by me. I shelved[?] my
lights on, and stomped it. And she done this. I went on home.
Got that thirty-thirty. Eased back in that truck and went
about a mile to them, where I could see them and went to doing
this. You could hear them horses, breaking wind, tearing up
roads. (Laughter.) Them riders, they were hollering, "Whoa,
That morning before day, my
boss man was there. "T.B."
I stepped out from around that
house with that thirty-thirty. "Are you all ready?"
I said, "Oh, yes, sir. I be
up till things get right."
"What was going on out here
I said, "I don't know." I said,
"But I know one thing. I ain't going to stand no shoving around
That man went and got in that
car and ain't said another word to me.
did you call it? You ain't going to stand no?
shoving[?] here. (Laughter.) And he went and told them. Say,
"That nigger say he ain't going back, y'all." And so, they
some of them told the colored folks what I said. And I left
and come here. And I swim one of them, Yalobusha, [or] Tallahatchie,
till I got to Phillips[?] and got my brother. He put me in
did you drive from one place to another? How'd you get to
Long: You had
had to run. I come from Grenada, all the way through them
counties into Phillips. And my brother was hauling logs out
of the Delta on a log truck. And I knowed the sound of that
truck, when he come in the forty-mile bend. I was in johnsongrass
over about as tall as that and here's the way I was doing.
(Gesturing.) And he said, "Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo."
I'll do it again. He said, "Choo, choo, choo, choo, choo."
Started getting down, that big trailer loading logs up yonder.
Way after awhile, he said, "T.B."
I said, "Huh?"
He shut it off and he come
around. "T., Lord! What done happened?" I told him. He said,
I said, "What?"
He said, "Get back there and
don't move." See, he had been over yonder, stayed for years
in Vietnam. He said, "Don't move." Said, "And I'll be back
in a few minutes." Way about an hour, and something, I looked
at Ward's Castilla[?], and I see them lights do this.
I said, "That's L.C." Them
lights, that straight-eight Ford was rolling. As he come down,
he said, "Krrrrrrrr. T.B.?"
I said, "Yeah."
He said, "Come on out." He
said, "T., where you want to go?"
I said, "Go to the headquarters,
L.C." That's where the Klan, the Ku Klux Klan hangs out. And
we went there. (Laughter) I said, "L.C., we are going in there
to get a fifth of Granddaddy."
Walked in there and asked for
a fifth of Granddaddy, and Mr. Tally Lott[?] said, "Y'all
can have this." And them Negroes done did, they'd cleaned
that corn field. (Laughter.) And them white folks said, "Them
niggers got them thirty-thirty. Somebody's done something
to them." And we stepped back in the car, and he didn't charge
us for the whiskey or nothing. We went in Grenada and done
the same thing at the Chicken-In Café[?]. Asked for
a bowl of soup and the police is coming in. We're going out.
And they say, "Excuse me." We had the thirty-thirty in his
hands. And they say, "Excuse me, y'all."
We said, "Everything's all
right." (Laughter.) They give us the soup[?], and we went
on and got in the car, and he put me in Winona about midnight.
You know they got them up here.
got what up here?
got the Klan. They got them up here in Gulfport. Up there
towards Poplarville. I worked out there two years, and they
got at me, to kill. And they couldn't do nothing with me to
catch me, you know? Because I would outrun them. And my bossman
got the sheriff and went out there and stopped them from bothering
me. They told me. They caught me going in his driveway and
told me, said, "Nigger," say, "you think you're smart." Said,
"But we're going to get you." So, I quit. And I didn't go
back out there no more.
Long: Why you
think they wanted you?
I'm a nigger out there. Out there in what they call the Southern
Hollow. You've heard them talking about Southern Hollow. Well,
I was out there. And they'll tell you every nigger that come
out here, you know. Now, one day me and my boy left from here
and going down there to find my brother's grave. Where he
was buried. They killed him. And my boy was driving. I had
a seventy-five Impala Chevrolet, and this white man had a
long trailer truck [that] hauled gravel, and I seen him coming.
I said, "Charles."
He said, "Sir?"
I said, "Watch this man, now."
I say, "He runs over all black folks with a trailer of (inaudible)."
Charles went on up there, eighty and going to ninety. I said,
He said, "Sir?"
I said, "Get this car down,
boy." He got off of it, and I just reached down there and
got that thirty-eight. I said, "Charles," I said, "get down
to ten miles an hour, now. Let's put it right in his face."
He put that truck down to ten, got down there to [Highway]
Ninety. He went one way. We went the other. Then he come over
here and went to hauling when they put them casinos in here.
And that's what I want to show that man. This land here goes
straight on through out to [Highway] Fifteen and this one
turn go back on [Highway] Ten. Here's a lane over here to
keep the fast lane, keep going through. Well, he's over here
in this lane and I'm over here, and he was behind me. And
when I get up here, he's going to come up side of me and come
back over. And come back in there. And a state trooper was
sitting down at the foot of the hill, one sitting headed this
way; the other sitting headed the other. I pulled up side
of them. I said, "Did y'all see that?"
"Oh, yeah. We were looking
I said, "Well, y'all not going
to arrest him?"
"Naw. We just call ahead and
stop him." They ain't done nothing. The man killed some folks.
Then he liked to got me again at Cedar Lake. So, they got
rid of him. I don't know what went with him. See that, man.
And I wish y'all could stop them from shooting out there.
I'll be out there fishing. Boom! Boom, boom! And I'll holler.
Don't holler! It gets worser. See, there. That's wrong. That
just trying to scare you, though, right?
will shoot you, Mister. You know, a lot of folks got shot
over there. Do you know some folks in a car got shot over
there? And over yonder at the power plant. You know where
the power plant is, don't you? Well, you know it's a little
creek coming down there, don't you? Well, now, there used
to be a big car shed setting back there on the right hand
side, going yonder way, at that thing. A big car. A big boat
shed. Now, it's a house sitting up in the bushes. The same
house, sitting up there in the bushes. You go down there fishing,
he got those man-killing dogs, big old black ones, this tall.
He'll turn them dogs loose to kill you. And they're going
to ease up on you. And that old "Sweat"[?] is going to be
back yonder by the lake, and the dogs are going to [go] around
here in front of you, keep easing up to you. And you don't
know. The way I get them to move, what I do is, they run into
them cars on that highway. (Laughter.)
knew what you had in your hands.
knew. They got sense. They go straight across that highway.
The man done trained them. He goes around on the bridge, under
the highway, but they go straight across there and a truck
hit one of them, and they ain't been back. So, now the man
shoot at me, and he stick a white sign up out there and draw
a black circle around it. That's his target, and here's the
highway, now. And here he's sitting up on the back end. Now,
anybody know that better than that. Is I right or wrong, now?
You don't shoot towards the highway with no gun. Is I right
I don't know anybody who will allow that.
the state knows that, they'll put him up under the jail. Look,
here's the state highway. Here's the bank up here. He put
the sign up here, which way he's shooting. Well, that's where
some folks got shot. You know that's where they dumped all
that ammunition at. See, that's wrong. But we can't say nothing.
We ain't got no help. Look at me. I got two or three guns
from that house down there. I know of several deacons got
them, now. Good guns. Mister, what's it, Joe Price[?]? Give
them to this woman because she's selling that stuff. And that
boy. That boy's got life, they tell me, in the penitentiary.
Bring them guns there, and they throw them down.
he got life, but he's walking the streets.
Long: Oh, I
thought you were talking about Roosevelt. You're talking about
You see. Look, he give them them guns. They're getting them
up there around Camp Shelby, carloads of them. Then, bring
them here and give them to them colored boys. Well, you know
them boys don't know nothing about shooting no guns. They
just get out there and shoot them. They don't know about shooting
nobody. See, I sit on the porch and look at them. And he'd
go around and issue them guns. See, that's wrong, and I took
two or three of them. I know a bunch of folks took some of
them. And I took one and carried it to Mr. Luther Patton,
out yonder to his house. And he told me to carry it down there
and he's going to tell Joe Price to meet me at the county
jail over there. And here's what Joe Price told me, "T.B.,
you're too damn smart. You'd better leave them white folks'
I said, "Well, the children
ain't got no business out there shooting. And if the church
folks see them, you know them dogs cutting up. And you go
shooting that gun around, them dogs will jump them fences."
And them dogs was in line. Them children there: boom, boom,
boom, boom, boom. And them thirty-thirties. And they got hung
up, and they put it in a garbage sack and carried it around
and put it up in the bus. Well, I pulled my truck up over
there when I went to church, and I got it and carried it up
there and give it to them. I didn't give them to Clifford.
Clifford at the house, now.
looks like you had an interesting life.
ain't told you nothing. (Laughter.) Did you hear what I said,
Mister? I haven't told you nothing.
did things get better? Tell me about that.
What's this president? I cried when he died.
Long: Did somebody
They killed him. That president.
Kennedy. That's the best man I ever seen in my life. I cried
about that man. You see, Reverend Martin Luther King; I cried
on him. That's the best man. You hear me? Lord, I slept like
a log, because of everything he said. He said them Klansmen
got to go, and they didn't like it. And every time they get
us off and get a chance. "Y'all going to have to help us get
them old presidents out of there. Y'all ain't going to never
do good till you get them out." See, and some of those old,
stupid folks don't know no better.
"Yes, sir." You understand?
That's wrong. Look at my boy. I worked with this man twelve
years, in the woods. And shows you I was working. Now, you
listen what I'm saying, please. I'd go out there in the morning
around three and four o'clock with that truck, by myself.
Brand new truck, brand new chain saws. Three o'clock, I'm
at the house, right down there. Three loads of wood at the
paper mill. There them, Mister, Derit Campbell[?] got three
men on one truck. They get one load. And the man at the mill
told him, said, "Campbell, you ought to get rid of them men."
Said, "That Cleve Lambert[?] got a boy, ain't but one." Said,
"At three o'clock," said, "he's going in the house, three
loads. Tandem loads." I done it three years.
(End of tape one, side two.
The interview continues on tape two, side one.)
So, I got tired. He's got these fellows right around here
what have all them folks, drunk, sitting on his porch. They
helped me. I'd go to the mill, come back, he done cut three
or four trees. I go to the paper mill and back. He got three
or four trees cut, and that's all. I had to take him off.
And when that mower said, "Toot, toot, toot, toot," that's
a load of wood. Look. I said, "Mister, please, you pay him."
I said, "I don't want him no more."
He said, "T.M.[?], he's got
to go." He paid him, and Eddie[?] ain't had another--. Well,
he did. He worked on this street, out here, but that's all
he done. He ain't done nothing else. He can't work. And I
kept that truck three years. Every day, three loads of wood.
You understand? He give me six dollars a load.
Long: Six dollars?
Six. Six dollars a load. Then, he got me, they let my boy
come up there and help him clean up his place, and he told
my boy, that, "Come on up there and work for me," and he going
to build him a brick house and pay him. Buy him a new car.
See, he's going to work my boy like he did me. And they didn't
take no social security from me, and today, he got all my
social security. See, Ms. Duckworth[?] knows it. And when
I went to telling that, that white man turned that fan on
me. See, that's wrong, ain't it?
one thing I need to know, and that's: did you do anything--?
tell me what you think, and I'll tell you.
Long: No, no.
It had to do with, how could you keep your spirits up in spite
of all that? That's what I want to know.
I wanted to get my wife and children down here. I come the
hard way. And the white folks up there was killing them and
doing everything. You understand? They done killed my oldest
boy up there, and put him in the road like a car run over
him. And my brother killed the man that killed him, and they
give him thirty-something years in the penitentiary. And I
come down, and I started working. I holp(1)
my brother, [to] get him out from up there. You see. And I
wanted my children to have something. I went up there to carry
them three or four hundred dollars apiece, up there, and them
folks went to talking about, I give them too much. I'm not--.
No, I didn't. Them my children. You understand? I don't want
them [to] come up stealing or nothing. I want them to come
like I did. And then, old fellow said I went there carrying
dope. I ain't never hauled no--. I ain't never. I don't fool
with drugs. I'm already crazy enough, Mister. Is I right or
you sound like you got a whole lot of experience and a whole
lot of sense.
if you'd been through with what I've been through with. Let
me tell you this. That's when I was on a place called the
Stevens[?] place. We had such a hard time till this man named
Mr. Jack Frank[?], he was going to move from Grenada, from
Duck Hill, down there to the tire plant. And he asked me would
I help him that Saturday morning. I said, "Yes, sir. I'll
help you, Mr. Jack Frank." And his wife was named Ms. Dora,
and she had a little, bitty, old baby about three or four
days old. So, they get in the cab, and the little baby, the
little boy, about this tall (gesturing), caught my leg.
Mr. Jack Frank said, "T., he
wants to stay with you."
I said, "Well, let him." I
goes up on top of the truck and opens us a hole. You know
Tie Plant's way up yonder, and we done packed their furniture
in there. I go up there and stack us a hole in the middle
of it, and I come back, say, "Mr. Jack Frank, you give him
to me." He give him to me. Well, we got down near Glen Y[?]
number two. You know where Glen Y is?
he's going to make a left turn off of [Highway] Fifty-one,
coming south. And this gravel truck was making a hundred and
nothing with a load of gravel, and caught him right in the
door. And I done this: (gesturing). With that boy in this
arm. I went over them muscadine vines and that there johnsongrass.
Them vines held me and that baby and let us down in there
just as easy. So, when I got up there in the road, I had to
get out of them vines, you know, all wrapped around my legs.
The state trooper said, "Well," say, "everyone of them's dead.
We ain't got to worry [about] them."
I said, "No, sir. They ain't."
I said, "I got the baby. The big baby." And they didn't pay
me nothing because I was a nigger. Didn't pay no attention.
After awhile, I said, "White folks."
He said, "Yeah."
I said, "This is his baby."
"That's a nigger." Talking
about, you know how them old poor pecks stand on the side.
I said, "This is their baby."
"Well, where in the hell was
he at? Where were y'all at?"
I said, "I left that truck
back yonder." They had me walk down there and show them.
And they went out there and
said, "Look a-here." Say, "There's where he went over in them
vines." Say, "Look a-here." Said, "And you come out with no
scratch on you and the baby?"
I said, "Yes, sir."
He said, "Lord." So, they say
now, the boy is grown. He's fifty-something years old. He
wants to talk with me. He wants to see me. But I don't want
to see him because he's going to ask me about his mama and
daddy, you know. And I'm not going to tell him.
of them gone.
three of them: the mama and the daddy and the little baby
sister. Nobody but him.
Long: Was that
because the car went by them. They were going fast.
Look, here this here truck going, coming south on Fifty-one
Highway. At Glen Y number two. Here this gravel truck coming
behind and Mr. Jack's going to make a left turn off of Fifty-one,
and they caught him right in that door. And gravel went from
here down to that light. Whoosh! You know how the gravel went
off of that truck when he hit that solid lick. Well, if we'd
have been on top, we'd have been out there, too. But we didn't
get none of that motion, because I went in the air before
it. See, we was in the air.
In the johnsongrass.
the muscadine vines and green vines, hanging over. Just let
us down, just easy. See, I had a baby of my own. You understand?
How old you figure he was?
that time, I was around twenty-five. Twenty or twenty-five.
Long: You were
about twenty-five, and how old was the baby?
bitty, old baby. Was just could walk.
he about fifty now, then.
he's fifty. And see, look, he wanted to go with me. He caught
my leg to keep his daddy from catching him. And the baby had
more sense than the daddy, because the baby must have knowed
death was on them.
A knee baby, though. So, he was coming on a knee baby.
So, I done it. I tell you something else I done. I was plowing
at Alice Chalmers[?]. You know what a big Alice Chalmers Tractor
in the field. Then this rich woman, Ms. Olly DuBard[?] and
another rich woman was out there in that big lake with a boat.
Look, I was sitting down smoking a Prince Edward cigarette
on that tractor, going along under that shade, you know. I
look, I see the straw hat floating across. I stood up. I said,
"Whoa, Lord." I raised and pulled that power lift up. They
was in the water, fighting one another. They couldn't swim.
They were fighting. Well, that made them stay up. The hat
was going across the water. I throwed that big Alice Chalmers
to full gear and run up to that bank and spotted them. And
my wife was standing on the porch, hollering. She was up on
the hill, standing up on the porch, hollering. I hit that
lake. Boom! I could swim. I went to them. She said, "T.B.
I said, "Ma'am?"
"Don't you touch me because
I ain't never had a nigger to put their hands on me."
I said, "This nigger's going
to save you." I run into her and I caught her under here and
I carried her up. And I shook her, and done this. And carried
her to the bank. Put her down. I went back, and the other
one done got out this far in the water, going--. Look, I went
and got her and shook and come up and shook her and hit her
in water. I carried her to the bank.
She said, "T.B. Let me rest
a little bit." She was getting her breath back then. I let
her kind of lay there like this, on all four. She said, "Now,
I'm all right. Carry me to the car." I carried her to the
car. I had already carried Ms. Olly there.
And Ms. Olly said, "T.B., stand
here and watch us till we get away." See, both of them would
have been dead. This nigger saved them. I saved them. Then,
my wife, ooooh, you ought to hear her talk about it.
Said, "T.B., they were gone."
They were gone.
Long: I bet
your wife was proud.
she was. She was.
Long: How did
I felt good because I saved them. And it done Mr. Dave--.
He acted like he didn't like it in a way, because I put my
hands on her, you know. And she told me, said, "I never had
a nigger put their hands on me." She told me this. Said, "Let
me die, T.B."
I said, "No. This nigger's
going to save you." And I went back and got the other one.
So, there ain't no telling where this money come from, Mr.
Bobby Parker got for me. You understand? I done done so many
wonderful things. The sheriff from up above Grenada called
me here, and told me anytime I'm in Grenada, be sure and come
to him. He wants to talk to me. Say, he's known me from a
boy, and I've been so good to the country that he wants to
talk to me. And he told them, don't try to put their children
on me, no more. See, I took them down here three or four--.
I went to Grenada and got them, you know. And brought them
here and that boy carried them back, because he wanted them
out with that crowd, with their miniskirts on up to here and
no baths. And I wasn't raised up nothing like that.
Now, look. I hear Dr. King came through Grenada one time.
was after I come down here. I tried to get them not to let
him come, but they don't pay me no attention. He'd have been
living now, but they wouldn't hear me. I know. I heard the
white folks talking about it. You know, they was supposed
to have brought him through here. That time they brought him
here. But they killed him.
him another way.
him around here. And they had the fire trucks over there,
and I tried to run over them. I'll tell you like that. I tried
to run over them. Look, and they started the fire. Burned
their firetruck over there. See, they were going to stop him
in the road and kill him. You understand? They were going
to burn him up over there. See, they couldn't have got by,
you see, but (whispering) they heard about it. They brought
him (whispering) in another way. Just like this last time.
Were you down here when he was down here?
Long: No, I
wasn't here then.
thought it was a fellow kind of favored you. I tried my best
to try to get to that guy. I got that knife at the house now,
this long. Somebody--. I see that young boy this morning.
He tried to get through, again, to kill him with that knife.
I might show you the boy. I might show him to you sometime.
I'm going to sure show him to you. If anything come up happen,
they can walk up and lay hands on him. He was raised up here
with his mother, with a grandmother or something, and she
dead now. Her name was Helen. You hear me, don't you?
Now, the last thing I was going to ask is just this: your
full name was, as far as you know, your name was--?
Long: And you
were born up near--?
out from Duck Hill, across the river. North of Duck Hill,
about a mile out there, across the swamp. Just right across
the swamp. You get across the swamp, and you can stand over
there and look. It's a mountain. And I was born right at the
foot of that mountain, there.
Long: And you
have survived all these years doing what you do?
You know every president? They curse me so much I could kick
him on that television. Look, we used to have to run from
that peckerwood, when they carried him from up there, bring
him down here to these big meetings. They had them in school
buses. Mama sent us to the stores there in the town to get
stuff, we had to quit the road. They be shooting on the roads,
hollering, "Niggers, get out the road." And now they talking
about, he was so good. And done all that kind of dancing and
hollering. That thing wasn't nothing but a hoodlum! Now, and
I'm so glad some folks got up and told him, "Look, a-here."
(Laughter.) Make him feel bad. Now, look, they're telling
Long: So, last--.
remember when they tarred and burned Duke Jackson, Red, and
I don't remember.
Montgomery County. Duke Jackson, Red, and Dusty. They're about
us age. They claim they killed Mr. George Sam Winters[?],
but they didn't kill him. Mr. Lon Reed[?] killed that man.
Shot him through here. And my daddy and my uncle were on their
way to the hospital in Winona, and he died in his lap. All
they shot out. We stayed about [as] far from them [as] from
here to my house down there. And my daddy and my uncle picked
him up and put him in his car, and got him right near to Winona
and he died. And they killed them boys. And Dusty was the
one was going to tell who killed him, and they chopped his
head and busted his brains out with an axe. And the scrubbed
pasture[?]. Do you know who I'm talking about: scrubbed pasture?
I can carry you right to the place, is just as black, where
they burned them boys. You know the government made them go
in and get them bones and things and carry them to the prosecutor,
then. That was about a mile from us out there. It was like
a war was going on. We'd be going to the store and have to
hit the woods because whenever the president coming through
and the crowd with him, and they'd be shooting over us heads
and betwixt us legs. We had to hit the woods. And they claimed
that peckerwood was so good. Now, ain't that something, man?
who were the people who could play real good, the music, like
Preston Carpet[?]? The music that he began to play. Who used
to play that music?
my brother-in-law used to play. W.C. Wright and Curt Wright
and Booker T. Wright[?]. Booker T. even left here and went
to Chicago and come back here preaching. We used to be playmates
together and Curt Wright's foot's this long. (Gesturing.)
Him and W.C. They've been in that war over yonder.
Long: Are both
of them, are all three of them still alive?
they dead. All of them dead.
Long: Who do
you know who still plays?
don't know nobody but B.B. King. I used to hear B.B. King,
Now, what instrument did you used to play. Did you play anything?
didn't play. No. I didn't ever.
Long: You didn't
do any singing?
Long: Who did
you know, who's still alive?
don't know. Did you ever know Ms. Fuller[?]? Used to come
up there and do all that preaching? The lady? Did you ever
She'd sing gospel. Yeah.
You know her.
Long: I know
couldn't she--? Oh, that woman could preach, couldn't she?
and sing, too.
Do you know Reverend Charlie Bland[?] from Grenada?
Long: No, I
don't know him.
in Los Angeles, California, now.
Long: He can
Long: You know,
they used to preach the old sermons.
hear a phone somewhere.
it's a phone back over here.
Lord, that was them good, old days. You don't see them folks
Long: I heard
the guy they called Mr. Fairly Dell[?], when that woman killed
her husband in Grenada that time, it was along in July. And
I went to help to dig the grave, in the clay. You know, this
they told me, said, "T.B.," said, "you come out." Mr. Fairly
said, "Honey," said, "come out." Said, "You're turning white."
Said, "Come out."
I said, "Mr. Fairly, leave
He caught me. He said, "Come
out of there." And when he pulled me up, and I, whop! That
was it. When they got me up, you know what had happened. They
done buried the man, and the women up there had camphors to
my nose. I passed out. I dug so long in that clay dirt. And
he drinks a gallon of water, every--. Just like that morning,
he drank a gallon. At twelve o'clock, he'd drink a gallon.
At night, he'd drink a gallon. And that's the way he drunk
his water. Mr. Fairly Dell. He's the one that man stole his
turkeys and ducks. (Laughter.) And he went to--.
Well, let me ask you this, though, because we're coming down
to the end of the tape. What do you think? Are we doing better?
Are we going somewhere? You think things are going to change?
it's going to eventually change, if black folks wake up. That's
what holds us. We've got so many Uncle Toms. Now they running
them young boys, giving them all that stuff, and we can't
do nothing with them. And then, they steady laying it on them
to kill them. You understand. That's wrong. And I can't even
talk to them. You understand? I sees it, and they're going
to kill my boy. Oh, they're going to kill him. I done told
him. They're going to kill him. And they know it. I done went
to them a heap of times and set down at the jailhouse twelve,
one o'clock, and tell them, if there's anything I can do to
stop my boy, I don't want y'all killing my boy. See, they
put a gun on me out there for no reason. I went to them with
the keys in this hand and the title in this hand. And I parked
far from them, about fifty foot from them. About fifty yards
from them. I parked this a-way. Here he sit, over here at
the fence. I pulled. I got out. I said, "Officer." Here's
what he done." (Gesturing.) I said, "Officer, I'm no criminal."
I say, "I come to show you something." I said, "That's all
right. Shoot me in my back." I turned my back to him and was
walking over back to my truck. And he pulled his gun and things
off, and laid them on the seat and come to me doing this.
I said, "I ain't no criminal or nothing. I come to you to
get my tag off my car."
He said, "Well, I'm sorry."
I said, "Yeah, but a stray
bullet ain't got no name." And I went and told the big man
about it. He called him in and that man got mad because I
told that's what he done and walked off from where they had
the meeting. Went in another room. Well, that left me standing
there like a fool. He could have shot me just like he walked
off. Is I right?
And he come back and mad, and
he said, "Say it again to him."
And I said, "That's what he
done." They made a fool out of me.
Told me, "I'll stop y'all niggers
from selling cars." Well, I done bought that truck there.
I didn't need the car. You understand. It wasn't no good.
And he's going--. That's the
remark he made. He's going to stop us niggers. See there.
Long: But you
done made it anyhow.
done made it.
I'm proud to meet you.
sir, Mister. And I'm so proud to meet you. Lord have mercy.
If I could just get to be right. I tried to get to Reverend
Jackson. See, Reverend Hayes[?] didn't know. He come in from--.
What is it? Up here? McComb. I let him have my truck to move
in, and I told him, I said, "Reverend, it's full of gas. I
bought it in sixty-eight, brand new." I said, "There it is."
I handed him my keys. I said, "I'm going to Stateline hunting
with these men here." I said, "There the truck is. You take
it and move." He done it. So, he got down here. He had to
leave here, and he left here crying. My brother told me he
left crying, and he stayed away from here so many years. They
made him leave here. He's back here now, and he's sick. And
I told them, "I ain't going to take it." I'm just not. I'm
going to tell it. I'm going to sure tell it.
Long: And you're
going to stand up like a man.
going to stand up under it, and I'm going to fight behind
it. I lay down with my gun. I get up with it. I might use
it. You hear me? I might use it. You don't know the way we've
been done, Mister. (Crying.) You hear me? Look, I'm tired
of running for no reason and can't get no help. And they're
going to kill all of us young boys. And if one can't read
and write, like me, up there dumb, and asking, they punishing
them children for no reason. And these preachers go up there
and give them a little money. Talk to them children and make
them tell things and get on them folks about it. Is I right
or wrong? But we ain't got nobody.
Long: We don't
have nobody but ourselves.
Dickey[?] used to do that, used to be here. Reverend Pink[?]
used to run that place there. Used to do that. See, when my
wife died, them folks were getting a check down there and
they put a letter to me "Mr. Bankston, if you intend to get
your wife's check, you've got to get up here and sign these
papers." And I wasn't getting it. They were getting it.
And Reverend Dickey went down
there and told them, say, "Y'all are getting that man's wife's
money." Say, "Y'all continue to get it and leave him alone."
Say, "He's telling it like it is." Say, "Y'all better leave
him alone." Won't give me my food stamps. She had two names:
Ms. Moore[?] and Ms. Woods[?]. She isn't supposed to have
but one name. Is I right or wrong? And this woman I picked
up out of the street, went and told them what I said. And
they got rid of her. Keep them from getting caught. See, that's
wrong. Now, I'll tell you something else, too.
you've been doing right.
been doing right.
Long: And that's
the main thing.
tell you what. The driver would take all that hundred pounds
of sugar and hundred pounds of rice, lard. Carried the lard
and told me I was a damn fool because I wouldn't take it.
I said, "No, I'd die before I'd do it." Now, he dead. Old
Moran[?]. Now, you see, that's the reason the children couldn't
eat. He'd taken the stuff, selling the stuff, and when the
children needed to be eating it at school--.
can y'all keep food there for them? You can't do it, can you?
He had taken it, and selling it. I went over yonder across
the bay and bought him a safe this tall, backing my truck
to his house. A money safe. He's making so much money. Off
the government. Now, you see, that's the reason we can't get
OK. I want to thank you.
you're welcome, man.
Long: For taking
up all this time with me.
a minute. Let me tell you something. I wish you could catch
me if I ever get my money, and get settled down. Catch me
and let me talk to you. I'll tell you what. I'll fool my brother
to get him here and let both of us get to talking. You catch
it all. Wait.
done been through some high water.
killed a black man about as far from here to where the bridge
is, (whispering), and there ain't nobody said nothing about
that, is there? A black man.
Long: All right.
you going to tape it?
(End of the interview.)
1. Note: Holp is an archaic form
of the past tense helped.