An Oral History

With

Estell Harvey













Interviewer: Harriet Tanzman













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.



2000

Biography



Ms. Estell "Sally" Louie Harvey was born on January 25, 1946, near Lexington, Mississippi. One of nine children, seven sisters and a brother, Sally grew up on her parent's farm where cotton, corn, beans, peanuts, sweet potatoes, and greens were grown; and, livestock, including cows, pigs, and mules were raised. She attended Mileston Elementary and High School as well as working her family's crops along with the other children. Ms. Harvey and all of her siblings went on to earn college degrees.



Mr. T.L. Louie and Mrs. Mattie Louie, the parents of Ms. Harvey, attended movement meetings in the sixties, and hosted some of the white, Northern college students who volunteered in the Mississippi movement during Freedom Summer of 1964, being very careful to try to protect their children from any reprisals that might occur. These fears of reprisals arose from incidents of cross-burnings and shootings and bombings that were occurring in their community in the sixties.



In 1964, Ms. Harvey left Mississippi, going to Chicago, where she spent thirty years working at the University of Chicago. In 1997, Ms. Harvey returned to Lexington, Mississippi, becoming active in the community. On July 17, 1998, Ms. Harvey and other volunteers used a grant from the Kellogg Foundation to open a general store, filling a need for people living in the "project." They opened and maintained a community store where food, feed, and seed were available to nearby residents.

Table of Contents



Childhood 1

Father's participation in the movement 4

Fear of reprisals 4

Independent black farmers in Lexington 5

Voter registration 5

Employment in the local communities 8

Arrest of minors at Jackson sit-in 9

Volunteers Sue Lorenzi and Mike Kenney 12

Moving to Chicago 13

Parent's values 15

Working at the University of Chicago 15

Private academies 16

Current state of education 17

The Mileston Store 20

AN ORAL HISTORY



with



ESTELL HARVEY



This is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with Ms. Estell Harvey and is taking place on March 4, 2000. The interviewer is Harriet Tanzman.



Tanzman: This is Harriet Tanzman. I am speaking with Sally Louie Harvey in Holmes County, Mississippi, in the Marcella[?] Community, out from Mileston on March 4, 2000. Thanks for being with us Sally.



Harvey: Thanks, Harriet. I'm Sally Louie Harvey, and my parents was a member of the movement in the early sixties and late sixties, combined. And they attended various meetings in the movement. Mr. Ball[?] was one of the workers that was involved in the community at that particular time and later joining us was Mike Kenney.



Tanzman: OK. Sally, can you just start by telling us when you were born, where you were born and a little about your early life? Your parents names, and who they were and your brothers and sisters. You know, who was in the family.



Harvey: Yes. I was born January 25, 1946, out at Howell[?] which is located about eight miles from Lexington. My parents' name is--. My father's name is T.L. Louie, and they call him Jack. My mother's name is Mattie B. Louie, and we reside here at Marcella community. And they moved down here in 1948, if I'm correct.



Tanzman: Did they move here to their own land?



Harvey: Yes. There was a project at that particular time funded by the federal government, and they was one of the second individuals to own the spot that they own, now. The people that they bought the land from, they came and they stayed, like, a short time, and they didn't like it here, so then, my parents took over their note. And I think at that particular time it was, like, about $5000. You know, at that particular time. And I think it's covered something like about eighty, eighty-five acres of land. And that's including the timberland, as well.



Tanzman: And how many brothers and sisters do you have?



Harvey: I have--. Now, living, I have seven sisters. Eight with myself. And one brother. Now, there are some half-brothers that I have been told by various people; a couple of them I know, and the rest I don't know because I have very little contact with them. I have been away from here like about thirty-three years, and we just returned here in September of 1997.



Tanzman: OK. When you were growing up, what kind of crops were your parents farming here?



Harvey: Cotton, corn, and beans. And they had peanuts and sweet potatoes and greens. Whatever you could raise in a garden, they had it at that particular time. We had cows, the pigs, the whole works. And horses. Mules. Not horses; they was mules, at the time. Right.



Tanzman: Was cotton the largest crop?



Harvey: The cotton was the largest crop at that particular time. The cotton and beans was the largest. Well, at that particular time, they did grow quite a bit of corn, too, for the cows and the hogs. Yeah.



Tanzman: OK. And, when you were going to school, that would be in the forties and fifties and sixties. Well, no. It would be in the fifties and sixties. Where was your school from here? What was the school that you went to?



Harvey: OK. It was Mileston Elementary and High School at that particular time, and it was, like, about three miles away. It's like you go--. It's at the end of the road here and take a left, and it's right across the bridge, like, headed towards Tchula. You know. And at that particular time, most of us walked to school at that particular time because we did not have public transportation, so, you know--.



Tanzman: You walked three miles.



Harvey: Right. You walked three miles to school, then, and from school, or either, you know, some of the parents in the community had--. Most of the people at that particular time had trucks. Very few people had cars. And they would come by. We would get on the back of the truck if our parents gave us permission to do so. It depended on who the parents were at that time.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Was the school open from September to June or were you only open for a few months a year in between the crops?



Harvey: The school was open from September to May, but we wasn't able to go to school until we had finished the majority of the crops. So, we started school, like, maybe the middle of September until May.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Your whole family worked the crops. The children, also.



Harvey: Right. All of us worked the crop. Yeah. And most of the time, during the crop time, if we went to school on those days, then immediately after coming from school, we would have to go to the field and, you know, depending on how much cotton we picked at that particular time, then we got a chance to go to school the next day.



Tanzman: If you still were picking then, you needed to stay out of school, that day?



Harvey: Mm-hm. And pick. You know, get enough bales so he could go to the gin and gin the cotton because that was what he had to do in order to feed us and clothe us.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Was the school well-equipped? Did it have, you know, a lot of the facilities that the white school had, too?



Harvey: To be honest with you, for grammar school, I really don't know was it as equipped as the white school at that particular time because we didn't know what the white schools had at that particular time because we never entered a white school. So, I really couldn't say. But as far as the high school, no, we was not equipped with what the white kids had. Even though, in 1962, they built a new school which at that particular time was called Tchula Attendance Center, and it was a new school, but we had pretty much the same thing as what we had down at Mileston. And they was old books that was passed down from the white kids that we got. You know. Very few things that we got new. And I remember in the sewing class, in the sewing room, we got hand-down sewing machines. Yeah.



Tanzman: Did they work:



Harvey: Yeah, some of them worked. They all didn't work, but some of them worked.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Now, to get to the early sixties, when you were coming into your teens. Is that correct?



Harvey: Mm-hm.



Tanzman: Yeah. During that period, I know the movement was beginning to get started here in the county, and some people--I gather Mrs. Carnegie[?]--and some other people had attended meetings many places before that, but they, you know, were beginning to bring it back to the county. And hold the meetings. I was wondering if you could tell me a little about your father's participation then. Did he begin to get involved in the early sixties?



Harvey: From what I can remember, yes, he did get involved in the early sixties. A lot of the meetings that they attended were secret meetings, and they, you know, shared very little information with us about what was going on, but we knew that, you know, they was meeting about their voting rights. And they went to various places, but a lot of places we was unaware of. They didn't give the children very much information because of our safety.



Tanzman: They were meeting secretly in homes and different churches, and stuff?



Harvey: Yeah. Most of their meetings was held in the churches. There was a few homes that I recall, that they met at. But most of them was done in the churches.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. And did your family, did your parents divide up? Was your mother going to meetings with you? I know you were saying that they were very concerned about safety issues. So, how did that express itself with the way that they took care of you?



Harvey: OK. My mother attended very few meetings that was held at night. My father mostly attended all the meetings that was held, and my mother was left home to protect us from any firebomb, or something that might be throwed into the windows if they found out that my dad was a part of the movement.



Tanzman: What did they ask you to do? What kinds of precautions did they try to take?



Harvey: They asked us, if we saw a car light coming, not to appear in the window. Do not raise the shade. Cut the light off in the room, if you saw the light coming down the road. Or, at night when we got ready to go to bed, most of the time, we didn't sleep in the bed. We slept under the bed.



Tanzman: This went on for a couple of years?



Harvey: Well, I left in sixty-four, so, yes, I'm sure it did, because I just recall some of my sisters stating, you know, they would hide in the closet and what have you. So, it did continue to go on for awhile.



Tanzman: Did you know of threats that were happening when people were having meetings? Threats from whites or cars cruising around, or anything?



Harvey: Personally, myself, I didn't see of any, but my parents made us aware that these things were taking place. There was a cross-burning at the entrance here off the Marcella community. And various men in communities stood guard of that to protect, you know, the people's houses from being bombed. And there was a few incidents where they fired into some of the blacks' houses because they had meetings held at their homes.



Tanzman: This community right here was all black farmers?



Harvey: Yeah.



Tanzman: Right here.



Harvey: Yes. These was all black farmers.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Independent farmers. This was not near the plantation area.



Harvey: No. It wasn't near the plantation area. All the people here in this area at that particular time owned their own land.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. And you had neighbors who were also very active, right? Mrs. Carnegie was one of them?



Harvey: Mrs. Carnegie. Mr. Norman Clark. Mr. Chester Hays[?]. Mr. Dan Wesley, and Mr. Clemon Lacy[?] was also involved at that particular time.



Tanzman: How did you feel about--? Do you remember back then? How did you feel about some of this? Was it a very frightening experience to be away from the windows and under the beds?



Harvey: Yes. It was very frightening at that particular time because we didn't understand, you know, the whole shebang. You know, we was in our own home. And why should we be afraid, you know, in your own home? And, you know, as a child, you just don't understand those things, but our parents, they explained to us, you know, that if we did that, they would try to protect us from any harm that might would come to us, you know, during that particular time. And it was also to protect them.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Did they talk to you about the voting? About what they were trying to do?



Harvey: Yes. Yes, they did. And I remember the very first time that my dad, when they went to the courthouse, and they stood in the line so long, and, you know, they said the white people just looked at them, and asked them, "Well, niggers, what are you doing here? You know you have no business here." And they didn't even allow them to even register that very first day.



Tanzman: Was this when a group of people went down?



Harvey: Yeah. It was a group of them, and I think it was about twenty or twenty-five of them went down at that particular time.



Tanzman: In 1963?



Harvey: Exactly. Right.



Tanzman: So, they didn't really let them in?



Harvey: No. They didn't even allow them in. You know. They just stood up, you know, and looked at them. And there was one gentleman. I can't remember his name, and I should have asked my father. I should have wrote it down, but he said that this man told him, "You know, y'all are just wasting your time here. You need to go on home because this is no place for niggers to be." You know. Because you didn't have any rights.



Tanzman: You don't remember if he was an official or what?



Harvey: Yeah. As a matter of fact, he was an official in Lexington at that particular time, and I just can't remember his name. You know. My daddy--. And he would, you know, years later he would sit down and talk about that. And he would just think how crazy. He said how crazy he was to think that they were just going to walk away, you know, and not try it again. But they just continued to go time after time so they, you know--. The workers that was in the county at that particular time kept encouraging them to continue, you know, even though they turned them down. Don't let that stop you. And I think Ralthus Hayes[?], he was very much involved at that particular time, as well.



Tanzman: He's one of the farmers from the area. Ralthus, R-A-L-T-H-U-S, I guess, Hayes.



Harvey: Yeah. He was very much involved for a long time. Yeah.



Tanzman: Was he teaching people about voting?



Harvey: Yes. Yes, he was. And he went into other counties after they got a chance to vote here in Holmes County, he went to other areas teaching people how to vote. Right.



Tanzman: And you were saying that some of the workers were encouraging people. You mean the local workers? The local people who were active leadership people like your father? And some of the outside civil rights workers?



Harvey: Some of the outside civil rights workers, what they did, they would encourage the local people, just because they was turned around, and because things looked a little dim that particular day, they didn't want them to give up. So, they just gave them high hope that things would get better, and which they did because they was strong enough not to turn around. You know. And they stood up.



Tanzman: A lot of courage.



Harvey: Right. It was a lot of courage. And I'm sure they feared for their lives, as well, but this was just a stand that they took and they believed in. And they just said, they just wanted to make things better for us as we came along. You know, as we grew up.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. For the next generation. Is that how your father and mother described it to you?



Harvey: Yes, that's pretty much how they described it, because they said, "Well, if we hadn't done that at that particular time, you know, we don't know what things would be like now. They'd probably be even worse." And, since that time, and I'm sure we'll get to that a little bit later, some of the changes that has been made since I left here in sixty-four and returned in ninety-seven.



Tanzman: Some of the changes that have been made due to some of that early movement.



Harvey: Right. Because, you know, I was just surprised when we came back, you know. The Justice Court Judges, there's two black, you know justice court judges. And the others of the--. I don't know them all.



Tanzman: Some of the officials?



Harvey: Yeah. Some of the officials in Holmes County, you know, there's quite a few of them. I mean, Holmes County is predominantly black officials in key places that, you know, I was impressed by. But then, in a sense, as I look at some things, it seems like, yes, we advanced. But it's not advanced to where I thought it would be at this point. And what happened in between, I really don't know. You know.



Tanzman: So, you see some advances in terms of their voting, and in terms of elections, but many other problems are still here.



Harvey: Yeah. Many other problems are still here. And my thing is, my question is, to a lot of the black officials is, OK, we have all these people in these places, now. But there's a lot of things that are not getting done here in Holmes County. And one example is, for several years, I can say for at least eight years, they have promised the people in Marcella a black-topped road. And here, you know, like ten years later, this have not been done, and I understand the supervisor, which is Mr. James Johnson[?] has been in his position, like, twenty-one years.



Tanzman: He's a black man from--. Also a farmer, isn't he? From Howard?



Harvey: Yeah. From Howard. Yeah, and he's in Beat Four. He's the supervisor of Beat Four, and we still have not received a black-topped road, and they say it's supposed to be coming, but, you know, I just feel that it's still--. What did we say? Yes, we have a lot of black officials, but still I feel that, the whites still run the ball game. I'll put it that way. You know.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. So, you don't feel that the power is really with those black officials? That even though they have some positions like supervisor, sheriff--?



Harvey: OK. I feel like, for the black supervisor, black sheriff, and what have you, I feel that the government, the federal government does not allow us to have funds as if they had in white communities. I just feel that they don't let the same amount--. You could take the same county with predominantly white, and they'd get more than the blacks. You know. Because I feel Holmes County, you know, so many plants and things has closed in Holmes County, there is no job. These people have to go out of the county, you know, to get a job.



Tanzman: Is that true of this community? Many people have to work outside of the county?



Harvey: All the people in this community, except for a very few, works outside. They works in Humphrey County. Mm-hm. At the catfish plant.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. So, there's really nothing locally. There are no factories, except in Lexington, I guess.



Harvey: Yeah, I know of one: Fleetwood. And I think this past year they have laid off a large number of people, and they have even closed one of the plants. Mm-hm. Because I know my granddaughter, Marketa[?], her father worked at Fleetwood, and I think he worked out there for ten years. And so, he got laid off, and he ended up going to Memphis for a job.



Tanzman: This is the mobile home factory?



Harvey: Right. Yes, it is the mobile home factory.



Tanzman: Well, there's some talk that factories come in, depending some on the level of education. So, maybe we can get a little bit into some of the education issues then and now. I think that would be worthwhile. I think that you were beginning to tell me that one of your sisters--. This is back quite a ways, but to get back to, like, sixties and so on, when they just began to integrate the schools, could you tell me a little about your own family's participation in that, and kind of what happened there?



Harvey: OK. I have a sister. As a matter of fact, two sisters. One, Dorothy Louie Yarbrough[?] and Gloria Jean (inaudible). They both was a part of the movement, and they both got locked up in jail down in Jackson when they took a load of kids down there to sit-in. I'm not sure exactly where it were at that particular time, but they both went to jail, and my father had to go and borrow money from my grandfather, from his father, to get them out of jail, because we didn't have any money.



Tanzman: Was that those big demonstrations in sixty-five, when they were demonstrating at the state capital?



Harvey: Yes, state capital.



Tanzman: Yeah. I think a few hundred people went from Holmes County.



Harvey: Right. Yes. Yes. You're correct. That was at the state capital, and it was Gloria Jean and Dorothy that got locked up in jail, and my father had to borrow money from his father, in order to get them out of jail, because we didn't have any money.



Tanzman: They were quite young, weren't they? They weren't out of their teens, yet?



Harvey: No, they wasn't out of their teens, yet. Matter of fact, I think Dorothy was, like, about sixteen at the time, and then Gloria Jean was, like, thirteen or fourteen at that particular time.



Tanzman: And they locked her up?



Harvey: They locked them up. Yes.



Tanzman: With the adults?



Harvey: Yes. Yes, they locked them up. And they started, you know, like, slinging the clubs at them. You know. And they sort of just, you know, how they tell them. And they just banded, hold it together. You know. Just hold together so nobody would really be injured.



Tanzman: Oh, this was at the Fairgrounds? Was it the Fairgrounds where they put them out there?



Harvey: Yeah, I think it were. I can't remember it all right now.



Tanzman: But they banded together to make sure that nobody was clubbed.



Harvey: Right. Exactly. So no one would get seriously hurt. And I think it worked pretty good, because I think Ralthus Hayes, he also was one of the adults that went at that particular time. And my sister, Gloria Jean, she was one of the students that helped integrate Tchula white school. And after that occurred--.



Tanzman: When was that, about? Was that mid-sixties after you left?



Harvey: Yes, it was the mid-sixties, because when we called home, our parents would tell us that, and we would say, "What!?" You know, "Y'all are out of your minds." You know. We was afraid for them. You know, because, I guess, at that particular time you flash back from the time where, when we was home and how things were. So, you just assumed that things was still the same, but after that, she could not return to the public high school that she was going to which was Tchula Attendance Center at the time, because the principal saw any student that was involved in the movement, they saw them as troublemakers. So, he didn't allow her to attend that school anymore, so, she ended up having to be bussed to Lexington for that reason.



Tanzman: This is after the school that she helped integrate was burned down.



Harvey: Yes, they burned down the school in Tchula. The white school in Tchula, and after that, she had to be bused to Lexington to attend school there.



Tanzman: And that happened to Dorothy, also?



Harvey: No, Dorothy was part of the movement, and what happened was, Dorothy, she also went to Tchula Attendance Center. And the principal found out that she was involved in the movement at that time, and she had to end up graduating from Saints for that same reason because he didn't want any--. He called any student that was involved in the movement as troublemakers.



Tanzman: Oh, that was the black private academy in Lexington?



Harvey: Yes, what they called Saints Junior College at that particular time.



Tanzman: So, actually he was trying to rid the school of anybody who might try to do something.



Harvey: Right. I think any student--. He didn't want her to get other students involved, so that was the best way to sort of, you know, isolate her from other students. And we was just blessed to have a cousin out there in that area that she could live with at that particular time to attend school.



Tanzman: So, both your sisters had to leave home to go to Lexington to do--? Do you want to take a break for some water?



Harvey: Yes.



Tanzman: Just a minute. (There is a brief interruption in the interview.)



Harvey: How that was handled. You know. I really--. She had to commute to Lexington every day, but I don't exactly know how it was set up. But, yes.



Tanzman: But she ended up actually living with--. She lived in Lexington while she went.



Harvey: OK. Now, Dorothy lived in Lexington while she attended school, and she would come home on weekends because she would stay with my cousin. Then, Gloria Jean, she graduated from Lexington, but I'm not sure if she--. She would get home every day. So, I don't know if they had a bus just to take those children to Lexington or what she did was went to Tchula and took the bus from Tchula to Lexington.



Tanzman: Yes, so they were actually quite punitive about the kids that were the first. They did not want them anywhere near the other children contaminating them. (Laughter.) And didn't your sister--? Dorothy actually became a civil rights worker for a while, didn't she? When she was pretty young?



Harvey: Yes, she did.



Tanzman: I think I met her when she was in her early teens.



Harvey: Yes. Dorothy became a worker for quite some time. I think she was [with] SCLC. Was it SCLC? For a while.



Tanzman: Oh, was she?



Harvey: Yeah.



Tanzman: At first, I think it was with COFO.



Harvey: Right. Right.



Tanzman: And she went to another part of the state to work in the movement?



Harvey: Dorothy traveled for a while with the movement in various areas. Yes, she did.



Tanzman: And, now, she's writing her own story. Right?



Harvey: Yeah. Now, she has her own story about what happened. (Laughter.) And I think--. Is her name Sue?



Tanzman: Sue Lorenzi?



Harvey: Yeah. They communicated together this past year, in ninety-nine, because they was exchanging some information.



Tanzman: This is one of the civil rights workers who lived here about five years.



Harvey: Right. They spent some time with my parents. Living at my parents'. Right.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. And you also had a civil rights worker there a few years, that you were beginning to tell me about. Mike Kenney? K-E-N-N-E-Y.



Harvey: Yes. I was very impressed with Mike. Mike was brave, and he was a very smart young man. And he taught us a lot of things. He taught us how to, you know, protect ourselves. And he just gave us advice on how people think, and, no matter what color you are, it's what you think of yourself. You know. And he explained why he was here, and just how things had to be changed in order for things to get better for us. That, you know, we had to make some of those changes, and sometimes it means, you know, you give up your life for it. You know. But if you strongly mean that, you know, what you believe in, then you're willing to do that.



Tanzman: So he inspired some of you.



Harvey: He did. We was very inspired by him. Yeah. And my sister Gloria Jean, and Dorothy as well.



Tanzman: He lived with your family for a couple of years, I think. Didn't he?



Harvey: Yes. Yes, he did. Yeah. He did. You know. Him and my father and my mom, they got along really well. I mean, he was like a brother to us. Even though I had a younger brother, but he was like another brother to us. Right. Even though he was a different color. That's just how he fit in with the family at that time.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. And he was here during, I guess, the summer of sixty-four, and he stayed here. He was still here when I was around in sixty-six. So, I guess he stayed a couple of years.



Harvey: Yes, he did. And even after, I think, he went to Australia, I believe. At one point. And he would send cards and things back to my parents. And my sister that's in Champaign, Gloria, that spent a lot of time with him. You know. She would hear from him occasionally because they kept in contact. Yes.



Tanzman: Did your folks, most of you, leave Mississippi?



Harvey: Yes. Most of us, after we finished high school, we left because there wasn't anything here for us to do, and my father didn't have a lot of money because there was a lot of us, you know, like, every two years, one of us would get out of high school, so we didn't have the money to go off to college, because he had these younger children to clothe and feed. So, what we did, he had some sisters in Chicago. So, what we did, we left. And my aunties up there, they sort of assisted in getting us jobs there. So, that's where we all ended up.



Tanzman: So, you all, mostly, headed to Chicago?



Harvey: Mm-hm. We all mostly headed to Chicago. Even though when I first got there, I didn't like it. After looking around, I said, "Oh, this is what you call Chicago?" You know. I just visualized something totally different than what I saw when I got there. But after getting there, like, I was there for maybe about two or three days, and I had a job. You know. I mean, it was like $1.25 an hour and was much more than $2.50 for twelve hours that I worked all day in the hot sun for.



Tanzman: That's what you were earning here?



Harvey: That's what we was earning here. Once we completed our crop here, then we was able to go out and chop by the day, which we went over in Indianola and Belzoni, and that area, and chopped by the day. And we would ride on the back of a truck, which was my uncle Ralthus Hayes. He would take us, and we would be on the back of the truck like a herd of cows, all clustered up together, going to try to make money, you know, so we could buy our school clothes for the following school term.



Tanzman: Who did you work for? Was it white farmers or black farmers?



Harvey: It was white farmers. It was a big plantation over in Belzoni and Indianola and that area. And Louise, Mississippi, and that area, but they was all plantation owners.



Tanzman: And what did they pay?



Harvey: Two dollars a day. Or some of them would pay $2.50 a day. Whatever one that pays the most, if it was $2 instead of $2.50, we would go where the $2.50 were.



Tanzman: That's for a whole day from very early in the morning till sundown?



Harvey: From early in the morning till sundown. Till, I think it was roughly around five or six o'clock. But anyway it was late in the evening. It was, like, a twelve-hour day. That's all we got paid for. So, when I went to Chicago and made $1.25 an hour, I was so happy.



Tanzman: You were doing well! (Laughter.)



Harvey: I thought that was doing well.



Tanzman: So, you all worked these plantations. Your brother and your sisters, pretty much, worked out after the crops?



Harvey: I think up until Gloria Jean. After that, I think my younger sisters, they didn't have to work out, because then we was away so we was able to help my parents, you know, with some of the bills, so it wasn't as bad, after most of the older ones left, and we got jobs where we was able to help them.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. Oh. So, you helped out with the family expenses after?



Harvey: Yeah. Because I never will forget my two youngest sisters were at home at that particular time, [and] I saw these beautiful Easter dresses that I never was able to get for myself. And I said, "Oh, these are the beautiful dresses." So, I sent them to my two youngest sisters, and they took pictures. And we still have those pictures today. And every time I look at them, I say, "Oh, yeah." And I kept one of them after, you know, I had my oldest daughter. She was, well, my oldest daughter. She's my only daughter. I got her one of the same dresses, and I kept that dress for year after year after year until she was grown because that was a dress that I think it was like about ten or twelve dollars, but I had never had a dress that I paid that much money for. So, I would just hold it up and just look at it.



Tanzman: It was precious?



Harvey: Yeah, it was precious. But then my two youngest sisters had the same dress, you know, so, I always thought it was nice.



Tanzman: That's great that you were able to do that.



Harvey: Yeah. It was a blessing. It really was a blessing from the Good Master above, and it's just the teaching that my parents had instilled in us. And, you know, to look back, you know, now, and to have to look back at all of it, I would say, you know, I wouldn't--. There would be some things that I would change in it, but I appreciate it. How I was raised.



Tanzman: What were some of the values that they instilled in you that were so precious?



Harvey: You know, one thing they taught us, my parents, they was religious parents. And they taught us how to, even though it was mostly girls in the family, my dad would always say, "Get a good education." Because he would always say, "You know, people can take a lot of things from you, but they cannot take your brains. If you've got it in your head, they cannot take that. They can do a lot of things, but they can't take it away from you. If you've got it, can't nobody take that away from you. They might not allow you to use it to your fullest, but they can't take it away from you." And, you know, he always taught us that. You know, if you got an education. And whatever job, he said, "Even if you're a floor sweeper," he said, "Be the best." Whatever you wanted to be, be the best of it. And those type of things.



Tanzman: That's a lot of pride and dignity.



Harvey: Yeah, it were. And it worked, you know, because, most of us, we didn't get a chance to go to college while we was here because my parents couldn't afford it. But we all went to college once we left here.



Tanzman: Oh, you did?



Harvey: Yeah. We all has college education. Some of us has a B.S.; some has Master's. So, it really paid off. Yeah.



Tanzman: And what was the main work that you did up in Chicago?



Harvey: I worked at the University of Chicago, and I was there for thirty years. And my last job, I was a diet technician, but I was a supervisor, and I was supervisor for twenty-five people, and I really enjoyed my job. And it paid well. That was the very first job. No, not the very first. The very first job I got was at Spiegel's, and that was before I got married. But after I got married, my husband was in the service, and we was stationed in Omaha for a while and Michigan for a while. Then, after that, he went to Vietnam. And after that, he came back, and since that time, things didn't go well. So, I left Michigan and came back to Chicago, and I went to the University, and they hired me the very first day I was there. And I, you know, enjoyed the people, and I loved the place, and I just stayed there. I was there, you know, for thirty years.



Tanzman: Were you still married?



Harvey: No, when I went to Chicago at that particular time, I went there as a single mom. My husband and I were separated, but we wasn't divorced. We divorced in 1972, but the job had good benefits and it paid well, because I was able to raise my two children and have a decent place to stay and go to school part-time.



Tanzman: Great.



Harvey: Yeah.



Tanzman: And then you remarried?



Harvey: Yeah. I just recently remarried, you know, five years ago. Yeah and moved back to Mississippi because my husband retired. Yeah.



Tanzman: So, you came back here after thirty-three years.



Harvey: After thirty-three years, I'm back home.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. I wonder if you could tell me a little bit. I know you came back and forth. That all of you came back and forth to see your folks over those years, and heard about movement and heard about many things all during that time, but when you came back here after thirty-three years, you were beginning to say, before, that here are these elected officials, but there isn't so much change. What are some of the good things that you see? Or, what are some of the things that have progressed from when you were here? Are the schools, for example, for the two grandchildren you brought back with you? Are the schools different from what they were when you were here?



Harvey: The schools are very different. I am a little bit--. Well, I shouldn't say, "a little bit." I am disappointed in the school system. The public school system, I should say, and I was disappointed because there is no private school in Holmes County for blacks. You know. And--.



Tanzman: There's still the academies that whites go to?



Harvey: It's the academy that whites goes to. There is no black private school. Even, like, Saints, there was some problems there, out in Lexington, so they had to close it down, but I was just surprised that the education system is not as good as it were when I was in school. And, you know, I don't know where the missing link is, but it appeared to be, you know, I guess from the top all the way down, I mean, that's the best I can describe it from the--. Either they say it's from the bottom all the way up. And I know a lot of blame is being put off on the children, but I look at it as, OK, if the children are to blame, they're only children, so we have to take some of that blame, because I feel in some instances we are not doing what we are supposed to do, and that includes the parents of the children as well as the teachers and as well as the public officials. Because I think a lot of decisions that they make are bad decisions. And we don't even have an alternative school for kids here in this county, which I was surprised. Being a member of the PTA, you know, and going to various school board meetings, you know you find out a lot of these things that are going on in school that just didn't go on, you know, in the time I was--. There was bad--. You know, kids did little devilish things, but not to the extent that these kids are doing now, you know, to each other.



Tanzman: You mean problems between the kids or discipline problems or what are you--?



Harvey: OK. When I say problem, it's like the discipline problems going at school. I understand, yes they took paddling out. And I can understand some of it to a certain extent, but they do have the punishment, but somehow, I think, like, some of the cases that comes up, I don't think they're reviewed well enough or if you are a student in a certain clique, then, you know, I don't bother you even though I can see you're doing something wrong, but, you know, it's OK because you are in that clique. It's that type of thing. And you know, I'm not sure how I would like to say that, but I know, like, what they call the "teacher's pet" and that type of thing, and like some children might be a little bit more aggressive, you know, in their studies than other children, but I think there's still some way that we have to reach those children that are slow. And I understand that there's a shortage of teachers, and the teacher's salaries here is not that great to draw teachers to this county, so maybe that's why the student's education level is poor here. I don't know. I'm just trying to figure it out.



And I understand this is why there's a lot of companies doesn't come into this area because of the people here. You know, this is what I heard, then again I said I couldn't quite understand that, because these are some of the people that came out of the education system that they have provided for in this county. You know, so, if this is the case, then, what is the government doing about it? And what are their plans to do about it? If they know this is happening, then that tells me there needs to be some change. And what change are they making?



Tanzman: You said that you were in the PTA. Are there active parent groups that are trying to make the schools better or trying to make any change that you can see in the county?



Harvey: Yes, I do. And I have attended various meetings with some of the parents and the teachers as well, and there is quite a few parents that's trying to make a change. Not all the parents, and I think some of the parents is just because from lack of understanding. You know. Some parents became parents at an early age, and I feel some of it is because of lack of knowledge, but there has to be some way that we can reach our parents because I always say this: "You know, it might not affect you, now, but it's going to affect you later. You know." So, we might as well try to help change it now, because it's going to affect us all, you know, sooner or later, because they're the generation of the future.



Tanzman: That's true. I guess some of the frameworks that maybe once existed weren't always specifically around improving the schools. You know, some of the early movement stuff. And maybe some of those ideas about reaching out to some people that don't understand, you know, that this is their child's future, like, organizing, you know, still needs to be done. OK. I'm going to have to turn over the tape. Excuse me.



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



Tanzman: Are the schools here, are they all black? The students?



Harvey: Yes.



Tanzman: And teachers?



Harvey: Well, now all the teachers aren't black. They're about--. I know at the Mileston Elementary School, which is K through six, they're all black. At S.P. Marshall[?], which is the old Tchula Attendance School, majority of the teachers there are black. They have a few whites there. Maybe about six out of the entire school.



Tanzman: But you don't see that those schools are in better shape than they were? You think they're in worse shape than when you were children?



Harvey: As far as the building itself, it's probably in better shape. But for the education, no, it's in worse shape. Because you know, just talking to some of the students, I says,--. You know. You go out there, and you see them not in the classroom, and you say, "Well, what are you doing out of school?"



They say, "Well, the teacher don't teach me nothing." You know, so, to me, that's a sad thing for a child to say. You know.



And I ask them, I said, "Don't you have any homework?"



They say, "Well, the teacher didn't give us any homework." You know. So, not saying that the students are telling all the truth, but there is something that's missing here.



Tanzman: Something is wrong.



Harvey: Yeah. Something is wrong. And a lot of times the students will say, "Well, some of the teachers are acting like the students."



Tanzman: So, they don't have much respect for some of them.



Harvey: It seems like that respect is lacking, there.



Tanzman: And your granddaughters? Tell me their names, again.



Harvey: Marketa and Alexandra[?].



Tanzman: OK. Marketa is sixteen.



Harvey: She's sixteen.



Tanzman: And Alexandra? Is eleven?



Harvey: Yeah.



Tanzman: And so, Alexandra is in elementary school?



Harvey: She's elementary. She's at Mileston. She's sixth grade, and Marketa, she's at S.B. Marshall, and she's tenth grade.



Tanzman: How has it been for them to be back after three, just for a few years, after living in Chicago, all this time?



Harvey: Yeah. Well, they--. In the first school (inaudible), they missed Chicago because they have much more activity there versus here. You know, they like the choir this year, but, I mean Chicago had the after-school programs, and they had activities that might not have been related to school, but they was held at the school facility. Like, they would have volleyball, that type of activity. Here, in Holmes County, you don't have anything for these children to do. And I think that has a lot to do with their motivation.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. You mean, extracurricular, also.



Harvey: Right. You know, they don't even have a gym that they could even go and play ball, or anything like that. Or even a swimming pool. I said, "Swimming pool?"

And they was telling me, "We have to go all the way to Grenada."



I says, "Are you crazy?" You know. Except for they go down to some hotel, down in, someplace in Yazoo City during the summer.



Tanzman: To swim.



Harvey: Yeah, to swim. You know. And I said, "Oh, my God." You know, these are some of the things that I expected to have changed in coming back. You know. That, yes, there should be a tennis court where you can go and play tennis or volleyball. It doesn't have to be a large one, you know. But even a baseball diamond for the young kids. They don't even have that. And it doesn't have to be large. It could be something small. But some kind of activity for the kids to be involved in, instead of, as they say, hanging out.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. So, there's a lot of work to be done.



Harvey: Very much so. (Laughter.)



Tanzman: Oh. And do you feel like you want to participate in doing some of it?



Harvey: Well, yes, I truly do, you know. It's just that, you know, it's so much to be done, you don't even know where to start. But the educating the children, I have to do something. You know, I have to participate in that. I really do because I think that would be one of the biggest downfalls for our children--lack of education.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. You agree with your parents' values.



Harvey: Yes. Very much so. I mean, I feel it works for me, it'll work for them. Yeah.



Tanzman: And the work that you're doing here, now?



Harvey: OK. How I got involved in this was with Calvin Head[?] and some of the other community members, like Mrs. Mary Redmond[?], Mrs. Rebecca Ferguson[?], Mr. Griffin McLaurin, David Lee Howard, and Ms. Van Alice William[?], Ms. Sarah Kay Davis[?]. And Ms. Davis, she was a former principal of Mileston, and Ms.Van Alice William, she's a teacher at Mileston at the present, and what happened was: the gentleman, which was Mr. Willie Lacy[?], he had closed the store.



Tanzman: This is called the Mileston Store?



Harvey: Yes. The old Mileston Community Store that was the store that they said housed everything from A to Z, that the people that was located here, what they call the project, was able to go and purchase whatever they needed. Like their seeds for the field, from corn, cotton, to the vegetables in the garden. And Mr. Lacy, he was renting the store, and he decided it was a little bit too much because he had became ill, and he felt it was a little bit too much for him and his daughters, so Calvin gave us some information. Says, "OK, how can we re-open this store?" And he said that at that particular time, Kellogg was doing some funding of some programs to help poverty stricken areas, and he says, "Well, we can get about fifteen hundred dollars. You think we can open the store with fifteen hundred dollars?"



I said, "Only way you can open a store with fifteen hundred dollars, you have to do all volunteer work." And he got some of the youngsters that was working out in the garden to help clean up the store and paint the store, and we opened it on July 17.



Tanzman: That was a year ago? Ninety-nine?



Harvey: Ninety-eight.



Tanzman: Ninety-eight.



Harvey: Uh-huh. It'll be two years this coming July that the store has been open. And we worked without even getting paid for I don't know how many months. You know, just to pay the vendors for what we purchased. And we got to the point where we did get, you know, some weeks we would get paid, and some weeks, we didn't. If we, you know, if we--. Let me give an example. Let me just back up. Yazoo Valley. We needed fourteen hundred dollars to keep the lights on, so we had to take the salary and donate it to keeping the lights on, fourteen hundred dollars. And they was nice because they let us do installment payments. So, that helped out a lot because if we had to pay them all that money at one time, I really don't know what we would have done.



Tanzman: Now, this was the community store was there, and there really was nothing else. Right? That was the main place with food and feed and seed and everything. So, to re-open could be significant because without it, there is no store in the whole area.



Harvey: Right. The next store, I think is down in Thornton. I think it's about four and a half miles away, and since this was like a landmark for most of us that lived near Mileston and in Mileston, we says, "OK. We can't let the store close because it's history behind the store, so we need to keep it open." So, that's why we fought so hard to keep it open.



Tanzman: So, you've been there all the time?



Harvey: Yeah, since we opened and before. And the thing is, interesting thing in it, see, when I was here, younger, it was in a different spot. The store was. The old Mileston Store had burned down, so, this is like the second Mileston Store.



Tanzman: Oh, it's in a different location.



Harvey: It's in a different, you know, a little bit farther over. Yeah. It's a different location from what it were.



Tanzman: So, you're working hard to keep it going?



Harvey: Working hard to keep it going. The thing [is] we have came a long ways with it, but we're not at the point where I would like to see it. I would like to see where we could, like, we're limited now on meats. Just the cold-cuts. And we do have the boiling meat, like the salt pork and the ham hocks, we carry occasionally. But I would like to get it to the point where we could buy it, like, purchase fresh meat and have in the store. Where it could be like a one-stop shop. Like, you know, for your grocery. You can come there and get your grocery instead of going to Tchula, which is seven, they say six and a half to seven miles away or either going to Yazoo City or Belzoni. I just feel that, you know, if you're going to purchase, why can't you purchase from yourself and put your money back into your own neighborhood and improve the neighborhood.



Tanzman: So, coming back here, you've gotten involved in, at least the economics and the school part, you've gotten very involved in the community.



Harvey: Yes, I have been very involved in the community. Not to the extent I would like to be, and I guess it's because there's a lot of little things that I don't know, and I'm still learning. So, you know, I began to learn a little bit more, you know, each day. Yeah. You know, reading. And I guess, you'd say, getting in contact with some of the, you know, public officials in areas. And they'll say, "Well, you can't do this."



And I'm saying, "Why can't you do it?"



You know, a lot of times, they say, "Because the people doesn't act upon getting certain things done." And I think a lot of times people have been, you know, shunned off, so many times, or they'll just do enough to satisfy them for a few moments, and I think that the confidence that people had in the public officials, they don't have the same confidence, now. You know.



Tanzman: Mm-hm. You think that the confidence they had in the early days when people were just getting elected is not so strong. Well, some of them have been in for many years, haven't they?



Harvey: Yeah, some of them have been in for quite some time, and I just feel that they, you know, a lot of people feel they have just came too complacent. You know, that they just feel that whatever has been going on for the umpteen years is OK. You know. But then on the other hand, if the communities doesn't bind together and says, "OK. We're no longer going to accept this. You've go to do something different." Then it continues to go on.



Because when the public official says, "Well, the people doesn't complain, so if they don't complain, then it's OK." So, they feel that they're doing a good job as long as the people doesn't complain about them.



Tanzman: So, the citizen action is still a vital necessity to really make them change.



Harvey: Yes, very much so. I think, you know, citizens getting involved and saying, "OK. These things got to take place." You know, I think voices need to be heard just like in the sixties, it just a different type but it's some of the same things that has to happen. They have to make some changes.



Tanzman: Well, thank you very much, Sally. Keeping you up till midnight, here. Thanks very much for participating in this. I really appreciate it.



Harvey: I hope it will be of some help to you.



(End of the interview.)

 
 

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