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.
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.
Father's participation in the
Fear of reprisals 4
Independent black farmers in
Voter registration 5
Employment in the local communities
Arrest of minors at Jackson
Volunteers Sue Lorenzi and Mike
Moving to Chicago 13
Parent's values 15
Working at the University of
Private academies 16
Current state of education 17
The Mileston Store 20
AN ORAL HISTORY
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
they move here to their own land?
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.
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.
When you were growing up, what kind of crops were your parents
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
cotton the largest crop?
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
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?
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--.
walked three miles.
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.
Was the school open from September to June or were you only
open for a few months a year in between the crops?
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
Your whole family worked the crops. The children, also.
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
you still were picking then, you needed to stay out of school,
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.
Was the school well-equipped? Did it have, you know, a lot
of the facilities that the white school had, too?
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.
some of them worked. They all didn't work, but some of them
Now, to get to the early sixties, when you were coming into
your teens. Is that correct?
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
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.
were meeting secretly in homes and different churches, and
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.
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
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.
did they ask you to do? What kinds of precautions did they
try to take?
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.
went on for a couple of years?
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.
you know of threats that were happening when people were having
meetings? Threats from whites or cars cruising around, or
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.
community right here was all black farmers?
These was all black farmers.
Independent farmers. This was not near the plantation area.
It wasn't near the plantation area. All the people here in
this area at that particular time owned their own land.
And you had neighbors who were also very active, right? Mrs.
Carnegie was one of them?
Carnegie. Mr. Norman Clark. Mr. Chester Hays[?]. Mr. Dan Wesley,
and Mr. Clemon Lacy[?] was also involved at that particular
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?
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.
Did they talk to you about the voting? About what they were
trying to do?
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.
this when a group of people went down?
It was a group of them, and I think it was about twenty or
twenty-five of them went down at that particular time.
they didn't really let them in?
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.
don't remember if he was an official or what?
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.
one of the farmers from the area. Ralthus, R-A-L-T-H-U-S,
I guess, Hayes.
He was very much involved for a long time. Yeah.
he teaching people about voting?
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.
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?
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.
lot of courage.
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
For the next generation. Is that how your father and mother
described it to you?
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
of the changes that have been made due to some of that early
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.
of the officials?
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.
you see some advances in terms of their voting, and in terms
of elections, but many other problems are still here.
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.
a black man from--. Also a farmer, isn't he? From Howard?
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.
So, you don't feel that the power is really with those black
officials? That even though they have some positions like
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.
that true of this community? Many people have to work outside
of the county?
the people in this community, except for a very few, works
outside. They works in Humphrey County. Mm-hm. At the catfish
So, there's really nothing locally. There are no factories,
except in Lexington, I guess.
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.
is the mobile home factory?
Yes, it is the mobile home factory.
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?
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.
that those big demonstrations in sixty-five, when they were
demonstrating at the state capital?
I think a few hundred people went from Holmes County.
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.
were quite young, weren't they? They weren't out of their
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.
they locked her up?
locked them up. 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
this was at the Fairgrounds? Was it the Fairgrounds where
they put them out there?
I think it were. I can't remember it all right now.
they banded together to make sure that nobody was clubbed.
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--.
was that, about? Was that mid-sixties after you left?
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.
is after the school that she helped integrate was burned down.
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.
that happened to Dorothy, also?
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.
that was the black private academy in Lexington?
what they called Saints Junior College at that particular
actually he was trying to rid the school of anybody who might
try to do something.
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.
both your sisters had to leave home to go to Lexington to
do--? Do you want to take a break for some water?
a minute. (There is a brief interruption in the interview.)
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.
she ended up actually living with--. She lived in Lexington
while she went.
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.
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?
think I met her when she was in her early teens.
Dorothy became a worker for quite some time. I think she was
[with] SCLC. Was it SCLC? For a while.
first, I think it was with COFO.
she went to another part of the state to work in the movement?
traveled for a while with the movement in various areas. Yes,
now, she's writing her own story. Right?
Now, she has her own story about what happened. (Laughter.)
And I think--. Is her name Sue?
They communicated together this past year, in ninety-nine,
because they was exchanging some information.
is one of the civil rights workers who lived here about five
They spent some time with my parents. Living at my parents'.
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.
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.
he inspired some of you.
did. We was very inspired by him. Yeah. And my sister Gloria
Jean, and Dorothy as well.
lived with your family for a couple of years, I think. Didn't
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.
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.
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.
your folks, most of you, leave Mississippi?
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.
you all, mostly, headed to Chicago?
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.
what you were earning here?
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.
did you work for? Was it white farmers or black farmers?
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.
what did they pay?
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.
for a whole day from very early in the morning till sundown?
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.
were doing well! (Laughter.)
Harvey: I thought
that was doing well.
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.
Oh. So, you helped out with the family expenses after?
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.
it was precious. But then my two youngest sisters had the
same dress, you know, so, I always thought it was nice.
great that you were able to do that.
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.
were some of the values that they instilled in you that were
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.
a lot of pride and dignity.
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.
We all has college education. Some of us has a B.S.; some
has Master's. So, it really paid off. Yeah.
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.
you still married?
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.
then you remarried?
I just recently remarried, you know, five years ago. Yeah
and moved back to Mississippi because my husband retired.
you came back here after thirty-three years.
thirty-three years, I'm back home.
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?
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--.
still the academies that whites go to?
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.
mean problems between the kids or discipline problems or what
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
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?
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?
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.
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.)
the schools here, are they all black? The students?
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
you don't see that those schools are in better shape than
they were? You think they're in worse shape than when you
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.
Something is wrong. And a lot of times the students will say,
"Well, some of the teachers are acting like the students."
they don't have much respect for some of them.
seems like that respect is lacking, there.
your granddaughters? Tell me their names, again.
Marketa is sixteen.
Alexandra? Is eleven?
so, Alexandra is in elementary school?
elementary. She's at Mileston. She's sixth grade, and Marketa,
she's at S.B. Marshall, and she's tenth grade.
has it been for them to be back after three, just for a few
years, after living in Chicago, all this time?
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.
You mean, extracurricular, also.
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.
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.
So, there's a lot of work to be done.
much so. (Laughter.)
And do you feel like you want to participate in doing some
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
You agree with your parents' values.
Very much so. I mean, I feel it works for me, it'll work for
the work that you're doing here, now?
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.
is called the Mileston Store?
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
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.
was a year ago? Ninety-nine?
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
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.
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.
you've been there all the time?
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.
it's in a different location.
in a different, you know, a little bit farther over. Yeah.
It's a different location from what it were.
you're working hard to keep it going?
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.
coming back here, you've gotten involved in, at least the
economics and the school part, you've gotten very involved
in the community.
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.
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?
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.
the citizen action is still a vital necessity to really make
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.
thank you very much, Sally. Keeping you up till midnight,
here. Thanks very much for participating in this. I really
Harvey: I hope
it will be of some help to you.
(End of the interview.)