Stephanie Scull Millet
interview 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.
Mrs. Franzetta Wells Gladney
Sanders was born September 2, 1936, in Moss Point, Mississippi,
in Jackson County. Mrs. Sanders' parents were Everett and
Mabel Hyde Wells; she was the second born of six children.
During the sixties, Mrs. Sanders joined the NAACP and was
active in testing public accommodations. She was active in
bringing Head Start to the Mississippi Gulf Coast. For fourteen
years Mrs. Sanders worked for Head Start, first as a teacher
and then as Director of Resource Centers.
By signing the retainer for
the Legal Defense attorneys, Mrs. Sanders became the plaintiff
who sued the Moss Point school system to admit the first African-American
students for attendance there in the sixties. Following her
commitments and activities in the movement, Mrs. Sanders and
her family suffered some reprisals, including attempts to
do bodily harm.
Mrs. Sanders is the mother
of six children, A. Jerome, Sandra, Gail, Cathy, Earl Jr.,
and Rodney. She has always been active in civic organizations
and an advocate for the grassroots people.
Segregation in childhood 11
Racial discrimination regarding
First impressions of racism
Justice Robinson and the NAACP
Head Start 26
Registering to vote 32
Freedom Summer 38
Importance of churches to the
The Gladney children integrate
Moss Point school system 41
Jack Young and Carsie Hall 41
Attending integrated school
Moss Point Dixie League desegregation
Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner
AN ORAL HISTORY
This is an interview for
the Civil Rights Documentation Project. The interview is with
Ms. Franzetta W. Sanders and is taking place on May 17, 2000.
The interviewer is Stephanie Scull Millet.
is an interview for the Civil Rights Documentation Project
of Tougaloo College and The University of Southern Mississippi.
The interview is with Ms. Franzetta Sanders, and it is taking
place on May 17, 2000, [in Moss Point, Mississippi]. The interviewer
is Stephanie Scull Millet. And first, I'd like to thank you
Ms. Sanders for taking the time to talk with me today.
I'd like to get some background information which is what
we usually do, and just ask you: could you tell me your name
and where and when you were born, please?
My name is Franzetta Wells Sanders. I was born in Moss Point,
Mississippi, Jackson County. I was born September 2, 1936.
thirty-six. A little while ago.
a little while ago.
you have brothers or sisters?
I do. I have two brothers and four sisters. I have two biological
brothers, two biological sisters--well, whole sisters--and
brothers. And I have two half-sisters from my daddy after
my mother died.
Where do you fall in that lineup?
am the second child born of the first marriage of my mother
and father, Mabel and Everett Wells[?].
were you one of the older children?
I am the oldest one living. I had an older sister. She died
as the results of a fire, at, I guess, four or five years
old. Something like that. Yeah. I was old enough to remember.
I was small, but I remember. In fact, that's her picture right
there with my dad. So, that left me being the oldest one of
the sisters and brothers.
I'll bet you were sort of a parent, sort of a mother to those
I actually was because, see, my mother died when I was eleven,
and my father died, oh, I guess I was twenty. Nineteen or
twenty. And the sisters and brothers from my father and my
mother, I kept those. I stayed with those sisters and brothers
until they got grown and what have you. But the last two children
born from my step-mother, well, now, she's living. And she
raised those, but they were babies. They didn't even remember
you mind just telling us the names of your brothers and sisters?
My oldest brother's name is Livingston Nathaniel Wells[?],
and he lives in Tuscaloosa, [Alabama]. And the next one is
my sister, oldest sister under me, Mabel Euchrist Elliott.
And she lives in Fair Oaks, California. She's a retired flight
nurse, Air Force. And the next one is my sister Katie Jackson
that lives across the yard from me.
Wells Jackson. And the next one is Clinton Lorenzo Wells[?]
who lives in Denver, Colorado. That's the baby brother. And
my two half-sisters. The oldest is Hazel Wells. She lives
in Moss Point. And the youngest one is Carolyn Sims. She lives
in Moss Point.
Well, it's good to get them down for the record. We like to
I hope I have them in order. (Laughter.) It was me, my sister
Mabel, then Livingston Nathaniel, and then Katie. I think
Katie is older than Buddy Boy. We call him Buddy Boy, but
his name is Livingston Nathaniel Wells, the one in Tuscaloosa.
Millet: I believe
that, maybe it's in Denver; Gladys Noel Bates is in Denver.
I don't know if you ever met her. She demanded equal pay.
She was a litigant and lost her job teaching as a result of
filing suit, but eventually won and furthered the cause of
equalization of pay for school teachers in Mississippi.
I--. What was her name, again?
Yeah. I didn't meet her, but I read of her.
she wound up in Colorado, as well.
tell me something about your parents. We'd like to know, for
the record, your mother's name and when and where she was
My mother, her name was Mabel Celestine Hyde Wells[?], and
she was born in Moss Point. And my father's name was Everett
Wells[?], and he was born in Basin, Mississippi.
B-A-S-I-N, Mississippi. Now, that's--. And I don't ever remember
us going there, because, like I say, Mama died when we were
so young. I know we went, but we were so small, see? And after
Mama died, well, the five of us living, Daddy was doing well
to get to work and tend to us and whatever. And he tried having
a sister of his move from New Orleans to live with us, and
it didn't work out. (Laughter.) And he tried us living with
my mother's mother, and it didn't work out. I guess he had
us spoiled. You know, and we ended up back. Matter of fact,
we was born right around the corner on Magnolia Street, and
we ended up back there. And we were the youngest of the people
on there. Everybody over there were older, and they sort of
watched out for us until Daddy got home, or whatever. And
that's where we stayed until everybody got older and moved
out on their own someplace.
you're pretty close to where you started your life.
yeah. Right around the corner. (Laughter.)
fact, this property here was my daddy's sister's property,
and she gave me this piece of property. That was her house
right on the corner there. She gave me this piece of property,
and she gave my sister the other piece right on, facing Bayou
Street because they didn't have any children. And they kind
of looked out for us, and as they got older, we took care
of them. My sister and I. You know. We did a lot of care for
there was a lot of reciprocity between you, and an extended
family. A real extended kinship.
yeah. Mm-hm. Yes. OK. So, and Daddy worked at International
Paper Company. I probably already said that. He worked at
International Paper until he had surgery. And he died as the
results of surgery. He didn't wake up from surgery, really.
Do you know how old he was when he died?
don't know exactly. I have it somewhere. I didn't have time
to get it together, but Daddy was in his thirties when he
he was so young.
was young. And Mama was in her thirties, too. And they got
married in February of 1934. Now, I saw that birth certificate.
I didn't have time. I would have loved to have gone through
and had that documentation, but I didn't have the time to
get it together for you.
yeah, they were young. They were young. And see, he met my
mother; he lived in Basin, and my mother taught school. And
she taught school at Basin, Mississippi, where he lived. And
he moved down here to my mother's home, and they got married.
And that's why he moved from Basin down here.
Basin close to the coast?
is up, I guess, past Lucedale, Mississippi, up there. I don't
know exactly, but it's not a long distance. It's about, what,
maybe an hour? An hour and a half? Maybe. If any longer than
that. You know. It's not a--. And I remember us going to camp
meeting up there. Every year in October, we went to camp meeting,
and many relatives and friends would gather there. And they
had tents and places to--. You know. They all prepared meals,
and they shared meals together. And they had church services
all day long. And it started, I think, that Friday, Saturday,
and it culminated that Sunday. But we would always go. I can
remember us going on Sundays, and I remember they cooked and
everything. And even we got old enough to cook some food to
carry. And so, that's--. And it didn't take a long, long while
to get there.
do you remember about those meetings? What do you remember
eating? And how did that work? Did the adults eat first? Tell
me about that.
maybe they did with other families, but not with our family.
Daddy and Mama, we sat down at the table. Mama cooked three
meals a day, and we ate our food that way, and we had plenty
of food for anybody that would visit, but no it wasn't that
in our household [that] your company eat and then you eat,
later. We all ate. Daddy was adamant about that, and Mama
was, too. And, like I say, it was always a home that welcomed
people. And people say my household is the same way. And that's
something. I guess that's something I wonder sometimes about
us. I believe Daddy's and Mama's, although their years with
us were limited, I think what they instilled in us made us
know that we were just important as anybody, and we were not
second-class citizens. And the opportunity is there, and you
make yourself available to take advantage of it. And you treat
people the way you want to be treated. He was, "You don't
break the law." He says, "You work. Don't bet. Don't steal.
Don't lie." He always said, "If you'll lie, you'll steal.
Tell me the truth." You know. And the food we prepared, you
know, the regular food. Your vegetables, your sweets, your
salads, and whatever, and we'd put it in different--. It had
boxes and what have you. Had it in, you know, your pots and
pans, and the trunk of the car was made. That's the way they
transported it. And once you got there and it was time for
meals to be served, people opened the trunks of the car, and
they--. Sort of like a picnic. What do they call it, nowadays?
Now, that was the way they tailgated, evidently. You know.
And people went from car to car from wherever it was set up,
wherever the table was at, and they shared. They shared food
among the groups of people that were there, and the children
played. And I remember it was a stream there. A spring. And
it was so pretty, and it was cool. And the water was so clear.
And it was cold. It was ice cold, and we used to like to go
down to that spring. You know, you walk farther and drink
the water and play and whatever children would do. You know.
So, it was a pleasant experience.
is one of my favorite times of year. When the season is changing,
and I can imagine the water would getting pretty chilly in
was. I remember. Well, I didn't think about the time of the
year, the month, but I remember it being so cold and clear
and real good. You know.
How old were you when your mother died?
were eleven, then?
how old were you when your father died?
think about--. OK. I had married for the first time before
he died. I married at seventeen. I graduated June 2 of fifty-four.
June 1 of fifty-four, and I married June 2 of fifty-four.
That was real smart, wasn't it?
married the day after you graduated?
day after graduation. Did not know that I should have gone
on to school or what have you, but I feel if had Mama lived,
she would have been a person to say, "Hey, now is the chance.
You go further." But, Daddy, he wasn't an educated person.
Good-hearted, industrious person. He believed in taking care
of family, and anything he could do for friend, neighbor,
what have you, but he was not an educated person, so, therefore,
for him, for us, graduating from high school, that was good.
You know. That was sufficient, but, yes, I married June 2,
of fifty-four, and my oldest child was born August 17 of fifty-five.
And I was pregnant with the second daughter, Sandra, and when
Daddy died, Sandra was born February 7, 1957. That's when
she was born. So, I was pregnant with her, so Daddy died July.
Daddy died July of--. Neecy was born in fifty-seven, and Daddy
must have died in fifty-six because I--. Yeah. He must have
died in fifty-six. Because Neecy was born in fifty-seven.
And see, I was just getting into my first months of pregnancy.
So. Because I remember going up to the hospital and having
to stop along the way because I got nauseated. (Laughter.)
right. That good, old morning sickness.
to Providence Hospital. That's where he had surgery.
Millet: I see.
Millet: I guess
you were expecting to bring him home?
was just fine. He was going to have surgery, it was something
dealing with his back discs or whatever. And something happened
with the nerves back there. They clipped, cut the nerve, or
something. Supposed to have been accidental, but I don't believe
it was. But I was so young, I couldn't prove it.
he had had words with his supervisor at Ingalls. Not at Ingalls.
I'm sorry. At International, and he, like I say, Daddy spoke
up. He just--. You know. He, being a black man, and you don't
tell them you got hurt on the job. It was this kind of thing.
And Dr. Morris was Daddy's doctor, our family doctor at the
time. A black doctor here in Pascagoula.
Dr. Reuben Morris, and he even questioned why. What happened.
He called the hospital and wanted to know what happened to
him. And he said Dr.--. I said I would never forget that doctor's
name in Mobile. So, but his remark was, "Damned if I know."
And he says, "Because Everett's heart was good. He did not
have high blood pressure. Only problem was that with his back."
And, but me, I pressured the mortician. I knew him at the
time, and I pressured him.
I said, "You need to tell me
what happened to Daddy.
"Well, I'm afraid."
I said, "You need to tell me."
Because I knew something happened. Because he was laughing.
He was jolly when he went in. Just before they got ready to
put him under to do the surgery and what have you, and he
was kidding about the pretty nurses taking good care of him.
And blah, blah, whatever, whatever. And I said, "OK. I'll
be here by the time you get out of Recovery." His wife was
there with him at the time. And so, he just didn't. Dr. Patton[?]
was his name. And so, I asked when we got there. Well, they
called me and said he had passed. And I was persistent with
the mortician. When they finally released his body. Because
they didn't want to release it. In fact, they did not release
his body. We went up there two or three days in succession
to try and find out. I went to his office there, and they
would tell us he wasn't in. And finally I went back one morning,
and this black man was on top of the roof, that he was doing
some repair work at the doctor's office.
And he said, "Ma'am," he said,
"Who are you looking for?"
I said, "Dr. Patton."
He said, "Well, he's in there."
He said, "You've been coming up here several days." He said,
"They're not telling you the truth." Said, "He's in there."
is Dr. Patton a white doctor?
yes. He was the company doctor. That's why we felt that something
went on that was not right. But, like I said, I asked my step-mother.
I said, "Why don't we get a lawyer? Why don't we try to do?"
But everybody was afraid because--. And he had a brother that
worked out there.
He said, "Well, if I question,
they'll fire me. I've got to take care of my family." Which
he had to do that, but you know, I didn't understand why they
didn't pursue it, but me being as young as I was and not even
being the next of kin to pursue something like that. His wife
didn't do it for whatever reasons. She was afraid. You just
don't. You know. In other words, you don't rock the boat.
That he's already--. They've already done what they're going
to do to him, and whatever. But, yeah, it was several days
before they released the body, and we still didn't see the
doctor. And I went to the paper mill.
And I asked Mr. Harris. He
was the person in that office out there. And I sat across
the desk from him and I was questioning what happened. And
he says, "Your daddy had blah, blah, whatever."
I said, "Well, how in the world
could you find out what went on with him, and we could not
find out. I couldn't find out. I'm his daughter, and they
wouldn't tell me. Why would they tell you?" But, it was--.
They did it. I always will believe, you know.
it was a kind of reprisal?
there was a real reign of terror for a long time against the
black population in Mississippi, and there are many stories
yes. It definitely is.
It's very sad.
I was going to ask you about his hospitalization and if the
hospital was segregated? Where did he have surgery? And what
was that like?
had surgery at Providence in Mobile, Alabama. Now, I know
he had white nurses. I don't remember seeing black nurses.
I don't know if there were even any there. And he was in his
room, but I--.
(The interview is briefly interrupted
by a ringing telephone.)
So, we were just going to talk a little bit about what the
hospital was like when your father went in for surgery?
I guess it was just the routine. You know, you had the areas
where the blacks sat, and areas for whites. Nothing sticks
in my mind about the setting there. And, I guess by me being
nauseated most of the time and everything else, but that didn't
stick in my mind. He was there. I know he was in his room.
Nice, clean room, and what have you, and in a happy frame
of mind. But what was done to him behind closed doors, that
was a different story. That was something we didn't witness,
but it was always in my mind and always will be. Nobody can
convince me that that's not what happened.
Yeah. That's unfortunate.
that's a good hospital. It has always been known for a good
hospital. You know, staff and everything. So, it was something
went on there that was unethical, in my opinion.
a sad story. I'm sorry he didn't live to meet your children.
And you do have children.
He was living when Jerome, my oldest son, was born. And I
remember he said, "Fran," he said, "You're nothing but a baby
yourself." He said, "When that boy starts walking, I'm going
to take him. I'm going to get him." And every evening--. See,
Daddy moved over with his second wife and we stayed on Magnolia
Street, and she lived right around here on Bayou Street, right
by Dr. Williams' house.
you are still in a walking-distance neighborhood?
in that circle. Yeah. Mm-hm. And he said, "I'm going to take
him because you can't raise him." And that's the one right
there with the red shirt on. That's my oldest son. That's
Jerome. That's the one that, he lives in Jackson.
about when was that photograph taken, do you think?
school. Put it on hold a moment. Let me get--.
(There is a brief interruption
in the interview.)
birthday was eight, ten, fifty-five.
See, mine is fifty-four, so I knew that we were about the
same age. We were contemporaries. I could tell by the red
shirts were popular then, and that hairstyle.
he graduated seventy-three school year. And Sandra, the one
I was saying I was pregnant with when Daddy had surgery, her
birthday is two, seven, fifty-seven, and she graduated seventy-five,
from high school. And Gail, her birthday is five, twenty-six,
sixty-nine, and she graduated from high school in--I have
seventy-seven. How can she and Neecy graduate the same time?
she skip some grades?
She was smart, but she didn't skip.
is it seventy-nine?
so. Of course she was in, you know, went first through twelve.
you've got a seven that looks like a--?
it had--. I don't know. That's Gail's. OK. Cathy's. Cathy
was born seven, eight, sixty, and she graduated in seventy-eight
because I was in the hospital for her graduation. They were
born years, one right behind--.
OK, and Earl Jr., his birthday is March 5, sixty-five, and
he graduated in eighty-three. Rodney's birthday, the youngest
son and the youngest child, Rodney's birthday is seven, seventeen,
sixty-six, and he graduated [in eighty-four].
over eleven years you were having your children. From fifty-five
And I didn't get actively involved in civil rights until--.
Well, Mr. Justice--. I was in my young twenties, I guess.
Twenty-whatever because it was before--. It was right after
Gail and Cathy. Well, it was before they got in school, in
the integrated school system that I was involved because we--.
When did we file that lawsuit?
I would like to talk about that, and we'll get to that. But
before we do, I know that you actually grew up in this area.
Right around in here.
Millet: I wonder
if you could, just for the record, describe what it was like
to grow up in Mississippi. You know. We remember it, now,
but in a hundred years, or two-hundred years from now, when
somebody is looking at this or listening to it, they won't
know. So, tell us about growing here. What was that like?
like I said, this is where we were born and raised. And it
was fine right here as long as we were there. When we went
to town, went to Main Street--. See, we lived here. Main Street
is there. We knew that if we went to the movie, for instance,
we knew that we were to go upstairs. It was upstairs, there.
We could not sit on the first floor.
it was segregated.
was segregated. We could not drink. They had the water fountains,
"white, only." [And] "colored." We knew not to drink from
those water fountains. The same way at--. There was a Rape's[?]
Drug Store, right there where those apartments are. Right
there on that corner. And there was a Burnham's Drug Store.
I think just about in the same location that it is, now. We
would go in there for medicine, or whatever we went in there
for, and they had a counter there. You know. You had your
little dairy, your ice cream, whatever. If we got the ice
cream or what have you, we could not sit there. We had to
get it and stand back. We could not sit at the counter like
the whites would sit. And if we were in line to get medicine--you
know, you had to stand in line to get your prescription filled--and
it depended on how--. If a white came in to get their medicine
or whatever, even though we were in line, they would automatically
walk there, and we would have to wait and wait. Our stay there
depended on us, how quickly we could get there before another
white walked in.
they would always get in front of you.
would get in front.
you were expected to stand back?
for some reason, we knew to. I guess we were taught that.
I guess, our parents told us. And I guess that's why Daddy
was always protective of us. He would go to town. We would
go to town with him a lot, and he was kind of protective.
You know. He would hold our hands or he kind of guided us,
and I would notice sometimes if we were on the walkway meeting
each other, or whatever, we would be the ones to have to either
stop or step in the street or step wherever so they could
pass through. Be it young or old, lame or sick, or whatever.
Age. It didn't matter. No respect for age or whatever. If
you were white, you know, you came first. The blacks just
stepped back, and seemed like it was automatic. We knew to
do that. And that's the way it was. Like I said, that's the
way it was. Period. No other way to put it. You know.
when you ventured out of your community, you kind of went
into another set of rules?
close around here, did you all have a garden? Did your mother
stop teaching school when you were born? Did she continue
to teach school for a while? What was your everyday life like
Let me--. I put a few notes down here about Mother. And, OK,
Daddy. He worked at the paper mill, and after he would get
off, he would go and he'd cut yards and blah, blah, whatever,
in the white communities. That was extra pay. He also grew
vegetables and some chickens and hogs and cows, right there.
Not a lot, but some. And he had a smokehouse right in the
back of the house where [he] would hang the meat or whatever,
and it would smell so good. You know. And it was always clean.
Mama was an immaculate housekeeper. It was clean. Everything
was clean. I remember, and I'm getting off, now. I remember
once--. And see, we had, Daddy had the smokehouse, and he
had an ice house on the corner where he would sell the blocks
of ice. I guess that's why I still carry my cup and my ice,
and I don't use the ice from the--. I buy my ice or get ice.
Whatever. I've always done that. And, showing you how things
were done back then, I remember one day, a bright, sunny day,
we were there at home, and the sheriff drove up. Two or three
whites and what have you, and they came there and told Daddy
that he needed to search his house there on the corner. The
And Daddy said, "Search it
for what?" You know, I'm looking. I don't know. I was always
somewhere close by to see. Not know what was going on, but
I had a sense about me to know that there's something going
on here. Something that's not right or some kind of, some
sort of harassment or intimidation or whatever. I couldn't
pinpoint it, but I knew in my heart it was there. And Daddy
said, "Search for what?"
"Yeah. They told me you were
selling whiskey or whatever, whatever."
And Daddy said, "Well, search."
You know. And Daddy had some five-gallon paint buckets. And
paint was in these buckets. And they went, and they opened
the paint and whatever, and I'm looking, I guess. And I remember
Daddy asked him, he said, when they looked and didn't find
what they were looking for, Daddy asked him, "Aren't you going
to put your hand down there and see if it's down in there?"
Because, see, Daddy had a thing about white folks. (Laughter.)
He really did. He had a thing about white folks. He respected
people, but people respected us, and anybody around that was
in Daddy's company, be it, no matter what color, and he would
always tell us; he said, "Now, things can happen, and if whites
ever come here," he said, "you all try to get wherever." He
said, "Because they're not going to come in and just take
over." He said, "They'll kill me." He said, "But somebody's
going to get killed trying to get in here to get me." And
I always remembered.
I said, "Why?" You know.
And then he always would say,
he'd say, "You know, the Bible says we're supposed
to love each other. Blah, blah, whatever." He said, "But you
know what? If keeping me out of heaven by me having to love
a white person," say, "I'll die and go to hell."
And then, as I got older, the
Bible said to love everybody, and that's what he
was saying. He could not love the white man because of the
things that had been done to them as blacks, and see, out
of the stories told to us, our grandparents up in Basin, Mississippi,
they were Daddy's daddy's people, I guess. They were slaves.
They had a master or whatever because my aunt always said;
she said, "You know. Our names aren't Wells. That was the
slave owner's name." And they changed my great-grandparents
and our whatever changed their names from Lawrence. She said,
"Our names were Lawrences, but it was changed to Wells because
of them moving in." Or whatever Daddy's people had to do.
However it was done. But like I said, we never went up. I
don't remember us going there to see that, but Daddy had a
thing about blacks and whites.
And that's why he would tell
us, "You are just as good as anybody. You blah, blah, whatever."
And I guess it was just deep-rooted, and I felt that way,
and by me being involved. I instilled it; my children learned
it from me. And it's on and on. It's going to my grandchildren
and whatever. You know.
And I do. I say, "Treat people
the way you want to be treated, but you don't have to bow
down to anybody." You know. And so, yeah, he did. And back
to Mama. Yeah. She taught school, and that's where he met
her. And she moved back here, and I don't remember her teaching.
I remember her being at home, and I believe for a short while
there she must have done some domestic work. I don't know
whether she could get work here in the school system or not.
But I remember her as a very, very young child. I being a
very young child. I'm thinking that she worked a short while
as a domestic helper or whatever, but most of her years that
I remember, of the few years that she was with us, she was
at home. She was there, and she was a beautiful mother, wife,
neighbor, whatever. And that's my mother's mother right there.
That one in the center there. And she could sew. She was a
seamstress. And I remember we would say, on different holidays,
and when she was getting ready to make our school clothes
or whatever, whatever, we'd get a Sears Roebuck catalog and
a Montgomery Ward. And we would look in that catalog, and
we would find the dress that we wanted, that we liked.
And she'd say, "OK." And Daddy
would go, and he'd get groceries, and there was a feed store.
I don't know whether they got meal. What all. They bought
stuff in big sacks, and they would be different floral designs
and whatever. You know. Sacks. And he would buy, whatever,
corn. I mean, whatever came in those sacks. He would buy that,
and he'd buy enough of the same pattern, and Mama would cut
that dress out or that skirt or whatever, and she would make
that. And it would be beautiful.
so, she would make her own pattern?
made her own patterns.
from looking at the photographs of the dress?
from looking at the dress, and you could not tell that it
was not a [ready-made garment]. I was looking around for the
picture of the older two or three of us. She made everything
that we had on in that particular picture. Let me step in
here and see if it's on this shelf.
(There is a brief interruption
in the interview.)
I said, she would sew, and I would sit. She had a Singer treadle
Didn't need electricity.
And she sat there, and she would sew. And I would sit on the
floor while she was making whatever she was making, and I
would get the scraps. And I had that bottle, that drink bottle.
You know, we'd have a drink bottle, and we'd put some rope,
just rope down in it, and make the hair. You know. And I would
make my little doll dresses to fit that. (Laughter.)
you had a little doll that you made from a bottle?
you made clothes from scraps?
We had those bottles we made little dolls from, and had the
long, blond hair. The rope was blond. You know? (Laughter.)
And she did that. And when we would come home in the evenings
from school, she would be at home doing the chores of a mother,
whatever, and when we got home, we had to come in, and we
had to wash our hands and what have you. Face and hands, and
we would go to the table in the front room. And we had a piece
of fruit, a glass of milk, a half a sandwich, or whatever,
while she was cooking. And after we had eaten that, we had
to do our homework. And when we finished our homework, then
we got a chance to go outside and play. And that was just
like a ritualistic something we did every, every day.
like a good way for you to be real grounded in reality as
a child. Children love that kind of routine. It makes them
And I've always felt, I guess, older than my years. Seems
like I've experienced more than some of my classmates and
whatever. Seems like my years expanded beyond their years
because of the role that I had to play, so young. You know?
You had to become a mother at a young age to your younger
And I think that contributed to me jumping up and getting
married the next day after [graduation]. You know. And get
a (inaudible). (Laughter.)
we live and learn.
when and where did you go to school, around here?
It was Magnolia School. That was the first through twelfth
it all black?
wasn't integrated back then?
wasn't integrated back then.
that the integration that you experienced was your children's
desegregating the school?
my children's. Mm-hm.
you have good memories of your school days?
we had some good times at school, but, you know, I often wondered
why, as we got older up in, I guess, seventh, eighth, ninth
grade, when we began to--. Well, our books and supplies and
stuff, they were always ragged. And you know, they passed
the books out, and you know, you had to open that book and
sign your name. And it wasn't ever a new book. It was always
used books, and they cautioned, "Take care of your books because
if you tear these books, or if you lose these books, your
parents got to pay for them."
And I said, "Now, this is not
good, anyway. This is a ragged book, anyway." You know? And
it was after we were there, I guess, for whatever time that
we were there, and I guess, we began to ask questions.
"Why do we get ragged [books]?"
And we could see Moss Point Central High School. That was
Central High over there.
all-white school. Mm-hm.
we said, "Well, these books came from Central. Why would we
not have books?" You know, whatever. So, that was hand-me-down
stuff there. And I used to love home ec, and Ms. Knight[?],
she was my home ec teacher. And she would be struggling, trying
to help us. She would have to call maintenance, whomever was
responsible for the care of the machines because we could
not finish a garment because the machine would finish tearing
up, but the new ones would be over at Central High School.
And we weren't there, but I knew if they handed those to us,
they had to get some new ones to replace. You know, they had
to get some to replace those, and I know they were new. You
a typewriter is something that was rationed. It was rationed
to us. We saw a typewriter, I think, when we got up in tenth,
eleventh, twelfth, in the office.
manual typewriter. And, see, students could not use that typewriter.
You know. It wasn't in the classroom. And I always said, "I'm
going to learn how to type. I'm going to learn how to type."
And after I was out of school thirty-five or forty years,
I went back over [to] the J.C., and I got in the typing class.
Good for you.
I pecked a little bit, and I'm proud of my pecking. You know,
after I had set up with arthritis, and all that. But I was
determined. I stuck it out. I stayed in there, and I enjoyed
it. And I'm proud of what I learned, even though it was years
later. You know. And I laugh at my children sometimes, now.
I encourage them. I say, "You need to take advantage of every
opportunity that's there. You get in there and you do what
you're supposed to do. If you don't understand, you ask questions.
And if something--." I said, "Don't go be disruptive and all
this kind of stuff." I said, "It doesn't take a genius to
go in there and exercise good behavior." You know. Blah, blah,
whatever. And I tell them all the time, I say, "Oh," I say,
"Had I had the opportunities that you all have had and still
has," I say, "And had Mama lived to say, 'Look. You need to
go.'" And Jr. Earl, the one in that brown-tan suit there,
the one I said is at Tougaloo, now.
"Oh, Mama." He said, "You know
what?" He says, "I know it." He says, "I know it, Mama." He
says, "But you know what, Mama? I'm so glad you had us." He
said, "Because, Mama, if you had had the opportunity," he
said, "You'd be up there in the Senate, as a senator!" (Laughter.)
he's wondering where he would be.
He said, "Mama, we wouldn't even be here." (Laughter.) So.
I said, "Well, I love all of you." You know. And I do. I love
my children. A lot of times they don't do things the way we'd
like them to do. I didn't do what Daddy and Mama wanted me
to do, and that's just the way it is. We all have to experience
our whatevers in life. But he said, "I'm so glad you didn't
have, Mama." He said, "You're doing all right."
I said, "Well, I just see so
many opportunities out there and that they just simply don't
take advantage of, and I wish they would." I mean, as a whole;
people as a whole. You know? And I get so depressed at our
young, black boys, especially. Black girls, too, but boys,
because they don't value their lives, and anyone else's either.
You know you get out there. People fought and struggled. They
lost their lives for them to have the opportunity, and it's
no need of saying, "It's your fault. Your fault." It's your
own fault because anybody can go in a classroom setting and
sit there and study. And I said, "If they're smart enough
to get out there to mix whatever these drugs is that they
mix up or all this graffiti. They had that going. What beautiful
art work! Why can't you put that on a canvas on display. You
know. So it can be purchased as, you know, you make a living
that way. An honest living." But, you know, it gets depressing
sometimes. It gets depressing many times. They have just seemed
like, lost all sense of values and morals and what have you,
and it's so depressing. And I often think about the times
and places; the lives that were taken. Threats made on. I
mean, the chances you took because the reprisals against people
that tried to make a difference. Because, I think sometimes
through the years my children were denied the opportunities
to get hired on a job because of my involvement during the
years of civil rights. They know who did what. They know who
was involved and what have you, and that was their way of
punishing. Because I know I passed the test for a job at one
of these plants down here, at the employment office. Down
there on, what, Fourteenth Street, it used to be. I guess
it still is back there. And he could not believe that they
didn't hire me down there.
And he said, "What was the
(End of tape one, side one.
The interview continues on tape one, side two.)
what we were talking about was that he wanted to know the
reason that they didn't give you the job, and you said that
it was because, they told you because of your children.
had children and I would be called home at any time, if they
were ill, or blah, blah, whatever. And he said to me, he said,
"That cannot be." He said--. Because, that's the main reason
you would go to work, is because you have
children to take care of. You know. So, that didn't jive.
You know. That didn't jive. But they would have their way
of covering up or, you know, justifying why they did not do
the right thing.
would have their hidden agenda.
right. And I know my daughter, Cathy, she went out to Chevron.
I think it was Chevron, years after she got out of high school.
She passed that test. She went back on the interview, and
the reason for her not being hired, so stated, out there was
because she was too young, and she might decide not to stay
there. Now, who wouldn't stay on a job with those kind of
benefits and that kind of income? And blah, blah. But, that
was not it. Gail, she worked for South Central Bell on Market
Street, years ago, right after she got out of school, and
it was just fine until they changed supervisors, and they
got a supervisor. I think his name was Owens[?], from the
upper part of Mississippi, and he decided--see, she was a
secretary--he decided that he didn't want a black person as
his secretary. And they tried to come up with two or three
mistakes she had made on some documents that she had done,
and she questioned her supervisor. She said, "Well, mine passed
through you, and you didn't see it. You didn't say anything.
"Well, he said whatever." And
he told her, in the final analysis, "You're young. You can
find another job." The thing was he didn't want her sitting
in on his meetings with his white counterpart, and she knew
it. I tried to get her to sue them, but she wouldn't. They
didn't take after me. (Laughter.)
Said, "That's all right, Mama."
I said, "I would sue them."
You know. Because she wasn't the only one that they had done
the same kinds of things to down there. And I think one or
two persons did bring a lawsuit against them. And won. And
won. But she chose not to. You know. But I think a lot of
it stems from them being my children. I know Rodney, my youngest
son, went over--. The one that was here when you all came.
He went to Ingalls and applied for a job and had gone through
several steps that you go through till he got to this particular
person, and she was reviewing his application and all, whatever
he had there for her to see, and got down to emergency contact
And she looked. She said, "Oh,
so, you're Franzetta's son."
And he says, "Yes." And that
was the end of that. And, look, she was black, but she was
doing what she was hired to do by the whites. Yeah. And all
kinds. You know. And you sit back, and I try not to be paranoid.
My co-worker asks me all the
time, "Fran, it's not like--."
I say, "Kerri." She's white.
I say, "You cannot speak on that issue. You have not walked
in my shoes. And, yes, maybe you think I'm paranoid, but I
call it cautious." I said, "Because, I know. I can see it
coming. I can see." And I say, "It's still prevalent today."
And it is. I don't care how you perform on your job, opposed
to that one that's not performing on their job, her job. And
I'm right there in that position, today. I can function better.
I perform better. Had more training. Whatever, whatever. And
I love her to death, but she just cannot. But now, she is
getting the salary. I don't get it.
But every time a directive
is given, she says, "Fran, let's talk about--." And I don't
mind it. It's not her fault. It's not her fault, but it's
the system. That's the way it is.
So, the equalization isn't as good as it could be.
no. Not by a long shot.
a long way to go.
gotten more tactful with it. And sometimes can't even use
tact. (Laughter.) I'm sorry, but that's just the way I feel.
I'm telling you what I see every day. You know.
Millet: I understand.
if I didn't have the grace of God in my heart, and I try to
live that way. I would have a different attitude about it.
And had it been years ago, when I was actually out there really
whatever, whatever, I probably wouldn't have accepted it in
the light that I accept in. I'm glad that he deals with me
like that. I still can get kind of perturbed sometimes, and
"Fran, this is not your better
I say, "No, Kerri, it's not
my better day." And I go through my changes, and what bothers
me, and I say, "Kerri, why do you and Billy," my supervisor
and my co-worker, I say, "Why, when we're talking, OK, 'Do
you know such and such a thing happened today or yesterday?'
And say, 'And you know, it was a black man.' Or, 'It was a
white.'" I say, "Why do you have to say? It was a person.
A person did thus and so. A man, a woman, whatever. Or Valerie
did. Or Franzetta did. Why do you have to refer to my color
when you're talking about the rainbow?" You know? (Laughter.)
But I guess it's just instilled in some, and it's going to
stay there. It's going to stay there, but I tried so hard
to teach mine not to. I was concerned about Jerome, my oldest
son, when he went to Jackson State. I was so afraid that his
mind was going to--. He just hated white people because he
experienced so many bad experiences out here when he went
to school, and I had to talk to him. I had to talk to him.
I said, "Jerome, but, no, you can't. You have to do what you
know is right to do. Don't let people run over you, but just
don't do anything that you'll regret. And two wrongs don't
make a right." I said, "You have to think about it. You really
have." I say, "And pray over it and what have you." Well,
it was hard, and I was really concerned for him the first
few years he got out of school and out of college and he started
working for an insurance company. In fact, he started working
for George Dale who's still the insurance commissioner of
the state of Mississippi, but he was Jerome's principal of
Moss Point High School when he graduated. And see, Jerome
went to Jackson State, and during those years, George Dale,
he was elected as the insurance commissioner. And so, when
Jerome got into insurance, well, he had to deal with George.
was this man from his past who was still in a position of
it was OK. George and Jerome had no problem. But when he went
out to his company to do his job, he was the only black. And
my children are always the first, seems like, to do whatever.
The first for this. The first for that. Whatever. I guess
that's the way it is. But anyway, he had to work in an office
setting with just him being the only black person, and they've
always been proud people. Tried to keep themselves clean,
dressed neat, and blah, blah, whatever. You know. Carry themselves
in a professional manner and what have you. So, when he got
in that office, see, he went in, I think, as an adjuster first,
and he had to travel. Had to go from one city to the other
city, and he had to sit at tables with other insurance claims
adjustors, and they all being white. And he said, "Mama,"
he said, "I went to go and do my job and get off." He said,
"But they want me to sit there at that table with them while
we transact business and they drink their coffee and smoke
their cigarettes and make racial jokes." He said, "And, I'm
not going to do it." And he got called in a time or two on
his job, but thank God, nothing really happened. Because,
he said, "This is not right. This is what they want, and I'm
not going. I don't have to take that. I don't have to take
And I know he's telling the
truth because it's different. I went up the highway there
to start working about six years ago, and I was the first
black female in an office setting, and certain remarks were
made, and I'd call them on it. And I'd say, "Wait a minute."
I'd say, "Look, we need to talk." I called two of them, and
I called my supervisor, I said, "You need to hear this."
"Oh, Fran, I'm sorry. I didn't
mean that." And it's slipped several times. But I think--.
I know it's getting better in front of me.
I don't know what goes on behind closed doors, but they do.
They're very tactful. They try to be unless they really get
carried away. And one lady, she just got carried away, and
I was doing my work, and my supervisor was sitting there,
and my co-worker was there, and she said something about someone
had said something about some pictures she had where this
boy had painted her daughter's porch and what have you. And
the bannisters or whatever it's called out there. And she
was commenting on how pretty it was. And I just kept doing
what I was doing.
She said, "Oh, yes." She was
just a-prancing. She said, "Yeah." She says, she called her
daughter's name. She said, "She's got this little nigger to
do such and such."
And I looked up. I said, "What
did you say?" I called her by her name. I said, "What did
you say?" I said, "This is the second time you've done it."
And, I just called her on it. And I just told her how I felt
about it. And Billy was sitting there, my supervisor and my
co-worker, and he got just as red as this tablecloth. I said,
"Now, it's no call for that." I said, "If you can't exercise
yourself any better, then you don't need to come in here.
I work here. This is a public facility. But you don't come
She said, "I'm sorry."
I said, "Look," I said, "And
right now, I don't want you to love me. Don't hug. Just don't."
You know, whatever. And I said, "You meant it because it's
in you, and it came out. It was out before you thought about
me sitting here. It would have been perfectly all right if
I had not been here. It'd have been accepted."
wonder if anybody would have stood up and said, "That's not
my supervisor, didn't say. But after she left, he said, "Fran,
I'm sorry." He said, "She was wrong."
I said, "Billy. That's OK.
I know she was wrong, but you didn't bother to say that."
He should have told her, "Look,
now we don't have that here."
He didn't. He didn't. He just
sat there and dropped his head. My co-worker and my supervisor,
they were both embarrassed, and she sure was embarrassed.
It was another county employee that had stopped by there and
what have you. Like I say, and I knew Jerome was telling the
truth about these kinds of things, and what have you. And
they even commented on his job about, his supervisor, "How
can you afford to wear this kind of suit? And this kind of
shirt? And drive this car? And I'm your supervisor, and I
can't blah, blah, blah." Implying (inaudible). If he managed,
he and his wife managed their money well, they could buy some
things that they wanted. They had to be doing something illegal,
I guess. All kinds of little, snide, you know, but like I
say, it's a big wide world. We all live in it, and everybody
needs to know that we're all entitled to the same rights and
benefits and what have you as the other, but we go from day
I can't remember who said, "Ask not for whom the bell tolls;
it always tolls for you." You know. I mean, if I stand by
and allow someone to be deprived of their rights today,
it could happen to me tomorrow.
right. That's right.
just such a big problem, and it doesn't have an easy solution.
You know, I wish I had the answer.
know. You and I, too, because I see people. I'm a loving person,
and I don't see color. If we all--. But now, when you do something,
then I see, you know. OK. And I know to excuse myself from
your company. I know if I have to come in contact with you,
again: "Hello. How're you doing?" And keep moving on.
can't trust that person so much anymore.
Well, that kind of leads into this question about: if you
have an incident in your memory that started your awareness,
maybe as a child, or was it as an adult, that started your
awareness that there were racial differences? There was inequality,
and discrimination. Do you have an early memory like that?
as I've said before, the water fountain incidents and all
those kinds of things. I knew then that people looked upon
us as less than they were. They made a difference. I knew
then there was a difference being made, and like I said, back
to the schools and things that happened there as far as school
supplies and what have you. And why would I have to stand
back? And I would go into the banks. I transacted a lot of
Daddy's business. I paid his bills for him, and he dealt with
Pascagoula-Moss Point Bank; it's Hancock Bank, now. And we
had this statement you'd carry up there, and they'd put it
in the machine or whatever. They didn't have all the computers
and all that stuff, then. And the whites were there, working.
I thought to myself, "Now, here they are. Same age as I am.
And they're sitting here; they're dressed clean and whatever.
And why can't I do some of the same things?" You know. I was
aware a long time ago that there were differences.
as a child?
as a child. Yes. Early age. Early age. Mm-hm. And like I say,
Daddy, he pulled no bones about it. He told us. (Laughter.)
And it's good he did because he didn't live long with us.
Mama didn't live long, and Daddy didn't. I mean, Daddy didn't
live long, but Mama lived even less time than he did. But
he told us. You know, he didn't teach us to hate, but he said
he wouldn't go to heaven if he had to love a white. And he
always taught us to speak up. "Be right," he said, "But speak
even though he left you at an early age, he prepared you for
a sort of reality that is not fair or attractive, but it was
reality. So, in 1954, Brown v. the Board of Education
came down, and you were finishing school that year.
That's the year I was in high school. (Laughter.)
was just a little while before you got married.
a few months.
For the first time.
integration for you was really about your children. So, there's
a question about that a little later on, so I think I'll just
postpone that question and ask you about registering to vote.
Do you have an experience registering?
yes. I remember that. Now, I had gotten involved with Mr.
Justice Robinson, then.
Yes. Tell us about that.
belonged to the Knights of Pythians. The Heroines of Jericho.
And very few senior members during that time. I'm a senior,
now, but during those years, they were seniors. And he said,
"Franzetta," he said, "Sister Darling." He called you "sister"
and "darling" all the time. Those were his words. He said,
"We need you to join our Heroines." Said, "We need a secretary.
We need some younger ones[?]." So, I joined the Heroines of
Jericho. Three or four of us would meet every other whatever
night it was. Right over there at the KP park. You know right
across the yard there. And I guess after I was doing that
a while, he mentioned the NAACP to me. He said, "You need
to join the NAACP."
I said, "Yeah." And he explained
what was going on with the NAACP, and we needed to work toward
our civil rights and blah, blah, whatever, whatever. And I
joined the NAACP under his administration.
you remember when? When was that?
don't remember exactly when.
me think. It was before Earl and Rodney was born. It was after
between sixty and sixty-five?
It was after Cathy and Gail. During the early sixties, late
fifties. Early sixties. Yeah. Because Cathy was born in sixty,
and we had begun to go to meetings. Immediately, "Franzetta,
you're the secretary." Everywhere I go, "You're the secretary."
I'd say, "My gracious!" (Laughter.)
So, anyway, I joined and we
were having meetings. I don't know whether we had them twice
a month or every week, but we were having meetings over on
Bowen Street, at the Masonic Hall. And, yeah, that's Bowen
Street, at the Masonic Hall. And we put on a membership drive,
and members were really, really joining. OK? And our membership
on the book grew, but naturally we didn't have that [many]
members to attend the meetings, but we did membership meetings,
our regular meetings began to grow. More people began to come
to the meetings as things began to happen. You know. And so,
we worked there for a few years. We would go to Jackson, Mississippi
on Lynch Street to that Masonic building.
And I didn't ever meet Medgar
Evers. Mr. Justice did. I didn't meet him. I was involved,
but for some reason I didn't meet him before he got killed.
I spent more time with Charles Evers, his brother that took
his place afterwards. So, Brother Justice Robinson and State
Stallworth and William McElroy[?], Sara Ellen Lett[?], Willie
Lett[?], and I don't like to call names because I have a tendency
to forget. J.P. Miller, he came on. Yeah, he came on, but
I don't remember going to Jackson with J.P. a lot. Edna Fields[?]
was there and Dolores Thomas[?]. They were there as secretaries
and officers before I joined. They were there. They were secretary
and treasurer and all these kinds of things before I joined.
OK. And they attended a lot of meetings after I joined, too.
And so, we would go to meetings in Jackson a lot, discussing
the issues and things that needed to be addressed and how
we would approach different protests, and how we would test
this facility and that facility, and what have you. And we
attended, like I say, many, many meetings in Jackson. One
time it seemed like we were going to Jackson every week. And
sometimes we'd spend the night. You know. And I don't know
what came. Well, we were concentrating on the schools, too,
but whatever year it was that we went to, I went to, I participated
in the March on Washington. We went there. They had buses.
You know. We went to Jackson, and we boarded buses and all
along the route there, they joined in. I went. I attended
the March on Washington, and I carried Clinton, my baby brother.
He went with us, too. Yeah. And so, then we got involved with--.
Well, we tested. We tested Moss Point Theater, downtown Moss
Point, and the way we did that, we would go to our meetings.
We would plan what we was going to do. How it was going to
be done, and we decided that we would get dressed to go to
the movies. We were always dressed. We didn't go tacky. (Laughter.)
We would dress, and we would go at the times that the men
from the shipyard would be coming home, and we were giving
them a chance to have gotten up there and gotten in place
to kind of protect, watch us while the ones of us--. I remember
we walked across the street to go to the front, to the window
where we could get the ticket to go up to the balcony. We
knew they wasn't going to let us do that, but that was our
attempt. They closed that movie down, Moss Point. They closed
it down before they would let it be integrated. We didn't
stop there. Our next plan would be to Moss Point Recreation
Center. They had a swimming pool there. And some of the kids,
you know. We were there and some of the kids decided they
were going to swim. They got them out of the pool. However,
ran them out of the pool, and they closed that pool down and
they, for a while, they was just closed. And finally, before
they accepted the integration of that pool, they just cemented
where that Moss Point Recreation sits, the river front, I
think, sits on a portion of that property, now. It was the
same thing with Ed's Drive-In on Market Street. We decided
we was going to go to the front window from Market Street.
You know, they had a side window there, where the blacks would
come to be waited on. And a group of us decided that we were
going to go to the front to be served. And we went to the
front, and we demanded service there. I don't remember whether
they served us or not, but I know that's where we went to
be served, and I don't know how long after that that they
decided they would open up to the public, any window to the
they didn't close Ed's Drive-In down.
the drive-in is still in operation. It's in operation, now.
The man is dead, now, the owner, at that time.
do you remember being successful in integrating it?
was integrated, and I know that was the initial process of
getting it to become integrated. I'm not going to say that
it was integrated at that particular moment that we went there,
but it is, and it's been integrated for a long time. Have
not seen any blacks working there. And, we tested many places.
We tested Food Town right across from Glass[?] Auto.
was a grocery store?
was a grocery store, and we went and said, "Hey, it's about
time that we have some black cashiers. You have many [black]
people shopping here." You know, the whole nine yards of that.
And eventually, I don't know when, they hired some black cashiers.
You know. And, I'm trying to think.
there any boycotts? Did you have to boycott businesses to
get them to do that?
we did. We did some boycotts. We did some marching. You know.
We did some picketing. And I remember when Head Start came
into town. I remember that real well. We had to get out, and
we talked about it, too. We had to get out and canvass for
children in order to start this program, Operation Head Start.
And let me back up a little bit. See, I was in Washington,
D.C. that year. I don't remember whether it was fifty-seven,
but whenever it was, when Senator Humphrey.
Humphrey spoke, and Shriver. One of the Shrivers.
that? No, that wouldn't have been Atlantic City. OK.
this was when they introduced the program, Project Head Start.
OK. And Sargent Shriver was there.
Shriver, Senator Hubert Humphrey. And we were at the Statley[?]
Hilton Hotel in Washington at a beautiful setting. I had to
pinch myself to see if I--. (Laughter.) And Mr. Justice said--.
You know they started serving the meal in its proper courses,
and Mr. Justice said, "Darling," he said, "Do you know?" They
had put the salad there. "You know what we're eating? I never
thought I'd be eating raw collard greens!" (Laughter.) (Inaudible.)
And we laughed about it, you know? But that was the convention
that they introduced Project Head Start, the goals for a program
like Project Head Start, and we came back home. And we had
to get all this information together and whatever. And Lamar
Turnipseed, he's dead, now. He was a few years younger than
I. But he was a schoolmate. And Ms. Elvira Granders, she was
older than I, but I just loved her. I admired her courage.
She wasn't an educated person, but she would stand.
She said, "I'll march to the
White House in a minute!" That threat. "I'll march, and I
marched to the White House." You know. Whatever. And she would
need letters. I remember she wanted to join the Chamber of
Commerce down there in Pascagoula, and she could not write
this letter. You know. And she came, "Franzetta."
I said, "What?"
"I need you to write something
for me." And I wrote the letter, whatever it needed to be
filled out or whatever she had to do, the written portion
of it, I wrote it for her to carry, and she joined the Chamber
of Commerce down there in Pascagoula.
like I say, I remember so many things. So, anyway. I don't
know what I was saying. We went to Washington. Oh, Project
Head Start, mm-hm.
came back home and Lamar and Main Gladney, his name was Warren
Gladney, he was a relative of Jerome, my oldest son, and my
first marriage, Gladney. I later married Sanders; that's Cathy's
and them's daddy. And they went up and they brought everything
down. We got the Head Start thing. We've go to do this and
that. It was a rush. Call people together to do this, that,
and whatever. Came time for applications for the enrollees.
So, we had to get out and canvass door-to-door, "Bring your
children. Let them come to Head Start. Blah, blah, whatever."
We had to go to all neighborhoods. We went to white neighborhoods,
and some of them, like I say, they were just as poor as we
Some of them poorer, and some
of them looked a whole lot worse than we did, but, "No. They're
not going to go. Not my children. Don't come in my yard. I
don't want you n's in my yard." And blah, blah, the
n word, whatever.
And Dixon, Mayor Dixon[?],
he was the mayor of Moss Point at that time, called some community
people together and said, "You need to get them out of--.
Tell them to stop going into the neighborhoods." Because they
had begun to get the dogs. Police came out with the dogs and
whatever, whatever. "You cannot. They don't want you in their
neighborhoods, and blah, blah, blah. This is not going to
be anything but a babysitting program. Some more money they're
giving lazy people, blah, blah, whatever." Got the program
going, and we had to go and ask some of the whites to fill
out an application to work in Head Start, because, you know,
there was a certain percentage of--. Was it 10 percent of
high incomes, that had to, you had to make that 100 percent,
and I think, 90 percent, 10 percent of the high-income students,
to try to get them to enroll to--.
Millet: I see.
To have a good mixture.
OK. And we wanted whites working along with blacks and whatever.
And we could not get. That was not good. We didn't get a good
response from the whites. It was a short session. I think
three to six months for the first; it was the beginning of
it. And then you had to close down to get buildings and everything
ready for health specifications to open again. So, we were
off a few months, and then we went into getting more adequate
buildings. More buildings.
did you meet initially? For Head Start?
did the children come? Where could you actually have it?
We met at the churches. We met at Good Hope Church, up here.
Hope Church. Do you think it was risky for those churches
to open their doors?
it was very risky.
that time? Because that was, again, in probably the midsixties
that you would have been doing that. Right?
We met at Good Hope Church. We met at the Robinson's Friendly
the children came there for their Head Start program?
No. Well, they did come to Good Hope after we got it set up.
After we did the initial meetings of getting the program set
up. See, we had to meet to plan, to find the buildings to
house the children, and all these kinds. And these were our
initial meetings during this. And these were some of the places
that we met.
planning meetings were at Good Hope Church. But the children
were able to come there, as well, those first?
we--. Yes. Mm-hm.
I know in some parts of Mississippi, churches were used for
the Head Start children to come. They built community centers.
You know. Volunteers found the materials and put the buildings
up for the children.
see, they met. Some of the facilities for the children here
were Good Hope Church, was one. First Baptist Church was another
one. Little Rock, Reverend Williams' church out there on Live
Oak Street in Pascagoula. I don't remember the name of the
church. That was one of the facilities.
have played an important part.
Union Baptist was one of the facilities. Yeah, churches, I
think most of the facilities that housed those children. And
the other church down on Dupont[?] was one of the churches,
too. St. Paul, I think, was one. It was a lot of churches,
you know, before we got the centers. Like, we got mobile units
later on, on Krebs Avenue. And we had St. Joseph was a church,
too. Catholic church. And, I think whites attended that church,
too. I'm not positive, but I'm thinking they did.
seen more integration in Catholic churches than any other
church that I've attended.
We had Olivett Baptist Church was another one. We had many
churches to open their doors for the Head Start children,
and like I said, later on they started getting facilities
like mobile units and what have you. But it's a funny thing.
After it got off the ground, and you could see that it was
going to be a successful program, then you had your whites
to come in, and then they wanted to take over, and I think
they've still taken over. Well, now, it was no good, you know,
when we were getting it off the ground. The grass roots people,
they got it off. But once we can see this is going to be a
successful something, then they come over and they take over.
And, you know, but that's so, what else is new? (Laughter.)
So, but, yeah, I was up there at convention when that project,
Head Start, when the first Project Head Start. And that's
when I worked with--. That's my longest stay at working out
of the household. Because I was home with the other, older
children, but Earl and Rodney, the last two, is when I actually
was working on an eight-to-five or eight-to-four, whatever,
job. And I've been doing it ever since.
that was NAACP?
I went to Head Start. See, I worked--.
yes. I worked in a Head Start Center from early sixties until--.
I worked about thirteen or fourteen years in Head Start.
what were your duties?
started working in the unit with the children as a teacher,
and then after a few years or whatever, I was promoted to
Director of Resource Centers. You know. Responsible for checking
Well, we took some training for all of that. But you know
the teachers had to prepare for classes for the concepts that
were being taught in Head Start. They had teacher's plans.
OK. We would meet, and I would check teacher's plans and to
make sure they had their plans done, the materials that they
were going to use, and what have you to teach whatever concept
they were teaching at that particular time. And the directors
or they called them resource teachers and they called them
center directors. And we would meet maybe twice a month with
the educational director and other department heads of the
Head Start, and you know, you'd compare and talk about goals,
long-term, short-term goals. Things you wanted to do. It was
a beautiful program. We had consultants from all over. We
had one from Africa. We had the Montessori. She came down
and she held workshops with us. And it's a funny thing. Now,
the people in the upper part, people from all over that held
workshops and what have you, they would go all over and they
would come down. When they would get to ours, and we had some
consultants, like, during our break, I remember this white
fellow. Real, real heavy, stiff mustache. Red mustache. (Laughter.)
It was two or three of us standing there on our break and
he walked up, and he started talking to us, and he said, "I'm
going to say something, but I don't want you all to feel insulted.
I don't want you to think I'm--." You know. Whatever. He said,
"But I've just got to say this."
Said, "Yeah. OK. Yeah. Say.
What is it?" You know. We used to hearing whatever.
And he said, "The difference
in you all here, and you all's program, the way it's being
operated and the people that you have training and teaching
your children and blah, blah, whatever." He said, "The difference
in here and up there, in the upper parts of Mississippi,"
say, "it's unbelievable." Say, "It is unbelievable." Say,
"Because up there we have people that haven't even been to
elementary school." You know. He said, "It's so different."
You know. When you think about it, it's not a long distance,
but it is, too, but it's not. It shouldn't be that much difference
in [it]. You know. "In your philosophy here and theirs there."
He said, "But it is." He said, "We wish that they could have
the same ideals and ideas and the same philosophy as you all
have here." Because we turned out some good students from
Head Start. We had some beautiful, beautiful (inaudible).
And they always made things available for us to be better
trained. You know. Workshops, seminars.
staff development training.
Because I went to Rust College one of those years. It was
December. It was cold. Ice. I went to Rust College. We stayed
in Memphis at the Holiday Inn. It was the educational director,
another director of the center along with me. It was three
of us, and we stayed up there, like, four or five weeks.
curriculum. It was interesting. You know. And it was people
from all over. They taught that. Just there to be taught about
writing curricula for Head Start.
that was specifically for Head Start?
Start's made a big difference in a lot of lives.
sure has. A big, big difference. A big difference. So.
Millet: I was
just thinking back on some of the things that we covered,
probably in the last twenty minutes, I guess. And we were
talking about how in the early sixties, when you were getting
started in the NAACP, that you would have a lot of people
on the books for membership, but maybe not as many who attended.
And I just was thinking about [how] many people have said
in oral histories, that teachers, African-American teachers
had to sign an agreement when they were hired to teach that
they wouldn't join the NAACP. It didn't necessarily say the
NAACP, but it, you know, described an organization, and that
was the one that was meant. And so, they were really coerced
to stay out of it, and the leverage was their job. And it's
just amazing to me that, you know--.
this is what we were told here, too. It was the same way here
in Moss Point. I don't know about Pascagoula, but Moss Point
I know. Now, we had teachers that would contribute, but they
said, "Don't mention my name."
use my name."
use [it.] But, yeah, that happened right here from what we
a lot of teachers, we've had reported to us, that they would
join in another name. You know, they would have a membership
it would just be a made-up name.
I didn't realize that.
that was a wonderful, lot of information on the testing of
the public facilities. The public accommodations stuff and
the start of Head Start, which we kind of--.
off track because we were talking about voter registration.
were talking about it. And I wanted to hear about your--.
sorry. I told you I would do that. (Laughter.)
exactly how it works. You did--. That's exactly how oral history
registered as soon as I could register. I don't remember what
age, but I had to pay the poll tax, and I had to recite a
section of the Constitution. I don't remember. I remembered
for years what that was, but whatever it was, I did it. And
I payed my two dollars poll tax.
I did that every year until, I don't remember what year we
stopped paying poll taxes, but I did not miss paying my poll
tax and voting.
you did vote?
were paying that poll tax every year, and you were voting,
well, you had to go and when you registered you had to pay
your poll tax. So, it wasn't necessarily an election at that
particular time. You were registering to be able to vote when
an election was held. So, but you had to have that registration
card or whatever. And I still have a registration card in
were you successful your first [attempt to register to vote]?
first try, I was successful. I sure was.
that was here in Moss Point that you registered?
we registered in Pascagoula at the county seat at the courthouse
in Pascagoula, but now, it's now you can register anywhere.
You can register in Moss Point, now, and you don't have to
go to Pascagoula. You used to have to go to Pascagoula and
register and then come to Moss Point, because Pascagoula,
I guess being Jackson County, the county seat, and then Moss
Point being city elections. But now, either place you register,
you don't have to go to the other. They send that form. You
for you, were there any reprisals about registering to vote?
well, they exercised their little intimidating skills or whatever,
you know, when you went there. We knew that we weren't welcome,
but we went. And I remember people would get in line. We had
people lining up to go and register to vote. Some had to go
back several times, but they did. We conducted voter registration
campaigns along with encouraging people to join the NAACP.
you registered to vote, were you already working with the
NAACP or was that registration earlier?
registration was earlier, I think. I think it was. If it wasn't,
it was during the time I became involved along with Mr. Justice.
I'm not exactly sure, but I know it was early. Yeah. I was
I don't know if it happened very often on the coast--. Oh.
Let me change this tape.
(End of tape one, side two.
The interview continues on tape two, side one.)
Millet: I have
a theory that along the coast, because there are people from
all over the world. You know. It's a harbor town, and I grew
up in Gulfport, so I think that--.
Millet: I did.
intended to ask you where. (Laughter.)
so, we were talking about the difference between north Mississippi,
and the coast. I think that's a reason for the difference,
is that we're accustomed to seeing people from all over the
world. When I was growing up, none of my friends or my school
teachers were Southern. They weren't from around here, and,
you know, I think that we're maybe just more liberal in this
area because of that.
So, I don't know if this happened
very often on the coast, but I know in north Mississippi in
the forties, and fifties, probably in the thirties, too, if
African-Americans attempted to vote, they might find that
the next day their name was published in the newspaper. They
had no anonymity about it. If they had a loan at the bank,
it was called due, and if you can't pay it, that's too bad.
"We'll foreclose on your property." And then, of course, there
were people who were actually murdered, you know, lynched
because they attempted to register to vote.
They weren't even successful [in actually registering]. So,
there were all kinds of reprisals, from economic to real threats
of physical harm, and physical harm, but you didn't experience
that. And I just wonder if you know if that happened here
during your lifetime. Or, did your parents register to vote?
Do you know anything about that?
don't know. I don't know if my mother and father were registered
voters. I really don't know that. And I don't know of anybody
that was murdered or whatever as the results of trying to
register to vote here in Pascagoula and Moss Point. I'm not
aware of that, either.
you know there were some people who had to go back?
yeah. There were some that had to go back, and there are some,
still, that they don't register. They have not registered,
and they don't vote. And there are some that register and
still don't vote. And that's an ongoing thing. You say that
after all that people have gone through for you to have that
right, and you won't exercise that right. But that's people
still, their mind-set is, you know, they're intimidated, yet,
because I know when I worked out there at district two's office,
we would go and get people. Some people were sixty, seventy,
whatever, and we encouraged them. And I've gone and carried
some to register, and when they get ready to vote, carried
them to vote, and carried that ballot to help them. You know.
But they just for some reason, they were afraid. They're still
afraid. You know. I know my aunt was just--. She worked. She
was an independent person, what have you, but she still, and
Mamie[?] was in her eighties when she died, and she still
felt that. That's my daddy's sister, that, "You just don't
do that. You just don't do that because Mr. or Ms. So and
I said, "Mamie," I said, "this
is a new day."
And there are children that
she raised, Caucasians that she raised, and she said, "Missy."
You know, but that was in her. That was in her. You couldn't
get it out of her. You know. And I didn't experience the things
she experienced. So, maybe had I experienced those things,
maybe I would have felt the same way.
Well, you never know. Your character might be so independent.
You know. And hers was not. You just never know. I wonder
about environment versus, you know, that personality, that
we're kind of born with.
Well, just thinking about Moss
Point as you were coming up and how it's changed over the
years, I think you've pretty much clarified that there was
racial discrimination in hiring practices and those public
accommodations things. Do you have any experiences with buses?
When we rode, we had what used to be called the two in one
bus or twenty-one bus or whatever. And we had to sit in the
back. We couldn't sit up front. That was right here in Pascagoula
and Moss Point because we would walk up to the corner here.
They had benches along. You could sit and wait on the bus
to come through to pick you up to carry you to Pascagoula,
and you had your little tokens or whatever, we used. You know.
And during our trips to Jackson. I don't know whether we had
gone to Georgia or Washington or wherever, and we would ride
the bus or what have you. And we stopped. We had one of those
conventions we had come from, and Sara Ellen Lett and I stopped
and Brother Justice. We went to the bus station in Hattiesburg.
We had a layover there; we had to change buses or something,
and we walked in. We were all hyped up because we had just
come from this meeting and blah, blah, whatever, whatever.
(Laughter.) We went in the bathroom. We got off the bus and
we went to the bathroom. So, naturally, we kept by that bathroom
that had "colored" on it. We went to the "white only." And
you think about it, now, and you laugh about it, but it wasn't
funny then. It's not funny, now, but it's amusing, you know,
too. We walked in and these two little ladies were in there,
and they was doing their makeup.
And when we opened the door
and walked in, boy, they looked at us, and got their stuff,
and out the bathroom. They had business. So, evidently, they
went out, you know, because the waiting room's out there.
And they went out and they must have told the people out there
that we were in the bathroom. "Their" bathroom. And when we
came out there was a little, short, dumpy white fellow, overalls
on. He had his cane, and whatever, and he was calling us all
kinds of names. Why were we in, blah, blah, whatever, whatever?
And, "I'll do this." And we were taught you don't fight back.
You don't say whatever. You know. This is a nonviolent movement
and blah, blah, whatever. And we didn't say anything to him,
and he was saying what he was going to do with his cane to
us. Well, poor Brother Justice. He said, "Come on y'all. Come
on darlings. Now, the bus is coming."
And, you know, they had Coca-Colas
at that time in crates in bottles. Short Coca-Colas, you know.
And they were stacked up there, and he was saying what he
was going to do.
And Sara Ellen turned, and
said, "I'll tell you what. If you do whatever you threatened
to do with that cane,"--probably hit us or whatever--she said,
"it won't be any Coca-Colas bottles left in here." (Laughter.)
Mr. Justice said, "Come on.
Come on. The bus is coming. The bus is coming." And we stepped
out and got up on the bus, and you talking about police. They
had called the police. And you talking about the police that
surrounded us at the Hattiesburg Greyhound bus station. And
it didn't make it any better. We got on the bus, and we sat
right behind the bus driver. We did not go. We sat. God was
on our side. I'll tell you. We sat right behind that bus driver,
and he brought us to Pascagoula.
you have a kind of idea what year that was? Do you know?
year was that?
not exactly, but sort of maybe early sixties?
don't remember. It was after these kids--. It was during the
time when we had a lot of active movements going on.
Millet: I wonder
if it was sixty-four? Was it Freedom Summer, maybe? The summer
that the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and COFO--?
remember COFO and all of them. They came. They were down here
on Bowen Street, because they stayed in many people's homes.
Ms. Elvira's home. Edna's house right down the street. J.P.
Miller's house and all. You know. They were scattered all
around. And I don't know if it was--.
it around that time? Do you remember?
don't know. Honestly, I don't remember what year. Like I say,
we didn't do any documenting. I said, personal documenting.
All of that is in those secretary's books, wherever they are.
I don't know if Curley[?] still has those books. I hope that
he's got them, and one day I might ask him if he has the NAACP
membership and secretary's books and all those kinds of things,
back during those years, because it's a lot of information
there. Because I was the secretary, and all of the things
that we had planned to do, the meetings that we had planned
to attend, it had to be voted on, and our agenda. I mean,
our itinerary, and blah, blah, whatever, all of that was in
those books. And so, I'm going to ask him, if I can think
of it, if he can put his hands on some of those books, because
I can imagine there's some interesting things in those books.
would be important for them to be archived. You know?
would be. It would be. I remember the books just like it was
yesterday. Those grey books, records, whatever, you know,
on those big, upper-case letters across that book, there.
And we kept good records of our meetings and a lot of activities
because we had to make sure that whatever we were to attempt
to do, that it had to be documented here, local. We had to
send it to, and let Jackson know. State knew what our plans
were. And national. And state went to the regional, there
in Atlanta. Ms. Ruby Hurd and (inaudible). And then national
had it. Everybody needed to know what we were going to do
anywhere, because they say, needed to be ready to have lawyers,
bails bondsmen, whatever was necessary there.
Because some of the kids and some of the adults, even, went
to jail. Thank God, I didn't ever go. I escaped. (Laughter.)
But, they went. They actually were arrested. I mean, a group
of them down on Highway 90, down there by Deep-South--.
it the wade-in? Was it going to integrate the beaches?
they went down there to integrate the beaches, too, but I
think this, they were having a rally. This was during the
time COFO and SCLC and all of them were here together. Yeah.
And they had a big--. You know. Because NAACP would be meeting
this side of the hall, and COFO would be in the next. You
know. We were right next-door to each other. Right over there
on Bowen Street. For the meetings. And naturally, the young
kids, they were on fire. You know. Some of us was dragging.
You know? (Laughter.) But they went to jail. I mean grown
people. Ms. Elvira Grandison. She was one of the older ladies
there. She went, too. A lot of people went. You know.
was that to local jails?
did they get sent to the penitentiary, at all?
jails. Pascagoula, I think. I don't know if Moss Point housed
any, because I remember when they got picked up, they were
down in Pascagoula, so they probably went to the city jails
then somebody would call? You?
we would know. We knew. Somebody was there, always. You know.
They didn't go by themselves. It was always some adults and
whatever, and they knew exactly what. You know. And property
owners from Moss Point and all around, they would go down,
and they would sign the bond or whatever. If they owned property,
they would sign, and they would let them out and do whatever.
But Dr. Morris[?], I think, signed a lot of them. And Mr.
Willie Miller and them. Different people, you know, that owned
People who had the means to do it.
was still a risk.
yeah. It was risky. It was real risky. I think some of them
still had problems with that property thing, too. They probably
got it all straightened out, but, yeah, that was risky. It
Millet: I think
you could lose your property. Not only that, but then you
were kind of, you know, identified as a stand-out.
Well, they knew. They knew the ones that were really, really
involved in whatever. I don't know. They knew.
yeah. Did you know Dr. Gilbert Mason?
yes. Down in Biloxi.
you have any stories about the struggle to integrate the beaches?
none other than they would go down. I remember when they went
down to attempt to integrate the beaches. But we were, more
or less, on this side. Now, we had some kids and young people
that would go the distance. You know. They would go, and we
all started going to the beaches, because I carried my children
to the beaches and whatever. But I didn't ever just go down
there for the purpose of protesting or marching on the beach
or anything like that, because, like I say, we just, it seemed
like people all around us had things going on that they were
doing. You know. It was reaching for the same goal, but, you
know, different (inaudible).
In Local People, Dr. Dittmer did a really good job
of taking all those different activities that occurred, especially
that summer of sixty-four. I mean, that summer happened because
of decades of groundwork that had been laid already. And people's
lives and energy, but [the strategy used] that summer was
just: hit as many places as you can, all the time, all the
was a big push. There was a lot of progress made, I guess.
And I would just love to hear about Freedom Summer, 1964,
from your perspective. What happened that summer?
Summer, 1964. Name some of what was going on in 1964.
there would have been probably some college kids here from
northern universities, teaching in freedom schools. And they
probably would have been out canvassing for voter registration.
What else would they have been doing? Well, they were trying
to work with the NAACP, and as you say, the really young,
hot-to-trot kids, and then the older, more settled, and probably
more conservative adults in the NAACP. And so, there was a
little bit of tension there, but still they worked together.
still worked together.
you were talking about, testing public accommodations, sending
people out to, you know, the dairy bar, and I remember talking
with someone who said that he was given ten dollars, and he
went in and ordered his hamburgers, and there was a response,
like, this man came in from across the street with a gun.
And he said, "You know, I was just a kid. I didn't even realize
how dangerous it was. And I was real flippant about it." But
they had been taught, SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating
Committee had taught these young people, if something happens,
try to one of you get away, so you can come back and tell
us, and so we can do damage-control or go bail people out
of jail. And so, there were those kinds of things going on.
The interviewer with that particular
young man said, "Well, did you ever get to eat the hamburgers?"
He said, "I don't even know
what happened to them." (Laughter.)
don't even know." I know. Things like that just don't stick.
I guess maybe your kids would have been of an age to go to
know, my kids, they did not go to the freedom schools here.
But they were holding freedom schools. They were teaching,
I think, more or less, voter registration, and like you said,
the spontaneous, "Let's go test here. And, let's go test there."
If that's what they--. They lived among the community people
and they were involved with them, but, like I say, the NAACP--and
you're right--we were more on the conservative side. "Let's
negotiate. Now, we need to make sure that we do this like
one, two, three, four, five. Because we've got to know what
we're going to do, and we've got to do it the way we're supposed
to do it. You know. Because we had some--. Yeah, that's the
kind of summer that was because they were on one side; we
were on the other. And they were kind of--. We would say,
"OK. Now, look, you all. You need to think this out. Now,
do this way or do [that] because you can get hurt. You can
disappear and we won't see you again. And whatever, whatever."
You know. But they more or less did whatever they were here
to do, and they were welcomed in the community. They were
treated nicely in the community, but we were busy doing what
we were doing. And, like I said, we both were working toward
the same goals. You know, maybe a little different.
COFO became an umbrella that SNCC and SCLC and the NAACP could
kind of work together underneath that whole federated organization
kind of thing. And then, I think, after Freedom Summer there
was more separation of those organizations. So, tell me about
voter registration, and protest marches and pickets and boycotts
and mass meetings. What are your experiences with those kinds
had many, many voter registration meetings, and we would meet
at some of these same facilities I mentioned that the Head
Start program children were taught. Meetings held and the
children taught there. Once you sat up the facilities for
them to come in to be taught. I remember one mass meeting
we had right across here at the Knights of Pythian Park, and
that was probably during the sixties when COFO and all of
them were here, when the whites passed the park there during
this meeting, and they shot up in the park. And Jesse Stallworth,
one of Flora Stallworth's sisters, got shot. Right up there.
Right there. You know. And that was the results of our meetings
that were held.
you remember what happened at that particular meeting? Did
people disperse when the shooting started?
yeah. Well, they dispersed. They were trying to, I guess,
see, but they carried on with their meeting. It didn't stop
their meeting. For a while to get her situated, to the hospital,
or wherever she was carried. But those intimidating things
that they did did not stop the movement here. You know. It
just didn't. We were determined to do what we set out to do,
and by the grace of God, we did it. We did it. But there were
many, many meetings. I remember we used to meet down at, when
I first got involved, I think we would go down to Convent.
Was that the progressive club when they met down there some.
State Stallworth's. See State was in Pascagoula. He moved
to Moss Point later on, but he lived in Pascagoula and William
McElroy[?] and I don't know who else. But several people,
we would meet down there with them at the Progressive Club,
and like I said, we met all around. We just called one meeting
after the other because we felt like once we started this
thing we had to keep going. We couldn't start and stop. We
had to go on and do whatever. And we had ministers involved.
Churches. We got a lot of this accomplished through the churches
because people had the tendency to believe what the ministers
would tell them. And they should, you know, because they were
supposed to be leaders. They were leaders and whatever. And
they believed what they said, and they encouraged them to
do that and that's some of the things that we did. Until we
just--. It was an ongoing thing.
(A short portion of the recording
in which a family member is introduced to the interviewer
has been omitted from this transcript.)
my baby daughter's daughter. That's Cathy's daughter. Cathy
is one of the ones that--. She and Gail and Sandra were the
ones that went over to Carl Eley Elementary School. The very
first students to go over there.
Well, let's get to that. Let's get to that. We did already
talk about Head Start here, but, so tell me about your children
and their experience integrating the public schools.
My children and integration. Well, as an NAACP member and
organization, we got to the point of, "It's time to set up
whatever we need to do to integrate, attempt to
integrate the school." So, we had been going to Jackson, and
they were teaching us through films and whatever means how
to withstand whatever reprisal, whatever method of intimidation
would be used or what have you. And--.
(The interview is briefly interrupted
by a ringing telephone.)
were talking about your children integrating the public schools.
Well, we were told what we would have to do to integrate the
schools. Jack Young and Carsie Hall, some of the attorneys
for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund informed us of some of the
things we needed to do. So, we met over at the St. Paul's
Methodist Church on the corner of Davis and Magnolia Street.
And it was a packed house that night, and that's why we moved
it over there, because it had grown too large for the hall
right here. And so we talked. We first signed a petition.
We had a petition to sign to integrate the schools. So everybody
there I can imagine, or most of the people there, they signed
you taken your children to school to register them to go?
had attempted to do it because they told us, said, "You first
got to attempt to carry your children there, enroll them,
and then be turned down."
is that what happened?
carried my children, OK, let's see. The first students to
attempt to enroll at Charlotte Hyatt on Welch[?] Street in
Moss Point was these five children: Nona Bell Lett[?], Sandra
Denise Gladney Chapman[?], which is one of mine, Gail M. Gladney
Smith, which is one of mine, Phyllis Liddell Beard[?], Geraldine
Liddell Crouch[?]. Geraldine and Phyllis are sisters. Nona
Bell is a daughter to Sara and Willie Lett, one of the members.
I told you we were always in Jackson. The one that told them
about the Coca-Cola bottles. OK? That's her daughter. So,
we went over to Welch Street with the children that morning,
and when we got there Mrs. Stouter[?], female principal, met
us there at the front there. I guess at the office, at the
year? Or about?
don't know, yet.
fill it in.
we'll fill it in. OK. But anyway, she told us that--. Well,
she refused to let the kids enroll there. She later told the
news media that we were at the wrong school, and she directed
us to the school which we were looking for.
was that false?
it was false. Because we knew where Magnolia was, but it was
an attempt to get the children over. And had she let us enroll
our kids, we would have. You know. We went prepared to do
that, but she turned us down. OK. So, we came back to the
meeting. Which we knew we would be turned down. We came back
to the meeting and that's when we all signed petitions, you
know, that we wanted the schools integrated and what have
you. After we had done that, Carsie Hall, and Jack Young or
whichever these lawyers were, told us that, informed us that
in order to bring the schools to court, we needed someone
to sign a retainer for the school system because they couldn't
take the petition and go with it, so somebody needed to sign
a retainer. And many people said, "Well, I would sign, but
my family. I'm working here, and I'd lose my job." Which was
true. You know. Whatever. Everybody had their reasons for
not signing the retainer. So, I guess I felt like somebody
needed to sign it, so I signed it.
was that to retain the--?
to carry the schools to court. And I signed. And that's how
it became Gladney v. Moss Point School.
became the plaintiff when you did that.
was represented by the Legal Defense [Fund] lawyers, Jack
Young and Carsie Hall. And so, that's how the schools got
into court. And the lawyers explained to us that anything
else pertaining to something that you would have to carry
them to court for, it would come through that same retainer.
You know, it would be a continuum until they came into compliance
with everything. It would be, you know, you could go to court
under that same Gladney.
that was a big commitment for you to do that.
was. It really was.
you suffer any ill effects from that, do you think? I know
you were talking about you felt your children had been blackballed.
We had to be cautious, and I thought more cautious, even,
after that happened, because the children, I remember, once
they were out in the yard playing and this car drove by and
they threw firecrackers in there on them and Gail, it burned
her on her leg. You know. Like I said, we were pointed out.
They knew who had done, and who was doing what. And I remember
one night I came out of the house to get in the car. I don't
know where I was going. It was just dark, and I walked to
the car and was reaching, attempting to get in the car, and
I forgot something, and I just turned to go back in the house,
and when I turned a big piece of asphalt, a rock, or whatever,
this car was passing. I don't know how or why it was timed,
but it passed, and they threw. And just when I had turned
and made my U-turn, that rock fell. Had I been standing there
to get in the car, you know. And I said, "My God!" You know
people are just--. And I don't know whether--. They had to
have a reason for doing it. And naturally you would think,
"OK. This is the result of my being at this meeting, that
meeting, or whatever." So, yeah, I went to the board meeting
in Moss Point, one night. Sara Ellen Lett and I, we would
go to the meetings, and who was it? I think the attorney for
the board then, I think it was Hamilton. Was it Hamilton?
I think his name was Hamilton. Hammond. Whatever. But anyway,
he said that he didn't want us in the city hall. He didn't
ever want us at a meeting. I said, "You cannot keep us. This
is a public meeting." But we would go because we said, "Well,
hey, we're going." And the same way with the, over at the
When the children were over
there, when the court said, "OK. They've got to go. You've
got to let them go." What have you. We carried our children
to school, and we would attend the meetings, the PTA meetings.
And it wasn't but two or three: Sara Ellen, Hannah Dread,
and myself, at most of those meetings. And we made it our
business to be there.
Of course, we knew we would
be outvoted, and we wouldn't have a voice, but we said, "If
our children can come here from morning to evening, we can
come here on these meeting nights and what have you."
And we did that, and they would
come out and they would already have done whatever they'd
done. And, "The report. Will you accept the report?" Blah,
blah, whatever, whatever. You know. Naturally, it's already
done. But we sat there. We went anyway, and so, they knew.
I went over to the school one day. The kids would come home
every day, and they'd go back there in their room, and they'd
talk, and say whatever.
And I'd ask them, when I got
a chance, when I got home, I'd say, "How was your day? What
happened?" You know. We talked. And they would say this or
whatever, whatever. And I would pick up on certain little
things, and then when they got there at the school, they kind
of clung together. They had to look out for each other. And
one day, I heard one of them say that Ms. Hill or Ms. Cielot
had taught, she was teaching color concepts that day, and
she called some students to the head of the class to teach
color concepts. She had a little black student, Virginia May[?],
and had this little white boy, and little Tiwanna Simmons,
I think, Mamie Simmons' daughter, she had pretty brown skin,
pretty hair. She looked like a mixed. You know.
And she was saying, "Now, this
is black, and this is white." You know, the children's arms.
You know. Whatever.
I said, "OK. Now it's time
for me to make a visit to the school." And he had done something
else. The principal had done something else, too. Mr. Alexander.
The children were in line at the water fountain, and Sandra
wore glasses. She still wears glasses, the oldest one there,
in the center right there. [Pointing to a photograph.] She
and one of Sara Ellen's children were standing next to each
other. You know. She went to get some water. They were there
to get water, and he was behind her. And, you know how the
children will push. Everybody lunge forth, and when she came
forth, her glasses fell. And she reached down to get her glasses.
Mr. Alexander said, "No. No. You pick them up. You pick them
up." That's the principal standing there looking, now. Say,
"You knocked her down."
She said, "No." She said, "It
was an accident." And she--. Because they were close; those
kids were close. I guess she got her glasses and put them
And he told her, say, "You
hit him. You hit him back. He knocked your glasses off."
She told him, "No. No." You
know. And he caught her, and he literally shook her.
"I said for you to hit him."
He wanted them to fight. And she kicked him. She kicked him
because he was shaking her.
kicked the principal?
kicked the principal. And, now, he didn't report that.
Millet: I don't
blame her. (Laughter.)
didn't report it. So, when she kicked him, he let go. And
I went out. So, I said, "Now, the color concept incident and
this incident, it's time for me to go." So, I put them out
at school that morning, and I came back home and got my bath
and everything; dressed. And I went out to the school, and
not purposely, but I just happened to have a black purse.
For some reason, I was just carrying a black one at that particular
time. And I told the secretary that I needed to see Mr. Alexander.
And she looked. "Well, he's
not--. He's busy."
I said, "Well, I'll wait. I'll
wait." And I just sat down in the office there, and she was
all fidgety, and finally, he came in, and he looked.
And she said, "Mrs. Sanders
is here, and she wanted to--."
And I walked. And I said, "Yes,
I'd like to speak with you." So, we went in his office and
I told him why I was there and I mentioned the kicking incident.
The water fountain incident.
"I didn't do that. I'm a Sunday
school teacher, and if Sandra said I did that," said, "she's
not telling the truth."
I said, "Well, Mr. Alexander,
Sandra goes to Sunday school, too. In fact we all do." I said,
"I don't know why she would make up a story like that to tell."
And he [said], "Well, if you
get her in here, I bet she won't tell you that in front of
I said, "Well, OK. You send
for her." And he sent somebody for Sandra, and she came. She
was surprised to see me sitting there. Now, this is elementary
And he said, "Sandra, did you
tell your mother? Tell your mother what happened at the water
And she told me. And she said,
"And you shook me. And you wouldn't let go, and I kicked you."
"No. Now, you just told a--.
That's not true."
I said, "Mr. Alexander." I
said, "Will you excuse her to back to her class? She's missing
"Yeah. You can go back. You
can go back, but I want you to know," he said, "that she's
going to be punished for telling a story. She told a story
I told him, I say, "She's here
under your care, and if she is to be punished for something,
I want you to know, there's limitations to your punishment,
Mr. Alexander." He wanted me to say I was going to take her
out of school. I say, "There's limitations to your punishment."
I say, "Let me tell you something else, since we're talking."
I say, "I need to see Mrs.--." I don't know whether it was
Mrs. Hill or Mrs. Cielot. It was one of those teachers. I
said, "I need to speak with her."
I said, "Because Cathy's in
her classroom." I said, "And she taught color concept, whatever,
she taught it, and she called--." I said, "And the way she
compared colors and taught colors, she didn't use the crayon
or the whatever, she used students." I said, "She used students."
"Well, well, what's your--?"
I said, "In other words, are
you saying that her teaching method was the best method to
teach color concept? By comparing children?" I said, "Because
if you're saying that, Mr. Alexander," I said, "Let me tell
you something." I said, "You see that shirt that you're wearing?"
He was wearing a white shirt. I said, "You see that shirt
that you're wearing?" I said, "That's white." I said, "Do
you see this purse that I'm carrying? This is black. I have
not seen anybody out here either one of those colors." I said,
"So, you're telling me that you agree with her teaching methods."
"No. No. I'm not saying that.
I told him, "Well, you need
to talk with her."
"Yeah. I will."
And I said, "And, I'm going,
He said, "Well, I--."
I said, "And you have a good
He told me, "Well, I guess
you're going now to call the NAACP."
No, I didn't. I said, "Mr.
Alexander, I know--." Oh, and he had a practice of, when the
blacks walked the hall, he had a switchblade knife, and he
would stand and flick his knife, you know, as the children
passed by. And, "I didn't."
And I told him, I said, "I'm
leaving, Mr. Alexander." I say, "And you have a nice day."
He told me, he said, "Well,
I guess you're going right now. You're going right now, and
you're going to call--."
I said, "Mr. Alexander, I know
you don't want national troops walking this hallway to protect
these children while they attend classes." I said, "I know
you don't want that."
"Now, now. And I guess now,
you're going to call the NAACP."
I said, "You guessed right.
That's just what I'm going to do, Mr. Alexander." And he looked,
you know, but it was some dreadful things that happened. It
was some dreadful things that happened, and it took a lot
of praying and a lot of talking to the children and consoling
them and encouraging them to go and do the right thing, when
the right thing was not practiced from the adults who was
there to make sure that they were instilling the right things
in all of them, no matter what kid. Any kid, anybody that
attended that classroom, but it was a long, long struggle,
and it's still a struggle because I remember the first day
that I carried the kids to Carl Eley School. You know they
had a table there with all the lists of the supplies that
you need. The blackboard, the papers on the blackboard, the
materials that the student needs for blah, blah, whatever,
whatever. And the teacher is there to introduce or to greet
the parents and the students or what have you. I walked in
with Sandra, little bitty something, and Ms. Davis was there
talking to this white parent. And as we entered the classroom,
she ignored us. OK? We stood. I gave her time to acknowledge
us being there. She ignored us, and then Neecy was--.
I said, "Neecy." Her name was
Sandra but Jerome said, "Neecy." That's the only one I called
a nickname, because Jerome, the oldest one, he couldn't say
Denise[?], so he said, "Neecy."
I said, "Neecy, go over there
and get you a seat. Get you a desk." And as she attempted
to go toward the desk, they all began to snatch their desks
back. They didn't want to sit. And her desk was just there
isolated. You know. And I told her, "That's OK." I said, "Sit
down. Sit right there at the head of the class, where you
need to be so you can comprehend whatever Mrs. Davis, here,
is going to tell you."
Turning it into a positive.
she's going to teach you." I say, "And all of these children
that's pulling their desks away from you, if you continue
to get your lessons like you've been doing it, these three
years that you--. They will be crowding around you for some
help." By that time, I had her attention and the other parent,
too. I said, "And the things that I'm telling you, Sandra,
and class," I say, "your teacher, Mrs. Davis, should be."
And I just, whatever. And she looked, and I walked out of
the classroom after I said whatever to her about the supplies
because she wasn't acting any better than the students. She
wasn't setting a good example for the students, or what have
you. But I told her how I felt that day, and I gave my child
whatever she needed to maintain and stay in that classroom
from that day until the day that she came out of that classroom.
And before that school session was over for that nine months,
she and Mrs. Davis got along just fine. Other students was
asking for Sandra's help. And Mrs. Davis, she had a test,
and she made ninety-nine on it, on one of the tests, and Mrs.
Davis gave it back to her and told her she needed to retake
the test. And Sandra say, "I don't understand, Mama, why."
And I say, "Take it again."
And she took it and she made a hundred on it, and I said,
"What did Mrs. Davis say? She gave it back to you because
she knew you knew that one that you missed, and you could
make--." You know. In other words.
And at the end of that school
year, Neecy wrote the nicest letter, you know, what you think
of our teachers there, and Neecy wrote the nicest letter about
her and blah, blah, whatever, whatever. And she ended up,
see, when they left Carl Eley, they built a school over here,
elementary on Prentiss[?], and that's where the other children,
that's where Cathy and Earl and Rodney and them went over
there. And Gail went some years over there, too, although
she started over here. And Mrs. Davis ended up teaching over
there, and I was one of her best friends, you know, during
the course of my children coming on through the class. But,
see, we didn't give up.
it's ironic that the students were teaching her something.
You know. Those African-American students were teaching the
And, see, Sandra was the only one in that classroom. The only
African-American in that class, and there were very few students
over there because everybody didn't carry their children over
there. They all didn't carry. You know.
I think--. Let me just turn this over.
(End of tape two, side one.
The interview continues on tape two, side two.)
sounds like there must have been a real tension that you felt
between wanting to do the thing that would help your race,
and race relations, and knowing, you know, that it might not
be the best thing for your children. I mean, they deserved
an education that was on par with those [that] white students
were getting, but there was a burden, also, for them to be
in a kind of an isolated environment.
was. And that particular day that I left that school, and
I mentioned the National Guards, and he said what he said.
As soon as I walked through those doors, I was completely
torn. And I said, "Now, I'm leaving my child here, but, you
know, what would I accomplish to snatch her out?" And, but,
you know what? I, even after all these years of my participating
and their being in that kind of setting, and seemed like mine
was always the first to do whatever, when it comes to integrating
a facility. The same thing with the recreational facility
down there. Earl, that with the brown/tan suit; he was the
first black kid to try out for this Dixie League down in Moss
Point. Good little ballplayer. Not knowing he could play ball
as well as he did, but my thing was, all of his little friends
and classmates, they were participating. He said, "Mama, I
want to play ball, too. I want to go."
I said, "OK. Well, let's see."
So, that particular year he said that, he could not go. He
wasn't old enough. You know. His birthday wasn't. So, I said,
"OK. You let me know, and next year we'll watch the paper.
It's in the paper, and we will go." And I was sick that year.
Flu or whatever, and it was cool, but I got up, and I wrapped
me an old blanket or something around and I went down and
he tried out. And I said, "Rodney, do you want to try out?"
"Naw, Mama, I don't."
I said, "Are you sure?"
"No, I don't want to." That
was the baby, the son that was in here. So, we had to wait
on the coaches to call the children and tell them what team
they were on.
Didn't know that they had met
among themselves and decided: "Earl? We're not going to pick
up Earl. Not either one of us. He won't be on either one of
these teams out here." And to show you how the Lord works,
this man came to me. A white man.
He said, "Franzetta, let me
tell you something. Don't tell anybody." Said, "I need to
tell you something."
I said, "OK."
He said, "You need to watch
them. They don't intend for Earl to be on the team down there
I said, "OK." I said, "But
I'll tell you what. I was at the trials. I saw just what any
kid, all of those kids, I saw their skills." I said, "And
if Earl is not picked up," I said, "Y'all get ready. Y'all
won't have a ball park down there this summer. Y'all won't
have a recreational baseball league this summer." I said,
"I promise you that. So, you can go back and tell them."
So, he said, "Whatever." But
a few nights passed; a few days. And the phone finally rang,
and it was Coach Turner.
"Ms. Sanders," he said. "Earl
is on my team." And blah, blah, whatever.
I said, "OK. Whatever."
"He needs to be at practice."
Earl went down and played ball, and, Julia knows, he went.
He was a major. He was selected in a draft, first-round draft
with Toronto Blue Jays in eighty-something. Eighty-three,
eighty-four, whatever. He made it to Double A. His arm had
to have surgery twice because they pitched him to death. When
he was at high school, Jackson State, he broke every record.
yes. Look at all those trophies.
record Jackson State had up there.
broke. We went to Texas. We went to Louisiana. We went to
Toronto. You know, and we would go. I hardly missed any of
their activities, period. I mean, whatever my kids were involved
in, I was there. I was there. And so, but, Mr. Turner, his
coach, he's dead, now. He came by.
One day he was sitting out
under the carport there, and we were talking. He said, "Ms.
Sanders." He said, "You never did know this."
I said, "What's that?"
He said, "You know they all
met down there when Earl came and signed up? You brought him
down there. They said they wasn't going to pick him up. 'We're
not going to do this, that, and the other.'" He said, "When
it was time to pick up, my time to select somebody, on a team,
one of the players," he said, "I told them I wanted Earl Sanders."
And said, "They all looked at me. 'I thought we said [we wouldn't
pick Earl up.]'" He said, "You said that. I didn't." And he
was saying how proud he was of Earl. So, but, like I said,
they were always the first to do whatever. They had to go
through the abuse and the whatever. I mean, I've seen that
kid on the mound. We was up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, for
the state tournament one year.
Millet: A different
my God. And they called him all kinds of names. And it shook
him so, they took him out of the game. And we stayed at the
Holiday Inn, and the phone call came that, "You need to get
your son because the whites have threatened." See, because
all the teammates, they were black and white, and the kids
were playing well together, from down here. They left the
room to go to the pool. You know how the kids do after the
ball game. And they had threatened Earl because he and Rodney
and someone else was out there, and we had to get the kids
and get them back in so nothing would happen to them. But
they had threatened to harm them right up there in Clarksdale,
I think my children's feelings about what I put them through
as the results of them being used, like you say, as guinea
pigs, you know. I don't know. I wonder sometimes how they
really feel about me putting them through that. Sometimes
I feel that maybe they resent it because Cathy said to me,
she said, "Mama," she said, "I always wondered why we couldn't
go to Magnolia." She said, "Because we always, I looked forward
to being in the band and the majorettes." See, they were cheerleaders,
she and Gail or whatever. And she said, "They had on those
pretty uniforms, and these white boots, and they'd just be--."
And she said, "That's what we wanted to do." You know.
And I said, "I wasn't thinking
about that." You know. And it wasn't that I thought that our
teachers were comparable teachers. I didn't think that. I
say, "I'm thinking back when I was in school out there, and
the inferior supplies and whatever, whatever." And my feelings
were, "OK. If you're there in a setting where it's a mixed
group, they're going to have the best for their children.
And if you're there, you're going to be exposed to it. But
it's up to you to get it, now. But I know if you're here,
you aren't going to get it because it's not going to be provided."
And so, I do. I think about that a lot, sometimes. What did
I do to them?
it the best thing?
it the best thing for them? Yeah. I really do. And sometimes,
I--. But then, there's a positive side to it, too, because
when things are happening on their jobs, and they get to expressing
different ideas and thoughts on certain things that would
happen, especially during a situation like Gail at the hospital.
They want to know, Gail--. When things happen, Gail says she
can come back. All of my children are smart. (Laughter.) They
are. I mean, they are really. They are smart, and I'm proud
of every one. They have not done everything I wanted them
to do, the way I wanted, but they are smart children. To have
come up the way they came up, and many times the father away
more than he was at home. You know. And I feel that I have
been mother and father for some of my sisters and brothers
as well as my children. And I feel like, it's made me feel
like a great-grandmaw sometimes, but I sit back, and when
I look at them, I'm proud.
proud of them, you know. And I don't fail to tell them that,
either, because, see, God blessed me. He answered my prayers
when I asked him to let me stay till my children got grown.
Because it wasn't beautiful, with us coming up, you know,
with our parents. And He did that. You know. And I look at
them and it's made them stronger, and made them know, that,
"Hey. We can do whatever." You know. And they're independent,
and they're loving children. And people don't understand sometimes
when things are happening to them how they can stand up, and
say, "Hey, black--." And in a professional way. And they aren't
rowdy children. They are law-abiding children. They go to
church and all these kinds of things. And I said, "So, I know
it probably hurt them at some point, but it helped them, too."
And I guess it's worth it, if it's going to make them become
the type people that they have become.
Yeah. They came through the fire.
did. They really did. And I do, sometimes, I feel guilty about
it. I feel guilty about it, but I say, "Well, maybe this is
what I was destined to do. God has something for all of us
to do. And maybe this is what He had for me to do." I didn't
choose to just get out there and do it. You know. I wasn't
looking for it.
if I've had help to accomplish any little bit to help better
the conditions for, not only my race of people, but everybody.
Because, like I say, there's people in the white race that
they don't know they're in just as bad a shape as I am. Some
of them are in worse shape than I am, but it's sad because
they don't realize that. They don't realize. And see, I'm
glad that I have the heart and compassion that I have because
the supervisor that I have, he can hardly read and write.
But he makes twenty dollars an hour, but now, if I didn't
correct a lot of his documents, a lot of stuff that comes
across my desk, that he is responsible for, it would--.
might not be in that position.
wouldn't. He wouldn't be in that position. And I've had friends
say, "Franzetta, I wouldn't do it."
And I say, "Well, yes."
And he'll pick up the phone
and ask me, "Franzetta?"
"How do you spell apple?" For
And I say, "It's A-P-P-L-E."
I don't have to. You know. I do it because it's the right
thing to do. I feel it's the right thing to do.
And they say, "No. You just--."
I say, "Well, I mean, I did
it. I feel good over it." I would feel better. I know it's
right to tell him something right than to guide him in a wrong
direction. I couldn't live with my conscience if I did that.
I know. But, like I say, I hope that the children don't feel
like Mama was trying--. I don't think they feel that way that
I was wishing this were on them or that, but we were just
there and we were the ones at that time to be used for this
purpose, because had it not been, it wouldn't have been accomplished.
Because that night sitting there in that church, there was
a lot of people that could have signed that retainer other
than me, but everybody sat there in silence, and the ones
that spoke up, they justified why they didn't want to sign
it, and I couldn't argue with them about whatever. I said,
"Well, Lord, here I am, again. I guess I still know how to
write my name." So, I wrote it on there. You know. I signed
it. And as a result it brought about what was needed to get
the schools open, and I hope that it helped.
Millet: I think
it did. I think it did. By the time your youngest children
were leaving school, I would think there were a lot more African-Americans
there to keep them company.
yes. They soon began to fill in. And then I think there was.
What was it? When they had to integrate all of the schools
by a certain [date]? And then the busing came about, and all.
A lot of things came.
really amazing. I mean, there are still court actions being
taken, you know, in the year 2000 to equalize things, and
maybe it's going to be like that. Maybe it's just going to
be a process that goes on, you know, as we all grow and change.
you know what I think about sometimes? Every year we have
black history programs and whatever, and she's good at that
[indicating Julia Holmes, also present during this interview],
having beautiful programs about that and just whatever, but--.
And I mentioned this to the Moss Point School Board, that
we recognize different students for different accomplishments
during this time of year, and I think Tiffany spoke over there,
one night. Whatever. Several students, and it was a great
tribute for the kids that had accomplished the things that
they had set out to accomplish. I said, "But you know what?
I hope that you as a board of trustees would find whatever
way it would take to include black history in the curriculum
in the history on a continual day-to-day." I said, "And therefore,
if it's taught in the classroom, with every student attending
that class, that would take away a lot of negative things
about the blacks being so lazy. 'They have not contributed
this,' which is not true." Because they would be taught the
many, many contributions that's been made by blacks from years
and years back.
That's a good idea.
we want to teach black history one month out of the year,
and I don't feel it's fair. That would give every student
in there the opportunity to learn about everybody's culture.
What they contributed. And that black student as well as that
white student, green, blue, red, whatever, will sit up and
take notice: "Hey, you all are responsible for the ironing
board. You all are responsible for that traffic light that
guided us to safety this morning. You all are responsible
for that heart transplant, which a black man died because
he couldn't get in the hospital." You know. Many, many things.
And the, what is it in the light bulbs? I mean, they would
learn. And blacks could sit up and be proud, and the whites
would have their eyes opened, and find out that they have
not been told the truth from day one. And I have lived to
get this old, and it's still not taught. And I can't understand
And the last time, a year or
two ago or whatever, I asked that question over there at a
school board meeting one night, the answer was, "Ms. Sanders,
that's a good idea." Said, "Mrs. Hardin is the curriculum
writer for whatever. You know. And we're going to organize
a committee. I'm going to ask her to call you and include
you and some more and get your input as to how we can include
that in the curriculum to be taught." And I'm waiting on Ms.
Hardin to call me. That's been two or three years ago. She
has not called. And I went to the trouble to get a teacher
to get me some information on some of the courses that could
be taught, and this was given to me, this was drafted in July
of ninety-six. I'm a pack rat; I keep stuff. You know. And
I was going to present this to her at that meeting as a start.
But that meeting has not been called. If it was called, I
have not been notified. And it's just like, "Franzetta. Well,
nobody else has mentioned this but you." I feel if it was
being pushed, you know, and I say I missed it when we mentioned--.
When we set out to integrate the schools, I wish I had thought
to mention this then, and maybe that could have been included
in this court order. Seemingly, that's the only way things
will get done is through a court order.
But, you're one person. You know. You can't think. But whenever
I see something--and I'm the same way with the children at
church--I tell Rose and Vera; they're with the youth at church.
I say, "I saw this. I heard this. This might be good for them."
Rose says, "Yeah, Franzetta.
I mean if we give them enough
positive things to do, to concentrate on, that will keep them
off these street corners and these gangs. You know. At least
we would have tried. We would have tried, but I went to one
fellow, one man that was over the civic action program. When
I went back to school in eighty-seven. I went over to J.C.
in eighty-seven, and I graduated over there in ninety.
said, "Lord, I have not been to school in forty years. Just
let me pass." I didn't even know until just about the end
that I was an honor student.
that's a great story.
I went and I began to get my resumes together and my filling
out applications. I was called on the interviews, and I went
to this particular person that was over this program, Head
Start, at the time. And I was telling him. He had my application
and resume. He had looked over them, and we'd talked. And
I was telling him about, "I would like to see this done. Or
He told me, he said, "Yes,
Franzetta, you have some good ideas." He said, "You have a
lot of good ideas."
I said, "You're right. I guess
so. A lot of good ideas and no resources. But you have the
resources out here."
But, like, that was just, "Thanks,
but no thanks." Or whatever. You know? And he had money that
he didn't even use. You know if you don't use your money,
they won't allow you that. They cut that budget. But I don't
know. I still, I guess, as long as the Lord permits me to
have a little breath, I'm going to have dreams and hopes and
try to encourage. I try to encourage anybody, especially young
children and young adults to get out there and you can be
I believe that we do each have a destiny, and I think that
you're in touch with yours. You know. I think that you're
aware of what it is, and you do direct your energies that
way. I admire that you haven't gotten burned out over the
years. You know?
I have gotten burned out to a certain extent. I'm not as active
as I used to be. I used to really be active, but I'm not as
active, but I do try and continue to do a little stuff all
along. You know, a little something. But I don't ever want
to just stop. If I stop, I think I'll be ready to go to a
padded cell, somewhere, because I couldn't keep my sanity.
You know, if I'm off, I'm working. If I'm off a few days or
what have you, I'm ready to go back to work. I love people.
I love being out there. I like to be free. I don't like to
be fenced in. You know, and even if the Lord blesses me to
retire, I hope to be involved in some kind of activities.
Millet: A volunteer?
That would be great.
I've done that. When I was in between J.C. over there, I volunteered
at the GED literacy program and helped to do that and whatever.
And I went on and attended enough to get a little certificate
in that. (Laughter.) So, you know, I guess that's what my
Millet: I have
more questions here, and I know the hour is growing late.
I don't know if you're getting tired. I guess if I had to
pick out just a few of these questions that, like, seem that
they should just be the most important, I guess, I know that
the NAACP was an important part of your work. You've told
me about that. And I think that you've touched on most of
Millet: I guess
I would want to say: is there anything that I didn't ask you
that you don't want to leave unsaid? Is there anything that
you would like to add that I didn't specifically ask, or that
didn't come up?
that I can recall. We touched on a lot, and I feel like I
got off the subject a lot, but I warned you I would do that.
you see what happened was that we just went around another
way. We got all of our answers.
I'm glad. I'm glad that we did.
Not that I can recall, but
I would like to say that I appreciate you doing this and taking
your time out to come, and I appreciate Julia, because she
is just--. I don't know why, but, Julia, she loves me. (Laughter.)
And I love her, and I love Pam, her sister, Pam. You know,
they're beautiful people, and I guess we have some of the
same outlooks in life, and I just admire her so much, and
evidently she does me, too.
I appreciate you coming. I appreciate her inviting me. And
just continue to do what you're doing, because like I say,
you could be doing something else. You don't have to be doing
this is great work.
you seem to enjoy this as much as I enjoyed you sitting here.
Millet: I did.
if I had felt that you weren't interested and didn't enjoy
it, I would say, "Well, this is a long time ago." But, hey,
I can talk as long as the conversation is interesting, and
we all are enjoying the same things. You know. And I just
appreciate you and the school. I hope it can be useful in
some kind of way.
I know it's a lot of people that was involved in the movement.
I don't want to sound like I was the only one. I don't like
this, "I, I, I." I like to say we, but in this case, you were
asking about my involvement.
there were many, many people before me, during my time, that
was actively involved, and they paved the way for me to become
involved. And like I say, Mr. Justice is one of the main--.
He is the main one that got me involved, but he is not the
only one that encouraged me, and I looked up at him. It gave
me the opportunity to meet many people in high offices, high
places, that carried me places that I wouldn't have been able
to go. You know. Like I say, Roy Wilkins, and the whole board
of directors for the NAACP came down one year and spoke at
First Baptist Church. Jesse Jackson, he came down, and you
know, I was in many meetings with Charles Evers, and to hear
and met the--. I was in Washington at a convention when the
three civil rights workers got killed up here. Was it Neshoba
County in sixty-four.
was up there, then. We were in an NAACP conference at the
Statler Hilton in Washington, D.C., and the news came through
that they had been killed. Their bodies had been found up
was in August when they found the bodies.
And they called us together at that meeting. They called us.
Said, "We're going to march from the Statler Hilton to--"
one of those big buildings in Washington where Humphrey and
Shriver and Kennedys and Roy Wilkins and all of them walked
out on the balcony and talked to us that marched there. And
when we got out, we were wearing white that day for whatever
meeting we were having, and we put on the black crepe ribbon,
band, and we got outside, well, we had to march through the
Nazis or whomever they had. They were protesting us being
at the Hilton for the NAACP convention, and once we got past
them and marched out, it was raining, and it turned our dresses
purple, but it didn't stop [us.] It rained, but we marched
because we said, "After all, we're only getting wet. They
had gotten killed in the struggle for trying to make things
better for everybody."
And, like I say, it's really
too much to imagine, and when I sit back and I think about
the many things and many places I've been, and the meetings,
the inspirational meetings I've been involved in, and I think
all of that helped me to keep on pushing to be stronger and
try to contribute a little bit. My little bit is small, but
if we all contribute whatever we can, that will make it a
big bit. You know. And I get discouraged with my children
sometimes, and some of the younger adults.
I say, "Y'all don't do like
we [did.] You need to be up doing what we did. You're smarter
than we were." And I'm always afraid of my diction. I say,
"You can compose. You can do this. Your minds are just--.
And you act like you just, everything is just laid out on
the platter for you." I say, "But you need to get up."
"Aw, Mama. Blah, blah, whatever."
(Laughter.) What can you say?
the younger generation is more into just enjoying it. You
Ms. Fountain. Ms. Earnestine Fountain. She would say, "Ms.
I said, "Ms. Fountain, I don't
She used to tell me, "Gail
is so smart. She does this."
I said, "She is. She is that.
She works in the church. She does this and that." I said,
"She is." I said, "But Ms. Fountain, I can't get them to join
the NAACP. I can't get them to become involved. I can't get--."
"Well, maybe that's not for
I said, "Maybe not. Maybe not."
You know, but I said, "I could just sit back and just glory
in them. OK. They're doing this, and they're doing that."
Not just mine, but all that age group, you know.
Ben comes. I say, "Bring your
friends in. You all join it." I said, "You aren't as free
as you think you are." (Laughter.) I said, "You aren't as
free as you think." And I said, "You're really degressing
rather than progressing because things are still being done
behind closed doors, and when you know anything, you aren't
being taught things that you should be taught. You aren't
aware of things that's out there that you can take advantage
of." I said, "If you would actively involve yourself in your
organization and work toward whatever," I said, "You'd be
surprised at what you would learn and what you would be able
to accomplish as a whole." But, they've got to come to that
maybe they will do that, later, you know, in their lives.
is my prayer. I hope they will. I hope I live. I want to live
to see it, though. (Laughter.)
you might see it from a different plane. (Laughter.) You know.
You might be on another plane, looking down.
I'm afraid that's what's going to happen.
You know. That's OK, too. The more I study about the civil
rights movement and look back on it, it's very exciting to
think about the kind of cooperation and solidarity and the
sense of community, you know, that people had then. And I
guess, you know, a lot of the young people have those needs
met in other ways. You know. When I was nineteen and twenty,
I was very involved in Jewish affairs [on the Southern Miss
campus], and going to the temple, and listening to everything
the rabbi had to say. And he said virtually the same thing
you just said about the young Jews, that, you know, they're
not involved--. Or, at that time, they weren't, at our school,
at USM, they weren't involved in Hillell, which is the Jewish
Student Union. You know, and he went on furthermore to say
that people were not as involved with the temple, even the
adults. And he said, "You know, it's kind of like the Jews
band together when there's trouble. Like when the Nazis are
knocking at the door, then they become very aware of their
Jewishness, and solidarity, and cooperation. And, 'Now we
have to organize.'" And I don't know. You know, maybe that's
what it takes. Maybe it takes a little hard times to make
people do that.
the way it is with the NAACP. You have the memberships. You
have the members there and what have you. And you struggle
to have enough to meet a quorum to have your meetings, and
time something happens--and believe me, it does happen and
it's going to continue to happen--then they come together
in droves. And I say, "Think. Who is the NAACP? Who are we?"
The NAACP is not an individual; it is us. You don't come together
when something happens. You come together to do what needs
to be done all along, and when things happen like this, you
are prepared to handle or take care of whatever. And maybe
if you had banded together doing what you should have been
doing, maybe this wouldn't have happened.
It's a little too late, when a crisis is happening. Although
there is still that put-the-fires-out kind of thing that you
have to do. (Laughter.)
I guess in a sense we all experience some of those things,
maybe in different ways, but the same thing, you know, coming
really true that whenever you hear that bell sounding, it's
going to be for you, sooner or later.
That's right. That's right.
I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart for this interview.
quite welcome. I'm glad. That's another something that I can
say, "I enjoyed it."
It's a good interview.
I appreciate it. I really do. And I appreciate your time,
because it took you time and effort to come.
didn't have to do it.
I didn't. And I have enjoyed it.
glad. I know I have.
(End of the interview.)