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Oral History Digital Collection

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Oral history.; Interview conducted on April 23, 2003 with John M. Perkins. Reverend John M. Perkins was born in New Hebron, in Lawrence County, Mississippi in June 1930. His family were sharecroppers. Perkins' grandmother had nineteen children; his grandfather was a bootlegger. Perkins had two sisters and three brothers. His mother died when he was seven months old. As Mississippi was a dry state until 1964, members of Perkins' family ran a profitable bootlegging racket throughout the state, selling home brew and moonshine. He dropped out of school at around the age of twelve. Perkins left Mississippi for California at the age of seventeen. Perkins married Vera Mae Buckley two weeks before being deployed overseas. Together they had eight children. Perkins and his family later returned to Simpson County where he began traveling from school to school and telling Bible stories. He later established the Voice of Calvary in Jackson and in Mendenhall (which became known as Mendenhall Ministries). His association of ministries includes seven hundred organizations around the United States and is known as the Perkins Foundation. Perkins was arrested in December 1969 after protesting the arrest of Garland Young and the brutality of the police force after Young's arrest. This event triggered what is considered the first event of the Civil Rights Movement in Simpson County. After boycotts and protests, Perkins was arrested again in 1971 and was sent to jail in Brandon, Mississippi, where he was subjected to extreme brutality. Perkins devoted the rest of his life to his ministries and to racial reconciliation.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on June 5, 2001 with Jimmie W. Person. Jimmie Person was born in Port Gibson, Mississippi, on August 5, 1924 to James W. Person and Mary Anna Gage Person. He attended local public schools in Port Gibson through the eighth grade and he received his high school education from Chamberlain-Hunt Academy. Person then attended Mississippi State University. Person served in the United States Army Air Corps from October 1942 to December 1945 in England and France. After completing his service abroad, Person farmed family property in Claiborne County from 1945 to 1957. In 1957, he became the Public Relations Director for Chamberlain-Hunt Academy, a position that he held until 1974. Between 1974 and 1999, Person was director of the Port Gibson Bank.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on May 8, 2003 with Vera Mae Perkins. Vera Mae Buckley Perkins was born to Rozel Williams and Garland Young in New Hebron, Mississippi in August 1933. Her mother was a cosmetologist and her father was a farmer, then a longshoreman in New Orleans, Louisiana. Perkins went to school at Lilly Hill in Simpson County. After graduating from high school, she attended Alcorn University, leaving in order to marry Rev. John Perkins in June 1951. While her husband was in the service overseas, Vera Mae moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi and attended Young's Beauty School. John and Vera Mae Perkins had eight children together, four boys and four girls. They moved back to Jackson, Mississipppi in 1960. It was shortly after that when Vera Mae and John began traveling to local public schools and teaching Bible lessons. With growing support from the community, the couple established the Voice of Calvary Mission. Their ministries would continue growing and expanding throughout the country. The couple continued their evangelical efforts with much support, subsequently moving to Pasadena, California in 1982, Dallas, Texas in 1995, and finally back to Jackson the following year, where they have remained.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on July 22, 1981 with Mr. Charlie Parker at his home in Laurel, Mississippi. Parker was born in the early 1890s in Enterprise, Mississippi. After his family moved to Laurel around the turn of the century, Parker began working for the Eastman Gardner sawmill at the age of eleven. He stayed with the mill for nearly thirty years. Parker began work as a water carrier and worked his way up to the position of block setter. In 1937, he borrowed money to open a taxicab company in Laurel, which operated in the city until 1964. Parker discusses race relations in Laurel, Mississippi in the sixties.

Oral history.; Interview with Henry Peacock conducted on April 2, 2000. Henry Peacock was born in Holcomb, Missisippi in 1949 on the Shaw Plantation where his father was a sharecropper. He went to school in Grenada when he was not working on the farm. In 1965 he witnessed a group of activists entering Grenada, which motivated him to get involved with activities in support of civil rights. Peacock became a group leader working to integrate Grenada businesses such as the Chicken Inn.

Oral history.; Peoples discusses his presidency at Jackson State University, racism in the Marine Corps in the 1940s, the Mississippi Humanities Council, and race relations in Mississippi.

Oral history.; Interview conducted with G.O. Parker. Gary Otha Parker Jr. was born in Harperville, Mississippi, in Scott County in 1920. His father was a Southern Baptist minister; his mother a teacher. He went to Union School in Newton County up to the ninth grade. At the age of fourteen, Parkers family moved to Magee, Mississippi. He graduated from Magee High School, enrolled at Copiah-Lincoln Junior College, and then completed a year at the University of Southern Mississippi. Parker worked in the newspaper business in Collins after college. He volunteered to serve in the Marine Corps in August 1942 and was stationed overseas. Parker married in 1947 soon after returning. His wife, Etta Mae Kees Major, had married during the war and had a daughter, but her husband, a pilot, died in a plane crash in New Guinea. Gary and Etta Mae had three children, in addition to the daughter from her previous marriage. He returned to the newspaper industry after returning to the States, working at Simpson County News in Mendenhall, leasing the paper in 1946. Parker bought the Magee Courier in May 1948, which he owned until selling it in 1970. He then worked for five years at the employment service in Mendenhall. Parker also served as the president of a funeral business for eighteen years. Shortly after buying the Courier in 1948, Parker was elected mayor of Magee, a position he held for ten and a half years.

Oral history.; Interview conducted April 23, 2002 at the Parker home in Port Gibson, Mississippi. Parker discusses growing up in Port Gibson, work, and church society.

Oral history.; Ellen Claire Oakes Pettit was born August 5, 1936 in Kosciusko, Mississippi. As a young girl, she boarded at the old Attala Agricultural High School in McAdams, referred to as the Attala "Ag." During World War II her family moved to Pascagoula and lived in one of the first houses built in the area. In later life, Pettit worked for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Postal Service. She has also served as the chairman at Jerusalem Baptist Church and worked on its history during the centennial celebration.

Oral history.; Interview conducted December 11, 1995 in Ashland, Mississippi, at the home of Genevera Nero Reaves. Reaves was born in Greenwood, Mississippi on January 20, 1923. Reaves was an educator and participant in the Mississippi theatre of the civil rights movement. She discusses her memories of the development of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and Freedom Summer, as well as teaching at Rust College.

Oral history.; Interview with Bessie Mae Peters Randall conducted on April 8, 2003. Bessie Randall was born in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. At age six she moved to Gulfport, where she was educated. She considered becoming a beautician, but opted instead to be a teacher. Randall was active in her church, Saint James, attending services and singing in the choir.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on March 30, 1977 with the Reverend Sammie Rash (born 1942). Reverend Rash, the son of sharecroppers, has been very active in both civil rights activities and Mississippi politics, in addition to being a minister since graduation from high school in 1963.

Oral history.; Interview conducted May 28, 2002 at the Rankin home in Claiborne County, Mississippi. He discusses growing up, military service in World War II, education, and employment at Alcorn State University.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on December 6, 1983 with Mr. William Raspberry in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Raspberry was born on October 12, 1935 in Okolona, Mississippi. He graduated in 1958 with a BS in history from Indian Central College. In 1956, Raspberry began his career in journalism as reporter-editor for the Indianapolis Recorder and, after a two-year tour of duty in the United States Army, 1960-62, took a similar position with the Washington Post. Since 1966, he was worked as the Post's urban affairs columnist, has contributed articles to a variety of popular magazines on such topics as race relations and public education, and has appeared as a television commentator and panelist. Between 1971 and 1973, Raspberry was an instructor of journalism at Howard University.

Oral history.; Reverend Sammie Rash was born in Sunflower County, Mississippi, on July 31, 1942. His parents were sharecroppers, and in 1949 they moved the family to the McGann plantation in Bolivar County, where Reverend Rash grew up. In 1963 Reverend Rash graduated from Eastside High School in Cleveland, Mississippi, becoming the first member of his family to earn a high school diploma. After graduating from high school, Reverend Rash began his long time service as pastor of the United Baptist Church in Cleveland. In addition to his work as a minister, Reverend Rash has been very active in both civil rights activities and Mississippi politics. At the time of the interview, he lived in Cleveland, Mississippi.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on May 3, 1982 with Reverend James Randolph, former pastor of St. Paul's Methodist Church, at the parsonage in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Randolph was born on April 4, 1949 in Rankin County, Mississippi, near Brandon. He attended Utica Junior College in Utica, Mississippi for one year, and then enrolled at Tougaloo College, in Tougaloo, Mississippi. Randolph completed his B.A. degree in Religion and Philosophy in 1972. In 1976, he completed his Master of Divinity degree from Emory University and Gammon Theological Seminary. After completing his theological studies, Randolph pastored St. Mark's United Methodist Church in Gulfport, Mississippi. He later moved on to St. Paul's United Methodist Church in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

Oral history.; Interview conducted November 14, 2004 in San Francisco, California. Scudder was born July 20, 1941. He was a summer volunteer in Mississippi. He recalls his youth and his family's frequent moves as equipping him with an acute awareness of the racial struggle. He attended Princeton University and had some relationship with the Communist Party. He came to Mississippi through his involvement with SNCC.

Oral history.; Viola Brown Sanders was born in Sidon, Mississippi, on February 21, 1921. After Miss Sanders finished her education, she taught school for two years in Glen Allan, Mississippi. In 1943, Miss Sanders joined the United States Navy WAVES (Women Accepted for Voluntary Emergency Services). During her twenty-three years in the United States Navy, Miss Sanders was assigned to duties in communications, recruit training, personnel, intelligence, and administration. In her last tour of duty, she was assigned as Director of Women in the Navy (Assistant Chief of Naval Personnel for Women), the only female line captain and senior woman in the Navy at that time. After her retirement from the Navy in 1966, Miss Sanders returned to Sidon and became active in civic affairs in Greenwood and Leflore County. In 1999, she became the fourth person and the only woman to be inducted into the Greenwood-Leflore County Hall of Fame

Oral history.; Interviews conducted on October 3, 1994 and October 10, 1994 with Mrs. Jane Menefee Schutt (born 1913). Mrs. Schutt was appointed to the Mississippi Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and served four years, the last year as chairman. She served on the board of directors of the Mississippi Council on Human Relations and worked with the Head Start Program. She received the Council's Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Award in 1973 and the Church Women United Valiant Woman Award.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on June 3, 1993 with Mr. George Saxon, formerly of the Mississippi Highway Safety Patrol as an investigator, at his home in Gulfport, Mississippi. Saxon was born on March 30, 1927 in Waynesboro, Mississippi. After his discharge from the military at the end of World War II, he began his career with the Mississippi Highway Patrol as a dispatcher. Saxon graduated from the FBI National Academy in 1964 and was then assigned as a criminal investigator with the highway patrol. In 1986, he retired from the Mississippi Highway Patrol as chief and assistant commissioner of public safety. After retiring from the Highway patrol, Saxon served as director of public safety for Biloxi, Mississippi until 1989.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on July 24, 1999 with Joseph Schwartz (born 1938). Joseph Schwartz was born in 1938 in New York City. Both of his parents were political activists. The family moved to California in 1946 and Schwartz graduated from University of California at Berkeley with a Ph. D. in physics in 1964. He participated in civil rights activities in Hattiesburg from September 1964 to March 1965. He taught in the CUNY system until he moved to London in 1975.

Oral history.; William Scott was on faculty at Ole Miss at the time of this interview, which describes his experiences as a black man, growing up in Mississippi. He paints a verbal picture of his education, his innate tendency to question why race relations were as they were in Mississippi, the many effects from Brown v. Board, sharecropping, racism, classism, civil rights activism, Freedom Summer 1964, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, student activism at Rust College, his education, voter registration, desegregation of public schools, NAACP, and many of the leaders of the civil rights movement.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on November 20, 1994 with Iva E. Sandifer (born 1918). Ms. Sandifer taught in the Hattiesburg public school system for thirty-one years. She served as secretary for her local NAACP chapter and as president of the Mississippi State Federation for Colored Women's Clubs.

Oral history.; Ernestine Evans Scott was born in Benton County in 1947 to a land-owning African American family. She attended Old Salem School, and then Rust College high school and became active in civil rights work during the 1960s. She was recruited to attend a COFO meeting and began working on voter registration. Scott attended a Freedom School and her family hosted activists during Freedom Summer. In January 1965, Scott was involved in the production of the play Seeds of Freedom, and traveled to New York City for performances.

Oral history.; Joyce Williams Sanders was born July 22, 1921 in the Barnes Community in Mississippi. Originally from Leake County, her family relocated to Kosciusko in 1927. During the Second World War, Sanders learned to weave at the Apponaug Mill as large numbers of men left to fight. Upon war's end, she had to vacate this position. In later life, Sanders developed a deep interest in genealogy and has since worked in the library. Along with producing handwritten books on the history of Kosciusko, Sanders ran her own column in the Star-Herald newspaper titled "Historical Happenings" for two years.

Oral history.; Mr. George A. Stevens was born in 1910 in Forrest County, Mississippi. He attended Hattiesburg public schools but graduated from high school in Anthony, New Mexico. Mr. Stevens returned to attend The University of Southern Mississippi and then taught languages and coached sports at public schools. In World War II, Mr. Stevens joined the U.S. Navy as an intelligence officer. He served aboard the aircraft carrier Essex in the South Pacific. He returned to active duty during the Korean conflict and was a member of the Naval Reserve, eventually accumulating almost thirty years of service. After World War II, Mr. Stevens entered public relations and worked for Mississippi Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr. to establish and operate an international marketing division of the Mississippi Marketing Council. Mr. Stevens directed efforts to locate foreign markets for Mississippi's agricultural and industrial products until his retirement in 1976.

Oral history.; Dr. Sam Spinks was born on March 19, 1921, in Henleyfield, Mississippi. Dr. Spinks attended Henleyfield High School, Pearl River Junior College, The University of Southern Mississippi and The University of Florida. He served in the U.S. Naval Air Force in North Africa during World War II. His career of thirty-five years in school business consisted of serving as teacher and principal. He worked with the State Department of Education and served as superintendent of Hattiesburg Public Schools. Dr. Spinks retired from public school service in 1985. He is a member of the Rotary Club and a member of the University Baptist Church. He has been married to Eva Mae Spinks for fifty-five years and has two children.

Oral history.; Eberta Spinks was born in 1914 in Mississippi. Her parents farmed until her father moved the family to Tallahalla, Mississippi in order to take a job at the sawmill there, and later moved the family to Mobile Street in Hattiesburg. Spinks attended Eureka School in Hattiesburg. When Spinks married, she moved to Laurel, Mississippi where she worked for Tant's Packing Company for twenty-three years. Upon retirement in 1964, Spinks became active in the civil rights movement, housing civil rights activists in her home, integrating the restaurant of the Pinehurst Hotel (for which she was jailed), holding civil rights education sessions in her home to teach people how to register to vote and about public accommodations rights, and driving other people to and from the registrar's office to help them register to vote. She was a member of both COFO and NAACP.

Oral history.; Interview conducted on November 14, 1995 with Eldridge W. Steptoe Jr. (born 1936). Mr. Steptoe witnessed his father's involvement in the McComb movement of the early 1950s and in the establishing of a local chapter of the NAACP in Amite County shortly afterward.

Oral history; Interview conducted December 13, 1995 in Ripley, Mississippi at F.L. Spight's home. F.L. Spight was born in Ripley, Mississippi in 1919 and worked to bring expanded educational opportunities for African Americans to the area. He was the first principal of Ripley Colored School which later became Tippah County High School. He discusses education, Ripley Colored School, integration of schools, racial intimidation, church burning and the Ku Klux Klan. He further discusses his experience with civil rights workers from out of state, Freedom Riders, and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

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