Interviewer: Prudence Arndt
Production Team: B
Interview Date: 1979
Camera Rolls: 11-14
Sound Rolls: 1-2; 9-10
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Interview with Amzie Moore, conducted by Blackside, Inc. in 1979, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.
Team B, Side 1
Now, the trouble is, I, young people don't, don't care about SNCC much, and that's pretty rough. But, it's that way. But I'll tell you one thing - the only thing in the twentieth century that gave courage and determination to the blacks in the South is SNCC. I, I don't care nothing about what they say, I was there, I know. [beep, tone] Wasn't, wasn't local, professional negroes…and it got so bad until if they saw, if, if, if, if a professional guy was coming down Sharp Avenue and saw you, if he could turn off before he get to you, he'd do it – quickly as possible.
WHY DO YOU THINK THE SNCC FOLKS WERE ABLE TO DO THAT IN THE COMMUNITY?
Say why do I think…
YEAH, WHY DO YOU THINK THE SNCC FOLKS WERE ABLE TO, TO MAKE THEM NOT AFRAID?
Well, they hadn't been conditioned by people who blew their mind about…you can't do this, you can't do that, you, you haven't had enough time, you're inexperienced, you know…all that kind of stuff didn't roll out. It's uh…uh, I, I don't know. Uh, they weren't brought up in an atmosphere of uh, fear. Uh, they didn't think they were under slavery. It probably, it had more freedom. ..that's the way I feel. And then when you looked at youngsters with them blue jeans on…[laughter] Uh, you'd go to a coat house and, and, and, and uh, here is one little bo…fellow, about look like he about 17 or 18, leading 15 or 20 people, and those people followed him, following him, in spite of the fact that they were afraid. Well, something very unusual…just can see it. After…
AND YOU SAY IT WASN'T IT THE TEACHERS THAT WERE FOLLOWING THEM, IT WAS JUST REGULAR PEOPLE?
Yes, reg…regular people. They was, they, they weren't…I, what I found out that, you know, what I really found out, it was just like leadership – cause you'd take the 18 year or 20 year old youngster, got on a pair of tight legged blue jeans and a blue shirt, that was something boy - and, and, and, and he's walking out there in front, and putting him in jail wasn't nothing, because they still went.[laughter] So I think this, this was an outstanding example of determined leadership in young people. I had never seen it before, I know that. And uh, Nat [unintelligible] wasn't afraid. He, they put him in jail and around different places.
TELL ME, WHEN YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT NOT BEING AFRAID UM, DURING THE TILL TRIAL, CAN YOU TELL ME HOW THAT HAPPENED, WHEN, WHEN UM, THE GRANDFATHER FIRST CALLED YOU TO TELL YOU ABOUT THE FACT THAT TILL WAS MISSING?
He called me on a Wednesday and told me that Emmett was missing. Then I thought to myself - well, he's just probably around Greenwood there somewhere, I never thought nobody was going to lynch him. On Thursday I got another call. Well, then I decided I'd go to Greenwood and [unintelligible] say - you'd better not go, they, they, they watching out for you, they going to kill you. But I went over there. And when I got to Money…nobody would tell me where Mr. Wright lived. He lived out from Money, but nobody would, claim they didn't know where he was. So I left and come back. And then by Monday they'd done lynched him I believe…fire coal. And I told that they had passed through Cleveland and went to Rosedale to the Mississippi River and that they had to put him in there, but they didn't. And they carried him back over there…Sunflower County Farm.
WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER THEY FOUND THE BODY?
Well, they found the body, the re…the report was they had carried the body through Cleveland to Rosedale and at one point they decided to put it in the Mississippi River but changed their mind, they came back. And went back, uh, a few miles from Sumners, or Money rather, and uh, that he was found in the Tallahassee River.
NOW WHAT DID YOU DO AFTER THEY FOUND HIM?
Well, the first thing I did, I got together with some friends of mine and we went over to Roseville, because the place where they took him wasn't, wasn't five miles from Roseville…and gonna have a speech. We got, had a little meeting, talked, tried to figure out where to go, we didn't know where to go, but we knew he, claimed that he'd been found. And then word got out, they picked him up over there by Money, and uh, then we called meetings, start calling meetings around the county, state the delta…all that. We got ready to bury him. Then we got television stations and everybody, we just called everybody we could, and uh…they, they, they uh…and like somebody must have picked him up. And that's when I told you a man said he gonna kill me cause they said this woman was coming to Cleveland and gonna have a speech and well they, they knew he's dead then.
WHAT DO YOU THINK THE TRIAL (change)…OKAY.
[Sound roll 10, camera roll 13]
…ABOUT THE FACT THAT HE HAD TALKED TO YOU AND YOU HAD SAID YHAT THERE WAS A WHOLE UH, NETWORK OF BLACK . .
Let me say uh, I never had a complex…I knew Bob was a graduate from Harvard and had taught in a Jewish school in New York, and I was aware of the fact that uh, I didn't know what I thought I should have known. But I think Bob's approach to me was entirely different from what I thought his approach would have been, coming from Harvard, you know? And then I wasn't sure that I was able to explain what I thought I knew. But then it appeared that Bob believed me and was willing to work with me, and then I found out for the first time what education really is, I didn't know. Uh, I, I felt like that if, if a man was educated there wasn't very much you could tell him. Oh, I didn't think you could give him any advice, you know. Uh, uh, this had been the case in the South you know, but . . . . . . you know. To be honest with you, he was altogether different. And when I found out he was honestly seeking to help, then in any way I could, I was willing to help. But I think that was the, the relationship between Bob Moses and Amzie Moore. Uh, always made things comfortable for him, you know. We had what they…we had to eat, and uh… then when I found out Bob had been to Africa, you know, then I knew he's sincere. See, I automatically knew he was sincere if he'd been to Africa [laughter], because you know, it, it was just a thing in me that made me know that Africans had been exploited, and uh, you know [beep, tone] …a lot of things that they had not received they should have received. And I'd been around the world uh, I had looked at India, Africa, and found out that what I thought I was looking at over there was a dying civilization, which was probably the first of its kind in the world. And what I, what I really saw Bob…was that he had received an education to help people, rather than have people help him [laughter]. I, I just got that, that idea. And uh, he'd been to Africa, he'd worked with the Jewish, Jewish people, uh, he, he wasn't a jiver [laughter]. He was just a straightforward man. Uh, well I did what I could, it wasn't much, I had, my education was limited and I figured - well, I couldn't tell anybody anything they already didn't know. But I, then I later learned that there were experiences that a lot of people hadn't had that I'd had, and I would share those experiences with those people, if it would be helpful. And I learned to, to respect Bob, you know, and I felt like if I could do anything to help, then it should be my time to do it now if I was going to do it at all, period.
LET ME ASK YOU, DID YOU HAVE ANYTHING UM BEFORE, ANY NETWORK OF PEOPLE BEFORE BOB CAME DOWN, IN, IN MISSISSIPPI, ANY ORGANIZATION?
I was vice president of the state conference of NAACP branches. I had worked with Aaron Henry uh, I was uh, I, I did everything I knew how, and, and…I put it that way. Uh, I was always min…uh, mindful of the fact that I might think too highly of myself because I was in that position, and I tried to make it appear that whatever I reported, it was a known fact. That's uh, that…that's about the size of it. And uh, uh, I, I, I uh, I think we could have moved a little faster, see - I tell you what SNCC ta…taught us. Now every time every, I guess it might have been - every time we moved we had to move according to law. This is how SNCC operated and I guess they were afraid they might get into trouble if they didn't. And they kept us in, in that channel. Unless we were advised to do certain things, we didn't do it. But when SNCC came, it didn't seem to matter what these white people thought. When SNCC moved, SNCC moved in SNCC's way. And I seen these little fellows with the rare type blue jeans and… walking out front, leading people. Sometimes they put all 9 or 10 leaders of SNCC in jail. It didn't seem to bother them. I, I think that's the only reason why we got any, any form of freedom. That's the way I feel.
JUST ONE SECOND, WE'RE GOING TO CHANGE …(camera roll 14). OKAY, CAN YOU TALK A LITTLE BIT, MR. MOORE, ABOUT UM, WHAT IT WAS LIKE COMING HOME FROM THE WAR? DID YOU EXPECT THINGS WOULD BE CHANGED A LITTLE BIT?
No. Let me, let me tell you about why I was sent where I was sent, and uh - everybody that had anything to do with me…with me going to the army, uh, had in mind I should go to Burma. Well, I didn't know what Burma, well, we had pictures of the jungles and, and it was my idea that I shouldn't go to Burma, that was one place I didn't want to go. I was uh, sent from South Carolina to Detroit, Michigan. I was with the 332nd fighter group in Detroit. It was a black group of fighters, uh, they flew planes. I taught aircraft recognition in Detroit. The boys that were trained were trained at Tuskegee Institute, uh, and then sent for 90 days to Detroit. Uh, the 553rd fighter group…well, they, they called themselves, sending all the troublemakers to one place, and then when they get training in Detroit, they send them down to Walterburg, South Carolina, and from Walterburg, South Carolina they send you to uh, Salt Lake City, Utah and from Salt Lake City, Utah - the Pacific Ocean, uh…uh…by the…
…KIND OF SEGREGATION AND THE RACISM AND STUFF THAT YOU MET WHEN YOU CAME BACK, UM…
WHAT WAS IT LIKE COMING BACK HOME?
Well, I guess I'd better connect this up if I'm going to do so - I was sick in nineteen hundred and forty-five, I believe it was…uh, was in the 24th field general hospital in Michinaw, Burma. Uh, they had planned to send me to China, but I complained, I told them I was sick and I didn't want to go to China, cause I'd probably be over there another year. And uh, I got ready to leave. I got out of the 24th field general hospital in Michinaw and was put aboard the ship 13th day of December, 1945 - and sailed uh, through the Bay of Bengal, through the Gulf of Eden, into the Red Sea, and from the Red Sea uh, to uh, the Gulf of uh, uh, to the Gulf of Eden, not Eden, uh, Egypt. Came up by Mt. Sinai where the law was given, and then sailed out of Mt. Sinai into the Gulf of Port Siad, Egypt and was in Port Siad, Egypt for a while.
NOW LET ME ASK YOU…WHEN, WHEN YOU CAME, ACTUALLY GOT HOME, YOU KNOW, ACTUALLY LANDED HERE AND WERE BACK IN YOUR COMMUNITY…
HAD, HAD THINGS CHANGED AT ALL?
Well, um, it took me a while to actually get there. I think I was pretty much excited over the world as, as it was, I was going to come on up to that. And I found out that, that what I'd seen around the world was a dying civilization. I saw women give birth to children in the streets, I saw people wander about from one place to another. Uh, no mamma, no papa, no sister, no brother - give me something to eat. And that was oh, a part of the continent of Africa, you know, Egypt is in Africa. You wouldn't know it was in there if you didn't find it out yourself cause they don't want to believe that Egypt is part of Africa, but, but it is. And uh, so uh, we left India and came on through uh, the Port, Port Siad, Egypt, and hit uh, the Suez Canal - come into the Med…into the Mediterranean Sea, and then sailed on through the Straights of Gibraltar, hit the North Atlantic, and came on to uh, Camden, New Jersey I believe it was, I recall - left there and came on through Kentucky, around Hattiesburg, and then finally got home at 12 o'clock one night, I don't know. Then when I got there, home, [beep, tone] …uh, the place looked strange, but I stayed there a while, and I didn't go right back to the Post Office where I was working, I stayed out a while looking around to see what I could find. And I think the biggest surprise was that I'd got back [laughter], with my enemies, they really didn't think I was going to make it back, and uh - well, I got back and everything. And uh, I uh…
DID YOU MEET SEGREGATION RIGHT AWAY, RIGHT AFTER GETTING BACK?
To be honest, I don't remember. Now the truth of the matter is, uh, when I got home, I got a cab and went home, but I hadn't, I didn't even try to go into a cafe or anything like that. I think I was more concerned about seeing my family than anything else. But I, the only thing I recall as it relates to my association with people outside of my color was - how did I see …what did you see over there. . . you know, this kind of thing. And I, in, in the three and a half years that I had been away, I didn't have anything to tell them I saw, you know, and uh…
SO YOU DIDN'T REALLY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WHEN YOU FIRST CAME BACK?
YOU DIDN'T REALLY HAVE ANY PROBLEMS WHEN YOU FIRST CAME BACK IN TERMS OF DEALING WITH WHITE FOLKS?
No, unless they gonna start it, now if they had started it, we would have had it [laughter]. But they didn't say much to me, uh, I had never been affiliated with their churches, and their clubs, had never been associated with - when I was in the army, I was in tents dealing with uh, negroes, uh, so I, I hadn't thought much about it. They were really the ones who always questioned about what we saw while…
LET, LET ME ASK YOU - WHEN YOU CAME BACK, WERE YOU ABLE TO EAT AT ANY OF THE LUNCH COUNTERS, TO VOTE?
Yes, let me see, yes, let me see - I could eat at uh, the Holiday Inn.
COULD YOU EAT AT ANY OF THE OTHER DOWNTOWN LUNCH COUNTERS?
Uh, blacks were eating at some of the downtown lunch counters. But I wasn't too particular. Uh, you know my wife's a good cook and uh, personally uh, I, I, I didn't think in terms of testing them out there, uh - if I recall, uh, we were, there weren't any jobs much, and there weren't many houses…they said – brother we glad you back uh, maybe you can get something going or, or something like that. But I never did…I, I guess that never has followed me too much, like uh, uh - eating at cafes. I do it now, I go to the Holiday Inn, I go, sometime I go to uh, uh, another café north where they, they, they'll seat you in a minute [laughter]. You can't pick where you want to go. Say I'm going, you know, I didn't have any special reason except I was just going, and uh - now I can go anywhere I want to go, uh - they don't remember to look funny - I think it's, the message has been gotten over to them that if they sit. ..discriminate against anybody they going to pay for it. And they would rather not lose that money, see. But I never thought much about it after I stayed three and a half years in the armed forces. 2 And, and, and uh, kind of seen how people were treated by…
[End side 1]
…armed forces. And, and, and uh, kind of seen how people were treated by people all over the world, black folks. Well, I was, uh, never, never thought much about it. And I didn't make it a habit of, of eating from Indians' cafe…I guess that might have helped the segregation I but I'd…[laughter] cause they is so hungry, and they, and I, I was just never satisfied with the way they were treated.
WELL, HERE, I THINK THAT WE'VE UM GOT…
…SAY YOU, YOU LEARNED WHAT?
Listen, for a long time, I had the idea that a man with white skin was superior, because it appeared to me that he had everything. And I figured if God uh, would justify the white man having everything, that God had put him in a position to be the best.** Now this is what I thought now. This was before I went overseas. I sailed to the Atlantic, through the Atlantic Ocean uh, to uh, the Rock of Gibraltar and uh, went from the Atlantic to the Mediterranean, got to the Suez Canal and took a right turn and went the…uh, the Suez 104 miles to the Gulf of Eden - and got to Alexandria, Egypt. From, from elly…from, from, from the Mediterranean of the Great Sea to the Suez Canal to Alexandria, Egypt to Port Siad - we saw uh, the old civilization. If you'd follow the Mediterranean Sea up a piece and turn left, you would come to the boot, Italy. And that's where the great Roman Empire had its foundation, uh, however it spreaded out in other areas.
NOW HOW DID THAT SHOW YOU THAT, THAT THE WHITE MAN WASN'T SUPERIOR?
I couldn't say [laughter]. Uh, because when I got over there they had lived in the islands of the North Atlantic, the white man, in a colder climate. And when civilization was flourishing in Egypt, that's where he was still asleep. The Roman Empire took over Egypt but they took from Egypt what Egypt had and claimed it as their civilization. What, what I really found out that the only black people in Egypt were people where the Roman soldiers took women and those women were, children were born, and they were part white and part black. And the further west I went, the more of black civilization I saw, and, and, and I found out that the Roman Empire fought and took over countries and took over the civilization that the Roman Empire didn't bring about, see. So then I was thoroughly convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the civilization that existed 4,000 years ago was a civilization built by Egypt, Africa. I went on to India, a subcontinent of five hundred and something million people, all of the symmetrical settings, all the quilts, and all of the different stuff that was braided in those times - was made by black people cause all the people in India are black. There's about sixty five thousand that's not black. And I went on, come on down to the uh, Bay of Bengal and hit the Red Sea and came on around the coast of Australia and on up to Cal…to Hawaii - 80 million square miles of water, there wasn't nothing but black people. All the civilization was black - everything was black. And I was so surprised. And since then, I have not had a complex. You know, really - this civilization is dying but it's always been, the only way in the world that they could get anything, the great Roman Empire, was to get an army and go take it. Oh, it's just nuts, so, that God has made the white man superior to any people - in the Middle East uh, the Great Sea, like the Mediterranean, the further everything was more or less brought, even to the uh, uh, the, the things that they made, Egypt, was really originally Egypt. And the only thing that the west got, the Roman Empire, that, I, I, I call Italy uh, was something they took from people. The Roman Empire had an army, you know, like they go down to Egypt and uh, pick up the library, take all the books out of the library and burn it and carry the books back to Rome…all that kind of stuff. All of it just really surprised me. So I haven't had no complex since. You know. Prior to that time, I had a complex, I, I just thought that these people were smarter than we were. But that's not so. You know, that's not so.
…and the British you know, sent all of those people that they isolated from the, uh, from the motherland - they wouldn't send them to prison, they put them off over there on that island. And they didn't see too many black folks. They'd ask us a question like - why some of you white, some of you black? I said - well, a lot of the black ones were, white ones, weren't satisfied being in white countries uh, that came where we were mixed, but really that wasn't the fact, they, slaves were brought over. And uh, well, I'm satisfied with the way, with how God has made me, perfectly satisfied. I don't feel nobody's inferior or superior. I really don't. I used to didn't feel that way. But now, shoot. It really that [unintelligible]. And I, you, now you can leave uh, Calcutta, no, you can leave uh, Egypt, you can go down the Red Sea through the Suez Canal, you can hit the Red the Red Sea, you can hit the Indian Ocean, you can go up the, the Gulf of uh, Siad - when, when you get out of there you going to find black people, all the way over. You go for miles and miles and that's what you're going to see.
ROLL, ALL SET.
OKAY… UM, WHAT, DURING THE TILL TRIAL, WHAT WAS THE COURTROOM, LIKE ON THAT FIRST DAY OF THE TILL TRIAL?
Well, I don't think I could give you an accurate and complete description of what the courtroom was like because it was surrounded inside and outside by people, Tallahassee County, white - and we could not stand in the halls, nor could we sit down in there because the courtroom, with the exception of very few people, were white. I would assume that white people from all over Tallahassee County filled the courtroom. And they didn't left, didn't leave much room rather for blacks. So WLW, that's New Orleans, television, I think it's WLW, uh, had their cameras and everything, outside, and there were quite a few people around the cameras there in Sumner, Mississippi.
DID YOU FEEL A LOT OF HOSTILITY AROUND THE COURTROOM FROM WHITE PEOPLE?
Well, let me see if I can tell you how I felt. Some days in the summer time in Mississippi, the weather is so hot you can almost see it. Uh, if the wind doesn't blow every once in a while, and just bring you a little cool air, uh, you look like that you might be getting yourself ready to be burned to death. And uh, the, the, it was just hot, and there were a lot of people there, and they were talking to each other, the blacks, and uh, it was an experience that I'd never had before. Uh…
DID THE WHITE PEOPLE UM, SAY ANYTHING TO THE BLACK PEOPLE OR DID THEY…
No. Unless, of course, they got in the way, like in the halls or tried to find a seat, and they would always tell them to - no seats available, get out of the…don't crowd the hall, like that there.
WHAT WAS THE FEELING IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY DURING THE TRIAL?
Well, I think the Till case had spreaded just about all over the southern part of this country. Everybody was concerned about what would happen or what had already happened, but they were determined to go to the trial. And all those that could were there. Uh…
WHY DO YOU THINK THEY WERE DETERMINED TO DO THAT? I MEAN THEY MUST HAVE BEEN AFRAID, WERE THEY AFRAID?
Well, to stay at home could have meant, could have meant death, and to leave could have meant death, so they had a choice - whether they'd go to the courthouse, or whether they'd stay home. Well, there was one man here named T.R.M. Howard, MD that came from Louisville, Kentucky, but who had set up in Mound Bayou 9 miles from Cleveland uh who had arranged to bring the television set into that area. And uh, people from Clarksdale, Mississippi, north Mississippi, from Cleveland, uh, from all around, had gotten together and uh, went together to Sumner. And there were so many people who went until it kind of cut the fear off you know, people weren't as afraid in large crowds as they would be if it was just two or three or four. Uh, there was an organization called the White Citizen Council, had an office at Drew, Mississippi and uh, uh, it really surprised me at the number of people who went to Drew, black, to talk to the leaders of the White Citizen Council. I think it may have given the whites the idea that these are not the same people we dealt with 30, 40 years ago. But anyway, uh…
HAD YOU ORGANIZED, I MEAN WAS THERE SOME ORGANIZING GOING ON BEFORE THE TRIAL OR DURING THE TRIAL, TO GET BLACK FOLKS OUT?
No, I don't think so, just automatically they decided that they were going to uh, go. Uh, pretty close to the county, or in the county, where they, they'd had the trouble. See, we didn't really know how, at that time, we didn't know how Emmett Till was killed. Oh, we kind of was asking each other and different people were expressing their opinion as to how Emmett Till got killed.
DID YOU BELIEVE THAT THEY WOULD CONVICT BRYANT AND MILO?
DID YOU BELIEVE THAT THEY WOULD CONVICT UH, BRYANT AND MILO, THE TWO WHITE MEN WHO THEY SAID DID IT?
Did I believe they would have?
No, that was against the policies of, of, of a southern state, to convict a man because he killed a Negro - that was out of the question. Uh, I don't know. The only thing that really surprised me is they had a trial [laughter]. I think that was more of a surprise, that was an improvement over what had, what's been, you see. And uh, well I, I, the only thing that really surprised me is that they had the nerve to challenge them. But they went in large numbers. And then…
CAN YOU TELL ME ANYTHING ABOUT THE WITNESSES, UH, MAMIE BRADLEY AND WILLY REED AND, AND MOSE WRIGHT, THE, THE GRANDFATHER? WHAT GAVE THEM THE COUR… WHAT, WHAT GAVE THEM THE COURAGE TO DO THAT?
When we got to the trial at Sumner, Mississippi, the courthouse was full and we did not hear a single witness testify. I think that was deliberately planned that way because uh, there weren't any seats for blacks in the courthouse and the white people, more or less, occupied the whole building. So we could not say truthfully, that we heard a testimony from a black person in the sitting of the court nor a white person in the sitting of the court. Uh we, we never did uh, hear that. We were there but we couldn't even go upstairs because we couldn't stand and there were no seats to sit in.
NOW DID, DID YOU KNOW THE PEOPLE WHO TESTIFIED THOUGH, UM, MAMIE BRADLEY AND WILLY REED AND MOSE WRIGHT?
Well, I, I'd never, didn't know them prior to that time. Uh, I can't truthfully say I heard anybody testify, because I just couldn't get inside, and I, I didn't uh…
[This is Blackside, Blackside, Eye on the Prize, sound roll 9, camera roll 12]
…he says uh – "Nigger, he says, I've been knowing you for X number of years, and uh, I want to know uh, whether or not uh, that you invited that woman here." Well, see, I didn't know anything about that, I hadn't read it, so of course, I didn't, I know I hadn't invited uh, Emmett Till cause I didn't even know her, had never seen her. And that news was fresh to us. And so the postmaster told him that I was employed there, that I was a leader of black people, that the leaders of the black people thought I was qualified to lead them, and that you don't lead me, she's telling this white man - you don't lead me. You don't, you don't tell me how to run this post office. And said at first, uh, you, you going to get yourself in a lot of trouble. Then his lawyer, he went to see the lawyer, when he got to see his lawyer, his lawyer tried to get me to come over to his law office and I informed them that I had no uh, problem with him and, and unless he had one with me, I wasn't coming. And uh, he, he, he decided then that he'd drop it because he didn't know how far he was going cause see, the white woman didn't decide with him against me. And so he uh, decided that he would uh, go talk to his lawyer and see what could he do. And now I, I'm normally seared of white people when they got guns and there's nobody but me…used to be that way, I'm not now, I've lived a lot of my life already. Uh, but I was working at the post office, anywhere I'd go - say for instance I had to go right by, if I was going to the laundry, I had to pass right by his door. If I went to the drugstore up the street from the post office, his daughter was running the drugstore, and here I am knowing that this man killed three or four people and we kind of felt like, you know, that he would seek the opportunity to probably bump me off. But even against my will, I had to find him, if he's in that drugstore - not because I really wanted to, but I was forced to do it. And could walk right as close to him as I could, and out the door, on up the street, And I had to pass right by his little office, shop, going to the laundry - I did it every day. And uh, one man had said- don't treat…that man might shoot you, he's killed X number of people. But there was no respond to that, I just had to go, response rather…on by. I had no weapons or nothing. And uh, I did that…
WHAT MADE YOU, WHAT MADE YOU DO THAT?
I don't know. I have not been able until this day to explain why I had to go against my will to, by this man. Now I, I, I certainly was aware of the fact that he killed quite a number of colored people. And I wasn't, I wasn't doing it because I said, well I'll let him kill me. That, that wasn't in…that, that wasn't in my mind. Uh, I think maybe it was God letting me know that in spite of all that man had done, that he was able to control him. You know, that's the only thing I can think, cause I certainly wasn't that brave [laughter], you know. And uh, he came down with cancer and uh, I don't see him like I used to. I don't know whether he's sick or what has happened, I know he did have cancer. Uh, but that lady hadn't uh…she didn't, she'd never been to Cleveland, not Cleveland, Mississippi. But she was scheduled to speak in Cleveland, Tennessee - that's north Tennessee - going toward uh, Virginia, I guess, up there. And I was uh, I never, I didn't see her until, let me see, when did I see her? Must have been the time, a little bit before the time they got ready to hold the trial.
LET ME ASK YOU SOMETHING ABOUT THE TRIAL AGAIN…
Now that, that town has got two county seats – one at Summers and one at Charlestown. But they didn't have them, didn't have it in the north county seat, they had it in the southwest corners, county seat. And uh, that's where we went, to the southwest end of the county. And there were so many black people at that trial, it kind of surprised them I suppose because you know, they'd lynched him, and there never was no trial, used to be. And very few people around, janitors and things like that. Uh…
ABOUT HOW MANY PEOPLE, HOW MANY BLACK PEOPLE CAME OUT TO THE TRIAL EACH DAY?
It, it, it just didn't fit in, as I look back. Uh, I uh, uh, bring in mail, and it was just a busy day uh, at Sumners.
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THERE WAS SO MUCH ATTENTION ON THIS LYNCHING AS OPPOSED TO ALL THE OTHER LYNCHINGS?
Well, I think one thing has happened, uh, when they got ready, but they had uh…and when I saw it uh, it's kind of… it was frightening. Because you know, everything else had been just, and the years go by, they kill people and shut up everything and people whispering around and nothing much was ever done about it.
OH, CAN YOU HOLD JUST A SECOND?
…truly surprised. And uh, I got 250 houses one pla…
…uh, skinny fellows that worked for SN…SNCC. They wore blue jeans and things like that and they never act like they were afraid of anything [laughter] - just quiet. But they went about their work, in the little old town out there from Greenwood called Carlton, where those people were very mean. I think them fellows ran about 23 hundred people through this city, through the county courthouse, trying to get them uh, registered. And uh, after that, I don't think anybody's scared anymore. But SNCC, SNCC is the, is the, the SNCC folk were the people who changed things.
BUT NOW YOU WERE THERE TOO RIGHT?
I was right there, right there with it. Quiet, you know, and, and, and, and if wo…if this crowd went downtown to get regis some people, at 2 o'clock, and they get put in jail, the next group at 2:30 would go, they'd get put in jail, the next group goes… it didn't make any difference about them putting them in jail, they just kept going. That was the first time in my life that I saw uh, uh, a [unintelligible] people who went and who quietly went…we have to figure out ways to get them out of jail, Greenville and Greenwood.
[End side 2]
…uh, uh, people who went and who quietly went…we have to figure out ways to get them out of jail, Greenville and Greenwood. But it broke down all of this, this stuff. At one time, they, you had to interpret the Constitution of the…of uh, Mississippi.