King Evans was a teenager, living with his family on the Vickland Plantation in Nitta Yuma, Mississippi, during the Great Flood of 1927. In this episode, he recalls how the water continued to rise after the levee north of Greenville broke on the morning of April 21st. Evans also remembers the thousands of people displaced by the floodwaters and the desperate lengths they went to for shelter.
Racial tensions flared as mistreatment of blacks was reported in other places, but according to Evans, whites and blacks worked together in Sharkey County to insure fair distribution of food.
In 1966 the faculty at the Mercy Hospital College of Nursing in Vicksburg recognized the need for a second nursing baccalaureate program in Mississippi.
This group of Catholic nuns, led by Dr. Elizabeth Harkins, was determined to establish a College of Nursing at USM. In this episode, retired instructor Jean Haspeslagh remembers Harkins as a force to be reckoned with.
Haspeslagh explains how Harkins designed the College of Nursing’s Graduate program to be unique and cutting edge.
After her retirement in 1980, Harkins continued to serve as Dean Emeritus until her death in 1997. Haspeslagh recalls that Harkins signed her last grant for the Sister’s of Mercy the day before she passes away.
Construction began on the new USM College of Nursing building in July, 2014.
The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party was organized in 1964 as an alternative to the then-all-white Mississippi Democratic Party.
The MFDP, after holding a statewide election open to people of all colors, sent its delegates to the 1964 Democratic National Convention in an attempt to be recognized as the legitimate representatives of the State.
In this episode, Dr. Aaron Henry of Clarksdale remembers the long bus to Atlantic City, New Jersey and the crowded accommodations the delegates endured.
After impassioned speeches by Fannie Lou Hamer and Dr. Martin Luther King, President Lyndon Johnson offered to seat two of MFDP delegates with the Illinois delegation. Henry discusses they decision to decline that offer.
He also explains that even though they were not seated at the 1964 convention, their efforts lead to the reform of the Democratic Party.
In 1964, as SNCC coordinators trained volunteers for the Mississippi Freedom Summer project, three others, Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman traveled to Philadelphia, MS to investigate a church burning.
In this episode, Cleveland Sellers recounts how he and seven other coordinators went in search of those three when they went missing. Sellers describes the extraordinary lengths their group went to, to avoid being spotted as they searched for their friends.
After several days of searching through woods and empty buildings in the dead of night, Sellers’ group was forced to abandon their search.
The bodies of Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman were eventually found on August 4th, 1964.
After attending a Freedom School as a high school student in the summer of ’64, Charleana Cobb of Blue Mountain was inspired to become active in the civil rights movement. In this episode, she recalls promoting a speech being given at her church by civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer. Cobb remembers the thrill of hearing Hamer speak that night and the shock of being told that the church had burned to the ground the next morning.
That December, college students from Oberlin, Ohio came to Blue Mountain to rebuild the church as a project called Carpenters for Christmas. Cobb recalls how members of the community reacted to the sacrifice these Oberlin College students made in giving up their Christmas holiday.
After attempting to register to vote, Fannie Lou Hamer was forced to leave the plantation where she had lived and worked for 18 years. In the episode, she explains how she became active in voter registration and the challenges they faced.
Prior to passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Mississippi required voters to pass a literacy test and pay a poll tax in order to vote. Hamer recalls how she passed the test and the first time she was able to vote.
Hamer went on to become a leader in the Civil Rights movement and her speech at the Democratic National Convention in 1964 touched the nation. She reflects on her time in the spotlight and the friends she made along the way.
Fannie Lou Hamer passed away on March 14th, 1977.
In 1962, Fannie Lou Hamer was a sharecropper’s wife, living on a plantation in Ruleville, Mississippi. In this episode, she recalls the first time she tried to register to vote.
After leaving Indianola, the bus carrying Hamer’s group was pulled over by state and local law enforcement. She describes how they were forced to return to Indianola to face an assortment of trumped up charges.
Later that same day when Hamer returned home, the owner of the plantation confronted her about attempting to register. She describes how she was forced to leave her home of 18 years that very night for refusing to withdraw her registration.
The plantation owner's harsh treatment of Hamer led her to become an inspirational figure in the Civil Rights movement.
In 1964, Larry Rubin of Tacoma Park, Maryland came to Holly Springs to help black Mississippians register to vote. In this episode he explains how the state used literacy tests and intimidation to keep blacks from voting.
A key goal of Freedom Summer was to register enough Freedom Democratic Party voters to have their delegates seated at the 1964 Democratic National Convention. Rubin recalls the drudgery of knocking on doors and the thrill of watching the convention drama unfold on TV.
Rubin also reflects on the violence and intimidation that black Mississippians endured in order to secure the right to vote.
In July of 1964, Sandra Adickes came to Hattiesburg to teach in a “Freedom School” as part of a civil rights campaign known as Freedom Summer. The Freedom Schools were intended to help black children overcome the disparity of education in Mississippi’s segregated school system.
In this episode, Adickes remembers her arrival and a 4th of July party sponsored by civil rights activist, Vernon Dahmer. She also describes a typical day in the Freedom School and how on the last day of Freedom School, the students decided to try and integrate the Hattiesburg Public Library.
In June of 1964, a campaign was launched to educate black Mississippians and register them to vote. In the episode, Gloria Clark, a school teacher from Massachusetts, recalls riding a bus to Memphis to prepare for her role in the campaign called Freedom Summer. Clark remembers being assigned to Holly Springs and her initial reaction to that assignment.
On June 21st, three civil rights activists James Chaney, Michael Schwerner, and Andrew Goodman disappeared after being released from a Neshoba County Jail. Their bodies were found two months later. Clark explains how their disappearance affected her.
Like many Jewish children in the South, John Levingston of Cleveland, Mississippi attended kindergarten at a Christian church. In the episode, Levingston remembers how that led to some confusion for him.
Growing up in a Reform Congregation, Levingston did not participate in some traditional Jewish practices. He recalls his decision to learn Hebrew and have a bar mitzvah in his late thirties.
The once thriving Jewish population of the Delta has dwindled as younger generations have moved away. Levingston explains why he chose that as the topic of his bar mitzvah talk.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer—a time when black Mississippians worked with northern students to confront Jim Crow and claim their rights as citizens. To commemorate this Freedom struggle, we are combing the collection to bring you a series of Mississippi Moments that explore Freedom Summer from a variety of perspectives: from organizers to volunteers to yes, even law enforcement.
In this episode, we hear from Charlie Capps. While Capps would later go on to a distinguished career as a Mississippi legislator, in spring of '64, he was the newly-elected sheriff of Bolivar County. As an elected sheriff in a county where few blacks could vote, he was the first line of defense of Mississippi’s segregated order. He recalls the fear, apprehension and resentment many in the white community felt as civil rights workers came to Mississippi to upend the Jim Crow system of racial segregation.
Ray Pittman of Hattiesburg joined the Marines in 1942 as a demolition man. In this episode, he describes a typical demolition team and the dangerous jobs they performed.
Pittman’s team suffered heavy casualties during some of the worst battles in the Pacific theater. He recalls how a spare pistol saved his life on the island of Iwo Jima.
Pittman also remembers the day his friend Maxwell was killed while they were on a recon mission and how their actions prevented an ambush by the Japanese.
This D-Day, as we pause to remember our soldiers who fought so valiantly on the beaches at Normandy, let us also consider those brave men who were fighting on the other side of the world with this--our 400th episode of Mississippi Moments.
(the picture is of a Marshall Island enemy block house blown up by Ray's team)
George W. Owens of Pontotoc was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1936 when he met Icey Day, the state’s first blind legislator. Six years later, Owens helped Day pass legislation to establish the Mississippi Industries for the Blind.
In 1946, Owens began working as a vocational counselor for the M.I.B. In this episode, he recalls their humble beginnings and looks back with pride at how their efforts helped remove the stigma associated with blindness.
During his 20 years as a Rehabilitation Consultant and 30 years as a member of the Lions Club, George Owens worked to better the lives of the blind and visually impaired. He passed away on March 3rd, 1975.
Ellen McCarley grew up in Port Gibson, but sent summers with her family in rural Claiborne County. In this episode, she recalls helping her mother load the car with food and supplies for the weekly trip to the old homestead.
Much of their time was spent at a favorite swimming hole on Bayou Pierre creek. McCarley remembers catching rides there on her uncle’s Model T and eating tomato sandwiches.
Although conditions were primitive by today’s standards, McCarley explains that summers in the country provided her with simple pleasures and cherished memories.
In the 1930s, Nathan Jones of Russum provided for his family by raising cotton part of the year and cutting timber the rest of the time. During hunting season, Jones and his brothers would also supplement their incomes by selling animal pelts. For them, it wasn’t hunting for sport, it was hunting for survival.
In this episode Jones explains how they would ship the pelts to St. Louis for export to Germany. He discusses the effect that war and changing weather patterns affected the fur trade.
Libby Hollingsworth grew up in Leland, Mississippi, but spent summers with her grandparents in Port Gibson. In this episode, she remembers the quiet routine of reading, crafting, afternoon visits and long evening walks they kept during those summers. According to Hollingsworth, the lifestyle of Port Gibson residents in those days was peaceful and orderly.
Years later, Hollingsworth moved to Port Gibson with her husband. She explains that while life there isn’t so orderly anymore, much of the peacefulness remains.
Gulfport native John C. Robinson moved to Chicago and became a pilot after graduating from the Tuskegee Institute in the early 1920s when blacks were considered incapable of grasping the principles of aviation. He did this by taking a job as janitor of the Curtis Wright Flight School and earning the respect of one of the instructors. After graduating, he stayed on as an instructor and helped other Africian-Americans enter the field. He later convinced his Alma Mater to open a flight school--thus paving the way for the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.
In this episode, Gulfport writer Thomas Simmons shares stories of Robinson that he gathered in eight years of research for his book: The Brown Condor-The True Adventures of John C. Robinson.
Wendell Taylor of Gulfport became a Methodist minister in 1937. In this week's episode, he discusses Gulfside Assembly, a retreat for black Methodists located in Waveland.
Gulfside was founded in 1923 to provide spiritual, educational and recreational facilities to African-Americans who were denied access elsewhere because of segregation. Taylor remembers the outstanding church leaders who were educated at Gulfside.
In 2005, Gulfside Assembly was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Plans to rebuild the historic site are pending.
Reverend Harry Tartt grew up in North Gulfport in the 1920s. In this week's episode, he explains that at that time, the black community accepted segregation as a fact of life. Tartt recalls being made aware of lynching at a young age and how it was used to control the black community.
It was only after Tartt moved to Chicago to attend college that he began to see that there was a world beyond the Jim Crow system. He remembers feeling frustrated when he returned home with this new sense of awareness.
Martin Huggins grew up on the family farm in the Biggersfield community near Rienzi. In this episode, he shares his memories of Grandpa Huggins including his remarkable way with the livestock.
This episode has it all: car-surfing goats, the dreaded cane of justice and 12 year old chauffeurs--you know, typical farm life.
Alfred Brown, Junior, grew up in the historic Soria City neighborhood of Gulfport during WWII. In this episode, he describes how his father sold fish in their back yard for extra money.
Brown remembers how Soria City residents took pride their neighborhood and looked out for each other.He recounts how his father would often give away fish to those in need.
(photo is of the Soria City Lodge, recently restored)
The Center for Oral History has proudly preserved the stories of hundreds of US veterans.
In this episode, B-24 bomber pilot C.R. Cadenhead of Greenville recalls his crew of 'misfits' and a much welcomed escort by those Southern gentlemen, the Tuskegee Airmen.
When Willie Cox of Pas Christian was discharged from the Army in February of ’67, he planned to live in the Washington DC area. In this episode, Cox explains how an unexpected job opportunity changed those plans.
The Civil Rights movement brought increased job opportunities for African-Americans. Cox recalls how two of his co-workers became the first black train engineers.
After three years as a switchman, Cox applied for a job as an engineer. He recalls how persistence and an engineer shortage led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Willie Cox retired from railroading in 2002, after 35 years on the job.
After leaving the Army, Charles Dubra became a longshoreman in Gulfport. He recalls how an injury on the job led him to go into business for himself. He also explains how he made the transition from entrepreneur to teacher.