Charlsie Mae Graham Hammond grew up in Ethel, Mississippi, just outside of Kosciusko in the 1930s and 40s. In this episode, taken from her 2001 interview, she shares some cherished childhood memories. She discusses her father’s job at the sawmill there and how he would take her and her brothers on business trips occasionally to provide them a real-world education.
Growing up in a large family, Hammond spent much of her free time outdoors. She recounts watching Westerns with her parents and playing “cowboys” with her siblings and friends. As a child, Hammond also enjoyed a close relationship with her maternal grandparents. She recalls her grandfather as a good-natured shopkeeper and her grandmother as an entrepreneur.
Hammond has many fond memories of life in Ethel. She describes how she and her best friend would ride the train to Kosciusko, listen to favorite programs on the radio, or travel to the Delta with her family to visit her paternal grandparents.
Charlsie Mae Hammond enjoyed a long career as a public school teacher. She taught in the Port Gibson Public Schools, the Ethel Public Schools, and the Kosciusko Public Schools. She was a member of Kosciusko First Baptist Church, serving in various departments of the church. She was also active as a volunteer in organizations of her town and community. She passed away on June 3, 2017.
Dr. Kent Wyatt became the President of Delta State University in 1975. In this episode, Wyatt shares some of the accomplishments and challenges of his tenure. He also explains the importance of having an emphasis on academic excellence and an “open door” policy for faculty and students.
When Wyatt took over as President of Delta State in 1975, inflation made it difficult to control operating costs. He recalls how that early experience foreshadowed future shortfalls brought on by statewide budget cuts. Throughout Wyatt’s tenure as the President of Delta State, he insisted on developing programs that met the academic needs of the Mississippi Delta. He discusses some of those programs.
The Bologna Performing Arts Center at Delta State University was built in 1994 through state funding from the Mississippi legislature. Dr. Kent Wyatt explains the importance of having such a Center in the Delta.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was researched by Hayley Hasik and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
As a young man, Fred Clark of Jackson traveled to Midway, Georgia, to attend a series of meetings with Dr. Martin Luther King. In this episode, he recalls fearing for his safety as the group planned protests across the Jim Crow South.
The Freedom Riders were protesters who rode interstate buses to challenge southern segregation laws. Clark describes being arrested in Jackson in June of 1961 for trying to buy a ticket from the whites-only window. So many Freedom Riders were arrested in Jackson, many were taken to Parchman to handle the overflow. Clark remembers how their nonstop singing led to severe reprisals by prison officials.
PODCAST BONUS: In order to break the spirit of the protesters, prison guards resorted to putting them in windowless iron holding cells known as hotboxes. Unable to breath in the sweltering heat, Clark describes feelings of panic and being ridiculed by the guards.
PHOTO: MS Dept. of Archives and History