Pike – People/Persons

Moses, Robert “Bob”

Robert Moses was born in 1935 and was a major contributor towards the fight towards social equity for all, becoming a major figure in the Civil Rights Movement.

Moses first got involved with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). Following SCLC, he joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960 as a field secretary. In 1962, Moses transitioned to a strategic coordinator and project director with the Council of Federated Organization (COFO) in Mississippi. As one of the main organizer’s of COFO’s Freedom Summer Project, he played an integral role in achieving widespread voter registration of blacks in Mississippi. In addition, Moses was a driving force in organizing the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) which challenged the segregationist-dominated Mississippi Democratic Party delegation at the 1964 Democratic National Convention, a critical point in time that brought national awareness to the civil rights struggle occurring in Mississippi.

Moses is the President and Founder and President of the Algebra Project Inc., whose goal is to bring math literacy to low income citizens by utilizing mathematics as an organizing tool to ensure quality public school education for every child in America.


“Board & Staff.” The Algebra Project, www.algebra.org/staff.php#moses.

Cheam, Bunthay. “Moses, Robert P. (1935-).” The Black Past: Remembered and Reclaimed, www.blackpast.org/aah/moses-robert-p-1935.

“Robert ‘Bob’ Moses.” Mississippi Freedom Summer 50th, WordPress, freedom50.org/moses/.

Nicholas, Jessie Divens: Oral History

Jessie Divens Nicholas is a native of McComb, Mississippi. She grew up with her three siblings and her mother. Her father died in the army. Her mother, Ruth Divens, worked as a business woman, which allowed her to encourage her children to participant in the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960s. Her mother would house Civil Rights workers, and Nicholas recalls conversations her mother had with leaders such as C.C. Bryant.

As a result of her participation in the Burglund High School Walkout at 12 years old, Nicholas was forced to attend school in Jackson, MS along with others who were arrested. She attended Christ the King Catholic School. During Freedom Summer (1964), Nicholas taught adults how to read so they could fill out forms. She also followed Robert ‘Bob’ Moses during his rounds and helped him. In addition, her step-father lost his job because of Nicholas’ part in the movement. She went to jail for refusing to give up her seat to a White woman, and she also spoke her mind to a judge with the permission of her mother. Nicholas helped to integrate the school, but after two days, she refused to return before the names she was called and the treatment she received. She also helped to integrate the movie theater but refused to go back. In these videos, we see the place Nicholas’ mother had in Nicholas’ involvement in the movement and her desire to have the youth learn about McComb’s part in the Civil Rights Movement.

Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history, part one:

Pike County – Jessie Divens Nicholas 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Jessie Divens Nicholas’ oral history interviews can also be found here.


William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Corstarphen, Lillie: Oral History

Lillie Corstarphen grew up in the rural area of Pike County on a farm with her family. She grew up with five brothers, five sisters, and her parents. Despite farming the land for someone else and living below the poverty line, Corstarphen says that she was never poor because of her family and had a good childhood. When Corstarphen was to enter the ninth grade, her family moved to McComb, Mississippi, where she attended Burglund High School, now Higgins Middle School. After graduating from high school, Corstarphen moved to Ohio where she stayed a few years until moving back to McComb, Mississippi. In these videos, Corstarphen recalls the horrors of racism in McComb during segregation and the progress McComb has made since that time.

Part one of Lillie Corsatrphen’s oral history:

Pike County – Lillie Corstarphen 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Lillie Corstarphen’s oral history can also be found here.


William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation


Bennett, Izeal: Oral History

Izeal Bennett, a native of Mississippi, lived in a home with thirteen siblings, his mother, and his father. His father was a sharecropper, and the children were responsible for helping him the crops. When Bennett was nine years old, he and his family moved to Summit, Mississippi. After two years, the Bennetts again moved to McComb, Mississippi in the Beartown community, where his father owned his own land. They grew peppers and cotton to sell, in addition to growing their own food. He started school at seven years old, and he quickly realized the differences in the treatment of blacks and whites. He graduated from Beartown High School and went to Alcorn University. At Alcorn, he majored in health and physical education and science. He also played football and ran track. He earned his masters at the University of Southern Mississippi in administration.

After graduation from Alcorn University, Bennett moved back to McComb, Mississippi, and worked with Robert ‘Bob’ Moses on voter registration and became among the group of the first blacks to register to vote during the movement. He began teaching in 1961 at Booker T. Washington School (now North Pike Middle School) in North Pike County. He served the movement by teaching and encouraging black students to believe that could and be anything they desired. In these videos, we learn more about Bennett’s passion for education and the advancement of the black community.

Izeal Bennett’s oral history, part one:

Pike County – Izeal Bennett 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Izeal Bennett’s oral history can also be found here.

Rembert, Emily: Oral History

Emily Rembert is a native of McComb, Mississippi, and was young during the civil rights movement. Her mother worked at a nursing home, and her father worked on the railroad and had a printing office in his home, where Rembert was an assistant. Her childhood was wonderful at home; however, outside of her home, she was met with the present racism. She graduated from the McComb Public School System in 1968. During high school, she enjoyed music, art, and literature. She was educated at the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) School, where she received a very good education from skilled teachers. Her favorite part was analyzing literature. After she graduated from high school, her father was very adament about Rembert leaving McComb so she could have better opportunities. She worked at a library in Chicago and served in the Navy during the Vietnam War. After many careers, she received her degree from Belhaven College, now Belhaven University, in Business. She now works in the newspaper industry.

Emily Rembert’s oral history, part one:

Pike County – Emily Rembert 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Emily Rembert’s oral history can also be found here.


William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Harris, Thomas: Oral History

Thomas Harris is a native of McComb, Mississippi and has seen McComb change over the years. He grew up with his two parents and five brothers. His father worked at the post office, and his mother was a home maker. His father ensured that all six brothers went to college, so after Harris graduated from Burglund High School, he went to Rust College to earn his Bachelors of Science in Biology. At Rust College, he was a part of the science club, basketball team, and football team. After Rust College, he went back to McComb to teach and coach basketball at Burgland High School. He was also one of the first black teachers to teach at the white junior high school in 1968. In this album, Thomas Harris talks about the bombings in McComb and integrations effects on McComb. He discusses the progress of McComb and ways to improve the town.

Thomas Harris’ Oral History, part one:

Pike County – Thomas Harris 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of Thomas Harris’s oral history can also be found here.


William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

Mayer, Dr. William: Oral History

Dr. William Mayer is a physician in McComb, Mississippi, who has lived in the town for over 60 years. He is a native of Shelby, Ohio, where he lived until he received his medical degree. He speaks fondly of his childhood. He graduated from Shelby Public School System in Ohio. He earned his Bachelors of Science from Western Reserves University and his medical degree from Duke University. After earning his medical degree in 1947, Dr. Mayer and his new wife, a nurse, became a part of a program to fill the shortage of doctors and nurses in rural Mississippi. The program sent him to McComb, Mississippi, where he has lived ever since. In his oral history, Dr. Mayer speaks about segregation and having the first integrated waiting room in McComb, Mississippi. He goes to talk about the success of integration and its effect on McComb.

Dr. William Mayer’s Oral History, part one:

Pike County – Dr. William Mayer 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of his oral history can also be found here.


William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation

McGee, Joyce: Oral History

Joyce McGee talks about her education at Burglund High School and race relations in McComb while growing up. She speaks on her and her father’s involvement. Aside from her family’s involvement with the civil rights movement, Joyce talks about the community’s response to civil rights workers. McGee closes with her perspective of present-day racial relations and what she would like to see improved.

Ms McGee’s oral history, part one:

McComb – Joyce McGee 00 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of her oral history can also be viewed here.

Monley, Queene Campbell: Oral History

While not heavily involved with the Civil Rights Movement, Queene Campbell Monley was there to witness her sister’s treatment as a participant in the Burglund High School walkout. She provides a look at how the actions of activists and the social tensions and issues present during the Civil Rights Era affected her relatives.

Part one of Ms. Monley’s oral history:

Pike County – Interview with Queene Campbell Monley 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of her oral history can also be viewed here.

Campbell, Janie Magee: Oral History

Born in Summit, MS, near McComb, JANIE MAGEE CAMPBELL became a part of history when she and about 300 other students at Burglund Senior High School in McComb, MS, walked out in protest of what they saw as an injustice to fellow student Brenda Travis. Ms. Travis had been arrested earlier due to her involvement with a sit-in at the Greyhound Bus station and as a result was suspended by the principal, Commodore Higgins.

Ms. Campbell talks about her experience with the Burglund High School walkout and shows that the Civil Rights Movement wasn’t just big names, it was the everyday high school students, too.

Ms. Campbell’s oral history, part one:

Pike County – Interview with Janie Magee Campbell 01 from Winter Institute on Vimeo.

Part one of her oral history can also be viewed here.