Simpson – People/Persons

Weathersby, Steve

The WPA Slave Narratives are interviews with ex-slaves conducted from 1936 through 1938 by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Both the FWP and its parent organization, the WPA, were New Deal relief agencies designed by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression.

The WPA Slave Narratives consist of 3,500 brief oral histories (most of them two to four pages long), representing about 2% of all ex-slaves surviving in the late 1930s. The sample for Mississippi was somewhat smaller: out of perhaps 20,000 living former slaves, 450 were interviewed by the WPA. All states and territories that had slaves in 1865 were represented, except Louisiana.

Without question, these interviews are the largest body of slave memories to be found anywhere in the world.

The account of Steve Weathersby:
Steve Weathersby, ex-slave, was born about 1856 and was owned by Owen Weathersby of Simpson County. He is now living on his farm at D’Lo, Mississippi.
This old ex-slave of about seventy nine or eighty years is tall and slender and walks erect for his age. His black clean shaven face wears a severe expression and he is not very talkative. His large hands show signs of years of hard labor.

“The fust five years ob my life was spent on de large Weathersby plantation. I had de good luck to be wid a man lack him fer he was good to us slaves, he was kind an’ believed in treating us right. He fed well and looked after our housin’ seein’ to hit dat we always had comfo’table places to stay an’ that us was well cared fer in general. Of course us had to wuk and wuk hard but us knowed we didn’t hab to worry ’bout a livin’. Some time I gets to thinkin’ dat hit was kinda fine to hab some body takin’ care ob yo’, especially in dese days ob depressions an hard times wid so many famblies in destitute conditions an’ all de people that is in distress. Some folks, an a heap ob ’em, would be better off wid somebody to take the worries away. Hit is hard ter find good payin’ wuk ter do dese here days.

My fust wuk in de fields, I was a small slave boy ob about five years. I had to chop de grass from around de stumps. As I growed up I did uder things an’ heaver wuk such as pickin’ cotton, plowin’ an’ lookin’ ader Mar’s stock.

De slaves lived in small huts an’ early in de mornin’ long afore de break ob day yo’ could see dim lights a shinnin’ from ’em ’cause dey was up peparin’ ter go to de fields.

When I was a little chap ’bout five years ole we moved ter Willis Mangel’s place at Good Water. Day was a great day fer me. I was all excited over goin’ to a new place and I enjied watching ’em lood our few household things on de wagon. De few miles ride in de wagon to our new home was a event. I dressed den in long shirts an’ on ’till I was a big boy. I was plump proud ob de fust pants I wore. Dey made me feel growed up an’ was proud de days of just shirts was gone.

My father was cruel to my mudder. She had a mighty hard time wid him, and us children little and having ter be a slave too was to much fer her to stand. Den one day not long afterwards us made what to us was a journey back to our fust Master, leaving my father. Mr. Weathersby was kind to us and my mudder lef my father where she could hab better treatment.

As slaves, our education an’ religious advantages was poor. What education us recieved was by white teachers who would teach us ter spell and cipher a little. Dis was all we eber had de chance o’ learning.

On Sundays us would meet at log cabins ter worship as us didn’t hab no Churches. De slaves did like ter git tergether an’ praise de Lord. Dey would set fer hours on straight oncomfo’table benches an’ planks, while some would be seated on de ground or standing. Dey would hum deep and low in long mournful tones swayin’ to an’ fro. Uders would pray and sing soft while de “Broder Preacher was a deliverin’ de humble message. De songs was old negro spirituals sung in de deep rich voice of our race. We didn’t hab no song books nor couldn’t read if we had ’em, we sorter made ’em up ‘long as us went. We loves music. Most any cottage you pass especially at nite yo’ can hear soft music an’ singin’. Dee slave owners us’ter say when he had a bunch wukin’ in de fields, as long as dey could hear ’em singin’ dey knowed dem niggers was a workin’ but when dey got quiet dey had ter go put ’em back to wuk fer when dey stopped singin’ dey stopped wuk too. At uder times when us didn’t hab no cabin to gether at, us built large bush arbors fer our meetings, den at nite built big bon fires fer light and sometimes de open.

We lacks pur’ty bright colors ispecially in flowers. Our homes may be small, old, and delopodated lookin’ but dey most al’as hab purty flowers growin’ all ’round and a vegetable garden too.

We stayed wid my Master ’till I was ’bout fourteen years ole, when us started life for our selves.

I married when I was twenty seven an hab’ four chillun. Years ago I homestead one hundred and sixty acres ob land west ob D’Lo, hab made comfortable livin’ can gladly say hab neber had to have any help or reli’.”

Sources:

WPA Slave Narratives

Weathersby, George

The WPA Slave Narratives are interviews with ex-slaves conducted from 1936 through 1938 by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Both the FWP and its parent organization, the WPA, were New Deal relief agencies designed by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression.

The WPA Slave Narratives consist of 3,500 brief oral histories (most of them two to four pages long), representing about 2% of all ex-slaves surviving in the late 1930s. The sample for Mississippi was somewhat smaller: out of perhaps 20,000 living former slaves, 450 were interviewed by the WPA. All states and territories that had slaves in 1865 were represented, except Louisiana.

Without question, these interviews are the largest body of slave memories to be found anywhere in the world.

The account of George Weathersby:
George Weathersby, ex-slave, lives two miles north west of D’Lo, Mississippi. He was born in 1852, was owned during slavery time by Owen Weathersby of Simpson County. This old ex-slave is white headed with age, although small in stature, he stands straight and erect. His heighth is about five feet and weighs one hundred and twenty five pounds. His general coloring is a light rich brown. He is in poor health, having suffered a severe stroke of paralysis a few months past.

“I was a slave for ’bout thirteen years, an’ fer mos’ ob de time had a kind master. Mars Owen was one good man, treating his slaves wid kindness an’ ‘sideration. He seed to hit dat us was fed a plenty an’ had comfortable cabins ter live in an’ kept us in good clo’se.

While I had de good luck ter hab a kind master I had de bad luck ter have a cruel pa. He was mean to us chillun an’ ‘specially to ma. He made hit powerfuly hard on us all, Ma, she had ter wuk in de fields from early to late, an’ den wid pa crul to her, made hit turrible fer her to git along. Ole Mars helped us out a heap; us sho’ would had a time if’n hit hadn’t been fer him. But when I was seven years ole’ us lef’ our kind master an’ went ter Willis Mangel’s plantation. He won’t kind lak our fust master. Ma jis’ couldnt stan’ dat wid pa rough too, so as soon as hit could be arranged she took us chillun and went back to Mars Owens. I cant tell yo’ all how glad us was ter git back to our ole Master where us knowed we’d have good treatment an’ plenty to live on. Pa, he stayed on wid Mars Willis.

When I was too little to wuk, ma went to de fields early in de mornings. I was lef’ wid de uder slave chilluns ter be looked after by de slave cooks. We was all fed ter-gether at Mars. In de summer us et out in de back yard, in de winter time us was fed in de kitchen ’round de fireplace whar deir was a bright log fire. Us set ’round eating from tin plates an’ drinking our milk from tin cups.

We was raised up wid-out no education ‘ceptin de white teachers taught us to read an’ write a little. We could go to meeting at de white folks church house an’ sit in de back, but us wanted to have worship in our own way. On Sundays us would collect at some ole’ vacant cabin an’ have our own services. In de summer time we would build big brush arbors off in de woods. At nite we would make big firs to see by, then we could sing prayer an’ shout all us wanted to.

My fust wuk in de fields was when I was ’bout five years ole’. I was put to hoeing out de fence corners an’ pulling up grass an’ den on to heavier wuk as I growed bigger. De field wuk was hard, hit was all day in de hot sun, but us laked all being together. Big bunches would be wukin’ in de corn or cotton fields, a hollerin’ an’ a singing an’ a telling ghos’ tales. Turrible experiences would be tole of hoo-doo, cungering an’ ob signs an’ superstition. Some ob ’em belived in signs of owls, black cats an’ stumbling up de back steps an’ all kind ob curious things. I never did blieve in them things an’ glad I don’t.

Den as slaves us had our frolics an’ guitar an’ fiddle music. Mos’ ob ’em could buck dance an’ sing. We loves music an’ likes ter play sof’ an’ low.
De Masters kept up wid deir slaves by never letting ’em leave de plantations wid out a pass an’ a set time ter be back. When dey failed to show up in a reconable time, dey sont men on horse-back after ’em. Dey would sho’ fotch ’em in. Dese was called patrol riders.

After de surrender my pa and ma never tried to live to-gether no mo’. All de slaves had to get married all over again an’ dey was parted an’ jis naturally didn’t remarry. We liked Mars Owen an’ stayed on wid him after de war till I was ’bout sixteen years ole, when us homestead a little farm fer our selves.
I married fifty two years ago when I was thirty three years ole’. My love affair won’t very smooth as de gals pa didn’t want us to git married an’ did a heap o’ interferring’.

At times hit looked hopeless an’ us loved each other so much. De more he tried to break us up de more us was determined. I saw I would have to steal her. I tole her I would be thar on a certain nite an’ us would run away. When dat nite come hit was as dark as ink. I got my brudder Steve an’ two cozins to go wid me. We got on our horses an’ struck out. I sho’ was a dreading hit. I could see her pa a coming out wid a shot gun after de dogs had done made fer me. De closer we got de worser I felt. I almost wanted ter turn back. Us got in ’bout three miles of her home when out ob de black nite a friend o’ mine stepped out from de side ob de road an’ tole us my gal had done slipped off an’ was deir at his house, jis’ up de road a few yards. My gal was deir a waitin’ fer me, dat sounded lak sweet music ter me. We was married dat nite wid out all de truble I was a looking fer.

Hit was bad fer us niggers to be enslaved, but us was cared fer, mos’ times a heap bettern po’ folks is a faring dese days. Our race has gained Civilazation an’ education by hit so I is satisfied an’ wants de good will ob everybody.”

Sources:

WPA Slave Narratives and Linda Durr Rudd

Norwood, Glascow

The WPA Slave Narratives are interviews with ex-slaves conducted from 1936 through 1938 by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Both the FWP and its parent organization, the WPA, were New Deal relief agencies designed by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression.

The WPA Slave Narratives consist of 3,500 brief oral histories (most of them two to four pages long), representing about 2% of all ex-slaves surviving in the late 1930s. The sample for Mississippi was somewhat smaller: out of perhaps 20,000 living former slaves, 450 were interviewed by the WPA. All states and territories that had slaves in 1865 were represented, except Louisiana.

Without question, these interviews are the largest body of slave memories to be found anywhere in the world.

The account of Glascow Norwood:
Glascow Norwood lives near Pinola, Mississippi, on a farm. He was born about 1852, was owned during slavery time by John Norwood. He is tall and slender, his black face is partly covered with gray side whiskers and a goatee, until a few years ago he wore long whiskers. He is in excellent health and active. He hears well, has his natural teeth and can see to thread a needle without the aid of glasses.

“I was a slave right here in Simpson County on a big plantation, deir was about sixty or seventy udder slaves. Us lived in log cabins back ob Mars’ big two story house which had a kitchen dat stood out to one side to feed the slaves in at dinner, dey had to co The WPA Slave Narratives are interviews with ex-slaves conducted from 1936 through 1938 by the Federal Writers’ Project (FWP), a unit of the Works Progress Administration (WPA). Both the FWP and its parent organization, the WPA, were New Deal relief agencies designed by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt to provide jobs for unemployed workers during the Great Depression.

Ok deir own breakfast and supper, but Mars he gib ’em de stuff to cook. We toted it to de cabins in pans and goards. We drunk water out of goards too.

When I fust begun to recollect, I was a little chap running around in my long shirt a playin’ in de sand, mud holes and ash heaps. I liked a big noise and to stir up a dust or splash in de water. I was alwas ’round when de slave women was a making soap with de fires a burnin ’round de pots. Hit was de same way at mollasses makin’ time, I liked de muss and de stur. I’d climb high stacks of cane and watch de mules go ’round and ’round as dey pulled de long poles to de mill dat ground de cane to juice. Den I could see de black smoke boiling up from de furnaces where dey cooked de molasses. I liked de bustle ob hog killing time where dey would hab big fires a burning ’round de pots to heat de water to scald de hogs. After dey was scraped dey was strung up to be dressed, dey would be long rows ob ’em. Den dey would be put on long tables under de trees and cut up. De meat den was hung in smoke houses and smoked.

Us little ‘uns was made to do odd jobs and I wants to tell yo’ all dar is plenty ob odd jobs, jist all kinds ob things, and dey could find more things to make us little niggers pick up and tote, dars de fruit when hit fall from de trees, de nuts, sticks, leaves, wood and chillun.

Mars Norwood was kind to his slaves but he had over-seers dat would get a little rash sometimes. I was put in de fields. When I growed up to be abut ten years old, Mar’s son Donald was a over-seer and I was wid him mos’ ob de time when I got a little biger; he over-seed de stock and first an’ las’ dar was a heap o’ stock which caused a good bit of trapseing ’bout to keep up wid ’em all. Dey was always getting out in a bog or breakin’ through a fence or needed some kind ob attention. We had to keep ’em fed, watered and de horses curred, but I liked working wid ’em.

We was fed and clo’sed well and in de busy time ob de year we wuked hard an’ long hours, hit was wuk eat and sleep. Den at times we had our enjoyment. We could git passes from our masters, an’ everything was pretty, we could visit on oder plantations, go huntin’ and to frolics. Now, I did like to hunt, dar was more game to be found in de woods den. We could find droves ob mos’ any-thing we went out for.

We fiddled and cut up more in dem days dan we do now. Us had times when we’d take planks to de woods at nite and buck dance. If yo’ all ain’t never seed a bunch ob niggers buck dance yo’ sho hab missed somethin’. We would build big fires to see by an’ dancin’ would take place. We had square dances too, dey would git exciting when dey would git to fightin’, dey would tie up and fight lack mad dogs. Dey had to keep de fights a secrete, fo’ de owners ob de slaves sho’ didn’t like no fighting ’round you all see, hit was like dis, dey would get crippled up and wouldn’t be worth nothing to wuk.

Everything went on ’bout lack dat until de wo’ come on den hit look lack everything turrible was jis’ gwine ter happen all de time. We could hear de cannons a shooting an when dey had dat battle at Vicksburg, hit sounded all de time lack de world was a coming to an end. De soldiers would camp near by, and we would be scared. Den when dem Cavalrymen would come a ridin’ through a tearing up de whole creation an’ a taking everything dey could snatch and grab. I tell yo’ all dey was turrible.

After four years of dese terrifyin’ times we was told us was free, an’ turned out to make our own way. We had a mighty hard time fer a few years.

I met de gal I married when I was ’bout nineteen an we promised each udder dat if we ever married dat we would marry each udder, so I courted her three years, I did mos’ ob de talkin’. She died several years ago. We had sixteen chillun ‘leven ob ’em is living. I has sixty three gran’ chillun and thirty-nine great gran’ chillun. I tells ’em all times is to hard fo me to git married again. I guess I’ll jus’ jog long by myself.”

Sources:

WPA Slave Narratives and Linda Durr Rudd

Stephens, Lloyd

According to Lloyd Stephens (“Stephens”), his store Stephens was one of the first, if not the first, business to employ an African-Americans in Mendenhall, Miss. Stephens said that he has always had a great relationship with African-Americans, and he enjoys their business. “We are all created equal, and we are all God’s children,”Stephens said. Many African-Americans had to go to Detroit and other places to get employment during the ’60s, Stephens said, and he thinks it is good to see them come back.

Stephens said that the church Mendenhall Ministries, formerly called the Voice of Calvary, is where the civil rights movement in Mendenhall began. The founder and president at that time, John Perkins (“Perkins”), started the movement. Stephens said that he had a good relationship with Perkins and his staff. Stephens said integration should have been done sooner.

Stephens said that prior to hiring an African-American to regularly work in his store, he would sometimes employ African-American maids from his home to work in his store. Reverend Stedman Hayes of Martindale, Miss., was the leader of the NAACP during that time, and he selected the regular workers that Stephens hired. People’s Bank may have been the second business in Mendenhall to hire African-Americans, Stephens said.

Stephens is very encouraged to see what has happened in Mississippi since the civil rights movement. Mississippi has always been thought of as the last state, but he said that he thinks it is improving and setting an example. Stephens said that he has not had any problems with his African-American employees. He also said that some of his best friends are African-Americans.

Stephens was optimistic regarding the County Project. He said that projects like these are the only way to keep Mississippi moving forward. “This way the world can understand how far we have come from and where we are going,”Stephens said.

Sources:

Interview with Lloyd Stephens

Bowen, Teresa

Teresa Bowen is currently a vice-president of People’s Bank (“People’s”) in Mendenhall, Miss. Bowen was the first African-American to be hired by People’s. She said that at the time she was hired, she was working at a manufacturing plant and looking for a better job. A man named Willie Magee from the church she attended then told Bowen that People’s was hiring. Bowen said that she went to People’s, and Sid Davis, the president of People’s during that time, hired her on the spot. Bowen was hired to work at People’s in April of 1977.

At the time she was hired, Bowen said that she was taking classes at Draughons Business School in Jackson, Miss. After People’s hired her, management gave her an opportunity to go back to school, so Bowen began attending Co-Lin and Hinds community colleges. In addition to taking classes at these institutions, Bowen took classes at both Trustmark bank and People’s. The classes at People’s were taught in the bank by Davis.

Bowen started at People’s working in the mail room. She was subsequently promoted to the proof machine, bookkeeping, the teller line, and then the loan operation office. In the loan department, Bowen said that she began typing loans for officers in the bank, then began making loans on her own, and now she is one of the vice-presidents of the bank in the loan office. Throughout the thirty years of working at People’s, Bowen has continued to advance both in education and her career. She received her bachelor’s degree in business administration from Belhaven College in 1998, graduating cum laude.

Bowen said that she experienced people not wanting her to wait on them, and it was hard at times when she first started working at People’s. However, Bowen said that Davis and the current president of People’s were very supportive of her. “I give all praise to the Lord because I can see his hand in my advancement [at People’s], and I thank [my co-workers] for giving me the opportunity to work here,”Bowen said.

Sources:

Interview with Teresa Bowen

Sullivan, Aleita Ann

Attorney Aleita Ann Sullivan is the daughter of the late Draughn G. and Letha D. Magee. Sullivan’s paternal grandfather, Philip Magee, was one of the original settlers of Magee, Miss. Sullivan’s mother, Letha, taught the first African-American student to attend Magee Elementary in her first grade class. Draughn, Letha’s father, was a well respected sheriff in Simpson County for about twelve years. Sullivan said that her father used to say that their best neighbors were African-Americans.

Sullivan said that she has the longest continuing law practice in the county. She started out working for Willis Matthews in 1965 and then J.W. Walker in 1968. She said that it was not only tough for African-Americans but was just as tough for women back then.

Sullivan was on the University of Mississippi campus when James Meredith, the first African-American to attend the University of Mississippi, arrived on October 1, 1962. She said that she and her husband, Wesley Sullivan, lived in an apartment behind sorority row. She remembers troops being everywhere in the aftermath surrounding Meredith’s entry to the school.

As a practicing attorney, one of Sullivan’s notable cases is the case in which she worked to close down Pinola and Harrisville schools so that the white and African-American students could be integrated. Coincidentally, the school district lines were drawn in her current office on Main Street in Mendenhall, Miss. Another one of Sullivan’s notable cases is Ferguson v. Ferguson. This case set the standard for property division for married couples in Mississippi. The standard, which was formally adopted in Mississippi in 1994, is equitable distribution. This means that property that is earned by either spouse during the marriage is divided equally between the two spouses, regardless of who holds the title, if the couple divorces.

Sources:

Interview with Aleita Sullivan

Perkins, Dr. John

John M. Perkins was born in 1930 on a cotton plantation outside of New Hebron, Miss. Orphaned by his mother’s death from malnutrition, Perkins was raised primarily by his paternal grandmother from the age of seven months. Although he did not realize its significance at the time, the loss of both his parents at such an early age would later encourage Perkins in his ministry and mission work for years to come.

Perkins and his family worked as sharecroppers on the cotton plantation where he lived. By the time he reached the third grade, Perkins had stopped going to school. African-American children at that time were only expected to acquire the amount of education sufficient for them to do manual work, such as basic mathematical and reading skills.

Although Perkins had always been conscious of the racial and social injustices African Americans faced in Mississippi, the death of his older brother Clyde in 1947 left an indelible print on his mind. His brother Clyde was a World War II hero, earning a Purple Heart, and no one admired him more than Perkins. Clyde Perkins was shot and killed by a New Hebron police officer after responding to the officer’s derogatory commands.

After his brother’s death, Perkins moved to California and vowed never to return to Mississippi. Upon moving to California, Perkins worked in a foundry, a company where metal is melted and poured into molds. He would often organize union activities to ensure that he and other workers were treated fairly. Perkins served in the army for three years and was stationed in Okinawa, Japan, for some time. After he returned to California, Perkins became involved in several Christianity-based organizations and ministries, including an outreach program for young people in prisons.

In 1960, Perkins and his family moved back to New Hebron, Mississippi, convinced that he could increase the community and spiritual development in the town where he had been raised. Perkins and his wife started with vacation bible school classes in the summer for children. Following this, he started speaking at the segregated public schools within Simpson County. After six months, the Perkins family moved to Mendenhall so that they could expand their ministries. Perkins founded several organizations including the Voice of Calvary Institute and the Berean Bible Church. Although Perkins always believed it was his purpose to bring his community back to Jesus, he realized that the philosophies of Christianity and the civil rights movement were so intertwined that he had a duty to be vocal – to be a visible leader in the community – in addressing both issues.

By the late 1960s, Perkins became a voice of political and social justice in Simpson County. He organized African-American voter registration in 1965 and led the struggle for the desegregation of Simpson County schools in 1967. Two of his children were among the first African Americans to enter Mendenhall’s all-white public high school. Perkins and others involved in the civil rights movement were faced with many obstacles.

There were several people who opposed, often times violently, the objectives of the civil rights movement and the struggles of activists like Perkins. In The Preacher and the Klansman, Jerry Mitchell narrates Perkins’s journey for civil rights against a backdrop of heightened tensions, violence, and hatred from some white citizens within the community. As a result of his social activism, Perkins was jailed and brutally beaten by police almost to the point of death. In a 1987 interview, Perkins described the emotionally healing process he endured as well as his determination to rid Mississippi of the evils of racism.

It is this determination that steadily fuels Perkins today. He has developed several new programs including the John M. Perkins Foundation for Reconciliation & Development in Jackson, Mississippi. He continues to lecture around the country on the issues of social justice and Christianity.

Despite receiving only a third grade education, John Perkins has been recognized for his work and has received seven honorary doctorates from Wheaton College, Gordon College, Huntington College, Spring Arbor College, Geneva College, Northpark College, and Belhaven College. He is the author of nine books including A Quiet Revolution, Let Justice Roll Down, and With Justice For All. Dr. John Perkins continues to teach issues of racial reconciliation and leadership and community development throughout the country.