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.
Interview with Lloyd Stephens