Book Excerpts

“But everything came together for me the day those white men with guns surrounded me at the courthouse.  I could taste and smell reality.  These white men—people I saw around town, who sometimes even smiled and spoke to me were so consumed with hatred for me that one of them might actually kill me just to keep me from registering to vote.  If our first small step toward freedom—registering to vote— threatened white folks that much, I knew then that the right to vote must be a powerful thing.  And that’s the day I realized I was willing to die for the right to vote.  I made up my mind:  If I ain’t got no freedom, I would rather be dead.”    Unita Blackwell; “Pieces From the Past;” pg. 7.

Mae Bertha Carters Children
Carter Family

“My brothers and sisters and I watched the bus coming toward us, the dust swirling in great circles as it sped down the dirt road.  I was so excited and happy to be going to a good school.  We were dressed in our finest clothes as we stood in the  hot September sun eagerly waiting for the bus.  I was a young child, my Mamma’s words ringing in my ears:  “Education will get you out of the cotton fields.

On that first day, climbing aboard a new shiny yellow bus, I was hopeful that other black children would be joining us.  By the time we arrived at school, we were still the only ones.  I looked for some of my black friends but did not see any.  I saw only white faces with mean looks.  I saw the stares as we entered the building.  I felt the loneliness of being in a place that was very unwelcoming.  I heard the word ‘niggers’ over and over again.”  Gloria Dickerson; “Pieces From the Past,” pg. 153

“I was asked if I would accept an appointment to the Mississippi Advisory Committee to the United States Civil Rights Commission.  Ideally, from a state like Mississippi, the Committee would be bi-racial and although there was not a problem in finding black leaders to serve, finding whites was another matter.  I accepted the appointment, which initiated the breakdown of my relationship with my parents; it was very painful to me and I’m sure to them as well.  A few day after my appointment, there was an article in the Memphis Commercial Appeal announcing the names of the members of the Mississippi Committee.  My father arrived at our door that morning, newspaper in hand literally in tears.  He begged me not to serve on this integrated committee, which he said would make me “a traitor to your people and your heritage”.

“I loved my parents, especially my father and I did not want to hurt him but in this case I could see no choice.  If I was to live with myself for the rest of my life, I had to be true to what I knew was right.  I said, ‘But dad, all my life you’ve taught me to do what I know is right, regardless of the consequences or the opinions of others.’  I think that it had never occurred to him that my idea of what was right would ever be different from his.  Thus, began what was the most painful period of my life…..”  Betty Pearson; “Pieces From the Past”, pg. 29.