The Council of Federated Organizations or COFO, was organized in 1961, to promote voter registration in Mississippi. In this episode, Benton County, Mississippi native Ernestine Scott recalls joining the group as a teenager. She also remembers one civil rights worker arrested for attending a basketball game.
Prior to the Voting Rights Act, election officials used reading comprehension tests to prevent blacks from registering to vote. Ernestine Scott describes how they worked to prepare for the test.
Growing up in Benton County, Mississippi in the 1950s, Ernestine Scott had limited contact with white people. Her father would shield his children from visitors to their farm to protect them. Her first impressions of the outside world and the role of African-Americans in it came from television programs of the day. In response to depictions of blacks as porters and maids and personified by such characters as Amos and Andy, Scott’s father would tell her that black people were better than that and someday, whites would understand the need to show them in a better light.
In this episode, Scott shares her memories of that time, like being chastised by a white man for drinking from the wrong water fountain, how her mother warned her of the need to be careful when speaking to a white person, and her father’s prediction for a better future. She also recalls riding 12 miles on an overcrowded bus to reach the county’s one black school each day.
PHOTO: Benton County courthouse
Ocean Springs native Jai Johnny Johanson got his first big break as a professional drummer in 1966 when he joined Otis Redding's band. Over the next couple of years, he played for several big names including Percy Sledge, Joe Tex, Johnny Jenkins and Clarence Carter, but by 1968, found himself struggling to make ends meet. Johanson was about to leave the south and move to New York to pursue a career in Jazz when he heard of a young guitar player named Duane Allman, looking to form a new band. The two men were soon joined by bassist Barry Oakley and that trio would serve as the foundation for the Allman Brother Band.
In this episode, Johanson shares his memories of that time including the phone call he got from Cadillac Henry about joining Otis Redding’s band. He recalls going to see Percy Sledge at the Apollo and how he got the nickname, Jaimoe. Finally, he discusses what made Duane Allman such an exceptional musician and the legacy of the Allman Brothers Band.
Photo Credits: Carl Vernlund
Born in 1948 in Montezuma, Kansas, Stanley Giesbrecht was the fifteenth of seventeen children. His grandparents were Russian Mennonites who escaped religious persecution by immigrating to Canada where they joined a group who had left the Church’s general assembly to follow the teachings of a Mennonite reformist named John Holdeman. That group became the Church of God in Christ, Mennonite or Holdeman Mennonites.
Giesbrect moved to Brooksville, Mississippi as a young man, searching for a place where he could live the quiet life of a Mennonite farmer. In this episode, he explains the difference between Holdeman Mennonites and other Mennonites. He recounts how their preacher convinced him to serve the Church as a teacher at the Southaven Mennonite School, and explains why they don’t believe in education beyond the eighth grade.
Podcast Extra: According to Giesbrecht, the Church doesn’t allow its members to vote, participate in politics or serve in the military. He recalls how he worked in a hospital for two years during the Vietnam War to fulfill his obligation to the nation.