Like many Jewish children in the South, John Levingston of Cleveland, Mississippi attended kindergarten at a Christian church. In the episode, Levingston remembers how that led to some confusion for him.
Growing up in a Reform Congregation, Levingston did not participate in some traditional Jewish practices. He recalls his decision to learn Hebrew and have a bar mitzvah in his late thirties.
The once thriving Jewish population of the Delta has dwindled as younger generations have moved away. Levingston explains why he chose that as the topic of his bar mitzvah talk.
This summer marks the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer—a time when black Mississippians worked with northern students to confront Jim Crow and claim their rights as citizens. To commemorate this Freedom struggle, we are combing the collection to bring you a series of Mississippi Moments that explore Freedom Summer from a variety of perspectives: from organizers to volunteers to yes, even law enforcement.
In this episode, we hear from Charlie Capps. While Capps would later go on to a distinguished career as a Mississippi legislator, in spring of '64, he was the newly-elected sheriff of Bolivar County. As an elected sheriff in a county where few blacks could vote, he was the first line of defense of Mississippi’s segregated order. He recalls the fear, apprehension and resentment many in the white community felt as civil rights workers came to Mississippi to upend the Jim Crow system of racial segregation.
Ray Pittman of Hattiesburg joined the Marines in 1942 as a demolition man. In this episode, he describes a typical demolition team and the dangerous jobs they performed.
Pittman’s team suffered heavy casualties during some of the worst battles in the Pacific theater. He recalls how a spare pistol saved his life on the island of Iwo Jima.
Pittman also remembers the day his friend Maxwell was killed while they were on a recon mission and how their actions prevented an ambush by the Japanese.
This D-Day, as we pause to remember our soldiers who fought so valiantly on the beaches at Normandy, let us also consider those brave men who were fighting on the other side of the world with this--our 400th episode of Mississippi Moments.
(the picture is of a Marshall Island enemy block house blown up by Ray's team)
George W. Owens of Pontotoc was a member of the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1936 when he met Icey Day, the state’s first blind legislator. Six years later, Owens helped Day pass legislation to establish the Mississippi Industries for the Blind.
In 1946, Owens began working as a vocational counselor for the M.I.B. In this episode, he recalls their humble beginnings and looks back with pride at how their efforts helped remove the stigma associated with blindness.
During his 20 years as a Rehabilitation Consultant and 30 years as a member of the Lions Club, George Owens worked to better the lives of the blind and visually impaired. He passed away on March 3rd, 1975.
Ellen McCarley grew up in Port Gibson, but sent summers with her family in rural Claiborne County. In this episode, she recalls helping her mother load the car with food and supplies for the weekly trip to the old homestead.
Much of their time was spent at a favorite swimming hole on Bayou Pierre creek. McCarley remembers catching rides there on her uncle’s Model T and eating tomato sandwiches.
Although conditions were primitive by today’s standards, McCarley explains that summers in the country provided her with simple pleasures and cherished memories.
In the 1930s, Nathan Jones of Russum provided for his family by raising cotton part of the year and cutting timber the rest of the time. During hunting season, Jones and his brothers would also supplement their incomes by selling animal pelts. For them, it wasn’t hunting for sport, it was hunting for survival.
In this episode Jones explains how they would ship the pelts to St. Louis for export to Germany. He discusses the effect that war and changing weather patterns affected the fur trade.
Libby Hollingsworth grew up in Leland, Mississippi, but spent summers with her grandparents in Port Gibson. In this episode, she remembers the quiet routine of reading, crafting, afternoon visits and long evening walks they kept during those summers. According to Hollingsworth, the lifestyle of Port Gibson residents in those days was peaceful and orderly.
Years later, Hollingsworth moved to Port Gibson with her husband. She explains that while life there isn’t so orderly anymore, much of the peacefulness remains.
Gulfport native John C. Robinson moved to Chicago and became a pilot after graduating from the Tuskegee Institute in the early 1920s when blacks were considered incapable of grasping the principles of aviation. He did this by taking a job as janitor of the Curtis Wright Flight School and earning the respect of one of the instructors. After graduating, he stayed on as an instructor and helped other Africian-Americans enter the field. He later convinced his Alma Mater to open a flight school--thus paving the way for the Tuskegee Airmen of WWII.
In this episode, Gulfport writer Thomas Simmons shares stories of Robinson that he gathered in eight years of research for his book: The Brown Condor-The True Adventures of John C. Robinson.
Wendell Taylor of Gulfport became a Methodist minister in 1937. In this week's episode, he discusses Gulfside Assembly, a retreat for black Methodists located in Waveland.
Gulfside was founded in 1923 to provide spiritual, educational and recreational facilities to African-Americans who were denied access elsewhere because of segregation. Taylor remembers the outstanding church leaders who were educated at Gulfside.
In 2005, Gulfside Assembly was completely destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. Plans to rebuild the historic site are pending.
Reverend Harry Tartt grew up in North Gulfport in the 1920s. In this week's episode, he explains that at that time, the black community accepted segregation as a fact of life. Tartt recalls being made aware of lynching at a young age and how it was used to control the black community.
It was only after Tartt moved to Chicago to attend college that he began to see that there was a world beyond the Jim Crow system. He remembers feeling frustrated when he returned home with this new sense of awareness.
Martin Huggins grew up on the family farm in the Biggersfield community near Rienzi. In this episode, he shares his memories of Grandpa Huggins including his remarkable way with the livestock.
This episode has it all: car-surfing goats, the dreaded cane of justice and 12 year old chauffeurs--you know, typical farm life.
Alfred Brown, Junior, grew up in the historic Soria City neighborhood of Gulfport during WWII. In this episode, he describes how his father sold fish in their back yard for extra money.
Brown remembers how Soria City residents took pride their neighborhood and looked out for each other.He recounts how his father would often give away fish to those in need.
(photo is of the Soria City Lodge, recently restored)
The Center for Oral History has proudly preserved the stories of hundreds of US veterans.
In this episode, B-24 bomber pilot C.R. Cadenhead of Greenville recalls his crew of 'misfits' and a much welcomed escort by those Southern gentlemen, the Tuskegee Airmen.
When Willie Cox of Pas Christian was discharged from the Army in February of ’67, he planned to live in the Washington DC area. In this episode, Cox explains how an unexpected job opportunity changed those plans.
The Civil Rights movement brought increased job opportunities for African-Americans. Cox recalls how two of his co-workers became the first black train engineers.
After three years as a switchman, Cox applied for a job as an engineer. He recalls how persistence and an engineer shortage led to the opportunity of a lifetime.
Willie Cox retired from railroading in 2002, after 35 years on the job.
After leaving the Army, Charles Dubra became a longshoreman in Gulfport. He recalls how an injury on the job led him to go into business for himself. He also explains how he made the transition from entrepreneur to teacher.
David Hall began attending the Thirty-third Ave Elementary School in Gulfport in 1935. There were no buses for black school children then. He recalls how the teacher would help the children warm their hands on cold mornings. He also remembers one teacher who would buy lunch for students who were hungry.
The Civilian Conservation Corps was a public works program for single, unemployed men, between the ages 18 and 25, during the Great Depression.
In 1936, Taylor Howard of Gulfport, dropped out of school to help support his family. He recalls his decision to join the CCC and describes the work he performed in the Desoto National Forrest and elsewhere as a member of the CCC.
As the Seventh of fourteen children, Jimmie Jenkins of Gulfport was always looking for ways to make money. He and his brother caught and sold crabs door to door as kids. Later, Jenkins worked in the kitchen of the Edgewater Hotel. After returning from the Army, he returned to kitchen work shucking oysters at Fairchild's Restaurant and finally working at Carl's Beef Bar- home of the "famous Wheel Burger."
In 1964, a group of young professionals in Jackson began thinking about forming their own theatre company. James Child discusses the decision to open the New Stage Theatre.
Child also recalls the challenge of finding a place to stage their productions with practically no money to spend and shares his memories of the opening night of New Stage Theatre’s first production: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolfe on January 25th, 1966.
L.T. Martin of Smithdale, grew up on his family’s farm in Franklin County. In this episode, he shares the history of the “old home place”.
Martin recalls how his father would grow cotton each year with the help of tenant families and how his role in the family business evolved over time.
In addition to being a farmer, Jeremiah Barnett was also a traveling minister. Laurel native, Lounett Gore describes her father’s ministry and his style of preaching.
After WWI, Barnett helped establish churches across Mississippi. Gore recalls her father’s skills as an orator and organizer and how as she got older, she would travel with her father and help out by teaching hymns to the new congregation.
Thomas Gonzales, Sr. was born and raised on Delacroix Island. He recounts how his family came to the area.
Gonzales also explains how his father and grandfather taught him to fish the Gulf using traditional methods brought over from Spain and why fishing was more than a way of life—it was freedom.
Ruthie Mae Shelton grew up on her family’s farm in Marshall County. At the age of nine, she began helping tend their cotton crop. Shelton recalls how her uncle would plant the cotton seeds.
Picking cotton by hand is physically demanding. Shelton remembers how the cotton bolls would sometimes prick her fingers and how “stinging worms” would cause welts.
Through trial and error, Shelton learned not to pack too much cotton into her sack before emptying it. And by the time she was 18, Shelton could pick 200 lbs. per day.
Born in 1885, Charlie Ainsworth of Hattiesburg began cutting trees as a teenager in the Piney Woods. Despite the long hours of difficult labor, he recalls that the logging crew would sing while they worked.
Logging was dangerous work and many men lost their lives. Ainsworth remembers how his last saw partner was killed by a falling tree.
Cut logs were hauled to the sawmills by train. Ainsworth details how he helped lay the tracks for several of the logging companies in South Mississippi.
Tom Brumfield and M.R. Reeves of McComb began working for the railroad in 1941. They explain how their family and friends influenced thir decision to become firemen shoveling coal into the massive steam locomotives.
Railroading has always been a dangerous business. Reeves recalls the time a locomotive he was on hit a car and went off an embankment.