Rev. Carolyn Abrams is perhaps best known as the mother of voting rights advocate, Stacey Abrams, but she has accomplished much more than being the matriarch of a dynamic and successful family. After earning her first master’s degree from the University of Wisconsin at Madison in Library Science, she spent fourteen years working as the director librarian for William Carey University. She then answered the call to ministry, joining her husband Robert in attending the Emory University Candler School of Theology, where both received Master of Divinity degrees.
Abrams grew up in Hattiesburg during the 1950s and 60s. In this episode she recalls attending segregated schools and being barred from entering whites-only establishments. Growing up in the segregated South, young black students had limited job opportunities available to them. Abrams explains how parents and teachers stressed education as the key to a better future.
Abrams and her husband encouraged their six children to earn good grades and to aim high in life. She discusses the accomplishments of each child and the role education played in their success.
As a lifelong resident of Hattiesburg, Abrams has witnessed many positive changes in her community. She describes the challenges of today and the need for young people to return to the Church.
PHOTO: Abrams family portrait, Hattiesburg American.
Growing up black in the 1940s, Katharine Carr Esters learned at an early age to stand up for herself. In this episode, she shares her memories of racial segregation and the struggle for dignity and respect. She recalls being taught by her father to “know who you are, and to be what you can be.”
During the Jim Crow era, blacks in the South were expected to sit in the back of public buses behind a partition. Esters describes an altercation she had with a bus driver in 1946 and how her letter to the bus company led to a change.
Before the Civil Rights Movement, black adults were not called Mr. or Mrs. by white people. Esters remembers insisting her mother be addressed as Mrs. by their bank in Kosciusko. Throughout her life, Esters has been an advocate for the marginalized in our society. She explains why it’s important to treat each other respect, dignity, and fairness.
Dr. Joseph Clements, a former USM professor, was drafted into the U.S. Army in the Fall of 1941. In this episode, he shares his memories of the war. Clements remembers hearing about the attack on Pearl Harbor while training in Texas and his first assignment in Alaska, where he encountered the “midnight sun.”
During WWII, thousands of allied troops gathered in England in preparation for the invasion of France. Clements recalls fondly the diversity of the people he met while waiting for D-Day.
As allied forces battled their way across the French countryside, livestock was slaughtered indiscriminately. Clements describes the devastation and a grateful French woman who offered them a homecooked meal. Before America entered WWII, Joseph Clements watched newsreel footage of the fall of France. He recounts visiting the spot where Hitler danced after forcing the French to surrender.
This episode of Mississippi Moments was written by Sean O'Farrell and produced by Ross Walton, with narration by Bill Ellison.
PHOTO: French surrender to German forces during WWII near Compiègne, France.