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This is Aaron Henry and I'm from Clarksdale, have always lived here. Born outside of the city limits on a plantation called Flowers' Brothers. It's still out there. I grew up chopping cotton, picking cotton, slopping hogs, milking cows, doing all the things that a country boy does. No nostalgia, that's simply the area of my beginning. When I was a youngster, going to school out in the country, white kids were able to go to school seven months and black kids went five. Now the rationale for that was the black kids had to help cultivate and harvest the crops and do the work.

Many of the white kids were sons and daughters of the plantation owners. It was not right, from my earliest perception, that white kids would go to school seven months, we couldn't go but five. That was one of the things I worried my mother about.

I also worried her about why did I have to step back when a white person walked into a store although I was there first and why couldn't I drink water out of certain barrels which were marked for whites. But most of all I kept on her case about the school months. One day my momma called me. She say, "Aaron, come here. I want you to know you my boy--and you don't need but five. The rest of them jokers they go to have seven, but you my boy, you don't need but five.

My mother was involved with the Methodist church as long as I can remember. And the white and black women of the Woman's Society of Christian Service--they were trying to Christianize Japan--often were in our home. My parents were in their homes. When they came they brought their children. I got to learn and to know their kids just like their kids got to learn and to know me.

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In that way I developed very early an understanding that white folks put on their pants one leg at a time. I always had the feeling that there was no such thing as white supremacy and black inferiority. Neighbors used to tell my momma, "This boy going to get his fool self killed. I heard him talking to Mr. So-and-so and he wasn't being mannerable. He says 'yes' and 'new' to white folks and he don't call them Mr. He don't say 'yazzum' end 'nome. I heard it often. Neighbors come into the house--and in those days, grown people talked and they asked the In my time when was growing up, every adult in the neighborhood was his momma and his poppa.

You messed up and they got a hold of you. When your momma come home, they told her and you got another whipping. So I was always anxious to know what they were telling momma, cause I was kinda tough. I was doing what I felt came natural being a boy: climbing trees, shooting birds, stealing watermelons and plums, all those kinds of things. The major kind of resistance that blacks were engaged in as I grew up had to do with the farm economy and the determination of blacks to earn or to obtain what they'd earned.

In many instances, the white landlord at the end of the year had the habit of not dealing fairly. Those blacks who stood up were often asked to move off the plantation. They were singled out as troublemakers. And this is where you heard the horror stories as I wasabout how blacks were misused by whites largely because of either their unwillingness to do work that they felt was more and above the reward they would receive for it, or their demands for pay for the work that they done. As an eleventh grade student at Coahoma County Agricultural High School, we had a teacher, a young lady who had finished school at Dillard and had done some work at Fisk.

Her name was T. Well, at the conclusion of our junior year, she encouraged us to take out a membership in the NAACP Youth Convention--which at that time was a quarter. And most of us did. Now that sort of ties into my further activity upon graduation from high school and the next year going directly into the armed service. The armed services in World War II, when I went in, was as segregated and discriminated as any facet of American life. Black and whites didn't live in the same areas, didn't eat in the same dining room, didn't play on the same playground.

We even went to the movies on separate days. It was a completely apartheid situation. Those of us who had come into the armed services with at least a smattering of a feeling that this was legally wrong often found ourselves allying with the NAACP unit in the nearest big town.

We did basic training in Fort McClellan, Alabama. That's where we participated in trying to overcome segregation and discrimination in the armed forces. We later were billeted in California. So I just can't remember any time in my adult life when I was not involved in trying to overcome the evils of segregation.

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Now ever since I can remember anything about black life, blacks have always resented mistreatment at the hands of whites. Even during slave ship days there were blacks who jumped overboard rather than be slaves. And women who threw their children in the mouths of sharks in the water rather than have them grow up as slaves.

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Any of us who think that the phrases we are coining now, and the leaders that are on the scene now, and the issues that we are dealing with now, that we are the first persons of the black community to have the enlightenment to do that, we are as stupid as the fourteen year old boy who thought he discovered sex.

It has been around a long time. Don't remember when there was not a movement by the black community that said, this is wrong and we are going to overcome it. But certainly the efforts of blacks in this state to have an equal voice and a fair share of what it was, really goes back to an organization known as the Black and Tan Republicans which was the early voice for black freedom in this state. Before Roosevelt in '32, I'm sure most of the blacks in this state considered themselves Republican allies, because of the fact that the slave question had ended during the time we had a Republican president in the White House, Abraham Lincoln.

The Republican party in the South continued to permit blacks to participate, wherein the Democratic party became a white exclusive club. On the event of the presidential election ofwhich brought together Samuel J. Tilden and Rutherford B. Hayes, when Hayes became President of the United States, the end of the first effort at participation began to erode because of the positions and the edicts from the White House that he began to express. And all America became energized about this segregation thing to the point where in you remember that in Plessy vs.

Fergusonalthough Plessy had ridden the Illinois Central Railroad train, every day when he got ready to St. Louis and sat where he wanted to, in the conductor came to Plessy and told him, "I'm sorry, but in this dining room you've got to sit behind the curtain. And the Supreme Court ruled in that segregation was the law of the land, when it decided that as long as things are equal, they may be separate.

Restaurants had an aisle generally down the center and whites went on one side and blacks went on the other.

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Stores had a custom--if not a law, to always serve all the white folks present before any of the blacks were server! There were We lived with this damnable separate but equalness from until when another Supreme Court overturned Plessy vs. Ferguson in Brown vs. In the school desegregation case which says when you educate children and you separate them by race to do it, you commit an act that is "calculated to warp their minds in a manner never likely to be undone. White Citizens Councils were formed in response to the decision. The catalyst that ignited the White Citizen's Council was the fact that in fourteen towns in Mississippi, immediately after the Supreme Court decision, petitions were presented ed by more than a hundred families in each area, calling upon the school boards to obey the law and integrate the public school system.

Well, the response to that was that the names of the people who had ed the petitions were made public. They were published in newspapers, put upon the cages of banks and lending institutions. Most of these people became victims of economic pressure, to the extent in some places like Yazoo City, those who ed petitions Y were not able to even purchase food although they had the money. Medgar Evers ed the petition for Jackson. Medgar was able to maneuver in the Jackson area as he did because of the allies that were there to give him encouragement and assist him in every way.

I was a part of a team that went to Alcorn College in to help encourage Medgar to come to work for an organization known as the Magnolia Mutual Life Insurance Company, whose president was Dr. Howard of Mound Bayou. I served as secretary of that institution. And that was a pretty good characterization of it.

Upon graduation, Medgar agreed to come to Magnolia Mutual. He worked for a year with us and the abilities of the young fellow were so evident that anybody who came in contact with him immediately recognized that there was something great in this particular individual.

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In the early 's there was strong talk that Mississippi needed someone to coordinate the efforts of fourteen or fifteen NAACP branches in the state. Howard was very willing that Medgar go to the NAACP as field secretary because this was a sort of rising-tide-that-lifts-all-boats type of philosophy. Medgar understood that every branch president must understand that you are to be enraged and involved in those issues that make it possible for the progress of the black community to come up to the standards that you yourself feel that it ought.

Medgar and I travelled over this state together a tremendous amount. We had three real intimate years of working together, working with each other, from the time I became president of the Mississippi state conference in until Medgar was killed in June of We had gotten word that the Klan was determined to get both of us. They were going to take us off one at a time.

They were going to flip a coin and see who went first. About fifteen, sixteen persons were marked for extinction--Dr. Edward Stringer from Columbus, Dr. I guess that's the mark of effectiveness. You know I've made my peace with God a long time ago.

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