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Steven J. Niven

prison musician, was born to sharecroppers in Greenwood, Mississippi. The names of his parents have not been recorded. Like most children in the Mississippi Delta at that time, Carter assisted his family in bringing in the cotton crop, which was particularly precarious during the severe agricultural depression of the 1930s that drastically reduced the price of cotton. With little or no formal education, Carter left home at age thirteen, in 1939, in search of work. Not finding any, he enlisted in the U.S. Navy during World War II—some sources suggest he served in the U.S. Marines—and served on cruisers in the Pacific theater. He returned to Greenwood when the war ended. In 1947 he married his childhood sweetheart, a sharecropper's daughter named Rosie Lee whose maiden name is unknown. The couple had three daughters.

Work was no easier to come by after the war than it had been before ...