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J. Todd Moye

civil rights activist, was born Mae Bertha Slaughter to Isaiah (“Zeke”) Slaughter and Luvenia Noland, sharecroppers, on the Smith and Wiggins Plantation in rural Bolivar County, Mississippi. Mae Bertha and her four brothers and sisters were expected to join their parents in the cotton fields as soon as they were old enough to pick bolls at harvest time.

The Slaughter children attended all-black, separate and unequal schools during “split sessions” that were scheduled around the planting, chopping, and harvest seasons in the cotton calendar. After Zeke Slaughter left the family, nine-year-old Mae Bertha began working for wages in the cotton fields at thirty cents an hour to help support the family. When she was sixteen years old, in 1939, she married Matthew Carter. Their family, which would eventually include thirteen children, began sharecropping for themselves. From 1956 to 1965 they lived and worked on the Pemble plantation ...

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Steven J. Niven

sharecropper and communist martyr, was born in Tallapoosa County, Alabama, a white majority county in the state's eastern piedmont. One of fifteen children, Gray was born into a family with a strong radical tradition. His father, whose name and occupation are unknown, was the son of Alfred Gray, an African American state legislator in Perry County, Alabama, during Reconstruction who famously vowed to fight for the Constitution “until hell freezes over.” A critic of both white racism and the inadequacy of the Freedmen's Bureau, Alfred Gray recognized that his outspoken militancy came at a price. “I may go to hell,” he told an interracial gathering in Uniontown in 1868 my home is hell but the white man shall go there with me Kelley 39 Ralph Gray who was only one year old when Reconstruction ended in Alabama grew up hearing stories of his grandfather s radicalism But ...

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Rosalyn Mitchell Patterson

minister, carpenter, and civil rights activist, was born Walter Melvin Mitchell, the eldest child of Minnie Mitchell, a homemaker, and an unknown father, in rural Greene County, Georgia. Mitchell was told by relatives that his father was Fate Buice, the son of a white planter in the community where his mother lived. Although Buice never openly acknowledged Mitchell as his son, he maintained contact with Mitchell over the years. In the mid-1920's Buice traveled nearly a hundred miles from Greene County to Augusta, Georgia, to hear Mitchell preach at the historic African American Springfield Baptist Church. Mitchell's early life was greatly influenced by his grandfather, Pano Mitchell who maintained a strong affinity for the land and his African heritage Mitchell and his five sisters and brothers attended the local school through the sixth grade the highest grade available for African Americans in that ...