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Interview with Wilson Moran, March 10, 2015

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:30 - Birthplace and ancestry

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Partial Transcript: When were you born, Mr. Moran?

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses the context for his birth, including the forced displacement of his family from their land on the island--or peninsula--of Harris Neck in McIntosh County, Georgia. He gives an overview of his genealogy from the present day to the time of his maternal ancestor's enslavement in Sierra Leone.

Keywords: Amelia Shaw (Delegall) Dawley; Catherine Delegall; Edward Delegall; Geechee; Jim Crow; Julienton Plantation; Mary Moran; Mose Dawley; Native American; Robert Dawley; Roosevelt Moran; Senehun Ngola, Sierra Leone; displacement; emancipation; eminent domain; rape; segregation; slavery

00:05:15 - Paternal grandfather and father

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Partial Transcript: So your life, uh, has been spent, uh, pardon the phrase, but--on this side of the fence, right? Uh, locked out from that space except when it's open during normal hours. Okay.

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses the African and Native American heritage of his father's family, which did not share the same history of enslavement as his mother's family. He talks about the early lives of his father and his paternal grandfather.

Keywords: 1920s; 1930s; Native American; Riegersburg; Roosevelt Moran; Shellman Bluff; Union Bag and Paper Corporation; Victoria Moran; Warsaw Side Camp; Wilson Moran; carpentry; crabbing; economy; fishing; fur trade; hunting; land ownership; logging; shrimp boat; shrimping; timber; trapping; turpentine

00:14:54 - Memories of maternal grandparents

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Partial Transcript: Let's go back, um, to your--mother's family. I want--did you know your grandparents, uh, on your mother's side?

Segment Synopsis: Moran describes his childhood house, a lean-to shack adjacent to his current home. He talks about living with his maternal grandparents and his relationship with each of them. He discusses their relationship to the land and his grandmother's cooking.

Keywords: 1940s; Amelia "Mittie" (Moran) Grant; Amelia Shaw (Delegall) Dawley; Geechee; Hoppin' John; Mary Moran; Robert Dawley; Robert Thorpe; Roosevelt Moran; West African; cuisine; dash cooking; displacement; emancipation; music; quadroon; slavery; swept yards

00:24:48 - West African heritage and Gullah/Geechee culture

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Partial Transcript: Did you hear, uh, stories as a child connecting back--you already mentioned, uh, connecting back to, to, um, your great--what was it great-grandparents who were enslaved? Um, or great-great-grandparents?

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses how his grandparents talked about their African ancestors. He mentions stories of magical people who could fly or boil water without using fire. He talks about how Mende religious practices continued within African-American Christianity. He shares his childhood understanding of Gullah culture and tells the story of a Mende song that was passed down to his mother.

Keywords: Amelia Shaw (Delegall) Dawley; Christianity; Geechee; Gullah; Joseph Opala; Lorenzo Dow Turner; Mary (Dawley) Moran; Mende; Senehun Ngola, Sierra Leone; West Africa; cooking; funeral dirge; music; religion; slavery; syncretism; voodoo

00:36:56 - Working and surviving after displacement from Harris Neck

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Partial Transcript: So, uh, how is that your, your parents came to, to know each other?

Segment Synopsis: Moran talks about how his parents met and how his family ended up in their current location across from the Harris Neck National Wildlife Refuge. He describes the work of his grandfather and father.

Keywords: 1930s; 1940s; Harris Neck; Shellman Bluff; Union Bag and Paper Corporation; crabbing; displacement; fishing; fur trapping; oystering; shrimping

00:40:46 - His father's business and combating economic discrimination

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Partial Transcript: Do you think early on, say, at the point that your parents were newlyweds--or even around that era, uh, did he face much resistance as a--black man who owned a shrimp boat or was that at that point more common?

Segment Synopsis: Moran describes the intimate environmental knowledge that his grandfather and his father possessed. He discusses the economic discrimination faced by black families from Harris Neck as Jim Crow took stronger hold there in the 1940s and 1950s. Moran explains why it became harder for African Americans to acquire boats and access to docks and markets. He mentions the loss of open access to the community cemetery. Moran discusses how his family survived and how his father began his blue crab business.

Keywords: Brunswick, Georgia; Darien, Georgia; Jewish community; Jim Crow; John Knoglich; L.E. Luce; Riegersburg; Savannah, Georgia; Shellman Bluff; Thunderbolt, Georgia; credit market; discrimination; economy; education; entrepreneurship; markets; ownership; ship building; shrimp boat

00:53:24 - Father's job with Sheriff Tom Poppell / Lack of upward mobility for African Americans

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Partial Transcript: Did he do, uh, did he do anything else besides, uh, shrimping, uh, crabbing?

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses his father's position as a deputy for Tom Poppell, a longtime McIntosh County sheriff made infamous by Melissa Faye Green's book, Praying for Sheetrock. Moran talks about the limited opportunities for young black people in McIntosh County. He describes the personal impact of being forced out of Harris Neck.

Keywords: Rayfield Moran; Thomas Poppell; Todd Grant High School; U.S. Army; economy; education; military; segregation

01:00:29 - Father's work as deputy sheriff / Close-knit community

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Partial Transcript: Was your father a deputy while--you were in high school and while your brothers were in high school?

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses his father's work and relationship with Sheriff Tom Poppell. He talks about how it affected his relationships with other children in the community. Moran discusses the relative isolation of Harris Neck and the ways in which neighbors' shared experiences knitted them together in a close community.

Keywords: Geechee; Praying for Sheetrock; Thomas Poppell; corruption; race relations; segregation; violence

01:06:49 - Deciding to leave home / Black freedom struggle in Savannah and McIntosh County

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Partial Transcript: But do you think--so if, if your two elder brothers left and then you left, do you think your father--what was his response to your leaving?

Segment Synopsis: Moran talks about the decision he and his brothers made to leave home. They saw few opportunities for themselves in McIntosh County. He discusses the daily effects of white supremacy and describes his participation in civil rights actions. He refers to a growing generation gap between himself and his father.

Keywords: 1960s; Hartford, Connecticut; Savannah State College; Savannah, Georgia; Trailways Bus System; civil rights movements; discrimination; economy; education; poverty; protests; racial violence; racism; segregation; sit-ins; voting rights

01:15:03 - Refusing to be a crabber and leaving town

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Partial Transcript: So, how did you--we last left off with our story, sort of, uh, with your father picking you up on 17. So, how did you get from a return to Harris Neck to Hartford, Connecticut?

Segment Synopsis: Moran explains his decision not to remain in McIntosh County or work for his father's crabbing business. He discusses price volatility in the blue crab market. He talks about his move to Connecticut and the jobs that he and his brothers held there.

Keywords: Amelia "Mittie" (Moran) Grant; Any Day Now; Chevrolet Impala; Dick Saxby; E.J. Korvette (Korvettes); Hartford, Connecticut; Jewish community; Linda Moran; Rayfield Moran; Roosevelt Moran, Jr; Savannah State College; Union Meat Company; automobile sales; crabbing; department stores; economy; service station

01:22:10 - Joining the military during the Vietnam War / Grandparents' deaths / Conclusion

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Partial Transcript: So, I, I don't like, uh, what I'm doing so I go and I take a test for the--Army, the Navy, the Marines, and the Air Force.

Segment Synopsis: Moran discusses his decision to apply for admission into all four branches of the U.S. military. He talks about joining the Army and starting training at Fort Jackson in South Carolina. The interview concludes as Moran discusses the deaths of his maternal grandparents and community access to the cemetery at Harris Neck after McIntosh County took control of the land. He describes some of the illicit activities that went on in Harris Neck under county control.

Keywords: Amelia Shaw (Delegall) Dawley; Civil Rights Movement; Fort Jackson, South Carolina; Harris Neck, Georgia; John F. Kennedy, Jr; Robert Dawley; Vietnam War; burial rights