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Interview with Genether Spurlock, September 22, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:13 - Growing up and sharecropping

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Partial Transcript: So Mrs. Spurlock, could you tell me when and where you were born?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes growing up in Tallahatchie, Mississippi. She talks about how her mother worked as a domestic worker and her father worked in a factory, describing how both also worked as farmers. Spurlock discusses the role of storytelling in her family and describes how her father would tell the children family stories, ghost stories, and fables.

Keywords: Charleston, Mississippi; Enid, Mississippi; Tar-Baby; Tutwiler, Mississippi; Uncle Remus stories; oral tradition; sharecropper

00:14:22 - Racial terror

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Partial Transcript: And you said that he told a story about somebody getting thrown in the creek. Was this about the time that all that--everything happened with Emmett Till.

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes being told stories about incidents of racial terror in the community. She talks about how she lived in fear for herself and her brothers because so many people were hurt or lynched. Spurlock discuses the prevalence of domestic violence in the African American community which she attributes to the mistreatment of black men by white people.

Keywords: domestic abuse; lynch mob; racial violence; suffering

00:21:13 - Civil Rights

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Partial Transcript: Did organization or any sort of resistance or movement happen with civil rights here in Tallahatchie country area?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes how black community leaders in Tallahatchie promoted compliance and dissuaded involvement in the Civil Rights Movement. She talks about how activist Solomon Gort, Jr organized a voter registration drive, hosted Civil Rights rallies, and brought in outside speakers, but most people remained uninvolved. Spurlock mentions how the local schools did not integrate until 1971.

Keywords: Brown vs Board of Education; freedom of choice; integration; pastors; protest; school principals

00:28:53 - Black landowners losing their land

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Partial Transcript: Did black people around here have much economic power in the years around or before the Civil Rights Movement?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes how African Americans had no economic power because most of them worked for white people. She talks about how many black landowners lost their land to their white neighbors.

Keywords: Farm Home Administration (FHA); Sunflower, Mississippi; chopping cotton; farms; husband; picking cotton

00:35:10 - Education and teaching

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Partial Transcript: As soon as I got out of high school, I went to college...

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes how she went to college and became a teacher in order to avoid farming. She talks about commuting to Delta State University where she earned a degree in business education. She mentions that Delta State was the first time she had white teachers and white classmates, but she says that only had one incident of racial discrimination in the classroom. Spurlock describes her 27 year career as a teacher in Tutwiler, mentioning how she loved the students but disliked the educational bureaucracy. She talks about being married twice and describes how her first husband had a farm in Sunflower County.

Keywords: Tutwiler Community Education Center; college; elementary school; family; farm work; high school; husband; integration; marriage

00:44:01 - Racial progress and economic change in Tutwiler

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Partial Transcript: So how has Tutwiler changed over the years?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes how Tutwiler used to be a thriving community with many businesses before factories closed and new labor laws and agricultural practices caused many people to lose their jobs and move away. She talks about how there were very few black-owned business in town, recalling only one neighborhood store. Spurlock describes the racial progress in Tutwiler and states that children today take their freedom and ability to go to school for granted. She talks about changing agricultural practices as farmers had to comply with new labor laws and began to use more herbicides.

Keywords: child labor; domestic worker; economic decline; education; juke joints; loss of industry; maid; minimum wage; out migration; plantations; school; school lunch

01:00:28 - Public Office

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Partial Transcript: So you became mayor eventually of Tutwiler?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes her experience as the mayor of Tutwiler, Mississippi. She talks about how her desire to give a voice to the people motivated her to run for office. Spurlock mentions working to improve the roads, organize the police department, and increase access to housing while in office. She states that her biggest regret is that she was unable to build a park for the children to play in because of disputes with the board.

Keywords: accountability; affordable housing; basketball; constituents; law enforcement; politicians; prisons; public servants; streets; tax base

01:09:24 - Tutwiler Community Education Center and changing agricultural practices

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Partial Transcript: They still have no place that they can--if it wasn't for this particular center here they would have--and the children of Tutwiler are blessed.

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes her role as a founding member of the Tutwiler Community Education Center and mentions how it has greatly benefited the community. She also describes the lack of connection between Tutwiler and the surrounding farms which prevents the town from expanding. Spurlock describes how new labor laws led to the increased mechanization of agriculture. She talks about being exposed to herbicides while chopping cotton as a child, but she states that she is unsure about lasting affects.

Keywords: Kellogg Grant; Sister Maureen Delaney; Social Security; agricultural technology; chemicals; children; disability benefits; farming; illness; unemployment benefits

01:18:24 - Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility

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Partial Transcript: Can you think of some major events that have happened that we haven't talked about here in Tutwiler?

Segment Synopsis: Spurlock describes major events Tutwiler, mentioning the closing of the factory, school, bank, and other businesses. She talks about her initial opposition to the construction of the Tallahatchie County Correctional Facility; however, she states that she now thinks it has been a blessing to the community due to increased jobs and funding.

Keywords: prison; safety; unemployment