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Interview with Eddie Carthan, October 3, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
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00:00:20 - Growing up with his Grandparents

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Partial Transcript: Mr Carthan, could you tell me a bit about your grandparents? They were here in Tallulah, Mississippi, weren't they?

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes being raised by his grandparents on a small farm. He talks about how his grandfather acquired his land in the 1930s through a government loan program designed to help African Americans after the Civil War. Carthan discusses working on the farm while attending school. He describes his grandfather's career as a farmer and his grandmother's career as a midwife.

Keywords: 40 acres and a mule; Emancipation Proclamation; birth certificates; community; family; hard work; no electricity; pastors; plantations

00:13:20 - Life on plantations

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Partial Transcript: Did your--your grandmother worked as a midwife and went from plantation to plantation and to homesteads around as well. Did she tell you any stories about the way conditions were on plantations as opposed to your farm?

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes his grandparents' negative experience with plantation life. He talks about his own isolation from white people on the family farm, mentioning how he was taught to be polite to white people during his limited encounters with them in town. He describes how his grandfather navigated racial politics in order to get credit at stores and loans from the bank.

Keywords: Civil Rights Movement; abuse; debt; hard work; racism; sharecroppers; sharecropping

00:22:16 - Generational shift in farming

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Partial Transcript: You were telling me about the history of 40 acres and a mule and the redistribution of plantations--or the promise of that after the Civil War. Was that something that your grandparents talked about-- that you heard from your grandparents or did you learn about that later on?

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes how his grandparents acquired their land through the Farm Home Administration (FHA)--now called the Farm Service Agency (FSA). He talks about the different types of land on the family farm, mentioning how the sandy soil was better for planting. He discusses the differences between his grandfather's farm and his father's farm. His grandfather had a smaller farm and used mules while his father farmed over 2,000 acres using tractors.

Keywords: Green Revolution; Mississippi Delta; Third Agricultural Revolution; clay; college; fertile soil; gumbo soil; maternal grandparents; paternal grandparents; plantations; sand

00:28:23 - Herbicides and pesticides

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Partial Transcript: But he would use Chemicals all over and around the house.

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes how his father began to experiment with different chemicals in order to increase his farm's productivity. He talks about how his father risked losing his cotton crop by spraying a mix of herbicides over his entire field, and discusses how his father's success encouraged other local farmers to use chemicals. Carthan talks about the negative impacts of herbicides and pesticides which he blames for his father's early death from cancer at 74. He describes the large class action lawsuits that white farmers took out against the chemical companies, stating that they excluded African American farmers from their lawsuit.

Keywords: Green Revolution; Third Agricultural Revolution; carcinogen; environmental impact; experimentation; health; innovation; toxins

00:38:36 - Agricultural Disputes

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Partial Transcript: Who were the farmers adjacent to your grandparents' farm? Who owned the surrounding area?

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes living in a community of Black farmers. He discusses farming his father's land after his death. He talks about the infrequent agricultural disputes over property lines and herbicide that got blown into another farmer's land and killed crops.

Keywords: crop dusters; land; land surveyor; leasing

00:43:48 - African Americans losing their land

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Partial Transcript: The big problem that we had all over the South: blacks losing their land--much of it was taken because many of them--they were good farmers, but they couldn't read or write, but they knew how to farm...

Segment Synopsis: Carthan describes how the biggest problem for black farmers was keeping their land because many white lawyers and plantation owners took advantage of their lack of education to trap them with contracts and debt. He talks about how banks refused to give loans to African American farmers so they had to reach out to the Farm Home Administration (FHA). He discusses how he almost lost his own land because the FHA would delay loans or not grant them at all to black farmers. Carthan talks about filing a class action lawsuit against the local FHA which concluded that the FHA discriminated against black farmers. He also describes owning multiple businesses and being elected as Mayor and then County Supervisor of Holmes County.

Keywords: Bonds; Civil Rights Movement; Farm Home Administration (FHA) loans; bankruptcy; black congressmen; business owner; public office; racial discrimination; racism; white southerners