UGA Libraries Logo

Interview with Samuel McCray, November 2, 2016

Richard B. Russell Library for Political Research and Studies, University of Georgia
Toggle Index/Transcript View Switch.
Search this Index
00:00:10 - Early life and education

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Mr. McCray, you were telling me you were born between Lambert and Marks?

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes being raised by his grandparents who were sharecroppers on a plantation. He discusses the close-knit community of African Americans on the plantation. McCray briefly mentions attending Delta State University, becoming the director of social services for an organization, and getting married.

Keywords: Clarksdale, Mississippi; Holmes Community College; Lambert, Mississippi; Marks, Mississippi; education; family; high school; marriage

00:06:55 - Grandparents

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did your grandparents grow up on that same plantation or did they come from elsewhere?

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes his grandparents lives, talking about how they migrated to the Delta and worked as farmers. He discusses how his grandmother was light-skinned and had a white grandfather who spent time with the family but was not married to her grandmother. He talks about how his grandmother got married at 13 to his grandfather, and he discusses how they rented land for farming. McCray talks about how his grandparents switched to sharecropping from renting land as they got older which meant they had less control over their farming.

Keywords: marriage; plantations; sharecroppers; tenant farming; white-passing

00:16:26 - Race relations

Play segment

Partial Transcript: I think most people that we knew--even white--was decent people.

Segment Synopsis: McCray talks about how most white people were decent, but he says that the system of racial oppression forced people to fulfill expected racial roles. He discusses how many white people knew and felt guilty about the fact that they were exploiting African Americans, but they continued to oppress African Americans in order to maintain their own privilege. He talks about how black people and poor white people were deliberately kept separate to prevent them from fighting the economic system that victimized them both. He talks about the danger of white women to black men because black men faced racial violence if white women accused them of misconduct.

Keywords: internalized racism; plantation owners; poverty; racial stereotypes; racism; segregation; sharecroppers; white privilege

00:36:29 - Civil Rights Movement

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Were there ever any moments when you just, like, kind of stepped out of there, took a step back, and thought this was absolutely ludicrous? Why do they have all this, you know?

Segment Synopsis: McCray discusses the local impact of the Civil Rights Movement. He describes how students challenged school segregation and fought to integrate the schools which lead the administration to implement strict regulations about who could go to school in order to limit integration. McCray describes the reluctance of Black church leadership to become involved in the Civil Rights Movement until Martin Luther King Jr's death galvanized the community.

Keywords: Jim Crow; MLK; Vietnam War; adoption; freedom of choice system; media; plantations; textbooks

00:50:45 - Challenging the plantation system

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When your conscience started, you know, becoming more open to or aware of some of the things that were going on, did that--were there any shifts in the way that you perceived agriculture?

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes how sharecroppers knew that they were being mistreated by the land owners but did not see a way out. He talks about inequality in the educational system and how African Americans need to learn from history and advocate for themselves. McCray says limited resource farmers and minority farmers now have an opportunity to support themselves and benefit from crop insurance if they are properly trained.

Keywords: Christianity; Martin Luther King Jr.; education; lynching; plantation system; racial discrimination; racial violence; religion; separate but equal; sharecropping; small-scale farming; tenant farming

01:03:08 - Educational and economic development

Play segment

Partial Transcript: And I think the importance of us looking at education too because the ADA tracks the child into school.

Segment Synopsis: McCray emphasizes the importance of education. He talks about how the population of Quitman County has drastically decreased over his lifetime, and he says that elected officials need to critically evaluate the town in order to promote development and stop the out-migration.

Keywords: human resources; infrastructure; local government; prayer; private schools; property taxes; public schools

01:10:17 - Agricultural changes

Play segment

Partial Transcript: So to go, I guess, way back, what were some of the technological changes that you saw on plantations when you were there?

Segment Synopsis: McCray talks about the mechanization of agriculture which caused many people to lose their jobs as herbicides replaced chopping cotton and mechanical pickers replaced picking cotton by hand. He describes how he was able to stay in school the full year once the plantation owner started using mechanical pickers because he no longer had to miss school during harvest season. McCray talks about how many sharecroppers and field hands were kicked off plantations once the government began to offer farmers subsidies for vacant productive land. However, he says that leaving the plantations was good because many people were able to get decent housing under the USDA Homeownership Direct Loan Program.

Keywords: 502 housing program; The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA); college; education; homeownership; sharecroppers

01:18:36 - Agricultural chemicals and cancer

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Did you ever have any experiences with or see any affects of, you know, chemicals?

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes how many people who lived and worked on plantations died from cancer which he blames on the agricultural chemicals. He talks about the many people in his family who died of cancer, and he mentions a local doctor who warned about the dangers of agricultural chemicals.

Keywords: carcinogens; herbicides; highboy tractor; illness; pesticides

01:23:52 - Food plot

Play segment

Partial Transcript: When your grandparents were on the plantation when you were growing up, did y'all have a food plot?

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes his grandparents' two gardens where they grew their own food on the plantation. He talks about how his grandmother canned fruits and preserved meats in order to feed the family during the winter. McCray discusses how growing their own food helped his family stay out of debt to the plantation owner because they did not have to buy many things at the plantation store. He describes how plantation owners would limit people's ability to have gardens by expanding the fields to the edges of sharecroppers' houses.

Keywords: agricultural chemicals; cancer; livestock; loans; pesticides; sharecroppers; vegetables

01:32:10 - Mississippi Action For Community Education (MACE)

Play segment

Partial Transcript: You told me you were working with Mississippi Action for community education with agriculture.

Segment Synopsis: McCray describes his involvement beginning in 1990 with Mississippi Action For Community Education (MACE). He talks about giving small grants to limited resource farmers in order to encourage them to raise livestock and produce. He describes advocating for legislative redistricting in Mississippi in order to increase representation for Clarke County. He also discusses working to build a processing plant in the area to help farmers preserve and distribute crops.

Keywords: Alcorn State University; Empowerment Zones and Enterprise Communities Act of 1993.; Quitman County Development Organization; community organizing; cooperative; farmer's market; grants; lobbying; sewer system

01:44:06 - Poor People's Campaign

Play segment

Partial Transcript: Were you involved in the 1960s with the mule trade and the Poor People's March.

Segment Synopsis: McCray talks about becoming involved in the Poor People's Campaign after Willie Bolden from the Southern Christian Leadership Conference was arrested at his school for talking about the importance of protest and the Civil Rights Movement. McCray describes following other students to the jail to demand Bolden's release where he was beaten by the police. He says that the proudest time of his life was his involvement with the Poor People's Campaign and the Civil Rights Movement

Keywords: Andrew Young; Hosea Williams; Pell Grants; Quitman County Mule and Blues Festival; Rev. James Bevel; high school; walkout