Interview: Joseph Lee Marlbough, 1967
by Mimi Feingold Real

Provided courtesy of Freedom Summer Digital Collection, Wisconsin Historical Society

Joseph Lee Marlbough:

You ready?

Mimi Feingold:



My name is Joseph Lee Marlborough, [inaudible 00:00:06] 461, Chessplant, Louisiana.

We started in September of '65, working together, running ACS election.

[Agriculture Stabilization Conservation Service (ASCS) elections. The annually elected ASCS committee in each county decided which farmers in their county received federal crop subsidies and other federal benefits — and which did not. At this time in the South, the ASCS elections were rigged to ensure that only white farmers were elected and that no Black farmer received federal benefits.]

From then, we ran the ACS election, we lost that. But we didn't stop.

We got a group of homeless together, we start [inaudible 00:00:27] when you need it. Such as [inaudible 00:00:30] and other things. And after we got together a group, it was a small group, we start talking on it. [inaudible 00:00:39] co-op is about one of the best thing to go for. So, we [inaudible 00:00:45] together, we starting to make the most of the [inaudible 00:00:47], we made a phone call. And these people, they backed us up all the way.

[Possibly discussing organizing a community group to apply for War on Poverty grants.]

[inaudible 00:00:55] come to [inaudible 00:00:57] at any time, for the date, I'd say, around about November, they came [inaudible 00:01:02]. The [inaudible 00:01:05] the project was working on, was [inaudible 00:01:06] project, is a million dollar project with [inaudible 00:01:09] limits for the funds we needed.

So we kept pushing, from one place to the other. We had some hard places we had to pass. Different people were [inaudible 00:01:21]. But it still didn't stop us. And finally, we were a segregated gang, going together, and after that, we ran an ad in the paper. A white group came and met us, we integrated. They represent us if we go [inaudible 00:01:45] they would stick with us, so we told them, "All right."

And after these people from Austin came down here, they looked into the project, it was [inaudible 00:01:53]. But we had someone [inaudible 00:01:56], then worth the money they [inaudible 00:01:58] is $125,000. Plus, we had $75,000 [inaudible 00:02:05]. That's $200,000. So after that [inaudible 00:02:11], we found out it nearly worth more than $30,000. So, we back, and we wanted to avoid, the whole group had a meeting, white and colored in [inaudible 00:02:21] it was worth more that $30,000, so we wouldn't take it, so we rolled it out. So after we rolled it out, well, that's when the white gang separate from us, but we still [inaudible 00:02:31].


Do you have any whites with you, now?


Yeah. So we still got whites. We've got some whites, [inaudible 00:02:38]. The one who was supposed to be the leader with the white people, he withdraw. But we got some stay with us. It's about 15% white [inaudible 00:02:48]. And we kept going like that until [inaudible 00:02:52]. We set a deadline for the memberships [inaudible 00:02:56] July the 15th. What we're really doing now is educating the people [inaudible 00:03:00]. But... Not a but, we still need [inaudible 00:03:02]. So, we're working along with them, with the intention to expand further. You know? [inaudible 00:03:08]. And I think in the near future, we'll do it.

You know? I usually disorganized when we get... You know? [inaudible 00:03:16] study and operation, what you should do. I believe I better quit, and let me see how this thing sounds. [inaudible 00:03:23].

Speaking about this year's election, I was nominated to run in the ACS election. I [inaudible 00:03:42] nominated, and went [inaudible 00:03:43] to see her. They had drawn this line up, because I was in the [inaudible 00:03:50] had start a war with [inaudible 00:03:53] over there. They told me I'm [inaudible 00:03:56], that I was living in Ward Three, but it was A and B, they had divided Ward Three into two sections. And I asked them the ward I was in, they told me I was in the B ward. That's how I was nominated, and I [inaudible 00:04:13] the A ward.

So, we went there to win, I told the man, "I said you nominate me in the wrong side. So he told me, he said, "There's nothing I can do about it, go back and tell your friends that you were numbered in the wrong side, vote for you on the other side."

I told him, I said, "I'm not going to do it." I said, "That's not my job, that's your job."

So he told me this, he say "Well, I don't know."

So I never told him nothing. We came on back, we got on back, we made a long [inaudible 00:04:47] call, the [inaudible 00:04:47] and told him what they had did, they had nominated three candidates to run, but they had nominated him on the wrong side. If [inaudible 00:04:54] you're disqualified. So, Washington, they didn't hesitate, they called right back [inaudible 00:05:02], and told me they would have that [inaudible 00:05:03] canceled. That's what they did. So, they canceled it. Yes. [inaudible 00:05:08].


Uh-huh. Did they ever hold the election? They held it right around?


Yeah, they hold it a month later. That was in September, and election came back in November, a month later, after.
[inaudible 00:05:23] you say a little bit about...


Now, you take the [inaudible 00:05:30] we were working on, the sweet potato [inaudible 00:05:32]. They don't have too much choice down there anymore. [inaudible 00:05:38]. Seven, eight years back, these local buyers, or whoever was buying, [inaudible 00:05:46], and gave you fair. But, most of these local buyers who used to buy from the farmers that produce their own sweet potatoes. So it leaves the little small farmer with nowhere to go.

So, what happened, when they get [inaudible 00:06:03], they give you just about what they want. Most, nothing. And this [inaudible 00:06:08], well, [inaudible 00:06:09] can go into big business by himself. But you get a group of farmers together, you own the [inaudible 00:06:15]. So that way, you can demand your price [inaudible 00:06:17] local buyer. So that's why this co-op will come in handy. To solve somebody's problem, you're going to [inaudible 00:06:24], and you're going to spend money to produce a crop. And you ain't going to get but 15, 25 cents a [inaudible 00:06:31]. Like some years like they give you. Instead of making money, you're losing money. [inaudible 00:06:37] co-op, [inaudible 00:06:38] you'll get fair. Get what's coming to you.


You had already had experience with a co-operative cotton picker.


Yeah. [inaudible 00:06:48] co-op already.


So, you saw how [inaudible 00:06:53] would help people.


Yeah. Yeah, you take six. Without a co-op it was [inaudible 00:06:58]. Co-op [inaudible 00:07:00] six of us, and we did good with it. And what's going on today, with all these hydraulic lifts, machines, they got high power, people don't get co-operative together, you can't keep up. You got to go big if you're going to stay in business. And you got to get a group of people to do it.

Copyright © Joseph Lee Marlbough & Mimi Feingold. 1967


See ASCS Elections — A Struggle for Economic Survival and Issues of Poverty, Exploitation, and Economic Justice for background & more information.

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