Interview: Jospeh Carter
By Mimi Real
Louisiana, 1967


Mimi Real

Could you give me your name and address?

Joseph Carter:

My name is Reverend Joseph Carter, and I live in Jackson, Louisiana, route 1, Box 47.

Mimi Real

Now, could you tell me first about your great-grandfather in Reconstruction days?

Joseph Carter:

Well, I don't know if I can tell you the straight story, but my great- grandmother told me that my great-grandfather was in a movement of registering and voting when Negroes could register and vote in the West Feliciana Parish. And it was a two-party system, and one party wanted him to advertise them and the other party, so he went to one of the parties.

I don't know what one it was, but the party that he didn't go with, they caught him on the Highway 1 to St. Francisville with a bale of cotton to the gin, and they hung him on the contents of this registering and voting in the West Feliciana Parish. And from then on, well, I don't know how long they registered and voted after that, but finally they ruled it out. And that's the only thing I know about my great-grandfather from my grandmother's side. And from then on, well, I didn't know anything else about what went on.

Mimi Real

And could you say again what you were saying before about your cousin that got killed, and how you said that you were going to try to get that-

Joseph Carter:

Yeah, well, after I was grown up, I was a small boy, but I did have understanding enough to know that if around that they could shoot a Negro down in the highway, like they would a wild beast. And I had some men, Mr. F.C. Wilcock was the high sheriff, and he had about 13 men went to this man's house to get his boy for claiming that he broke in the store.

And the boy ran, and they were running the boy, and their father wasn't home. He was my daddy's first cousin. And when he did get home, they told him that the people had been through the house and the barn, and the boy was gone toward Gilmore barn. And he went on down the highway behind them riding his horse, and one of the men lagged behind. And he lagged behind, and this boy's daddy, Andrew Parker, come riding along. He shot him in the breast with buckshots and killed him. So on my way to my cousin's wake that night, I say to my cousin, Anna Mae, I say, "If I ever get old enough, I'm going to see if I can't do something to break up this mess of the white folks shooting the colored people down like they do rabbits."

Mimi Real

And she remembered that when you got arrested in St. Francisville?

Joseph Carter:

When I was arrested and put in the jail, she lived in Kenner, Louisiana. When I was put in jail, the people just got on the phone, and they called all of my people from New Orleans to Chicago and let them know that I was in jail all the way in Houston, because that's why my daughter was, and they called her. So when Anna Mae got the answer, she said, "Well, so, Joseph said if he ever lived long enough to get to be a man, he would do something to break up these people shooting the colored folks down, so that what he must have meant."

Mimi Real

Now around about 1955, you tried, or you wanted to go try to register, right?

Joseph Carter:

Yeah. Well, the cause of me to get in the movement or try to register, we was in Baton Rouge at the New Guard Baptist Church, and we had the full district Missionary Baptist Association there, and the white ministers of that town was in the meeting with us, and one of them preached a sermon with us. And the instruction was to us that lived in the rural areas to go to our county seat and put in an application that we wanted to register.

And they say to us, don't go one by one, but get in a group, saying, appoint you a committee, and if you don't want to appoint a committee, call your parish conference to your closest church to that county seat. Then all of the ministers get together and march to the courthouse and asked to register a vote or to register, because if one go, they may shoot him down and say he did something they didn't have in the building, but ain't nobody going to shoot no whole parish of ministers.

So we come back to the parish, and we had the conference, and we decided that we would try, and we appointed a meeting at the St. Andrew Baptist Church to appoint a committee, and I was the only [inaudible 00:05:44] at that church that night. And my wife when I was leaving, she said, "Joe, be careful now. I said, you're going down there, and if ain't nobody at that church, if the lights ain't lit, don't you drive up to that church door." She says, "It's right on the street." She said, "You just park on the street until somebody come."

So I told her, "Okay," and when I did get around there, well, the lights wasn't lit, that church wasn't open, and wasn't nobody standing around, and I parked on the street just in front of the door of the church, and nobody didn't come. So I stayed there. We were to meet at 7:30, and I stayed there until 8 o'clock, and nobody never did come, so I got in my car and come on back home.

And I went to the conference, the next conference meeting, which is the fourth Wednesday in the following month, and I asked them what was the trouble. They laughed, and told me they changed their mind and sent me answer. And I asked them, "By who?" So they just laughed and said, "Well, we just changed his mind." And I spoke to them in the [inaudible 00:06:54]. I said, "You know one thing?" I said, "You all ain't nothing."

So that was the end of the registering from then until '63, then it come over again. Now not knowing before '63 that the court workers had been through here and suppose to have been to all of the preachers in the parish to try to get the movement on, I believe that was around about '62.

So they couldn't get nobody. They went to Tunica to Reverend I. Mitchell's church, and they got them to leave there, and told them if they didn't leave that they had to tell the people about them, because they didn't want no people in here like they were. So the court workers had to leave. And the next news we got then, Rudy and Danny was in Clinton.

Mimi Real

Rudy who and Danny who?

Joseph Carter:

Rudy and Danny, what they name, Mitchell? They was over in the East Feliciana Parish. And I was in St. Francisville, and I heard that the court workers wanted all the ministers to meet them at New Gideon Baptist Church over from Jackson. Reverend Anderson was the pastor. So when I got the news, I had my coat and everything with me, and I just kept on from St. Francisville over to Wilson.

When I did get over there, there wasn't no [inaudible 00:08:33] there, but Reverend Anderson stayed about a block from the church, and I went to his house, and I inquired from him. He said, "Yeah, they supposed to be here now." Said, "But something got them tied up," said, "But you wait around a while and probably they will come."

So we sit there a while. So we said, "Well, so let's go up to the church and see what's going on. They ought to be there by now." When I did get up there, Albert McKenzie from this parish, and John Brown, they was there. Reverend Washington, Simon Washington and Rudy and Danny, they was at the church.

Well, when me and Reverend Anderson got there, my brother-in-Law, John Brown said, "Now this is a preacher from over home, the West Feliciana Parish." So they related to me this story about what was the [inaudible 00:09:35]. So I told him, "Yeah, if I get the papers and see what's going on, so I'll go down there and ask to register."

And Rudy say to Danny, says, "Give him one of the papers." Well, Danny give me one of the papers filled out. And I read it. I looked it over, and I said, "I believe I can do this." So he said, "Well, see can't you do it?" So I take another one of the blanks and give him his blank back. And I went on over, and I wrote it up and brought it back to him. When I brought it back to him, he looked at it and said, "Oh, yeah," He said, "You know how to fill them out already." Said, "Why you learning that?"

I said, "Well, I had one of them. My daughter went to Southern University and they had Rudy fill out one, and she brought it home and told me to study that, because someday I may would have to register, and I've been studying that one." I said, "Then Reverend Washington got one from Mr. T.W. Thompson, and I looked over it. So that's why he said, "Well, you can go down there tomorrow and register."

Well, that was Thursday. I told him, "Well, I don't mind going." I said, "But one thing about it, I wouldn't wants to go by myself." So Reverend Washington said, "Reverend Davis said he wants to go down there." So Rudy said, "Well, if Reverend Davis go, would you go?" I said, "Sure, I'll go."

So I said, "Now how will I know?" He said, "Well, we'll find Reverend Davis." I said, "Well, if Reverend Davis wants to go," I said, "You tell him to send me the date that he wants me to meet him in St. Francisville." Well, that was the following Thursday. They got me word back and said, Reverend Davis, to meet him at St. Francisville at Albert's Barbershop.

Mimi Real

Can you remember the month and the day?

Joseph Carter:

It was August the 10th, because I was 55 years and 5 days old to the day I went to jail. And I could easily think of that, because I went five days after my birthday. So he said meet him down there for nine o'clock. You ain't got to do nothing. So I went for nine o'clock. I was there. I met Rudy and Danny Davis there.

So Reverend Davis was late. He had a flat. He come about maybe 5 or 10 minutes after his hour. So when he got there, he said, "I'm late." He said, "I had a flat." He said, "You ready?" I said, "Well, these boys were to check us with these papers." He said, "Well, I don't need no checking." I said, "Well, I don't need no checking." Well, he didn't stop his motor. I said, "Well, go ahead, I'm going to catch you."

So on his way down I cranked up and got behind him. Well, I caught him down by [inaudible 00:13:07], down the street where the red and white store was in operation at that time. And on my way down it was a lady cranked up a car and looked up the street, and she let Reverend Davis pass. White lady.

And I was about a block near from Reverend Davis. And she let me pass, which the white people in West Feliciana Parish and St. Francisville, if they see a colored person coming down the street, and he colored, they just cut out in front of him, but she [inaudible 00:13:43] us that morning, and she got behind us.

So when we get down to the courthouse, there was a space for one automobile to park. But Reverend Davis being in front, he didn't stop in that space. He went on to the other end where we could park together. So when I got out of there, I told him, I said, "Reverend Davis," I said, "You got a spy behind you." He said, "Yeah?" I said, "Yeah." He said, "Why she?" I said, "She stopped in that hole back there." So he said, "She ain't got out." I said, "She waiting to see what we going to do."

He said, "You reckon that's a spy, sure enough?" I said, "Yeah, that's a spy." I said, "I could tell from when I passed I could tell the look on her face that she was out for something." I said, "Now, I'll tell you what we do." I said, "Now, she going to beat us in the courthouse." I said, "But she waiting up there to see what we going to do." I said, "Let's start across the street." When we started to cross the street, she broke across the street. I said, "Now stop."

Well, you see we was at Reverend Davis' car. Well, when we started across the street, I pretended that I had left something, and I went back to my car, and she got on the bank edge, and after we stopped coming across, she stopped up on the courthouse square and pretended as she had lost something. I said, "You see, she waiting to see what way we going." So I said, "Now, let's go and watch her go in the courthouse."

So we went on in across the street, and when we got to the steps while you go up on the bank edge to go in the courthouse yard, she was going in the courthouse door. So when we got in the courthouse, we didn't see nobody, no way, no how. We walked. Then I said, "That's the sheriff's office there." I said, "That's the jury room there." And we would read, but when we come to one or two little doors, didn't have any sign on it.

So it was some boys working in the courthouse. They were repairing, making it larger on the low end, and they was moving a heavy something. I don't know whether it was a door or what, but it was a gang moving it. They was pushing it, and some pushing, some pulling. So we asked them, says, "We looking for the registration office. Do you all know where it is?" They say, "It's around there."

I said, "Oh, no, that's the sheriff's office." I said, "The registration office, where the people register to vote." So they didn't know. We went on back and saw the old assessor, Mr. Bertrand Harris. He was sitting in his room. We looked through the glass door, and we seen him, and Reverend Davis said, "Yeah, Mr. Bertrand, he'll tell me."

So when he started then at the Bertrand door, Mr. Bertrand made it to the door, and he cracked the door, said, "What's the trouble [inaudible 00:16:19]?" He said, "We're looking for the registration office. Can you tell me where that is?" Said, "Up there." Now there was two doors up there. Now we didn't know what door it was. So we went up there, and the boss who was over these boys what were working, they was jailbirds working there, did something, and they was working their time out.

When Reverend Davis, asked him, said, "Where is that registration office?" He said, "Right in there." So we went down the alley, little hall to the door. Now we couldn't see nobody in that courthouse, but by the time we got to the door, Mr. Fletcher Harvey, he come out out of the door and shut it behind him and backed up against the door, said, "Good morning boys."

He said, what can I do for you? Reverend Davis said, "We come to see if we can register to vote." He said, "Well, I can't tell you no." He said, "But you got to bring something. You got to show me something before you can register to vote."

Reverend Davis said, "Well, Mr. Fletcher," he said, "I really don't understand." He said, "Now, if you tell me what you mean, probably I can produce what it takes." He said, "Well, you got to go back to your ward you live in and get you two registered voters and bring down to get identified."

Reverend Davis said, "Well, the high sheriff can identify me, because he was raised right next to me, and all of you all know me," and said, "You know me, too, Mr. Fletcher." He said, "Yeah, but I couldn't go upstairs and swear you was Reverend Davis. And by the time he said that, the high sheriff, the deputy sheriff, and the police, they called him. I didn't know his name at that time, but they told me who he was.

They were standing in the hall looking down in the little hall while we was at the registration, the registrar's office. So W.C. said to me, "Hey, boy, hey, boy. Hey, you boy." Well, I know I wasn't no boy. And when he made it through call, well, I just looked around at him. I said, "Were you speaking to me?" He said, "Yeah, you come here." So I turned around. When I turned, I left Reverend Davis and Fletcher Harvey still talking. I don't know what they say.

So when I got out to the hall, he walked from facing to this hall door, go back toward the sheriff's office with a little card. It was a fraternity card or Mason brother card and a pencil in his hand, a pen. And he said to me, he said, "What's the matter with your fellas around here. You ain't satisfied?" I said, "Not exactly." He said, "Well, if you ain't satisfied now," he said, "From now on you will be." He said, "Did you hear what I said?" I said, "I hear you." He said, "Go ahead on back the way you were coming."

So I walked on. He said, "I ought to arrest you now. I ought to lock you up." I didn't say anything. I just kept walking. So I walked from him, and when I did get to the hall door to go back into where Reverend Davis was, he yelled at the deputy sheriff said, "Grab him. Do you want him to raise his voice at me?" So when he said that, "Consider you all arrested," I wheel out the hall [inaudible 00:20:23] feet with both hands up.

And they started searching me and my shoe top all the way up to my head. So he said, "Put handcuffs on him, put him in jail, get him on out of here." So they caught me body arm, and they put my arms behind me and carried me out to the car. Didn't handcuff me in the jail, in the courthouse, because the handcuffs was in their car.

Then they put me face to the car and held my left arm still behind, and opened his car door, and pulled his handcuffs out off of the seat in a little scaffold, and shook the scaffold off and, locked my left hand behind me. And when he locked the left arm, I put the right arm back there for him to lock it. So when he turned my right hand loose, I pulled my hand off and laid it up on top of that car.

After he locked my hands behind me, I couldn't get my hand. So he took my hand off at the top of the car and slammed it in the back, said, "Get in there." So I went on in. "You been over there in Clinton in that damn mess." I said, "What mess?" "Over there where all them damn [inaudible 00:21:55] at."

"I ain't been to no Clinton. I can't tell you a day when I been to Clinton." So he said, "Who been talking to you?" I said, "Ain't nobody been talking to me." I said, "I have a television, a radio, and I read the papers." I said, "The federal government said all citizens register." I said, "I'm a citizen, because I never did anything in this parish and nowhere else to be disfranchised and not be a citizen."

So they carried me on to jail. They locked me in jail. They left Reverend Davis at the register's office with the high sheriff, and I don't know what happened, but after the high sheriff got rid of Reverend Davis, they had put me in the jail. Then they come and got me out of the jail and brought me to the office.

They took fingerprint, they took my height, they took my weight. They questioned me about my children, why they lived there, what was the address? My sisters and brothers, if I had any. I had two sisters live in Houston, one brother live in Houston, and I was the only out of my mother's children living in this parish. So I had to give them all of that.

But after they took them a picture, and my fingerprint, and whatnot, and questioned me around there, they carried me back to the jail cell. And when they was getting ready to lock me in, the high sheriff come in. "Pull his clothes off him. Take them off him. He don't need nothing else, no how." He said, "Make him take a bath. He must have... You stink." I didn't say anything to him. So they put me in the jail and made me pull my clothes off. Well, I was pulling my other underclothes off, because he said take them off. And when they said pull your clothes off, they went back down there in the office somewhere and got a monkey suit, all in one coverall suit. So they said "Pull your clothes off and put this on."

Well, I was pulling everything off. I was giving them my shoes and all. I wasn't keeping nothing, wasn't going to have nothing but that. They said, "Well you can let him keep his shoes." I said, "Oh, you all got to let me keep my shoes then." So I was pulling my underclothes off, pulling my shirt over my head, they said, "Well, let him keep his underclothes on." Well, they give me my underclothes and my shoes, but all the rest of my money, my hat and my watch, and my pencil, and everything else I had, they taken that.

So they locked me back in the cell then. About an hour, a little bit later, the high sheriff come back, and he said to me, says, "Who been talking with you?" I said, "Everybody talk with me. I said, you talking with me." "God dammit, I don't mean that. Who been telling you what to do?" I said, "Ain't nobody been telling me nothing." "You ain't going to tell me now." I said, "Well, I done told you all I'm going to tell you. I ain't been talking with nobody."

So he got hot, I guess, and walked on back down the hall, and I don't know what he said. He mumbled something, but what it was, I don't know. So after that I didn't see him no more. So about 2:30 the little deputy Sheriff LaValle, he brought my dinner down, some bar grits, and a piece of sausage, and two slices of light bread, and a paper bag.

So when he got to the cell I was in, he said, "Come and get it." So I went taking it out his hand, and he said to me, he said, "Eat with that spoon up there." I said, "Up where?" He said, "Up here on the [inaudible 00:26:26]." I said, "Who, me?" He said, "Yeah, if you would stayed in your place, you wouldn't have been in here."

I said, "Yeah, stayed in my place." I said, "You mean to tell me I was out of my place for going to the courthouse to ask to register and a minister?" I said, "I was born and raised in this parish, and I'm fifty-five years old." And I said, "I'm leading a group of people, and I'm not only supposed to lead the people to church and tell them about heaven, I'm supposed to lead the people to tell them how to live." I said, "You mean to tell me that I'm out of my place to ask for my rights?"

Well, he looked at me. I said, "I was here before you was." I said, "This my home." I said, "I was born here, was raised here, married here, ordained here, and pastoring the people here." I said, "Then you mean you tell me I'm out of my place?" I said, "Man, you don't know what you're talking about." I said, "I've been here all my days, and I know I'm a citizen."

So he didn't say anymore, but I understood. It had been told to me that he would be the man that come and bring the lunch and speak to the prisoners, and whatever they said, then he take it back to the high sheriff, and then that night the high sheriff brings his gang and beat you up on what you told LaValle. So I was looking for them that night.

So they didn't come [inaudible 00:28:13], but before the thing happened, we had a FBI come. And then he had to come and get me out of the jail, and the FBI woke me up. That was before night. Now I don't know what would've happened if the FBIs wouldn't have made it there, because he had told the FBI that he hadn't arrested me, and he hadn't seen me, and none of his deputies had arrested me.

Well, the way I feel about it, they must have aimed to dismiss me that night, but the FBI had made it there before time. So when they come, he wrote me up, and then that night, that night about 9:45 they had done sent me word. They told me that I could get a bond, $250 for the [inaudible 00:29:11] release, and my nephew, Willie Sweezer come to bond me out, but they wouldn't let him bond me.

And he went to the deputy's brother, which was, they called him Boss Daniel, supposed to been my great friend, and he wouldn't call out and ask them and wouldn't go my bond. Told Willie Sweezer it was against his deligion for to go my bond. So Willie asked him, "Against your deligion?" Say, "Yeah, I didn't say religion, because I don't belong to the church. I say deligion."

He said, "Well, you told Joe anytime he needed you to call." You said, [inaudible 00:29:55] said, "Well, what are you in there for?" I said, "You know what he in there for." Said, "Call out and ask your brother." Said, "My phone's out of order. It won't ring." He said, "No, it's out of order." Said, "But let me tell you one thing." Said, "I didn't want preacher to stay in there all night." Said, "He will stay in there all night." Said, "But if he do stay in there all night, when he get up in the morning, there better not be a scratch on him nowhere."

And he jumped in his truck and just kick rock back on him and come on home. So that night, about 9:45, somewhere around there, Rudy had them done money from somewhere, which it was already fixed. And he come in and give the sheriff the $200, and they come down, and he claimed I had $45.75 they had took from me. But he claimed that the deputy had locked it up in the chest and had the key, and he couldn't give me my money, but he give me some of that money that Rudy give him.

My money and my driving license was in my wallet, and he told me to come back and get it in the morning. I told him, "No, not me. I'll send back and get it." I said, "You all got my driving license." I said, "First thing you'll do, you'll get out there on the road and know you got my driving license, and then you'll catch me and charge me for driving without license." I said, "That's what you all trying to do now, ain't it?"

So he said, "We won't bother you." I said, "Well, I ain't coming." So Rudy come the next morning, and he take my car and went down there, and take my key, in other words, come, and they had the key. He went on down there and brought my car to me. So that was the end of that first starting of the registration.

Mimi Real

Yeah. Now after that you sued the sheriff for false arrest, didn't you?

Joseph Carter:

Yeah. After that.

Mimi Real

For how much did you sue him for?

Joseph Carter:

$100,000. Other word before that he was put on a $100,000 bond. And then after which a week or two later, then I filed a suit for $100,000 for false arrest and using me with some bad language. That's what he sued for.

Mimi Real

And that's never come to court.

Joseph Carter:

Never come up yet, because after that they had a hearing, and they had me down in St. Francisville, and the Attorney General Jack Gremio, he went to the federal jury and asked him to throw it out. But I said I had went back and had registered, and he didn't see why it was necessary to hold the sheriff, but the federal judge told him that he couldn't throw it out, because he was tired of what they was doing. So that case is still pending. I don't know if it ever come off or not, but the suit is still on.

Mimi Real

Okay. And just, now, could you tell about what happened the following October?

Joseph Carter:

Well, after I got out of jail, we come back home. My wife told me when I got home that night if I go back, she was going to leave me, and I told her to get her clothes and go now, because I was going back to next day. But I had some neighbors had made it here, and they told me don't go back until next day, but wait and allow them a chance and let them study the form. And instead of letting me go back by myself, we would go back in a group.

Well, we met the first meeting after I got out of jail. We met at the President Green Baptist Church up here, pastored by Reverend Simon Washington, which we met there two nights, two Tuesday nights straight. But after which they wanted to change and not meet in the same church every night on the account of they figure that they would maybe set a bomb or something for us.

If we were meeting at that church, we would meet at this church that night and the next church another time. But when Nathaniel Smith said "No," he said, "I'll tell you what you do," said, "Bring it up to the Mason Hall in Laurel Hill." So from that second Tuesday night, we pointed from President Green that we would meet at the lodge hall at Laurel Hill.

And we met up there, and the first meeting we had up there, we only had seven team met, which two of them didn't live in this parish, with Reverend Washington and Reverend Wilson lived in the North Baton Rouge Parish, which they lived in exactly. But they was up there, and it was about 14, 15 of us and them two made 17. So they decided that they wouldn't appoint no time that night, but about three meetings later they decided when they would go.

Well, they had a pretty good group at that time and started meeting. The first night we had 17, but the next night it'd come on until we maybe had 100, 150 was meeting. Then we decided, let's see, that same night with that 17, they decided, because they asked who was willing to go down to the courthouse with Reverend Carter when he'd go back, and all was willing to stand, and they all stood but Reverend Quiet. Reverend Quiet said that he didn't stand, because he wasn't going.

Well, with that 14, we decided that that 14 would be enough if didn't nobody else go. So from time and again every time to meet where we got lots of forms and started showing the people how they fill their forms and how to answer the questions, and whatnot. So we worked it until we getting up, coming up to the 17th, And then we asked how many was ready to go or who was able.

Well, you see, the way we did it was to give you a paper and let you study it. And if you come in and fill your form out, we would take that paper from you until you do just what you would do if you was in a courthouse. We would take that marked form from you and just give you just a natural form and tell you, "Get over there and fill that out. You answer your own questions and you fill your own paper." Well, when you did it like that, we know you was capable of going down.

Well, we made the arrangement for the 17th day of October, '63, and we had Brother John Branham say that he would take the bus if it was enough of us. We had 44, I believe, if my memory serves me right, got on that bus that day and went down to the courthouse. When we went down there Ronnie, he went in and talked with the district attorney, which is Kilburn from Clinton, and he talked with the registered voter, which is Fletcher Harvey, and he told him that he had four already in which was four white, and he wouldn't finish them four white until one o'clock. And we could meet back there for two, because for one they was got to take dinner, and they'd be back in the office for two.

So Ronnie come back and told us. So what they did, they had the secretary, Joe Cotrere to take so many names. Well, my name was the first name on the list to go in, because Ronnie say, "You've been there once and you know where they go, and I want you to go back first." So they give Ronnie the orders that we shouldn't stand on the courthouse lawn. We couldn't stand on it. We had to set on that hot bus from eight o'clock that morning until two o'clock. Now, John Branham had to go back to Dawson High to pick up his students.

Well, for 11:30 we left the courthouse and went to Savilles over to Solitude. That's where we took a lunch at, at Savilles Saloon. We come back, and when I went in for two o'clock, I would've been in there before two, but the white folk blocked the door, the front of the courthouse. But me and Ronnie went on, and we went up to them, and they was calling us everything they could call us but a human, black, everything, you this and you that and whatnot.

Some had their pistols in the hang, some had their rifles and some had shotguns, and some had cattle prods. So when we got up to them, we didn't walk upside them, but we went close enough to them, and they didn't move. So we just stopped, and Ronnie said, "Well, let's go back, Rev. They done blocked the door. Let's go back."

So we come back to the street and went to the corner. When we went to the corner of the courthouse lawn, Ronnie looked toward the river. He said, "Is that a door down yonder? I said, "Yeah." He said, "Well, we can get in the courthouse down there. Let's go down there." I said, Let's go."

When we say that it was three FBI's on the bank next to the graveyard over there. When we started down the street, they come off of that bank and went on the courthouse ahead of us. Well, that stopped the scrimmage. One stood with his back looking at the angry mob. One stood with his back watching me and Ronnie, and one stood with his back to that mob looking down toward the river through the courthouse hall where we went on in.

So when we got there, had made it about one minute after two when I got in the sheriff's office in the register office, and we went up to the door, and we knocked. They said, "Come in." Well, I didn't open the door. I told Ronnie, "Open it." Ronnie pulled the door open. Well, Joe Petrea, he was born and raised right over there and used to eat cornbread and cereal sitting on the floor with me and my sisters. He said, "Come on in here, Joe."

He wasn't rough at all. Joe wasn't, the secretary. He said, "Come on in here, Joe." So when I went in, Fletcher say to me, he said, "Who is this?" I said, "This that Joe Carter you see on the paper you going to know." He said, "I don't know you, Joe Carter."

I said, "Well, I have driver's license." I said, "I have a preacher's pass, and I have a social security card." I said, I have three identifications here, what one you want?" So he said, "This will do." He said, "Sit down." And he said, "Sit down," Joe Petrea said, "Well, you read that up there before you sit down, answer all questions and asked none."

And I read that up there and in the window it said, 40 minutes. I said, "40 minutes." He said, "Yeah, 40 minutes after I give you this card, you get it out my hand, if you ain't wrote it up, you get out of here." So he gave me the card, and when he give me the card, I looked at my watch, he looked at his watch, and I looked at mine.

I said, one minute after two. 19 minutes after I got the card in my hand, I give him back to him. He said, "You finished?" I said, "I done wrote everything up on there." So he looked at that card. The first one, he turned it over, he looked at it, and then laid it aside and went back and got the other one, and then looked at it, and the laid it aside, and then reached back and got the other one.

And he kept me in at 35 minutes. He kept me up there lacking 5 minutes of that 40 minutes. So he give it to Joe, and he said, "Look at this, Joe." So Joe looked at it. He said, "Ain't a damn thing wrong with this." So he picked up the other one, and he looked at it, he said, "Ain't a thing wrong with this."

He said, "Well, [inaudible 00:42:41] questions right." He said, "All them question right, and he don't require for about four little [inaudible 00:42:41] so he done passed. Give him his damn paper and let him get out of here. He just done passed." So I got my paper and come on out. So when I come out the courthouse where Mary, I think that was she was named, she was there.

Mimi Real

Mary Hamilton.

Joseph Carter:

Mary Hamilton was there. So when I come out, I come out with the paper in my hand, and she said, "Oh, Joe done passed." And she jumped up around my neck, and they had a man at the door with a Kodak. He said, "Let me take your picture." And one of the white fellows was backed up in the corner there, said, "Yeah, take that son of a bitch's picture, because that's the last one you'll get of him."

So he was saying that, and the fellow said, "You done registered now, so smile for me." So I held the thing up and smiled at him, and he snapped it. He didn't know the man's back there, so I come on out. So when I did get outside, John was gone, and they had the other 43 people sticking upside that bank in front the courthouse next to the graveyard. Said it was looking like brothers and coons on a limb.

And Bill Daniel said, "You wait till night. I'll get them off of that limb." And we saw him brought two boxes of shells, and he carried them up in the courthouse. But the registration office would close at five o'clock. And that told all us at home for five o'clock, you see. So that was Thursday. They went back Friday. Well, I didn't have to go back.

Well, Friday night they invaded John Branham's house to cut his tie. They done a lot of shooting around his house. That was that Friday night, but in order to stop us from coming down there. But that Monday after the shooting was they had 75 down there instead of 43. So that's the way the movement went. And we've been doing very well. They've been treating us very tough, but it's better than it has been so far.

Mimi Real

Has anyone given you any trouble since then?

Joseph Carter:

No. Nobody give me no trouble. I don't know for why. Of course, I don't give them no reason, because I got out of jail the 10th day of August in '63. Get away. And I haven't been in a store in this parish since. I haven't bought a gallon of gas in this parish since. I don't go around the places for them to interfere with me, because I'm not so much afraid, but I don't want nobody to hurt me, and I don't want to hurt nobody.

So the best thing for me to do since don't nobody give me nothing, I have to buy all I get, anyway, because the city was going to starve me out, so I just buy my food while where I work at Baton Rouge. I don't give them no trouble. Ain't but one store I've been in in this parish. That's the little colored store down here on the 61 highway where they killed that girl. They say the killed her because she was feeding the civil right workers free.

And they didn't do a thing about it. Nobody did nothing about it. They couldn't even arrest him. They had a man. The man went to her house and got her and carried her to Baton Rouge and brought her back and said she jumped out the truck and killed herself.

But it ain't so, because if you jumped out of your car or a truck from making 45 or 50 miles an hour, you going to skin up, you going to bruise yourself up, and wherever you lay you going bleed. That woman didn't have a half a pint of blood while she was laying there. That's the only thing.

Mimi Real

Thank you very much.

Copyright © Jospeh Carter & Mimi Real


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