Excerpts from an interview of Ever Ruth Johnson Jones-Allen conducted by Cheryl Janice Johnson, May 13, 2022 in Courtland, Mississippi.
My name is Ever Ruth Johnson-Allen. I was born November 20th, 1946 in Memphis, Tennessee. I grew up in Batesville, Mississippi.
I became involved in Freedom Summer when I was 17 years old. I worked with voter registration. In 1964 some Black people in Panola County were afraid to vote. My role was to visit different farms with other SNCC workers and convince Black farmers to register to vote. Actually, sometime we went late in the evening or at night when the boss wasn't home or around. Some Black people, back in those day, farmed for someone else and lived on a plantation. They did not have their own land nor house.
Black people in Panola County who lived on a plantation and farmed for a white person, were sometimes evicted from the farm if they registered to vote or participated in the freedom movement.
I became involved because I felt it was time for change. Black children were going to Batesville Colored School where classrooms were crowded and not enough water fountains. As a matter of fact, students carried jars of ice to school in the summertime for drinking water. Black schools had split sessions during the school year. Some Black people had to stay home in the Fall and pick cotton and in the summer, they chopped cotton before they could return to school.
We received a petition from Washington which explained to Black people that they could vote. People signed the petition and the petition was returned to Washington letting the folk in Washington know we wanted to vote. Folk in Washington were under the impression that Black people did not want to vote.
In 1964, during Freedom Summer, SNCC trained us to register Black people to vote. Stokely Carmichael was in charge and came from Washington. There were others whose names I don't remember. We had trainings at West Camp and St Paul Church in Batesville.
I participated in sit-ins at lunch counters in Batesville Square with Hazel Lee, John Hardy, and others whose names I can't remember now. Black people were not allowed to sit down and eat in restaurants.
We were arrested and there were too many of us to be carried by car, so they marched us through town to the jail and arrested us. White people were gawking and staring in amazement and wonder. Some of the teenagers were not yet 18 and they had to be released. We were jailed for a week. There were teenagers from Marks, Sardis, and Como who participated in the sit-ins.
When the word got out, we were jailed, busloads of teenagers came from surrounding towns with signs that said, "Let My People Go"
My father lost his job because of my participation in Freedom Summer. He was a heavy equipment operator.
Black people who had money, mostly landowners, discretely posted bail for us so we could get out of jail. A lot of people from across the Tallahatchie River were involved. They owned land and could not be evicted. People like Faye and La Ouida Glover. Their mother, Mrs. Thelma Glover, was right there with her children supporting them.
I remember when Stokely Carmichael came to Batesville. The people flocked out to see him. He spoke outside at Coleman Chapel Church. He stood at the top of the stairs at Coleman Chapel and he didn't hold back. Stokely told people, "Hey, we got to come out of being scared." You got to let your mind go back to Africa, not your body, but your mind, you can do better. "You don't have to take all this." There were some white people there who parked in their cars on the street to listen so they could go back and tell what was said. I suspect some Black people told them about the meeting.
Some things have changed in the Batesville and some have not. We can go anywhere and get a job now. As far as I know in Mississippi and the south. I don't know if we always make as much money as the whites working right beside us. You might have one or two Blacks that attend the white church on Sundays and they (white people) are okay with that. Sometimes the Black churches get one or two whites who say they want to come and enjoy the service. They come for the singing, but it's still a good way to go.
After I graduated from high school, I moved to Chicago, Illinois and attended Joliet Junior College. I worked in accounts-payable at Sears Roebuck.
I returned to Batesville Panola County Mississippi after retiring, where I am active in the Panola County NAACP.
My husband and I have 6 children. We encourage our children that anytime the vote comes up they should be counted and go to vote.
Copyright © Ever Ruth Johnson Jones-Allen & Cheryl Janice Johnson.
See 1964 Mississippi
Freedom Summer for background & more information.
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