A Kitchen Table Conversation
Events in Dawson and Americus, Georgia
John Perdew and Randy Battle
Recorded October, 2005

Regarding Events in Dawson and Americus, Georgia, in Late 1963; Machinegunning of Carolyn Daniels's Home; Cooking a Rooster with Herman Kitchens

[Randy Battle worked for SNCC throughout the 1960s, and worked in the congressional campaign of Attorney C. B. King in 1964. John Perdew worked for SNCC in Albany and Americus, GA, in 1963-64.]

[The following conversation was recorded by Pete de Lissovoy while sitting around Pat Perdew's kitchen table the weekend of John's one-man play Southerology, or Education of a Harvard Guy, with the Freedom Singers which played at the Ritz, in Albany, GA, October 2005.]

John: Carolyn Daniels called us early one Sunday morning in Americus and said that her home had been shot into numerous times with what appeared to be a machine gun. So immediately we headed over to Dawson. Don Harris [SNCC leader in Americus] jumped into my red 56 Ford and I jumped into an old blue Ford, an old SNCC car, and I think we set a speed record, we made it in less than fifteen minutes over the 20 miles or so. I was doing 115 and he was leaving me in the dust. My Ford had a Thunderbird engine in it. The roads were not interstate, they were just the back roads that we took, through the woods, lots of curves in them down and around, and I still don't know how either one of us stayed on the road. But we got there real fast. There were sure bullet holes all over the top front corner of her house.

Randy: Look here, man, the girts came up about halfway or so, and then she had a big picture window, and they shot all a that all out. They shot her beauty parlor next door totally down. The house next door had hundreds of bullet holes in it. The children next door somehow escaped barely with their lives. Those [white] boys over there had a machine gun mounted on the back of a pickup truck. The white citizens of Dawson, a .50 caliber machine gun, whoever it belonged to, but it was well known and we all saw it. Carolyn Daniels of course got on the floor so she didn't see who it was. She barely got out a the back door with her ankles and butt full of splinters. Ha ha ha. She didn't see. The folks next door never would testify. I don't know where they ran to. They brought the mayor, the sheriff and everybody over to see it. They knew who did it.

John: I heard that Sheriff Z. T. Mathews — 

Randy: Z. T. Mathews — 

John: — of Terrell County — 

Randy: Mmm-hmm!

John: ... was supposedly the only guy in Terrell County who had a machine gun that could have done that. I don't know.

Randy: I heard that too, but I don't know. I got there a day later. Carolyn Daniels, what she was doing, you know, why it happened, she was letting white kids, SNCC workers, stay in her house — 

John:  — and being publicly and visibly identified as the leader of the civil rights movement.

Randy: After the movement put her house back together for her, she might have stayed there another month, if that, before she moved to Atlanta. She just gave us the house seems like to me. Anyway after they put it back together she took off, and left us the keys to it. It became the SNCC house and we paid the taxes. ... I went to New York, and back in '67, '68 when I came back it was the SNCC house in Dawson — well no, by then [Charles] Sherrod and them had disassociated from SNCC and all, and we had become the Southwest Georgia Project.

John: Right. Yeah. Especially when the guys took over that felt that SNCC should be all black and the whites should just get out — 

Randy: Mm-hmm. And Sherrod wasn't goin for that at all! For that matter, Sherrod had been the instigator of getting white folks involved in the very beginning, and they didn't like it then. I mean all them powers that be, black folks, intellectuals and so forth in SNCC, they didn't like it back then. So Sherrod had just started going around to the colleges and rounding up white folks and they started comin to Albany. Ha ha.

John: Pete and I among them.

Randy: Mm-hmm. Yeah! But a bunch a white folks just started drifting in after the head beans and like you guys were assigned, bunch of em just drifted in — 

John: We smelled blood so we came into Albany ha ha.

Randy: Yeah! Ha ha. They came to help or they came to be a part a history, or whatever.

*  *  *

Randy: In '67 and '68 I stayed in Carolyn Daniels's home all the time that had been blown away and then fixed up, but the rest of em come and go. You know like in Albany I lived cross town but I come over to the SNCC house and hung out an finally moved in one time. So Herman Kitchens lived cross town next to the Battle and Battle Funeral Parlor but around then he about moved into the Southwest Georgia Project house that was Carolyn Daniels's old house in Dawson that was blown up and we hung out together.

Now there was a neighbor whose house was about two houses removed from our house and she kept chickens in a henhouse. So Herman would go out and walk down the alley and go out and sit in that chicken coop and that hen be layin on his shoulder, well that's what he said, I never went over there and watched him or nothin. An Herman grab that chicken off his shoulder and put it under his shirt and then the chicken wouldn't say a word. Wouldn't say nothing then, maybe ca-ca-ca cackling away but then when he get it up under his shirt that chicken just as quiet ha ha ha . . . and he come in an we boil some water and pick him and gut him and dig a hole out in the back yard an bury the evidence, ha ha ha.

John: Ha ha ha, and then you had to have some greens right?

Randy: Shoot, same woman had a collard garden patch over there and Herman go over there an pick some greens to go with it, ha ha — 

John: So she was donating to SNCC without knowing it.

Randy: Well, look here, man, she was donating without knowing it, but you know soon as she caught us she was knowing she was donating it. Ha ha ha. She wasn't mad at all, naw, she thought it was funny! She must a been about seventy years old. She just said don't sneak over here, just come any time and I'll give you eggs.

But now one time Herman had gone over there one night to sit in that chicken coop and it was a rooster landed on his shoulder, and Herman didn't realize it. That rooster must a been ten or twelve years old. He come back an we boiled him and picked him and hid the guts and put him in the pot — I bet we cooked him a month! Heh-heh-ha-ha. Longer we cooked him the tougher he got!

John: Ha ha ha ... he was a rough rooster!

Randy: Look here now, I aint makin this up either. This is the God-help-me truth!

John: Okay.

Randy: We cooked that rooster every way we could. The mistake we made first was, instead a boilin him we fried him, and he just drawed up like ... ha ha ha.

John: Ha ha ha. So this is turning into a cooking lesson.

Randy: And then we decided to boil him. Somebody told us you stick rusty nails down in him it'll make him tender. We went outside an got some nails out of an old board. Anyway it never did work. We finally had to throw them nails out with the rooster! We finally had to dig another hole. And I believe that was the last chicken Herman ever stole. [ General laughter. ]

Randy: We were crazy back then.

John: Still crazy.

Randy: Oh. Yeah, ha ha.Well I aint ever gonna have no sense.

John: I didn't say that. Crazy and no sense are two different things.

Randy: Well I hope it is a lovely crazy — 

John: Oh yeah.

Randy: I hope it's a lovely crazy, cause I enjoy it.

Copyright © John Perdew and Randy Battle

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