Group Interview: Talullah LA
1965 or 1966

Original Audio

T.I. Israel:

Israel, Talullah, Louisiana, Route Two. Routes Seven, Two. I may state my occupation, which is farming. I came here from East Carol, 1939. I joined the National Association for the Advancement Colored People under the leadership of Mr. Zelma C. Wyche. We began to start to working for the benefit Madison Parish people. Eight of us filed a lawsuit, Monroe, Louisiana.

Mimi Feingold:

What year was that?


'55, I believe. Lloyd Sharp at that time was our Lloyd's Negro. On the date that we used to meet court. About four of us was on time and then the others was late. We met District Turner coming down as we were fixing to go up and he told us that we were late. Suit was thrown off, failed to go through. After which we filed another suit and we were successful in this lawsuit. We started from there. On the day the suit was won, we came back to Talullah the next day, Mr. Zelma C. Wyche, Mr. Harrison Brown.

They went to the courthouse and was admitted to register. We started from there and we built up on and on from there. After then, my life was challenged by the highway patrol. Won't call his name. He overtook me in the woods as I was on my way home. He questioned me about what was going on in the parish. He wanted to know was I toting a gun. He wanted to know was Martin Williams toting a gun. He wanted to know was Neil toting a gun. So I told him no. He said to me that night, the time was about 12 o'clock. He said, "Don't you know I could kill you now if I want?" I said to him, "Sergeant, you sure can, but it would be dirty to kill a man just because you was in power." That stunned him. I suppose his nerves fell. From then on, he began to become friendly with me. From that, we have been making great success in Madison Parish.

Speaker 3:

I joined this fight recently. There was something about it that arose my curiosity that it was time for Negroes to begin to do something about their conditions. And at this time, there was just a few people who were interested in freedom for the Negro people. And I always have been very eager and anxious to do something for the betterments of the people. By living in the rural, I found a few when I came to town that was very interested. And I joined them a few years ago when the number was very small. We met and we had meetings, a series of meetings, meetings after meetings, trying to decide what would be the best thing to do. Finally we began to move out our low and we was challenged on every move we made. At one time, we went to the courthouse to talk to the high sheriff about [inaudible 00:07:18]. And he said to us, "You go home and when I'm ready for you to [inaudible 00:07:26], I'll send for you." So we went home and we stayed for a long time and he never sent for us, so we decided we'd go back. And he said, this time that, "We are working out something now." And in the talk he brought in what would happen in the Congo if the Negro was free. What happened to other people that they're turning loose? Otherwise he was saying that the Negro didn't know how to take care himself. Somebody challenged the high sheriff and said to him, "Our concern is not Vietnam or not the Congo, but our interest is Madison Parish." When we began to move out, we had several people who came in to help us, but we were strictly on our own. People would give us information, but the fight was left to us. We tied in with a lot of premium minded mens of this parish and we set out to do a man's job. There was a lot of conflicts, but we had tied ourselves together, and we feel that togetherness will stand. We had said that we was one for one and one ball. And when we made this final decision and took a stand and began to speak out, we could see things began to give away. And when we had stood there for so long, the city began to see the stand that we were taking was very much needed. And they began to join us in force. And that is the way this thing was started.

Speaker 4:

I came here late. That was in last part of '52. And I found in Madison Parish, some Roy Wilkinson., Martin Luther King, some James Farmers. Right here in Madison Parish. Not in New York or Chicago, they was here. But they needed help. I came in not to try to spearhead anything, just to be a good follower. To take advice, to do the best I can to help ourselves. In '52, I was employed at Foster Jones Tire and Rubber Company, at which time I worked two white. We worked for about a year. They could no longer take the Boston job coming from a Negro, so we had a run in. The police at that time came down to the place and put me away. And I was the manager of the place. They put me away by force with guns.

I must have lost seven, $800 of my personal own stuff around there. I didn't stop then. I went and got me a little job with some hammer about 12 miles north of here. By my absence, they could not operate the tire shop. They had to close it down. The man called me back, said, "I need my business open." I said to him that he can have it. After he had explained to me when he had many thousands dollars tied up there and he need to open it up, I decide I'd come back and open it up again. I worked there for about six months. At that time, they sent another white man to work under my hand. I worked with this man, his name is BB Boyd, from Winfield, Louisiana. He finally got to where he wanted boss man. At that time, I walked off. I started a little something of my own.

It was my full intention to build a junk house. I wanted only a junk house. Just to prove to him and myself that I can make it. I did this having no money, $3.50, I believe, when I started. I built this place and he lasted just about 25 days. He had to close the shop up. And I started with this little old shop that you could see me on the outside through the wall just about as good. You can see me in this office now. The lights, you could see them half a mile away on the inside at night. When dew fall, it would come through. When it rained, I had to get out. But I stayed there. I made a couple dollars and I repaired the old building and had it looking pretty good, pretty good.

Then I continue my father up with so many men that who have laid their tools down. And some of them that said that I'll die before I be turned around. I got with those people who looked like to me they was going places. By John and them, other John, not the court side John, the other John. Because we was on the move. Then in October 1965, my tire shop was set afire by some unknown night riders. At which time, it is still down. I must have lost somewhere around 30 odd thousand dollars. Had no insurance. Had 11 children. But I'm trying to get it back. And this is where I am today, and I will continue until all Negroes are free. [inaudible 00:17:58].


Could you tell us a little bit about the Voters League?

Speaker 5:

Yes. The Voters League is an organization that was organized by the Negroes citizens of Madison Parish. We have a president, who is Mr. Zelma C. Wyche and Reverend F. W. Wilson, the Vice President, and Mr. Moses Williams is the second Vice President, and Mr. Harrison H. Brown was treasurer. We saw the need of organizing, organization. We felt within ourselves if we had our people to where we could begin to teach them the fundamentals of voting and what it mean to vote and what you could really accomplish out of voting, and we felt as being the leaders, that this would be appropriate way of doing things.

After we got started, people began to see the light and they began to see that they were needed, and very much needed. And they began to come in droves. They were eager to learn about civil rights. They were eager to learn about how they could be free and be recognized as other people and in this organization that teaches along those lines. And I think we have made history through this organization. When we started, we had a small number, but as of now we have about 4,000 members. [inaudible 00:20:36]. And I think we are very proud of our people and the organization, and I think our people are very proud of us and the organization.


Now, the Voters League is now running two Negro candidates, is that right?
Speaker 5:
Yes, yes.


Can you tell us a little bit about the campaign since we have both of the candidates sitting right here?

Speaker 5:

Well, the campaign have been very successful I think, up until now. The people are turning out very successful, I should say. We have been around doing a lot of campaigning and we have talked to a lot of people. And people are very interested in this movement because they feel the need of these Negro candidates. They feel to believe that there will be a breaking point if these candidates are elected, so they have the ballot and I believe they're going to elect these candidates.


Now, who are the candidates and what are they running for?
Speaker 5:
Mr. Harrison H. Brown running for a member of the school board office, and Reverend Wilson running for a member of the school board office.


Is this the first time Negros have run for office in Madison Parish?

Speaker 5:

This is the first time that I can recall. [inaudible 00:22:23]. The first time Negro ran for office in Madison Parish on school board, that was the first on April the ninth. The history says the first time the Negro ever run for all of us and Democrat executive committee. It had four Negro running. It had two for Democrat executive committee, Reverend Willard Johnson, Mr. [inaudible 00:23:11]. Reverend Willard Johnson won the election on the Democratic executive. He had Moses Williams and Zelma C. Wyche running for all them.

They were unsuccessful. That's about it on the election up until your candidate had just gotten talking to your Reverend F. W. Wilson, who is a candidate and Ward to Precinct One and Two. By the way, he's running against three white and he looked very good out there. Mr. H. H. Brown was running Ward Four. The city of Talullah against one white lady was something very unusual for a Negro to do in these parts. And it looks very good here. And we expect to win this August the 13th.

Speaker 3:

The expressions that have just been heard are facts. People need help at all time, local people, and had it not been for the civil rights groups throughout America, I doubt if Madison Parish would really have started moving. White supremacy prevails throughout the Southland. Talullah, Madison Parish is no exception as was stated by Reverend Israel with his encounter with the highway patrol, that was just one of the incidents that took place in the early days. Many more happened. Phone call threats, beating people in the streets, saying "You need to be dead."

But this did not stop us, but we kept striving and trying to do something. Realizing that the federal government was finally moving into the South with force, only because they had been pushed by these national civil rights organizations. In our parish we have mentioned the NAACP, which is a good organization.

But there's one organization that Madison Parish owes a lot to and has a lot of respect for. CORE. Congress of Racial Equality. A nonviolent group. This organization came to the parish a little over a year ago. And we in Madison Parish accepted CORE for what it was worth and its nonviolent movement. We shall never forget the first worker that came here and was really received into the community. Many came prior to him, but this individual, Gary Craven, a Californian, came to Madison Parish a representative of CORE, a representative of manhood, a representative of American heritage, a representative of all people throughout the United States, black and white. He was an individual that believed in right for all mankind.

After his coming, the movement really got started. We had sit-ins, jail-ins, walk-ins, church-ins, every kind of in you could make mention. But they were successful in the sit-ins in the cafes. We were testing public accommodation on the title two of the Civil Rights Act. We were successful in being served in some of the places, but there's a cafe downtown, a stronghold of segregation. The Post In Cafe. Where 61 of us were placed in jail, and later released without charges.


How long did you spend in jail?

Speaker 3:

We spent nine hours and a half in jail and we were bonded out by individual citizens. And that was really what upset the white man in Madison Parish, how this bond money was raised for so many individuals after the banks had closed. They demanded cash bonds and our citizens raised this cash money and got us out of jail. And this was a mistake I believe the white man made, placing us in jail. This aroused the community and they realized then that there was no turning back. The white man was so wrong and they were determined to straighten them out. CORE has played a great part in Madison Parish. We appreciate the efforts that they have tried to do here. Through the work of many of them, and might I recall some who came here during the first of the demonstrations, Alec Van Sandering, Harold Iches, Dick Andrews, many more.

They came, they helped, they were insulted, they were beaten, they were placed in jail, but that didn't stop them. They kept on fighting for equal rights for the Negroes of Madison Parish. Later in the summer of 19 and 65, a Gallup young lady came to Madison Parish, a native Louisianian. Ms. Irene Candy Davis. A true representative of womanhood, one that believes in right for her people, one that has stood up to the white man and his wrongdoing, his wrong- saying in Madison Parish, ever since she's been here. She came, she's worked hard, she's done a good job, but we cannot forget the overall program that CORE has been working on in Louisiana. Talullah is not the only place, but they've done good jobs in Jonesborough, Bogalusa, New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Minden, Shreveport.

Those are but a few, but they have worked. We cannot forget Richard Haney, who has done a beautiful job, but who is now in the stage of going into something else. Let us not forget Ike Reynolds, who has been here on many occasions, who worked so diligently during the municipal election in which we lost. But he worked hard, tried to get us into office. And the last two or three months we've had a very dynamic young man who is coming here, who has worked, and says that we must win this election. Mr. Bruce Bains. A hard worker, an energetic young man, who has been in many jails throughout the South. And he said he doesn't mind going to jail in Talullah for right. We hope that it will not come to this, but if it does, the citizens of Madison Parish, members of the Voters League, the all powerful Stern Committee under the direction of Reverend T. I. Israel will be behind him.

He might go to jail, but he will get out. Some of us might go to jail, but we will get out. In the event that we go to jail, we're going for right. And right will rule over might. CORE, we're proud of CORE. The Congress of Racial Equality. Through the help of these type organizations, the Negroes of the United States someday will receive their equal rights. And after receiving their equal rights, they will be in a position to fulfill the obligations that have been bestowed upon them. Through the work of this committee, the Stern Committee, CORE, the Voters League itself, we have been able to place in good jobs downtown, clerks, checkers, a policeman, a deputy sheriff.

All of this was done through what the white man has used on us. Economic pressure. We put economic pressure on the business places through picketing and boycotting. We picket the most powerful store in the United States, a store that we were asked, why did we attack it? Because they had more buying power than the United States Army. Why did we do it? That was the A&P, the Greater Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company. But when we got through picketing and boycotting the A&P, which lasted 111 continuous days, the A&P did what we asked them to do. We won that victory. It was a great victory for Madison Parish, a victory for the Negroes throughout the United States, to have a successful boycott against a powerful company as the A&P.


How long did the boycott last?

Speaker 3:

As I said, it lasted picketing and boycotting 111 days, and they were boycotted continuously. We walked the picket lines every day. The citizens stayed on the job. The picketer themselves were old, young, crippled, everybody joined the movement and got the job done. But that was not the only store behind that. Morgan Lindsey, five in 10. Ellis', five in 10. West Brother, a chain store, the Dixie Store, which is a chain, and numerous more that we boycotted and we picketed until they yield to the economic pressure of the Negro. This pressure was not used to say that we were just so powerful, but it was used to get equal rights for Negroes who were spending their monies in these places. I don't think our movement in Madison Parish could really have been as successful as it was without CORE and without the cooperation of our local police department.

I can say, and I truthfully believe that the police department under the leadership of the chief, James E. Rogan, did a beautiful job. He performed his duty like a law enforcement officer should. He strongly opposed to the Ku Klux Klans and all other hate groups. The white people in Talullah don't like him very much, but I believe that if all the officers, the police officers throughout the United States would do what James E. Rogan is doing here in Talullah, these United States would be a better place in which to live. Our sheriff, C.E. Hester, who has been mentioned before by some of the other people, even he's fallen in line now.

He says it's the law of the land, that these things must be. And he's going to see that these laws are enforced. There is no police brutality in Talullah. We have three negro policemans who I classify as tops, the best. Sergeant Huey Daley, patrolman D. L. Williams and patrolman Howard Claxton. They're doing a beautiful job, a job where we can be proud of them.

We need some of the Negro policemen from the other cities to come to Talullah and see how black policemen is supposed to treat black people. They have been instructed by the chief of police to arrest anybody, white or black, that violates the law. This authority is not granted to many Negro policemens in other places. Talullah, an Indian name. Means beautiful. Someday we shall behold that beauty.


The name of the Negro deputy sheriff is Robert Rogers.

Copyright © Mimi Feingold Real. 1965 or 1966

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