This short interview spans a certain white southern experience that isn't commonly taught about in most history text books. Racism is something that persists to this date. It is important to understand the roots and manifestations of racism in order to prevent it. To mitigate or ignore these opinions or reactions is to dull or dampen the efforts of Civil Rights leaders through their opposition.
Decatur, Alabama resident for over 80 years speaks about her experience living in Decatur during the tumultuous Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s.
Me: Would you mind telling me how old are you?
Mildred: I am 86 years old, I turn 87 in November.
Me: Can you tell me a little about your childhood?
Mildred: I was born in 1929. I had three brothers and one sister, growing up in Hartselle, Alabama. When I was young, growing up Catholic, I spent a lot of my time at the Catholic school me and my brothers and sisters went to. I met my husband in highschool and when we was in college studying he was drafted in the Korean War. He was in the war for a few years and I eventually landed a job working at N.A.S.A. I would handle their money for them. Giving people their checks at the end of the month or week. I was still working there while our little family grew and we bought our first house, and when my children were born.
Me: How many children did you have?
Me: Do you remember any events circling the Civil Rights Movement during the 1960’s where you were living?
Mildred: No, I don’t think anything happened to us. We had a lot of white people in Decatur. I do remember that on the news there were a lot of riots and bad things happening. In Birmingham of all places people were trying to cause trouble. I also remember a couple of other places, Montgomery I think, They were always trying to cause trouble.
Me: Who was causing trouble?
Mildred: The blacks were getting in fights with the white people during those times. They would get in trouble for breaking the law and they would riot and try and get their buddies out of prison. It was dangerous for some people to leave their houses back then, it still is in some places. I remember there was a big riot I heard about from a friend at work in Birmingham. We had a television in our office and we put it on, not wanting our boss to see us not working. I remember seeing the blacks fighting against the police and the attack dogs, trying to get a rise out of them. Eventually the police were getting upset at them breaking all of the laws and they had to go and put them in jail. The were trying to stop the trouble makers. They were getting so overwhelmed they had to call the fire department to come and save them. It was very dangerous to leave your house after that.
Me: What did your family think about these riots?
Mildred: My husband and I were not very afraid of any of those people coming to our house and hurting us, but we were afraid for our children. I remember we talked a great deal about whether we was going to send our kids to public school anymore after all of the protests were happening.
Me: Did that have anything to do with the desegregation? The blacks and whites at the same school?
Mildred: We decided we wanted to send our kids to the Saint Mary’s (School) in Decatur after all of the violence.We were very poor but the switch from public to private school kept our children safe and focused on God. We didn’t want those other children or their parents to cause any trouble.
Me: Have you had any sort of trouble with the blacks before?
Mildred: when I was maybe only seven or eight years old my sister was raped by a group of them. They took her away during a state fair. She TRIED to crawl home and a sheriff picked her up in the woods by the highway. The entire town was furious, the culprits were never found, she couldn't see their faces. After that she never really was the same, she turned scared and skiddish. Ever since then the community has kept its distance I think.
Me: I know that things were segregated when you were young, but do you remember ever working with a black person?
Mildred: No, I don't think they'd make it at N.A.S.A. I was working their when we started working and finally launch the Jupiter Missiles. I think that I am done with these questions.
Me: Thank you for your time.
Mildred: Thank you, sugar.
This interview, while short, shows some impressive insight into the lives of racist whites during the Civil Rights movement. Often times, in documentaries and in history books, social progress is through legislation brought forth by powerful and influential community leaders. Leader such as; Martin Luther King Junior, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, and Rosa Parks all fought against the mindsets and ideas of a certain population of racist Americans. This interview stands to tell a timeless tale of the opposition to these great leaders and illustrates the impressive obstacles that they overcame in order to achieve equal rights for themselves and their community.