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Mississippi - Canton: George C. Nichols Interviewee
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews George C. Nichols in Canton, Mississippi. Nichols states his family has lived in Madison County since his great-grandparents. His great-great-grandmother lived to be over 100 and told his parents about her experience as a slave. His family used to own property on the East side of town. That side has always been a Black community. Nichols states it was fairly common for Blacks to own land because the Black population was so large. He believes his family came into possession of the land during Reconstruction. They also owned a corner store. His family lost a lot of the property because it was close to White owned land and they were bought off. His father inherited a much diminished piece of land. Eventually his father moved into the south side of Canton where there was a large Black community. They were divided by a railroad track from the White community. Nichols says his father was a laborer for a lumber company. It was the only thing available without a formal education. Nichols says his grandfather went to college for some years but there was no real expectation that he go. His oldest sister went to business school. The brother next in age went to Tennessee State; the next brother did the same but did not do well there. The rest of his siblings got at least an undergraduate degree. He says his parents passed away when he was quite young but they were proud to have so many children attend college. His father always said education came first. Nichols explains that many in the community aspired to college. The High School in the area was called Cameron Street School. The principal was named A. M. Rodgers. He said there was a movement of people into the city as they lost their land. He finished high school in 1963, the summer after Medgar Evers was shot. Nichols says he participated in Civil Rights but he found non-violence unnatural. He said he always felt disconnected from the movement for this reason. Nichols says Civil Rights was not really talked about at school, the teachers avoided getting involved. Nichols says there has always been potential for Black domination of politics in Madison County because the Black population was so high. Whites often divided the Black community to mitigate their potential power. He says the means of White domination have changed but are still active. Segregation left a mindset that still handicaps the Black population. That is why, though Blacks cannot vote, many chose not to. Nichols says his parents were sympathetic to Civil rights but were also very protective of their children. They discuss Miss Divine, Nichols states that she was a member of his church and he grew up knowing her. Dent asks if she was accepted as a female Civil Rights leader by the community. Nichols answers that she was articulate and well known; it was natural that she should take a leadership role and was generally accepted. Nichols talks about his time at the University of Mississippi. He says he was one of the first Black lawyers in Canton when he returned in 1976. Dent asks about George Raymond. Nichols says he was courageous, one of the bravest people he knew. Nichols mentions the split that occurred among many of the civil rights leaders after the sixties. He states it was over money and it was a shame. Nichols states that he spent 1979 to 1989 in City Council but that the community was so divided he felt the positon was thankless and lacked resources. He decided not to run again. They discuss the differences between Canton and Greenville.
African AmericansCivil rightsCivil rights leadershipEducationLand tenureRace realtions
Canton (Ms.)Madison County (Ms.)Greenville (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 153, Item 11, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
Physical rights are retained by the Amistad Research Center. Copyright is retained in accordance with U. S. Copyright Laws.