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Mississippi - Canton: Charles Pernell Interviewee
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Charles Pernell in Canton, Mississippi. Pernell states he became active in the Civil Rights movement in 1961. He ran into some canvassers from Hattiesburg and helped show them around Canton. One was named Maddie Bivans. He helped them find a place for their meeting that night. He recalls meeting George Raymond shortly after he came to town. Pernell lists the people he remembers being active in the movement early on: C.O. Chinn, George Raymond, James Stokes, and Eugene Patterson. He recalls hitchhiking back to Canton when he was a student in Tupelo and being picked up by Medgar Evers. They discussed voting rights and Evers convinced Pernell to register that afternoon. He was one of the first in the area to do so; he was around 20 at the time. Pernell recalls that the meetings held in Chinn's bar always started by singing a prayer. In the beginning they mostly talked about the problems without acting. Slowly more and more people began coming to the meetings. He said that the early add-ons were probably just young people without much to do. Eventually they began meeting every night. After about six months the meetings moved to rural churches and the ministers began getting involved. Dent asks about Raymond and Pernell says he was very effective: he was a good speaker, sincere, and connected with people. He was a good leader, he would not ask others to do things he was not willing to do himself. Pernell recalls that his mother was very scared for him and was therefore not very supportive, though she never forbid him from getting involved. His father died when he was young. Pernell recalls that he didn't travel much with Civil Rights, he stayed mostly in Canton. Eventually he dropped out of school in Tupelo and returned to Canton. He left Canton in 1963 for California and returned 1978, going back and forth every few years up until the time of the interview. Dent asks what the biggest change was over that time and Pernell answers that Blacks are treated with more dignity and respect on the surface but that the change is mostly superficial. The continued segregation of White and Black students in the Academies and public schools demonstrates the continuing divide. Dent asks why Pernell returned to Canton and he says it was home. His mother needed help and his job in California was not great. He states the job situation for Blacks in Canton has not improved much but it is probably because the general economy is not doing as well. Blacks also are not voting in the numbers they should. They could command the majority if they mobilized.
Interview starts with the sound of a train horn and Thomas Dent setting up the mike.
African AmericansCivil rightsCivil rights leadership
Dent, Thomas C.Evers, Medgar Wiley, 1925-1963
Canton (Ms.)Hattiesburg (Ms.)Tupelo (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 153, Item 12, 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.