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Mississippi Delta: Hollis Watkins Interviewee
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Hollis Watkins in the Mississippi Delta. Watkins outlines his religious upbringing and his family's deep involvement in the church. Watkins explains that his family is from Lincoln County, Chisholm Community and he can trace his family back to his Great-grandfather. He explains that his father was born in 1899 and his mother in 1900 with Watkins being the youngest of nine children. He explains that his relatives on his mother's side were "Indians (Choctaws) and Jews". Watkins recounts childhood memories of local caves and digging for arrow heads. He states that there was no community of Indians left by the time he was growing up but some of the Blacks in the area had Indian blood and selectively practiced elements of Indian heritage. Other Blacks with Indian heritage denied their backgrounds entirely. Dent comments that the Choctaw of the region were pushed into Oklahoma and those that could often passed as Black to avoid the reservations. Watkins recalls that he grew up African Methodist (AME), the next closest church was a Holiness church and a Baptist church and Watkins recalls going to all three throughout his childhood. He recalls that Bible Study and Prayer Meeting are common practices in the area and a means of creating community. Elderly members of the community normally lead the Prayer Meetings, priests were generally not involved, and the leaders may or may not have any official connection to the church. The meetings were attended based on demographics, not necessarily on denomination: you could go to the closest meeting regardless the type of Christianity you practiced. The church also put on Community Theater and plays which took place in the local schools. Some of the plays were religious but some were for pure entertainment. There were also plays specifically for children. The plays were generally written by people in the community, whoever "felt like it". Dent comments that there are few avenues for social entertainment and connection in these small towns outside of church events. Watkins recalls that the church once screened a movie but that there was also a local, segregated movie theater a few miles away. Dent asks when Watkins first met "Bob" and Watkins recalls that he was with several other Civil Rights leaders. Watkins recalls he had just returned from California when he was told several significant Civil Rights leaders were in the area and they went to meet them in McCollum. Watkins joined the voter registration initiative with a friend. He was eventually arrested and his father was harassed. Watkins recalls that there were some Blues performers in the area but mostly it was church music and Blues was seen as anti-church. infact, some churches did not allow instruments for serval years because it was too close to Blues. The guitar was seen as "the devil's instrument."
African AmericansBlues musicCivil rightsIndians of North AmericaMethodist churchesMusicRace relationsReligion
Magnolia (Ms.)McCollum (Ms.)Summit (Ms.)Chisholm Community (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 154, Item 8, 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.