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Mississippi - Jackson: Dick Molpus Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Dick Molpus in Jackson, Mississippi. Molpus introduces himself as the Secretary of State for Mississippi. Dent asks Molpus about efforts to reverse White flight and bring White students back into the public schools. Molpus explains that he and few other parents who were co0mmunity leaders made the decision not to send their children to a private academy. In 1984 they sent their children to Casey Elementary which was almost entirely Black at the time at risk for closing. About five years later it was stable and approaching racial balance. In 1989 they created Parents for Public Schools. They raised money, engaged with the community and created outreach programs for neighboring cities to start their own branches. The group was originally all White but became integrated. They also helped pass a bill to increase funding to public schools. Molpus explains that the idea is to work as a community to improve education and overcome segregation. At the time of the interview, Parents for Public Schools had expanded to 12 cities in Mississippi and four other cities across the country. Dent asks about leveling in the public school system. Molpus states his disgust with that system. He says he believes parent participation is the crucial element that makes the public school system work. Dent asks what Molpus believes is the most notable change in Mississippi from when he grew up in Philadelphia. Molpus says the biggest change is the enfranchisement of Blacks and all the changes it enabled. Dent talks about a genural disappointment among Blacks over what has been accomplished in the years since Civil Rights. Moplus adds that there is an economic decline and a drain on population within his district. Molpus talks about the struggle over mail-in voter registration which has only just passed through a large amount of personal effort on Molpus' part. He says this is vital to avoid intimidation in the court house as to allow more people to be heard. Dent notes difficulty in electing Black officials and their struggle with corruption once elected. Molpus states that the 1990s has been an internal struggle among communities to deal with inherited historical struggles. Dent asks about the image of Mississippi held by the rest of the county and the inescapable connection to racism and backwardness. Molpus states that "the way to change Mississippi's image is to change its reality." He does not believe media soundbites will make the difference; it will only come though struggle and intelligent and inclusive efforts. Dent asks about Molpus' childhood growing up in Philadelphia during Civil Rights. Molpus states he was 14 when MLK came though and remembers the murders of the Civil Rights leaders in the area. Mostly, Molpus states, he was caught up in the grandeur and theater of his town being talked about on the news rather than the events themselves. He says it dawned on his slowly that "there was something amiss is my home town." During that first summer, Molpus states most of the White population was absorbed in how they were being portrayed by the media, rather than the issues themselves. Molpus states his father owned a lumber business and employed about 200 men. He remembers a time when the KKK came to his father with a list of employees who had attended NAACP meetings. The KKK demanded they be fired or they would burn down his father's factory. His father refused. In retrospect, however, Molpus states there was a lot more the White community could have done to support the cause. Molpus remembers seeing Steele, Collier and Cole advocate for Civil Rights. He remembers admiring them but he was too young to get involved. He does mention seeing a White woman speak up, Florence Mars, who he came to respect and appreciate. He says the White community finally rallied together when Mars was thrown in jail. Dent asks how conscious Moplus was of Longdale community and he states that he knew it was there but did not know much else. Molpus states that Greenville is struggling economically because they did not get behind de-segregation and have been supporting two different schools systems. Indianola, which has been improving its public schools, is doing much better economically for his reason. Molpus says, "We simply can't afford to fight each other any longer. We have to come together"u2026 We have to lift up our children."
African AmericansCivil rightsEconomicsEducationRace realtionsSegregationVoter registration
Jackson (Ms.)Canton (Ms.)Longdale (Ms.)Indianola (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 153, Item 9, Tom Dent collection, Amistad Research Center at Tulane University, New Orleans, Louisiana
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