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Mississippi - Meridian: Obie Clark Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Obie Clark in Meridian, Mississippi. Clark states he has been the president of the Meridian chapter of the NAACP since the 1970s. He says he is astounded by the negative perception of Mississippi across the United States. He states he grew up in Kemper Counter where he was taught how to be a second class citizen. For example, when he graduated from college in 1958, he bought a car and his family feared for him because Black people in Kemper County did not drive new cars. He talks about his 4 uncles who were WWII veterans. They had a lot of trouble re-adjusting to the racism in the south after the desegregated nature of the military. Clark says it was very hard for Blacks to find jobs growing up. His father was a bootlegger, working for White men. Clark went to Mississippi Industrial Collage where he majored in biology. he was the first person on both sides of his family to go to college. MI was an African Methodist institution. His wife graduated from Rust, another school nearby. He graduated in 1958 and was asked to teach and coach basketball at the local high school and accepted. He was married a year later. He taught from 1958 to 1967and pursued a master's degree in biology. He says he did not enjoy teaching at the high school because he was forced to be actively involved in keeping Black people down. All the teachers were made to sign an affidavit stating they would in no way be involved in the NAACP. By the 1960s he had moved to Meridian and commuted to work so he was able to get involved in the movement in Meridian without the school system in Kemper knowing. He talks out his issues with the "freedom to choose" stipulation of Brown v The Board of Education. He favored a re-hall of the system. He names Porter, Charles Young, Connie Moore, and Bishop as the leadership of the NAACP. Clark was the head of education at the time but became disenchanted with the movement. He says the NAACP and CORE did not necessarily get along, though they shared goals. He names Heidelberg, Gather Wright, Crowell, Freddie Watson, and Wasco Jones as local people who were more active with CORE and very important to the movement but not necessarily part of the leadership. He says Ms. Heidelberg should have been famous for her efforts. They discuss Meridian's developing economy. There are three plants that have recently opened and are driving the economy with minimum wage jobs. They discuss Black elected officials and the positions they hold. Clark speculates putting weak Black elected officials in charge may be nothing more than an effort to placate the masses of Black people in the area. They discuss the changing demographics of Meridian. Whites are moving to the suburbs to avoid inner city school districts and send their children to the academies.
More people arive towards the end of the tape. Thomas Dent turns the mike off and on again.
African AmericansBusiness peopleCivil rightsEconomicsOrganizationsRace relationsUniversities & colleges
Meridian (Ms.)Kemper County (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 152, Item 6, Side 1, 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.