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Mississippi - West Point: Sylvester Harris Interviewee [Part 1]
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent interviews Sylvester Harris in West Point, Mississippi. Harris says he grew up in West Point and his family has lived in Clay County for over 100 years. He says Blacks have only recently come to hold high governmental positions. He says there is no continuity between the various constituencies. He believes people should be able to work together better within the county. They talk about the changing ownership of the various plantations in the region. The county is 51% Black with about 39% registered to vote. He says they do not have the voting base of registered voters to control the government. He is president of the NAACP and the Political Action Committee. Harris says it is hard to put a goal structure in place for both organizations. They have elected several Black officials but it is difficult to rally votes. Harris says the NAACP is a good vehicle to get people registered to vote but, since they do not back specific candidates, it is not very effective in getting people out to vote. They discuss the general history of the county and the changing political parties through time. Harris says there is little difference between the Republican and Democratic parties. They discuss the night life of Clay County; Harris says White Station was a Bourbon Street equivalent. The county went back and forth between a dry and wet county during prohibition but White Station never went dry. Howling Wolf would play there sometimes and there was also bear wrestling. Most of the people around White Station were sharecroppers; there were only two big land owners. School went up to eighth grade and students were bussed in from all over the surrounding rural area. Harris attended up through fifth grade when his family moved to Town Creek and went to school there for another year and a half. He attended East Mississippi Junior College on a two year scholarship for football. He was the second Black to attend his West Point High and one of the first to attend his college. He was the only Black on many of the sports teams at his various schools. He is quoted in a Sports illustrated article at the time, though his name was not given. The year after, his coach recruited more Black players to the team. Harris says his older sister was the first to go to college in his family; she works for AAA auto insurance in Detroit. Harris says his parents separated when he was little and he met his father as an adult. There were fifteen children and he is the eighth. He says it was a very close family. Only he and two sisters are still in West Point. Three sisters and two brothers live in Detroit now. They talk about Harris' ancestry, tracing it back to his grandparents and great grandparents.
They are driving during the interview and the noise of the car in the background can be heard.
African AmericansCivil rightsEconomicsEducationRace relations
West Point (Ms.)Clay County (Ms.)
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 152, Item 15, 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.