Jump to navigation
Mississippi - Mayersville: Unita Blackwell Interviewee [Part 2] with Minnie Ripley
Dent, Thomas C.
Tom Dent continues his interview with Unita Blackwell. She continues to discuss the role of Fannie Lou Hamer in the civil rights movement. Blackwell describes her feelings for the town of Mayersville. It feels like home to her, but she does not say she will never leave. She has always lived on the river. They talk about other communities in the area that have made social progress. Now that Blackwell is mayor, people often make requests of her when she is out and about. Dent has a similar experience in New Orleans due to his role as director of the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival. Her role in the community is different from other citizens. Sometimes people say "thank you." Some people who were involved in the civil rights movement were never able to find their role afterward. They have just "stopped." Some people did not want to move on to housing issues or politics. Dent asks about new housing projects he saw in town. Blackwell says one is public housing and the other is for the elderly and handicapped. Both are federally funded. Blackwell was also responsible for planning the layout of the town and the infrastructure, including water and sewage. The town has to be incorporated to get certain funding. Mary Vandevender, who was clerk at the time the town incorporated, was the same clerk who denied Blackwell her voter registration. Dent hopes to speak with Vandevender. The Blackwell interview ends. [19:55] Dent interviews Minnie Ripley in Mayersville, Mississippi. She talks about her involvement in the civil rights movement. Louis Grant and a man named Bob got her involved. She was afraid of joining at first. She was singing in the choir at Rose Hill Baptist Church and Grant and Bob were invited to an event at the church. They encouraged her to try to register to vote at the court house, along with five others. They had to take a Constitutional interpretation test, administered by Mary Vandevender. None of them passed, but many of them returned to take the test again. They still did not pass. She prayed for the courage to go back. The second time she took the test, she passed. They told her she would have passed the first time if she would have done as well, but she did the exact same thing both times. She voted for the first time in 1965. The White people did not want them to vote. Northern Whites came down and encouraged them to speak up, telling them that they needed to register. There was not much contact between the Black and White communities in the area. Five F.B.I. agents came to her house. She had lived on a plantation called Mount Level. Her grandparents, who raised her, moved to Mayersville when she was seven. She attended Piney Woods School. Her grandfather was a sharecropper, but Ripley did not have to work. She sang in churches, including Moon Lake and Union Chapel. She married and had a daughter. Mayersville is quieter that surrounding areas. It used to be a larger town, but it used to have dirt streets and outhouses. There used to be more stores. There were schools in the churches, and then they built a Rosenwald school, which her daughter attended. Her church now has a pool, but they used to have river baptisms. They levee broke in 1927, but she was living in Greenville with her husband at that time. The house she currently lives in was her grandmother's house.
Recording has a wind pop and the sound [of a fan?] can be heard in the background.
African AmericansChurchesCivil rightsCivil rights demonstrationsDesegregationEducationIntegrationRace relationsSegregationVoting
Tulane University Digital Library
Box 151, Item 14, Side 2, 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.