Ralph Deason was born May 18, 1922 to Pearl Weeks Deason and John Bert Deason. He is my grandfather. He fought in World War II, serving in the European Theater of Operations (E.T.O.) as a technical sergeant.

Before I get to World War II, I’d like to give more background on my grandfather. He grew up during the Great Depression. He went to school but had to quit when he was in the sixth grade to help his father run the farm. Farming was the family’s means of survival and that’s what he did until he was around nineteen or twenty. Then in 1942 he was drafted into the army.

When he was drafted, he was sent to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. There the division that he was going to be a part of was being formed. His division was the 30th infantry division. Its nickname was Old Hickory, and was originally a National Guard unit that served in World War One and was reformed for World War II. He was placed in the 117th infantry regiment, in the Anti-Tank company. His company’s main combat job was to destroy enemy tanks. He was trained as a cook and worked as one during training and the time prior to combat. But in combat he fought as a normal solider. During his training the division was moved around to many different training sites. First was Fort Jackson, then Camp Croft and Camp Blanding on Christmas. After their time there they went to Fort Bening, Georgia for two months then back to Blanding. Then in 1943 they went to Camp Adaberry, Indiana. Soon it was 1944 and he was in Camp Mile Standish. They only spent twelve days there and were sent to Boston Harbor.
In Boston Harbor, on February 12, 1944, they boarded a troop ship and were off to Europe. After fourteen days they landed in Liverpool, England. From there they were transported to Petworth, England which is about fifty miles from London. Then from there they were transported to St. Alban where they trained for the invasion of German occupied France.

D-Day came and Mr. Deason’s division was not part of the initial assault, but was sent to Omaha Beach about twelve days afterwards to relieve the 1st Infantry Division. After taking over for the 1st the 30th Division found themselves in the battle of Mortain or better known as the Falise Gap or Falise Pocket. The 30th Infantry Division was at the forefront of the fighting in many key places in the European Theater of Operations.

My grandfather was in five major battles of World War II, including Mortain, St. Lo, and the Battle of the Bulge. My grandfather told me the Battle of the Bulge was the hardest battle they were in. He told me how some soldiers froze in the snow and how frostbite and trench foot were just as rough on them as the Germans were. During the Bulge, the 30th Division was placed under the command of George S. Patton and held the town of Malmedy, Belgium. They also helped fight to save the surrounded 101st Airborne Division from Bastone.
My grandfather’s Division fought all the way up to the Elbe River not far from Berlin. They were told to hold at the river and let the Russians take Berlin. While at the river hundreds of thousands of German soldiers swam across the river to surrender to them rather than suffer at the hands of the Russians.  The war in the European theatre was over and the 30th Infantry Division had been right in the thick of it, earning them selves the nickname “The Work Horse of the Western Front”.

Following the conclusion of the war, my grandfather came home and worked for himself. He farmed, drove a dump truck and raised cattle. He married my grandmother, Lois Deason, and raised a family with four children, six grandchildren and one great-grandchild. He is a great hard working man and the hero of my life. I will spend my life trying to be as great a man as he is.

-Jacob Deason-


Interview with Annice Trowbridge

The Civil Rights era was a violent and scary time. Social integration had a huge roll in Arkansas, where my mom, Annice Trowbridge is from. Considering she grew up in Arkansas, I assumed she would be able to account for many civil right acts that went on in her own home town.  Annice Trowbridge was born in Morrilton, Arkansas in 1954. She was raised by her parents and her maid, Areal. She lived there along with four siblings. Annice told me that she had spent the majority of her life in the south. Moving from Arkansas to Mississippi, and then to Louisiana; eventually finding her way to South Carolina. Annice also shared that her education stopped in the twelfth grade due to a baby on the way.

I asked Annice if she remembered when the area schools were integrated.  Annice then told me ” I went from the first grade to the sixth grade going to an all white school. The black children attended school separate from the white children… somewhere else. When I entered Jr. High (seventh grade)… that was the first year we had integration.” Annice continued to tell me that “something that didn’t change immediately was the Reailto Theater. In this theater, blacks sat up in the balcony and whites sat closer to the movie screen in the lower seats. Also, blacks had a separate concession stand.”

I asked Annice if she could recall any memories from this time period. She said she could, and told me a story about how seventh grade was for her. She stated ” I began to become friends with some of the new black students, I enjoyed talking with them because it was something new to me. Many of my teachers got mad  at me though, especially my seventh grade English teacher. That teacher expelled me from her class for ‘cheating’, when really it was because I had been conversing with another black girl.”

I then asked Annice if she ever had a fear of racial violence. She replied “no, not really… A lot of tension, but no violence. Where I grew up, in Morrilton, I believe it was easier for us to accommodate to the changes because we were a smaller town, people were closer. The real racial violence was in Little Rock, maybe because it was a bigger city; I guess.”  I continued to ask her if she felt that change occurred rapidly or slowly. She told me “very slowly. Social occasions and things to that effect were still segregated. Blacks and whites wouldn’t mix together until about twenty years later… but I still see some separation today.”

I asked Annice if she had much exposure to people of other races as a child. She told me she did. “Our made, Areal, took care of me and my siblings. Areal read to us, and talked to us if we were sad. Also, she took me and my sisters to her families house many times to hang out and eat. She was like my second mother.” I then asked about her recollection of Martin Luther King Jr.’s death. She told me she could remember the pain Areal was going through; she said she could remember hugging her, trying to console her.

When I asked if she had seen any specific incidents of segregation in South Carolina, she said “no.” However, Annice did continue to tell me a story about a specific time she remembers in her childhood, where someone was being utterly racist. She began “Back then we could walk to school, and home during lunch. I remember one day I invited some girls to come home with me to eat. Areal would always cook lunch for us if we decided to eat at home. One of the girls that I brought home that day said ‘nigger’ in casual conversation. Since I had become so close to Areal, I stood up and told her she couldn’t say that word… especially not in front of Areal. I said Areal is like an oreo; she is black on the outside but white on the inside. Areal then yelled at me and said ‘no honey, we are all red on the inside with the same blood and heart that you have’.” Annice told me how thankful she was to Areal for saying that to her. She said she was never going to forget that moment, or what was said.

In conclusion, I would like to say that my mother has shared many experiences with me that she went through during her child hood. I don’t think that any modern day young adult can comprehend what it must have been like for the children, and the families.Although we have come a long way from this time period, I still believe we have a long way to go.

By:  Sarah Trowbridge

Grams and Me

World War II was a devastating time for the United States and everyone who was involved. Martha McKay was just a little girl while WWII was happening. She was born in 1935 in Seminole, Oklahoma. Martha moved to Port Chicago, California at the age of twelve. She never graduated from college but took a class in law. When she moved to California she worked in civil services for a few years. Martha remembers very little of WWII but was able to  answer some questions for the interview.

“Don’t remember anything about that as I was too young but was well aware of a war going on since I had a brother, an uncle, and a cousin in WWII,” said Martha when I asked her what she remembered about the attack on Pearl Harbor. She was always very supportive towards her family members during the war. She remembered receiving letters from her brother and reading them with her family. I asked her what she remembered from being on the home front during the war and she said, “I remember that we all did what we had to do, we all buckled down and made the best of it.” It seemed like she and many others supported the men on the front line and were motivated to do so. Martha had many relatives that served our great nation, yet one relative, her cousin, never came home. She remembered the devastation her family went through when hearing the news of the loss. Many had heard of men losing their lives, yet none had experienced it within the family.

People throughout the United States were disrupted through the times of war. Some had lost loved ones and some were still waiting on word from their family members serving overseas. When I asked Martha if she or her family had been disrupted during the war she didn’t have much to say but, “Not that I knew of, I know that we didn’t get everything we wanted but all that we needed.  We did what we had to do to help our country while helping our military.” Then I asked her about rationing during the war she said, “Yes I do remember rationing.  Didn’t affect us to a big extent, we just did what we had to do.  We had rationing on a lot of things but we managed.” It seemed to me that many Americans were experiencing the same thing.

President Roosevelt was a huge impact to the United States during the time of WWII. He had many Americans believing in their country, had men serving to protect them and keeping them safe from the war. As soon as the war started, many jobs also became available. Martha didn’t remember much of President Roosevelt, yet she knew of him because of her parents, and they liked him very much. “I was too young to work, my dad worked in the oil companies, and my mom was a stay-at-home mom.” said Martha when I asked her about working during the war. She had explained to me she wanted to but couldn’t because of her age. Safety was never a worry for Martha during the war, she believed that we had enough defense from the war coming to us.

When WWII was coming to a near end many people were looking forward to the return of the war heroes. Many events had happened that shocked many people, not only in the U.S., but around the world. So when I asked Martha if she had seen any support for the returning troops I had a feeling of what she would say. “There was total support, people would gather at the train stations to welcome them home, even if they didn’t know them.” she said. It must have made every returning soldier feel like a hero when returning to such a thing. Martha had heard about the devastations of the war but never really understood them. When the nuclear bomb was dropped on Japan she was to young to know what was going on. “They did what they had to do and felt they had to do.  I was young and wouldn’t have second guessed it.” Martha said when asked about the bombings. I believe many Americans felt the same. I asked her If she could let us all know what events had happened or personal memories she had that could help us all understand the war she had few words to say. The only thing she did say was, “My favorite memory was when my brother came home from the war safe and sound.  Our nation lost a lot of good men and my cousin was one of them.  I don’t know that our nation went through anything except doing what we all had to do to get our men and women back home.”

My Grandmother, Martha McKay is a great woman. She had been through more than I could even think of. I have a greater respect for her knowing what she had been through and the way she has carried her family through all these events. She will always be loved and remembered.

Tyler Patrick

Marion Wicker was born on June 12, 1920. He was born into a farming family with four sisters and five brothers. I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Marion through my grandmother. They worked together in the mill after his military service. Although he now resides Newberry, South Carolina, he was born in the Kinards area, and this is where he was living when World War II broke out in Europe. On October 16, 1941, Uncle Sam sent the 21-year-old young man a very important telegram. He had been drafted. When asked was he scared or worried Mr. Marion calmly replied, “No…I wasn’t worried. Now my mom, she was scared. But me, I was excited. I was 21 and free.” Marion Wicker was going to get paid fifty dollars a month to drive an Army supply truck in North Africa. However he would soon be in for much more excitement than he bargained for.

“Once the war started getting so big over in Europe…we all knew it would only be a matter of time before the U.S. got involved.” After Marion Wicker was drafted on October 16, he was sent to Camp Wheeler, Georgia. This is where he was training, when the bombing of Pearl Harbor occurred. Mr. Marion recalled, “We knew then that it was certain; we were going to war.” In January they set out for England and by March they were performing training maneuvers at night in Ireland. Finally Marion Wicker and the 168th infantry got to their combat destination–Algeria, North Africa. Things were going smoothly. Mr. Marion was performing his assigned duties–hauling guns, ammunition, food, etc. But, as the Army pressed to the north-east, into Tunsia, trouble began to creep dangerously close, and no one expected what would come next.

The date was February 3, 1943. Mr. Marion had no trouble recalling this date. “The Germans charged us and completely surrounded us” said Mr. Marion. “Were there any attempts to fight them at that point?” I asked. “No!” he exclaimed, “They had us surrounded. Everyone dropped their guns and surrendered.” Marion Wicker, along with the rest of his group, were now American prisoners-of-war. The men were immediately flown to a makeshift P.O.W. camp in Italy, where they spent their time in a cold tent.

Soon after, they were sent to Munich, Germany and it was here that Mr. Marion saw a taste of the Nazi SS troops and their cruelty. “They were never really mean to us…” stated Mr. Marion, “but those young SS troops, they had a cockiness about them.” It was in Munich where he saw victims of the Holocaust…”We saw this group of soldiers leading a string of Jews. They weren’t anything but skin and bones…it wasn’t a lie…it was real! I saw that.” Can you imagine? Being there and seeing first hand…the victims of Hitler’s burning hatred. “For the most part, we were treated pretty fair. There was one instance,” remembered Mr. Marion, “during an air raid, the building we were in caught on fire and we were forced into one of the buildings that wasn’t burning. They were kind of forceful then, but for the most part…they weren’t too rough.” I asked Mr. Marion if he was ever scared or did he feel the need to pray “You know…I can’t say that I prayed [although his mother was praying] and I really wasn’t scared. We were all pretty down on that plane ride to Italy but no…I wasn’t scared. I didn’t have sense enough to be scared!” He said with a laugh.

After a short time in Munich, Marion Wicker was split up from his original group, including his first cousin, and sent with seventeen other American P.O.W.’s, to work at a fenced-in farm in Poland. Here they were forced to do slave labor while guarded by old World War I veterans. “We survived. It was my kind of work. I was raised on a farm. We didn’t have tons of food but I tell you what…we never ate less than the guards. They were good to us…I guess they had seen all this before in World War I. The prisoners-of-war were allowed mail and small packages from home. For the first time since his capture, Mr. Marion was able to correspond with his family. “I never smoked until my sister started sending me cigarette pack from home” he said with a laugh. “She sent them, so I figured I should smoke them.” At least now Mr. Marion could keep some contact with his family, and hear news on his brother, who had been stationed in the Pacific.

Life was not unbearable in the camp and on Sundays, the prisoners would enjoy their only day off with games of pinochle. “Did you ever try to escape?” I asked. “No…I never did. There were a couple of guys who went over the fence…we never heard anything out of them. Most of us were content to wait it out. We knew they were coming for us.” “So you never lost hope?” I questioned. “No sir. No. I never lost hope;” he replied affirmatively, “I always knew our boys were coming for us.”

Help would eventually come. Through mail, and the sightings of Allied bombers, both the prisoners and the guards knew it was only a matter of time before the war would be over. The seventeen prisoners-of-war had grown as close as brothers and they would often tease the German guards by pointing to the sky and saying, “Plane Americano!!” Finally the blessed day came. Although he cannot completely remember what events actually transpired, Mr. Marion does know that during one April day in 1945, the gates opened and the prisoners, accompanied by the guards, just walked out. “Where were you going?” I asked puzzled. “I don’t know;” he said with a chuckle, “we didn’t know…I guess we were going to find the Allies and the guards felt like going with us.” After a month of cold nights spent in abandoned barns or under open skies, and long days of aimless walking, Mr. Marion and his American and German companions eventually found themselves in Lamar France and FINALLY in British hands! “What did we do?!?”, exclaimed Mr. Marion, “we got pretty drunk and had a good old time!” The German guards, now veterans of two world wars, were apparently content to throw their guns down and issue their own surrender. It had been two long years, and a long walk from Poland, but Marion Wicker was finally going home.

Mr. Marion then had to go through some different tests and he was finally sent to a fort in Florida where he said they “de-liced you.” After that he had to hitch-hike from Florida back up to his little community of Kinards, South Carolina. “I remember walking back into the yard and hearing my sister cry out, ‘I believe that’s Mac!’ They called me Mac.” Apparently they “had a ball” that evening and they were so excited that the poor mule had to spend the rest of the day in the field. Unfortunately for the mule, Mr. Marion’s father left the beast standing right there and ran in when he heard his son was home. Can you blame him? It was June of 1945. It had been nearly four years since Marion Wicker had left to serve his country, but he was now home.

My favorite quote from Mr. Marion was when he said, “German people aren’t all bad…they just had a young leader who got them fired up. They were good soldiers doing their job.” Although he never heard what happened to the old German guards, and he eventually fell out of contact with his fellow P.O.W.’s, the experiences Mr. Marion endured will be with him forever. He went on to marry a wonderful wife and have a healthy family with kids and grandkids and great-grand kids; and if you saw the funny, humble, easy-going. Marion working in his garden, you probably would never know what a hero he really is. Why is he a hero? He did not single-handedly capture a German patrol, nor did he charge blindly into a bunker on a beach. He was really never even physically wounded. But Marion Wicker did something many of us will never do. He gave away four years of his life to the protection of the country we freely call home. He served for his country and for his family and that to me, is heroic. Mr. Marion, if you are reading this now, I thank YOU, and all veterans, who fought to keep this land a free nation under God. You are true Heroes.

-Jesse Tarver

Robert May was born in Greenwood South Carolina in 1924.  After Graduating from Greenwood High School in 1941, May attended only one semester at Clemson University due to an operation that forced him to withdraw from the school. May not being able to return to school was drafted into the Army  in early 1942. When asked how he felt after he heard about the attack on Pearl Harbor Mr. May replied that he is almost ashamed to answer this question because at the time he didn’t know where Pearl Harbor was more than any other place. Later on he added that ” it didn’t make any difference to me as far as Pearl Harbor, it was the United States being attacked as far as I was concerned”.  After being drafted and following nearly 9 months of training from basic training  and some artillery training Mr. May was sent over to Italy.

Mr. May was attached to an “Armed Artiliary outfit  that had M7 tanks outfitted with 105 howitzer”  after several months of training May was sent to the front lines of Italy in 1943. After arriving in Italy and being attached to the 133 regiment of the 34 infantry division, May was asked  if he had any experience with artillery which he did. From here May was switched to a “cannon company… and served (his) time with the 75 mm Howitzer” or more commonly refereed to as the pack howitzer. Not leaving his regiment but only being moved to another company within the regiment.

M8 75 mm Pack Howitzer

As May was stationed in Italy his wife back home wrote to almost him everyday. Due to the amount of time it took for mail to reach the front lines; the letters came in bulk amounts. While in Italy, May also recalls the death of Benito Mussolini explaining

That we came into the town shortly after (he was killed), and I did see him, not actually strung up but he was hanging. They knew we were coming in so they killed him before we got there. Also his mistress or his wife or whatever it was, she was beside him and a couple other people  I think.  I did at one time have some photos of it but I dont know what happened to them…I do remember one solder but who he was or where he was from I do not know, but he did walk up; the dress was hanging down because they were hung up by their heels and so forth. He tucked the dress back in between her legs… But they were beaten on ’em, going by and spitting on ’em hitting em, stupidity really, but I guess people get so emotionally upset I guess you do a lot things when you’ve been treated by someone as bad as  (Mussolini)…

Benito Mussolini and his mistress (Center)

May recalls being in Italy when hearing about  the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt  saying  “it took all of us by shock” going on to say “it upset all of us…we hated to lose our president he had been a great president”.  Also while in Italy May was “never officaly wounded” but did have a  piece of a phosphorus shell land on top of his sleeping bag setting it on fire. Having trouble getting out of the sleeping bag the phosphorus burned through the sleeping bag and started to into burn his chest. From which point a comrade rushed over and placed mud on his chest to put out the phosphorus. Mr. May  luckly only suffered  burns to the chest from this ordeal. Explaining that the German’s were “zeroing in” using phosphorus shells to get a better idea of where the shells where landing.

After the War ended in Europe May was required to stay in Italy as an occupational force until late into the year of 1945. Finally returning to the states and being discharged in December of 1945, it  had almost been 4 years since leaving his home in Greenwood, South Carolina. The final question asked during this interview inquired if documentaries on the war  bothered him. May replied at first he couldn’t stand to watch them but now as time has passed he can watch them but they are not his favorite thing.

Will Laforge

This country we all know as America, has not always been so independent for everyone. The Civil Rights Act brought America together. For a very long time black and white was more than just a color. People of a different race did not always get along. Then this country made a major change. Everyone began to be treated equally.

My great grandmother Jean Martin seen the Civil Rights times first hand, and living in South Carolina it was one of the toughest parts of the country during this time. She was born and raised in Calhoun Falls, South Carolina, and she still lives there today. She was a mother to three children who were all in school at this time.

First, I started of by asking ” Do you remember when the schools integrated?” She said “Yes. When the school integrated in Calhoun Falls things went a whole lot better than most would have believed.” This seemed unusual to me from the stories we hear about others schools that integrated.

My great grandmother was very quick to answer the question, “Were you ever afraid of racial violence?” She said” All through my life I had been very afraid of the Ku Klux Klan, for the reason of my friend in elementary school’s dad had been killed by them because he was friends with a black man.” Even then some white people had to fear them because of them not being racist. My great grandmother went on to say that she had never know her parents to be racist they were nice to anyone no matter the color of their skin. She also told me that the Ku Klux Klan ws a major part in this area of the state, that many men were in the “Klan”, and they were never scared to come out and say it. The Klan started to fade when everyone began to have egual rights.

My great grandmother said that everyone around here followed what Civil Rights activist were doing such as Malcolm X, Rosa Parks, and Martin Luther King. Everyone knew especially in this part of the country they would bring major change. In Calhoun Falls, every Martin Luther King day there is still a march through town to celebrate what he had done for the country.

Times like these would have been very hard for me, because I am friends with the person they have on the inside, not the color on the outside. In the time I have grown up in I could never imagine them being any different. That just goes to show how things change.

Chase Charping

                The Civil Rights era was a time of turmoil and sadness.  To understand more about this time period I interviewed my grandmother Eula Alliston.  She currently lives in Greenwood, SC but this was only a recent move.  When Civil Rights started my grandma was in her 30’s.  She was born in 1927 in a town called Eagleville located in Missouri.  She only lived here until she was about 6 years old and then her and her parents moved to Bethany, MO.  She was an only child and grew up in a fairly wealthy home.  In 1938 the schools were integrated.  She remembers having to go to school in Martinsville, MO which was the next town over.  The bus would pick her up at her driveway and drop her off there after school.  Not many people opposed integration because it was supposed to be an improvement.  When she graduated high school in Bethany she became a school teacher in a one room school house teaching many different ages of children in one room.  After only 2 years teaching she decided to attend North West Missouri State University.  When she graduated college she moved to Kansas City, MO and became a book keeper at UMB bank. 

                The Civil Rights figures such as Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks were not well known in the area my grandmother grew up in.  Her home town only had one black family.  She remembered they “kept to themselves and worked at the powerplant”.  In Kansas City there were march’s in the late 1960’s for civil rights but my grandmother never felt she had to be afraid of the violence and protesters.  She said, “they were more afraid of us than we were of them”, refering to the blacks and whites.  The bank she worked at did not hire blacks but she remembered walking home from work and seeing blacks walking in groups because they were afraid to go home from work by themselves.

                     She said the change between the hostile feelings between races took time.  The two races were not used to close interaction with one another and they did not cope easily to their new lives.  As a child herself she did not have much exposure to people of different races until she was in high school.  As blacks starting being allowed to play in professional sports my grandmother did not take much notice.  She was not a big sports fan and their influence did not matter much to her.  The only team she was aware of was the Monarchs which was an all black team in Kansas City.  The day Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered my grandmother saw it on tv when she got home from work.  It was not a big influence to her.  She said “it was a very sad day for blacks who looked up to King for inspiration”. 

                   When the Civil Rights was passed to law it did not make much of a difference.  “No one wanted to enforce the new law” my grandma said, the law was ran by whites mainly and they would not do anything to help blacks.  The laws were not enforced until later on.  In my grandma’s opinion the most progress made by blacks has been in the south.  She believes this because they were so oppressed in the south and Civil Rights helped them be able to rise above those who hated them most.  She thinks the least progress has been made in the central states because there were few blacks living there for much to be done in the area to help blacks.  My grandma believed that Civil Rights would help blacks. She said, “the only problem with blacks is they had poor education.  No one would help educate the poor people so how could they expect them to change”.  

                This interview was eye opening and very educational for me.  It let me get an inside look at what life was like in these very hard times.  It makes me wonder more about America’s history.

Katie Alliston

Interview with Doris Griffin April 20, 2010

March 4, 2010

Doris Griffin was born in Aiken County, where she attended A.L. Corbett high school. Doris received her cosmetology license at Area Trade College in Denmark, SC. Doris moved to Ninety-Six, SC with her late husband, Sloan Griffin, after finishing school. Sloan opened the Ideal Shoe Shop but when he died Doris continued to run it with the help of her son, Sloan Griffin Jr. When I asked Doris if she would answer some questions about Civil Rights, she was more than willing to do so.

When Doris was asked if she remembers when the schools were integrated and was there much opposition, she answered, “Yes! I was just about to turn 13.” “There surely was a lot of opposition with this change; an example of something that went on was boycotts.  That was a terrible time.  There were lots of things that went on in the schools, like blacks had different books from the whites.” I also asked if figures such as MLK, Rosa Parks, and Malcolm X well-known where she lived and Doris responded, “Yes!”

Doris was very thrilled to answer this question:  Were there any inspirational Civil Rights figures from your area? Doris said, “My aunt Viola was an inspirational Civil Rights Figure.  When blacks were able to vote, they were terrified to do so.  My aunt Viola took blacks to vote, and the white people tried to stop her, but she continued to take her fellow black people to vote.”

The question came around was she ever afraid of racial violence, and did blacks and whites respond differently to these fears? Doris stated, “Yes, because you never knew if you were going to be attacked, and parents were frightened for their kids.  Blacks and whites responded differently, because most white people did not live in constant fear like black people.” Then I asked Doris if she felt that change occurred rapidly in the area, or did it take time? Doris said, “Change took time, and it is still a working process, because racism is still around today.” I told Doris that I wondered if she had any exposure to people of other races as a child, and her answer was, “No!”

I asked if there were any memories of segregation in South Carolina that she could recall and share with me.  She said “Yes baby!  Blacks and whites could not use the same water fountain, and blacks were restricted from certain places.”

I asked how national sports figures like Jackie Robinson, Hank Aaron, and Muhammad Ali affect her thinking about integration, and how did she feels about them and their accomplishments. Doris stated, “They let me know that us as blacks can do whatever anyone else does no matter what race you are.  I felt great about them, because it was another stepping stone to paving the way for us.”

We also discussed the death of Martin Luther King, Jr.  She said that she does remember it. “I was working at Neptune, and they announced that Martin had been shot.  We were all shocked over what had happened, but the white people told us to go back to work.” She said, “His death influenced me a great deal, because Martin was one of the men trying his very best to make the world a better place.”

I asked Doris, growing up during segregation, if she recalls an early incident when she recognized a difference of treatment on account of color.  Doris said that when she and her mom approached a certain restaurant, they could not go inside. “White people ate inside, while black people got their food from the side of the building and ate outside.”

Shikina Griffin

The majority of people tend to think that the Civil Rights movement had drastic impact on the people that lived during this time of struggle for racial equality. And it would seem appropriate to think that all African-Americans had a role, big or small, in the Civil Rights Movement, one way or the other. Jeanette Motes, an elderly black lady that resides in my neighborhood, was not one of those people. 

Ms. Motes was born and raised in Kinard, SC and has lived in Laurens County all her life. Ms. Motes did not feel comfortable sharing her date of birth or age with me, and I felt compelled to not ask her of her education level. Her experience growing up as a black child may not seem any different from other accounts, but one can see that her experience is special. I had asked her what rights denied to her made her feel the worst and her response was “I was never denied anything that I couldn’t get. And if I was denied it was because of money. That was the only thing”. Although Ms. Motes did share seeing discrimination carried out in small Laurens County, she plainly expressed that she was hardly affected by it.

Growing up, Ms. Motes had plenty of friendships with black kids as well as white kids. Apparently, the black and white kids did everything together. “We did everything together. We played together, we went to each other’s houses, ate at each other’s houses, and stayed at each other’s houses. The only thing we didn’t do together was go to the same school. Now, I do remember walking to the school for black kids, I don’t remember its name, while the white kids rode the bus to the white school, Shady Grove school. But then, our school got cut, and we started to ride the bus to go the white kid’s school. “ Ms. Motes also mentioned that her mother cooked and cleaned for one of her white friend’s family who rented out a house to them.    

Ms. Motes recalled that when she was older, it wasn’t any different for her.  For a time Ms. Motes worked at people’s houses and then, later on, started to work at Greenwood Mills. Her black and white co-workers all talked, sat, and ate together. She even recalled having one special white friend from work whose husband would share his fish catches with Ms. Motes, and her family. Ms. Motes worked at Greenwood Mills for about 10 years.   

At first, when I asked Ms. Motes of her experience with Civil Rights, her response surprised me. “I didn’t really have anything to do with it. I stayed out of it. I knew what was going on but it didn’t bother me. I was busy working and taking care of my two kids.” Ms. Motes also expressed that she had no opinion of the national figure heads such as Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. “I would see them on TV. but I never met them or anything. I didn’t really think much about them.”

While Ms. Motes did share with me her indifference to the Civil Rights movement, she did share with me other details that did not escape her attention. She recalls how there was segregation in restaurants in Laurens County. That, however, didn’t bother her much, either. “If I knew I wasn’t supposed to be there, I didn’t see any point in going where they were going to hurt my feelings. If a restaurant didn’t allow blacks in, I didn’t bother even going near it”.  She recalls of one restaurant in Johanna that didn’t permit black people to eat in. Her husband would many times eat from there because of his job. It had a window in the rear where if someone, specifically a black person, wanted a refill, they had to stick their tin cup or thermos through the window to get their refill.   

 I also asked if Ms. Motes remembered any violent incidents in Laurens County or any national events that she remembered from watching the news. Ms. Motes stated that there probably were voilent incidents in Laurens County but she never took notice of them. And for any national event, all she said was that she remembers seeing them on TV but didn’t remember any specific ones.  

Ms. Motes’ experience before and during the Civil Rights movement is intriguing. Although I daresay that her account is not specifically special, her perspective and attitude of the Civil Rights movement and its correspondent events are actually of awe to me. On a final note, I had asked Ms. Motes about her feelings about racism and her words were that, although she knows it’s out there and that it could get pretty bad, “It has nothing to do with me.”

Ahira Sanchez

April 13, 2010

 Wendell Rhodes was born Dec 19, 1943 in Anderson SC.   He moved twice,  but within a 10 mile radius.   Wendell attended North Greenville Junior   College,   where he received an AA degree.  He received his BA degree from Furman University and a Master of Divinity from Erskine Seminary.  Pastor Rhodes has worked in ministry for over 45 years.  Currently he preaches at Friendship Worship Center in Abbeville SC.   Pastor Rhodes was happy to answer questions on Civil Rights.

When I asked Pastor Rhodes about his memories of the area schools being integrated,    he had this to say,  “Yes,  I remember integration,  I was fourteen years old.”  When asked about opposition  his remarks were to the point,  “There was a lot of opposition. The main one I remember was with Governor Wallace in Alabama.  He refused integration until the Federal court said they had to.”  Pastor Rhodes also commented about his local school, “ In the classroom though, I don’t remember much opposition.”

 Pastor Rhodes remembers hearing about all the key figures of the Civil Rights movement, when asked, “Yes,   I do remember stories of Martin Luther King,  Rosa Parks,  and Malcolm X.  They were  all very well known at that time.”

When I asked him of any local Civil Rights figures he stated,   “ I don’t remember any Civil Rights  figures from our area,  none that made a big enough impression for me to recall.”

 Pastor Rhodes remembers about fear of racial violence, “Blacks had there own side of town.  I remember my friends  and  I fearing to go near their residence.”   When asked about how they responded to these fears,  “ I felt like whites were more fearful of blacks, and were insecure in their surroundings, we would avoid them.”

I asked about the amount of time that it took for changes to take place, he simply replied, “I felt like the changes were slow, they seemed to take a lot of time.”

I asked had there been any time he may have been exposed to other races as a child, his response,  “ Yes, I played with them as a child.  I would pick cotton with them,  and  I even lived right up the road from a few families.”

I asked Pastor Rhodes of any specific memories of segregation in SC when he was growing up that he could share with us,  “ I really don’t have any specific memories of segregation in Anderson S.C.”

When I asked about the sports figures of the day such Muhammed  Ali , “At the time,  It didn’t affect me at all.  I admired their accomplishments,   but ashamedly I would have to admit that whenever a white guy was up against them,   I pulled for the white guy.”

I asked Pastor Rhodes if he remembers hearing of the death of Martin Luther King Jr.,  he said, “I was sad about MLKs death because he was murdered but I did not grieve over him. Now it breaks my heart!”   I asked if Martin Luther King Jr.’s  death had any influence on advocacy for Civil Rights, he responded, “At that time I wasn’t advocating civil rights, but as I grew older I was moved by his speaking ability.  Now on his birthday at my church we have a ceremonial service every year that remembers his dream and honors his accomplishments.”

 What treatment to other races did you notice while growing up during segregation did you notice was a question I  asked.   Pastor Rhodes answered, “ No one wanted to drink after the blacks.  I was brought up to think they were beneath me.  My family liked them but we didn’t want to interact with them.”

Thomas Martin