Tanya Evans


Material Information

Tanya Evans Interview 2010
Physical Description:
Oral history interview
Tanya Evans ( Interviewee )
Marna Weston ( Interviewer )
Publication Date:


Subjects / Keywords:
Oral history
Civil rights movements -- Mississippi -- History -- 20th century
African Americans--Education
Temporal Coverage:
1960 - 2010
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Mississippi -- Jones County


Scope and Content:
Reverend Tanya Edwards-Evans speaks with Marna Weston about her concern that local African American history is not being taught to young people, as well as her concerns about the quality of education for Black youth. Names mentioned in the interview include: Byron De La Beckwith, Martin Luther King, Jr., Leontyne Price, Charles Drew, and Medgar Evers. Also mentioned are the Ku Klux Klan, St. Paul United Methodist Church, Brown Memorial Hospital, Tougaloo College, Future Farmers of America and Jones County Junior College. Locations include Laurel, Hattiesburg, Ellisville, Greenwood, Tylertown and Jackson, Mississippi.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
All rights reserved by the submitter.
Resource Identifier:
spohp - MFP 059
System ID:

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Full Text


MFP 059 Interviewee: Tanya Evans Interviewer: Marna Weston Date: May 27 2010 seconds into the interview. E: Jones County was the K lan headquarters for this part of the state. Byron De La Beckwith is now in jail, the one that shot up that building next door a nd had the boldness She was sweeping up the glass from all the windows they had shot out W: To establish an alibi or just to be bold, like E: Ju st to be bold [Laughter] And she knew who she was and she did not come down off, out of the house to see him. So, we have that man. She said he just you know? But we are St. Paul United M ethodist Church is 104 years old. It is in what used to be, at some point in our history the bla ck historical district. Where f ifty nine is, we had our first mortuary, funeral home. Brother Christian who is a member here or was his wife is still one of m y historians of the church. She keeps me posted on the history She taught history and was a big part of that M ove ment. She talked about how well guarded [Martin Luther] King was the day he came and how the corner was blocked off; t hey were watching who came in and who went out. But St. Paul is a live the history, also tell it s o the next generation will know the things that have come down. Very few of our young peopl e are aware that the church and the parsons was shot up in [19] 67, bombed in [19] 68.


MFP 059; Evans; Page 2 Of course, most people know that this is the home church of Leontyne Price, the opera singer and her family home is the green house across the street. She still when she has an opportunity to come home, she comes, and she worships here [ Laughter] [ P hone rings] This is probably abou a ll later. A young lady just did an opera, I mean a doctoral presentation on Le ontyne and Marian Anderson just a few weeks ago right in November. S he came in some here and talked to some of the members that remembered Leontyne as a little girl and the y went and took pictures of the house across the street. The much from the original building. W e still got those lofty roofs in the sanctuary. [Laughter] Very acoustics for not having a piano. But we are a hist orical church for those reasons W e are church involved in the education of our children. It seems that our education system seems to be going backwards instead of forward. We are graduat ing less children than we did fifteen, twenty years ago. We seem to not have the dri ve to tell kids to go to school; t hey spend more time at home doing nothing or cutting class and it is my desire, if I stay here as pastor, that we initiate it s back to the go back and teach our children. N ot just education for man, but also what God requires. But it is going to be a journey because we are in a generation of un churched people. We are almost in our second generation of un their twenties t hirty psalm b different generation, but what hurts me more than anything is our young people


MFP 059; Evans; Page 3 that own busi nesses in this area. Two miles down the street was the only black hospital. My member grandfather owned that lane and helped with the hospital. W: What is the name of the hospital? E: It was Brown Memorial. It was a training hospital and the only blac k hos pital in Laurel for blacks, i s right down the street. I would love to see it become a training us trying to do again because we are not graduating enough of us in general pr deal with us and people with low income Oak Park Elementary, or Oak Park High School, was the only high school that most of the as well I say, everything was in this community and we took care of each other, but we have let that go and we are letting government and other people take care of our community instead of us. W: Do you think that there has been a shift from, in the past, more of an obligation of black c ommunities to uplift and serve and educate to just kind of people standing on their own more? E: t hey want to stand on their own We actually stand on the success oo many young people that say I did it on my own and people like Dr. Charles Drew and my Minister of Music Dr. Eugene Owens, who was the blacks if we


MFP 059; Evans; Page 4 ike him and Mr. Christian, who owned the first funeral home in time. Ms. Williams I think her last name is Williams I just recently learned h ow co me nobody has written this down? We ll, P atton Jones County point, Laurel was larger than Hattiesburg It had a transit system that ran from Laurel to Ellisville, but when the C ivil R ight s B ill passed and they had to integrate the businesses and storage, Laurel almost folded completely because that nd a lot of businesses actually left. So, we are trying to re establish the history and let people know. A lot o f parts of ever and in every state there are areas that ha d that. The K lan di d have a strong hold in S outh Mississippi I used to work for Tougaloo C ollege acquir ed Medgar Ever s s home for the historical reasons, so we can continue to tell the story A nd a lot of people there were part of that, they get just upset when system fold is we took out the hands on skills. We to ok out shop, we took out home ec we took out auto mechanics and a lot of our kids even in my generation were not c ollege t have th e academic strength to go there. B ut we took their opportunities to become something. A lot business and used our own skills to make a living and it had become a lost art. e into


MFP 059; Evans; Page 5 an old Ch evy and re build it. All he got to do is read the book on what model he thing together [L aughter] W here it actually passes inspection and the whole nine e is mechanical, he has to have it in his hands. He is not analytical, where he can do it on paper. And intelligence system, we have seven different intelligence s th a t always work at the same time B ut we have teachers now that I think only job in America that you work s trictly days unless you a coach then you got the afternoons and weekends to work at night, our public education system. And I think we need to re vamp that, we need to be in education to teach to work at night, but how well are our kids going to stand and think on their own. I challenged one of my mentors to ask his mentee, t ell me how you would tell a five year old how to make a peanut butt er and jell y sandwich. I asked a tenth grader t hat the other day and he said, I tell them to get two pieces of bread, a j ar of peanut butter, and jelly. I said, b ut you still ld them how to make a sandwich. He told m e ingredients to the sandwich, y ou still ha ve not told them how to make a sandwich, and his pastor looked at me and said, y ou right W e were taught to think when someone asked a question. We were able to speak clearly and all he could answer. He co uld not sit and think about it, well, how would you tell a five year old? So,


MFP 059; Evans; Page 6 rea ch for the sky and stop letting, [Laughter] I get very upset when people do, kids make honor roll W standards have not but part of our growth is books A nd you know yourself as a doctoral student, they just started putting our history in books. I just ta lked t o a retired teacher that said she said, up until, what did she tell me? She said, I was in my fifteenth year in teaching before I was a brand new . She said, ition we took a student edition and we got to see a Te And Our teachers were smart enough to able to do t do that, because that means they got to work [L aughter] W: the cu rriculum ? E: Right, right. W: Y ou can get in trouble for teaching something that makes somebody know how you know, with these tests t hey teach to the test now.


MFP 059; Evans; Page 7 E: Benchmarks, yeah. W: meet that E: Well see, the th t utor so I used to teach algebra and history, but now when I tutor people especially those going back to school in college algebra I always relate it to something that they know. Had a young man in my home church that failed trig and I said, h ow you fail trig and you play pool every Friday? He said, w hat does t rig and pool got to do with it? I said, m eet me at the pool hall [Laughter] On second tho ught, give me a piece of paper. I drew a pool table. I said, t rig is about lin e s, sides and angles knocking it off a solid wood stripe and banking it I t always forms a triangle; I put it. A straight line is a 180 degree triangle. And he looked at me and after I drew what he see: she right, it is a triangle. I said, y ou apply trig every time you play pool on Friday, s o why you fl unking the class? [ Laughter] He said, I said, i t is that easy Turn around and he had to re take the class, but he passed because he remembered what I said and all of his papers, he had a pool table drawn on the side of it. ourney. w hat do I need to do to reach this kid? The other thing we have to do in education is standards: not the sch ools, not the district standard not the state, but your standards for your classroom B ecause I have taught kids who they thought we grade because they


MFP 059; Evans; Page 8 were, they thought they skills were down here, but they never looked beyond. i e Freedo m Writers because she never accepted what folks said about her students. She always challe nged them to come up, to come up but challenge. A lot of our kids have not been challenged to th ink outside of their community, think outside of what they see. In a staff meeti ng [laughter] a few years ago, they said, l ook at the education al areas at your table and one of you will relate all of those s ubject areas to the real world. At my table was a biology teacher, a chemistry teacher, a business education teacher, an algebra teacher, m the one with the strong voice they said, o kay, you relate [laughter] thi s to the real world. I said, w ell, if we going to relate this to the re al corners. What you see on the corner are the hired employees of the manager or the store owner. Now, the store owner has to have some chemistry background because he knows wh at his product look like, he knows what it tas tes like. He knows when you done broke it down too far. So, he has to have a background in chemistry and he has to have some mathematical skills; but above all he has to have some personal skills, so he needs to be able to talk, convince people to come and join him. And the principal said, o enough. You said the rea l world. Okay, I know who I work with. I know what my kids talk about in class every day. She said, I said, w ell, I listen to what my children say in class and I challenge them all the time to go beyond what they see. I tell my athletes, get an academic scholarship as well as a n academic


MFP 059; Evans; Page 9 scholarship. Why, Ms. Evans? Because if you get injured, your aca demic scholarship still covers you while you work on your degree because if you get red A nd now the NCAA requirement they take these academic test to make sure they able to read, write, and understand We got kids going into colle somebody kept passing them along still here why our system is falling apart. W e have been passing people. Teachers have lost the basic W: May I ask you some biographical information because we kind of bypassed that? Would you please state your full name? E: Reverend Tanya Edwards Evans W: And when and where were you born? E: Born and raised in Jackson Mississippi. G raduate of Calla way High School, graduate of University of Southern Mississippi, and a graduate of Memphis Theological Seminary. W: Okay. E: And the mother of two males and two females. My two men are M arines. My oldest child is working on a degree in m ortuary s cience. My younger child is working on a double major in accounting and hotel management W: Who were your parents?


MFP 059; Evans; Page 10 E: My parents are Darus and Sherman Edwards W: Where are they from ? E: M y father is from Greenwood area; Greenwood, Mississippi where he was raised by his a unt. My mother is from Charleston, South Carolina. W: And your dad, who were his parents? E: Hattie and Charles M cGh ee W: And where are they from? E: Tylertown area W: E: Tylertown, Mississippi. That is Walthall County. [ L aughter] W: E: Carolina. W: O kay and how about their parents? E: No, I do not of their names W: How about of your great grandparents, do you have knowl edge of any of them on either side?


MFP 059; Evans; Page 11 E: I do know that my great grandfather was a French was a French officer. My great great grandmother was a Carolina Indian. She was from the tribe there. She had fifteen children. My great grandmothe r on my m side was a mother, the only woman tha t we knew that was six feet tall. S he bore six boys; all of them were either in musician or in education. W: Now you r e E: This is on my m W: E: W: Okay. E: . W: And y ou mentioned your four children. W hat are their names? E: Timothy Evans, Cassinthia Evans, James Evans, and Darus Evans W: What is your earliest memory of your personal education? E: Personal education, Mary C. Jones Elementary on what used to be Whit field Mills Road in Jackson, Mississippi, which is now Martin Luther King Boulevard in Jackson, Mississippi [Laughter] W: Did you have a favorite teacher or fa vorite subject there?


MFP 059; Evans; Page 12 E: My favorite subject was, has always been math. When I got to high school, it d the same time and she was my biology teacher in high school. She was able to quote that biology book and never looked down at the page [L aughter] And I said, Lord, if I ever teach, let me be like her But she was stern S he expected the best out of us and Ms. Affineck Cotton was the same way, she taught English. t W: E: Ms. Young. Ms. Dorothy Young W: Now, Ms. Aff i neck Cotton E: Was English. Twelfth grade English. A nd she demanded a lot from us. I enjoyed her because I had an opportuni ty at my high school, Calloway, the year that I became a senior, we were able to do a college step. We got a chance to pick our instructors for o ne course. And I chose her for Black Literature and Literary W riting and I was introduced to black writers and it was an interesting thing to see that we actually had more than Richard Wright and Nikki Giovanni and all of these people that I likes to use, but there were other writers. And now my daughter, my oldest child, is collecting different writers. I have a l ibrary at h ome with Jerome Dick e y and E. Lynn Harris a nd Kimberla Lawson Roby a nd now my grandbaby loves books. Saying, she fuss at me, Grandma, when are you coming back to take me to the library? She wants to go to the library. Not the park, the library. [Laughter] So.


MFP 059; Evans; Page 13 language A of ten. I have present living, four brothers living and two sisters. W: What are the names of your broth ers and sisters? E: Beverly, Thomas, Jerome, Kelvin, Is et t a and Douglas. My deceased brother, one that we do know the name of is Alonzo, Vietnam vet, and my twin sister Tanya, and then one unknown. So. W: Outside of religiously inspired literature because but in terms of otherwise what would be your, who are your favorite authors or your favorite books? E: My favorite author would be Ki mberla Lawson Roby, who talks, who writes in Christian fiction. She talks about the drama that occurs around churches. And my other favorite writer would more than likely be Jerome Dick e y But again, I like reading magazine s books. Since I spend a lot of time, as I say, by myself, I do a lot of reading, but I spend a lot of time learning stuff in education so as I work with adults going back to school or children struggling, I kno B ut technolo gy has made us lazy in learning W e can go online and kick out anything. W: cation, the Sanctuary. I just typed in Civil R ights Laurel and Mississippi and it c a me up with this address. So, I guess sometimes it make us a little lazy.


MFP 059; Evans; Page 14 E: The reason why, what I mean by lazy in technology is kids will go to the library and kick out a report about somebody and then they turn it in as their work. W: Cut and paste. E: A nd I happen ed to tell o ne of my former students that. home and turn this in as yours, go home and write i t like a seventh grader would write it. And I told her mom, d pla She said, s ever told us that. I said, y ou know now because we have a program. Technology has it s benefit. We have program s now eople hav e lost their degrees because of that program. B ut I want us to s s o our people can survive. Not teach to a test, but teach the skill. Teach them how to think where th ey can answer on the top of their head as we used to do in extemporaneous speech class. You had to go [ Laughter] W: Were you in forensics in high school? Did speech and debate? You mentioned extemporaneous speaking. E: Yeah, I was officer of Future Farmer s of America and that was one of their always had the ability to get elected into a p osition without a lot of effort. [ Laughter] Used to aggravate my little sister that she be


MFP 059; Evans; Page 15 because we are a year apart A nd we had chemistry together in high school, we had biology together in high school and it was a competition. She would study, I w [ Laughter] W: How did you get involved in FFA again? How has that expanded your leadership? E: I got involved in FFA when I became part of a horticulture class at the Career Development Center in Jackson A nd because my fascination with plants and animals and then in their structure about policy rules and all of this. And I was always interested in law and structure so it became second nature to me in do ing policy, procedure and rules. A nd because I was also, most of the time, scared of speaking in front of folk, I would do a speech if I knew what I had to talk about, because I had time to put it on paper, but I got challenged by Mr. Overby to do one whe A nd I served as th e p resident of that chapter my junior and s enior year. S o But g etting in school organizations give s you an outlet to introduce you to different things. The extra curriculars of the schools has its benefit because it introduce even the quietest kid to something new or open the door to different skill they FBLA, all of these things that we have in the high schools y the Deltas, where they bring teenage girls and then we house them here and teach them etiquette and proper dress and W: Delta Sigma Theta Sorority incorporated?


MFP 059; Evans; Page 16 E: M m h m. And we work with them on etiquette and behavior and how you should be acting; you know, presenting yourself and how important it is to stay on top of your grades. So, groups like that have helped some of our young ladies see a them becoming a baby making machine as society has pretty number of them finishing schoo l. Some of them even with children have finished and went on to do bigger and better things. B W: Are you in a s orority? E: W: Okay. And I just want to b ack up for a second, you mentioned Mr. Ob e ry E: Overby W: Who was Mr. Overby? E: Overby. He was the horticulture instructor that always challenged me to go outside my comfort zone [L aughter] A nd especially when we had to have competitions. I wo uld always assign somebody else; being p resident, I get to tell someon e else they doing it. He said, o example, you need to show t hem that you can do it as well. journey started. W: How d id you end up being the m inister here as opposed to working in horticulture and agricultural science?


MFP 059; Evans; Page 17 E: That is pretty muc h what we call the call story. I have been active i n the church since I was about nine or ten years old. It is something I have alway s been able to do. According to my big sister, I can take any text and explain it to a young person and an old person and never lose either one of them in the conversation. My first profession actually I wanted to be, was a lawyer [L aughter] I even went t o school for it, paralegal studies, and was getting ready to be go t o Howard University. Got married and God turned me toward education at the request of a retired teacher. W: E: Ms. Emma Moore. She said, I need you to go take the E. N T We need some more black instructors, teachers in classro oms who really care about kids. I said, o k ay B ecause E. N T and I took it and passed it on the first shot and amazed a lot of folk in education [Laughter] you d o that? You an education major. I said, b ecause my teachers taught me how to think A nd I just memorized facts for the test, but they taught me how to think S o I went into teaching and I have done that with school s for seventeen years. I was also a G E D instructor for Hi nds Community College and I enjoyed doing that for the simple reason, we need to get our attitudes off the bott om and bring them closer to the sky But the ministry came in the mi d st of the illness of my husband and everything I had to do, juggling the whole family. I decided to take my calling, accept my calling into the ministry. And everyone in my family said, w


MFP 059; Evans; Page 18 paid for it [Laughter] B ecause I had been doing trainings, teaching the Methodist structure all over the state of Mississippi, all the way through high school and college. So, I had already been doing it as a lay person and so I accepted it. My got to go someplace by myself, then my s ons Mama you sure you going t o be all right? Mama gonna be f ine. So, my journey is not over. W e still have a lo e is A nd I tell my churches, the reason that we are not growing is we shut people out once they enter the door. We have open door for them to come in, bu t we shut them out once they get in. ls that they can be used by God, a nd then they walk right back out those doors and you ity is to help people see where they are in God. Not where people want you to be; where God wants you to be. A nd God can take the simplest creature and make them important. He says, f ool, watch an ant, you might learn something A an ant is one of the smallest God created. But he teaches you that you work, you should have a work ethic on anything that you do rking on is hoping to educate our folk so when the time come s, be of good use A nd lean on and trust God, not just let it be a phrase on a dollar bill or a coin, but truly trust him. Especially with the lay offs of Mason and Sanderson and [inaudib le 34:05], for major employers here in Laurel, in the hospitals. I think I talked to


MFP 059; Evans; Page 19 [ Break in i nterview ] E: What? W: Could you tell me a little bit about the history of the marker outside? E: We have a marker outside recognizing the date that Martin Luther King spoke here at St. Paul. W: It was March 19, 1968? E: March 19 It wa s a . that marker came up about five years ago. Through the history department at J C J C and my W: J C J C ? E: Jones Junior College. Jones County Junior College. [Laughter] It came up with our church historian, realizing that we had not recognized that and she got with the state of Mississippi H istorical S ociety and they got all the inform ation in articles from the newspaper that day and the days after and we put the marker down I think it was two years ago. W: E: Estelle Christian, she was serving as the church historian then. She pre sently still lives here. S four years old W:


MFP 059; Evans; Page 20 E: ave to show you where she lives. S he can give you all kinds of historical stuff on the city of Laurel and the black community businessmen be cause she was part of all of that. W: Okay, I wish I had time to spend all d ay with perhaps one more person. S an appropriate person to speak with. E: W: Well, I hope that able to es tablish a more longer lasting relationship. The with. We work with the Sunflower County Freedom Project up in the D elta and Indianola we continue to come and we come back to back in September, up in the Delta. Perhaps this is an opportunity to establish this relationship. E: history. Th ere is a female by the name of Ms. Lo is Flag retired educator of fifty years. If you want to know anything about the history of Hin d s County, she knows it. She can even tell you family lineages and who married who a Ms. Fla g, you eighty year s old how you remember all of that? She said, b ecause I love histor y. She sits there and goes through. T hey just recently took down the only wood bridge at Edwards to put a concrete bridge over the train track and she had to go take pictures of it taking he only thing she remember that eighty years w as that wo od bridge going across the


MFP 059; Evans; Page 21 railroad tracks So, t You can call St. Paul at any point or you can cal l me. W: I appreciate that. E: And I can let you Ms. Estelle [ L aughter] W: Definitely E: Because I think she would love it along with have born and raised here, so they know all the changes that have come through here in Laurel. W: Well, i n closing the interview, I want to thank you for allowing me to take this time to speak with you and give you the opportunity to make any comments that you would like to make and at the concl usion of those comments, that will conclude the interview. E: church of Ms. Leo n tyne Price. H er home family house is right across the street. We are a church that is trying t o re establish our connection of our past to our Mississippi [End of i nterview] Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, July 19, 2013