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SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
BY LEW BARTON
SEPTEMBER 29, 1972
REVERAND COOLIDGE CUMMINGS
I: And I am in the home of Reverand Coolidge Cummings and this is
near where Brother Cummings
S: Three miles west of-Penr- f1 IA r e-C
I: Would you mind telling us your full name and spelling it for us
so the girls will be able to type it for us correctly?
S: My full name is Coolidge Mac Cummings. Spelling C-o-o-l-i-d-g-e.
Middle name, M-a-c. Last name: C-u-m-m-i-n-g-s.
I: Thank you very much. Uh, will you tell us your occupation, of
course, I know but our readers and listeners don't know, so will
you tell us your occupation please sir?
S: I'm minister, that's, minister of the gospel; pastor of Islandrove
^/kt rIj 'e I!
Baptist Church, Route 1, -em-ebrk.
I: That's I-s-l-a-n-d-g-r'o-v-e, is that correct?
I: I-s-l-a-n-drg-r-o-v-e. This is a Methodist Church.
S: Missionary Baptist Church.
I: Missionary Baptist. How old are you, Reverand Cummings?
I: Who were your parents?
S: Bellamy Cummings and Rufus James Cummings.
I: How do you spell that first name, B-e-l-l-a-m-y?
I: And they were natives of Robeo son?
S: Uh, yes.
I: And I suppose they have lived in Robekson all their lives and
their parents and their grandparents?
I: You are a Lumbee Indian?
I: Uh, is your church a Lumbee Indian church?
I: About how much congregation, about how many people do you have?
S: Well, our Sunday school averages about 230 per Sunday. Our
resident church membership, some 140.
I: I see. And this church is located out of mown.
S: Right. This is rural church, Route 1, eaRanobooaka
I: Well, it's the church which is familiar to all of us here and you
are familiar to all of us because all of us know you because you
have been very active and such a blessing ih the Christian movement
in this county and we know you but our listeners don't, so if I ask
questions that seem a little dumb so each girl will know and transcribe
it correctly. Do your parents farm, are they living, by the way?
S: My mother is living; my father is deceased.
I: How old is your mother?
I: How about your immediate family--your wife and your children?
Who was your wife before you married?
S: She was Lowren--last name Lowren before married, the daughter
of Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Lowren.
I: How many children do you have?
I: How many boys, how many girls?
S: Three boys, three girls.
I: I'm going to ask you a question that usually gives guys the most
trouble about answering and this is always amusing to me because
I have the same trouble. Could you give us their ages, the ages
and the names of the children?
S: I could give you the names. Ha! ha! But all the ages--
I: Have to call on your wife.
S: Right. I would need my wife in on that.
I: Okay, would you come in here Mrs. Cummings? HA! ha!
I have to ask my wife when somebody asks me something like this,
because their ages are always changing, you know. Would you help
and give the ages, he's going to give the names, would you give
the ages of your children?
MRS. C: One's 24 and one's 22.
I: Would you repeat that?
S: Our oldestson is Samuel Mac Cummings, age 24. Our second child
is a boy, Michael Cummings; he's 19. Our next child is a girl,
her name's Teresa, age 17. Our next child, also a girl, Cathy
Elaine Cummming, her-name, her age rather is 15. And the next
child is a girl, Yvonne Lee, and her age is 10. The next and the
last, boy, Kenman Bee Cummings, age 7.
I: That's good.
S: Stumble through it. Ha! ha!
I: That's good because I always have that trouble. Where did you go
to school, Reverand Cummings?
S: At the time I attended p izebLeee State College, now PemntrfiDru
State University and also Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
I: Do you remember about what yeais you were at PSU or PSC probably
at that time.
S: Yes, '46 through '50 over at PSU and '50 through '53 at the
Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.
I: Right. How long have you been, uh, are you a full time minister?
S: Yes, I am a full-time minister.
I: How long have you been working in the ministry full time?
S: That would be a little difficult, actually in a sense to say.
But I can tell you--I've been full-time at Islandgrove. It was
a part-time church when I went there and we have grown full-time.
I've been there full time for two years but prior to this I served
over in the state of Kentucky for 12 years full time so actually
been full time pastoral work, 14 years.
I: Uh, huh, what was the name of the church in Kentucky?
S: After my graduation from seminary, the first church East Union
Baptist Church over in Graham, Kentucky.
I: Is this an integrated church, white church?
S: No, this is a white church.
I: I see. Well, I know you were well received and well loved
to remain there 12 years.
S: Now I stayed at East Union 2 years then I went over to another
church about 20 miles over to Mortons Gap, Kentucky and stayed
there about 10 years.
I: I see. Did you have any special problems because of the fact that
fact that you are Indian?
S: Not to my knowledge.
I: Why did you come back home, I mean, did you have a specific reason
or because the Lord was leading you back home?
S: Yes, well, I've always had a desire to be of some help if possible
back home among--as we so often say among our own people, racially,
so that's one of the big factors.
I: Well, I do know there is a prime need for trained ministers and I
certainly appreciate the fact that you are contributing. We need
more of the, don't we? We need more well-trained ministers?
S: Yes, I certainly think so Brother Lew.
I: Well, uh, how many were in your family, uh, you know, your brothers
and sisters? I believe you told me that, didn't you?
S: Not on this tape I haven't in times past but there were nine children
in my father's family. And, of that's six boys and 3 girls. I am
the younger. of the nine, just didn't make it.
I: That's a nice size family. Do you think the sizes among the families
among our people are increasing or decreasing or staying about the
S: I would think maybe just about the same.
I: Uh, do you, would you tell us some of the special problems with which
you come into contact with from time to time. I'm not asking you to
call any names or anything like that. I mean, do you have, do you
run into special problems, problems of helping people and most
ministers do; I know sickness is one of those problems. Uh, do
you run into any problems besides this?
S: Well, sometimes there's transportation to hospital and of course
aid in many ways. Plus individuals, well, help them as far as
transportation to and from the hospitals and of course, there's
the counseling. I had to find an opportunity only yesterday to
counsel with a fine man who is having some spiritual problems
so I counted this as a high privilege.
I: I'm sure you have been very successful because many of our people
love you and appreciate you. We were talking yesterday, uh,
somebody and I were about the unusual number of churches. Do
you think we have more churches than the average group--about five?
S: But now that is the amazing thing we have so many churches but at
the same time we are particularly populated for a local area or
in a rural area and if all oftpeople would attend church, it would
still, I expect might need some more to enlarge our present state.
I: Do you think the estimates perhaps of the numbers of our people are
veryinaccurate when they say we number about 30,000 that they are
a lot down the line--I mean they a lot below the actual number?
S: I am not sure just as far as the number but we're well above 30,000
I would think as far as just the numbers are concerned I belive we
are a little more than 30,000.
I: How many teachers would you estimate that we have in the teaching
profession? Do you have any idea at all about this, how many professional
teachers we have at this time in the teaching profession?
S: I'm sorry I don't Brother Lew, no, I don't.
I: Around four or five or six hundred around in there wouldn't it?
S: I would think so.
I: How about ministers, you know I have never tried to count the
ministers among our people but we have a tremendous number of
ministers too don't we?
S: Yes, we surely do. I'm not sure, to be exact, I'm not sure just
how many we have but we have a good many.
I: Some people sometimes refer to it as being indifferent to religion,
you haven't found it that way have you?
S: No, no we're not indifferent. Uh, I have found Brother Lew, that
people are people anywhere you go so I don't think that the only
thing we need is detect more advantages and opportunities that we
have to go ahead and developed A and more potential leadership
that we do have.
I: In some areas in the country and among other groups, for instance,
among our white brothers, the church is often used as a community
center. This isn't done very much among our people is it? I mean
the church isn't always used, its usually used only for worship
purposes for worship and purely church work mostly. Isn't it?
S: Yes, majorly church work.
I: Do you think we might develop along those lines?
S: I am hoping to see Brother Lew that our churches will take more and
more of a dynamic lead. Now by that, I am saying as far as day care
centers and some other activities when we have football games at
night and so forth instead just leaving individuals roaming on
the streets, it would be a nice thing to meet back at the church
S: -iL fellowship.
I: Uh, do you, it is usually the practice among our churches that if
you have at least one revival meeting a year. Uh, what sort of
program or do you think this is that each church has its own way
its own program and it may differ from church from church?
A week of bible study or maybe a-week of revival services, I'm
talking about on the yearly basis.
S: Generally, that's true Brother Lew. Each church is just about like
an individual, that is an individual person. Each church individually,
at least I am speaking for the missionary Baptist churches. Uh, each
church decides what it will do as for example, my church where I
am pastor have had two revivals each year along with what we
commonly call the January Bible Study, we have two revivals each
year along with our January Bible Study which consists of a week's
study of one particular book in the bible.
I: It's my understanding the the Missionary Baptist Church is the largest
church among our people and that Buinwap Baptist Association is
the largest organization among our people. Do you think this is
I: Do you know how many churches, how many Missionary Baptist Churches
there are in the Burnswamp Baptist Association?
S: We have had a couple of churches come in here this year. Let's
see, we have 40, 41, 42, somewhere right there, I would need to
check the record to be sure. And we have one that is pending
coming into our association now, the name of it is Benson Chapel
they will come in with this association--that is when we meet
in October in our regular or annual association meeting they will
present themselves for membership in our association.
I: Uh, are there any programs that these 42 churches in the Burnswamp
Association do together, I'm sure there are some. Could you name
some of the things you do, you know, all the churches participate
in programs or functions or whatever.
S: Well, we have had kind of wide revivals where we all participated
together in and also one thing that we participate together in is
the cooperative program, now this is affiliated with the state
Baptist convention where we support the state work and the Southern
Baptist work as a whole.
I: How about the Odom Orphanage, isn't that a project of the Burnswamp
S: Right, that's one of our projects.
I: Uh, I know the lateMiss Mary Livermoore was active and in the early
part of that, I don't know offhand what role she played but I'm
sure she was instrumental and you remember her don't you. She was
a white missionary who worked, she was also missionary Baptist.
She was a local white lady who was born in the county and went away
to missionary school'and dedicated her life to theservice of the
people, largely Indian people. And its for her that PE rerke
State University's library was named the Mary H. Livermoe Library.
She taught classes there for many years, religious education
classes. Can you think of any other Mary Livermofre, anyone
else that anywhere nearly approaches her for zeal and help and
service and real Christianity and service and this sort of
thing. I mean from any other racial group.
S: Locally, I have never known anyone other than, I say anyone
else, I mean racially, I don't know anyone that has touched
Miss Mary Livermoore, she was, as you say, she taught at PSU
I had the privilege of having a number of courses under her
she is a devout Christian. Now the nearest one that we have
in our own association that is dedicated to the work of the
Lord, is another lady, and she's an Indian lady, Miss
Annie Mae -eek*t .
I: Now she did some work under Miss Livermogre, with Miss Livermofre
while she lived here.
I: She did a lot of missionary work and I am so glad she is taking
over and carrying on the work. And, you know when someone like
this passes on, we have the feeling that nobody can ever replace
them and this is true but somebody has to carry the work on.
You know, I have heard so much about her and her fine work;I wish
I could interview her, by the way. Do you have any of, does the
Burrswamp Baptist Association and its 41 or 42 missionary Baptist
churches have certain social programs that they are interested in
promoting like Odom Orphanage, we mentioned that, didn't we?
I: And then there's how about the Prisoner's Chapel, is this a
chapel cr what its over at the prison camp. What's the name of this?
S: Uh, Local Prison Chapel and I had some material someplace around
here, Brother Lew on it. We were supposed to have a meeting
just Saturday and well, actually what it is chapel down at our
I: Near Lumberton. I can't remember the name of it, prison number
609 or something like that.
S: Uh, yes.
I: And did Miss Mary Livermocre help with this project getting the
I: I remember she used to teach illiterate prisoners how to read
and write and that sort of thing, she was a working Christian.
And I have been to the prison camp with her on occasion and
taught a class and I talked with her and I know she would be
happy to know that you are doing so well and I kind of feel
she knows you are doing well. She touched so many things in
this county and of course with this large organization, you
wouldn't have any idea how many members, church members this
would include do you?
S: I'm sorry, I don't Brother Lew, no I don't have, I mean I could
check the records and get it but right off, no I don't.
I: Well, it certainly the largest organization among our people, I
would imagine; it includes more people.
S: Right, right. Yes, this is th .largest, uh, organization size
the number of churches and the number of people involved we have.
I: You don't have anything--do you know how many denominations we
have or have you ever checked on that to see how many--we don't
have any Catholic Churches at all or Jewish. We have, your
group is the leading group and has always been that as far
as membership is concerned. Has it always been the largest
do you think?
S: Yes, yes Missionary Baptist is the largest and has been the
largest in our area.
I: Who do you think is second in number?
I: We also have Pentacostal movement, uh, I have no idea how many
churches they have but do you think the Pentacostal Jehovah make
up the third largest group?
S: Yes, I expecuso, yes, the Pentagcostal, and after that, we have
the Freewill Baptist; we don't have many of those but we do have
some Freewill churches.
I: And of course we have smaller things like the Plymouth Breathen,
which originated in England which is much smaller. I belive we
had maybe about three churches, or three assemblies they call
S: Yes, I believe it's three.
I: We also have Jehovah Witnesses about two or three congregations
would you say?
I: And the Church of God of course. And which, do you think, it
strikes me, I may be incorrect--it seems to me the Church of God
is a fast growing movement, a fastngrowing church. This is very
much like the Pentacostal Jehovah. There must be
some little distinction between the two. And it hasn't been here
as long as the Pentecostal Church, has it?
S: No, no, it hasn't been here very long.
I: And within the past few years we have has at least one Mormon
Church, uh, Ghurch of the Latter Day Saints. I wonder if we have
more than one Mormon Church?
S: No, just one to my knowledge.
I: And one of the Seventh Adventist?
I: Can you think of any others that I have left out?
S: No, I believe this is all major groups, well, not major groups but
these are the ones.
I: I cannot think of another single denomination myself.
S: I believe we have covered them.
I: How about feeling between the different churches? I mean, you
know, sometimes the differences aren't very large. We don't really
have rivalry between different churches.
S: No, it is amazing we get along exceptionally well. Yes, there's not
any rivalry, at least if there is, it is very limited.
I: Uh, one thing I have noticed is when somebody is funeralized, no matter
which church it is and no matter which group the pastor comes from,
it just doesn't present any problem at all, does it? Doesn't different
ministers from different denominations or different churches preach
pretty freely in other churches as a whole?
S: Yes, as a whole.
I: Especially during funeral services. Who do you think, maybe this is not
a fair question, maybe you don't know, I was wondering do we have a
minister who is perhaps better known or more popular than anybody else?
Of course, all our ministers are well known and loved. Of course all
our people have a special fondness for ministers I think, don't you?
S: Yes, yes, the minister is accepted very well. Well with those right
now, I mean the ones living, I am not sure just who would be maybe
as far as known more so than the others but the ones recently deceased
of course to my knowledge I am sure would be well known all over the
country is the late Brother Venus Brookes of the Plymouth Brethren
and the late Reverand L. W. Jacobs.
I: Uh, it seems that these ministers were just about universally accepted
wouldn't you say. I have known them to preach in just about every
church we had at one time or another it seems. This seems to say to
me that there isn't the kind of church rivalry that you might encounter
in places where people are, you know, stricter about their own particular
denomination. I think this is very fortunate. I think it is a liberal
kind of view--accept your brother although there might be minor points
of difference in your belief. But these are usually minor things,
I: Do you think the young people--do you have high hopes for our young
S: By all means.
I: Do you think we are becoming more religious or less religious. Are we
becoming more involved with church work or less involved?
S: I think we are becoming more. Of course, I am saying this as I think
of my own life. I was reared in a Christian home but I didn't attend
Sunday school every Sunday. And I didn't or wasn't in worship each
Lord's Day but now, our young people, just about all of them, well,
not all of them but a good percentage of them,they are in Sunday
school each Sunday morning. Also, they worship. When I say worship,
I mean they, in preaching service. That is a good many of our young
people and I can say more specifically for my own children, just
about ( of course I have one boy"in service; I am sure he goes when
he has the opportunity) but my other children, they worship on Sunday
I: We have had some observers to remark that we conform strictly to a
moral pattern laid down by the various churches. Christians generally
will very, very serious about this among the Indian people. To be
a Christian means that you do subscribe to certain morality or to
certain do's and don't; these aren't violated very easily, are they?
S: No, I grew up in an atmosphere,Brother Lew, that your word was to be
your bond. And if you didn't tell the truth, you couldn't say that
you were rightfully a Christian. And if you didAt treat your fellow
man right, then we couldn't rightfully claim to be a Christian and
not treat our fellow man right.
I: And our local churches take a very strong view of alcohol?
S: Yes, yes we believe in total abstinence.
I: Of course, I can understand that. Youknow some of the American
Indian leaders of history have always condemned alcohol as being
you know a very destructive thing and they always lamented the
fact that the Indians get to it and it seems to cause a lot of
trouble when they do. Uh, the churches are pretty united in trying
to keep the county dry, aren't they?
S: Uh, yes.
I: For many years, I know that they were successful. My own wife,
Af Utib roke ca
for example, PennahrL ke has an ABC store now. And Lumberton
doesn't have; I believe Roland has one. But they don't say
anything about our capital, the Indian capital, what we call
the Indian capital has an ABC store. But, beer which is milder
than that, uh, beer is illegal. Beer and wine is illegal but
the ABC store operates. But this was decided by the people at
large, isn't it, I mean by voting?
I: Referendum. It seems to me of course, this store has been in operation
only a very few years. It is not secure by any means, is it? I mean
if they deviated the least bit and got out of line and something didn't
come out right. They are not on sure grounds at all, are they?
I mean if the church is really uniting the way they have been in the
past--it would be impossible to have an ABC store or beer or anything
like this. I don't know have--it's a strange thing when you vote on
it on a county-wide basis. The vote is overwhelmingly dry; but if
you take it town by town, sometimes they get a slight edge and they
can brig it in, like the people of-PFenabeke when they voted it in
or St. Pauls or somewhere like this. And, uh, of course arguments on
both sides of that and, uh, I expect, you know, the church to be
opposed to it and its total effects. Because it certainly hasn't done
anything good for our people, has it?
S: No, by all means.
I: Do you think, do you think we have a special problem with alcohol maybe?
Or do you think every community has this problem?
S: Well, really I don't think our problem is any greater than any other
area. As a matter of fact, maybe it's not as rough as in some areas
for the simple reason we don't condone it in most of our homes. It's
not condoned. And in many ways, I know it's not near as rough as some
areas I have lived in.
I: I think there's no doubt about where the church stands on any issues
like this. I mean the churches very straightforward whatever the
denomination in this county, wouldn't you say? I mean they do take
a definite stand; they don't falter or waiver about this. It is very
clear that alcohol is condemned or some other factors are condemned.
And we have the problem of, occasionally, we don't any more than
anybody else. One thing that interested me, some churches are strict
about admitting people who have been married for the second time.
Of course, they have a phrase called, "living in adultery"--and
this means that you have two living husbands or two living wives.
And this is sometimes found on-4& -----to divorce or not. I am
talking about in cases there are divorces. Do you think our churches
generally frown on divorce?
S: Yes, yes e believe that individuals when they vow to live together that
it is until death do us apart.
I: Do you have, of course I know you probably don't have a study or
statistics on this. Do you think we have as many divorces as other
groups of comparable size.
S: I'm not sure. I don't have any figures on that. But it's not very
high among us, there are some but it's not too high.
I: And do you think the church is an influence in this direction?
S: Yes, definitely, I believe, well, that's one thing about our people,
as a whole we probably are saved. By saved, I mean probably are a
professing Christian, the Bible and its teachings that they are highly
reverent. And so even the individual who says no I'm not a
Christian. They still say we ought not to do those things.
That is many of them will say that.
I: So professing Christians and those who aren't professing
Christians are both influenced very greatly, wouldn't you
say in things like this?
S: Yes, by all means, Brother Lew. Yes, it certainly is.
I: The church looks upon itself as the establishment which should set
the example for the people that live by it, would you put it that way?
S: Yes, yes Brother Lew, the teachings of the Lord Jesus, these are
I: Do you remember just where we were when we had to change our tape?
S: Well, we had just been talking about the influence of the Bible on
our lives and most people in our area knows the saved and unsaved
as we commonly refer to it. By the saved, those who have accepted
Christ and the unsaved, those who haven't accepted Christ as their
I: And of course this is ai asset, isn't it, if you're a professing
Christian and you apply for a job and people know this. Will this
help you in getting this job? Will it show, indicate that you are
more trustworthy perhaps?
S: I believe so Brother Lew, I don't have any figures on this as such
but when we accept Christ as our Savior then we are supposed to,
by all means, do those things that are right by our employer and so
forth. So my belief is that it would help.
I: Uh, huh, especially in the teaching profession do you think it would
be very prominent in the teaching profession?
I: In other words, people would feel that they could trust their children
in the hands of a Christian more than they would a non-Christian.
I: We have a lot of social problem, as you know. I wonder if you can
think of, uh, any social problems or any problems we have between
races in this county. Or would you rather not comment on something
S: Well, it has been a rather difficult thing. And we have been some-
what, well, I don't hardly know who to say it, but the groups have
been magnified. Maybe that might be the rightterminology. That is,
as far as separation, we have, it's been something we've magnified
I: There's a wide gap between all three races, isn't there?
I: And, uh, suppose somebody came into the county or suppose some of
the people who live in the county, say one of the Indians was sort
of a rebel. Like I, myself, I have been.sort of a rebel because if
I believe anything I try to stand up for it. Uh, but does this
person find this you think?
S: Sometime, as long as we are standing for the right, Brother Lew. It
may hurt for a short while. I don't recall just who made the quote
but I often make, a, follow a quotation I picked up maybe in our
college days. And this is not mine but just one I picked up: that
truth crushed to the earth will rise again. The innumerable years of
God is But arrow wounded dfes- in pain and dies among her
worshippers. So I believe that it may hurt for a while, but eventually
if you are a rebel going in the right direction, eventually it will
I: And you think that eventually people do maybe accept someding they
didn't accept at first, but if you can convince them that you're right,
that they will accept you eventually.
I: Well, it's, you know this is an age of change and, uh, how do the
people in the churches generally feel about, you know, integrated
schools and that sort of thing?
S: Well, most individuals I-believe now, Brother Lew, see it as a blessing.
And I believe it's accepted right well know.
I: That's encouraging. Do you think eventually all the racism will give
way to understanding and the races will be able to communicate fully
and accept it on equal grounds, equal terms. Or is this something a
long, long way in the future or perhaps never?
S: Well, chances are that it will never hold in totally; my thinking is
that it will not totally disappear but it will become more and more
modified. And by modified, I mean that will be more and more indi-
viduals will accept an individual for what he is and not for his color
nature* g *
I: Uh huh. Uh, how about our history--do you accept a, say a well you
know my thesis is that, uh, that we are descedants of John White's
Lost Colony. Do you think mostpeople subscribe to this?
S: Generally, I would think so.
I: Do you think this would be more among the educated class or the
middle class or people who follow it, study it, and read about it,
and investigate anything like this.
S: It would be hard for me to say just which group, just how you would
classify it. I'm sure those who have taken out some time and studied
history some would probably lean more and more in that direction be-
cause of some of our English names. o
I: We do have a very high number of the same names be&n by the Lost
Colony in 1587, don't we? Like Samson and Tcosk and uh, I think
about 54 of the original names of the Lost Colony still remain
among us. And this is amazing because this hasn't happened. You
don't find this thing, sort of thing, among any other group in the
world. Some of those last names aren't very usual, I mean we know
names like Smith and Jones you can find anywhere) hut when it comes
to a name like Potsvour or something like this. And not even the
Samsons are too numerous in other parts of the country. It i.d nlo
difficult to recognize an Indian name if you live here, isn't it?
I: Do you think we are often identified by our last name as being an
Indian or not being an Indian?
S: Yes, yes, that's the major thing I believe Brother Lew.
I: Do you think it's a god thing. Well, for example, we've had a
problem with H.E.W. when they come in and they want to know how much
integration has taken place and they start trying to count. You can't
look at people and tell whether he is white or Indian sometime. Very
often I can't unless I speak with him or know his last name. But
local white people know how, don't they?
S: Yes! t l^ 45A et
I: Uh, there is a little something different about our speech,don't you
S: Yes, yes, we certainly have a close, racial identity. And of course
it's opened our speech, way of living and doing.
I: Do you think this is a good time to be alive for an American Indian?
S: This is one of the greatest times that I know of,I'd rather be alive
now than any time that I can think of in the past, Brother Lew, because
right now there is more freedom and there's a chance for the American
Indian and of course for anyone else that wants to go forward aid
do the right thing.
I: When you were coming along, of course I know my family was very poor.
For example, when I was going to high school, uh, we couldn't even
get enough money to rent textbooks and so I borrowed textbooks and
read library books and that's the way I got though high school. Uh,
it's not that bad now, is it?
S: No, the economics is very good now.
I: How about when you were coming along --I mean in high school was it
kind of rough for you?
S: Yes Brother Lew, I had to stay out of school a whole year because I
didn't have any clothing to wear and so I had to stay out, no help and
so forth so I chased rabbits and birds the whole school year and in-
stead of going to school my parents were just unable to buy me any
I: Uh, huh. I remember, ell something one time when I was in school and
I had my last pair of overalland at the end of the scho61 day, they
split right in the seat. And so I went in, went walking out the door
backwards, I sort of backed out, you know, trying to get a turn on
the building, you know. That sort of thing is very discouraging about
going to school, isn't it?
S: It truly is.
I: Do you think our children would go under those conditions today?
S: I believe, Brother Lew, we wouldn't have very many going on; I'm afraid
that mine wouldn't.
I: Can you remember when the schools had to furnish their own
fuel and when you went to school, you had to go down to the
woods and cut wood to keep yourself warm and the pot-bellied
stove and this sort of thing. And you didn't have running water
by any means--thera were outdoor toilets. Uh, and in some cases
there might not even have been outdoor toilets. They might have
fused the woods. Uh, those certainly were rough days back. .Ha!
S: Ha! Yes, Brother Lew I'm, from where we are sitting right now
looking out of my window, I see the tall pines right out here from
our house where I used to go down the pines and pick up what we call
"lighted knots."--maybe the right pronunciation would be lightwoodd
knots" but I didn't know them. The only thing I was looking for
was "lighted knots" to get back and put in that pot-bellied stove
so we could stay warm, uh, in the two-room building as our teacher
I: Did, uh, that took a good deal of our time, keeping warm, didn't it?
S: Yes, that was right.
I: As far as the boys were concerned. And, uh, we took our lunches to
school, when we had lunch to carry. Uh, sort of like the workman when
he goes to work and carries his lunch pail. I know many a day I went
to school I had a potato, and if I had any meat, I was very lucky.
Some day I didn't carry a lunch at all. But today at least all schools
have lunch rooms, don't they? And they are in reach of most of the
children, would you say?
S: Uh, yes. Just about every child now can get a hot lunch. But I know
what you mean. I have gone to school many a day and didn't have any-
thing to eat. I wouldn't carry anything. So I would have to wait until
I got back home to eat some dried peas that had been cooked.
I: Yeh, that used to be, uh, very often we cooked dried peas in the
winter time. In the summer time we ate collard greens, of course
collard greens last throughout the year unless a severe cold spell
skows them up. And sometimes we have, we usually have collards
from one end of the year to another, don't we?
I: This is a very valuable plant. And it's strange to me, Brother
Cummings, that most Indian people love collards, actually love them.
And it's a treat of you go to a church gathering. Do you ever--you
know where you have a eat out where the sisters in the church prepare
the food and bring it as they so often do in our community. Don't
you just about always find collards as well as other things?
S: Right. Very seldom you don't find collards and I'm just like you
Brother Lew, I enjoy eating and I like them. I like good collards.
I: I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and we mentioned that
because she comes from another part of the country in the north.
Of course, their diet is quite different from ours. And, uh, it I
a broader diet. You know she remarked on, you know, she can use very
frequently things like this. But the diet is not as varied in the South
and it generally is in the North. And perhaps among our people it may
be a little more restrictive than that, you know. But some of our
people have the policy of living at home and boarding at the same
place don't they?
S: Ha! ha! Right--yes, that's a term I have heard all my life.
I: This is something that most Indians favor, isn't it?- They raise their
own pork? they raise their own vegetables, their own corn. Just about
everything they eat--except maybe salt and black pepper and a few more
things and some of the families own cows of their own. Uh, the
larger families, you know we know about yesterday. Well, we need
yesterday you would always generally find a cow where you found
the large family, you found a cow and there was always fresh milk.
And, uh, where they had no refrigeration they would put this milk
in jars and let it down into the cool water into the well, and it
would be preserved very well. And so you would always have fresh
milk, fresh butter, and this sort of thing. I don't know that there
are as many cows as there used to be but a good many families used
to have cows. Do you think we are getting more away from that and
living out of the store more than we used to?
S: I believe so Brother Lewlbecause the economic conditions have
changed, and so since the economic, when I say economic, the working
conditions have changed because one time, majorally we were an
agricultural people but now the trend of livelihood has changed a.
so we are getting away from being wholly and totally an agricultural
I: We're becoming industriLized.
I: And, uh, how about the so-called Industrial Revolution, you know
where farming has becoming so highly mechanized. One man can take
a tractor and do as much as ten people could do ten years ago, perhaps.
Do you think Indian farms are taking on this complexion.
S: Yes, by all means, Brother Lew,o esthis is changing considerably.
And, well, you've got to look for a long time to find a mule any more,
and when at our home, we would have two mules. And of course we don't
have that any more; individuals have tractors.
I: People used to speak about the size of a farm by the number of mules
that worked on the farm. Say you have a one-horse farm or a two-
horse farm. What do they mean by that? Do they have a certain
number of acres that usually were associated with a one-horse farm,
or two-horse farm, or three-horse farm, do you think?
S: Yes, that's the usual thing Brother Lew, that's the way it went,
roughly 25 or 30 acres in one horse farm.
I: Twenty-one acres.
S: About 20 or 25 acres, somewhere along in there.
I: A three-horse farm was really a large farm, wasn't it?
S: Oh yes, if you had a three-horse farm, you were really fine.
I: Of course, we did most of those things by hand. We used the mule to
plow the stuff and hoed it with hoes, gathered it by hand. Now they
even have cotton pickers and you don't, of these farm workers used D
have an income, you know, from picking cotton at least part of the
year, uh, they don't have this income anymore do they?
S: No, I haven't seen anyone pick cotton in a long time in the sense
how we used to do it with the tow sack o-he burlap bae en you
Were coming along and I was coming along as boys, we never dreamed
that there would ever be a day when there was no cotton to pick--
nobody had to pick any cotton. Did we?
S: No, I wished it had been so in my day because I just never did like
to pick it.
I: Me either. It was a horrible job. You had to bend down and sometimes
the parents, if you straightened up, you know, the parents would give
you a hard way to go. They said, "Bend that back, boy." My back would
get so stiff, I could hardly straighten up. Sometimes I would get on
my knees and crawl. We, uh, had a hard way to go. But I think it
taught us a lot of things, don't you think. Maybe this was a
blessing in disguise. The hardhips that we suffered, do you
think this kind of taught us or helped us in this battle of
survival which has always be1 so real to the American Indian,
especially the Lumbee Indian. Uh, it is, life is pretty much
a stuggle for survival, even now.
S: Yes, yes, ikis Brother Lew and I appreciate the fact that I was taught
the work and learned the work. I enjoy working; I count it a
privilege to be able to work and I enjoy getting out and working
I: Uh, huh, do you think this is helpful?
S: By all means, I don't anything that is better than getting out as my
parents used to say and breathing the fresh air and getting a lot of
I: You know I have heard, I have heard employers speak so highly of the
Indians as workers, of hard workers. I'Neheard expressions like"these
are the workingest people I have ever seen" something like this. Uh,
as far as menial class are concerned, people will riV an Indian in
this county quicker than they will a white, for very practical reasons
on one hand at least
S: Yes, I would think so.
I: Because no matter what it does, he does it with all his might. You
know, he works hard at it. He knows that his opportunities are limited
anyway perhaps, do you think this is maybe ?
S: I am sure Brother Lew this has a part to play in it because our
opportunities have been so limited.
I: Well, I am certainly glad we are making some progress and uh, I
look forward to the future very hopefully, how about you?
S: Yes, as I often say, Brother Lew, to my own children, this is a
bright day and we really need to go forward.
I: How about the minimum wage law, do you think it has been enforced
in Robetson, I mean, we know that this work began some time
that it actually works against farm workers. Because if, uh,
the Land Board has to pay a certain amount and can't pay under
that, won't he be inclined to lean more on mechanical work than
he would to use somebody?
S: I would think so, Brother Lew. Yes, I would certainly think so.
Because anyone operating the farm they're trying to get it done
just as cheaply as possible.
I: Because if they don't get it done cheaply, they won't make any money
because the marginal profit doesn't never go to a farmer, it goes to
a, the people who really make money on farm produce are the processors.
Ther farmer doesn't make all that much. The retailer certainly
doesn't make all that much and I doubt that the wholdesaler makes
all that much. I believe a lot of this goes to the processors, a
lot of the profits and by the time, it gets to the consumer, it's
about three times as much as it was when it was bought from the
farmer or maybe more times than that, wouldn't you think?
S: Right, yes easily.
I: Just think about, just think about for a moment the cucumber. People
grow cucumbers in the Lumbee River area whenin recent years, more than
they did in the past. But when you sell them in the market, they
bring--uh, do you have any idea how much they bring currently?
S: Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't kept up with the prices,
Brother Lew, and I would be afraid to quote these latest prices.
I: They don't bring very much, do they?
S: No, no, they don't, nothing in proportion to what you will have to
pay for them when you go back to buy them after they have been
I: Yes, if you've bought them in the store, at least three times, much
more than that I believe. I believe it's more than three times as
I: And, uh, so the people that do the work and this is true of farmers
generally, not just Lumbee farmers. But the people who do the hardest
work are the people who get the least renumeration for that work,
wouldn't you think?
S: I think so Brother Lew. Yes, because it's a long process to grow
a crop, for example, corn. You just can't hardly grow corn at all,
not for the market. By the time you buy your fertilizer and pay for
it being gathered and harvested and pay for the rent of your land.
You just don't make anything on corn, not for your farm.
I: Yes, well this is a problem with all farmers. I'm sure, of course
now hogs I guess they get a bigger profit on hogs than they ever did
I: But these perishable items are the items on which they make so little,
S: Uh, yes.
I: Cotton isn't grown nearly as much as it used to--used to be
grown here, is it?
S: No, no. Cotton is something, well, that with--not many farmers
have cotton anymore.
I: You know when you were talking about mules being used on the
farm, I though about there being not many mules left anymore.
I was thinking about a news item I read years ago, that said
RobegEson County qd the largest mule population in the United
States, actually read this in a newspaper.And, uh, so that's quite
a change. Have you heard old people talk about the time when they
didn't use mules or horses but they used oxen?
S: Yes, yes I have heard a good many of them talk about the days of
using oxen, also for .
I: For cars and that sort of thing.
S: Right. Yes, I have heard my father talk about the ox cart and
the no fence law, that is when the horses, not horses. Horses
were luxuries they didn't have. But just a very few horses and
no mule but the oxen and so forth.
I: Do you think this --they were used mostly because the roads at
that time were so bad and of course perhaps they could travel
better than-uh, the roads were often muddy and mocky and a mule
might actually get stuck up in a place where a cow will go through
it. To clarify what an ox is, for readers who don't know what an
ox is, it is a male cow and uh,
S: That has been castrated.
I: Right. This male cow has been castrated. And the mule is a hybrid
animal--he is a cross between a horse and a donkey, right?
I: And, uh, for farm animals, work animals, the mule is considered
superior to the horse or oxen, isn't it?
S: In our locale, yes, Brother Lew, however, in Kentucky in the area
where I had the privilege of living for 15 years, the horse--they
really liked the horse over there. So they work horses more so than
mules at any particular time.
I: Do you think this is because the crops were different and the duties
S: Well, I don't know just why, unless maybe it's something of a horse
fate. When I say horse fate, just about everybody in that area--they
are really horse lovers.
I: I know when I was .coming up, my grandfather had a black mareramed
Nell. And he also had a mule, but horses tend to go faster and be
more sensitive than if you're doing careful work. It's hard to slow
a horse down and get the horse to walk slow--slow, you know slow them
up that they don't cover up the plants, and that sort of thing.
But the old mule would just creep along anyway. You couldn't get
him to move very fst; the horse seems to be more spirited and sen-
sitive and this sort of thing. Maybe this accounts for some of that,
do you reckon?
S: Yes, I am quite sure so, because I have heard some of the older
people in our area plowing horses how they didn't like them because
of their big foot, they had such big foot that they would step on
cotton, they'd ruin so many heels and also as you said about the
speed they would walk too fast for them to plow the little cotton
maybe that had something to do with it.
I: Well, it's, uh, it's certainly been interesting talking with you;
You have been very kind to give us this interview. Is there
anything you would like to add to our discussion? I think that our
tape is perhaps going pretty near the end. I am just guessing at
it. Uh, .
S: Nothing in particular Brother Lew. I've enjoyed our conversation.
I hope it will be of some value somewhere.
I: It certainly will be, I'm sure of that. We've certainly appreciated
your contribution. People are interested in our particular group now
more than they ever were before, aren't they?
S: Uh, yes.
I: Particularly scholars. There is something I have often thought about
that I don't know whether we have taken it for granted. This is a
valley, here isn't it? I think of as one time a hide-away valley--
a valley surrounded entirely by swamp land. Of course, the Indians
were instrumental in draining the land--this is all swamp land.
This is very rich soil, isn't it?
S: Yes. The soil is very rich, Brother Lew. I think we have as good a
land as you will find anywhere in the United States.
I: There is not very much high land in this county, is there?
S: No, no, in this county, it is all low land.
I: Well, I know it took a lot of work to get, you know to develop and
so forth and the farms have gradually grown larger and larger as more
and more timber lands has cleared. Uh, so today, we've just about
cleared all the timber off the land, isn't that true?
S: Yes, there is not a lot of good timber left.
I: We, I did an article for the paper the other day about the high
incidents of diabetes among our people and this iT true of American
Indians everywhere. Out of about 200 people whose blood was tested,
37 were found to be diabetics, or you know. Do you think our
people have known generally this, that the diabetic rate was so
S: No, I believe this was news to--it's amazing to say so. But I expect
a good many people didn't know that it was very high Brother Lew.
I: Uh, huh, well, this is a particular ailment that isn't noticeable
unless it is in the acute stages I suppose, that might account for
some of that. But we had dietary problems too I suppose, malnutrition,
pretty prevalent and some of that may be due to, uh, the lack of
variety in.the diet. The life span of the American Indian is about
45 years; the life span of the average American is about 70 years.
Do you think our life span here might go a bit beyond that 45 years
or do you think that our longevity is perhaps higher than that of
the average American Indian in other areas? Do you have any idea at
S: Yes, I believe,Brother Lew,that ours is higher than that. I think
our life span is higher than the average American Indian.
I: Uh, huh, but certainly not as high as jA say the Caucasians, the
Bostonians, or the North Carolinians, but we're just discovering some
of these things, you know. I was reporting on a study made by a Duke
University doctor. I was really astounded, and so I came to these
statistics about the average American being in the 70's and the
average American Indian about 45 or thereabouts, I had to break down
and weep because this was so very sad to me and I pray that, as I
know you do, that some day we will be able to overcome all these
needs and problems. And that we will be able to at least enjoy
equal health and things of this nature. We are so used to deprivation,
sometimes we don't even realize that we are deprived. You know,
because so many of us know so little about the outside or about
actual statistics and so on but I'm very glad that these studies
are being made and people are becoming more and more interested in
the American Indian. They know, for example, that there are more
suicides among Indians than among any other ethnic group in the
world. And, unless you know about a problem, there isn't anything
you can do about solving it until you discover the problem. So
these things are now being discovered. I've often been aware of
many of them and I don't think anybody else was. But the interest
in the American Indian is tremendous and I believe that this trend
will go on. I believe this is our best decade. Nineteen seventy
is probably the best decade in the history of the American Indian.
But at least I hope we can make so or help to make it so. I think
we can be very thankful to that that many of these things will be
recified by the help of God and the conscience of the nation, because
you know, unless we can make our problems known to the nation, we
can't reach the nation's conscience because the nation doesn't realize
it has a problem.
I: So, I have certainly appreciated very much your talking with me, a
person who I have always esteemed very highly. You've got your
education despite monetary matters and that sort of thing and maybe
your health isn't as good as the average person, but despite of all
these things, the Lord> has been good to us. With my limitations
the Lord still smiled on our efforts to a great degree and I pray
he will continue to smile on yours and to continue to be the kind
of blessing I know you have been for so long among our people, not
only our people but other people as well.
S: Thank you so kindly, Brother Lew, I have certainly always appreciated
you from our earliest days right on and still do. And God bless you,
I: Thank you so very much. And you are very kind to give us this time
and I am sure it will be a blessing to somebody.
S: Thank you Brother Lew. If we can be a blessing to someone along life,
then our own lives will not be lived in vain, will it?
I: Right, this is so true. Well, thank you very much, I suppose we've
just about used up the time that the lady was kind enough to bring
me over here, the VISTA worker, she has been very kind. She gave me
an interview yesterday and today she brought me back over here. I'm
so very thankful for that organization, too, because they are really
getting down to what basic American is all about, basic living, basic
problems of humanity. They're so wonderful. All the VISTA workers I
have ever .met have been some very wonderful human people. More and
more people are realizing the truth about people like this--theneeds,
the problems, the aspirations, of the Indian people and also of the
other minority groups. And I think we can thank God that we live in
a nation such as ours where people who have this kind of spirit. This
battle has only begun and it is going to take all the people to
solve it, to solve our many problemsr-problems, I mean of the minority
group and it's organizations like this our contributing so much
personally, not just money, it's easy to run your hand in your
pocket and pull out a $5 bill, you know if you are well healedr-
and give it to somebody. But when you go and participate in a
community. This is human and this is so constructive. And I think
so pleasing to God too, don't you?
S: Right, by all means. When we give a lot of time and service, that
is what really counts, isn't it?
I: Well, again I want to thank you very much for this interview. I've
enjoyed it and .