This Oral History is copyrighted by the Interviewee
and the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program on
behalf of the Board of Trustees of the University of
Copyright, 2005, University of Florida.
All rights, reserved.
This oral history may be used for research,
instruction, and private study under the provisions
of Fair Use. Fair Use is a provision of United States
Copyright Law (United States Code, Title 17, section
107) which allows limited use of copyrighted
materials under certain conditions.
Fair use limts the amount of material that may be
For all other permissions and requests, contact the
SAMUEL PROCTOR ORAL HISTORY PROGRAM at
the University of Florida
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Sherman Brooks
Interviewer: Dexter Brooks
Date: July 1, 1973
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA
ORAL HISTORY PROJECT
Interviewee: Sherman Brooks
Interviewer: Dexter Brooks
Date: July 1, 1973
Sherman Brooks was, early in his career, a political activist.
As a senior at Pembroke State University, his 1962 bid for the
state House of Representatives was, in part, a protest of the lack
of Indian participation in state government. However, it also was
in protest of the much larger issue of minority rights with regard
to voting regulations. After his graduation from Pembroke State
he went on to receive several degrees in Public Health and is
presently working as a Public Health practitioner. His present
employment has embroiled him once again in issues related to
minority rights, especially minority health (e.g., birth control,
zero population growth).
D: Mr. Brooks, can you give me your full name and age, and
wife's name perhaps?
B: Sherman Brooks, thirty-six years old. Deborah Dees Brooks
is my wife.
D: Who was your mother and father?
B: My father, Mr. Joseph Brooks. My mother, Mrs. Sally Johnson
D: Can you tell me something about their educational
B: My father has a high school equivalent--eight grades of
formal education in and around Pembroke, North Carolina, and
the rest in night school in Detroit, Michigan.
D: And your mother?
B: My mother's a graduate of Pembroke State College.
D: What professions were your mother and father involved in?
B: My father was involved in a number of things. He was a
farmer; he was a businessman; upholsterer; he was involved
in construction engineering; and he retired from the Army
Map Service as a cartographer.
D: How large a family do you come from, Mr. Brooks?
B: My parental family consists of two living sisters, one
living brother, and one brother deceased.
D: And you are the oldest one, or what position?
B: I am the third child.
D: Could you now tell us something about your educational
B: My education began in Pembroke Elementary School where I
went through the eighth grade. Then I took a high school
equivalency test in the Army in 1956. I entered Pembroke
State College in September, 1957 and graduated in 1962. I
have attended the University of Alaska, American University,
and hold a degree from the University of Michigan School of
Public Health and also from the University of Minnesota
School of Public Health.
D: What size family do you have?
B: I have six children, consisting of four girls and two boys,
ages six through fourteen.
D: Do you intend to have any more children?
B: No, we completed our family with our last child.
D: May I ask what size family you consider ideal?
B: The word "ideal" or happy means different things to
different people and surely none of us really ever sit down
and plan our family in advance. We stop usually when we can
or when we like to. We stopped our family with six because
we thought that was the number of children, at the time, we
would like to have. Because we really did not want any
more. But, as far as planning we used a number of methods
and techniques available for fertility control to very
little avail. Five of them are from different types of
birth control methods that were available then--the pill,
spermicides, diaphragm and this sort.
D: How do you feel about concepts of zero population growth?
B: I think it is another one of those upper-middle class ideals
that they would like to foster on poor people.
D: Do you think it is correct for poor people.
B: Well, definitely it is directed to poor people--this would
be poor in terms of economics--and it is also directed at
deprived and discontented people. All minorities make up
this segment of our population along with a great number of
whites which would outnumber all the minorities if we
totaled them together. But it is directed at the
disadvantaged people, which is poor people, all minorities
and whites also.
D: Then do you basically feel that any couple should be allowed
to have as many children as they want?
B: Well, definitely a person has the right to have as many
children as they have, not whether they want to have them or
not. If the circumstances arise, they should be able to
have a child at any time they want to, whether the child is
legitimate or illegitimate.
D: Tell me something about your profession.
B: Let me say this also. As a graduate student at the
University of Michigan, I did the second study in this
country on husband's opinions and attitudes on family
planning and birth control. This is quite a revealing study
because it is done in an urban setting--the town of
Yspilanti, Michigan, which is geographically halfway between
Detroit and Ann Arbor. It is a misnomer to assume that poor
people want to have children--have child after child after
child--because this is not so. What they are caught up in
is the circumstances of not knowing how to plan pregnancies
or how to prevent pregnancies. The methods are too
complicated to work--there are no trained personnel to
explain the taking of the medicine, especially oral
Another thing is that staff people at family planning
clinics, especially walk-in clinics, are usually white
lower-income people. Most of the users of public
facilities, especially walk-in clinics, are black. In this
particular situation, the husband could walk in and pick up
the pills for a woman. Usually the adults in the family
work, and this causes a number of situations whereby some
slur of some act on the part of the provider of the
services, the husband will get embarrassed and would not go
back to the clinic. This would cause the woman to resort to
over-the-counter or what we call "patent medicine" methods.
Which are usually spermicides on one kind or another. So
this decreases the rate, the effectiveness rate, to almost
half of the original rate, which would put it about fifty-
five percent effective. So these people ultimately wind up
with more children.
D: I see, then, basically you believe in birth control
information being available to poor people.
B: I think public schools are the place, because most people
who want these services need them before they are ever
available to them. Another thing is that the people who
provide the services, there is a great chasm between the
provider and the consumer of the service. Everybody wants
to plan children so they can have a better life for their
children than they had. But this is not necessarily what is
going to happen. Because there are three factors that have
to be considered: the availability of the service, the
accessibility of the service, and the acceptability of the
service to the provider as well as to the consumer. And
these factors are not always present.
But I think that the best approach that I can envision would
be to have a para-professional or some person who was from
the community or acquainted with the people. Someone who
could talk to them and who would be trained to teach the
methods and how they work. Rather than just a physician
examining somebody and handing them a pack of pills and
telling them to take pill one on day five, because it is far
too confusing and complicated.
So, what really happens is the most common method of birth
control is the rubber--what it has always been. I am not
sure that it is not really the best if it is used correctly;
if the woman also takes the same precautions, uses
D: You are a member of what profession?
B: I am a public health practitioner. I am presently Associate
Professor of Public Health at Fayetteville State University
in Fayetteville, North Carolina. I was formerly Assistant
Professor of Public Health at the State University of New
York at Rockport. Prior to that I was a student.
I have also held the position of Director of Community
Education with the U.S. Public Health Service in the
Albuquerque area. Prior to that I was director of a
hospital school at Mount Edgecumbe, Alaska with the U.S.
Bureau of Indian Affairs. Prior to that I taught one year
as a junior high school teacher in Washington, D.C.
D: Are you a member of a religious denomination?
B: That is one of those yes and no questions. I belong to a
Methodist church, but I am not a Methodist per se. I do not
like the denominational ties that much to say that I am. I
do not dislike them that much to say that I am not. I
attend the Methodist church, but I am just really what you
might call non-denominational, period.
D: For how long have you been a Christian?
B: About two years.
D: Prior to this time, you never considered yourself a
D: What about your mother and father?
B: My father was what I would call a Christian. Surely he had
the beliefs that I hold, and this is what I base what a
person is, on what they believe. I have no reason to think
anything other than he was. My mother is a professed
Christian, a regular church-goer. Before my mother and
father separated, when I was too small to really know, I
understand that my father was a regular church-goer and my
mother is now.
D: Do you have any civic interests, perhaps, that would be
related to your church?
B: I do not really understand how to differentiate from civic
and professional and social interests. I am certainly
interested in the health affairs as well as the health
status of native people. I was out in Albuquerque, New
Mexico, in early May, where all the American Indian and
native Alaskan health professionals chartered and organized
the Association of Native American Health Professionals, of
which I am president. We have our executive director's
office at the University of California in Berkeley. We are
interested in all areas of health services and health status
to Indians as well as other minorities. I am certainly
concerned about the health of my own people here at home. I
am a Fellow in the Society of Public Health Educators.
I think that what you are interested in and your action-
oriented interests are two different things. I think that
my greatest interest would be in having some vehicle or
avenues so that you can communicate to people the need for
broadening their scope of thinking into really what is
important to them. Not only health-wise, which is certainly
important for them and not only in their educational goals
and motivations (and surely everybody has motivations,
whether they are known or not).
It seems to be, as you look at it, just a mass of a problem.
There is really now where to attack it. I just do not seem
to be able to visualize what would be a practical approach
or where this would be.
D: Do you have any affiliation with a political organization?
B: In North Carolina? No, I am presently a registered Democrat
in the state of Alaska. I held a senate position with
Senator Gruening from Alaska in 1967 as his legislative
assistant. I never moved my legal residence from Alaska,
but I have recently given that some consideration.
D: You mean you are not registered to vote here in Robeson
D: Have you ever been registered to vote here in Robeson?
B: I was a registered Democrat here until we moved to Alaska in
1963, and I moved my legal residence to Alaska in 1964.
D: Have you ever been involved in any local political issues or
tried to, prior to your move to Alaska?
B: In 1962, I was involved in a campaign and I suppose I was
one of the issues. I ran as a Democrat in the primary of
1962 for a seat in the North Carolina General Assembly. But
I was really not affiliated with any groups, because I was
more or less isolated from those groups. Not by my choice,
but by their choice. Whether any group that gave credence
to having a name or following.
D: Could you give me a better idea of what groups you are
B: Well, we have different little town groups in Pembroke and
each one of the precincts at that time had their own little
get-togethers in their groups. They would have all the
candidates come for dinners and barbecues and speaking
engagements. All the candidates were invited to speak,
except me. Nobody ever publicly supported me and very few
supported me privately.
D: You are saying that this happened at every dinner?
B: At every public meeting that was held during the 1960
campaign. I appeared on a commercially taped program over
Channel 13. But, I introduced myself and I spoke by myself.
On the same program Adolf Dial introduced Martin Brooks who
was, at that time, running for the Board of Education. The
thing that really caused this, was that no Indian was
supposed to file for anything that year. Some of the local
Indians, Lester Bullard specifically, had went to Raleigh
with his cronies in the Democratic Party and no Indian was
supposed to register for anything. I was, at that time, a
senior in college and I thought it was ridiculous that a man
would go up there and say that he was ceded by the Indian
registrants to file. I had given them fair warning in time,
that unless some Indian did file half an hour before the
filing time closed that I was going to. I think they
thought I was a little bit off or delirious.
D: Why do you suppose they agreed to that?
B: I have my own presumptions why I did not, but I could not
say for him. I assume that he had his own irons in the
fire. The two fellows who were there knew that they just
did not have any opposition from anybody. It just was not a
thing that had ever been done, so I suppose one reason that
Mr. Bullard assumed that he could say that was because
nobody had done it before. Mr. Bullard, who was Indian,
gave his support to the two white incumbents.
D: Who were they, do you recall?
B: One of them was David Whitt, from Fairmont. The other was
R.D. McMillan, Jr., from Red Springs. It all sounded like
something that was more or less unthinkable--it would be
hard to describe what it appeared to me. But it really
appeared silly to me that one man would make such a
statement that nobody was going to file for anything.
D: Then he made the statement not just for the House, but for
any state office.
B: Yes, I think that is really the way it wound up. That was
the only contest for a state office--the two seats in the
House and Senate.
D: Did Mr. Bullard have any official office with the Robeson
County Democratic Party?
B: I really could not say for sure, I do not think that he had.
I am sure that he did not.
D: Then how would you characterize Mr. Bullard, in that sense.
B: I think he is an opportunist.
D: Would you say he had a substantial following among the
B: I think that in his own precinct, back in the Prospect area.
I do not recall what the official name of the precinct is
but in the Prospect area--I think that was one of the areas
that was pretty tight, or would vote in one group. But it
was not necessarily only his word on which the group would
vote. There were a number of them.
D: Were I a candidate running for office and seeking the votes
of the Smith's precinct (which is at that time firmly
Indian) though I have never seen Mr. Bullard, would you say
he would have been the only person I needed to talk too?
B: Well, I have said a number of times since then, I would far
rather have Mr. Bullard working against me, than for me. I
am sure that if you had the time and if you had an avenue
for exposure, such as the newspaper, and really campaigned,
Lester would be of no value to you. This is what I am
saying, even then.
D: Are you speaking now as an Indian political candidate or
simply as a political candidate, in the context of 1962?
B: Just in retrospect, I see now that back in 1962, I am sure
that if there had been a way to communicate with the people,
like television, or had funds been available for advertising
or campaigning through the Robesonian, then Lester would
have been of no value.
I do not even remember if I carried that precinct or not.
But if I did not I would say that I was very close to it.
The people were very perturbed when we were up there for a
dinner and all the candidates in the county were up on the
platform, except me. The people got real perturbed about it
and wanted to find out why I was not there. I think this
did far more for me than any campaigning that I could have
come up with. I really never went out there except for that
one night and sat in the audience just like everybody else.
D: Where did the dinner take place?
B: Prospect High School.
D: Was Mr. Bullard affiliated in any way with Prospect High
B: In a staff position?
D: In perhaps the advisory committee.
B: Possibly he was on the advisory board, I am not sure, but I
think at that time he was a trustee of Pembroke College.
D: Was Dr. Martin Brooks, who I understand was also an Indian,
was he on the platform?
B: Martin was on the platform--every candidate but me. Of
course, there were no Republicans.
D: Do you recall the approximate votes cast from that
B: For the whole election?
D: For the House.
B: I think it was between 7,000 and 8,000 votes.
D: Total votes cast?
B: I think that was the number cast.
D: And how many seats were up for grabs?
D: Then, could you give me your approximate vote totals?
B: I think it was about 3,000.
D: You received three out of 8,000 votes?
D: Could you tell me why you decided to run for office?
B: At the time, the 7,000 or 8,000 that were cast, out of that,
3,000 does not give the picture in its proper perspective.
At that time you had the votes for the two offices that were
up. In this precinct here, we registered over 800 people
for that one primary election. I know by personal contact
many people who would not vote for a white person, so when
those people voted, they voted for me. They had just as
well stayed at home because the vote was thrown out, because
the ballot was invalidated right then. This was one reason
why the Pembroke precinct was so lopsided. The picture was
so diametrically opposed to what happened.
D: I understand you said that Dr. Brooks ran for the county
school district. How did that particular election turn out?
B: Well, he got clobbered also. I do not know what the margin
was, but I think he had the same situation where there were
a number of seats open on the school board and they had a
number of candidates. But I would say there were two seats
up and he placed third. Because, he was kind of a maverick
D: What exactly do you mean, a maverick compromise?
B: Well, Martin had raised the issue about the educational
system and he was really not the candidate that the supposed
Indian Democrats wanted. I think they gave him lip service,
but I do not think anybody really supported him. Because of
the way the campaigns were seeded. Then, he also had to run
with another fellow whose enthusiasm was less than poor.
So, consequently, in his trying to pacify the Indian
Democratic leaders he lost his impression that he had put
upon people. I think that he would have done far better had
he run independently of any contact with supposedly
D: You say that he had to run his campaign in conjunction with
another candidate? There would have been two candidates?
B: Well, Harvey Lowry and he were the two that they finally
got. I think at that time this is who the white people in
Lumberton said they would have to have run with him.
D: You are saying then that had not Dr. Brooks filed with Mr.
Harvey Lowry...well, had they intended to file in any case?
B: Well, Martin filed and then they were going to run two
people. They were supposed to be running together. What it
wound up as was Martin running and carrying the other
fellow. At that time, Martin was practicing about a good
eighteen hours a day and delivering twenty babies a month.
D: How many seats were available?
D: Is this the first time Indian candidates ran for the county
B: I am not sure. I know no one was ever elected.
D: Apparently at this time there was an informal political
organization among Indians. Did Indians as a rule go out
and visit and get the backing of people, such as Mr. Bullard
and the various community leaders?
B: I do not really think that any Indians ever filed before
then, none to my knowledge. I think that had there been
one, he would have been picked by a number of people--the
four or five people who were supposed to be the political
people and these are the people that compromised with
Harvey--the message carriers from the courthouse to here.
Lester was the messenger at the time that we ran.
D: Can you give us an idea of the individuals who were, shall
we say, active in politics at that time?
B: Well, then we come back to what is active in politics. The
people who were hustling were, I suppose, Lester Bullard, he
was one. D.T. Lowery was the hustler over his way and his
wife Vera was the hustler that way. At that time Bud Brooks
was still alive down in the Fairmont area and I guess he was
the hustler down there. Every community had its own little
hustler who had his thing going.
D: These people's job was to try and deliver as many Indian
votes for a white candidate on election day.
B: Well, I do not know if they necessarily wanted to deliver
any unless the occasion arose, and in a primary there was
really--I guess in races such as the governor's race and the
national election--these were the people who were supposed
to keep the people in line. I do not know if they ever kept
anybody in line.
D: What exactly do you mean by keep people in line?
B: Tell them the way to vote.
D: And the way to vote was?
B: White Democratic. Well, there was not anything else to vote
for but white Democrats, unless there was a national
D: You said that during the course of your campaign you
registered something like eight hundred people to vote. Was
that in the Pembroke precinct?
B: In the Pembroke precinct, yes. A number of them in other
precincts, mainly down around Lumberton.
D: You described what we might call "political ears" in
outlying areas. Could you tell us who were the Indian
political ears in the Pembroke precinct?
B: I do not really think they had any. But the people who I
would call hustlers would have been Harry West Locklear, Sim
Oxendine and Tracy Sampson and I never really knew where
Adolph voted. He tried to wear a face in both places--
Prospect area and Pembroke--but I think his power to
influence anybody was very little if any. So, there are
principally the people that were the "old guard" people.
D: In the registering of these eight hundred people, was the
registrar of the Pembroke precinct at this time Indian?
B: I think that the registrar at this time was Henry Smith,
who...I am quite sure it was Henry Smith, but again, access
to the books was a going battle back there. They had
certain days that they were open. Finally the thing did
come out the books had to be open at the registrar's home.
So, I think the last week of registration we did finally get
those available on those nights.
D: You say you had trouble registering people. Was this true
in the Pembroke precinct which is predominantly Indian with
B: No, it was true then because they still had their different
little rules that made one eligible, or prerequisites such
as reading and writing, and the age, of course. But, we had
quite a battle in the beginning, but then I think that we
D: Okay, the reasons you just listed are reasons dealing with
qualifications. What about accessibility to the registrar?
B: Well, the books, by law, were supposed to be open. But
access to the books, you can get to the books. But if they
do not accept the person who you present and register, you
might as well not have the books. So about the middle of
the first week that they were open, public pressure was
beginning to mount and it was easier to register people
D: Are you saying you had problems with accessibility with the
B: We had problems with the registrar accepting the people and
registering them in the first week. Then we did not get the
books open in the evening like we were supposed to until the
very last week.
D: So you had problems with accessibility of the registrars, or
you had problems with the way he applied the vote
qualifications. Since Robeson County at this time functions
under the North Carolina literacy test.
B: Well, at that time, I think there was a battle over it
because the registrar was the sole judge of who was literate
and who was illiterate. Of course we were registering
Indians and blacks. But for the first week we had trouble
with them. After the first week they did not give us the
trouble in this precinct. Of course, no other registered
like we did--one week we registered five hundred and some
D: Let me see, in the Pembroke precinct, you had trouble the
first week with the accessibility and with the
qualifications, but the following week you did not.
B: Not that we did not, we did not have as many problems.
D: What specifically did you do to break down some of these
B: A number of letters to the paper, the Robesonian, and a
number of people going down and approaching (I think at that
time) Ken Gray, who was in the Board of Elections office.
D: Would that have been his wife, Mrs. Lucy Gray?
B: I know there was a Gray down there.
D: Did the Robesonian print...what percent of the letters that
B: I do not really know. The letters were edited, of course,
that were printed and there would be at least one letter
D: Do you think that this sort of public pressure did something
not only to the local registrar.
B: No, I think the very people here in town are getting fed up
with the tactics of the registrar and these people put
pressure on him. The pressure did not come from without--
meaning the Board of Elections--but it came from within the
people in the community. I know one night he was going to
go off and Harry West was left with the book. Then, Harry
West did not want to register the people. So we got on the
phone and called the attorney general and the governor and a
number of other people. But before we got any of them the
time limit had passed when they could close the books and
they closed the books. So, that was just one night's
D: You say that the registrar who was then Mr. Henry Smith gave
the books to Mr. Harry West Locklear. What official
capacity did Mr. Harry West Locklear hold at that time?
B: He did not hold any.
D: You mean a registrar could arbitrarily give his books away?
B: I do not know whether he could or not, but he did. He had
the books and that is where you register.
D: What reason did Mr. Locklear give for not registering
B: Well, he was going out of town and the public pressure at
that time had built to where we had had the books moved to
the town hall, instead of going to his house. Because in
those days he complained about people going to his house;
all these people. So we told him to move them down to town
hall. And this particular night he was going out of town,
so he left the books with Mr. Locklear.
D: And the books were at Mr. Locklear's house?
B: No, they were in the town hall; we would bring the people to
the town hall.
D: I might add in passing that this kind of treatment was
taking place in Pembroke which is predominantly Indian with
an Indian registrar. To your knowledge were there any other
Indian registrars in other precincts at this time?
B: I do not think there was. As a matter fact, I am sure there
D: Then the registrars in the other areas were white, then.
Perhaps comparatively this was very much worse.
B: You can be assured that there were very few people
registered in all the other precincts put together.
D: Who were some of the people assisting you with this
B: Let's see, there was Boots Jacobs who drove, Trigger Bill
drove, and Lex Jacobs drove.
D: Mr. Brooks Jacobs is Indian. What about the other two
B: Boots is Indian, Lex is black, Trigger Bill is black. Well,
just a number of people would volunteer their cars. Mark
Brooks drove and he is Indian. Bob Brewington drove, he is
Indian. A number of women drove that were black as well as
Indian women, and the operation was carried out by me. The
finance for the gasoline and this thing was paid for by
D: What issues did you attack during the course of the
B: I did not attack any. I was the biggest issue that I had
going--that I had the right to run; if elected, I would
serve. I had no experience because the only way you could
get the experience was to get elected.
D: Then you were running more or less as, really, as an Indian
trying to generate perhaps some interest in the political
B: Well, I was really running because I had a Constitutional
right to run and I had the twenty-five or twenty-six dollar
filing fee, and I was eligible. I met all the
qualifications and therefore I ran.
D: It is really not quite an answer. I am sure there are any
number of positions that you were qualified for, but yet you
choose to run for this particular office.
B: The biggest reason I ran was because nobody had ever run
before. No Indian or black had ever run before and people
had made the statements and given their assurances that no
Indian would run. I surely had not told anybody I would not
run, and being an Indian I fit into that criteria.
D: You are saying that you were running to show certain people
B: That certain people do not control other people's lives or
their life-styles; what they can do or what they cannot do;
or what they are going to do or what they are not going to
do, without asking.
D: You also ran to show other people that they could run for
this kind of office.
B: Well, for anything that they were qualified for. Anything
that they met the qualifications for which they were running
and had the filing fee--that is all that is necessary to run
for anything, if you want to file for it.
D: Then you were trying to show, perhaps, all the Indians that
B: If they wanted to run they could run.
D: You said earlier in this particular campaign Dr. Brooks
attacked certain school issues. Could you be more specific
on that? What kind of issues was he attacking?
B: Well, I think the biggest issue was that the children,
Indian children--and I assume the same thing was so for all
non-white children--their learning level, or their grade
level for which they would place on national tests for
determining reading level, all types of levels, math level,
verbal levels, all verbal skills and comprehensive skills,
would place about five grades below where black children
were. Say an Indian who was in the sixth grader and the
data used for this issue was the study that had been done
comparing Indian children learning level and their grad
D: Was this study, perhaps, a master's thesis?
B: This was a doctoral dissertation at Boston University.
D: What year did he receive his doctorate?
B: I think 1960, I am not sure.
D: These were the kind of issues Dr. Brooks was attacking?
B: Well, the whole black and Indian facilities, as well, were
in a degenerated state. I mean, they were so substandard to
white facilities and staffing and qualifications that it was
pathetic. And there were three different schools--a white
school, a black school and an Indian school--all in the same
county that could not even afford one school system, let
D: I believe you said that earlier in our conversation that as
the campaign went on that he toned down against taxes?
B: Well, really, he did not campaign all that much. He would
do it at these little groups in different communities. He
would depend on a lot of other people to do campaigning for
him who did not do it, see. So, really he had no campaign
to amount to anything. It is said the very night before the
election he had about a fifteen minute tape on television
that I mentioned earlier.
D: Then when he went out into the community and he would feel
for support from these local community political leaders,
B: Well, he was dependent on the supposedly community leaders
to bring and deliver the people in the community and they
just did not do it.
D: Did these people in the community, did they vote at all?
Did they vote against him?
B: There is really no way to say if they voted. I think that
most of those that voted, I would say, voted for him because
they knew him. They would have done this whether anybody
campaigned for him or not. Simply because the name Brooks
is an Indian name, and the name was on the ballot.
D: What about the other Indian candidate, Mr. Lowry?
B: I do not really remember him ever campaigning.
D: So he, perhaps, also was dependent on voters in Pembroke?
B: I do not know whether he was dependent on anything. It
would just be an assumption on my part.
D: Do you think that in that particular year with three Indian
candidates running, something that had never occurred
before, do you think even though you went down to defeat,
you accomplished anything?
B: I think I accomplished what I set out to do. I ran. I
filed knowing I would get one vote and that is all I
expected to get. But, I got a substantial number more. I
am sure that Indian people and white people were brought to
an awareness that they could do the same thing. If they
would take some time and the effort, then they could be
winners if they would put the time and the effort to it.
But, I just do not believe anybody has ever put any time and
effort into a campaign and run one. I do not think that
they have. May be in the recent elections, I do not know.
But as far as I know none of them have. I think that the
Locklear boy, apparently he put a lot of work into his and
he was victorious. But I think that, based on my knowledge,
he is the only one because there is surely other ones that
could have won.
D: Can you give me some (try to be as specific as possible) of
the discrimination you were subjected to as an Indian in
this period of time--say, in the late fifties, early
B: I can remember very vividly the first time in my life that I
was ever aware of discrimination. That was when I was six
years old in Lumberton. I went from an optometrist's office
down to the drugstore. I think it was a restaurant below it
or sandwich shop. I asked for a cone of ice cream and the
lady said she did not have any. Well, sitting right before
my eyes was a Planter's Peanut jar, and I said, "Well, I
will have a pack of peanuts, then." I kept waiting for her
to hand them to me and she never did. So, I told her again,
I said, "I will have a pack of peanuts." And she said, "I
cannot sell them to you." So I walked out never really
knowing, for a number of years, why the woman had the
peanuts right there and I had the nickel and she could not
sell them to me. I think that stuck somewhere near the
middle of my mind, not in the back of it. Since then, I
think that I was so aware of discrimination that I never
availed myself to white places. I kept in my own sort of
sphere, like where things were going on, that I felt a part
of, rather than white people's environment.
D: This was an unconscious act on your part? All your
associations led you to deal with Indians?
B: No, I think it was a very conscious act. Because I just did
not ever put myself in a position that would lead to a
D: I see. Once you found out that discrimination did exist,
then you tried as much as possible to avoid situations.
B: Confrontation, yes.
D: Then you could escape this discrimination? Where would you
do your shopping, socializing, and so forth?
B: Well, usually the places then were those that were available
here in Pembroke Paint and Supply, which is discriminatory
in everything but selling and social contact--my social life
was limited to Indian people in our own sort of
D: For example, the schools at that time were all Indian?
B: Well, the public schools were. The college, I suppose that
there was about five percent whites, at that time, in 1961
D: Your churches?
B: Well, the whole environment was segregated.
D: Well, at this particular time, an Indian, if he chose to do
so, could he find an Indian around Pembroke. Could he avoid
B: Yes, he could avoid them if he wanted to, and I think that
most people did. Except for buying and selling, where this
was necessary. If you were going to buy or sell you had to
do most of that through whites because whites controlled the
D: But, then some of this buying you could do in Pembroke.
B: Yes, some of it then. Surely a whole lot less now than you
D: Did you ever leave the county to escape discrimination?
B: No, not really.
D: You said you were active in politics as a senior in college
and after your graduation you left the area. Did you
attempt to find any sort of employment here in Robeson?
B: No, I never sought employment in Robeson County, or, as a
matter of fact, in the state of North Carolina until I came
to Fayetteville in 1970. Now, I am sure that common sense
and common knowledge would have known that for what I was
trained to do I could not have been employed in Robeson
D: Did you leave Robeson With the intention of never returning?
B: No. No, I always intended to return, but when I was either
self-sufficient or independently wealthy.