Interview with Earnest Brown, March 20, 2011

Material Information

Interview with Earnest Brown, March 20, 2011
Brown, Earnest ( Interviewee )
Weston, Marna ( Interviewer )
Mississippi Freedom Project (MFP)
Publication Date:
Physical Description:
Oral history interview


Subjects / Keywords:
African Americans ( fast )
Mississippi Delta Freedom Project ( local )
Civil rights movements ( fast )
Sharecropping ( fast )
Oral histories ( lcgft )
Temporal Coverage:
1942 - 2011
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Mississippi -- Sunflower County


Brown, a retired educator, talks about sharecropping on George Beard Plantation in Sunflower County, Mississippi. He also talks about his brother's experience in the military and his own career in the local public schools as a teacher and coach, then administrator. People mentioned include: Lindy Tate, Lesley Brown, Frank Miller, Leslie Brown, Jr., Tommy Miller, Milton DeWitt Brown, Caroline Brown, Velma Brown, Barbie Brown, Ruby Brown, Lucas H. Howard, Lugusta Newell, L. R. Brown, C. J. Edwards, James Black, John Matthews, Odell Tate, Carlos Brown, James Rosser and Anna May Turner . Locations include: Inverness, Belzoni, Lorman, Rulesville Sunflower, South Haven and Macon, Mississippi.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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Made available under a Creative Commons Attribution Non-Commercial 4.0 International license:
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The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


MFP 0 77 Interviewee: Earnest Brown Interviewer: Marna Weston Date: March 20 2011 B : Ready when you are, I am. W: Okay, this is Marna Weston in Indianola, Mississippi on March 20, 2011. I am at Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church and int erviewing Mr. Earnest L. Brown, th e superintendent of the Sunday s chool. Mr. Brown, thank you very much for meeting with me and talking with me this morning. B: W: Mr. Brown, could you please state where and when you were born? B: I was born in Sunflower County; Inverness, Mississippi, in 1942 on George Beard Plantation. W: And what was the day of your birth? B: Day of my birth is June 22, 1942. W: You said George Beard B: Beard. B E A R D. Yes. W: And who is George Beard? B: He was a farmer in Inverness, had a large plantation with a lot of t enants on his place. And my daddy worked the share crop with him, and at that time and he was a blacksmith for the farm. W: Wow. Did you in growing up, learn any of the techniques of blacksmithing ? F rom your dad? B: did learn how to do a little mechanic work. My daddy while I was still a young kid y o u know, less than two years old. A nd we owned tractors and mules and


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 2 this type thing and my dad used to work on those tracto rs A nd me being a little boy, really inquisitive, I was always around in the way, trying to learn something. And he would always let me do something. And I did learn how to do a little mechanic work as a result of being around him. W: Marvelous Could you tell me about your mom and dad, who are they ? A nd if you can recall, when and where they born? B: My mom is named Lindy Tate originally her maiden name. She was born in Macon, M ississippi. And my dad is Lesley Brown H e was born in Car r ol l County. And my dad, prior to my mama and my dad getting married, my dad, both of them had a previous marriage. My dad was married and his first wife died and they had five children. W: And what was her name? B: Evie hich I never did a chance to know, because she passed away before I was born. And my mom was married to Frank Miller. And they separated and divorced. And they had three children. And my dad and my mom got married, and I was the only born child born after then, so I have all half brothers and sisters. My dad had five children and my mom had three children when they were born, and then I was born and that made a total of nine children altogether. W: B: Basically. [Laug hter] Yeah. So five boys and four girls I got four half brothers and four half sisters So W: Could you tell me the names of your brothers and sisters?


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 3 B : My oldest brother named Leslie Brown, Jr. The next oldest one was Tommy Miller, the next one was Frank Miller, and my other brother was Milton DeWitt o l i Ruby. W: And do they all still live in this area or have they dispersed to different parts of the country and the state? B: They left here but, at this time three of them are deceased. My oldest brother got killed in the Korean c onflict ; Leslie Brown, Jr. in 1951. My third oldest brother resided in Oaklan d, California H e passed January of 2006. And my oldest sister passed away April of 2006. W: B: Well, my oldest brother that living now Tommy Miller. He resides in Cleveland, Ohio. And my other brother that is still living, Milton Brown lives in Atlanta, Georgia. And I have one sister that lives in Cleveland, Ohio, my next to the oldest sister. My oldest sister live in Chicago and my baby sister live here in Indianola, Ruby. W: good. Y our brother who was killed in the war, Lester y ou were young at B: Yeah, I really have some reflections on him. We were in the field, picking cotton when we got t he news. He went to the Korean c onflict and they sent persons out to bring a telegram to notify us. We were in the field picking cotton at the time, in 1951 I t was around September or October when we got the news that he had


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 4 been killed in the army. So I was around about nine years old at that time, myself c ause I was born in 1942 and it was in 1951. W: ng in particular that you B: Of course, you know, my mother broke down like most women do. You know, all value of other older ones. But later on, you know as I reminisced back and realized that he was not coming back anymore, and then I think it had more effect on me at that time. W: Was there a military funeral here locally or was h e buried at Arlington or do you recall the funeral? B: We h ad a funeral at our local church and they shipped the body back and he was buried at the military cemetery in Vicksburg, Mississippi. W: Do you recall the pageantry of the cemetery, the flag and did they shoot the guns and the whole military ceremony? B: Yeah they did sho ot the guns. Y I me ceremonies like shooting guns and this type thing. But one or two of them came to guard the body when we had the funeral at the church. Of course it was a steel casket that was bolted all the way around, and there was no way we could open it up. W e was not able to review anything because it took a while to get the body


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 5 know he got killed on a battle field. W: Okay. you have chores and responsibilities and what was it like with you and your brothers and sisters? Cause you were the youngest so, what was it all about B: Yeah, okay G rowing up we did have chores. We, as I said, we was on my were growing up. I just was born in Inverness but we all had chores The girls basically did the housework inside. They cleaned and did the washing a nd the boys did the work on the outside. We had to feed cows, milk cows, feed hogs, feed the mules and cut wood. And the boys did this type thing. My entire family went to the field too. Cotton was our major crop that was grown. And the entire family chop ped cotton, and picked cotton. And my mama would leave the field about an hour early and go cook the girls would wash the dishes and the boys would get in the wood, and mi lk the cows and feed the stock. W: So it was a working farm. You would all involved in the income of the family. B: Yes, we all were. And me being the baby, I got a little more privil eges than the rest of them. [ L as they did, they kind of let me did what I wanted to do until all of them left home. When all of them left home and left me there, and about this time my daddy had gotten rid of the livestock and had gotten a tractor. And I basically did all the tractor driving and this type thing, after they were all gone, my daddy got tractors.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 6 W: Did you grow anything besides cotton on the farm ? B: that we ate, corn, sweet potatoes and butte r beans and peas okra and things like this, tomatoes, turnip greens, mustard greens, all type greens. So we all, we had our, you know, food that we grew there on the farm. W: And you knew everything that wen t into it as far as fertilizer or whatever it is Y ou grew it yourself. B: Right! [ Laughter ] W: And same thing with the animals I f you slaughtered a hog or cows, you know what they had been eating. B: Yeah, well we had cows and hogs. We used to kill hogs, kill cows and my daddy would cure their meat before we got refrigeration He would salt the meat down and put it in what we call a smokehouse. And we had meat the whole winter, to eat. W: education Where did your first formal educ ation take place? B: My formal education, being raised on the county line of Sunflower and Humphrey s C ounty, where the road divided t he county we was in Sunflower C ounty and the other side was Humphreys County a nd in that community we called the county line, we was six and one half miles west of Isola, Mississippi, this is where we resided. And in that community on the county line, they had one school. First of all before they put a school there we had school in the church. Then they put a school in Hu mphreys County and every, all the elementary


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 7 children went to school. It went from one through eight. All the elementary children went to school at this particular school in that community. And we had to walk to school. And Humphreys County furnished a b us for the high school children to go to high school, from ninth grade through twelfth grade and it ran down that county line road. S o if you were in grades nine through twelve, you went to high school in Belzoni, and you went to elementary school at Allen Elementary School out on that county line until 1955 when they decided to integrate the schools. W: What was the name of the church school, the original school? B: Strangers Home Missionary Baptist Church, and that was the name of the school. W: An d who was the pastor there? B: Our pastor was Reverend L. H. Howard, Lucas Howard. W: And do you have any memories of Reverend Howard? B: Sure I do. Reverend Howard baptized me in the Sunflower River in 1952. W: Was it one of those old timey baptisms with people that came, the y did old time songs? B: Yeah. Old times songs on the river bank [Laughter]. The deacon would go out in the water and measure the water, stick a stick up and say this is how far you go out in the water. So we were baptize d in the river. And I remained a member of that church until 1977 when I joined this church, Bell Grove Missionary Baptist Church. And I of this church ever since 1978.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 8 W: The Allen School tha t was first through eighth grade ? W as it a two classroom deal with one through four? B: W: Who were the teachers? B : Miss Lugusta Newell, who h as passed away, was my teacher. And Miss Miller was another te acher. We had several teachers, they would go and come. But those were the teachers when I first started there. At that time all the teachers came basically from the hills. Most of the hill children got a better education, in my opinion, th an the Delta children children in the D elta. And it seems as if those persons in the hills had more values on education because m ost of the people in the hills own their own land than the blacks in the delta. W: Okay. Well first, how often, how long did you go to school during the school year? Was there a difference in the amount of time in the D elta and am ount of time in the hill area? B: No, there was no difference in the amount of time that you go to school. But a lot of times, the people in the delta would keep their children home after school started to help gather those crops b ecause they had a lot o f cotton to gather. And our school month, I mean school time for the year was basically eight months. And the high school was nine months at that time. So I started off going to eight months school.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 9 W: When you finally got to high schoo l, what was the name of the school and what kind of activities did you do in high school? B: When I finally got to high school in 1956, I came to Gentry High School. But I before I came to high school, they decided to consolidate those schools. They moved that school out of school back t o another school over there and both counties had to furnish their own buses. And both of those buses, Sunflower County and Humphreys County buses, ran down the same road, that county line road. So if you were one side you were in Sunflower County, you caught the Sunflower County bus A nd if you on the other side of the road, you caught the 1955, and I finished my last part of elementary scho ol at school east of Inverness called, Price Elementary School. I went the last six months of school there and then I attended Gentry High School in 1956, where I graduated in 1960. W: Who was the principal of Gentry High School? B: A Mr. L. R. Brown was the principal of Gentry High School when I started, and he was my principal until I finished and until sometime in the late [19]80s. I graduated in 1964. W: This the same Gentry High School that is here in town now? B: Yeah, the one r ight up the street here. W: But it was segregated at that time. B: Yes, because they had a white school cross town called Indianola High School. W: Okay, now did you have any interaction at all with those white students or was it two different worlds ?


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 10 B: It was two different worlds. No interaction. W: B: basketball; I always had a goal at home B u t we lived so far out in the rural Y ou know t me to play, me bei ng the baby S want me to play football, not basketball. Well, I feel th at I had to tell her in order to do it. Because I played basketball all time at home, always at a goal at the house. W: Were you involved in any extracurriculars or leadership activities at school, or was it just you go t on the bus and came back home ? B: Well at school I was involved with 4 H. I was involved with FHA, a N ew Homemakers of America, cause I took shop all while I was there all four years. I took shop. And where I learned how to do some farming and then being in the 4 H club, at that time, th e 4 H Club was connected with the school. And the county agent would always work with the 4 H Club and I was involved in a speaking contest, in entomology, that we went to Alcorn College, which is Alcorn State University now. And I was involved in a speaki ng contest under Mr. Cox. And I won first place in that speaking contest, and I won an Elgin watch. They gave me an Elgin watch as a gift. W: Okay, now maybe you can explain the significance of the Elgin watch. know if you know, but people really


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 11 time off the telephone. [Laughter ] So , could you explain the significance of the Elgin watch? B: Well, the Elgin watch was a watch that a nd v ery few adults and this is the way we could tell time. So you had your time right on your wrist. And I was real proud of that watch, because I was able to wear that me wear it when you do what we call dress up or go to church on Sunday or going somewhere. But she said it was not a work watch. [Laughter] So we used to tell time a lot by the sun, back during that time. You look up at the sun and see where the sun is. But that wat ch, I was real proud of it because, you know, I had W: This public speaking competition through Mr. Cox, did that help you develop your leadership, being involve d in those organizations? B: I think so. I was very much interested in doing things like that and him giving me the opportunity to get up before a group to speak, I think that helped develop me and develop some of the shyness out of me, giving me the opportunity to get, speak before an audience, which a lot of people did not have it. And I always this time, he gave me a nickname, Straw. And he always calls me Straw Balls. He says I always like to boss. So I always to be, I always wanted to be in charge. So he nicknamed me Straw T ed me today E ven though


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 12 called me when he refer to under the big bull. So I think it did help develop that. W: What is your definition of leadership? B: he ability to get the job done a the job. But first of all you being a leader ; you going to set the first example. de finition of leadership, being able to persuade others to get the job done. W: So you graduated from high school W hat happens then? B: After I graduated from high school, I attended Mississippi Vocational College at that time, which is now Mississippi Vall ey State University. W: How did you end up out there? B: Well, that was the only school in the area at the time. And I moved to Indianola with my baby sister, the one that live here, and I began to live with them. And I commuted each day on the bus to M ississippi Valley State because it was hardly no such thing and I never even think about going away. We could have went away and boarded and stayed at like Alcorn and those places But uh, it was the closest school to me. And not being one for being away from home, I still wanted to stay around home. So I was able to commute every day and come back to Indianola and stay with my sister and her husband, and live right here in Indiano my other classmates went to Mississippi Vocational College. And my major was business education, at that time. And I was able to go for four years and


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 13 graduate in four years on time. W: I was about to get to that. I was going to say B: Well W: I nsert yo ur family B: A nd let you ask me what you want to ask me about tha t. W: Okay, well you finished your sister and her husband B: Yes W: Did you think about starting a family on your own? B: Yes sir. I met my now wife when I was at Mississippi Valley. Her major was business education. W: And what is her name? B: Her name was Anna May Turner. W: Well how did you end up developing a relationship with Miss Turner? How did you all meet? B: We both was M ajored in business and we took classes together, and we used to study togeth Lorman, Mississippi, which is about 150 mil e right down by Alcorn College, not too far from A lcorn College. W e would study together W e had the same major and we just started talking and got interested in each other. And we got engaged and got married the next month after we graduated. We graduated in May and got married in June of 1964.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 14 W: W here did you get married at? B: We got married at her church, called Rose Hill Christian C hurch in Lorman, Mississippi. W: And who married you? B: Her pastor. name Reverend Gordon married us at the time. W: Okay. And you graduated, you married in 1964. What are your next steps? B: My next step. We were very fort unate I think A t the time a Reverend Matthews the pastor of the church, brother was the principal of East Sunflower Elementary School a nd he had just gotten that job in November. And at that time, they were furnishing houses for principals to live in a nd Reverend Matthews had built him a home here in Indianola. So he was not interested in living in that house, and they needed some teachers at East Sunflower Elementary School And I told the superintendent, which is name of C. J. Edwards at the time, t hat I would be getting married in June and my wife was finishing school also. And they needed some elementary school teachers but both of us was business majors. So at the time he told us, he told me, said, y a ll going to get married, I will give both of y a ll a job. watch the campus. And only thing you have to pay is the utility the utility bills. I have to pay any kind of rent at all. But in the meanwhile, both of u s was certified in business so we had to get a permit in order to teach in elementary school. They gave us a permit which was good for one year at a time based on the fact if you go back and get at least six hours of elementary education you


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 15 can renew tha t permit for the next three years. So my wife and I both went back to Mississippi Vocational College at that time, each summer, and took courses, working on a major in elementary education. And we went back for three summers and we were able to get a I gu ess you would call it a minor, but I call it a major in elementary education. Cause we were able to get a license to teach elementary education. So both of us became certified to teach in elementary education after that, and my wife continued to teach ther e for her whole career, thirty one years. I taught there for six years, and I was the boys basketball coach for six years, from 1964 to 1970 when they integrated the schools. And I was moved then, transferred to Ruleville Junior High School, which used t o be the white high school in Ruleville, Mississippi. And I became the boys basketball coach there and assistant football coach in grades seven through nine. W: I want to talk to you a just few minutes and thank you for introducing that subject about y our perceptions from back when you were recruited to your first education characterize the recruitment process A and the whole, the retention process of e thoughts on what implications there were for your academic, professional and personal life based upon the path that you chose. And I also want to talk to you about the personal and professional connections that formed your decisions to accept or reject future jobs that you took when you got hired, you know, because of this entire process of talking to people. What was the process that you used in


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 16 your mind if you were going to say, am I going to accept the job or not take a job ? T communication connections with others M aybe later on you could draw it out and you something, but just to talk about what those pathways looked like that connected you to other people and who your mentors were and how they talked to you. So with that being set as a foreground, my questions are, how did you select your initial job in education ? And I think that you just briefly described it, but if you would just review it for a second. How did you select that first job? B: Well, select it, you know I sent many applications in business and surprisingly enoug h I did not hear from any of those jobs. [Laughter] W: Yeah factious, but what, what . Bec ause somebody later on might not understand what the times were and now why do you say surprisingly enough? B: Well jobs was very limited in business T hey only just had both one business teacher per high school or two if it was a large one. So it was like jobs w as not plentiful in business. They were more plentiful in the elementary ed ucation. There were more I t was a greater need for teachers in elementary education, especially males. M en was not teaching ; mostly you find women. And so mostly everywhere was when I found out Reverend Matthews was looking some teachers then I talk ed to the superintendent. And he offered me this job and basically that was the only professional type job that was available in Mississippi and most my


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 17 sisters and brothers left and went to C hicago, the army and Ohio and different these something else because I did not want to be a farmer the rest of my life and I did not want to live under those same condition s, I wanted to better myself. So I had something to motivate me, to want to go. So, I was anxious to get that job because I always did love basketball and I had the opportunity also to coach and so they gave me a gr eater incentive to take the job when he told me he needed a basketball coach also. W: Okay. Well now basketball not withstanding and some of the extras, what did you think about prior to choosing to accept that first job? B: I was thinking that , then I may not get the offer on another one. So, I needed to take the first job I could get because if you recall, I told you married; I got a wife, without a job. So I thought that fit right in, that both of us was offered a job Cause the superintendent kept on asking me are you sure y a ll going to get married? [Laughter] he said if you do then I can give both of y a ll a job. So it was kind of like a package deal, you know that if I got married I had a job and she had a job. And they had split sessions at that time. You probably not familiar with that. In the D elta, they used to we used to go two months of summer school, July and August. Then we sta rted back late October. W: Because of the harvest.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 18 B: Because of the harvest, you out for that. So I worked the last year, my wife and I A split session. So we went to work, got married in June, went to work in July. And worked July and August, then stay ed out and I worked at the cotton press, from August, end of August, until the end of October I was lucky enough to get me a job at a cotton press A nd having a college education, I w as ver have to do those hard jobs; all I had to do is read the names off the tags off the those type things, cause I had just graduated from college and the y wanted somebody to read. And I was able to read those names and I was lucky enough to get that all I had to do when they put them on the scales, was read off whose it was. W: Okay. Who were the specific colleagues, friends or mentors that informed your de cision to accept that first job ? You mentioned Mr. C. J. Edwards, was there was there anyone else B: Yeah, he was the superintendent, but my parents and my now wife, Annie Ma y she encouraged us to take it. But my parents, her parents, my brother in la w and my sister that I lived with told me that we very fortunate and we should go on and pursue that. And but like I said, we had no other offer. So basically I did another choice. [ L But they encouraged me to take it and go on back to school and get certified in elementary education s o I could have a permanent job.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 19 W: How did racial situations throughout your career affect whether or not you would or not accept a job that was offered to you? B: Well, at the time when we first got into this, you was only going to get an offer in a black, predominantly black school. So, that was not an issue because you was not going to get an of fer in those schools anyway, so . Therefore, you know, we w ere kind of satisfied as this being home. We been raised in the rural, never so with the job that job, but you was not going to get offers in there because at that time, they had not started blacks to working in the predominantly white schools. You still had what they called black schools and white schools. And you was not going to get any offers there anyway. So therefore you knew that you were going to be working in a predominantly black school. W: Can you discuss a situation where you actually left a job because of information communicated to you by a colleague, a friend or mentor? B: No, I never l eft a job, for all I really had . Well I guess I can even say three jobs. W hen I left the first one because they was integrati ng w hen they moved me from Sunflower to Ruleville t hey was integrating the schools so they had have a percentage of white teachers and a percentage of black t eachers in that school. And the supe rintendent asked me to transfer at that time and that was the only reason. I was glad to transfer because at East Sunflower court and basketball, we had a dirty co urt to play on.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 20 W: A dirt basketball court? B: Yes sir. W: Wow. B: And you could only play when it was dry. W: [Laughs] Yeah, I guess so. B: It was outside, in the very weather. So, they had a gymnasium at this school and when he asked me to transfer even it was about, I would say, fourteen or fifteen miles further away from home I was glad to transfer because I had a gymnasium in order to practic e and play my games in. So I thought that was advancement. And they started giving me a supplement for coaching, which I oaching basketball and football ; it was very small B ut, it was b etter, it would help me pay for my gas. W: Better than zero. B: Yes. W: Can you describe a specific situation where communication from a colleague a friend or a mentor helped shape your career positively? And then maybe if it did happen, one where it shaped your career negatively, but how did information form others help shape your career? B: I would talk to the older teachers that was already at the school. I remember very vividly talking to an older gentleman named Mr. James Black, from Ruleville, Mi ssissippi. He was coaching He had been coaching basketball and he was supposed to be the assistant for the when I


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 21 started work. But he was the previous coach. I got a chance to work with him for one year. And h e retired at end of 1965, the end of the school year 1965. And I And he always told me about his career and playing football in college and he would always tell me, you know, h ow I need to carry myself and how I need to help the children, what I had to do to help and discipline the children. And he influenced me to hang in there and stay on the job. And one day one year with him, and he said if to work no more after that. So he was the main influence A nd plus my principal, with R everend Matthews, John Matthews h e encouraged me to go on with school and further my education. And as a result of that And in the process I was able to get certified in administration. So I ended up with three majors, a business major, a n elementary education major, and an administration major. W: And you feel your mentors were integral in letting that happen. B: I feel tha t they were. Me and some of my friends that lived on my street Mr. Odell Tate, he encouraged me and about two other guys were riding up to Delta State, working on their masters degrees. And they was almost through. And this was in 1971. And he encouraged me to go with them and start working on my mast And he said you need to come on ride up to Delta State with us and get your degree.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 22 So I got in the car and started riding with them. And all of them finished at the end of the first session, in 1971. And I said more. W: [ Laughter ] Why was that? B: like I was being treated quite fairly, but you k now you can make it. And I did make it. Tate told me say he kind of tried to embarrass me a little bit. He say you need to go on back the next session. He said everybody and in the car going back. So you need to go back. So we through. We got our mast er s And you need to go back. So I got in the car and ro de back up to there to register Tate separate ways when we got to the campus, to register, having different majors. We had some that was P.E. majors, I was elementary education major. And I graduating. So all of us had different advisors and different departme n t s. So we got out of the car and we goin g to meet back up at noon to come back home. So when we got back to the car, everybody was talking about what they was taking, how many hours they was taking and what they classes were. And I noticed that Odell said bring me. And he laughed about that until he passed away. He used to come back he moved to Virginia and he used to live across the street from me. And


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 23 he passed away, you know, some years later, but when he would come back during the summer, he said, Brown you know when I tricked you back to Delt a State? He say you glad you went? And I answered, I said I sure am. So he was today that I did. Cause if it had not been for him, I probably would not have gone back cause he mad e me feel it look bad when he said, everybody in the car going back and we through. And you just now starting so you know you need to go back. W: C an you tell me about your children, your personal family? B: Children? My wife and I has not been real lucky with children. Our first child was born in 1969. He was born with a cord wrapped around his neck that cut off the oxygen. He was ne ver able to walk or talk, a boy named Kevin. And he lived about three years and eleven months, he never was his body never did develop like it was supposed to. He was never able to walk or talk. And he passed away in 1973. He was born in [19]69. So we rocked on A nd my wife had a miscarriage in 1975. And in 1976, we had a stillb orn girl. After eight months, the cord came loose. Her name was Valerie, she was born dead. And in 1978, we had a son born named Carlos Brown. And he was born with asthma. And he went through high school, he played in the marching band at Gentry High Scho ol in 1996. And he started at Alcorn and went to college and played in the marching think we gave


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 24 to be with his friends and things, and he went to school down there to 2003. And I told him at that point he needed to get out and get a job and go to work. So he e was making bad grades, flunking ; class. And I said well you need to go out until you make your m ind up you want to go to school Y ou need to get you a job. And when you decide you want to go to school, we will help you go back. So he got a job with Sunflower County Scho ols as a safety aid for the school. He walked around the school, at East Sunflower, the same school that my wife and I worked at. My wife as I told you did thirty one years there She did all her career there at East Sunflo wer. So he got a job there, like in June. And he worked until December. And unfortunately he got killed in a car wreck on the twenty eighth of December 2003. So chi ldren. We got several we got about three god daughters and a god son. And two of the god daughters is just like biological children. Which one, the oldest one, lives in South Haven, Mississippi. She used to live here in the north but these children got at tached to us. She did and the young man because they were from the community of Sunflower where we taught school a nd they used to come home and spend nights with us, two or three nights at a time and they would cry when their parents told them they had t o come home. And right now, we still ha ve a relationship with that god daughter. And we picked up a couple more god dau ghters since then, but that god son and god daughter we been had ever since our early years of teaching.


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 25 W: What do you think is the leg acy that you and your wife have left to education and this community? B: I would think that the legacy is that we have left is that we have laid the groundwork that educat ion i s the key to success. A God. Your church work is ve ry much important. M y wife was brought up active in church, and I think we were left those two legacy, that you going to need an education in order to be successful in life and you going to need God in your life to lead and guide you. A s a result of that, you know I serve in many capacities. Like I say, when I left Ruleville, I never did tell you about that. I stayed in Ruleville Junior High School and coached basketball and football for twelve years there. And then an opening came at Mo o rhead Middle School for a principal, which was in the all white community a nd I was the first African American principal of that school, in 1982, with me having getting my license in administration and supervision. When I heard of th e principal leaving and not coming back, I immediately made an application for the job. And being in the system already, I think it gave me the first choice at the job. So I was able to get the principal job at Mo o rhead Middle School, which was Mo o rhead El ementary School at the time, grades six through eight. From 1982 to 1995, for thirteen years, I spent most of my career there, thirteen years; I only spent twelve years in Ruleville and six in Sunflower. And then my wife and I both had a retirement toget her. In 1995 we both retired after thirty one years. I stayed out for three and one half years, and a friend of mine that I used to teach with in Ruleville he was a social studies teacher and I was a math teacher


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 26 became the superintendent of the Sunflowe r County School D istrict in 1998. And he tried to get me to come out of retirement to be his assistant, assistant superintendent. And I would not come out; I told him I would help him. So he made me his assistant. And I started in January 1999 and I did th at to June in 2004, worked half a year. And in our system, retirement system, you can work a half a year, half as much as the job without affecting your retirement. So I worked as hi s assistant from January of 1999 to June of 2004. And helping him out, so I was assistant superintendent. So going back to your question, the legacy, I think in education, is a legacy A nd my wife, she did thirty one years and she went back and served as a librarian at East Mo o rhead elementary, which is now Rosser, James Rosser Elementary, named after the principal who retired. And me becoming a deacon of this church, uh, they must have Mr. Davis influenced me to be a member of this church. He was the biggest influence A nd I became a deacon of this church, so that put me in more leadership and that was in 1977. And in 1978 they recommended me as a deacon of the church, and tha t put me in a bigger leadership A nd in 1983, the superintendent in 1982, let me back up. The superintendent start pastoring. And they were going to move Mr. Davis in there and he was a teacher. And at that time, he from Philadelphia, Mississippi, De K alb, and he had a lot of responsibilities back home, and he came to me and asked me to serve as superintendent of the Sunday school. And I served as the superintendent of the Sunday school Conference of Christian Education


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 27 take all types of courses in leadership and di fferent things as a church deacon, trustee vacation bible school A nd all this I think attributed to my legacy. And I remember all this list behind me, I will leave all this behind me, and I think all of this will be a part of my legacy that I left her. My wife became the secretary of the church, exactly what year, but after the man who was the etary probably, probably twenty some years, close to thirty years. So I think our church leadership and our educatio n leadership is the legacy that we left back in the community. And I also got on the school board for Indianola School District in My wife volun teered at the B. B. King museum N ow she does volunteer work there. So I think all of this is a par t of our legacy th ; that you leave something, you give back to the community. Once, you know, you make it, you help somebody else to make it. And we helped a lot of children, bo ught a lot of children graduation gifts and this type thing and helped just about everything in definitely going to get an invitation. [ Laughter ] G going to be asked to donate to th is, and donate to that. And we always were able to do that, so I think all of this W: I was going to say, all because you met a girl in a business education class at Valley. B: Right! [Laughter ]


MFP 0 77 ; B rown ; Page 28 W: Mr. Earnest L. Brown, I want to thank you very much for this opportunity to talk to you about your career and your perspectives and your family incredible to speak with you. On behalf of our oral history program, I want to thank you f or this time. And I like to close all my interviews by, in addition to those thanks, giving you the opportunity to say anything that you would care to. closing remarks that you mi ght have, whatever they may be. And when you conclude those remarks, those conclude our interview today. I thank you. B: interview, and I thank Mr. Davis for recommending me to you. And I hope that the for anything in the future, I will be glad to do whatever I can that can help contribute to your success. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Jana Ronan, October 2013 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc, October 24, 2013 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, January 2014