Interview with McKinley Mack, August 21, 2009

Material Information

Interview with McKinley Mack, August 21, 2009
Mack, McKinley ( Interviewee )
Clarke, Khambria ( Interviewer )
Noll, Amanda ( 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 )
Voter registration ( fast )
Oral histories ( lcgft )
Temporal Coverage:
1960 - 2009
Spatial Coverage:
United States of America -- Mississippi -- Sunflower


Mack talks about growing up in a family of sharecroppers and how segregation influenced him to become an activist at age seventeen. People mentioned include: James O. Eastland, Otis Brown, Cephus Smith, Linda Jenkins, Charles McClaurin, Stacey White and James Haywood. Locations include Indianola, Doddsville and Inverness, Mississippi. Organizations include: the Ku Klux Klan, NAACP, SNCC and the White Citizen's Council.

Record Information

Source Institution:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Holding Location:
UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
Rights Management:
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 052 Interviewee: McKinley Mack Interviewer: Khambria Clarke and Amanda Noll Date: August 21, 2009 C: All right. Today is August 22, 2009. We are here with M: McKinley Mack, Junior. C: N: C: University of Florida. All right. Can you get started by telling us a l ittle bit about your background, your childhood, maybe? M: Sure. I was born and raised here in Sunflower County, and lived most of my teenage life here in Indianola. I always saw that things were different growing up, a bothered me, to the point where I was working at a store a grocery store as a checker, and for instance, there was a water fountain two water fountains and always one of the water fountains would say: one say, colored, and one said, and got some water out of the fountain that said white, and one of the store managers saw me do it. I was fired b ecause of that. Then I started, in my mind, wanting to change things. Starting with that have access to the library and stuff, so, right where we at now, I came over there to get a library card and, as soon as I asked for the card, the police came to me, he said . [Laughter] So it was pretty rough growing up, you know, and being a black kid and wanting to better myself and better things for my people. You know? Only thing I saw to do was do some of the changing. So I joined the civil


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 2 rights movement here, joined Charles McLaurin and a lot of other people here, d ecided that voter registration was a thing to change, that the word, vote, means times. I was all over Sunflower County, getting people to register to vote and stuff, and e ven went up to a little town north of here called Doddsville, not knowing that little town was owned by one of our senators, Senator Eastland. never go in and sit down and e at food, you always had to go to the back door. I went to jail for that. So, then it got to where, on the weekends, to make sure I jail anyway, whether I did anything or not. T hat was myself and another friend of mine, Otis Brown. Another friend, Cephus Smith, and another friend, Linda Jenkins and they made sure they knew where we were all the time, because we was out for change, you know. Once we did, the door started to open a little bit more. The kids would come over here to the library and, you know, doing things in the community. We got a lot of people active; the whole town got active, and r that, too. That first march that was down here, I guess people start to seeing what the whole thing was about change, and getting people to vote and stuff. I been better. B ut I never had any bitterness toward people. It was just the system


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 3 and the way it was. Once I did that, people started understanding what we was Council and they were burning peo still being active, still doing things around here. Then we start to, people got involved, and we start to [inaudible 05:38]. Lik e a good friend of mine Ms. White. All her family was involved, and it just the people, there was, more or less like they thought the head of the people, once we got out of the scene, and off the scene, then other people doing things, too, you know. But you guys, still . putting in practices about the change. That really makes me never thought that I would be around to see it, especially with our president. I never th ought that I would live to see a black president, you know? But I wish now that a lot of my parents and older people could see this. This is the way it values and stuff, and w ant to be treated to the best that you can be. Right now, I ride through the country and stuff, see a lot of things. My dad was a sharecropper and I worked on a farm all my life; a lot of hard work. Now, my younger siblings, we put them through college and stuf f, through school. Now, my kids now, is out


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 4 three years old, and I knew the change is going to have to come where education is the key to everything. C: Right. M: tuff, and anything I can do C: Was there ever a moment where you doubted that change would come? You seem like you had a lot of challenges just the whole time. Is there a moment where you become a little weary of everything? M: like here in the South now, all your leaders now is of a different color. You know? Just hope that things remain and get better, you know. But the key to that is C: Right. M: Because this is a new day. That new days means new ideas. A lot of people now is registered v them. That way, you know if this person is the person they say they are. So far, be changed and need to be done A t least, like I like you guys are the key to the whole project.


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 5 N: Could you tell us a little bit more about exactly how you got started in the movement? Maybe your first experiences going to community gatherings, anything like th at? M: Well, what started me in the movement, got me started off really, I had the idea too far from here. I got a drink of water out of a fountain that said had the sig n up over it that said, white. A glass of water. t the word, is just a fountain that never was cleaned or nothing. You know, if something is not clean, you have a tendency not to want to drink from it, you be some changes mad C: How old were you when you started that? M: I started that when I was seventeen. C: Oh, wow. So, pretty young. M: Yeah. And being seventeen and doing this type of work here in this town, that was a no no. But I had to take t hat chance, you know? I was willing to accept anything come at me, because I was about change.


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 6 like I was telling you, the guys that were visiting here from other states and stuff, we all got together black and white kids, you know. We all got together, and that was it. Now we are where we are now, because of that. It was an experience child, I never was in the public that much. But, in high school, I was working, I would go and work at the store for school money, you know, stuff like that. Once that happened, now I say, I got to take a different route. It happened, you know. N: How do y ou think your parents felt about you being in the movement? Were they apprehensive? Were they very supportive? M: They were very supportive, scared to death. [Laughter] They were scared to death. One time, now, earlier, I left this out I left and moved to Ohio because, at the time, the Klansmen came down to burn the house down, my dad and one of the morning, to burn the house down. Just happened they was out there on the porch and saw them. Then, the next morning, police came down and saw they little old bottles of gas with the thing in it, to throw it, but nothing was ever done about it. So I said to myself, the best thing for me to do to keep my family from being hurt is just C: How long did you stay in Ohio? M: I stayed there seventeen years, but I never forgot about what I was doing here. Like I said, I still was active doing things here, even though I was there. I had other frien ds of mine and sisters and brothers; I would communicate with them, telling them what to do, where to go and stuff. A couple of my brothers joined the


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 7 NAACP and stayed connected, you know. I made sure all of them got registered to vote and was registering to vote the whole family and the church family, too. We just started going from church to church, and started doing it. By the way, my dad, he was a minister. I have six brothers five brothers, five more brothers other than myself, and we all were ministe rs. We all were doing the same thing on the same level, and changing things. Right now, I sit back and I reminisce a lot of times, and I can see where a lot of things paid off without me being hurt [Laughter] C: So, how important was religion to the movem ent? M: Oh, religion to the movement. That was the cause of all of it. That was the main source. People that confessing Christ it was easy to relate to them because they knew there was a change, had to come. It was just like, for instance, in the movement when Moses led the children out of Egypt; similar, same thing, you know. N: What were some of your experiences when you moved up North? Did you face some of the same social tensions? M: Yes . seen the railroad tracks. But, at the time, on the south side of the track were black; on the north side was white. coming to work on a lawn, unlessing you come over here with somebody, you know, to do some work. But, once I got up there, neighborhood was mixed. To me, it was just a like a flower garden; all different colors, yo


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 8 saying? That really helped me to understand things a lot better. A lot of things my mind was focused one way, but once I got there and start to seeing everything, the different cultures and stuff, I knew then I just come from a hell o. [Lau with people more better. Over here, the only people I could communicate with was black people, you know? But, once up there, I started communicating with all different people, and g ot more relaxed. Once I got more relaxed, I came back down. Been here ever since, been here ever since, still doing the same work; but not as bold as I was, you know. Now that our leadership, our leaders are not like the leaders that were here when I left. C: So what was coming home like after seventeen years of being away? M: Oh, God. [Laughter] Like going to another country, really. N: What year did you return before you M: in the late [19]50s and [19]60s especially [19]60s and the early part of the [19]70s. Things was rough here, if you had the type of mind that mine was, you Now that I came back, I s ee you got not separate. You got white kids going to school with the black kids, black going some of the people with hate and stuff in their heart is still around here. Not as neighborhoods and stuff and go visit places. People have the same rights that


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 9 it. Make a big difference. Like I was saying, Stacy Ms. White civil rights workers that was here at that time, we come ba ck with reunions, and back and we go and tour a lot of places that we went to and did work in. A lot of close, real still look at the changes that have been made, that were made and we was part of making that change. So, it really is gratifying to me. It really takes me to th e level that I want to be on. C: So, of all the different activities that you were involved in in the movement, what of? M: The most proud thing is, I did there was a lady in a little town south of here, Inverness. I went to pick her up and brought her to register to vote. This lady was ninety nine years old. You know? And bringing her for the first time, and this lady was just scared to death. She was leaning on me for that sup port. We went on write. All she did at the time was mark the x. That was really gratifying, to see a person that age still . saw the things that should have been changed. Sh e understood that the only way you could change anything was by that little word, vote. That really, it really just stuck with me. It still stick with me. A lot of times, I


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 10 think about a lot of the things we went through; I did, you know. Sometimes, it mak to go through that. It brings a lot of joy to my heart, right, and sitting here with you earlier, I never thought that I would live to see a black president. We got the N: Back to when you came back into Indianola, did you find that there was still a sense of community hoping to continue the chan ge from when you left? M: Oh, sure, yeah. More so now, now that things are better now than what it was then and today. People still looking at things, can get better than what they are. kids here, going to school. Not dropping out. You know, like being the little thugs that you see. I had an opportunity to go to I had a daughter that graduated from UAB, and there at that graduation, I had in my mind, and my mind was saying that the kids young black kids But, at that graduation, I saw the graduating class was two hundred and some. Out of the two hundred and some kids that graduated, it was around a hundred and fifty some were guys. the wrong way. All kids are not alike, you know? These guys is going into law or medicine, and it just really changed my whole outlook, because I had never seen as many kids trying to do something wi th their life. Right now, I see a lot of kids now and continuing to push kids to hanging around cor ners with a forty in your


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 11 hand, or a joint in your mouth. Man, what it is become an upstanding citizen. We always have people watching us. Like even reminded of a message that I did one Sunday, and that message was, turn around, I use it that way. I was talking about one thing, but it meant something else, you know. We all e ven me. I got guys watching me, and I have is for you guys to be role models. anyway So important. C: So it seems like you were always able to look at the glass half f ull. What allowed you to stay so positive in the face of such negativity? M: mother, and they always taught us morals, morals and values. That stuck, you know. Even though I w twelve kids six boys and six girls. That was a big household. To do the things they did, teach the morals and values a working, you see where I am now. [Laughter] N: Do you think that students here in this community and other places in the countr things that you guys worked really hard to get?


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 12 M: Not as much as we are, because a lot of your states and your towns and stuff that we had to deal with. So, not on the level that we are on now. You never thought that this town was that way. You see wha way other people, other kids other people could be on the same level that we yo u know? C: What type of things do you think still need to be changed? Because, of course, you said you do a lot of work still with changing things. What do you think still needs changing? M: Well, now, doing a lot of studying and stuff now is like I was sa ying earlier about that little word, vote. Now we are voting and putting people in office, but the people getting in office has to be need to be and stuff. All of this is a downfall to take you back to where you were, see? I know that this one guy here that became sheriff here, name is James Haywood. Now, there was misappropriated funds there wh en they took office. But, they went in, when they took over the office, they went in and had an investigation, you know what


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 13 the people is getting awful excited, getting in office and stuff, and not doing a thing peo ple said, if I vote for N: Can you elaborate on how you are still contributing to the movement and to changes? M: We involved in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. We have regular meetings and stuff, and we talk. But what we have to do now is really, when the people that we vot e for get in office, to do just what we set them for, you know. C: Mm hm. M: another form of control right there. You vote for them; all I got to do is paint a n is or what. You need to be . N: sentence, how did this movement impact your life, do you think .


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 14 M: Well, like I said, it impacts my life a whole lot. It made me aware of things made me awa back in the late [19]60s, early [19]60s and [19]50s and [19]60s, that a lot of things I did, I should have went about it a different way, but I had to do it the way that I did it have the Like I tell you guys about coming up here to the in here and sit saying? People come in here and use the computers and all A ll this, is because funded so, if you got a right to it, I got a right to it, too! with you guys, to tell my thoughts and my work. Not only me, because there was a lot of other people in the communiti es and stuff that should be here, but of something, if a person want to add something to help promote the movement, t sit down and wait on change, I like to be part of it, make the change. C: Well, we want to thank you, not only for doing this interview with us, but just for impact on a ll areas. M: Oh, sure. Oh, sure. C: Thank you for that.


MFP 05 2 ; Mack ; Page 15 N: Thank you very much. M: Thank you guys a lot for taking the time out to come do this. C: be doing some follow u ps, just to get some more on how you guys are continuing to do changes. M: Okay, okay. Anytime you guys get ready for something, if I can help, just let me know. C: Will do. M: Stacy, she got my numbers and stuff. Like I said, we be together a lot, and going to see if I can bring some more people with me. N: C: All right. M: All right, thank you, ladies. N: Thank you so much. M: essed day, hear? C: It was so nice to meet you. M: Pleased to meet you, too. All right. [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, December 12, 2013 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc, January 11, 2014 Final edited by: Diana Domb rowski, March 14, 2014