Title: Interview with Coolidge Cummings (September 29, 1972)
Full Citation
Permanent Link: http://ufdc.ufl.edu/UF00007018/00001
 Material Information
Title: Interview with Coolidge Cummings (September 29, 1972)
Physical Description: Book
Language: English
Publication Date: September 29, 1972
Spatial Coverage: Lumbee County (Fla.)
Funding: This text has been transcribed from an audio or video oral history. Digitization was funded by a gift from Caleb J. and Michele B. Grimes.
 Record Information
Bibliographic ID: UF00007018
Volume ID: VID00001
Source Institution: Samuel Proctor Oral History Program, Department of History, University of Florida
Holding Location: This interview is part of the 'Lumbee County' collection of interviews held by the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program of the Department of History at the University of Florida
Rights Management: All rights reserved by the source institution and holding location.
Resource Identifier: LUM 25A

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SEPTEMBER 29, 1972

I: And I am in the home of Reverand Coolidge Cummings and this is

near where Brother Cummings

S: Three miles west of-Penr- f1 IA r e-C

I: Would you mind telling us your full name and spelling it for us

so the girls will be able to type it for us correctly?

S: My full name is Coolidge Mac Cummings. Spelling C-o-o-l-i-d-g-e.

Middle name, M-a-c. Last name: C-u-m-m-i-n-g-s.

I: Thank you very much. Uh, will you tell us your occupation, of

course, I know but our readers and listeners don't know, so will

you tell us your occupation please sir?

S: I'm minister, that's, minister of the gospel; pastor of Islandrove
^/kt rIj 'e I!
Baptist Church, Route 1, -em-ebrk.

I: That's I-s-l-a-n-d-g-r'o-v-e, is that correct?

S: I-s-l-a-n-d.

I: I-s-l-a-n-drg-r-o-v-e. This is a Methodist Church.

S: Missionary Baptist Church.

I: Missionary Baptist. How old are you, Reverand Cummings?

S: 49.

I: Who were your parents?


S: Bellamy Cummings and Rufus James Cummings.

I: How do you spell that first name, B-e-l-l-a-m-y?

S: B-e-l-l-a-m-y.

I: And they were natives of Robeo son?

S: Uh, yes.

I: And I suppose they have lived in Robekson all their lives and

their parents and their grandparents?

S: Yes.

I: You are a Lumbee Indian?

S: Yes.

I: Uh, is your church a Lumbee Indian church?

S: Yes.

I: About how much congregation, about how many people do you have?

S: Well, our Sunday school averages about 230 per Sunday. Our

resident church membership, some 140.

I: I see. And this church is located out of mown.

S: Right. This is rural church, Route 1, eaRanobooaka

I: Well, it's the church which is familiar to all of us here and you

are familiar to all of us because all of us know you because you

have been very active and such a blessing ih the Christian movement

in this county and we know you but our listeners don't, so if I ask

questions that seem a little dumb so each girl will know and transcribe

it correctly. Do your parents farm, are they living, by the way?

S: My mother is living; my father is deceased.

I: How old is your mother?

S: 85.


I: How about your immediate family--your wife and your children?

Who was your wife before you married?

S: She was Lowren--last name Lowren before married, the daughter

of Mr. and Mrs. B. H. Lowren.

I: How many children do you have?

S: Six

I: How many boys, how many girls?

S: Three boys, three girls.

I: I'm going to ask you a question that usually gives guys the most

trouble about answering and this is always amusing to me because

I have the same trouble. Could you give us their ages, the ages

and the names of the children?

S: I could give you the names. Ha! ha! But all the ages--

I: Have to call on your wife.

S: Right. I would need my wife in on that.

I: Okay, would you come in here Mrs. Cummings? HA! ha!

I have to ask my wife when somebody asks me something like this,

because their ages are always changing, you know. Would you help

and give the ages, he's going to give the names, would you give

the ages of your children?

MRS. C: One's 24 and one's 22.

I: Would you repeat that?

S: Our oldestson is Samuel Mac Cummings, age 24. Our second child

is a boy, Michael Cummings; he's 19. Our next child is a girl,

her name's Teresa, age 17. Our next child, also a girl, Cathy

Elaine Cummming, her-name, her age rather is 15. And the next

child is a girl, Yvonne Lee, and her age is 10. The next and the

last, boy, Kenman Bee Cummings, age 7.


I: That's good.

S: Stumble through it. Ha! ha!

I: That's good because I always have that trouble. Where did you go

to school, Reverand Cummings?

S: At the time I attended p izebLeee State College, now PemntrfiDru

State University and also Southern Baptist Theological Seminary


I: Do you remember about what yeais you were at PSU or PSC probably

at that time.

S: Yes, '46 through '50 over at PSU and '50 through '53 at the

Theological Seminary at Louisville, Kentucky.

I: Right. How long have you been, uh, are you a full time minister?

S: Yes, I am a full-time minister.

I: How long have you been working in the ministry full time?

S: That would be a little difficult, actually in a sense to say.

But I can tell you--I've been full-time at Islandgrove. It was

a part-time church when I went there and we have grown full-time.

I've been there full time for two years but prior to this I served

over in the state of Kentucky for 12 years full time so actually

been full time pastoral work, 14 years.

I: Uh, huh, what was the name of the church in Kentucky?

S: After my graduation from seminary, the first church East Union

Baptist Church over in Graham, Kentucky.

I: Is this an integrated church, white church?

S: No, this is a white church.

I: I see. Well, I know you were well received and well loved


to remain there 12 years.

S: Now I stayed at East Union 2 years then I went over to another

church about 20 miles over to Mortons Gap, Kentucky and stayed

there about 10 years.

I: I see. Did you have any special problems because of the fact that

fact that you are Indian?

S: Not to my knowledge.

I: Why did you come back home, I mean, did you have a specific reason

or because the Lord was leading you back home?

S: Yes, well, I've always had a desire to be of some help if possible

back home among--as we so often say among our own people, racially,

so that's one of the big factors.

I: Well, I do know there is a prime need for trained ministers and I

certainly appreciate the fact that you are contributing. We need

more of the, don't we? We need more well-trained ministers?

S: Yes, I certainly think so Brother Lew.

I: Well, uh, how many were in your family, uh, you know, your brothers

and sisters? I believe you told me that, didn't you?

S: Not on this tape I haven't in times past but there were nine children

in my father's family. And, of that's six boys and 3 girls. I am

the younger. of the nine, just didn't make it.

I: That's a nice size family. Do you think the sizes among the families

among our people are increasing or decreasing or staying about the

same maybe?

S: I would think maybe just about the same.

I: Uh, do you, would you tell us some of the special problems with which

you come into contact with from time to time. I'm not asking you to


call any names or anything like that. I mean, do you have, do you

run into special problems, problems of helping people and most

ministers do; I know sickness is one of those problems. Uh, do

you run into any problems besides this?

S: Well, sometimes there's transportation to hospital and of course

aid in many ways. Plus individuals, well, help them as far as

transportation to and from the hospitals and of course, there's

the counseling. I had to find an opportunity only yesterday to

counsel with a fine man who is having some spiritual problems

so I counted this as a high privilege.

I: I'm sure you have been very successful because many of our people

love you and appreciate you. We were talking yesterday, uh,

somebody and I were about the unusual number of churches. Do

you think we have more churches than the average group--about five?

S: But now that is the amazing thing we have so many churches but at

the same time we are particularly populated for a local area or
in a rural area and if all oftpeople would attend church, it would

still, I expect might need some more to enlarge our present state.

I: Do you think the estimates perhaps of the numbers of our people are

veryinaccurate when they say we number about 30,000 that they are

a lot down the line--I mean they a lot below the actual number?

S: I am not sure just as far as the number but we're well above 30,000

I would think as far as just the numbers are concerned I belive we

are a little more than 30,000.

I: How many teachers would you estimate that we have in the teaching

profession? Do you have any idea at all about this, how many professional

teachers we have at this time in the teaching profession?


S: I'm sorry I don't Brother Lew, no, I don't.

I: Around four or five or six hundred around in there wouldn't it?

S: I would think so.

I: How about ministers, you know I have never tried to count the

ministers among our people but we have a tremendous number of

ministers too don't we?

S: Yes, we surely do. I'm not sure, to be exact, I'm not sure just

how many we have but we have a good many.

I: Some people sometimes refer to it as being indifferent to religion,

you haven't found it that way have you?

S: No, no we're not indifferent. Uh, I have found Brother Lew, that

people are people anywhere you go so I don't think that the only

thing we need is detect more advantages and opportunities that we
have to go ahead and developed A and more potential leadership

that we do have.

I: In some areas in the country and among other groups, for instance,

among our white brothers, the church is often used as a community

center. This isn't done very much among our people is it? I mean

the church isn't always used, its usually used only for worship

purposes for worship and purely church work mostly. Isn't it?

S: Yes, majorly church work.

I: Do you think we might develop along those lines?

S: I am hoping to see Brother Lew that our churches will take more and

more of a dynamic lead. Now by that, I am saying as far as day care

centers and some other activities when we have football games at

night and so forth instead just leaving individuals roaming on

the streets, it would be a nice thing to meet back at the church

for fellowship.

I: Right.

S: -iL fellowship.

I: Uh, do you, it is usually the practice among our churches that if

you have at least one revival meeting a year. Uh, what sort of

program or do you think this is that each church has its own way

its own program and it may differ from church from church?

A week of bible study or maybe a-week of revival services, I'm

talking about on the yearly basis.

S: Generally, that's true Brother Lew. Each church is just about like

an individual, that is an individual person. Each church individually,

at least I am speaking for the missionary Baptist churches. Uh, each

church decides what it will do as for example, my church where I

am pastor have had two revivals each year along with what we

commonly call the January Bible Study, we have two revivals each

year along with our January Bible Study which consists of a week's

study of one particular book in the bible.

I: It's my understanding the the Missionary Baptist Church is the largest

church among our people and that Buinwap Baptist Association is

the largest organization among our people. Do you think this is


S: Yes.

I: Do you know how many churches, how many Missionary Baptist Churches


there are in the Burnswamp Baptist Association?

S: We have had a couple of churches come in here this year. Let's

see, we have 40, 41, 42, somewhere right there, I would need to

check the record to be sure. And we have one that is pending

coming into our association now, the name of it is Benson Chapel

they will come in with this association--that is when we meet

in October in our regular or annual association meeting they will

present themselves for membership in our association.

I: Uh, are there any programs that these 42 churches in the Burnswamp

Association do together, I'm sure there are some. Could you name

some of the things you do, you know, all the churches participate

in programs or functions or whatever.

S: Well, we have had kind of wide revivals where we all participated

together in and also one thing that we participate together in is

the cooperative program, now this is affiliated with the state

Baptist convention where we support the state work and the Southern

Baptist work as a whole.

I: How about the Odom Orphanage, isn't that a project of the Burnswamp

Baptist Association?

S: Right, that's one of our projects.

I: Uh, I know the lateMiss Mary Livermoore was active and in the early

part of that, I don't know offhand what role she played but I'm

sure she was instrumental and you remember her don't you. She was

a white missionary who worked, she was also missionary Baptist.

She was a local white lady who was born in the county and went away
came back
to missionary school'and dedicated her life to theservice of the

people, largely Indian people. And its for her that PE rerke

State University's library was named the Mary H. Livermoe Library.


She taught classes there for many years, religious education

classes. Can you think of any other Mary Livermofre, anyone

else that anywhere nearly approaches her for zeal and help and

service and real Christianity and service and this sort of

thing. I mean from any other racial group.

S: Locally, I have never known anyone other than, I say anyone

else, I mean racially, I don't know anyone that has touched

Miss Mary Livermoore, she was, as you say, she taught at PSU

I had the privilege of having a number of courses under her

she is a devout Christian. Now the nearest one that we have

in our own association that is dedicated to the work of the

Lord, is another lady, and she's an Indian lady, Miss

Annie Mae -eek*t .

I: Now she did some work under Miss Livermogre, with Miss Livermofre

while she lived here.

S: Right.

I: She did a lot of missionary work and I am so glad she is taking

over and carrying on the work. And, you know when someone like

this passes on, we have the feeling that nobody can ever replace

them and this is true but somebody has to carry the work on.

You know, I have heard so much about her and her fine work;I wish

I could interview her, by the way. Do you have any of, does the

Burrswamp Baptist Association and its 41 or 42 missionary Baptist

churches have certain social programs that they are interested in

promoting like Odom Orphanage, we mentioned that, didn't we?

S: Yes.

I: And then there's how about the Prisoner's Chapel, is this a

chapel cr what its over at the prison camp. What's the name of this?


S: Uh, Local Prison Chapel and I had some material someplace around

here, Brother Lew on it. We were supposed to have a meeting

just Saturday and well, actually what it is chapel down at our


I: Near Lumberton. I can't remember the name of it, prison number

609 or something like that.

S: Uh, yes.

I: And did Miss Mary Livermocre help with this project getting the

chapel started?

S: Right.

I: I remember she used to teach illiterate prisoners how to read

and write and that sort of thing, she was a working Christian.

And I have been to the prison camp with her on occasion and

taught a class and I talked with her and I know she would be

happy to know that you are doing so well and I kind of feel

she knows you are doing well. She touched so many things in

this county and of course with this large organization, you

wouldn't have any idea how many members, church members this

would include do you?

S: I'm sorry, I don't Brother Lew, no I don't have, I mean I could

check the records and get it but right off, no I don't.

I: Well, it certainly the largest organization among our people, I

would imagine; it includes more people.

S: Right, right. Yes, this is th .largest, uh, organization size

the number of churches and the number of people involved we have.

I: You don't have anything--do you know how many denominations we


have or have you ever checked on that to see how many--we don't

have any Catholic Churches at all or Jewish. We have, your

group is the leading group and has always been that as far

as membership is concerned. Has it always been the largest

do you think?

S: Yes, yes Missionary Baptist is the largest and has been the

largest in our area.

I: Who do you think is second in number?

S: Methodist.

I: We also have Pentacostal movement, uh, I have no idea how many

churches they have but do you think the Pentacostal Jehovah make

up the third largest group?

S: Yes, I expecuso, yes, the Pentagcostal, and after that, we have

the Freewill Baptist; we don't have many of those but we do have

some Freewill churches.

I: And of course we have smaller things like the Plymouth Breathen,

which originated in England which is much smaller. I belive we

had maybe about three churches, or three assemblies they call


S: Yes, I believe it's three.

I: We also have Jehovah Witnesses about two or three congregations

would you say?

S: Yes.

I: And the Church of God of course. And which, do you think, it

strikes me, I may be incorrect--it seems to me the Church of God

is a fast growing movement, a fastngrowing church. This is very

much like the Pentacostal Jehovah. There must be


some little distinction between the two. And it hasn't been here

as long as the Pentecostal Church, has it?

S: No, no, it hasn't been here very long.

I: And within the past few years we have has at least one Mormon

Church, uh, Ghurch of the Latter Day Saints. I wonder if we have

more than one Mormon Church?

S: No, just one to my knowledge.

I: And one of the Seventh Adventist?

S: Yes.

I: Can you think of any others that I have left out?

S: No, I believe this is all major groups, well, not major groups but

these are the ones.

I: I cannot think of another single denomination myself.

S: I believe we have covered them.

I: How about feeling between the different churches? I mean, you

know, sometimes the differences aren't very large. We don't really

have rivalry between different churches.

S: No, it is amazing we get along exceptionally well. Yes, there's not

any rivalry, at least if there is, it is very limited.

I: Uh, one thing I have noticed is when somebody is funeralized, no matter

which church it is and no matter which group the pastor comes from,

it just doesn't present any problem at all, does it? Doesn't different

ministers from different denominations or different churches preach

pretty freely in other churches as a whole?

S: Yes, as a whole.

I: Especially during funeral services. Who do you think, maybe this is not

a fair question, maybe you don't know, I was wondering do we have a


minister who is perhaps better known or more popular than anybody else?

Of course, all our ministers are well known and loved. Of course all

our people have a special fondness for ministers I think, don't you?

S: Yes, yes, the minister is accepted very well. Well with those right

now, I mean the ones living, I am not sure just who would be maybe

as far as known more so than the others but the ones recently deceased

of course to my knowledge I am sure would be well known all over the

country is the late Brother Venus Brookes of the Plymouth Brethren

and the late Reverand L. W. Jacobs.

I: Uh, it seems that these ministers were just about universally accepted

wouldn't you say. I have known them to preach in just about every

church we had at one time or another it seems. This seems to say to

me that there isn't the kind of church rivalry that you might encounter

in places where people are, you know, stricter about their own particular

denomination. I think this is very fortunate. I think it is a liberal

kind of view--accept your brother although there might be minor points

of difference in your belief. But these are usually minor things,

aren't they?

S: Yes.

I: Do you think the young people--do you have high hopes for our young


S: By all means.

I: Do you think we are becoming more religious or less religious. Are we

becoming more involved with church work or less involved?

S: I think we are becoming more. Of course, I am saying this as I think

of my own life. I was reared in a Christian home but I didn't attend


Sunday school every Sunday. And I didn't or wasn't in worship each

Lord's Day but now, our young people, just about all of them, well,

not all of them but a good percentage of them,they are in Sunday

school each Sunday morning. Also, they worship. When I say worship,

I mean they, in preaching service. That is a good many of our young

people and I can say more specifically for my own children, just

about ( of course I have one boy"in service; I am sure he goes when

he has the opportunity) but my other children, they worship on Sunday


I: We have had some observers to remark that we conform strictly to a

moral pattern laid down by the various churches. Christians generally

will very, very serious about this among the Indian people. To be

a Christian means that you do subscribe to certain morality or to

certain do's and don't; these aren't violated very easily, are they?

S: No, I grew up in an atmosphere,Brother Lew, that your word was to be

your bond. And if you didn't tell the truth, you couldn't say that

you were rightfully a Christian. And if you didAt treat your fellow

man right, then we couldn't rightfully claim to be a Christian and

not treat our fellow man right.

I: And our local churches take a very strong view of alcohol?

S: Yes, yes we believe in total abstinence.

I: Of course, I can understand that. Youknow some of the American

Indian leaders of history have always condemned alcohol as being

you know a very destructive thing and they always lamented the

fact that the Indians get to it and it seems to cause a lot of

trouble when they do. Uh, the churches are pretty united in trying

to keep the county dry, aren't they?

S: Uh, yes.


I: For many years, I know that they were successful. My own wife,
Af Utib roke ca
for example, PennahrL ke has an ABC store now. And Lumberton

doesn't have; I believe Roland has one. But they don't say

anything about our capital, the Indian capital, what we call

the Indian capital has an ABC store. But, beer which is milder

than that, uh, beer is illegal. Beer and wine is illegal but

the ABC store operates. But this was decided by the people at

large, isn't it, I mean by voting?

S: Yes.

I: Referendum. It seems to me of course, this store has been in operation

only a very few years. It is not secure by any means, is it? I mean

if they deviated the least bit and got out of line and something didn't

come out right. They are not on sure grounds at all, are they?

I mean if the church is really uniting the way they have been in the

past--it would be impossible to have an ABC store or beer or anything

like this. I don't know have--it's a strange thing when you vote on

it on a county-wide basis. The vote is overwhelmingly dry; but if

you take it town by town, sometimes they get a slight edge and they

can brig it in, like the people of-PFenabeke when they voted it in

or St. Pauls or somewhere like this. And, uh, of course arguments on

both sides of that and, uh, I expect, you know, the church to be

opposed to it and its total effects. Because it certainly hasn't done

anything good for our people, has it?

S: No, by all means.

I: Do you think, do you think we have a special problem with alcohol maybe?

Or do you think every community has this problem?

S: Well, really I don't think our problem is any greater than any other


area. As a matter of fact, maybe it's not as rough as in some areas

for the simple reason we don't condone it in most of our homes. It's

not condoned. And in many ways, I know it's not near as rough as some

areas I have lived in.

I: I think there's no doubt about where the church stands on any issues

like this. I mean the churches very straightforward whatever the

denomination in this county, wouldn't you say? I mean they do take

a definite stand; they don't falter or waiver about this. It is very

clear that alcohol is condemned or some other factors are condemned.

And we have the problem of, occasionally, we don't any more than

anybody else. One thing that interested me, some churches are strict

about admitting people who have been married for the second time.

Of course, they have a phrase called, "living in adultery"--and

this means that you have two living husbands or two living wives.

And this is sometimes found on-4& -----to divorce or not. I am

talking about in cases there are divorces. Do you think our churches

generally frown on divorce?

S: Yes, yes e believe that individuals when they vow to live together that

it is until death do us apart.

I: Do you have, of course I know you probably don't have a study or

statistics on this. Do you think we have as many divorces as other

groups of comparable size.

S: I'm not sure. I don't have any figures on that. But it's not very

high among us, there are some but it's not too high.

I: And do you think the church is an influence in this direction?

S: Yes, definitely, I believe, well, that's one thing about our people,

as a whole we probably are saved. By saved, I mean probably are a

professing Christian, the Bible and its teachings that they are highly


reverent. And so even the individual who says no I'm not a

Christian. They still say we ought not to do those things.

That is many of them will say that.

I: So professing Christians and those who aren't professing

Christians are both influenced very greatly, wouldn't you

say in things like this?

S: Yes, by all means, Brother Lew. Yes, it certainly is.

I: The church looks upon itself as the establishment which should set

the example for the people that live by it, would you put it that way?

S: Yes, yes Brother Lew, the teachings of the Lord Jesus, these are




I: Do you remember just where we were when we had to change our tape?

S: Well, we had just been talking about the influence of the Bible on

our lives and most people in our area knows the saved and unsaved

as we commonly refer to it. By the saved, those who have accepted

Christ and the unsaved, those who haven't accepted Christ as their

personal Savior.

I: And of course this is ai asset, isn't it, if you're a professing

Christian and you apply for a job and people know this. Will this

help you in getting this job? Will it show, indicate that you are

more trustworthy perhaps?

S: I believe so Brother Lew, I don't have any figures on this as such

but when we accept Christ as our Savior then we are supposed to,

by all means, do those things that are right by our employer and so

forth. So my belief is that it would help.

I: Uh, huh, especially in the teaching profession do you think it would

be very prominent in the teaching profession?

S: Yes.

I: In other words, people would feel that they could trust their children

in the hands of a Christian more than they would a non-Christian.

S: Right.

I: We have a lot of social problem, as you know. I wonder if you can


think of, uh, any social problems or any problems we have between

races in this county. Or would you rather not comment on something

like that?

S: Well, it has been a rather difficult thing. And we have been some-

what, well, I don't hardly know who to say it, but the groups have

been magnified. Maybe that might be the rightterminology. That is,

as far as separation, we have, it's been something we've magnified

things somewhat.

I: There's a wide gap between all three races, isn't there?

S: Right.

I: And, uh, suppose somebody came into the county or suppose some of

the people who live in the county, say one of the Indians was sort

of a rebel. Like I, myself, I have been.sort of a rebel because if

I believe anything I try to stand up for it. Uh, but does this

person find this you think?

S: Sometime, as long as we are standing for the right, Brother Lew. It

may hurt for a short while. I don't recall just who made the quote

but I often make, a, follow a quotation I picked up maybe in our

college days. And this is not mine but just one I picked up: that

truth crushed to the earth will rise again. The innumerable years of

God is But arrow wounded dfes- in pain and dies among her

worshippers. So I believe that it may hurt for a while, but eventually

if you are a rebel going in the right direction, eventually it will


I: And you think that eventually people do maybe accept someding they

didn't accept at first, but if you can convince them that you're right,

that they will accept you eventually.


S: Right.

I: Well, it's, you know this is an age of change and, uh, how do the

people in the churches generally feel about, you know, integrated

schools and that sort of thing?

S: Well, most individuals I-believe now, Brother Lew, see it as a blessing.

And I believe it's accepted right well know.

I: That's encouraging. Do you think eventually all the racism will give

way to understanding and the races will be able to communicate fully

and accept it on equal grounds, equal terms. Or is this something a

long, long way in the future or perhaps never?

S: Well, chances are that it will never hold in totally; my thinking is

that it will not totally disappear but it will become more and more

modified. And by modified, I mean that will be more and more indi-

viduals will accept an individual for what he is and not for his color

nature* g *

I: Uh huh. Uh, how about our history--do you accept a, say a well you

know my thesis is that, uh, that we are descedants of John White's

Lost Colony. Do you think mostpeople subscribe to this?

S: Generally, I would think so.

I: Do you think this would be more among the educated class or the

middle class or people who follow it, study it, and read about it,

and investigate anything like this.

S: It would be hard for me to say just which group, just how you would

classify it. I'm sure those who have taken out some time and studied

history some would probably lean more and more in that direction be-


cause of some of our English names. o

I: We do have a very high number of the same names be&n by the Lost

Colony in 1587, don't we? Like Samson and Tcosk and uh, I think

about 54 of the original names of the Lost Colony still remain

among us. And this is amazing because this hasn't happened. You

don't find this thing, sort of thing, among any other group in the

world. Some of those last names aren't very usual, I mean we know

names like Smith and Jones you can find anywhere) hut when it comes

to a name like Potsvour or something like this. And not even the

Samsons are too numerous in other parts of the country. It i.d nlo

difficult to recognize an Indian name if you live here, isn't it?

S: Right.

I: Do you think we are often identified by our last name as being an

Indian or not being an Indian?

S: Yes, yes, that's the major thing I believe Brother Lew.

I: Do you think it's a god thing. Well, for example, we've had a

problem with H.E.W. when they come in and they want to know how much

integration has taken place and they start trying to count. You can't

look at people and tell whether he is white or Indian sometime. Very

often I can't unless I speak with him or know his last name. But

local white people know how, don't they?

S: Yes! t l^ 45A et

I: Uh, there is a little something different about our speech,don't you


S: Yes, yes, we certainly have a close, racial identity. And of course

it's opened our speech, way of living and doing.

I: Do you think this is a good time to be alive for an American Indian?


S: This is one of the greatest times that I know of,I'd rather be alive

now than any time that I can think of in the past, Brother Lew, because

right now there is more freedom and there's a chance for the American

Indian and of course for anyone else that wants to go forward aid

do the right thing.

I: When you were coming along, of course I know my family was very poor.

For example, when I was going to high school, uh, we couldn't even

get enough money to rent textbooks and so I borrowed textbooks and

read library books and that's the way I got though high school. Uh,

it's not that bad now, is it?

S: No, the economics is very good now.

I: How about when you were coming along --I mean in high school was it

kind of rough for you?

S: Yes Brother Lew, I had to stay out of school a whole year because I

didn't have any clothing to wear and so I had to stay out, no help and

so forth so I chased rabbits and birds the whole school year and in-

stead of going to school my parents were just unable to buy me any


I: Uh, huh. I remember, ell something one time when I was in school and

I had my last pair of overalland at the end of the scho61 day, they

split right in the seat. And so I went in, went walking out the door

backwards, I sort of backed out, you know, trying to get a turn on

the building, you know. That sort of thing is very discouraging about

going to school, isn't it?

S: It truly is.

I: Do you think our children would go under those conditions today?

S: I believe, Brother Lew, we wouldn't have very many going on; I'm afraid


that mine wouldn't.

I: Can you remember when the schools had to furnish their own

fuel and when you went to school, you had to go down to the

woods and cut wood to keep yourself warm and the pot-bellied

stove and this sort of thing. And you didn't have running water

by any means--thera were outdoor toilets. Uh, and in some cases

there might not even have been outdoor toilets. They might have

fused the woods. Uh, those certainly were rough days back. .Ha!

S: Ha! Yes, Brother Lew I'm, from where we are sitting right now

looking out of my window, I see the tall pines right out here from

our house where I used to go down the pines and pick up what we call

"lighted knots."--maybe the right pronunciation would be lightwoodd

knots" but I didn't know them. The only thing I was looking for

was "lighted knots" to get back and put in that pot-bellied stove

so we could stay warm, uh, in the two-room building as our teacher

taught us.

I: Did, uh, that took a good deal of our time, keeping warm, didn't it?

S: Yes, that was right.

I: As far as the boys were concerned. And, uh, we took our lunches to

school, when we had lunch to carry. Uh, sort of like the workman when

he goes to work and carries his lunch pail. I know many a day I went

to school I had a potato, and if I had any meat, I was very lucky.

Some day I didn't carry a lunch at all. But today at least all schools

have lunch rooms, don't they? And they are in reach of most of the

children, would you say?

S: Uh, yes. Just about every child now can get a hot lunch. But I know

what you mean. I have gone to school many a day and didn't have any-

thing to eat. I wouldn't carry anything. So I would have to wait until


I got back home to eat some dried peas that had been cooked.

I: Yeh, that used to be, uh, very often we cooked dried peas in the

winter time. In the summer time we ate collard greens, of course

collard greens last throughout the year unless a severe cold spell

skows them up. And sometimes we have, we usually have collards

from one end of the year to another, don't we?

S: Yes.

I: This is a very valuable plant. And it's strange to me, Brother

Cummings, that most Indian people love collards, actually love them.

And it's a treat of you go to a church gathering. Do you ever--you

know where you have a eat out where the sisters in the church prepare

the food and bring it as they so often do in our community. Don't

you just about always find collards as well as other things?

S: Right. Very seldom you don't find collards and I'm just like you

Brother Lew, I enjoy eating and I like them. I like good collards.

I: I was talking to a friend of mine yesterday and we mentioned that

because she comes from another part of the country in the north.

Of course, their diet is quite different from ours. And, uh, it I

a broader diet. You know she remarked on, you know, she can use very

frequently things like this. But the diet is not as varied in the South

and it generally is in the North. And perhaps among our people it may

be a little more restrictive than that, you know. But some of our

people have the policy of living at home and boarding at the same

place don't they?

S: Ha! ha! Right--yes, that's a term I have heard all my life.

I: This is something that most Indians favor, isn't it?- They raise their

own pork? they raise their own vegetables, their own corn. Just about

everything they eat--except maybe salt and black pepper and a few more


things and some of the families own cows of their own. Uh, the

larger families, you know we know about yesterday. Well, we need

yesterday you would always generally find a cow where you found

the large family, you found a cow and there was always fresh milk.

And, uh, where they had no refrigeration they would put this milk

in jars and let it down into the cool water into the well, and it

would be preserved very well. And so you would always have fresh

milk, fresh butter, and this sort of thing. I don't know that there

are as many cows as there used to be but a good many families used

to have cows. Do you think we are getting more away from that and

living out of the store more than we used to?

S: I believe so Brother Lewlbecause the economic conditions have

changed, and so since the economic, when I say economic, the working

conditions have changed because one time, majorally we were an

agricultural people but now the trend of livelihood has changed a.

so we are getting away from being wholly and totally an agricultural


I: We're becoming industriLized.

S: Right.

I: And, uh, how about the so-called Industrial Revolution, you know

where farming has becoming so highly mechanized. One man can take

a tractor and do as much as ten people could do ten years ago, perhaps.

Do you think Indian farms are taking on this complexion.

S: Yes, by all means, Brother Lew,o esthis is changing considerably.

And, well, you've got to look for a long time to find a mule any more,

and when at our home, we would have two mules. And of course we don't

have that any more; individuals have tractors.


I: People used to speak about the size of a farm by the number of mules

that worked on the farm. Say you have a one-horse farm or a two-

horse farm. What do they mean by that? Do they have a certain

number of acres that usually were associated with a one-horse farm,

or two-horse farm, or three-horse farm, do you think?

S: Yes, that's the usual thing Brother Lew, that's the way it went,

roughly 25 or 30 acres in one horse farm.

I: Twenty-one acres.

S: About 20 or 25 acres, somewhere along in there.

I: A three-horse farm was really a large farm, wasn't it?

S: Oh yes, if you had a three-horse farm, you were really fine.

I: Of course, we did most of those things by hand. We used the mule to

plow the stuff and hoed it with hoes, gathered it by hand. Now they

even have cotton pickers and you don't, of these farm workers used D

have an income, you know, from picking cotton at least part of the

year, uh, they don't have this income anymore do they?

S: No, I haven't seen anyone pick cotton in a long time in the sense

how we used to do it with the tow sack o-he burlap bae en you

Were coming along and I was coming along as boys, we never dreamed

that there would ever be a day when there was no cotton to pick--

nobody had to pick any cotton. Did we?

S: No, I wished it had been so in my day because I just never did like

to pick it.

I: Me either. It was a horrible job. You had to bend down and sometimes

the parents, if you straightened up, you know, the parents would give

you a hard way to go. They said, "Bend that back, boy." My back would

get so stiff, I could hardly straighten up. Sometimes I would get on

my knees and crawl. We, uh, had a hard way to go. But I think it


taught us a lot of things, don't you think. Maybe this was a

blessing in disguise. The hardhips that we suffered, do you

think this kind of taught us or helped us in this battle of

survival which has always be1 so real to the American Indian,

especially the Lumbee Indian. Uh, it is, life is pretty much

a stuggle for survival, even now.
S: Yes, yes, ikis Brother Lew and I appreciate the fact that I was taught

the work and learned the work. I enjoy working; I count it a

privilege to be able to work and I enjoy getting out and working


I: Uh, huh, do you think this is helpful?
S: By all means, I don't anything that is better than getting out as my

parents used to say and breathing the fresh air and getting a lot of

good sunshine.

I: You know I have heard, I have heard employers speak so highly of the

Indians as workers, of hard workers. I'Neheard expressions like"these

are the workingest people I have ever seen" something like this. Uh,

as far as menial class are concerned, people will riV an Indian in

this county quicker than they will a white, for very practical reasons

on one hand at least

S: Yes, I would think so.

I: Because no matter what it does, he does it with all his might. You

know, he works hard at it. He knows that his opportunities are limited

anyway perhaps, do you think this is maybe ?

S: I am sure Brother Lew this has a part to play in it because our

opportunities have been so limited.


I: Well, I am certainly glad we are making some progress and uh, I

look forward to the future very hopefully, how about you?

S: Yes, as I often say, Brother Lew, to my own children, this is a

bright day and we really need to go forward.

I: How about the minimum wage law, do you think it has been enforced

in Robetson, I mean, we know that this work began some time

that it actually works against farm workers. Because if, uh,

the Land Board has to pay a certain amount and can't pay under

that, won't he be inclined to lean more on mechanical work than

he would to use somebody?

S: I would think so, Brother Lew. Yes, I would certainly think so.

Because anyone operating the farm they're trying to get it done

just as cheaply as possible.

I: Because if they don't get it done cheaply, they won't make any money

because the marginal profit doesn't never go to a farmer, it goes to

a, the people who really make money on farm produce are the processors.

Ther farmer doesn't make all that much. The retailer certainly

doesn't make all that much and I doubt that the wholdesaler makes

all that much. I believe a lot of this goes to the processors, a

lot of the profits and by the time, it gets to the consumer, it's

about three times as much as it was when it was bought from the

farmer or maybe more times than that, wouldn't you think?

S: Right, yes easily.

I: Just think about, just think about for a moment the cucumber. People

grow cucumbers in the Lumbee River area whenin recent years, more than


they did in the past. But when you sell them in the market, they

bring--uh, do you have any idea how much they bring currently?

S: Well, to tell you the truth, I haven't kept up with the prices,

Brother Lew, and I would be afraid to quote these latest prices.

I: They don't bring very much, do they?

S: No, no, they don't, nothing in proportion to what you will have to

pay for them when you go back to buy them after they have been


I: Yes, if you've bought them in the store, at least three times, much

more than that I believe. I believe it's more than three times as


S: Yes.

I: And, uh, so the people that do the work and this is true of farmers

generally, not just Lumbee farmers. But the people who do the hardest

work are the people who get the least renumeration for that work,

wouldn't you think?

S: I think so Brother Lew. Yes, because it's a long process to grow

a crop, for example, corn. You just can't hardly grow corn at all,

not for the market. By the time you buy your fertilizer and pay for

it being gathered and harvested and pay for the rent of your land.

You just don't make anything on corn, not for your farm.

I: Yes, well this is a problem with all farmers. I'm sure, of course

now hogs I guess they get a bigger profit on hogs than they ever did


S: Right

I: But these perishable items are the items on which they make so little,

isn't it?


S: Uh, yes.

I: Cotton isn't grown nearly as much as it used to--used to be

grown here, is it?

S: No, no. Cotton is something, well, that with--not many farmers

have cotton anymore.

I: You know when you were talking about mules being used on the

farm, I though about there being not many mules left anymore.

I was thinking about a news item I read years ago, that said

RobegEson County qd the largest mule population in the United

States, actually read this in a newspaper.And, uh, so that's quite

a change. Have you heard old people talk about the time when they

didn't use mules or horses but they used oxen?

S: Yes, yes I have heard a good many of them talk about the days of

using oxen, also for .

I: For cars and that sort of thing.

S: Right. Yes, I have heard my father talk about the ox cart and

the no fence law, that is when the horses, not horses. Horses

were luxuries they didn't have. But just a very few horses and

no mule but the oxen and so forth.

I: Do you think this --they were used mostly because the roads at

that time were so bad and of course perhaps they could travel

better than-uh, the roads were often muddy and mocky and a mule

might actually get stuck up in a place where a cow will go through

it. To clarify what an ox is, for readers who don't know what an

ox is, it is a male cow and uh,

S: That has been castrated.

I: Right. This male cow has been castrated. And the mule is a hybrid

animal--he is a cross between a horse and a donkey, right?


S: Right.

I: And, uh, for farm animals, work animals, the mule is considered

superior to the horse or oxen, isn't it?

S: In our locale, yes, Brother Lew, however, in Kentucky in the area

where I had the privilege of living for 15 years, the horse--they

really liked the horse over there. So they work horses more so than

mules at any particular time.

I: Do you think this is because the crops were different and the duties

were different?

S: Well, I don't know just why, unless maybe it's something of a horse

fate. When I say horse fate, just about everybody in that area--they

are really horse lovers.

I: I know when I was .coming up, my grandfather had a black mareramed

Nell. And he also had a mule, but horses tend to go faster and be

more sensitive than if you're doing careful work. It's hard to slow

a horse down and get the horse to walk slow--slow, you know slow them

up that they don't cover up the plants, and that sort of thing.

But the old mule would just creep along anyway. You couldn't get

him to move very fst; the horse seems to be more spirited and sen-

sitive and this sort of thing. Maybe this accounts for some of that,

do you reckon?

S: Yes, I am quite sure so, because I have heard some of the older

people in our area plowing horses how they didn't like them because

of their big foot, they had such big foot that they would step on

cotton, they'd ruin so many heels and also as you said about the

speed they would walk too fast for them to plow the little cotton

maybe that had something to do with it.

I: Well, it's, uh, it's certainly been interesting talking with you;


You have been very kind to give us this interview. Is there

anything you would like to add to our discussion? I think that our

tape is perhaps going pretty near the end. I am just guessing at

it. Uh, .

S: Nothing in particular Brother Lew. I've enjoyed our conversation.

I hope it will be of some value somewhere.

I: It certainly will be, I'm sure of that. We've certainly appreciated

your contribution. People are interested in our particular group now

more than they ever were before, aren't they?

S: Uh, yes.

I: Particularly scholars. There is something I have often thought about

that I don't know whether we have taken it for granted. This is a

valley, here isn't it? I think of as one time a hide-away valley--

a valley surrounded entirely by swamp land. Of course, the Indians

were instrumental in draining the land--this is all swamp land.

This is very rich soil, isn't it?

S: Yes. The soil is very rich, Brother Lew. I think we have as good a

land as you will find anywhere in the United States.

I: There is not very much high land in this county, is there?

S: No, no, in this county, it is all low land.

I: Flat.

S: Yes.

I: Well, I know it took a lot of work to get, you know to develop and

so forth and the farms have gradually grown larger and larger as more

and more timber lands has cleared. Uh, so today, we've just about

cleared all the timber off the land, isn't that true?

S: Yes.


S: Yes, there is not a lot of good timber left.

I: We, I did an article for the paper the other day about the high

incidents of diabetes among our people and this iT true of American

Indians everywhere. Out of about 200 people whose blood was tested,

37 were found to be diabetics, or you know. Do you think our

people have known generally this, that the diabetic rate was so


S: No, I believe this was news to--it's amazing to say so. But I expect

a good many people didn't know that it was very high Brother Lew.

I: Uh, huh, well, this is a particular ailment that isn't noticeable

unless it is in the acute stages I suppose, that might account for

some of that. But we had dietary problems too I suppose, malnutrition,

pretty prevalent and some of that may be due to, uh, the lack of

variety in.the diet. The life span of the American Indian is about

45 years; the life span of the average American is about 70 years.

Do you think our life span here might go a bit beyond that 45 years

or do you think that our longevity is perhaps higher than that of

the average American Indian in other areas? Do you have any idea at


S: Yes, I believe,Brother Lew,that ours is higher than that. I think

our life span is higher than the average American Indian.

I: Uh, huh, but certainly not as high as jA say the Caucasians, the

Bostonians, or the North Carolinians, but we're just discovering some

of these things, you know. I was reporting on a study made by a Duke

University doctor. I was really astounded, and so I came to these

statistics about the average American being in the 70's and the

average American Indian about 45 or thereabouts, I had to break down


and weep because this was so very sad to me and I pray that, as I

know you do, that some day we will be able to overcome all these

needs and problems. And that we will be able to at least enjoy

equal health and things of this nature. We are so used to deprivation,

sometimes we don't even realize that we are deprived. You know,

because so many of us know so little about the outside or about

actual statistics and so on but I'm very glad that these studies

are being made and people are becoming more and more interested in

the American Indian. They know, for example, that there are more

suicides among Indians than among any other ethnic group in the

world. And, unless you know about a problem, there isn't anything

you can do about solving it until you discover the problem. So

these things are now being discovered. I've often been aware of

many of them and I don't think anybody else was. But the interest

in the American Indian is tremendous and I believe that this trend

will go on. I believe this is our best decade. Nineteen seventy

is probably the best decade in the history of the American Indian.

But at least I hope we can make so or help to make it so. I think

we can be very thankful to that that many of these things will be

recified by the help of God and the conscience of the nation, because

you know, unless we can make our problems known to the nation, we

can't reach the nation's conscience because the nation doesn't realize

it has a problem.

S: Right.

I: So, I have certainly appreciated very much your talking with me, a

person who I have always esteemed very highly. You've got your


education despite monetary matters and that sort of thing and maybe

your health isn't as good as the average person, but despite of all

these things, the Lord> has been good to us. With my limitations

the Lord still smiled on our efforts to a great degree and I pray

he will continue to smile on yours and to continue to be the kind

of blessing I know you have been for so long among our people, not

only our people but other people as well.

S: Thank you so kindly, Brother Lew, I have certainly always appreciated

you from our earliest days right on and still do. And God bless you,


I: Thank you so very much. And you are very kind to give us this time

and I am sure it will be a blessing to somebody.

S: Thank you Brother Lew. If we can be a blessing to someone along life,

then our own lives will not be lived in vain, will it?

I: Right, this is so true. Well, thank you very much, I suppose we've

just about used up the time that the lady was kind enough to bring

me over here, the VISTA worker, she has been very kind. She gave me

an interview yesterday and today she brought me back over here. I'm

so very thankful for that organization, too, because they are really
getting down to what basic American is all about, basic living, basic

problems of humanity. They're so wonderful. All the VISTA workers I

have ever .met have been some very wonderful human people. More and

more people are realizing the truth about people like this--theneeds,

the problems, the aspirations, of the Indian people and also of the

other minority groups. And I think we can thank God that we live in

a nation such as ours where people who have this kind of spirit. This


battle has only begun and it is going to take all the people to

solve it, to solve our many problemsr-problems, I mean of the minority

group and it's organizations like this our contributing so much

personally, not just money, it's easy to run your hand in your

pocket and pull out a $5 bill, you know if you are well healedr-

and give it to somebody. But when you go and participate in a

community. This is human and this is so constructive. And I think

so pleasing to God too, don't you?

S: Right, by all means. When we give a lot of time and service, that

is what really counts, isn't it?

I: Well, again I want to thank you very much for this interview. I've

enjoyed it and .


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