Tuesday, August 07, 2007


Stories my mother lived!

My mother is from a small town in the south. The town, Itta Bena is located in Mississippi, less than 10 minutes from Greenwood where the trial took place for the murder of Emmett Till. Last weekend I took my normal 35 minute drive to visit my mother and other family members as I do every week. Once there we chat, talk about the good old days and talk about what is happening with the world, our family and people in general.

As mother and I talked, she started talking about Greenwood, Mississippi and her own small hometown. For some reason we ended up talking about this little country store that I remember going in to visit when I was about 10 years old. I don't know why I asked my mother did she remember when we walked into that little country store and I asked to buy a soda and the store owner, reminded me that it was a Pop. I also remembered that he asked us a lot of questions about where we were from, who we were visiting, etc., and that he was pretty nervous. I asked my mother what was wrong with that man and she said that he was a relative of J. W. Milan who had killed a black kid and that he and his family had run her brother out of town, trying to catch him to kill him too. Mom said that without his brothers and other family members he was scared of something happening to him. But none of that stuff meant anything to me. Until last weekend when she repeated it.

To make a long story short, that man was a brother in law or the brother of J.W. Milan, who confessed in 1955 to killing Emmett Till, the 14 year-old African American boy who was killed by Milan and Bryant for whistling at a white woman. I wasn't born when that happened but I remember that man in the store as clear as day. Mother said that the other man in the store that day was J. W. Milan himself. Mother also said that another man was with them that night and was a part of killing Emmett and his name was Rayford. I don't know if I spelled that right. But I am still shocked that I met a relative of that guy and answered his questions.

I know this though, next week I am taking a tape recorder and record my mother's history and life. She has a rich history and we need to record it for generations to come.

23 comments:

princessdominique said...

It's always amazing how rich history can be.

Trenting said...

This is for sure, my birth family is originally from Pascagoula Mississippi and Tucaloosa Alabama forgive me for the spellings, I had to gather the information myself but there were such interesting things that happened back then, I wish I had a better relationship with them, so I could find out all there really was to know. Gather all the info you can.. History is so important.. Great post!

Luke Cage said...

Wow Rose. Future generations will most definitely be treated to something special, not to mention a little bit of history.

nosthegametoo said...

It's such a wonderful idea to record your mother's life. First person narratives are extremely important, especially considering none of us will be here forever.

Thank you for sharing.

PEACE AND LOVE :)

TJ said...

You actually encountered some of the people who killed Emmett Till. Wow.
I've thought about recording my mother's life. I remember when I first learned about what happened to Emmett Till how she said that the police chief in Shreveport, LA basically declared war on black people and how she had grown used to seeing people lynched in her childhood during the 50s.

Brotha Buck said...

Yes, and for inspiration for your future novel.

Rose said...

Princess
I am finding out so much about my mom and her life. It looks like she waited until she is nearly 69 to open up with all this stuff.

Rose said...

History is so important because the older generation is dying out. They are taking so much with them. My aunts begged me to record their lives and I would listen but had no real interest in documenting stuff from the deep south. Now that I am older I understand.

Rose said...

When my mother reminded me of the incounter I had taken her to Diary Queen for Ice Cream. Then she started talking about the day they found Emmitt with the cotton gin around his neck near where she lived.

Rose said...

Nosthegametoo: Where have you been? I miss you? I have taken to having weekly outs with mother to have our one on one talks. You would not believe the stories. Some I will share. Others well possible in a book.

Rose said...

tj:
Yep! My mother seen them many times. She talks about them so casually. It was the store. One of them involved owned a store. You know there were not that many in that area.

Rose said...

Hey Brotha Buck:
Last summer we drove mother to Mississippi and on the way there she gave us a tour. The tour was so awesome. Brought tears to my eyes, mother recalled so much and showed us actually places. Wait to you hear the story about mom living on a plantation, her family as indenture servants. Mom is only 69 as of September. I never knew that! I drove to dad's last weekend and told him about mom and her family on the plantation. Tell me about your life in the south. Mother said he was one too. Dad never opened his mouth to discuss it. I'm tripping here big time. I read about this stuff in History books. Now I find out last month that my parents lived some of that history.

Rosemarie said...

I think that recording your mom's version of history, as she lived it, would be a great idea. How about translating into a book later?

Shai said...

Rose, wow. I got a chill thinking about how you were right there witnessing the fear of a dangerous coward.

GC said...

OMG
I am astonished. I was just thinking about that story the other day and the interview with the defendants (in a documentary) in the case after they were found not guilty. They were just so self-satisfied and self-righteous. I couldn't believe it--as if justice had been meted out. And I wondered about them. Really wondered--I don't know what. But it was compelling in a horrid way. Now to read this.
Please do record your mother's stories.

Stephen Bess said...

Wow! That is history. That's real. It's amazing how we can so how become part of the history just by coming in contact with it. It gives birth to another story that is connected to that August in 1955. Thanks for sharing this.

Belizegial said...

Rose,

It's nice to know that your mother is able to fill in the bits and pieces of history for you (and for posterity) which she has lived through.

Peace and blessings,
Enid

Clare said...

It's amazing what history we can learn from older relatives.

Good for you for taking a tape recorder to keep it for future generations.

Brownsoul said...

I think recording your mother's history and life is a great idea! I think it's particularly important for black people because we come from a time when folk tried to erase our history and keep us from telling our stories and passing them down to our children.

Nic said...

I know I'm late, but I just wanted to say that *Wow*, this is a very powerful post/story. Your parents lived a rich life.

Thanks for sharing with us.

Jdid said...

i love hearing stories like this

Kayla said...

Wow. That's a good idea to record your mother's stories. She has a lot of history stored within her that can be valuable for someone. I'm sure there is still a lot she hasn't told you. This post is just amazing...

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