Been In the Storm All Our Lives
Before the Southern Freedom Movement burst into public consciousness, before the media discovered “civil rights workers,” Black folk in the South endured unspeakable hardship and cruel oppression. But no matter how vicious the repression, the fires of their resistance were never completely extinguished. All over the South, — in ways both hidden and public, — some courageous individuals carried on the struggle for freedom and dignity. They were the first to step forward and take their stand. Today, most of them remain unknown to the public at-large; their stories are omitted from the history books, and their deeds are absent from the monuments and visitor centers.
To stand in for all those un-sung heroes, we present these three from Holmes County Mississippi who were exemplary — but not unique — in their awesome courage:
Hartman Turnbow, Mileston, Miss. along with Amzie Moore first invited SNCC to send organizers into Mississippi to fight for voting rights.
A farmer and fiery orator, the man spoke with dancing fingers, hands, and phrases. His words and acts inspired (and scared) many in Mileston and all over Holmes County during the first stages of its civil rights Movement.
In April ’63 he stood up to and told the sheriff at the Court-house door that he and the rest of the First 14 had come to register to vote. Firebombed by nightriders, he fired back and was arrested for arson of his own home.
OZELL MITCHELL of Holmes Co., Mississippi independent farmer at Mileston was 58 in late ’62, when he and farmer friend Ben Square drove the 30 miles to Greenwood in Leflore Co. where SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) was holding Freedom Meetings. Theirs was a bold act. Danger increased when they invited the young SNCC organizers to set up a meeting at Mileston. In March ’63 Mitchell and others hid and housed the outside workers, got a Mileston church (Sanctified) to allow meetings in their building. In April, Mithell and 13 others took their first organized step together: the “First 14” drove to the Courthouse to attempt to “redish” (register to vote).
ALMA MITCHELL CARNE-GIE of Holmes Co., Mississippi was a 66-year-old intensely fired spirit at Mileston in 1963 when she and her 76-year-old husband Charlie were the oldest of the First 14 — Holmes’s first to take an organized, dangerous step together: to go to the Courthouse to try to register to vote.
For decades she’d gone to semi-clandestine Movement meetings around Mississippi and had hidden 1930s farm worker organizers and 1960s SNCC (Student Nonviolent Co-ordinating Committee) workers in her home. Important as a conscience, often too idealistic for others, she didn’t try to lead as much as to follow the right path.
— Sue [Lorenzi] Sojourner, from Some People of That Place exhibit.