Interview with Bob Mants

You were telling us about your mother calling you up and talking to you. Can you give us that story of what happened?


What happened, my mother had had two heart attacks. A second heart attack behind the death of Sammy Young who was killed in Tuskegee, ah, in early 1965. I'm the only son and my mother, ah, called me home to explain to me as she laid on her bed that, ah, I can't be nothin' dead. I can't be a son or civil rights worker, or an uncle, or a student, or anything dead. Her experience had, had like so many other of our parents had been in situations in which, when the Klan and the racial violence was so prevalent, they knew through their, ah, experience that this was not a thing to play with. Ah, they knew that Whites and, southern Whites would kill you. No question about it. They told us that. We grew up with that as, as part of our knowledge base of how do you live in a situation in the segregated South. My mother explained to me in very graphic terms that I couldn't be nothing dead. And I took her at her word. I explained to her that, um, I promised her two things. I promised her that no White folk will kill me and no Black folk will drive me crazy. Fifty percent ain't bad. But it was that kind of thing that we learn from our parents. Our parents. Especially those of us who were southerners. And there was a difference between growing up in the segregated south. Ah, and for others who were civil rights workers who came from the north.