Interview with Bob Mants
QUESTION 24
CARROLL BLUE:

Was there something going on between separating the Black workers and the White workers, SNCC workers in Lowndes County? Speak to that.

BOB MANTS:

Well, you must bear in mind the history. In 1964 there had been the Mississippi Freedom Summer where there had been a lot of Blacks and Whites working in Mississippi. Ah, I believe it was reported that during that summer in Mississippi, there must have been some 20-odd churches burned in Southwest Mississippi and around the state of Mississippi. There were Blacks and Whites, ah, you know Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner were killed during that time. And the, the difference is that you n- again, the history was that we were right at the beginning of the voting acts of 1965. Which meant that our concentration had to be with those people who were of voting age. So it was not the young folk, ah, ah, like that carried most of the movement. It was not the youth. It was a people, it was another focus that had to, had to, that we had to, had to focus on those people who were of voting age to get them the right to vote. As far as, ah, the question of, of Black and White, the other thing that came in around the same time was the whole Black Power slogan and movement. The later part of, ah, ah of that same, of the same period. Um, the other thing that was happening in terms of SNCC and with most civil rights organizations that had been effective was the lack of, of donations and public contributions that were drying up. There were Whites who were in SNCC and in the movement, that, ah, prior to my coming to Lowndes County were my friends, we worked together. Ah, during that thing, time, they were still my friends, and after, and since then they still, ah, ah, have been my friends. The division between Wh- White- Blacks and Whites that a lot of people try to blow out of proportion, I think it was out of proportion, there were some of us who, ah, and especially during the early days when we talked about Black and White together, and I distinctly remember my experience down in southwest Georgia. There was a White girl from Philadelphia who used to cook for about 15 or 20 of us on a one-belly, ah, ah, one-eye kerosene stove. And when she got through cooking during the day, she looked like Aunt Jemimah. And, ah, there was never, ah, ah, that kind of thing in the earlier years, that division between Blacks and Whites. I think that was part of the conspiracy to kill SNCC as a matter of fact. I think because once the, the division between Black and White became so pronounced in more places than Lowndes County, we, the question here was always one of survival. From day one, and always remember that, we had to do what was necessary for us to live here. This county had had the reputation of being the most violent county in this state and perhaps throughout the South. Ah, so we were always mindful of, of, of trying to survive here. So if that meant not having White, ah, workers in so that we could live, and get our mission accomplished, then that's what we had to do. And I think it's in that context that the whole question of Black and White must, should be raised, especially here in Lowndes County. And in, in, in the historical setting, ah, as it were during those years.




BOB MANTS:

I think that every generation has its race to run. During our time, during the sixties, it fell our lot to do what we had to do. We had to do, in regards to our human dignity, in civil rights, or whatever you want to call it, fell to our lot. I think the learning experience for me has been since I've gotten older. It's a thing that unites a people. There's a common belief. It transcends race. It transcends geography. It transcends marital ties, blood ties, ah, political affiliation, the things that unite people. There's a common belief. And until, ah, people are united in a common belief, ah, we'll always have these kind of divisions that are superficial; geography, north, south. Ah, race Black/White. Ah, political. Democrat/Republican. Ah, that's all I have to say.

CARROLL BLUE:

Thank you.