Stories Told by Louise Anderson | Folkstreams

Stories Told by Louise Anderson

Stories Told by Louise Anderson

On Transcribing and Editing Louise Anderson’s Stories

Selected Stories
1. The Walk-Off People
2. The ‘Possum and the Snake
3. The Dead Ain’t Helpless
4. A Christmas Carol
5. I Wish You Had Met My Mother
6. Don’t You Never Say Un-Huh
7. The March on Jacksonville (Version 1)
8. The March on Jacksonville (Version 2)


On Transcribing and Editing Louise Anderson’s Stories
By Victor Moffett, edited by Beverly B. Patterson

Vic Moffett earned his B.A. in creative writing and M.A. in English literature from Rutgers University. He has published poetry, short stories, photographs, and news articles in a variety of publications, and he was assistant to the editor at both the Antioch Review and the Partisan Review.  He taught English at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina. These tales represent only a sampling of Ms. Anderson’s stories compiled by Vic Moffett. Vic has lived, taught and written in and about Jacksonville, North Carolina, for many years.  For more information about Ms. Anderson’s tales, he can be contacted at 269 Raintree Road, Jacksonville, NC, 28540 or [email protected]

Faithfully documenting the work of a storyteller is a daunting prospect at best. The task is especially challenging when working with an artist such as Louise Anderson, who drew heavily on her experiences and talents as an actress to enliven the presentations of her tales and anecdotes.

Audio recordings preserve the storyteller’s dialect and inflections, so necessary in hearing a good tale. Video goes further by adding the visual information on which we rely for most of our communication. This makes Tom Davenport’s When My Life Is Over a priceless document.

Yet text is still needed, despite all its shortcomings, to provide a more comprehensive albeit pale record. Still, these are not merely transcriptions, but attempts to mimic on the written page as best I can Ms. Anderson’s performances and subtleties. The editor must resist the temptation to emend too much. Interpolations alter the texture of the tale, which in Louise Anderson's stories, is as finely woven as in any well-crafted poem.

Robert Frost wrote in his essay The Constant Symbol, "The way will be zigzag, but it will be a straight crookedness like the walking stick [the artist] cuts himself [or herself] for an emblem."  So for fear of zigging when the story should zag, these texts remain as close as possible to Ms. Anderson's performances and conversations while, I hope, translating them into readable prose although sometimes risking clarity. Authenticity has its price

Genesis.  
Frost’s paradox of “a straight crookedness” could also describe the process of creating these renditions as well as the shape of Ms. Anderson's tales themselves.  Any conversation with Louise Anderson quickly became more a swap-meet of stories rather than a dialogue.

When I first met Ms. Anderson, I was working on a story for the Jacksonville Daily News, and during our interview Ms. Anderson responded to my interrogations only with animal fables, allegories, and extended anecdotes. All were virtually useless to a journalist limited to snippets.  Yet by the end of each tale, my questions had been answered, charmingly.

So began my work.  These renditions are gleaned from audio tapes of conversations made at Ms. Anderson's and my Jacksonville homes and while traveling to some of Ms. Anderson's numerous performances across North Carolina, from Jacksonville to Rocky Mount to Raleigh to Boone.  These discussions never had more than a vague agenda, which was often thrown aside, and one hour of tape often resulted in as little as ten minutes of useful content. Still, all yielded material - a bit of woof here, a bit of warp there – and all of the same fabric.

The pattern may not be clear at first, but it is here, in Ms. Anderson's style and her major themes. A story is, first and foremost, didactic. Literature teaches about one's position in society, human values, and respect for others' beliefs. To share a story is to express love. Stories are both to be preserved and to be changed as they are handed down from generation to generation. The oral tradition is an equally fragile and enduring embodiment of heritage.

Dialect.
The most difficult task in editing these texts has been the use of dialect.  Ms. Anderson once told me a story of a young black boy who, embarrassed by her use of dialect, cringed all through her performance.  He had been taught to equate dialect with ignorance and backwardness.

But Ms. Anderson felt as I do: authenticity deserves precedence. The use of dialect is part of the fabric of these tales.  So my texts have attempted to reproduce as faithfully as possible Ms. Anderson's performances, complete with all traits characteristic of the Southern idiom shared by whites and blacks in this neck of the woods. These include contractions such as ain't  and y'all as well as the unvoiced g  in words ending with ing, faulty agreement of subject and verb, sometimes unnecessary and sometimes very significant shifts in verb tenses, and the use of nonstandard diction. These are all elements unique to and wonderfully flavoring this linguistic heritage.  Still, apologies are offered to any who might be offended, and whose tolerance is appreciated.

Mechanics have been used to minimum in these renditions, but some explanation may be needed.  Words appearing in all capital letters signify increased volume when reading aloud.  Words appearing in italics should be emphasized, but by inflection rather than volume.  The end of a paragraph signals a pause about twice as long as that after a period, and repetitive dialog tags - i.e. “he said”  - are used in the hope of representing the  rhythm and responsorial structure of oral delivery so much a part of our African-American tradition.

In Memoriam.
In the end, though, storytelling and writing are quite different things, and these texts don't pretend to do justice.  But once I met a lady who wanted most of all to pass to future generations something of her art.  And I grew to love her tales, and I grew to love her.  She was a living cultural treasure.


THE STORIES
Selected by Beverly B. Patterson for Folkstreams.

1. The Walk Off People
 

[From a booklet published by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press in celebration of Louise Anderson’s receiving the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, 10 June 1993.]
           

       God was makin' this world, and He wanted to have things straightened out. Ahh, it was hard. It was hard.
       But He made things easy for Adam and Eve. He fixed them a beautiful house. They had a house right there, and a garden all around it. You know, a pretty setting.
       And he gave them two of everything, you know, so they wouldn't have to argue about anything. And they had this big round porch so they could sit there on the porch.
       Now their only job was to name the animals. And they had two rocking chairs, and they both had a table right there by the rocking chairs with a great big old pitcher of lemonade. And they'd just sit there and watch the animals go by.
       Right across the road over there from the house, they had two spanking brand new Studebaker convertibles. So anything they wanted, they had it right there. They didn't have to say, "Give me my Studebaker," 'cause they had their own.
       And they made some good names, too, for the animals. They did pretty good. What could you call a frog but a frog, you see? I mean they made good names.
       "Look at that bee goin' makin' a beeline right down there!" I mean you couldn't beat it. You couldn't beat it. I mean Adam and Eve gave some good names.
       One day they were sittin' there, and they'd been namin' animals as they passed by, and Adam and Eve just walked down to the creek. They got down there, and Adam was swingin' a vine over there, and he caught a fish.
       And it was right fun for both of them to sit there and fish awhile, but Eve was gonna hafta cook it. So she went back on up to the house and cooked the fish. And Adam was sittin' down there, still fishin', still fishin'.
       And Adam came back, and he just fell in love with fishin'.
       Well now, that just cut out the sittin' on the porch drinkin' lemonade and everything. 'Cause when Eve wanted to sit down there and finish their work and talk, laugh and talk, Adam -- Adam, he was out there fishin'.
       Then he'd come home with all them fish there for Eve to clean and cook. And Eve was so mad she didn't know what to do! Eve was so mad! There she was standin' there, and here he comes there with all them fish for her to clean. And they didn't even have no newspaper to wrap no fish guts in.
       Eve said, "I'm so mad!"
       She said, "I could just spit! I could just spit!"
       She said, "I'm sittin' up here, and I'm thinkin', I ain't gonna just clean fish all the time."
       She said, "I'm tellin' you the truth."
       She said, "I'd go home to my momma, if I knew where that was."
       She said, "I ain't gonna be just sittin' here, doin', cleanin' all this fish all the time here by myself."
       And every time Adam would come, here would go Eve on.
       And Adam didn't know what to do. He was fit to be tied himself. He was tired.
       So one day Adam was walkin' up the road, and he met God.
       God said, "Hey, Adam."
       He said, "How're ya doin'?"
       Adam said, "Oh, Lord!"
       He said, "I ain't doin' so well."
       He said, "I've just been havin' a hard time."
       He said, "I've been goin' down there fishin'."
       He said, "Lord, you made that so enjoyable."
       And he said, "And Eve, she's gettin' mad 'cause I don't spend no time with her. She claims she's lonesome and ain't got nobody to talk to. She's talkin' about goin' home to her momma. Whatever she's talkin' about, I don't know."
       He said, "Lord, I'm just havin' it right hard."
       So God said, "Well, Adam, I can understand Miss Eve."
       He said, "You know what?"
       He said, "I've been plannin' to make some more people."
       He said, "I know she gets right lonesome, sittin' there by herself."
       He said, "And I've meant to come down and make some more people."
       He said, "But Adam, whatever you do, don't get involved in no world!"
       He said, "This is the hardest job I've ever had."
       He said, "This is a hard job."
       He said, "As soon as I get one thing done, somebody else is hollerin'. I made a camel there. I made one of them one hump and the other one two humps."
       He said, "It just gets to be a mess."
       He said, "But I've got a little time on my hands."
       He said, "Come, go on here and help me so we can make some people."
       So Adam went down there with God to the creek to make some people. And so they started to make some people. And so God and him started to pull some clay out of the creek there. And they started to shape up the people.
       And He made all kinds of people. He had long people and short people and tall people and skinny people and fat people and middle-sized people and all people with big heads and people with little heads and big feet and little--all kinds--with big nose and crooked nose. And he made squinch eyes. Just any kind of people, he made.
       And then they got some stuff together, and they made up some dye so they could paint the people. And they didn't have too many, but they had enough dye there.
       And He painted Him some red Indian people. And He painted Him some yellow Chinese people. And He painted Him some black African people. And He pulled some chalk off there, and He painted them, and He had Him some chalk white caucasian people--all them people.
       And God said, "Adam, ain't they some pretty people?"
       And Adam said, "Well, I ain't gonna say they're all pretty."
       He said, "Look at that man over there."
       God said, "Don't, don't talk about my people like that, Adam."
       He said, "They're all pretty."
       He said, "Everything God made is pretty in His sight."
       He said, "Now I'm just about finished with them."
       He said, "But one, one little, little detail I left."
       He said, "See there? Right up on top of their heads, they got a little soft spot?"
       He said, "I ain't put the brains in 'em yet."
       He said, "But now, tomorrow mornin'."
       He said, "You let 'em dry, and tomorrow mornin' I'm gonna come here, and I'm gonna put the brains in 'em."
       And He said, "You meet me here early in the mornin'."
       And He said, "You let Miss Eve know that she's gonna have somebody to talk to."
       So Adam went home, and Eve was real happy that he didn't have no fish. He'd been busy workin' with God.
       He got up there and told her, and they got sorta right happy. They laughed and talked. They had a good time.
       Adam overslept. And he started runnin'.
       "Oh, God's gonna be mad at me!"
       He said, "Well, I'm gonna tell Him."
       And he got down there, and he could see where the people were gone.
       He said, "God's done already been here."
       He said, "What can I tell Him?"
       He said, "Lord, I'm gonna tell ya somethin'."
       He said, "Whatever them people said ...."
       And God said, "What people, Adam?"
       And Adam said, "I ain't seen none."
       He said, "I'm sorry."
       He said, "Sir, I'm a little late this mornin'."
       He said, "A little somethin' came up."
       And he said, "Well, your people are gone."
       God said, "Gone?"
       He said, "Whattya mean 'gone'?"
       He said, "They ain't got no brains."
       And Adam said, "Well, I don't care if they ain't got no brains or not, but they ain't out there."
       So God went down there, and the people sure enough had done walked off, walked off.
       He said, "Ah, Adam, this is messin' up my day in the beginnin'."
       He said, "I knowed somethin' was wrong when I got up this mornin'."
       He said, "Now I ain't got time."
       He said, "Look at 'em. Just look at those foot tracks."
       He said, "I ain't got time to search everybody down. They ain't got no brains. There's no tellin' where they went."
       He said, "We got some more clay over there?"
       Adam said, "Yessir."
       God said, "Well, let's take that clay, and we'll make the rest of 'em, and then we'll paint 'em."
       So they brought the rest of the clay up, and they made some more people. And they still had enough paint. They had some black and some yellow and some red and some chalk white. And they painted the folks up. And this time they put the brains in 'em.
       And those people grew. And they went out. And God sent them on out in the world. And they replenished the Earth, replenished the Earth, and Eve was happy.
       But now them Walk-off Folks, what didn't have no brains, they too, they too went out and sort of replenished the Earth. I don't know.
       They say a whole lot of 'em, a disproportional part of 'em, went into politics. I don't know about that.
       But I'll tell you one thing. I don't care what kind of committee you get on, at least one or two of them Walk-off Folks are on that committee.



2. The ‘Possum and the Snake
 
[From a booklet published by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press in celebration of Louise Anderson’s receiving the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, 10 June 1993.]


       Now it was the spring of the year. And you may not remember Mr. ‘Possum as bein’ so handsome, but the other ‘possums thought he was handsome. Miss ‘Possum thought he was very, very handsome. But she also knew that he was too kind.
       Oh, the ‘possum is kind. He has no weapons, and so there’s nothin’ he can be but kind. He has no weapons to protect himself. The only thing he can do is pretend he’s dead.
       So one day in the spring of the year, he’s goin’ for a walk. He’d just put on his new spring suit, and he thought he was lookin’ so nice. He loved his tail.
       And Miss ‘Possum said, “Listen.”
       She said, “Don’t go out there showin’ off.”
       She said, “And don’t go out there trying’ to help somebody, ‘cause you can’t help anybody.”
       She said, “Now you go for your walk, and come right on back home and help me carry these children around here.”
       And so Mr. ‘Possum said, “Well you can’t do that. You can’t live your life unless you help people.”
       And he walked on down into the pasture and the woods, and he heard somethin’ say, “Help! He-Help!
       And he looked back over on the side, and there was a snake. And on that snake’s back was a huge rock.
       And the snake was just cryin,’ “Please, Mr. ‘Possum, Mr. ‘Possum. Please come over here and help me. Please come help me!”
       And he put his tongue out, and it went around and around his mouth. And tears were just runnin’ out of his eyes.
       He said, “Please help me, Mr. ‘Possum!”
       And the ‘possum said, “Well now. I don’t know what to do for no snake.”
       He said, “I don’t like snakes.”
       He said, “Uh-un, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “No.”
       He said, “My wife just told me to be careful who I got close to.”
       He said, “Uh-uh.”
       He said, “You know you’ll bite me.”
       The snake said,  “Please, please, Mr. ‘Possum!”
       He said, “I promise I won’t bite you. I won’t bite you!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want me to do?”
       The snake said, “Please take this rock off my back.”
       Mr. ‘Possum walked over, and the snakes’ tongue was just flickerin’ back and forth in his mouth, flickerin’ back and forth in his mouth.
       The ‘possum said, “Mr. Snake.”
       He said,  “If I take that rock off your back, you promise that you won’t bite me?”
       “I promise! I promise!” the snake said.
       And so Mr. ‘Possum took the rock off the snake’s back.
       He said, “All right. Good-bye, Mr. Snake.”
       The snake said, “Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!”
       He said, “Please Mr. ‘Possum, don’t go! Don’t go!” He said, “Come here and help me. Please help me!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want now, Mr. Snake?”
       The snake said, “Look at me. Just look at me!”
       He said, “I’m just all mashed up.”
       He said, “And it’s the spring of the year, Mr. ‘Possum and I ain’t been able to warm up none yet.”
       And he said, “And I can’t move fast.”
       And he said, “If anybody come around here, Mr. “’Possum, they’re gonna get me.”
       He said, “Mr. ‘Possum, please don’t leave me like this! Please don’t leave me! Please! I’m so cold!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want me to do, Mr. Snake?”
       The snake said, “Please, Mr. ‘Possum. Please, sir, just put me in your bag. Put me in your pocket.”
       He said, “Just look right up front.”
       He said, “You got a pocket right up front there.”
       He said, “Put me in your pocket and carry me just a teensy-weensy while ‘til I warm up a little.”
       He said, “Cause if you leave me here, somebody’s gonna kill me. PLEASE!” And he flitted his tongue back and forth, and he cried.
       The ‘possum said, “No-o-o. I know you think I’m crazy.”
       He said, “Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “You know you’re gonna bite me!”
       The snake said, “No! No! No! No! No! No! No! I promise I won’t bite you.”
       The ‘possum said, “Will you get out when you warm up?”
       The snake said, “Just as soon as I warm up, I’ll get out!”
       He said “Just as soon as I get a little bit warm so I can move, I’ll get out. I promise. I promise. I promise!”
       The ‘Possum said, “Well, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “I’m gonna take a chance.”
       He said, Now I’m gonna put you in my pocket here for a little while until you warm up. Then I want you outta my pocket and back on the ground.”
       “I promise I won’t bite. I won’t!” the snake said.
       And Mr. ‘Possum went over, and he picked up the snake, and he opened up that pocket he’s got up front right there, and he put the snake in his pocket.
       Now I told you Mr. ‘Possum was a kind animal, and he is. He ain’t smart, but he is kind.
       And he said, “All right now, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “As soon as you warm up.”
       He said, “I want you out of my pocket.”
       The snake said, “I promise. I promise.”
       And Mr. ‘Possum began to walk sort of carefully, carefully. And after a while he felt that snake move.
       “What was that? Is it warm yet. Mr. Snake?” he said.
       And the snake flitted out his tongue.
       He said, “Not yet. Not yet.”
       But that snake ain’t cryin’ now. He’s sorta smilin’.
       Mr. ‘Possum walks on here just a little bit further with that snake, and all of a sudden he said, “Wha . . .?”
       But before he could get the question out of this mouth the snake had wrapped itself all around that ‘possum.
       The snake said, “I’m gonna bite you!”
       The ‘possum said, “What? Bite me?”
       He said, “But, but, Mr. Snake! You promised!”
       The snake said, “Oh, that was politics!”
       He said, “Anyway, it’s your own fault.”
       The ‘possum said, “My fault? My fault? How can it be my fault?”
       He said, “I came here, and there you lay over there with a big old rock on your back, and you couldn’t move, and I got the rock off your back, and you begged me and begged me and promised and promised that if I put you in my pocket to warm up and carried you that you wouldn’t bite me, and I put you in my pocket, and now you want to claim it was my fault?”
       He said, “How is it my fault?”
       The snake said, “Well, you know’d I was a snake!”

Now let that be a lesson to you. If it looks like a snake, and it crawls like a snake, and it’s got a tongue like a snake, you can bet your last dollar it’s a snake! And you do like my grandma said: “Don’t you never trouble Trouble, lessen Trouble troubles you.



3. The Dead Ain’t Helpless

 [From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2.
Spring, 1993.]


       At the Collins Plantation up around Creswell [North Carolina], right there by Lake Phelps, there were records kept on the slaves there. And old man Collins, he would go to a certain place in Africa to get his slaves because he had a business plan. He wasn’t just gonna have the slaves haphazardly. He wanted people who could dig his ditches and work in his shops, could grow him some rice. And he was gonna take everybody’s cotton, and they were gonna use his canals. He was makin’ a big business out of it. It was a big corporation. And so they went and got these slaves that knew about rice.
       And there was this old slave woman, Callie, who would tell a story about her grandfather and how he became a slave. She was one of the oldest slaves. And she had lived in the house, lived in the big house. She knew people, and she knew some of the things the white folks knew. And she had learned things.
       And Callie had known her grandfather. She knew about her ancestors because this man Collins told them. He told them that if they didn’t run away, they’d stay there, on the plantation, and he wouldn’t sell them, wouldn’t split up their families.
       So Callie knew her grandfather. And he told her about her grandmother. The grandmother’s name was Sook, and she had been born on the plantatioin. And she married a man who came from Africa, name of Kwami.
       And he said in Africa his daddy and his brothers and his cousins and uncles and all would go out in the field and go fishin’ together. And the mothers and the sisters and all would be around them. And it would be a picnic like.
       And his momma, he said he could remember her just as good. He remembered how his momma would pound the millet, and how she would cook the good meals for them. And he remembered how he was about to be married.
       But then he couldn’t imagine what in the world could have happened. It looked like somethin’ just vanished from him ‘cause he couldn’t remember what had happened that day that they had picked him.
       All he knows is that they had gone out into the field that mornin’, havin’ such a good time, and some people came. And they had some long sticks that made a lot of noise. And he got hit in the head somehow.
       And the next thing he can remember, he’s tied to a fellow next to him. And he remembers climbin’ way way up into one of them great big old boats. And then they put him down in a dark hole.
       Then they were on the water, and it seemed like they stayed on that water forever. Then they came off of that boat and they put them on another boat.
       Then they got off of there, and they started walkin’. And he looked around him, and he didn’t now what to think, ‘cause he wondered where was his momma and where was his daddy? Where was his cousins and the rest of his brothers? ‘Cause it seemed like everybody who was taken was of about the same age, and some of his brothers was with him.
       But they started them walkin’ again. And he could see trees. There was a whole lot of trees and places where people were stayin’. But they didn’t look nothin’ like where he had been. And the trees and the birds--they were nothin’ like the trees and birds he knew. And he didn’t see no monkeys jumpin’ up and around. Nothin’ like the animals they had known.
       And they walked on. And they walked, and they walked. There was him and his friend, Guinea Jack. And Abajake, and Pas Dos, and Nicee, and Bird, and Koffee, and all of them together. And they were walkin’. And they thought they would never get there, to wherever it was they was goin’.
       Then they came to the plantation.
       But it didn’t look like no plantation. There were no fields. And there was no big house. It was nothin’ but a whole heap of water, smellin’. It didn’t smell like their water back home. Bid old lake and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes! Them mosquitoes must’ve been sittin’ there waitin’ and starvin’ for ‘em so they could eat ‘em up.
       Then they had to start diggin’. Collins had brought them there to dig that canal ‘cause he wanted him some rice. And they had to start.
       And they dug, and they dug. But they weren’t used to that. And they’d dig until they’d just fall down at night.
       And they’d say, “Oh, my grandpa!”
       And they’d wake up in the mornin’, and they’ say, “Oh, I just can’t go on.” They’d be so hurtin’. And they’d cry and cry ‘cause they’d be so hurtin’.
       And some of them would die. And they’d leave them just where they died, a long long way from home. Had to leave ‘em right there  ‘cause they couldn’t stop their work. Had to keep on workin’.
       And they wondered where they were going to go? Who was going to take care of ‘em when they died? No one took no time to bury ‘em as they were supposed to have been. They just pushed ‘em right on over there in the water, left ‘em in the water right by where they fell.
       And one night Grandpa Kwami said they was just sittin’ there. And he said how they felt so sad.
       But one fella had made him a drum. He had dug out some hollow log and put some skin over it and made him a drum.’    And they began to play on that drum. And they played and made some music. Grandpa Kwami said he could just see his home, and he could see his momma.
       And he said then they began playin’ that sad funeral song, like they were buryin’ somebody. And he started to think about all them back home, all his brothers and cousins, his momma and his daddy, and his friends who had died since he been there diggin’ them ditches. About his friends buried right there in that water out before him.
       And nobody had made a way for them so that they could go back to their ancestors.
       And they were all so sad. And they all got up, and they started singin’ the song--“Aaiieee! Kala kala hai!”
       They sang all these African songs. And they sang the burial songs. And they got up, and they began hittin’ on that dirt. And they began hittin’ on that dirt floor. And they began to move.
       And they did the slow funeral march. And they began to walk. And they began to walk to that water. And they were singin’ those songs, and they were singin’ those songs.
       And oh, Kwami was so sad.
       And they wondered, “Where is my momma? Why don’t you come here? Where is my papa? Come and get me! Where are my ancestors to get me?”
       And they started walkin’ right on to that water, right on to that water. And they got to the water.
       And some of them hit that water, and they just kept goin’, and they began to drown, and they began to drown.
       Just then the overseer--old man Collins didn’t stay there; he had somebody else to look over his slaves, tryin’ to keep them slaves outta the water. Didn’t do no good.
       And Grandpa Kwami said he got there, he got to the water. And he was goin’ on in that water. He was gonna drown, too.
       He thought that if he went on in that water, maybe underneath that water, the people underneath the water would let him walk right on through on the ground underneath the water and walk right on back home.
       But when he got there, right up there to put his foot in the water, something hit him. And it knocked him back.
       And he could hear his grandma say, “It ain’t your time! It ain’t your time! Who’s gonna tell them, when they come here after you, who’s gonna tell them the way? Who’s gonna let them know what happened? Who’s gonna tell them where they came from?”
       And it knocked him right back. He said he stood there, and he could see the sign of his grandma’s hand right there on his chest where she hit him.
       And he stayed there, right there by the shore, and he watched ‘em all drowning, walking and singing and drownin’. And he stayed there, to tell the story. He stayed there to let the people know what done happened. And he told Callie when it was time for her to know, and she told me.
       And I’m tellin’ you what happened.
       ‘Cause the dead ain’t helpless. The dead ain’t helpless and you look over this canal. You look out over this big lake. And you sit here. And you start thinkin’ about all them slaves what died buildin’ this big old canal, this big house.
       And when the moon is shinin’ full, you can hear the sound--sure enough you can get into it--you can hear the sound of the drums. You can hear the sounds of them drums callin’.
       If you ain’t strong, and if you ain’t careful, it’ll pull you right on in there with all them others. Many a one’s been pulled right on in that water.
       And that’s the story they tell.



4. A Christmas Carol

[From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2.
Spring, 1993.]


       Always there are stories about Christmas Eve. It has been said this is the holiest of nights. And people who don’t follow the rules, people who don’t believe, there has always been something that happened to them.
       There are tales and myths and fables from all around the world.
       In France, it’s said, there is a rock. On Christmas Eve, before the bells ring, the rock will get up and go out to sea to wash itself off. And if the pure of heart, only the pure of heart, go to this hole the rock has left, they can take out a bag of gold. But they must be pure of heart.
       The fishermen of Ireland, where many men drift out to sea and have been lost, have a tale about Christmas Eve. They have learned that if on that night they take an anchor and hold it up so that it makes a cross and fall on their knees and sing “O Holy Night,” then they will drift back to land, and they can be saved. This is the only thing that will save them.
       There are many tales.
       Fishermen are very superstitious, too, about this date. In Wales, you can’t go fishing on Christmas Eve.
       And there are stories of the trees. There’s the aspen tree, whose leaves tremble on this tree because of what they did on Christmas Eve.
       And of course we all know about the pine tree, and how it helped Christ, and why they are green all year. And the dogwood tree.
       And the animals--we all know how kind the animals were to Mary and Joseph on this great night when Christ was born.
       The old people say that if you go into the barn at midnight on Christmas Eve, you can hear the animals talk.
       Now it is said that you must take this on faith. And when an old person tells you this, an old person who has lived and is very wise, they don’t tell you what they believe. They’re telling you, with their faith, that they know that the animals talk.
       And I don’t know who was the first one to tell this story, but down through the ages it has been told. It has been told of a man who was very cruel to his help, who was very, very cruel, and who believed nothing.
       One Christmas Eve as they were sitting around preparing for the next day, someone said that at midnight all the animals would get on their needs to pray.
       Of course the man said, “How dumb and stupid you are.”
       He said, “That’s nothing but a slave tale.”
       But his wife told him, “Don’t--don’t you scoff at the tales of the people. They have told these things for years and years, and there must be some truth in it.”
       But of course he didn’t believe her.
       “All right, I’ll prove it to you,” he said. “Tonight at midnight I shall go and see if the animals are talking.”
       And they begged him, and they begged him. But he laughed and took another taste of his toddy.
       Then a little before twelve, he walked out to his barn, and he sneaked. And they tell me--I don’t know how they know this, but I’ve been told--somehow he began to feel a little queer.
       He decided he was a little frightened of walking into the barn. Suppose the animals did speak?
       So he got down on his knees. And he crawled into the barn. And he crawled into a stall. And the stall seemed to be empty.
       But then the strongest horse of all went into this stall.
       The other animals heard him kicking and stomping and kicking and snorting. And then it was quiet.
       “What happened? What happened?” another horse asked.
       “Well, I was startled,” the first horse said. “There was something on the floor, and I see here I have killed my own master. But, you know, I am not surprised. I have already been told that on Christmas Day I would pull his coffin to church,” the horse said.
       So you be very, very careful on Christmas Eve.
       Don’t go fishing out to sea. Don’t go fishing.
       And do not try to catch the animals speaking. Take it on faith.
       They do speak at midnight on Christmas Eve.


5. I Wish You Had Met My Mother
 
 [Reorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett.]


       I met a friend a few weeks ago, and after we talked, and we talked, and we found common threads, she mentioned something about a plant, some flower that she had.
       And I said, "Oh! That sounds marvelous!"
       I said, "Oh! I wish you had met my mother."
       I find this is what I'm saying when I'm giving someone a compliment.
       When my mother moved, when she moved her household goods here with her husband, she had three children.  And she moved her bucket that she ironed with, her charcoal bucket and charcoal iron.  And she had an ironing board, a very heavy oak board that we kept movin' with us back and forth.
       And she had a feather bed.  And with all her things, she had little packages of seeds.  And she had little tin cans with flower plants that she had brought from Georgia.
       And as soon as she moved in where she was goin' to live
 for awhile, she was out in her yard planting, planting her flowers.
       And every place she went, she seemed to plant beauty.
       And as the children got older, some things changed.  After a while, she got a smoothing iron.  (We still have those irons.)  And then we got electricity, and she got an electric iron.
       All of these things she changed, but she never stopped planting her flowers.  And she never stopped giving flowers.
       Each of us, when we moved someplace, we moved some of Momma's flowers.  Evelyn moved to Kinston, and she moved flowers.
       Mary Alice is in Raleigh, and each year she'd come over, and Momma would give her flowers for this and for that.
       And we'd all have friends.  We have flowers all over North Carolina.  All over the United States there are some of Momma's flowers we have planted.
       When I got in the Visiting Artists Program, I carried some of Momma's flowers up in the mountains.  And I carried some up around Surrey County.
       All of these friends have Momma's flowers.
       Now Momma was beginnin' to get weaker.  And I was lookin' forward to comin' home, to perhaps stayin' with her a while before she died.
       But I didn't see her, and I had a hard time turnin' her loose.  And I was feelin' so badly because I just couldn't get over my grief.  I was in my sixties, but I still couldn't get over that.
       And when I was comin' home, makin' the long trip home, I'd get to Richlands, and each time I got there, pain would just fill me.
       And one day on my way back to Surrey County, I was on Highway 70.  And something they had done on one side of the road there. There was all this beautiful grass, and flowers had been planted.  Oh, that was the loveliest flower bed!  They were all colors -- just all colors!
       And oh, I just anguished.
       I said, "Oh Momma!  How I wish you could see this!  I wish Momma could see this!"
       And just as plainly as day, I thought I heard Momma say, "Oh, Louise.  Don't be silly.  Who do you think showed it to you?"
       And of course she did.
       And I had to stop awhile, and I got myself together.  And from then on I sort of understood.
       And anytime I see flowers, I see them through her eyes.
       I don't work in flowers the way she did.  But every time I see flowers, and the beauty in things, I see them through her eyes.
       I loved my mother, as we all do.  And I'm happy that I always carried things to her, although she didn't appreciate some of those buttercups I brought her, or some of those boyfriends.
       And I've met so many good people, and I wish that you all could have met my mother.


6. Don't You Never Say Uh-huh

[Reorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett.]


       Now they're talkin' about Ray Charles has this song "Uh-huh."  Well, black people hated--your grandma and your grandpa—hated for you to say uh-huh.
       They'd say, "You want so-and-so or somethin'?"
       You'd say, "Uh-huh."
       They'd say, "Say 'Yes, ma'am' to me!"
       You'd say, "Yes, ma'am."
       They'd say, "Don't you come here with no uh-huh!  That's the Devil's words!"  And they'd thump you on the head like a watermelon.  They'd thump you.  They could hurt you right bad.  I mean, you could get hurt!
       You see, the Devil didn't have too many people goin' down there that week or somethin', and the Devil needed some housework done down there.  So he thought he'd go up to Heaven.
       And all the little angels were just a-playin' around up there outside and streakin' off clouds.  So the Devil thought he'd go up there and steal him some angels.
       So the Devil went up there, and he sneaked up behind them.  And he got a bunch of angels, and he put them all around.
       He had one under this arm and one under that arm.  He had some in his pockets.  And he put them in his mouth.  He got all blowed up with angels.
       And he could hardly go back.  And he was goin' back, and he was flyin' sorta low.
       And somebody looked at him.  And somebody said, "Huh, Devil, what'd you do?  You go up to Heaven and get yourself some angels to take down to Hell with you?"
       The Devil said, "Yeah, I thought I'd --"
       And when he said that and opened his mouth, the angels started flyin' away.  And he started to run after them, and then all the rest of them got away.
       So the Devil said, "Well, I'll know better next time."
       And so the next day the Devil went back up there again.  And the Devil started to fill up his mouth and everything with them angels.  And he started on back down.  He was flyin' low.
       Somebody looked out there and said, "Huh!"
       He said, "Mr. Devil, I see."
       He said, "What happened?  Did you go up there and get you some more angels?"
       And the Devil said, "Uh-huh!"
       So that's where that word comes from.  The Devil made it up.



7. The March on Jacksonville
 
[Note: Louise Anderson briefly refers to the “March on Jacksonville”--a personal narrative--in the film When My Work Is Over. On many occasions, however, she told a much longer version of this story. Here we offer two versions in order to show how she adapted on different occasions to the time and place and to her audience. She never told a story the same way twice. Whether she had an audience of one or a hundred, she used a natural and conversational tone to draw listeners into her story, and she could do that before they realized what was happening. She was a master of improvisation, and would expertly expand a story by adding scenes and descriptive details that perfectly suited the situation. She could make use of any amount of time for telling her story and could “cut and paste” and adjust her telling on the spot in order to make the story effective and still stay within whatever limits she felt needed to be observed. The following accounts of the march, recorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett, showcase her gift for re-telling a story and keeping it new.—Beverly B. Patterson]


       I guess it's a fact about Dr. King -- and all of those people, all of those people who have become great -- is not that they're great only within themselves.  It's the way they can make you feel.
       Now I was never able to march with Dr. King.  But everything I could read about Dr. King, I did.  And each time he was on TV, I listened.
       But I never got out and marched with him.  Like the ordinary man, I just tried to do some of the things he did.  I tried to imitate him.
       If something happened, and he'd tell the people, "You don't have to take this from your job," I wouldn't take it from my job, even though I'm about five hundred miles away, and he's never going to know about us.  And we're not going to be on five o'clock TV.
       This was a man who took some courage to do this, a man who would go to work and wouldn't do certain things because Dr. King did something in Alabama.  Now they were noticed.
       But if something happened to this man here, in this little job and this small town, you see, there's no one going to be there to see him when he loses his job and his family needs money.  And that takes a lot of courage.
       A man has to be great to have followers follow him that way, you see?
       One day they were having a ball game, and I went down there because I heard the children yellin' and goin' crazy.  And it was such a lovley day.  It was almost Easter time.
       And I don't know why, but the thought hit me, "Suppose this was Jesus Christ, on that time he was marchin' that day, and I heard this multitude?  Would I have
gone out?"
       Or if I'd heard of Him, and I'd heard you have to treat your fellow man kindly, that you had to help someone who was down and out even if no one would notice -- would I have changed?  Would I have realized that this man is right and done what he said even if I'm not near him?
       Well, this is what Dr. King did.  I'm not comparing him, of course, with the Great Master, but this is what he was able to do.
       He was able to have this man in California.  He was able to have someone who was out on the field talkin' to his mule.  He was able to have someone on a tractor.  He was able to have someone in a truck.  He had someone in the kitchen, listenin' to his words and saying, "He's right.  He's right.  This shouldn't have happened all these years."
       And there was someone who was listenin' from the other side, who all these years had been the oppressor.  And they also said, "Of course he's right.  What makes me greater just because of where and when and to whom I was born?"
       Leaders could become leaders because of what they would cause other people to do and how they would make other people feel good about themselves.
       But another thing, too, about that, is you can't make this other generation realize the fear.  When we honor Rosa Parks, and how she was so brave and sat on that bus, the people today say, "What do you mean brave?  Somebody who goes in there and sits on a bus?"
       They say, "What's so brave about that?"
       They don't realize the fear.  They don't realize how much courage it took to go there and do that.  They don't know how much courage that took.
       Sometimes people used to say I was brave because I would go into the only department store here in Jacksonville, and I wouldn't drink out of the Colored fountain.  Now that did take courage.  I was scared.  I was really scared.  But I didn't want anyone to know it, you see, 'cause I was always doin' something.
       But people would say, "Louise didn't drink out of the Colored fountain.  She drank out of the other fountain." But that took courage.  Nobody knew the courage that it took.  The courage to do things that we take for granted.
       Same as the courage it took to go in and try on a pair of shoes before you'd buy them.  Or to try on a dress before you put your money out there.
       So we were going to give a program.  We were going to give some plays and things, and we wanted some money for them.  We were getting the children together.
       I realized that they didn't know the poetry and black history that I had been taught.  I didn't realize until much later that every school in North Carolina didn't teach black history.  We had happened to have a really far thinking man as the principal of our school.
       So I'm teaching these children.  I'm giving plays at the churches.  I'm taking the children out, and I'm teaching them the poems and the history that I knew.  I'm teaching them about James Weldon Johnson and Paul Lawrence Dunbar and all.
       And we began to work.
       And then the policemen were doin' things around us.
       And you see, each evening in my home, the Marines would go there, and they'd drink too much, of course.  And here come the police, and each night they would beat someone.
       And so we got out, and we started arguing about this.
       One night I saw a Marine doing some things, and I went over, and I was goin' to tell the police.  But when I got over there, I was afraid to tell them.  I knew they weren't just going to take him to jail.  I knew that what they would do is just beat him too bad, and that was not their job.  They weren't supposed to beat him.
       So I couldn't tell what this fella had done, and that worried me.
       So I decided we'd get the children together, and we'd start us a Civil Rights movement.  They had it all over.  I wasn't brave enough to go down there and let them turn no hose on me.  But if they were going to do things all over the country, let them do them here.
       There were people going out and sittin' in restaurants.  I worked in a restaurant, and I would have fed them if they'd come to me, you see, but they didn't.
       Anyway, one night we were having a meeting.  And it so happend that the pastor of our church, the Baptist church there, was teaching a little Negro history.  These children were there.  And a young couple who did a lot of work with me were.  They'd come to pick up some children.  They had a couple of nieces there and some other kids who were in their teens.
       And they started up the street.  And when they started up Court Street, right there at the end of Court Street, there were a lot of people there.  That was where they congregated.
       Then the police stopped the car, although they had no reason to stop it.  It wasn't that he was drinkin'.  He had just left the church and picked the children up from the Bible class.
       Well, the police said they didn't like the way he sounded.  And they knew he had been in the Civil Rights movement.  And so they pulled him out of the car, and they handcuffed him, and someone hit him.
       And then his wife came out.  And when his wife came out, my brother-in-law and my sister who were there -- they had a little child -- they rushed out.  Then the wife started screamin', and then her sister came out, who was pregnant, and they began handcuffin' them.  Now we almost had a race riot there.  And we all came out.
       Then they took them downtown, and they booked them.  But everyone from the street goes up there because we knew it had started from absolutely nothin'.  It started from the police just wantin' to harass someone.
       And when we got up there, then we had the nucleus of our Civil Rights movement.  Those who hadn't joined us before, now they came up and joined us.
       These people left the regular NAACP, because they did nothing.  People were calling us from the Marine Corps, and they said the NAACP would come here.  But we could never use the NAACP here because they were working with the people downtown.
       So we had our own little organization.  We called it Community Action.  We gave programs and plays, and we got our program started.  And we sent for Terry Paul, a Civil Rights lawyer, to come here and help the people who had been arrested.
       Well, when he came here, we started to get more people and more people.  And the ones who had been arrested beat the case.
       And then we started writing down things that we wanted and things that the police did.  And now the mayor wanted to speak to us.  So now we're fighting two battles.  We're fighting one battle here with the society people, so to speak, and we're fighting a battle downtown.
       Well, we're going to demonstrate.  We're going to march.  We're going to have us a march on a Sunday afternoon.
       And they don't want us to have this march.
       A man came, one of the deacons at one of the churches, and he said, "How many of you have any jobs?"
       He said, "You're doin' all this screamin' and yellin', and you're not workin' anywhere.  So you know the people aren't gonna give ya anything.  So what do you mean demandin' somethin' when you don't even work?"
       Well, that made more of them starting joining, you see?
       And the military, they were havin' a hard time too.  They were really havin' a hard time.
       So we started getting more people.  The more they screamed their stuff, their Uncle Tom stuff, the more people we got.
       And then people when they had problems with their jobs, they'd come to us.  They'd come to us.
       Now we're ready to march.  And they came from the NAACP, and they gave us a chapter with them.
       And when we were startin'  marchin', we worried about that.  Everybody would be worried about it.
       We sold meals.  We sold this and that.  And we had to pay for the lawyer in the other court case 'cause they were workin' people, but they didn't have any money.  They didn't have any money to have a big lawyer come.
       And we'd work here.  And we'd try this.  And we gave little plays.  And we learned the black history.
       So now we're going to have a march, and we start meeting.  And this right pretty black girl came here with Terry Paul, his secretary.  And somebody said it was Angela Davis.
       Well, Angela Davis was not  comin' to our meetings.  But when the white people heard that we had Angela Davis here, well, then we did get momentum! 
       And then they did start screamin' and yellin', "What we gonna do with Angela Davis?"
       And so we said, "Well, we're gonna march with Angela Davis!"
       And so we were meeting.
       And you're meeting more than you really want to meet.  You're meeting to build up your courage.  You're meeting because you don't want to stay home and have to think awhile.  You're meeting because you know your head can be beat in and you know there's nothing that don't happen.  You're meeting because you know you can be killed, that they can turn dogs and hoses on you.  You're meeting because of all these things.  You're meeting far more than you should because you're so afraid.
       And you go to work.  And instead of bein' a little late, you go to work a little early because you don't want the man to have anything to say about you so he can fire you, 'cause that is your living, you see?  And all of these things add to your fear.

       And then here comes this spring day, this Sunday, when we are to march.
       And we're going to march from the Elks hall on Kerr Street to downtown, to City Hall.  And they had given us a permit to march at two o'clock that afternoon.
       Now, we all feel frightened.  We're very frightened.  All that Saturday night we're meetin'.
       We'd ask, "Does anybody want somebody to take them home?"  because we were afraid.
       And this day came, and Dot, my sister, and her husband went up, and they met with Terry Paul, a Civil Rights lawyer, and all of them down at the Elks hall.
       Well, my sister Evelyn and I, we're just going to march.  We get ready to march.
       And it's so very quiet.  This is the thing that gets me about this day.  It's so quiet that you can hear crickets.  And you hear the birds.  And you just hear everything around you.
       And you can hear those crickets.  And the cars are not running.
       Then here, here comes a police car.
       And there's a policeman there.  I can't think of his name, but they called him Cigar.
       And Cigar was there, and he was the main man.  He was the main man that everyone was afraid of.  He was very bad.  He'd hit you for anything.
       And when the police drive by our house that day, we're lookin' out.  And we see they have machine guns in the back seat.
       Now, no one has done anything violent.  No one has thrown anything.  A single brick hasn't been thrown.  But here these people are out with machine guns!
       Now we are very afraid. 
       So Evelyn said, "Come on, Louise.  It's about time for us to go."
       And out on Kerr Street -- there were a lot
of houses there then -- everyone is sittin' out on the porches, everyone.  You usually sat on the porch after church at any rate.  But all of these porches were full.
       And when we came out of the door, Momma was standin' at the door.  And Evelyn and I came out.
       We were in our forties, you see.  But when we looked there at Momma, we felt as if we were children once more.
       And I reached over to get Evelyn's hand as if we were children and Momma was sayin', "Hold her hand, Louise."
       And we started out.  And I said, "Well, Evelyn."
       And she said, "Well, Louise?"
       And we started out of the gate.  And we walked up the street.  And we waved at Momma.
       And a car passed by, and it stopped up there in front of us.
       Momma came out of the house.
       And a man came out of the car, and he said, "Oh yeah."
       He said, "You're sisters here!"
       He said, "Can we take your picture?"
       And, and, and they thought they'd put our picture in the files and send it somewhere.  And we knew it.  We knew it.
       And they certainly let us pose.
       They were actin', and we were actin', 'cause they were gonna take our picture at any rate.  So they took our picture, and we walked on up the street.
       We walked up the street, and there's another girl came out.  And when I say "girl," I mean "woman."  I mean in her fifties.
       And we walked on up there, and we began to start down the street.  And we're very, very disappointed.  I mean our feathers were just fallen because we had so few people.
       There were about thirty men.  And, oh, we just knew we would have a hundred, you see?
       But somebody said, "Don't worry."
       She said, "So many things have started with just one man."
       She said, "Come on and let's go.  Let's sing our song."
       And so we began to clap our hands, and to sing our songs:  "I ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around ...."
       And we began to make our march.  And here comes Momma.
       We said, "Where you goin', Momma?"
       And she said, "Well, I thought I'd march part of the way with ya."
       She said, "I thought I'd walk on down here to Maggy's.  And since y'all were up here, I'd just walk that far with you."
       And so we held her hand.  And, oh, that was beautiful!  We held Momma's hand.
       And we walked up, and we got to Miss Maggy's.  Miss Maggy was sittin' on her porch, and she said, "Miss Anderson!"
       Momma laughed, and she left the line.
       And when Momma left the line, Miss Maggy had some grandsons and what-have-you, and someone was there from New York, and they came off her porch, and they got in our line.
       And we kept on singin' our songs.  And we said, "There ain't nobody gonna stop us now, stop us now, stop us now ...."
       And we started walkin' on down.
       And each time we passed a house, people started comin' out.  And they started gettin' in that line.  And they started singin' the songs.  And we were dancing.  We were turnin' on the jubilee!  And we were dancin',  "Tell me, how did you feel when you come out of the wilderness?  Did your soul feel happy when you come out of the
wilderness?"
       And we walked on there, and we got almost to the courthouse, and there was a huge house there we used to call The Big House.  That was the name of it, The Big House.
       And it had rooms for men.  Single men in the town had rooms there.  It was a boarding house like.
       And sometimes Marines would come in and spend the night.  They'd get rooms there and spend the weekend.  Or some people would be workin' in pulp wood.  And the porch was full!
       And when we got there, it was like High Noon, just like the western.  They started comin' off that porch and comin' out of that house, gettin' in the line, gettin' in the line.
       And, oh, brother!  Wonderful.  Wonderful!  "Go down, Moses!  Let my people go!"
       And we turned the corner, goin' up Court Street, and there in the line were all these Marines marchin'.  Now, they had said the Marines couldn't march, and we weren't expectin' the Marines.
       But there was someone, someone had knocked the sergeants.  And they
 had organized groups.
       Now, this was not some organized group with a sergeant and all that.  But this was not some unorganized group.  These were some Marines who had been there.  These were the fellows who had been harassed and the fellows whose heads had been bashed in and who had been thrown in jail for absolutely nothing.
       These were the fellows who started comin' into our group.  And they were comin' in tens and fifteens and twenties.
       And you couldn't see the front of the line.  It was down past the First Baptist Church.  And you couldn't see the end.
       And we started walkin'.  And we started singin' our songs.
       And we passed the highway patrolmen there.  And they had one black guy.  I don't know how long he'd been in.  He hadn't been in long because we'd been screamin' about puttin' some blacks on the highway patrol.
       And we passed him.  And he was just standin' there, sort of smilin'.
       And I passed close near him, and I said, "Aren't you proud of us?"
       And he said, "Yes, Ma'am!  I'm proud of you."
       And we walked on up the street, and we got to the courthouse.  And when we got up there, well, I'd been working at this Italian place across the street, cooking.
       And I saw them there.  And I just went "Oh!"  And I threw my head down.
       And then I thought, "If I'm going to be fired, I'll be fired tomorrow, and I couldn't care less!"
       And I went up there, and we got up there to the courthouse.  And we stood around there.  And Terry Paul went up there and said a few words.
And I got up, and I did something from "The Negro Mother," Langston Hughes's "The Negro Mother."
       And I have known that piece since I was in elementary school—the sixth or seventh grade—since Langston Hughes had come to our school in High Point there.  And I had recited that poem since that time.
       And I got up there, and I spoke it.  And I spoke it exactly the way Langston Hughes had meant it!  And I spoke it the way that Negro mother would have done it.
       and I became that Negro mother!  And I meant every word of it.
       And we stood there that day, and we sang some more songs.
       She was prettier than "When Melinda Sings" by Lawrence Dunbar.
       And she came up there, and she sang just like "When Melinda Sings," you know?
       And she sang, "Come In To Jesus."  She sang that song!
       And when it was over, we started marchin' back singin' "We Shall Overcome."
       And I've never been so happy in my life.  I've never been so fulfilled.  And I'd never been so without fear.
       And from that day henceforth, I stopped being afraid.
       I mean, I'm still afraid of thundering and lightning, and mess like lizards and snakes, and many things, but I've never been afraid of myself.  I know that if someone calls on me, I can stand up and be counted.
       But it took something like that day to remove my fear.
       I love that day, when we marched in Jacksonville, North Carolina.



8. The March on Jacksonville

[From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2. Spring, 1993.]


       Sometimes people used to say I was brave because I would go into the only department store here in Jacksonville [North Carolina] and I wouldn’t drink out of the colored fountain. I’d drink that white water. I was scared. I was really scared. But I didn’t want anyone to know it, you see, ‘cause I was always doin’ something.
       But people would say, “Louise didn’t drink out of the colored fountain. She drank out of the other fountain.”
       But that took courage. Nobody knew the courage that it took, the courage to do things that we take for granted.
       Same as the courage it took to go in ad try on a pair of shoes before you’d buy them. Or to try on a dress before you put your money out there.
       But it’s hard to make this new generation realize the fear. When we honor Rosa Parks, and how she was so brave and sat on that bus, the people today say, “What do you mean brave? Somebody who goes in there and sits on a bus?”
       They say, “What’s so brave about that?”
       They don’t realize the fear. They don’t realize how much courage it took to go there and do that. They don’t know how much courage that took.
       Now in Jacksonville, we were going to give a program. We were going to give some plays and things, and we wanted some money for them. And we were getting the children together. I realized that they didn’t know the poetry and black history that I had been taught. I didn’t realize until years later that every school in North Carolina didn’t teach black history. We had happened to have a really far-thinking man as the principal of our school in High Point.
       So I’m teaching these children. I’m giving plays at the churches. I’m taking the children out, and I’m teaching them the poems and the history that I knew. I’m teaching them about James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar and all the others.
       And we began to work. We began to get things organized.
       And suddenly the policemen were doin’ things around us.
       And you see, each evening the marines would go to this place across the street from my home, and they’d drink too much, of course. And here come the police, and each night they would beat someone.
       And so we got out, and we started arguing about this.
       One night I saw a marine doing some things, and I went over, and I was goin’ to tell the police. But when I got over there, I was afraid to tell them. I knew they weren’t just going to take him to jail. I knew that what they would do is just beat him too bad, and that was not their job. They weren’t supposed to beat him.
       So I couldn’t tell what this fella had done, and that worried me.
       So I decided we’d get the children together, and we’d start us a civil rights movement. They had it all over. I wasn’t brave enough to go down there to Alabama and let them turn no hose on me. But if they were going to do things all over the country, let them do them here, right herein Jacksonville.
       There were people going out and sittin’ in restaurants. I worked in a restaurant, and I would have fed them if they’d come to me, you see, but they didn’t.
       Anyway, one night we were having a meeting. And it so happened that the pastor of our church, the Baptist church, was teaching a little Negro history. These children were there. And a young couple who did a lot of work with me were there. They’d come to pick up some children. They had a couple of nieces there and some other kids who were in their teens.
       And they started up the street. And when they started up Court Street, right there at the end of Court Street, there were a lot of people there. That was where they congregated.
       Then the police stopped the car, although they had no reason to stop it. It wasn’t that he was drinkin’. He had just left the church and picked the children up from the Bible class.
       Well, the police said they didn’t like the way he sounded. And they knew he had been in the civil rights movement. And so they pulled him out of the car, and they handcuffed him, and someone hit him.
       And then his wife came out. And when his wife came out, my brother-in-law and my sister who were there--they had a little child--they rushed out. Then the wife started screamin’, and then her sister came out, who was pregnant, and they began handcuffin’ them. Now we almost had us a race riot there. And we all came out.
       Then they took them downtown, and they booked them. But everyone from the street goes up there because we knew it had started from absolutely nothin’. It started from the police just wantin’ to harass someone.
       And when we got up there, then we had the nucleus of our civil rights movement. Those who hadn’t joined us before, now they came up and joined us.      These people left the regular NAAP, because they did nothing. People were calling us from the Marine Corps, and they said the NAACP would come here. But we could never use the NAACP here because they were working with the people downtown.
       So we had our own little organization. We called it Community Action. We gave programs and plays, and we got our program started. And we sent for Jerry Paul, a civil rights lawyer, to come here and help the people who had been arrested.
       Well, when he came here, we started to get more people and more people. And the ones who had been arrested beat the case.
       And then we started writing down things that we wanted and things that the police did. And now the mayor wanted to speak to us. So now we’re fighting two battles. We’re fighting one battle here with the society people, so to speak, our own people, and we’re fighting a battle downtown.
       Well, we decide we’re going to demonstrate. We’re going to march. We’re going to have us a march on a Sunday afternoon.
       And they don’t want us to have this march.
       A man came, one of the deacons at one of the churches, and he said, “How many of you have any jobs?”
       He said, “You’re doin’ all this screamin’ and yellin’, and you’re not workin’ anywhere. So you know the people aren’t gonna give ya anything. So what do you mean demandin’ somethin’ when you don’t even work?”
       Well, that made more of them start joining, you see.
       So now we’re going to have a march, and we start meeting. And this right pretty black girl came here with Jerry Paul, his secretary. And somebody said it was Angela Davis.
       Well, Angela Davis was not comin’ to our meetings. But when the white people heard that we had Angela Davis here, well then we did get momentum!
       And then they did start screamin’ and yellin’, “What we gonna do with Angela Davis?”
       And so we said, “Well, we’re gonna march with Angela Davis!”
       And so we were meeting.
       And you’re meeting more than you really want to meet. You’re meeting to build up your courage. You’re meeting because you don’t want to stay home and have to think a while. You’re meeting because you know your head can be beat in and you know there’s nothing that don’t happen. You’re meeting because you know you can be killed, that they can turn dogs and hoses on you. You’re meeting because of all these things. You’re meeting far more than you should because you’re so afraid.
       And you go to work and instead of bein’ a little late, you go to work a little early because you don’t want the man to have anything to say about you so he can fire you, ‘cause that is your living, you see? And all of these things add to your fear.
       And then here comes this spring day, this Sunday, when we are to march.
       And we’re going to march from the Elks Hall on Kerr Street to downtown, to City Hall. And they had given us a permit to march at two o’clock that afternoon.
       Now, we all feel frightened. We’re very frightened. All that Saturday night we’re meetin’.
       We’d ask, “Does anybody want somebody to take them home?” because we were afraid.
       And this day came, and Dot, my sister, and her husband went up, and they met with Jerry Paul and all of them down at the Elks Hall.
       Well, my sister Evelyn and I, we’re just going to march. We get ready to march.
       And it’s so quiet. This is the thing that gets me about this day.
       It’s so quiet that you can hear crickets. And you hear the birds. And you just hear everything around you.
       And you can hear those crickets. And the cars are not running.
       Then here, here comes a police car.
       And there’s a policeman there. I can’t think of the name, but they called him Cigar.
       And Cigar was there, and he was the main man. He was the main man that everyone was afraid of. He was very bad. He’d hit you for anything.
       And when the police drive by our house that day, we’re lookin’ out. And we see they have machine guns in the back seat.
       Now, no one had done anything violent. No one has thrown anything.  A single brick hadn’t been thrown. But here these people are out with machine guns!
       Now we are very afraid.
       So Evelyn said, “Come on, Louise, It’s about time for us to go.”
       And out on Kerr Street--there were a lot of houses there then--everyone is sittin’ out on the porches, everyone. You usually sat on the porch after church at any rate. But all of these porches were full.
       And when we came out of the door, Momma was standin’ at the door. And Evelyn and I came out.
       We were in our 40s, you see. But when we looked there at Momma, we felt as if we were children once more.
       And I reached over to get Evelyn’s hand as if we were children, and Momma was sayin’, “Hold her hand, Louise.”
       And we started out. And I said, “Well, Evelyn.”
       And she said, “Well, Louise?”
       And we started out of the gate. And we walked up the street. And we waved at Momma.
       And a car passed by, and it stopped up there in front of us.
       Momma came out of the house.
       And a man came out of the car, and he said, “Oh yeah.”
       He said, “You’re sisters here!”
       He said, “Can we take your picture?”
       And they thought they’d put our picture in the files and send it somewhere. And we knew it. We knew it.
       And they certainly let us pose.
       They were actin’, and we were actin’, ‘cause they were gonna take our picture at any rate. So they took our picture, and we walked on up the street.
       We walked up the street, and there’s another girl came out. And when I say “girl,” I mean “woman.” I mean in her 50s.
       And we walked on up there, and we began to start down the street. And we’re very, very disappointed. I mean our feathers were just fallen because we had to few people.
       There were about 30 men. And, oh, we just knew we would have a hundred, you see?
       But somebody said, “Don’t worry.”
       She said, “So many things have started with just one man.”
       She said, “Come on and let’s go. Let’s sing our song.”
       And so we began to clap our hands, and to sing our songs: “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around  . .  .”
       And we began to make our march. And here comes Momma.
       We said, “Where you goin’ Momma?”
       And she said, “Well, I thought I’d march part of the way with ya.”
       She said, “I thought I’d walk on down here to Maggy’s. And since y’all were up here, I’d just walk that far with you.”
       And so we held her hand. And, oh, that was beautiful! We held Momma’s hand.
       And we walked up, and we got to Miss Maggy’s. Miss Maggy was sittin’ on her porch, and she said “Miss Anderson!”
       Momma laughed, and she left the line.
       And when Momma left the line, Miss Maggy had some grandsons and what-have-you, and someone was there from New York, and they came off her porch, and they got in our line.
       And we kept on singin’ our songs. And we said “There ain’t nobody gonna stop us now, stop us now, stop us now . . .”
       And we started walkin’ on down.
       And each time we passed a house, people started comin’ out. And they started getting’ in that line. And they started singin’ the songs. And we were dancing. We were turnin’ on the jubilee! And we were dancin’ and singin’: “Tell me, how did you feel when you come out of the wilderness? Did your soul feel happy when you come out of the wilderness?”
       And we walked on down there, and we got almost to the courthouse, and there was a huge house there we used to call the Big House. That was the name of it, the Big House.
       And it had rooms for men. Single men in the town had rooms there. It was a boarding house like.
       And sometimes marines would come in and spend the night. They’d get rooms there and spend the weekend. Or some people would be workin’ in pulp wood. And the porch was full!
       And when we got there, it was like High Noon, just like the western. They started comin’ off that porch and comin’ out of that house, gettin’ in the line, gettin’ in the line.
       And, oh, brother! Wonderful. Wonderful. “Go down, Moses! Let my people go!”
       And we turned the corner, goin’ up Court Street, and there in the line were all these marines marchin’. Now they had said the marines couldn’t march, and we weren’t expectin’ the marines.
       But there was someone, someone had knocked the sergeants. And they had organized groups.
       Now this was not some organized group with a sergeant and all that. But this was not some unorganized group, either. These were some marines who had been there. These were the fellows who had been harassed and the fellows whose heads had been bashed in and who had been thrown in jail for absolutely nothing.
       These were the fellows who started comin’ into our group. And they were comin’ in 10s and 15s and 20s.
       And you couldn’t see the front of the line. It was down past the First Baptist Church. And you couldn’t see the end of the line.
       And we started walkin’. And we started singin’ our songs.
       And we passed the highway patrolmen there. And they had one black guy. I don’t know how long he’d been in. He hadn’t been in long because we’d been screamin’ about puttin’ some blacks on the highway patrol.
       And we passed him. And he was just standin’ there, sort of smilin’.
       And I passed close near him, and I said, “Aren’t you proud of us?”
       And he said, “Yes, Ma’am! I’m proud of you.”
       And we walked on up the street, and we got to the courthouse. And when we got up there, well, I’d been working at this Italian place across the street, cooking. And I saw them there. And I just went, “Oh!” And I threw my head down.
       And then I thought, “If I’m going to be fired, I’ll be fired tomorrow, and I couldn’t care less!” And I held my head up.
       And I went up there, and we got up there to the courthouse. And we stood around there. And Jerry Paul went up there and said a few words. And I got up, and I did something from “The Negro Mother.” And I have known that piece since I was in elementary school -- the sixth or seventh grade--since Langston Hughes had come to our school in High Point there. And I had recited that poem since that time.       
       And I got up there, and I spoke it. And I spoke it exactly the way Langston Hughes had meant it! And I spoke it the way that Negro mother would have done it. And I became that Negro mother! And I meant every word of it.
       And we stood there that day, and we sang some more songs. And there was a girl there whose voice was prettier than any I’ve ever heard. She was prettier than “When Melinda Sings” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. And she came up there, and she sang just like “When Melinda Sings,” you know?
       And she sang, “Come in to Jesus.” She sang that song.
       And when it was over, we started marchin’ back singin’ “We Shall Overcome.”
       And I’ve never been so happy in my life. I’ve never been so fulfilled. And I’ve never been so without fear.
       And from that day henceforth, I stopped being afraid. I mean, I’m still afraid of thundering and lightening, and mess like lizards and snakes, and many things, but I’ve never been afraid of myself. I know that if someone calls on me, I can stand up and be counted.
       But it took something like that day to remove my fear.
       I love that day when we marched in Jacksonville, North Carolina.

On Transcribing and Editing Louise Anderson’s Stories

Selected Stories
1. “The Walk-Off People”
2. “The ‘Possum and the Snake”
3. “The Dead Ain’t Helpless”
4. “A Christmas Carol”
5. “I Wish You Had Met My Mother”
6. “Don’t You Never Say Un-Huh”
7. “The March on Jacksonville” (Version 1)
8. “The March on Jacksonville” (Version 2)


On Transcribing and Editing Louise Anderson’s Stories
By Victor Moffett, edited by Beverly B. Patterson

Vic Moffett earned his B.A. in creative writing and M.A. in English literature from Rutgers University. He has published poetry, short stories, photographs, and news articles in a variety of publications, and he was assistant to the editor at both the Antioch Review and the Partisan Review.  He taught English at Coastal Carolina Community College in Jacksonville, North Carolina. These tales represent only a sampling of Ms. Anderson’s stories compiled by Vic Moffett. Vic has lived, taught and written in and about Jacksonville, North Carolina, for many years.  For more information about Ms. Anderson’s tales, he can be contacted at 269 Raintree Road, Jacksonville, NC, 28540 or [email protected]

Faithfully documenting the work of a storyteller is a daunting prospect at best. The task is especially challenging when working with an artist such as Louise Anderson, who drew heavily on her experiences and talents as an actress to enliven the presentations of her tales and anecdotes.

Audio recordings preserve the storyteller’s dialect and inflections, so necessary in hearing a good tale. Video goes further by adding the visual information on which we rely for most of our communication. This makes Tom Davenport’s When My Life Is Over a priceless document.

Yet text is still needed, despite all its shortcomings, to provide a more comprehensive albeit pale record. Still, these are not merely transcriptions, but attempts to mimic on the written page as best I can Ms. Anderson’s performances and subtleties. The editor must resist the temptation to emend too much. Interpolations alter the texture of the tale, which in Louise Anderson's stories, is as finely woven as in any well-crafted poem.

Robert Frost wrote in his essay The Constant Symbol, "The way will be zigzag, but it will be a straight crookedness like the walking stick [the artist] cuts himself [or herself] for an emblem."  So for fear of zigging when the story should zag, these texts remain as close as possible to Ms. Anderson's performances and conversations while, I hope, translating them into readable prose although sometimes risking clarity. Authenticity has its price

Genesis.  
Frost’s paradox of “a straight crookedness” could also describe the process of creating these renditions as well as the shape of Ms. Anderson's tales themselves.  Any conversation with Louise Anderson quickly became more a swap-meet of stories rather than a dialogue.

When I first met Ms. Anderson, I was working on a story for the Jacksonville Daily News, and during our interview Ms. Anderson responded to my interrogations only with animal fables, allegories, and extended anecdotes. All were virtually useless to a journalist limited to snippets.  Yet by the end of each tale, my questions had been answered, charmingly.

So began my work.  These renditions are gleaned from audio tapes of conversations made at Ms. Anderson's and my Jacksonville homes and while traveling to some of Ms. Anderson's numerous performances across North Carolina, from Jacksonville to Rocky Mount to Raleigh to Boone.  These discussions never had more than a vague agenda, which was often thrown aside, and one hour of tape often resulted in as little as ten minutes of useful content. Still, all yielded material - a bit of woof here, a bit of warp there – and all of the same fabric.

The pattern may not be clear at first, but it is here, in Ms. Anderson's style and her major themes. A story is, first and foremost, didactic. Literature teaches about one's position in society, human values, and respect for others' beliefs. To share a story is to express love. Stories are both to be preserved and to be changed as they are handed down from generation to generation. The oral tradition is an equally fragile and enduring embodiment of heritage.

Dialect.
The most difficult task in editing these texts has been the use of dialect.  Ms. Anderson once told me a story of a young black boy who, embarrassed by her use of dialect, cringed all through her performance.  He had been taught to equate dialect with ignorance and backwardness.

But Ms. Anderson felt as I do: authenticity deserves precedence. The use of dialect is part of the fabric of these tales.  So my texts have attempted to reproduce as faithfully as possible Ms. Anderson's performances, complete with all traits characteristic of the Southern idiom shared by whites and blacks in this neck of the woods. These include contractions such as ain't  and y'all as well as the unvoiced g  in words ending with ing, faulty agreement of subject and verb, sometimes unnecessary and sometimes very significant shifts in verb tenses, and the use of nonstandard diction. These are all elements unique to and wonderfully flavoring this linguistic heritage.  Still, apologies are offered to any who might be offended, and whose tolerance is appreciated.

Mechanics have been used to minimum in these renditions, but some explanation may be needed.  Words appearing in all capital letters signify increased volume when reading aloud.  Words appearing in italics should be emphasized, but by inflection rather than volume.  The end of a paragraph signals a pause about twice as long as that after a period, and repetitive dialog tags - i.e. “he said”  - are used in the hope of representing the  rhythm and responsorial structure of oral delivery so much a part of our African-American tradition.

In Memoriam.
In the end, though, storytelling and writing are quite different things, and these texts don't pretend to do justice.  But once I met a lady who wanted most of all to pass to future generations something of her art.  And I grew to love her tales, and I grew to love her.  She was a living cultural treasure.


The Stories
Selected by Beverly B. Patterson for Folkstreams.

1. The Walk-Off People

 [From a booklet published by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press in celebration of Louise Anderson’s receiving the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, 10 June 1993.]
           

       God was makin' this world, and He wanted to have things straightened out. Ahh, it was hard. It was hard.
       But He made things easy for Adam and Eve. He fixed them a beautiful house. They had a house right there, and a garden all around it. You know, a pretty setting.
       And he gave them two of everything, you know, so they wouldn't have to argue about anything. And they had this big round porch so they could sit there on the porch.
       Now their only job was to name the animals. And they had two rocking chairs, and they both had a table right there by the rocking chairs with a great big old pitcher of lemonade. And they'd just sit there and watch the animals go by.
       Right across the road over there from the house, they had two spanking brand new Studebaker convertibles. So anything they wanted, they had it right there. They didn't have to say, "Give me my Studebaker," 'cause they had their own.
       And they made some good names, too, for the animals. They did pretty good. What could you call a frog but a frog, you see? I mean they made good names.
       "Look at that bee goin' makin' a beeline right down there!" I mean you couldn't beat it. You couldn't beat it. I mean Adam and Eve gave some good names.
       One day they were sittin' there, and they'd been namin' animals as they passed by, and Adam and Eve just walked down to the creek. They got down there, and Adam was swingin' a vine over there, and he caught a fish.
       And it was right fun for both of them to sit there and fish awhile, but Eve was gonna hafta cook it. So she went back on up to the house and cooked the fish. And Adam was sittin' down there, still fishin', still fishin'.
       And Adam came back, and he just fell in love with fishin'.
       Well now, that just cut out the sittin' on the porch drinkin' lemonade and everything. 'Cause when Eve wanted to sit down there and finish their work and talk, laugh and talk, Adam -- Adam, he was out there fishin'.
       Then he'd come home with all them fish there for Eve to clean and cook. And Eve was so mad she didn't know what to do! Eve was so mad! There she was standin' there, and here he comes there with all them fish for her to clean. And they didn't even have no newspaper to wrap no fish guts in.
       Eve said, "I'm so mad!"
       She said, "I could just spit! I could just spit!"
       She said, "I'm sittin' up here, and I'm thinkin', I ain't gonna just clean fish all the time."
       She said, "I'm tellin' you the truth."
       She said, "I'd go home to my momma, if I knew where that was."
       She said, "I ain't gonna be just sittin' here, doin', cleanin' all this fish all the time here by myself."
       And every time Adam would come, here would go Eve on.
       And Adam didn't know what to do. He was fit to be tied himself. He was tired.
       So one day Adam was walkin' up the road, and he met God.
       God said, "Hey, Adam."
       He said, "How're ya doin'?"
       Adam said, "Oh, Lord!"
       He said, "I ain't doin' so well."
       He said, "I've just been havin' a hard time."
       He said, "I've been goin' down there fishin'."
       He said, "Lord, you made that so enjoyable."
       And he said, "And Eve, she's gettin' mad 'cause I don't spend no time with her. She claims she's lonesome and ain't got nobody to talk to. She's talkin' about goin' home to her momma. Whatever she's talkin' about, I don't know."
       He said, "Lord, I'm just havin' it right hard."
       So God said, "Well, Adam, I can understand Miss Eve."
       He said, "You know what?"
       He said, "I've been plannin' to make some more people."
       He said, "I know she gets right lonesome, sittin' there by herself."
       He said, "And I've meant to come down and make some more people."
       He said, "But Adam, whatever you do, don't get involved in no world!"
       He said, "This is the hardest job I've ever had."
       He said, "This is a hard job."
       He said, "As soon as I get one thing done, somebody else is hollerin'. I made a camel there. I made one of them one hump and the other one two humps."
       He said, "It just gets to be a mess."
       He said, "But I've got a little time on my hands."
       He said, "Come, go on here and help me so we can make some people."
       So Adam went down there with God to the creek to make some people. And so they started to make some people. And so God and him started to pull some clay out of the creek there. And they started to shape up the people.
       And He made all kinds of people. He had long people and short people and tall people and skinny people and fat people and middle-sized people and all people with big heads and people with little heads and big feet and little--all kinds--with big nose and crooked nose. And he made squinch eyes. Just any kind of people, he made.
       And then they got some stuff together, and they made up some dye so they could paint the people. And they didn't have too many, but they had enough dye there.
       And He painted Him some red Indian people. And He painted Him some yellow Chinese people. And He painted Him some black African people. And He pulled some chalk off there, and He painted them, and He had Him some chalk white caucasian people--all them people.
       And God said, "Adam, ain't they some pretty people?"
       And Adam said, "Well, I ain't gonna say they're all pretty."
       He said, "Look at that man over there."
       God said, "Don't, don't talk about my people like that, Adam."
       He said, "They're all pretty."
       He said, "Everything God made is pretty in His sight."
       He said, "Now I'm just about finished with them."
       He said, "But one, one little, little detail I left."
       He said, "See there? Right up on top of their heads, they got a little soft spot?"
       He said, "I ain't put the brains in 'em yet."
       He said, "But now, tomorrow mornin'."
       He said, "You let 'em dry, and tomorrow mornin' I'm gonna come here, and I'm gonna put the brains in 'em."
       And He said, "You meet me here early in the mornin'."
       And He said, "You let Miss Eve know that she's gonna have somebody to talk to."
       So Adam went home, and Eve was real happy that he didn't have no fish. He'd been busy workin' with God.
       He got up there and told her, and they got sorta right happy. They laughed and talked. They had a good time.
       Adam overslept. And he started runnin'.
       "Oh, God's gonna be mad at me!"
       He said, "Well, I'm gonna tell Him."
       And he got down there, and he could see where the people were gone.
       He said, "God's done already been here."
       He said, "What can I tell Him?"
       He said, "Lord, I'm gonna tell ya somethin'."
       He said, "Whatever them people said ...."
       And God said, "What people, Adam?"
       And Adam said, "I ain't seen none."
       He said, "I'm sorry."
       He said, "Sir, I'm a little late this mornin'."
       He said, "A little somethin' came up."
       And he said, "Well, your people are gone."
       God said, "Gone?"
       He said, "Whattya mean 'gone'?"
       He said, "They ain't got no brains."
       And Adam said, "Well, I don't care if they ain't got no brains or not, but they ain't out there."
       So God went down there, and the people sure enough had done walked off, walked off.
       He said, "Ah, Adam, this is messin' up my day in the beginnin'."
       He said, "I knowed somethin' was wrong when I got up this mornin'."
       He said, "Now I ain't got time."
       He said, "Look at 'em. Just look at those foot tracks."
       He said, "I ain't got time to search everybody down. They ain't got no brains. There's no tellin' where they went."
       He said, "We got some more clay over there?"
       Adam said, "Yessir."
       God said, "Well, let's take that clay, and we'll make the rest of 'em, and then we'll paint 'em."
       So they brought the rest of the clay up, and they made some more people. And they still had enough paint. They had some black and some yellow and some red and some chalk white. And they painted the folks up. And this time they put the brains in 'em.
       And those people grew. And they went out. And God sent them on out in the world. And they replenished the Earth, replenished the Earth, and Eve was happy.
       But now them Walk-off Folks, what didn't have no brains, they too, they too went out and sort of replenished the Earth. I don't know.
       They say a whole lot of 'em, a disproportional part of 'em, went into politics. I don't know about that.
       But I'll tell you one thing. I don't care what kind of committee you get on, at least one or two of them Walk-off Folks are on that committee.



2. The ‘Possum and the Snake
 
[From a booklet published by North Carolina Wesleyan College Press in celebration of Louise Anderson’s receiving the North Carolina Folk Heritage Award, 10 June 1993.]


       Now it was the spring of the year. And you may not remember Mr. ‘Possum as bein’ so handsome, but the other ‘possums thought he was handsome. Miss ‘Possum thought he was very, very handsome. But she also knew that he was too kind.
       Oh, the ‘possum is kind. He has no weapons, and so there’s nothin’ he can be but kind. He has no weapons to protect himself. The only thing he can do is pretend he’s dead.
       So one day in the spring of the year, he’s goin’ for a walk. He’d just put on his new spring suit, and he thought he was lookin’ so nice. He loved his tail.
       And Miss ‘Possum said, “Listen.”
       She said, “Don’t go out there showin’ off.”
       She said, “And don’t go out there trying’ to help somebody, ‘cause you can’t help anybody.”
       She said, “Now you go for your walk, and come right on back home and help me carry these children around here.”
       And so Mr. ‘Possum said, “Well you can’t do that. You can’t live your life unless you help people.”
       And he walked on down into the pasture and the woods, and he heard somethin’ say, “Help! He-Help!
       And he looked back over on the side, and there was a snake. And on that snake’s back was a huge rock.
       And the snake was just cryin,’ “Please, Mr. ‘Possum, Mr. ‘Possum. Please come over here and help me. Please come help me!”
       And he put his tongue out, and it went around and around his mouth. And tears were just runnin’ out of his eyes.
       He said, “Please help me, Mr. ‘Possum!”
       And the ‘possum said, “Well now. I don’t know what to do for no snake.”
       He said, “I don’t like snakes.”
       He said, “Uh-un, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “No.”
       He said, “My wife just told me to be careful who I got close to.”
       He said, “Uh-uh.”
       He said, “You know you’ll bite me.”
       The snake said,  “Please, please, Mr. ‘Possum!”
       He said, “I promise I won’t bite you. I won’t bite you!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want me to do?”
       The snake said, “Please take this rock off my back.”
       Mr. ‘Possum walked over, and the snakes’ tongue was just flickerin’ back and forth in his mouth, flickerin’ back and forth in his mouth.
       The ‘possum said, “Mr. Snake.”
       He said,  “If I take that rock off your back, you promise that you won’t bite me?”
       “I promise! I promise!” the snake said.
       And so Mr. ‘Possum took the rock off the snake’s back.
       He said, “All right. Good-bye, Mr. Snake.”
       The snake said, “Wait! Wait! Wait! Wait!”
       He said, “Please Mr. ‘Possum, don’t go! Don’t go!” He said, “Come here and help me. Please help me!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want now, Mr. Snake?”
       The snake said, “Look at me. Just look at me!”
       He said, “I’m just all mashed up.”
       He said, “And it’s the spring of the year, Mr. ‘Possum and I ain’t been able to warm up none yet.”
       And he said, “And I can’t move fast.”
       And he said, “If anybody come around here, Mr. “’Possum, they’re gonna get me.”
       He said, “Mr. ‘Possum, please don’t leave me like this! Please don’t leave me! Please! I’m so cold!”
       The ‘possum said, “What you want me to do, Mr. Snake?”
       The snake said, “Please, Mr. ‘Possum. Please, sir, just put me in your bag. Put me in your pocket.”
       He said, “Just look right up front.”
       He said, “You got a pocket right up front there.”
       He said, “Put me in your pocket and carry me just a teensy-weensy while ‘til I warm up a little.”
       He said, “Cause if you leave me here, somebody’s gonna kill me. PLEASE!” And he flitted his tongue back and forth, and he cried.
       The ‘possum said, “No-o-o. I know you think I’m crazy.”
       He said, “Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “You know you’re gonna bite me!”
       The snake said, “No! No! No! No! No! No! No! I promise I won’t bite you.”
       The ‘possum said, “Will you get out when you warm up?”
       The snake said, “Just as soon as I warm up, I’ll get out!”
       He said “Just as soon as I get a little bit warm so I can move, I’ll get out. I promise. I promise. I promise!”
       The ‘Possum said, “Well, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “I’m gonna take a chance.”
       He said, Now I’m gonna put you in my pocket here for a little while until you warm up. Then I want you outta my pocket and back on the ground.”
       “I promise I won’t bite. I won’t!” the snake said.
       And Mr. ‘Possum went over, and he picked up the snake, and he opened up that pocket he’s got up front right there, and he put the snake in his pocket.
       Now I told you Mr. ‘Possum was a kind animal, and he is. He ain’t smart, but he is kind.
       And he said, “All right now, Mr. Snake.”
       He said, “As soon as you warm up.”
       He said, “I want you out of my pocket.”
       The snake said, “I promise. I promise.”
       And Mr. ‘Possum began to walk sort of carefully, carefully. And after a while he felt that snake move.
       “What was that? Is it warm yet. Mr. Snake?” he said.
       And the snake flitted out his tongue.
       He said, “Not yet. Not yet.”
       But that snake ain’t cryin’ now. He’s sorta smilin’.
       Mr. ‘Possum walks on here just a little bit further with that snake, and all of a sudden he said, “Wha . . .?”
       But before he could get the question out of this mouth the snake had wrapped itself all around that ‘possum.
       The snake said, “I’m gonna bite you!”
       The ‘possum said, “What? Bite me?”
       He said, “But, but, Mr. Snake! You promised!”
       The snake said, “Oh, that was politics!”
       He said, “Anyway, it’s your own fault.”
       The ‘possum said, “My fault? My fault? How can it be my fault?”
       He said, “I came here, and there you lay over there with a big old rock on your back, and you couldn’t move, and I got the rock off your back, and you begged me and begged me and promised and promised that if I put you in my pocket to warm up and carried you that you wouldn’t bite me, and I put you in my pocket, and now you want to claim it was my fault?”
       He said, “How is it my fault?”
       The snake said, “Well, you know’d I was a snake!”

Now let that be a lesson to you. If it looks like a snake, and it crawls like a snake, and it’s got a tongue like a snake, you can bet your last dollar it’s a snake! And you do like my grandma said: “Don’t you never trouble Trouble, lessen Trouble troubles you.



3. The Dead Ain’t Helpless

 [From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2.
Spring, 1993.]


       At the Collins Plantation up around Creswell [North Carolina], right there by Lake Phelps, there were records kept on the slaves there. And old man Collins, he would go to a certain place in Africa to get his slaves because he had a business plan. He wasn’t just gonna have the slaves haphazardly. He wanted people who could dig his ditches and work in his shops, could grow him some rice. And he was gonna take everybody’s cotton, and they were gonna use his canals. He was makin’ a big business out of it. It was a big corporation. And so they went and got these slaves that knew about rice.
       And there was this old slave woman, Callie, who would tell a story about her grandfather and how he became a slave. She was one of the oldest slaves. And she had lived in the house, lived in the big house. She knew people, and she knew some of the things the white folks knew. And she had learned things.
       And Callie had known her grandfather. She knew about her ancestors because this man Collins told them. He told them that if they didn’t run away, they’d stay there, on the plantation, and he wouldn’t sell them, wouldn’t split up their families.
       So Callie knew her grandfather. And he told her about her grandmother. The grandmother’s name was Sook, and she had been born on the plantatioin. And she married a man who came from Africa, name of Kwami.
       And he said in Africa his daddy and his brothers and his cousins and uncles and all would go out in the field and go fishin’ together. And the mothers and the sisters and all would be around them. And it would be a picnic like.
       And his momma, he said he could remember her just as good. He remembered how his momma would pound the millet, and how she would cook the good meals for them. And he remembered how he was about to be married.
       But then he couldn’t imagine what in the world could have happened. It looked like somethin’ just vanished from him ‘cause he couldn’t remember what had happened that day that they had picked him.
       All he knows is that they had gone out into the field that mornin’, havin’ such a good time, and some people came. And they had some long sticks that made a lot of noise. And he got hit in the head somehow.
       And the next thing he can remember, he’s tied to a fellow next to him. And he remembers climbin’ way way up into one of them great big old boats. And then they put him down in a dark hole.
       Then they were on the water, and it seemed like they stayed on that water forever. Then they came off of that boat and they put them on another boat.
       Then they got off of there, and they started walkin’. And he looked around him, and he didn’t now what to think, ‘cause he wondered where was his momma and where was his daddy? Where was his cousins and the rest of his brothers? ‘Cause it seemed like everybody who was taken was of about the same age, and some of his brothers was with him.
       But they started them walkin’ again. And he could see trees. There was a whole lot of trees and places where people were stayin’. But they didn’t look nothin’ like where he had been. And the trees and the birds--they were nothin’ like the trees and birds he knew. And he didn’t see no monkeys jumpin’ up and around. Nothin’ like the animals they had known.
       And they walked on. And they walked, and they walked. There was him and his friend, Guinea Jack. And Abajake, and Pas Dos, and Nicee, and Bird, and Koffee, and all of them together. And they were walkin’. And they thought they would never get there, to wherever it was they was goin’.
       Then they came to the plantation.
       But it didn’t look like no plantation. There were no fields. And there was no big house. It was nothin’ but a whole heap of water, smellin’. It didn’t smell like their water back home. Bid old lake and mosquitoes. Mosquitoes! Them mosquitoes must’ve been sittin’ there waitin’ and starvin’ for ‘em so they could eat ‘em up.
       Then they had to start diggin’. Collins had brought them there to dig that canal ‘cause he wanted him some rice. And they had to start.
       And they dug, and they dug. But they weren’t used to that. And they’d dig until they’d just fall down at night.
       And they’d say, “Oh, my grandpa!”
       And they’d wake up in the mornin’, and they’ say, “Oh, I just can’t go on.” They’d be so hurtin’. And they’d cry and cry ‘cause they’d be so hurtin’.
       And some of them would die. And they’d leave them just where they died, a long long way from home. Had to leave ‘em right there  ‘cause they couldn’t stop their work. Had to keep on workin’.
       And they wondered where they were going to go? Who was going to take care of ‘em when they died? No one took no time to bury ‘em as they were supposed to have been. They just pushed ‘em right on over there in the water, left ‘em in the water right by where they fell.
       And one night Grandpa Kwami said they was just sittin’ there. And he said how they felt so sad.
       But one fella had made him a drum. He had dug out some hollow log and put some skin over it and made him a drum.’    And they began to play on that drum. And they played and made some music. Grandpa Kwami said he could just see his home, and he could see his momma.
       And he said then they began playin’ that sad funeral song, like they were buryin’ somebody. And he started to think about all them back home, all his brothers and cousins, his momma and his daddy, and his friends who had died since he been there diggin’ them ditches. About his friends buried right there in that water out before him.
       And nobody had made a way for them so that they could go back to their ancestors.
       And they were all so sad. And they all got up, and they started singin’ the song--“Aaiieee! Kala kala hai!”
       They sang all these African songs. And they sang the burial songs. And they got up, and they began hittin’ on that dirt. And they began hittin’ on that dirt floor. And they began to move.
       And they did the slow funeral march. And they began to walk. And they began to walk to that water. And they were singin’ those songs, and they were singin’ those songs.
       And oh, Kwami was so sad.
       And they wondered, “Where is my momma? Why don’t you come here? Where is my papa? Come and get me! Where are my ancestors to get me?”
       And they started walkin’ right on to that water, right on to that water. And they got to the water.
       And some of them hit that water, and they just kept goin’, and they began to drown, and they began to drown.
       Just then the overseer--old man Collins didn’t stay there; he had somebody else to look over his slaves, tryin’ to keep them slaves outta the water. Didn’t do no good.
       And Grandpa Kwami said he got there, he got to the water. And he was goin’ on in that water. He was gonna drown, too.
       He thought that if he went on in that water, maybe underneath that water, the people underneath the water would let him walk right on through on the ground underneath the water and walk right on back home.
       But when he got there, right up there to put his foot in the water, something hit him. And it knocked him back.
       And he could hear his grandma say, “It ain’t your time! It ain’t your time! Who’s gonna tell them, when they come here after you, who’s gonna tell them the way? Who’s gonna let them know what happened? Who’s gonna tell them where they came from?”
       And it knocked him right back. He said he stood there, and he could see the sign of his grandma’s hand right there on his chest where she hit him.
       And he stayed there, right there by the shore, and he watched ‘em all drowning, walking and singing and drownin’. And he stayed there, to tell the story. He stayed there to let the people know what done happened. And he told Callie when it was time for her to know, and she told me.
       And I’m tellin’ you what happened.
       ‘Cause the dead ain’t helpless. The dead ain’t helpless and you look over this canal. You look out over this big lake. And you sit here. And you start thinkin’ about all them slaves what died buildin’ this big old canal, this big house.
       And when the moon is shinin’ full, you can hear the sound--sure enough you can get into it--you can hear the sound of the drums. You can hear the sounds of them drums callin’.
       If you ain’t strong, and if you ain’t careful, it’ll pull you right on in there with all them others. Many a one’s been pulled right on in that water.
       And that’s the story they tell.



4. A Christmas Carol

[From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2.
Spring, 1993.]


       Always there are stories about Christmas Eve. It has been said this is the holiest of nights. And people who don’t follow the rules, people who don’t believe, there has always been something that happened to them.
       There are tales and myths and fables from all around the world.
       In France, it’s said, there is a rock. On Christmas Eve, before the bells ring, the rock will get up and go out to sea to wash itself off. And if the pure of heart, only the pure of heart, go to this hole the rock has left, they can take out a bag of gold. But they must be pure of heart.
       The fishermen of Ireland, where many men drift out to sea and have been lost, have a tale about Christmas Eve. They have learned that if on that night they take an anchor and hold it up so that it makes a cross and fall on their knees and sing “O Holy Night,” then they will drift back to land, and they can be saved. This is the only thing that will save them.
       There are many tales.
       Fishermen are very superstitious, too, about this date. In Wales, you can’t go fishing on Christmas Eve.
       And there are stories of the trees. There’s the aspen tree, whose leaves tremble on this tree because of what they did on Christmas Eve.
       And of course we all know about the pine tree, and how it helped Christ, and why they are green all year. And the dogwood tree.
       And the animals--we all know how kind the animals were to Mary and Joseph on this great night when Christ was born.
       The old people say that if you go into the barn at midnight on Christmas Eve, you can hear the animals talk.
       Now it is said that you must take this on faith. And when an old person tells you this, an old person who has lived and is very wise, they don’t tell you what they believe. They’re telling you, with their faith, that they know that the animals talk.
       And I don’t know who was the first one to tell this story, but down through the ages it has been told. It has been told of a man who was very cruel to his help, who was very, very cruel, and who believed nothing.
       One Christmas Eve as they were sitting around preparing for the next day, someone said that at midnight all the animals would get on their needs to pray.
       Of course the man said, “How dumb and stupid you are.”
       He said, “That’s nothing but a slave tale.”
       But his wife told him, “Don’t--don’t you scoff at the tales of the people. They have told these things for years and years, and there must be some truth in it.”
       But of course he didn’t believe her.
       “All right, I’ll prove it to you,” he said. “Tonight at midnight I shall go and see if the animals are talking.”
       And they begged him, and they begged him. But he laughed and took another taste of his toddy.
       Then a little before twelve, he walked out to his barn, and he sneaked. And they tell me--I don’t know how they know this, but I’ve been told--somehow he began to feel a little queer.
       He decided he was a little frightened of walking into the barn. Suppose the animals did speak?
       So he got down on his knees. And he crawled into the barn. And he crawled into a stall. And the stall seemed to be empty.
       But then the strongest horse of all went into this stall.
       The other animals heard him kicking and stomping and kicking and snorting. And then it was quiet.
       “What happened? What happened?” another horse asked.
       “Well, I was startled,” the first horse said. “There was something on the floor, and I see here I have killed my own master. But, you know, I am not surprised. I have already been told that on Christmas Day I would pull his coffin to church,” the horse said.
       So you be very, very careful on Christmas Eve.
       Don’t go fishing out to sea. Don’t go fishing.
       And do not try to catch the animals speaking. Take it on faith.
       They do speak at midnight on Christmas Eve.


5. I Wish You Had Met My Mother
 
 [Reorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett.]


       I met a friend a few weeks ago, and after we talked, and we talked, and we found common threads, she mentioned something about a plant, some flower that she had.
       And I said, "Oh! That sounds marvelous!"
       I said, "Oh! I wish you had met my mother."
       I find this is what I'm saying when I'm giving someone a compliment.
       When my mother moved, when she moved her household goods here with her husband, she had three children.  And she moved her bucket that she ironed with, her charcoal bucket and charcoal iron.  And she had an ironing board, a very heavy oak board that we kept movin' with us back and forth.
       And she had a feather bed.  And with all her things, she had little packages of seeds.  And she had little tin cans with flower plants that she had brought from Georgia.
       And as soon as she moved in where she was goin' to live
 for awhile, she was out in her yard planting, planting her flowers.
       And every place she went, she seemed to plant beauty.
       And as the children got older, some things changed.  After a while, she got a smoothing iron.  (We still have those irons.)  And then we got electricity, and she got an electric iron.
       All of these things she changed, but she never stopped planting her flowers.  And she never stopped giving flowers.
       Each of us, when we moved someplace, we moved some of Momma's flowers.  Evelyn moved to Kinston, and she moved flowers.
       Mary Alice is in Raleigh, and each year she'd come over, and Momma would give her flowers for this and for that.
       And we'd all have friends.  We have flowers all over North Carolina.  All over the United States there are some of Momma's flowers we have planted.
       When I got in the Visiting Artists Program, I carried some of Momma's flowers up in the mountains.  And I carried some up around Surrey County.
       All of these friends have Momma's flowers.
       Now Momma was beginnin' to get weaker.  And I was lookin' forward to comin' home, to perhaps stayin' with her a while before she died.
       But I didn't see her, and I had a hard time turnin' her loose.  And I was feelin' so badly because I just couldn't get over my grief.  I was in my sixties, but I still couldn't get over that.
       And when I was comin' home, makin' the long trip home, I'd get to Richlands, and each time I got there, pain would just fill me.
       And one day on my way back to Surrey County, I was on Highway 70.  And something they had done on one side of the road there. There was all this beautiful grass, and flowers had been planted.  Oh, that was the loveliest flower bed!  They were all colors -- just all colors!
       And oh, I just anguished.
       I said, "Oh Momma!  How I wish you could see this!  I wish Momma could see this!"
       And just as plainly as day, I thought I heard Momma say, "Oh, Louise.  Don't be silly.  Who do you think showed it to you?"
       And of course she did.
       And I had to stop awhile, and I got myself together.  And from then on I sort of understood.
       And anytime I see flowers, I see them through her eyes.
       I don't work in flowers the way she did.  But every time I see flowers, and the beauty in things, I see them through her eyes.
       I loved my mother, as we all do.  And I'm happy that I always carried things to her, although she didn't appreciate some of those buttercups I brought her, or some of those boyfriends.
       And I've met so many good people, and I wish that you all could have met my mother.


6. Don't You Never Say Uh-huh

[Reorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett.]


       Now they're talkin' about Ray Charles has this song "Uh-huh."  Well, black people hated--your grandma and your grandpa—hated for you to say uh-huh.
       They'd say, "You want so-and-so or somethin'?"
       You'd say, "Uh-huh."
       They'd say, "Say 'Yes, ma'am' to me!"
       You'd say, "Yes, ma'am."
       They'd say, "Don't you come here with no uh-huh!  That's the Devil's words!"  And they'd thump you on the head like a watermelon.  They'd thump you.  They could hurt you right bad.  I mean, you could get hurt!
       You see, the Devil didn't have too many people goin' down there that week or somethin', and the Devil needed some housework done down there.  So he thought he'd go up to Heaven.
       And all the little angels were just a-playin' around up there outside and streakin' off clouds.  So the Devil thought he'd go up there and steal him some angels.
       So the Devil went up there, and he sneaked up behind them.  And he got a bunch of angels, and he put them all around.
       He had one under this arm and one under that arm.  He had some in his pockets.  And he put them in his mouth.  He got all blowed up with angels.
       And he could hardly go back.  And he was goin' back, and he was flyin' sorta low.
       And somebody looked at him.  And somebody said, "Huh, Devil, what'd you do?  You go up to Heaven and get yourself some angels to take down to Hell with you?"
       The Devil said, "Yeah, I thought I'd --"
       And when he said that and opened his mouth, the angels started flyin' away.  And he started to run after them, and then all the rest of them got away.
       So the Devil said, "Well, I'll know better next time."
       And so the next day the Devil went back up there again.  And the Devil started to fill up his mouth and everything with them angels.  And he started on back down.  He was flyin' low.
       Somebody looked out there and said, "Huh!"
       He said, "Mr. Devil, I see."
       He said, "What happened?  Did you go up there and get you some more angels?"
       And the Devil said, "Uh-huh!"
       So that's where that word comes from.  The Devil made it up.



7. The March on Jacksonville
 
[Note: Louise Anderson briefly refers to the “March on Jacksonville”--a personal narrative--in the film When My Work Is Over. On many occasions, however, she told a much longer version of this story. Here we offer two versions in order to show how she adapted on different occasions to the time and place and to her audience. She never told a story the same way twice. Whether she had an audience of one or a hundred, she used a natural and conversational tone to draw listeners into her story, and she could do that before they realized what was happening. She was a master of improvisation, and would expertly expand a story by adding scenes and descriptive details that perfectly suited the situation. She could make use of any amount of time for telling her story and could “cut and paste” and adjust her telling on the spot in order to make the story effective and still stay within whatever limits she felt needed to be observed. The following accounts of the march, recorded and transcribed by Vic Moffett, showcase her gift for re-telling a story and keeping it new.—Beverly B. Patterson]


       I guess it's a fact about Dr. King -- and all of those people, all of those people who have become great -- is not that they're great only within themselves.  It's the way they can make you feel.
       Now I was never able to march with Dr. King.  But everything I could read about Dr. King, I did.  And each time he was on TV, I listened.
       But I never got out and marched with him.  Like the ordinary man, I just tried to do some of the things he did.  I tried to imitate him.
       If something happened, and he'd tell the people, "You don't have to take this from your job," I wouldn't take it from my job, even though I'm about five hundred miles away, and he's never going to know about us.  And we're not going to be on five o'clock TV.
       This was a man who took some courage to do this, a man who would go to work and wouldn't do certain things because Dr. King did something in Alabama.  Now they were noticed.
       But if something happened to this man here, in this little job and this small town, you see, there's no one going to be there to see him when he loses his job and his family needs money.  And that takes a lot of courage.
       A man has to be great to have followers follow him that way, you see?
       One day they were having a ball game, and I went down there because I heard the children yellin' and goin' crazy.  And it was such a lovley day.  It was almost Easter time.
       And I don't know why, but the thought hit me, "Suppose this was Jesus Christ, on that time he was marchin' that day, and I heard this multitude?  Would I have
gone out?"
       Or if I'd heard of Him, and I'd heard you have to treat your fellow man kindly, that you had to help someone who was down and out even if no one would notice -- would I have changed?  Would I have realized that this man is right and done what he said even if I'm not near him?
       Well, this is what Dr. King did.  I'm not comparing him, of course, with the Great Master, but this is what he was able to do.
       He was able to have this man in California.  He was able to have someone who was out on the field talkin' to his mule.  He was able to have someone on a tractor.  He was able to have someone in a truck.  He had someone in the kitchen, listenin' to his words and saying, "He's right.  He's right.  This shouldn't have happened all these years."
       And there was someone who was listenin' from the other side, who all these years had been the oppressor.  And they also said, "Of course he's right.  What makes me greater just because of where and when and to whom I was born?"
       Leaders could become leaders because of what they would cause other people to do and how they would make other people feel good about themselves.
       But another thing, too, about that, is you can't make this other generation realize the fear.  When we honor Rosa Parks, and how she was so brave and sat on that bus, the people today say, "What do you mean brave?  Somebody who goes in there and sits on a bus?"
       They say, "What's so brave about that?"
       They don't realize the fear.  They don't realize how much courage it took to go there and do that.  They don't know how much courage that took.
       Sometimes people used to say I was brave because I would go into the only department store here in Jacksonville, and I wouldn't drink out of the Colored fountain.  Now that did take courage.  I was scared.  I was really scared.  But I didn't want anyone to know it, you see, 'cause I was always doin' something.
       But people would say, "Louise didn't drink out of the Colored fountain.  She drank out of the other fountain." But that took courage.  Nobody knew the courage that it took.  The courage to do things that we take for granted.
       Same as the courage it took to go in and try on a pair of shoes before you'd buy them.  Or to try on a dress before you put your money out there.
       So we were going to give a program.  We were going to give some plays and things, and we wanted some money for them.  We were getting the children together.
       I realized that they didn't know the poetry and black history that I had been taught.  I didn't realize until much later that every school in North Carolina didn't teach black history.  We had happened to have a really far thinking man as the principal of our school.
       So I'm teaching these children.  I'm giving plays at the churches.  I'm taking the children out, and I'm teaching them the poems and the history that I knew.  I'm teaching them about James Weldon Johnson and Paul Lawrence Dunbar and all.
       And we began to work.
       And then the policemen were doin' things around us.
       And you see, each evening in my home, the Marines would go there, and they'd drink too much, of course.  And here come the police, and each night they would beat someone.
       And so we got out, and we started arguing about this.
       One night I saw a Marine doing some things, and I went over, and I was goin' to tell the police.  But when I got over there, I was afraid to tell them.  I knew they weren't just going to take him to jail.  I knew that what they would do is just beat him too bad, and that was not their job.  They weren't supposed to beat him.
       So I couldn't tell what this fella had done, and that worried me.
       So I decided we'd get the children together, and we'd start us a Civil Rights movement.  They had it all over.  I wasn't brave enough to go down there and let them turn no hose on me.  But if they were going to do things all over the country, let them do them here.
       There were people going out and sittin' in restaurants.  I worked in a restaurant, and I would have fed them if they'd come to me, you see, but they didn't.
       Anyway, one night we were having a meeting.  And it so happend that the pastor of our church, the Baptist church there, was teaching a little Negro history.  These children were there.  And a young couple who did a lot of work with me were.  They'd come to pick up some children.  They had a couple of nieces there and some other kids who were in their teens.
       And they started up the street.  And when they started up Court Street, right there at the end of Court Street, there were a lot of people there.  That was where they congregated.
       Then the police stopped the car, although they had no reason to stop it.  It wasn't that he was drinkin'.  He had just left the church and picked the children up from the Bible class.
       Well, the police said they didn't like the way he sounded.  And they knew he had been in the Civil Rights movement.  And so they pulled him out of the car, and they handcuffed him, and someone hit him.
       And then his wife came out.  And when his wife came out, my brother-in-law and my sister who were there -- they had a little child -- they rushed out.  Then the wife started screamin', and then her sister came out, who was pregnant, and they began handcuffin' them.  Now we almost had a race riot there.  And we all came out.
       Then they took them downtown, and they booked them.  But everyone from the street goes up there because we knew it had started from absolutely nothin'.  It started from the police just wantin' to harass someone.
       And when we got up there, then we had the nucleus of our Civil Rights movement.  Those who hadn't joined us before, now they came up and joined us.
       These people left the regular NAACP, because they did nothing.  People were calling us from the Marine Corps, and they said the NAACP would come here.  But we could never use the NAACP here because they were working with the people downtown.
       So we had our own little organization.  We called it Community Action.  We gave programs and plays, and we got our program started.  And we sent for Terry Paul, a Civil Rights lawyer, to come here and help the people who had been arrested.
       Well, when he came here, we started to get more people and more people.  And the ones who had been arrested beat the case.
       And then we started writing down things that we wanted and things that the police did.  And now the mayor wanted to speak to us.  So now we're fighting two battles.  We're fighting one battle here with the society people, so to speak, and we're fighting a battle downtown.
       Well, we're going to demonstrate.  We're going to march.  We're going to have us a march on a Sunday afternoon.
       And they don't want us to have this march.
       A man came, one of the deacons at one of the churches, and he said, "How many of you have any jobs?"
       He said, "You're doin' all this screamin' and yellin', and you're not workin' anywhere.  So you know the people aren't gonna give ya anything.  So what do you mean demandin' somethin' when you don't even work?"
       Well, that made more of them starting joining, you see?
       And the military, they were havin' a hard time too.  They were really havin' a hard time.
       So we started getting more people.  The more they screamed their stuff, their Uncle Tom stuff, the more people we got.
       And then people when they had problems with their jobs, they'd come to us.  They'd come to us.
       Now we're ready to march.  And they came from the NAACP, and they gave us a chapter with them.
       And when we were startin'  marchin', we worried about that.  Everybody would be worried about it.
       We sold meals.  We sold this and that.  And we had to pay for the lawyer in the other court case 'cause they were workin' people, but they didn't have any money.  They didn't have any money to have a big lawyer come.
       And we'd work here.  And we'd try this.  And we gave little plays.  And we learned the black history.
       So now we're going to have a march, and we start meeting.  And this right pretty black girl came here with Terry Paul, his secretary.  And somebody said it was Angela Davis.
       Well, Angela Davis was not  comin' to our meetings.  But when the white people heard that we had Angela Davis here, well, then we did get momentum! 
       And then they did start screamin' and yellin', "What we gonna do with Angela Davis?"
       And so we said, "Well, we're gonna march with Angela Davis!"
       And so we were meeting.
       And you're meeting more than you really want to meet.  You're meeting to build up your courage.  You're meeting because you don't want to stay home and have to think awhile.  You're meeting because you know your head can be beat in and you know there's nothing that don't happen.  You're meeting because you know you can be killed, that they can turn dogs and hoses on you.  You're meeting because of all these things.  You're meeting far more than you should because you're so afraid.
       And you go to work.  And instead of bein' a little late, you go to work a little early because you don't want the man to have anything to say about you so he can fire you, 'cause that is your living, you see?  And all of these things add to your fear.

       And then here comes this spring day, this Sunday, when we are to march.
       And we're going to march from the Elks hall on Kerr Street to downtown, to City Hall.  And they had given us a permit to march at two o'clock that afternoon.
       Now, we all feel frightened.  We're very frightened.  All that Saturday night we're meetin'.
       We'd ask, "Does anybody want somebody to take them home?"  because we were afraid.
       And this day came, and Dot, my sister, and her husband went up, and they met with Terry Paul, a Civil Rights lawyer, and all of them down at the Elks hall.
       Well, my sister Evelyn and I, we're just going to march.  We get ready to march.
       And it's so very quiet.  This is the thing that gets me about this day.  It's so quiet that you can hear crickets.  And you hear the birds.  And you just hear everything around you.
       And you can hear those crickets.  And the cars are not running.
       Then here, here comes a police car.
       And there's a policeman there.  I can't think of his name, but they called him Cigar.
       And Cigar was there, and he was the main man.  He was the main man that everyone was afraid of.  He was very bad.  He'd hit you for anything.
       And when the police drive by our house that day, we're lookin' out.  And we see they have machine guns in the back seat.
       Now, no one has done anything violent.  No one has thrown anything.  A single brick hasn't been thrown.  But here these people are out with machine guns!
       Now we are very afraid. 
       So Evelyn said, "Come on, Louise.  It's about time for us to go."
       And out on Kerr Street -- there were a lot
of houses there then -- everyone is sittin' out on the porches, everyone.  You usually sat on the porch after church at any rate.  But all of these porches were full.
       And when we came out of the door, Momma was standin' at the door.  And Evelyn and I came out.
       We were in our forties, you see.  But when we looked there at Momma, we felt as if we were children once more.
       And I reached over to get Evelyn's hand as if we were children and Momma was sayin', "Hold her hand, Louise."
       And we started out.  And I said, "Well, Evelyn."
       And she said, "Well, Louise?"
       And we started out of the gate.  And we walked up the street.  And we waved at Momma.
       And a car passed by, and it stopped up there in front of us.
       Momma came out of the house.
       And a man came out of the car, and he said, "Oh yeah."
       He said, "You're sisters here!"
       He said, "Can we take your picture?"
       And, and, and they thought they'd put our picture in the files and send it somewhere.  And we knew it.  We knew it.
       And they certainly let us pose.
       They were actin', and we were actin', 'cause they were gonna take our picture at any rate.  So they took our picture, and we walked on up the street.
       We walked up the street, and there's another girl came out.  And when I say "girl," I mean "woman."  I mean in her fifties.
       And we walked on up there, and we began to start down the street.  And we're very, very disappointed.  I mean our feathers were just fallen because we had so few people.
       There were about thirty men.  And, oh, we just knew we would have a hundred, you see?
       But somebody said, "Don't worry."
       She said, "So many things have started with just one man."
       She said, "Come on and let's go.  Let's sing our song."
       And so we began to clap our hands, and to sing our songs:  "I ain't gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around ...."
       And we began to make our march.  And here comes Momma.
       We said, "Where you goin', Momma?"
       And she said, "Well, I thought I'd march part of the way with ya."
       She said, "I thought I'd walk on down here to Maggy's.  And since y'all were up here, I'd just walk that far with you."
       And so we held her hand.  And, oh, that was beautiful!  We held Momma's hand.
       And we walked up, and we got to Miss Maggy's.  Miss Maggy was sittin' on her porch, and she said, "Miss Anderson!"
       Momma laughed, and she left the line.
       And when Momma left the line, Miss Maggy had some grandsons and what-have-you, and someone was there from New York, and they came off her porch, and they got in our line.
       And we kept on singin' our songs.  And we said, "There ain't nobody gonna stop us now, stop us now, stop us now ...."
       And we started walkin' on down.
       And each time we passed a house, people started comin' out.  And they started gettin' in that line.  And they started singin' the songs.  And we were dancing.  We were turnin' on the jubilee!  And we were dancin',  "Tell me, how did you feel when you come out of the wilderness?  Did your soul feel happy when you come out of the
wilderness?"
       And we walked on there, and we got almost to the courthouse, and there was a huge house there we used to call The Big House.  That was the name of it, The Big House.
       And it had rooms for men.  Single men in the town had rooms there.  It was a boarding house like.
       And sometimes Marines would come in and spend the night.  They'd get rooms there and spend the weekend.  Or some people would be workin' in pulp wood.  And the porch was full!
       And when we got there, it was like High Noon, just like the western.  They started comin' off that porch and comin' out of that house, gettin' in the line, gettin' in the line.
       And, oh, brother!  Wonderful.  Wonderful!  "Go down, Moses!  Let my people go!"
       And we turned the corner, goin' up Court Street, and there in the line were all these Marines marchin'.  Now, they had said the Marines couldn't march, and we weren't expectin' the Marines.
       But there was someone, someone had knocked the sergeants.  And they
 had organized groups.
       Now, this was not some organized group with a sergeant and all that.  But this was not some unorganized group.  These were some Marines who had been there.  These were the fellows who had been harassed and the fellows whose heads had been bashed in and who had been thrown in jail for absolutely nothing.
       These were the fellows who started comin' into our group.  And they were comin' in tens and fifteens and twenties.
       And you couldn't see the front of the line.  It was down past the First Baptist Church.  And you couldn't see the end.
       And we started walkin'.  And we started singin' our songs.
       And we passed the highway patrolmen there.  And they had one black guy.  I don't know how long he'd been in.  He hadn't been in long because we'd been screamin' about puttin' some blacks on the highway patrol.
       And we passed him.  And he was just standin' there, sort of smilin'.
       And I passed close near him, and I said, "Aren't you proud of us?"
       And he said, "Yes, Ma'am!  I'm proud of you."
       And we walked on up the street, and we got to the courthouse.  And when we got up there, well, I'd been working at this Italian place across the street, cooking.
       And I saw them there.  And I just went "Oh!"  And I threw my head down.
       And then I thought, "If I'm going to be fired, I'll be fired tomorrow, and I couldn't care less!"
       And I went up there, and we got up there to the courthouse.  And we stood around there.  And Terry Paul went up there and said a few words.
And I got up, and I did something from "The Negro Mother," Langston Hughes's "The Negro Mother."
       And I have known that piece since I was in elementary school—the sixth or seventh grade—since Langston Hughes had come to our school in High Point there.  And I had recited that poem since that time.
       And I got up there, and I spoke it.  And I spoke it exactly the way Langston Hughes had meant it!  And I spoke it the way that Negro mother would have done it.
       and I became that Negro mother!  And I meant every word of it.
       And we stood there that day, and we sang some more songs.
       She was prettier than "When Melinda Sings" by Lawrence Dunbar.
       And she came up there, and she sang just like "When Melinda Sings," you know?
       And she sang, "Come In To Jesus."  She sang that song!
       And when it was over, we started marchin' back singin' "We Shall Overcome."
       And I've never been so happy in my life.  I've never been so fulfilled.  And I'd never been so without fear.
       And from that day henceforth, I stopped being afraid.
       I mean, I'm still afraid of thundering and lightning, and mess like lizards and snakes, and many things, but I've never been afraid of myself.  I know that if someone calls on me, I can stand up and be counted.
       But it took something like that day to remove my fear.
       I love that day, when we marched in Jacksonville, North Carolina.



8. The March on Jacksonville

[From “Three Stories” by Louise Anderson, North Carolina Literary Review, Vol 1, No. 2. Spring, 1993.]


       Sometimes people used to say I was brave because I would go into the only department store here in Jacksonville [North Carolina] and I wouldn’t drink out of the colored fountain. I’d drink that white water. I was scared. I was really scared. But I didn’t want anyone to know it, you see, ‘cause I was always doin’ something.
       But people would say, “Louise didn’t drink out of the colored fountain. She drank out of the other fountain.”
       But that took courage. Nobody knew the courage that it took, the courage to do things that we take for granted.
       Same as the courage it took to go in ad try on a pair of shoes before you’d buy them. Or to try on a dress before you put your money out there.
       But it’s hard to make this new generation realize the fear. When we honor Rosa Parks, and how she was so brave and sat on that bus, the people today say, “What do you mean brave? Somebody who goes in there and sits on a bus?”
       They say, “What’s so brave about that?”
       They don’t realize the fear. They don’t realize how much courage it took to go there and do that. They don’t know how much courage that took.
       Now in Jacksonville, we were going to give a program. We were going to give some plays and things, and we wanted some money for them. And we were getting the children together. I realized that they didn’t know the poetry and black history that I had been taught. I didn’t realize until years later that every school in North Carolina didn’t teach black history. We had happened to have a really far-thinking man as the principal of our school in High Point.
       So I’m teaching these children. I’m giving plays at the churches. I’m taking the children out, and I’m teaching them the poems and the history that I knew. I’m teaching them about James Weldon Johnson and Paul Laurence Dunbar and all the others.
       And we began to work. We began to get things organized.
       And suddenly the policemen were doin’ things around us.
       And you see, each evening the marines would go to this place across the street from my home, and they’d drink too much, of course. And here come the police, and each night they would beat someone.
       And so we got out, and we started arguing about this.
       One night I saw a marine doing some things, and I went over, and I was goin’ to tell the police. But when I got over there, I was afraid to tell them. I knew they weren’t just going to take him to jail. I knew that what they would do is just beat him too bad, and that was not their job. They weren’t supposed to beat him.
       So I couldn’t tell what this fella had done, and that worried me.
       So I decided we’d get the children together, and we’d start us a civil rights movement. They had it all over. I wasn’t brave enough to go down there to Alabama and let them turn no hose on me. But if they were going to do things all over the country, let them do them here, right herein Jacksonville.
       There were people going out and sittin’ in restaurants. I worked in a restaurant, and I would have fed them if they’d come to me, you see, but they didn’t.
       Anyway, one night we were having a meeting. And it so happened that the pastor of our church, the Baptist church, was teaching a little Negro history. These children were there. And a young couple who did a lot of work with me were there. They’d come to pick up some children. They had a couple of nieces there and some other kids who were in their teens.
       And they started up the street. And when they started up Court Street, right there at the end of Court Street, there were a lot of people there. That was where they congregated.
       Then the police stopped the car, although they had no reason to stop it. It wasn’t that he was drinkin’. He had just left the church and picked the children up from the Bible class.
       Well, the police said they didn’t like the way he sounded. And they knew he had been in the civil rights movement. And so they pulled him out of the car, and they handcuffed him, and someone hit him.
       And then his wife came out. And when his wife came out, my brother-in-law and my sister who were there--they had a little child--they rushed out. Then the wife started screamin’, and then her sister came out, who was pregnant, and they began handcuffin’ them. Now we almost had us a race riot there. And we all came out.
       Then they took them downtown, and they booked them. But everyone from the street goes up there because we knew it had started from absolutely nothin’. It started from the police just wantin’ to harass someone.
       And when we got up there, then we had the nucleus of our civil rights movement. Those who hadn’t joined us before, now they came up and joined us.      These people left the regular NAAP, because they did nothing. People were calling us from the Marine Corps, and they said the NAACP would come here. But we could never use the NAACP here because they were working with the people downtown.
       So we had our own little organization. We called it Community Action. We gave programs and plays, and we got our program started. And we sent for Jerry Paul, a civil rights lawyer, to come here and help the people who had been arrested.
       Well, when he came here, we started to get more people and more people. And the ones who had been arrested beat the case.
       And then we started writing down things that we wanted and things that the police did. And now the mayor wanted to speak to us. So now we’re fighting two battles. We’re fighting one battle here with the society people, so to speak, our own people, and we’re fighting a battle downtown.
       Well, we decide we’re going to demonstrate. We’re going to march. We’re going to have us a march on a Sunday afternoon.
       And they don’t want us to have this march.
       A man came, one of the deacons at one of the churches, and he said, “How many of you have any jobs?”
       He said, “You’re doin’ all this screamin’ and yellin’, and you’re not workin’ anywhere. So you know the people aren’t gonna give ya anything. So what do you mean demandin’ somethin’ when you don’t even work?”
       Well, that made more of them start joining, you see.
       So now we’re going to have a march, and we start meeting. And this right pretty black girl came here with Jerry Paul, his secretary. And somebody said it was Angela Davis.
       Well, Angela Davis was not comin’ to our meetings. But when the white people heard that we had Angela Davis here, well then we did get momentum!
       And then they did start screamin’ and yellin’, “What we gonna do with Angela Davis?”
       And so we said, “Well, we’re gonna march with Angela Davis!”
       And so we were meeting.
       And you’re meeting more than you really want to meet. You’re meeting to build up your courage. You’re meeting because you don’t want to stay home and have to think a while. You’re meeting because you know your head can be beat in and you know there’s nothing that don’t happen. You’re meeting because you know you can be killed, that they can turn dogs and hoses on you. You’re meeting because of all these things. You’re meeting far more than you should because you’re so afraid.
       And you go to work and instead of bein’ a little late, you go to work a little early because you don’t want the man to have anything to say about you so he can fire you, ‘cause that is your living, you see? And all of these things add to your fear.
       And then here comes this spring day, this Sunday, when we are to march.
       And we’re going to march from the Elks Hall on Kerr Street to downtown, to City Hall. And they had given us a permit to march at two o’clock that afternoon.
       Now, we all feel frightened. We’re very frightened. All that Saturday night we’re meetin’.
       We’d ask, “Does anybody want somebody to take them home?” because we were afraid.
       And this day came, and Dot, my sister, and her husband went up, and they met with Jerry Paul and all of them down at the Elks Hall.
       Well, my sister Evelyn and I, we’re just going to march. We get ready to march.
       And it’s so quiet. This is the thing that gets me about this day.
       It’s so quiet that you can hear crickets. And you hear the birds. And you just hear everything around you.
       And you can hear those crickets. And the cars are not running.
       Then here, here comes a police car.
       And there’s a policeman there. I can’t think of the name, but they called him Cigar.
       And Cigar was there, and he was the main man. He was the main man that everyone was afraid of. He was very bad. He’d hit you for anything.
       And when the police drive by our house that day, we’re lookin’ out. And we see they have machine guns in the back seat.
       Now, no one had done anything violent. No one has thrown anything.  A single brick hadn’t been thrown. But here these people are out with machine guns!
       Now we are very afraid.
       So Evelyn said, “Come on, Louise, It’s about time for us to go.”
       And out on Kerr Street--there were a lot of houses there then--everyone is sittin’ out on the porches, everyone. You usually sat on the porch after church at any rate. But all of these porches were full.
       And when we came out of the door, Momma was standin’ at the door. And Evelyn and I came out.
       We were in our 40s, you see. But when we looked there at Momma, we felt as if we were children once more.
       And I reached over to get Evelyn’s hand as if we were children, and Momma was sayin’, “Hold her hand, Louise.”
       And we started out. And I said, “Well, Evelyn.”
       And she said, “Well, Louise?”
       And we started out of the gate. And we walked up the street. And we waved at Momma.
       And a car passed by, and it stopped up there in front of us.
       Momma came out of the house.
       And a man came out of the car, and he said, “Oh yeah.”
       He said, “You’re sisters here!”
       He said, “Can we take your picture?”
       And they thought they’d put our picture in the files and send it somewhere. And we knew it. We knew it.
       And they certainly let us pose.
       They were actin’, and we were actin’, ‘cause they were gonna take our picture at any rate. So they took our picture, and we walked on up the street.
       We walked up the street, and there’s another girl came out. And when I say “girl,” I mean “woman.” I mean in her 50s.
       And we walked on up there, and we began to start down the street. And we’re very, very disappointed. I mean our feathers were just fallen because we had to few people.
       There were about 30 men. And, oh, we just knew we would have a hundred, you see?
       But somebody said, “Don’t worry.”
       She said, “So many things have started with just one man.”
       She said, “Come on and let’s go. Let’s sing our song.”
       And so we began to clap our hands, and to sing our songs: “I ain’t gonna let nobody turn me around, turn me around, turn me around  . .  .”
       And we began to make our march. And here comes Momma.
       We said, “Where you goin’ Momma?”
       And she said, “Well, I thought I’d march part of the way with ya.”
       She said, “I thought I’d walk on down here to Maggy’s. And since y’all were up here, I’d just walk that far with you.”
       And so we held her hand. And, oh, that was beautiful! We held Momma’s hand.
       And we walked up, and we got to Miss Maggy’s. Miss Maggy was sittin’ on her porch, and she said “Miss Anderson!”
       Momma laughed, and she left the line.
       And when Momma left the line, Miss Maggy had some grandsons and what-have-you, and someone was there from New York, and they came off her porch, and they got in our line.
       And we kept on singin’ our songs. And we said “There ain’t nobody gonna stop us now, stop us now, stop us now . . .”
       And we started walkin’ on down.
       And each time we passed a house, people started comin’ out. And they started getting’ in that line. And they started singin’ the songs. And we were dancing. We were turnin’ on the jubilee! And we were dancin’ and singin’: “Tell me, how did you feel when you come out of the wilderness? Did your soul feel happy when you come out of the wilderness?”
       And we walked on down there, and we got almost to the courthouse, and there was a huge house there we used to call the Big House. That was the name of it, the Big House.
       And it had rooms for men. Single men in the town had rooms there. It was a boarding house like.
       And sometimes marines would come in and spend the night. They’d get rooms there and spend the weekend. Or some people would be workin’ in pulp wood. And the porch was full!
       And when we got there, it was like High Noon, just like the western. They started comin’ off that porch and comin’ out of that house, gettin’ in the line, gettin’ in the line.
       And, oh, brother! Wonderful. Wonderful. “Go down, Moses! Let my people go!”
       And we turned the corner, goin’ up Court Street, and there in the line were all these marines marchin’. Now they had said the marines couldn’t march, and we weren’t expectin’ the marines.
       But there was someone, someone had knocked the sergeants. And they had organized groups.
       Now this was not some organized group with a sergeant and all that. But this was not some unorganized group, either. These were some marines who had been there. These were the fellows who had been harassed and the fellows whose heads had been bashed in and who had been thrown in jail for absolutely nothing.
       These were the fellows who started comin’ into our group. And they were comin’ in 10s and 15s and 20s.
       And you couldn’t see the front of the line. It was down past the First Baptist Church. And you couldn’t see the end of the line.
       And we started walkin’. And we started singin’ our songs.
       And we passed the highway patrolmen there. And they had one black guy. I don’t know how long he’d been in. He hadn’t been in long because we’d been screamin’ about puttin’ some blacks on the highway patrol.
       And we passed him. And he was just standin’ there, sort of smilin’.
       And I passed close near him, and I said, “Aren’t you proud of us?”
       And he said, “Yes, Ma’am! I’m proud of you.”
       And we walked on up the street, and we got to the courthouse. And when we got up there, well, I’d been working at this Italian place across the street, cooking. And I saw them there. And I just went, “Oh!” And I threw my head down.
       And then I thought, “If I’m going to be fired, I’ll be fired tomorrow, and I couldn’t care less!” And I held my head up.
       And I went up there, and we got up there to the courthouse. And we stood around there. And Jerry Paul went up there and said a few words. And I got up, and I did something from “The Negro Mother.” And I have known that piece since I was in elementary school -- the sixth or seventh grade--since Langston Hughes had come to our school in High Point there. And I had recited that poem since that time.       
       And I got up there, and I spoke it. And I spoke it exactly the way Langston Hughes had meant it! And I spoke it the way that Negro mother would have done it. And I became that Negro mother! And I meant every word of it.
       And we stood there that day, and we sang some more songs. And there was a girl there whose voice was prettier than any I’ve ever heard. She was prettier than “When Melinda Sings” by Paul Laurence Dunbar. And she came up there, and she sang just like “When Melinda Sings,” you know?
       And she sang, “Come in to Jesus.” She sang that song.
       And when it was over, we started marchin’ back singin’ “We Shall Overcome.”
       And I’ve never been so happy in my life. I’ve never been so fulfilled. And I’ve never been so without fear.
       And from that day henceforth, I stopped being afraid. I mean, I’m still afraid of thundering and lightening, and mess like lizards and snakes, and many things, but I’ve never been afraid of myself. I know that if someone calls on me, I can stand up and be counted.
       But it took something like that day to remove my fear.
       I love that day when we marched in Jacksonville, North Carolina.