Interview with:                      Louis C. Sanders on February 7, 2007

Interviewer:               Eric Atchison

Transcribed by:                     W. Ray


EA:                  Alright, could you tell me your full name?


LS:                  Louis Charles Sanders.


EA:                  Can you spell that?


LS:                  L-o-u-i-s.


EA:                  Can you tell me about when you were born?


LS:                  1928.


EA:                  Where were you born:


LS:                  Mound Bayou.


EA:                  Can you tell me about your parents?


LS:                  Well, mother and father moved here in 1937.  They moved off the plantation, Grittman Plantation over at Drew.


EA:                  Which plantation?


LS:                  Grittman.


EA:                  How do you spell that?


LS:                  G-r-i-t-t-m-a n.  Remnants of it still exist over there on Highway 49. It’s a building over there that was the Grittman Plantation.  They moved to Mound Bayou under one of the New Deal Programs.  They would provide the family with twenty acres of land and a house, smokehouse, and barn.  And I think some kind of livestock.  Some assistance and they would have to put the farmland into production and go from there.


EA:                  What would they farm?


LS:                  Primarily cotton.


EA:                  Would they get any equipment?


LS:                  Two mules I think.


EA:                  Just two mules?


LS:                  Two mules and maybe a plow or something.


EA:                  A plow.


LS:                  After they got over here my father started a little store built near the house.  The government made him close it because they said it is a violation of the ______  Act.  The land was only to be farmed and not to be used to try to advance yourself in any other way.


EA:                  Oh, so they were helping you out but they weren’t really letting you do all you could do?


LS:                  Right.


EA:                  What kind of store was it?


LS:                  A little small convenience store – grocery store type.


EA:                  What did he do whenever he shut it down?


LS:                  He moved it across – some people owned the land across the street there, across the road – they allowed him to move it over there?


EA:                  It was still hard to move the building?


LS:                  Yeah.


EA:                  What did your mother do?


LS:                  My mother was basically a housewife with seven – eight children.


EA:                  A lot of kids.  And I guess you have how many siblings do you have?


LS:                  Seven.  But two of us living – three of us living now.


EA:                  Inaudible.  Two of ya’ll live here?


LS:                  Three.  All three of us live in Mound Bayou.


EA:                  And what do your brothers and sisters do?


LS:                  My sister is retired from the Cleveland School System.  She was a cafeteria manager.  My brother is kind of ______________retired.


EA:                  How much land did your family own?  Forty acres?


LS:                  Yeah.  That was when they first moved here.  Forty acres.  Inaudible:_____________________500.


EA:                  How did you gain so much land?


LS:                  Hard work.


EA:                  Hard work.


LS:                  They had sons.  My older brothers were here to help them.


EA:                  How much land do you own?


LS:                  A hundred and sixty acres.


EA:                  160?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  How did you say your father acquired the first forty?  The New Deal Program?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  And the rest of it he just purchased from other people?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  Who did he purchase it from do you know?


LS:                  The bulk of it – 300 acres he purchased from a man named Reverend __________.  He was here locally.  A local farmer here.  The other 40’s and 80’s from local people.


EA:                  Very successful.


LS:                  Well, some people __________________.


EA:                  Where is the land located?


LS:                  Some is west of Mound Bayou.  It is not all in – it is usually black people in the Delta get is just by taking things where you can get them.  Some is west of Mound Bayou and some east of Mound Bayou in close proximity to each other and we’ve got 300 acres that is contiguous and others we got 80 and a 60 and a 40 like that.


EA:                  Can you tell me _______________?


LS:                  Right.


EA:                  Is all of that land still being farmed?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  By who?


LS:                  Myself and sometimes my nephew and sometimes …my niece I should say.


EA:                  Your niece?


LS:                  _______________let’s put it that way.


EA:                  Can you tell me some of the history of this land?


LS:                  When you say this land, you mean Mound Bayou?


EA:                  Yeah.  The land that your family owns.


LS:                  All I know is what I was told.  An elderly man who died about three years ago named George Spears.  So he was ninety something years old and he told me the history of the land around here.  Like this particularly forty here, he always told me that the only reason that this 40 here was right adjacent to town as you can see.  He said the only reason my father was able to get it was because no one else wanted it.  They didn’t think it would grow anything.  ___________________________.  So the other land over west of town, this 40 was originally, 300 acres of there was part of the original charter land for the city of Mound Bayou.  The city was ______________________________________________________________________

Jeff Davis.  I was told that the land what we call Mound Bayou was actually given to the black soldiers who are fighting in the Army and _________________________Jeff Davis.  I was taught that in school.


EA:                  _____________heard that story.  It was given to black soldiers?


LS:                  Yeah.


EA:                  By the Union Army?


LS:                  Right.  By the Union Army.  When they came through ___________Vicksburg, the soldiers negotiated with the Indians to help them get through because this land here was uncleared going down the riverside.  The Indians helped them navigate through the woods to get down to Vicksburg from ______________________________.  So they gave him this area here which was basically woods at that time.  After the war they went down and secured the forces of the founders of Mound Bayou to help settle.  Because the founders of Mound Bayou were __________________________________ to do the paperwork and all that stuff.


EA:                  Cool.  Was this farm ever used for sharecropping?


LS:                  Yes.  Yes.


EA:                  Tenant farming?


LS:                  Tenant farming.  More so sharecropping.


EA:                  More so than sharecropping.  What do you produce on the farm?


LS:                  We grow some of everything.  I grew up growing garden.  My father had a peach orchard.  He was one of the first black farmers in the state to grow rice.  Naturally cotton.  Corn, soybeans, wheat, you name it we grow it.  Sweet potatoes, commercial greens.


EA:                  Do you grow winter wheat?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  How has technology and what you produced changed over time?


LS:                  Quite naturally things change from the equipment to the crops.  You know the makeup of the crops.  It is a constant evolution.  Farmers – one thing you learn about farming is that it is basically like life – it is going to change.  No two years are the same.  Every year is different.  So we change and I guess it is something you have to adapt to.


EA:                  To make the farm work how have you made changes over time?


LS:                  I would say primarily to stay adept what the research people are doing.  The land as well as to the equipment and you definitely have stay adept of the markets and stuff.


EA:                  The markets control what you do?


LS:                  They almost direct your path second to the good Lord.  ______________primarily at what is going on nowdays.


EA:                  How has it changed since you were younger?


LS:                  When I was younger it was cotton – everybody was planting cotton and they did well at it.  But now, you know I guess what you call the global economy has prices that have rose so bad during the season that you can start off with cotton at .80 or .90 cents and end up selling it at .40 you know half price.  And you know other crops are similar you know – fuel is the same thing.  So you just have to basically give it your best shot at the thing you know.


EA:                  Yeah.


LS:                  Yeah.


EA:                  Did the family farm elsewhere before they farmed in the Delta?


LS:                  Yes, my father was, well not for himself, but was a tenant farmer over at Grittman Plantation in Drew.


EA:                  Has the land been divided over time?


LS:                  No.


EA:                  No?


LS:                  No.


EA:                  What about the buildings on the farmland?  Were any of these originally here?  Were any of these original here from your father?


LS:                  The building on the side over there is what you call the smokehouse.  It was one of the original buildings.  It was built from the resettlement.  When my father – when they first moved over here there was no house.  So he and my two older brothers had to live down here locally maybe about 200-300 yards from here a man had a barn, and my mother and two other sisters lived with a family across town.  And my father and two oldest brothers lived ___________________about six months I was told while the house was being built.


EA:                  So the smokehouse is the only original building?


LS:                  Right.  ________________-


EA:                  And you said your family had to build their own home.


LS:                  You know local carpenters helped ___________


EA:                  _where everything is located?  Cause I know farmland ____________?


LS:                  General area here?


EA:                  General area.


LS:                  Our land over west of town is right adjacent to the four lane highway.  Out on the bypass on highway 61.  What ya’ll call the blues highway.   Everything in the delta is blues.


EA:                  ___________?


LS:                  The land out about a mile and a half east of town is all on one road.  I think it is called Loran Road about a mile and a half east.  There is a church on the corner and due east from Mound Bayou.  You turn north and there is a church _____________.


EA:                  How big is it?


LS:                  About two hundred acres.


EA:                  And what about this land here?


LS:                  This is forty.  _____________.  What you call east ____________.  Forty acres.


EA:                  The rest of the farmland is back off the road a little bit?


LS:                  Right.


EA:                  Okay.  What would you tell a young person in your family that is interested in agriculture today?


LS:                  Primarily go to school and get a degree in agriculture or whatever.  Then come out and insist on being be well capitalized.


EA:                  What do you mean by well capitalized?


LS:                  Given enough funds to get the resources that you need to be successful.


EA:                  Where did you go to school?  You said you went to school in Jackson?


LS:                  Jackson State.


EA:                  Okay.  What did you study there?


LS:                  I should have studied agriculture.


EA:                  You studied agriculture?


LS:                  No, they didn’t have an agricultural program.


EA:                  You should have studied agriculture.


LS:                  Yeah.  __________.  Growing up I liked farming but I didn’t plan to farm.


EA:                  What did you study when you were in school?


LS:                  _____________.


EA:                  Have you ever done anything besides farming?


LS:                  ___Financial for about four years.


EA:                  What is your interest?


LS:                  Computers.


EA:                  You just didn’t like the office space, you just wanted to get out?


LS:                  After my father passed I came here, returned home, and tried to find a job local and went to personnel agency and tried to get an interview.  And they said that job was already taken and _________three or four thousand dollars a year less than what they had___________.

So one of those things.  Discrimination _____________.


EA:                  What is the value of the land to you?


LS:                  It’s not the economic value here in the delta.  Maybe the price of some of this land ___________study about it ________________.  Sweat equity ___________.


EA:                  Sweat equity?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  Do you see a time when the land will no longer be in the family?


LS:                  Mr. Spears used to tell me that, I realize kinda now what he is talking about.  He said land is going to change hands.  You and I may never have it _____________no matter where but land is going to change hands.  How long it’ll be I don’t know, but it is going to change hands.


EA:                  Do you want your – do you have any grandchildren or children?


LS:                  Children.


EA:                  Do you want them to take over?


LS:                  Naturally, I would like them to.


EA:                  How many children do you have?


LS:                  A boy and a girl.


EA:                  A boy and a girl ___________.  Okay, and where do they live?


LS:                  One is going to school at Mississippi State and my son has cross-country trucks.  He is _______________.


EA:                  _________________?


LS:                  _________________.


EA:                  So how do you feel about keeping the land in the family?


LS:                  I would like to keep it.


EA:                  Do you have any workers?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  How many?


LS:                  Usually one or two full time and then sometime we have up to twelve seasonal.


EA:                  Has your family ever utilized any assistance such as co-ops, FHA programs, or credit unions?


LS:                  Yes we have used them.


EA:                  ____________?


LS:                  We had a co-op here in Mound Bayou.  That’s where we go into the ________.


EA:                  _________?


LS:                  Basically, ________________ FHA _________program __________________.


EA:                  And the co-op you said?


LS:                  Yeah we set up a sweet potato co-op back in the mid ‘90’s and that’s when ________________________.


EA:                  Is that the blue building over there?


LS:                  Yes.


EA:                  __________________.


LS:                  Co-op.


EA:                  And when did you start that?


LS:                  Ninety-five.  1995.


EA:                  1995.  How many people _________________?


LS:                  Twelve.


EA:                  _____________________?


LS:                  Columbus, Ohio.  _____________________.  Two or three years after we started growing sweet potatos we had a ____________market.  __________________.


EA:                  __________________?


LS:                  __________________.


EA:                  All you gotta do is let me know.  Alright.  How has race affected your farm?


LS:                  In the delta, race is…_________________, historical relationship with black people and agriculture.  _________________the whole historical relationship with agriculture.  It’s a fact of life.


EA:                  Did the civil rights movement and years that followed _______on your farm?


LS:                  Mound Bayou is an all African-American community.  It didn’t have much of ___________ and the local towns and _______face-to-face ______________places like Cleveland or Shelby to have a protest ______________________________________.  I’m not going to say we were insulated but we were, we didn’t receive the ___________________.


EA:                  ____________________________________?


LS:                  I was told that but I was young at that time ______________________________.


EA:                  So your family _________________________civil rights workers?


LS:                  Some came by but I don’t know if any of them actually stayed with us.  ____________________.  But they came by ______________________________________________________________________________


EA:                  What is your most memorable moment growing up on the farm?


LS:                  Probably when my brother came home from the Korean War.


EA:                  Why would that?


LS:                  My mother and father _________________________________.


EA:                  Well, you know, _____________when we started the interview _____________________photographs ____________________archives.


LS:                  I have a thing that I will show you ______________across the field ____________________________.  I saw a lot of stuff used ___________________across the field and pick it up ________________;


EA:                  _______________Ok.  Where is the old barn?


LS:                  Torn down.


Tape Ends