From 1992-1994, Professors Robert Korstad and Neil Boothby interviewed more than 30 of the leading figures of the post civil rights era that focused on issues of poverty and inequality in the rural South. This collection of unedited interviews documents the first-hand experiences of these individuals and their communities living with pervasive poverty in the South, and their individual efforts to help their communities.

George B. Autry

George Autry (1937-1999) was the founder and president of MDC, Inc., a nonprofit research corporation in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, concerned with employment policies and programs in N.C.. Autry became founding executive director of MDC in 1967 and served as president of the organization until his death in 1999. Prior to his work at MDC, Autry served as chief counsel to Senator Sam Ervin’s subcommittee on constitutional rights. Recent MDC projects include Latino Student Success, Partners for Postsecondary Success, and Career Pathways for a Greener South.

Thomas C. Barnwell, Jr.

Thomas C. Barnwell, Jr., a native of Hilton Head, SC, began his work in community service at Penn Community Service, Inc. While at the Penn Center, he worked in community organization, program planning, federal program orientation and implementation. His community service work continued as he held positions as Assistant Director for Beaufort-Jasper Hampton Economic Opportunity Commission, Executive Director of Beaufort-Jasper-Hampton Comprehensive Health Services, Inc. and the Regional Director of National Consumer Cooperative Bank, Charleston South Carolina branch. He has testified before the United States Committee on Hunger and Malnutrition and Human Needs and participated in President John F. Kennedy’s To Fulfill These Rights Committee. Barnwell, who was involved in securing affordable housing, healthcare and employment for the natives of Hilton Head Island, is a land developer and a private business owner of rental properties.

Timothy Bazemore, Sr.

Timothy Bazemore, Sr. is a native of Bertie County, NC. Bazemore was inducted into the army in 1945 and was scheduled for assignment in Japan the day the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. After returning to the United States in 1947, he became an entrepreneur in the logging and farming industries until 1967. Bazemore was involved in many community activities during that time, one of which was the organization of a tutorial program in the 1960s that was instrumental in getting aides for teachers into the classrooms of the Bertie County School system. He then went on to found the Good Neighbor Council, a biracial group designated to combat race relation issues. While studying brick masonry under the GI Bill, he was offered a position through Choanoke Area Development Association (CADA) and the North Carolina Fund to work with the Relocation Program moving families from rural eastern North Carolina to the Piedmont Area. He initiated the Woodard Home Grown Food Project – “Growing Food for All Families” and became active on the CADA Board of Directors while he worked to save the Bertie County sewing industry. In order to rebuild it, he started an employee-owned operation in the manufacture of children’s clothing called “Workers Owned.” It grew from 5 employees to 70 people and developed contracts as large as a half a million dollars with companies such as Kmart. Finally, Bazemore was inducted into the North Carolina Community Action Association Hall of Fame in 2009.

Anne Catherine Bizalion

Sister Anne Catherine Bizalion (1925-1997) was the executive director and co-founder of the Southern Mutual Help Association (SMHA) of New Iberia, Louisiana. Sister Anne, a rural French Dominican nun, came to Louisiana in the mid-1950’s to work to end poverty in the state. She graduated as the first Catholic nun to obtain a Masters of Social work from Tulane University, after which she became the first professional social worker at the TB Annex of Lafayette Charity Hospital. Before founding SMHA, Sister Anne directed a Headstart program and worked closely with Father A. J. McKnight, a Louisiana civil rights leader, to establish educational and cooperative programs. In 1969, she and co-founder Lorna Bourg developed the SMHA to expose flawed systems in Louisiana and then to improve them. Since its founding, SMHA has taught rural sugar cane workers to help themselves through housing programs, health clinics, adult education and homes for the elderly.

Unita Blackwell

Unita Blackwell is a civil rights activist who was the first African American female to be elected mayor in the state of Mississippi. Blackwell, who served as mayor of Mayersville, Mississippi from 1976 to 2001, was also the president of the National Conference of Black Mayors in 1990. Born to sharecropper parents in the Mississippi Delta, she was a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and a friend to the late Fannie Lou Hamer. Blackwell was later a project director for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which helped organize voter drives to encourage African American voting across Mississippi. Blackwell’s activism in housing and other rural issues helped promote the idea of “maximum participation of the poor” in the federal War on Poverty.

Richard W. Boone

Richard W. Boone directs the Project for Participatory Democracy of the Tides Foundation of San Francisco, California. In 1962, Boone joined President Kennedy’s Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. Under the Johnson Administration, Boone served as director of the program policy and development division of the Office of Economic Opportunity. He left the OEO in 1965 to become executive director of the Citizens’ Crusade Against Poverty, and helped create and direct its successor, the Center for Community Change. From 1981 to 1988, he served as director of the Field Foundation.

Lorna Bourg

Lorna Bourg is President, Executive Director and co-founder of the Southern Mutual Help Association in New Iberia, Louisiana. Founded in 1969, SMHA has initiated many programs to help the rural poor of Louisiana. Bourg leads SMHA’s recent efforts in fostering self-help housing projects in the sugar cane plantation community of Four Corners. She also lobbies for changes in pesticide laws and for policies promoting sustainable agriculture.

Sophia Bracy-Harris

Sophia Bracy-Harris has been executive director of the Federation of Child Care Centers of Alabama (FOCAL) since it was founded in 1971. She was baptized into social action by the firebombing of her home in early 1966 after she and her sister integrated the white high school in Wetumpka, Alabama. At FOCAL, Harris directs provision of technical assistance, training, and advocacy for a network of child-care centers and leads a program encouraging low-income black women to take leadership roles in their communities. She is the recipient of a 1991 MacArthur Fellowship (MacArthur Genius Award).

John Brown

John Brown, Jr. was a founder and director of the South East Alabama Self-Help Association (SEASHA) since its inception in 1967. Before joining SEASHA, Brown had been a teacher in the Phenix City, Alabama, school system. Over the years, SEASHA has served as an advocate for the rural poor in twelve counties, promoting grassroots activity in farming, housing, and loans to minority businesses.

Emory S. Campbell

Emory Campbell is executive director emeritus of the Penn Center on St Helena Island, SC. The Penn Center, founded in 1862, is one of the oldest and most historically significant African American cultural and educational institutions in the United States. He continues to do African American heritage tours of the Sea Islands, to work with other communities to preserve the property rights of African Americans on the Sea Islands (in the face of creeping development), and to write and publish about Gullah-Geechee history and culture.

Michael S. Clark

Mike Clark of Washington Grove, Maryland, is director of the Whetstone Project, which provides technical assistance to grassroots environmental groups around the country and raises questions about corporate accountability. A native of western North Carolina, Clark joined the staff of the Highlander Research and Education Center in 1968 and served as director between 1972 and 1981. Previously, he served as president of Friends of the Earth, one of the world’s largest global environmental advocacy groups.

L.C Dorsey

L. C. Dorsey, a civil rights activist, worked with Fannie Lou Hamer in the development of Freedom Farm Cooperative and other projects. Dorsey, who spent her early childhood on a Delta plantation, earned a doctorate in social work from Howard University and has worked as director of programs of Delta Ministries and associate director of the Southern Coalition on Jails and Prisons. She joined the Delta Health Center in 1967 to direct its North Bolivar County Farm Cooperative. From 1988 to 1995, Dorsey served as the Executive Director for the Delta Health Center in Mound Bayou, Mississippi, providing complete family medical care and social services for widespread poor populations. She then worked as a clinical associate professor in the Family Medicine Department at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.

Leslie Dunbar

Leslie Dunbar has been active in civil rights and antipoverty struggles in the South for more than three decades. He served as executive director of the Southern Regional Council in Atlanta from 1961 to 1965 before joining the Field Foundation of New York as executive director, a post he held until 1980. A political scientist, he has written several books, including Reclaiming Liberalism and The Common Interest, and currently is book editor for Southern Changes, the Southern Regional Council’s publication.

Rebecca Flores Harrington

Rebecca Flores Harrington served as the Texas State Field Director of the AFL-CIO. Before that she was director of United Farm Workers’ Texas Project. Born in south Texas to a migrant family, she was the first Mexican-American woman to earn a degree from the University of Michigan Graduate School of Social Work. She has been an effective organizer on local, state, and national issues affecting farmworkers.

H. Jack Geiger

H. Jack Geiger is the Arthur C. Logan Professor Emeritus of Community Medicine, City University of New York Medical School. From 1965 to 1967, Geiger directed the nation’s first rural community health center at Mound Bayou, Mississippi. He is a founding member and past president of Physicians for Social Responsibility. His work on human rights in the United States and internationally spans five decades.

Emma R. Gresham

Emma R. Gresham is a retired schoolteacher and former mayor of Keysville, Georgia. Mayor Gresham helped restore the government of Keysville in 1985–fifty years after it had been dismantled disenfranchising a largely black community of their voting rights. Gresham became Mayor of Keysville in 1988, as the result of the first Municipal Election to be held in fifty-five years. As mayor, she achieved basic services for her community including indoor plumbing, which most of the residents did not have, sanitation pick up, a library, fire protection, a health clinic, playground, streets named, city lights, the participating Certified Literacy Program, and a sewage grant. Mayor Gresham was an Essence Awards Honoree and was named one of the One Hundred Eckerd Women, which recognizes women with above excellent volunteer records in the U.S.

Eula Hall

Eula Hall is founder and supervisor of the Mud Creek Clinic in Grethel, Kentucky. A founding member of the Eastern Kentucky Welfare Rights Organization, Hall helped acquire hot lunches for children in Mud Creek schools and played a major role in getting federal and local grants for a water system in the area. Her efforts in health care led to a clinic opening in 1973 under direct community control.

John W. Hatch

John W. Hatch is a professor in the department of health behavior and health education in the School of Public Health at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. As an assistant professor at Tufts University School of Medicine in the 1960s, Hatch helped organize the Delta Health Center, Inc. of Mound Bayou, Mississippi. In response to widespread malnutrition in the region, Hatch initiated and directed an adjunct of the center, the North Bolivar County Farm Cooperative.

Aaron Henry

Aaron Henry (d. 1997) of Clarksdale, Mississippi, was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in 1982, holding the seat until 1996. Owner of a drugstore in Clarksdale, Dr. Henry was a civil rights activist for more than three decades. He led the Mississippi state chapter of the NAACP and was a founding member of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

Calvin R. King, Sr.

Calvin R. King, Sr. is executive director of the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, a non-profit, community development organization, which he founded in1980 in Arkansas. Dr. King, a 1975 graduate of Philander Smith College, returned to his home in Lee County, Arkansas, in the late 1970s to help minority and disadvantaged family farmers hold on to their land and convert to more profitable nontraditional crops. He has received a number of awards for his efforts, including a MacArthur Fellowship (MacArthur Genius Award) in 1990.

L.C. Dorsey, Jack Geiger and John Hatch

This interview features L.C. Dorsey, Jack Geiger and John Hatch, speaking together. All three are public health experts, and helped establish the nation’s first rural community health center at Mound Bayou, Mississippi.

Robert Lampman

Robert Lampman (D. 1997) served on the staff of President John F. Kennedy’s Council of Economic Advisers. While on the staff of the council, Mr. Lampman warned the White House that rapid economic growth alone would not eliminate poverty. Along with Walter Heller, Lampman’s knowledge of the issues proved a good fit: the chapter on poverty in the 1964 Economic Report of the President, which was written by Mr. Lampman, provided the blueprint for the Johnson Administration’s antipoverty initiative. He returned to the University of Wisconsin in the mid-1960′s with Federal financing for a permanent center to monitor the antipoverty effort. He remained politically active, pressing for a ”negative income tax” or guaranteed annual income for the poor. That movement eventually bore fruit in the earned-income tax credit.

Mac Legerton

Reverend Mac Legerton is the executive director of the Center for Community Action (CCA) in Robeson County, North Carolina, a multicultural, community-based, nonprofit organization that specializes in grassroots empowerment and multi-sector collaboration as the foundations of social change. He co-founded the center in 1980 along with his spouse, Donna Chavis. CCA has been a leader in the areas of community development, grassroots leadership development, systems change, policy advocacy, family support and literacy, education improvement and reform, youth leadership development, environmental justice, cultural education, legal reform, responsible and equitable governance, and multi-sector collaboration.

Herman Lodge

Herman Lodge (d. 2005) was president of the Burke County Improvement Association in Waynesboro, Georgia, and a county commissioner. Lodge filed several landmark voting rights cases during the 1970′s and 1980′s, including Lodge v. Buxton and Lodge v. Rogers. In 1982 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in his favor, expanding the Justice Department’s authority in redistricting cases. That year, Lodge and another black candidate were elected to the county board of commissioners.

Charles “Buck” Maggard

Charles “Buck” Maggard (d. 1999), of Vicco, Kentucky, was community liaison for Appalshop, Inc., and its Headwaters Television and WMMT-FM public affairs programming. Maggard, a seasoned political activist, served as Appalachian coordinator for the Southern Christian Leadership Conference and field coordinator of Appalachian Volunteers in the late 1960s. He also served as a staff member at the Highlander Research and Education Center in the early 1970s and early 1980s. In addition, Maggard, a former coal miner, worked as a paralegal advocating for miners dealing with black lung, social security, and pension claims.

F. Ray Marshall

F. Ray Marshall is the former secretary of Department of Labor under President Jimmy Carter. Under Marshall, DOL played a major role in Carter’s economic stimulus program, instituting major expansions in public service and job training programs. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) programs were strengthened and “common sense priorities” led to focus on major health problems. Mine Safety and Health Administration was created to protect nation’s miners. Many federal equal employment opportunity programs were consolidated under Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs, and women’s programs were strengthened.

Olly Neal, Jr.

Olly Neal, Jr., a former Court of Appeals Judge, was appointed as interim judge for the 1st Judicial District in eastern Arkansas in January, 2010. Judge Neal was a prosecuting attorney in Lee County, Arkansas, where he was born and reared. In 1970, when he was 28 years old, Neal returned to Lee County to become administrator of the Lee County Cooperative Clinic in Marianna. As administrator, he worked with VISTA volunteers, led an economic boycott of downtown businesses, and encouraged residents to take control of clinic services, which included efforts to improve access to food stamps, repair housing, and construct sanitary privies.

Frank O’Loughlin

Father Frank O’Loughlin heads the Migration and Refugee Service of the Archdiocese of Palm Beach. He assisted in developing the CORN-Maya project which based its philosophy on the indigenous culture, identity, and values of the Maya. Its goals are to promote legal defense, economic and social development, and the adaption of the Maya in the US with dignity. The Irish-born Roman Catholic priest founded the Mayan Guatemalan Center in Lake Worth 20 years ago. The center, FEMA and other charities are partners trying to get food, housing and supplies to some of Palm Beach County’s poorest residents. Many migrant and day laborers have moved to shelters because their homes have no electricity.

Charles Prejean

Charles Prejean is assistant professor of political science and director of the Institute for Social, Economic, and Political Studies at Xavier University in New Orleans. A veteran of the civil rights movement, he was executive director of the Federation of Southern Cooperatives from 1967 to 1984. As federation director, Prejean led a farm cooperative movement that supported and coordinated bootstrap economic development efforts of about 30,000 mostly black, low-income rural families organized into 130 cooperatives across the South.

S. Maxine Waller

S. Maxine Waller of Ivanhoe, Virginia, started the Ivanhoe Civic League in 1986 to organize community economic development, education, and housing in her mountain town of 1,500 in southwest Virginia. Through her efforts, the League has employed 47 people, raised more than $500,000 from foundations and other sources, successfully lobbied the governor and other state officials for housing money, and started education programs in what used to be the company store of the mining firm that left town in 1981.

Wilma Warren

Wilma Warren is the former president of Virginia Water Project of Roanoke, Virginia. Under Warren’s leadership, the Water Project has generated $224 million in public and private money for drinking water and wastewater systems across the state — bringing safe water for the first time to about 180,000 people. Since 1969, the Roanoke program has served as a model for the Rural Community Assistance Program, a national network of nonprofit organizations assisting rural communities in gaining access to safe water and sanitary waste disposal.