And durin of the pressure years, a union began to operate in this country, called the Sharecroppers Union – that was a nice name, I thought – and my first knowing about this union, this organization, that riot came off at Crane’s Ford in ‘31. I looked deep in that thing, too – I heard more than I seed and I taken that in consideration. And I knowed what was goin on was a turnabout on the southern man, white and colored, it was something unusual. And I heard about it being a organization for the poor class of people – that’s just what I wanted to get into, too; I wanted to know the secrets of it enough that I could become in the knowledge of it.
Now I heard talk about trucks comin into this country deliverin guns to the colored people but I decided that was all talk, tryin to accuse the niggers of getting into something here that maybe they weren’t – and maybe they were. But didn’t no trucks haul no guns to nobody. Colored people hadn’t been armed for nothing; it told like that just to agitate the thing further. Of course, some of these colored folks in here had some good guns – you know a Winchester rifle is a pretty good gun itself. But they didn’t have nothing above that that. It weren’t nothing that nobody sent in here for them to use, just their own stuff.
Well, they killed a man up there, colored fellow; his name was Adam Cole. And they tell me – I didn’t see it but I heard lots about it and I never did here nothing about it that backed me off – Kurt Beall, the High Sheriff for Tukabahchee County, got shot in the stomach. He run up there to break up this meetin business amongst the colored people and someone in that crowd shot him. That kind of broke him up from runnin in places like that.
And the white folks woke up and stretched themselves and commenced a runnin around meddlin with niggers about this organization. And it’s a close thing today. One old man – and he was as big a skunk as ever sneaked into the woods – old man Mac Sloane, come up to me one day- he didn’t come to my home, he met me on the outside – old man Mac Sloane come to me hot as a stove iron, “Nate, do you belong to that mess they carryin on in this country?”
I just cut him off short. I didn’t belong to it at that time, but I was eager to join and I was aimin to join, just hadn’t got the right opportunity.
“No, I don’t belong to nothin.”
Mac Sloane, white man, said, “You stay out of it. That damn thing will get you killed. You stay out of it. These niggers runnin around here carryin on some kind of meeting – you’d better stay out of it.”
I said to myself, ‘you a fool if you think you keep me from joining’. I went right on and joined it, just as quick as the next meetin come. Runnin around and given me orders – he suspected I might be the kind of man to belong to such and organization; put the finger on me before I ever joined. And he done just the thing to push me into it – gived me orders not to join. . . .
Had the meetins at our houses or anywhere we could have em where we could keep a look and a watch-out that nobody was comin in on us. Small meetings, sometimes there’d be a dozen, sometimes there’d be more, sometimes there’d be less- niggers was scared, niggers was scared, that’s telling the truth. White folks in this country didn’t allow niggers to have no organization, no secret meetins. They kept up with you and watched you, didn’t allow you to associate in a crowd, unless it was your family or your church.
It just worked in a way that the nigger wasn’t allowed to have nothing but church services and, O they liked to see you goin to church, too. Sometimes white people would come into the Negro church and set there and listen at the meetin. Of course, it weren’t nothin but a church service goin on. But if a nigger walked into a white church, he’d just be driven out, if they didn’t kill him. But if a Negro was a servant for white people, then they’d carry him to church with em, accept him to come in and take a seat on the back seat and listen at the white people. But if you was an independent Negro you’d better stay away from there. But if you was a white man’s dear flunky, doin what he said to do, or even on the woman’s side, if they was maids for the white people, well thought of, they’d take em out to their home churches, dupe em up in a way. They knowed they weren’t goin to cause no trouble –and if they did, they’d just been knocked out of the box and called in close question. But they never did act disorderly; just sit there and listen at the white folks’ meetin quiet as a lamb. And when the white folks would come in the colored churches, good God, the niggers would get busy given em first class seats – if there was any in that buildin the white folks got em. They was white people; they classed theirselves over the colored and the colored people never did do nothing but dance to what the white people said and thought. White people was their bosses and their controllers and the colored people went along with it.
First thing the organization wanted for the colored people was the privilege to have an organization. That’s one of the best things they could ever fight for and get on foot. From my boy days comin along, ever since I been in God’s world, I’ve never had no rights, no voice in nothing that the white man didn’t want me to have –even been cut out of education, book learnin, been deprived of that. How could I favor such rulins as have been the past?
Conditions has been outrageous every way that you can think against the colored race of people. Didn’t allow em to do this, didn’t allow em to do that, didn’t allow em to do the other. Knowin and comin into the knowledge of what was goin on and how it was goin on in the United States as far as I knowed, which was the state of Alabama as far as I knowed, Tukabahchee County – I knew that it was a weak time amongst the colored people. They couldn’t demand nothing; they were subject to lose what they had if they demanded any more.
Good God, there wasn’t but few privileges that we was allowed. If you was flesh and blood and human you tended to want to help and support your friends in the community, and male something of yourself – white folks didn’t allow you that privilege. But we had the privilege of workin for the white man – he who had the chance had better do it; get yourself together and get over yonder in Mr. So-and-so’s field or anywhere else he told you and do what he tell you to do. And when pay time come he’d pay you what he wanted to, and in many cases it’d be less than what he’d pay a white man. And some work, like pickin cotton in the fields, white folks didn’t fill a basket – most of em. That was nigger’s work. And if a poor white man got out there and picked cotton, he wass picin cotton like a nigger. Colored man just been a dog for this country for years and years. White man didn’t ask you how you felt about what he wanted to do; he’s just go ahead and do it and you had to fall under his rulins. And bein in his home country, he been allowed to do as he please by the capital of the United States.