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The Speeches of Fannie Lou HamerTo Tell It Like It Is$

Maegan Parker Brooks and Davis W. Houck

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9781604738223

Published to University Press of Mississippi: March 2014

DOI: 10.14325/mississippi/9781604738223.001.0001

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(p.194) Appendix Interview with Vergie Hamer Faulkner

(p.194) Appendix Interview with Vergie Hamer Faulkner

by Maegan Parker Brooks, July 14 and July 17, 2009

Source:
The Speeches of Fannie Lou Hamer
Publisher:
University Press of Mississippi

Vergie Hamer Faulkner is the second-oldest adopted daughter of Fannie Lou and Perry Hamer, who had no biological children of their own. In 1954, the couple began caring for five-month-old Vergie, who had been badly burned by a tub of boiling water and whose large biological family was unable to provide her with the attention and care she required. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, Vergie was raised by the Hamers in Ruleville. She moved to Memphis in 1975, where she still lives today working as a cook for a local church.

This interview is a transcript of two phone conversations recorded with Mrs. Vergie Hamer Faulkner, covering a variety of topics including heretofore unpublished information about her father, Perry Hamer, her older sister, Dorothy Jean, and her grandmother, Lou Ella Townsend. Aside from providing insight about the persons who comprised Fannie Lou Hamer’s intimate family circle, Mrs. Faulkner also offers an in-depth account of her mother’s influences, her personality, and an assessment of her lasting legacy.

Part I

BROOKS

  • Well, I just wanted to start to learn a little bit about you. So, would you mind telling me a bit about what you do in Memphis and about what life is like there for you?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, I work every day. I cook.
  • BROOKS

  • Where do you work?
  • FAULKNER

  • I work at this church, it’s called Israel of God.
  • BROOKS

  • Do you cook for them?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, part of it is like a little restaurant.
  • (p.195) BROOKS

  • Do you have family there in Memphis?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, all my children are up there but one. I am the mother of four children—two girls and two boys. Everybody’s up there, except for my baby—he’s in Mississippi; he’s in Ruleville.
  • BROOKS

  • So, when did you decide to move from Ruleville to Memphis?
  • FAULKNER

  • In 1975.
  • BROOKS

  • And what made you want to leave Ruleville?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, it’s a long story. And I really don’t want to go into that. It’s a long story. My first husband and I—we wasn’t getting along too good. So, I decided to leave.
  • BROOKS

  • Okay, and do you go back to visit that area much anymore, or do you pretty much stay around Memphis?
  • FAULKNER

  • I go back, you know, because, I’m going to put it like thisit’s water under the bridge now. So, that being, it was just, it was a lot of heartache and I just told Mamma I had to get away. So, I moved to Memphis.
  • BROOKS

  • And how did your mom take that? Was it hard for her to have you leave?
  • FAULKNER

  • Nah, it really wasn’t hard for her, you know, because she knew the situation and a change did me all good.
  • BROOKS

  • Did you still see her quite a bit after you moved to Memphis?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, no, I’m not going to say I did because, during the time, I didn’t have a job and I didn’t have transportation. So, I came up here and I stayed with my auntie. And then, you know, later on—well, it really; it was kind of, it was hectic. It wasn’t just peaches and cream; I’ll put it like that. I had good times and bad times, you know, but God knew that. Things worked out and eventually I did get a chance and I’d go back down there, but I didn’t go often because I was just ready to leave.
  • And then something about—I moved back home after Mom died. I moved back in ’80 because Daddy had started getting sick and my auntie had called me and said I need to come home, you know. So, he wouldn’t listen to anybody. She said, “Bebe, you got to come back to get him to go back and forth to the doctor.” So, I came home; I moved home in ’80. I tried to stay there—day three, I decided I wanted to go back to Memphis; well, come back to Memphis and I stayed up here two weeks and went back and I stayed there till Daddy died.
  • BROOKS

  • And what year did he pass in, was it ninety—
  • FAULKNER

  • He passed away in May of ’92.
  • BROOKS

  • So, you did move back there for quite a while. What did your father pass away from? What was his ailment? What was he suffering from?
  • (p.196) FAULKNER

  • Nothing, he just had a massive heart attack.
  • BROOKS

  • What was your father like? There aren’t many accounts of your father—we hear a lot about your mother, but can you tell me a bit about what he was like?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, I had a great daddy. He was real nice. One thing about it—I would tell anybodyI’m a daddy’s child. I love my mom; don’t get me wrong, but I’m a daddy’s child. One thing I can tell you about him, and people don’t realize, when Mom—on August 31, 1962—when Mamma went to this mass meeting in Ruleville, Mississippi, for the Williams Chapel church, and if Daddy didn’t want Mamma to go, she wouldn’t have went. But he told her—because she wanted to go—so he told her, said, “Baby, if it’s what you want to do, go right ahead.” That’s what she did and when she came back—because, I went with her to the mass meeting—and when we came back she told him that she was going to go to Indianola.
  • Now, it wasn’t the thirty-first of August because the thirty-first is when she went to try to register to vote. And he told her, “If you want to, if that’s what you want to do”—everything she told him, he said, “If that’s what you want to do,” he was going to be behind her 100 percent and he was.
  • And I feel like, one thing about it, you have to give it to him because he was a man. And he didn’t back down from nothing or nobody. He would treat you with the utmost respect. Even though my father couldn’t read or write, but he had that mother wit. He knew how to treat people; he knew how to talk to people.
  • You know, Mom taught him how to write his name. And she showed him how he could recognize his name and anything else. And he learned that, he learned that. So, you know, that was a blessing.
  • BROOKS

  • Absolutely. Did he care for you girls while she was on the road traveling?
  • FAULKNER

  • At the time, wasn’t nobody home but me, because Dorothy, she had left home. There wasn’t nobody home but me. And, yes, he took care of me. I know one thing, he learned how to cook. Because my daddy used to be [inaudible]. He learned how to cook or we were going to starve to death, one of us, because I got tired of bologna and eggs, smoked sausage and eggs, hot dog and eggs—honey, I thought I was going to be a hot dog and bologna egg creature!
  • He did what he had to do, you know, but he learned how to cook. And I’ll tell you one thing—I knew my mom could cook, she was, whew, she was an excellent cook, but Daddy got so hungry he could just about beat (p.197) Mom in that kitchen. One thing he couldn’t do—he couldn’t do cake and he couldn’t bake pies, and homemade biscuits, but anything else like frying food or boiling food, he had her beaten.
  • BROOKS

  • How did he feel about your mother traveling so much? Was your father supportive of her traveling so much?
  • FAULKNER

  • Oh yeah! He supported her; he supported her in every way. Nah, not one time did he tell her, “You don’t need to be doing this”—he wasn’t that type of a person. That was a good man.
  • BROOKS

  • Was he a really friendly person by nature? It sounds like you had a lot of people coming in and out of your house during Freedom Summer and everything—
  • FAULKNER

  • We did.
  • BROOKS

  • What was that like for your father?
  • FAULKNER

  • He wasn’t at home. He’d leave the house [laughter, inaudible]. I’m being serious with you, Maegan. Most of the time, people would come and they would just come to see what they could get out of my mom.
  • BROOKS

  • Really?
  • FAULKNER

  • Their common excuse, some of them be in terms of their children there, and there you have a lot on the line—“I need some money,” “They going to turn my lights off,” “They going to cut my gas off,” or “My rent got to be paid.” It was just chaos; it was just conflict, you know. But she was the type of person, she didn’t turn them down. She would give her last. And for every one that she was helping, when my mom got down and couldn’t do for herself, you could count on one hand and half a finger on the left, how many were there to help out.
  • BROOKS

  • Was that pretty hard for your father to watch?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yeah, it was because it upsetted him. It really did. He was the type of person who would just tell you where it was, how he felt—he didn’t hold back. He just let it go. And I just thank God, I am so blessed in a way—I’m just like that. I’ll just tell you where to get off at. But if you mean well, I’ll treat you—but if you out to harm, then I’ll let you know where to go from there.
  • BROOKS

  • Who do you remember being around your mom toward the end, do you remember who was there to help her?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, my auntie Dora. She had a niece named Hazel—Hazel was living, I’m thinking she was living in Detroit; it’s been so long ago. It’s been over thirty-two years. She’s been dead over thirty-two years this past March. And that’s a long time. And, you know, to try to keep this all in (p.198) your mind. But you know, one thing about it, I thank God for blessing and keeping my mind. You know, it’s just like He reevaluate me. And I thank Him for that.
  • BROOKS

  • How do you tell people about your mother, do you talk about her much?
  • FAULKNER

  • Not really. You know, only when I’m called to speak. I go to like different engagements or something. They call me and ask me can I come and I speak on her then. But other than that, I just leave her alone. Sometimes, Maegan, you might not believe this, sometimes it hits me just like it just happened.
  • BROOKS

  • I do believe that, it’s not something easy to get over. I understand that.
  • FAULKNER

  • And then I think about the times before she even got involved in civil rights. And she was working on this white man’s plantation and she and my dad and Dorothy, they would be in the field. I would be at home with my grandma, because Grandmamma was blind and she was confined to a wheelchair, and me being the baby in the house—five and six years old—I was taking care of her.
  • BROOKS

  • What was your grandmother like, do you remember much about her?
  • FAULKNER

  • Grandmamma was sweet. Yeah, she was a sweet person, you know. She was sweet and I was a terrible little girl—oh. I remember one time, she told me she wanted to go to the bathroom and I wanted to play. And she kept telling me, she’d say, “Baby, Grandmamma got to use the bathroom.” And I was being just mean, that particular day, and I said, “Use it on yourself.” And she did. And I cleaned her up and I got me a switch and I caught myself whooping her. And my daddy seen me, but I didn’t see him. And he went to the field and told my mamma. And she got home and tore my butt up. And even though I was wrong, you know my grandma was still trying to stick up for me? She told her, she said, “Don’t whoop her, she just a baby—she don’t know, she don’t know no better.” Mamma said, “Yes, she do.” I knew better, my grandma was just trying to keep me from getting a whooping. That was sweet.
  • BROOKS

  • What was the relationship like between your grandmother and your mom? Do you remember how they interacted?
  • FAULKNER

  • Oh baby! Mamma was Grandmamma’s heart, because Mamma was the baby. And she didn’t want to stay with nobody but my mamma and my dad. She didn’t want to stay with Aunt Laura, she didn’t want to stay with nobody but Fannie. And I remember when my grandmother—she (p.199) died of old age—and Mamma didn’t want me to know that she had passed away that night, and she passed away in my bed. A white lady had given me a baby bed, but it was like a bunk bed, you know. It was kind of like half rails and the rest of it—but it was a pretty bed. But anyway, when Grandmamma got sick she was sleeping in my bed. And she passed away. And sometimes it just seem like yesterday, because she was sweet. She had long pretty hair—and even though she was blind, she had her glasses on. There was something—you know that was amazing to mebeing a little girl and everything, you know, she could tell a nickel from a quarter, a dollar from a five. So, Mamma had given me some money and she told me to give it to her. She said, “Baby, take this money in there and give it to Mamma.”
  • So, it was like a five and a dollar. So, I gave her a dollar and said, “Here, Grandmamma, here’s five dollars.”
  • She felt that money and she said, “No, that’s not.” She said, “No, it ain’t. That’s not a five, that’s a dollar.”
  • I said, “How’d you know? When you can’t see.”
  • She said, “Baby, it’s just something that happens when you lose your sense of sight, it goes into your hands.” At the time I didn’t understand that. When you lose your sense of hearing, it goes to your feet. I knew a girl though she couldn’t hear or talk, but when she hear music, you know, the vibrations, she could feel it in her feet. That’s how I learned how to deal with people like that.
  • BROOKS

  • So, it wasn’t long after your grandmother died that your mom went to that mass meeting, what changed after your mother became active—
  • FAULKNER

  • Grandmamma died in ’61, [we] attended the mass meeting in ’62.
  • BROOKS

  • So, a lot of life changes for your family right away. Did you move out of Ruleville with your mother when she left, after being kicked off the plantation, what was that like?
  • FAULKNER

  • We went to my mamma’s niece’s house—first Mamma went to Mrs. Mary Tucker’s house—that’s in Ruleville, on Byron Street. My daddy didn’t feel comfortable back when he had taken her there. He just didn’t feel comfortable. He went and got her and took her to Sumner, Mississippi— and we stayed there, we stayed with Jeanette until December. You know the thing that was so hard for me, at the time, the house that they was living in—winter had came and it would be so cold there. Around midnight I would cry and want to go home, but we didn’t have no home to go to. And Mamma would tell me, she said, “Baby, it’s going to be all right.”
  • And I told her, I said, “I’m ready to go,” I said, “I miss my dad.”
  • (p.200) And, so in December of ’62 we finally moved to the town of Ruleville. We going down into the Ruleville area; we had moved to town. It was a three-room house, had a bathroom, but no bathtub, no face bowl, no running water—only the water that was running [was] in the toilet, you know, when you flushed it, it would flush. Outdoor hydrant—had to carry water, heat water on the stove to take a bath, but you know through it all we made it. We’ve had good and bad times there, and then finally my mom bought this house. It was a two-room house and she had that house moved to 721 James Street, which—after she passed away—years later they finally named the street Fannie Lou Hamer Drive.
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah, I noticed that when I was out—a couple of summers ago there, in Ruleville. Does Lenora live in that house?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yeah, but the original house burnt down, New Year’s Day of this year—
  • BROOKS

  • Oh, I think I heard that from a cousin—
  • FAULKNER

  • —burnt to the ground. So, Lenora had it built back. So, now it’s Lenora’s house. The house that we had, it was the family’s house. You know, with her and her family—I thank God because they went through a lot, living in hotels. I wished for a moment that she would have just—before the house burned, I wanted to turn it into a museum.
  • BROOKS

  • Oh, that’s a great idea.
  • FAULKNER

  • But, unfortunately, she didn’t want it like that. So, I guess the Lord saw this—to keep from disputing over property, do it like that. It just burnt to the ground.
  • BROOKS

  • Do you keep in good touch with Lenora and Jacqueline? Do you hear from them regularly?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, I talk to Jackie. She’s in Missouri; she moved closer to home. She was in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and I told her, “You need to move closer to home, you’re too far away.” So, she moved to Missouri. She’s doing good; she got married—she’s doing good.
  • BROOKS

  • Can you tell me a little bit about what life was like growing up after your mom became active in civil rights? Can you tell me what you remember about that period?
  • FAULKNER

  • It wasn’t easy, always getting threats, you know, phone calls— threats on her life. Phone calls all time of the night, sometime they call and hang up, wouldn’t say nothing—either they call and say, “I’m going to kill you, nigger,” or “I’m going to do this, I’m going to do that.” It wasn’t easy. But, through it all—you know, one thing about itwhat God has for you, it is for you. Can’t nobody take that away.
  • (p.201) And long before she even got involved in civil rights, she always have been an outspoken person. She was a Christian; she was a Christian and that was the best part of it. Back then, I didn’t understand it, she would always say, “The Lord is going to do this, the Lord is going to do that.”
  • And I’m like, “Where is He now,” you know?
  • But then when you get older, you learn. [Inaudible] Train up a child and the way that they should grow and when they get older they won’t depart from it. That’s one thing I can say that Mom did, a lot of times she would send us to church even if she couldn’t go, she would make sure we go. And she taught us right from wrong, she taught us the Bible. You know, how to live a Christian life.
  • And I thank God for her because, you know, I’m not going to say that I’ve been doing it all my life, because I haven’t. Like I told you earlier, I got a lot of my dad in me. I thank God that he’s working with me to get that dad stuff out because I used to tell people some things, honey, it wasn’t nice; it wasn’t nice at all. Daddy would step up and call you an “s.o.b.” in a minute. If it wasn’t “s.o.b,” you was a hail Mary. And like I say, a lot of that rubbed off on me. I was the type of person, I would cuss you out—tell you where to get off at and then if that didn’t work, I would pull a gun on you, either pull a knife on you—one of the two, I was going to do something to you.
  • I thank God; he changed me. I always had said I would never join a sanctified church, but never say never. That’s how I got changed. My baby daughter started going to this church, and my baby got saved. She got filled with the Holy Ghost. She was staying with me—her and her husband were all in the same place. And I was watching her. It would so amaze me. My baby got saved, she was filled with the Holy Ghost and she was shouting up in the house and I was looking at her and I said, “Lord, I want me some of that.” And I started going to the church. And you know they was so—they was like they had been knowing me all my life. They didn’t look at you strange. They didn’t treat you a different way. They treated you like you was family; they welcomed you with open arms, you know?
  • So when I started going, I started getting a little closer to God. That’s when I really learned how to pray because I really didn’t know how to pray. I had to ask the Lord to teach me and help me and know what I was pray-ing for. Don’t just be saying words because they can come out your mouth. You say things, when you pray, when you say a sincere prayer, God’s going to answer. And He knows that you are sincere because He is nothing to play with—and I thank God for that. So, I’m saved. I don’t curse no more, no fighting. I just hold my peace and let the Lord fight my battles.
  • (p.202) BROOKS

  • How long ago was this? How long ago did you get saved?
  • FAULKNER

  • Believe it or not, well, 2000 and let’s see—my uncle died in 2005; I got married in 2000. He started working on me in 2003, when he started working on me; 2005 and 2006 really was the countdown.
  • BROOKS

  • Does this experience of being at church and close to God remind you of your mother? She was so deeply religious—
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, ma’am. You see, I never knew her daddy. Her father was a minister.
  • BROOKS

  • That’s what I read, yeah—
  • FAULKNER

  • But he died before we was born, but he was a minister. And Mamma could quote from scriptures. From that Bible, it’s just like she was sitting right there reading it to you. And I used to hear her recite some of those scriptures. She would go, like, the seventeenth chapter of Acts and the twenty-sixth verse said“Hath made of one blood all nations,” and she would just go on and on and on—
  • BROOKS

  • Oh, I remember, yeah, I’ve heard her say that—we’ve got that in a lot of the speeches in this collection. She seemed to return to that verse a lot. What else do you remember about her speaking? Did you ever get to hear her speak at some of these meetings?
  • FAULKNER

  • Oh man, me and my mom went on a seven-state tour! She wasn’t doing nothing but speaking.
  • BROOKS

  • When was this?
  • FAULKNER

  • It started in 1965 and every state I went to I had a birthday party because it was my birthday; it was in August. My birthday is the ninth of August and we went to Newport, Rhode Island, to a folk festival. They paid us fifty dollars a day, you know, we was singing. And she said, “This is my baby and she’s going to sing with me.” And we would get up there on stage—that’s the first time I met the Staple Singers, come to find out they was our cousins. Then, I met Howlin’ Wolf—oh, I had met so many people. Do you remember Peter, Paul, and Mary?
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah!
  • FAULKNER

  • I met them; they was at the festival. Pete Seeger, so many people! We got our little ticket all—we was there three days and it was $150. And I got $150 as well.
  • BROOKS

  • What songs would you sing there?
  • FAULKNER

  • Oh honey, I don’t even remember—know what songs we sang back then. It’s been—honey, that was in 1965! Nah, that was in ’66; that was in 1966. Because Lenora was born and Dorothy was pregnant with Jackie. That was in ’66, in August because we made it back home just in time. (p.203) Because Dorothy gave birth to Jacqueline September the twenty-second, 1966.
  • BROOKS

  • Did she fall ill after her pregnancy, or can you tell me a bit about what happened to Dorothy?
  • FAULKNER

  • Dorothy had been ill all her life—she was a sick baby. She always have been sickly, but she, in 1967, she start with a nosebleed. Because her nose used to bleed all the time, but this particular time her nose started bleeding, we couldn’t get it to stop … She taken sick, had this nosebleed started on the first of May in 1967. And like I say she always have had nosebleeds, but we could get them to stop. But this particular time we had to take her to the doctor. We took her to this doctor over there to this little place called Minter City to this doctor, his name was Doctor Creek and he worked with her, he worked with her. Finally he got her nose to stop bleeding. So, we brought her back home, Mamma laid her down. And quite naturally, with bleeding like she did, she was weak. So later on, that Saturday, it was a Saturday, Saturday evening it started back again. So, Mamma took her to Mound Bayou hospital in Mound Bayou, Mississippi.
  • And my sister stayed in that hospital from the first of May to the twenty-third of May. When she—Mamma was transporting her from Mound Bayou to Memphis, what used to be John Gasden now it’s a Med now—and they brought her by the school because she wanted to see me. And that was the last day of school because school was—we got out of school on the twenty-third. But my sister looked like she was nine months pregnant. She had a growth and they was taking her to Memphis.
  • And she was so—she was oh, honey she was so much fun! She would keep you laughing. And she told me, she said, “Girl,” said, “Mamma said she was going to take me up there to Memphis and leave me.” And some time this transfer, this eighteen-wheeler, this truck was going by and it had this camel on there and the thing said, “Humping to please.” And she said, “You see that there, see how that camel has a hump on his back?” She said, “That’s probably going to be me. I’m going to be straightened out like that humpback camel.” She said, “I ain’t got no hump in my back, I got a hump in my stomach!”
  • I said, “Girl, please!”
  • And sure enough, when they got her up there, Mamma said the doctor had told her if she had brought Dorothy when it first happened, they could have saved her because there was a growth. And I never will forget what Mamma said they told her that growth was a molecule moles. It’s growing and it was eating up her blood. And she lost her on the twenty-third, but (p.204) Mamma prayed and the Lord brought her back and she died on the twenty-fourth. She was only twenty-two years old, had two children. Lenora was born October the twenty-ninth, 1965, and Jacqueline born September the twenty-second, 1966.
  • And Dorothy’s death, it took a toll on Mamma. With the beating Mamma went through in 1963, and with the cancer and then Dorothy’s death, Mamma never did get over Dorothy’s death. Dorothy’s death took tolls on Mamma’s little heart. Mamma didn’t even go that way, you know, she didn’t go like that when Grandmamma died—and that was her mamma. But Dorothy’s death just took a toll on her. A lot of times she would be looking at me and she would say, “Dorothy, go bring me some water.”
  • And I’m like, “Mamma, I’m Bebe.”
  • She said, “Baby, I’m sorry.” She said, “Forgive me.” She said, “I just can’t get over it.” It took a long time for me to get over that too because we was close, very close. Even though she was a lot older than me, like nine years older than me, she was sweet.
  • BROOKS

  • You mentioned your mother’s beating in Winona, what do you remember about her after that? Did she talk to you much about that? Did she try and keep it from you children?
  • FAULKNER

  • No, in ’63 I was ten years old. When the beating taken place, it was taking place in June. She was in jail when Medgar Evers got killed. Medgar got killed on the twelfth of June; she was in Winona jail. But the thing about it, we didn’t know, I didn’t know that she had gotten beaten like that because we was with Aunt Laura, Mamma’s sister. We was staying with her. And it was a long time before we seen our mamma. You know, we were all asking Aunt Laura, “When’s Mamma coming home, when she going to come get us?”
  • When you go without seeing your mamma that long, you really wonder what’s been happening. You thinking something had happened—well, something did happen—but we didn’t know, we wasn’t aware of it. But my auntie knew—she kept it from us. So, it was a while before we seen our mamma; she had healed up when we seen her. But, you know, she told us about it and while she was telling us about it, you couldn’t do nothing but cry.
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah, oh yeah. How did your dad respond when he heard about it?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, see, the thing about it, that’s what I’m saying, we was with Aunt Laura—with my auntie—and he was staying at the house. I didn’t know what my daddy—
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah, oh, ok.
  • FAULKNER

  • —because, you know, we was with her [Aunt Laura].
  • (p.205) Part II

    BROOKS

  • Well, I was listening to the interview that we did earlier this week and I wanted to see if we could focus for a couple minutes on talking a little bit more about your experience hearing your mother speak, you know, because our collection is about her speeches. And it sounds like you had an opportunity to hear her deliver some of these speeches, so I really wanted to ask you about what it was like to see her up there on stage and to hear her—
  • FAULKNER

  • [Breaks into laughter.]
  • BROOKS

  • —what did you think about that?
  • FAULKNER

  • Oh, honey, it was awesome; it was awesome. But I always— whether she was in front of a crowd or just at home—I always loved to hear her talk, you know. She was my pride and joy. To me, she couldn’t do no wrong.
  • BROOKS

  • I understand that. What stands out in your memory about listening to her speak?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, most of the times, Maegan, when Mom would speak, she was concerned about children going to school and getting an education and making something of themselves. And her addressing to the people—adults—to get out and register to vote because your vote count. She said, “Don’t never say ‘my vote don’t count.’” She say, “Because every vote count.”
  • Let me tell you somethingafter she passed away, I stopped going to vote and then it just dawned on me—why you being like that? Because that’s what she stood for. So, I started back and I’ve been doing it ever since.
  • BROOKS

  • Oh, good. What do you think your mom would think about this election we just had? What would she think about Barack Obama becoming the first African American President?
  • FAULKNER

  • About like me—jumping and hooting and hollering!
  • BROOKS

  • Do you think she would see this as a culmination of what she stood for and what she was working for?
  • FAULKNER

  • Mmhmm, because that’s what every pioneer believed in. That was every American’s dream that one day we going to have a black president. Like I said, when I was in Jackson—I went to Jackson for the unveil-ing of the postage stamp—and my thing wasnever in a million years did I dream that we would have a black president. I said, “Never in a million years did I thought that I could see my mamma on a United States postage (p.206) stamp.” Now tell me, haven’t we come a long way? And we still got a long way to go.
  • BROOKS

  • What did your mother think about her fame? Did she see herself as a famous person? An able speaker? How did she understand—
  • FAULKNER

  • :—No, Mamma saw herself just plain Fannie Lou. She didn’t think of herself as—I’ll put it like thisa “big shot,” you know, she wasn’t like that. She was just a common down-to-earth person. She just tried to tell you what’s right, and tell you what’s right and don’t do no wrong.
  • BROOKS

  • Vergie, do you remember her going to Africa and coming back? What did she tell you about that trip to Africa?
  • FAULKNER

  • It was beautiful because she brought me an African outfit and some kind of little instrument. I don’t know what the heck it was—made out of like a turtle skin, I mean not a turtle skin—made out of some sheepskin or cow skin or something. But it was an instrument and I didn’t like that thing! But I loved my outfit, but that’s all we talked about. And I thank God that she went to Africa. And believe you me, 1987, I was ready to go!
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah, did you get to—have you ever got the chance to go to Africa?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yeah, I went.
  • BROOKS

  • Oh, well, tell me about that—where did you go?
  • FAULKNER

  • I went to, what’s it called—over there in Tripoli. Yeah, it was real nice. I left on the eighth of April and made it back to the United States on the nineteenth of April.
  • BROOKS

  • Did you have some of the same impressions as your mom? I’ve heard her talk about being really impressed by the positions of power that Africans held there and their beauty, connection to their family. Did you feel some of those same emotions when you were there?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, from where we were, it was beautiful and [inaudible] too. If I didn’t have kids back home, I sure wouldn’t want to come back.
  • BROOKS

  • Really?
  • FAULKNER

  • I loved it over there!
  • BROOKS

  • Just a couple more questions about her speeches … was your mother ever nervous before she spoke? Was she an anxious speaker or was she pretty comfortable up there?
  • FAULKNER

  • She was always comfortable. She wasn’t nervous; she wasn’t a nervous type of person. She spoke from the heart. That’s another thing she didn’t do—she didn’t read from no paper; she didn’t read no paper. She just spoke from the heart.
  • (p.207) BROOKS

  • How do you remember audiences reacting to her when you saw her speak? Did people feel like they agreed with her? Were they supportive of her; how did they respond?
  • FAULKNER

  • Yes, they did. It’s going to be some that there’s going to be disagreement with, but then that’s with anybody. That’s with any and everybody, you going to have some that agree and some disagree. That’s one thing about ityou cannot please everybody. So, that’s one thing I don’t do; I don’t even try. You either love me or leave me. So, you chose.
  • BROOKS

  • Did your mom feel that way too—did she have that opinion, that she wasn’t going to convince everybody?
  • FAULKNER

  • Well, the other thing she sayif you don’t, then it’s not my fault. Then, if you domay God bless you. It was just like, if I should die my soul be lost—ain’t nobody’s fault but mine. You know, she put it out there, either you accept it or you don’t accept it. A majority of them was accepting it. There were very few that wasn’t, but we don’t count that.
  • BROOKS

  • What did people in your community think about her? Was she supported or were there some people that held some resentment about her popularity? How did people in Ruleville act after she became such a national figure?
  • FAULKNER

  • Baby, they was moved. Like I say, the majority of them was showing appreciation and then you had a lot of them that come there to get what they could get. If there was free food given out, they come get the free food. Clothes, they come get the clothes. And she would have established a pig bank—
  • BROOKS

  • Yeah, Freedom Farm, tell me about that.
  • FAULKNER

  • She had this little co-op where you plant greens, peas, butter beans, okra and stuff. Had a little garden, called a truck patch—old people call it a truck patch. And if you didn’t go out there and pick some peas, you didn’t have no excuse to be hungry. If you didn’t go out and pick some peas, butter beans, and stuff like that, process that stuff and put it in Ziploc bags, them freezing bags, put it in your freezer for the winter, because you know the winter is coming—if you didn’t do that, if you was too lazy to do that, then you deserve to be hungry.
  • BROOKS

  • Why do you think that Freedom Farm ended up failing in the long run? Why didn’t that work out?
  • FAULKNER

  • Every dime she got she given it away instead of paying the payments on it. Trying to help folks pay their bills and stuff like that and just lost it.
  • (p.208) BROOKS

  • The last couple questions I want to ask are just about what you see as your mother’s greatest accomplishment. If you could tell someone, you know, what you see as her greatest accomplishment or legacy, what would that be?
  • FAULKNER

  • My mom’s greatest accomplishment in life is that she wanted all men to be created equal. And that young people get out there and register to vote. Older people help teach your children; teach them because your children are the future. And the best thing I could say about my mom— everything I say about her is good—but the best thing that I loved of all about my mom is that she was a Christian; she stood for what’s right; she tried to help anybody—she didn’t pick, she didn’t discriminate.
  • And she showed love. She showed love in everything she did. She showed love in her cooking, raising her children, being a wife to her husband. She showed love most of all when she get up there and she’d speak. She either sing before she speak or she’d sing after she speak—but that’s one thing I can say, I was proud of her and I’m still proud of her. Even though she’s deceased, but her spirit still lives on.
  • BROOKS

  • Absolutely. Well, thank you so much, Vergie. I really appreciate you taking this time again to talk more with me.