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Roosevelt Williams Recalls Learning about the Rules of Jim Crow in Alabama

Roosevelt Williams, who was born in 1912 and lived in Mississippi, was interviewed in the 1990s about living in the segregated South. In this excerpt of the interview, Roosevelt describes interactions between races.


ORTIZ (INTERVIEWER): Were there fights?

R. WILLIAMS: Well, we didn’t have many fights among the races. We got along pretty good. Once in a while you’d have a fight, but we didn’t have lots of fights. I’ll tell you, once in a while some of them you grew up with, they don’t live far apart, and when you’re small, you play together. But now, quick as he gets a little age on him, then he wants you to call him Mister, you know. That was a few fights about that. You’ve got to call him Mister. That’s what he wanted. So we’d have little squabbles about that sometimes. I’m getting of age now. I’m Mr. So-and-so. Sometimes you might be older than him, but he still wanted you to call him Mister.

ORTIZ: The white kid would actually say—

R. WILLIAMS: Yeah, yeah, call him Mister. He didn’t care if you were older than he is. But he’s just going to call you by your name. In other words, coming up there, you never was, I’d say, considered a man. You was a boy. If you got old, you was uncle or something like that they’d call you, anything but Mister. That’s just the way it was.1

 

  1. Citations

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