I grew up in Mississippi and my father was a Baptist pastor and so I lived basically in two places: West Point in Northeast Mississippi and from Greenwood in the Delta, but West Point’s one of the few places in Northeast Mississippi that is about half white and half black. A lot of that part of the state is more white. So I grew up where race was just in your face, and was taught by my parents – both of my parents were seminary graduates. My mother went to this thing that was training women for religious education and she wanted to take theology classes and they said, “No, a woman can’t take theology classes,” and they just didn’t know what they were dealing with.
Anyway, so she met my dad. That’s a diversion. But they taught me that when scripture says that we’re created in the likeness and image of God, that that meant that everybody was equal. It actually meant that everybody was kin. And I mean literally, this was prob – I’m at least three or four years old, is when I remember this ‘cause there’s a longer story I can tell you that – but they told me that that meant segregation was wrong, and it also meant segregation was going away. But they told me two things that I was not comfortable with, and one was that we had to be careful who we told that to. My father was a Baptist pastor; he didn’t have a bishop to protect him. My grandfathers had all lost everything in the Depression, so my parents knew very much what it was like to be middle-class one day and be poor the next. And then they told me something that just did not fit with the rest of their theology. They said that we weren’t gonna have anything to do with the change, God was gonna do it. Well, and everything else they told me was we were the hands and feet of God, that God used people. And literally, the fights that I had with my father were usually around, well why can’t we speak out around race? And I just remember saying, “I don’t want to live this way.”
And it was a very – what I’ve learned as I’ve gotten older is that fear was at the center of how segregation was maintained. And it was not just intimidation of black folk; it was intimidation of anybody that would dare speak out.
Politics were what we talked about at home. But we had to hide our political convictions and literally, that was the supper table conversation. And then my parents – my grandparents on my mother’s side were very active politically. I remember one of my mother’s classmates was governor of Georgia back in the late 60s and had pledged to close the public schools if they were threatened to integrate. And I remember my grandfather and grandmother going over to his house to make sure he didn't do that and that he went back on his promise. And he did. And it was kind of one of, he said later in life that that was one of his best moments, that he broke a campaign promise. But so politics have always been something I was always interested in.