Blues Power by PEte Evans

By PEte Evans

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He just started moving on the white folks’ place, from one place to the other. It was strange, my husband had never worked sharecrops before, but he did that. He wasn’t in good health at that time. ” Her husband, she said, “seemed like he lost his—wasn’t ever any more good, he never was more no good, you know, just like he had been. ” In around 1940, the Bankheads moved to Shaw. Then Walter Bankhead wanted to move back to his home in Arkansas, so the family moved to the area near Edmondson, onto the land that belonged to his stepchildren.

Dorsey’s father, who could not read and write, insisted that all of his children attend school. C. became adept at math, and she believed that she would help the family by writing down and totaling all of the year’s expenditures, and subtracting that sum from the market price that she figured their cotton would return. With cotton selling at forty cents a pound in 1952, Dorsey figured that her family should clear $2,400 after “plantation expenses” were deducted. She was devastated when her father returned from his settlement meeting with just $200.

Pullen shot several members of the white mob, and then escaped to a ditch and a swamp, and, legend had it, shot thirteen whites before one of the white men poured gasoline into the water, lit it afire, and forced Pullen out. ”37 Many versions of the Joe Pullen story were told in the Delta, and African Americans of Dorsey’s father’s generation were well aware of the consequences that awaited people who challenged the unwritten rules of the system of white supremacy and sharecropping. Although Dorsey’s parents did not overtly question these rules, her father carried his rifle with him when he went to the fields, and also walked his children to school carrying his gun.

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