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What is: Abandoned House in the fields on the way to Nat Turner’s Cave. Southampton County, Virginia

What was: In 1831, a slave rebellion was led by Nat Turner.  The slaves went from farm to farm in Southampton County killing the white slave owners.  Scores of blacks were murdered in reprisals throughout the South.

The legacy of the biggest slave revolt in U.S. history still hangs over the sandy soil, blackwater cypress swamps and abandoned homes of the county. Kids grow up in rural Southampton County hearing that the mist creeping across the fields might be something unearthly. Old folks warn them not to sneak into abandoned houses, where rotting floors and walls are said to be stained with blood. This is a haunted landscape. (Source: https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/virginia-politics/the-haunted-houses-legacy-of-nat-turners-slave-rebellion-lingers-but-reminders-are-disappearing/2019/04/29/d267d814-5d68-11e9-842d-7d3ed7eb3957_story.html

Attacking farmhouses in the darkness and picking up supporters along the way, Turner and his rebels killed some 55 white men, women, and children over two days. They were eventually scattered by militia infantry, and some were rounded up and killed or put on trial. Turner escaped and hid out for two months mostly in a crude “cave” — a hole dug under a pile of wood — before surrendering on Oct. 30, 1831.

Lonnie Bunch, then director of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, said, “The Nat Turner rebellion is probably the most significant uprising in American history.”

What is: a Texaco gas station with a white Pontiac out front, the ghost town of Glenrio, TX

What was: The Texaco station was built by Joseph (Joe) Brownlee in 1950 on Route 66 at a time when Glenrio, TX was often bumper to bumper with traffic. Interstate 40 opened in 1973 and by 1975, Glenrio was on its way to becoming a ghost town as everything closed up.

Roxann Bownlee, daughter of Joe, grew up helping her father at the gas station.  It was a family enterprise.  In 1970, Roxann married Larry Lee Travis.  With the decline of business in Glenrio, Larry rented the Standard Service Station near Adrian, Texas and each day drove the 25 miles to Adrian in his white Pontiac.

At the time, a group of gas, shop and service station owners had banded together as a vigilante force to patrol the streets of Vega and Adrian.  On March 7th a 23-year-old Texan called Lewis Steven Powell entered the Standard Service Station. No-one knows what happened in those few minutes, whether Larry – proud of his hard work – refused to hand over his takings, but Powell made him kneel down and shot him in the back of the head before robbing the till.

Larry never came home, but his Pontiac Catalina did, and it keeps silent sentinel in Glenrio. Roxann still lives in the house behind with family and dogs, one of the few remaining resident of Glenrio.

What is: Tobacco Farm Barns near Simsbury, CT

What was: In June 1944, trains carrying 185 students from Morehouse College in Atlanta arrived in a northern Connecticut town of Simsbury.  The students had arrived to work in the tobacco fields and harvest shade tobacco, then one of Connecticut’s biggest cash crops. These fields and barns are where Martin Luther King spent time working as a 15-year-old.  He would spend 2 summers working in the fields around Simsbury.

More than just a job, this was his first exposure to the Northeast and to a society that was not formally segregated.  He attended Simsbury churches, sang with the choir, enjoyed drugstore milkshakes and attended movies at Eno Hall. He made weekend visits to the “big city” of Hartford. In a letter to his mother in June 1944 he remarked that he had eaten in “one of the finest restaurants in Hartford” and that he had “never thought” that people of different races “could eat anywhere” together.

He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.  “I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote.  MLK later credited that time with helping him decide to enter the clergy, which, in turn, led him to join the civil rights movement. Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/martin-luther-king-in-connecticut-closer-to-a-promised-land.html

https://www.mlkinct.com/

What is: “Self serve Diesel” but no pumps…the lights are still there and so is the sign. The garage remains too…but not the diner.

What was: The truck terminal dated back to the heyday of Route 66 in the early 1960s, maybe as early as 1955. The neon wheels, the cowboy truck driver, and his animated hand waved during its hey day.

It was one of seven truck stops and five cafes originally built and operated by Bessie (Rogers) Boren and husband Ira Lionel Boren of the Fort Sumner-based Rio Pecos Oil Company.“We had it from 1963 to 1969,” Martinez said. “We were doing a hell of a business at that truck stop.”The business declined from other truck-stop competition and the coming of Interstate 40.  It closed by the late 1970s or early 1980s.

Since then, it has become a growing eyesore to the city because it drew vandals and homeless squatters. The city tried to buy the sign…the owner wanted too much for it.

What is: Mose Wright’s sharecroppinig home.  Money, Mississippi

Emmett Till was kidnapped from the location seen in the historic images below. It no longer exists.  The image Im sharing is about half a mile from the original location.  On the evening of August 28, 1955. He was staying at the home of his great uncle and aunt, Moses and Elizabeth Wright, who sharecropped 25 acres of cotton on the Grover Frederick Plantation. Source:https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/13

What was:  On Saturday, August 27th 1955, Mose Wright, his three sons, the three relatives from Chicago including Emmett Till and some of the neighbors went into the city of Greenwood for some fun. The boys walked the busy streets, gazed at the nightclubs and were amazed by the large crowds of the city.  They would drive back to Money, MS and by 2am all were asleep after a big night out.  Simeon Wright and Emmett shared a bed.

Suddenly there was a loud knock at the door.  Mr Bryant identified himself saying he needed to talk the boy who did all the talking.   Another man had a flashlight and a gun. They cased the house and found Emmett Till.  They made him get dressed and took him.  They told Mose Wright, who had said he was 64 years old, “if you ever know any of us here tonight, you wont live to be 65.” Mose asked them to just give Emmett a whipping and Moses’ wife offered money for any damages Emmett had caused.

Emmett was driven away into the night.

There is a warrant for Carolyn Bryant’s arrest in relation to the kidnapping. She is still alive and the warrant has never been fulfilled.

From FBI Investigation in the 2000s

Home of Mose Wright, Emmett Till’s great uncle, where Till was staying when he has abducted and murdered. Sept. 1, 1955

What is: Easy Money Church of God in Christ, Money, MS

What was: When Emmett Till’s body was discovered in the Tallahatchie River on Wednesday morning, August 31, 1955, plans were hastily made to have him buried in the small cemetery at the East Money Church of God in Christ—a humble black church that his Uncle, Moses Wright, pastored at.  After Emmett Till’s body was found, local law enforcement was anxious to bury the body and, they hoped, the story. Within hours of the body’s retrieval, a grave was dug here at the East Money church. Till’s great uncle Crosby Smith interrupted the digging. He arrived with a deputy sheriff and announced that Till’s mother, Mamie Till, insisted that her son’s body be returned home to Chicago. Source: https://tillapp.emmett-till.org/items/show/3

One week earlier, and while Wright and his wife Elizabeth attended Wednesday services, Till, his cousins, and two neighbors drove nearly three miles to the Bryant Grocery and Meat Market in Money, where Till had his fateful encounter with Carolyn Bryant. Ms. Bryant is alive today and has never been arrested, even though there is a warrant for her involvement in kidnapping.

Visit the Emmett Till Memory Project for more sites and stories or the Emmett Till Interpretive Center

 


What is: Abandoned Train Station, Tutwiler, Mississippi

What was: Meet W.C Handy. William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was an American composer and musician who referred to himself as the Father of the Blues. Handy was one of the most influential songwriters in the United States. While he was one of many musicians who played American blues, Handy did not create the blues but he was the first to publish music in the blues form, thereby taking the blues from a regional music style (Delta blues) with a limited audience to a new level of popularity.

Tutwiler, Mississippi is probably best known in music history as the place where W.C. Handy first discovered the blues, likely around 1903-1904, as he was waiting here, at Tutwiler’s railway station for a delayed train. At that time, Handy was managing a band based in Clarksdale, Mississippi.  Here’s how Handy described the encounter (Source: http://www.mississippibluestravellers.com/w-c-handy-autobiography-father-of-the-blues/)

“The band which I found in Clarksdale and the nine-man orchestra which grew out of it did yeoman duty in the Delta. We played for affairs of every description. I came to know by heart every foot of the Delta, even from Clarksdale to Lambert on the Dog and Yazoo City. I could call every stop, water tower and pig path on the Peavine with my eyes closed. It all became a familiar, monotonous round. Then one night in Tutwiler, as I nodded in the railroad station while waiting for a train that had been delayed nine hours, life suddenly took me by the shoulder and wakened me with a start.  A lean, loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept. His clothes were rags, his feet peeped out of his shoes. As he played he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who use steel bars.  The effect was unforgettable. His song, too, struck me instantly. “Goin’ where the Southern cross’ the Dog.”

The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard. The tune stayed in my mind. When the singer paused, I leaned over and asked him what the words meant. He rolled his eyes, showing a trace of mild amusement. Perhaps I should have known, but he didn’t mind explaining. At Moorhead the eastbound and the westbound met and crossed the north and southbound trains four times a day. This fellow was going where the Southern cross’ the Dog, and he didn’t care who knew it. He was simply singing about Moorhead as he waited.”

From that epiphany in Tutwiler, W.C. Handy changed his own musical direction to a course which led to his becoming one of the most influential figures in the history of American music.

What is: Tobacco Farm Barns near Simsbury, CT

What was: In June 1944, trains carrying 185 students from Morehouse College in Atlanta arrived in a northern Connecticut town of Simsbury.  The students had arrived to work in the tobacco fields and harvest shade tobacco, then one of Connecticut’s biggest cash crops. These fields and barns are where Martin Luther King spent time working as a 15-year-old.  He would spend 2 summers working in the fields around Simsbury.

More than just a job, this was his first exposure to the Northeast and to a society that was not formally segregated.  He attended Simsbury churches, sang with the choir, enjoyed drugstore milkshakes and attended movies at Eno Hall. He made weekend visits to the “big city” of Hartford. In a letter to his mother in June 1944 he remarked that he had eaten in “one of the finest restaurants in Hartford” and that he had “never thought” that people of different races “could eat anywhere” together.

He wrote a week earlier of going to the same church in Simsbury as white people. His new calling as a religious leader was emerging, too.  “I have to speak on some text every Sunday to 107 boys. We really have good meetings,” he wrote.  MLK later credited that time with helping him decide to enter the clergy, which, in turn, led him to join the civil rights movement. Sources: https://www.nytimes.com/2016/06/12/nyregion/martin-luther-king-in-connecticut-closer-to-a-promised-land.html

https://www.mlkinct.com/ and  Dr King in Simsbury

 

 

What is: The closed Strider Academy, a PK-12 school in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi, which operated from 1971 until 2018.

What was: The school was established in 1971 as a segregation academy to allow white parents to avoid sending their children to racially integrated public schools.  Strider Academy was named for the sheriff who investigated and obstructed justice in the murder of Emmett Till.  He went on to become a state senator. Shortly before his death in 1970, Clarence Strider donated the land for Strider Academy.

The school campus suffered two fires in two weeks in August 1977. The main building and the field house were both destroyed. The FBI was involved in the investigation.  In 1989, Greenwood public schools trustee Jeff Milman resigned after the NAACP protested his decision to enroll his children in Strider Academy instead of racially integrated public schools. Milman stated that his children wanted to attend Strider and that it was closer to his residence.

Strider Academy said it admits students of any race, color, national and ethnic origin to all the rights, privileges, programs, and activities generally accorded or made available to students at the school and that it does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national and ethnic origin in administration of its educational policies, admission policies, tuition assistance programs, and athletic and other school-administered programs.

However, as of 2016, the school’s students were 96% white. Filings for the 2015–16 school year indicates that all seventy-two students at the school were white. Tallahatchie County is 54% black.

What is: The old steel mill wheel at the front of Tredegar iron works which is today the main visitor center for the Richmond National Battlefield Park and the American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar.

What was: the iron works plant in Richmond opened in 1837 by a group of businessmen and industrialists who sought to capitalize on the Transportation Revolution. Tredegar operated on hydro power by harnessing the James River and the canal. The plant employed skilled domestic and foreign workers as well as slaves and free blacks. By 1860 it was the largest facility of its kind in the South – a contributing factor to the choice of Richmond as the capital of the confederacy.

It produced the steel for the first Confederate ironclad ship, as well as about half of the artillery production. It also manufactured steam locomotives, rail spikes and clamps. The iron works is one of the few Civil War era buildings that survived the burning of Richmond.

Tredegar began producing again by the end of 1865. By 1873 it employed 1,200 workers and was profitable business. The financial panic of 1873 hit the company hard and it did not make the transition to steel. The Tredegar company remained in business throughout the first half of the 20th century, and supplied requirements of the armed forces of the United States during World War I and World War II.

The company name Tredegar derives from the Welsh industrial town that supplied much of the company’s early workforce.