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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Race relations in a rural southern town

When Barbee's family decided to leave their farm, the white landowner tried to cause financial problems for them, but her extended family stepped in and intervened. Barbee explains that they were able to do so because as the only auto mechanics in the area, they were important to the local business community. This leads her into a discussion of the black businesses in the local town.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Annie Mack Barbee, May 28, 1979. Interview H-0190. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

BEVERLY JONES:
Okay, while growing up on the farm, the immediate white contact was the landlord. And what type of person was he, was he a good person to work for?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
I don't know nothing about him.
BEVERLY JONES:
You were very young.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Very young, I can't remember. But I do know when the bo weevils came through—they probably have already told you. The mule died. And what else died. And he was supposed to come and get the mule, and I got a first cousing—he's dead now—Joe. That's my oldest aunts' son. And Joe would come over there and help ma. He'd come over there every Saturday night. And boil peanuts. He'd boil peanuts in a iron kettle. And Joe would come over and help her do little things around the house until it was time for us to move from the farm to her home, that left my grandmomma. Getting ready to come to Durham, but before that Joe would come over there every Saturday night. Now I remember him telling my mother, he said if old McFadden come here and bothering you let me know, 'cause if you ain't going to—he cursed, I won't say the curse word—he won't find nothing here. Momma said, well the mule is sick. He said, let the so and so die. He said, I won't bury him 'till McFadden come here. But sure enough the mule died so McFadden—I can remember seeing him, but I don't know him—he came with that old mule. And Joe said, the so and so out there do you want him? And he said no. He said, well you can have him. He said, you can take him and bury him. I think with so many difference against, you know, they take up all their livestock and what not, 'cause momma didn't make no crop that year. And so everything died, you know, the mule died. I don't know whether the cow died or not. But Joe'd taken some of the stuff and taken to his father's house to keep it. So McFadden couldn't get it, so he came there looking for something, but he didn't find anything. He knew Momma had to leave, she couldn't stay there. And whatever he came for, he couldn't find it, because I think the mule was the most important thing, but the mule died. Let me see, did the horse die, yeah, both of 'em died. But Joe wouldn't bury 'em, 'cause he wanted him to see 'em. But he saw 'em, this old McFadden, he saw that mule and thing out there. Then after he left, but I can't describe him. A little low looking man.
BEVERLY JONES:
And so Mr. McFadden did allow the family to leave without paying off what …
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah, 'cause Joe—you see, Joe, my cousing, they had some words. And I don't know what their words were exactly but I know, knowing Joe, told him he couldn't get nothing if she didn't have it. Or something like that. I was small then. And so, everything he could find he would take it to his daddy's. You know, little tools around the house and the plow and all that. He'd take that stuff and carry it to his father, before my mother left. So the man really didn't have anything to go there and get but a empty house, and Joe saw to that. That's her nephew on my daddy's side. And so we left, and went on to her mother's. And they had to crate the stuff to bring it to Durham. And every time they'd crate something, the man at the freight station would tell Joe it was wrong. So Joe crated three times, I do remember that. Peanuts and peas and we'd put it in crates, stuff that the man was supposed to get and Joe wouldn't let him get it. The last time Joe went down to the station, the freight station, he told Joe it wasn't right. And Joe said, I did everything you told me to do. He said if this is not right—and I won't say the curse word—and he grabbed the man. And a man that knew my uncle, which was Joe's father, went and told Uncle Buddy to send Uly down to the freight station because Joe was fixing to kill that white man. So Uly got on the car and went on down there, and when he went down there, he said they were cursing like mad. He said Joe was crying. Well see, one thing about them, they didn't have to bow. Their father had a plenty. They'd been mingling with white folks all their life. They didn't go out and work on the farm like the most families. His father owned a plenty, Joe's father, my aunt and her husband owned a plenty. So her children didn't know what it was to bow down to white people. They didn't. And that boy, no way. So Uly had to go down there and get Joe. And so Joe said—Uly said, what's the matter, the man told me… So Uly got in with that. He said, well if this stuff is not crated right, and if you don't put this stuff on that freight train and anything happens, you going to hear from us. So the man let it pay. Didn't want it to leave.
BEVERLY JONES:
It's 1900's and they're talking about, you're white.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah.
BEVERLY JONES:
It must have been a very reputable family.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
They was. Because here's why I say. You see, Uly was know all over Manning and surrounding country—towns rather. Because he had the only black mechanic shop.
BEVERLY JONES:
Oh.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
There's a connection there. Anything got wrong with your car, unless you wanted to take it to Sumter or somewhere, you had to go to him. Nowhere else to go. You had no choice, you had to go to him. And they knew, he knew what he was doing. He went to school for it. So whenever he spoke, he was heard. 'Cause if a man said, (nonsense), he said, no sir, you're going to put it on there. And he'd better get to Durham safe. Joe had to crate this stuff three times, and each time he sent it back. He said, now, it's not going back. It's not, and if anything wrong, you tell me right now what. And the man said, no, no, no, nothing wrong. And he had to hold Joe, and push him back, 'cause Joe had done grabbed him. See Joe was fixing to kill him. So Uly had to go down there and speak, and that stuff went on and came to Durham all right. Nothing wrong with it, it got to Durham. Poppa got somebody to get it from the freight station, it was fine. So you see, they didn't go humbling the white people. They didn't know what it was. In other words, to tell you the truth, they was just as—I mean they have just as much as the poor pecks or more, some of 'em. And Uly Miller's name was known all over that town, surrounding country. And they call, call Uly, tell him we had a wreck. Here he'd come with his wrecker. That was early. Didn't have no other. Had to. They didn't want to, but they had no choice. They had to patronize blacks when you ain't got no choice. They had to patronize him, they had no choice. Or send it with the car, some motor, send away to Sumter and get a wrecker, they had to use his.
BEVERLY JONES:
Do you recall what school did he go to to acquire this skill?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Somewhere in Missouri, I don't know. Yeah, it was in the state of Missouri, 'cause that's how he got acquainted with your cousin Susan. He'd go to school with her on his vacation or spring breaks or whatever you might call it—he'd go over to Ohio State with his uncle. See he'd go over there and stay with Susan then. Now that's how they—he was the first one in the family was known to that family. 'Cause none of 'em, they won't own him. They'd been knowing him for years when they were growing up, because he'd visit them. And go to Uncle Arthur and stay, and work around there in Ohio, and then in the fall he'd go back to school. Yeah, he was the only mechanic anywhere in that town. 'Course there were some came later, but he was the only one, Uly Miller. Uly Miller auto and mechanic shop. The only one.
BEVERLY JONES:
Were there any other black businesses that you can recall of?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Yeah, oh yeah. Black doctors. Doctor Whitney, Doctor Brown, and I think they have some kind of printing something. Della White's father. But I can't recall no store being run by—oh yes they did. Aunt Allen and them ran a store. They sure did. 'Cause Uly built a store right there adjoined to the house as something for her to do, and he helped her. Yeah, she ran a store for awhile but she got so old, he had to do away with it. Yeah, she ran a store. See people'd come to have their cars fixed, and he could see to make a business.
BEVERLY JONES:
Right.
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Buy loaves of bread and drinks and popcorn and ice cream and all of that. And when he'd work on the cars they'd go in the store, you know, and get something or another—refreshments. Yeah, they ran a little store, it wasn't a large one. Kind of a small place. Something like these little places we got around here. I'm trying to remember about the other black businesses, if I can remember. Manning was so small. I don't remember no store, no dry good stores, I mean. Clothing stores—I don't remember any of those. I know we did have a black doctor, Dr. Brown. Of course you know, you had more than one white one. But I remember him. He was the only black doctor there. And Stella White's father—I don't know what he was. I don't know whether he ran a printing shop. If he did, it had something to do with the Household of Ruth, that's something for women. That's a old organization for women—Household of Ruth. He had something to do with that.
BEVERLY JONES:
Was it a type of what?
ANNIE MACK BARBEE:
Something like the Masons and Elks, something on that order. It's the oldest one I can remember, the household Now that's the oldest—all these others came up later. I can remember that Household of Ruth when I was a child. And it's still active. It's active here in Durham. I don't know how strong it is, but it's still active.