Documenting the American South Logo
oral histories of the American South
Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Racial and sexual segregation in the mill and on the farm

Here, Carter covers a lot of ground in a short period of time. She remembers two kinds of segregation in two environments, the farm and the mill. On the farm, most of the work was reserved for men: Carter only dabbled in the garden. In the mill, African Americans worked only as janitors.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Jessie Lee Carter, May 5, 1980. Interview H-0237. 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

ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you do the work out on the farm?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Oh, yes. I helped hoe the garden, maybe. I helped plant it. I didn't work in the fields much. I have picked cotton, when they were needing help real bad. All my children picked cotton, though.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Would that be the way it generally was for women who lived out on the farm: that they might help pick cotton, but they wouldn't do a lot of the other farm work?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Yeah, that's right. My husband and my biggest boys all did the farm work. Tended to the cows and the horses and done the work. But I have helped planted the garden. Late in the afternoon, when it got cool, I went out and hoed the garden some, but not very much.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did you miss working in the mill during those years?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Yes, I missed it, because I really enjoyed working in the mill.
ALLEN TULLOS:
It sounds like you did.
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
I did. I loved it. As long as it was Brandon it was good work. I really liked the work. But when they changed it, I never did work in there any more, but everybody'd tell me how hard it was. And so, where we had eight sides for a set, now they have to run twenty, twenty in the spinning room, and you know, that's hard to do, 'cause the frames is twice as long as when I worked in the mill. It was those short frames, and the work run good. Now, my son-in-law says it works awful bad. He works now at Monaghan and he says the work runs bad.
ALLEN TULLOS:
What about how the black and the white people got along?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
They got along all right.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Were there any black people that worked…
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
No, they didn't any work on it. They cleaned up the bathrooms and the moppings on the floor.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Did they have a boiler room?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
Yeah, they had a boiler room and smoke stacks where the steam…where my daddy worked, they called it the basement. They had a big motor up there. Everything run with steam then in the old mill. But when they put in the new mill, they didn't have to run with the steam. 'Course, part of it run with steam, until they got it fixed where they could run it with electic, I reckon.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Do you know if any of the black men worked inside the boiler room?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
I guess they did in the boiler room. That's all they did. Colored people didn't work like they do now, in there. All the women had a woman that cleaned out the lady's bathroom and had a man to clean out the men's bathroom. And so that was the only colored people that worked up there. They did the moppings. Mopping the spinning room, mopping the alleys and all.
ALLEN TULLOS:
Where did they live?
JESSIE LEE CARTER:
They lived in Colored Town. They didn't live on the hill, on the village. Didn't any of them live on the village then.