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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with John Thomas Moore, October 18, 2000. Interview R-0142. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

A mother-to-be induces an abortion and ends a marriage

Moore talks about his wife, Jean, who seems like a troubled woman. Jean and Moore argued frequently, sometimes over having children, something she did not want to do. She became pregnant, however, but at five months, had a miscarriage. Moore later learned from his godmother that Jean had induced four other miscarriages by ingesting a kind of sap. Soon thereafter, Jean left him to live with her parents, who described her as a religious fanatic under the control of a certain woman. The couple split but never legally divorced, and Jean preaches occasionally at Moore's church.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with John Thomas Moore, October 18, 2000. Interview R-0142. 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

I tell you brother, ooo, I went through the mill with that woman. She didn't want me to speak to nobody, didn't want me to shake peoples' hand or greet the saints. You know how in some Bibles they'll great each other with a holy kiss. [claps] You know how that is. We were doing what the Bible say do. (She'd say), "I don't want to hugging nobody." I said, "That woman don't mean a thing. You the only woman that mean anything to me." [affecting a crabby voice] (She said), "I don't know that. Don't do that no more. Do that and I'm going to do something." I said, "Do what you want to do." I went on, went on, went on. She didn't have to work because I was working. I said, "Don't work if you don't feel that way. Just stay here and take care of the house. Send the baby to school and take care of everything you have to do." She done that for a while, then said, "I think I might wanna work." I said, "Look in the paper and find you something. Maybe somebody might want to you do some housecleaning or something." She done that for a while, then she went all biserk. I said, "What in the world!" She just [unclear] screaming and then, then, then—next thing I know—. I worked at Duke and got sick one day. I went to the doctor and he said, "Mr. Moore, what's wrong?" I said, "Doctor, I can't keep nothing on my stomach. I bring my food and I can't eat. I'd go to the cafeteria. I don't understand. This is not me. I'm not supposed to be like this. He came in and test me and said, "You know what? You just recently got married?" I said, "Yes, I sure did." (He said), "Well, I'll tell you what: your wife is (in the family way.)" I said, "No, no, no, please don't tell me that." Two or three days later I went home. I sat down and I began to talk. I said, "Honey, let me tell you one thing. I been sick for two or three days. I just can't half eat. I can't hardly eat when I come home, just don't feel like nothing, vomiting [unclear] . Doctor told me to tell you that you was in the family way." [dramatic] (She said), "No, no, no, I can't go through that. Can't go through that. No! Not now." I said, "Well, it's there." So she finally went to Duke and they told her. Ran all kinds of tests that they run (on rabbits. Rabbit test always come out.) They said, "No, you're three months pregnant. She said, "No, no, no, I'll never have that, I'll never go through that." She done pretty good for a while. She got about five months, I came home one day and she said, "Look at me." When you get about five months you start coming out. I said, "That's nice. Ain't that cute! That's nice." [sharply and talking fast] (She said), "Naw, it ain't. I don't know what you talking about. I don't like that." I said, "Come on, what's wrong, what's wrong? That's what's supposed to happen." (She said,) "Not me, not me." So I came home one day, she was laying down. I said, "Why are you laying down? You don't feel good?" (She said,) "Going the bathroom and look in that night pot." I went in there and she done had a miscarriage; everything is laying in the nightpot. I said, "What in the world has you done? What in the world has you done, girl? That's not right. You don't do stuff like that. I hadn't hit you, I hadn't beaten or done nothing to you. You haven't lifted nothing heavy or nothing." I know she loved to clean the house and turn the stuff around, but I don't see where that done it. I'll tell you this then and we'll skip that part. You know, this sap out of the root you get out of the wood—the red root, you can drink that. It's good for your body. When Grandma used to fix that on Sunday morning, we used to drink that when we'd eat breakfast. But that white kind will run you blind, and it will knock up babies. That's what she was drinking. I was talking to my god mother, Ms. Shaw; she lived next door and we did, too. I said, "I seen Jean going into part of that cabinet, Mother, eating something out of a little mayonnaise jar; it's white and clear." She said, "Oh, my God! Oh, my God, Bishop. I hate to tell you—. You mean to tell me she drink that white sap (after tea?)" I said, "What in the world is that?" She said, "The red kind you can drink." I said, "Grandma always fixed that for us; we enjoyed it." She said, "But that white kind will run you crazy and knock up babies." I said, "Is that what happened when she had that miscarriage in that night that I told you about?" She said, "Yes, I could have told you this, but I didn't want to, because I didn't want to hurt your feelings." I kept seeing her going and drinking that, drinking that. Every three or four months she would just drink that. [voice wavering] O.K., the first one was a set of twins, next time it was a set of twins. That's four kids gone down the drain. Then later on she got like that again; that was one; that was a little boy. Five kids she just flushed away. The Bible tells us, "Don't take that you can't give." When you take a child's life, you can't give it back. I don't care what you do. He'll forgive you, but you done took that child's life. That could have been a teacher, preacher, bishop; it could have been a president, anything. A senator, anything. You don't do that. If God let's you conceive it, you're supposed to bring it into the world, give birth to it, give it a chance to survive and be what it ought to be. He didn't give it to you just to be giving it to you. So from that it just grew worse and worse and worse and worse. She'd run all around naked in the street, I'd get her, bring her back home, talk with her, not try to beat her, and [unclear] . They said, "That's what you're supposed to do. You're husband and wife. You got a good husband. Got married and don't nobody done nothing to nobody. That's a nice, educated man, spiritual man. You'll regret it." [Affecting a crabby voice] "I don't want that. I ain't have no children." She went up to my next god mother up the street, and (my god mother says), "Let me take her, pray with her, talk with her, and try to help her, let her see she done wrong." She just kept getting worse and worse. The fifth day I went up there she got mad, started fighting me. I said, "Jean, what's wrong with you?" [in voice] "I don't want to see you no more. I don't want to see you no more. You ain't going to do me tonight. I ain't having no young ones for you. You ain't going to fool me (for the young). So the doctor told her, "You will conceive again, and the next time you conceive it will be triplets." She said, "No, no. I ain't having no more youngings with him. I'm leaving him. I'm going back home to Momma and Daddy." She went back home to her momma and daddy, and in about three or four weeks I got tired of being there by myself. So the Saturday I was off I went up there to talk to him again I went up there again to talk to her. Her daddy and told me, "Let me tell you one thing: I know you a good man and good person, and her momma told me, too. But my daughter is a religious fanatic." [pause] I think you kind of puzzled now, ain't you?
I don't understand what he meant by that.
Well, she just got so much religion and everything, she don't believe in nothing nobody tell her. (She's) tied up with these women's and things, and just caters to these women's and everything they do, she do that? That woman told her I wasn't supposed to be her husband, I wasn't what I ought to be. She believed what that woman said. That woman separated us. She would cater to that woman, go to that woman and stay, get in the bed with her and everything, just do and carry on and do. I just couldn't understand all that. So I was staying by myself, still pastor of my church, still praying and talking to the Lord. I was asking the Lord to stay in my body, because it was flesh. He came in and blessed me. The Bible says, "Every man has his own woman, a wife, you know. So I knew I couldn't go and get married to anyone else, and I didn't try to do it. He just kept me, staying in my body. I preached and teached and talked to people, counsel folks in marriage. Yet and still, mine was broken all to pieces. [claps] He had said I had to do what God said do. He brought me out. I ain't married [unclear] nobody else since. Ain't thinking about it. Too far gone now to think about getting married. He's just blessed me. And she called me one night—thunder and lightning, we were having a terrible storm in Durham. I was living right over there in the church. The church was over here on this side, and I lived in this side [gesturing to left and right]. I said, "What in the world is all this thunder and lightening and terrible raining?" I answer the telephone, "Hello? Who is this? Oh, how you doing, Jean?" [affecting a harsh voice] "Don't ask me how I'm doing. Just letting you know I'm sending you some letters. I done been to court and filed a divorce against you." I said, "Whatever you send I'll sign; I'm not coming to court. I ain't signed no divorce and I ain't looking for no divorce." [in voice] "Well, I done divorced you anyway. I ain't staying with you no more. Ain't having nothing else to do with you." [I said,] "If that's what you want, then that's it. I'll sign them and send them back to (Graham). And they sent me back the divorce, when she went to court. No children, no nothing. I called and I said, "You mean to tell me you didn't tell the court that you destroyed five kids from me? How you think that make me feel?" "I ain't thinking about all that. I ain't think about all that. I got to live, is what I'm going to do." She's in Burlington now. She was a preacher then. She was pastor and preacher of the Church of God. Whole lotta people. [claps] When she come to my home church to preach, I go over [to the pews]. She be there preaching. I sit there and listen and look, and my mind is just—you know.
Even now she does this?
Yeah. She said, "You go your way and I'll go my way. You see me, just call me Jean Banks. They still call her Sister Pastor Jean Moore. I said, "She not no Moore. She's a Banks. I don't know why y'all keep saying Moore." She goes, "I don't care about my name. I got divorce papers at home." But in the sight of God we're still married, but man part with divorce. I said, "O.K., I'll leave her up there. When she comes around to preach I sit there [unclear] . She say, "I see my husband, the other part of me." I look at her and say, "How in the world can she say that?" Everybody just looking at her. A whole lot of them didn't know she was my wife. So I said, "Yes, we was married. She's the one that filed for the divorce, and I signed it." When she came, she was back in her maiden name, Jean Carol Banks, and she no longer carries my name, according to law. Everybody look at me, "Well, she still your—" I said, "I know. But I still don't claim her." And I don't. [Laughter] So we'll skip that part. Thank the Lord I'm still living and going on. God going to fix that at his own due time. Bible say that the wheat and chaff grow together, and in my day I going to separate them. So I don't try to separate nothing. [claps] He'll do it. If she can live with that on her conscience, I sure can live and go on with the Lord. He ain't going to hold me fault with what I didn't do. I was a husband like I ought to, work and took care and kept the house going and everything. She didn't like that. A whole lot more things happened but we won't get into that. But that's the history of me—serving the Lord, going on and God just blessing.