Community group works to register voters
After Mangum joined the First United Methodist Church in Pembroke, North Carolina, in 1958 and became increasingly involved in the community, he began to notice that the black and Native American communities there needed help. His efforts with other concerned residents grew into a group called the Community Forum, which became involved with voter registration and literacy, and tried to give disenfranchised communities a sense of self-determination.
Citing this Excerpt
Oral History Interview with Robert Lee Mangum, November 18, 2003. Interview U-0008. 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
So during that time I became involved in those five years immediately with a concern for prison ministry and the needs of the inmates. I became also very much aware of and concerned about the total social needs of the community, realizing the political disenfranchisement of Native people, of African-Americans, of the poor in Robeson County. And began to be concerned about how as a Christian who was working hard to get people prepared to find and discover personal salvation through faith in Christ, how in the world I could help people to find a better life here and get delivered from some of the torment that was here. Not what may be hereafter, but the torment of being denied and being discriminated against, being exploited, the kinds of systems that we had that did not give equal opportunities, did not provide for the self development of all peoples according to their potential. So I became quite concerned about various problems in the county.
In the early ‘60s Miss Mary Livermore asked to bring together Native American people, Blacks, and whites to start a forum talking about improving our county, about justice, and about equal opportunities. So Dr. E. B. Turner who was an African-American leader, and I, and others gathered with her in her house in Pembroke back in the early ‘60s. This little gathering began to converse and deal with concerns for our county. It was the beginning of some bridge-building and some reconciliation.
That grew into what was called the Community Forum, and that Forum moved to Lumberton at First Baptist Church. That Community Forum issued a welcome and an invitation to the Friends Service Committee out of Greensboro to come and be involved in social ministry. Well, later the Forum wasn’t sure they wanted to own what they had invited, but they came, and they continued their ministry for a number of years during the ‘60s. They became involved in voter registration, became involved, I think, in literacy, but they were here essentially to try to empower the people for self-determination. This came out of a very conservative kind of Christian community gathering, and it was great that it happened as it did. But anyway, they were initiated by this community, this Christian Forum, called the Community Forum, and they were brought into the community by that means.
MM: What do you think—?
RLM: Mr. Thadis Oxendine worked in cooperation with them for voter registration, and worked in different communities, our Native communities, to bring about an awareness of a need for voter registration.