Frustration leads to successful march
This excerpt reveals the path to direct action. Mangum recalls some of the movements of the early 1970s, when funding from the United Methodist Church enabled the formation of a Black Caucus and Lumbee Caucus in the area. These groups used grants to work for voter registration, hoping to get more residents voting for school board members. But for some time, their efforts were frustrated as they were denied a roving registrar. Finally, as their frustration mounted, they decided to march and soon thereafter were rewarded with two African American and two Native American school board members.
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
Well, during all of this time, during the early ‘70s, a lot was happening to fortify this whole commitment to empower the people. We wrote a grant for a Lumbee Caucus to the United Methodist Church, the Commission on Religion and Race, and then helped the Black community, urged them to do the same, and provided the proposal that had been written, the application for the Indian Caucus, so the Black Caucus could be formed. Then the Reverend Dr. Jimmy Cummings wrote the grant for the Black Caucus, and there was formed a Black Caucus and a Lumbee Caucus, both of United Methodist funding, and essentially made up of United Methodist leadership: Adolph Dial, Herman Dial, and in the Lumbee Caucus, and Mr. Willie Locklear from the Ashpole community, Hilton Oxendine from the Lumberton community, and there were others that were a part of it, myself and Mr. Harbert Moore out of the Prospect community as well as Adolph. So that was the Indian Caucus. Then the Black Caucus, Jimmy Cummings, and Oscar Graham, and Robert Fairly, and Preston Jones, and others made up the Black Caucus.
So the direction of the Indian Caucus and somewhat also of the Black Caucus was voter registration, political empowerment. That funding came in ‘71, and from ‘71 until ‘96 we received grants in succession, and we received a total, the two entities received a total of $97,000 from the Methodist Church to do voter registration. During that time we registered 11,400 Native Americans and Blacks. Now, the majority of that number was Native American, and I don’t remember the breakdown but it was more like a 65/55 or something like that, or a seven and forty-four, more like 7,000 and 4,400 probably. But anyway, there were quite a few more Native Americans registered than there were Blacks. We also registered a number of whites during that time, but the significant fact was we feel like we empowered the people to bring about change that was necessary and had not been brought about by the empowerment of the vote.
Now during this time of ‘70 to ‘76, along in there, there was the strong input of Mr. Harbert Moore, and Harbert was an Indigenous Community Developer of the United Methodist Church. He was the first Indigenous Community Developer, Native American Community Developer, in the United Methodist Church, I believe. This came trough the Women’s Division of our United Methodist Church. He worked hard for the breaking of double voting and for voter registration.
Then we had other very strong players in this whole process and that was Judge Dexter Brooks. Dexter was a law student during that time at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. One of his professors was Barry Nakell. Barry then became involved as an act of gratis and love for justice, he became involved in the whole issue of breaking double voting. He became the attorney for the procedure, and to my knowledge he got no money for what he did, nor did Dexter. So they kept us abreast of the Voting Rights Act. They worked for the redistricting and all that had to be done there to work for improved districting for better representation of ethnic people. And then worked with us to gain voting registrars, roving registrars, being sure that we had persons who could register people at schools and elsewhere beyond their own precinct. That was a quite a concern, seeing all that happen.
One day we were asking, there was Herman, and Adolph, and Harbert, and different ones of us there, and we were before the board of elections. They had us there with a transcriber as if we were before the court, a transcriber there for our being there that day. We were appealing for this roving registrar just so we could get more people registered. Well, we were denied that day, but as we came back, one of the persons, I won’t give you his name, we stopped at the Old Foundry Restaurant, and this person said, “I can understand now why people riot and why there are fires.” He was so frustrated that we had done the legal thing, the right thing, and we had appealed for something that was just and fair, and we were denied.
Well, you perhaps know the history, that most of the registrars throughout the county at that time and during the early ‘60s, and into the ‘60s, were the dominant race, were Caucasian. Often they were farm owners, and the people that worked for them often were Native American or Black, and people often felt intimidated to go even to the house. Well, they had to go to the house to get registered. As well as that, for a while there was the literacy test. There are all of these ways of denying and discouraging people from participating in the political system. So these were revolutionary days because the system was being opened, wide open.
Brenda Brooks, Howard Brooks’ late wife, she was one of our key registrars. She worked with a passion. She became a roving registrar. She wanted to see her people empowered, wanted to see Black people empowered also, but particularly her Indian people.
Then we had Mrs. Lady Strickland. That’s Brother Homer, attorney Homer’s mother, and mother of W. D. Strickland. She was a registrar. These are people that, oh, they registered with a passion. They would go to church events. They would go to any kind of event they could to get people registered to vote.
So over this period of time all of these things were happening, and as I said, in the double voting finally, after working our socks off in the legislative caucus rooms in Raleigh, going there time after time, pleading for them to break double voting legislatively, we finally decided we’d do a march.
So about 1974, along in there, it’s in the document, we marched on Raleigh. Got a permit. Brenda, I think, went up and got the permit for us. We got our permit. There were policemen up on the roof, and here we came.
That morning we had a prayer meeting. We met at Stan Jones’ skating rink there across from the old town hall of Pembroke. That morning we had prayer, Blind Cleve Jacobs was there to march, and James Woods, and others. Mr. Early Maynor met us up there. He was the Executive Director of the Indian Commission, I think, at that time. Well, anyway, Mr. Foster Jacobs, a saint of God from the Sandy Plains Church. We had some wonderful people up there. Oh my, I forget the gentleman’s name. Brother Isaiah. I think preacher Isaiah. I think he was there that day. Isaiah. What’s his last name, preacher Isaiah?
RLM: Yeah, Locklear. Preacher Isaiah. I think he was there that day. So we went to Raleigh, and after all this time in the caucus we marched seven times around the legislative building believing it would count for something, something good would happen. We had the Emanuels, Mr. and Mrs. Emanuel from up at Bethel Hill Baptist Church. They were part of it up in Saddletree. So we had quite a gathering of people from across the county.
But that morning we had prayer, and Mr. Peter Brooks, the father of Martin, and Howard, and Bernice and Joyce, Mr. Peter Brooks came to the meeting, and he was ready to march, and he got a call that his sister had become ill and that they needed him. Well, rather than march that day he left us, all the glory and the joy of this climactic moment of challenging the system, bringing about change, and he left and went to his sick sister. Now that was integrity. That was sacrifice. He could have gone up there and gotten into the glory and the fun of it all, but he and to miss it all because he loved his family and she was more important than sharing the glory of a group of people who were going up there to march.
MM: Tell us a little about it.
RLM: I’ll never forget that. So we went up there. We marched. Legislators came out on the street, met us out there in front of the legislative building. They said, “We’ll do so-and-so.” They said, “We’ll give you two Blacks and two Indians on the School Board right away.” And they did. Harbert went on then, Harbert Moore, and I forget who the others were, but we got four ethnic people on the School Board as a consequence of that march that day. It was a great victory.