Thursday, October 31, 2013

Black Cowboys of Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parish, Louisiana

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
It wasn't until this past summer,  I learned something about the Black Cowboys Associations in Tangipahoa & St. Helena. This summer I had the pleasure of  joining one of the trail rides in Clinton, Louisiana. Many of the men and women have been riding horses since they were toddlers. It often reminds me of the documentary " Forgotten Cowboys."

Little is known about the history of black cowboys in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes. Before the trans-atlantic slave trade many former slaves where cattle herders. Before being sold into slavery in America and other European Nations, African men where men who owned cattle, camels, goats, sheep and horses.  They weren't called cowboys in Africa, they were called herders. Herders can be found in every country in Africa. I had the opportunity to visit Niger, West Africa, there I saw the cattle herdsmen.

After I interviewed several men and women who attend the trail ride that weekend, learned that riding horses is in their blood.  Some of them had their wives, children and grandchildren riding with them.  Caring for and taking care of horses is what they do. Listen to music from the blues to zydeco and the smell of barbecue that leaves your mouth watering. Calf roping is also known as die down roping is a rodeo event. The while the cowboy rides his horse try and catch the calf while throwing a rope from a lariat around its neck. He dismount from the horse, run to the calf, and restrain it by tying three legs together in as short  a time as possible. The origin derives from the duties of actual workings cowboys, which sometimes required catching and restraining calves for branding or medical treatment.

The riders were young and old they started to saddle up the horses, over a hundred people were on horses and the others followed on flatbed, wagon and buggies listened to music, dancing and having a cold beer. Riding club wore their shirts proudly and hand out promotional flyers to promote their upcoming trail ride. Fancy hats and fancy boots was the order of the day.

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
This past summer I went to a cow roping in St. Helena Parish at the arena owned by Richard  Johnson. The black cowboys pulled up with their horses and rope to lasso calves and cows. It was my first time ever attending a cattle roping event. Some of the cowboys came from far as Arkansas to rope cows. The history is not taught in schools, or at least I wasn't  taught the history of the black cowboy.

Most of the black men and women who ride grew up on a farm. According to 2011 NBC News report on black cowboys, it's estimated that up to 25 precent  of the cowboys in the  West were black. And some of them are famous. I searched the internet high and low and couldn't find anything about the black cowboys in Tangipahoa & St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana. I met over one hundred men and many women who rode and rope calves.My brothers use to play cowboys and indians as little boys. Growing up they watched Roy Rogers and Bonanza. The only role a black man played in those movie where-- saddling, caring for and shoeing the horses as slaves are hired help. Not only did black cowboys not make the movie screen but they never made the history books either.

African-Americans were cowboys, ranchers, gold miners, stagecoach drivers, hunters, trappers, lawmen, as well as explorers.  African-Americans played a major and vital role the way the West was won. The largest black rodeo is the Bill Pickett Invitational Rodeo, named after a Louisiana-born black cowboy, son of a former slave, who around the turn of the century invented steer-wresting, better
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
known as bull-dogging.

Although I haven't traced my root back to any cowboys or cow-girls yet, I know the history is very important. My eyes and knowledge where open to learn more about the untold story of the black cowboys. There is so much of our history that need to be researched, documented and recorded.

Links to more information about "Black Cowboys"

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Legacy of Dr. Willard Vernon

Reverend Doctor Willard Vernon was born in Roseland, LA., Reverend James R. Vernon and Pearlie Briggs Vernon on August 5, 1918.  Dr. Vernon died on October 5, 1994. He attended elementary and high school in Tangipahoa Parish. Dr. Vernon attended Southern University, graduated with a Bachelor Degree in Agriculture Education and worked toward a Master's Degree at Louisiana State University and University of Southern Louisiana. He was a World War II Veteran.

He received his Master Degree of Theology at Inter Baptist Theology Center in Houston, Texas. Doctor of Divinity, Inter Baptist Theological Center of Houston, Texas. 

He served as President of the 3rd District Bogue Chitto Baptist Missionary Association. He also served as President of the Louisiana Home and Foreign Mission Baptist State Convention. 

He worked as a teacher in the public school system for 24 years and President of the Parish Teacher's Association. Dr. Vernon was the pastor of the Little Bethel Baptist Church in Amite, LA., New Jerusalem Baptist Church, Clifton, LA., and Mt. Olive Baptist Church in Mt. Hermon, LA. He worked and coordinated the building of the Good Samaritans Nursing Home in Franklinton, LA. He was married to Alma Harrison Vernon. He was the father of one daughter, Glyniss Vernon Gordon and the grandfather of two grandsons. Vernon and Christopher Gordon. 
Dr.Willard Vernon standing in the middle

Steptoe's Lounge "The Juke Joint in Arcola, Louisiana"

From Left to right rear Murphy Steptoe, Sr., not identified, not identified, Willie McCoy, not identified.  Second row: from left to right Mae Wilkerson, unidentified, unidentified, Ella Mae Henry, Eloise Jones.  These business men and women and their friends attended a business trip in New Orleans, LA.

One of the most prominent business men in this picture was Murphy Steptoe, Sr. Murphy was born to Ms. Willie Steptoe February 22, 1906.  Ms. Willie worked as a maid in a private home to support her boys, Murphy, Otis, and her youngest Sam.  Murphy attended schools for a while and at 14 began working at a local cotton gin factory to help support the family. He met Clara Tate in 1924, they dated and had a son M. J. Steptoe in 1925.   

Murphy worked for several years at the Cotton Gin factory, He later met and married Helen Perry and they had one son, Wesley Steptoe.  He and his wife lived with his mother for a while, and Murphy decided that he wanted something better for his family.  He and his brother Sam moved to Los Angeles, CA.  Murphy and Sam got jobs as welders.  While working as a welder, he got injured and could not work for a while. His injuries rendered him a nice sum of money.  He and his wife and son returned to Louisiana in the 1950s.  He purchased a large parcel of land in Arcola, La.  He built a night club called Steptoe’s Lounge. 
This was no ordinary night club, because it was a place where people of color could go and see live, popular blues artist. His clientele included teachers, doctors, lawyers, business owners and common everyday people.  It was “high class”, and the dress code was semi-formal or to us “Church clothes” without the hats. He also sold barbecue, which had a reputation of its own.  He prepared the best barbecue ribs and chicken in Louisiana. On Sunday the club was closed, but Murphy still had a heart to give the people good, quality entertainment.  He sponsored baseball games in a field where he had created a diamond for the game.  He gave people of color a place to go for good, Sunday Family Outings.  Many African American young men demonstrated their baseball talents and abilities on the Steptoe Diamond. Some were good enough for the “Negro Leagues.”

Bobby Blue Bland
The club was open on Friday and Saturday nights.  He would book top notch entertainers such as: Candi Statton, Clarence Carter, Percy Sledge, Tyrone Davis, Bobby “Blue” Bland, B. B. King, Joe Simon, Joe Tex, and Wilson Pickett to name a few.  He was negotiating a booking with the “King of Soul”, James Brown.
In July of 1971, Murphy was burning some debris using gasoline and he was badly burned. He was hospitalized, but never recovered from his injuries.  He passed away a few days after the incident. His grandson, Melvin Steptoe carry on his legacy by keeping his tradition of barbecuing.  I don’t do it commercially, but I do large scale barbecues for hire in the community.Steptoe’s Lounge will be remembered as well as Murphy the man who had a vision for “his people”.

Story and article submitted by Gloria Steptoe.

The History and Legacy of Fred Vernon, Sr.

Fred Vernon, Sr.
Fred was the sixth child born to Isaac (Ike) Vernon and Isabell Crook in 1891. He passed away in 1963.  His siblings were: Alonzo, Ruth, Wesley, Ivy and Martha Ann.  He was raised in Tangipahoa Parish, LA in an area known as Vernon Town.

Fred’s grandfather was Robert Vernon, better known in slavery times as “Free Bob.”  Robert Vernon was born a slave, but purchased his freedom and became a slave owner.  He then became a successful land owner, acquiring approximately 2300 acres of land.  

He gave each of his children 100 acres upon their marriage to establish their own home.  The area was known as Vernon Town.  In addition, as a well respected leader and religious worker in his community, he donated 4 acres of land to centralize the church that was originally a log cabin on Big Creek.  The church, organized in 1869, was named Mount Canaan. Fred met and married Alice Irving of Roseland, LA around the year 1917.  This union produced five children:  Norman, Felton, Fred Jr, Dorothy and Osborn.  He purchased land in Roseland where he became a well respected farmer.

Farming was his primary source of income for his family.  He planted almost everything imaginable: cotton, vegetables, strawberries, melons, corn, potatoes, string beans, peanuts, etc.  His land was beautifully cultivated with crops as far as you could see.  Most profitable of his crops were his cotton, strawberries and melons.  He hired people to pick the cotton and strawberries, providing employment for the local community--and his sons used to sell the melons from a pickup trunk throughout the town.  His farm also included raising farm animals: cows, pigs, horses, chickens and turkeys.  He sold beef and pork from his smokehouse, and he sold chickens and turkeys.  His wife, Alice, was chiefly responsible for raising the chickens and collecting eggs for sale.

I remember life being so rich on this farm as my mother (Dorothy) and my dad was given land to live on the farm property as a wedding gift.  The land was filled with animals, fresh milk, eggs, vegetables, meat, homemade butter, and fruit trees were all around us (figs, pomegranates, plums, blackberries, etc.).  He also had a pecan tree in his backyard.  Oh my God, we never lacked nutrition on that farm. It was just a beautiful time in my life. 

But farming was very hard work.  It took everyone to play a role to keep it live and cultivated.  And unfortunately when grandpa’s children became adults and left home to start their own lives, he and grandma had reach the age that they could no longer maintain a farm of that magnitude alone.  So they retired the business in the late 1950s.

Grandpa’s life would never be the same after retiring the farm.  There just wasn’t enough to keep him occupied.  However, he did enjoy telling stories about old times and how much the world had changed; how he wondered what the world was coming to.  He didn’t like his vision of the future and said he was glad he wouldn’t be around to see it.  He made me laugh when he told these stories.

Fred’s faith of choice was Jehovah Witness in his senior years, and his political choice was Republican.  Oh how I wish I could have discussion with him about that issue now.

After the lost of his beloved Alice on January 3, 1963, he seemed lost and grieved hard.  He started to plan his life without her and made travel plans, something he had never had time to do during his life as a farmer.  He talked of going to Chicago to visit his son, Felton.  You could see the excitement in his eyes as he made these plans.  On that very day, March 22,1963, just three months following Alice’s death, Grandpa Fred succumbed to an asthma attack.

Article written and submitted by Jacqueline James Pendleton-Dukes, the first born grand-daugher.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Preserving Our History in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana: Griots and Oral Historians in the Family

Preserving Our History in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana: Griots and Oral Historians in the Family: Isabel Harrell age 7 M y mother Isabel Harrell Cook is the griot and oral historian of our family. She never hesitates to seize the op...

Griots and Oral Historians in the Family

Isabel Harrell age 7
My mother Isabel Harrell Cook is the griot and oral historian of our family. She never hesitates to seize the opportunity and to share family stories with me about the Harrell, Richardson, Gordon, Vining and Jackson Family. I soon realized just how important oral history is to family history. My mother is the 5th child of ten children born too Jasper and Josephine Richardson Harrell. My mother grew up in Amite, Louisiana. She and her siblings assumed responsibilities early in life. They worked in the field picking beans, pulling corn, picking cotton, tomatoes, cucumbers and other vegetables that her father Jasper Harrell, Sr., planted.

She didn't like to work in the field so she decided to take on the responsibility of cooking for her siblings and parents at an early age. She spoke of a happy childhood although they were not rich or wealthy people--but they had everything that they needed.  Her mother never worked outside of the home, she was a housewife who took care of the home and children.

I enjoy hearing my mother talk about the good "old days" one of the stories that she often talk about are the time when her paternal uncle Alec house burned down and he couldn't talk because he had a stroke. He was trying to tell everyone that his money was inside the house. My mother and her brother knew what he was talking about because he would give them a nickel to buy candy and they would help him count his money every week.

My mother attended West Side High School in Amite, La., she graduated in the class of 1958.  She and her first cousin Samuel Richardson were in the same class.  At that time all schools in the South were segregated. After graduation she went on to Southern University in Baton Rouge for one semester, she said college wasn't for her and my grandparents made the decision for her to come home.

By that time her oldest sister Catherine has gotten married and moved to Violet, Louisiana and my mother decided that she would move with her sister and find her a job in Violet or New Orleans, Louisiana. You know come to think of it, I really don't know much about what happen at this point.

 I will always honor the legacy of our family history that my mother passed on to me. Now, I will passed the legacy of oral history down to my children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews. Every family has a griot or family historian to keep the family oral history. Not only did my mother keep the oral history, she also kept photographs, family funeral programs and other documents that is important to our family history.

Isabel Harrell Cook
Family Griot and Oral Historian
Every one's family has unforgettable memories that we all would like too hold on to and share.  Powerful family stories are the fabric of our family history. My mother enjoys sharing those unforgettable family stories with anyone who will listen. Some of us will just listen, others will pass what was told to them by the family griot or oral historian to others in the family and quite often they will share it with a friend.

When we share our oral family history, we can learn so much about ourselves and how the past influence our lives today. We stand in the present looking at the future and passing down our oral history for generations to come.

One thing I would like to point about the oral history my mother passed down to me. She knew names, dates, events and places. I can't stress how helpful this information was to me when I started looking to outside sources. My mother is a repository of oral tradition. Thanks mom for maintaining the tradition of our family oral history. You have passed down our history to generations.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr.

Jasper Harrell, Sr.
It gives me great pleasure to blog about my maternal grandfather Jasper Harrell, Sr., My mother often talks about my grandfather and I just sit and listen to her. Sometimes she repeats the same stories over and over again and then there are times when she will allow something new to come through. One of her favorite stories she often share is the time she baked herself a birthday cake and my grandfather cut her birthday cake before her.

My grandfather was born in 1911 in a small town call Amite, Louisiana. He was the youngest child born to Alexander and Emma Mead Harrell. According to the United States census he and my grandmother Josephine Richardson Harrell were neighbors. I guest this is when the courtship started between the two.

My mother described him as being a very tall and handsome man. He loved to farm and was a carpenter by trade. She said that he really enjoyed farming, he would plant all kinds of beans, squash, corn, cotton, other vegetables. He was a good provider for his wife, children and grandchildren. My grandfather grew up in the A.M.E. Church, his mother attend Big Zion A.M.E. Church in Roseland, Louisiana. I guess it was after he married my grandmother that he converted over to the Church of God In Christ. To me that was a bit strange, because most of the time the women converted to their husband religion. They married in July of 1931 and to their union ten children were born; Jasper, Jr., Catherine, Roosevelt, Sr., Frank, Sr., Isabell, Henry, Leon Clarence, Herbert, Raymond, Sr., and Deloris.

Two other stories that my mother shared with me that really got my attention, the first one was how he would take his old pickup truck and go around the community and pickup African American  people and give  them a ride to the voting polls. Voting was important to my grandfather Jasper. Another story she shared is how he made the headstones for all his deceased brothers and sisters. He also made headstones for his parents graves.

He died in 1962, I was only two years old so I really have no memories of my grandfather, only the oral history that had been passed down to me by my mother and others. It gives me great pleasure to keep his memories and legacy alive. My grandfather is buried in Big Zion Cemetery with his wife, parents and siblings.

Tangipahoa Parish Colored Training School

Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon
Professor Oliver Wendell Dillon was born October 15, 1882, and died May 18, 1954, in Magnolia, Mississippi, he received his B.S. Degree in Science from Alcorn A. & M. College, in Alcorn, Mississippi and completed his post-graduate work from Hampton Institute in Hampton, Virginia.

The Tangipahoa Parish Training School, founded in 1911 was the first colored training school in the entire South. The most complete account of the establishment of the school is found in Edward E. Redcay, County Training Schools and Public Education for Negroes in the South, (Washington D. C., September 1910, by Professor A.M. Strange).

The school was the first color training school in the south and one of the first rural public schools providing secondary education for Negroes in the nation. The Tangipahoa Parish Training School concept was extended fully in 1918,  Mr. Oliver Wendell Dillon, during the first year of the founding of his administration. School donations were made through the Julius Rosenwald Fund, The Slater Fund, the state, and parish, and by the supporter of the school communities both black and white.
O.W. Dillion Colored Training School in Kentwood, LA 

Professor Dillon's contribution in the area of education was a regional impact. The school provided educational instructions for Negro children in grades one through eleven with a stress on Vocational and Industrial education at the secondary level. It would also provide teachers training so that its graduates could staff the rural black schools in the parish. The colored training schools were the real beginning of secondary public education for blacks in the rural south.

After seeing his dream of a lifetime shattered, Mr. O. W. Dillon, principal of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School, retired on May 17, 1952, at 69 years old. Although his hope of establishing a normal college in Kentwood to train Black teachers had been dead for many years, he left behind 35 years of sincere service to his people and a better understanding between the white and black races.

When Mr. Dillon first came to Kentwood in 1917 to take charge of the one-room, one-teacher, two months a year school, the town was a booming sawmill center and the largest community in the parish. In 1917, Mr. Dillon received $1,000 from the Brooks Scanlon Lumber Co. and the Natalbany Lumber Co. in order to hire three other teachers and extend the school term to a full nine months for 200 students.

He continued his money-raising efforts to match $5,000 promised by the State Supervisor of Negro Education, which he accomplished within two days through diligence and the assistance of a Mr. Wayne and Mr. H.A. Addison. This endeavor resulted in a new building to replace one that had burned and the girls and boys dormitories that had also been destroyed by fire. Mr. Dillon was undaunted by these setbacks. His next appeal was too rich Northerners, and he was rewarded with enough funds to rebuild both buildings. His ingenuity proved valuable in replacing these building when he appealed to the local board to buy a one-man machine and pay for the millwork to make cement blocks.

After securing the machine, he implored the Negro people in the area to supply labor. They made 40,0000 cement blocks, one at a time, and erected a building for educating the children of this and surrounding areas. He was also instrumental in getting 30 boys from the National Youth Organization in New Orleans, to come to Kentwood and enroll in school. During their stay, enough blocks were made to build a teacher's home for faculty members. Frustration, highs and lows, 35 years of hard work and commuting  15 miles one way each day, resulting in improving the lives of thousands of your people. Mr. Dillion returned to his father's farm in Magnolia, Miss., after his retirement, along with wife, Verdie Dillion, where they lived until their deaths.

Source: Tangipahoa Parish Training School/Dillion Memorial High School Reunion 1995

Aunt Susie Tells of History " From Slavery to the 1950s"

Susie Amacker Washington
Editor's Notes: The following story was penned approximately twenty-five years ago by Mrs. Carl M. Pierce of Kentwood and is reprinted today at the request of Mrs. Naomi Jackson, the youngest daughter of the late Susie Amacker Washington (1846-1957). Mrs. Washington in buried at Oak Grove AME Cemetery here in Kentwood, LA. Thursday, October 16, 1975

It is not everyone who can remember events of a century but Aunt Susie Amacker Washington, ancient Negro woman of Kentwood, who claimed to be one hundred and eleven years old, can speak with conviction of happenings before and immediately after the Civil War, and tells with pride that her "Old Marster" treated his slaves very kindly, indeed. She is a frail looking woman, hardly five feet tall, but gets about with an ease that belies here more that a century of living in this section. With evident delight, she recalls many details of life before and after the war. Asked if she has any proof of her ages, she replies proudly, "Mr. Rube Womack knows how old I am, and he says I be 112 this year." She was born near Kentwood in 1840. Her "old Marster" was Avery Quillian, who farmed and had a sawmill and gin as well. His only son, Francis, the young "young Marster" was kill in the war, but several daughters married into well-known families of the section, the "Mr. Rube" being the of son of "Miss Cooky" Quillian who married Captain Womack.

She remembers moving with the family to Osyka and back on Tickfaw River a few years later. The "Old Mistress" died in Osyka and was buried there. When asked if she had to work into fields, she proudly declared the " Old Marstar" never worked his slave women int he fields; that he had 15 hands to do the field work, leaving the slave women to do cooking, housework, spinning, and weaving. Her own mother did most of the cloth making for the household, and Aunt Susie recalled how they obtained dyes from various sources, such dye-rocks, maple, sumac, walnuts, and indigo, the latter having been grown on their farms. Her grandma was the cook for the family.

She remembered the privations of her folk immediately after the Civil War, and spoke  in some detail of substitutes and makeshifts for commodities taken for granted today. Salt was obtained by boiling water the dirt from smokehouses and dripping in the after through heavy cloths. Soda, she said, was made by burning corn cobs. (Not a chemist the author can see no connection between corn cobs and soda!)

For coffee, meal bran parched and used. their wash tubs was dug out of huge logs, with partitions left between sections to let the water out. Matches, she said were too high-priced for them to use, so they had to  use flint rocks.

Vividly recalling the time they heard the Yankees were coming Aunt Susie told how she was the one to bury the knives and forks, combs and brushes. She related how they rode up and peremptorily demanded the smokehouse key. When the " Old Marster" refused, they became threatening, so the key was promptly produced. They took half the large store of meat and a load of corn, though no horses was taken. Here the old ex-slave giggles delightedly as she recalled that they did take a saddle horses from a neighbor slaveholder, whom she apparently did not like.

Yes, she knew of some case of cruelty. A neighbor slaveholder was not like her " Old Marster" who fed his slaves plenty of meat to make them strong. Instead according to Aunt Susie, who declared she has seen the incident, slaves on the adjoining place were fed at a huge trough in which milk, " pot-licker"and bread were mixed and from which the negroes ate. He also locked one woman slave up and starve her to death because he claimed she had burned his gin. " She didn't do it, though, " Aunt Susie declared with conviction. She also recalled how, after the war and the slaves were freed. Old Uncle Jim went to the polls to vote, only to be whipped by the white folks.

On the Quillian farm each spring found the white folks and Negroes alike drinking sassafras tea, long considered a tonic in the South. This was sweetened with syrup, though, sweetened with syrup, through, "We had some sugar, " Aunt Susie pointed out. "My father hauled sugar in hogshead form Baton Rouge to Vicksburg, and when he would stop to let the team rest, Old Marster would burn us some sugar.

The old negro recalled how she used to go the white folk church on Tickfaw River, but when a small Methodist church for the Negroes  was built in what is now west Kentwood, she attended there. The Town, she said, was not here, then, the site being nothing but a swamp. She remembers the first store and sawmill in the vicinity. Her great-grandmother, she claims, was brought over from Africa and sold at the age of eleven. She, herself, as she proudly asserted, was never sold.

She married George Washington, who worked as a brickmoulder for Fluker-Kent, and lived near the brick-kiln, what was thriving industry in Kentwood. They had nine children, three boys and six girls. Of the nine, six are now living, the oldest 76 years old. She had great-grandchildren, although they do not live in Kentwood. However, she live in the house with her daughter, her grandchildren, and one great grandchild. Her favorite is in the chimney corner, with a fire burning slowly to take the spring chill out of the air.

Her teenage grandchildren attend a modern high school just outside the corporate limits of the town. Only two generations removed form slavery, they seem to enjoy their grandmother's stories, and frequently suggest that she tell something they have apparently heard many times.

Proof of her age, according to Mr. Womack, who is 84 years old, himself, is not in birth records but in his family history and his own memory. Aunt Susie is well-known among white and Negroes folks of the community, and is prolific sources of local history,

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The History and Legacy of Fochia Varnado Wilson

Mrs. Fochia Varnado Wilson, a graduate of the Tangipahoa Parish Training School, came to the Kentwood, Louisiana from Rose Hill, Mississippi to serve as a home economic teacher. She is also a graduate of Tuskegee Institute in Alabama. Later she studied at Columbia University and received her Masters in Education degree from Southern University in Baton Rouge, Louisiana.

As a high school teacher, she taught food and sewing classes, sponsored clubs and student trips for many years.  After teaching numerous girls to be “young ladies”. In  1973 she was appointed as principal of Kentwood Elementary School, formerly Dillon Memorial High School.  She was honored as “Principal of the Year”.  She also served as a member of the Tangipahoa Parish Library, The Southeastern Louisiana Reading Council. 

Mrs. Wilson almost single-handedly raised money to pay for the computerization of the Kentwood Elementary Library. She is extremely supportative of any program, which will help educate the children in her charge and give them a better start in life.

“ I am a firm believer that schools exist for pupils; therefore, I envision my task as principal to offer the best possible environment conductive to learning." It is my belief that the school library should foster the enrichment of children’s lives-intellectually, personally, socially and culturally through reading and other activities of the library said Mrs. Wilson.

Mrs. Wilson was a pioneer in many programs, which emphasize reading and the use of the library. Kentwood Elementary School became the first automated library in Tangipahoa Parish and it serves as a model for all other libraries in the parish. Because of Mrs. Wilson’s commitment, the Kentwood Elementary library is utilized to the maximum and provides unlimited service to its patrons.

Mrs. Fochia Varnado Wilson, former Principal of Kentwood Elementary School, was initiated into the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of Phi Delta Kappa on January 23, 1992.  

The History and Legacy of Reginald Cotton, Sr.

 Reginald Cotton was born to the late Joseph and Lillian Cotton in Morgan City, Louisiana on November 14, 1923. He served as head coach of Kentwood High School from 1949-1954. He coached at West Side High School from 1954-1960. He also coached at Amite High School from 1969-1980. He served as assistant principal at Amite High School until he retired in 1980. He was a respected, dedicated teacher,  principal and, coach for 31 years. He was loved by his student, teachers, principal and the community.

Mr. Cotton served three years as and corporal in the U.S. Marines. He was honorably discharged in 1946. In 1980, he was elected School Board Member of District B which encompassed the Velma and Kentwood area. He was serious about the educational plight, not only in his district but the entire parish. In the last election, he ran un-opposed and was therefore elected for a second 6-year term. He passed away on December 5, 1986.

Monday, October 21, 2013

African-American Fathers and Children Bonds

Joseph LaCoste
and children
More often than not, there is more focus put upon the bonding relationships with mother and children, than father and children. Many fathers know how to provide great care for their children just like that of mothers. I grew up in a home were my father was absent from my life. Not one time did anyone stop to think about the effects that that caused in my life.

The National Fatherhood initiative conducts research on the causes and consequences of father absence and trends in family structure and marriage. According to 2011 U.S. Census Bureau data, over 24 million children live apart from their biological father. That is 1 out of every 3 (33%) children in America. Nearly 2 in 3 (64%) African American children live in father-absent homes. One in three (34%) Hispanic children, and 1 in 4 (25%) white children live in father-absent homes. In 1960 only 11 % of children live in father-absent home.
Christopher Gordon and son
There are more African American men that raise, bond and support their children than what is reported by any research or study that has been conducted by organization. There are fathers who walk their kids to school, cook breakfast and dinner, comb their daughters hair, iron clothes, and spend time with them.

I personally think that we should started highlighting those fathers who are there. Sometimes we  can focus on the negative images and rather than those fathers who are being fathers. Many of the men who didn't grow up with their father's in their lives, want to be better than their own fathers. Simply because they know what it is like not to have a father in their life.

Junious Buchanan & baby
An involved father is crucial to the healthy development of a child. Recent studies have suggested that children whose fathers are actively involved with them from birth are more likely to be emotionally secure, confident in exploring their surrounding, have better social connections with peers as they grow older, are less likely to get in trouble at home and at school, and are less likely to use drugs and alcohol. Children whose father are nurturing, involved turn out to have higher IQs.

We should work hard to dispel the negative stereotype of low-income fathers. Just because a father may be living below the poverty line doesn't mean that he does not care about his children. How many time can we count the positive images we see the media post about African-American men and their children? There are many African American fathers in our societies who care about their children and love them.

Johnny Seymore and son
The bond between a father and his children are simply beautiful. I wrote this blog with one thing in mind, and that is to change the negative that society portrait about African American men. While trying to select images for this blog, I must say that there where many to choose from.

Many men are wonderful and supporting stepfathers as well. "Nurturing Our Roots Television and Radio Talk Shows" would like to let these fathers know how much we appreciate them.

Sunday, October 20, 2013

School Field Trip With Grandchildren

Kindergarten Field Trip

How I remember the school days of both of my sons! Going on field trips and not to proud to say I was learning right along with them. We are never to old to learn that for sure. Well, I thought those days were long gone once my children graduated from High School.  When my grandchildren came along I was  back on school field trips again. This is a time that I can set aside all my chores for a couple of hours and explore learning with them and give them my direct and undivided attention. Not to mention our time bonding together.

Field trips are the best part of going to school besides learning something interesting you didn't know before. Beside it creates and opportunity for them to visit a place they might not ever visit on their  own.

Their class visit "Liuzza Land Your Local Fun Farm" in Independence, Louisiana last Friday. The children had a great time and learned so much about farming and farm animals. They fed the goats, pet the rabbits and pony and went on a wagon ride. Some of them painted pumpkins and they went through the corn maze.
Chase sitting in the one room school house

They have captured a part of history by building a reproduction of an old one room school house with the old desk and chalk board. Most of the kids good couldn't wrap their mind on such a school. This was surely a step back in the time for them, the kids great- grandparents possibly could have attended a one room school house. Looking at the old school desk brought many memories for me because I sat in a desk like the one my grandson Chase is sitting in.

They are living in the age of technology with ipads, computers, smart boards and they can't imagine a one room school.

Connor is feeding the baby calf
I enjoyed being a chaperone for my twin grandsons kindergarten class. A study says, grandparents are helping grandchildren more with school. I am a firm believer that our grandchildren need all the help they can get with their education. Grandparents are spending billions of dollars on their grandchildren's educations each year.

The children enjoyed a guided farm tour where they learned about chickens, goats, cows, pigs, rabbits, donkeys, and zebras. They fed the baby calves and goats. Learning about farm life is exciting, it was an hands-on experience to educate children about farm animal.

More and more grandparents are getting involved with their grandchildren class projects, field trips and volunteering to become a room grandparents. They are reading to the children and helping in the class room. Grandparents are filling for the millions of parents who have to work everyday.
Connor is gathering sweet potatoes

My grandchildren come from generations of farmers in Tangipahoa, Louisiana on their paternal grandmother side of the family. Not, only did I encourage my grandchildren to eat healthy, I encourage them to learn how to plant their own vegetables. While on their field trip they were taught the basic about planting seeds and seedings in ground.

My grandchildren enjoy working in the garden with me. In the summer they pick blueberries, plant green onions, cucumbers, tomatoes and other vegetables. Whenever they visit they like to help me make blueberry smoothies. I am happy to see that Liuzza Farm has add this attraction just for kids.

Well, my granddaughter has already invited me to her upcoming field trip. Besides I love every moment of it. They will always remember these special times spent together.  When they grow up and become parents and grandparents they will do the same for their children and grandchildren.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

The History and Legacy of Alice L. Irving Vernon

Alice Luberta was one of eleven children born to Lemuel and Susie Irving.  Her siblings were Lucy, Robert, Thomas, Wilbert, Alma, Ethel, Edward, Lemuel Jr, Ralph and Roscoe. She also had one stepsister by the name of Luvenia, born to Lemuel and Millie Harrell. It has been said that great grandpa Lemuel given name was " Green," but was later changed to his slave name Irving."

Lemuel had 37 acres of land in Roseland, Louisiana where he and Susie farmed and raised their 11 children. He donated land to the Big Zion School and Church where the family worshipped. He was and entrepreneur and he hired help for his farm and had a shipping boxcar business used to ship vegetable up North. His children followed in his footsteps as business owners. Their business included farming, carpentry, seamstress, midwife and school teachers.

Grandma Alice met and married Fred Vernon, Sr., around 1917 in Roseland, La., This union produced five children: Norman, Felton, Fred, Jr., Dorothy and Osborn. Alice and Fred operated a very large farm that required the whole family's participation along with the hired help.

In addition to her cutie on the farm, grandma Alice had a seamstress business. On and old singer sewing machine that was manually operated by a floor foot paddle, she would sew anything and never used a store bought pattern. Instead, she used a Sears catalogue to have customers select a style, and she would used newspapers to design the outfit and cut out a perfect copy. She had amazing sewing talent with a large clientele having to sometimes work around the clock to couple orders and in addition she made her granddaughter's dresses.

Grandma Alice was also musically talented. She used to play the organ at Big Zion Church and directed the choir. She had a natural ear for music and taught her oldest granddaughters how to harmonize. She was a great cook, she made delicious blackberry cobblers, rice pudding and there was always a cake on the dining table. Anyone visiting her home would not leave without a meal, she made certain of that whether you were hungry or not.

Grandma Alice suffered from rheumatoid arthritis and diabetes in her later years. She was a lovable  person who always greeted everyone with a friendly smile. Two week prior to her death, she gave me a long talk about life in general. I left her feeling that conversation with her would be my last, and on January 3, 1963, I received a while attending college that my grandmother had passed away. She died at the age of 73 years old.

Written and Submitted by
Jacqueline James Pendleton-Dukes
1st Granddaugther.

Cora Wheeler Temple

New Orleans -- Cora "Mama Cora" Wheeler Temple, 87, died Thursday, Dec. 4, 2003, at her home. A native of Amite, she was a child nutritionist for the 
Orleans Parish School System. She was a member of Second Zion Baptist Church No. 1, former member of a prayer band, midweek choir, deaconess 
board, chairperson for the church anniversary committee and the Young Women's League. Survivors include one daughter, Betty Temple Steptoe; two sons, Bobbie Temple and Alvin Temple; two brothers, Oliver Wheeler and 
Joseph Wheeler; 22 grandchildren, 23 great grandchildren and nine great-great-grandchildren. She was preceded in death by her parents, John and Leathe Wheeler; her husband, Stanley Temple Sr.; her children, Shirley Temple Toney, Stanley Temple Jr., Bertrand, Bernard, Burnell, and Stine Temple; her four sisters, Rosie Thomas, Ruby McGee, Doretha Riley and 
Lucille Holiday; four brothers, Johnny, Fred, Henry and Theodore Wheeler; and one grandchild. Visitation will be Friday from 5 until the a wake service at 7:30 p.m. at Second Zion Baptist Church, 2929 Second St., New 
Orleans. Dismissal will be Saturday at 9:30 a.m. The Rev. Matthew McCray will conduct the funeral service Saturday at New Spiritual COGIC, Amite, at noon. Burial will be at Temple Cemetery, Amite. D.W. Rhodes Funeral Home, New Orleans, is in charge. 

Shirley Lee Cross Temple of Kentwood, LA Served George Washington Carver

Shirley Lee Cross Temple was born September 12, 1912 in Coushatta, Louisiana. She passed away  on January 28, 2005. Her parents Nathaniel James Cross and Josephine Yarborough Cross preceded her in death. She married Collis Benton Temple, Sr., and to their union Shirley Collen, Bernita Elaine, Sandra Janice, Valeria Antoinette, Brenda Joyce and Collis Benton, Jr., were born.

Her early schooling was in Merryville, Louisiana were here dad was the principal. During those years, the last of schooling for African-American students in Louisiana was eleventh grade. Upon completing eleventh grade, she entered Tuskegee Institute, completed the twelfth year of schooling and subsequently completed her B.A.Degree.  She was a member of the Tuskegee 100 Choir, serving as secretary for four years.

Shirley often talked about her choir director, William L. Dawson and the fact that one of the choir's most exciting tours was the performance for President Franklin D. Roosevelt White House and the opening of Radio City Music Hall in New York City. Music was part of Shirley's life every day.

Among other experiences, Shirley also described to family and friends the opportunities to serve George Washington Carver she worked in the college dining hall. She also recounted the memorable occasion when she and other Tuskegee students attended programs to hear inspiring lectures from such notable as Mary McLeod Bethune. She was the family griot.

George Washington Carver
She moved with her husband Collis, and two babies, Collen and Elaine to Kentwood in 1942. Kentwood was home for her until 1996. She embraced the residents of Kentwood and the surrounding communities.  She became a member of Oak Grove A.M.E. Church where she continued to sing, play and participate in local, conference and national church activities.

Shirley was a phenomenal woman! Her life was filled with doing for others and sharing with other. Even with having to raise five daughters and a son., she took on many tasks. She could do anything! She would do any job from repairing electrical appliances, to sewing her daughters' clothing from feed sack to canning fruit and vegetables to herding cattle. She was always her husband's help mate-writing papers, typing papers, running a store, teaching school, directing school's choir, serving a guidance counselor and earning a Masters Degree from Atlanta University.
Mary McLeod Bethune

Source: The Funeral Program of Shirley Lee 
Cross Temple. 

As the only African-American and female among a filed of nine candidates for state representative, Shirley was one of the first primary winners. Her opponent was a former educational supervisor. She also represented Louisiana as a delegate to the International Women's Year Conference.

We have many outstanding women and men in Tangipahoa and St. Helena Parishes, Louisiana who had made great contributions to our Parish, State and Nation. If we do not educate our youth about women and men who fought for the civil rights, education and other human and civil rights in our parishes the, question is who will? What an honor to write blog about an outstanding woman who served our parish and state.

The History of Rocky Hill A.M.E. Church

Rocky Hill A.M.E. Church in St. Helena, Louisiana
On December 29, 1874 at the St. Helena Parish Clerk of Court's office in Greensburg, Louisiana (15) fifteen acres of land was donated to erect a church and a colored school by (1) Rebecca K. Richardson (2) S.D. Richardson (3) K. Richardson (4) J.J. Kemp (5) G.C. Kemp (6) W.B. Kemp (7) John Tate (8) Martha Tate who were represented by W.H. McClendon and Rev. James Reese.

It was accepted by William Woolridge, Richmond Terrill and Madison Prescott. Rev E.D. Singleton started the church with a small group of members which was built by Willie Ginn who was a carpenter. The church was finished by Rev. Thomas Tucker.
Photo Credit: Walter C. Black Sr.
Rocky Hill A.M.E. Church Cornerstone

The following are ministers that also pastored here at Rocky Hill A.M.E Church:

Rev, S. J. Fisher, Rev L. Luchen, Rev. L.R. Fisher, Rev J.K. Washington, Rev. W.W. Hunt, Rev. Coleman, Rev H.A. Belin, Sr., Rev. J. K. Holiday, Sr., Rev Cecelia M. Brown, Rev. H.B. Davis, Rev. Ray Jackson, Rev. Nelson Dan Taylor, Rev. Robert Huntley, Rev. Ranches Hall, and Rev. S. G.R. Tickles, who did extensive remodeling on the church such as painting, installing windows, doors, and gave the first lights for the church. He also built on parsonage.

Photo Credit: Walter C. Black, Sr.
Thomas Richardson Headstone
Rocky Hill Cemetery
My maternal great-great grandparents Thomas and Amanda Breland Richardson and other family members are buried in Rocky Hill Church Cemetery in St. Helena Parish.  My great-great grandfather Thomas Richardson was born in slavery in 1853 in St. Helena Parish. His wife Amanda Breland Richardson was born one year in slavery in 1862 in Livingston Parish, Louisiana. There are other Richardson's buried around the graves of Thomas and Amanda. At this time I have no idea who they are.

Mass School Reunion of St. Helena Parish Training School 1946-1952

Class of 1947
James Rynold Cook, Lula Louise Dunn, Roberstine Martin, Laura Dean Woolridge, John Albert Corbett, Bernice Johnson, Ermy Trude Amita Overton, Ada Mae Williams

Class of 1948
Lela Mae Bell, Elmera Butler, Berth Hazel Green, Helen Lee, Bessie Lewis, James Matthews, 
Yvonne Delores Sutton, Ruth Burton, Rosa Lee Dixon, Johnnie Jackson, Alice Iona Johnson,
Ora Lee McClendon, Levell Steptoe, Elevelyn Wright

Class of 1949

Class of 1950
Marjorie Carter, Hynethia Jones, Lenrod Jones, James Douglas, Katy C. Bryant, Clara Bell Lee, 
Ruth Melton, Charle Overton, Emmitt Muse, Bessie Womack, Martha Dunn, Evelyn Sheridan,
Helen Wright, Leola Wright, Rena Mae Gordon, Conella Jones, Leroy Gordon, Edward E. Lee,
Lucille Lee, Alice Mae Mason, Catherine Miller, Lucille Overton, Wilie Redden, Jr., Thelma Watson,
Dorothy Stewart, Evirda Womack, Beatric Wright, Mildred Sutton

Class of 1951
Lawrence Woolridge, Dorothy Higgibbothham, Phyllis Bell, Ida Lubertha Matthews, Priscilla Pope, Bertha Overton, Iola Hitchens, Yvonne Chaney, Bessie Rae May, Ora Lee Spears, Shirley Stewart,
Dillion Yancy, Gladis Odeal Steptoe, Flora Cook Matthews, Jahazel Johnson, J.S. Hitchens, James Higginbotham, Mildred Glaspy, Lylie Bell Johnson, Joseph Coleman, Ella Mae Jackson, Creola Turner, Lena Mae Vining, Jessie Mae Johnson, Joseph Wicker, Claudia Williams, Ella Mae Myles, 
Margaret Woolridge, Peggy Torrence, Roosevelt Steptoe, Isiah Powell, Corlean Bennett

Class of 1952
Hazel Dunn, Mandy Crosby, Walter Johnson, Thelma Coleman, Ester Cook, Emmitt Tillery, Joseph Coleman, Eural Clark, Viola Porter, Ruthe Torrence, Earline Lee, Helen Powell, Gustavia Millery, Catherine Bell, Velma Hurst, Georgia Wright, Clarence Branch, Johnnie Higginsbotham, Rebecca Johnson, Wilmeta Butler, Joseph Overton, William Baker, Audrey Bell Lee, Ivy Tillery, 
Beatrice Knighten, Bettie Torrence, Ethel Self, Mary Turner

Class of 1953
Eugene Baker, Kattie Mae Banks, Elnora Banks, Ella Rose Banks, Same E. Bank,  Velma Banks, David Beans, Deysie Beans, Primrose Bennett, Velma Ceola Brown, Thelma Lee Campbell,
Sidney Cook, Jr., Mildred Crier, Ernest Dixion, Leon Donald, Fred Douglas, Jr., Samuel East,
Ollie Bell Freeman, Clarence George, Mary Leise Gordon, Ralph Higginbotham, Alcee Hurst,
Fred Hurst, Jr., Lillie Mae Irvin, Charles Jackson, Leola Jackson, Irene Johnson, Helen Kendrick,
Elgine Lewis, Helen Pikes, Levora Pope, Joseph Howard Pope, John Redden, Jr., Susianna Robertson,
Naomi A Seals, Vern Lea Sims, Ebbie Stewart, Jr., Shirley Stewart, Dan Thompson,
Thelma Lee Vining,  Dora Lee Wicker, Leroy Huey Wicker, Warren Wicker, Clara Mae Woolridge,
Bernice Edna Womack, Green Womack, Jr.