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BETSY BRINSON: 26, year 2002. This is an interview with Mar-vin-e-a?


BRINSON: Marvinia Benton Neblett. The interview takes place at the History Center in Frankfort, Kentucky and the interviewers are Genie Potter and Betsy Brinson. Thank you for agreeing to talk with us today. We need to get a voice level, so if you would give me your full name and your place and date of birth, please.

NEBLETT M: My full name is Marvinia Jetton Benton Neblett. My date of birth is, I was born in Russellville, Kentucky, Logan County, February the first, nineteen fifty.

BRINSON: And that makes you--?

NEBLETT M: Fifty-two years old, now.

BRINSON: Spell the second part of your name that we don't know.


NEBLETT M: Jetton, some people call me, Jetton, is J E T T O N.

BRINSON: And tell me about the significance of that word. Is it a family name?

NEBLETT M: Jetton?

BRINSON: Uh huh.

NEBLETT M: The significance of it, I think people just want to call me Jetton. I have a few friends that we're close. Some people like to say Marvinia. Some people like to call me Jetton. I have a few of those. And I few friends, especially college friends, that call me Benton. And then of course, some people will say, Neblett and some people will say, Marvinia Neblett. It just depends on the relationship.

BRINSON: Was Jetton, though, part of the name given to you at birth?


BRINSON: Let me just kind of check this.

NEBLETT M: My sister, my mother's baby sister named me, Marvinia Jetton.

BRINSON: What do you know about your ancestors?

NEBLETT M: I know that my mother was born in Arlinda, Tennessee. And her 2:00grandfather, John Wesley Crocker, was the founder of two African-American churches in the Tennessee area. And one of the church names is Jamestown Baptist Church. That's in Arlinda, Tennessee. And the other one, I believe, is Fairview Baptist Church. And so I take great pride in knowing that he was the founder of those two churches. And then, I believe it was he.

BRINSON: We were talking about your ancestors. You were telling us about the two churches.

NEBLETT M: I have, I do have something at home, where one of my cousins wrote it up. They knew the details or the history of the Crocker family that is from 3:00Arlinda, Tennessee. And the Crocker was, of course, the white family and his son was John Wesley. And he raised him in what they called the big house. And so, he was an educated person. I don't remember what university he was graduated from, but I do remember them saying he did attend a university. And he was the founder of two African-American churches. And most of the family on my mother's side, who were Crockers on her father's side were school teachers. They became medical doctors and dentists. And quite a few of them was business people, and from hearing them talk, I see a lot of that in the new generation of my family, especially the business part; very independent. I see all of that. They like their own money. They like to be owning their own thing, and do their 4:00own thing. They don't want to have to ask for anything or go to other people for anything. And that was on my mother's side, on her father's side. And then on my mother's, mother's side, they were also very educated, hard working people. Both sides worked on the tobacco and had their own property. Like the Crocker side, from what I understand, received their forty acres. And I'm not sure about my mother's people, but I know they all was very, my mother's, mother's people were very educated and they worked quite hard, very hard working people. On my mother's side, on her mother's side, her grandmother, Shelly Proctor was the 4-H Extension representative in Logan County for years. I remember her when I was growing up. And cousin Alice was a school teacher and both of them, if I remember correctly, graduated from Fisk University. So I was 5:00aware of them being professionals in my family, where we came, as I was being raised. I always enjoy knowing them and having people that were professionals, as well as, laborers in the family.

BRINSON: So, you can trace your family back to slavery to some degree?

NEBLETT M: Quite a bit, especially on my mother's, father's side, quite a bit. And I know in the writings of the history of the Crocker's family, there was a relative. I'm not sure if it was Wesley Crocker, but one of the relatives were founder--no, the inventor of the steam engine. And it was stated that the patent was taken, or he never did get credit for doing it; but he was responsible for some parts of that invention. So, we take pride in that. And you was asking about the family reunions. On the Crocker side they are beginning to do more family reunions for about a period of ten years now, on Labor Day 6:00Weekend. And this stems from the relationship we have with the Neblett family. Because the Neblett family and the Crocker family has a history of marrying each other. We have two Nebletts that's married to two Crockers in the family, so we have some double cousins, triple cousins. And then, of course, Charles and I, didn't break the tradition. But the Neblett family has always had family reunions, before we got married. In fact, it's been going on over seventy years. And so we see the Nebletts and the Crockers every year in his reunion. And so, from that we started a Crocker family reunion. So, now we see each other.

BRINSON: Tell me a little bit about your family. Who was in your family while you were growing up?

NEBLETT M: My father was over twenty-five years older than my mother, so he had an older son, who was James, who was my half brother, who had twelve children, 7:00nine girls and three boys. And then he married my mother and he had two children by her, which was, my father was named--Jam--Jim. We called him old man Jim, and then my mother, Jetty. Well they had Marvinia and they had Tim. And Timothy is three years younger than me. So, I always had my mother and my father. I always had my mother's father, who we called Poppa; and his children and grandchildren. And then my mother's grandmother, who was my great-grandmother, Momma Jetty. And Aunt Ed, and Elaine and--what is her name? Honey Baby, not Honey Baby. Jill Baby. So we always had--I always had them. I always had older people in the family, because my mother and father always went around older people. So we had a lot of older cousins. I didn't know my father's people that much, coming up, but I've gotten to know many of them since 8:00I've been an adult. They are older people in the family.

BRINSON: How did your family make their living while you were growing up?

NEBLETT M: My mother was a housekeeper. And I remember mother getting up at, when I was a little girl, even in the first, well, second grade mostly. I remember in the second grade, up until maybe I was ten or twelve; she would get up at five o'clock in the morning. She would go do housework. And I would never see mom, until about maybe nine o'clock at night. Maybe if I was awake. And I remember it was--I keep thinking fifty cents an hour--I remember, very little. And she did that for a long time. And I remember having to be responsible for my younger brother. And daddy would fix the coal stove and he would fix this food. And he would make me watch it. Well, one of the things, 9:00Mother would never eat his cooking for some reason or another; but we always had to eat it. But he always did that. He always watched us at a distance. Or he would never really have a baby sitter, but he always had somebody watching us, making sure we were safe. And we lived in a, what was it, about a, less than two room house, on the Bowling Green Road with a dirt floor, from the second grade until nineteen sixty, maybe sixty-one, sixty-two. And daddy was a very strong disciplinarian. Made me sweep the floor. He knew if I swept that dirt floor or not. I've never have gotten over that. And he, basically as a form of living, he decided he would never work in a tobacco field anymore. He wasn't making enough money. So, he always was trying to make money. And the things that 10:00he did was various, a Jack-of-All-Trades. My father sold wood. He sold coal. He sold, what you call it, used furniture, little trinkets or anything like that. We always had--across the street--next door to the house, junk, and he was always selling it. And he acquired--I remember him acquiring trucks and different things to haul the trucks. And things like that. And then he also, he had another business that was not quite popular, that he did quite well in, that he managed to make enough money to build the Benton's Personal Care Home. And that was like a long dream for him.

BRINSON: The Benton's?

NEBLETT M: The Benton's Personal Care Home. And the story before that is, I never will forget, Daddy said, "We're getting out of this shack." And he starting building this house that we was raised in. And he moved us in this house with the. The brick frame was up. Everything was, the frame was up, the 11:00foundation was up, but the windows were not up. He hadn't put the windows in and he had not finalized the floor. So anyway, he moved us in on a cold winter night. I'll never forget that. And he made sure that we was warm and everything. I guess he put plastic or whatever up to the windows. And so he moved us in one room and he said, "Now don't step over here, because the plank will cause you to fall down." So we hadn't gotten a bathroom in yet or anything like that. So anyway, I remember momma being very co-operative. Next thing I know, he had the, what you call it, the house frame up. The windows in and the sheet rock up. So we was going from one room to the other. And then after a period of time, in sixty-three he built the first portion of the Bentons Personal Care Home. And he was determined to do that. And then in sixty-four 12:00there was what? Twelve, twelve rooms, no, I'm not sure how many rooms, but we could have twelve personal care patients. And then in sixty-four he built the other wing and we could have more patients. So, it became a total of twenty-six.

BRINSON: At that point did your mother work in the Personal Care Home at all?

NEBLETT M: When he got that Personal Care Home up, he put his foot down. "Jetty, you are not working out of the house anymore." And so she started working at the Personal Care Home.

BRINSON: Tell us a little bit about your education growing up in Russellville. Did you go to an all black school at first?

NEBLETT M: If I remember correctly, my first year, my first grade year was in Guthrie, Kentucky in a one room school. And I remember that vaguely, but I do 13:00remember going to school in Guthrie, Kentucky. We were living there for a while and then moved to Russellville. And I started in the second grade under Miss Ruth King. And I started in the later part of the year. And she was a tall female. And to me, she was very kind and she was very strict. And her expectations out of you was great. She created a desire in me to learn and wanted to. She was African-American, Knob City School, African-American instructors. And I really think Miss King had a lot of influence on my desire for education and appreciative of education. And then the second teacher I had was Mrs. Gonsella, who petted me, and when I would do wrong, she'd twist all the students' ear. And she always said, "Now Marvinia, you can do better and if you don't do better, I'm calling your daddy today." So, I always did better. And 14:00those two teachers, I do remember, having a great influence on me. I graduated from the eighth grade in Knob City. I really felt like I got a great education there. I felt like those teachers really wanted us to learn, and they put forth the extra effort. And I graduated the third highest in that particular, in my class. Now going to Russellville High School from the ninth through the twelfth, was my experience with being with white American students. And I was telling my husband, that class, we graduated in sixty-eight, but my class--I always felt--I'm not sure how other blacks felt; but I always felt my class went out of their way to just be really, really kind. I really believe that. And some of the, what they call home room mothers, it was about five to six of them. And I was talking to one the other day. And I remember them trying to 15:00include--there wasn't that many blacks in the class anyway--and they were including us in everything that their children were doing. And I remember them reaching out. I was also explaining that about that particular year, that class--I'm saying that class. I can't speak for the rest of them. But that class, I remember, whatever I felt short in, they went out of the way to make sure that I knew how to do it or they would repeat or let me know what I had to do next. So we had a lot of hospitality with that class I thought. But there were some negative things, that I felt, that also happened through that class. But we were very, what you call it, confrontations. So we had a lot of discussions and they would discuss a lot of things with us. And we would tell them what was on our mind and they would tell us. And we did a lot of that in my class.

BRINSON: How many in your graduation class?


NEBLETT M: That's a long time ago. I'm saying, I'm thinking it wasn't more than ninety.

BRINSON: Ninety, okay.

NEBLETT M: I don't believe it was more than ninety.

BRINSON: And you said there weren't that many black students in your school.

NEBLETT M: It may have started with, we may have started with fifteen or twenty of us, but I remember it was only about five or six of the African-Americans that graduated.

BRINSON: When you moved to the high school, the integrated high school, how long, if you know this, after that did they keep the black school still in existence at the lower levels?

NEBLETT M: I don't remember. I'm thinking less than, maybe less than two or three years. We weren't the last class. I don't remember.

BRINSON: Okay. Growing up in Russellville during the time that you did, did you ever have a sense that you were different as black? Is there an example where 17:00you realized that there was discrimination there because you were black?

NEBLETT M: In Russellville?

BRINSON: Uh huh.

NEBLETT M: That, the community, itself? I knew it, within my inner man, I knew it. That white Americans felt different. And I always sensed that they felt better. We didn't have any, I don't remember experiencing a lot of name calling. But see, I had a type of father, I don't know if you, everybody knew Russellville was a small community; and I don't think anybody would have wanted to call us any names and get out of place with us, because they didn't want to have to deal with my father. My father was very confrontation orientated. And he didn't have a problem getting physical, as well as, verbal, confronting 18:00issues. He really didn't have a problem with that.

POTTER: Could you shop?

NEBLETT M: My father was a strong disciplinarian. I was not allowed. I was not allowed to go out of my house. I was not allowed to play outside. And when I came home from school I had chores. And I had to get my homework before a certain time, because I remember going to bed at six-thirty, no later than seven-thirty. Very seldom was there a TV for me. Not that he would allow, because he went to bed early and he got up early. I remember that for many, many years. And it was not up for discussion. So when I got in high school, I remember I had to slip to get up and do extra studying for some classes that were hard for me. And he may have known it, but I don't remember him getting up and getting on me for it. But I knew that if he rose up, I had to cut out the light and I had to be back in that bed.

BRINSON: But when you did get to go out and go downtown, as a black person 19:00could you go to the movies? Could you shop? Could you eat at the lunch counter? Could you try on shoes?

NEBLETT M: When I was coming up we had a certain location, we had a certain location in the theater to sit. I believe it was upstairs.

BRINSON: There was a balcony?

NEBLETT M: There was a balcony, and I didn't get to go to that very much, because I wasn't allowed to go to the theater. But they did have, we did have to sit in the balcony. Going to shop, I remember having to do it mostly with my mom. I don't remember going into any restaurants to eat.

BRINSON: When you were shopping, could you try on clothes?

NEBLETT M: Oh, definitely couldn't go to Teen Town. See his memory is much better than mine.

POTTER: To Teen Town?

NEBLETT M: We had a Teen Town, where only white kids could go. And we were not allowed.

POTTER: Is that the name of a store or a place?

NEBLETT M: It was a place. Called Teens, was it Teen Town or Teen Center?


NEBLETT C: Teen Town.

NEBLETT M: Teen Town. It's where they got together and had parties, little dances with the records and supervised by their parents. And white students were able to go and that was on a weekly basis for years. And I wasn't necessarily allowed to go to there anyway, but the other kids that wanted to go, did try to go and were not allowed. And there was a, I guess you would call a protest or movement there. We did--I did get with Mr. Mike Humble, Gary Todd and a few of us decided we were going to Teen Town and we were going to be included. And it wasn't very long after, they didn't have anymore Teen Town. So, I remember that. And being close to Gary Todd and at that time, Mike Humble was a star football player. So, usually if he was saying something, he was talking to all of us as a group. And I believe he and Todd did quite a few things. They went to a place out there by.


NEBLETT C: Mike was white, now.

NEBLETT M: Mike was white and Gary was black. Gary lived on East Fifth Street, which was less than three or four houses from my house. And they went to several places together, that caused quite a few disturbances, that they had to deal with. I remember when Gary went to football games and things like that, the only person that would room with him would be Mike Humble. And Gary and I were very close friends and he would tell me about those things. I would like to say, T.V., when I did get to look at TV, I remember some things that we saw on TV, that was going on in the South, that was very disturbing. And my Christian brother and best friend, Bill Holland and I used to talk about a lot of different things. And my desire was to do anything I could do to help Doctor King with that movement during that time. And they were discussing a march on 22:00Selma. And Bill Holland and I, we literally planned. He was making all the arrangements and we were going to Selma, Alabama to march. And I was going to have to sneak out of the house. We did not discuss this with our parents or nobody. This was a hush-hush thing. And we actually planned that, and I was going with Bill Holland. He come pecking on my window at about what--two or three o'clock in the morning? And told me to come outside, and I slipped outside. And he had a strict father, too; so we knew whatever beating we got, whichever beating we got, we were going to take this beating. So, anyway, he told me, he said, "Marvinia, we're not going." I said, "What you mean, not going?" He said, "I changed my mind." I said, "What do you mean? I'm ready." He said, "I am more afraid of your father." He said, "If anything happened to 23:00you"--he said, "I am more afraid of your father, than I am white folks." And he said, "I'm going by myself."

POTTER: Were you?

NEBLETT M: No! That's was, I had, I had, already rationalized in my mind that daddy was going to kill me anyway. So, I was willing to take the beating or whatever he was going to do to me. I had made a decision, I was going to do it. We were going to go to the walk. And Bill said, "He was going without me." I told him, I said, "If you go without me, you're going to face more than those white folks when you get down there, because you and I are going to have it." And Bill, as far as I know, he didn't go. But we didn't get to go and I believe that was the first one wasn't it? It was a bloody mess.

BRINSON: That would have been nineteen sixty-five.

NEBLETT M: Yes. It was, there was a bloody mess. And we discussed it. Bill and I discussed many times, what we were going to try to do once we could get away; and try to help and things like that. And we still talk about it today 24:00and we do different things, every chance we get.

BRINSON: When you graduated from high school, what happened next for you?

NEBLETT M: My life really started changing when my father died. My father died February the first, nineteen sixty-eight.

BRINSON: Before you graduated high school?

NEBLETT M: Before I graduated. In fact, I'm going to say my life changed September sixty-seven. He got sick in September sixty-seven. And he died February the first, uh, February the second, the day after my birthday in nineteen sixty-eight. That's when my life started really changing.

POTTER: Your senior year?

NEBLETT M: My senior year in high school. My mother and I worked the nursing home, the Personal Care Home. She was with him during the day. Mother would be 25:00with him during the--well, mother worked the nursing home during the day and then she would be in and out of the hospital during the day. When I came home from school, I would go and sit with him from two-thirty or three o'clock in the evening to whatever time she got there at night. It may be twelve o'clock at night, or one or two o'clock in the morning, whenever she got there. And we did that from sixty-seven to sixty-eight. My teachers were very co-operative. One thing about the Russellville High School teachers at that time, they were all white. I always tell the people the difference in those teachers then and now, although they didn't want. They told us they didn't want to teach black students. And I remember those sessions, too. But they were, they took pride in their product. They didn't want any of their students making them look bad. So if you could make an "A" or "B", you was expected to do that. And that year they were very understanding of me and I had a lot of support. And they knew what I could do, and when I could do it. And so they helped me get through my senior year. And so, daddy died. May sixty-eight, I graduated from high 26:00school. My brother was three years younger than me, so there was a difference in the attitude of the community toward us and the facility. I found myself getting more attention than my brother. So, I saw a lot of things that I took upon myself as a young girl; as a responsibility toward my mom, the business and my brother. So, mother talked me into going to college. She said, "Don't stay home, go ahead, go on." And so, the Lord blessed me to go to Murray State University and I did major in Nursing and finished the program. I had a philosophy that was instilled in me, whatever I start, finish it. So I started there. I finished there. I started in Nursing. I finished in Nursing. I graduated May the fifth, nineteen seventy-four. Instead of me staying school and doing everything I need to do for State Boards, I went home. Less than 27:00three or four days at home, my mother was acting strange. Now, she came to the graduation, looking beautiful, looking really nice and we had a wonderful time. But when I got home, I woke up like three or four days after and my mother was standing over the bed looking at me, at two or three o'clock in the morning and she couldn't move. She was just like a different person. And I said, "Mom, what's wrong?" And she wouldn't say anything, she just stand there fiddling and not saying anything. So, to make a long story short, that was a real rough summer for me, because she was an entirely different female and I didn't know what was wrong with her.

BRINSON: Was she ill?

NEBLETT M: She was very ill. I talked to my Nursing instructors, and they gave me consultation and I talked with Charles and he gave me consultation on the phone. And she was telling me that the whites were trying to take the business away from her. So, she had a lot of fear that they was trying to take the business.So, I started digging in and learning about the business, which I 28:00wasn't trained, just using common sense. And trying to run the business. And October seventy-four, she, well, July, seventy-four. And she went to a psychiatrist, October seventy-four. She had, had a complete nervous breakdown. So, when I look back, I think Momma was just waiting for me to get home.

BRINSON: To take over.

NEBLETT M: To take over. And she just let everything. She just fell apart. So from seventy-four until the last five years, she was up and down, constantly, up and down. So, running the business and taking care of her and dealing with the community was quite a responsibility, that both my husband encountered.

BRINSON: And tell us about your meeting your husband, Charles.

NEBLETT M: The most beautiful love story ever told. When I was in college, my 29:00mother called me and she said--well, we had what they called--Charles what it is? What you call that, third Sunday. The third Sunday in June, that we go to Jamestown, where my grandfather was a founder and my mother was raised in the church. And we have family in the church, the Crockers and the Nebletts and other families in the church. She called me and asked me to come home and take her to the funeral.

BRINSON: I'm going to stop you and turn the tape over.

NEBLETT M: To come and take her to the funeral of Mr. Neblett. I said, "Oh momma, when is it?" She told me. I said, "Mom, I can't do it. I've got this test I got to study for, would you get somebody else to do it? And I'll help you pay for somebody to take you." And she said, "All right." So, anyway, I 30:00thought about it and I thought about it. And I said, "You know, my mother has never really asked me for anything or to do anything that she really wanted to do." She really hadn't. She was one of those quiet, sweet people at that time. So, I told my girlfriend, I said, "I do not need to flunk this test." I said, "But I think I'm just going to forget about this test and go home and take my mother to this funeral." And that's what I did. I left Murray, Kentucky about three, four o'clock in the morning and went home to take her to that funeral. And I took her to the funeral. Got to that funeral and we were dressed now, fine. So, I saw this good looking, tall gentleman and he was walking around the church. What I'm saying see, some of the people in that family was related to us, as well as, the Nebletts; so I had seen most everybody, but I hadn't seen him. So, I'm looking. I'm at the back of the church. Mom was up, but I'm in 31:00the back, so I'm looking. I said, "Now who is this?" So anyway, I asked Tobitha and Aunt Lila Belle, who was the tall gentleman and they told me who he was. And so he was walking toward where we were standing outside after the funeral services. And I asked Tabitha, I said, "Will you all please introduce me?" And they did. And we were introduced and everything. And I left. But anyway, I had told him, like he said, "If he wasn't doing anything and wanted to come to Russellville, all he had to do was ask for me. And I gave him the phone number. And sure enough, that night he called, he showed up. And so we visited and talked. And evidently he and his brothers and friends or whatever were leaving and so he kissed me on the forehead and said, "Bye." So, I didn't hear from him for about, oh, a while; maybe a good year or so. And then he come calling me. And he invited me to visit for my Spring Break. And I said, "Well I 32:00need a break." So I went and visited him. And so when I came back, my girlfriend, Crystal Mogley, she said, "Marvinia, that's the one." I said, "What do you mean, that's the one?" She said, "That's your husband." I said, "How do you know?" She said, "I've never seen you act about anybody like that guy before. And you've only been in his presence less than a couple of weeks." She said, "That's the one." I said, "I'm not thinking about marrying anybody." So in seventy-three, Charles came back this way, and we started talking.

BRINSON: And you've been married twenty-eight years?

NEBLETT M: Yes, ma'am. He took me to Chicago, let me see, seventy-three, April the sixth, seventy-three to meet Stokely Carmichael. I went there with him

BRINSON: Can you tell us about that?

NEBLETT M: Awesome experience. He was speaking and an African group was 33:00performing. And that's when Charles proposed to me. So, he had it all planned, very romantic. And I was shocked. I wasn't thinking about getting married. I just wasn't, you know, you go to college, you get out. You don't get married as soon as you get out of college. And so we talked a lot and dated that year. And so I prayed the whole time and asked the Lord was he the one? And it just confirmed it more and more. So we had many conversations about the Movement and the things he had done. I fell in love with his smile, first. Well, I fell in love with him taking care of business first, then his smile, then his voice.

BRINSON: What do you mean taking care of business?

NEBLETT M: When I first saw him, he was taking care of the family.

BRINSON: Ahh, okay.

NEBLETT M: And that was probably, when I look back, it was something my father, was very much like my father was responsible in taking care of the family. And I liked that about him. And he's always proven to be one, in the family, that 34:00helps to take care of the family. He's always been proven to be one in the community to protect or take care of what has to be taken care of, that he can handle in the community as well. He has no, he don't really think too much about it, just goes on and do it. And so, I fell in love with his character, it's a strong character.

BRINSON: I wonder, when he ran for office, were you involved in any way with all of that?

NEBLETT M: I am so glad you asked me. When Charles first ran, I was so busy with the nursing home and taking of mom; I couldn't get involved like I wanted to and I was supportive. And of course, whatever he asked me to do, I did. But when he ran, he didn't win. I was shocked. Then he ran again. He didn't win. So, there were things in the community that was. People was talking about Charles Neblett this, and Charles Neblett that. It was very negative. And I got to thinking. I said, "Why isn't this young man winning? He's very handsome. 35:00He's very tall. He's very articulate. He's well experienced in the things that he discussed. He knows what he's talking about. And he does care about the welfare of African-Americans and all people. And he tells you the truth." So, I couldn't understand why the little town of Russellville was having a problem with this man. And I though about it and I prayed about it. So, since I had never really done voter registration and got involved in an election, in Russellville--anyway. I decided that I was going to help him with his election. But I found out prayer is a powerful thing. I did a lot of praying first, too. But I got involved in it to see how that all worked, and the Lord just really blessed.

BRINSON: And that was the time that he did win?

NEBLETT M: That's the time that he did win, uh huh. Because I had asked 36:00Charles, I said, "Now, what is the Lord telling you? To run for City Council? Is he telling you to run for City Council? And he would say, "No." Several years went by and he would say, "No." I said, "Are you sure?" Because I knew he would be perfect as an elected official. I knew it would be good for the community, and there was a statement being made, we want an African-American of his caliber to be an elected official in our community. And my philosophy, my attitude is, it's time for you to deal with somebody that knows what they're talking about, knows how to get things done and will tell you the truth. I could not imagine white men, white people in powerful positions not wanting to deal with somebody that would tell them the truth. I could not, I could not imagine that. I had a problem with that. So one of the scriptures God gave me, Know no man, but by the Spirit. Everybody talking about Heaven and going there. 37:00And everybody talking about educating children or what they want for their community, is not necessarily going to do what they say. o he's--the Lord has taught me a lot in that. So, when I got involved in that election. And then he had to run it twice, the write in? I really had to pray. I was tired, but I really had to pray. And I really learned a lot. The community learned a lot, but his character got stronger. I never had any regrets. And I always appreciated the Lord allowing me to have the experience with my husband, because I have been able to be a part of the nineteen sixties Civil Rights Movement through him. And from an appreciative point of view. I never said that I did this during the sixties or I never said I did that. But because I listened to 38:00so many of the things that he's told me about the Movement and the times that he would wake up and tell me. And we could be discussing certain things and then the conversation would switch. It's always been edifying and so factual. And I said, "This is an ordained experience for me, because I wouldn't have never imagined to have been this close to the Movement. As much as I wanted to be a part of it, I never would have thought I would have been in the Movement with someone that was up there with Julian and Doctor King or Andrew Young; and would know all these experiences. Or Stokely Carmichael and being able to be in their presence and hear the stories. And I remember, I want to share with you, he took me with him to Highlander, when Doctor Bernice Regan and them had a workshop there. And being in her presence and Sweet Honey in the Rocks presence and Cordell and Holland. And them singing the songs and talking about the 39:00things they did. I was allowed to be there at that movement with them, through them.

POTTER: Do you remember when this was?

NEBLETT M: I don't remember the year, but it's been since I've been married. And I was thinking about the date. I remember the things that were said at the workshops, and how it was ministering to me. What is my part in this? And what can I do? And the only thing I can say to them, I just always appreciate everybody that was in that movement and the things that they went through; the sacrifices they made, that I didn't have to go through a lot of that. And my children don't have to go through a lot of that. I'm just appreciative to that. And the Lord, when Charles got elected, I was so thankful that he got that experience in Russellville. And that Russellville was experiencing someone of his caliber there. And they were going to learn. I had called the Arts Council 40:00and I talked to Irwin Pickett. And I was telling him what I thought, about how I felt like the Freedom Singers have so much to tell and how much more they need to be on the road before they got any older. And how that story should be told by them and not nobody else, because they were field secretaries and they were there. And I told him, I said, "I don't know how to write a grant." And Mr. Pickett said, "That's okay." He said, "You write down what your thoughts are." He said, "We'll help you write it." And that's what he did. And it was of the Lord. Because when I re-applied to the Arts Council, the grant deadline was over. It wasn't over. We met the deadline, but they had money that wasn't used. They had some extra money. So, when I wrote and applied, they had that 41:00money, so what I asked for, we got and more. And they were excited about the project. And so.

POTTER: What did it allow you to do?

NEBLETT M: The project?

POTTER: Uh huh.

NEBLETT M: The project allowed us to bring in Doctor Bernice Regan from Smithsonian Institute as a curator at that time, as our.

POTTER: To Russellville?

NEBLETT M: As our Humanities Scholar for the Humanities. And she trained me and coached me by telephone. And I was on-the-job training, because I had never done it before. And agreed to do it. And she just taught me how to do it and everything. And then it allowed, the money allowed us to bring Doctor Bernice Regan to Russellville, as one of the original Freedom Singers, Charles Neblett, who was there, Betty Mae Fifth, as one of the original Freedom Singers and 42:00Cordell Regan. So, they did a Freedom Singers concert in Russellville in nineteen ninety-one. The second year, the Chamber of Commerce sponsored them. We did it again in Russellville, in Hopkinsville Community College. And the vision got bigger and Vernell Larkin and I, worked on a tour, and Charles, of the SNCC Freedom Singers in Kentucky. The thirteen community colleges in Kentucky. And I got to be the Project Director of all three projects. And it was just awesome. Because to get them in Kentucky and for the people to hear them and hear the stories for themselves.

POTTER: Did you have materials? Did you have any kind of materials that went to each college?

NEBLETT M: Yes, each college had what they called their project director, so 43:00the college project director and I worked together. And I sent them the bio or the information of each singer in the group. And Bob Gates, of course, was also on that project that helped me with it, the writings of it.

BRINSON: Bob is on the State Folk Life Staff here. So, you in essence have become like a business manager for them? Is that how you would describe it? And I know you do a lot of telephone organizing. Am I correct?

NEBLETT M: That terminology might be appropriate.

BRINSON: What would you call it?

NEBLETT M: I like to consider myself as probably--no matter how they sing, when they sing--I think they're the best singers in the world. And I'm the one, one of the ones, that if you call and you want them, I'm going to try to help you 44:00get them there. If I can find money, all the money, if I could get them to every black college, every college in the United States, overseas, every church, every community organization, every school, elementary, middle school, junior high, high school, college, everywhere. I would be the one that you'd call and I would be trying to get them there; because I think they're one of the most invaluable groups of people on the face of the earth.

POTTER: Are they going to sing anytime soon, somewhere?

NEBLETT M: Right now, I believe Tennessee is planning on having them there. And I believe Charles was explaining that they're going to do some history of the sit-ins in Nashville and they're planning on bringing in the SNCC Freedom Singers. And that may be this Fall.

POTTER: What organization is it through in Nashville?


NEBLETT M: It's a possibility it's going to be in the library in Nashville, the Civil Rights Museum section of Nashville. And then there's another group that is looking at them, possibly the race relations and another group from Fisk University that is going to do that.

BRINSON: What a wonderful contribution.

NEBLETT M: Yes. And I believe they want to make it big into.

BRINSON: But I'm talking about your contribution, for helping to.

POTTER: Make it happen.

BRINSON: Make it happen.

NEBLETT M: Well, I believe it was just God. And I just appreciate, it's one of the things that God has given me. We can talk about a lot of things, but just getting it done. You just sort of dig in, and I really think God is the one doing it through me. I just sort of dig in and He just sort of brings it together. But there's also, that I think it's this group that God really wants people to hear. I also believe that people, there's something about music. The 46:00way they. You saw the one that did KET and then you heard Doctor Bernice Regan and different lyrics and things like that. The story they tell, it takes you into that movement. It makes you feel like you've been there and then it makes you feel like that you understand what they were going through and what really happened. And then you're getting the truth of that movement. It's not a false, it's the truth. And I think that's what God is leading me to do, is to promote the truth. You hear a lot of people tell things, but everybody don't tell you the truth. And those songs tells the story. And not only do the SNCC Freedom Singers represent that particular group. It represents all the people that's a member of SNCC, that made all those sacrifices at that time. And it 47:00also represents other groups that was in those sacrifices at that time, that they could go around and keep telling the story, so they can be appreciated. They can feel a part of it. It is a gift to them, because they deserve seeing somebody represent them that's telling the story on a consistent basis, that represents them.

BRINSON: That's all I have to ask. Do you have any more questions?

POTTER: I just wondered, do you still run or have any part of the nursing facility?

NEBLETT M: Unfortunately, I really think the politics got involved in that situation, so we do not own the facility anymore.

POTTER: And one thing we didn't ask Charles, what does he do now?

NEBLETT M: Charles is still managing the SNCC Freedom Singers, and they do sing and they're getting ready to travel more and more. And then he works so much in the community with concerned citizens and different Boards and things like that. 48:00And then he works in Springfield, Tennessee as one of the supervisors at a Kroger Company in Tennessee.

BRINSON: Is that it?

POTTER: Thank you.

BRINSON: Okay. Thank you very much.

NEBLETT M: It was eleven years before Charles and I had any pregnancy during our marriage.

POTTER: Eleven years?

BRINSON: Now, the tape's on. Is that okay?

NEBLETT M: Yes, ma'am. And we give God the glory, because a lot of, and praying and calling those things to be not as though they were and believing in the Word. He said, "If you abide in me and I abide in you. Ask what you will and it shall be given." And the Lord allowed us to do that. So, we did get our first pregnancy in eighty-three and had him in eighty-four. And then.

BRINSON: Then you kept going.

NEBLETT M: And then eighteen months later the next one, and then six years later the next one. All three are boys. And we knew, I knew I was going to get 49:00this girl. Three more years later, the girl came. I would have had another one,

but Charles said, "No." But anyway, you can write that up.