Born 1911 in Hazlehurst, Copiah County, MS
Daughter of Albert Benjamin Spencer & Mary Brown
Cheri Herring, the couple's daughter-in-law, shared this newspaper article with me. Below are Cheri's words concerning the incident.
This news story is about my in-laws Robert & Lessie Herring. They had lived in this neighborhood since 1943. The area was and is primarily a white middle class neighborhood. Robert Jr, has told this story to me previously, but this was the first time that I had seen it in published format.
The incident occurred on Saturday, June 29th, 1963. When the cross burning occurred, neighbors came to make sure Robert and Lessie were OK. They were quite upset and wanted to ensure them than no one in neighborhood had any part in this and the police stepped up patrols passed their home. It isn't known if the person who set up the burning cross earlier in the day was the same person who slashed their truck tire later Saturday night. The culprit was never identified. But, there were also never any other incidents. The general feeling at the time was that someone from outside of the neighborhood had learned that a black family lived in this home and was trying to start trouble.
Robert & Lessie remained in this home until their deaths in 1998 and 1999. Their grandson Robert III has owned the home since 2000.
Transcribed from The Seattle Times, June 29, 1963
Mr and Mrs Robert Herring, a Negro couple, of 5513 Kensington Place N, reported to police early this morning that a burning wood cross was implanted in their lawn.
The two foot cross, which had burned itself out, was discovered by Herring as he set out for work at 1 o'clock.
Mrs Herring today spoke without emotion about the incident.
"You start thinking about the people and you can only pity them," she said.
There are only two Negro families in this neighborhood, one moved in recently. We have been here 21 years and nothing like this has ever happened before."
"Oh, there were small incidents when we first moved here but that was long ago. My boy, Robert Herring, Jr., even played on the university of Washington football team."
Herring in the class of 1957, was a halfback.
Mrs Herring said there appeared to be pieces of clothing attached to the cross.
"I don't know who could have done it," she said.
The church is located on Barlow Road in rural Copiah County, Mississippi. It was the church home of my paternal grandmother when she was a young girl. Buried in the church cemetery are members of Grandma Gertrude Overton's kin.
Standing at the kitchen sink washing dishes, drinking a cup of coffee, dressed for church with the mink stole around her shoulder, rollers in her hair on the front porch, she would tell stories. A major family event or simple everyday activities would take her back. She remembered the events of her own life and she remembered the stories that had been told to her.
I think my aunt talked because she needed to talk, it was therapy for her. She didn't plan on passing the torch to the next generation but I am so pleased she shared.
Just as Aunt Rosie did, I causally pass memories to my children, nieces and nephews, hoping the names of the ancestors are remember.
Thank you, George.
Professor Gullage's Slave Narrative
Prof. Phillip Davenport Gullage was born Simpson County Dec. 16th 1854 the community of Gum Springs on plantation of Mr. Will Gullage. At the age of 11 until 1872 he resided in Rankin County. His early education was received in Hazlehurst and Brandon and later attended summer normal schools at Tougaloo, Miss. He began teaching in 1877, at Little Rock, 7 miles from Hazlehurst. In 1891 he came to Brookhaven as Principal of the negro High School which place he held for 42 years. Owing to his advanced age he was replaced by a younger man but since has been teaching an adult class of the W.P.A. program. Gullage has been a very outstanding negro in his line of work. Very instrumental in securing Summer Normals for negroes in Brookhaven.
Slave Narratives - Mississippi - Federal Writers Project
Professor Gullage was the son of Wisdom Gullage and Parthenia Reed.
Professor Gullage married Martha J Overton 26 Dec 1878 in Copiah County, MS.
Their children were: Queen Esther, Newaline, Blanche, Claudius, Dewitt, and Luther.
Queen Esther married Inzeay "N Z" Jones, 04 Jun 1914, in Lincoln County, MS.
Blanche married Beny F Smith, 20 Mar 1912, in Lincoln County, MS.
Professor Gullage died, 02 Jan 1943, in Chicago.
Today, when I cast my vote, I will be thinking of Cousin Robert and the ancestors.
Information from Slave Narrative of Robert Bryant
Photograph Courtesy of Joyce Coleman Johnson
My father's maternal side of the family were slaves on these three intersecting plantations in Copiah County, MS. The slave owners were related and slave marriages were formed among the plantations.
Peachy Ridgway Taliaferro owned (yellow)Spring Hill Plantation. At the time of Peachy's death in 1852, he owned over 90 slaves. Peachy's daughter Mary Peachy Taliaferro married Hezekiah George David Brown who owned (blue)Lucky Hit Plantation. HGD Brown enslaved 46. Edwin Burnley, cousin to HGD, owned (pink)Somerset Plantation. Per the 1860 Copiah County slave schedule, Burnley owned 60 slaves.