American Experience: Partners of the Heart
Early Years: Living with Segregation
Nat Crippens:  video | transcript
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It was very early in my life. I was seven years old and I lived on a street of shotgun houses, all of them made of wood, of course. And the boy next door to me when I was seven was seventeen at the time.

He had worked in a white family since he was twelve. And, apparently the family had a daughter who was eleven when he was twelve. And they grew up together. And most of the time during the summer, only the two of them were in the house together. And, inevitably, two kids like that sort of formed a closer relationship than they perhaps should have.

And the father forgot some papers. He was a businessman and came home one day and the boy ran out the back door. And obviously he had been engaged in the most taboo thing in the South at that time. And the only place he ran was home. And that happened in the morning, and by mid-afternoon, the word was around town in both the white and black communities that they were going to lynch him and string him up in front of the big black church, which was about a block from my home.

And both whites and blacks all afternoon were engaged in buying ammunition. And the only place to get ammunition was from a white hardware man. And whites criticized him for selling ammunition to blacks. And he said, "I'm in business. I'm going to sell to whoever will buy."

Anyway, about dusk dark, people began to collect in a vacant lot near my house. And by seven or eight o'clock, there were perhaps four or five hundred people down there, all male, all white. And during the afternoon, my father, who happened to be a minister, and about twenty or thirty other blacks congregated and had prayer meeting in our house. And they got whatever weapons together that they had. And they went next door to where this boy lived and they had vowed that if anybody came to take this boy, they'd have to take them first.