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Tom Turnipseed, Wallace Staff on
his Southern ancestry

Tom Turnipseed

I was born in Mobile, Alabama in 1936 and right in the heart of Dixie. And we would actually talk and romanticize and really glorify the Confederacy. And as far as African American people were concerned, our concept of black folks back in those days was like Uncle Remus and Old Black Joe. Everybody was happy and congenial and having a good time. I vividly remember the Alabama public school history book -- it was either third or fourth grade. They had a chapter they called antebellum days. And it showed a little drawing of little African American children, dancing and singing in front of a little neat cabin. And it says that slave children were happy, they danced and sang jigs. And looking back at the fact that in those days, and the fact that my grandfather was a member of the Ku Klux Klan. I never knew him but my daddy told about what a wonderful guy he was to his family and so forth. And then told me about some of the things he did against black people, and I looked back and really have a concern about people, not just myself, but what shapes our lives. And I think in the South, we do a great deal of ancestor and heritage worshipping which is natural. You want to try to justify your own flesh and blood because, gosh, my granddaddy, hopefully through an act of love, created the gene pool with my grandmother and then my dad came along, and that's why I'm here, genetically. I'm a part of my granddaddy, flesh and blood-wise. And I think where we fall into a trap, particularly in this part of the country is because of this. We don't want to admit that they were terribly, terribly wrong, our ancestors were on the issue of race, and the white supremacists, the attitudes with the slavery, the Confederacy since then. And I think that's the challenge for this generation of southerners and people all over this country to face up to the racism and say, wait a minute, you know, we love our ancestors and all, but they made a terrible mistake on the matter of race. We need to do that.

Q: Did Wallace make white southerners feel that they were something?

A: George Wallace would make people feel proud of their heritage. And this heritage itself is one of terrible, terrible racism. The bloodiest war in the history of this country and probably the whole world was fought over the issue of slavery. And we still got folks all over this part of the country in the United States that say that wasn't really the reason for the war. You know, we romanticized it and glorified it into something else. And it was just strictly on the issue of slavery and white supremacy. And the legacy of that continues because we won't face the awful truth of the history of what our folks did. They were good about some things, but they were wrong on this issue.

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