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 Orphaned, Mollie didn't like living in Mississippi and she was very unhappy there. Living was hard

 there. At the age of fifteen she met an older man who wanted to marry her. With the condition

that he take her brother also into their household, Mollie agreed to marry him.



Mollie Cooper's Life in Mississippi 

& Her Journey to Freedom

By Barbara Gray


My personal hero is my grandmother Mollie Cooper. I have many memories of her. But there is a visit with my grandmother I will remember as long as I live. On this occasion  she told  me a story  that outweighs all my other memories of her. This visit with my grandmother occurred a year or so after my mother's passing. Maybe it was something that I asked my grandmother that sparked her story.

My grandmother told me me that she was born in St. Louis and raised by her father along with her older sister and younger brother. I'd always thought she was born in Mississippi because that's where my mother was born. My grandmother Mollie's mother died when she was young and she did not remember her. Mollie was not yet thirteen when her older sister married, left St. Louis, and moved to Chicago.

When Mollie was about thirteen, her father became very ill. He knew his time to live was short and he wanted to be family when he died. He also wanted to make plans for Mollie and her brother to be taken in by family after his passing. His sister was in Mississippi, which is where he was born.

I don't recall where in Mississippi my great grandfather took Mollie and her brother. He, however, had warned her never to go to the deltas, which were the worst place for colored people to live. In the deltas, white people treated colored people real bad.

Mollie's father died leaving her and her brother with his sister. Orphaned, Mollie didn't like living in Mississippi and she was very unhappy there. Living was hard there. At the age of fifteen she met an older man who wanted to marry her. With the condition that he take her brother also into their household, Mollie agreed to marry him. The man agreed and they married. My grandmother Mollie never mentioned loving him--just marrying him. As a new teenage bride, she left her aunt's house and was taken to the place her father told her never to go--the deltas.

The deltas were worst than her father had described. Mollie and her husband were sharecroppers. Sharecroppers??? As a child, I had no idea what drudgery a sharecropper life was. My grandmother quickly made it plain that there was nothing exciting about this part of her life. In the white hot fields, she picked cotton. 

Before she went into further details, she told me of the loss of her younger brother, who died within a year of her marriage. "Back then," she said, responding to my questions, "people got sick and died. We didn't have names for illnesses. He had a fever and died."

I found the idea fascinating that my grandmother Mollie as a young woman picked cotton. With a smile on her face, "your mother used to help me in the fields. She was a good little hand." Well, I thought I had heard everything. My mother never told me she had picked cotton. She was five when she left Mississippi. I knew she could not have forgotten that.

My grandmother Mollie went on to tell me how horrible life was in the deltas. The cotton fields were huge--"as far as the eye could see was all fields." The sun was so hot and there wasn't a tree anywhere for shade. As she spoke, I could sense that she was reliving the pain and the anguish of her memories of those times. Though she didn't elaborate, my grandmother Mollie said she had seen horrible things done to black people in the deltas.

Mollie did tell me, however, about her husband, my biological grandfather. He was abusive, an alcoholic, a gambler, and he ran around with women. They were never able to get ahead because he always owed the white man money. He stayed in debt. It had gotten so bad that the white man started to take things that they needed to survive on. Often they did not get paid for their work because of money her husband owed to the white man. 

The last straw for grandmother Mollie was when the white man came and took away her chickens. That was all they had left and she begged the man  like she had done many times before. But he took the chickens away. She knew then that she had to do something for herself and her three children. That's when she began to plan her escape.

Mollie saved enough to take the train to Chicago. Her sister there knew she was coming. A Sunday, she sent her children to a relative's house. This was the day she was going to make her move. She knew her husband would not be home because always spent Sundays with another woman. She had one bag. She went and got her children and got on a train to Chicago. She never looked back. She said she couldn't understand women today saying they couldn't leave a man. "That's a lie," she said. For she left with one bag and three children and never looked back.

Mollie arrived in Chicago with three babies and was taken in, she and her three children, by her older sister and her sister's husband. She lied to get a job, telling the owner of a cleaners that she had experience as a seamstress. She knew how to do a few things by hand, but she had never worked as a seamstress.

She met a man named Albert Cooper, who loved her and her three children. They married and had seven more children. The man she left behind, her husband, she was told in a letter that another man killed him over a woman. That had nothing to do with her remarrying. She was not thinking about things like divorce. She knew she would never see him again.

While my mother was pregnant with me, my grandmother Mollie lost her sister. During my lifetime, up until the date of this talk with her, my grandmother had lost my grandfather and three of her children.

It occurred to me then that my grandmother had suffered a lot of loss. She had grieved the loss of loved ones over and over again. She had practically been left alone in this world to survive, which she did. And through all of this she was not a bitter woman. She had a place in her heart for every single person in my family, no matter what they did or what anybody else thought of them.I understood this now. I understood a lot now. I understood why no one in my family was going to be without a place to stay as long as she was alive. I now understood why sometimes it would seem as if she was far away in a deep thought, something unpleasant. Before this day's story, in my eyes, my grandmother's greatest accomplishment was that she had had ten children. I knew now that this woman who I had just looked at as a grandmother was more than just that.

She was history, more than just a woman. I knew then that what she had in her, I had in me. If she could survive the things she survived, I surely could survive the things I had to go through. Her blood flowed through mine. If I could be half the woman my grandmother was, I would make it in this life.

Photo above: from left to right: (Top) Effie (mother), Barbara, Dorothy, Charles, Irene, Alice, Frances; (Bottom) Claudette, Mollie Cooper (grandmother) Kenneth, Robert Cooper (grandfather), Lawrence -- February 15, 1953

Barbara Gray reside in Baltimore, Maryland. She is a native of Chicago, Illinois. Ms. Gray is married and has a twenty-one-year-old son. She has been employed as a correctional officer for fourteen years and is a veteran of the U.S. Air Force.

After a twenty-two year absence from the classroom, Barbara has returned to school as a full-time student. She is currently working towards earning a BA degree in criminal justice at Sojourner Douglass College. To contact her hit

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books

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#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

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Greenback Planet: How the Dollar Conquered

the World and Threatened Civilization as We Know It

By H. W. Brands

In Greenback Planet, acclaimed historian H. W. Brands charts the dollar's astonishing rise to become the world's principal currency. Telling the story with the verve of a novelist, he recounts key episodes in U.S. monetary history, from the Civil War debate over fiat money (greenbacks) to the recent worldwide financial crisis. Brands explores the dollar's changing relations to gold and silver and to other currencies and cogently explains how America's economic might made the dollar the fundamental standard of value in world finance. He vividly describes the 1869 Black Friday attempt to corner the gold market, banker J. P. Morgan's bailout of the U.S. treasury, the creation of the Federal Reserve, and President Franklin Roosevelt's handling of the bank panic of 1933. Brands shows how lessons learned (and not learned) in the Great Depression have influenced subsequent U.S. monetary policy, and how the dollar's dominance helped transform economies in countries ranging from Germany and Japan after World War II to Russia and China today. He concludes with a sobering dissection of the 2008 world financial debacle, which exposed the power--and the enormous risks--of the dollar's worldwide reign.  The Economy

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Sex at the Margins

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This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label 'trafficked' does not accurately describe migrants' lives and that the 'rescue industry' serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. "Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality."—Lisa Adkins, University of London

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 29 November 2011




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