Mississippi civil rights pioneer Birdie Walker to show 103 – Magnolia State Stay

Birdie Lee Walker is 102 years old and celebrates his birthday this month.

Except: “I voted in Liberty.”

And that: “I just went down there and told them I wanted to vote.”

Sounds easy now, but it was a dangerous endeavor for African Americans 60 years ago.

It was August 15, 1961 when civil rights activist Bob took Moses Walker, her sister Matilda Schoby, and her cousin Ernest Isaac to the Liberty Courthouse for registration.

The Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee describes the incident on its website SNCCdigital.org:

“On August 15, Moses accompanied three locals to the Amite County Courthouse in Liberty. The registrar forced them to wait six hours in the courthouse before they were allowed to fill out the forms. When the group drove out of the courthouse, a patrol officer followed them, dressed them and arrested Moses. “

Moses spent two nights in prison. Two weeks later, he was brutally beaten for accompanying two other people to the courthouse. Moses brought charges against his attacker, but was acquitted.

Moses, who became a hero of the civil rights movement, died on July 25 at the age of 86.


In 2010, a McComb High School class led by Vickie Malone and Howard Levin interviewed Walker for nearly an hour for the Oral History Project, “Telling Their Stories.” The interviews are available at tellingstories.org.

“We wanted to register and vote like other people,” said Walker, whose memory was clearer at the time.

“The old man said he wouldn’t let us vote, but after a while he said he’d let us fill out a paper and let us vote.”

They did, but as they left a group of white men followed them, eventually pulling them close and arresting Moses.

“I wasn’t scared,” said Walker. “Moses had told us, ‘You will put me in prison.’ He said, ‘You are not afraid’ and I was not afraid. “

Voters received support that night when the late civil rights activist CC Bryant and a group of FBI agents paid them a visit.


Walker was born on August 31, 1918, during the Spanish flu and just before the end of World War I. As one of three siblings, she grew up in Amite County, not far from where she lives today on Upper Glading Road.

She attended Sherman Missionary Baptist Church and was baptized in Muddy Springs Creek when she was 5 years old. She went to Mount Canaan School.

She later married Leroy Hughes, who died decades ago, and had five children, two of whom died.

She cleaned houses and brought laundry for a living and laid out a large garden.

“I just know she was a hard worker,” said daughter Joanna Turner, 66.

“She was very independent. She wouldn’t talk much. “

Walker was Disciplinary as a parent.

“She was one of them, she didn’t talk a lot, but her eyes told you what to do,” Joanna said. “She told you once or twice what to do, and if you don’t, she gets a stick.”

She remembered being in bed with her sister when she was flogged.

“From then on I stopped arguing when she told me something. I did it, ”said Joanna.

Walker was a great cook too, Joanna said, remembering cookies, rice and gravy, fried chicken and pound cakes from the ground up.
“I cooked almost everything,” said Walker.

“She made those big old-time pound cakes better than the ones you get in the store,” Joanna said. “She would make them from scratch.”

At Revival Time, Walker baked cakes and her sister Matilda made chicken and dumplings.

“Your sister was good at pancakes. Mom was good at sweet potato cake, ”said Joanna.

Joanna said she had never learned to cook as well as her mother, much less to sew. But she learned “mainly to try to live worthily, to be righteous, to treat everyone right”.

Walker’s voter registration wasn’t her only legacy. All of their children became productive, hard-working citizens.

The late sons JB and Leroy were mechanics and truck drivers, respectively.

The other three kids – Joanna, Jeannine Redfield, and Isom Upkins – were all teachers, and Upkins was a tennis star too, with plaques on three walls of Walker’s living room.

As for her mother’s place in civil rights history, “I’m very proud of her,” said Joanna. “I wish I had the courage they had.”

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