Mississippi – StoryCorps
Triple your impact this Giving Tuesday! Donate by midnight, 11/30! Donate

“We Are Needed”: A Counselor At Mississippi’s Only Abortion Clinic Shares Her Story

In the mid-1990s, Miss Betty Thompson retired from her job in state government, and started a second career working at the Jackson Women’s Health Organization as a counselor. By 2004, it was the only remaining abortion clinic in Mississippi.

Often faced with incredibly long distances to travel, and protesters on the ground upon their arrival, Betty helped all those who walked through the doors. 

In 2022, the clinic would become the center of the pending U.S. Supreme Court case challenging Roe v. Wade.

Betty worked there at the clinic for almost 25 years, but it was her own experiences as a teenager that brought her to the work. 

In 2016, she came to StoryCorps to share her story.

Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.
Top Photo: Betty Thompson on April 14th, 2016, in front of the Jackson Women’s Health Organization, in Jackson, Mississippi. Photo by Natalia Fidelholtz for StoryCorps.

Originally aired May 20th, 2022, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

“They Don’t See The Innocence In You”: A Black Father Continues To Answer Tough Questions From His Son

When 9-year-old Aidan Sykes first sat down for StoryCorps to interview his dad, Albert, he had some serious questions. Their conversation touched on Albert’s experience raising three Black sons in Mississippi, why they go to protests together, and what Albert’s hopes are for his son’s future.

Five years later, with Aidan a month away from turning 15, they decided to have another conversation using StoryCorps Connect. This comes at a time when protests are being held worldwide after a white police officer in Minneapolis, Minnesota killed a Black man named George Floyd. 

Top Photo: Albert and Aidan Sykes in Jackson, Mississippi, 2020. Photo courtesy of Albert Sykes.
Middle Photo: Albert and Aidan Sykes at their original StoryCorps interview back in 2015. By Vanessa Gonzalez-Block for StoryCorps. 

Originally aired June 12, 2020, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

‘Why Do You Take Me To Protests So Much?’: A Black Father Answers Tough Questions From His Son

When 9-year-old Aidan Sykes sat down to interview his dad, Albert Sykes, he had some serious questions. Albert, who runs an education nonprofit and mentors kids who are struggling in school, talked to Aidan about Black fatherhood, and his hopes for his son’s future.

Aidan interviewed Albert at StoryCorps in Jackson, Mississippi.

Top Photo: Albert and Aidan Sykes at their StoryCorps interview in Jackson, Mississippi in 2015. By Vanessa Gonzalez-Block for StoryCorps.
Middle Photo: Albert and Aidan Sykes in Jackson, Mississippi, 2020. Photo courtesy of Albert Sykes.

Originally aired March 20, 2015, on NPR’s Morning Edition. Rebroadcast on June 5, 2020, on the same program.

Ellie Dahmer and Bettie Dahmer

During the mid-1960s, Vernon Dahmer was a successful black farmer and businessman in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He was also a civil rights leader and had served as the head of his local NAACP chapter. This work often made his family a target of threats by the Ku Klux Klan. Despite the danger, Vernon worked to help register black voters in the community.

Dahmer1

Although the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act gave racial minorities equal access to the right to vote, the state of Mississippi still required residents to pay a poll tax when registering, impeding many potential black voters. And so on January 9, 1966, Vernon publicly offered to pay the poll tax for blacks who wanted to register but could not afford it.

That night, the KKK firebombed his home while he was inside with his wife, Ellie Dahmer, and three of their children—Bettie, Dennis, and Harold. Vernon exchanged gunfire with the attackers and held them off so he and his family could escape. He later died from injuries he sustained in the fire.

Dahmer3

Ellie went on to serve as an election commissioner in Hattiesburg for more than a decade, continuing the work that she and her husband had started. It took more than 30 years for Samuel Bowers, the Klan leader who ordered the attack, to be convicted of Vernon’s murder.

At StoryCorps, Ellie and Bettie, who was 10 years old at the time, remembered the night Vernon was killed.

Originally aired January 13, 2017, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Top photo: The charred remains of the Dahmer home and car. Courtesy of Moncrief Photograph Collection, ID #513, Mississippi Department of Archives & History.
Middle Photo: Ellie Dahmer (L) and Bettie Dahmer outside Ellie’s home, which was built in the same location as the house that was destroyed. Credit: Roselyn Almonte, StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: Ellie Dahmer holds a photo of her late husband. Credit: Roselyn Almonte, StoryCorps.

Dee Dickson

Dee Dickson remembers trying to get a job as a shipyard electrician in the 1970s.

Originally aired February 18, 2011 on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Judge Joe Pigott and Lorraine Pigott

Judge Joe Pigott came to StoryCorps in Jackson, Mississippi, with his wife, Lorraine, to record an interview about his life.

In this portion, he tells his Lorraine about his step-grandfather, affectionately known as “The Doctor,” and his panicked reaction to the famous October 30, 1938, “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast.

Originally aired October 30, 2007, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Lucky Osborne and Debi Osborne

Lucky Osborne tells his wife, Debi, about growing up with his grandparents, Mama Willy and Daddy Charlie, in rural Mississippi.

Originally aired February 29, 2008, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Geraldine Nash and Gustina Atlas

Master quilter Geraldine Nash (R) talks to her former math teacher, Gustina Atlas, who is now her quilting student, about their friendship.

Originally aired January 29, 2008 on NPR’s News & Notes.

Dorothy Hayes and Keys Hayes

Dorothy Hayes talks with her son Keys about her work as an airline stewardess in the 1940s. Dorothy’s uncle urged her to apply for a job with Delta Airlines, and on her first flight, one of her co-workers told her to go into the cockpit and watch the takeoff. “It was the most beautiful thing in the world. I knew then I had the right job. I loved it.”

Originally aired April 20, 2007, on NPR’s Morning Edition.

Evelyn Palmour and Doreene McCoy

Evelyn Palmour (left), and her sister, Doreene McCoy, remember when the Great Depression hit their Nebraska community and their family fled the state for the comfort of their grandfather’s farm in Oklahoma.

Originally aired April 6, 2007, on NPR’s Morning Edition.