To understand how a young girl could get such powerful signatures in her autograph book, you have to know that 1964 was a dark time in Mississippi’s racist past. Source: WLBT
In the back of the little autograph book were signatures of the giants of the Civil Rights Movement. Among them, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Reverend C.T. Vivian - they were known as the “Big 3”. Source: WLBT
JACKSON, MS (Mississippi News Now) -
They say you never know what’s going to walk through the doors of a pawn shop and by their own admission, the owners of one local shop have pretty much seen it all.
But even Nick Fulton, co-owner of USA Pawn, couldn’t believe what was in a box of stuff a man brought in towards the end of 2015. Fulton says the man got a $10 loan, but never came back for the box.
So, the store manager went through it to see what could be sold.
"Came out for sale and he was looking through the stuff and it had a few coins and bric brac stuff and ran across the autograph book and he was very, very close to throwing it in the trash, because it really didn't...he started thumbing through it and not seeing, you know, what was in the back."
In the back of the little autograph book were signatures of the giants of the Civil Rights Movement. Among them, Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., Reverend Ralph Abernathy and Reverend C.T. Vivian - they were known as the “Big 3”.
Fulton's reaction? "It was shock and awe," he said.
The book features the “Who’s Who” of the era, like Bayard Rustin and A. Philip Randolph, as well as messages of hope for a better day between blacks and white, from people around the state and as far away as Massachusetts.
All in the autograph book of a 16-year-old Lanier High School student named Carol Ann Dear.
Who is she? Is she still around? How did she get these autographs? Are they authentic?
Hazel Bryant Shields said, ”I don't know where they were secured, but I know those people were here that day. I think the signatures are authentic."
Shields is president of the Lanier High School National Alumni Association. She was a classmate of Carol Ann Dear and said she has fond memories of her.
”She was very smart. That's the way I remember her."
Shields says Dear was active in a variety of school functions; writing and recording events of the day and even taking pictures for the school newspaper and yearbook.
”I remember she had a little Brownie and when I would go home in the evening, and she was always talking about where she had been and who she had talked to; how important it was for us to learn about ourselves and our history and she was just that kind of person." said Shields.
To understand how a young girl could get such powerful signatures in her autograph book, you have to know that 1964 was a dark time in Mississippi’s racist past.
Freedom Summer was punctuated by horrifying acts of terrorism against those who sought to bring about social and racial change. Also, that year was a walkout by a group of students from Jim Hill, Brinkley and Lanier High schools, fed up with second-class citizenship.
Hezekiah Watkins, who also knew Carol Ann Dear, was among the masses arrested.
"We was taken to the fairground and housed there. We was taken to the fairground on garbage trucks with partially garbage inside the truck and, like I said, taken to the fairground and that’s where we stayed for several days…some several weeks.”
Watkins continued, “I think what happened, when those leaders found out that these kids actually walked out, they was amazed and they wanted to find out why and how. You know, who organized it and what and I don't know whether or not they got their answer, but I remember some of the leaders coming into Jackson saying job well done and we felt great about that."
Carol Ann Dear is still around; alive and well and living in the same Jackson neighborhood she grew up in and working for the state of Mississippi.
She declined to interview, but can take pride in knowing her chronicle, 52 years later, has become an historic treasure, stimulating a whole new generation to learn about an important chapter in Mississippi and American history.
“Our plans was; our family would like to donate this or put it on loan to the Civil Rights Museum," Fulton said. “We just hope that it's gonna provide some history to the state of Mississippi; give us some national recognition, not just for us, but for the state. I mean, this is a one-of-a-kind find, you know. Absolutely, absolutely, and that's what I found myself, you know, I'm going back to school and taking a history course."