C. Preston Holmes

We met with Mr. C. Preston Holmes in the basement of the A.M.E. Greater Bethel Church in Mound Bayou, MS. During conversation with him, he recounted his life. His life revolves around his family and his community.

It is a shame that we were only able to meet with him for only a few short hours because the stories he shared and the advise he gave really demonstrated how unique and wonderful his character is.

In 1911, C. Preston Holmes' parents settled in Mound Bayou. His parents raised him and a younger sister in the African American town. His mother was a homemaker and his father built houses in the community. Holmes believed that to achieve success he needed an education. In 1932, he received a degree from Jackson State University. He aspired to become a doctor but because of the Great Depression, he secured a job with the Post Office as post master. He stayed with the Post Office for over thirty-nine years and sold magazine subscriptions to earn extra money. Holmes believes that having a job with a steady salary exempted him from the poverty of the Delta. Mound Bayou suffered greatly in the Depression, however, the Holmes' family lived a secure life.

Photo of C. Preston Holmes and Pauline Holmes
C. Preston Holmes and Pauline Holmes

  Mrs.Pauline Holmes worked along side her husband at the Post Office. After receiving her degree from Rush College, Mississippi, Pauline Holmes studied at Ohio University where she earned a degree in nutrition. In 1939, Mrs. Holmes received $45.00 a month as a teacher in the Mound Bayou school system. This was the maximum amount of money she could earn in the Delta and this understanding lead her to realize there were only limited possibilities in Mound Bayou and the surrounding areas.

In 1942 the Holmes left for Chicago where Mr. Holmes' younger sister had already migrated. The Holmes' found jobs in Chicago in the Post Office and as a school teacher. In 1964,
the Holmes' returned to Mississippi to care for Mr. Holmes' ailing mother. The Holmes raised a family of six children. The children failed to find good jobs in the Delta even though that they had gone to college.

When asked about the jobs available in the Delta, Mrs. Holmes replied, there are few jobs. People take whatever jobs they can find. Most people in the community work in the school system as teachers. Each year, the jobs in the Delta become more limited. The men from Mound Bayou previously worked in factories, however, almost all remaining factories have moved to cities such as Greenville, Cleveland and Clarksdale. In Mound Bayou, there are no factories, no cotton production, and few other jobs. Slowly the town's population has dwindled. For the last ten years, Mr. Holmes has worked as a relocation officer for the highway department. He hopes Interstate 69, will rejuvenate the community of Mound Bayou. Until it does however, the Delta offices its young people few opportunities. It has become the home of older, retired people. With the mechanization of cotton production after World War II, the Delta had very few jobs to offer even at low wages. Mechanization and racism drove the people north even though many, like Blandye Brooks and the Holmes, wanted to remain in the Delta.

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