T. Harry Williams Center for Oral History
Close-knit rural community of neighbors
Theresa Lee and Dawn Holman by Chelsea Arseneault, 2016.
THERESA LEE: Leaving Mossville was difficult for me, very difficult. And we were comfortable there, we were closer to everything there. My child was raised . . . We were all there. Family close . . . neighbors . . . the closely knit community. We loved and took care of each other from the beginning.

When I first went to Mossville it was so nice because blacks owned a lot of land and we didn’t see that in many places, okay? That was beautiful. And just to look around and feel the breeze going through the trees and hear the rustling of the trees. And not being so close to your neighbors, but close enough if you needed anyone. And to reach out . . . Like Miss Flo and I, we lived next door to each other. We didn’t have a fence. A lot of conversations, but no fence. On the other side there was this little fence with blackberries growing to the Bernards. And we could watch . . . We’d sit on the porch and watch them walking to church at the end of Prater Road to the Methodist church on the corner. She was in all white and there he was following his wife. And do you know they died within weeks of each other? They were just that close. It was just a beautiful thing.

When our house burned in 1983, the community gave us a shower, okay? The family gave Dawn . . . Dawn was about seven or eight years old, her own shower at her grandmother’s house. This lady’s house [showing a photograph]. They lived just a block down. Everybody lived a block . . . I mean you were so close to each other. We had grocery stores in the community. Conoco . . .

DAWN HOLMAN: Everybody took care of each other.

LEE: You’re right. Conoco filling station at the corner. It was just a beautiful thing. And then when they came with the lights on Prater [Road], we were so excited! And running water, all of that. You lived through all of that. It was just a good place. They had parades and a parade down Prater Road from Reesie [Mae Watts] Mouton, a member of Mount Zion Baptist Church sponsored the parade that would come down Prater Road into Queensboro and all of that area. It was just a closely knit family. And the Mossville Pirates? Oh my God, that’s all you heard, okay. It was just good. So that I miss.

And I’m telling you what when they said that, I started . . . It was a feeling of disbelief, then tears. I couldn’t stop crying just to look and see how my community was being dismantled, okay? And the prices they were offering. In other words, they’re . . . And I’m sure there were persons who were better off, but then those of us who had more got less in a sense, okay? So it was not done fairly. So we said, “Why don’t you use a running scale?” But it was like giving an offer and you either accept or you reject.
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This project is a collaboration between the Imperial Calcasieu Museum and LSU Libraries to document the history of Mossville, a historic African American community in Calcasieu Parish, Louisiana.
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