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University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Library. Southern Historical Collection.
Publication Date
  • Law


This interview, a part of the Breaking New Ground project, was mainly with Mr. Dyson, whose is at least a third generation farm-owner, and focused largely on his grandfather and his father's farming, the interactions around the ownership of the land in Tipton County, Tennessee, and building a horse-racing track and baseball field on the farmland. At the beginning of the interview, Mr. Dyson discusses his grandfather's migration from North Carolina to Tennessee; purchasing a farm in 1908; details about the Hickman’s, the white family who sold the land to them; changes to the farm under his father; description of his grandfather and the respect he had throughout the community; how his father would challenge unfair prices at the sale bond; his father creating "Dyson's Club," a racetrack and ball field on the land to make extra income; memories of the racetrack; description of his childhood house and where crops were grown; the economy of the racetrack and his father's relationship with the sheriff; relationship with the Hickmans; information about growing their own seeds and financing the farm; details on his father's carpentry work and relationships with powerful white business owners; mechanization of the farm over the years; the transitions of Mr. Dyson's work on the farm; his first loan for the farm; other black farmowners in the area (and one farmowner's role in banking). By the middle of the interview, the Dysons describe their church, St. Luke's, and its history; role of faith in their lives growing up; their experiences in schools and the differences between the "city" and "rural" schools; description of the schoolday for Mr. Dyson and the inequalities of the system; Mr. Dyson's career path and the many skills acquired; importance of landownership and the independence tied to it; challenges for family farmers with growth of farms; largest farmer in Tennessee, Mr. Kelly, and his conglomeration of farms; banking in his family; lack of interactions with extension and USDA farm service agency; details of his father's relationship with the sheriff; renting out the farm the last several decades; the generational exchanges of the farm, including the importance of the land to the Dysons and their hopes for the future; significance of the land to their family; their children and their paths. Near the end, the Dysons describe the context of civil rights and the racial violence of the area; changes to the farm over time; integrity and boldness of Mr. Dyson's father; the importance of honesty and frankness in the Dyson family; similarities of Mr. Dyson to his father and grandfather.

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