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Remember When: Standing up to bullies
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Yellow Street leading to the church which served as the school house for Barbara Wilson and other children. The home of JoAnn Tate was to the left, just before the church. - photo by Michelle Kim

Lifelong Milstead resident Barbara Wilson, 67, recalls overcoming a childhood bully when she attended grade school at the Mt. Olive Baptist Church on Grimes Street/Yellow Street in the black part of Milstead.


They used to try and harass me because I was little and short. I was 4-feet, 11-inches tall. I had no brothers and sisters, so they used to think they could just pick on me. Everybody else had five, 10 other brothers and sisters to help them. I had to let them know up front, don’t even roll over this way because I’m going to take care of myself.

That made me be real militant. That’s how I got the reputation of being mean. No way. I was scared, more or less. If I had let my guard down, they would have made a pulp out of me.

JoAnn Tate. She used to jump on me every morning. I had to pass her house to get to school. She would be standing by the side of the road waiting on me. Every morning. She was big. Oh my God, I was so scared of her.

My mother used to make all my clothes and I had big bows in the back. JoAnn used to snatch my bows. And I got a whoopin for that when I got home. My Mama think I’ve been playing rough in school and I tore my sash off my dress. So she had to sow it back on. But it wasn’t me. It was her.

She would do rip the bow off my hair, anything to disfigure me.

I wouldn’t say what was happening. I didn’t want Mama to get into it with Mr. Joe Tate.

One night, I made up my mind. I got the worst whoopin of my life for coming home with that dress tore up. I got tired of it. You know like when you back a dog in a corner and harass him, after a while he’s going to come at you.

I said I know what. I’m going to handle this myself. That’s when mean started welling up in me.

That morning, when I started down the road, I didn’t see her standing out there, which was making me disappointed.

I got almost to the driveway of her house and she run out that house. When she run out that house, I dropped my books on the ground and I reared back and I knocked her almost back in the middle of the driveway.

When she fell backwards, I don’t know what came over me. I jumped on her and just started beating on her. She was bloody, and then I got real scared. Mama’s going to kill me. I got blood all over the dress. And I still got to go to school.

My teacher, Ms. Adams, wanted to know what happened. I was crying and ooh, I was so mad.

I told her what had been happening every morning. And I get a whoopin every evening.
She said “That can’t be. You just can’t fight. You gotta get along.” She was always soft talking.

Ms. Adams talked to Mama and Mama talked to Ms. Jane. And JoAnn didn’t bother me no more.

JoAnn was my best friend from that point on.