Marion Barry Shares Memories with High School Students


Marion Barry

Marion Barry, 2011.

I was born in the Delta of Mississippi in a town called Itta Bena, about 15 miles from Greenwood. About 35 miles from Greenville. About 10 or 15 miles from Indianola, where B.B. King grew up.

My mother and father were sharecroppers. That means that they bought the cotton seeds from some white man, planted the seeds, harvested the cotton, plowed the fields, and on the side we had a garden, and had pigs, hogs, and chicken. . . . I am sure that the white man sold the cotton seeds higher than what he paid for them and bought the cotton lower than he sold it for, which was exploitation.

—Marion Barry, responding to a student’s question, “What is your earliest memory?”

This was one of many questions posed by students in a one hour interview with civil rights movement activist and politician Marion Barry (March 6, 1936–Nov. 23, 2014). The interview was conducted on March 24, 2011 by students from McComb High School and the Urban School of San Francisco as part of the Telling Their Stories Oral History Archives Project. Barry served as the mayor of Washington, D.C. from 1979-1991 and then again from 1995-1999. Before serving as mayor, he was the first chairperson of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC).


This interview was conducted during the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement 2011 Conference at Jackson State University. (Please note that QuickTime is required for viewing and it is not compatible with Chrome on some computers.) Download transcript here.

Also available on YouTube below.

This is one of many interviews available on Mississippi history on the McComb Legacies website.

Additional Resources on Marion Barry

Marion Barry bio on

Statement by Marion Barry on voting in May 1965, Civil Rights Movement Veterans website.