Mule Train, Marks MS

Fifty years ago today, a mule train left the small town of Marks, Miss., bound for the nation’s capital. They were answering a call to action the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. made just days before he was assassinated.

“We’re coming to Washington in a poor people’s campaign,” King announced at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., on March 31, 1968. “I was in Marks, Miss., the other day, which is in Quitman County, the poorest county in the United States. And I tell you I saw hundreds of black boys and black girls walking the streets with no shoes to wear.”

[How A Mule Train From Marks, Miss., Kicked Off MLK’s Poor People Campaign]

Dear Dr. Martin Luther King,

I highly commend you and praise you for your great work toward trying to end this egregious racial and economic divide in this country. And all the suffering, oh the suffering…. I will cry now!

I, too, see all those beautiful children in Marks, Mississippi walking the streets with no shoes to wear. I want to cry again, so I will….

Oh, Dr. King and too, if you only knew what was happening on the other side of the tracks, where the mostly white wealthier folks of Marks live….  Oh, I want to cry but now I am weeping, weeping so heavily. I can feel the suffering! I can feel her suffering…. I can feel my beautiful Josephine’s suffering!

Yes, the Emancipation Proclamation – the dream, the dream, the dream but why do many of my so-called countrymen and countrywomen still insist on creating these nightmares? Get off my land! 

I look around, the year barely into 2021 and I see some positive movements, some doors opening and for this I am pleased, But I know, too, those of the demonic cloth are still being interwoven into our fabric of goodness and tranquility. Because of this I must carry with me the golden thimble. 

Marks, Ms. (cont.)

The norm for blacks to live on one side of the railroad tracks and whites the other.

“So, these railroad tracks here, the blacks lived on that side and the whites lived on this side. And it was beautiful homes,” said Wilson. “As far as the restaurants and all that, we weren’t – they were segregated, and we weren’t allowed to go in them.”

Food was scarce for African-Americans back then in Marks. So scarce, Marks was the starting point of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Poor People’s Campaign in1968.

[The Mule Train Continued]

But there was a home on the “White Side” of the tracks where food was plentiful. The family there, lived on 300 acres of bountiful farmland.  Wealthy by all measured standards! 

On this White Side of the Tracks lived Mr. Joe Smith – a powerful, wealthy black man. On this side of the tracks lived Josephine – Joe Smith’s stepdaughter. And her many half-sisters and half-brothers- all well-dressed with plenty of shoes and coats and, and, and….

I am looking into this house on the farm on the “White Side of the Tracks” now and I am crying… Oh my Heavenly Father…. 

Marks Mule Train Marker
Marks, Mississippi Train Line

And here, too, is where Calvin Upshaw is from, who I recently saw on the American Idol’s auditions. His heavy emotions truly got to me. His tears, his pain, oh, how I felt them. All very real. As were Josephine’s. How much pain and suffering and torture she suffered – at the hands of her stepfather – Joe Smith. I want to cry now! So I will! 

Playing Dominos outside the old Service Station in Marks, Mississippi_

How is it my friend to walk the path alone…
-And feel the pain of broken bone?

How is it my friend to climb the hill of need
When you don’t know where the path will lead

How is it my friend — to see the things that remind you 
-Of your life thought lost – now here to find you

Calvin, I applaud  you, commend you and I am so happy you are from that  place in Mississippi which represents so much good and too, unfortunately, where there was so much evil.  There on the “White Side of the Tracks” on that 300 acre farm behind the curtains, behind the façade, unspeakable acts were being committed daily.  I want to cry! So I will! 

To be raped, beaten, tortured, spit on, burned – pretty much on a daily basis,  oh I want to vomit! So I will!

Josephine received most of the abuse,  maybe because she was the stepdaughter. All the suffering, all the abuse, all her suffering. My heavenly father, please…. 

You will ask me. Who is Josephine? She is my wife. And I met her when I went to visit my mother in the hospital on that Christmas Eve of the year 2009. 

Me and my brother-in-law were told by the nurses attending my mother to step away for about fifteen minutes or so….

Nursing Station 10th Floor - Lutheran General

As my brother-in-law Danny and me were walking past one of the nursing stations, there were a couple of nurses talking amongst themselves. 

Danny heard one of them say, “working me too hard!” So we stop in our “tracks” and Danny says to the one dark-skinned nurse, “Who’s working you too hard – your husband?” 

She walks over to us. “No, my husband had passed away. I was referring to the doctors and some other staff members.”

And then, out of the blue, Danny says, pointing to me, “Well, he’s single!” 

She looked at me and said, “Well, I’m Josephine. I’m the Charge Nurse on this unit!” 

After the proper introductions and a bit of chitchat, Josephine looks at me with a glint in her eyes. 

“I’m having Christmas at my house tomorrow and I’d  like to invite you if you want to come over.” 

I really didn’t know what to say at that moment. She didn’t know that I was on furlough from a Homeless Shelter. She didn’t know that I didn’t have a car. She didn’t know that all I brought with me was a few pair of second-hand pants and shirts.



  1. I loved this compilation. It motivates me to learn more about the poor people’s movement because I am eager to see if the elements are similar to what I had personally envisioned of starting more than 2 decades ago that is in its infancy stages of starting now.

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