Essie Jefferson, 1984

Born in 1896 in the "hills of Mississippi," Mrs. Jefferson came to Champaign in 1979 by way of Arkansas. In raising her two children by "farming the fields - chopping and picking cotton, thinning the rows of corn," she said in an interview in the early 1980s, "We had to raise and pick it all. After my husband died I moved to Arkansas." She lived there with her daughter for several years, then moved to Champaign with her daughter and her family. She fondly recalls "going to school and church in Cherry Grove, Mississippi. "I stay in town now," she says. "I did in Arkansas too -while I worked at the town mill. Before I was always in the country on farms. Living in town is a much easier life - sitting down, not doing any work in the fields." In the 1980s she spent her time, "mostly thinking about what I'm going to do. Most days I just want to have a nice time, visiting some of my friends."

Source: Raymond Bial, There is a Season, Champaign County Nursing Home, 1984.