As a child, Charlie Carter went to an all black only school and worked in the cotton fields 48 hours a week, where the sun threw off heat and sweat would pour down his cheeks.
Life needed to get better, he knew.
The son of Mary and Willie Lee Carter, Carter was one of 12 children. Growing up in Aberdeen, Mississippi, during the civil rights era was a challenge for many African Americans, such as Carter.
“Living in the south was difficult. We lived on a farm and I worked in the cotton fields chopping then picking the cotton 48 hours out of the week. The hot days were tough to deal with,” Carter said.
In 1971, at the age of 20 and with a few items in hand, Carter decided to make the long move up north.
“When my mom passed in 1969, my brother Henry and I decided to come up north. My dad and other family stayed,” Carter said.
The north presented many more opportunities for not only Carter, but for other African Americans.
One of the main reasons he and his brother moved north was because of the pay. Working hard for little reward was demoralizing and change had to be made, he said.
“The job I worked in the south before I came up north only gave me $69 a week. I worked on a killing farm where I would kill cows and pigs,” Carter said.
After the long drive from Mississippi, Carter found himself in Brockton, Massachusetts, The City of Champions.
Families and individuals, who migrated north usually ended up in bigger cities like a Chicago or Philadelphia, often clustered in the same neighborhoods where they knew people and felt comfortable.
“Brockton wasn’t my first choice of places to go. I wanted to go to Philadelphia. I bounced around between a few towns but stayed in Brockton,” Carter said.
Finding work in the north wasn’t an issue for Carter as it was for others who migrated. During these times, some companies did not want to hire African Americans.
“When I first got here I took a job at A & D Candy on Belmont Street. The increased wages from what I was making in the south helped me learn how to manage my money better then I was before,” Carter said.
As time went on and adapting to the north seemed to be getting easier, Carter decided to take a few courses at Roxbury Community College. This was the first time he had attended a non-segregated school.
“That’s one of the main reasons you moved up north, you wanted to avoid segregation, you didn’t believe in it,” Carter said.
Even though he only took a couple courses at Roxbury Community, it was another opportunity that Carter grasped while in the north.
Nothing brought him closer to the community than religion and Carter became a strong believer when he arrived up north.
“When I was down south I went to church sometimes but mostly on Easter and Christmas. When I moved up here I found Christ,” Carter said.
During his life, Carter experienced things he hoped his children would learn from. He said he wasn’t always the most religious, he did not always manage money well and he didn’t consistently go to school.
“I wanted my kids to get an education, that was very important to me. The second thing I wanted them to do, and I cared about this deeply, was to maintain their relationship with Christ. The last thing I wanted was to make sure my kids treated people the right way. I always told them to treat someone the way you want to be treated,” Carter said.
Carter said he is happy he migrated north.
“I had tough but good experiences,” Carter said. “Everything helped me come closer to my family and that’s what’s important.”
Fighting through the hard times in a heavily segregated south proved to be a positive for some African Americans. For Carter the life lessons he attained from the move bettered not only his life but also his family's.