Ruby Nell Sales oral history interview conducted by Joseph Mosnier in Atlanta, Georgia, 2011-04-25.
JM: [Coughs] Excuse me.
RS: But he was taken to the hospital in a hearse on top of Jonathan’s dead body and laid in the hospital hallway for hours before anybody would operate on him, until a general, I think, or a major in the U.S. Army [phone rings] agreed to do that.
JM: Just a moment. [Phone rings]
RS: So, of course, by then, we’ve gotten our first real lesson of southern white murder. And we are young; nobody’s over twenty-two. We are impressionable. We know the horrors of segregation, but we’re also hopeful. [50:00] We’re also optimistic. And that’s a defining moment, another defining moment, um, and we were shattered and devastated and trying to make sense out of the loss of our friend Jon and knowing that we had to go to the funeral - but somehow finding it hard to face his mother because he was with us. We had not done it, but we felt a great responsibility for each other, and so that was very, very hard to do that.
And, of course, my story is known that after then I just became - went from a big-mouthed person to someone who rarely spoke. And I think I spent a great deal of my adult life, without even knowing it, trying to find my voice again, um, trying to be full-voiced again. Uh, because, um, I shut down in ways that I didn’t realize it, like with many movement people, and the reason why I shut down is, even when I was at Princeton, even when I was at Manhattanville, even when I was out in the world doing peace and justice work, I never told anybody I’d been in the Movement. I never talked about that, so traumatized was I.
JM: You went home.
JM: In the interim, and then back to Hayneville to testify.
RS: Yes, yes.
JM: What was it - do you remember your visit to your home in that interim?
RS: Oh, yes, I remember my visit. My parents were very supportive and - well, my mother was hanging out wash one day, and some white men came there and told her in the backyard that if I testified, they would kill me. [Pause] And not - despite that, she did not say, “Don’t testify.” She never said, “Don’t testify.”
JM: Oh. Did anybody from federal law enforcement - Justice Department, FBI - speak to you about going to testify? Offer any -?