Jimmy Carter was born James Earl Carter Jr. on October 1, 1924. He grew up in the rural town of Archery, Georgia. When he wasn’t helping his father on the peanut farm, he was fishing or playing in the woods with his friends, most of whom were African-American.
Ultimately, the former president and Nobel Peace Prize winner said in this weekend’s “SuperSoul Sunday” interview, growing up as the only white child in a predominantly black community had a profoundly positive impact on his life.
“The people with whom I worked in the field, and the people with whom I wrestled and fought, and the people with whom I went fishing and hunting were all African-Americans,” President Carter told Oprah in an interview taped a few weeks before the former president announced he has melanoma. “I felt, kind of, in an alien culture when I got old enough to go to a white school and that sort of thing.”
"In fact," President Carter continued, "I try to think of the five people, other than my own parents, who shaped my life, and only two of them are white. The other three were African-Americans.”
Oprah then turned the conversation to recent racial tensions in the United States. “Why do you think we’re at such a divide in this country right now?” she asked. “It feels that racism is rearing its ugly head in ways unimaginable.”
President Carter said he thinks the racial divide stems from a national misunderstanding following the Civil Rights Movement’s accomplishments.
“I think we went through [the civil rights] era and eventually wound up in the early 1960s, when [President Lyndon B.] Johnson got the civil rights bills passed, and then we kind of breathed a sigh of relief in this country,” President Carter said.
The battle, it turned out, wasn’t finished. “We kind of took it for granted,” President Carter said.
“I think more recently we’ve seen, with the police activity against innocent black people, that we still have a long way to go.
President Carter's full interview with Oprah airs Sunday, Sept. 27, at 7 p.m. ET on OWN. Watch a preview here.
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