Church Mothers: Mrs. Tennie S. Self

In honor of Mother's Day, we are celebrating a group of women in the Mississippi Delta who anchor their communities as only a mother can.

Story by Alysia Burton Steele
Mrs. Tennie S. Self
Photo: Alysia Burton Steele

Clarksdale, MS
Age: 88

Matriarch of: 5 children, 15 grandchildren, and 9 great-grands

"I went to the place, a Clarksdale dealership, to look at a car in 1949 or 1950, something like that. I was looking at a car, but this Cadillac was sitting on the display, and I said, 'Ooh, what a pretty car.' And this white man, he didn't want me to look at that Cadillac 'cause black folks didn't buy no Cadillac back then. So I said, 'But I like this.' And he said, 'C'mon over here and I wanna show you a car.' And I said, 'No, I like this.' And he acted funny. So, I said, okay. I thought, I bet they'll sell me one in Memphis, so I went to Bud Davis Cadillac in Memphis and bought me a Cadillac and I displayed it all around this place and said, 'Toot-toot, hello.' It was a Cadillac, a big one, a DeVille or whatever it was. But anyway, I went to Memphis and bought me one and I would drive by there in the morning when I go to the post office so they'd see it."