While growing up, Hattie Mae Trent Carter had 15 siblings and didn’t need to play with other children in the neighborhood. She may have been troubled by the treatment of black people, but the family bond was enough to build her self-worth that allowed her to succeed in a southern community that held on to southern traditions until President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The Act of 1964 was the most sweeping civil rights legislation since Reconstruction, the Civil Rights Act prohibited discrimination of all kinds based on race, color, religion, or national origin. The law also provided the federal government with the powers to enforce desegregation. Hattie Mae Trent Carter was 40.
She was married then, but years before she remembered the separate entrances to public places and the separate water fountains and restrooms. At a young age of 18, Hattie Mae Trent had a dream of being a nurse but decided she did not like to see people die. Through the successes of other employment and mentors along the way, Carter established herself as an entrepreneur owning her own businesses; a beauty shop, a janitorial service, a catering service, a real estate business and a landlord, owning several pieces of property. She was a productive member of society who lived by her bond saying “What I say I am going to do, I do it. My word is my bond. What I start, I finish. I put the lord first to show me the way.” Carter has always been committed to church and family and continues to live a satisfied life devoted to family and church.
Carter’s story is one of several on display at the Chesterfield County Museum during their current exhibit highlighting Black History. The exhibit, “Four Score and More,” allows one to relive 20th century through the words and stories of elder African-Americans. Artifacts and photos from their lives in Chesterfield County will be on display as well as video interviews conducted by the African-American History Committee of the Chesterfield Historical Society. The display runs through April.
Hattie Mae Trent (her family name) grew up on a farm off Centralia Road where Salem Church Elementary and Salem Middle School sits today. “Daddy had chickens, goats, cows, pigs and everything else – you name it,” said Carter. “He grew sorghum and made molasses and grew much of what we ate. I plowed the fields with our horse. It was hard work but it made me strong.” The Trent’s also grew wheat and enough corn to make trips to the mill during harvest for the making of flour and corn meal.
She and her sisters and brothers attended Centralia Elementary School which sat three blocks south of the existing Salem Baptist Church. “It was two rooms,” said Carter. “Mrs. Elaine Friend had the first, second and third grades and Miss Pauline Graham had the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh grades.” Their middle school and high school years involved a three-mile hike to and from Drewrys Bluff off of Hopkins Road and she and her sister caught a bus at Beulah Elementary to take them to Hickory Hill High School. Her younger brothers and sisters attended Carver High School.
The family home burned when she was 15 and they went to live with her grandmother at her home place which sat on Iron Bridge Road were WaWa sits today.
Her father, G. S. “Guy” Trent, opened a country store on Centralia Road, G.S. Trent & Sons, which also had what Carter, called, a “Carriage Service.” It was a taxi service. “My daddy would drive people where they needed to go,” she said. Carter along with her mother, Serena Goode Trent, helped out in the store when Mr. Trent had to be away from the store. The store operated until the late 40s. “Those good old days were the best time,” she said.
Carter graduated at the age of 18. She went to work full-time at the American Tobacco Company and worked part-time at Summerhill Nursing home under the supervision of Mrs. N.B. Goodwyn. After her leave there, she had various jobs while attending cosmetology school. In 1963 she was a licensed cosmetologist. She started a real estate business in 1968. Carter also had a janitorial business and a catering business for 25 years. She became a representative for Macke Vending Company and earned the company’s presidential award in 1973. She said she had many folks to “show her the way.”
In the family there were eight girls and seven boys. Eleven still live today with the youngest one being 67 and the oldest 90 and four being in their 80s. Her grandparents were Susan Claiborne and George Eddie Goode. She has been a member of her church, First Baptist Church of Centralia, since she was 11 and now at 88 years old, still drives herself to church. She was married to her husband, Matthew H. Carter for 49 years before he passed 18 years ago.
To view her exhibit and more, visit the Chesterfield County Museum located at 6813 Mimms Loop on the Historic 1917 Courthouse Green. The museum is open Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. and on Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. For more information call 768-7311.