In recognition of Black History Month, this is the second in a series of posts showcasing the Freedom Vote campaign of 1963, especially the Freedom Days of 1964. This series will chronicle the campaign in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Dorian Randall and Sara Rowe Sims wrote the accompanying text.

Fannie Lou Hamer, in hat with placard, leads demonstrators as they march in front of Forrest County courthouse in afternoon, watched by police. Call number: PI/1994.0005, Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection. (MDAH)

January 22, 1964. Fannie Lou Hamer, in hat with placard, leads demonstrators as they march in front of Forrest County courthouse, watched by police. Call number: PI/1994.0005, Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection. (MDAH)

The first Freedom Day held in the state, the event drew national media attention. Local officials and law enforcement coordinated their activities with the Mississippi Highway Patrol, with the goal of peaceful containment. Anticipating a heavy media presence, their primary objective was to give the press nothing violent or provocative to report. Hattiesburg American articles and communication between local and state officials indicate that they were very pleased with their handling of events and the resulting appearance of “tranquility.” Describing a third day of “quiet demonstrations,” the American proudly quoted a Chicago newsman as saying “The only thing shocking about the stories I’ve filed this far is the complete absence of anything shocking.”

Forrest County Circuit Clerk Theron C. Lynd, attends to voter registration applicants in courthouse. Call number: PI/1994.0005, Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection. (MDAH)

Forrest County Circuit Clerk Theron C. Lynd, attends to voter registration applicants in courthouse. Call number: PI/1994.0005, Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection. (MDAH)

The event was a test of whether Forrest County Circuit Clerk Theron Lynd was in compliance with a January 6, 1964, U.S. Supreme Court ruling that barred discriminatory tactics to prevent blacks from registering to vote. This ruling was the latest stage in a 1961 Justice Department suit against Lynd. Justice Department testimony in a March 1962 injunction hearing stated that not only had Lynd not registered a single black citizen since taking office in February 1959 but prior to January 1961 none had even been allowed to apply. During this period no records could be found to indicate the exclusion of a single white voter.

Sources:

John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in America (Urbana and Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1994), 219-221.

Hattiesburg American, January 20-22, 1964; 301 F.2d 8181, U.S. v. Lynd, (C.A.5 (Miss.) 1962).

Herbert Randall and Bobs Tusa, Faces of Freedom Summer (Tuscaloosa, Alabama: University of Alabama Press, 2001), 10-11.

Howard Zinn, SNCC and the New Abolitionists (Beacon Press: Boston, 1964), 102-122.

Danny Lyon, Memories of the Southern Civil Rights Movement (University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill & London, 1992), 130-133.

Eric Burner, And Gently He Shall Lead Them: Robert Moses and Civil Rights in Mississippi (New York University Press: New York & London, 1994), 142-143

Hattiesburg American, January 20-31, 1964.

Memos from R. L. Morgan, Chief of Patrol, Mississippi Dept. of Public Safety to Col. T. B. Birdsong, Commissioner of Public Safety and Governor Paul B. Johnson Jr., January 22-24, folder #2, Highway Patrol Papers in the Paul B. Johnson Family Papers, Box 144, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi, Hattiesburg

Tom Scarbrough and Virgil Downing, Supplemental Report-Forrest County-Hattiesburg, Voter Registration Demonstrations, January 31, 1964, Sovereignty Commission Online SCRID# 2-64-1-63-1-1-1 to 5-1-1 <http://www.mdah.state.ms.us/arlib/contents/er/sovcom> (August 9, 2005).