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The Freedom Vote

On February 21, 2014, in Archives, by Dorian Randall
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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).

 

 

 

 

Freedom Day in Mississippi

On February 14, 2014, in Archives, by Dorian Randall
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In recognition of Black History Month, this is the first 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.

 

Aaron Henry for Governor rally attendees participate in "unofficial ballot," October 29, 1963. COFO's Freedom Vote campaign event held in upper room of Masonic Temple, 522 Mobile Street, Hattiesburg (Miss.) This event was part of COFO's Freedom Vote campaign in the fall of 1963.

“Aaron Henry for Governor” rally attendees participate in “unofficial ballot,” October 29, 1963 at the Masonic Temple in Hattiesburg (Miss.). Call number: PI/1994.0005, Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection. (MDAH)

The Freedom Day concept was an extension of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s (SNCC) 1962 voter registration campaign in McComb. The campaign suffered setbacks as white violence stymied potential black voters. Whites and black leaders criticized direct action protests, prompting organizers to shift focus to voting rights. Movement leaders also realized they needed national publicity to garner support for the cause and acquire federal intervention.

In 1963, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) strategized ways to defeat the barriers in registering black Mississippians. They proposed a mock election to demonstrate black citizens’ desire and willingness to vote. COFO wanted to help new voters build their own political institutions and accountability and to bring the movement to new areas, such as Natchez and the Gulf Coast. With that kind of expansion, organizers needed more volunteers. Allard Lowenstein, a Yale graduate and fellow organizer, suggested COFO recruit young white students to help. COFO agreed, and approximately one hundred Yale and Stanford students descended on the state to aid in the cause. The Freedom Ballot Campaign began with a convention in October calling for racial justice, school desegregation, equal voting rights, increased minimum wage, and economic programs for farmers and factory workers. Delegates chose Aaron Henry, the longtime NAACP activist and Clarksdale native, as the gubernatorial candidate for the mock election. White activist and chaplain Edwin King was his running mate.

Source: John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995), 114, 200.

 

 

Chloe Edwards, of the Government Records Section, brings us this post in an ongoing series about Mississippi Advertising Commission posters. Many thanks to Ms. Edwards for sharing these fun artifacts.

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster wishing all a Happy New Year. Series 552, MDAH.

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster wishing all a Happy New Year. Series 552, MDAH.

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Chloe Edwards, of the Government Records Section, brings us this post in an ongoing series about Mississippi Advertising Commission posters. Many thanks to Ms. Edwards for sharing these fun artifacts.

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster wishing all a wonderful holiday season. Series 552, MDAH.

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster wishing all a wonderful holiday season. Series 552, MDAH.

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Unearthing the Advertising Commission Posters

On December 18, 2013, in Archives, Government Records, by Dorian Randall
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Chloe Edwards, of the Government Records Section, brings us this post in an ongoing series about Mississippi Advertising Commission posters. Many thanks to Ms. Edwards for sharing these fun artifacts.

 

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster. Series 552, MDAH.

A Mississippi Advertising Commission poster. Series 552, MDAH.

Government records staff at MDAH were aware that Series 552 of the Mississippi Advertising Commission Records contained many oversized items. Because the series had been minimally processed, it remained unexamined until the processing backlog had shrunk. It was then that they found this set of posters, in excellent condition despite being over seventy-five years old.

Series 552 also contains a set of feature stories produced by the Advertising Commission on different aspects of the state, including forestry, cotton, show horses, the Natchez pilgrimage, and winter legumes, which ran every other week from July 1938 to September 1939; an industrial promotion kit intended for use by local civic clubs or chambers of commerce promoting bond issues to finance industrial development in their town, which includes a set of posters plus cartoons and a feature story to be run in the local newspaper; and a set of copper printing plates used to produce the Commission’s “Historical Mississippi” brochure, although the brochure cover plate depicts a different design than that depicted on the brochure in this series.

 

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