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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).

 

 

 

 

Battle of Okolona: 150 Years Ago

On February 21, 2014, in Artifacts, by Amanda
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The Mississippi Civil War Sesquicentennial continues and in the coming months we will be highlighting Museum Division collections related to 1864 and the Civil War. Special thanks to Nan Prince, assistant director of collections, for writing this series.

Model 1860 Colt revolver owned by Captain William Bean Peery. Accession number: 1963.29.1 (Museum Division collection)

Model 1860 Colt revolver owned by Captain William Bean Peery. Accession number: 1963.29.1 (Museum Division collection)

Marching from Vicksburg, Union General William T. Sherman began a campaign to destroy the strategic railroad center of Meridian, Mississippi, in February 1864 and ordered Brigadier General William Sooy Smith to come down from Memphis to meet him in Meridian. Against Sherman’s orders, Smith delayed his departure for several days. Once in Mississippi, Smith’s seven thousand cavalry troops encountered minor resistance until they met with Confederate General Nathan Bedford Forrest’s troops in West Point on February 21. Smith retreated to Okolona, and Forrest pursued. On February 22, Forrest’s troops attacked Smith on the prairie outside Okolona. After a day of fighting, Smith retreated back toward Tennessee, thus jeopardizing Sherman’s Meridian Campaign. The Battle of Okolona resulted in one hundred U.S. casualties and fifty Confederate, including the loss of Colonel Jeffrey Forrest, the brother of Nathan Bedford Forrest.

This Model 1860 Colt revolver belonged to Captain William Bean Peery of the Fifth Mississippi Cavalry. It was originally issued to Marias Kelly of Company C, Seventh Indiana Cavalry, who was taken prisoner at the Battle of Okolona, February 22, 1864.

Sources:

http://www.nps.gov/hps/abpp/battles/ms013.htm

http://mshistorynow.mdah.state.ms.us/articles/2/shermans-meridian-campaign-a-practice-run-for-the-march-to-the-sea

http://www.okolona.org/aboutbattle.html

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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.

 

 
List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863, page one. Series 608 (MDAH)

List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863, page one. Series 608 (MDAH)

A “List of Negroes employed on fortifications near Columbus, Miss., 1863″ (part of Series 608: Miscellaneous Civil War Documents) was recently digitized. It is a twelve-page list of slaves impressed to work on the fortifications near Columbus, Mississippi. The list is from Headquarters, 4th Brigade, Miss. State Troops. It gives the owner’s name of each slave and the slave’s name, age, complexion, and height. Implements, if any, brought by each slave are also listed.

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Jim Pitts, state government records archivist (and retired U.S. Army officer), brings us this post on a little-known aspect of William D. McCain, the second director of MDAH.

William D. McCain. Call Number: PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, item 9, McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection (MDAH)

William D. McCain. Call Number: PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, item 9, McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection (MDAH)

The movie Monuments Men opens today. Interestingly, Mississippi had its own monuments man, Captain William D. McCain, who was the director of the Department of Archives and History before and after World War II. The exploits of the Allied officers and soldiers assigned to the Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commissions in the European and Mediterranean Theaters of Operations have been largely unknown outside of the history, arts, archives, and library communities. With the release of this movie, based on Robert Edsel’s books Rescuing DaVinci, Monuments Men, and Saving Italy, their role in preserving Western heritage from the devastation of World War II and massive looting by Nazi leaders can come to full light.

McCain was called to active duty in March 1943 as first lieutenant and served in an antiaircraft artillery unit. In December 1943, he deployed overseas to the Mediterranean Theater of Operations where he was assigned as a historian with Headquarters, Fifth (U.S.) Army. He remained in that assignment until September 1944. He helped write the history of the Fifth Army during its operations in North Africa, Sicily, and southern Italy. McCain was the author of From the Volturno to the Winter Line (6 October to 15 November 1943), one of a series of fourteen studies of World War II military operations. In February 1944, he was promoted to captain.

In September 1944, McCain was reassigned to the Fifteenth Army Group’s Allied Commission, which oversaw all civil military operations in the Italian peninsula. He joined the Subcommission for Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives (MFAA) as the regional records officer and archivist of the Lombardia area (northern Italy). McCain’s tasks were “ … to plan to take care of the archival deposits in northern Italy, to plan for the restoration of archival service in northern Italy, and to plan for the protection and return to Rome of the records of the ministries which had been removed northward as the Allied armies advanced … .” During the winter of 1944–1945, McCain worked with Italian state archivists to collect information on the archival depositories in northern Italy and make plans for their recovery, protection, and return.

During the spring and summer of 1945, as Allied armies surged north up the Italian peninsula, McCain worked to locate and inspect archival depositories and restore archival services in northern Italy. He also took it upon himself to supervise the restoration of various libraries in his area of operations. His work culminated in late August 1945, with a “great meeting in Milano” that settled all remaining matters of restoration and return of the archives. From September through November, the Italian state archives were transferred back to Rome in eleven thirty-five-truck convoys.

McCain departed Italy for the United States in September 1945. After completing his reports and performing other administrative duties, he was discharged from active service in December 1945 and returned to Jackson to resume his duties as state archivist. McCain continued his military service after World War II as an officer with the Mississippi National Guard in antiaircraft artillery units, including a twenty-month mobilization during the Korean War.

Addendum:

McCain was an assistant archivist at the nascent United States National Archives before becoming director of the Mississippi Department of Archives and History. His contacts with archivists at the national level, including Solon J. Buck, Archivist of the United States, resulted in his assignment as the archivist for the Mediterranean Theater of Operations Monuments, Fine Arts, and Archives Commission.

Sources:

William D. McCain, “Some Reminiscences of the United States Archivist in Italy, 1944–1945,” Journal of Mississippi History, vol. 34, no. 1 (1972), pages 1–28.  The two quotations are taken from pages 6–7 and 26.

William D. McCain papers, Z/0065.000 and Z/0065.001, Mississippi Department of Archives and History.

McCain (William D.) Photograph Collection, PI/ED/M33.8/folder 44, MDAH.

For additional information on the Monuments Men:

The Monuments Men web site: http://www.monumentsmen.com/

The Monuments Men Foundation for the Preservation of Art:  http://www.monumentsmenfoundation.org/

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