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Integration voter, Jan and Feb 1964

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Creator:Moncrief, Winfred H., 1923-
Title:Integration voter, Jan and Feb 1964
Date:1964 Jan. 22

Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg (Miss.). Demonstrators march in front of Forrest County courthouse in morning, watched by police.

Although not identified as such, the photograph appears to be voter registration demonstrations associated with the Freedom Day event held in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, on January 22, 1964. As a reporter for the Hattiesburg American, Moncrief covered the demonstrations that began on a wet and cold Wednesday, January 22, the day after he'd been in Jackson reporting on Governor Paul B. Johnson's inauguration. Organized by the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), Freedom Day was a continuation of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee's (SNCC) voter registration activities initiated in 1962. More specifically, 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. The protest was coordinated by SNCC's Bob Moses with Dave Dennis of the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) and Hattiesburg SNCC workers Lawrence Guyot, Sandy Leigh, John O'Neal and Victoria Gray Adams. In addition, COFO brought in civil rights leaders to assist, including Fannie Lou Hamer, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, Annelle Ponder, Ella Baker, Jim Forman, and John Lewis, as well as a delegation of white clergy representing the National Council of Churches (NCC). Freedom Day was preceded by a rally on January 21 at St. Paul's Methodist Church attended by Aaron Henry and Charles Evers. During his speech Henry recalled the blaring fire department sirens, which had attempted to disrupt the Freedom Vote Rally on October 29, 1963. 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." Also documenting Freedom Day was historian Howard Zinn, who detailed his participation in his 1964 book, SNCC: The New Abolitionists. Zinn is pictured in Moncrief's photographs standing outside the Sears and Roebuck store opposite the courthouse in a group of organizers and participants, which included John Lewis, Bob Moses, and James Forman (items 52, 67, 68, 69, 76). Zinn describes how a police squad marched down the street around 9:30 a.m. and cleared all traffic (items 31, 32, 33). A police car with a loudspeaker also pulled up, and the picketers were ordered repeatedly to disperse. Although the police cleared those sheltering from the rain in front of Sears, the picket line continued outside the courthouse. The organizers had anticipated mass arrests, but none came. Zinn recalled, "[i]f our senses did not deceive us, something unprecedented was taking place in the state of Mississippi: a black and white line of demonstrators was picketing a public building, allowed to do so by the police." Zinn was able to enter the courthouse and briefly watched as Lynd, under the glare of cameras, assisted applicants to complete registration forms (items 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20). The demonstrators continued picketing in the rain all afternoon. On this picket line, Zinn describes seeing Fannie Lou Hamer "moving along with her characteristic limp, holding a sign, her face wet with the rain and turn upwards, crying out her song against the sky: 'Which Side Are You On?'" Hamer can be glimpsed in two of Moncrief's pictures, leading the line of picketers outside the courthouse (items 40, 41, 43). The picket line dispersed at 5:00 p.m. Reporting on that first day, the American mentioned only one arrest, that of SNCC leader Bob Moses, who was charged in the morning with "obstructing the flow of pedestrian traffic." Although not covered in the paper, Moncrief's collection also includes an image of Oscar Chase (item 12), who, according to a May 18, 1964, article by Zinn in The Nation, was arrested that afternoon for a minor traffic violation. Chase was severely beaten while being held in jail. More arrests, including those of organizers Leigh and Guyot as well as a group of ministers, occurred as the protest continued and national media attention waned. In addition to the arrests, the ability to picket was curtailed by a temporary injunction issued by Circuit Judge Stanton Hall on January 29. However, the picket line prevailed throughout that spring, and applicants continued to attempt to register to vote.

The Civil Rights Digital Library received support from a National Leadership Grant for Libraries awarded to the University of Georgia by the Institute of Museum and Library Services for the aggregation and enhancement of partner metadata.

Types:Black-and-white photographs | StillImage
Subjects:African Americans--Civil rights--Mississippi--Hattiesburg--History--20th century | Civil rights movements--Mississippi--Hattiesburg--History--20th century | African Americans--Suffrage--Mississippi--Hattiesburg--History--20th century | Civil rights workers--Mississippi--Hattiesburg--History--20th century | African Americans--Civil rights--History--20th century | Hattiesburg (Miss.)--Race relations--History--20th century | Mississippi--Race relations--History--20th century | Civil rights demonstrations--Mississippi--Hattiesburg | Signs and signboards--Mississippi--Hattiesburg | Direct action--Mississippi--Hattiesburg | Courthouses--Mississippi--Hattiesburg | United States, Mississippi, Hattiesburg | United States, Mississippi, Forrest County
Collection:Moncrief photograph collection
Institution:Mississippi Department of Archives and History
Contributors:Mississippi. Department of Archives and History
Original Material:

Moncrief (Winfred) Photograph Collection, Mississippi Department of Archives and History, Jackson, Mississippi.

Related Materials:

Forms part of Moncrief Photograph Collection.

Persistent Link to Item:http://www.mdah.ms.gov/arrec/digital_archives/moncrief/image.php?display=item&item=75