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Fannie Lou Hamer Interview 1965

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    With me is Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer,
    a member of the Executive Committee
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    of the Freedom Democratic Party
    and a candidate of that party
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    for the United States Congress.
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    Mrs. Hamer, tell us a little
    about yourself.
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    What part of the south you come from,
    and how you got involved in
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    the Freedom Democratic Party politics.
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    - Thank you very much. My home is
    in Ruleville, Mississippi.
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    It's located in the Black belt of
    Mississippi known as the delta area.
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    And actually, the way I got involved
    in the Freedom Democrat Party
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    is we tried to get in the regular Democrat
    Party, we tried from the precinct level
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    up to the county and from
    the county to the state.
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    I remember when we tried to attend
    the precinct meeting at
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    the little polling place in Ruleville,
    it was eight of us, eight negros
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    went up to visit the precinct meeting
    and the door was locked
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    and we couldn't get in.
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    And we stood on the outside
    and held our own meeting.
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    We elected our chairman
    and our secretary,
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    our delegates and our alternates
    and we passed a law to resolution.
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    And we moved from the precinct level
    on through the county
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    and up to the state,
    the 24th of April in 1964,
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    we organized at the Messianic Temple
    in Jackson, Mississippi,
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    The Mississippi Freedom Democrat Party.
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    And then the 24th of August in 1964
    we went to the national convention
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    in Atlantic City, New Jersey
    to challenge the seating of the
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    regular delegation from Mississippi.
    - In which you were unsuccessful.
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    - That's right. We was offered
    two votes at large as a compromise.
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    - In the convention?
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    - In the convention. But, after 100 years
    we wouldn't accept a compromise
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    because it didn't mean anything
    to 63,000 people at that time
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    was registered with the Freedom
    Democrat Party, so we didn't compromise.
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    So again, in January, began in the
    4th of January, the three candidates
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    from the Freedom Democrat Party,
    Mrs. Gray, Mrs. Divine, and I
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    went up before the door of the House
    of Representatives to contest
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    the seating of the five
    representatives from Mississippi
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    and we was turned away and
    we wasn't allowed to even go in
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    to have -- you know, to contest
    their seating.
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    We didn't go there to be seated
    because we knew from the beginning
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    that we wouldn't be seated, but we
    wanted to explain our side
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    whereas in a state that 42%
    of the people can't register,
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    they weren't representing us
    and I think somebody -- it's time now
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    for somebody to be in Congress
    that's going to represent the people
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    of Mississippi. And we weren't
    allowed to go inside, but that didn't stop
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    the challenge. We did have that
    day 149 Congressmen that stood up
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    against these people being seated.
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    So we are still working with this
    challenge and we hope by
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    the last of this month, which is August,
    that we will have a chance
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    to unseat these Congressmen
    because actually
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    this voting bill that the president passed
    last week, it doesn't mean anything.
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    And I'm not looking for a voting bill
    in 1965 when they are not enforcing
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    the voting bill and our voting rights
    with the 15th amendment
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    which guaranteed us the same
    rights to vote from the 15th amendment
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    in 1870.
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    And at that time, 1870, Mississippi
    was re-admitted back to the Union
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    because they promised at that time
    that they wouldn't do anything
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    to disenfranchise negros to keep them
    from registering to vote.
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    So now, it's a matter of a violation
    of the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendment
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    of the Constitution of the United States.
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    And what I'm curious to see,
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    do the Constitution of the United States
    mean anything?
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    So far it hasn't worked and I'm sick
    of seeing this kind of stuff on paper.
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    We want them to do something about it
    because we are apart of America,
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    because we didn't come here on our own,
    our parents and our descendants
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    was from Africa and we didn't come
    on our own, but we do want to be treated
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    as human beings. And I'm fighting
    for human rights, not for equal rights.
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    - I'm well interested in one thing here,
    before you set up your own
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    Democratic Party, you tried to
    enter the local Democratic Party
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    and I wondered why you did that
    because my instinct if I had been
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    in your situation, would be not
    to join that club, that Democratic club
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    or Democratic organization,
    but to form another one with all
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    the liberal people in the community
    to contest the elections
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    as the Democratic party --
    - The reason we tried,
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    if we hadn't tried to go in it,
    and then just set this one up,
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    they would have said from
    the beginning, if we had tried,
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    we could have got in theirs.
    But you see, we done
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    the only fair thing to do,
    we weren't accepted, so we set up
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    a Freedom Democrat Party in Mississippi
    and I think it's one of the most effective
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    weapons in this whole United States.
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    - I see -- I'm still a little puzzled,
    maybe it's because I'm a foreigner.
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    I would never join the Democratic Party
    in this country if I were an American
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    citizen because part of the party is
    racialist, I'd say they'd have to
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    throw them out before I joined it
    and perhaps Europeans think more
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    ideologically about their parties.
    - Well I don't think you think
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    in ideologic about it, but we've got
    quite an education in seeing what
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    the whole Democrat Party of this country
    was like at that national convention --
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    - What was your impression of it?
    - In fact I cried, I don't know
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    would I really have been involved
    in politics now if I had known
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    it was like it is. But one day I think
    working with this Mississippi Freedom
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    Democrat Party and so many great
    people that I find in this country,
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    and especially these young people
    of this country, we will have
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    a great democracy. And only through that
    that we can bring a change because
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    I am really fed up with covering up stuff.
    You know?
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    This stuff had been covered up
    year after year
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    and we are beginning now to
    sweep it out from under the road
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    that the world can see that
    we are not free in America.
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    And that makes nobody free here
    until we all are free.
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    - But let me clear up another point
    with you -- or have you clear up
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    another point, does the Freedom
    Democratic Party regard itself
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    as a group that wants to make
    the Democratic Party more democratic
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    in the way that Theodore Roosevelt
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    and his Bull Moose Party tried to
    change the Republican Party,
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    going back emerging with the party again
    when it had accepted his views,
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    or do you really consider this
    a third party now?
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    - Well, to me, it really seemed to be
    actually, a third party,
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    because it is so far different
    from the Democrats of this country.
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    And I don't see no other way,
    other than a third party.
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    - Many people think of the Freedom
    Democratic Party as principally,
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    a civil rights organization that's
    entered politics,
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    but is it more than that?
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    Does it have a wide, sort of, program
    on a great number of issues
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    besides this matter of voting rights
    and civil rights?
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    - Yes, and it is not an organization,
    it is a party.
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    Not an organization.
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    - I'm glad you made that clear,
    could you tell us something about
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    the main planks in the platform
    of the party, starting with civil rights,
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    exactly what you're aiming to achieve
    there, in terms of legislation.
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    - Well, we stand -- and I don't know
    what I should say all of this or not,
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    but our policy are far different
    from even the national Democratic Party.
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    It is very different, the things that
    we stand for, you know,
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    and in foreign policies,
    it's quite a different.
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    - Well good, now on domestic policy
    I take it you stand for
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    a greater amount of legislation
    guaranteeing individual rights?
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    - Yes.
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    - And I gather you don't think
    in terms of just Negro Rights,
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    but individual rights,
    period.
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    - Individual rights, you see,
    it doesn't matter to me
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    whether the person is
    an Indian, a Jew, a Chinese, a Mexican,
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    a whatever -- whatever nation they are,
    I think they should have that right.
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    - Now you mentioned foreign policy
    a moment ago,
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    for instance, the biggest issue
    on foreign policy at the moment is
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    the war in Vietnam, does the party take
    any position in
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    American involvement in
    an Asian conflict like that?
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    - Well, right now I hadn't met with
    the executive committee to,
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    you know, have -- to say
    what stand that
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    the Freedom Democratic Party
    will have on a policy of Vietnam.
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    I have my own, personal feelings
    about Vietnam, you know.
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    - But the party will come out
    with a policy on it?
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    - I'm not sure, but we might.
    We have been accused of saying that,
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    you know, the stand we had taken,
    but at the time it was said
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    that we had taken, you know,
    made a policy
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    on what we felt about Vietnam.
    The executive committees,
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    at that time, hadn't had a meeting,
    you know,
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    to say what we would say.
    But personally, me,
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    I'm against America going to Vietnam
    and the reason --
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    I have several reasons why I don't think
    that we have any business in Vietnam.
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    First place, I don't think that you can
    tell me how, and clean up my house,
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    if your house is, you know,
    nasty.
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    I think we will have to think
    in terms of cleaning up our own place
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    before we can go and do a job
    some other place.
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    - One of the other major issues
    regarding Asia, of course,
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    is recognition of China --
    well, they call it communist China here,
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    and admission of China
    to the United Nations of --
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    picking government to the Chinese seat
    in the United Nations.
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    Does the party have a position on that?
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    - Well, we don't have a position on that.
    But I hear the word communist quite often,
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    in fact, I have been called a communist,
    and I begin to question now,
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    if communists -- do communists stand
    for all the things we fight for?
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    Because, you know, if all the things
    we fighting for,
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    if communists stand for that,
    it'd be a whole lot more
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    than we've ever been offered
    in this country,
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    but I don't know anything about
    communism,
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    if I have ever seen a Communist,
    I don't know it.
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    - Well in fact, president de Gaulle
    is pledged, now,
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    to actively work for the seating of --
    in the United Nations of communist China
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    he's recognized communist China
    and I don't think he's a communist.
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    - Is that right?
    - Of course, yes.
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    - Well that's great. You know --
    you see,
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    I don't know, actually, anything
    about communism, I don't --
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    but everybody I see, you know,
    if we push just a little farther
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    than they think we should push,
    you know,
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    then they say,
    this is communist.
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    So I began to wonder about communists,
    because from what the people
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    is really telling us,
    it must be very good.
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    - Well, I've lived around the world,
    I don't like communism but,
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    the aspects of communism I don't like,
    which are
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    the oppression of certain
    types of freedom,
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    control of the press,
    and so forth,
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    we are finding that in many countries
    we're supporting.
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    - That's very true.
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    - What about questions like
    nuclear disarmament,
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    has the party come out with
    any positions on this?
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    - Not so far.
    - Not on NATO?
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    - No, we hadn't come out
    with no policy.
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    - What about -- or does this include
    domestic legislation?
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    For instance, on health.
    Now I'm from Britain,
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    in Britain we regard it as a right
    that everyone, whatever his means,
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    should have medical care as much
    as he needs,
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    and the best available,
    without a thought about cost,
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    the doctors and patients don't have to
    think of the money.
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    Is this anything that appeals to you?
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    - Yes, we have -- well actually,
    I don't know how far this will go,
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    but I -- you know, we push for
    medical care, you know because,
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    not only can aged people be sick
    without money,
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    but young people can be sick
    without money,
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    and I think any person that needs
    medical care should be treated.
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    - Do you have any feelings about
    the ownership of industry or anything,
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    is there any policy on this?
    Do you take any positions on this?
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    - The industry being,
    in the state of Mississippi?
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    - Well, in the state
    or nationwide.
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    Have they got any theories
    about economic structures in society
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    about whether something should be
    nationalized,
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    or made into corporatives?
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    - Yes, we are talking about that,
    in fact now,
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    one of the young men that had been
    working for us
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    is you know bringing out something
    that's called "Brick for Freedom,"
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    and if we can get help with this,
    we'll have people trained to make bricks,
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    and also concrete,
    and then real contractors
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    to teach these people,
    and if now --
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    if this government is going to do anything
    for the poverty-stricken people,
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    it would be time for them to invest
    some money in,
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    and these people can be paid
    as they'd be trained to work,
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    and can build their own homes
    that will be a decent place to live in,
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    instead of the present condition
    of the homes that we live in now.
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    I noticed for the past, I would say,
    the past five or six months,
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    to keep the news of
    the Freedom Democratic Party,
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    you know, from being in
    the light of people,
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    for people to really know what
    the Freedom Democratic Party purpose is,
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    and what it's done, the news about
    the Freedom Democratic Party has been
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    completely sabotaged.
    We can't get out news,
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    sometime we'll have a press conference
    and they won't even show it.
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    - Even the national papers that have been
    sympathetic to the Negro cause,
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    like the New York Times?
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    - The New York Times hadn't been doing
    too much, recently.
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    I don't know from what source
    they getting pressure,
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    but I think somewhere along the line
    they are being pressured,
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    and I know we are not getting the news
    that we, you know, at the beginning like,
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    in Atlantic City in 1964,
    the news media was almost running over you
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    to see what the Freedom Democratic Party
    had to say, but now they are beginning to
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    kind of, get away from
    the Freedom Democratic Party.
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    - Now what has been happening to
    the fortunes of
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    the Freedom Democratic Party?
    Has its membership been growing?
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    And would you tell me,
    first off,
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    whether it's an All-Negro party,
    or whether it's a multiracial?
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    - Well we have, the party is open
    to any person, you know,
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    that's over 21 years old, it's open
    to all people,
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    in fact, the executive for
    national committee man is
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    a white man,
    and he is a Mississippian,
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    Reverend Edwin King from
    Tougaloo College,
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    which is a chaplain there at
    Tougaloo College.
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    He is the national committee man,
    is open to all people,
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    and I would say that it's grown
    quite a bit, for the past,
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    I'd say for the past two to three months,
    as people...
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    - In the last two or three months,
    it's been growing more rapidly then?
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    - Yes, it -- because so many people
    now,
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    like the people that's on strike
    in Mississippi,
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    that wasn't involved in anything,
    you know,
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    not only now participate with
    the Mississippi Freedom Labor Union,
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    but the Mississippi Freedom
    Democratic Party too.
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    - Do you have an approximate idea
    of your membership?
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    - Well, it should be, I'm not sure,
    but it should be close to 7,000 to 8,000
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    - Really? And how are they organized,
    and where?
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    Across Mississippi and Alabama only?
    Or where?
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    - Well, actually right now the Mississippi
    Freedom Democrat Party
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    is only in Mississippi, But they have
    something, I would say,
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    similar to the Freedom Democratic Party
    that's beginning to pick up
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    in other states, you know,
    people is -- Negros, in other states,
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    even in the North in New York City
    and Brooklyn,
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    is beginning to run candidates,
    you know, in that area, that's right.
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    - Must be scaring the daylights
    out of the Democratic Party to
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    split the vote for them.
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    - (laughs) It might be but
    that is what's happening now.
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    - That's one way of changing
    the Democratic Party.
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    - And it's one way of bringing
    a change, you know,
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    for the poor people
    all across the country.
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    - There's another party now forming
    that's out here called
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    the Federalist Party that breaks away
    from the Democratic Party
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    and also, of course,
    from the Republican Party,
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    on foreign policy issues
    and on all these other things
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    that's forming out here with
    a strong commitment to civil rights
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    and against the war in Vietnam
    and similar things,
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    do you know that?
    - No I didn't.
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    - It's just starting here.
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    - Before joining
    the Freedom Democratic Party,
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    Mrs. Hamer had been a sharecropper
    on a Mississippi plantation,
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    her husband also worked there,
    he had advanced to the position of foreman
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    but even for a foreman, which is
    a high point of opportunity
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    for a Negro there, life on
    a Southern plantation meant long hours,
  • 18:31 - 18:34
    low wages, humiliating conditions
    of work,
  • 18:34 - 18:39
    and perhaps worst of all,
    no hope of being accorded fair treatment,
  • 18:39 - 18:43
    a decent standard of living,
    and respect as a human being.
  • 18:43 - 18:48
    However, Negros were now demanding equal
    rights, and thousands were attempting to
  • 18:48 - 18:52
    register to vote for
    the first time in their lives.
  • 18:52 - 18:54
    Among them, was Mrs. Hamer.
  • 18:54 - 18:58
    Immediately after taking the literacy test
    to qualify for registration
  • 18:58 - 19:01
    as a voter in Mississippi, she learned
    what it costs to
  • 19:01 - 19:06
    challenge the system of white supremacy
    and white privilege in that state.
  • 19:06 - 19:11
    - So I was forced away from the plantation
    because I wouldn't go back and withdraw,
  • 19:11 - 19:15
    you know, my literacy test after I had
    tried to take it,
  • 19:15 - 19:17
    I wouldn't go back
    and I had to leave
  • 19:17 - 19:22
    and my husband was forced to stay on
    this plantation until after
  • 19:22 - 19:26
    the harvest season was over
    and then the man that we had worked for
  • 19:26 - 19:30
    he'd taken the car and the most
    of the few things we had
  • 19:30 - 19:34
    had been stolen, and I'd been in jail
    and I've been beat.
  • 19:34 - 19:37
    - Tell us about that, on what grounds
    did they jail you?
  • 19:37 - 19:43
    - Wasn't no grounds, you know,
    I don't understand until today.
  • 19:43 - 19:46
    I had been to a voter registration
    workshop, you know, to --
  • 19:46 - 19:50
    they were just training
    and teaching us how to register,
  • 19:50 - 19:54
    to pass the literacy test,
    and it was given us enough training
  • 19:54 - 19:59
    that we could tell other people,
    you know, how to pass the literacy test.
  • 19:59 - 20:04
    So we had attended a workshop
    from the 3rd of June to the 8th,
  • 20:04 - 20:07
    we finished the workshop on the 8th,
    and then we got
  • 20:07 - 20:12
    the Continental Trailways bus
    to come back to Mississippi
  • 20:12 - 20:16
    and we got to Winona, Mississippi
    I would say,
  • 20:16 - 20:21
    about 10:30 that Sunday morning
    on our way back to Greenwood,
  • 20:21 - 20:27
    and that was-- we had gotten in 25 miles
    of the voter registration headquarters,
  • 20:27 - 20:31
    and the bus stopped in Winona,
    you know, at the bus terminal,
  • 20:31 - 20:38
    and four people got off of the bus
    to use the restaurant to get food,
  • 20:38 - 20:42
    and two people got off to use the washroom
    while I was still on the bus.
  • 20:42 - 20:45
    When I looked through the glass I saw
    the people rush out,
  • 20:45 - 20:48
    and one of the girls who had gone
    in the washroom,
  • 20:48 - 20:52
    she just got back on the bus,
    and I stepped off to see what had happened
  • 20:52 - 20:57
    and Ms. (inaudible) told me
    that it was a state highway patrolman
  • 20:57 - 21:02
    and a chief of police on the inside,
    and began to tap them on the shoulders
  • 21:02 - 21:05
    with billy clubs
    and ordered them to get out.
  • 21:05 - 21:09
    And I said, "Well, this is Mississippi,"
    so I got back on the bus,
  • 21:09 - 21:12
    and as soon as I was seated,
    I saw them when they began
  • 21:12 - 21:16
    to put the five people -- you know,
    what was off the bus,
  • 21:16 - 21:21
    but they weren't over 6 feet from the bus,
    began to put them in
  • 21:21 - 21:25
    the highway patrolman's car,
    and I stepped off again
  • 21:25 - 21:29
    because I was holding one of
    the lady's (inaudible), you know,
  • 21:29 - 21:33
    that they was arresting, and she said
    "Get back on the bus Ms. Hamer,"
  • 21:33 - 21:37
    And then I heard somebody scream
    from the car that she was in,
  • 21:37 - 21:42
    and said "Get that one there," and then
    a white man stepped out of the car
  • 21:42 - 21:46
    and told me I was under arrest,
    and when he opened the door
  • 21:46 - 21:49
    and I went to get in the car,
    he kicked me,
  • 21:49 - 21:52
    and they carried me on down
    to the county jail
  • 21:52 - 21:56
    where they had the other highway patrolman
    had carried the other five,
  • 21:56 - 22:01
    and they, you know, when we walked in --
    when I walked in with the two white men
  • 22:01 - 22:05
    that had carried me down and
    they cursed me all the way down.
  • 22:05 - 22:08
    They would ask me questions
    and, when I would try to answer,
  • 22:08 - 22:10
    they would tell me to hush.
  • 22:10 - 22:14
    And, when I walked inside
    of the booking room,
  • 22:14 - 22:18
    one of the policemens went over
    and jumped up one of the negroes feet
  • 22:18 - 22:23
    that was with us and then they just
    began to, you know, put us in cells.
  • 22:23 - 22:27
    And, I was put in a cell
    with Miss Ivesta Simpson.
  • 22:27 - 22:32
    And, after I was put in the cell,
    I could just hear some horrible screams
  • 22:32 - 22:35
    and horrible sounds,
    you know, of licks.
  • 22:35 - 22:39
    And, I saw one of the girls was
    fifteen years old was with us,
  • 22:39 - 22:42
    and she passed my cell
    and she was real bloody.
  • 22:43 - 22:47
    And then, they asked a little man
    that cleaned up the jail to go inside
  • 22:47 - 22:52
    and mop up that blood. And then,
    I heard some more screaming.
  • 22:52 - 22:57
    And, I heard some awful sounds.
    And, I would hear somebody when they say,
  • 22:57 - 23:00
    "Can't you say yes sir, nigger?
    Can't you say yes sir?"
  • 23:00 - 23:04
    And they would call her names
    that I wouldn't want to go on tape.
  • 23:04 - 23:07
    And she said, "Yes, I can say yes sir."
    "So, well, say it."
  • 23:07 - 23:10
    And she said,
    "I don't know you well enough."
  • 23:10 - 23:13
    And, I would hear when
    she would hit the floor again.
  • 23:13 - 23:15
    And finally,
    she began to pray.
  • 23:16 - 23:19
    And she asked God to have
    mercy on these people
  • 23:19 - 23:21
    because they didn't know
    what they was doing.
  • 23:21 - 23:26
    And, after awhile, they passed my
    cell door with this young woman,
  • 23:26 - 23:31
    Miss Annelle Ponder and,
    one of her eyes looked like blood.
  • 23:31 - 23:34
    And her hair was standing up on her head,
    and her clothes had been torn
  • 23:34 - 23:40
    from the shoulder down to the waist.
    And then, three white men came to my cell.
  • 23:40 - 23:43
    And, one of them was
    a state highway patrolman
  • 23:43 - 23:47
    because he was wearing a little
    civil plate across his pocket
  • 23:47 - 23:49
    that said John L. Basinger.
  • 23:49 - 23:54
    And, he asked me where I was from
    and I told him I was from Ruleville.
  • 23:54 - 23:56
    And he said,
    "I'm going to check that."
  • 23:56 - 24:00
    And, he went out and
    I guess he called Ruleville.
  • 24:00 - 24:03
    And they didn't
    like me in Ruleville
  • 24:03 - 24:05
    because I work with
    voter registration there.
  • 24:06 - 24:09
    And when he came back
    he said, "You damn right."
  • 24:09 - 24:14
    "You're from Rulevill alright, and
    we gonna make you wish you was dead."
  • 24:14 - 24:18
    And they led me out of
    that cell into another cell,
  • 24:18 - 24:22
    and he gave a negro
    prisoner a blackjack.
  • 24:22 - 24:25
    And he ordered me to
    lay down on the bunk bed.
  • 24:25 - 24:29
    And a negro prisoner said,
    "Do you want me to beat her with this sir?"
  • 24:30 - 24:32
    And he said, "You're damn right,
    because if you don't,
  • 24:32 - 24:34
    "you know what I'll do for you."
  • 24:35 - 24:37
    And I laid down on the bunk
    like he ordered me to do.
  • 24:38 - 24:43
    And the first negro beat me.
    He beat me until he was exhausted.
  • 24:43 - 24:47
    And after he beat,
    the state highway patrolman
  • 24:47 - 24:51
    ordered the second negro
    to take the blackjack.
  • 24:51 - 24:55
    And in the time he was beating,
    I began to work my feet
  • 24:55 - 24:57
    because that was
    a horrible experience,
  • 24:57 - 25:01
    and the state highway patrolman
    ordered the first negro that had beat
  • 25:01 - 25:04
    to sit on my feet while
    the second one beat.
  • 25:05 - 25:08
    And, I just began to scream,
    where I couldn't control it.
  • 25:09 - 25:12
    And then, the white man got up
    and began to beat me in my head.
  • 25:13 - 25:17
    I have a blood clot now
    in the artery to the left eye,
  • 25:17 - 25:22
    and a permanent kidney injury
    on the right side from that beating.
  • 25:22 - 25:26
    These are the things that we go
    through in the state of Mississippi
  • 25:26 - 25:29
    just trying to be treated
    like a human being.
  • 25:29 - 25:32
    But still this is called
    a part of America.
  • 25:33 - 25:37
    - I suppose it's a naive question,
    but is there no possibility
  • 25:37 - 25:42
    of you making a civil complaint
    or criminal complaint,
  • 25:42 - 25:46
    or whatever it would amount to,
    against these people for this beating?
  • 25:47 - 25:53
    - The justice department brought a suit
    against these five law officials
  • 25:53 - 25:57
    from Mississippi and
    they had their trial in Oxford.
  • 25:58 - 26:02
    And they had every
    evidence in the world,
  • 26:02 - 26:04
    if it ever was going to be
    in the people convicting,
  • 26:04 - 26:08
    because we had flew
    to Washington, D.C.,
  • 26:08 - 26:11
    and had the pictures made
    and they had our pictures today
  • 26:11 - 26:14
    of what happened
    to us in that jail.
  • 26:14 - 26:18
    The bus driver, they even
    had the waitresses,
  • 26:18 - 26:23
    from Winona at the bus terminal
    that said we hadn't done anything,
  • 26:23 - 26:25
    we hadn't done
    no demonstration.
  • 26:25 - 26:30
    The negroes that they forced to beat me,
    they came and they told the truth.
  • 26:30 - 26:34
    They told how these white men
    had made them drink corn whiskey
  • 26:34 - 26:37
    before they did beat us because
    they figured, you know,
  • 26:37 - 26:40
    if they didn't have something in them,
    that they might not do it.
  • 26:41 - 26:44
    They told all of that, and
    nothing have been done.
  • 26:44 - 26:48
    Those same men, I guess,
    are still wearing their guns.
  • 26:49 - 26:54
    - It puzzles me that negroes
    in the South have not set up,
  • 26:54 - 26:58
    in a way, territories of their own,
    with their own armed people,
  • 26:58 - 27:03
    (inaudible) deacons now in the South,
    this armed defense organization
  • 27:03 - 27:07
    so that you're outside of the
    control of police officials like this.
  • 27:07 - 27:09
    Why has this not happened?
  • 27:09 - 27:13
    Is it because the white people there
    are so powerful that such a...
  • 27:13 - 27:15
    - They--
    - ...rebellion has been impossible?
  • 27:15 - 27:18
    - They are very powerful
    in the state of Mississippi.
  • 27:19 - 27:22
    But some of the people
    I think is began to get where
  • 27:22 - 27:27
    now they just don't care.
    They are beginning to see
  • 27:28 - 27:33
    if they try to do anything for themselves,
    well they'll be killed anyway.
  • 27:33 - 27:37
    - By the police officials?
    - By the police officials because
  • 27:37 - 27:42
    it's nowhere that I would call myself
    going in the state of Mississippi
  • 27:42 - 27:47
    to be protected by a police official,
    'cause they are worst than a savage.
  • 27:48 - 27:52
    - The federal government isn't able
    to effectively give you security?
  • 27:52 - 27:53
    - No.
  • 27:53 - 27:58
    Because as you know, the three civil
    rights work was murdered in Mississippi.
  • 27:59 - 28:02
    They said our civil rights
    hadn't been violated.
  • 28:02 - 28:04
    But they are dead.
  • 28:04 - 28:08
    - One of their killers is still sheriff?
    - That's right.
  • 28:09 - 28:13
    In fact, the same men,
    Rainey and Price,
  • 28:13 - 28:16
    was assisting the people
    across the street
  • 28:16 - 28:19
    when they was having
    memorial service this year
  • 28:20 - 28:22
    for Chaney, Goodman,
    and Micheal Schwerner.
  • 28:23 - 28:26
    And Micheal Schwerner
    was a Jewish person,
  • 28:26 - 28:28
    but he was one of the
    greatest men I've ever met.
  • 28:29 - 28:31
    - You knew him?
    - I knew him very well.
  • 28:31 - 28:33
    (telephone rings)
    And his wife Rita.
  • 28:33 - 28:37
    And, you know,
    I couldn't have went there
  • 28:37 - 28:41
    for memorial service, and
    let the same two police officials
  • 28:41 - 28:44
    guard me across the street.
    I wouldn't have been low enough,
  • 28:44 - 28:47
    to loath their death
    to go across the street.
  • 28:47 - 28:49
    let them guard me
    across the street.
  • 28:49 - 28:51
    If it hadn't have been for them,
    they wouldn't have been dead.
  • 28:51 - 28:55
    - What do you feel about the deacons?
    This is frightening some white people
  • 28:55 - 28:59
    but I can't -- I can't understand
    why they don't understand
  • 28:59 - 29:03
    that this is a natural development.
    - I think it's one of the greatest things
  • 29:03 - 29:04
    that ever happened.
  • 29:05 - 29:09
    In fact, I admire those people.
    I respect those people.
  • 29:09 - 29:16
    Because they are doing what I believe
    every negro under the heaven
  • 29:16 - 29:19
    feel if he doesn't have
    the guts to say it.
  • 29:20 - 29:22
    - What do you think
    of Malcom X?
  • 29:22 - 29:25
    - Malcom X was one of the
    best friends I ever had,
  • 29:25 - 29:30
    a remarkable man.
    All he was a great man.
  • 29:30 - 29:34
    In fact, I had invited Malcom X
    to come to Mississippi,
  • 29:34 - 29:38
    and he was supposed to come
    to Mississippi on Monday
  • 29:38 - 29:41
    and was killed that Sunday.
    - Mhm.
  • 29:42 - 29:45
    Now he had belonged to the
    Muslim organization.
  • 29:45 - 29:48
    Are the Muslim groups making
    much progress in the South?
  • 29:48 - 29:51
    They seem mostly to be in the North.
    - Mostly in the North because
  • 29:51 - 29:54
    a whole lot of things that
    the Muslims stand for
  • 29:54 - 29:58
    I don't agree with their policies,
    but I did respect Malcom X.
  • 29:59 - 30:01
    And Malcom X was
    a great man.
  • 30:01 - 30:06
    - What can you think of that Muslims
    advocate that you don't agree with?
  • 30:06 - 30:08
    - Can you think of anything?
    - One of the things is
  • 30:08 - 30:12
    setting up a separate state, you know,
    just give the negroes a state.
  • 30:13 - 30:18
    They want a state, you know, set up --
    it would have to be more than a state
  • 30:18 - 30:21
    for 20 million black people
    in this country but just
  • 30:21 - 30:27
    to have so much separation you know,
    that we couldn't, you know,
  • 30:27 - 30:29
    we wouldn't have to deal
    with white on no terms.
  • 30:29 - 30:33
    And, just put us out, on what
    I would say a deserted island,
  • 30:33 - 30:37
    and what we had thought of,
    with a lot of white people in the country,
  • 30:37 - 30:41
    we'd last about two days.
    - Sort of a reverse racism?
  • 30:41 - 30:44
    - Yes, and just be
    wiped off the map.
  • 30:44 - 30:50
    Because you see, I take this stand
    that I don't see all people as bad.
  • 30:51 - 30:56
    If we didn't have some good white people,
    there wouldn't be anybody standing up
  • 30:56 - 31:00
    you know, trying to help bring about
    a change and make things better,
  • 31:00 - 31:04
    not only for the negro, but it would
    benefit every human being in this country
  • 31:04 - 31:06
    if we was just free.
  • 31:08 - 31:11
    - What do the people in your movement
    think about Dr. Martin Luther King
  • 31:11 - 31:13
    and his approach
    to this whole problem?
  • 31:14 - 31:20
    - Well, I couldn't just say
    in Mississippi because
  • 31:20 - 31:25
    people have different
    feelings about Dr. King.
  • 31:27 - 31:31
    - They feel that he's accepting
    to a slower rate of progress?
  • 31:31 - 31:36
    - Well to me, it is somewhat slow.
    But, Dr. King's organization
  • 31:36 - 31:41
    do have some great people like
    Misses Septima P. Clark,
  • 31:41 - 31:44
    that wrote the book
    "Echoes in My Soul,"
  • 31:44 - 31:48
    is a great woman and there's
    quite a few other people
  • 31:48 - 31:52
    that I admire in the Southern
    Christian Leadership Conference
  • 31:52 - 31:57
    and respect, but I take
    this stand with any person
  • 31:57 - 32:03
    a person that was born
    in the middle class,
  • 32:03 - 32:06
    that have never had
    to suffer, you know,
  • 32:06 - 32:09
    he can afford to take things
    maybe easier than I can
  • 32:09 - 32:12
    and all I've ever done
    was suffer you see.
  • 32:14 - 32:17
    In fact, a person that's
    born in the middle class
  • 32:17 - 32:21
    and have always had
    things somewhat decent,
  • 32:21 - 32:25
    he can't make a decision for me because
    he actually don't know how I feel.
  • 32:26 - 32:30
    - You know, you mention middle class
    and middle class negroes
  • 32:30 - 32:33
    and thinking of LeRoi Jones
    who is middle-class negro,
  • 32:33 - 32:40
    but is one of the most violent
    of the young negro writers
  • 32:40 - 32:44
    and lecturers, how do your
    people feel about him?
  • 32:44 - 32:49
    - Well, in Mississippi, not too
    many people know LeRoi Jones,
  • 32:49 - 32:52
    although I know LeRoi Jones,
    but it's a wonder every negro
  • 32:52 - 32:56
    in the United States didn't
    feel exactly like LeRoi Jones.
  • 32:56 - 33:00
    It's enough to happen to us
    that we should all,
  • 33:00 - 33:02
    you know, if we wanted
    to feel like that,
  • 33:02 - 33:06
    but I just, I've never been --
    my parents brought me up
  • 33:06 - 33:10
    as Christian people and
    I believe strongly in Christianity.
  • 33:11 - 33:16
    And, to me, if I hate you
    because you hate me,
  • 33:16 - 33:19
    I'm no better than you are,
    and I don't hate a person
  • 33:19 - 33:22
    because they hate me.
    I'll try to free that person too.
  • 33:22 - 33:26
    - Are there any people you see,
    among the people who are speaking
  • 33:26 - 33:29
    for the negro, apart from
    the people you've mentioned
  • 33:29 - 33:32
    in your own organization,
    for instance Louis Lomax
  • 33:32 - 33:34
    or James Baldwin,
    or people like that
  • 33:34 - 33:37
    that you regard as being
    significant now for the future?
  • 33:38 - 33:42
    - Yes. I think James Baldwin
    is a great man.
  • 33:42 - 33:45
    I have great respect
    for James Baldwin.
  • 33:45 - 33:51
    - Mhm. Are you hopeful of the future
    for your party, politically?
  • 33:51 - 33:56
    - Yes, I am hopeful for the
    future of this party because
  • 33:56 - 34:00
    all across this country,
    we have young people.
  • 34:01 - 34:04
    that's very aware of what's
    going on in this country.
  • 34:04 - 34:07
    - Your membership is
    largely young people is it?
  • 34:08 - 34:11
    - In the state, members of the
    Freedom Democrat Party
  • 34:11 - 34:15
    will have to be 21, but we have
    so many other people you see
  • 34:15 - 34:19
    out of the state of Mississppi
    is very concerned
  • 34:19 - 34:22
    about the Mississippi
    Freedom Democrat Party.
  • 34:22 - 34:26
    - Yes, but I mean people say 21 to 30,
    is it in that age group you find
  • 34:26 - 34:28
    most of your membership
    in Mississippi?
  • 34:28 - 34:32
    - No. We have people from,
    I would say, 21 to 75.
  • 34:33 - 34:35
    - Including a lot of older people then?
    - Yes.
  • 34:35 - 34:38
    - They've given up their old
    attitude of accepting things here?
  • 34:38 - 34:39
    - Yes.
    - They have nothing to lose now.
  • 34:39 - 34:42
    - In fact some of the young
    workers there say that they
  • 34:42 - 34:46
    they had never been in a place
    that had as many older people
  • 34:46 - 34:49
    working as we have
    in Mississippi.
  • 34:49 - 34:53
    - Will you be standing for election
    at the next Congressional elections?
  • 34:53 - 35:00
    - Well, we plan to run people, you know.
    In fact, we have people in Sunflower
  • 35:00 - 35:05
    county, where I live, as we
    hope to run for Circuit Clerk
  • 35:05 - 35:09
    in Sunflower county and
    we will be having people to run
  • 35:09 - 35:15
    all over that state for state election,
    county, on up to the United States
  • 35:15 - 35:17
    representative and
    senators too.
  • 35:17 - 35:21
    - I suppose money is always a problem.
    - Oh money's always a problem.
  • 35:21 - 35:24
    - More than for the other parties though?
    - Yes.
  • 35:24 - 35:27
    - Do you find you can get a space
    in the newspapers and radio stations?
  • 35:28 - 35:31
    - We hope to have,
    if we have enough money.
  • 35:31 - 35:35
    We don't always have enough money,
    but we been broke all our lives.
  • 35:35 - 35:37
    So, we go sometime
    without it, you know.
  • 35:37 - 35:39
    - Misses Hamer, I must let you
    get back to your friends.
  • 35:39 - 35:42
    Thank you very much indeed.
    - You're welcome and thank you.
Title:
Fannie Lou Hamer Interview 1965
Description:

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Video Language:
English
Duration:
35:45

English subtitles

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