Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg, Miss., in front of the Sears Roebuck. Participants include: Howard Zinn, third from left; John Lewis, arms crossed, sixth from left; Bob Moses, immediate left of street sign; and James Forman, immediate right of street sign. Image: Winfred Harmon Moncrief.

Freedom Day, January 22, 1964, Hattiesburg, Miss., in front of the Sears Roebuck. Participants include: Howard Zinn, third from left; John Lewis, arms crossed, sixth from left; Bob Moses, immediate left of street sign; and James Forman, immediate right of street sign. Image: Winfred Harmon Moncrief.

Mrs. [Fannie Lou] Hamer told me that a few months earlier she and five other movement people had been returning to Greenwood from a meeting in South Carolina. The bus stopped briefly in Winona, Mississippi, and some of them went into the “white” waiting room. They were all arrested, taken to jail, separated from one another. Annell Ponder, a graduate of Clark College in Atlanta (her younger sister was a student of mine at Spelman), was beaten to the point where her face was so swollen she could barely speak. Mrs. Hamer was beaten with blackjacks all over her body.

She reflected, “You know they said outsiders was coming in and beginning to get the people stirred up because they’ve always been satisfied. Well, as long as I can remember, I’ve never been satisfied.” I asked her if she was going to remain with the movement and she responded with the words to a song: “I told them if they ever miss me from the movement and couldn’t find me nowhere, come on over to the graveyard, and I’ll be buried there!”

The next time I saw Mrs. Hamer was January 21, 1964. It was Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, in southern Mississippi. SNCC would try to have hundreds of black Mississippians register to vote, in a county where not one black person was registered.

Continue reading at the Zinn Education Project.

Originally published at Chapter 6 in Zinn’s biography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train • Beacon Press • Sept. 1994; Sept. 2002.

 

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