Long, Hot Summer '64; Episode 11: Two Days in the Life of Ellen Siegel
Long Hot Summer 64 a weekly summary an in-depth report on the struggle for civil rights in the south. This is Ted mask on produce around your house for a long hot summer 64. We're coming to a close in this series and tonight we have a very special program. It's the story of a Boston girl in Mississippi a girl who's been working there all summer in the civil rights movement. We re live just a few days over Mississippi summer as her mother Mrs. Jacob Siegel reads her daughter's letter interspersed with actual tape recordings made by Ellen Segal. Here now is the story of two days in the life of Ellen Siegel in Mississippi. The summer of 1964. Mrs. SIEGEL begins reading the letter. Dear Mom and Dad Good morning to you. I've been up for about an hour had a piece of bread and some water splashed some water on my face and hands tucked in my shirt and straighten my skirt put on my sandals said good morning and exchanged. How did you sleep with the other girls. I
decided it was about time to dry out and set down. Some of this on paper. Even if it has to be toilet paper a few words about the jail it is ugly and filthy with very strong odors. Gretchen another white project worker and I are confined in a cell about six cubic feet with a tiny entrance and another six cubic foot room which is the john. Two nights isn't bad but I can see what a month or so might do. Anyway I'm going to try and set down a chronology of events that led to our being here in the first place. Tuesday evening at 6 o'clock we had a mass meeting scheduled and drew the next town to rule Ville where the voter registration people have been canvassing for some time with limited success. It is always difficult to break in a new area that people have been without significant change for a hundred years
and when they are suddenly confronted with the idea that theyre equal human beings and with the possibility of voting a joyful response is not as obvious as a bewildered one. People are threatened with the loss of their jobs little thought security that might be theirs. They are threatened economically and as they have nothing else the fear is great the fear of personal injury bombings burnings at midnight murders is there too. And not without good cause. Their fear is not of the unknown. It is fear borne of past experience brought up in certainty and cultivated to a shrill high pitch of terror. On Wednesday 15 of us left at 4 o'clock and when we got separated 3 through an area and went from house to house telling about the meeting and handing out the papers. But being back at the Holly Grove Church the police were there by now
in full force and had set up a road block at either end of the street so that cars could not drive through. We had to wait while the rest of the workers returned. During this time I took pictures of a group of officers standing across the street. As I was about to take one of the chief of police he yelled Hey don't you take that picture. As I hesitated and demanded the camera at which point I question his authority to do so. He then said something in articulate about not wanting his picture taken and grabbed the camera saying I'm going to expose that film. The difference between. Because he. He. Picture
it. Perhaps a hundred watch cross.
We do not. We had something to do. The meeting moved to an adjacent yard where some of us had already been standing. There was a house a bit further on and there were people there too. In a few minutes apparently the owner of the house was standing and talking with the police around a bit. Of time. Nothing happened. A few minutes later however a car driven by several times had been allowed through the roadblock each time. Again back again with the county clerk a woman and this time she had an elderly lady with her.
They stopped and spoke to the police briefly and then the chief came over and interrupted McLaurin singing. The lady wished to talk to him. The conversation between them was to the effect that we were standing on her property. The grass area was apparently hers and not part of the negroes whose more yard was adjacent. She didn't want us on her property for any of this kind of thing. The people of Drew were very happy and didn't want us there and that they were all laughing at us implying that the negroes being there funny and out of place obviously fallacious as justified by the presence of the several hundred there. A.
That if we we would. If we would be unjustified and that would be that we didn't set about going to let nobody that we would not stand for freedom at the future. Yes.
The. Rest. The high wire fence that surrounds the jail yard had its gate open wide
as we pass through. We were questioned as to name and age by one of the many men who milled about in some official capacity or another. Several minors were detained outside and no one under 18 was allowed to enter. By the time I walked into the dingy little room six or seven people were already sitting on the two narrow blanket covered cots are standing against the wall. There were twenty two of us inside the stone under the yellow glare of the naked when the heavy metal door was swung shut and lock moving restlessly in the almost insufferable heat. We talked among ourselves in an effort to assess our situation determine what had happened to the others and to speculate on the possible consequences of our arrest. We were locked out we were assured her the people
in the name of the police and then dispersed. And we responded now what do we want want it now. Repeating the chant We introduced ourselves. Experience in jail on charges had been 20 times to be intimidated. We sang for those who could hear us. Mostly we sang for ourselves. And promise Mr
Fearnley let nobody turn me round to the future. We shall overcome. It's carried out every. Time.
From the wrist into the back seat and were left alone for a few gestures and comments. Shortly the two men got into the front seat and we drove off. By the time we realized by this time we realized that we were being taken to Indianola for the night along the highway in Louisville. We stopped at the feeling station where the two men got out put gas in the car and talked with some people there briefly. No money was exchanged. Gretchen and I were denied something to drink because we do not have time. Along the way the two men talked loudly about the baseball situation. Gretchen and I were mostly silent as we came to a stop in front of the Indian county jail. Gretchen pointed out the police station and the courthouse where
she had been taking to register. Inside we were told to wait in the hallway. Two men came out and identified themselves as FBI agents. They prefer to talk with us individually. So we went into an office with them. I sat on the floor in the hallway and read killers of the dream. After 20 minutes or so it was my turn. I was totally my tape recorder in the corridor. The two men in the in the office introduced themselves and the three of us sat down. I was told that they would like my account of the arrest in as much detail as possible in order to implement their information on civil rights or something to that effect. I began by stating that I could speak only for myself and would in no way involve any of the others in my narrative. At one point during the questioning one of the men having been silent while the other talked
question the authenticity of a particular instance in my statement I had said that I stood near the chief of police by chance. And he implied that I had done it intentionally. I repeated myself but it was obvious that he did not believe me when he had finished questioning me about the dru incident. He began asking more personal questions which did not seem to be relevant to the issue at hand particularly concerning organizations which I belong to at the University of New Hampshire. After studying the civil rights community I simply said that I would prefer and. I would rather not give the names of any other groups but this time I was convinced that this was certainly not applicable to the issue at hand. Again I was asked to indicate the nature of other nations and when I declined to do so I was asked if the unmentioned organizations had ever come up before the House Un-American Activities Committee.
The presumption here of course was unmistakable. I then refused to comment on grounds that it was irrelevant. Shortly after this the session terminated the two men issued me that they were only trying to help. Here Indian officials took over I was directed to leave my tape recorder in their possession until I was released. Gretchen and I were then taken across the hall and through a doorway the metal door was locked behind us as the negro turnkey or attendant let us up a rickety staircase to the second floor in the first. We were startled to see other members of our group the six white boys. Apparently they had been brought in while we were being questioned. They shared a cell with a white youth who had been arrested the previous week for drunkenness and disorderly conduct. The negroes we learned had all been taken to the county farm in nearby Moorhead. Gretchen and I were put into a dirty cubicle at the end of the road together.
Although the only light came from the passage outside it was sufficient to acquaint us with our new surroundings the dimensions and details of which I shall not indulge in at this time. Exhausted we made ourselves as comfortable as possible and lay down together on the much used mattress. Very early in the morning I awoke. A radio was blaring in front of the cell next to us where a negro woman had been confined for several months on a murder charge awaiting trial. From upstairs the second stairway been right in the middle of the passage. I could hear voices of the men in their sounds. The next few hours went slowly if necessary we were prepared to accept the idea that we might be there for some length. So we were rather surprised when the drinky hassled us downstairs at 9:15. My tape recorder was returned to me and we were ushered outside. To a green bus with the words in you know a county farm in white painted on the
side. The reunion of the two groups from the city jail and initiated a spontaneous burst of sun and station all the way to Drew. The driver in the prison black and white striped uniform was silent separated from us by a metal screen against an unhappy two official deputies drove in front of the bus to ensure a safe and speedy arrival. The city hall a barricade had been constructed at either end of the street packed at the curb. We were left to ourselves sitting in increasing discomfort on the still be a go for over an hour at last just McClaren and were instructed to get out of the bus. As they disappeared into a homely brick building we began once again to see improvising on the verses to the familiar Some got the whole world in my hands.
Coming up with impromptu lines as Drew and I hands chief Lloyd in a hands Mississippi in our hands. It must be understood that these songs are a release in this way. We are giving ourselves to the swell of feeling that rises within each of us. Our only emotional outlet during a tense situation abruptly chief Lloyd boarded the bus and curtly informed us that if we continued to use his name or the name of the city in our songs it would be an additional 500 dollar fine for harassing an officer. A few minutes later he returned. This time bringing jobs McClaren. I'm warning you and I want you all to hear it. It will be $500 fine. You can sing your religious songs all you want but leave my name out of it.
People. Question. The prosecuting attorney read the charge posted bond and directed a trial date to be set for July 23rd at the completion of this lengthy process. We were herded out to the sidewalk and lined up for group photographers before we got back on the bus. Our attorney Mr. Omer Byrd spoke with us under no
circumstances were we to leave the jail at night if requested to do so. He hoped the money for the bond totaling 4000 eight hundred sixty dollars could be raised and signed over by the next morning. While I had the opportunity I gave you my tape recorder and tapes so that you could take them to rule them. I was reluctant to take them to Indianola again because I was afraid the recordings might be destroyed before going back to. We were taken on the bus over to a public rest room directly across from the holy Grove Church where we had been arrested the night before. We use the facilities people who had stood by and watched the arrest now stood by and waved as we drove on. Each of us were given a sandwich for the long ride back to the jail. The night brought a welcome breeze and rest. In the morning for the second
week much Ringgold not too fragrant glow being patted our hair into place and splashed a bit of water on our faces neck and arms. We hope that our bond money would arrive early but at the same time we knew what kinds of complications could arise. Towards noon the turnkey appeared in and locked ourselves with the girls we went downstairs in across the hall. Their words and Van Sneck project workers were signing releases in exchange for Bond receipts. The others had gone to Morehead to get the boards. Back in room we discussed what had taken place in the meeting and drew on Wednesday night. Black and White had stood together hands crossed in the freedom circle black and white had gone to jail in the name of a free America in the name of equality in the name of all citizens. What had actually taken place. In one sense it is simple and
obvious. Twenty five persons white and negro had to go to jail rather than to a bed. The worn out tired senseless directives of a Mississippi officer in a greater sense these 25 persons were part of a complex unity of individuals who refused to bow to decadence and immorality any longer. Some are people who want a decent education for their children who want an equal opportunity to vote who want to share the full responsibilities and privileges as citizens of the United States. The other is that people who cannot be content with a country that shouts democracy freedom and liberty and then betrays who that the people who know better than south. I'm not free and free. To gather these people shall build a new work in which they will be a future and a world in which each man can
practice that pay without fear. Yours in freedom and in that this Elway's and. You have been listening to the story of two days in the life of Ellen Segal in Mississippi the summer of 1964. Ellen is a 19 year old Boston girl who has worked all summer in the Mississippi summer project. Her mother Mrs. Jacob Siegel read her daughter's letter and the actuality material was recorded during these two days by Ellen Siegel herself. This concludes another edition of long hot summer 64. This program is produced by your host Ted mascot of the WGBH FM staff in Boston. This is the educational radio network for daily reports on civil rights developments we invite you to listen to the New England seen Monday through Friday at 6 o'clock. That's the New England seen Monday through Friday at 6:00
- Long, Hot Summer '64
- Producing Organization
- WGBH Educational Foundation
- Contributing Organization
- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts)
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- In the eleventh and final report in a series of weekly news reports documenting the civil rights movement during the summer of 1964, Mrs. Jacob Siegel reads a letter from her daughter Ellen, a 19-year-old student from Boston, who had worked all summer in the movement in Mississippi. Actuality recordings made by Siegel during confrontations with police are heard. Siegel and other civil rights workers traveled from their headquarters in Ruleville, Mississippi, to the neighboring town of Drew, where voter registration canvassing had not met with success. Twenty-five workers chose to be arrested when the chief of police would not allow them to congregate in the street. Siegel was questioned by FBI agents intent on learning details of the arrest and the names of organizations to which she had belonged at her school, the University of New Hampshire, which she refused to give. After spending two days in jail in Indianola, the group was released on bond and returned to Ruleville, where they discussed the events that had occurred and their meaning. The series was produced for the Educational Radio Network.
- African Americans--Civil rights--History; Drew, Mississippi; Rulesville, Mississippi; Indianola, Mississippi
- Media type
Producer: Mascott, Ted
Producing Organization: WGBH Educational Foundation
Production Unit: Radio
Recordist: Siegel, Ellen
Speaker: Siegel, Mrs. Jacob
Writer: Mascott, Ted
Writer: Siegel, Ellen
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Identifier: 64-0037-08-20-002 (WGBH Item ID)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
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- Chicago: “Long, Hot Summer '64; Episode 11: Two Days in the Life of Ellen Siegel,” 1964-08-20, WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed August 20, 2019, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-1615f47p.
- MLA: “Long, Hot Summer '64; Episode 11: Two Days in the Life of Ellen Siegel.” 1964-08-20. WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. August 20, 2019. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-1615f47p>.
- APA: Long, Hot Summer '64; Episode 11: Two Days in the Life of Ellen Siegel. Boston, MA: WGBH, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (WGBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip_15-1615f47p