Children of McComb
This is Elsa Knight Thompson speaking. I thought I'd like to tell you a little about the program you were just going to hear a few weeks ago I received a courteous letter from Edward Upton Jr. president of the North Carolina Conference of youth and college chapters of the NAACP. He said that he was sending some tapes recorded on October 27 in Durham North Carolina which he hoped we might be able to use. My first thought was how interesting that people so far away knew of us and that it seemed something almost to be taken for granted that they appealed to KPFA for help in getting their story on the air. When I listened to the tapes I realized that it was also a privilege and an indication that we are doing a job which virtually no other station can or will do. Thomas Hayden and Robert Zellner are field secretaries of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which they casually refer to as
Snick. They went to the solve to work on Negro voter registration. In the tape you will hear they were speaking in Durham North Carolina about their experiences when they became involved quite unexpectedly in the march of McComb Mississippi high school students who were protesting the treatment of Brenda Travice a 15 year old girl who had been tried and sentenced because she requested service at a Greyhound bus terminal. Lunch Counter. Following her release she was refused admittance to the school. Thomas Haden speaks first of their general work and of the problem which brought them to Mississippi. Let me begin by. Mentioning a couple of things I think should be should probably be said about this.
You may or may not know that the state has been in the forefront of. Several interesting movements in American history. Among them. A movement immediately following the Civil War to displace the carpetbaggers. And. The movement. About a generation later. Which. This new franchise the negro. In the south. They were relatively well to do as a state. Prior to the Civil War. And fell to. A position of relative poverty immediately thereafter. And they. Begrudge this quite genuinely. They continue to have the. Lowest per capita income of any state in the country.
There is a. There is probably more suppression. And segregation in Mississippi than in any other state. That can be measured I'm not quite sure how or measure it. But. Was this AP does pride itself on. A higher degree of suppression and segregation of the states. It has been. Attacked. Since the spring. By forces from the other community a community that. Integration. Beginning with the Freedom Rides. And. I just wanted to. Go through the historical sequence that that leads up to the present time.
Beginning with this summer I should say first of all that. Mississippi. Has more Negroes. In terms of percentage. Than any other state in the country and it has fewer registered and voting negroes on a percentage basis than any other state in the country. Now. There's a whole series of circumstances the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee which is a South wife. A group that was formed following the city and was formed of a legal route. Under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference at that time as a communications device for dating advice for them. The Southern movement which was then growing out of the sit ins. Well this group continues to exist and headquarter itself in Atlanta. And. For a series of reasons.
The individuals in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee have come to. See voter registration. AS. The kind of issue and the kind of goal. That now is not only. Possible. But also very desirable in many areas of the South in the sort of thing that can complement progress. Violent reaction. So they have divided their staffs. Out of their total staff into direct action voter registration units. And they've established. They established. A pilot project in. Mississippi. This summer on the basis of reports done last summer by Robert Moses who was a. 26 year old negro from Harlem. I was down there.
In the Delta region which is north central north. North of Jackson but in the lower central part of the state. Somewhat. To the west. Well Moses who was in that area last year. I came to conclude along with mogul leader there that nine mile track direction was not the kind of thing that. Was. A genuine possibility here in the rural. Area. Where there are not only no running water. No serious electricity. Or logical system operating but there is just no communication. Well Nover been ization no education none of the kind no no contact. Why is the world beyond the kind of things that give rise in part. To. Iraq that actually. Most of these
people are rural farmers. Well Bob. Moses. Father report was Snick. Was extremely excited about the possibility of registering many of these hate crowds that area by the way it is the area where the citizens councils were born in 1954. Their conception was that by going out on the dirt roads and registering as many of these. Older people as as possible you would establish. The kind of system where negroes could all act and share. Unlike me you are. Could begin to establish the kind of civilised. Basis namely roads OF THE NATION from. Other kind of developments that could leak out. Eventually to more. Decent life. For everyone. Well. Bob went down there.
With the summer. Camp. To begin a project in the delta region. He became depressed. Right away by other by the absence of any facilities and wants to be here voter registration project a voter registration project. Calls for. The kind of facilities where you can have a citizenship school where you can discuss the content of the Mississippi state constitution. All. Of the problems of registration in the state. Where. His. Registrar holds. Considerable. Power. And have a fairly autonomous position. On. All the facilities that are. In the bill. Or not all of the kind. That would allow mess mean. There are so deteriorated. Mom. Was depressed and at this time a series of.
Accidents occurred. Jet magazine. Published a blurb about the project which was supposed to be here. C.C. Bryant who is the. Chairman of the NAACP in Pike County Mississippi which is. Down the southern most areas of the state read the blurb wrote a letter to Bob Moses inviting him to come down and look over the Pike County area. And. He had hopes presumably that voter registration project could begin there as well as an adult region with bottles went down saw that the area was good. Solid facilities were there some other local leadership was willing to cooperate in this kind of enterprise. And so they began a voter registration project. In late July early August. The school finally opened in the McComb Mississippi which is. A center. Right. County.
On our. Pike County. Has about 200 negro negroes registered. And probably housed in the group. In the population group over age 21 and probably probably about 45 percent or Negro. The adjacent county. Mitt. Where the. Voter registration project was to extend. Has dwindled and that's the number of registered negroes from three in 1950 to one. At the present time and he hasn't yet been located. And the adjacent county. Is while thought County. Where there never has been a pro register. Heard. Where the Justice Department. Already has a suit against the
registrar. Charging him with. Systematic discrimination in voter registration. The leaders of three counties where the project was to develop these are all rogue counties. Most like covering farmland. No. Real Arbonne a zation except in the city of McAllen which runs which holds about 13000 people. The rest of it is quite empty. So the school began on August sun. With several members of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Teaching classes. Beginning to. Instill the kind of encouragement. Fact excitement that would lead. A middle aged New York to run the risk of registration. In the area. At risk of cars means that you probably lose your job or you will be beaten or you might. Lynched. Your family might suffer you
might lose your life. Oh. They register several successfully in the first few days. Things went. Fairly quietly if not well. Not. Really with rockabilly. Until. The. Middle of August when Bob Moses was. Arrested on his way back from Liberty which is trying to see ironically enough. Amid how me. He was stopped by several negroes. Who had just attempted to register unsuccessfully and. He was. Arrested by the officer by the marshal. For disturbing an officer. Process. And position or make him run. Essentially it means resisting arrest.
It was parked and he spent a couple of days in jail. On that charge for a half hour. That's why he was stopping the car and why he wanted to know. What the business of the ark was who or what part of that business was and the officer also wanted to know. Whether. Bob Moses was that negro who was registering on niggers. That was the sheriff's language. Well that began that was the first in a series of incidents of. Several incidents six beatings and a murder that have subsequently occurred in the area. And which represent at least the superficial. Horror of the situation in the county at least represent the most sensational. And easily identified points there. First of all our August 20 nights.
On. Moses was taking. Some negroes. To register the registrar's office in liberty and he was approached by a person named Billy Jack Castor. Who is. Part of a whole sack of personal relationships he happens to be the son in law. Of a person who subsequently turns out to be a murderer and also the son of the sheriff was subsequently plays a series of important roles in the rest of this narrative. Oh. Well Mr. Kast I'm stopped the persons including nose and feet noses with a metal instrument. From which Moses. Received stenches charge Mr. KASTE And with assault and battery. Is the first time I stay. In that area at least that a negro can ever. Challenge the white man's
privilege to. Acts. Half fancy. All right we're going to go community. Mr. Kasson was easily acquitted. And Mr. Moses had to leave if he had to leave the court room at the sheriff's advise because he would be mobbed by the group of white men who were in the courtroom a trial two days later. Now at the same time. The younger people in the area that is the people below the bulk of the voting age. Had been exhilarated at the presence of sneck and the presence of the voter registration project and had in fact participated in canvassing. And in making. Tax was the adult community and so forth and they wanted to do something else. They wanted to participate directly. So they took some. Classes or workshops on nonviolent direct action
from the snick representative and. I think August twenty seven thousand twenty eight. And twenty nights. Or at least at the end of August they staged two separate civilians one of the Woolworth and one at the bus station lunch counter a total of five young people. All arrested for breach of the peace and placed in jail. For carrying 30 deg. They were all. Students at Birdland high school. It's just. The West figures later in the story. Then on September. 5th. Well just before September fest the Negro community in the column had a mass medium which is of course the first meeting of that quality in the area with 200 persons attending including many of the. Adults.
With. A significant number of adults and it had maybe the newspaper of the area commented Tarling to the whites to make up immunity it was serious and not just fussier up in the midst of the facts. On September 5th and. Again in a minute county. Another snecked rep by the name of Travis Britt. Brought several persons to the border to the to the registrar's office. Bob Moses was of the company. And Travis was beaten. By one white man who who did all the work himself in the company of a number of others. Just outside the register. Our song sung along. Thomas was beaten. Pretty much. I'm conscious. Bob Moses was not beaten since today three days before he had been in court charging a white man with assault and battery. And had a certain immunity at least at that
time. Travis feeling much more of a target. Not having been involved. Before this. Oh. Well the persons that were are on their way to register obviously didn't register in the excitement. They were told by the whites that. They should come back and the whites were quite surprised that. These I met County negroes were associated. With those kind of groups from outside. And on September 7th. In Walsall County John Hardy another Schneck representative. Brought. Some more persons down to the registrar's office. Registrars name is John Wood. He's a gentleman who is involved in the suit that was brought by the justice. But which alleges that he was systematically discriminated. In voter registration in the area. Where he told the neighbor also entered the registrar's office. That he
would not. Deal with them until the soup was over because he was already involved. In the. Rescue. And they didn't think that that was an adequate. Explanation. Of a civic official and John Hardy entered the room from the hallway to inquire. As to the precise. Reason why the registrar would not deal with these when they grow citizens of the county. Where he was charged by the registrar was smelled like. It. Was coming in from the outside. Was interfering and the registrar Mr Ward. Took. His pistol out of his desk. And approached John Hardy who had turned around as hard as my eye was the office. And left him over the head. With a. Pistol. And. John Hardy continued out of the office. To the straight. And staggered about a block.
Where he had decided that he would see the sheriff. I didn't know if you had pressed charges but this was an important because the sheriff did find him at about the same time. The sheriff told in the end how long he would be Mr. Harding within an inch of Mr. Hardy's lie. So Mr. Hardy my heart beat already already beat us to. The fire. And spent and they had a county jail. Oh charged with inciting a riot. I think that the charge is inciting a riot or a breach of the peace by raising these breaches of peace for having entered this registrar's office to fire. On the subject of being beaten over the head with a gun. Let that case has not come to the courts here just as far as her brain is attempting to prevent a trial. On the grounds that. To hold a trial would be to violate the civil rights act because of what intimidate me grows from you attempting to register in the county because
it's such a trumped up charge. All so that that case is before a federal job you know south of the moment. My governor believed. That was September 7th. So at this point you have these five young people in jail. You have the serious between. The voter registration school trying to reconstruct itself in the three counties. Which by now are considerably worried. Yeah but still willing to go on. The high school students are by and large are made quite militant. Then September 20. The most serious and painful incentive I think of all. Occurred. Not was the murder of. 52 year old negro Chinaman. I've never heard a lady. Who was a farmer in the county.
And Mr Lane had been active in the NAACP in that area. In fact several years ago I had filed charges against the sheriff who had confiscated the NAACP records requests. And the suit was successful I got the records back but it did. Force Mr. Levy. To publicly. Go on the record against the sheriff. When Bob Moses came to the area of snow camp there and Mr. Lay was extremely co-operative. Had contacts arranged meetings drove around the countryside with Bob. I did everything that he reasonably thought. For. The short time that. He was alive while the project was going on. The other person in the US in the situation as a filmmaker Eugene Hearst who was a representative for the state of Mississippi. From that district to the
state legislature. Mr. Hearst had known Mr. Wade for a considerable amount of time and had in fact helped Lee's brother buy some land in Louisiana and had also helped to really buy land from the white man which means that your reduction. Cost. Because the leased land would have been another thousand dollars. MIKE HIRST acting as the middleman the total was reduced to $7000. And the agreement as we understand it was that. After Mr. Lay paid off the $7000 he would tell Mr. Hurst. About $500. For his service and acting as. As a middleman reducing the price of the way. Home. Well that morning of September 21st he was delayed it paid off about sixty five hundred of the 7000 and had. Two hundred a year $300 in his.
Overalls pocket. He put it. Talking with balance of liberty must separate. Genders. And he went down Mr. Hurst public and as he got to the. Place where he would do the journey Mr Lee stopped his truck. With her stopped his truck. Mr. Hurst got out. And the story is somewhat obscure but from the putting together the witnesses accounts apparently there was a discussion. With Mr Carr standing in the road. Mr. Leader remaining in the cab of his truck. Mr. Hurst holding the 38 in his hand. And charging that Mr. Lee had a tire tool in his hand while he sat. Kept. The truck. They're currently argued. Something about money. Whatever the nature of their argument was Mr. Hearst. Agreed to put his gun
inside his pants. You know. Dropped from his head. Like he did so I literally started to get out going across the sea to the right side of the truck got on the ground and as he did so Mr Hurst circled around the truck. And pulled out his gun. With his face in a box. Well closer than I am to that gentleman there against the wall. And. The witnesses that. We know of. Saw that Mr. Hurst. Told Mr. Lee. He had a chance to use that tire tool. Did not going to get another chance. We're too done with motions. Made by Mr. Hurst one second one. Is thirty one pot. And the boat star. Lady in the brain. You know the instant plane for. Mr. Hearst went to the place where legend Card talked briefly when outsell share
of replay was never booked. Never charged with anything. A coroner's jury. Decided a short time afterward that. The killing was in self-defense and that it was. Justifiable homicide. Mr. Liddy. Remained on the ground. For two hours before he was taken by Negroes to a negro. Doctor. In the next county. Mr Hurst a subsequent lay. Told The New York Times that he. Had run around the track because he didn't have no rabbit in you want a fridge and he said he hit Mr. Lay it over the head with his gun. And must have unconsciously pull trigger. There is no doubt. That there were no power marks on Mr. Lee's head. Is no doubt that the negro witnesses who were not caught before that
coroner's jury. Point. To people were so far apart that Mr. Hurst could never reach him with a gun. Pappas throw the gun at his head. To make. It you know. Well Mr. Hurst remands A. Representative. Constitutional Democracy in Mississippi. Mr.. Mr. Leahy buried his family. Which comprises a wife and 10 children. Continue to live out. In the mid County. About a week later. The other side. And when out advertising. A new median of. Pike County nonviolent movement. High school kids will sign said I mean with me. For. The family a wife and 10 children of
Mr her late and I collected some Hey you know I was at that meeting and they made the point. That unless negroes registered there would be no means of removing the kind of corrupt law enforcement officials and political system. That I don't like tolerance but Jenna much is the kind of murders that can go on consistently in those coming years. Well at that time. There was another pretty much one spoke of or not of public but a private decision on the part of many of the high school students at Birdland. And they would not go back to high school. Unless their school mates who were just getting out of jail for those on the sit in charge. Were also re-admitted. This was in early October. The 2nd of October. Now at about this point. The.
Sneck. Staff was scheduled to meet and would come home. At this point Mr sounder went down and I think he probably should continue the narrative. To tell you about the March and October 4th. I'm not. Buying a gun. And at present I'm a legal secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Just take a break about my job. That explains the reason I was in my home that night. My job is to visit. College campuses in the south. Primarily white college campuses. To speak with lives do. And form what is going on in snake and what is going on in the whole movement. So. Part of my job is to attend all the meetings obvious Nic. To be in on the planning sessions several so that I don't know what's going on.
I was in Atlanta on. Tuesday October the 3rd. And that night I called my home. They tell me of a meeting that will be held the next day October 0. Also told me that there was a big there was going to be a mass meeting that night. And the students who were just getting out of jail would be speaking. And they said We feel that something is going to happen. So the next morning when I got back. Got there about 8:45 the next morning heavy. We have lined up. About four o'clock that morning. When I got back. They were gathering in the. Above the grocery store where I am where they met. In the negro Masonic Temple. And this time. Tell me about the meeting that had. Happened the night before. They said they were how the students who were guest count getting out of jail had told about their experience. And how some spirit had
really moved in that need and have the adults. And had definitely stated that they were. Kids. Whatever they did that their children must not want to think that they would never have got support. So when I got there. They told me that Brenda Travis and I were as were going to ask to read minutes to the school that day. And they also tell me that if they were not be admitted they felt sure they'd be a walkout or some demonstration or part of the student was. About ten o'clock. His friend Travis came in. To the meeting and I met her for the first time. And incidentally. Next Tuesday our face trial and call for having contributed to the delinquency of this girl. She informed the group their ethnic community that she was going to the campus and asked the principal to hand out her self and I could see
if I could come back to school. It was rumored that they would not be allowed back in school. So. Some of the students that was what number a group of five. Began work on the state. Of the studious suburban high school. That they didn't use him. They did demonstrate in Down Town Hall which had already been mentioned but often they would have some sort of demonstration in downtown homes of their demonstrating against the refusal of the darkness to readmit as Jews and also to point up the necessity of voter registration and I want you to do away with this with this whole system of our white people being able to say. This must happen and so it happened. So that they would have some lever some some way of making that pressure well. So I want to be groups that about two million grants they might have a
good cause and plan to get some poster paper far out to paint the signs. That they would use in the march. How much people downtown about how it takes me about I know it's not a bad light. By the. Way. We intended to wear in about 12:30 and Brenda left for the school. We took a little break here move along like Brad Banks. And his people and it is not a. Month now. About one o'clock it was about 1:30 we were seeing where that something over a hundred students had walked out of school. Now we have a chaplain service at my cock and I was from the walk out to be. Here. They want to hear. How we heard the banks trains and we shall overcome. And we looked down from one of the and down the street comes the. Glorious. Message I call Mississippi. So they all came streaming
up to me. Up to the. Meeting. There goes we were very surprised at that long task. And now. With a sweet sound of chairs falling and I doubt I'll get a chance and then the student leaders themselves called a group to order. The president of the student body was there about three of the class pressed. Him to his face. And walk out. They called the group together. And they are. They. One of the girls made a statement. That the president soon but I did. Thing about why I have done. That. Too long. They have. Capitulated and I have been knocked down. The man Jan. Said we have left that all comes to nothing. And we are not going to go back. And say yeah yeah I'll not go back and read his answer. They also hear a student leave that spot. Really and write back that if anyone want to believe that I don't know. That you
better go here you can always stay with us please. Oh no we're not going to be going downtown. OK well we've got to get some system for the. Student leaders invited some of the stand ups next to to talk about situation. Well the first speaker. Got him serious. Got. Got the attention of the students. And began to talk about the gravity of the step. They were tight. And asking did they realize the depth they would take with not only committing himself but was committing their parents. He said you know that your parents are going to be firing. Tomorrow the next day. So you can expect this. You can expect to be jailed.
You can expect to be spit upon. Maybe. So they were pretty serious about this. And he said down. What will you do something special. When you know something comes up. Slack. Will you be able to accept a past click. To see things any way. Into the person is lacking here is going. To damage you can do that. So. I am going up very slowly with. This yes yes. They were they were thinking about. And slowly going. Along. The majority of the handle right but there was still a good number. I didn't know. If you could I think about it. And then I'm not a member of sneck boat and he played the role of Yeti. He said I think Mark and his group down to go back to the fifth danger do. What. You've done. This. Tremendous thing you have to be committed. This Thing. That I'd like to commit I'd
like. To break this good man said if you know you don't think you can you can carry this through right so please leave. Now that's good then about knowing. THE WAY THERE WERE found a new. Time. Zone. And then the student soon took over again and they. Tried to better read the statement that had been prepared by the looks mob to the hope of a doctor this is their state. They are. Asked. What they would like to do. And someone suggested that they walk to Magnolia Mississippi. Town about seven miles. Come. Back now is the can I seek out I can. Be counted. So they were marched to. MAGNO said he has missed the marks and I got to run for power too by. Going to. As they were going to walk. I'm going through my home obeying all traffic signals. Being heartily. While. Well through my home and
all the way to Magnolia. Yeah right. On the steps of the county seat. So they begin to. Form out there and all the time house can stand back a back. Back of the room I. Was. Pretty. Well I was in a real position. I was the only white person there in the room. And. The students were saying this. They say. Here is not about here's where our body is. Where is your body. And that they had said this the night before and then some of you said then. I mention these things as best they talk and then. I said. Now. Man you're out credentials. Here's what we gon do what are you gonna say then challenging the members of the committee. Not to read it. But here's what they say how do you use what we're going to hear is I've got. Where's your box that we've heard all along
that everybody is 100 percent behind us. Now who's going to be 100 percent with us. So I. Stand back there. And. No one no one really. Expected me to do anything I won I won but I really do mean I think that I would I just not assuming of course I live I love. When they were hand forming out on the street there on a but. City Hall. I'm their son. Temple. And here they are going downtown to calm their students. This is the first thing is have come they are doing something which i believe me. I feel sick to every student about going to. The enforcement here just to watch the weather so I got another. And I'm John Guy and simply walked up to colonise who would like to work with me just by saying in advance so I'm back man. Way back in the crowd I was right to my place and I. Was. Why not downtown
account. And I live a little nervous at first but. It was a very. Beautiful day. And Sun. Shining. Brighter. Thing. And carry things nice and warm and quiet so we walked on pretty good mood and barking through the negro district again. And. People. Marching. And the start of the beginning to come to the front the stores and as I hope it is a new look on their face they've never seen this happen in a sit. Down the street here come one hundred fifteen students carrying signs saying get out and register and vote. And we protest. Against the failure to readmit Brant. And I. And so this was this was something new this one woman. We will be marching on Manchin. Running back. And a. Great big new knows no beyond. She saw it and she just drove right over there by asking. Stopping turn on Congress and then probably
going up. And. Down again. I'm glad. This happened in Mississippi. So long. As we got near the downtown area. Students began to get ready for class. And out. Just as we got. Into. The. Downtown area began to get to the edge of it. The first truck car I slowly. Came around by. The aid of placements in my. Car and I was reading. About. You know talking. To me. And I know. For a long it was a couple of more cars. And pick it up all right. But. I never. Know. Right. So. Yes as we just would begin to get into the business section. There was a man that. We were walking on the left hand side of the. Aisle. Good luck on the left hand side what. And this man appeared to be across the street and he was standing just up on the curb and looked like you know you might want to get through but the ground was going right there. So. When I got there.
I motioned to my friends and I just mean with this man threw me down and. I was like get through there. Hell no I'm not recommending. This whole I'm sorry he went on in the family. So we block him back while we got into the downtown area and I had people just completely amazed that no students pass now to stadiums you know and I. Was Like. 13. Throw it down. People are frightened. And people are coming to the area of the front of the stores I could look back in the store. Nobody everybody was out front there. That's every week. And you know small groups forming on street corners and I noticed some of the man later on street corners further than. Some of the same man. But. We were approaching the city hall and rocking on the sidewalk and there was a row that went off like this. And in the angle there was a service station. And within time parking here and we walked right has
great big. Black bears drove slowly and then. To him back steps it up. And go right up to the line and we stop we got the one get through the snow and we got him and jumped out of a person walked up to about five or six men that were standing in front of the service station and said loud said. That I. Was hers because my toes come around you made it a little bit. I was a little disconcerting to read it with the wrong hand cried. The young. Lady Holli past the City Hall required by the standard that the street was just it was just bumper to bumper with cars going by everybody come by and come back around the block to give us time and there were so Frances Marsac place and so forth. And we walk right past the city hall and on up the road toward Magnolia. Well just we got passes there on the first three.
I saw this man that I had often left through the. Line. Here again in his car this time. We were crossing the street. We were on the right hand side of us and we were right. Straight He had a red light one was carved like that. And stuff and then you then you just sped off and crashed you go on. With his car. Tipping around over some steam. And it's just a miracle he did I guess. And. Credit is gone like this and ran. Kurt stopped. And he jumped out of the Great Being ranting saying. It was a cow no man you could remember back when. He was doing better. Good. To hear is China trying to help the students. And they were modest. They sum up on a couple of pounds. And then ran back you know. But I have found a scam swung out this way is my why are around kept on going. Well you just might do that. Chairman back or maybe. I was taking pictures has cameras take pictures of the column of people in the caucus day arms. But when he saw standing running around the ransom came up to take pictures and a man started
attacking him and so he just backing up taking pictures. Man from his. Family was attending. The. Event minus one and. Just missed the end he glanced up to show it in her van and then the man got back in the car. About that point my. Mind. Part of the line got there he said his car trying to get it right and he looked at me. Says I just try to run over you. We all run away if I get this thing started. Happening. I think I think you are. I am a dead battery Reverend. Run Walk on married out to him come. Back knowledge. And evidently the students have been running a line decided not to continue to Magno. At this point I was about to off or by afternoon. And I guess they thought that that would be bad to get out and that my nightcap just. Wouldn't bend yet. So they decided to go around the walk back through town without signs again back to
the sign temple when we started back. Out. On the other side of the street. I go along and we kind of. Try out in the residential area there not too many people that people come back and cars but one man people stand around the stuff. And it was a beautiful day to walk on. We began to talk to each other. And I was holding a Bible that was. On the right I was walking with people running errands. Bancroft carrying messages like assholes back walked on talking. To the students and all the sudden I heard somebody bell my name. And. First off say I never expected see anybody coming that I knew I had no home. And I looked down at the end of the street. That is why I'm going out and about I don't want to forward. And hopes goodbye. I'm. Running in college and one government out. And here I am walking I was doing some accounting you'd like to drive up there and live in Baghdad where the car shake his
fist that. Sound. Designer. That's right guy but you know you. Got that. Yes but you do I get you. So this was very surprising to me on. The expense of the man I knew and I thank God say as a fellow brother I don't. Really I mean we continued on up the street going to see how well we got to the main street before the City Hall I recrossed the street with the intention of walking past city hall again out so the column started past city hall and got to Alabama. The property. And the sidewalk was blocked by about eight or ten white men standing shoulder to shoulder. Bam. Got a policeman. And car park going up again going up to the curb. And so. Really the kind of Baba and I wait it out. So we stopped. And one of the students up at the front line about that might be a good time. I love the Lord in prayer. So he stood out on the mound steps
out of the courthouse and asked if we would. Be going to send prayers. And so he begins right. Now I was watching my mom see what was happening I was right next to me but I was watching and this policeman now are there policing all the steps this time we came on Clinton technology although he looked lazy. Please we said something and he went back for it. And right place and get him back on to consider how. So announced Tuesday that Muzak signed by us. And him again for. His name came up. With. The right way sometimes behind me. Not standing still enough to handle bright vision took him to the hot nasty and bass down place was taken when you come back again and I'm looking. And nothing that was gonna be a long process because our. Band are doing while this reset your playing and you're going to rest. I'll stand back there about the middle. Of my home. And.
Right across the street there be frustrating around. Whining across street just about I think. I've just. Been granted I get. Closure to. All of that. Just. Stand. Back stand up in a way or sell me I'm behind me a bit to my left. And I. Was I was. Looking at students and I will. Acknowledge. But. His name he. Was very ill clad in about two days stuck with. Beer. And porcelain He's about six inches from my face. To stand like that. Well after about seven or eight of the students were arrested individually have it down to the police are the homecoming to the city how. Risk. Is our town so the column started moving. And. As the dead man started closing in on me. Well Bob Moses. I don't mind there's some concern about him being. A bomb houses. And Chapman did type stuff and pictures he gave his camera somebody and well it was the
more I've been walking with him and skim to see if he can get out of the crowd back to the. Sinai temple. And then he came over to try to help me. And. Bob Moses came up. And I have stood between me and these hand. And Chuck. I'm standing. With. Him. They're hanging around by this time. And. About Tell me about the showers and just kind of steered me through the. River. And. That's probably reached the. Bottom of the bottom of the steps and the police chief. And I were. Driving to my right on and we continue our step right in this moment. Two policemen in this big burly policeman the first one in my old car. Came away and grabbed Bob. And I'm going to grab Chuck and haul him into the city hall. Being with. Those black jacks. And that left me exposed about oh eight or ten my time trying to get home. By this time. I was right steps and there was a metal rail coming down the steps and I wish she was standing between me and the right over my right arm. Well.
Unbalanced hand. Man again. Getting hauled out. Got. Lost there. Crossrail have a hard time ever on my leg and it will get me how I got back. I was just my back was turned to the top of the steps time back. A step to. Reach that point. And there seems it's time to get home in the meantime will be on the rail back down into the. Crowd. This man. Ever stand on top platform reached Oh my here. And climb down here like this and started. Yeah I'm. Just. Plowing the Springdale way down the. And. Pushing me down all this time. And. There was. Hard to realize that was ahead of me. How I found out. I was. Just calling I was frantic. And so I. Fell down the steps and I was holding on to the rail rather not about having. Been there. And I was slowly trying to get to the top of the steps and get into the city how
and so when I when the banks got above they are about the platform. But. The top step. This man. Back is getting footballing wearing. Khaki pants and Britney broke and just kicked me in the face was in my face got good news on GM and you know the neck and then just. The next thing I knew I was going and I was being ushered into the police chief's office. Well during this time these two policemen are still. Reading. Robert Moses and Chuck and I saw thrown against the wall while down like this on the bench there and just thrown against a wall and field and then it was now used to. Say that nice. Young Thing. And then I'm going on the bishops eye first and he said it sounds like you have their home let's just designate a cabbie a kid. And so I ask where is that when you want to do. And he said well you deserve a lot of that. And so you know this game some indication
about their willingness to protect himself for things I never say. And not. Just on. But then he left it in time why didn't you stay there and left and I. Made sure that I was when I heard bandits and scratched. My. Eye color hair. And. Back was tan the door was opening. And. There were about five or six faces there and I know now looking at me and I didn't come inside. You know our with man. And I'm upset. I've seen him in a strange if you meet those range and. He's up next time it was the right move to another state restaurant. And then they came back again and. Told me that they were gonna take me to mangle the. Better. Parent jail. Oh my God only. That bell until I made a phone call. Problem is my no where white guys hours were about maybe just you know it was me out you know when so you just go in. And.
Then say well we put up a good fight but they got away from seeing him. I was really worried about that. I was scared. And now all this time the other students are being processed down there. Yes. They. Had I mean the hind they. Are. Getting their stuff and then put them in jail. Well I. Took. Command of the jail. And I. Believe they're about today got on 300 on. Me. Well it is like you know for the most I don't. Care that there isn't a heck of a lot more say I went down. After that weekend. I'm because I was concerned about. The. Liability of the health of the probability or possibility that someone would be lynched. The absence of news coverage. Of the failure of the.
Police to protect. People that they have taken the responsibility of arresting. Oh. Well so I went down with a friend. And as a writer I would. Not if I become. A public advocate and simply as a writer attempting to find out what the whites thought of what the situation was and try to get some information. And. We got done about the time when the. About three days after Bob but let out of jail. About the time that students were being. Readmitted to the high school the students that demonstrated they were they were to be re-admitted on the grounds. If they would sell an eye. And an affidavit which claimed the date of which which acknowledged that they would no longer
demonstrate even if they didn't demonstrate they know that they would be thrown out of school. In the same the. Majority of those were demonstrated. On October 4th decided that they would go back to school. Saturday the con side. And takes the consequences one of those consequences for me. Well we got down there on the Monday and talked to the editor of the paper and the chief police. City Clerk. That night we found their way through the underground talk with Mick Doohan nose and the others people. Just means going to a. Dark gas station to turn off the lights and wait until someone gets in the back of your car lies on the floor tells you where I go. People are with. Me and we talked for a couple of hours with my sneakers. Then the following day. The. Chief guy who had been.
Relatively cordial to us. On the preceding day. Was not present but. Apparently had some information about us that he could only have obtained by. Listening to our phone conversations. And there's so much evidence that someone was last recessions that I don't think it's necessary to go into it at any rate. We have arrived that second day in the morning at the school to see the kids arrive. At the school to present their own sign affidavits and march out. Down to the Messiah temple which is still in the Negro section of my home. They went upstairs. And we in our car of 12 police with us. Arrived at the Masonic Temple to wait outside to see what was going to happen. And we were. We were not able to. To stand in the midst of the
white reporters who were there from Jackson. I don't care and there they were cool to us for some reason. And apparently whatever that reason was it was received from the police and substantiated by the police. And they continued to. Remain in the company are. Out. Then a couple of times that morning we saw but. You know the curtain was up for us and we would not be able to wait to tell the students camp made their decision came out of the high school which was our satchel reason being there. Simply because we were intimidated by. Several persons one of them a white man who was fairly light. Ours was also in the company of the place. And joked with them and sat in their cars followed us around the plane was carrying with me. And I was not with the police. The other white men were unidentified except for the sheriff and most of them just drove by and stopped their cars and stared at us for a while but asked what.
Whether or not we. Could do something for the insane. So we waited for you know our son stories and still mean to get that information out. And not get into any. Kind of the squabble with the white community that would cut us off. And child make do with Perry on a budget and I was sorry to have bored not a good morning to the police. I'll. Go with. It. Period with him but have no basis for us. At the moment. Especially. Tired of prison. Reporters. Pressed. Why he was arrested. You're going to space. Yeah here's the alibi he was out on by having been arrested the same station I was arrested. Well came lunchtime the students decided they would go home. For lunch to return to school to these sound like and trying to solicit more students to come on out. And use the march time Tower just outside cause I hate it.
So we went back to our hotel and returned after lunch. To the high school as we pulled up to the high school the students were beginning to march out. Sunny day. Lovely day. 12 police. One representative of the state's hour to question. Ourselves. About my new student. What happened. What happened subsequently. I always have to say this time I described. Not for anyone senselessly not because I thought that you know that I was involved in something marvelous but that. For this I discovered for the sake of. Our further understanding the machinations of. The state of Mississippi. We were sitting in our current sect. This came over and asked us what our business was and we told them that we were writers. They said that it was funny that
writers would stay all day in their car how will we get our information and we said the. First guy I said was hot outside we had an air conditioner in the car and second place. Several people aboard helped me place him dated us at a time when we were most interested in observing what was going on. Then it Charlotte was not having adequate identity. And went over to the motorcycle where there was a small radio and top city hall. Briefly he said something about might as well do it now return to our car and said Well you'd better come down the city ourselves to get. Yourself more adequately identified. Well. Here we were and he said are. Right. Oh. Please. Escort us as we don't go away which we sincerely did. I said well no you and I somehow or another we're going this and I will stay close enough to hard and save America. Fine I said All right we'll do that in the meantime we roll the windows
down. To converse with. These officers and one of them had been. Playing with a lock of the door as we recalled later. So off we went to City Hall. And we drove down streets of New York community. And the families that Bob described were out. Watching the kids holding brooms in their hand. Holding whatever. Instruments are used in one's daily chores in their hand. Watching. Kind of smiling. Kids who are having a grand time. They were not going to march down town they were simply going to march around the Negro community. They were enjoyed spreading rumors about how they're going to march to the white school which I'm back I said five places to the white school. Carelessness. Well we do know. That. In the course of our drivers necessary
parallel. The students. And we slow down the light. I happened to be. Out. And looked in the rearview mirror and told my friend the place had turned off three blocks back two blocks back. And I couldn't understand why. I had stopped the car the red light as I. Turned my head from the rearview mirror. And the rest in the general panorama. The presence of a. Low. White gentleman with Levis. Open the door. Was locked. Just about as fast as I could tell my friend that he was out in the dark. And he put he pulled my friend the street. And commenced to bid you. Know. And I turned on the emergency brake. Watch very carefully. And the students
continued their march there were about 20 feet away on the other side of the street. They were all watching. They never stopped and never broke that line. And the car behind his head was very. Jump starting to start taking pictures of this classic beginning. About. Close enough to throw the body but just took pictures. So I waited. Until. The end of mid similar train which. Lasted about. Two or three minutes. The students never broke or never broke their line. Even when I got on my feet. They were watching what they were they continued to march and then the police arrived. Having done whatever errand and had turned off three blocks back home right now
after what's happened here I said that some ministers between tours. Were. Going. In and the mess the motion. I sort of stereotypical white man was screaming that my friend I had been drunk for the fun of the current street were beating each other. Trying. Claim that. We are trying to blame the whites. Which we helped her as some distinction between us between us and the white. Man. In the commotion a person. A person who might. Have come to trust and who can I can't identify because that's the Geishas that are going to. Appear in the crowd whispered to me that. We had to get out of my motel that night. Or we would be taken. Now we have. This kind of
information and. One where we were living to hear that we would be taken that night from our hotel but only half. From the police. Or could only have come via the police and could only have been tainted by a phone system. Or by. A system so interlock. That the owner of every motel and every public accommodation is a continuous Thompson army it was the police. It was asylum or decommission and there by the Administrative Office of the state of Mississippi. Beyond that there remains the question of how. And at the moment we stopped at a red light with Mississippi license plates in the city of Mukalla no man standing in the corner happened come to my door while the police had just turned up three blocks behind us. And how that man disappeared just at the moment that the police arrived while several other white persons were standing there doing witness to
our having fallen out of the car to beat each other. Matters. I will go in in any detail. And I think the story is clear at least from my perspective the idea of intimidation. The process of intimidation. Only kids then go back to school. We had to leave the area we were scheduled to leave that day anyway when we were questioned by the scientific commission representative who said that had he power. Our. Power. He probably would arrest us for vagrancy as we have been in the state for two days without business that was. The monster box. And we said that. If you really need to identify him some find our business we will be glad to call the FBI. He conferred with the police in the side of the back of a wife's car so we were released.
You know and here we are in North Carolina. So here are those kids. Now going to Campbell junior college. Which is a combination of boarding school. High School Junior College in Jackson. And more serious yet. People continue. To operate the voter registration school. In the. Home. And Liberty and Walsall County. And they are about to get out. We may have all taken Bob's remarks. Are. Somewhat humorous like process the only way we can discuss a lot of the things that we almost go through. I don't. Know. I think at the same time we all probably know.
The Bible as a white person has. More trouble with unity. Than most persons would like to consider themselves being here. And that doesn't. Like the fact that he will be in Tuesday and McCollum and leave to the tonight I would hope. Does not render any last serious condition of the negro. So after all started it. Will remain there. Until. The time that. Their job is done. I think we all know what the nature of that job is and how long it will be in the doing. Like how did that. Come up. There. Will be. Less so. I guess.
- Children of McComb
- Producing Organization
- KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
- Contributing Organization
- Pacifica Radio Archives (North Hollywood, California)
- AAPB ID
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- A talk with Tom Hayden and Robert Zellner, field secretaries of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), given on October 27, 1961, under the auspices of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), to the Durham Youth and College Chapters of the NAACP in Durham, North Carolina. Hayden and Zellner discuss their experiences at the student protest in McComb, Mississippi, earlier that month. The students protested because fifteen-year-old Brenda Travis, a McComb student, was sent to reform school after she was arrested for requesting service at a Greyhound Bus lunch counter. More than 100 of her schoolmates had to leave their homes and go to school elsewhere because they demonstrated on her behalf. In the talk, Zellner, the only white person marching, describes his participation in the protest, during which he was brutally beaten and arrested. Hayden relates the voter registration efforts of Bob Moses, director of SNCCs Mississippi project, in the Delta region of the state, and violence against African American activists in Pike and Amite counties, including the murder of Herbert Lee, a farmer and NAACP member. Hayden also discusses his own experiences as a writer trying to investigate the McComb student protest. Although the McComb movement, historian Charles M. Payne has written, has been viewed as a defeat, SNCC organizers learned from the movement how receptive young people were to their efforts. The Mississippi movement would be built largely around these home-grown organizers, Payne concluded. Historian John Dittmer noted that the events in McComb also taught SNCC that Simply attempting to register [voters] could bring on the wrath of the mob, a lesson it applied elsewhere in the Mississippi. An introduction to the broadcast by Elsa Knight Thompson tells the story of the provenance of this recording. Hayden, a former editor of a college daily in Michigan, had become acquainted with Pacifica Radio station KPFA in Berkeley during a visit to the Bay Area in 1960. He sent the recording of this talk to KPFA, knowing it was one of the few news outlets that would find it important to share with its audience. For information on the McComb movement, see Charles M. Payne, Ive Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995) and John Dittmer, Local People: The Struggle for Civil Rights in Mississippi (Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press, 1994).
- Event Coverage
- Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (U.S.); McComb (Miss.); Southern Christian Leadership Conference; National Association for the Advancement of Colored People; Hayden, Tom; Zellner, Bob; African Americans--Civil rights--History
- Media type
Interviewer: Thompson, Elsa Knight
Producing Organization: KPFA (Radio station : Berkeley, Calif.)
Speaker: Hayden, Tom
Speaker: Zellner, Robert
- AAPB Contributor Holdings
Pacifica Radio Archives
Identifier: 2026_D01 (Pacifica Radio Archives)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Pacifica Radio Archives
Identifier: PRA_AAPP_BB0225_Children_of_McComb (Filename)
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- Chicago: “Children of McComb,” 1962-02-12, Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed January 27, 2021, http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-28-sj19k46b34.
- MLA: “Children of McComb.” 1962-02-12. Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. January 27, 2021. <http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-28-sj19k46b34>.
- APA: Children of McComb. Boston, MA: Pacifica Radio Archives, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from http://americanarchive.org/catalog/cpb-aacip-28-sj19k46b34