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October 4, 1961  go to audio
High School Students Jailed in McComb


One hundred sixteen high school students were sent to jail for participating in a protest march. While the march proceeded, one white SNCC worker, Bob Zellner, endured a savage beating by members of an angry mob of several hundred whites. According to Local People, the beating transpired "while police stood idly by and FBI agents on the scene took notes."

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                                                                                                                               Total time: 1 minute, 29 seconds

It was a bad place to be. When I got in jail the first time I had never seen the inside of a jail. They transferred us—for example, the first time, when they arrested us at the city jail and put us in there for a couple of days, maybe three days, my first time ever seeing inside of a jail. They attempted to set us up with a white woman that was supposed to have been drunk, which I think they were attempting to set us up to charge us with raping the lady. They moved us from the city jail to the county jail. The first day in moving us from the city to the county, they put us in the drunk tank with folks that were drunk. You had vomit, feces, and everything else all over the place. There were no bunks and no beds, all we had was a steel, I mean, was a concrete slab. And in many cases, it was so nasty that you couldn't—you had to pick your spot even in terms of where to sit. Then, after a day, they brought us up and put us into regular cells. For me at that time the food was extremely bad. They'd mix all of your food together. It had no season in it, anything like that. At one time, I got to the point, because of my depletion of salt in my system, I would give a whole lunch for four slices of light bread, just to be able to get that salt that is in the bread. So it was not a comfortable place to be, constantly attempting to play mind games on you, which they perceived to be mind games.


-- Hollis Watkins, a native of Summit, Mississippi, and one of the first young people to be recruited by Bob Moses, was a SNCC and COFO worker who organized and led voter registration drives in several Mississippi counties. In 1961, Watkins also participated in the McComb Woolworth sit-ins.