Voter Registration Drives  go to audio


With help from organizations like SNCC, CORE, COFO, NAACP, and the Voter Education Project, among others, blacks in Mississippi attempted to exercise their right to vote. Key to these efforts were the elderly people, who according to Hattye Gatson, a civil rights activist from Pickens, Mississippi, "welcomed the civil rights workers in their homes, held meetings in their homes," and stood up to face the situation head on. And that's what brought in so many of the younger families." Although met by extreme violence from Klansmen and law enforcement officials, these individuals persisted. Gatson noted that many people were "afraid of what would happen because of the cross-burnings and shootings", but they made the attempt to participate anyway. Before these activities ended, tens of thousands of Mississippians had risked their lives to bring democracy to the Deep South. While many of these drives brought death to its organizers and supporters, it is true that without them, Mississippi and the country as a whole might still be stuck in a period where equality and justice remain figments of people's imagination.




This is a picture of a voting rights demonstration in McComb, Mississippi, in 1962. McComb was the site of the some of the most violent repression of civil rights. Many churches and houses were bombed. Many people died. One man, Herbert Lee, was shot in cold blood. McComb was also the site of a mass arrest of students.

From the Erle Johnston Papers, McCain Library and Archives, University of Southern Mississippi.
1962 voting rights demonstration in McComb, MIssissippi

audio Click on the play button to hear the following excerpt.      Total time: 39 seconds

Well, in 1964 I kept trying to register, and Theron Lynd was the deputy registrar at that time. His name was Theron Lynd. And he wouldn't let us register no matter what. You'd go up there. They would put some stiff questions to you. And even if you answered them, he still wouldn't let you pass. He'd send you back and make you come back. You'd just go, go, go and couldn't become a registered voter.

Pinkey Hall, a civil rights activist, vol. 676, discussing how Theron Lynd, the registrar of voters for Forrest County, Mississippi, refused to allow blacks to register to vote. When her repeated attempts to register to vote were unsuccessful, Mrs. Hall joined with others in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and attended the 1964 Democratic Convention to, in her words, "show what was happening in the state of Mississippi."



audio Click on the play button to hear the following excerpt.    Total time: 41 seconds

The freedom registration program. And quite often a police car would kind of cruise along the street at two miles an hour while you were walking down the street knocking on doors. Not so much to intimidate us but to intimidate the people we would be talking to. So that we'd knock on the door, the people would come to the door. They'd see the police car out front and say, "What the hell is going on?" and slam the door, right?

--Rims Barber is a native of Chicago, Illinois, who participated in the Freedom Summer project with the National Council of Churches. In 1977, he went to work for the Children's Defense Fund as the Director of the Mississippi Project.