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[typescript enclosed with [July 11] letter to “Dear kids” page 1]
507 Mobile St.
July 10, 1964 To the Editor of the Gazette:
This morning three of our workers were beaten while canvassing for voter registration on the border of one of the Negro districts. Their sole job is to talk to Negroes throughout the town and persuade them to go to the courthouse and attempt to register to vote. One of the canvassers, a rabbi from Cleveland, will be in the hospital for 24 hours; the other two, college students, were treated and released. The attackers, who have not yet been identified, used lead pipes; they drove a truck with no license plates. After the attack the three canvassers, covered with blood, staggered to a nearby church which we are using as a Freedom School. For the kids in school, it was, I suppose, the best possible lesson of the cost of Negro equality in Mississippi.
Until today, Hattiesburg has been, for us whites, a relatively quiet and seemingly secure town. The night before our arrival, two weeks ago Sunday, two empty cars parked outside the COFO office were shot into and the motors slightly damaged; no one has been arrested for that either.
But otherwise nothing really startling has occurred. Two days ago, the head of the Ministers’ project was arrested for passing a bad check. He had balanced his account wrong, and wrote a check he couldn’t cover. It would be a minor incident in the north (the bank would cover it of course) but civil rights workers in Mississippi are not allowed to make any mistakes. The law here says that a check that bounces is prima facie evidence of intent to defraud; the defendant must prove that his intentions were honorable. Our lawyer says that it will be a tough case to argue before a Mississippi jury.
This kind of lapse is a sign of how loose things have been here. I found myself speeding one day, and had to remind myself that the three men missing in Neshoba were speeding too. But we have had so little trouble from the police and the white community that we tend to forget where we are. Hattiesburg is a relatively good town by Mississippi standards, and the lid, we are given to understand, is really on this summer. This town is very image-conscious. One of the volunteers was stopped for a traffic violation yesterday, but when he produced a press card (from his college newspaper) the cop apologized and let him go.
Hattiesburg has a population of about 36,000, one-third Negro. The white sections are indistinguishable from hundreds of towns throughout the country: there is nothing “southern” about them. The Negro sections are something else. They are slums, but nothing like the urban slums the North is used to. The streets are generally unpaved, there is an absence of street lights, traffic lights, and no sewers at all. No signs, no bells, no gates guard the numerous railroad crossings. Almost every house has a few chickens; we are awakened daily by crowing roosters. Virtually no one has a car. We live in comparative luxury in a house with running water, plumbing and a phone; the more rural areas just outside of town lack even these comforts. Economic discrimination against Negroes is incredible in this state. We were told that there are generally different pay scales for Negroes doing the same jobs as whites; in fact, whites will get as much as three times the pay for the same work. (The Citizens’ Council wants to drive all the Negroes out of the state. What they will do without them, I can’t imagine.) The man