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Wed (July 29, 1964) [Hattiesburg, Mississippi] [typescript page 1]
Dear Mom and Dad,
To clue you in further about our surroundings, as you request in your letter received today. Our host family is pretty well to do, as things go around here. He is a barber and she is a midwife. They have a five room house not far from the [COFO] office, and, as you know, across the street from the [True Light Baptist] church that Nancy teaches at. I haven’t been able to tell yet how many kids live there but I think only two, their granddaughters. (Nancy knows more about this than I do.) Anyway there are dozens of kids associated with the place. Their oldest granddaughter goes to a private school outside of Jackson; she is home for the summer, but we have her room; she sleeps in the den on a sofa. Two other summer workers have the main bedroom; our hosts sleep on a roll-away in the dining room.
The house is reasonably spacious, but its main flaw is that it’s very hot. Of course there isn’t much privacy, but we manage. And no empty drawers, so we are living from our suitcases.
There isn’t much to do at night but read, and write letters. I can do this either in the office (as now) or at home; the trouble with the office is that there’re bound to be major interruptions every fifteen minutes, especially from people who need rides somewhere. The office is usually a mad house during the day, but calms down at night. We are located in a store, or what probably was a res (the ribbon on the typewriter won’t wind. Typical COFO property). (The other thing about our office is that someone has been very generous with some things, so we have a huge modern mimeo and two copying machines which doubtless cost a fortune and I have never seen anyone use.) Anyway the office has an old-fashioned kitchen so it probably used to be a restaurant. The landlady owns a whole row of real estate and gives us the office rent-free, I think. It has two back rooms, so is pretty sizeable for most purposes.
We go about the town not at all, generally, except
(Two typewriters later) We go to the post office, but otherwise don’t go downtown. We do have to drive through downtown on our way to other parts of the Negro sections, since the Negroes seem pretty much to surround the central town. But you are right in thinking that we live largely a ghetto existence. Just about everything we need we can buy here, so we do. We haven’t been to any movies or anything like that.
There is a place in town where we go for paper, which we use in remarkable quantities. No one seems to know who is supposed to dish out money when people have to buy supplies, but fortunately enough people came loaded with donations to make most of us who need to buy things, independent. Recently we have gotten a few small contributions (unsolicited) from Kalamazoo. The supplies from Teddy will be greatly appreciated.
As for books, here are some: ML King, Stride Toward Freedom, and, Why We Can’t Wait. Louis Lomax, The Negro Revolt. C. Van Woodward, The Strange Career of Jim Crow. Richard Wright, Native Son, and, Black Boy. DuBois, Souls of the Black Folk. Baldwin, you know what (Go Tell it on the Mountain especially). All of these are in paperback, most in cheap (60 cents) or so editions.
Also any biographies of famous or not so famous Negroes that you can find; this is maybe the most important thing. I don’t know what there is like this, but you can think of the Negroes yourself.
As for our library, we have lost hope; we have hundreds of uncataloged books,