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Aug. 1, 1964, Hattiesburg, Mississippi [typescript page 1]
To the Editor of the [Kalamazoo] Gazette:
Just outside of Hattiesburg, about two miles down the road, there is a rural community called Palmer’s Crossing. Presumably there is a creek nearby; I have not seen it. The community itself consists of a cluster of stores, a school, two churches, and perhaps 100 ramshackle houses. In one direction there is a sawmill; in another, a few small farms. The store are all owned by whites, but Palmer’s Crossing is a predominately, though not exclusively, Negro community.
The school is called the Earl Travillion Attendance Center. It is for Negroes; in fact, it is the only Negro school in Forrest County, outside of those in the city of Hattiesburg itself. All grades, from first to twelfth, are housed here. In 1957, the county closed down the many one-room schoolhouses provided for Negroes, and consolidated all the schools in a single building. Any Negro child, any age, who wants to go to school from rural Forrest County must come here. A large fleet of buses brings the children from over 30 miles away.
This is the logic of a segregated school system. First you repeal the compulsory education law (Mississippi is the only state that has done this). Then you close down the schools and make children travel hours by bus. On this basis you justify having only one school because of the small number of Negroes who want an education. And then for dessert you point out that in Forrest County the Negroes have a brand new school house! (White kids in Palmer’s Crossing are bused somewhere else to school. But there are plenty of white schools in the county.)
The Summer Project has two Freedom Schools in Palmer’s Crossing, at each of the two churches. We hold classes in the morning and evening. The two schools have nine teachers. Although Mississippi newspapers pretend that all the summer volunteers are "beatniks and weirdos" (this is an actual quote from the Governor on TV), the teachers at Palmer’s Crossing are mostly professionals. We have only one person who has not yet completed college. One teacher has just graduated, one is now in graduate school. A fourth is a housewife, and the other five, including myself, are all teachers by profession. Two New Yorkers teach slum children in Harlem, and like it.
We are a highly qualified group, but it has been rough. Much of what we know about teaching must be unlearned or relearned here. The standard academic approach has not worked at all well, even when material has been simplified and vocabulary sterilized. The kids we are dealing with are not trained to listen to and absorb information presented in a point-by-point, organized, "logical," manner. One day, for example, we had a guest lecturer, a history professor from California, who is traveling around Mississippi with the Summer Project. He talked about the Civil War and Reconstruction. He took pains to make his points clear and straightforward, but opinions varied about his success in getting his information across. My opinion was the bleakest. It seemed to him that he must present his material "simply," but my impression was that he had mislocated the source of the problem. The students do not seem