Daily WATS Reports

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Before there were "800" numbers there was Wide Area Telephone Service (WATS). A WATS line allowed a company or organization to make unlimited long-distance calls in a specified geographic area for a flat monthly fee.

In the early '60s, a call from one county to another was often billed as "long-distance," and long-distance calls were expensive. Cell-phones, of course, did not exist. Many rural communities in the South did not yet have direct-dial for long-distance, so out-of-area calls had to be placed through the local operators who were all white ("Ma Bell" did not hire Blacks in the South for anything but the most menial positions). Operators in league with the Sheriff or Citizens Council would often block or tap calls from freedom fighters. But a WATS line allowed civil rights workers to bypass the local operators, which meant they could reach their offices when under siege by cops or the Klan. And with a WATS line, long-distance charges were billed to the organization and calls could be made from pay-phones, or the phones of local folk who had little money for phone bills.

It was understood, of course, that Movement WATS lines were tapped and bugged by every law enforcement agency from the FBI down to the local beat constable. And anything said over the WATS line was passed on by the cops to the Klan and White Citizens Council.

At SNCC, CORE, COFO, and SCLC offices in cities such as Jackson, Greenwood, and Atlanta, the life-saving WATS lines were manned (or, more accurately, woman-ed) around the clock, 24 hours a day, recording incidents of violence and arrest, dispatching doctors and lawyers to aid the injured and incarcerated, alerting organizers of danger and need, notifying media and Justice Department of abuses and outrages, and coordinating support and assistance nation-wide. As the calls came in over the WATS line hour by hour, the substance of each call was added to each day's "WATS Report" and summaries were prepared and distributed to the press and Movement supporters around the country.

There is no doubt that there are Freedom Movement activists alive today who would have been killed or maimed had word not gotten out quickly of Freedom Houses under attack by Klan night-riders or of activists being "detained" by southern sheriffs.

Example WATS Reports

SNCC WATS Line Instructions & Policies, James Forman. SNCC. June 24-26, 1964
1964
July August
COFO July 1, 1964
COFO July 2, 1964
COFO Digest July 2, 1964
SNCC July 2, 1964
COFO July 3, 1964
SNCC July 3, 1964
COFO July 4, 1964
COFO July 5, 1964
COFO July 6, 1964
SNCC July 6, 1964
COFO July 7, 1964
SNCC July 8, 1964
COFO July 8, 1964
SNCC July 9, 1964
COFO July 9, 1964
COFO Summary June 30-July 9, 1964   
COFO July 10, 1964
Community Centers July 10, 1964
SNCC July 10, 1964
COFO July 11, 1964
COFO July 12, 1964
SNCC July 12, 1964
SNCC July 13, 1964
COFO July 13, 1964
COFO July 13-14, 1964
COFO July 14, 1964
SNCC July 15, 1964
SNCC July 15, 1964
COFO July 16, 1964
SNCC July 17, 1964
COFO July 17, 1964
SNCC July 18, 1964
COFO July 18, 1964
COFO July 19, 1964
SNCC July 20, 1964
COFO July 20, 1964
COFO July 21, 1964
COFO July 22, 1964
COFO July 23, 1964
SNCC July 23, 1964
COFO July 24, 1964
COFO July 25, 1964
SNCC July 25-31, 1964
Holly Springs Freedom Day, July 25, 1964   
COFO July 26, 1964
SNCC July 26, 1964
COFO July 27, 1964
COFO July 28, 1964
SNCC July 28, 1964
COFO July 29, 1964
SNCC July 29, 1964
COFO July 30, 1964
SNCC July 31-Aug 8, 1964
COFO July 31, 1964
COFO August 1, 1964          
SNCC August 1, 1964
COFO August 2, 1964
SNCC August 2, 1964
COFO August 3, 1964
SNCC August 3, 1964
COFO August 4, 1964
SNCC August 4, 1964
COFO August 5, 1964
SNCC August 6, 1964
COFO August 6, 1964
SNCC August 7, 1964
COFO August 7, 1964
COFO August 8, 1964
COFO August 9, 1964
SNCC August 10, 1964
COFO August 10, 1964
COFO August 11, 1964
COFO August 12, 1964
COFO August 13, 1964
SNCC August 13, 1964
COFO August 14, 1964
SNCC August 14, 1964
COFO August 15, 1964
COFO August 16, 1964
SNCC August 16, 1964
COFO August 17, 1964
SNCC August 17, 1964
COFO August 18, 1964
SNCC August 18, 1964
COFO August 19, 1964
SNCC August 19-21, 1964
COFO August 20, 1964
COFO August 21, 1964
COFO August 22, 1964
SNCC August 22, 1964
COFO August 23, 1964
SNCC August 23, 1964
COFO August 24, 1964
SNCC August 24, 1964
COFO August 25, 1964
COFO August 26, 1964
SNCC August 26, 1964
COFO August 27, 1964
COFO August 28, 1964
COFO August 29, 1964
COFO August 30, 1964
1965
SNCC, April 29, 1965   
SNCC, May 4, 1965
SNCC May 6, 1965
SNCC May 16, 1965
SNCC May 28, 1965
SNCC June 4, 1965
SNCC June 15-July 30, 1965
SNCC June 29, 1965
SNCC July 6, 1965
SNCC July 7, 1965
SNCC July 8, 1965
SNCC July 10, 1965
SNCC July 12, 1965
SNCC July 14, 1965
SNCC July 18, 1965
SNCC August 6, 1965
1966
SNCC, September 12-14, 1966
 

 


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