Growing Up in Mississippi
June Johnson
From Trinity College SNCC Reunion, April 1988

Originally published in A Circle of Trust: Remembering SNCC, by Cheryl Lynn Greenberg

[June Johnson was in high school when SNCC came to Greenwood in 1962. She and her mother quickly became two of the dedicated activists who were the heart and soul of the Freedom Movement in Greenwood.]

For background & more information see:
     Mississippi Voter Registration — Greenwood
     Greenwood Food Blockade
     Atrocity in Winona
     Medgar Evers Assassination

See also Greenwood MS Movement and Mississippi Movement for web links.

Growing up in Mississippi I never had the opportunity to have a summer vacation. My vacation was either cleaning some white person's house or going to chop cotton in the Mississippi Delta — that was the gist of my summer activities before my getting involved with SNCC.

And it was a sense of frustration growing up. We heard about the Emmett Till situation and really didn't understand a lot of what happened other than the fact that a black boy had been castrated, murdered, and thrown into the Tallahatchie River. There was not a lot of conversation based on our parents' fear, they wanted to continue to live and survive within that community. And I saw additional things happen, not just outside of my family but directly to my family, my mother in particular (who was, by the way, very active in SNCC and kept everybody very healthy — I think Guyot and Julian and Judy Richardson and Dorie and many others ate pieces of her corn bread because she was the cook for SNCC).

And I think as a result of my going to jail in 1963 in Winona, and coming out, learning that Medgar had been killed, after being beaten very badly in the Winona jail and having to suffer and see the suffering of Mrs. Hamer, I made a commitment to myself from that day; I didn't care what happened to me, I was going to be free or continue to be a part of a struggle to fight for the freedom of people of this country. And when I walked out of jail in 1963, I knew nothing else, and I have not done anything else in my life but struggle from the time that I got involved in the movement in Mississippi.

And one of the biggest enjoyments that I've ever had in my life is to have met those persons that came to my hometown and taught me to become a first-class citizen. And I take this opportunity to say to each of you, I am appreciative of that and I'm glad that you taught me how to fight for the rights of those who cannot fight for themselves.

Copyright © June Johnson. 1988

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