I am a Negro, 46 years of age, and reside in Ruleville, Sunflower County.
On the 9th of June, 1963, I, Miss Annell Ponder, and eight other women were returning from a voter workshop in South Carolina. We were on a Continental Trailways bus that stopped at Winona, Montgomery County, at the bus station. Annell Ponder and others of our party, including James West from Itta Bena, Rosemary Freeman from near Greenwood, and June Johnson, a 15-year-old girl, got off the bus to go to the restaurant. Two, Euvester Simpson and Ruth Day, also of our party, got off the bus to use the rest room. I remained on the bus.
The four that got off the bus to go to the restaurant-and had gone to the side of the restaurant-s-were coming back to the bus. I got off the bus and asked them what happened. They that there were some policemen and highway patrolmen in there. Annell said policemen with billy clubs told them to get out of I said that this can be reported and Annell said, I am going to get the tag number." The four of them were standing outside to the number, and Euvester Simpson was with them talking, when all of them were put in the patrol car, which I think was the highway patrolman's car; he was also the one giving orders.
I got off the bus when all at once an officer from the patrol car one said,"Get that one too." A county deputy, Officer and one more got out of the car and opened the door to his car and said, "You are under arrest." I was going into the car when Officer A kicked me into the car. While driving me to the jail, they were questioning me and calling me "bitch."
We got to the jail, and I saw all five of the above [Annell Ponder, Rosemary FreeB- man, June Johnson, James West, and Euvester Simpson] in the booking room. As soon as I got to the booking room, a tall policeman walked over to James West and jumped hard on James West's feet.
I was led into a room — a cell — with Euvester Simpson. While I was in the cell, I could hear screaming and the passing of kicks. Pretty soon I saw several white men bringing Annell Ponder past my cell. She was holding on to the jail walls, her clothes all torn, her mouth all swelled up, and her eyes were all bloody — only one eye looking like itself.
After a while they came for me: Officer B________, a highway patrolman (his name on a metal plate on his pocket); the policeman who had jumped on James West's feet; and another policeman with a crew-cut haircut.
They came into my cell and asked me why I was demonstrating, and said that they were not going to have such carryings-on in Mississippi. They asked me if I had seen Martin Luther King, Jr. I said I could not be demonstrating —I had just got off the bus — and denied that I had seen Martin Luther King. They said "Shut up" and always cut me off. They then asked me where I was from. I said Ruleville. They then left, saying that they were going to check it out.
They then returned. Officer B________ said: "You damn right you are from Ruleville. We are going to make you wish that you were dead, bitch." They led me to another cell, Before I had led out of the cell, I saw a Negro — who I reckoned was a trusty, who stayed around the jail — bring a mop and bucket to take somewhere.
When I was brought to another cell I saw two Negroes who were in their 20s or a little younger. Officer B________ said, "Take this," talking to the youngest Negro. Officer B________ had in his hand a long, 2-foot blackjack made out of leather, wider at one end, and one end being filled with something heavy. The young Negro said: "You mean for me to beat her with this?" Officer B________ said, "You damn right. If you don't, you know what I will do for you."
The young Negro told me to get on the bunk and he began to beat me. I tried to put my hands to my side where I had polio when I was a child, so that I would not be beat so much on that side. The first Negro beat me until he got tired. Then the second Negro was made to beat me.
I took the first part of it, but couldn't stand the second beating. I began to move and the first Negro was made to sit on my feet to keep me from kicking. I remember that I tried to smooth my dress which was working up from all of the beating. One of the white officers pushed my dress up. I was screaming and going on, and the young officer with the crew-cut began to beat me about the head and told me to stop my screaming. I then began to bury my head in the mattress and hugged it to kill out the sound of my screams. It was impossible to stop the screaming. I must have passed out — I remember trying to raise my head and heard one of the officers, Officer B________ who said, "That's enough."
He said, "Get up and walk." I could barely walk. My body was real hard, feeling like metal. My hands were navy blue, and I couldn't bend the fingers. I was taken back to the cell. Doctor Searcy, Cleveland, Mississippi, said that I had been beaten so deeply that my nerve endings are permanently damaged, and I am sore.
While I was back in the I could talk to June Johnson, Annell Ponder, and Rosemary Freeman, who were in their cells. I learned that June Johnson had a hole in her head from her beating. I learned that the trusty had used the bucket and mop to mop the blood.
Then they got us up one night to take our pictures and Officer B________ who had taken the pictures, forced me to sign a statement which they already had made me write, that I had been treated all right. That night was the following Monday night. I tried to write the statement in such a way that anybody would know that I had been forced to write the statement.
The following Tuesday, we had our trial. There was no jury. We had no lawyer. We were charged and were found guilty of disorderly conduct and resisting arrest.
When we were put in the jail, and when I was put in the jail, I told them that nothing is right around here. The arresting officer had lied and said that I was resisting arrest. I told them that I was not leaving my cell, and that if they wanted me they had to kill me in the cell and drag me out. I would rather be killed inside my cell instead of outside the cell,
On that Tuesday, I heard some white men talk to Officers C________ and D________ and that there were FBI and they had to report what they said. I was able to see Lawrence Guyot, a field of SNCC who I had known before in voter registration work, and saw' him in the booking room and saw that he had been beaten.
On the following Wednesday, James Bevel, Andrew Young, and Dorothy Cotton of SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Conference) came to see us and to get us (the people who had been on the bus and were arrested) out. But before I left the jail I was able to see that Lawrence Guyot's head had been beaten out of shape.
On the 31st of August, 1962, I had been fired from my plantation job, Dee Marlow's Plantation, Ruleville, because I attempted to register to vote. I had been working for SNCC and SCLC before I had been beaten. At the present time, I am a candidate for Congress in the coming primary, for the Second Congressional District.
Fannie Lou Hamer
See Atrocity in Winona
for background & more information.
See also Mississippi Freedom Movements for web links.
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