Much has been written about the Mississippi Summer Project. An equally significant project was conducted by CORE this summer in Louisiana, where civil rights workers face similar terrorism and intimidation.
While Congress and the Supreme Court may let the "niggers get out of their place," Louisiana racists believe that beatings, jailings, and even murders, will keep Negroes from moving where they, "ain't got no business being." They believe violence will keep the "niggers" from voting, using public facilities and accommodations, and seeking equal job opportunities. As CORE Field Secretary in Louisiana, I have fought these racists nonviolently for the past three years. During this period, I have been arrested fifteen times and served a total of 6 months in jail, of which fifty-seven days were solitary confinement. I am free today to fight in this nonviolent revolution against the bullets and bombs of segregationists, because CORE has posted over $30,000 in bond for my release.
Seldom does a day pass in Louisiana without civil rights workers being intimidated and local citizens particularly voter applicants being subjected to economic, political, and physical reprisals. During the search for the bodies of the three murdered Mississippi civil rights workers, the mutilated bodies of two Negroes were found, floating in a Louisiana river in the parishes of Tensas and Madison. No one knows whether they were killed in Louisiana or Mississippi. But I believe they were murdered in Louisiana.
I know for sure that it was in Tallulah, the parish seat of Madison, where this summer CORE worker Mike Lesser was threatened, beaten, stripped of his clothing, jailed overnight, tried in a segregated courtroom in the early morning without a lawyer and sentenced to twenty- five days in jail with a fine of $25. The judge suspended his sentence and ordered him out of town, escorted by the police with a warning never to return or he'd be killed.
There have been no known murders to date in the civil rights struggle in Louisiana. But judging from the prevailing patterns of violence, I say killings are inevitable unless federal protection is made available.
I can cite numerous incidents of reprisals against Louisiana Negroes, desiring the benefits of their American heritage. Rev. Joseph Carter was arrested for "disturbing the peace" when he first attempted to register to vote in St. Francisville. On October 17, 1963, he became the first Negro registered voter in West Feliciana parish since Reconstruction. In the same parish this summer, a CORE worker was beaten, and others, including myself, were shot at by ex-Sheriff Teddy H. Martin, Sr. while we escorted voter applicants to the registrar's office.
Recently, after parish authorities arrested the former sheriff on a warrant signed by me, he was appointed by Gov. John McKeithen as Assistant Warden at Angola State Penitentiary. Teachers, librarians, school bus drivers, and others in public employment have been fired from their jobs because they taught persons how to fill out voter registration forms. Farmers have been denied access to the only markets for their crops. Civil rights workers have been jailed for canvassing possible voter registrants on "Mr. Charlie's" plantation.
The suffering, pain, and humiliation of being forced from home at night — like Johnny Hamilton of West Feliciana parish — or of seeing the remains of a burned community center — like the Faith, Hope and Charity Hall in Hammond — are part of the struggle of underprivileged Americans in a state like Louisiana, where neither parish officials nor the federal government offer any real protection.
Into this situation, from all sections of the country, came the CORE summer volunteers.
Copyright © Ronnie Moore. 1964.