David Bailin

SNCC, COFO, 1964, Mississippi
Current Residence: Hove, UK
Email: bailin.david@gmail.com

In 1964, while I was an Instructor in Physics at Princeton University, I heard of the Freedom Summer. As a foreigner, British, I was unsure whether my presence would be welcome, but at the interview in Princeton, nobody seemed worried about it. And, indeed, when I went to Mississippi, it was evident that they regarded all of the civil rights workers as communists and foreigners.

I attended the non-vilolence training week in Oxford, Ohio, early in the summer of 1964. While we were there we received news of the deaths in Philadelphia, Miss. of Chaney, Goodman & Schwerner.

After the training I visited relatives in California before driving to New Orleans and then Hattiesburg, Miss. I spent the following five or six weeks working on voter registration, literacy training, and assisting doctors supplying medical services.

I stayed at the house of State Senator (candidate) Victoria Gray and her husband. The husband kept a loaded shotgun behind the front door, and vowed to "blow the f*cking head off" anyone who came through it during the night.

Evenings were the scariest bit, and several times I stopped and reversed my car after espying a parked police patrol car. I received weekly cheques for a small sum mailed by a friend in Princeton, so as to be in a position to prove that I was not destitute in the possible event that I was arrested and charged with vagrancy, a common ploy by the police at that time.

It was hot, tiring work there, but intensely rewarding. The most difficult thing for me was that the people we were dealing with were all religious, Southern Baptists, and I was not. I really disliked what I regarded as the manufactured hysteria whipped up by the preachers at the several funerals I attended, but of course I could not articulate this.


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