Robert C. Hargreaves

NAACP, SNCC, Mississippi, 1964-65
PO Box 10714
Bakersfield, CA 93380

Mississippi Freedom Summer 1964

It may sound strange to activists, but I chose a career in chickens as my personal contribution to world hunger issues.

I was enrolled in a graduate program in poultry management at Michigan State when I became involved with the student NAACP chapter canvassing East Lansing to promote an open housing ordinance. They asked for volunteers for the 1964 summer project in Mississippi and I signed up. I had a degree in Agricultural Education so I was assigned as a Freedom School teacher in Shaw. A one room shack was donated for a community center. We spent a week fixing it up, then held an open house.

I had a long conversation with two local black teachers. Since we were planning to teach a basic civics course I asked what was being taught in the schools. They told me they would be immediately fired if they ever tried to teach the U.S Constitution! We lost most of our students to summer school at the public school and I spent the rest of the summer canvassing for voter registration and FDP signups.

I returned in '65 to Meyersville where I taught a class for voter registration. Three hundred students were expelled from school for wearing SNCC buttons and the parents organized Freedom Schools in three locations. I taught and directed at one of them.

From Mississippi I went to Viet Nam as an agricultural volunteer with International Voluntary Services, the predecessor to the Peace Corps. I helped villagers raise chickens, pigs, grapes and other agricultural projects. The war was on, but I felt safer in Viet Nam than I ever did in Mississippi.

I have since been to other countries to assist wth chickens, but most of my career has been as an avian pathologist with the California Department of Food and Agriculture. I am now retired and living in Bakersfield, California.


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