Updated: Jun 16, 2020
I recently found out that you began attending Fordham University in the fall of 1964. That was the year I was born. It was also an election year and blacks in Mississippi had to take a literacy test and pay a poll tax in order to register to vote.
Election day in 1964 was on November 3 as it will be this election year. The incumbent Democrat Lyndon B. Johnson beat the right wing Republican Barry Goldwater with over 61% of the popular vote. Johnson won all but 6 states, Arizona which was Goldwater’s home state and 5 states in the deep south; Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.
That summer, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) hosted hundreds of college students from around the country in counties around the state of Mississippi and this project became known as Freedom Summer. Many of the students who left the comforts of their college lives were white and along with the SNCC, one of their missions was to register black residents of the state to vote.
As I learn more about the challenges they faced, I am reminded of the current efforts occurring around the country to suppress votes. You and others could learn a lot from the whites in Mississippi who went above and beyond to keep black people from voting. In retaliation to the Freedom Summer project, there were three murders, four reported shootings, 52 serious beatings, 250 arrests, and 13 black churches burned to the ground by summer’s end.
Thinking about Freedom Summer, I found myself imagining a scenario where you were one of those students who traveled to Mississippi during the summer of 1964 as a lover of America and it’s promise for all men. I was born that year so I don’t have any personal experience with the people of Mississippi from that time but after viewing videos of the conflicts that arose that summer I was reminded of just how blatant the abuse of power was and how you might fit right in.
If you were able to time travel just as you are to 1964 Mississippi, I wonder what fight you would find yourself engaged in. It would be a bit tricky with you being a yankee and all with your college degree and fancy suits. Those white southerners might object to you helping them oppress the “niggras” with your high falutin’ ideas about prison reform and Making America Great Again by loving the blacks. Then again walking dirt roads, shaking black hands, being beaten and arrested by police and following the orders of black organizers just might not be your cup of tea either.
You like rallies though and the SNCC had quite a few mass meetings usually held in churches all around Mississippi. Speakers would take the podium at these mass meetings and encourage the blacks in the audience to muster up the courage to register to vote so that they could elect people who would represent their views. Considering your most recent rallies and some of the things that you’ve said, you probably wouldn’t be allowed to speak if you kept to your current script. You could however, sit in the audience and imagine that their cheers and amen’s are being directed toward you.
Fannie Lou Hamer was a field secretary for SNCC and she often played an integral role at their mass meetings. She was an inspiration to many who heard her words of encouragement to keep fighting. You would probably not find her nearly as accomplished as you. She didn’t have a high school diploma and definitely didn't go to college. She lived on a plantation for many years until she was kicked off for trying to register to vote. Y'all may not have a lot in common except that she really did want to make America great. She married only one man and adopted two kids because a white doctor gave her a hysterectomy without her consent when he operated on a tumor she had. His version of “Keeping America Great”
If you could find the humility to be taught, maybe Fannie Lou Hamer could mentor you so that you could understand the struggles of black people in 1964 Mississippi and speak from the podium to the adulation of the people. She could tell you about the 1st time she went to register to vote and had to pass a test on the Mississippi state constitution and pay poll taxes. She didn’t pass that first test and when the owner of the plantation that her and her husband worked on found out that she tried to register to vote, he kicked her off the land. She could tell you about the the fine "law & order" police officers who arrested and beat her all because as an American citizen she wanted to be able to participate in the promise of the US constitution.
She could teach you a few of the spirituals she sang to remind herself and others that this was bigger than any one man or woman. She could show you how she organized and founded a food co-op and how when she did finally get a chance to vote she cast a vote for herself because she was running for Congress.
She could tell you how she spoke as a representative of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Delegation at the 1964 Democratic Convention on live television and how the then president was so afraid of her message being heard by the American people that he hijacked the telecast by announcing a press conference that all the networks switched to while she was delivering her presentation.
More than anything, she could show you the power of being honest, the influence that comes with being driven by a moral imperative and the commitment that is born out of being tired of being tired. She came to understand what it meant to fight for the heart and soul of this country for all of it’s citizens in spite of the evils of powerful white men who would bend the constitution to serve the needs of themselves, their families and their friends. Of all the things she could teach you that is probably the most important.
Oh well, it’s just a thought and we are quite a ways from knowing how to send you back in time to 1964. Sometimes I do wonder if sending people forward in time has been figured out cause there sure as hell does seem to be a bunch of those white Mississippians from 1964 roaming around America these days and finding their way into your rallies.
Happy Obama Day!
In case you are not aware, please note that according to the Johns Hopkins COVID 19 Map* as of June 14, 2020 at 11:33pm EST, under your leadership, there are 115,732 Americans killed by Covid-19 and 2,094,069 CONFIRMED cases. That is the same as if you killed 1564 Americans each year of the 74 years you've been sucking this planet dry.
Yep. I'm still angry!
* (copyright 2020 Johns Hopkins University, all rights reserved)