Introduction: Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi (04:45)
Edmond Clark tends his crops and recalls hate crimes committed in the 1960s. Political power was tied to land ownership; against odds, black citizens gained title to one million fertile acres, but still lacked voting rights. Freedom Summer volunteers sought to register black residents, and faced violent white supremacist retaliation.
Dangerous Groundwork (03:34)
In 1960, Robert Moses arrived in Mississippi to network with NAACP underground activists. Black land holders like Amzie Moore were essential to the registration project, providing strategic knowledge and housing to civil rights workers. In 1961, Moses was beaten and jailed; farm owner Herbert Lee was shot and killed by E.H. Hurst, a state legislator. Medgar Evers was assassinated in 1963 outside his home in Jackson County.
Mileston Homesteads (07:18)
In 1960, a public relations campaign was initiated to defend segregation and counter the area's bad reputation; the propaganda failed to address the violence faced by African-Americans. Holmes County had the highest percentage of black land owners, making its role vital to the Freedom project, and initiating the Civil Rights Movement in the state. In 1963, 14 farmers, led by Hartman Turnbow, were confronted by police for attempting registration; his home was firebombed, he and Moses were jailed for the arson; cross burnings became common in the neighborhood.
Freedom Summer Project (02:37)
In 1964, a coalition of civil rights groups became intent on registering voters and creating a new political party in Mississippi. Clark and Griffin McLaurin, Mileston residents, recall providing sanctuary for the volunteers.
Promise of Land and The New Deal (13:18)
Farmers depend on the productivity of their land; blacks were excluded from buying working properties. Holmes County's 10,000 acres were an exception. Brian Jones III and Spencer Wood discuss how sharecroppers came to own parcels as part of the New Deal. Clark describes the farmsteads of the resulting Mileston project that would later become command centers for the Civil Rights Movement.
Unutilized Government Benefit (01:52)
In the 1960s, all Mississippi farmers were entitled to free soil testing; few blacks were aware of the opportunity. Acidity, pH levels, and other characteristics were determined to aid in selecting crops and fertilizers.
Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman (06:36)
During Freedom Summer, Holmes County farmers opened their homes to volunteers; Jodie Saffold describes the dangers of providing refuge. On June 21st, 1964, three civil rights workers went missing; Ben Chaney describes the precautions taken by his brother and associates when recruiting for the cause. John Steele recalls the attack on Mount Zion church, and the men's decision to return home.
Next Three to Die (06:19)
Volunteers shirked segregationist customs and persisted despite the disappearance and presumed murders of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman; David Barnum describes the risks of participating in the Freedom Summer project. The search for the missing workers continued while three black land owner's lives were actively threatened; farmers had the right to defend their property and guard points were established by the imperiled residents.
Farming and Menacing (03:27)
Jodie Saffold tends his farm and describes the cotton harvests he produced in the 1960s; farm owners made much more than day workers and sharecroppers. Intimidation came in both violent and financial forms; T.C. Johnson, a Freedom Vote organizer, recalls bank discrimination.
Property Bonds (07:25)
John Lewis helped found the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and was arrested frequently for civil rights activities; Freedom Summer volunteers worked to establish the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, spurring hundreds of arrests. Land owners risked their livelihoods by putting up bonds to release activists from jail. Jim Lewis and Lawrence Guyot explain the sense of responsibility formed by being bailed out by the farmers.
Freedom Institutions (03:50)
Ruby Magee, a tree farmer, discusses the soil and her family's role in the Civil Rights movement. Schools were established on black owned land to educate children by day and adults at night; classes focused on reading, writing, math; and black history. A literacy test was required for voter registration in Mississippi at that time.
Registering to Vote (02:56)
Magee was one of the first to attempt registration, enduring police intimidation; her teacher, John Hardy, was pistol whipped by a registrar and arrested for disturbing the peace. Charges were dropped and she became the first black registered voter in Walthall County. She discusses the opportunities provided by owning land.
Missing Civil Rights Workers (02:53)
After 44 days of searching, the bodies of Chaney, Schwerner, and Goodman were found on Olen Burrage's land. Mississippi graveyards were segregated, and the freedom fighters were buried in separate plots.
Change Comes (03:32)
In 1964, Congress passed the Civil Rights Act, outlawing segregation and putting voter discrimination on notice. The Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party failed to unseat the all-white delegation at the Chicago Democratic National Convention, but helped to secure the 1965 Voters Rights Act, banning registration literacy tests. The politically empowered citizens of Holmes County registered to vote.
Political Power and the Legacy of Land Ownership (10:59)
In 1967, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party comprised an all-black slate; 12 Holmes county land holders ran for public office. Robert Clark Jr. tends his farm and recalls running for state legislator; he had been fired from teaching jobs for advocating integration and adult education; he was elected to office and seated, but challenged and snubbed. Mileston farmers discuss the value and history of their properties.
Credits: Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi (00:56)
Credits: Dirt and Deeds in Mississippi
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