Document 26: Elayne DeLott to Benjamin and Rosa DeLott, "i'm safely packed away," Canton, Mississippi, [early October 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
The long-term goal of my work in Canton was to help organize a farm co-op. The more immediate work was joining organizing efforts for the "cotton vote," the election that determined who would serve on the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) board, which had sole authority over the number of acres of cotton that individual farmers would be allowed to grow. Cotton allotments were backed by government subsidies, which translated into a guaranteed income for those who were granted allotments. As such, the ASCS governed the economic lives of both Black and white farmers. I was excited by the work and captivated by the community.
For the outcome of this effort, see the headnote to Document 62.
dear mama and daddy,
i'm safely packed away at canton now and doing what i really love to do. i couldn't have asked for a better project area or assignment. i'm working on federal programs, which is a project aimed at a long term improvement of the economic situation of the negro through local cooperation with the aid of federal funds and programs from the dept of agriculture and stuff like that. i really believe in this stuff because first of all it improves the economic situation, and second, in the process it teaches the people to cooperate with each other and build a close community spirit. With this cooperation they learn in organizing for economic reasons, they build their own leadership, which then can be used politically in the future when they get the vote. the main work we are doing here in canton is organizing a farmer's cooperative to have its own supply house and gin. the negro farmers outnumber the white farmers almost four to one here. more important, we are organizing the negro farmers to vote in the elections for a county committee of the ascs, which decides how much the cotton allotments are. it consists now of five white men now. we can elect four negroes if we work hard, this will mean a great deal to them not only in terms of economic advantage, but in moral. any farmer is eligible to vote who has a cotton allotment, we are now doing the organizing, contacting the federal agents to come and explain what the federal gov. will help them do in terms of land improvment, loans, fertilizers, germicides. etc. our legal people have drawn up a charter for the coop but it is having trouble getting cleared by the state, although they have to clear it soon in order to keep federal funds. in other words, we're really working hard, and in the meantime training local people to take over in a while when we leave. i go around to farms and talk to farmers, to the lawyers, to the capitol, speak to federal men, and write reports, etc. a couple of hours in the evening i will be working with the local kids in the community center next door. i am living with a negro family in a house with another girl on the project. i get three meals a day provided for me here in freedom house where my office is. i am really delighted. i am also doing my own research on the organization of local people at the same time.
now, for the regular. please send me my army jacket. it's freezing. also my boots, my rubber ones and the other pair if i haven't thrown it out. also send a box of any old clothes for donation to me here. i left my sneakers at renee's but i'll tell mere to send those. also send five pairs of woolen socks from the house, or buy some. actually my knee socks will be enough.
my adress is 838 Lutz st. Canton, miss, and the phone number if necessary is 359-9944. love to all. I'll try to write each week.
p.s. please send my camera and three rolls of film, twecolor, and one black and white with processing, also send my peruvian sweaters, two of the three, and my maroon v neck. i repeat, i'm freezing.
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