Document 30: Elayne DeLott, Journal, "you should be here now," Jackson/Tougaloo, Mississippi, [mid-October 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
Observing office politics and office priorities, and without any close friends to talk to, I often recorded my thoughts in journals and in letters. In this journal entry, I questioned the "Freedom Vote"--the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party's (MFDP) effort to challenge the legitimacy of the all-white congressional delegation in the upcoming November election. Although the MFDP, or the FDP as it was commonly known, was not successful in its effort to unseat the regular Democratic Party at the August Democratic presidential convention in Atlantic City, it had emerged as a powerful organizing strategy. Post-Atlantic City, the next challenge to the mainstream Democratic Party was an effort called the "Freedom Vote," which called on black citizens to register with the FDP and cast their votes for Congress in the national election. The expectation was that this effort to participate in a national election by disenfranchised African Americans would provide a legal basis for challenging the legitimacy of the Mississippi congressional delegation. By the end of July 1964, 133,000 Mississippi Blacks had registered with the FDP. When the push came to register people for the Freedom Vote, I was deep into organizing for the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS) or "cotton vote" election--the old fashioned way, person by person. Believing in the idea of organizing an informed electorate through education, in my purist approach I considered the Freedom Vote a crass political move that bypassed the principles of the movement in favor of short-term political gain.
you should be here now to witness the near armed rebellion that is going on in reaction to the new plans for the freedom vote- 10 days, mobile units, no requirement of freedom registration for a freedom vote, the fdp has been flying under the banner of principled politics, honesty and a true mandate of the people. the double purpose was supposedly to prove that the people of miss. did want to vote, and to educate them on how it's done in as accurate a way as possible. so here we are railroading them to sign something we have no time to explain, bringing the ballots to their door, telling them how to vote, declaring that the people have spoken, and then running to Washington to fight, representing thousands of people who don't know what is hitting them. this type of thing is the worst possible insult you can give to the negroes in miss, virtually tricking them into giving you the right to speak for them.
who's going to spoonfeed them their ballots when they do get the right to vote. and considering they are not really building the fdp themselves, but are letting alot of northern whites and blacks build it for them, what do you think it will be like in two years. when will the orders start coming from down to up, instead of being issued by lawrence guyot, or aaron henry? i challenge anyone to pick at random five freedom registration forms and ask these five people what the freedom vote is. what would a really big freedom vote really mean to the people anyway? you might as well just forge all the signatures in the office, because if a white man goes up to one of these people and asks them if they signed this, 9 out of 10 are going to deny it. it's not a matter of principle to them yet, and won't be till they start working for it themselves.
and me - you're selling me out too. you're making me manipulate people, use their names as tools, put washington above miss. and work for something that is beginning to look like any other political group. okay, so all minority groups have gone through this type of stage, from idealistic, to manipulative, to selling out their own people, maybe i shouldn't ask the negroes to be different. on the other hand, who's got the right to ask me or expect me to help bring this about in a spirit of committment. and all this from the party that acted on principle at atlantic city, that rejected compromise.
will the movement ever decide to work through the people instead of for the people? won't anyone ever recognize that they have dignity, and treat them accordingly?
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