Document 32: Elayne DeLott, Journal, "i thought i had understood it," Jackson/Tougaloo, Mississippi, [late October 1964], Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.
At the time of this journal entry, my initial excitement with the movement had been replaced with a more nuanced and critical perspective. I was working with the federal programs division, housed in the Jackson office, the nerve center of the Mississippi project, while living in Tougaloo. In this entry I reflect on the disconnect between the rhetoric and the reality of consulting with people on issues that affected their lives. In the early years of SNCC the process of making decisions was largely one of consensus. With an expanded staff, multiple priorities, and an enlarged geographical operation, decision making by consensus was proving unwieldy. Bob Moses, whose moral authority had held the Jackson project together, was on a six-week trip to Africa with other key movement leaders. How decisions were made was becoming a major concern.
i thought i had understood it, but what i had done was see the net result and understand the process from only one level. tonite i figured out another level of understanding what goes on in the mind of the staff that turns a once exciting thing into a day by day battle to keep on going. it is remarkable to me now that i had completely left out the factor of power in the staff's relationships with each other and their work. now that i think of it, i can kind of plot the development of the workers, and the crucial role of power in their feeling about things. in the beginng everyone is willing to do all things. there are some who remain satisfied with doing a job from then on, but begin to want a recognition of some sort, either in their particular job or in a position of power over others. the minority of very clear cut manipulators and politicans must get itself in a position of power or leave, but the problem is not with them since in any organization they present the same challenge, and if they stay they sincerely enjoy their role. the problem is with all those others who are not power hungry, or anxious for recognition from others, but need a feeling of satisfaction from their work. in the cases where the job is an essentially creative one, there may not be too much problem. but almost all jobs, even most of the creative ones, involve supervision and carrying out provisions according to policy. it becomes clear soon that if the workers don't have a say in the policy of the movement they don't have a responsibility to the whole movement. it is ugly that it is so egotistical when you get down to it, but that seems to be the way it works.
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