Document 65: Elayne Delott, Minutes of Canton Valley-View Staff Meeting, Canton, Mississippi, 4 December 1964, Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. 9 pp.
This meeting was held on the day after the ASCS election, following the jailing of project director George Raymond (once again), myself, and others. I was the note taker for the meeting. At many projects, interpersonal struggles were becoming more and more problematic. The SNCC ethos that individuals should have a say in the decisions that affected their lives didn't translate well into practice at the project level, where Black project directors were encountering an increasingly vocal challenge to their authority from former white volunteers who had remained in the state. By December, tensions between white staff and Black leadership at the Canton project had escalated to the point where project director George Raymond abruptly asked whites to go back "home" and work there to end racism. Although tensions between black and white staff/volunteers were not uncommon, how these tensions played out was still a project-to-project issue. At the time, as federal program staff working out of the Jackson office, I didn't feel George's words were directed toward me. It would take another seven months before I realized that the movement was not a welcome place for me to work and several years before whites were formally expelled from SNCC.
Canton Valley-View Staff Meeting, Dec. 4, 3 p.m.
Participants: George Raymond, Judy Kmpton, Kapon Duncan, Jo Ann Coiman, Phil Sharp, Bill Forsyth, Tom Ramsay, Mrs. Divine, Mr. Hamblin, Mr. Chinn Sr., Mr. Chinn Jr., Sears Buckley, Martha Wright, Ramdy Glona, Madeline McHugh
George: A lot of people didn't understand my closing statement last night. People should not make assumptions and act on those assumptions. They should ask questions before they make assumptions. The meeting is open to discussion
Judy: Please tell us what you meant last night.
George: I want people to go home and raise money. I want to keep a skeleton staff and get local people to take over again. The Summer Project made people over- confident that their work would be done for them.
Karen: What's the relationship between people taking over the movement and us going home to raise money?
George: They are not 2 separate things. An opportunity has presented itself and I am taking it.
Karen: What is that opportunity?
George: To put things in the people's laps again. We can't go bankrupt; this project can't go bankrupt. Regardless of how people feel we're all responsible.
I don't see how anybody could interpret my statement last night as meaning "white boy go home."
I don't like the violent reaction to my statement.
Jo Ann: The reaction wasn't so much violent as it was one of dismay: how are we going to get the job done if every body goes home?
George: I interpreted it as violent and I won't change my interpretation.
Phil: Before the summer it didn't take much for 5 people to drum up enthusiasm. But through and after the summer program developed that created a great need for information. ASC work was a success because this need for information was filled. The Congresssional Challenge requires even more. Maybe we should ask for 50 more workers to come in instead of sending people home.
I would like to go north and raise money. But I can't go unless it's demonstrated how I can be spared. I don't believe I can be.
Bill: If you say that getting the local people to handle the challenge all by themselves in the real thing and not an
[p. 2]experiment, then there will be no need for us to come back to Madison County after a month.
George: In that month I will be preparing Scott County, if not there, Louisiana, Florida, etc.
Bill: When we talked before over
that the programs we are capable of offering aren't short term. It takes a long time to local people to teach things like education.
The ASC elections showed that people do need to be trained. We fulfilled our roles as teachers in the ASC better than ever before.
To talk in terms of this summer over against what happened a year ago is to ignore what happened in the ASC elections.
George: What you're saying -- you've worked on the people's emotions.
JoAnn & Karen: didn't understand Bill to have said anything like that.
Bill: I didn't mean to say that.
George: If we don't fund raise there wll be no project. You're throwing the money question out.
Bill: We are not throwing the money question out. There are 2 separate questions: 1) our role as organizers in the community; 2) the fund-raising problem
George: They are related. We can't do a thing with the first problem until we solve the second.
Phil: Instead of discussing sending people home to fund-raise maybe we should discuss how to fund-raise in other ways, maybe letter writing campaigns to people in the north.
George: I don't want to do it.
Phil: Who do you want out of Madison County why?
George: No one in particular. Why do you ask?
Phil: Because I felt there were implications on a couple of occasions that you felt some people who cane down this summer should leave because they broke down enthusiasm. which had existed before.
George: Do I have to pat you all on the back everytime you do a good job?
Tom: I think somebody besides me should tell them when they do do a good job.
Karen: Shouldn't somebody else take the chair if George want to participate in the discussion
I didn't think the implications last night were white boy go home. I think they were George Raymond has decided there will be 5 people in Madison County; therefore everybody should go home.
Tom: We are facing 3 problems: 1) CORE is going bankrupt and we have been asked to particpate in $-raising 2) we are in the middle of the ASC elections. We have a maximum time limit of Feb. 3; a minimum of 30 days from tomorrow. 3) The Congressional Challenge; in itself it's a good thing; has been handled abominably up to now and I personally have doubts about whether or not we can do it.
It's a waste of time to spend energy talking about who mant
About fund-raising: either national CORE appoints us as fund raisers or we don't go. Money raising takes organization. If CORE wants to transfer me to Frisco to organize to raise money o.k. But sending everybody home for 2 or 3 weeks will bring in maybe $1000 collectively. This is a waste of man power.
Re ASC: In terms of approaching the county, the staff is no longer coordinating. People are making mistakes, some of the worst of which have been my mistakes. We've had no chance to sit down in a staff meeting and define what is going to be done. The first round of ASC went so well because we
have these meetings.
Re Congressional Challenge: There are 2 ways of approaching it: 1) create as much interest as possible through mass meetings or 2) get the opinion leaders in the community, educate them. This second way is probably the better way.
Martha: Was there a staff meeting to decide if we wanted to challenge the elections before a few people went to Batesville and decided for us all.
Tom: There was not. We haven't had time.
JoAnn: Point of clarification: all that was said at Batesville was that there were not enough people present to make a decision, but that the feeling was we'd probably challenge in Madison.
George: I'm still sticking to my original statement.
What got me was that somebody said I said last night white boy go home. And to day I didn't like it when somebody cursed me, black boy you this and you that. . .
[p. 4]I don't see how this staff meeting can go on.
If anybody has anything to say about me, say it to me, don't go around to turn people against me.
Judy: (Request for clarification)
Tom: Who are you talking about?
George: You, Tom. You said today, "black buy, F, black boy F"
Tom: You misquote me. I said that what you were saying to me was screw you Ramsay. so I said I was saying to you screw you, Raymond.
George: you are trying to turn people against me.
Tome: I am not.
George: You said the other day about Jo Ann you weren't going to train any more people for George to take over. And then you've said that you won't take orders from no nigger
Tom: I can't argue with two things. I never said I can't take orders from a nigger.
George: Someone told me you said it.
Karen, JoAnn Bill: Who said that.
George: I won't say
Several People: You shouldn't bring it up unless you'll say who told you.
George: I won't say who told me.
JoAnn: This is the way things are done in the Mississippi Courts.
Tom: It's exactly the way things happen in Mississippi court
George: I don't care.
Tom: It's contemptible that you won't tell and a rotten way to smear my name.
George: I'm not smearing your name.
Tom: Now everybody in the
can hear that I won't work for a nigger. Let me say why I cuss you out. I to talk to you in the office; you would't talk, said wait until the meeting. I followed you into your room and said that I thought it was important enough to talk about them You still wouldn't talk with me. So I said "what you're saying, George is fuck you Ramsay, so I'm saying, fuck you Raymond," and I walked out.
About talking to
the of course body has be; you don't talk them them. I'm not telling them; nobody tells me and I don't tell people what to do.
George: I'm sorry then Tom, you'll have to leave the project.
Karen: You don't have the right to tell somebody to leave. It was decided in Hattiesburg that project directers can't fire people.
Tom: Why dn't you tell them that I already resigned this morning.
Tom: And tell them why; you're a dictator, a little casear; you're everything 1'm in the movement to be against; I'm in the movement to get out guys like you.
Exit Tom: George asks Judy to chair the meeting.
Bill: I'm srry it had to come out this way but I think that some of what Tom said is true. Last night was the first time I ever talked to you. Often I've tried and you said let's talk to out it later.
We have not been brainwashed by Tom, he has not been using us against you.
Tom has had some good ideas. This doesn't mean he's trying to undermine your role.
Martha: I disagree that anyone can't talk to George.
Phil: Between now and last night's meeting everybody talked with everybody else about what you had said. None of this was talking behind your back.
It's as much my fault as yours that you and I have never communicated, even though I very much wanted to. I always felt a little hurt that I couldn't exchange ideas with you.
Tom has his own personality just like we have our own personalities. We may or may not like parts of what Tom does. But we may or may not like all that anybody does.
JoAnn: If Ramsay hadn't drawn me out I would probably have never done any effective work. I felt at first that he might be making a powr play. But I learned that he was open to criticism and that I could really talk with him. George this is when you kept turning me off, you would always say, let's talk about it later.
Mrs. Divine: I've listened in on the meetings in Hattiesburg and
communicate etc etc. And the meetings in indecision. This kind of talk goes on and on Somebody like George has to finally make decisions about how to get some work done. Otherwise all people do is sit around and cry about their personal problems.
JoAnn: I would point out to Mrs. Divine that when this meeting began we were discussing how to get the big jobs facing us done. We were saying that a decision George has made is not the best one for doing the job. We were not sitting around contemplating our navels when this meeting began.
George: Let's reconvene this meeting tomorrow at 9.
George: I don't feel well.
Karen: I don't agree that we should stop now. I don't feel well and that's why I have to stay. One of the things I learned in Hattiesburg is that we can't keep going around what's deeply rooted in us. I want to solve some things now. We have to stop running and begin to face some things.
Mrs. Divine: We are running away from the work at hand if we sit here and cry.
Phil: I think we can reconvene tomorrow if Tom is here and we don't avoid any of the problems. If Tom isn't here we will be avoiding the main problem. If the meeting tomorrow doesn't proceed on those ground I may have gotten myself kicked out of Mississippi but I'm going to protest the way tonight's decision was made.
Barbara: We're getting down to brass tacks here. It may not be wise to stop right now. There is a quality about this movement that is becoming a part of the
of the movement; it has somethign to do with openness, something to do with trust. I think I'm at a place where I disagree with Mrs. Divine. I this you have to talk those things through. But from Mrs. Divine's vantage point: she's been a long time waiting and such talk now when there's so much to be done is a waste of time.
May be the things Martha said she couldn't say if Tom weren't here should be said anyway. Somewhere previously Martha had said that she could say no more because it all concerned things
JoAnn: Could we ask Tom to come back now?
Karen: Tom might not be able to listen now.
Barbara: Maybe we could
talk at this about what is a project director. When I hear somebody say, , you can't tell me what to do, it seems to me he's saying, I can't work under you. The next step seems obvious.
Phil: I feel it's necessary that Tom be at any further discussions we have. As Karen pointed out, Tom's frame of mind
be creative now, But would be maybe tomorrow morning. I'd like to suggest that Tom and George be with us at 9.
Barbara disagreed as did Karen; George said he would go along.
Madeline: We shouldn't stop now. Maybe we shouldn't deal in personalities but Tom does play rough; he has played dirty; he hits below the belt ....
Karen: What we need is for everybody to say what they think a project director is. We shouldn't make this into a discussion of Tom and George.George was asked if he wanted to begin; he did not.
Sears: What Tom was doing was right; what George was doing was right; and that's all.
Randy: A project director is chosen to lead the staff, he has responsibility; his staff should consider that he is a leader; his job is to lead. The workers shouldn't follow him like children. This is like a little factory and he's the forman. We have to do what the forman tells us to doCartiss: He's a leader who helps make decisions. His decisions are basic decisions. They should be the best decisions.
. We have come to help him put across a program. He has the program.
Phil: I'm not so sure that this discussion is in order. I don't want to tell George what his job is unless he asks me to tell him. We shouldn't define his job for him. I'll
untill George asks for my ideas.
Merdis: If the director has to hurt people's feelings he should do what he thinks is right.
Madeline: the director should be a synthesis of Tom and George. George represents silence: he just does what he's going to do; Tom asks for the sake of asking and then does what he was going to do.
Barbara: George defined the director's role the other day He said the staff through its discussions makes the real decisions. The director, by real listening, makes the ultimate,
I'm afraid that rather than being a bridge between George and the staff Tom has been a barrier between them.
Phil: Point of order: We shouldn't talk about personalities
Karen: The director is chosen to lead the organization. The relationship between director and staff is like that between staff and local people. I am directly responsible to the people of Madison County; George is directly responsible to us. We are resource people finding out what the local people want. The director should guide without telling us what to do. It's a tricky role. He must make decisions only when people cannot make them for themselves. I disagree that any project director has a program. That program must come from the people themselves to the staff to the director.
George has been put in an impossible position, is being pressured from both above and below. I've reached the point where I want to have some say in who's above me. To relieve the pressures on George the situation should be one in which when an order comes from above George says, "let me consult with staff."
Rev. McReee said an important thing the other day: he has as much right to question the FDP as to follow it. This is true of more than the FDP.
JoAnn: Just want to underline the point Karen borrowed from Rev. McRee, a point that is crucial to the democratic process which I'm down here to help preserve. The freedom of dissent is essential. It wasn't operative on this project at all until the last 2 months or so.
George: The Project Director is a leader who sits and listens to the staff, gains ideas from them, he relies on the the staff for ideas. he definitely makes the ultimate decisions.
I have personal responsibilities. Sometimes I'm in Madison County, sometimes Ranking, sometimes Scot, sometimes Simpson. People should become independent. not independent of the project director, but they should become "real real followers."
There are two ways we are responsible. People here to me and me to Dave; also Dave responds to me and I to the staff.
The director must also keep the people together.
should from the . director should to responsibility and also to unity.
Barbara: There is a close tie in between "real real followers" and the
of responsibility. The local people should not be considered as part of a chain of command. We don't want the project director out of touch with them. He must be close to the local people as well as to the staff; we don't want him to like the head of a board of directors.
(Barbara asked George if this was close to what he was saying when he talked about real real followers)
George: I have taken time to listen to the staff; then I stopped.
Sears: This meeting should end. You pepole should meet tomorrow
Barbara: Mr. Chinn don't you want to say something.
C.O. Tempers are short. We should meet tomorrow.
July: Does anybody object.
JoAnn: There's a previous motion on the floor: that Tom should sit in on tomorrow's meeting.
(Considerable and rather aimless discussion with people gradually dwindling away.)
Karen: Let's decide what we'll discuss tomorrow.
Phil: We should discuss why Tom was kicked off the project.
Karen: If we accept that Tom has been kicked off the project we should discuss not only why he was kicked off but what is going to happen in the future.
Phil: I suggest we discuss if Tom has been kicked off the project.
George: I object. The decision has been made.
JoAnn: Then let's accept George's decision for purposes of discussion but make our question both why and
howTom was kicked off; this will give us some information about what to expect in the future.
Phil: The real question we should discuss is what rights has project director.
(Further increasingly disjointed discussion with increasingly dwindling ranks. Decision of handful remaining was to meet tomorrow at 11 and discuss what rights has the project D.
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