Document 75: Elayne DeLott to Renee DeLott, "the first thing i must tell you," Jackson, Mississippi, 27 December 1964, Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University.

Introduction

   My flippant letters to my sister masked the anguish found in my personal reflections.

dear sistero

    the first thing i must tell you is that the O key when not capitalized does not work, sorry, i feel like a fool, but it wasn't working the last time i tried using this machine. anyway, i will write up something about jail experience and send you a copy, so i don't talk about it here. unfortunately this leaves me without too much to talk about since the things connected with the election have been occupying my thoughts and time. anyway, this is a birthday greeting too. happy birthday and i will no doubt call you later. ——--------------- ———-—-— that line was just me testing the thing on the ibm machine to see what it did. i am really kind of fascinated by machines that work. i am unfortunately not your mechanical genius and this sometimes presents a problem. i am really tired. you'll have to excuse the kind of jumping around and nonsense because i have been awake for three days now. the staff meeting took one complete night, and then the next night i left hattiesburg at 3:00 a.m. after the staff meeting to be in time to see the lawyers, and when i got here i found the only girl working in the office was sick and so i took over the phones and office for the next 33 hours. that's where i am now. i really don't know what i am saying. i can't leave and go home to sleep because i am so tired and i don't quite know how to handle just going to sleep. i have the feeling, really, that i won't wake up. besides, i kind of like this half crazed state i'm in. it is not entirely productive, but then again it is like being a different person because your body feels different and your mind feels different and you act differently. it's weird. staying awake for long periods of time is a kind of status symbol in the movement. the movement has all kind of funny status symbols. of course being arrested and beaten many times is one, but not so much any more because it is so common and not really difficult to do. of course if you haven't been arrested you can have little status, but being arrested is nothing to be admired. on the other hand, staying awake for four or five days, and working constantly without food are very important. neglecting your health is another one. not smiling and looking like you're contemplating and suffering is the necessary all around attitude to go with particular feats of valor. a kind of strange one is sweeping the floor. in this movement the really top people sweep the floor. i think it might have something to do with not delegating menial tasks or the dignity of labor or some shit like that, but whatever it is, it turns out that bob moses and jim foreman are known for always sweeping the floor. jesse also can be seen on slow evenings cleaning the toilets or sweeping the floors or the sidewalk in front of the office. as a matter of fact, it's contagious. when there's no one around and i'm in charge of the office i take to sweeping up and cleaning too. i don't know what to say we're all terribly anal or what, but it just happens to be the way we operate. i'm changing to another typewriter because there are alot of people around now.

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