Document 76: Alise Blackwell, "Trip to Washington," Washington D.C., 3 January 1965, Elaine DeLott Baker Papers, Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute, Harvard University. 3 pp.
Prior to the Congressional Challenge (see Document 34), I made a series of phone calls to offices of high-ranking officials in several federal agencies that were particularly important to the lives of local Black Mississippians, such as Health, Education and Welfare (HEW), Social Security, Department of Agriculture, and Veterans Affairs. The publicity of the summer had attracted the attention of the capital and it wasn't difficult for me to set up meetings that Mississippi people could attend in conjunction with their protests. Escorting local people into those offices where they were able to be heard was incredibly moving. Many of the individual complaints were followed up at the local level, however reluctantly. There was no dramatic outcome on the course of the movement, or even in the way that local agencies operated, but it was a meaningful event in the lives of the individuals who participated.
Trip to Washington
The M.F.D.P. left Greenwood, Mississippi to challenge Congress, January 2, 1965, at 11:00 or 11:30 a.m. We arrived in Washington D.C. at 12:30 or 1:00, January 3, 1965.
When we reached our destination, we were received with hospitality. The people at the Temple applauded and yelled to us as we walked in.
After we registered, we were assigned to various homes in the city. After a peaceful rest, we returned to the Temple for a meeting. Lawrence Guyot, after opening the meeting, called upon various members of the M.D.F. Party to demonstrate how they would approach each congressman. After the demonstration, we adjourned by singing the closing code-"We Shall Overcome." When we returned to our assigned home, a warm delicious dinner awaited us, which we really enjoyed. After a peaceful slumber during the night, we awoke refreshed and grateful to our maker for being yet alive and for a safe trip.
We went back to the Temple after eating a good breakfast. After a brief discussion, we left to go to the White House to present letters to congressmen. When we arrived at the White House, we were divided into groups of four as each group was to visit four congressmen in the White House. When we entered the door, we were kindly received.
After presenting letters and writing our names, we walked in
[p. 2]dignity to the lobby. After lobbying some considerable time, we walked out very dignified and stood five in a row before the Capitol building.
Policemen stood emotional in front of us in amazement and wonder. People passed us, some smiling, some bowing, some saying to us in a soft tone-"I wish you good luck." While others sarcastically turned their heads away from us, some muttering in an undertone, but we stood there for a long, long time.
While we stood in groups of five, quietly and bravely, a fanatic, by hook or crook, "Ho bared" his way into Congress with his face blackened and a tail hung on to him-jumped up and yelled, "I"se a freedom democratic party, seat me!"
The candidates who were turned away, walked out in dignity, without any argument. We wondered why that hoodlum got in so easily, unnoticed and we, the non-violent group, were watched as wolves watched sheep in the fold.
We also demonstrated-singing with the spirit; songs of praise. We were told where to march, but we marched where we wanted to without any harassment or intimidation.
Some wanted us to demonstrate-some didn't, but we demonstrated anyway. Seemingly it did something to the officers. They seemed to have forgotten about their position and wanted to help us sing.
They seemed tired and worn, but were too embarrassed to tell us. When we sang the verse, "Don't let President Johnson
[p. 3]turn you around," they only looked at each other and grinned. We also visited the Education and Health Department and received information. We also visited other places of interest and received information on the solving of problems in the South.
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