Negroes and the New Southern Politics

By Donald R. Matthews; James W. Prothro | Go to book overview

Part One
Introduction

On August 18, 1961, John W. Jones, a 21-year-old Negro from Nashville, Tennessee, opened a voter registration school for Negroes at the Mount Zion Baptist Church in rural Crayfish County, Mississippi. Mr. Jones, a student at Tennessee Agricultural and Industrial University and an active member of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, spent several weeks training a dozen or so Negroes in Mississippi's literacy test and other registration requirements. Up to that time these requirements (and their administration) had proved so intricate that not one of the 2,500 Negroes of voting age in Crayfish County had been able to satisfy them. After about two weeks of instruction, four Negro graduates of the training school -- one a college student and another a former school teacher -- presented themselves to the registrar of voters, Circuit Court Clerk Jim Rock, in the county courthouse in Breedville. The next day Mr. Rock announced that all four Negroes had failed to meet the legal qualifications for registration.

A week later two more graduates of the school, this time accompanied by Mr. Jones, tried to register. Mr. Rock declined to administer the test because he did not want to affect the outcome of a Justice Department suit just filed against him for discriminatory treatment of potential Negro voters. Rock and Jones fell into an argument. Finally, the registrar reached into his desk, pulled out a gun, and ordered the three Negroes to leave. After they had turned toward the door, Rock struck Jones on the head with his pistol. As the youth staggered from the office assisted by his companions, County Sheriff Ted White arrived on the scene, arrested him for disturbing the peace, and threatened to "beat him within an inch of his life."

• • •

Political interest among Negroes in Farmington, a small city in rural Bright

-3-

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