Interview with Hodding Carter III


Hodding Carter III:

Those who participated in the Mississippi Democratic Freedom Party challenge then and now have to take satisfaction in knowing that what they did was really the basis and the germ for the great political reforms in the Democratic Party, not just in Mississippi, which took some time yet to effect, but in the country as a whole. What they presented as a reality to a convention, which couldn't turn its eyes away in 1964, was a reality that existed in other southern states. And the notion that it was not acceptable to be in the Democratic Party and discriminate against blacks and later against others who had been kept outside the standard process was really born there in that challenge. They failed by their own terms, they felt that they were sold out in 1964. I think they had a great success by any rational political standard, I think that what they did was to say, in effect, we have let you see what you didn't want to see, and you can't ever act the same way again. In Mississippi, look it took a long time after that, the MFDP was not a united front in itself, and those of us who were outside the MFDP didn't buy everything that was in the MFDP, and then those in the MFDP felt strongly that some of us who came later were coming to try to seize the glory after they had done the hard work, were coming in to try to grab off their fruits, so we had a long struggle after that. [overlap]But in that period of '64 they simply laid down what was to become the basis for the successful challenge and the absolute stripping of authority from the regular Democratic Party four years later, And in that sense, they fundamentally altered the nature of party polities in Mississippi. There's irony here of course, the more things changed in the Democratic Party in Mississippi because of the various pressures, the more of course, the Republican Party became a powerful influence. It became first the place to run to if you were an unreconstructed seg, then it became a place to run to if you were looking for a more conservative mixture of people. It also became a place to be a respectable revolutionary because to be a republican in the Mississippi of one-party polities, was a nice way to say I'm different from the past, not to put too much on it, but it is sort of the way a lot of young former Democrat yup types now say they're making their statement of independence when they say I'm a Reagan republican. Costs nothing, looks like real change, and if fact holds true to what makes them most comfortable. That's what being a Republican was for a lot of whites in Mississippi.