Interview with Marian Wright Edelman

Would you say the biggest problem then was people just being able to survive?


It was survival. I mean we were having major problems of hunger, even starvation. There were people in Mississippi who had no income. The federal government was shifting over from food stamps, ah, to food stamps from commodities distribution. And while the commodities distribution program of the Department of Agriculture was lousy, didn't provide enough food, it wasn't good enough food, it was free. And when you began to shift to food stamps and charge even two dollars per person there were people in Mississippi who didn't even have that two dollars. It was very hard to get people from Washington to believe that there were families that could not afford a dollar or two. I always used to look at the dogs, ah, in a community to decide how poor that community were. And you would see these mangy, scrawny dogs, um, which for me symbolized hunger. And whenever I go into any third world country today, I always look at the dogs. And I used to remember how poor and skinny and awful looking the dogs were like. But the poor were struggling. You know, they were being pushed off the plantations because of the mechanization of cotton, because of the use of chemical weed killing and while it was a literal bondage system, the plantation system in Mississippi, ah, in the '40s, '50s and '60s, ah, where the Senator Eastland sub- you know, were subsidized in the hundreds and thousands of dollars by the federal government, the, the peasants or the tenants on those farms literally could not eat and did not have the most basic survival needs in this rich American country.