Interview with Lawrence Guyot


Lawrence Guyot:

Right. We lived in Amzie Moore's house: fourteen of us. That was our outpost in the delta. That was where we launched out from there, from Amzie Moore's house on Chisolm Street in Cleveland, Mississippi, we moved into Sunflower, uh, Raymond, uh, a couple of other people moved into Mrs. Hamer's town, and once we began the whole, well the first meeting that Mrs. Hamer attended she attended because it was held in a church, because she was a go—a great gospel singer and a natural leader. She flowed out of the plantation system, she was a time keeper, a position of trust and honor if there's such in the pl—in the plantation schema. And because we were… Bev—James Bevel did most of the talking at the first meeting that Mrs. Hamer attended. Bevel was a great speaker—is a great speaker, and was a minister. So, I would have been able to use the church as a meeting place and have a minister speak the social gospel about the right… why we should register to vote, what impact that would have on our lives, influenced Mrs. Hamer and 21 other people, so she decided to go with us the next day to Indianola to register to vote. Now, registering to vote at that time meant that you filled out 22-question questionnaire. One of the questions was, interpret any of the 286 sections of the Mississippi Constitution to the satisfaction of the registrar. Now, you have to bear in mind that some of those registrars couldn't read or write. But that didn't matter; they could still determine who should be registered if that person happened to be black because all whites who attempted to register were registered.** After we went through the process of filling out the questionnaire we knew that all of the applicants name would be pla—posted in the newspaper to serve notice to their creditors and to their employers that here's someone who had done something wrong. The… on returning from Indianola, we were arrested, some of us were, the bus driver was arrested, others of us went to see about him, this sort of thing, but that was the only arrest. From that day on, Mrs. Hamer, upon returning to the plantation she was told that she had a choice. She could take her name off, and stay on the plantation, or she could leave her name on and she'd have to leave. She told the person that she'd been working to for 18 years, that I didn't register for you; I registered for me. And I think that the act of registration and making that statement was the beginning of a history that changed the South. Fannie Lou Hamer was a great woman who influenced the Civil Rights Movement, who influenced the Democratic Party, who influenced Lyndon Johnson to the point of saying, of him calling directly while she was speaking the television networks and say look, get these niggers off. The uh—I'm speaking specifically about her testimony at the 1964 Democratic Convention. Mrs. Hamer was involved in the peace movement long before anyone else with the exception of Andy Young who was in the Civil Rights Movement was. She traveled with him to involve certain segments of the National Council of Churches early in the civil rights—in the peace movement. She was early involved in the, in the women's question. Sissy Farenhold and Mrs. Hamer was the co-chairpersons of uh one of the first groups that was organized around, involving political activity to bring about peace and a unification of the women's question.