Interview with Lawrence Guyot
QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT WAS THE DEBATE ABOUT OVER VOLUNTEERS IN GREENVILLE, OR WHETHER TO BRING IN VOLUNTEERS, INTO MISSISSIPPI?

Lawrence Guyot:

It was, it was a debate of turf. Here was people, we had worked together. We had recruited new people and had brought them into the fold. We were organizing in, in Greenwood, we were catching hell in every form. People being arrested. People were being threatened. People were bring kicked off farms. People were being beaten. People were being fired if they even associated with us. But despite all of that we were able to get people to go down and regis—and attempt to register to vote in the Delta where there'd been a whole history of violence and deprivation and peonage really. It wasn't slavery but it certainly was peonage. So we were able to… move, then there became the question of why don't we… we conducted the freedom election and one of the lessons we learned from the freedom election in 1963 was that the FBI was very, very concerned about providing protection and pub—public cover to all of the volunteers who were white, who were northern and who were well, relatively well educated. We learned pragmatically that the way to bring protection to our people was to bring whites in. We wanted to bring the national attention to what we were doing, to protect people who we could not protect—we never lied to anyone—we never said come register to vote with us you won't get shot, you won't get fired from your job, your social security won't be cut off. It—despite the fact that social security is a federal payment, a federal fund, I saw a notice in the social security check sent out from Jackson, Mississippi, that a warning to everyone—if you register to vote, your check can be cut off. The pervasiveness of that state in preventing political activity even of that nature was so complete it is very hard to recapture for people who wasn't involved in it.