Interview with Lawrence Guyot
QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

UH, CAN YOU TELL ME, HOW DID, HOW DID YOU GET INVOLVED IN THE, IN THE CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT AND NOT NECESSARILY IN THE MFDP BUT HOW DID YOU GET IN… INVOLVED IN ORGANIZING AND WHAT DID, WHAT DOES IT TAKE FOR SOMEONE IN THE SOUTH TO GET INTO THAT?

Lawrence Guyot:

Well, I had, I had two forces operating that led me immediately into the Civil Rights Movement, the Catholic Church, I happened to be born in a part of the state of Mississippi that was very Catholic, very labor union and it coincidentally is, it is the county in which the former Governor Bilbo lived in, in the adjoining county to the one I was born in. So, early in life, my father was a political leader on a small scale in that town because it goes to the question of the mathematics. In Harrison County there were 119,000 inhabitants at that time and I'm talking about 1957. 100,000 of ‘em were white, 19,000 were black, we could have voted five times, it would have made no difference, but because of the Catholic influence, because of the labor influence, blacks were not only allowed to vote but they were encouraged to vote and whites candidates sought our votes. So at 17 for, for years I had been associated with my father's political activity, so at 17 I went to Tougaloo College which was a, a college that was being fought by the state, the only biracial college in the state, the only college that was really opened to political ideas even in 1957 that college was desegregating, was… the, the President of that college would separate to the point from every other black college that I know at that time was encouraging and participating in the decision of which students would participate in demonstrations. So I had that influence. I also was able to learn very early that anything was possible. I mean, if, I had, I'd seen prostitutes who had been able to organize that endeavor to the point of uh, becoming landowners. I had seen a lot of other things. I, in 1954 when the Supreme Court decision came down, I was able to discuss that immediately with a priest who was a political activist, who was openly supportive of integration but at the same time was, later, in 19—-in 1954 he and I were friends and allies. In 1968 we were on different sides of who to support because we were both in the same uh, delegation to, to uh, Chicago. I mean, so the, the whole, I, I guess basically the reason I got involved, was because I was very dissatisfied about a lot of things. I learned early that anything is possible. And I learned that the correlation between information and power is immediate. And I kept relearning that. I mean, I have never seen, in all of my years of organizing and recruiting other people into organizing, I have never asked anyone to do anything that wasn't in their self-interest, or something that I wouldn't do.