Interview with Lawrence Guyot
QUESTION 41
INTERVIEWER:

CAN YOU TELL ME ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ORGANIZING IN THE DELTA AND ORGANIZING IN THE SOUTHWEST AND WHY, WHY EFFORTS WERE CONCENTRATED IN THE DELTA AREA?

Lawrence Guyot:

We were concentrating in the Delta because there was a heavy church population there, there was a, an extremely heavy black population there. The, the Delta had been a natural congressional district for quite some time. And, to me, the Leflore County was an example of what we found in the delta. The—Leflore County was 80% black but there was only one black registered voter. And none of us could find him. So we concentrated where we would make the most mileage out of the energy and out of the sacrifice that we asked people to join in us with. Because we, we mob—we mobilized around the vote which separated us from other states; other states would, segregated, were were, at, mobilizing around the lunch counter. Our position was everything that was involved, that was a problem for us was political. The o—the one thing that politicians listen to is votes. So we went out early at—mobilize—we organized for the right to organize in the political arena. And once we'd won that fight and once we'd assisted in forcing, in educating the Department of Justice for the need to the 9—for the 1965 Voting Rights Act, we helped write the 1965 Voting Rights Act in the state of Mississippi. If the Freedom Democratic Party had not challenged the congressmen from the state of Mississippi, I am convinced that the 1965 Voting Rights Act would have never passed. A lot of people, a lot of historians, L.B.J. included, like to include the Selma march as the only justification for the passage of that act. I think that's foolish. You know, all we have to do is look at the congressional record in which Congressman McClellan, a liberal Republican, said on the House floor the day that the vote was taken, we should unseat the Mississippi delegation, but we don't have to. As an alternative let's let this challenge die and let's give black people in the state of Mississippi what they have always been fighting for: the right to vote. We can do that by passing the 1965 Voting Rights Act. I think the connection between the congressional challenge by the Freedom Democratic Party—and that wouldn't have been possible if we didn't have the support of people in that state to fight for their self interest and Arthur Kinoy and Bill Kuntsler, both of the National Lawyers Guild.