Interview with Robert Moses
QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

NOW AFTER THE FREEDOM VOTE, THE DISCUSSION CONTINUED ON FOR NEXT YEAR. TALK ABOUT, HELP ME TO UNDERSTAND WHERE THAT DISCUSSION WENT AFTER THE FREEDOM VOTE, AND HOW IT WAS DECIDED THEN AND IN '64.

Robert Moses:

Right. The, the idea of bringing in students from Stanford, Yale, students who were part of the elite institutions of the country, came from Al Lowenstein and he particularly I think felt that you needed to do this to capture the attention of the country. Immediately after the Freedom Vote which was successful then there came the question of should we do this in the summer of 1964, that is Al proposed that we actually bring down students in the summer of '64 from all across the country, from the nation's most prestigious schools and so forth. And the discussion then arose within the staff as to do we want to do this or not, and we were split. I mean we met for months over this question. By and large most of the staff did not want to do it. They felt...

Robert Moses:

Well, what happened was, you had the staff on the one hand and the people that we were working with on the other. The people by and large wanted the students to come back. Mrs. Hamer, an excellent case in point, she wanted the students to come back, and so we were at loggerheads. We couldn't get off right that fight and actually what happened was down in Hattiesburg, I think it was January 1964 and we were there having a demonstration, picketing the court house, Mrs. Hamer was there and staff from all around the state and we were taking up the question again, and we got a telephone call that Louis Allen had been murdered on his front lawn in Liberty. And I went over there to speak to his wife who then moved down to Baton Rouge and in the process of helping her and thinking through this, I felt like I had to step in and make my weight felt in terms of this decision about the summer project. Because up to then I had just been letting the discussion go on. And I guess what I felt was that we couldn't guarantee as we were going now, the safety of the people we were working with, and there were larger things that were happening in the country. There was the 1963 Civil Rights Act [sic], Mississippi was acting, reacting to that and we were feeling like the backwash of the whole feeling that was growing up in Mississippi against gains that were being made nationally, but which were not having any immediate effect in Mississippi in terms of actually people being able to participate in some of those gains. But what they were feeling was the oppression, the backwash that was rising up in Mississippi, burning churches, the murder of those two boys from Alcorn state occurred at that same time, Louis Allen down there in Liberty. We felt that we had to do something. And I felt that in that context that I had to step inbetween this loggerhead between the staff on the one hand and the people that we were working with. And so that's how the decision was made to actually invite the students down for the summer of '64. In the summer project what we wanted to do was basically, I think, open up the state of Mississippi. If you go back to Silver and his image of Mississippi as a closed society we were actually with that summer project trying to open up the state, and I think we did. We opened up the black community. That is we made it possible for the black community to receive and be host to white people. We couldn't open up the white community but those communities which we were, had something to do with which we were living in, we opened them up and if we didn't do anything else that was a big accomplishment. I think part of the difficulty was people thinking that they had to do something on a grand scale. Particularly the volunteers, but just their presence in the black community…