Interview with Peter Orris
QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, UH, DO YOU SEE ANYTHING IN RETROSPECT WHICH MIGHT BE INTERPRETED AS, AS UH, UH, COMING DISTURBANCE OF TENSIONS THAT HAD ALWAYS EXISTED IN THE MOVEMENT BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITES, SPECIFICALLY BETWEEN UH, UH, PEOPLE AROUND STOKELY OR PEOPLE, WHO WERE UH, BEGINNING TO THINK THAT THERE, THERE COULDN'T BE ANYMORE PROGRESS WITH AN INTEGRATED CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. DID YOU EVER SEE ANY SIGNS OF THIS THOUGHOUT THE SUMMER - TENSION AND…

Peter Orris:

There was uh, during the Mississippi summer there was the feeling on the part of some uh, SNCC organizers uh, that this tactic of involving for a brief period of time uh, northern students, predominantly white, uh, was not a healthy tactic. Um, and specifically, it uh, uh, deprecated the uh, efforts uh, that many uh, uh, very courageous black organizers and uh, black citizens of Mississippi had been making for many years. And uh, even those that said it was uh, uh, important and it would rivet the attention of the country and therefore was helpful um, were also uh, felt uh, emotionally that this should not be, the country should be riveted when uh, a black uh, citizen of Mississippi is terrorized for trying to register to vote. And I must say, that was not just a feeling on the part of uh, uh, SNCC organizers or, and I, and I don't think it was a black white uh, split either. Many of the whites uh, involved in the process felt the same thing um, and we knew uh, that this was a tactic and that uh, there were reasons for it. In Atlantic City uh, following the uh, offer of this uh, to uh, uh, symbolic delegates and no real uh, power um, there was a large debate within the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation as well as volunteers, as well as SNCC organizers, as well as uh, a variety of other civil rights leaders who were at uh, Atlantic City uh, that issue broke down as to whether or not those two symbolic delegates should be accepted or rejected uh, and SNCC and the Freedom Democratic Party people from Mississippi, by and large uh, felt that they had to be rejected. Um, many of the civil rights leadership who had ties to the Democratic Party um, and uh, felt in council, that in fact they should be accepted uh, and that was an important stake. That was not a black/white uh, difference or, or division. Uh, and uh, I, just as one example, I remember as one of the volunteers, or one of the whites involved with SNCC at the time uh, getting up uh, and speaking very passionately about it Rita Schwerner um, uh, Schwerner's widow, got up and spoke very passionately against the acceptance uh, as did Moses uh, Bob Moses, who was the leader of uh, SNCC in Mississippi and the MFDP.