Interview with Peter Orris


Peter Orris:

Well we uh, came to Oxford, Ohio uh, in June, I think it was, of 1964. Uh, and this was the uh, training session that was supposed to last uh, for a week uh, and there were two sessions to be run uh, in Oxford at uh, a college there. And what this was designed to do was to bring the volunteers, those of us that had never been in Mississippi, into contact with the uh, SNCC uh, and CORE veterans uh, who had been there for several years and knew what we were going into and what to expect and it was designed to um, acquaint us with the practical work that we were going to be doing - those of us there the first week were to be involved in voter registration efforts and it was to acquaint us with the laws as well as the practical aspects of the voter registration. Additionally, it was to give us a feeling of exactly what kind of a tense atmosphere we were going in, what kind of violence that uh, we should expect um, and how to attempt to avoid the violence, and also uh, nonviolent uh, resistance or rather nonviolent uh, responses to violent situations and so that we were uh, and had played acted uh, in Oxford, Ohio situations where angry uh, uh, groups of people, mobs would be attacking us and how we would we handle ourselves in that situation uh, in situations where our life was threatened and um, uh, a whole variety of these situations which the uh, experienced uh, SNCC uh, workers were sure that we were going to meet during the time in the summer and they wanted to guarantee that we were going to respond in a nonviolent manner um, and respond in a manner that would be most uh, most helpful for our safety and, and those around us. So that was what uh, was uh, happening during that first week in Oxford, Ohio. Then a group of us were assigned to go to the southwest Mississippi area which was uh, an area that um, at the time had the uh, most violent uh, tradition uh, in Mississippi and, and uh, a farmer there had been killed a short time before uh, for being involved in voter registration efforts and uh, the violence had been ongoing uh, in that area. And so those of us that were going to that area uh, spent extra time on uh, both the techniques of voter registration and the question of uh, nonviolent response to violent actions - as well as uh, we were then asked to go uh, to Washington uh, to make a direct uh, appeal uh, to the Attorney General uh, Nicholas Katzenbach and others in the government uh, that they should pay special attention uh, to what was happening in Mississippi this summer uh, as uh, we felt and/or the organizers felt that our lives would certainly be at risk for engaging in this activity.