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Fannie Lou Hamer





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Fannie Lou Hamer THE MISSISSIPPI FREEDOM DEMOCRATIC PARTY

McMillen: Did Johnson say it?

Hamer: President Lyndon Baines Johnson. I've got a book somewhere here on it. But it was somebody very close that knew what was going on that said he said, "Take them cameras off"‹see because, I found out after then women and men from over the country wept when I was testifying--because when I testified, I was crying too. But anyway after that time I think the president became very angry, especially with the black delegation, and a lot of the stuff they covered up. But we've been victimized so much that we didn't watch what was going on. So, they carried me to one meeting and at this meeting they told me if we didn't compromise for the two votes-at-large, that the vice president --see, Johnson had put Humphrey on the spot and told him that if he couldn't calm us down then he wouldn't let him be his running mate for vice president. This is the kind of politics we were exposed to. Then they had a big meeting of everybody else except us in Mississippi and just decided they were going to tell us what to do. And when we came back to this church, at this meeting at this church, they were saying what Dr. King, James Foreman, Roy Wilkins, and it was other big people, and Senator Humphrey.

McMillen: Randolph?

Hamer: Yes, and Bayard Rustin. And I says, "I don't know nothing about them people." But we felt that we had a right--as it was us, as it was our own delegation, and the delegation was from Mississippi--we had a right to make our own decisions. Not them! They couldn't understand it when we rebelled and we refused, you know, because if we got two votes-at-large we didn't have nothing.

McMillen: Of course. It wasn't a compromise at all.

Hamer: It was just nothing. So, we almost fought there at one time. Because I told Dr. Henry [that] if he didn't tell them better that we wasn't going to accept no compromise, I, you know, would do something to him. So, he come on out--and he didn't have no other choice because the six to eight of us, you know, including him and myself, was just mad enough that we weren't going to let them do us like that, and I felt better.

McMillen: Yes, what was Dr. Henry's position first? Was he inclined to compromise?

Hamer: Yes, Dr. Henry--after, you see, they couldn't handle me, they got Dr. Henry and Rev. Edwin King. And they were going to accept this. They were going out there and accept it!

McMillen: King was willing to accept it, too?

Hamer: Yes. You know, I looked in 1972 at that National Democratic convention in Miami, Florida. I was very disgusted. I felt disgusted because the people they had pulled in with the Loyal Democrats don't know what suffering is and don't know what politics is about. This is the new group of people. Because, you see, right now the best thing that could happen in the state of Mississippi is the Freedom Democratic Party, and in some areas, they do have it--like Holmes County. They have the Freedom Democratic Party. But it's the only solution that's going to do anything for us in the South. And that's not only blacks, that's blacks and whites. Because it's the kind of politics that's going to be clean, and, you see, this country is not ready for that.

McMillen: Yes. What about the Loyalist faction now? You think they're just too white-oriented or too willing to compromise?

Hamer: Really, honest to God, when I was at that convention, in that fall, in Miami, Florida, all I watched was the Regulars who had been replaced with another group of 99 percent white‹because I watched it. I watched the whole thing and I, you know, I say, "Well, I've been sick so I could be imagining things." So, then I called Representative Clark. I said, "Representative Clark, I would like to know what you think, really honest to goodness, about this convention. If I'm suspecting something, I'm just, being just, if my mind is making me think that I see what I'm seeing." He said, "You're not telling no lie!" He said, "This is their convention." And I watched. It was Watkins, it was Hodding Carter, it was Jan Watkins and her husband, and Hodding Carter. I watched the whole thing and then before they left when they had the conference it was just, had been orientated into another thing. So, at first, I really couldn't understand Cleve's positions, but Cleve McDowell. I couldn't understand his position, but now that I know where he stands I respect him so much.

McMillen: He's a Regular Democrat, isn't he?

Hamer: Yes, I respect him so much. Because if you're not ruled by one, you're ruled by the other one. And, if you noticed there wasn't any black people had nothing to say at that convention from Mississippi. Hodding Carter made one of these big, flamboyant speeches. Well, I like Hodding. And then I just watch how they run the show, and they might not really be doing this intentionally. But it's there!

McMillen: Why did they organize the Loyalist Party in the first place?

Hamer: I think the whole thing was to break down the Freedom Democratic Party, because we had a certain position, you know. From the beginning it was organized with grassroots folks. We was against the war; we was against everything that we thought wasn't right. And for this reason they're making and passing that resolution that they had to seat somebody in 1968. Well, again, this was the thing that hung up in between there, you know. Because it's never been really represented right. When we went to Chicago in 1968 for that convention, I told Charles Evers that, number one, Charles Evers wasn't here to do none of it. Charles Evers rode to fame on his brother's name. But anyway, in 1964 when we went to that convention and didn't accept that compromise, they have to have something to do all they could to crush the Freedom Democratic Party. So, when they went back in 1968 it would look more decent. So, out of that comes the Loyal Democrats. And I mean they talked to me as though I wasn't in the first founding of the real political thing. And they told me that if I made any kind of speeches up there that don't speak for the Loyalists, speak for the Freedom Democratic Party--and I'm telling you--

McMillen: That's in 1968?

Hamer: That was in 1968. I'm telling you some things I heard from Watkins and some of those people that was up there was really sickening to me. So, I can't just have the love for the Loyal Democrats that I have always--whatever, if it's just a splinter of the Freedom Democratic Party, I'll always be there. It's something that was bringing clean politics with people, and that's what I think we need. We've had bad politics too long, and it's a lot--you know, it's a lot of young people now want something different, and that's what we was about.

McMillen: Yes. Do you think that Hodding Carter and--what's his name--Earl Watkins and the other whites involved in the Loyalist Party were just afraid that the MFDP would become like the Panther Party in Lowndes County, Alabama?

McMillen: No, I don't think that they thought that, but I think they thought that it would be too much recognition for a bunch of niggers. So, why not step on the bandwagon and take it over. You know what I'm saying? That's what I think that was about. Because, you know, I'm not the kind that--and I'm going to whale a bit of us [?] --not the kind what would have just kept going alone and by ourselves. It would have had to have been other people. So, this wouldn't have been a Black Panther Party; this would have been a real political force.

McMillen: Would you have accepted whites into it?

Hamer: Certainly!

McMillen: So, it wasn't racial exclusiveness?

Hamer: No, it wasn't racial exclusive because we tried to include poor blacks and whites and any other body that was really concerned about real changes. Because, you see, to have a real change, we can't do the same thing that they've done in the past, right? So, it would have to be a change from that. But that's what I've seen as far as the Loyalists. I went to this convention, I observed, I looked at it, and I talked to other blacks in Mississippi, from Jackson; it was the same kind of exclusion that it had been in the past, only it was the Loyalists. But they had their own thing going on. There just wasn't enough of our folks speaking out. Because you see, when we went to Chicago they give the white 50 percent of the delegation. The white wasn't over 10 or 15 percent. I said, "Now, I don't mind giving the whites what they got, but don't give them over what they got," I said, "because they never give us nothing. So, if they have 10 percent of this delegation, set that [?] 10 percent, and let that other 90 percent that was black go on up there. "But see, this would have been too much. Like the schools when they call them integrated and have five whites and two thousand blacks. That's not integrated, you know. So that's what it's about. That's what the Loyalist was about.





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Published with permission from the University of Southern Mississippi's Center for Oral History and Cultural Heritage
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