* Code added to make Google search more likely. Mississippi Civil Rights--One Man, One Story: Head Start Resignation

Friday, November 9, 2007

Head Start Resignation

Before I started this project I was aware of the document from May of 1966 in which Charles Evers made his comments about my father. I had forgotten the part about how Charles Evers, as the representative from the NAACP, was vowing to do everything that he could to stop the Jackson Head Start program and he was encouraging the black ministers to stop helping with the program. To put things in perspective, prior to May, 1966 and the comments made about my dad, the following had all occurred:

--My dad had been at the forefront of getting the business community to support the new Civil Rights laws, a highly unpopular stance to take.
--At least 2 KKK-type newsletters had been put out about my dad.
--A cross had been burned on his front lawn.
--He had testified before the Senate Sub-Committe on Civil Rights when they met in Jackson.
--He had been head of the steering committee for the 1965 Jackson Head Start program.
--He had been subject to bomb threats and threats of physical violence.
--And all in all, there really should have been no doubt in the black community of the sincerity of my dad's actions and the risks he was taking to try to make a change.

I wish my dad had written down his thoughts about how he felt when he saw the document that I posted yesterday. I have a feeling that the knowledge that the NAACP was trying to block funding of the Jackson Head Start program was probably a punch in the gut that was far worse than anything the Klan ever did. I've always had a tremendous amount of admiration for my father because he was willing to stand up to the threats of the Klan. Maybe it was more admirable that he continue to work for change even after he was slander by someone on his side of the battle.

Unfortuantely, he apparently didn't stay involved in Head Start much longer. I can't say for certain that my father totally cut his connection with Head Start in September, 1967, but I did find the following letter in the papers regarding the Head Start project:

Hinds County Project Head Start (this was the letterhead)
320 North West Street
Phone 948-6505
Jackson, Mississippi

September 14, 1967

Mr. R. L. Ezelle, Jr.
P. O. Box 4975
Jackson, Mississippi

Dear Mr. Ezelle,

At the meeting on Tuesday evening Mr. Stevens brought to us the very regrettable announcement of your resignation from the Policy Advisory Committee. We wish you could have been present to hear the spontaneous expressions of regret over your resigning and of appreciation for your varied and indispensable contributions to the Head Start Program.

To paraphrase a clever song, we had become accustomed not only to your face but to your counsel, your encouragement, your dependability and your very practical assistance in so many ways. We realize that it was because of your deep concern for the children Head Start was designed to serve, that you were willing to give time, patience, thought and hard work to help initiate the Program and see that it continued. We also realize that the Project has been immeasurably helped by your wise leadership on the Committee and your fine influence in the community.

For all this we are heartily grateful and want to express to you, in this letter, our thanks for your unselfish and effective service to Head Start over a very long period of time. We are counting on your continued interest and hope you will be able to attend some of our meetings in the crucial months ahead.

With very best wishes to you from all of us,
Yours sincerely,
A. A. Barron, Chairman
Bethany C. Swearingen, Secretary


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