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

Thursday, November 8, 2007

The Attempted Derailing of Head Start

There's somewhat of a mystery involving the above document. What you see is all I know. I believe the "M. Davis" is Mendall Davis and it looks like the word "Restricted" is my father's handwriting. My guess is that this document came from the Sovereignty Commission files and how and when a copy got to my father is unknown. As for the validity, I think it is accurate because I've found confirmation of the parts concerning Polly Greenberg in her book, including a reference to a Charles that I believe to be Charles Evers. I'll get into those quotes from her book on Monday.

Here's the document concerning Charles Evers, my father, and Head Start. I have a few comments at the bottom of this post and I'll have more comments in tomorrow's post concerning this document and what I think it meant to my dad:

May 16, 1966
Jackson, Mississippi

A meeting was called this date by the Ministers of Jackson and the Community Council. It was held at the African Methodist Church, located in back of the Mary Jones School.

Charles Evers was present for this meeting. He stated that he represented the NAACP, and made a speech pertaining to the Jackson Headstart program. He apologized to everyone for letting this type of program slip in on them. He stated that it was being run by the power structure and a few hand picked Negroes. He advised the Ministers that they would not let their churches be used for free this year. (They were free last year.) He stated “the only way this program (Headstart) will continue is over my dead body”. Evers stated the reason I say this is because such fellows as Colonel Davis, who has been a segregationist all of his life, and Mr. Ezell and Mr. Huhn all of a sudden became concerned with our little colored children and all they really want is the money they can get out of the program. He stated further that they have already hired a white female to become Director of the program without letting anyone know, about the program, because he may have wanted to be the Director. (Frank’s note: this last sentence is typed exactly as is and I’m not sure if that means Charles Evers wanted to be the Director.)

For the above stated reasons Evers wired OEO in Atlanta to stop all money for this program. He stated that he had received a call back from a friend in Atlanta verifying that the money had been stopped.

Reverend Richmond, speaking for all of the Ministers, thanked Mr. Evers for his help and support with this trouble and stated that Mr. Evers could be sure their churches would not be used for this sort of program.

A meeting of Star, Inc. was held on the above date. Those present were, Ted Seivers, James Mays, Mrs. Hamilton and Mr. Evans.

It was discussed that some of the trainees going to Star school are very unhappy. The students are saying that they have been going to school for three months (to graduate on May 25, 1966) and have not learned anything; that they are going to graduate and do not know what for.

Ted Seivers, of the Hinds County Community Council, suggested that on graduation night (May 25) a demonstration be staged. This demonstration will take place on Lynch Street, outside the auditorium where the graduation is to take place.

Seivers stated the reason for this demonstration is to stop other students from going to school, due to the fact they are not learning anything and if necessary to keep other students who wanted to graduate from entering the auditorium.

All participants of this demonstrations are suppose to meet Saturday evening at 4:00 P.M., May 25, 1966, at the Medgar Evers Neighborhood Guild. The purpose of this meeting is to print signs to be used in the demonstration and to decide how many trainees will support them in the demonstration.

CDGM (Child Development Group of Mississippi) held a meeting on the above date. Approximately 59 unexpected white students from the North came in to work for CDGM during the summer. The Area Administrators got mad at the unexpected arrival of these northern students and are going to send them back home. They want Polly Greenberg to send them back.

There is going to be a meeting Thursday morning at 10:00 A.M., May 19, 1966 at Mount Beulah. All of the Area Administrators are going to be there. The Area Administrators will be in CDGM cars and will not be on official business.

This meeting was called by Sam Houze, or House, he is over the Social Service Department which works with the Area Administrators. He also works with MFDP and SNCC. (My note: the correct spelling is Sam Howze.)

Robert Miles, a colored male who is on the Executive Board of MFDP and also works with CDGM as an Area Administrator, from Batesville, is calling this meeting along with Sam Houze.

Then hope to get a recommendation out of this meeting to present to the Board to fire Polly Greenberg. The reason is not known at this time, but the reason may be due to the information related to our report of May 12, 1966.

A report to follow up on this meeting is expected later this week.

Investigation is to be continued.

I just want to tie the above back to yesterday's post:

--First off, when I read the interview Evers did in 1971 which included the quote, "You see, whites are not involved in this Headstart [program], not involved in these poverty programs.", it really angers me. Technically, that may have been true in 1971, but it is quite a twist of history to leave out the fact that Charles Evers basically said that the only way that whites would be allowed to continue working in the Head Start program was "over his dead body". Whites were not working in Head Start because they were run out of the program by people like Charles Evers, not because they weren't interested and willing to help.

--Second, once again going back to the 1971 interview, Charles Evers repeatedly says that he is a man bound by honesty and that his commitment to honesty has often gotten him in trouble. In 1966, for Charles Evers to say that my father was only interested in Head Start because he wanted to get at the money involved with the program, that was just a blatant lie. I think Charles Evers knew the opposite was true, that as long as my dad was involved with Head Start then the money would only go towards helping the kids that the program was intended to help.

--Third, I wonder if any of the ministers present at the meeting made any effort to correct Charles Evers' characterization of my father. Some of them must have known him from the previous year of Head Start and certainly they knew of the other things my father had done that got him in trouble with certain elements of the white community. This report makes is sound like no one took exception to the statement that my dad "all of a sudden became concerned with our little colored children and all they really want is the money they can get out of the program". I think it shows that most people don't want to stick their necks out and disagree with the establishment, whether it is to disagree with the White Citizens Council or the NAACP.

--And finally, this meeting apparently took place in May of 1966. Making plans to block the existing Jackson Head Start program this late in the year has to make you wonder if there were any plans for a replacement Head Start program in the summer of 1966. Maybe we are getting back to the concept James Silver could not understand, that the welfare of the children is something that was expendable.

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