In December 1964, Representatives of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party toured Northern cities seeking support for their campaign to block the seating of Mississippi’s pro-segregation Congressmen who had been elected through the disfranchisement of black voters.
The rally was held at Harlem’s Williams Institutional CME Church, 2225 Adam Clayton Powell Jr Blvd., on December 20, 1964 with Malcolm X and Fannie Lou Hamer serving as the chief speakers. Hamer had risen from a sharecropper to a national figure after running for Congress on the bi-racial MFDP ticket which led to her moving testimony before Congress about the brutality she and other African Americans endured when they tried to vote in Mississippi.
Here is Malcolm’s speech and his introduction of Mrs. Hamer:
Reverend Coles, Mrs. Hamer, honored guests, brothers and sisters, friends and enemies; also ABC and CBS and FBI and CIA.
I couldn’t help but be very impressed at the outstart when the Freedom Singers were singing the song “Oginga Odinga” because Oginga Odinga is one of the foremost freedom fighters on the African continent. At the time he visited in Atlanta, Georgia, I think he was then the minister of home affairs in Kenya. But since Kenya became a republic last week, and Jomo Kenyatta ceased being the prime minister and became the president, the same person you are singing about, Oginga Odinga, is now Kenyatta’s vice president. He’s the number-two man in the Kenya government.
The fact that you would be singing about him, to me is quite significant. Two or three years ago, this wouldn’t have been done. Two or three years ago, most of our people would choose to sing about someone who was, you know, passive and meek and humble and forgiving. Oginga Odinga is not passive. He’s not meek. He’s not humble. He’s not nonviolent. But he’s free.
Oginga Odinga is vice president under Jomo Kenyatta, and Jomo Kenyatta was considered to be the organizer of the Mau Mau; I think you mentioned the Mau Mau in that song. And if you analyze closely those words, I think you’ll have the key to how to straighten the situation out in Mississippi. When the nations of Africa are truly independent—and they will be truly independent because they’re going about it in the right way—the historians will give Prime Minister, or rather, President Kenyatta and the Mau Mau their rightful role in African history. They’ll go down as the greatest African patriots and freedom fighters that that continent ever knew, and they will be given credit for bringing about the independence of many of the existing independent states on that continent right now. There was a time when their image was negative, but today they’re looked upon with respect and their chief is the president and their next chief is the vice president.
In Mississippi we need a Mau Mau. In Alabama we need a Mau Mau. In Georgia we need a Mau Mau. Right here in Harlem, in New York City, we need a Mau Mau.
I have to take time to mention that because, in my opinion, not only in Mississippi and Alabama, but right here in New York City, you and I can best learn how to get real freedom by studying how Kenyatta brought it to his people in Kenya, and how Odinga helped him, and the excellent job that was done by the Mau Mau freedom fighters. In fact, that’s what we need in Mississippi. In Mississippi we need a Mau Mau. In Alabama we need a Mau Mau. In Georgia we need a Mau Mau. Right here in Harlem, in New York City, we need a Mau Mau.
I say it with no anger; I say it with very careful forethought. The language that you and I have been speaking to this man in the past hasn’t reached him. And you can never really get your point across to a person until you learn how to communicate with him. If he speaks French, you can’t speak German. You have to know what language he speaks and then speak to him in that language.
When I listen to Mrs. Hamer, a black woman—could be my mother, my sister, my daughter—describe what they had done to her in Mississippi, I ask myself how in the world can we ever expect to be respected as men when we will allow something like that to be done to our women, and we do nothing about it? How can you and I be looked upon as men with black women being beaten and nothing being done about it, black children and black babies being beaten and nothing being done about it? No, we don’t deserve to be recognized and respected as men as long as our women can be brutalized in the manner that this woman described, and nothing being done about it, but we sit around singing “We Shall Overcome.” We need a Mau Mau. If they don’t want to deal with the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, then we’ll give them something else to deal with. If they don’t want to deal with the Student Nonviolent Committee, then we have to give them an alternative. Never stick someone out there without an alternative or we waste our time. Give them this or give them that. Give them the choice between this or that.
When I was in Africa, I noticed some of the Africans got their freedom faster than others. Some areas of the African continent became independent faster than other areas. I noticed that in the areas where independence had been gotten, someone got angry. And in the areas where independence had not been achieved yet, no one was angry. They were sad—they’d sit around and talk about their plight, but they weren’t mad. And usually, when people are sad, they don’t do anything. They just cry over their condition.
But when they get angry, they bring about a change. When they get angry, they aren’t interested in logic, they aren’t interested in odds, they aren’t interested in consequences. When they get angry, they realize the condition that they’re in—that their suffering is unjust, immoral, illegal, and that anything they do to correct it or eliminate it, they’re justified. When you and I develop that type of anger and speak in that voice, then we’ll get some kind of respect and recognition, and some changes from these people who have been promising us falsely already for far too long.
So you have to speak their language. The language that they were speaking to Mrs. Hamer was the language of brutality. Beasts, they were, beating her—the two Negroes, they weren’t at fault. They were just puppets. You don’t blame the puppet, you blame the puppeteer. They were just carrying out someone else’s orders. They were under someone else’s jurisdiction. They weren’t at fault; in a way they were, but I still won’t blame them. I put the blame on that man who gave the orders. And when you and I begin to look at him and see the language he speaks, the language of a brute, the language of someone who has no sense of morality, who absolutely ignores law—when you and I learn how to speak his language, then we can communicate. But we will never communicate talking one language while he’s talking another language. He’s talking the language of violence while you and I are running around with this little chicken-picking type of language—and think that he’s going to understand. Let’s learn his language. If his language is with a shotgun, get a shotgun. Yes, I said if he only understands the language of a rifle, get a rifle. If he only understands the language of a rope, get a rope. But don’t waste time talking the wrong language to a man if you want to really communicate with him. Speak his language—there’s nothing wrong with that. If something was wrong with that language, the federal government would have stopped the cracker from speaking it to you and me.
I might say, secondly, some people wonder, well, what has Mississippi got to do with Harlem? It isn’t actually Mississippi; it’s America. America is Mississippi. There’s no such thing as a Mason-Dixon Line—it’s America. There’s no such thing as the South—it’s America.
I might say, secondly, some people wonder, well, what has Mississippi got to do with Harlem? It isn’t actually Mississippi; it’s America. America is Mississippi. There’s no such thing as a Mason-Dixon Line—it’s America. There’s no such thing as the South—it’s America. If one room in your house is dirty, you’ve got a dirty house. If the closet is dirty, you’ve got a dirty house. Don’t say that that room is dirty but the rest of my house is clean. You’re over the whole house. You have authority over the whole house; the entire house is under your jurisdiction. And the mistake that you and I make is letting these Northern crackers shift the weight to the Southern crackers.
The senator from Mississippi is over the Judiciary Committee. He’s in Washington, D.C., as Mrs. Hamer has pointed out, illegally. Every senator from a state where our people are deprived of the right to vote—they’re in Washington, D.C., illegally. This country is a country whose governmental system is run by committees— House committees and Senate committees. The committee chairman occupies that position by dint of his seniority. Eastland is over the Judiciary Committee because he has more seniority than any other senator after the same post or on that committee; he’s the chairman. Fulbright, another cracker, from Arkansas, is over the Foreign Relations Committee. Ellender, of Louisiana, is over the Agriculture and Forestry Committee. Russell, of Georgia, is over the Armed Services Committee.
And it goes right on down the line. Out of sixteen committees, ten of them are in the hands of Southern racists. Out of twenty congressional committees, thirteen are in the hands, or at least they were before the recent elections, in the hands of Southern racists. Out of forty-six committees that govern the foreign and domestic direction of this country, twenty-three are in the hands of Southern racists. And the reason they’re in the hands of Southern racists is because in the areas from which they come, the black man is deprived of his right to vote.
If we had the ballot in that area, those racists would not be in Washington, D. C. There’d be some black faces there, there’d be some brown and some yellow and some red faces there. There’d be some faces other than those cracker faces that are there right now.
So, what happens in Mississippi and the South has a direct bearing on what happens to you and me here in Harlem.
So, what happens in Mississippi and the South has a direct bearing on what happens to you and me here in Harlem. Likewise, the Democratic Party, which black people supported recently, I think, something like 97 per cent. All of these crackers—and that’s what they are, crackers—they belong to the Democratic Party. That’s the party they belong to—the same one you belong to, the same one you support, the same one you say is going to get you this and get you that. Why, the base of the Democratic Party is in the South. The foundation of its authority is in the South. The head of the Democratic Party is sitting in the White House. He could have gotten Mrs. Hamer into Atlantic City. He could have opened up his mouth and had her seated. Hubert Humphrey could have opened his mouth and had her seated. Wagner, the mayor right here, could have opened up his mouth and used his weight and had her seated. Don’t be talking about some crackers down in Mississippi and Alabama and Georgia—all of them are playing the same game. Lyndon B. Johnson is the head of the Cracker Party.
Now, I don’t want to be stepping on toes or saying things that you didn’t think I was going to say, but don’t ever, ever, ever call me up here to talk about Mississippi. It’s controlled right up here from the North. Mississippi is controlled from the North. Alabama is controlled from the North. These Northern crackers are in cahoots with the Southern crackers, only these Northern crackers smile in your face and show you their teeth and they stick the knife in your back when you turn around. You at least know what that man down there is doing and you know how to deal with him.
So all I say is this, this is all I say: when you start talking about one, talk about the others. When you start worrying about the part or the piece, worry about the whole. And if this piece is no good, the entire pie is no good, because it all comes out of the same plate. It’s made up out of the same ingredients. Wagner is a Democrat. He belongs to the same party as Eastland. Johnson is a Democrat. He belongs to the same party as Eastland. Wagner was in Atlantic City, Ray Jones was in Atlantic City, Lyndon B. Johnson was in Atlantic City, Hubert Humphrey was in Atlantic City—the crackers that you voted for were in Atlantic City. What did they do for you when you wanted to sit down? They were quiet. They were silent. They said, “Don’t rock the boat, you might get Goldwater elected… .”
I have this bit of suggestion. Find out what Wagner is going to do in behalf of this resolution, that you’re trying to get through, before January 4. Find out in advance where does he stand on these Mississippi congressmen who are illegally coming up from the South to represent Democrats. Find out where the mayor of this city stands and make him come out on the record without dilly-dallying and without compromise. Find out where his friends stand on seating the Mississippians who are coming forth illegally. Find out where Ray Jones, who is one of the most powerful black Democrats in this city—find out where he stands. Before January 4. You can’t talk about Rockefeller because he’s a Republican. Although he’s in the same boat right along with the rest of them.
So I say, in my conclusion, as Mrs. Hamer pointed out, the brothers and sisters in Mississippi are being beaten and killed for no reason other than they want to be treated as first-class citizens. There’s only one way to be a first-class citizen. There’s only one way to be independent. There’s only one way to be free. It’s not something that someone gives to you. It’s something that you take. Nobody can give you independence. Nobody can give you freedom. Nobody can give you equality or justice or anything. If you’re a man, you take it. If you can’t take it, you don’t deserve it. Nobody can give it to you. So if you and I want freedom, if we want independence, if we want respect, if we want recognition, we obey the law, we are peaceful—but at the same time, at any moment that you and I are involved in any kind of action that is legal, that is in accord with our civil rights, in accord with the courts of this land, in accord with the Constitution—when all of these things are on our side, and we still can’t get it, it’s because we aren’t on our own side.
We don’t yet realize the real price necessary to pay to see that these things are enforced where we’re concerned. And until we realize this, they won’t be enforced where we’re concerned. We have to let the people in Mississippi as well as in Mississippi, New York, and elsewhere know that freedom comes to us either by ballots or by bullets. That’s the only way freedom is gotten. Freedom is gotten by ballots or bullets. These are the only two avenues, the only two roads, the only two methods, the only two means—either ballots or bullets. And when you know that, then you are careful how you use the word freedom. As long as you think we are going to sing up on some, you come in and sing. I watch you, those of you who are singing—are you also willing to do some swinging?
They’ve always said that I’m anti-white. I’m for anybody who’s for freedom. I’m for anybody who’s for justice. I’m for anybody who’s for equality. I’m not for anybody who tells me to sit around and wait for mine. I’m not for anybody who tells me to turn the other cheek when a cracker is busting up my jaw. I’m not for anybody who tells black people to be nonviolent while nobody is telling white people to be nonviolent. I know I’m in the church, I probably shouldn’t be talking like this—but Jesus himself was ready to turn the synagogue inside out and upside down when things weren’t going right. In fact, in the Book of Revelations, they’ve got Jesus sitting on a horse with a sword in his hand, getting ready to go into action. But they don’t tell you or me about that Jesus. They only tell you and me about that peaceful Jesus. They never let you get down to the end of the book. They keep you up there where everything is, you know, nonviolent. No, go and read the whole book, and when you get to Revelations, you’ll find that even Jesus’ patience ran out. And when his patience ran out, he got the whole situation straightened out. He picked up the sword.
I believe that there are some white people who might be sincere. But I think they should prove it. And you can’t prove it to me by singing with me. You can’t prove it to me by being nonviolent. No, you can prove it by recognizing the law of justice. And the law of justice is “as ye sow, so shall ye reap.” The law of justice is “he who kills by the sword shall be killed by the sword.” This is justice. Now if you are with us, all I say is, make the same kind of contribution with us in our struggle for freedom that all white people have always made when they were struggling for their own freedom. You were struggling for your freedom in the Revolutionary War. Your own Patrick Henry said “liberty or death,” and George Washington got the cannons out, and all the rest of them that you taught me to worship as my heroes, they were fighters, they were warriors.
But now when the time comes for our freedom, you want to reach back in the bag and grab somebody who’s nonviolent and peaceful and forgiving and long-suffering. I don’t go for that—no. I say that a black man’s freedom is as valuable as a white man’s freedom. And I say that a black man has the right to do whatever is necessary to get his freedom that other human beings have done to get their freedom. I say that you and I will never get our freedom nonviolently and patiently and lovingly. We will never get it until we let the world know that as other human beings have laid down their lives for freedom—and also taken life for freedom—that you and I are ready and willing and equipped and qualified to do the same thing.
All of our people in Harlem should have heard her describe what they did to her down there. Because I think the people in Harlem are more capable of evening the score than people are anywhere else in this country.
It’s a shame that Mrs. Hamer came out here this afternoon where there are so few people. It’s a shame. All of our people in Harlem should have heard her describe what they did to her down there. Because I think the people in Harlem are more capable of evening the score than people are anywhere else in this country. Yes, they are, and they need to hear her story. They need to know more, first hand, about what’s happening down there, especially to our women. And then they need some lessons in tactics and strategy on how to get even. I, for one, will make the first contribution to any fund that’s raised for the purpose of evening the score. Whenever someone commits murder, what do you do? You put out a “reward, wanted—dead or alive” for the murderer. Yes, learn how to do it. We’ve had three people murdered. No reward has been put on the head of the murderer. Don’t just put a reward—put “dead or alive, dead or alive.” And let that Klan know that we can do it tit for tat, tit for tat. What’s good for the goose is good for the gander.
And if you all don’t want to do it, we’ll do it. We’ll do it. We have brothers who are equipped, and who are qualified, and who are willing to—As Jesus said, “Little children, go thee where I send thee.” We have brothers who can do that, and who will do that, and who are ready to do that. And I say that if the government of the United States cannot bring to justice people who murder Negroes, or people who murder those who are at the forefront fighting in behalf of Negroes, then it’s time for you and me to retire quietly to our closets and devise means and methods of seeing that justice is executed against murderers where justice has not been forthcoming in the past.
I say in my conclusion that if you and I here in Harlem, who form the habit ofttimes of fighting each other, who sneak around trying to wait for an opportunity to throw some acid or some lye on each other, or sprinkle dust on each other’s doorsteps—if you and I were really and truly for the freedom of our people, we wouldn’t waste all of that energy thinking how to do harm to each other.
I say in my conclusion that if you and I here in Harlem, who form the habit ofttimes of fighting each other, who sneak around trying to wait for an opportunity to throw some acid or some lye on each other, or sprinkle dust on each other’s doorsteps—if you and I were really and truly for the freedom of our people, we wouldn’t waste all of that energy thinking how to do harm to each other. Since you have that ingenuity, if you know how to do it, let me know; I’ll give you some money and show you where to go, and show you who to do it to. And then you’ll go down in history as having done an honorable thing.
And those singers who sing about Oginga Odinga, if you haven’t got anything else to do, you need to come up in Harlem and let some people hear you singing about Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta and Lumumba, and the next time you come to Harlem, you’ll have a crowd out here.
So, Mrs. Hamer, we have another rally up at the Audubon tonight, at eight o’clock, where there’ll be a lot of black people. I myself would like to have you tell them what you told us here this afternoon, so you are welcome to be my guest tonight if you will, at the Audubon. And those singers who sing about Oginga Odinga, if you haven’t got anything else to do, you need to come up in Harlem and let some people hear you singing about Oginga Odinga and Kenyatta and Lumumba, and the next time you come to Harlem, you’ll have a crowd out here.
Here’s his the video of his speech:
Here is Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer’s speech:
My name is Fannie Lou Hamer and I exist at 626 East Lafayette Street in Ruleville, Mississippi. The reason I say “exist” [is] because we’re excluded from everything in Mississippi but the tombs and the graves. That’s why it is called that instead of the “land of the free and the home of the brave.” it’s called in Mississippi “the land of the tree and the home of the grave.”
It was the 31st of August of 1962, that eighteen of us traveled 26 miles to the county courthouse in Indianola, Mississippi, to try to register to become first-class citizens. It was the 31st of August in 1962, that I was fired for trying to become a first-class citizen.
When we got to Indianola on the 31st of August in 1962, we was met there by the state highway patrolmen, the city policemen and anybody — as some of you know that have worked in Mississippi, any white man that is able to wear a khaki pair of pants without them falling off him and holding two guns can make a good law officer — so we was met by them there.
After taking this literacy test, some of you have seen it, we have 21 questions and some is not questions. It began with: “Write the date of this application. What is your full name. By whom are you employed” — so we can be fired by the time we get back home — “Are you a citizen of the United States and an inhabitant of Mississippi. Have you ever been convicted of any of the following crimes.” — when, if the people would be convicted of the following crimes, the registrar wouldn’t be there. But after we go through this process of filling out this literacy form, we are asked to copy a section of the constitution of Mississippi and after we’ve copied this section of the constitution of Mississippi we are asked to give a reasonable interpretation to tell what it meant, what we just copied that we just seen for the first time.
After finishing this form, we started on this trip back to Ruleville, Mississippi, and we was stopped by the same city policeman that I had seen in IndianoIa and a state highway patrolman. We was ordered to get off the bus. After we got off the bus, we was ordered to get back on the bus and told to go back to Indianola. When we got back to Indianola the bus driver was charged with driving a bus the wrong color. That’s very true. This same bus had been used year after year to haul people to the cotton fields to pick cotton and to chop cotton. But, this day, for the first time that this bus had been used for voter registration it had the wrong color. They first charged this man one hundred dollars. And from a hundred dollars they cut down to fifty. And from fifty to thirty, and after they got down to thirty dollars the eighteen of us had enough among ourselves to pay his fine.
Then we continued this journey back to Ruleville. When we got to Ruleville, Reverend Jeff Sunny drove me out to this rural area where I had been existing for the past eighteen years as a timekeeper and a sharecropper. I was met there by my daughter and my husband’s cousin that told me this man was raising a lot of Cain because I had went to Indianola. My oldest girl said that she believed I would have to leave there. Then my husband came and during the time he was talking this white man walked up and asked him had I made it back: And he told him I had. And he said, “Well, did you tell her what I said!” My husband told him he did and I walked out. He said, “Fannie Lou,” he say, “did Pap tell you what I said!” And I told him he did. He said, “I mean that. You will have to go down and withdraw or you will have to leave.”
I said, “Mr. Marlow,” I said, “I wasn’t trying to register for you today. I was trying to register for myself.” And this was it. I had to leave that same night.
On the tenth of September in 1962, sixteen bullets were fired into the home of Mr. and Mrs. Robert Tucker, where I’d been living after I was fired from this plantation. That same night, two girls was shot in Ruleville. They also shot in Mr. Joe McDonald’s home that same night. And until this day the place was swamped with FBI, until this day — it’s a very small town where everybody knows everybody — it hadn’t been one arrest made.
That’s why about four months ago when the FBI came to talk to me about my life being threatened — they wanted to know what could I tell them about it — I told them until they straightened out some of the things that we had done happened, don’t come asking about the things that just happened. Do something about the problems that we’d already had. And I made it plain. I said, “If there is a God and a heaven.” I said, “if I was going to see you two up there, I would tell them to send me back to Mississippi because I know He wouldn’t be just to let you up there.” This probably don’t sound too good to everybody, but if I can’t tell the truth — just tell me to sit down — because I have to tell it like it is.
The 3rd day of June, we went to a voter educational workshop and was returning back to Mississippi. We arrived in Winona, Mississippi, between ten-thirty and eleven o’clock on the 9th of June. Some of the people got off the bus to go in the restaurant and two of the people got off the bus to use the washroom. I was still on the Continental Trailways bus and looking through the window, I saw the people rush out of the restaurant and then the two people rush out had got off to use the washroom. One of the people that had got off to use the washroom got on the bus and I got off the bus. I went straight to Miss [Annell] Ponder, it was five of them had got off the bus, six in all but one had got back on the bus, so that was five. I went to talk to Miss Ponder to ask of her what had happened. And she said that it was state highway patrolmen and a city chief of police had tapped them all on the shoulder with billy clubs and ordered them out. And I said, “Well, this is Mississippi.”
I went back and got on the bus. When I looked back through the window they was putting those people in the patrolmen’s car. I got off of the bus, holding the eyes of Miss Ponder and she screamed to tell me to get back on the bus when somebody screamed from her car and said, “Get that one, too.” And a man jumped out of his car and said, “you are under arrest.” As he went to open the door, he opened the door and told me to get in. And as I started to get in, he kicked me and I was carried to the county jailhouse by this county deputy and a plainclothesman. They would call me all kinds of names. They would ask me questions and when I would attempt to answer the questions, they would curse and tell me to hush.
I was carried to the county jail and when I got inside of the jail, they had the other five already in the booking room. When I walked in the booking room, one of the city policemen just walked over, a very tall man, walked over and jumped on one of the young men’s feet, James West from Itta Bena, Mississippi. Then they began to place us in cells. They left some of the people out of the cell and I was placed in a cell with Miss Euvester Simpson from Itta Bena.
After they left the people in the booking room I began to hear the sounds of licks and I began to hear screams. I couldn’t see the people, but I could hear them. And I would hear somebody when they would say, “Can’t you say ‘yes, sir: nigger? Can’t you say ‘yes, sir’?” And they would call Annell Ponder awful names.
And she would say, “Yes, I can say ‘yes, sir.”
And they would tell her, “Well, say it.”
She said, “I don’t know you well enough.”
And I would hear when she would hit the floor again. I don’t know how long this happened until after a while I saw Miss Ponder pass my cell. And her clothes had been ripped off from the shoulder down to the waist. Her hair was standing up on her head. Her mouth was swollen and bleeding. And one of her eyes looked like blood. And they put her in a cell where I couldn’t see her.
And then three men came to my cell. The state highway patrolman asked me where I was from. And I told him I was from Ruleville. He said, “We’re going to check that.” And they left the cell and after a while they came back. And he told me, said, “You were right.” he said. “You’s from Ruleville all right and we going to make you wish you was dead.” I was led out of that cell and into another cell where they had two Negro prisoners. The state highway patrolman gave the first Negro prisoner the blackjack. It was a long heavy leather something made with something you could hold it, and it was loaded with either rocks or something metal. And they ordered me to lie down on the bed on my face. And I was beaten by that first Negro until he was exhausted. I was beaten until he was ordered by the state highway patrolman to stop.
After he told the first Negro to stop, he gave the blackjack to the second Negro. When the second Negro began to beat, it seemed like it was more than I could bear. I began to work my feet, and the state highway patrolman ordered the first Negro that had beat me to set on my feet where I was kicking them. My dress worked up real high and I smoothed my clothes down. And one of the city policemen walked over and pulled my dress as high as he could. I was trying to shield as many licks from my left side as I could because I had polio when I was six or eight years old. But when they had finished beating me, they were, while they was beating, I was screaming. One of the white men got up and began to beat me in my head.
A couple of Saturdays ago, I went to a doctor in Washington, D.C, a specialist, and he said one of the arteries behind this left eye had a blood clot. After this happened in jail, we was in jail from Monday until Wednesday without seeing a doctor. They had our trial on Tuesday and we was charged with disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. I was in jail when Medgar Evers was killed.
What I’m trying to point out now is when you take a very close look at this American society, it’s time to question these things. We have made an appeal for the president of the United States and the attorney general to please protect us in Mississippi. And I can’t understand how it’s out of their power to protect people in Mississippi. They can’t do that, but when a white man is killed in the Congo, they send people there.
For three hundred years, we’ve given them time. And I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change. We want a change in this society in America…
And you can always hear this long sob story: “You know it takes time.” For three hundred years, we’ve given them time. And I’ve been tired so long, now I am sick and tired of being sick and tired, and we want a change. We want a change in this society in America because you see, we can no longer ignore the facts and getting our children to sing, “Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light, what so proudly we hailed.” What do we have to hail here? The truth is the only thing going to free us. And you know this whole society is sick. And to prove just how sick it was when we was in Atlantic City challenging the National Convention when I was testifying before the Credentials Committee, I was cut off because they hate to see what they been knowing all the time and that’s the truth.
…if we want America to be a free society we have to stop telling lies, that’s all. Because we’re not free and you know we’re not free. You’re not free here in Harlem.
Yes, a lot of people will roll their eyes at me today but I’m going to tell you just like it is, you see, it’s time — you see, this is what got all this like this, there’s so much hypocrisy in this society and if we want America to be a free society we have to stop telling lies, that’s all. Because we’re not free and you know we’re not free. You’re not free here in Harlem. I’ve gone to a lot of big cities and I’ve got my first city to go to where this man wasn’t standing with his feet on this black man’s neck.
And it’s time for you to wake up because, you see, a lot of people say, “Oh, they is afraid of integration.” But the white man is not afraid of integration, not with his kids. He’s afraid of his wife’s kids because he’s got them all over the place. Because some of his kids just might be my second cousin.
And the reason we’re here today, we’re asking for support if this Constitution is really going to be of any help in this American society, the 4th day of January is when we’ll find it out. This challenge that we’re challenging the five representatives from Mississippi; now how can a man be in Washington, elected by the people, when 95 percent of the people cannot vote in Mississippi? Just taking a chance on trying to register to vote, you can be fired. Not only fired, you can be killed. You know it’s true because you know what happened to Schwerner, Goodman, and Chaney. And any person that’s working down there to change the system can be counted just as another nigger.
But some of the things I’ve got to say today may be a little sickening. People have said year after year, “Those people in Mississippi can’t think.” But after we would work ten and eleven hours a day for three lousy dollars and couldn’t sleep we couldn’t do anything else but think. And we have been thinking a long time. And we are tired of what’s going on. And we want to see now, what this here will turn out for the 4th of January. We want to see is democracy real?
We want to see this because the challenge is based upon the violation of the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution, which hadn’t done anything for us yet. And the U.S. courts tied it to Section 201 and 226. Those people were illegally elected and they have been there — the man that I challenged, Jamie L. Whitten, has been in Washington thirteen years and he is not representing the people of Mississippi because not only do they discriminate against the poor Negroes, they discriminated up until the 3rd of November against the poor whites, but they let them vote because they wanted their votes. But it will run until the 1st of July and we need your support — morally, politically, and financially, too. We need your help.
And, people, you don’t know in Harlem the power that you got. But you just don’t try to use it.
And, people, you don’t know in Harlem the power that you got. But you just don’t try to use it. People never would have thought — the folks they said was just ignorant, common people out of Mississippi that would have tried to challenge the representatives from Mississippi. But you see the point is: we have been dying in Mississippi year after year for nothing. And I don’t know, I may be bumped off as soon as I go back to Mississippi but what we should realize, people have been bumped off for nothing.
Because, not only do we need a change in the state of Mississippi, but we need a change here in Harlem.
It is my goal for the cause of giving those Negro children a decent education in the state of Mississippi and giving them something that they have never had. Then I know my life won’t be in vain. Because, not only do we need a change in the state of Mississippi, but we need a change here in Harlem. And it’s time for every American citizen to wake up because now the whole world is looking at this American society. I remember, during the time I was in West Africa — some of you may be here today because I don’t know what it’s all about, but I know I can tell you the truth, too — it was a lot of people there that was called the PIAA. “What are you doing over here? Who are you trying to please?”
I said, “All you criticize us when you at home and you’re worried to death when we try to find out about our own people.” I said, “If we had been treated as human beings in America, you wouldn’t be trailing us now to find out what we is trying to do over here.”
But this is something we going to have to learn to do and quit saying that we are free in America when I know we are not free. You are not free in Harlem. The people are not free in Chicago, because I’ve been there, too. They are not free in Philadelphia, because I’ve been there, too.
But this is something we going to have to learn to do and quit saying that we are free in America when I know we are not free. You are not free in Harlem. The people are not free in Chicago, because I’ve been there, too. They are not free in Philadelphia, because I’ve been there, too. And when you get it over with all the way around, some of the places is a Mississippi in disguise. And we want a change. And we hope you support us in this challenge that we’ll begin on the 4th of January. And give us what support that you can.
The Harlem rally at which both Mrs. Hamer and Malcolm X spoke was organized in support of the MFDP Congressional Challenge.
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