The Foundation for The Gator Nation An Equal Opportunity Institution Samuel Proctor Oral History Program College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Program Director : Dr. Paul Ortiz 241 Pugh Hall Technology Coordinator : Deborah Hendrix PO Box 115215 Gainesville, FL 32611 352 392 7168 352 846 1983 Fax The Samuel Proctor O ral History Program (SPOHP) was founded by Dr. Samuel Proctor at the University of Florida in 1967. Its original projects were collections centered around Florida history with the purpose of preserving eyewitness accounts of economic, social, political, re ligious and intellectual life in Florida and the South. In the 45 years since its inception, SPOHP has collected over 5,000 interviews in its archives. Transcribed interviews are available through SPOHP for use by research scholars, students, journalists and other interested groups. Material is frequently used for theses, dissertations, articles, books, documentaries, museum displays, and a variety of other public uses. As standard oral history practice dictates, SPOHP recommends that researchers refer t o both the transcript and audio of an interview when conducting their work. A selection of interviews are available online here through the UF Digital Collections and the UF Smathers Library system. Oral history interview t ranscripts available on the UF D igital Collections may be in draft or final format. SPOHP transcribers create interview transcripts by listen ing to the ori ginal oral history interview recording and typing a verbatim d ocument of it. The transcript is written with careful attention to refl ect original grammar and word choice of each interviewee; s ubjective or editorial changes are not made to their speech. The draft trans cript can also later undergo a later final edit to ensure accuracy in spelling and format I nterviewees can also provide their own spelli ng corrections SPOHP transcribers refer to the Merriam program specific transcribing style guide, accessible For more information about SPOHP, visit http://oral.histor y.ufl.edu or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013
MFP 0 78 Interviewee: Lawrence Guyot, Jr. Interviewer: Dr. Paul Ortiz with Margaret Block Date: May 26, 2011 O: Well, first of all, Mr. Guyot, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with us. You were mentioning in the beginning, talking to the Freedom Riders about Dr. King. Some people, like when I was first learning about the m ovement, people wo uld say, oh, Dr. King was way up top a nd he was a distraction ; w e were doing the real organizing work. Could you talk about that? G: frightened to death of Mississippi. Andy Young wrote B ob Moses a letter comes, make sure there are a lot of tall people he is very despite that, we asked him to come to support the Freedom E lection. He comes down, he flies into five ci ties, he gives speeches, and he supports it. We ask him to support the summer project. He comes into Mississippi, moves across the state, and he vigorously supports it. We ask him to support the Congressional hello, there. B : ving a meeting. G: t o support the Congressional Challenge and he does that. We asked him to sign a memorandum. When we know that the Voting Rights Act is c ongressmen to vote for the Congressional Challe nge he signs the memorandum, which is Selma and the Fifteenth Amendment [ Protest at Selma ] Now David Garrow, as you know, is a
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 2 biographer of King, so he makes it very, very clear that this memorandum changed the po licy, changed the . because, before the memor andum, the Voting Rights Act said that in order for the if th ere are twenty complaints, the p resident may send in an examiner. Well, that got changed once the memorandum began to circulate, because we SNCC, MDFP led the fight, and we got this doc ument. And, in a book called the Auditors of Liberation written by Mike Sistren, as yet unpublished, that trivia And what we got, instead, was the most beautiful language ever written, called Section Five of the Voting the most powerful language in c ivil r ights history. It says, any covered political subdivision, if the state wants to change any law that has to do wit h voting, that has the possibility of diluting the vote, they must either sub mit that for pre clearance to t he Department of Justice or they must litigate it on the merits in the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia only. Those are the only two opt ions. I bring, along with the Freedom Democratic Party, the only private lawsuit filed under the Voting Rights Act. We get the Department of Justice to file an amicus with us called, Whitley versus the Board of Elections. It then becomes Allen versus th e Board of Elections. What it does : it says, according to Section Five, these laws, these twenty four laws, are unconstitutional. We also believe that Section Five should be broadly interpreted. Before our court case, the law was written in such a way that only the attorney general of the United
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 3 States could file Section Five cases. The Supreme Court modifies that. It says, you know, the Supreme Court the Attorney General is a very busy person. Anyone who is aggrieved under Section Five can bring a Section Five case. This changes the whole way lawyers are practicing throughout the South, because we win that Supreme Court decision eight to one. It broadens Section Five and covers everything from moving polling places to requirements for candidates. It does aw ay with all literacy tests, and it says very clearly, you either pre passed twenty four laws to get under the coverage of the Voting Rights other people to go to jail with me to prevent them from the doing that, but the Supreme Court overturned every one of those cases. So, we learned that the Voting Rights Act was a powerful weapon. We then start using it on reapportion ing I t took us twenty years to reapportion the state of possibly have. And Colema n w m sorry b ut our lawyers were able to stick with us through that twenty year battle which created single member districts. Single member districts then created a Mississippi Poli tics by Jere Nash and Andy Taggart and he makes the point that this new kind of politics by the Freedom Democratic and he mentions favorably the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 4 Congressional Challenge and the passage of the Voting Rights Act and he says, it was this new kind of politics that was voting that led to a new kind of legislature. Now, if you want something done in it, you got fifty blacks in the legislature. You want le black legislators, which creates a different kind of climate. I was on when Kitchens [Killens] was tried for the killing of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman. The attorney general of M ississippi and I were on court T.V. together, talking nationally about this trial. He said, well, you know, true. You needed to have a climate in the state where people could sit dow n in a jury, listen to the facts, come up with an opinion, and not go past that. But the way we got past that was by changing the contours of who and what the electorate is. Now, Martin Luther King helps us in every way that he can. W e Guild. Early on, myself, Dave Dennis, Bob Moses, meet in New Orleans with Kuntsler, Kinoy, Martin Stathis, and Ben Smith. All left. They all members of litigate what we want done they did, they stuck to it there was a lot of pressure applied to SNCC and to the MFDP, bre ak away from those
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 5 lawyers. We never did. Joe Rauh was threatened early to not represent O: [Laughter] He was a counsel for UAW, right? G: called Citizen Rauh But our relationship with the Guild worked very, very well. They were the lawyers for Kuntsler and Kinoy were the lawyers for the Congressional Challenge We got a 149 votes initially, which allowed us to then conduct subpoenas federally supported subpoenas and bring anybody from we want in the government, into black churches. And we have them, they have a lawyer, then we have people I never will forget Mr. Gule from Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Gets to interrogate J.P. Coleman. He does a m asterful job. Mr. Gule is Peggy father. Peggy Jean Connor is the one who reopened the litigation on one, the reapportionment suit. She was also a delegate to Atlantic City. Peggy Jean Connor was the little, sweet, nice lady who, when the bus was coming back from Atlantic City, there was some whites trying to stop it. So she got up to the bus driver and took a lo ng knife. She said, now, if this bus stops, your head comes off. O: [Laughter] G: the people who were in that deleg ation, you had Hartman Turnbow you
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 6 had E.W. Steptoe, you had Peggy Jean Connor, you had a guy from . a lot of people. All those people understood that the right to vote was tied to the right to live and die. We all knew somebody who had been killed for the right to vote, and they all knew that they were risking everyt hing they time, there was no Republican Party in Mississippi. There was no re taking on the most and we did it. And then we forced a situation where it took Lyndon Johnson himself to he had to exert everything he had control of. There were twenty five FBI agents that had inf iltrated that delegation O: The MFDP? G: The MFDP Delegation and thei r responsibility was two things: i nfiltrate the MFDP delegation and keep an eye on Kennedy, Robert Kennedy. Now, t we support the election of Hubert Humphrey in 64, to a fullest extent than But Bob Moses said, no, if we Guyot. So, now .
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 7 O: Can you talk about what made MFDP so resilient and democratic? Like, small d democratic? G: is cull the best organizers from throughout the state, get them first involved in the Freedom Elections, where they could see that we could run a statewide operation, with very, very little money, with a lot of oppression, and that Freedom Election brought a lot of press which diminished violence. So could be stopped, it can be stopped at other times. We also saw that we had to drive home a point, and that point was that, if blacks w ere unimpeded when it comes to voting, we would vote in large numbers. We got a hundred thousand people to vote ; some people say it was eighty I t was really, factually, a hundred thousand. O: In the Freedom Vote? G: In the Freedom Election. Which then lea ds ups to a consideration of, why not have a summer project? Summer project leads to the Freedom and this is all documented, that all of these meetings went on for three days in Greenville and they were all taped at the tim want to bring white, educated, competent people down here the leaders Some of the SNCC people said this. Me and Fannie Lou Hamer tak e a
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 8 everything there is to know about every one of us. Through infiltration everything. O: Right. [Laughter] G: So, l cl inches Moses. Moses comes back H anything all black. This was before he goes into his black mood. And meeting; this is all taped. Now, what we found in the summer project was th at we could organize leadership, we could see, part of your question goes back to the early methodology of SNCC. See, SNCC was not about organizing SNCC chapters. SNCC was about empowering local leaders, and or creating local leaders, but if they were alre ady local create E.W. Steptoe or Hartman Turnbow or Fannie Lou Hamer. We discovered them, enhanced their skills, put them in contact with one build a foundation of some people go in to organize people. We go in to organize with people, to empower with people. To get people to understand that the greatest asset we had in this state was the people themselves; their churches, their religious institut ions, their social institutions : the Elks, t he Masons, the Masonics n ot to an extent the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 9 Knights of Pythia s as we would find in s ome other, another great state, but that carries right over into how the itical animal. I got elected as Chairman of the Freedom Democratic Party because I worked very close ly with Fannie Lou Hamer, Peggy Jean Connor, Victoria Gray, Annie Devin e and Fannie Lou Hamer. Those are the women who supported me. I ran against Aaron He nry and Leslie Macklemore, but they were the key to getting me in there. And I knew, very, very why? Because I worked with each one of them, and each one of them understood that my idea of the Freedom Democratic Party was that it would be a long time. That Atlantic City would be something we did, but that would be just the beginni ng. And we got to a point where another thing that held us together was, a lot of people on the Board of Directors, on the Executive Committee of the Freedom, were tied into the ch urches. And they come from a history of liberation, and they bring those skills in. Victoria Gray is tied into SCLC. Victoria Gray is tied into the operation in Hattiesburg. Victoria Gray is one of t he people that Theron Ly register. And who was Theron Lynd ? Theron Lynd is the register that did more to pass the Voting Rights Act than I did. [Laughter] Theron Lynd was a registrar i register post graduate degree blacks. The Department of Justice makes a special case out of him. They find I, myself, I watch the Department of Justice, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, try Theron Lynd in Hattiesburg,
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 10 want to send him to jail is because this is right the time you got the Meredith thing going on, right? And the United States does not want to occupy the u niversity. Which, it was a consideration for them. And they tten now that has just been released, that is Count Them One by One by Gordon Martin. This was the book litigation, an consideration. So, I am convinced that what kept the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party so powerful, so committed to local people and so committed to group decision making was, it comes out of SNCC w hen SNCC was at its best. There was no such thing as hierarchy or criteria. There were no doing. If you could get it, go in to a town and organize it, and if you could get people to take on attempts to register to vote, you were treated as a you were rewarded for that, profe ssor, and somehow Our hierarchy was who is doing the most to empower people ? And we believed very strongly that anyone had the right to empower anyone else. We believed that empowerment was as satisfying as se x and as addictive
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 11 as crack. We also knew that no movement had ever succeeded without it. lives for a higher purpose, even of themselves. And that was their children. More peopl e got involved in the c ivil r ights m ovement to provide a better life for their children than for any other single reason. The church was a great motivation, because once you start hooking up liberation theology before it was called that because, you know, I find it ironical. not a black church anywhere that was in any way unfamiliar with the ecclesiastical, but it was also heaven, and but by heaven, if we work like hell, we can have heaven on of slavery: first thing they start doing is organizing churches and schools. Then they start meeting, go find their relatives. So, Freedom Democ ratic Party s greatness lies in going to take on a challen ge to a sitting president and the most successful an iron policy of segregation. That is the policy of the Democratic Party of going to do it
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 12 what we do is, we change the way the process is run. 64 calls for the creation of a firm position that never again will a segregated delegation be seated in a national convention; that blacks must be encouraged to t to them, and then, in 1972, that law is amended. It was amended by the people working with Carter, and some of the people from Mississippi who amended to read that now, fifty percent of every delegation must be half female. So that comes from Freedom Democr atic Party, okay? Now, what we were able to do in that party is take the position that, no limits to attack anything that stops us from being the Democratic Party of the state. couple years later, we get them to drop that because of the Voting Rights Act. The state passes a law saying, Clifford Whitley got too many votes. right now, the state passed this law, saying, we have the right to consolidate into adjoin ing counties to make sure a black majority in never arises. Just that into one county to stop blacks from you can go ahead and do that. We take them, under Section Five of the Voting Rights Act, we take them and
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 13 we got to get us where we should go now to is the Congress. The reason we should go to th with the sequel If you go back from the Tr uman administration to the control of the committees by seniority. Truman deals with it by putting his poker Congress, so he go es to another and he as you know, desegregates the a rmy. Now, what we got to do is say, okay. The law is clear. Section Two of the Fourteen Amendment is just a four year old could understand it. If d in the handed. O: [Laughter] Yeah, right. G: What we do is then bring that challenge. In bringing that challenge, we nd this other thing. And we just keep moving. We build enough support, which named Ryan, William Fitts Ryan, a new member of Congress, a maverick, into named Curtis from
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 14 Michigan conservative Republican member, and he writes a letter attacking the challenge. And Michael F e llwell responds to him. Once he found out that this is serious, and that this could really be made to happen, he, then, writes a letter to some Republicans in support of the Congressional Challenge O n the d ay that we challenge the Mississippi delegation, Congressman Curtis a rrives up, say, I want a teller vote. Now a teller vote means that everybody you divide the house. If you voting for the motion, shot John or, I was recorded as . so, we get a hundred and forty nine votes. Now, up until then, J.P. Coleman, who was once we get a hundred and forty nine votes, then they respond. Then the state of Mississippi said, look, months. Then they start destroying the files in the Civil Rights Commission in the Sovereignty Commission, about voting. Because now they understand, they have the possibility of losing their Congressional s eating. They understand, during this period, they agree to school become damn near a model state for six months. And in that six months, we bui ld support, and we conduct those depositions. Again, what see, everything, the reason, the democratization of the Freedom Democratic Party was tied into the fact
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 15 Executive Committee is conduct them in DeSoto County. And as many people in DeSoto County as we can get to come and witness them, and testify, and be a part of it and then, what we did was we made sure that we now have the tape s of county, we go ahead and pass them out and we watched people break into tears. Because one thing to say, your father supported the challenge; he said when he had a lawyer and the state had a lawyer, see? O: So the key was to get people to participate, not just to challenge, but to get as many people as you could participating. G: To participate, to understand. And, in some instances, re establi sh with certainty that they could make things; that anything that was political, they political. Now, you may not know the technical thing; you may not know how to do this and the other, but yo u have as much right to be involved in this as possible. We took the position early in SNCC, in Greenwood, that it was erates time we went down there, he went down there. And they told him, they said, now, Mr. Smith,
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 16 know how to vote. [Laughter] I w every time until I get the right to vote. We persuaded the Department of e were a lot of businesspeople who were totally il literate who ran good businesses. There were a lot of illiterates who were members of the Elks and the Masons, and to be members of those, you got to do memorization that will shock you. But they were able to anyway, the Department of Justice goes along with us; t the Voting Rights Act When Cassius Back testifies before the House ever ything is constitutional in here except the registration of illiterates. The hundred percent. So, what we were able to do was built the tools that built together that legislation. Now, Kennedy I mean, a lot of historians say, well, you know, Selma passed the Voting Rights Act. If you go look at the history, Mississippi was simply voting rights state mobilization. From the Freedom Election to the summer project to the Congressional C hallenge to you name it. We started running counties before anyone else did. We started conducting our own elections. We challenged the foundation of the Democratic Party in this state and in this country. And what we found was that we were building up our Congressional Challenge the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 17 voter work I got in 1963, I write a letter to the National Council of Theron Lynd and I want every major denomination to come. This is at the time Paul Johnson had just been elected, and he talked like a moderate. Robert Spike, who is with the Natio support us in sending ministers down, right? This is all covered very well in Pillar of Fire by Taylor Branch. But, every major religious denomination sends you got your bishops, your head of the things, and so on. And this is written about in a book called by Newman. There are no arrests, for the first time. Here you have a major demonstration in Hattiesburg; the police are not arresting any people who are not in the demonstration said, I better get in t get arrested. [Laughter] We continued for days, right? And, as a result of this, we had a working relationship with the National Council of Churches which leads to the creation of the Delta Ministry, and it also leads to us esta blishing a working relationship H A working relationship with them, so that when the challeng e is conducted, they come to us T said, of cours e. Of course you can. B ecause, Paul, as you know, in every Congressional district you got Presbyterian and Episcopalian, and so on. members, and tell them, meet with the Freedom Democratic Party about
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 18 the Congressiona l Challenge So James Farmer and I get to meet with urch on our side. They were clearly in support of unseating. Then, what we discover is that, while this is going on a fight around CDGM We, of course, support CDGM, because CDGM means that we can now because, to statewide meetings, barely able to pay their gas. Now, if you get this Head t by and then, what we they start building centers, they start manning centers. See, this gets right into the whole history of nu rturing See? Black people never had kids who some federal money to do it. And CDGM launches off the ground. CDGM begins to hire a large number of people; is then attacked by Sten n is And and fund the Friends of the Children of Mississippi, okay, which is anyway, my point is this: we were ab le to move, and we also are now working with the Mississippi Freedom Union, the organization of the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 19 them. SNCC SNCC is bringing itself up, out, after 64 and 65. The best thing you can do is leave. O: SNCC. G: B: Mm hm. G: external enemy, they fight internally. We get rid of SNCC, and I wa s part of the caravan ushering them out, because there was just nothing left there. There was no energy left there. A lot of them go to Alabama and they do some great things there. And Hassan writes about it, see. O: Yeah. G: I think that what Carmichael d id there was astounding. And T aylor Branch pays him credit. Hassan Jefferies pays him credit. I pay him credit. But a lot of people did not pay him credit because they looked at him just fro m the : thing But Michael Fellwell, who wrote the book about Stokely Carmichael, Ready for the Revolution was the key person in running the office for the Congressional Challenge He and Jan Goodman, they knew how to deal with people. They kn ew how to deal with the leadership conference. They knew how to lobby congressmen. They had very little money, but whenever there was a meeting, they would set up a little, small office right beside the congressmen, make sure they
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 20 talk to them; constantly building. Find out who they listen to, build them. One day, Hartman Turnb ow called Michael Fellwell wrote a letter. He ived ? [Laughter] What are they going to do about this? O: [Laughter] Right. G: So, a cou ple of weeks later, Mr. Turnbow called and he said, Michael you know that little man that delivers m ail for me? I said, Mr. Turnbow know him. He said, well, this morning, before I had my coffee, he brou g ht me a big envelope from the p resident of the United States. And he said, Michael. Michael said, well wha t, Mr. Turnbow ? He said, I want you to astounded. He said, well, why? He said, I want to dance with the See, my point is, you keep these people out of po wer; you keep them in a place, and as soon as they get a chance to B: Mm hm. G: Ten years earlier, Hartman Turnbow would have never made that connection. But, you see O: Well, it seems that the Freedo m Democratic Party I mean, it went from
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 21 they so quickly leap frogged, democratically, over any existing institution in American society, from what I can see. Became yeah. G: The key to our doing it was we had good history with our base W e had good history with the leadership A say, you got to be such and such or . we want fighters. Our job is to fight to extend our political powe r, and by that, we meant for blacks, ll fight you w e will help you fight. to pass hundred people come go with me. Bronstein raises the money and gets us out okay? But no. And we say, now that we have because once we win, the Allen versus the Board w hich began as Whitley versus Johnson all the lawyers in the South stopped using the Fifteen Supreme Court attack on the Voting Rights, they attack Section Five. And they going to keep a them one by one s o we can build public knowledge that, if you want p resident re going to so we can start and, see, my position is, my newsle tter exists balance between the Republican Party and the Democratic Party. There is
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 22 none. The Democratic Party i s about building and servicing and about being responsible for providing the needs of people. The Republican Party is about debt, death, and the nihilism of the political process as they know worn for them lking is, 2 no always struck by people saying, well, you know, if O: Dialogue. G: that. O: Well, how does the history already fighting the election campaign of 2012, like, right n ow. How can the history of the m ovement educate people to get them to a point where they understand t his is serious? G: I think I love that question. The fiftieth anniversary of SNCC brought together and every tape of every panel is available for sale right now. Just call the Legacy Project, Cortland Cox, and they can tell you how to we can send you a cat alogue and you can purchase them, purchase the ones you want. And you got books; you got books that are absolutely great, that demonstrate that these books are worthy of being put in the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 23 arsenal of weapons, like Emancipation Betrayed like Taylor Branch t he trilogy about Taylor Branch. Like by Charles One Mind, Many Hearts by Wesley Coleman B: Wesley, yeah. G: we have to recognize that ju dge, rather pragmatically, SNCC is the greatest political organization cadre in American history. Nobody else could the only people who come close are the suffragettes and the Prohibition Party, the anti saloon league. You know? They took their hatches and they went . so, what we gotta do is simply say, okay. igin, and size of government? What is self governance really going to mean? And what is citizenship? What is what is our relationship to one another? Because if the o nly thing that America is about is personal survival of individual America. of that history is that we can it can offer practical information. How do you organize people? It should prove, very, very clearly, that we now know and this literature will help us support the fact that anybody can organize. Whether you can read or write or not, you can organize. That, when you get people operating in their self
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 24 there is, and that it is impossible to find people to get them to do day before. The day after they make something happen, they look around and say, wonder if somebody going to help, come help do something for me today. been very clearly tested, and look at the documentaries you got on our O: Did you see the Freedom Rider documentary? G: I saw it. O: t it? G: I thought it was excellent. B: Me, too. G: going to do everything I B: It sure was. G: N named Stephen Mayroot into a partnership with The Veterans, because The Veterans, as a 501 C3 organization, can have access to the tapes at a much cheaper price than
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 2 5 Freedom Rides. He went to the meeting in Chicago out there. O: When you were mentioning earlier, Mr. Guyot, about the day after when someone is able to accomplish something and get something changed, and they become a new person, what are some of the memories you have, in the 60s, about people who do those things? Who may not have been active before, but all of the sudden, get involved with SNCC or MDFP and actually do something. Like, you mentioned this gentleman, Freedom G: Freedom Smith. O: Yeah. I mean, it sounds like he had that experience. G: your question an excellent question is that this is so universally true of people who are go down and register to Hard y Lott said it best. Hard y Lott was the guy who defend ed Byron de la Beckwith killing Medgar Evers. He said, Guyot, in Greenwood than any other place in the state. I said, yeah, but you and I t getting registered. He I guess a better example is, after the Freedom Election, the voter education that had been
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 26 pouring fo because and you know what the reason they said, Paul? They said, well, now, Mississippi was the most creative project in America. We were light years ahead of everybody else. We may not have been registering people to vote, but we were building political systems. We built COFO. We built the Freedom Election. We built, see and they said, well . and I understood very clearly. Instead of us being judged o n what we were producing, other registering voters. Now, I understood very clearly that they were responding to politics, not mathematics. And I use that negativ ely as an example, saying: organizing is about getting people to understand that they can impact on federal policy, they can impact on international policy, and that anybody who is in the public sphere can be attacked by them on we learned spontaneity is the refuge of the unprepared. But, if you are willing to prepare y ourself, created COFO, we created the MFDP. We utilized the existing laws for the Congressional Challenge We litigated on any goddamn thing that was the
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 27 [Laughter] We took them to court and they say, put them on the ballot. So. r yes, she did. The Department of Justice goes down to Walthall County an d we bring them down SNCC brings them down and they introduce him. We had an in surrection going on in Walthall, Amite, going to register no b lack people State goes down there. John Hardy takes some people to register to vote, and the registrar hit him in the head with a pistol and with a stick and drive them out of the office. They charge him with disturbing the peace. The Department of Justice goes into federal court and says, look. We want to stay this prosecution. Now, I on, we want an injunction you know the reason they give for this? They said, well, if you arrest him, this is a threat to every black person in Walthall County who wants to register to vote. Never heard of before, but they win it. The reason they win it is because they bring it before the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. Judge Reeves Reeves b ecomes thoroughly committed to c ivil r ights be cau se his son was committed to thorough c ivil r ights. His son is killed in an automobile called Unsung Heroes by Jack Bass that talks about Reeves, Brown,
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 28 Tuttle and Wisdom. They were the backbone for us. We knew, whatever case we lost in Meridian or Jackson, all we had to do was go past the pelicans into New Orleans. [Laughter] And that was it. They supported us inter esting. Their history is very, very interesting. Each one of them led a challenge delegation in the Republican Party, just like MFDP did, only boys? And put them all on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals. And that changed America. So, MFDP had the advantage of having some of the big, greatest lawyers in the country. Frank Parker, Armand De rfner, and Section Five was my i dea; I read a book called why I push books. B: Mm hm. G: Books can validate your assumption or it can decimate them. But I read A be For tas Abe Fortas is Lyndon Abe Fortas lays out that Lyndon Johnson stole his senatorial election. Sixty seven votes in alphabetical order. And I said, by given a choice of going to a bishop and asking him about . thieving,
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 29 tell you, the Lord would not want you to steal. It is a sin. The crook can tell you how to do it and how n ot to do it. B: [Laughter] Mm hm. G: And I knew Lyndon to be a megalomanic enough that, after having stolen elections, he wanted to make sure nobody else was going to be stealing any elections. And I found Section Five. And then they said, well, yeah. Beca Illinois, and Brownstein to start looking at it. They said, we got your case. My point is this: when you look at th e American political system, it is a system built on opportunity after opportunity on opportunity, for those that people were organizing anything, we said, okay. The Department of Justice got a court decision that, in P a nola County, they were going to only ask the first six decisions, six questions on the voting thing. We sent people in there. They joined with us in our Section Five case. They were indispensable, because the Supreme Court l istens to the Department of Everybody in the South wins, because now, if they want to change any law that h as to do with voting, they either get it pre O: What kind of work are you doing now?
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 30 G: Now, I write a newsletter. I train people in politics. I promote books. Sisprano ha s written a book called, Mother Country Sisprano is a guy who defends Senators S book said, well, you know the state of Mississippi was just too smart for the c ivil r ights m ovement there. They got outfoxed on every way. So, I met Sisprano at the u niversity at Ole Miss. I said, boy, I been around a long time, but yours is the trashiest goddamn compilation of shit ever put together. [Laughter] You ought to burn it. You ought to be ashamed of it. ht now, called Civil Rights from the Ground Up You got John you got all of my good people. You got Ditmer, you got Payne, you got Emily e Crosby, you got Wesley interested in that. O: Now, wait a minute. How good they are to one another G: yada. And then, they said, we got a newfound friend, Sisprano. Now, I at book makes you feel a little inclined in that area. [Laughter] B: Cut it up G: benefit of the doubt. I got to. Not, do I like them individually, and their work, with the e
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 31 Save that for somebody else. I want to know, I want some challenging B: Mm hm. G: mentioned the book, but I w ant it, still, on this tape. There was somebody asked me, said, Guyot, what do you tell you what I think of it. You know? Because I have high standards. See, ffer fools lightly. I tried. O anybody And that has anewed to my t the man who is the janitor at the bank may be Chairman of the Deacon Board in his church. B: Mm hm. G: A nd we have that kind of history t hat people can do anything. And I am just very proud to have been a part of a movement that inherently and pragmatic saying that the most creative c ivil r ights movement in American history happened in the sovereign state of Mississippi. No one else has done o do it with and
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 32 was our movement. nothing that we l eft undone once we started the fight. O: What do you say to people now? You know, people are getting ready for the presidential election already, and a lot of people are saying, you know, we elected Obama to end the war, the wars, and do this and that, an d say to them? G: What I say to them B: Michigan. G: o those labor was they were threatened with destruction in those states. B: Yeah. G: And what did they do? They started organizing voters. They started recalling. B: Mm hm. G: We start winning elections lik e the New York Congressional Election. You got, now, you got people good, rock rib, conservative Republicans, take away my Medicare?
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 33 B: Yeah. G: no B: [Laughter] G: go along with it. I say to people who say Obama is not perfect, I say, yes, you three weeks You pick one. B: What did you think of Cornell West when he called him a mascot? G: ave no problem with anything Cornell said. B: G: and I said this in a public people. On the day Obama was inaugurated, I was speaking to twelve hundred people in Springfield, Illinois. I saw them lose their land. I saw them get their property taken away from B: I got to use that. G: us to have one senator than two s
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 34 out Clayton Powell in the Congress after they kicked him out. And I knew the controlling standard was Powell versus McCormack I know Mr. Rossum was going into the Senate. And the president did, too, but the president antagonize the Senate. Why do that? A ll he had to do was wait until me and others start saying, Mr. President, how else you going to get a black in the Senate? Then he changed his mind. He said, well, yes, you know, Mr. Who sey Senat already told the Senate, put him in. I said, what you got to understand is, when it comes to reparation, Affirmative Action, and economic and going to have anything to say about you for the next four years. Now, the going to keep his you know what I mean? I said, you must understand. If I kne w what the Supreme Court decision, the president taught so he could years. And they looked at me like I was stone crazy
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 35 read one book, called Slave Nation by Alfred B l umrosen it, too. So, my point was: I worked as hard to elect him president as guy, every time you underestimate him, you find a knife in your neck and Look at what he does to the He gets ten times more than anybody thought he was going to get. I think and, see, he was very smart. He makes Ryan the enemy. This is the man who wants to . make it impossible for Now, choose between me and him. And m ind you, if we can stop him from crying long enough, we might get some legislation out of him. B: Yeah. [Laughter] G: ot too worried. I think that see, what we have with Obama is this: we got some people who are going to vote for him in 2012 who might not vote for the next ten years. Now, I recognized the dissatisfaction; I anybody. See, my position is, people ask me, they raised all kind of hell about him and his wife inviting the poet to the White House. B: Yeah. G: historically, is not supposed to tell us what we like to hear. B:
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 36 G: The role of the poet is to be the critic of the king, of the president, or we are. I wholeheartedly support him. You mean I said, I wholeheartedly support it. I said, now, when Laura Bush brought black writers there, that Amendmen B: Mm hm. G: So, no. I think that people see, I think we have a res ponsibility to say, to do everything I can to get the Senate and the are so clear that Ray consolidating as much support as I can to carry the day for the Democratic Party. I mean, it would be ideal if he did everything I mean, I taxes should be raised on the wealthy. I wholeheartedly support Social
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 37 Security, Medica id And got to remember, those two programs began in 1965. come from FDR. O: [Laughter] Right. G: Just look at them in this scope, okay. Now, I think that I, personally, would like for us to move to something that was proposed by Nixon, and that is guaranteed annual income. O: Mm hm. B: Mm hm. G: I think work, also got, separate from that, you also got coverag e for your medical got Social Security, you got Medica id See, my thing is: look. It is the responsibility of government to either create jobs or remove the need for jobs to exist. FDR d id it. FDR put everybody who knew what a shovel was re I believe that it is this country has lost the narrative on the question, debt is more important than people. See, once you do that, you stop you entered into the arena of inhumanity. O: Yeah.
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 38 G: on their ass so tight that, eve citizen. The Constitution says that, very clearly, but we got to change that. See, my thing is very simple. I support the Dream Act and I support ion people see, an interesting thing is, we were close to it until already here, somehow they got a greater right than the people who came over here. Let me say this very clearly so we understand one another: if I was born in Mexico and I knew that I could feed my children and I could get some medical services for them may not be the b est, but if I can find B: Mm hm. G: Now, if you arrest me twenty times, still coming. And so I understand that, Obama. B : Mm hm.
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 39 G: that. O: Margaret, do you have questions you want to ask? B: want to ask you about. Libya, what do you t hink about the position that he took in Libya? G: Well, Libya is a tight one. Libya is tight because he understands that what the Saudis. I And so my preference would have been for him to say, okay. Go in and destroy heighten your insurance policy or you get out. I mean, you know. So, I he handled, was the . the killing of B: Osama. G: bin Laden. B: Yeah. G: I think what he should have done there is make sure that th e pictures are shown. B: Mm hm.
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 40 G: Because anything unclear. B: Yeah. O: Mm hm. G: But . I think it took c way he did. B: what is that, you know, and captured him? G: Well, I tell you why . B: G: No, but I tell you why. See, what this country needs in his instance was the only thing acceptable to many as revenge would have been retribution for his atrocities. I mean, now, I have to say, that was a creative way to kill people. It may not be B: It remind me of the Fred Hampton murder, same thing. G: Mm hm, mm hm. B: The same thing. G: ng. B: totally violence, any kind of violence.
M FP 0 78 ; Guyot ; Page 41 G: I understand. I understand. Yes, and I know who you are and I know how n that. You and I know each other too well. B: Yeah. O: Shall we go ahead and hit the stop button? [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, July 26, 2013 Audit Edited by: Sarah Blanc, January 22, 2014 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, January 2014