Lawrence Guyot, Jr. Interview: September 23, 2011


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Lawrence Guyot, Jr. Interview: September 23, 2011
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Oral history interview
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Oral history
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United States of America -- Florida -- Alachua

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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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UF Samuel Proctor Oral History Program
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All rights reserved by the submitter.
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spohp - MFP 078B
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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 or call the Samuel Proctor Oral History Program office at 352 392 7168. October 2013


MFP 078B Interviewee: Lawrence Guyot Interviewer: Joshua Moore and Diana Dombrowski Date: September 23, 2011 M: G: Lawrence Guyot. I fully convey all rights to interviews and how this content i s used. D: Thank you. M: where did you grow up? G: I was born in Pass Christian, Mississippi, sixty miles from New Orleans, twenty miles from Northwood in part of the state that was most unlike the rest of the state. When white people ran in my hometown, they sought black votes. My grandfather's brother was chairman of the Republican Party for fifty years. He was born in Hancock County which is the adjoining county. I was born in Harriso n County. The Gulf coast had a hea vy Catholic influence. Ingalls S hipyard in Pascagoula was building most of the implements for all wars conducted f or the United States, and Ingalls hired people from fifty six counties, both in Alabama and Mississippi. Aro und 1957, the Catholic C hur ch says, we got two programs : we re going to have excommunication or integration, and we'll do it by Friday. Make your decisions. All hell was breaking loose in New Orleans, right, sixty miles away. There was no violence in Pass Christian, because that was the power of the church, the power of the labor unions that were there, and the fact that a lot of people knew each other. I lived on a street: there were the Patalinas who were white and the P e an as who were black. There was a r elationship


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 2 between the two of them that I never really could pinpoint, but it was clear that there was a relationship, okay. During Reconstruction, my grandmother's father was mayor of the town of Pass Christian. That, of course, all stopped when the Rede mption Period flowed. My Uncle Louis, who was the postmaster, I got a chance to talk to him. He told me about who Randolph was, the guy who the high school I attended was named after, the kind of person he was and stuff like that. My wife and I did a legac y trace of our ancestors. We ran across the W.P.A. interview of Uncle Louis, saying that Bilbo was a terrible person, that one day he held that the black people in the state would fight their way into the Democratic Party and it just brought shivers, beca use that's exactly what I'd been doing. He was chairman of the Republican Party in Hancock County for fifty years, went to a lot of conventions, served under a lot of presidents. His brother, my grandfather, was a Democrat's Democrat. He was a Catholic's C atholic, my grandfather told me. He and I were buddies. We read the newspaper every day. We listened to Ronald Reagan every speech. We didn't like his objective, bu t we liked the way he painted the pictures. We listened to him and talked about it. My grand father taught me to listen. He had, every Sunday, he met with twelve to fifteen of his favorite buddies, and they were all Baptist ministers. My grandfather told me, in the strictest of confidence and goodwill, that, son, there are two kind of people in Am erica: Catholics and the heat h ens. I didn't entirely subscribe to that doctrine, and now I certainly don't subscribe to it, but my grandfather was a man who impressed people with his ability to communicate. My grandfather could do anything. He single hande dly, along with ten of his friends, built the building


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 3 for the Catholic Student Organization in my hometown. He went, when some hotels wanted something added, they called him because he was a specialist, and he took me with him. So I was taught by him, you can do anything. But the most important thing you learn how to do is listen. These Baptist friends of his would get outside of his house every Sunday and they would decide what they were going to persuade him to believe. I knew that they stood as good a c hance as a snowball in hell for four days. My grandfather would convince them of what he wanted to convince of them, and convince them that they had convinced him, but he had the stickiest little problem, and so did my father. My gra ndfather, his name was Jules. Jules I'm going fishing. He would repeat the word fishing. After a while, I just couldn't stand it. I said, grandpa, you're smarter than all of these people. Why do you do this? He said, boy, it gives me a way of saying, I listen to them. It also g ives me a way to plan longer what I want to say. I never threw my grandfather again. I just kept learning from him. When he died, eight hundred people showed up at his funeral, black and white. So, I learned early that I come from a strong, Catholic family I was seven years old when I had my first job, and I just worked all my life. I get a chance to take an academic test and I get a scholarship, an academic scholarship, to Tougaloo College. Tougaloo College is the perfect place for me. Tougaloo has an int erracial faculty, one of the few in the states. Tougaloo is in opposition to the state policy of segregation. Tougaloo is threatened with extinction by the state legislature and it recently destroyed Campbell College, which is a Methodist school, that allo wed the students who come out of the public schools in McComb to attend Campbell College, and they


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 4 taught them classes. So the state took it over. That's what they intended to do with Tougaloo. Tougaloo was established in 1869 by the American Association a nd by the Freedmen's Bureau. It was designed to teach the sons and daughters of slaves to become leaders. It did a good job of that. At Tougaloo, I learned everything I needed to know about socialism. Ed Ki ng was the chaplain at Tougaloo ; he becomes the Na tional Committeeman of the Freedom Democratic Party John Salter who writes a book about Jackson, Mississippi, was one of the professors there. A.A. Branch was the dean. A.A. Branch was very high in the Y.M.C.A., and he taught us leadership. A.A. Branch invited Martin Luther King. I met Marti n Luther King in the library I mean, Ed Wood was chaplain at Tougaloo in 1957. I learned that Tougaloo had a tradition that you could participate in demonstrations if you take your books with you. They were going to test you just like anywhere else. Only Tougaloo and Miles College in Alabama had that constitution. Now, given the historical advancement of t he civil rights movement in the South, damn near every college says, that's the way we operate. There's only two of them: Tougaloo and Miles College. I learned that there was a guy who taught at Tougaloo named Ernst Borinski B orinski was the judge who had been driven out of Germany because he was a Jew. He, like a lot of other intellectual Jews, are driven into the South and they become involved in black colleges, and they live in the black community. They raise their families in black commun ities. There's a book called, From Swastika to Jim Crow about that group of people. Well, Borinski taught us very clearly that there are some institutions that are not functional, and they're designed not to be functional, like the


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 5 Democratic Party of Mississippi. It on ly needed to be organized once every four years, to go to a national Democratic convention, represent themselves as a body, come back, and disband. You run this county, I'll go run that county ; we don't need to have meetings, because if we have meetings on ly for white people, they're going to bring problems. We'll just take the power without the meetings. We decided that, since there was no party registration, one of our objectives was to challenge the Democratic Party because it had all the power. There we re no Republicans in the state legislature. There were no Republican police officers at all, Democratic or not. In 1964, the Democratic Party goes in the way of civil rights in [19]64, I want to mention that. Opening up the convention, even though we force d them to open it up. In that same year, the Republicans meet in San Francisco, kick out black delegates, elect Goldwater, who's committed to destroying the federal government as we know it at that time. He was truly a father of the Conservative right. We take the position that we have problems with Democrats. We don't have party registration in Mississippi, so we're going to challenge the regular Democratic Party because of its racist policies in Atlantic City. So we ordered ordinary people: beauticians, s harecroppers the most notable, a sharecropper named Fannie Lou Hamer businesspeople. We challenged with that, Atlantic City says, don't seat them, seat us. Lyndon Johnson, in his tape, says, we can't have a situation where we're asking this Democratic Na tional Convention to seat an all white delegation, then go into black communities and campaign for the Democratic Party in November. We've got to stop thi s. Can't allow them to have a floor fight We had enough votes to


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 6 have a floor fight, until Fannie Lou Hamer spoke and the country reacted. Then, Lyndon knew he had to stop this at all costs. So we'd beaten the Democratic Party but we couldn't beat Lyndon. Lyndon comes into the fight and he says to the governor of California you know we [inaudible 10:31] delegates would tell him, what can you do to him? Well, one lady who's a delegate who's always supported MFDP is told, your husband can be a federal judge, all you got to do is stop supporting the Freedom Democratic Party Delegates from New York are tol d, y'all got three contracts under the Office of Economic Opportunity just for this forum. You can keep them if you stop voting for the Freedom Democratic Party Under that kind of assault, we couldn't keep our people, right. But what we got and I'm going to send to Paul all of the speeches given at the [19]64 Democratic Convention in support of seat, and some of them will astound you. Because Roy Wilkins spoke in support. Later, Roy Wilkins meet with President Johnson before the convention, and Johnson sa id, you know, I wish you could help me. Roy said, I can't ; my organization is supporting unanimously to seat the Freedom I got to go and testify for them. Once he's testified, he then says to Fannie Lou Hamer, you didn't repeat a lot as I understand how m uch you'd want to go back to this, leave us alone to run this. So what you've got is a . a real ideological clash in Atlantic City between the people in SNCC who risked their lives for the right to vote and the people they organized, and the professio nals, who said, well, electing Lyndon Johnson is the real purpose of this. We'll deal with this problem later on, after this. When we do the Voting Rights we've done public accommodations when we do the Voting Rights Act, this'll all get settled.


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 7 We said no, no, no. We have been disenfranchised and a tenant of political access is the ballot, and you are seating people who have purposely disenfranchised us, which means you are adopting a policy consistent with disenfranchisement. Commentators come out on both sides. Everybody in the civil rights movement is brought to meet with the government. As chairman of the Freedom Democratic Party I'm not involved with it. I'm in jail in Hattiesburg because I was involved in a voter registration demonstration in fro nt of the courthouse; someone in front of me was arrested and I asked what were the charges. Charges were disturbing the peace, and it was convenient. That way, they keep me from going to Atlantic City, and I have a choice. If I went to Atlantic City, two people who put up property to get me out of jail for bond would have lost their land, so I didn't have a choice. I said, I'm here to be arrested, and was glad to do it. I knew we had maintain the trust of people who put their property up. If we'd broken th at once, it would have been broken. But no one in America could have given a better speech than Fannie Lou Hamer did. It electrified the country. It pulverized Lyndon, because now he understands that he has a real fight on his hands, and only he can stop i t. So he comes in and stops it. As a result of that, what happens is, the Democratic Party at that convention says, we will never seat a segregated delegation again. We created that rule. We're going to open up the process of selecting delegates. We create d that rule. In 1972, that rule was modified, and Jimmy Carter was the candidate to say, from this day forward, 50% of every Democratic delegation to the National Democratic Delegation must be 50% female. We did that. So, we find ourselves in a situation


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 8 w here SNCC who was very instrumental in creating the Freedom Democratic Party with this SNCC assisted in the creation of the Freedom Democratic Party tied into the [19]64 summer project. Out of the [19]64 summer project comes the Freedom Schools. That's why I encourage everyone to read The Legacy of Freedom Schools [ The Legacy of a Freedom School ] by Sandra Adickes Charlie Cobb is on his way to, in 1963, is on his way to Texas, and I meet him. I said, Charlie, you don't need to go to Texas to learn about nonviolence. Stay here, we'll teach about the nonviolence you he stays right here. He's the creator of the Freedom Schools. So, what we had was an ability to bring talent, listen to their ideas, get that general if we didn't have approval from the people we wouldn't do anything. We get approval on the Freedom Schools, we get approval on the summer project, even though there were some people in SNCC that opposed the summer project; Fannie Lou Hamer and myself supported it. We said, look. Our people are be ing killed off one by one. We need the national attention. We need to bring down violence, we need to force the federal government to get involved in this fight. The assassination of Schwerner, Chaney, and Goodman, happens early in the summer project. If t hey had not been killed, many more people would have been killed. I met with them, and they asked me, should we go into I told them sure, I'll go with you. I was on the way to get in the car and young lady gave me an offer I couldn't refuse and I didn't go to ride with them, but I sent them all on this mission. I apologized to their parents, but I . I told them that I made the best decision that I could at the time on the information that I had. Now, summer project caused a split between SNCC and


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 9 MFDP SNCC says, we're too pure to be involved in that. We said, look, you think they're all from Greenville in the Freedom Democratic Party We really, sincerely it's now; it's ours. A lot of SNCC people leave and go to Alabama, and we stay here and we fight There's an anthology about the Mississippi Freedom Party, which lists everything we've done, and you'll have access to that, but I sent Paul the material So, I'm very proud of what we did. What we did was, we challenged the Democratic Party in [19]64, a nd in 1965, we challenged the seating of the Congressional delegation under Section Two the Fourteenth Amendment. It was very clear; it says, if you deprive blacks of the right to vote, your representation in the House of Representatives has to be diminis hed. Now, it's significant that Lyndon Johnson says to us, well, I tell you what. I'm going to offer y'all a deal. If you just go after John Bell Williams, I will help you get the votes. And he certainly could have gotten the votes for us and seated. So, I brought that before the Democratic state committee, and they looked at me like I'd sold out. I said, don't you understand? That our responsibility is to do something that creates a precedent so our brethren in all Southern states can use it the same way. If we just go after one, that means we're sort of accepting the malfeasance of the other four. So, I was properly correct, and I went off and I announced that. This offer was ann ounced in the Clarion Lege r and was brought from the White House by Aaron Henr y, who had broken with the Freedom Democratic Party SNCC had broken with the Freedom Democratic because SNCC didn't think they didn't want anything to do with the Democratic Party after that election We kept moving right ahead. We supported the election of


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 10 President Johnson and Hu bert Humphrey, and Michael Felwell who was a guy that I insist that you have to meet was working, heading the office on the congressional challenge After the election, he wrote the White House. He said, I'm astounded. The gro up that fought the hardest for the election of President Johnson in Mississippi has not received any invitations to the inauguration Then, Mr. Turnbow one of my favorite people called and said, Mike, you know that young man that delivers newspapers? Mic hael said, no, I don't, Mr. Turnbow. What do you this morning, before I had my coffee, he brought me this big envelope to the White House inviting me to the inauguration. He said, now, Michael, I want you to do something for me. So, Michael said, well, wh at do you want me to do? He said, I want you to find out the ball that the governor's going, 'cause I want to dance with this wife. Here's a man who spent time in Parchman for killing his wife years before the movement who, during the movement, finds himse lf in a situation where his house is being burned, his wife and daughters in it, and he goes out with his gun. He kills a white man. But the state of Mississippi says, we can't have this kind or narrative This is too much, even for us. How you going to ch arge a man with murder when his wife and daughter's in his own burning house? So, the state's official policy is very clear. This man died of a heart attack. That was the official definition by the coroner; that was it. Furthermore, in this county, where 6 5% of the land is owned by black people, nobody would put up his bond because they understood. We weren't talking about protecting him, we were talking about him killing a white man. So, the Department of Justice says to me, said, Mr. Guyot, would you mind going to the


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 11 Sheriff of Panola County and getting him to sign a reciprocity bond that you could take to the sheriff of Holmes County and get Mr. Turnbow out? I said, I'd love to go that. I had never seen Mr. Turnbow, but because I know that he's such a he ro, I got to thinking Mr. Turnbow got to be 6'8'', he would have to be broad build. I go in to meet Mr. Turnbow; he's about that high and about that round. He said, you Mr. Guyot, you come to get me? I said, yes, sir, come to get you. He said, let me go. I 'm ready to go, but I need to go talk to the sheriff. Neither one of us getting him out of here. But he goes to say whatever he wants to the sheriff and he comes. I take him home; I've never been more proud in my life, because now and never before or since have two sheriffs collaborated to get a civil rights worker out of jail. But it shows the power of racism when it has to redefine reality. If they want to prosecute him for murder, they got to do it open and publicly, so they said, we 're going to get past that. This man died of a heart attack; our coroner said it. Let's move on. This same Hartman Turnbow, and nobody had registered to vote in Holmes County. So fourteen of them organize Holmes County is one of the best organized countie s in the South. They would come to Greenwood in L e flore County and watch how we run meetings, how we distribute calls, how we march people down to the courthouse and work with them Then, they finally decided they're going to do the same thing. So fourteen of them go down and the sheriff put his hand on his gun. He said, okay, who's going to be the first one? Hartman done goes, I come down here today to register; I'm the first one. Go on, go to the back. Then, later on, Hartman is arrested in Holmes County. While he's in jail, there's some SNCC people in there, so the sheriff said,


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 12 well, I tell you what. I'm going to put these SNCC boys out in the bull pen so they can be raped. Hartman said, well, okay. He said, let me tell you one thing. If anything happen to them boys, I'm going to blow the brains out of everybody who did it, as soon as their foot hit the ground, and ain't nobody going to stop me. The sheriff changed his mind. So, what we were exposed to were some giants who were resisting, who had continue d a tradition. Because, if you read the history of Reconstruction, there were a lot of black elected officials in Holmes County. They knew sheriff's deputies, Highway Patrol, all that. They need to be elected. Then, when the redemption period come down, th ey were shot and killed, but they'd experienced political power. So, when we go to the them and say, there's a lot of land ownership yep, Tougaloo, Sunflower; Holmes County. And more men involved in it than any other movement. Why? More property owners. N ow, there's a book coming I get to read good books before the publishers do it's called, Thundering Justice [ Thunder of Freedom ]. It's written by Sue Lorenzi who spent years in Holmes County. As soon as you see it on the bookstores, pick it up. This is a tr emendous book. It tells the history of Holmes County, how it was organized; what their role was as organizers, because more and I want you to remind Paul that, what he is doing in Sunflower County should be made into a book. There's a whole position now t hat says, we need more concentrated studies on local communities rather than, what did people do in [19]63, how'd they do it around [19]65, the demonstrations at Pettus Bridge. What was happening in those counties? So, push it, and I'm going to push it. Th ere's a book in Sunflower County, and there's a book that can be based on this process


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 13 of interviewing people. That's what they used, primarily, for Thundering Sundown, freedom. Mississippi has been the most advanced civil rights movement in America. In Mi ssissippi, we saw the concept that the sharecroppers, who can't read and write, had the right to vote. We do it in the Delta. We run across Mr. Fr eedom Smith, who can't read a lick. mass meeting He goes to every protest, he goes in and o ut of jail, and keeps telling: I want to vote. I'm not lying, saying I can read and write; I want to vote. We join him in that, and we persuade the Department of Justice to put the registration of illiterates in the Voting Rights Act and win that fight. Wh en Katzenbach goes before the Judiciary Committee to argue about the Voting Rights Act, he said, I believe all of this is constitutional with the exception of the registration of illiterates. Congress agreed with us. We won that fight. We fought that. No o ther civil rights movement would fight it, but we worked with those people. A lot of them run businesses, or bases for us We won the right to organize openly. In 1963, I invited every religious denomination to send representatives to the first demonstrati on we had in Hattiesburg, Mississippi. They all came. No one was arrested. This is documented in John Dit t mer's book and Charles Payne 's book, and those books are, I've Got the Light of Freedom and Local People. The night before the meeting, I spoke to all of them; I said, it's not going to last long. I'd been the director at that time. I said, we'll all be in jail in thirty minutes. And that's what they left the church believing. But the governor had just been elected H e talked about, we are part of the w hole country. Some of the religious groups liked that. So, what the governor the governor is pretty


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 14 smart. He didn't arrest anybody. For the rest time in Mississippi history, his position was, let them go. I don't need the publicity, the heads of all the major religions being arrested in Mississippi, and they were all part of it That leads to the creation of the Delta Ministry. That leads to a good working relationship with the National Council of Churches who, when we filed a congressional challenge unde r Section Two of the they joined with us. There may not be a civil rights group in every community, but there's a church in every community. We got to speak to Gerald Ford because his bishop said to call us. If the church hadn't gotten to him, we never wou ld have gotten to him. So, James Forman and I get to go ahead and talk to him about the congressional challenge What we found, we had amazing organization. We were organizing an entire country, and we got a hundred and forty nine Congressmen to agree with us that the Congressional delegation should be o b solete. We get the right to take federal depositions, which means we could say to the sheriff or to a congressman or to any white elected official in the state of Mississippi, go to these depositions in thi s black church. This is your subpoena. Either answer it or don't answer it, because if you don't, then you can be charged by the federal government. So they came. They said, why can't we be gentlemen about this? Why can't we hold this at the courthouse? We said, no, no, no. We don't control the courthouse. This is what we control, this is where we're going to do it. Bring your lawyers, we'll have our lawyers. Imagine the empowering experience of people who've been told they can't do anything, being able to brin g those folks in and question, p ut them under an intense form of questioning before our public. That happened, which leads to the


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 15 strength of the Voting Rights Act. While we were going through the congressional challenge we collected enough deposition s to provide three thousand pages to support the passage of the Voting Rights Act, but the Voting Rights Act was coming at us, at a time that we didn't want it to come at us: 1965. A lot of people who supported us on the congressional challenge said, look, I supported y'all on the congressional challenge but the Voting Rights Act is coming ; that's going to solve all that. Myself, Mart in Luther King, George Wiley Jim Forman and James Forman, o f various civil right elements signed a memorandum that said, ev en though the Voting Rights Act is going to pass, we still think that it is honest, credible and just to unseat the congressional delegation of Mississippi because they denied us the right to vote. No one would argue that they didn't deny us the right to v ote, and no one could argue that Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment didn't say that, but the argument was, well, let's wait for the Voting Rights Act. Martin Luther King signing that document meant that there would be a lot of changes in the Voting Ri ghts Act; it would be made stronger. Section Five would be written in now. Because before that memorandum, the way, the triggering mechanism, was twenty complaints that were certified and were sent to the president, and the president may send examiners. It just changed it in the most beautiful language ever written it just get thrilled ev ery time I hear it say, if a common political subdivision wishes to change any law, it must need to be pre cleared by the Department of Justice or, it must be litigated on the merits only in the Court of Appeals in the District of Columbia, which meant that now we had a weapon that we could use before the fight. Before, the Fifteenth


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 16 Amendment protected rights only after the fact. You went down to try to register; you were t urned away, you were [inaudible 30:11]. But now, we've got something that says, once they change the law, if they don't follow those two conditions, that law is null and void. You see the dif ference. I read a book called Gideon's Trumpet, and that leads me to Abe Forrest, who leads me to Lyndon Johnson, who, Abe For rest says he was his lawyer he stole the entire election. I believe it. But I know Lyndon. Lyndon is such a megalomaniac that, based on the fact that he did steal this election, he wanted to ma ke sure nobody else stole elections. I was right. Because we read the Voting Rights Act, we run across Section Five: I said, we need to take this to the Supreme Court. We do, in the case of Allen versus the Board of Elections. We win, and the Supreme Court says, the Attorney General is the only one who can bring cases under Section Five. He's a busy man. From no w on, anyone who is aggrieved under Section Five has a right to go into federal court. We file, and when we file our lawsuit with the Department of Justice, filing our legal getting our brief with us, we won. The South was never the same again, because we went from six percent registration in Mississippi; in two years, it was sixty eight percent. Of course, that means elections, that means reapportio nment. It took us twenty years to reapportion the state of Mississippi, and it begins with a group c alled Connor versus Johnson Peggy Jean Connor is still alive in Hattiesburg. Y'all should go down to meet her The reason it took so long is, I'm going to send you a series of moves that were done to stop the decision to when we won, we not only reapportioned the state of Mississippi, we created single member districts. White people fought for them


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 17 and black people fought for them. Now, we have a state legis lature where, if you want anything done, you got to get black legislators and white legislators, or it don't get done. There's a book called, Mississippi Politics by Jere Nash and Andy Taggart They talk about the changes in Mississippi: how, when you got the state legislature changed, you could bring in legalized gambling. You could bring in more money for schools; you could bring in more money for highways; yo u can now talk about, and get funding to create a museum on civil rights in Mississippi that would not have been possible before the Voting Rights Act. So, what we've found is that, there is no state that compares with the contribution of the Mississippi civil rights movement, which was broad ly based, very indigenous, issue oriented, confrontational, and ultra political. We did not do anything unless we understood that it was a teaching process for the people involved in it; that it would empower them. If the broad information experienced that politics that we went through, the more competent and comfortable they would have become with it, because many percent of the people who joined the civil rights movement joined to make a better life for their children. They went through hell to bring abou t those changes. Some of them said, I won't live to see it, but I want my children to have a better crack at life than I had. We broke down the peonage system in Mississippi We fought for the right of women to serve on juries in [19]65; we acquired that. We fought t o the right to vote and acquired that. We fought for the right to be free politically; we acquired that. See, when Lyndon gives his, "We shall overcome" speech, if he hadn't fought us tooth and nail in [19]64, he could have used Mississippi as t he example of why he was going to


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 18 pass the Voting Rights Act. He could have said it like this, no state has lost more lives and been creative and resilient enough to conduct their own elections. They fought to get into the Democratic Party in [19]64 in Atl antic City; they fought to challenge the congressional delegation under Section Two of the Fourteenth Amendment. We are going to award them and the rest of the country; I'll pass the Voting Rights Act. But he had fo ught us openly and publicly in [19]64. So, my point is: the greatest documentation of successful community organization and politicization is the movement in Mississippi. No other movement compares in any way to it. I want to make sure that I state to you unequivocally that all the great stuff that we've done in Mississippi had the personal and public support of Martin Luther King. Freedom Election, King supported us. Summer project, he supported us. Atlantic City, he supported us. Even when he was threaten ed, Martin Luther King, goddamn it, if you keep supporting them, we're not going to give you any more money. Last year, I gave you ninety thousand dollars. So, when Martin Luther King speaks to the Democratic National Convention people from Mississippi, he says, as a national civil, political leader, I want you to accept the compromise. But I want you to know, if I were a membe r of that delegation, I would vote to oppose the compromise. That was perfectly fine with me. In 1965, he helps us challenge the sea ting of the congressional delegation, and he lets Lyndon Johnson know that's where he's going, that's what he's doing. There's nothing we ever asked him we asked him to come i n, go into a demonstration in Neshoba County. Now, Martin Luther King, throughou t his life had been quite afraid of Mississippi, and


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 19 reasonably so. But he comes; he participates in a demonstration in Mississippi. He said, you know, in the process, he says, some of the murderers might be ver y close to us. Charles Raney and them said, y ou're goddamn right; right behind us. But he goes through it. So, here's a man the reason I want to say that very clearly is, there was a lot of publicity around the Freedom Rides and the documentary about the Freedom Rides show King not getting on a bus. Then they had a meeting afterwards to question his bonafiety. I want to drive home the fact that, everything we ever done in Mississippi that was worthwhile politically, he wa s in it; he was personally involved, he was totally supportive, and he never tur ned us down. I believe in dancing with the one that brung you. In politics, you pay your debts. Mississippi and the rest of the country is indebted deeply to Martin Luther King. M: Unfortunately, due to our time constraint here, Mr. Guyot, we're going to have to pick up the rest of this interview on a Part Two, if that'll be all right for you. G: No problem; of course. M: Okay, we'll definitely be getting in contact with you as soon as possible. G: You got me talking. M: All right. Yes, sir. D: That w as a wonderful way to end this interview. M: Yes, sir. D: Yeah, thank you so much for your time. G: Oh, you're quite welcome. M: Thank you very much.


MFP 078B; Guyot; Page 20 [End of interview] Transcribed by: Diana Dombrowski, September 2013 Audit e dited by: Sarah Blanc, Oc tober 25 2013 Final edited by: Diana Dombrowski, January 17, 2014