interviewed by BRUCE HARTFORD
about Mississippi & Alabama from 1965-1968
In which are outlined feelings of fear and pride at joining the Civil Rights Movement. Describes the separate worlds of the black sharecropper and the civil rights worker. Outlines the Rules of Survival and recounts how one rule saved my life. Discusses the Piggly-Wiggly case.
In which I am sent on the road for the "Uncle Tom" case, experience a ritualistic gun duel between civil rights workers and the Klan, see the tree that is used "in case there be a hangin'," and walk through a gauntlet of white hoodlums surrounding my means of escape.
In which I shed my suit and tie to join the ranks of the civil rights workers: meeting, eating and picking cotton with the black sharecroppers and confronting the sheriff. Without preparation, I become the civil rights leader in a small Mississippi county. Describes my attempt to establish a human telephone, oversee school desegregation and implement the new Voting Rights Act. I almost kill a local boy sent to warn me of an abortive firebombing of my office. While I am doing SNCC work and handling cases outside of my county, I am shot at while driving.
Discusses the effect of a lawyer functioning as a civil rights worker. Provides a case study of arrest as a form of harassment, including the "Elvis Arrests" and the arrest of myself and all my witnesses while awaiting a trial following the planting of evidence of a crime. A matter of bad civil rights lawyering on my part. Unwittingly, I become a part of the white Southern power structure. The high profile of being a lawyer-civil rights worker; my county is unnerved by too much attention. I leave Benton County.the "Black Christmas" arrests. Using a civil rights worker's approach to win an important trial, I am hired as a full-time civil rights lawyer. I am beaten at the Ross Barnett Reservoir; I watch William Kunstler come to town to attempt to block Mississippi from holding its elections.
Discusses the sexual history of a dysfunctional South. "Al Windom done nothin' but he in prison 'cause a white woman say he rape her." In which I defend a black
man accused of the rape of a white woman who admits it never happened -- and lose. The comments of the Judge are included. Duality: Love and Hate between Civil Rights Workers within the Civil Rights Movement. When I fall in love with a white civil rights worker, I experience interracial conflict and incur the wrath of the black community. The Movement psychiatrist discusses a Failure for Racial Integration within the Civil Rights Movement.
"You will be in charge of the whole State of Alabama, with your own staff . . . I depart for the Civil Rights capital of the South. In which the 1966 Meredith March becomes the transition from the Civil Rights Movement to the new Black Power Era of Stokely Carmichael. Recounts the exclusion of whites from the Movement and the doubts concerning a white lawyer opening a civil rights office in Selma. "NO WHITES ALLOWED UPSTAIRS [in the SNCC office] WITHOUT PRIOR APPROVAL!" Discusses SNCC workers practicing Black Power on their white lawyer and one holding a SNCC gun to my head. Describes my first experience as a second-class (white) citizen.
8. Black v. Black, White v. White, Black v. White, and Sheriff Jim Clark's People Against just about Everyone: a Movement Civil War during the First "Black Elections" Since Reconstruction
In which is reviewed the history of the early savage years to gain the right to vote in the Deep South through the Voting Rights Act of 1965, the disharmony between grassroots and middle class blacks, and Stokely Carmichael arrested for Inciting to Riot on the eve of the historic elections. Discusses why blacks lost the first elections.
In which Southern "discretionary" segregation is analyzed with a case study of a white civil right worker framed by a local black acting under white pressures. Describes the exclusion of blacks from his jury and the legal processes this civil rights worker encountered from the local trial judge who refused him bail through the U.S. Supreme Court.
10."Dr. King: the Farmers will tell you they'd rather get one of their own elected to the ASCS Cotton Board than elected as Sheriff or Governor . . . "
A juxtaposition of the cotton economy, slavery and the New Deal. Discusses collusion between Plantation Owners and the U.S. Department of Agriculture to deprive black farmers of economic independence through cotton subsidy payments. Compares traditional and political litigation to obtain independence, including the right to participate in the "cotton elections." Martin Luther King, Jr., who adds his prestige to the cotton challenge. Includes a leaked secret report which was withheld from President Lyndon Johnson, the testimony of a black sharecropper accusing a Southern federal employee of bribery and intimidation, success of the cotton challenge and reprisal against the litigants and their lawyer.
11.Jailed twice, barred from every State Court in Alabama, Evicted from the ACLU Offices, Targeted by a Selma Grand Jury, Assailed by Two Federal Judges, Faced with Imprisonment and Disbarment, and Fired by ACLU.
Explains the presence of out-of-state lawyers practicing in Southern courts. In which I am jailed during a criminal case following the cotton hearings, I charge cowardice against an ACLU leader and become the target of the Selma Grand Jury.
A federal judge in Mobile calls me "the worst enemy the Negro people have." Carmichael goes on trial in Selma. Judge Frank M. Johnson, Jr.: The North's Great White Southern Hope creates a charge of fraud against me and removes me "from the roll of attorneys admitted to practice in [his] court," and the most prominent desegregationist judge in the South takes action against militants and their lawyer. In which Johnson shows his dark side to black militants in an aftermath of the Selma March. Discusses the complex history of this judge who created Dr. King's greatest dilemma. Tells of two federal judges: one for integration and one against -- but both Against Black Power. The Thomas Amendment and Stokley's Case. In the midst of this chaos, while I am barred from every state court in
Alabama, I save two black men from execution.
12. Fired by ACLU as a "Gangrenous Arm" Jeopardizing Civil Rights Lawyers in the Entire South; Leaving the South and Returning; Forming the Southern Rural Research Project (SRRP): The Scam that became Real
Includes my firing by ACLU as a "gangrenous arm" jeopardizing the entire civil rights struggle, and my leaving the South to protect myself from possible jail and disbarment. In which I return, become respectable, form the innocuous- sounding Southern Rural Research Project (SRRP) and conduct the largest in-depth study of black poverty and deprivation in Deep South history. Discusses my shock that some of our clients -- the "invisible" sharecroppers we had never met -- were starving to death.
Discusses how a 13th century Saint inspired an activist French Catholic Order, which, after exile from France in the 1930's, accepted the requests of Pope Pius XI and the Archbishop of Alabama "to work among the colored" in Selma. The Fathers of St. Edmund create separate-but-truly- equal schools and hospitals for the blacks, but when the civil rights struggle emerges, they become a command post for the Selma March. The Clergy, nationwide, defy the Archbishop and the sanctity of the diocesan lines. Afterwards, the Pastor is banished from Alabama. Describes the radicalization of the clergy and my year living with the priests in the Edmunite Rectory.
14.SNCC: On Trial, Against the War in Vietnam, Against Israel and Under Siege: "Your Wife and Children Will Be Killed if Stokley or Any of Our People Die Tonight"; "Violence is As American as Apple Pie."
Stokely's Inciting to Riot Trial, during which Carmichael and I are marked for assassination. A federal court restrains the State of Alabama from prosecuting Carmichael on Riot charges after Selma officials are cross-examined to reveal their attempt to intimidate black voters. Discusses the impact of SNCC's stand against the War in Vietnam and against Israel, including the Judas label placed on me, a Jew, for continuing as their lawyer. I become the civil rights white to justify Black Power and the civil rights Jew to justify the anti-Israel stand.
In which SRRP brings 130 black farmers to Washington, D.C. to testify in a lawsuit demanding food as a Constitutional right "to live." Details the evidence of starvation in the South. Political pressure from the case forces the USDA to provide food for tens of thousands. My dog is murdered.
In which the assassinations of Dr. King and U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy break my spirit, and I leave the South for good. In California, I start a new life, while suffering the effects of withdrawal from what I loved.
© 2006 Donald A. Jelinek
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