Mississippi Black Paper
Shocking testimonials of the brutality committed against those fighting for freedom
At the height of the civil rights movement in Mississippi, as hundreds of volunteers prepared for the 1964 Freedom Summer Project, the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) compiled hundreds of statements from activists and everyday citizens who endured police abuse and vigilante violence. Fifty-seven of those testimonies appear in Mississippi Black Paper. The statements recount how white officials and everyday citizens employed assassinations, beatings, harassment, and petty meanness to block any change in the state's segregated status quo.
The testimonies in Mississippi Black Paper come from well-known civil rights heroes such as Fannie Lou Hamer, Aaron Henry, and Rita Schwerner, but the book also brings new voices and stories to the fore. Alongside these iconic names appear grassroots activists and everyday people who endured racial terror and harassment for challenging, sometimes in seemingly imperceptible ways, the state's white supremacy.
This new edition includes the original foreword by Reinhold Neibuhr and the original introduction by Mississippi journalist Hodding Carter III, as well as Jason Morgan Ward's new introduction that places the book in its context as a vital source in the history of the civil rights movement.
"Recently rereleased, Mississippi Black Paper is instructive for those wishing to connect the dots indicating why otherwise inexplicable outrages were sanctioned. While its serial affidavits might seem obtuse, they allow highly germane perspective. . . . Moving beyond our failed history is impossible without this historical reckoning. "- Jay Wiener, Clarion-Ledger
"When it came out, official white Mississippi angrily denied Mississippi Black Paper's itemized record of unremitting brutality aimed at the Freedom Summer volunteers, while most other whites simply ignored it. But facts were facts; the violence was real, unremitting, and condoned by officialdom when it was not perpetrated by men with badges. Why bring it all up again? Because white officials across the nation are back at their old stand, justifying unnecessary white violence against black folks. Because young people are not adequately taught the disgusting record of the 1960s. Because many are still trying to deny the facts of history.
It's true that things have improved since 1964. But there was no way things could have been much worse, and there is no way to deny--except with lies--that black lives still don't matter as much as white. That's what Mississippi Black Paper was all about in 1964. Someone could write a pretty solid contemporary version in 2017. In the meantime, University Press of Mississippi has performed a public service by reissuing the old one. "- Hodding Carter III was a reporter and editor for the Delta Democrat-Times in Greenville, Mississippi, and is professor emeritus of public policy at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
"This timely reissue (with a perceptive new introduction by historian Jason Morgan Ward) retains the 1965 foreword by theologian Reinhold Niebuhr, who, in 1932, suggested Gandhian non-violence for American Negroes. More important than this documentation of white terror is the courage of black Mississippians and their political strategy, making Americans face our history and responsibility of continuing white racism. "- Rev. Ed King, faculty, University of Mississippi Medical Center, was an original plaintiff in COFO v. Rainey, filed by attorney Arthur Kinoy and others, a leader of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and is coauthor of Ed King's Mississippi.