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47 Benton County Freedom Train Benton County is a quiet and rural area of northern Mississippi. Although it was not known as a hotbed of civil rights activism, local African Americans participated in the NAACP and the Citizen’s League, a small clandestine group of men that attempted to register and organize black voters. The mass meetings that defined the Benton County movement often took place at St. James Church, a popular meeting space for locals during the Freedom Summer. Students in Benton County were influenced by civil rights activities in Holly Springs, located just twenty miles away. The Benton County Freedom School was established just a couple of weeks into Freedom Summer after locals heard about the Holly Springs and other Mississippi Freedom Schools. In this issue of the local Freedom School newspaper, black students in Benton County react to the freshly minted Civil Rights Act of 1964, which promised full equality to the young students. The students in this issue also discuss the role of black and white students working together in desegregated schools. After Freedom Summer, other local African Americans started writing for the Benton County Freedom Train, which published regular issues until 1968. News Bulletin: Civil Rights Bill by Henry Reaves Now the civil rights bill has passed at last.You had better exercise your rights and exercise them fast, or the Negro will be in the same condition as he was in the past. How We Live in Mississippi by Mary Francie Harris At the beginning of March our father begins to break land. He has to break the land sometimes with tractors and mules. The Benton County Freedom Train 48 men work hard all day long from seven o’clock until twelve o’clock when they stop for dinner; then back to the field at one o’clock until six o’clock, and come home and eat and go to bed. That’s how it is until they get ready to plant cotton. Then when the cotton is up and ready to chop, we chop most of the time until summer school begins.The school opens in July, and we go to school. Masthead of the Benton County Freedom Train. Courtesy of the Wisconsin Historical Society. Benton County Freedom Train 49 But now it is different from the past few years.It has been hard for all of us, but this year the people from all over the United States have come to help us. All we can say is we want freedom; everybody wants freedom. So, people, lift up your head and let your light shine. Let’s begin to act like human beings. To the workers who are here to help us, I can say that we all love you, but God loves you best. How Negroes Earn Their Living in Mississippi by Shirley J. Richard Most Negroes earn their living by farming.Some have as many as 60 acres, others have five, ten, 30, etc.You don’t find any Negroes with as many acres of cotton as whites. The average person gets paid by the hour. We work eight to nine hours each day and are paid daily after work is over.We get only $3.00 per day. In Michigan City, Mississippi, Negroes are paid only $2.50, and they chop cotton eight and one-half and nine hours each day. The work that we do is rough. The men whom we work for is responsible for having fresh cold water handy in the field for the workers to drink. The white owners fail to bring enough water for each person to drink. The whites also fail to take us to the store in time to eat dinner. We are treated very badly by the whites.We are called names; when they are handing things to us they throw it to us or drop it for fun.When a Negro is walking down the street or roadside, whites pass hollerin;“nigger” or“black”.When we are working in the fields, the whites say,“Go to work, nigger.” For the women or girls, white women hire them to house clean or babysit for a low price of $2.00 and $3.50 a day. We get very little for such a lot of work,such as: ironing,washing clothes, washing windows, cooking three meals each day, cutting grass, scrubbing floors, and other things. Many walk to and from work. They also work eight to nine hours a day. When it...


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