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68 Hattiesburg Freedom Press The Hattiesburg Freedom Press was produced by students in the Mt. Zion Freedom School of Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Mt. Zion was one of five Freedom Schools that met in Hattiesburg, the town that Freedom School coordinator Staughton Lynd dubbed “the Mecca of the Freedom School world.” Hattiesburg was home to a vibrant black business community and was one of the first places SNCC gained a major foothold in Mississippi. Local people such as Victoria Jackson Gray, Peggy Jean Connor, Vernon Dahmer, J. C. Fairley, Daisy Harris Wade, and scores of others helped SNCC organize potential black voters in their community. By the summer of 1964, hundreds of African Americans had joined the local freedom movement, paving the way for the eventual success of the Hattiesburg Freedom Schools. Throughout the 1960s, Mt. Zion became well known as a site for numerous civil rights meetings. Activity in the church only increased after Freedom Summer. Locals met there to discuss and plan boycotts, political strategies, and marches. Mt. Zion was also one of the last places Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke before his death in the spring of 1968. Although the church has since been torn down and replaced by a new structure, its congregation remains proud of its historic role in the Civil Rights Movement. A historical marker now stands outside the new Mt. Zion Baptist Church celebrating its contributions to the black freedom struggle. The exact date of this issue of the Freedom Press is unknown, but several of the articles indicate that it was published during the final week of Freedom School classes. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of these essays are the testimonies written by Freedom School students who were going door-to-door in their community canvassing potential voters. Our Day of Canvassing On August 6, Linda B., Victoria J., my sister Gwendolyn and I went canvassing. It was a great experience because we had never been canvassing before. Hattiesburg Freedom Press 69 We went to many houses.We are going to tell you about some very interesting things that happened. We went to a house on Ruby Street and this is what we said to the lady there: “Good evening. We are canvassing for the Mt. Zion Freedom School and we would like to know if you have ever been to Freedom School.” She said,“No! And I’m not going to Freedom School.” We asked her why and she said her “religion said she cannot go. And anyway, you little children don’t know what you are doing.You don’t know what freedom is.” “Oh yes we do,” we said.“We know more than you know.” The lady kept on saying that we didn’t know what we were talking about. Another event was on Dumas Street.We went to a house of a mother who used to send her little girl to the Freedom School. But she had stopped letting her go.We asked the mother why. She said,“Why, honey, she doesn’t know anything about freedom .Besides,she has to keep the children because I have to go to work. We had many other interesting times. These are just a few of them. —Stephanie B. The Town Nobody Loved Lilly I am writing a story about a town nobody loved or liked but did nothing about. I’ve been living here for fifteen years so I can tell you the story. I was a little girl in the second grade when a terrible thing happened . There was a boy about 10 years of age and he was walking home from the store. I was walking home too, but I wasn’t walking just beside him. A little white girl came along riding her bicycle and the little colored boy stopped to look at her. The white girl stopped and Hattiesburg Freedom Press 70 said,“If you don’t stop looking at me,nigger,I am going to tell my daddy that you were fighting with me.” The colored boy did not know that a colored boy was not supposed to look at a white girl and so he said,“I can look at you as long as I like.” The same night about ten o’clock a group of white men surrounded the boy’s home and started shouting and saying,“Nigger , come on out. Don’t make us come in and get you.” They went into the boy’s home and took him out.He was hung...


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