Katrina and Genocide? On the lookout for Clues in Mississippi’s Previous

Some who noticed Hurricane Katrina victims actually begging for meals, water and shelter—and think about FEMA’s poor response as genocidal—now search for parallels to the sooner days of neighboring Mississippi’s Civil Rights Motion.

For instance

IN 1962, LEFLORE COUNTY WHITES, who run the federal Surplus Meals Program, started withholding meals as punishment for elevated civil rights actions; Meals was additionally held again in different Mississippi Delta counties.

Hardliners on the county’s board of supervisors have been decided to halt the distribution of all federal meals merchandise to the county’s poor — 98 % of whom have been black.

“To the normal segregationist arsenal of intimidation, financial reprisals, beatings, lynchings and authorized brutality, Leflore County appeared poised so as to add genocide. Leflore County whites, it appeared, would starve black kids earlier than letting their mother and father vote,” famous Seth Cagin and Philip Dray, authors of “We Are Not Afraid.”

Most poor individuals, black and white, relied on uncooked supplies for the cheese, flour, milk, rice, beans, and canned meats essential to feeding households in Greenwood and outlying districts. The county’s choice meant that greater than twenty-two thousand farm and sharecropper households could be affected – households who had relied on the uncooked supplies to get from one cotton crop season to the subsequent.

The scope of potential hunger and malnutrition drew no consideration exterior of Mississippi—a information article appeared within the Jackson Press that dismissed the choice as a “easy debate over regional welfare practices.”

Others acknowledged that the black households have been “freeloaders” who needed “one thing for nothing”. The identical yr, Mississippi attracted about $750 million in U.S. authorities funds, with hundreds of thousands of federal {dollars} going to the Delta as agricultural subsidies for cotton farmers.

There have been predictions of mass hunger within the Delta. Moms about to offer delivery have been particularly involved in regards to the penalties. Fannie Lou Hamer identified that it was the blacks’ labor and sweat that had “made the whites creamy wealthy”, concluding, “There may be a lot hatred. Solely God has saved the nigger sane.”

The Ku Klux Klan and the Residents Council, looking for to forestall any extra blacks from registering to vote, pressured county officers to cease meals distribution and lock up the products within the first place.

In accordance with Sovereignty Fee data and oral histories, this observe continued within the Delta till 1966. But Sovereignty Fee data present that white leaders are consistently attempting to “show” that there was no famine within the Delta.

Because the famine worsened and information of the meals clique moved exterior of Mississippi, two black Michigan State College college students, Ivanhoe Donaldson and Ben Taylor, tried to take a pickup truck stuffed with meals and clothes to Greenwood in December 1962, destroying the Leflore County challenged. regulators “strike” in opposition to federal help to poor individuals.

Coahoma County officers mentioned the truck’s medical provides — bandages and aspirin — have been harmful contraband and arrested the Michigan guests. The police seized the truck and locked the 2 within the metropolis jail. The Michigan males have been terrified and after a number of days have been lastly capable of ship a be aware to Aaron Henry, who organized their bail.

(They have been fortunate. Six months earlier, legal professional Invoice Higgs was arrested in Coahoma County for driving an built-in car. Whereas in his cell, Higgs encountered an “neglected” black Freedom Rider from California languishing within the Clarksdale Jail.

Legislation pupil Dewey Peterson had been arrested in the summertime of 1961 whereas attempting to combine the town’s bus depot. He was held incommunicado in Clarksdale for practically a yr earlier than Higgs occurred to search out him. The black Mississippi lawyer managed to avoid wasting Peterson. )

The county’s try to make use of hunger in opposition to blacks unexpectedly helped COFO and SNCC entrench themselves within the space, drawing extra supporters amongst native blacks, particularly after November when a black baby died of hunger.

When attorneys and reporters from the Justice Division entered and toured the county, urged by the COFO, they discovered “surprising well being situations and dire shortages of milk and different staples in black properties.”

In a letter written to a pal at residence, Moses reported that he had completed consuming a bowl of soup and had seen a “black, leathery hand come ahead from behind, looking for the remnants of the meal.”

Nationwide curiosity was aided by Harry Belafonte, who responded with a aid live performance in New York Metropolis, and Dick Gregory, who chartered a aircraft to personally ship emergency rations to Greenwood.

Recognition from the surface created new optimism amongst SNCC workers, who labored longer hours with better dangers. Milton Hancock, a black cab driver from Greenwood who towed free freedom staff round, was pulled over by a deputy sheriff for a visitors violation and instructed to depart city – “You understand what occurred to Emmett Until!” he had been warned.

A number of months later, SNCC distributed 4 tons of meals in at some point – a document. Then 4 black companies in Greenwood have been bombed. Sam Block, an early suffrage advocate from the Mississippi Delta, was giving a press convention in regards to the smoldering ruins when he was arrested and charged with “inciting a riot.”

5 days later, 100 staff and supporters marched to Greenwood Metropolis Corridor in protest, a daring demonstration for the time that shocked each white and black communities.

(Excerpted from “The place Rebels Roost, Mississippi Civil Rights Revisited,” by Susan Klopfer. Photograph: The Leflore County Courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi.)

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