Sunday, December 5, 2010

Voting Rights in the Kennedy Years

Thanks to those of you who attended Voting Rights in the Kennedy Years at the John F. Kennedy Library on November 29, 2010.   I was honored to be joined by John Doar, who traveled from NY, and Helen McCullough, the daughter of witness, B.F. Bourn, who came from Charlotte.  B.F. ran the grocery and meat market at 523 Mobile Street, the main shopping area of black Hattiesburg.   Carole Simpson was the moderator, and spoke eloquently of her fellowship at Tuskegee in early 60s Alabama.

Judge Martin with Carole Simpson

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Jackson, Mississippi

A wonderful day in Jackson - I wanted to share the article written by the gifted Jerry Mitchell of the Jackson Clarion-Ledger, who invited my wife and me to visit him at the paper this morning:

Gordon Martin Jr. has plenty of stories to tell about fighting to help Americans win the right to vote.

  Martin lived through those days, and now he has a new book on the subject, Count Them One by One: Black Mississippians Fighting for the Right to Vote.

He is signing books at 5 p.m. today (Wednesday, Oct. 27) at Lemuria Books, followed by a reading. He will sign books at 5:45 p.m. Thursday at Square Books in Oxford.

In 1961, the U.S. Department of Justice filed its first voting rights cases against Mississippi counties where people had been turned away from voting.

One of those was Forrest County, where Circuit Clerk Theron Lynd did all he could to keep African Americans off the voting rolls. Lynd took advantage of the many tools set up by law — poll taxes, literacy tests and a clerk-given test to read and interpret a section of Mississippi’s Constitution.

“It was very clear his role was to keep down the number of registered blacks,” Martin recalled.  He was a part of the Justice Department team that took Lynn to court.  Martin prepared 16 courageous black witnesses who had been refused registration, found white witnesses, and was one of the lawyers during the trial.

In 1962, the department won a court order against Lynd, and it wasn’t long before he was disobeying it, Martin said.  The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found Lynd in civil contempt, and he finally had to give in after the 1965 passage of the Voting Rights Act, Martin said.  In the years that followed, the work by the Justice Department as well as those laboring in the civil rights movement bore fruit. In 1964, only 6.7 percent of voting-age black Mississippians were registered to vote. Before the decade ended, that number had topped 66 percent.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

New Orleans

Delighted to report that the New Orleans Times-Picayune (a paper I have enjoyed since I spent a semester teaching at Tulane Law School in the early 90s) called Count Them One By One a "Hot Read" in today's edition (link to come).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

The Book Jacket

The 16 brave African-American witnesses in United States v. Theron Lynd - whose story is told in Count Them One by One - knew the risks involved in their attempting to register to vote.  One, their leader, Vernon Dahmer, paid with his life, murdered by the White Knights of the Klan.  

In the cover image of the book above, an aroused black citizenry gathers before his funeral.  As you can imagine, much thought went into the cover of this book.  We tried to capture the anguish of the moment, which affected not just those of us in Hattiesburg, Mississippi but also influenced many far away.