August 22, 1964. Members of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (Aaron Henry, top, Fannie Lou Hamer, bottom, and others) speak to the Credentials Committee prior to the Democratic National Convention, which begins in two days. The MFDP delegation, elected by Mississippi citizens sympathetic to the cause of voting rights, are challenging the delegation elected in all-white Democratic party elections.
Mrs. Hamer testifies to a series of indignities and brutalities that African Americans face in trying to exercise their rights. She concludes:
“All of this is on account we want to register, to become first-class citizens, and if the Freedom Democratic Party is not seated now, I question America, is this America, the land of the free and the home of the brave where we have to sleep with our telephones off of the hooks because our lives be threatened daily because we want to live as decent human beings, in America?”
Report, “Proceedings of the Democratic National Convention, 1964,” 8/22/64, “Hamer, Fannie Lou—Testimony at Credentials Committee Hearing, 8/22/64,” Reference File, LBJ Library.
Meanwhile, in Georgia: Martin Luther King, Jr. has been in jail since October 19. He was arrested along with some two hundred eighty students in a lunch counter sit-in in Atlanta.
On October 26, 1960, JFK calls Coretta Scott King from Chicago. According to King, Kennedy expresses his sympathy and offers assistance. Robert Kennedy calls Governor S. Ernest Vandiver and Judge Oscar Mitchell in an attempt to secure bail for him. When RFK tells LBJ that he is planning to make the calls to Georgia, Johnson says:
“Tell Jack that we’ll ride it through down here some way, and at least he’s on the right side.”
—Dallek, Robert, Lone Star Rising, New York: Oxford University Press, 1991, p. 588.
Photo via Digital Library of Georgia.
January 1949. Meanwhile, in Texas:
In the town of Three Rivers an Anglo funeral director refuses to hold services for Felix Longoria, a Mexican-American soldier killed in the Philippines in 1945 and whose remains are now being repatriated.
Sarah Morino, the sister of Longoria’s widow, contacts Dr. Hector Garcia, organizer of the GI Forum (a group of returned veterans working to improve conditions in Mexican-American communities). Dr. Garcia contacts reporters from the Corpus Christi Caller and cables Texas senators, congressmen, military officials, and columnists Drew Pearson and Walter Winchell regarding this discrimination. The next day The New York Times carries a front page article by William S. White detailing the story.
The controversy raises serious problems in delicate negotiations with Mexican officials regarding immigration of Mexican labor, as well as angering the Mexican press. R.E. Smith, chairman of the Texas Good Neighbor Commission, terms the attitude of the Three Rivers funeral director “shameful.”