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February 15, 1961 - Image 4

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 1961-02-15

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Seventy-First Year
h Will Prevall"
itorials printed in The Michigan Daily express the individual opinions of staff writers
or the editors. This must be noted in all reprints.

Story of Fayette and Haywo

Y, FEBRUARY 15, 1961


Kennedy Must Actualize
Partnership With People

RECENT editorial in Life magazine warns
hat President Kennedy's use of live tele-
I press conferences may "impair the stature
his) office" by making him as "familiar as
man next door." The presidency, according
ife, "requires an aura of dignity and unas-
ble authority which could suffer by too
uent exposure to the vulnerable atmosphere
he press conference."
his reasoning has a certain specious plausi-
y. But I believe that it ignores the charac-
both of the new president and of the times
hich he takes office.
BEGIN WITH, President Kennedy rejects
he venerable American tradition of limited
rnment. He does not regard the Federal
rnment as a necessary evil which must be
fully checked, but as a positive good'
ugh which "the people collectively" can
mplish what they could not as individuals.
o this philosophy, which'dates from the'
Deal, Kennedy has added a unique concep-
of the role of president as leader of the
on. This conception is indicated by his
;tant campaign plea to "give me your help,"
charge to "ask what you can do for your
itry," his challenge to "join in that historic
t (against the common enemies of man)".
attempts to reduce the gap between the
re of government action and the sphere of
ridual involvement-not by decentralizing,
rnment but by focusing the public's atten-
s and energies on national problems. He
s at a popular involvement and participa-
in government which has formerly been
ible only at the local level.
NNEDY DOES NOT regard himself as a
benevolent dictator, relying on the "mys-
e of the presidency"'for authority. He does
even regard himself as a "lobbyist for the
le." I believe that he regards himself as a
ner of the people=-a senior partner to be
who will exercise strict control within his
re, but a partner whose success or failure
ends on the cooperation he receives from
nation. His use of live broadcast press con-
aces aims at conveying a sense of immedi-
and personal participation in the affairs of
is notion of partnership apparently has
. evolved partly to allay conservative fears
n expanded central government. Conserva-
3 are likely to argue that stkte and local
rnments should be strengthened because
are closer to the people. President Ken-
P is attempting to demonstrate that modern
nunications make possible an even greater
ilar involvement in national affairs than
cal. Specifically, he may be hoping to in-
e and interest conservatives themselves,
icularly border-line conservatives..
ESIDENT KENNEDY'S concern with the
conservative problem is easily understand-
. Conservatives in the U.S. Congress consti-
a major obstacle to enactment of the.
ram Kennedy believes is- vitally necessary.
e remote, but ultimately of more signifi-
e, is the spread of conservatism on the na-
s campuses. It would not be well to exag='
te the ideological content of this conserva-

tism. To a large extent it is not a political phi-
losophy at all, but a , hypocritical rationaliza-
tion of personal interests. In these cases, much
of Kennedy's program will be opposed regard-
less of the political theory he advances to ius-
tify it.
Nevertheless there is a sufficiently good case
to be made for limited government that many
intelectual conservatives do exist. Kennedy
eviedntly seeks to convince the latter that gov-
ernment can be big and centralized without de-
creasing personal involvement. Whether his ar-
gument will be accepted remains to be seen.
IS CONCEPT of a partnership between
leader and led has also been necessitated by
by the new social movement among liberals,
particularly liberal youth. This group has in
the past been most agreeable to an expansion
of centralized government. But in the last
year, after .amounting dissatisfaction with the
accomplishments of government, this group has
turned to direct social action on the individual
Largely by extra-institutional means, such
as sit-ins, they have significantly advanced cliv-
il rights and exerted enormous pressure in
issues ranging from NDEA loyalty oaths to the
peace corps. They are unlikely now to take a
back seat to a government which they have so
4rilliantly outperformed. Young Americans,
already personally involved in a major social
movement, are not asking for and do not want
an omnipotent philosopher-king who will solve
all problems while they look on inertly.
They desire a competent, vigorous partner
who will join them in the work already in prog-
ress, inspiring by results as well as words or a
presidential ,mystique.
?THERE HAVE BEEN, then, several reasons
for the development of the Kennedy concep-
tion of leadership. Contributing importantly
have been his own deficiencies. Kennedy must
surely be aware by now that he is not the char-
ismatic father-figure that has emerged in other
periods of national peril. His youth, lack of elo-
quence and very appearance preclude the devel-'
opment of such an image.
More importantly, the times preclude it.
Kennedy takes office in a period when no large
part of the population is willing to cede respon-
sibility for action to the federal government.
On the one hand, a ballooning conservatism
rejects the whole notion of government in-
volvement in most affairs, and is particularly
alarmed by increased centralization of govern-
ment action. On the other hand, the persons
most amenable to the expansion of government
activity have discovered in the last year how
much they can accomplish as individuals.
ACTION at the national'level is clearly re-
quired, and President Kennedy has had no
choice but to seek a new relation between fed-
eral government and the people. He must quiet
conservative fears of increased government ac-
tivity. At the same time he must channel the
social action of liberals without seeming to
push them. A partnership appears to be his
proposed solution.

(EDITOR'S NOTE: Five students,
including two from the University
and three from the University o
Texas, spent several days recently
in Tennessee, studying the complex
conditions in Fayette and Haywood
measures 16 miles from the
Fayette County line to Somerville,
the county seat. The country is
not unusual - poor farm land,
crusted with traces of crop and
tillage, clumps of trees breaking
the view of the rolling, infinite
recession of the land, spotted by
an occasional house along the road
with a dusty car tilted in the ruts
outside, someone periodically plod-
dling along the gravel shoulder as
you pass.
Here and there a shack is vis-
ible, or a cluster of shacks, each
inhabited by a family of share-
croppers, the shacks symbols of a
pre-industrial era, integral ele-
ments of the Southern tradition,
and now, in Fayette and adjoining
Maywood counties, the source of
a social movement - the attempt
of the Negro to establish his right
to vote in the face of a hostile
white community.
For several months the Justice
Department has been working to
prove that hundreds of Negro
sharecroppers have been forced
off the landbecause they attempt-
ed to register or vote in the pre-
dominantly Negro counties. Ac-
companying the threats by the
whites, according to the Justice
Department, was an organized re-
fusal to do business with Negroes
who had registered.
The United States Court of Ap-
peals is scheduled to rule on the
government's claims next week.
Negroes have remained stubbornly
in the counties, sustained by sup-
plies from sympathizers across the
nation, hoping for a solution to
their complicated problem. We
drove to the ara last -week; our
purpose was to study conditions in
both counties in order to make
sensible recommendations to
groups who wish to send food and
supplies to the Negroes.
Somerville is first visible as
some uninspiring structures set
almost symoblically beneath a
huge white cross gleaming frofn
the city water tower.
The city itself is very small,
without beauty, and the signs
around its perimeter read: "Som-
merville: A Better Community
Through Local Effort." At a traf-
fic light at the town square one
turns left and in a few moments
the houses become scarce.
* * .
LESS THAN A MILE along the
road is McFerren's grocery store;
a white frame, inconspicuous
place. Further along the road are
the homes of Estella McFerren
and her son John, the owner of
the grocery store.
McFerren has lived all his 36
years in Fayette County, with the
exception of a service hitch in
the North. He is listed in the news-
papers as leader of the all-Negro
Fayette Civic and Welfare League
and as a prominent figure in the
League's campaign for Negro voter
registration. But he is more than
that and this the papers have not
said: the emergence of John Mc-
Ferren is the emergence of a new
phase of Negro .rebellion. In re-
cent months it has been the stu-
dents and ministers and other
members of the middle-class who
have moved actively in the direc-
tion of equal rights. Now it is the
sharecropper, the "country nig-
galh," in revolt. That sharecroppers
should rebel is not in itself unique
they did it in the Thirties. But in
those years the demand was for
food and other physical essentials.
Today it is for essentials of a dif-
ferent order-the right to vote
and participate in the democratic

JOHN McFERREN is singularly
important among the sharerop-
pers because, despite his slight
education and lack of what we
call sophistication, he is alone in
sensing the uses of power and in

realizing the intensity of the
struggle against the whites in
Fayette County.
We first met John McFerren in
his little-we thought it vulner-
able - frame house. The shades
were down and he lay back on
his bed, resting. His wife moved
about the kitchen, two little chil-
dren playing around her. John Mc-
Ferren spoke in stock generalities
about his people, sounding us out:
"We is in a real fight and we is
goin' to win. But the whites are
goin' to give us trouble and our
people goin' to have to resist.
That's why now we can only plan
on daysin-day-out basis and we
do need aid from you people
you all goin't to be here Wednes-
day? You come down to my store.
We goin' to distribute food and
clothes to them."
* * *
THE FOOD AND clothing to be
distributed are a fraction of the
shipments which have been sent
to Tennessee since registered Ne-
gro voters were asked to leave
their farms by white landowners.
McFerren distributes twice each
week. His immediate and consum-
ing problem is in providing both
for the material and emotional
needs of the people. McFerren ac-
complishes the former by his regu-
lar distributions, the latter by his
fantastic demogoguery. We watch-
ed him perform at a special meet-
ing of the League held in a country
church. His people were there by
the hundreds, sitting and standing
and kneeling. There were prayers,
hymns, witnesses, sermons - all
geared to the theme that McFer-
ren, like Moses, would not leave
his people in the wilderness.
* *
dressed them, being strong and re-
assuring, insisting that the Ne-
groes are in a struggle which they
must win by gaining enfranchise-
ment-or else. The crowd did not
understand in the same desperate
manner that John McFerren un-
derstood, but they approved and as
they approved, one could dimly
sense the changing of the South.
We travelled on to the now-
famous Freedom Village. It lies
nakedly by the road about a mile
beyond McFerren's house. Thirteen


Main Street-Freedom Village

I FEEL IT coming, oh I feel it,
coming. The change, every so often
there's a change, and I feel it com-
ing now." When he talks it is with
a detachment that suggests the
words are half-directed at himself,
half at his listeners. "XIwon't leave
this land no matter what they do
to us. This is our county, we were
born here, we been here all our
lives, we are going to stay here
all our lives, and we going to be
We asked McFerren and Towles
about the white citizens' charges
that Negroes were evicted because
of the introduction of mechaniza-
tion in the farm counties. The an-
swer was blunt, as expected: the
white peopleare releasing us not
because new machines are being
used, but because we tried to vote.
Do they think the use of machin-
ery on the farms is going to ever
cause Negroes to move off the
land? "They don't need no ma-
chines down here; they just don't
want us to vote."
All the Negroes in the counties
are not so inflexibly dedicated as
these. In the time we spent in the
areas, a major schism developed
within the Negro community. In
nearby Memphis we talked with
McFerren's insurgent enemies:
Negro attorney J. F. Estes, Fayette,
League President Scott Franklin,
(McFerren is chairman of the
league), and others. Estes had been
the originator of Negro registra-
tion drives in Fayette and Hay-
wood two years ago. He had found-
ed Civic and Welfare Leagues for
both counties and had stayed in
Memphis as attorney 1 for the,
leagues. There had been a falling-
out with McFerren over the han-
dling of finances, and now 'Estes,
has set up a new group to handle
Fayette-Haywoodrelief operatons,
circumventing McFerren.
influential Negroes from both
counties. Two of them are minis-
ters, gentlemen named Odenal
and Graves. "John McFerren is
not a Christian man," Graves said
when we asked about his griev-
ances with the present relief or-
ganization. "He doesn't care for
all the people. He keeps food and
clothing in his building and don't
give it out to people who are suf-
fering. Our people here are suf-
fering, and McFerren only cares
for' himself." McFerren, they pro-
test, only gives to those who regis-
What do Odenal and Graves
think of the dispute with the
whites? Odenal: "It's just a mis-
understanding, that's all. They
just don't understand what our,
people want.'"
How do you make them "under-
stand?" Graves: "You set down
with them and tell 'em what you

*.. first glimpse

East-West Image?

WAII HAS CREATED the East-West Cen-
er in its own self-image-the image of the
ni state, cultural center for the ideas of
rient and America. This image was care-
fostered, through the years preceding
hood-and clinched by the center, ,which
sents both the beginning and the culmina-
>f an extremely fervent local dream.
e value of the Center's plans, to the aca-
: world and to the cause of cultural change,
not be under-rated. They plan to bring
s and Americans to the Center-to live,
and study together, the culture and tech-
y of each other's group, in really idyllic
HE COMPLEX PLANS for housing, schol-
rships, and conferences work out as well
ey have planned, the Center will prob-
be the focal point of Asian Studies in
ica--and the envy of every administrator
ery East-West study program in the coun-
Even now, in its nascent stage, it has
Editorial Staff
City Editor Editorial Director
ETH McELDOWNEY........Associate City Editor
H DONER.............Personnel Director
AS KABAKER.......... Magazine Editor
LD APPLEBAUM .. Associate Editorial Director
EAS WITECKI.................Sports Editor
kEL GILLMAN.......... Associate Sports Editor

aroused green-tinged criticism from many of
the already established institutions.
But good as the plans for the Center- seem
to be, there is a major' problem-$10 million
of government money. The founders of the
Center managed to convince Vice-President
Lyndon Johnson, on a campaign trip last year,
that their plans and their ideals deserved gov-
ernment sponsorship. And indeed they do.
BUT THEY ARE USING the money to build
-literally from the group up-the kind of
program that older institutions have spent
years accumulating gradually, and at great ex-
pense. For the first several years nearly all of
their government windfall will go into capital
expenditures-erecting some buildings uniquely
suited to their purposes (for example, the joint
living units for Asian and American students)
and some others (for example, classroom build-
ings) which an established program could pro-
vide from existing resources.
But most of all, the East-West Center seems
likely to lack the kind of experience which
forms a solid basis for the older, better estab,-
lished programs. There is a good deal to be
said for the fresh, approach, for the new point
of view, for the clean start. But when the gov-
ernment is investing $10 million per year in a
single, essentially academic program, it would
seem wiser to build on accumulated resources,
faculty, courses and experience.
A CENTER OF THIS SQRT could have been
established on any number of campuses-
at Columbia, here at the University, or at
California, if a Pacific location is considered
essential. In all of these nlaces. and several

tents were up, each housing a
family-over 100 people. The tem-
perature was in the twenties. Little
girls in light dresses played before
the tents ,their eyes glistening,
their knees smeared with Ten-
nessee mud. Little boys wrestled.
Dogs wandered everywhere. Inside,
the tents was dimness, faint
warmth from a coal stove, and
families sitting upon randomly-
placed furniture. Their eyes met
us and when we smiled, they did
Outside stood Shepherd Towles,
the Negro "mayor" of the village,
Towles owns the surrounding land,
providing it for the families who
were forced to leave their farms
when they registered last year. He
is a tall man, very deliberate in
his stalkings around Freedom Vil-
lage, very adamantly behind John
McFerren in the struggle.

want for your people and then
they will understand. Everybody
would understand .. . we don't
want to take over no government,
just John McFerren wants to take
over . . . we gust wants to have
everybody act right and right-
* * * .
THEY SAID THIS and we lis-
tened and privately remembered
the hatred and fear in the white
lawyer' and deputy sheriff we'd
talked to the day before in Somer-
ville, the respectable understand-
ing citizens who had said there
was but one thing to remember:
"The niggers are like children,
morally, socially, in every way. We
always have got along and weal-
ways will get along if the Northern
agitators wouldn't try to settle
our affairs for us ."And as the
good Reverend Odenal talked of
"understanding" we were remem-
bering that before 1959 two Ne-
groes had attempted to register
in Haywood county-both were
lynched. And we remembered the
bullet put in the back of one of
the Negroes in Freedom Village
last month. And still Odenal talk-
ed of conciliation, and still Graves
agreed with him. Get rid of Mc-
Ferren. Give food to all the people,
whether they are registering or
not. Talk with the whites about
what we want. We are in no way
To understand the white dis-
position, we talked with Ray Cole-
son, the editor of the Fayette Fal-
con, offices in Somerville. He is
old, gray, apparently a segrega-
tionist who, seems, however, to be
wary of violence and chaos even
more than of the aspirations of
the Negro. "The thing you've got
to remember about these counties,'
he intoned, "is that the very basic
problem they face is that of agri-
cultural revolution." We blinked,
thinking of the eroded, bumpy
land; he continued: "The nigras
here have to be moved off the
land. There just isn't enough work
for them now that the farm ma-
chines are coming in. Maybe 500
families will have to leave in the
next five years."
* * *
HOW MANY OF the evictions
were, the result of new mechaniza-
tion and how many the result of
sharecroppers trying to vote?
"Some of both, I imagine. But you
got to remember that we aren't
like Haywood county. Nigras, lots
of 'em, been voting in Fayette- for
years and years." The Justice De-
partment says 17 Negroes voted in
Fayette between 1952 and 1959.
Since then, over 1,000 have regis-
tered and voted.
"Well the government's a big
outfit. Got lots of money. What
are you going to do when they
start making accusations? Do you
people know the cost of lawyers'
fees for a case this big?"
How did Coleson think the prob-
lem of the "agricultural revolu-
tion" ought to be solved? "A bi-
racial committee could iron things
out. Lots of whites afraid the nig-
ras don't want that. We could set
tlown and talk over the problem,
f nd ways to get the n4gras to move
into other counties where mechan.
ization hasn't arrived. Do you
know they been offered jobs else-
where and have refused to leave
this county? They even been of-
fered jobs inside this county, some
of 'em, and refused to leave Free-
dom Village." Was John McFerren
behind this obstinacy? Yes, Cole-
son reckoned John McFerren -
"and probably others" - was be-
hind it.
s . s
make. One was at the farm of a
Mrs. Davis in Haywood county.
She is a tiny white woman, very
old, and she did not understand

utilities and still refuse to sell her
anything. It Is the same with the
Negroes in the counties. If you
have registered, you have forfeited
the right to buy.
The woman continued, in her
little voice: "I ain't scared of the
nigras : . no, they never dnel
nothing to me. The white folks
sure hate 'em though. They don't
like me, neither. Have to buy y
things outside the county. Stll
to the Methodist Church though
they can't keep me out."
WE LEFT HER, not understanld-
ing why such a little woman felt
the loving way she felt and lived
the lonely way she lived. In her
driveway an old, but relatively
spry, white man introduced him-
self as Mr. Carter. He and his wife
had moved - to Haywood County
from Mississippi, after a spell of
heart trouble. They now were
renting space in Mrs. Davis' house.
Why were they staying on?
"Can't leave Mrs. Davis. She'i
kind of ill and when she got to
go to the hospital, they won't let
the niggers take her there."
He was almost happy and un-
caring. Did he see a solution to
the problem? "Nope." What was
he going to do? "Just like the nig-
ger preacher says, goin' to do the
very best we can ... got no friends
but Mrs. Davis, Mrs. Green down
the road, and the niggers."
We left Mr. Carter in the drive-
way and drove back to Somervile.
That night a small mob of whites
collected themselves in the streets,
and forced us out of the county.
Two days later several of our
friends were arrested as they tried
to delivef supplies to Haywood
I DO NOT pretend to know
what will happent in those two
counties. hCertain implications
seem increasingly clear, howeve'r.
It is evident, for example, that the
future importance of the 1957 CivIl
Rights Act hinges greatly on the
outcome of the Justice Depart-
ment's case. And the future of
probably more than 100 Southern
counties will be influenced by what
happens in Fayette and Haywood.
In the meantime, the Negro
familes on relief are at least alive
- the necessity for making such
a statement should indicate the
nature of conditions there. While
their morale is still holding, they
do not quite sense the full mean.
ing of their decision to register
nor the poltical implications of
that decision for the South, nor
the impossibility of their wish
never to move from the soil of
Fayette. Yet the democratic im-
pulse is there, and strongly so.
Hopefully, the split between Mc-
Ferren and Estes will be resolved
in the next few weeks. Who will
emerge as the leader is as yet un-
certain, but McFerren's current
strength, and his powerful per-
sonality indicate that he will be
difficult to depose. He was laugh-
ing as we left. "We are going to
get rid of these people trying to
split our movement. We know they
have been negotiating with the
white folks. They don't have no
support from the people, "specially
the people that's registered." He
laughed again and promised, "We
gonna elect us a liberal sheriff one.
of these days." His pretty wife, a
forceful, resourceful woman, was
less jubilant as she repeated sev-
eral times: "If we fail here, we
have nothin' to do but get out
for good."
* s *
still to be answered. No one is sure
of the relation between McFerren
and James Foreman, a Chicago
Negro who has stayed in Fayette
for nearly two months, regulating

... _ _


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