- Iowan captures summer of 1964, The Hawkeye, February 14, 2006
- Civil Rights worker remembers joys, tears of 'Freedom Summer,' Quad-City Times, May 7, 2006
- Will Join Rights Aides in Mississippi, Des Moines Tribune, June 26, 1964
- Clippings from Audubon News-Advocate, July, 1964
- Rights Worker Tells of Dixie Assignment, Des Moines Tribune, Sept. 23, 1964
- Views Racial Situation After Mississippi Project , Drake Times-Delphic , Sept. 25, 1964
Friday, September 25, 1964
Views Racial Situation After Mississippi Project
By Jane Bartley
Delphic Staff Writer
“It’s almost like a cowboy movie,” says petite Patti Miller (FA/4) as she smiles bitterly while describing her experience this summer as a participant in the Mississippi summer project.
“I worked in a community center in Meridian, the second largest city in Mississippi. I was a member of the group which sent civil rights volunteers to Mississippi this summer to instigate voter registration, freedom schools, and community centers,” she said. “About 200 volunteers are staying through the winter, and many of us plan to return next summer.”
“I worked with 30 or 40 children each day in the community center. We taught them arts and crafts and gave them noon lunches.
Patti brought back to Des Moines with her some of the claylike rock that many of her “pupils munched on because they were so hungry. I tried it once myself. I guess I can understand why it would take the appetite away,”
“I lived with a Negro family of five. The father was a plumber and the mother of the three boys ran a nursery. Their home was really nice – the kitchen was better than the one I’m used to at home,” she said.
“It’s like another world down there. People live ion fear of organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan. One Sunday afternoon while I was in the community center alone, I received about 15 crank calls in the course of two hours. One said that the next person to walk out of the building would be bombed,” she said.
“Another time, I had a friend who had been beaten in Laurel, Miss. He filed charges on his attacker – a big red-necked farmer. Ten of us (four Negroes and six whites) went to the county seat for his trial. I was taken along for protection because they thought I looked innocent.
“When we got there, about 100 white local farmers were milling about. They just started closing in around us. Right then, I cancelled all plans for the rest of my life. Fortunately, the sheriff and some FBI men showed up who helped us slip out the back door. We drove off as fast as we could in our old, beat-up cars,” she said.
“People are dying for the movement in Mississippi. Negroes have been taking all this for 100 years. Our presence in the state merely brought out what happened. We ourselves are not violent.” She said.
“I had an opportunity to interview some white ministers living in the South. A couple of them told me that God meant for Negroes to be inferior! Others were afraid of saying anything about integration because if they did, their homes would be bombed or burned,” she said.
“I really wanted to stay on in Mississippi, but I feel that I have commitments here at Drake. I do plan to return next summer,” Patti said.
“When people found out that I was going to Mississippi, the reactions were startling. My parents told me to do what I felt Ihad to do. But one lady wrote that I should have my head examined and be shipped off to Africa for thumbing my nose at everything that was decent in America,” she said.
Patti, a senior majoring in music education, is chairman of Drake’s human relations committee.
“It’s still almost impossible for Negro students to find off-campus housing. Everyone on the Drake housing list should have to sign a non-discriminatory clause,” Patti said.
“Racial prejudice exists in Des Moines. People are killing and beating each other with their thoughts. Perhaps the white backlash is beneficial. It brings these thoughts out into the open. Now we have something to fight,” she said.