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A Grassroots Civil Rights Activist Wants to "Wake Our People Up"

Though civil rights workers in Mississippi have often been characterized as young college students, both black and white, from out-of-state, the hard work of bringing potential voters to polls was usually done by local black Mississippians of all ages. One such activist was M.A. Phelps, a grassroots worker who wrote this letter to Robert L.T. Smith, a businessman, minister, and civil rights leader in Jackson who had been one of the founding members of the Mississippi N.A.A.C.P. in 1925.

924 Buck St.

Vicksburg, Miss

2/20/62

Dear Rev Smith

In reply to your letter dated Feb 14th very glad to have heard from you and [for you] to know I am still on the job.  I carried 7 new voters to poll to [register] on and before 2nd of Feb.  I am going out in the country next week to sell the idea of registration and our rights as citizens to vote.  Let me tell you it is pitiful about our people when you tell them about voting the answers you get bring tears to your eyes to see how ignorant we can be.  Yet it is ours to do the job for gaps must be eliminated and weak places strengthened.  

What else can be done for the counties you mentioned, namely Jefferson and Amite [and] Lee, that's where a job could be done.  Negro citizens outnumber white citizen[s].  I sometimes wish I could just go from place to place to wake our people up...

Yours in Christ,

M.A. Phelps

Source | M.A. Phelps, "Letter to Robert Smith, 20 February 1962," (Vicksburg, Mississippi: 1962), from Tougaloo College Archives, Freedom Now! An Archives Project of Tougaloo College and Brown University, http://stg.brown.edu/projects/FreedomNow/do_search_single.php?searchid=35&x=14&y=43.  
Creator | M.A. Phelps
Item Type | Diary/Letter
Cite This document | M.A. Phelps, “A Grassroots Civil Rights Activist Wants to "Wake Our People Up",” HERB: Resources for Teachers, accessed July 20, 2019, https://herb.ashp.cuny.edu/items/show/1349.

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