Letter on the Civil Rights Movement

Letter, Summer 1965, reprinted by WhatSoProudlyWeHail.org.


In the summer of 1965, while the Voting Rights Act was being enacted, the editors of this volume, Amy Apfel Kass (b. 1940; then a high school history teacher in Lincoln-Sudbury, Massachusetts) and her husband Leon R. Kass (b. 1939; then a graduate student in biochemistry at Harvard University) spent a month in Mississippi doing civil rights work. They lived with a farmer couple in the Mount Olive community of rural Holmes County, in a house with no telephone, hot water, or indoor toilet. They visited many families in the community, participated in their activities, and helped with voter registration and other efforts to encourage the people to organize themselves in defense of their rights. In November of that year, Leon wrote a long letter, sent individually to many family members and friends, describing what they had learned and urging people to donate to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, the fledgling organization that was building for the first time a significant indigenous political, and not just protest, movement in the state. The letter bears personal witness to the necessity of such a local political movement, the concrete obstacles that stood in its way, and the spirit of hope that its emergence was generating.