A friend here in my town sent me a 1964 Ebony magazine article about some black citizens registering to vote at the courthouse down the street from me — the first black folks to register to vote here in 61 years. It’s breathtaking to think of the courage of those men, preachers and sweet potato farmers. It’s shocking and humiliating to think that this happened right here, in this peaceful community, only three years before I was born. But it did. Excerpt:
The bus pulled up in front of the St. Francisville courthouse. About 100 whites milled around in front of the building. … “Look at ‘em over there like a bunch of buzzards,” shouted one white. “Look like coons,” taunted another. “Are those your good niggers?” shouted still another white man. Curses and racial epithets disturbed the morning air.
Some of the men succeeded in passing a “literacy test,” and, with Justice Department officials present, were registered to vote. More:
Rev. Carter signed a vote registration book and received a receipt. As he left the courthouse, a photographer snapped him. “Take his picture,” shouted a member of the white mob. “It may be the last one he takes.”
That night, a group of whites paid a visit to one of the black tenant farmers who had registered to vote that day. One struck him with the butt of a gun and took the farmer’s own weapon from him. They made the black man plead for his life, fired a gun between his legs, and threatened to kill his wife and their 10 children.
If you were reading this blog last fall, when I was walking the streets of Paris, you’ll remember how jarring I found it that so much blood and hatred and violence spilled during the Revolution onto streets that are now so beautiful and serene. After reading this article, I think the same thing, driving around our lovely parish, which has changed so much for the better, thanks in large part to the bravery of men like Rev. Carter and those tenant farmers, who had had enough.