Interview with Peter Orris
Interview with Peter Orris


Production Team: B

Interview Date: May 19, 1986

Camera Rolls: 411-414
Sound Rolls: 1352-1353

Interview gathered as part of Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965).
Produced by Blackside, Inc.
Housed at the Washington University Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.
Editorial Notes:

Preferred citation:
Interview with Peter Orris, conducted by Blackside, Inc. on May 19, 1986, for Eyes on the Prize: America's Civil Rights Years (1954-1965). Washington University Libraries, Film and Media Archive, Henry Hampton Collection.

These transcripts contain material that did not appear in the final program. Only text appearing in bold italics was used in the final version of Eyes on the Prize.

INTERVIEW
FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[This is Sound Roll 1352, it's Camera Roll 411, it's 5/19/86, this is Team B, on 5, Eyes on the Prize, Blackside This is the start of the Orris interview, we're still on Camera Roll 411.]

[overlap]

QUESTION 1
INTERVIEWER:

SO JUST GIVE ME A, AN IMPRESSION OF UM, WHO YOU WERE BEFORE YOU WENT DOWN TO MISSISSIPPI, YOU KNOW, WHEN YOU WERE 17, 18, 19… AND WHAT BROUGHT YOU TO THE DECISION TO GO.

Peter Orris:

Um. Well, I grew up in New York City and uh, I was at my first year in, in uh, college and uh, I suppose I… I had been raised uh, in a family where uh, uh being Jewish uh, was important for the fact that uh, it uh, signified being part of a group that uh, had been uh, uh, subject to uh, repression for two thousand years - and the importance of being Jewish was that, and the lessons of being Jewish was uh, the identification with the underdog, and the identification with uh, people that were suffering repression and, and discrimination. Uh, so that uh, in high school in New York City, I was involved in the movement against uh, racial discrimination and uh, I continued that when I went, went to college.

QUESTION 2
INTERVIEWER:

HOW DID YOU HEAR, A LITTLE BIT UH, MORE CONCRETELY, HOW DID YOU HEAR ABOUT GOING DOWN TO MISSISSIPPI? THAT BUNCHES OF PEOPLE WERE GOING AND WHAT MADE YOU DECIDE TO, YOU KNOW, TRAVEL THAT THOUSAND MILES OR WHATEVER IT WAS, AND GO DOWN BY YOURSELF?

Peter Orris:

Well, I had come into contact with uh, SNCC organizers and uh, members, the uh, summer before. I was working in the national office of the March on Washington for jobs and freedom in 1963. And uh, I was 17 at the time, and was very impressed with the uh, SNCC workers that were involved in that process uh, and in that organization as well as those that I met in Washington at the time of the march, and in going to college uh, sometime in the spring of my freshman year at college, four of us uh, from the civil rights coordinating committee at the college, went to uh, uh, Atlanta for a regional meeting of SNCC and uh, we heard about what was going on, we met many people that were involved in voter registration and uh, direct action uh, from the southern states and it was a tremendously uh, impressive and uh, exciting experience. And so that the question of uh, why I, I went uh, or wanted to be involved in the Mississippi summer project was sort of on the other, other foot. It was for me, a tremendous privilege to be allowed to participate in this movement for racial justice, it was… and at 18 years old, to be able to be involved in uh, this kind of a struggle uh, was just very important to me.

QUESTION 3
INTERVIEWER:

THAT'S GREAT. UH, WHAT WERE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF SOME OF THESE SNCC PEOPLE WHEN YOU GOT DOWN TO OXFORD OR MAYBE HAD SEEN SOME OF THEM EARLIER, BUT WHEN YOU GOT TO OXFORD, YOU KNOW, YOUR… IT MUST HAVE BEEN SOMEWHAT A DIFFERENT SITUATION FOR YOU, THE, THE LEADERSHIP… AS ALL PEOPLE WHO HAD BEEN DOWN IN MISSISSIPPI UH, VETERANS OF THE MOVEMENT AT THIS POINT. WHAT, WHAT ARE YOUR, WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER AS YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF SOME OF THESE PEOPLE WHO TALKED TO YOU ALL ABOUT WHAT YOU MIGHT EXPECT IN MISSISSIPPI… THE MAIN PEOPLE WHO STUCK OUT IN YOUR MIND?

Peter Orris:

Uh, there were different individuals who had reacted in very different ways to their experiences in, in the South in organizing, and to their experiences of uh, the kind of violence that they, that they were facing in different situations.

QUESTION 4
INTERVIEWER:

I'M SORRY, START OVER, JUST MENTION OXFORD IN SOME WAY,

Peter Orris:

Okay, sorry. [overlap]

QUESTION 5
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, JUST UM, SORT OF FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF GOING DOWN TO OXFORD AND…

Peter Orris:

Well, we… uh, I arrived in Oxford, Ohio for the uh, training session for the summer project during the first week uh, as, and I was selected to be part of a group that was going to the southwest area of Mississippi and to do voter registration in that area. And uh, we were a group of 15, 15, 16 people uh, that were uh, set aside and we spent many hours with uh, Bob Moses uh, and a, a variety of the other leaders of SNCC uh, who had been in the south and been in that area.

QUESTION 6
INTERVIEWER:

I'M SORRY (lot of overlap)

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[This is camera roll number 412, [overlap], this is camera roll 412, continuation of sound reel 1352, interview with Peter Orris, film 5, Eyes on the Prize.]

QUESTION 7
INTERVIEWER:

I THINK IF YOU START AT, IF YOU SPELL OUT WHAT, WHAT IT'S FOR, THAT WOULD BE HELPFUL.

Peter Orris:

We went to meet with congressmen and specific

QUESTION 8
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY SO UH, JUST START WITH YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF OXFORD, WHO YOU ARE, WHAT YOUR, WHAT THE LEADERSHIP ARE TELLING YOU.

Peter Orris:

Well we uh, came to Oxford, Ohio uh, in June, I think it was, of 1964. Uh, and this was the uh, training session that was supposed to last uh, for a week uh, and there were two sessions to be run uh, in Oxford at uh, a college there. And what this was designed to do was to bring the volunteers, those of us that had never been in Mississippi, into contact with the uh, SNCC uh, and CORE veterans uh, who had been there for several years and knew what we were going into and what to expect and it was designed to um, acquaint us with the practical work that we were going to be doing - those of us there the first week were to be involved in voter registration efforts and it was to acquaint us with the laws as well as the practical aspects of the voter registration. Additionally, it was to give us a feeling of exactly what kind of a tense atmosphere we were going in, what kind of violence that uh, we should expect um, and how to attempt to avoid the violence, and also uh, nonviolent uh, resistance or rather nonviolent uh, responses to violent situations and so that we were uh, and had played acted uh, in Oxford, Ohio situations where angry uh, uh, groups of people, mobs would be attacking us and how we would we handle ourselves in that situation uh, in situations where our life was threatened and um, uh, a whole variety of these situations which the uh, experienced uh, SNCC uh, workers were sure that we were going to meet during the time in the summer and they wanted to guarantee that we were going to respond in a nonviolent manner um, and respond in a manner that would be most uh, most helpful for our safety and, and those around us. So that was what uh, was uh, happening during that first week in Oxford, Ohio. Then a group of us were assigned to go to the southwest Mississippi area which was uh, an area that um, at the time had the uh, most violent uh, tradition uh, in Mississippi and, and uh, a farmer there had been killed a short time before uh, for being involved in voter registration efforts and uh, the violence had been ongoing uh, in that area. And so those of us that were going to that area uh, spent extra time on uh, both the techniques of voter registration and the question of uh, nonviolent response to violent actions - as well as uh, we were then asked to go uh, to Washington uh, to make a direct uh, appeal uh, to the Attorney General uh, Nicholas Katzenbach and others in the government uh, that they should pay special attention uh, to what was happening in Mississippi this summer uh, as uh, we felt and/or the organizers felt that our lives would certainly be at risk for engaging in this activity.

QUESTION 9
INTERVIEWER:

GIVE ME JUST A FEW SENTENCES ON SOME OF… HOW YOU FELT WHEN YOU FIRST UH, MET SOME OF THE LEADERS OF SNCC. WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THEM AS A GROUP?

Peter Orris:

I had first met some of the leadership of SNCC in 1963 uh, at the national office for the march on Washington for jobs and freedom and I found them to be some of the most impressive uh, people, than I had ever met. Um, these were people that uh, had strong beliefs, had strong beliefs about uh, the importance of equality, about the importance of confronting hate uh, the importance of enfranchising the disenfranchised, all of the ideals that our country uh, was uh, founded on uh, and were placing their bodies on the line and risking uh, violence if not death uh, for their beliefs, and were doing it time and time and time again. And responding in… to the kinds of violence that they were facing uh, in a nonviolent manner, in a manner that was resolute uh, but that was not uh, one of hatred or uh… eh, good enough.

QUESTION 10
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, THAT WAS GOOD. UH, DESCRIBE HEARING ABOUT THE DISAPPEARANCE OF GOODMAN, CHANEY AND SCHWERNER. WHAT, WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION? WHEN YOU HEARD ABOUT THE THREE, AND IF YOU COULD MENTION…

Peter Orris:

Uh, we, those of us that had gone to Washington uh, they were going for the southwest area of Mississippi uh, returned to Oxford, Ohio uh, to the training session uh, for… at the middle of the second week of the training session and we just drove in… excuse me, we had driven uh, 30 hours from Washington uh, straight and we then arrived in Oxford, Ohio late one evening uh, to find the camp… the, the, the college and all in, in the college, in a state of, of, of extreme remorse um, and uh, where everybody at the school and the organizers, the SNCC organizers with experience in Mississippi uh, were all, at that time, already sure um, that uh, the three were dead, and that they had been lynched um, by uh, uh, people in the area in Philadelphia. And uh, that's when we first heard about it uh, that…

QUESTION 11
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION, YOUR VERY… FIRST REACTION TO THAT NEWS AND WHAT IT MEANT FOR YOU AS A VOLUNTEER AND THE PEOPLE DOWN THERE WITH YOU?

Peter Orris:

Well as I say, we came into the, the college uh, after nightfall and we drove up uh, to the uh, the dormitory area. And in the front of the dormitory area there was a large circle of uh, volunteers and SNCC organizers and they were in the dark and they were singing freedom songs, and they had linked arms, and they were, and we asked what had happened and they uh, described it to us and uh, and described the situation. And our reaction was uh, horror uh, we had… I'd met uh, two of the uh, the uh, workers uh, during the week before, briefly, but they were one of us and we felt that this was what - the worst that we had expected and the sorrow that went through the camp and ourselves was uh, profound, and…

QUESTION 12
INTERVIEWER:

DID YOU HAVE SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT STAYING IN MISSISSIPPI AFTER HEARING ABOUT IT?

Peter Orris:

No. Uh, our questions at the time were - how could we bring another thousand people down with us? Uh, we knew this was a, a possibility to happen if not a probability within Mississippi.

QUESTION 13
INTERVIEWER:

COULD YOU START OUT BY JUST MENTIONING WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT… I KNEW THERE WAS A POSSIBILITY THAT…

Peter Orris:

Uh, during the three or four months of organization and recruiting of volunteers, as well as in Oxford, Ohio at the training session, it was very clear to all of us that violence and death was a possibility in Mississippi, if not a probability, during that summer. And when this became a reality uh, we realized that the only response that we could make to that uh, was to uh, redouble the efforts and bring down more volunteers, put more of a light on Mississippi because the murderers had to be found, they had to be revealed, they had to be punished. The thought of going back did not enter anybody's mind, uh

QUESTION 14
INTERVIEWER:

LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND.[overlap] OKAY UH, I'M SKIPPING FORWARD JUST A LITTLE BIT BUT NOW DURING THE SUMMER WHAT, WHAT ACTIVITIES WERE YOU INVOLVED IN? I KNOW YOU WERE IN SOME OF THE MORE UH… CONDITIONAL… BUT WHAT DID YOU DO DURING THE SUMMER?

Peter Orris:

Following the uh, disappearance of uh, Goodman, Chaney and Schwerner uh, there was a decision made by the SNCC leadership that those of us that were going to go to the southwest area of Mississippi shouldn't go right away. Uh, that the situation was too tense and the possibility of uh, of, of mass violence and uh, and many more deaths was present. So they decided that we should go uh, in the interim to uh, Holmes County in the Delta and do the voter registration there, uh, that we were going to be doing in the southwest, in that area initially. So that's where we went to, we went to a town called Mileston um, which was outside of Chulah, in Holmes County in the Delta of Mississippi. And we spent uh, two to three weeks there uh, working on voter registration uh, and what that meant was uh, that we would be going to peoples' houses uh, who we knew were not registered to vote uh, but were certainly eligible to vote and we would go and begin to talk to people about uh, the uh, uh, Freedom Dem… the Freedom Democratic Party, about registering to vote, about the programs that were uh, being put forward, about being ready to drive people to the uh, to the courthouse uh, and go with them while they registered and uh…

QUESTION 15
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT COMPREHENSION DO YOU HAVE OF, OF LOCAL BLACK MISSISSIPIANS, WHEN YOU WENT DOOR TO DOOR, WHAT KIND OF RESPONSES… NOT JUST TO THE VOTER REGISTRATION, OR TO ONE SPECIFIC THING OR ANOTHER, BUT IN GENERAL?

Peter Orris:

Well, we would, as I said… those of us who were going to the southwest area decided, uh… those of us who were going to the southwest area were uh, assigned to Holmes County after the disappearance of the three workers uh, because uh, of the fears for massive uh, violence in the southwest area, and we worked on voter registration in Holmes County, which meant that we would go to peoples' houses um, that we knew were eligible to vote but uh, were not registered. And we would uh, sit and talk with people about uh, registration, about what the process involved was, about what kind of support we could give them, because there was a great deal of fear um, as uh, uh, many of these people uh, knew they had a right to vote, but were intimidated and prevented from voting uh, by the local power structure - the sheriff, the police, the judges and others. Uh so we spent a good deal of time talking with people about that - urging them to come to mass meetings…

QUESTION 16
INTERVIEWER:

CUT[overlap]

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[This is the start of camera roll 413, continuation of Peter Orris interview.]

QUESTION 17
INTERVIEWER:

[overlap] UH, WHAT I'M TRYING TO GET AT IS BOB AND UH, UNITA AND OTHER PEOPLE HAVE TOLD US STORIES ABOUT, WELL FIRST OF ALL BOB WE INTERVIEWED JUST EARLIER TODAY THE WHOLE STRATEGY OF INTEGRATING THE BLACK[overlap] OKAY, WHAT I'M TRYING TO GET AT IS JUST HOW YOU AND, AND OTHER VOLUNTEERS WERE TRYING TO BREAK DOWN SOME OF THESE BARRIERS THAT HAD BEEN THERE FROM, FOR HUNDREDS OF YEARS.

Peter Orris:

In, when we were doing voter registration uh, and would come to a new farm house uh, there were, there was an unwritten agenda that had to be gotten through before one could even discuss the uh, the rudiments of how do you register to vote - because of the fear, because of the terrorism that had been produced by the Klan and the power structure in these areas uh, these individual farmers um, and their families, were very worried about voter registration. Um, they understood well how to protect themselves on their own land uh, or in their own homes, or they, they could not fully protect themselves on their own land and their own homes, but they had an area that they at least stood a better chance at protecting themselves and their family uh, than if they ventured out into the political domain of, of uh, being involved in voter registration. So um, and additionally, because there was safety uh, in these black communities in the, in the rural farming black communities uh, many family members never ventured out for any kind of interaction uh, with the whites in Mississippi - uh, purely, maybe interaction in a store or something of that sort, and then retreat to, to the safety of the black community. We felt that, as, as uh, uh, volunteers there - we, we did not breathe easily until we were back in the relative safety of the black farming communities, in Mileston for instance. Uh, so when we'd go to a new farmer's house uh, the first problem was that uh, we were white uh, northern um, and of uh… there on, on, on a mission so to speak - all of those things uh, uh, were fraught with dangers for the uh, people that we were talking to. And the initial response that we would get would be uh, frequently uh, you… you'd come there, and the first thing was - people would be sitting down and you would say hello and you'd shake their hands. Now that was an usual thing for a white person to do to a black person in Mississippi at that time. The next thing was that, that uh, you would avoid a situation in which you were standing over and talking down to people… a frequent kind of a situation, a, a body message about the uh, power relationship there. So we would always sit down, we'd sit on the, the steps, walking up to the porch. Um, and uh, either be on an equal eye level or uh, on a, on a lower level. We were much younger than many of the people we were speaking to and uh, it was necessary to establish a relationship or an understanding of the respect that we paid to them for their age and for their situation and… uh, in this setting. Because that unwritten agenda of having to establish that relationship of equality and our respect for them which was so contradictory to what they got from whites uh, in Mississippi on a routine basis uh, that that was the first difficult thing to get, to get over in these discussions. Frequently, people would respond by not looking us in the eye uh, at the end of every phrase there would be a ma'am or a sir uh, depending on, on who was there. Uh, and they would say yes to everything we said. We'd say - would you like to uh, be involved in the voter registration project? Will you go down to vote? Yes, sir. Um, and we knew we were not getting across, we knew they were just waiting for us to go away because we were a danger to them, and in many ways we were. Uh, we had much less to risk than they did. This was their lives, their land, their family uh, and they were going to be here uh, when we were gone** uh, so that, uh.

QUESTION 18
INTERVIEWER:

GREAT, CUT. THAT'S GREAT [overlap] UM, IF YOU CAN, JUST GIVE US A LITTLE LEAD IN LIKE YOU KNOW, AS SUMMER VOLUNTEER…

Peter Orris:

Uh, uh, during this time of, of working as uh, in uh voter registration and later on uh, when I was involved in uh, installing citizen band radios in cars and farm houses which we put in these uh, vehicles to, for the protection of uh, our workers so that we would have nobody out of touch. Uh, the way the uh, uh, three in Philadelphia who were murdered uh, were out of touch. Um, during that period uh, well I was 18, and uh, I, I… no, it's not the way I… wait, wait…

QUESTION 19
INTERVIEWER:

LET'S CUT FOR A MINUTE.

Peter Orris:

Go back, I'll take it. I was 18 years old and I was in Mississippi and it was a very different environment to the environment that I grew up in in New York City and I found it uh, very attractive. Uh, as I said, we felt safe and at home in the, in the black community, in black farming communities… but there was uh, the rural lifestyle uh, of the white community as well, was a very uh, uh, attractive kind of an environment and uh, many of us I think, uh, fell in love with the state in many aspects during that summer. And uh, one of the ways that, that I sort of expressed that at the time I guess was – we all wore jeans uh, I had… jeans and a large belt buckle uh, I had my uh, uh, T-shirt, and I rolled it up at the, at the shoulders, and I wore my cowboy hat. And uh, I thought I looked like uh, most of the other uh, young guys in Mississippi at the time. I'm, I suppose uh, I may not have. I had no beard. But I, that was uh, I suppose that was my way of identifying uh, with uh, people in Mississippi - both black and white. Uh, even then I thought it was very important if we could, that we had to try to relate to the white community uh, that we had to try to uh, begin the process of breaking the monolith of the white community and uh, fighting for uh, fighting, breaking the monolith of the white community and trying to attract a section of the white community - especially the youth, uh, toward the struggle against racism. Uh, SNCC uh, had uh, leadership from the south uh, white leadership from the south uh, a minority of uh, whites of course, uh but who had been in the leadership of SNCC for years and uh, uh, the, the courage of, of uh, those SNCC organizers who had left the white community uh, and, but were still attempting uh, to organize uh, to develop movements against racism in the white community uh, was also very impressive to me. And it was clear that we were not going to make headway in Mississippi just uh, from organizing in the black community and demanding um, the attention and support of the north. It was clear that we had to be able to relate to the white community and that we had to be able to make it clear to elements within the white community, that it was in their best interest uh, to end this racism… that the reason they were dirt poor was because they couldn't get along with the uh, uh, the blacks down the block that were also dirt poor, and that somebody was making a buck out of it and it was clear to us then that they were making a buck out of it, off both the black and whites in Mississippi, and we wanted to try to find a way to relate to the whites on the same kind of basis.

QUESTION 20
INTERVIEWER:

OK CUT, THAT'S GOOD.

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[This is room tone at 740 with helicopter outside… Thank you]

QUESTION 21
INTERVIEWER:

WHAT KINDS OF THINGS FROM THE SUMMER MADE A, MADE A BIG CHANGE IN YOUR LIFE AS TO WHO YOU WERE, HOW DID YOU CHANGE FROM WHO YOU WERE IN THE BEGINNING OF THE SUMMER TO WHO YOU WERE AFTERWARDS?

Peter Orris:

The summer of 1964 in Mississippi um, changed me considerably. Uh, it changed me because I now had a security in my beliefs and that I was willing to put my life on the line for my beliefs. Uh, that was a security that was important in the next several years. Uh, many activities of the student movement in the next several years uh, back at Harvard and, and various places around the country in SDS, were stimulated by uh, the fact that people were proving their radicalism, and felt the need to prove their radicalism. Those of us that had been in Mississippi uh, did not have that need. Uh, we knew where we stood and we knew what we were ready to do for our beliefs. The other thing that the uh, Mississippi summer did for me was - and for many of us who returned to the northern college campuses afterwards, it changed the parameters of struggle for us. Um, prior to that point, we engaged in various kinds of debating activities, we may have demonstrated uh, but that was the range of our activity. Following the Mississippi summer, nonviolent direct action became a weapon in our armamentarium to… a, a, a weapon in our struggle to draw attention to the questions that we thought were of burning importance. In California it was manifested at the free speech movement, led by veterans from the Mississippi summer. In Boston and at Harvard it was manifested by demonstrations around the war in Vietnam early in 1965, that were nonviolent direct action demonstrations um, that we felt comfortable with and we understood uh, the issues and how to be involved in it

FILM PRODUCTION TEAM:

[This is Camera Roll 414, it's the beginning of Sound Roll 1353, continuation of Orris, 5/19/86, Blackside, Eyes on the Prize, Team B, film 5.]

QUESTION 22
INTERVIEWER:

OK, I'M GOING TO SKIP AHEAD, ACTUALLY [overlap] I WANTED YOU, I WANT TO GET AN IDEA OF WHERE YOU, WHAT YOU'RE THINKING AFTER THE WHOLE EXPERIENCE OF ATLANTIC CITY… YOU'VE GONE UP THERE UH…

Peter Orris:

Do you want me to describe that Boardwalk scene? It's… If you'd like that on the film or not, no?

QUESTION 23
INTERVIEWER:

YES, WELL, WELL GIVE ME A LITTLE BIT OF THAT, THEN LET'S STOP, THEN I WANT TO GO TO AFTER THE WHOLE THING BUT JUST ON THE BOARDWALK, JUST A FEW SENTENCES… WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING THERE, YOU'RE OUTSIDE THE CONVENTION, YOU'RE, YOU KNOW, YOU COME ALL THIS WAY AND YOU SPENT THE WHOLE SUMMER ORGANIZING FOR IT. SO PUT US ON THE BOARDWALK.

Peter Orris:

Are we going?

QUESTION 24
INTERVIEWER:

WE'RE ROLLING NOW.

Peter Orris:

Ok, uh, in August of uh, the end of August of that year uh, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party uh, challenged the seating of the regular Democratic Party at the Democratic Convention in Atlantic City and many of us came up uh, to Atlantic City to aid in that challenge and uh, part of that uh, those activities in Atlantic City, took place on the Boardwalk uh, in front of the convention center, and it was a very surrealistic kind of uh, setting uh, Fellini movie for want of a better word uh, there we were uh, in a, in a, in a circle on the Boardwalk in a vigil of maybe 30 or 40 of us uh, sitting down and uh, one person speaking uh, at, at a time. Or just sitting there and, and in a vigil with signs, and around us uh, were these uh merrymakers uh, for the convention and uh, vacationing in Atlantic City. And we had just returned from Mississippi, from the kinds of violence that we were seeing uh, that summer, and the kinds of intimidation and there we were sitting and, and very serious about what we were about and about the importance of the Democratic Party to respond to the challenge uh, and the need for racial equality in Mississippi in, amongst uh these uh, balloons and cotton candy and uh, noise makers and uh, and this - and as night fell, I'll never forget sitting on the Boardwalk as the night fell like that and people were all around us and we were sitting in the middle - a very uh, strange, strange uh, situation.

QUESTION 25
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, UH LET'S CUT FOR A SECOND LET'S JUST ROLL, A LITTLE BIT OF THAT AND THEN UH, I STILL WANT A LITTLE BIT OF WHAT YOU THINK AFTERWARDS, I MEAN IT'S TRUE A LOT OF THE DELEGATES WERE, HAD EXPECTED TO GET… I MEAN A LOT OF PEOPLE EXPECTED THE DELEGATES TO GET SEATED AND THEY WEREN'T, AND THEY HAD A LOT OF DISILLUSION ABOUT… NOT EVERYBODY FELT THE SAME WAY, ALL DIFFERENT LAYERS.

Peter Orris:

There was a tremendous support amongst the delegates of the Democratic Convention for uh, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party. In fact, the night that uh, Mrs. Haymer and uh, the other delegates uh, four delegates came and uh, took the seats uh, without uh, being given the seats uh, took the seats that the Mississippi delegation had uh, abandoned, uh, there was a tremendous uproar in the hall when they walked in and everybody stood and cheered and clapped because the delegates thought that in fact these seats had been uh, given to the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and they realized the righteousness of that situation. But in fact, that was not the case and that was uh, another demonstration uh, by the MFDP and the seats were not given to them, and uh, a very insulting compromise was offered uh, based on uh, the uh, cruel realities of uh, Mr. Johnson's uh, real politic and uh, not based on the righteousness of the cause or the necessities that we knew uh, existed in Mississippi. And so we were very disappointed that uh, the Democratic Party had not responded in a more positive manner. Of course, in the next several years, we discovered the Democratic Party responding in equally negative manner to uh, other righteous causes such as the war in Vietnam and other uh, situations.

QUESTION 26
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, UH, DO YOU SEE ANYTHING IN RETROSPECT WHICH MIGHT BE INTERPRETED AS, AS UH, UH, COMING DISTURBANCE OF TENSIONS THAT HAD ALWAYS EXISTED IN THE MOVEMENT BETWEEN BLACK AND WHITES, SPECIFICALLY BETWEEN UH, UH, PEOPLE AROUND STOKELY OR PEOPLE, WHO WERE UH, BEGINNING TO THINK THAT THERE, THERE COULDN'T BE ANYMORE PROGRESS WITH AN INTEGRATED CIVIL RIGHTS MOVEMENT. DID YOU EVER SEE ANY SIGNS OF THIS THOUGHOUT THE SUMMER - TENSION AND…

Peter Orris:

There was uh, during the Mississippi summer there was the feeling on the part of some uh, SNCC organizers uh, that this tactic of involving for a brief period of time uh, northern students, predominantly white, uh, was not a healthy tactic. Um, and specifically, it uh, uh, deprecated the uh, efforts uh, that many uh, uh, very courageous black organizers and uh, black citizens of Mississippi had been making for many years. And uh, even those that said it was uh, uh, important and it would rivet the attention of the country and therefore was helpful um, were also uh, felt uh, emotionally that this should not be, the country should be riveted when uh, a black uh, citizen of Mississippi is terrorized for trying to register to vote. And I must say, that was not just a feeling on the part of uh, uh, SNCC organizers or, and I, and I don't think it was a black white uh, split either. Many of the whites uh, involved in the process felt the same thing um, and we knew uh, that this was a tactic and that uh, there were reasons for it. In Atlantic City uh, following the uh, offer of this uh, to uh, uh, symbolic delegates and no real uh, power um, there was a large debate within the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party delegation as well as volunteers, as well as SNCC organizers, as well as uh, a variety of other civil rights leaders who were at uh, Atlantic City uh, that issue broke down as to whether or not those two symbolic delegates should be accepted or rejected uh, and SNCC and the Freedom Democratic Party people from Mississippi, by and large uh, felt that they had to be rejected. Um, many of the civil rights leadership who had ties to the Democratic Party um, and uh, felt in council, that in fact they should be accepted uh, and that was an important stake. That was not a black/white uh, difference or, or division. Uh, and uh, I, just as one example, I remember as one of the volunteers, or one of the whites involved with SNCC at the time uh, getting up uh, and speaking very passionately about it Rita Schwerner um, uh, Schwerner's widow, got up and spoke very passionately against the acceptance uh, as did Moses uh, Bob Moses, who was the leader of uh, SNCC in Mississippi and the MFDP.

QUESTION 27
INTERVIEWER:

OKAY, LET'S CUT

Peter Orris:

It was a lovely Spain, right? Three people died, that's all right? How many people did they leave over in uh, Spain? They left many, many more in Spain. How many left in Vietnam, you know.

QUESTION 28
INTERVIEWER:

BUT IT GIVES PEOPLE AN IDEA OF WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT, WHAT MISSISSIPPI MEANT TO A LOT OF PEOPLE…

Peter Orris:

The uh, to be, to be able to participate in the uh, in the movement in Mississippi in '64 and, and, and thereafter, was a, was a …exhilarating experience, despite all of the problems, despite all of the tensions, despite all of the threats of violence, and the actual violence that occurred - it was, it was an exhilarating experience. Uh, it was, it was the Spain uh, Spanish Civil War for our generation at that period of time. We were able to uh, express uh, the highest ideals of, of, of our country, uh and express it in a way that called upon our fellow citizens to support those ideals. It was the highest expression of patriotism, and, and, and just to be inl… involved and allowed to participate in that was uh, for an 18 year old, very heady uh, wonderful… uh, uh, ability.

QUESTION 29
INTERVIEWER:

GREAT, CUT.

Peter Orris:

I got the Patriotism in! HA!