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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of successful black political involvement in Mississippi

Gerrymandering and the lack of black political cohesion has meant limited political success for African Americans in Mississippi. Organizations like the NAACP have had limited success in bringing black voters to the polls.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Hodding Carter, April 1, 1974. Interview A-0100. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

JACK BASS:
Why was there only one black elected to the legislature in Mississippi?
HODDING CARTER:
Magnificent delaying tactics in the courts on moves to get single member districts ordered. Some successful gerrymandering so far. And the most god awful factionalized black politics in America. You know, in those areas where there might be some chance. I think next year that's going to change. I mean there'll be more people in there.
JACK BASS:
You think blacks are coming together politically in this state?
HODDING CARTER:
No, not a hell of a lot. But there are just going to be some districts where its going to be impossible not to unless they just go crazy.
JACK BASS:
Without attributing it to you if you don't want to, how do you analyze the factions of the black politics. Who has the real strength?
HODDING CARTER:
Well, starting on the left there's the ideological remnants of the Freedom Democratic Party Dream, who are basically centered around some of the people who are the paid employees and spin-offs of Delta Ministry and all its many involvements across the state. And anytime you come across black parties you've got to decide there's some Delta Ministry involved in it.
JACK BASS:
How strong is that?
HODDING CARTER:
They are strong because they have about the last remaining tap, outside of Charlie Evers, on foundation and church funds. I mean, they are the conduits for do-good money in Mississippi still. Not the government's money, but the old left money that wanted to do good for Mississippi black people. And I don't see that as drying up tomorrow because if one foundation or group gets sort of disillusioned another one comes along and sees what looks like an old line group in here. Their greatest strength is in areas like, for example up in Madison county, Marshall, unknown , and Sunflower county, unknown south of here. Madison. All the eastern half of Barber county. I mean all of Mt Bayou and all of that is essentially theirs. The black mayor, you know, the superviser unknown . But the main thing they have is they control resources and everytime a new organization forms to take advantage of a new federal program or law, you know, they have several people in it. But they have two things that's a problem for them in the long term. Most of the leadership is not native Mississippian. And they have been extremely ruthless in weeding out people who they couldn't control. So they have this whole level of enemies moving on over from the left of the spectrum. Then there are about 3 or 4 groups. There's Erin and what remains of the Loyalists. And that is the only thing which has any kind of state wide grouping in the black community, which is political. I mean which in fact can find two or three counties here, two or three counties there, and five or ten counties there to send people to a meeting and call themselves. That's all that the Freedom Democrats wanted to be but gave up trying to be. But it's only skin deep. And it can saythat it puts forward a sure 125-150,000 votes but it's not really putting forward, they're just there. Then there's Charles Evers, who is just himself. I mean, got a few little southwest Mississippi counties and who has his own contacts on money and who right now is in such desperate trouble that anything you write about him may be wiped out by some tax court by early 75, who knows. But who, in any case, has gone about as far as he's going to go. In the state, as the black leader, because he is perceived by many blacks as totally selfish and not capable of sustained interest in the general needs of the people of the state. And then in almost every community there is a tiny handful of middle class blacks who have emerged over the last 10-15 years. A lot of them came into the old poverty programs and a lot of them came into the newer ones that were taken over by the unknown supervisers and the local political subdivisions of one kind or another. And who represent, or are represented by, in their most refined form, the two black lawyers here who are Republicans. I mean, essentially saying "Look boys, we got to play the game the way the game is played and that means dealing with whoever we have to deal with."
JACK BASS:
Where does NAACP fit?
HODDING CARTER:
Well, the NAACR when it comes down at all is still basically—the frame is, in some ways interchangeable with the framework of the loyalists. I mean Erin is chairman of both. And when I look at the people who come to the lagutiet meetings I've got to see a hell of a lot of NAAers. There's a great mass of blacks that are basically not touched by anything yet. Not organized or not registered. I mean, you know, about what, 40% aren't registered. And not organized are at least half of that 60%. They're there. Somebody took them down to the courthouse and got them registered during the, middle to late 60s. But nobody really has a touch on them now as far as getting them and getting them to the polls. All those things.