On a visit to Hattiesburg related to federal programs, I recorded this staff meeting--a particularly excruciating confrontation between Black and white volunteers and staff, intertwined with the pragmatic decisions of how to proceed in a post-Freedom Summer world.
MINUTES OF STAFF MEETING IN HATTIESBURG- December 22, 1964
These minutes are for the most part paraphrases of the discussion, and they are for the most part highly selective. The meeting lasted from 9:00 p.m. till 4:30 a.m. Doug, the project director, had not slept for two days when the meeting began.
doug- i resign. no one here can deal with my problems. one person on the staff is at a party now.
johnny(girl) - community needs someone to think of as project director, and they won't accept a white person.
phyliss- we need someone to deal with resources.
doug- a year ago we were a group with unity, not an organization. it bugs me that people are looking to me for direction when they don't even come to staff meetings. there is no way to deal with my problems, and there is no structure to deal with them.
johnny- who says doug has to deal with problems alone.
doug- in jackson they couldn't make a decision in front of a person. the decision about johnny would have been made on the basis of trusting me.
johnny- there's no reason why a project director should have to deal with things by himself.
doug- why should a p.d. try to please a project when he sees no unity in it.
johnny- each of us has been part of groups that have excluded others.
doug- it's time for one of us to move and i think it's me.
doug two- i was just at the soc orientation and a lawyer was giving a speech there about how we should teach negroes to have manners so they won't feel uncomfortable eating in an intergrated restaraunt. all the cofo people there attacked him, and i think this shows we do have something in common. now doug's been asking for a vote of confidence and you refuse to give it to him.
group- that's not true.
x--we really have been trying to be a group. we showed this by pooling our money.
joe- we haven't been able to make doug feel we have confidence in him.
doug- i want to get out in the community and find out their needs. i'll still work as staff, but not as project director. it may be that i'm the cause of all these problems.
---- break in discussion filled with many things---
doug- we're talking about everybody making decisions and tha way things are done In a democracy, and i'm not so sure now whether it's better to have a democracy or dictatorship for a project director. it used to be a band of brothers, a circle of trust, but that's not true anymore.
maybe the reason why we're not brothers is that we all came down here with different attitudes and different reasons for being here, and different ways of doing things. before the summer the staff here all knew each other and thought alike. we probably will never be a band of brothers.
joe- i think that's being too pessimistic.
doug- nobody will deal with the problem of me resigning as project director. now i'd like to finish this and talk about the convention challenge. either you get people to be responsible for certain things, or you get a new project director.
general discussion about trust and group for five minutes
doug- this is just another example of a lack of trust in me. i say i can't be project director anymore and you tell me i'm lying.
joe- i think we ought to consider doug as not being project director.
sherry- i can't think of anything else now. when i think of doug as not being p.d. my mind goes blank. that's the problem.
doug- you see, i'm a negro and i dig revenge. i'w willing to deal with the staff as a unit, but not with individuals excluding themselves.
x- could you explain what you mean.
doug- someone didn't come to the meeting. this brings up the question of if they are really committed. are they fighting for people or are they fighting for themsleves. it disturbs me to make decisions for people who are not there. i can operate as project director for certain people, but not as a whole. nobody's willing to deal with things. it's the same thing as last nite.
dave-what are the duties of a project director.
doug- i'll tell you what you've allowed me to do. pay bills and see that the lights aren't cut off.
johnny- they've allowed you to cut me off.
joe- we need someone to pay the bills.
barbara- there are two question. first, do you want doug to be project director, and if you do there are certain things that have to be done. second, are we willing to work with him.
doug- i'll pay bills, but don't look to me for direction.
joe- we've got someone to pay bills.
johnny- we need someone to open the mail.
doug- i'll open the mail. checks come in and i need to know how much money we have if i have to pay the bills.
johnny- you can find out. it doesn't have to be the same person.
doug- you want to know exactly what's in the mail for your own benefit.
johnny- why shouldn't the staff know what's going on. there should be no secrets is the staff.
problem is there are no clear cut duties.
doug- all the cofo mail is public and put up on the board, if people want to read the project director's mail, he's just a puppet. that's your idea, johnny. you want someone that you can run. the community has complained about this. i went to the personnel committee and they wouldn't act, then who the fuck do you go to.
x-the problem is a breakdown in communication.
doug- all the letters get to the right people, and stuff is posted on the board.
discussion follows on whether two specific bulletin sent to doug about fdp got to the right people. fight between johnny and doug about specific cases.
x- when people won't leave the project it means they're not really committed
barbara- we have to think about why we're here. if someone says doug's important to the project and then they won't leave, then they have to think about why they're (...)
dick- we don't really know what the community thinks about the people in question.
doug- someone called me and said something to me, confided in me because i'm black and i'm the project director. now i tell you this was said to me from someone respected in the community and you don't believe me. this is a problem of respect and trust. people are not ready to deal with any problems. the only problems they're ready to deal with is people who are crazy. last year the staff voted against the summer project and it was forced on us. now the summer project has created a lot of the problems we have now. the whole thing about the volunteers not ready to deal with individuals, not ready to deal with community needs. we've been preaching at the last four meetings about becoming a part of the community, but you haven't done it. you go into the community and ask what they want and then you don't do it. you don't trust their opinion.
johnny- alright, doug, i'll talk about mr. gould (community person who talked to doug about johnny being unsatisfactory). it was not true what you said mr. gould said about me and i don't know why you did it.
doug- i've been honest with you and here a man comes from the community and tells me something and i tell you and you say it's not true.
johnny- i have only two things i know. one is what you said mr. gould said to you and the other what he said to me. the third is my own sense and this leads me to believe what mr. gould said to me.
joe- from my experienee you won't ever get the same story as doug gets.
doug 2 - we're doubting here that doug has any sense of what the community feels.
the gould affair- both sides- it turns out mr gould asked doug to talk about Johnny, and asked doug to see that johnny left his home. this was discussed between doug and johnny and the staff somewhat and it was agreed that noone would repeat these things so as not to make mr gould uncomfortable. johnny felt this was not true and asked mr gould if he wanted her to leave. he denied it and johnny felt she was being framed. doug was upset because he felt they had put mr gould in a difficult position and he had told mr gould he would take care of it quietly. during the discussion the staff decided that doug was right, and that johnny was naive to think mr gould (...) her with the truth.
doug- the problem is mhat the community thinks of us.
doug- people just won't deal with this. in jackson i asked someone to deal with the two personnel problems. bob wouldn't. dona wouldn't, jesse wouldn't. stokely was the only one who would and he tried to round up some people. he got ceyphus, and then got mendy, who did like a dog and tucked his tail under and ran away. but stokely dragged him back. then he asked mike sayer who was talking to a girl, and said he didn't have time. stokely finally got them and rounded up muriel, and we sat there and nobody talked, and stokely said he was the only one there who was willing to make a decision. he said people were afraid someone would ask them who gave them the right to make a decision. i begged for a decision and finally gave three alternatives. for a long time nothing happended till finally we got consensus, but the only reason was people were afraid not to make one then. then mendy jumped up and said we found out we couldn't deal with people face to face and the next case of johnny was conducted without her there, just like mississippi courts. and i couldn't accept this. they were ready to send her out, but i didn't like the way it was done so i told her to go home..
x- will you be project director if johnny leaves.
doug- you can't do that, make a condition. i won't tell you what to do. i want to know what your feeling is on this case, and then i'll decide.
phyliss- both should go. johnny should go to fdp. the whole situation is dehumanizing with dick. it's bad for him psychologically.
doug- i have to respond to this, because dick is my situation. dick and i have a personality problem and we can work it out, but you can't work out a problem with a community.
sherry- johnny should leave because she broke a promise to mr gould.
joe-i feel johnny didn't knew mhe was breaking a promise, but this is exactly the reason she should leave, because she could not feel this.
cornelia- johnny should go because there is an irreconcilable conflict with doug and there seems to be a community complaint. we need doug more than we need johnny.
barbara- i'm worried about the "me". when there was a conflict between johnny and doug, it was doug who offered to leaves not johnny.
johnny- that isn't true.
barbara- maybe so, but people are thinking about me too much. they aren't willing to make sacrifices. they seem to be saying, "i want what i want", and it's just a question of will. i don't understand. when doug said not to come back to the office you walked in the next morning. why?
johnny- explains that there was something that had to be done right away for mrs. gray, and that doug said she could do it.
x-it is not so much a question of what you did being right or wrong, but that you didn't understand you were overstepping your bounds.
johnny--i understand i overstepped my bounds.
dave--i don't know what we will do without johnny and i'm, afraid. i'm afraid we want her to go to explain why the community hasn't been moving, and what will happen if the community still doesn't move. i'm afraid i'm taking the easy way out if i say johnny must go, but i have to say it for the reason joe said and this scares me because it might be that if i talked more i'd be making the same kind of mistake.
doug- i'd like to (...) to that. either johnny has't been developing you to do the job, or you're not capable of what johnny does.
dick- i don't think johnny should go. i've had as many problems with her as doug. in fact, at one point i almost threw an orange at her, but it fell out of my hand into the basket, but i think she has changed and has a better understanding of herself.
doug- i'm thinking about what jesse did now. we were really mad when he called that district meeting, but now i'm beginning to think about it. people wouldn't make a decision so he manipulated and manuevered them to make a deciston. i wondered why jesse did it, for his own personal glory, or because no one would make a decision. sometime you only have five minutes and you're pressed for time, and than you need manipulation to get a decision, and we get all upset about it. but if you were in my position you'd see the same thing. we bitch, but we won't deal with things. we wonder why people manipulate, because there's the time element involved. it takes people alot of time to talk and that's bad. it took 40 minutes to make that decision and it shouldn't have taken that long.
elayne an example of district meeting as jesse's finding out that people did what to deal with things, but this took time, differential time for different decisions, end difference of this staff meeting from last five in terms of getting people to speak to things.
reverend beech- out of respect for johnny, mingled with love, respect, and a great concern for her welfare, we've said with regret that you owe it to yourself to start out with a clean slate.
doug 2 thank you for one of your unnecessary speeches, bob.
Johnny - thanks for putting him in his place.
barbara- i still think there's some truth in what he said. you keep on saying you've changed, johnny.
doug- i thtnk johnny brought up a problem. we started dealing with johnny and i don't think we should leave before we deal with all of us. now i don't know if you wanted johnny to leave because of me or of johnny. as courtland said, if you send home everyone but the decision makers, the decision makers have to decide to send themselves home. we've started to really talk, but people have to talk more to know each other and know how they feel toward each other. we're hesitant to express ourselves. if we're really concerned we've got to stop breaking a leg and patching it up.
phyliss- will you clarify why you don't want to leave the community.
dick- i had a problem last year when i was teaching school, and in graduate school, and these were the two big failures for me, and i don't think i was given a chance. if i leave the project now i want to say it's best for me, the project and the community
[p. 6]otherwise it would bug me, my character, and my life for a long time. i don't want to leave because doug says i'm lazy.
from this point discussion centers around problem of dick. cornelia says she thinks he doesn't really have any creative ideas. talk about second chances. talk about dick being given many chances in the past. general feeling is that dick would be better off if he left, but that since he is not a real problem to the community this is a different case than johnny's, and he should be allowed to make the decision himself. dick decided to stay. johnny at the end of the meeting is argumentative or refuses to comment on things. her last words are that she be allowed to explain the work she has been doing before she leaves. there is discussion on the plans for the workshops the next day, which is broken to the group at 4:00 a.m. all return to sleep at 4:30 to report at 9.00 a.m. (note: they did report then)