stories series webworks weblog who-is

Stories / Transcript

Police attacking woman

Civil Rights- Live {format} {format} {format} 7:46 Barrett Golding

Live recordings from the 1960s freedom movement.

Broadcast: Feb 11 2008 on HV PODCAST; Jul 2 2004 on NPR Day to Day Subjects: Music, Historical, Public Affairs, African American

Interview: David Baker shares memories and recordings of the civil rights movement

July 2, 2004 from Day to Day

MADELEINE BRAND, host: This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

In the early 1960s, Alan Ribback and David Baker embarked on a mission. As the civil rights movement organized mass meetings, sermons, rallies and demonstrations, they wanted to capture the sounds of that time. Most of what they recorded happened in churches, out of sight of the news cameras which were aimed at the violence in the streets. The audio the two men gathered was turned into a record now reissued as a CD entitled "Movement Soul." Alan Ribback died in 1993. His recording assistant, David Baker, has the following remembrance. And a note to listeners: This story contains racially inflammatory language.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #1: Freedom!

Unidentified People: (Singing in unison) Freedom!

Unidentified Man #1: Freedom now!

Unidentified People: (Singing in unison) Freedom now!

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom. Oh, freedom over me, over me. And before I'll be a slave, I'll be buried in my grave.

Mr. DAVID BAKER: "Movement Soul," it's a composite of songs and sayings from the civil rights movement in the Deep South, I guess from a period of--What?--'62 to '64.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #1: (Singing) No trepidation...

Mr. BAKER: Other than a few people shooting some news events, you know, when they start spraying people on the bridge in Selma, and, you know, things that were on TV, there really wasn't any documentation, to speak of, of what went on in these churches. About 80 or 90 percent of what's on the disc, "Movement Soul," takes place in churches.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Chorus: (Singing in unison) And be free. And be free.

Unidentified Man #2: Come on, join us because you're not free, either. This is your fight. This is my fight. This is everybody's fight. And we going to keep on fighting. And we want you to do one thing. If you're going to fight, come on, and wade in the water with us.

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) Wade in the water.

Chorus: (Singing in unison) Wade in the water to him. Wade in the water, my lordy, God called us, brother, in the water. Come on and wade...

Mr. BAKER: These churches were wholly separate from the white churches. People are getting beat up, and they can't vote. The church became the place to talk about it. And, I mean, beyond the three famous murders of the civil rights workers--that got out on a national basis. Maybe it was because they were white, but, you know, things were happening all the time on that level to black people, and they were just disappearing.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #4: You know what happened in Poplarville six years ago. Charles Mack Parker got lynched. And you had a voter registration worker walking the road to Poplarville this morning--walking for freedom!

Unidentified Woman #1: And all of a sudden, we heard people scream, women crying. Cops was coming all through everywhere, just beating people on sight, not asking you, `Are you in the demonstration?' just beating you just because you're there.

Unidentified Man #5: Said, `Give me a gun, I'm going to shoot the nigger right now upon the knee.' Then he said, `If I see you on the street one more time,' he said, `I'm going to kill you dead. You understand that, nigger? You understand that?'

Unidentified Man #3: (Singing) Just follow me down to the county jail.

Mr. BAKER: It's hard to explain. I mean, the only feeling of togetherness and community available to the black community in the South at that time was inside these mass meetings. I mean, they were just depressed. Well, you know, Fanny Lou Hamer is a classic example of someone who lost her job on the plantation because she'd try to participate. Thank God the movement saved her in that respect because she--such a great singer.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Woman #2: This little light of mine...

Chorus: (Singing in unison) I'm going to let it shine.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey, hey...

Chorus: (Singing in unison) This little light of mine...

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Hey, hey, hey...

Chorus: (Singing in unison) ...I'm going to let it shine.

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Hey, hey...

Chorus: (Singing in unison) This little light of mine...

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Hey, hey...

Chorus: (Singing in unison) ...I'm going to let it shine.

Unidentified Man #6: Did you hear her say how that little 15-year-old girl suffered? How they beat her and put her in a cell and put the light out? And she said, `I got the light of freedom.'

Unidentified Woman #3: These are the things that we're about tired of. We want to bring the truth to light and let it shine.

Unidentified Woman #4: And that's when some lady, this Ms. Thomas, she was on her knees, and she was praying. You could hear her. They said, `Move, nigger, move,' just like that. And they'd be beating on her. And every time she would get up off her knees, one of them would hit her, and she wouldn't have a chance.

Mr. BAKER: We did a lot of work. Some of it was voter registration drives, interviews out on the highway. You'd find people who were scared to talk maybe downtown, or you'd been referred to people that were working on different plantations. You know, you get knocked upside the head, you got bandages on, and maybe all you wanted to do was register to vote. It's something to talk about, you know?

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #7: They put 14 of us in a six-by-eight cell, and we couldn't stand up, and we couldn't sit up. We just piled up on one another. Almost died in there. We just went down to register, that's all.

Unidentified Woman #4: They beat McMair(ph) unconscious. They told him they were going to teach him how to respect white state troopers.

Unidentified Man #7: That night, about four or five state troopers, they came into the cell. And they would call us out one by one, you know? And they beat us, they kicked us, you know, hit us across the head with a platter.

Unidentified Woman #5: That Tuesday when they had our trial, the same policeman that had participated in the beating was on the jury seat.

Unidentified Man #8: And we sat there during the trial and heard the man lie and heard many more men lie before us. We saw justice bastardized before our eyes.

Mr. BAKER: You got to remember, any and all of these events, state troopers are everywhere. They're surrounding these churches. They are particularly bothered by the small smattering of white folks that were involved in these meetings. I mean, they, obviously, were outside agitators, you know. It was raining the day that we went to the county courthouse when people were trying to get in to register in Hattiesburg. And my umbrella, the water just dripped off onto a state trooper, and he said, `Hey, boy, where you from?' And I said, `Atlanta.' He said, `Well, you better get your nigger-loving Communist ass back up there,' you know?

(Soundbite from Movement Soul")

Unidentified Woman #2: (Singing) Let it shine.

Unidentified Man #9: We believe that it is better to love than to hate. At the same time, we must warn this nation and warn the state of Mississippi that our people are growing tired and they are growing restless.

Unidentified Man #10: Shoot a nigger and watch him run--that's what he was saying. But this is a new nigger, and you tell the old man Hammond(ph) down there that we ain't running no more. You can send us to the state penitentiary. You can send us to the county farm, your county jail, and hit us across the head with your sticks, and let your dogs bite us. But we don't care because we ain't scared of your jail now 'cause we want our freedom.

(Singing) I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my, because I want my, because I want, I ain't scared of your jail 'cause I want my, because I want my freedom now. I ain't scared of being attacked because I want...

Mr. BAKER: We dubbed these things and sent it out to people in Washington. So that's basically how the word got out to Congress, people copying tapes of the police brutality reports.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #10: (Singing) Going to be a registered voter 'cause I want my, because I want my...

Mr. BAKER: But I'm quite sure that by the time the Civil Rights Act was signed, a lot of people had been moved by what they had heard.

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #10: (Singing) Going to keep on fighting till I get my, I'm going get my...

BRAND: That remembrance was produced by Barrett Golding of

(Soundbite from "Movement Soul")

Unidentified Man #8: (Singing) I'm going to get my freedom now. I ain't scared of your dogs 'cause I want my, I said I want my, O Lord, I want my, I ain't scared of your dogs 'cause I want my, O Lord, I want my freedom...

BRAND: This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.