James's Reviews > I've Got the Light of Freedom: The Organizing Tradition and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle, With a New Preface

I've Got the Light of Freedom by Charles M. Payne
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it was amazing

Payne seeks to illustrate the slow build organizing style of the Mississippi Freedom movement over the course of nearly thirty years that altered the racial power relations of Mississippi. Payne argued that it make its most headway in the early 1960s as the organizers built upon earlier traditions of activism that challenged the racial regime of terror and order. Beginning with descriptions of lynchings of the 1930s, he notes that public executions of black people in Mississippi began to change to covert killings as Mississippi became aware of its public image as backward as they sought to attract industry, but the same racial order still persisted. SNCC would join with small rural communities of the Mississippi Delta to organize voter registration drives, as only 2% of all black adults were registered as of 1960, using personal relationships built over years to make headway. This “Slow build” organizing style built communities of activists amongst rural towns that could house organizers easily, and did. Despite the image of out of town college students, the majority of the organizers were in fact of similar backgrounds to the sharecroppers themselves, many the first generation of college students. Payne illustrates how this network of activists was decentralized and focused on local matters, letter the communities build to organize themselves. Payne also argued that black nationalists did not care about the slow build organizing style and wanted more immediate results, even if it was centralized and not caring about personal relationships (which I’m not sure I totally agree is what happened.)
Key Themes and Concept
-Movements do not arise out of nowhere and the Mississippi Freedom Struggle was the result of years of work by groups like the NAACP, CORE, and SNCC, led by ground level organizers like Ella Baker, Septima Clark, and others who emphasized empowering ordinary people. They used registering people to vote as a means to empower communities as opposed to an end goal.
-The dramatic public displays of protest, like marches, lunch counter sit-ins, and speeches, are remembered well, but the slow build organizing is what made them possible in challenging real power.

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Reading Progress

July 17, 2017 – Started Reading
July 17, 2017 – Shelved
July 21, 2017 – Finished Reading

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