A MISSISSIPPI KEY-NOTE ACCOUNT FROM THE JACKSON MOVEMENT SAGA -- PLUS PHOTOS [HUNTER BEAR] MARCH 6 2006 UPDATED APRIL 5 2006
See also, Forces and Faces Along the Activist Trail:
And for a full account of the Jackson Movement, see
First, the Background Context:
Following months of careful planning in the Fall of 1962, our Jackson NAACP Youth Council -- to which I was the Advisor -- along with many of my Tougaloo College students, launched the devastating economic boycott of Jackson, Mississippi. Its first direct action was on December 12 of that year when I and my wife [Eldri] and four of my Tougaloo students initiated the first civil rights picket demonstration in Jackson's history. We were arrested by almost 100 of the all-white Jackson police force. More picketing followed at strategic intervals, accompanied by instant arrests; there was much harassment -- and my home was shot up by night-riders. In the Spring of '63, we moved to broaden the Jackson Boycott Movement into a much, much wider campaign -- and this was the emergence of the extremely intensive, very broad-based Jackson Movement. Three of us -- NAACP Field Secretary Medgar Evers, Mrs Doris Allison [president of the Jackson NAACP] and myself were the signatories of the historic May 12 "throwing down the gauntlet" letter which we then sent to more than a dozen key components of the Jackson and Mississippi economic and political power structure. The response from our Adversaries was to stone-wall and mobilize a massively repressive force. On May 28, 1963, we staged our nationally and internationally publicized sit-in at Jackson's Woolworth store. For more than three hours, police allowed a mob of several hundred to harass us -- dumping condiments on us all. A student of mine, Memphis Norman, was knocked unconscious and then arrested. I was struck very violently a number of times, cut with a broken sugar container, and burned with cigarettes -- but I kept my seat. Substantial picketing accompanied this [instant arrests] and, in the days that followed many of us were arrested. We launched several mass marches [again, all were arrested and jailed.] There was much brutality. As we continued, we were hit on June 6 with a sweeping Chancery Court injunction -- City of Jackson v John R Salter, Jr. et al -- which we defied. Then, late at night on June 11, Medgar was lethally shot in front of his home. We moved immediately with massive demonstrations.
There is much material throughout our large Lair of Hunterbear website on this. In addition, there is a great deal on my subsequent multi-faceted work as the Field Organizer for the Southern Conference Educational Fund with especial emphasis on our quite successful, long-term and very activist campaign in the rigidly segregated, poverty-stricken, Klan-infested Northeastern North Carolina Black Belt counties. That became, for sure, quite dramatic in its own right! Eldri and I were in the hard-core South from 1961 to 1967. And, of course, our vast website has much on Native American rights, militant union labor, the American West, contemporary and historical issues.
These two photos -- which I had never seen before -- were recently turned up by my newspaper editor son, Peter [Mack.] They, from the aftermath of one of several profound physical attacks on me during the sanguinary Jackson Movement campaign, were taken on the evening of Thursday, June 13 1963 -- two days after Medgar Evers was fatally shot in front of his home. Medgar was Field Secretary of the Mississippi NAACP. I was Chair of the Strategy Committee of the Jackson Movement [and also the Advisor to the Jackson NAACP Youth Council and a board member of the state-wide NAACP organization.] At one of our protest marches in the aftermath of Medgar's murder, our march was surrounded, after having gotten a block or so to Rose Street, by an army of helmeted Jackson police [and other so-called "lawmen]. Seven or eight police charged me as a special target. I just stood there facing them [with my usual recalcitrance] and, surrounded, was clubbed hard several times into unconsciousness, falling into bloody mud. At least two members of two of these several discussion lists were also there -- Steve Rutledge [an activist Tougaloo student] and Lois Chaffee [an activist teacher at Tougaloo -- from north Idaho.]
[During this climactic period of the Jackson Movement, JFK and RFK made a number of telephone calls to Jackson's arch-racist mayor, Allen C. Thompson. A key Justice Department representative, John Doar, was in Jackson consistently during this period -- but he never talked with most of us.]
[My own book on this -- and a large and detailed one -- is Jackson Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and Schism. First issued in 1979, it drew a good many very positive reviews. A slightly expanded big paperback edition came out via Krieger Publishing, 1987. Now out of print, it is in many appropriate libraries and copies occasionally turn up on Internet. I have also done a number of detailed oral histories. I hear pretty regularly from many old Mississippi Movement colleagues. At their 40th reunion , the Tougaloo class of 1964 signed and sent me and Eldri an extremely kind letter of appreciation and support. Around the same general time, Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson, himself a Tougaloo graduate, gave a strong statement of tribute to me before the U.S. House of Representatives.]
Scroll down for the photos and comments.
COMMENT BY HUNTER BEAR:
Although addressed to Clyde, David, and Alice --
and Steven on another
list -- all of whose very fine and warm comments have been well timed in
this rather bleak [weather and otherwise] day, we appreciate every one of
the very good words and every single positive thought that has come from our
many excellent and enduring friends. Bar none, you have all been quite
significant and effective troopers in the Save the World Business -- where
most of the good works go unsung save for those they so fortunately benefit.
Real courage to us has always been exemplified by those who keep resolutely
to the Trail and their respective Vision -- often in relative obscurity and
frequently surrounded by the human frailties of others. To us, that is the
real Oakwood -- the strong, long-burning fire of enduring and effective
commitment. That is the truly vital stuff. We are privileged indeed to know
all of you!
As Ever, H or J
FULL CLEMENCY AND FULL ERASURE-OF-CONVICTION FOR CLYDE KENNARD
FROM HUNTER BEAR
April 4 2006
Attorney General Jim Hood
State of Mississippi
Dear General Hood:
This is a strong letter supporting full clemency for Clyde Kennard and for
the full erasure of his conviction from all of the appropriate records.
I was active in the Deep South on behalf of civil rights from 1961-1967. At
that time, my name was John R Salter, Jr -- since legally changed to John
Hunter Gray. A native of Arizona, I came to Tougaloo College with my wife,
Eldri, in the late summer of '61 as a young sociology professor and remained
at the College until late 1963. I then went into full time civil rights
field work across the Deep South for a number of years.
Soon after my arrival at Tougaloo, I became the Adult Advisor to the Jackson
NAACP Youth Council -- and was also directly active with Tougaloo students.
I worked very closely -- until the very night of his death -- with Medgar
Evers. I was also a member of the state-wide Board of Directors of the
Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches -- and we all, of course,
worked very closely with Dr Aaron Henry of Clarksdale. I was one of a
number of people who founded and supported the Mississippi Free Press.
In the fall of 1962, the Youth Council in association with Tougaloo students
launched and very effectively continued the far-reaching economic boycott of
downtown Jackson and environs -- with the goal being desegregation and fair
hiring practices and fair treatment for Black shoppers. In the spring of
1963, we all -- youth and adults -- broadened this boycott movement into the
massive, non-violent Jackson Movement with a broad range of civil rights
goals. Along with many, many others, I was arrested and beaten and jailed
on a number of occasions, seriously injured at another point -- and was
honored with the sweeping Chancery Court injunction, City of Jackson vs John
R Salter, Jr et al. [We frankly defied that, non-violently.]
From the moment we arrived in Mississippi, my wife and I were poignantly
aware of the Clyde Kennard tragedy. In the fall of '61, during the first
NAACP dinner that we attended in Jackson -- at the Masonic Temple on Lynch
Street -- Medgar Evers stood up to speak. He gave the name of Clyde Kennard
and began to recount the events surrounding this hideous frame-up. Everyone
present was listening with the greatest intensity.
And then Medgar Evers -- a Man of Flint -- suddenly broke down and cried.
Immediately he was surrounded by colleagues and we all sang, "We Are
Climbing Jacob's Ladder."
That was almost 45 years ago -- and my wife and I have never, never
The Ladner sisters, Joyce and Dorie, both at Tougaloo -- and many others as
well -- faithfully circulated petitions aimed at freeing the
known-to-be-extremely ill Clyde Kennard. I remember when our courageous
attorney, R. Jess Brown, showed me, in his Farish Street law office, the
just received letter finally granting freedom to Clyde Kennard -- with the
bold signature of Governor Ross Barnett scrawled across the bottom of the
My wife, Eldri, and our whole quite large family join me in asking that you
use every resource at your command to ensure swift clemency and
record-erasure for Mr Clyde Kennard.
Hunter Gray [John R Salter, Jr]
2000 Sandy Lane
Pocatello, Idaho 83204
Joyce [Ladner] writes this morning and I respond accordingly:
Thank you so very much for your quick response. I forgot to tell you
that the letter should be addressed to the Mississippi Parole Board, and
Barry Bradford wants to know if he can publish it on the
www.clydekennard.org web page. Can you address a copy of your letter to the
Parole Board, and will you allow Barry to publish it on the page? It will
make a lot of difference. Let us hope this campaign brings about a positive
outcome. It is already too little and too late but this is all you can get
at this stage.
I'll take care of that immediately! And, of course, Barry is quite free to
publish my letter. I am honored.
Hastily, and with kindest best wishes -- John or Hunter or Whatever
Thanks! It is up on the website! More important, it will be part of the official record submitted to the parole board.
I am very grateful.
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR/JOHN R SALTER JR]
Mi'kmaq /St. Francis
Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
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