JUNE 21, 1958
HYDE PARK—I took a plane this week for Louisville, Ky., where I was met and driven across the bridge to Jeffersonville, Ind.
There I attended a reception at Admiral Ingram's house. They were also kind enough to let me have a room and a rest before we proceeded to the Chamber of Commerce dinner. They were honoring the Palmolive Company, and it was a gay and festive occasion.
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Bright and early the next morning I took the plane for Chattanooga, Tenn., where I was met by Myles Horton who runs the Highlander Folk School at Monteagle, Tenn.
A workshop was in session on the subject of voting restrictions and citizenship in the South. I was interested to find myself in a large integrated group of about 60 people representing many different groups, discussing honestly the difficulties put in the way of voting registration, particularly for the Negro, in the South.
They showed me a list of questions they were discussing—questions frequently asked of people during their interviews to obtain registration—and I must say it does seem that an effort is made to keep people from voting rather than to allow them to register and vote.
In the application in South Carolina, for instance, you must state what race you belong to and swear to certain things which were quite astonishing to me.
For instance, I thought we had long ago done away with a property qualification for voting. Yet one of the things that you must swear to is, "I own and have paid all taxes due last year on property in this state assessed at $300 or more." You must also swear to the statement, "I will demonstrate to the registration board that I can both read and write a section of the Constitution of South Carolina."
Further, you must swear that "I am not an idiot, or insane, a pauper supported at public expense or confined in any public prison."
It seems fairly obvious that if you were confined in a public prison you would not be there applying for registration. And who knows if any of us are insane!
We all had lunch on the lawn, and I spoke afterwards on the value of a demonstration that people of different races can work together and unite in trying to attain, through a better understanding of citizenship and its responsibilities, the right of every citizen in the United States to register and vote and express his desires.
This school, because it does hold integrated meetings and frequently the workshops are on labor problems, has often been accused of being Communist.
I saw no evidences that suggested Communist influence, but I thought these were courageous people attempting to show that we could do here at home what we are trying to do in the world, namely, to live together in peace regardless of race or creed.
It is sad that we still use the label of "Communist" for anything we dislike or do not understand. And it is heartening that the neighbors of a school like this are as loyal and as enthusiastic as I found them to be.