Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Teachers, Did you Sign Your Statement

The Superintendent of Education in Lincoln County, MS, was asked to submit their list of teachers to the Sovereignty Commission. Several teachers listed from Lincoln County, MS, were maternal relatives: Claudine Aultman, Ollie Bell Coleman, Clarence Johnson, Lou Vella Markham, and Novana Scott.

The Sovereignty Commission was concerned with the attitudes of public school teachers in Mississippi. Did teachers approve of integration of the public schools? Did they plan to encourage Negro parents to enroll their children in white schools?

The commission requested from Superintendents of Education in various Mississippi counties to give them a list of all school teachers employed through the county boards. The commission, also, requested that the Superintendents determine if all their teachers had signed the Employee Statement Under Subversive Activities Act of 1950, and that those statements were notarized.

The Act of 1950 was a result of the McCarthy Era, when fear of communist influence on American institutions was at its height during the 1940s thru late 1950s.
"The Act defines a subversive organization as an entity that engages in or teaches about subversive activities. The Communist Party is declared such an organization. A subversive person is defined as one who commits, aids in the commission of, or advises or teaches another to commit a subversive activity."
Civil Rights organizations and individuals who fought against racial segregation were label by the commission as subversive and communist influenced. Teachers could be terminated if it was determined they supported the integration of public schools. For my counties of interest, I did not see any documents that a teacher had been terminated because of activities in the Civil Rights Movement.
Sources
Sovereignty Commission Online
Bill Analysis Judiciary Committee HB 2251

6 comments:

  1. Another wonderful post! I really like the way you set local events within the bigger context.

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    1. Thank you, I appreciate your kindness.

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  2. I have also researched the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission and found documents that indicate all African Americans Teachers, Preachers and many African Americans individuals in Mississippi were investigated and/or recruited during the 1960's by the Mississippi Sovereignty Commission. Mrs. Ruby Larkin, Lincoln County Superintendent of Education in the 1960’s was a Sovereignty Commission contact in Brookhaven, MS and in one of the documents I’ve found, she recommended Mrs. Eva H Harris, the Principal of Eva H Harris, as a good prospective informant. She also requested that a confidential check be made of T. J. Rance who was a teacher at the Lincoln County Training Center in Bogue Chitto, MS at the time. However, we must understand that during the civil rights struggle, you obeyed or pretended to obey the requests made by the people in control or suffer job lose, beatings, intimidation, false imprisonment, or death. I can remember instances where my parents would pretend to cooperate with authorities, but in fact, they were playing a game. My father would tell me, in order to stay out of trouble; you must sometimes play games with “Mr. Charlie”. I have no idea if Mrs. Harris was actually contacted by the Sovereignty Commission to become an informant. I knew Mrs. Harris very well and I think that if she were contacted by the Sovereignty Commission, she would have accepted the request to become an informant but would have played the game my father talked about. Neither Mrs. Harris nor Mr. Rance earned their highly decorated careers in education by being unwise.

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  3. Leon, Thank you for your comments. I did see the files on Mrs. Larkin, Mr. Rance and Principal Harris but made the decision to write about those on my family tree. I was born in 1955, missed the activism in the 1960s but well remember my mother's training to keep a quite mouth around "Mister Charlie," and I remember the pretend game. They talked one way in "Mister Charlie" presence but a total different way outside of his presence. Wisdom was one of the keys that made the Civil Rights Movement successful.

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  4. In Marion County, MS, the Sovereignty Commission did not want
    a black owned auto dealership. They used two informants to
    report on the potential black businessmen. The Commission
    asked were the men members of the NAACP. Mr. & Mrs Cheese
    answered "no", and they knew that the men were members of the
    NAACP but they did not want the young men hurt.
    See, Sidney J. James file-Sovereignty Commission

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    1. There is so much to learn from the Sovereignty Commission files, and to think some of the files are missing.

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