CORE Activists David Dennis, Matheo Suarez, and George Raymond opened a Madison County office in 1963 to register black voters, the majority in white~controlled Canton. Co~directors Raymond and Suarez were joined by Annie Devine and C.O. Chinn Sr., and later by Anne Moody of Tougaloo College. Along with the local Washington and Chinn families and others, they staged a boycott, created Freedom Schools, and implemented mass voter registration drives.
The Madison County Movement had its headquarters in Canton, where blacks made up more than seventy percent of the 10,000 citizens, but only 121 were registered to vote. CORE Director David Dennis knew that the town and the county were controlled by a handful of powerful whites and that only a concerted effort by civil rights groups and locals would effect change. Dennis also noted that Canton's proximity to Tougaloo College would make it possible to involve those students. Dennis, along with activists Matheo Suarez and George raymond, Jr., opened the Madison County office in June 1963; by early 1964, it was one of the most active projects in the state. Co-directors Raymond and Suarez were joined by C.O. Chinn Sr., a local entrepreneur, who provided a meeting place. Along with Chinn, Annie Devine, and Flonzie Goodloe emerged from the local back
community to work with organizers. Tougaloo student and volunteer Anne Moody later recalled her experiences in her memoir Coming of Age in Mississippi.
To dramatize the widespread police brutality, denial of voting rights, segregated businesses and school, and lack of economic opportunities for black citizens, Madison County blacks staged a boycott of twenty-one stores in Canton. In response to its success, local police began arresting blacks and stopping cars entering the city. Despite the harassment, activists organized a Freedom Day to encourage voter registration, while circuit clerk Foote Campbell did his best to prevent all registration. When Dennis filed suit against Campbell, the circuit clerk relented somewhat. A boycott of the segregated, underfunded black schools followed, as well as two more Freedom Days, with mixed success but more violence. two black young women, Barbara Chinn and Mary Catherine Smith, enrolled as seniors at Canton High School despite threats and isolation; Smith graduated from the school. When six black elementary students enrolled in Canton Elementary, the family of one was immediately evicted from their home. On the night six county teenagers enrolled at madison High, crosses were burned in their yards and threats made on their lives. Within a week those students had withdrawn.
On May 29, 1964, the third of three Freedom
Days, there was a drive-by shooting at the Freedom House. On May 30, police stopped Otha Williams, a businessman and farmer, on a back road and beat him severely. Four days later two cars loaded with armed white men pulled up in front of the COFO office in nearby Jackson and fired away gangland-style, injuring several workers. On June 8, a bomb rocked the CORE headquarters. Through the constant strife, however, Freedom School classes met, the Canton Community Center thrived, and voter registration efforts continued.
From Left: John Lewis (SNCC) and unidentified boy with CORE's Matheo, Suarez, Jerome Smith and Dave Dennis at a planning meeting in Greenwood.
At left, George Raymond Jr. was arrested in a bus terminal in Jackson on August 14, 1961, for his participation in the Freedom Rides.
"We;re demanding this time to be first-class citizens. We've got to sweat, we've got to bleed; a lot of us are going to have to die for it." - David Dennis, mass rally address before the final Freedom Day.
Among those central to the Madison County Movement were locals Annie Devine and the Rev. James McRee.
C.O. Chin Jr., right, goes from house to house speaking to residents about the importance of voter registration. His father, C.O. Chin Sr., is shown below, along with the weekly report that lists him as having been harassed while in jail.
Above, in June 1966, after the attempted assassination of James Meredith, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. continued the march. Thousands gathered on the grounds of the Madison County Courthouse to hear Dr. King as he was introduced by local civil rights leader Flonzie Brown Goodloe on the same steps where she and hundreds of African Americans had been denied the right to register and vote. Inset phot: Dr. King shakes hands with local leader Annie Devine during a break.
A poll tax receipt from 1964 shows $2.00 paid for the privilege to vote.
When 200 marchers representing James Meredith's March Against Fear came through Canton in June 1966, 3,500 Madison Movement members greeted Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Stokely Carmichael, and others. Canton officials refused to let them erect tents on the grounds of an African American school; when the crowd was defiant, sixty-one state troopers lined up in full battle gear and fired tear gas, then gun-butted and kicked marchers, including women and children. Doctors from Jackson were recruited to set up an emergency clinic.