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Collection Title: Jackson Freedom House Civil Rights Photograph

Collection Number: M 400

Dates: 1964

Volume: 1 photograph, with negatives

Provenance: Wallace Roberts, photographer

Donor: Donated by Mrs. Susan Tabor Wahman, 1999

Copyright: This collection may be protected from unauthorized copying by the Copyright Law of the United States (Title 17, United States Code).

Biographical/Historical Sketch:

In 1964, Susan Tabor and Tom Wahman were volunteers participating in Mississippi Freedom Summer, the summer project of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Susan Tabor was an actress from New York who came to Mississippi with the traveling theatre group, The Free Southern Theatre. With the backing of Tougaloo College, the Free Southern Theatre performed Martin B. Duberman’s, In White America in the summer of 1964. The integrated cast performed for free in front of unsegregated audiences (when possible) across the South. Tom Wahman was also from New York. While in Mississippi he served as the Assistant Director of Freedom Schools. Wahman, along with Ralph Featherstone, worked in the office of the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), which was located in the Jackson Freedom House at 1017 Lynch Street, Jackson, Mississippi

Ralph Featherstone was the SNCC Program Director in the summer of 1964. He presided over the “Freedom Force”, the teaching group of Freedom Summer. He also participated in door- to- door voter registration in Mississippi, Alabama, and Georgia. Featherstone had graduated from Washington D. C. Teacher’s College a year earlier. Until June of 1964, he had worked as a speech therapist in the District School System. Featherstone also managed a bookstore called the Drum and Spear bookstore in D. C. He arrived in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the same week that Civil Rights workers, Andrew Goodman, James Chaney, and Michael Schwerner disappeared. In 1966, he was a SNCC Central Committee member and privy to all the closed meetings of the group. He worked with SNCC through three chairmen and developed a close friendship with H. Rap Brown.

Featherstone was killed on March 9, 1970 in a car-bomb attack possibly intended for Brown. He and William Payne were entering Bel-Air, Maryland, in the car that Brown often used. They were supposed to prepare a safe way for Brown to enter the town as he was being tried there for arson and inciting a riot. Police detectives determined that the bomb was under the right front seat. Both men were instantly killed. Featherstone was buried in Washington D. C.

Sources:

Contents of the Collection.
Mississippi Department of Archives and History. Sovereignty Commission Online.

Related Collections:

M351 Randall (Herbert) Freedom Summer Photographs
M349 Roberts (Wallace) Freedom Summer Collection

Scope and Content:

The collection consists of an 8 x 10 photograph of Tom Wahman (left) and SNCC Field Secretary, Ralph Featherstone (right), taken during the summer of 1964 in the Freedom House at 1017 Lynch Street in Jackson, Mississippi. The Freedom House also served as state headquarters for Freedom Summer, the 1964 summer project of SNCC. The photograph was taken by Wallace Roberts, a 23 year-old COFO worker from Lennox, Massachusetts. While in Mississippi, Roberts served as a Freedom Summer volunteer in the delta towns of Shaw and Cleveland.


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Revised: October 13, 2004