met feb 12 1963 Harry Richards
Activism of the Late Mr. Allen
by Julian Horace Bond
"If you give me protection, I'll let
the hide go with the hair," Louis
I met Louis Allen on February 12,
1963, in the home of a Negro farmer
outside McComb, Mississippi. The Student
Nonviolent Coordinating Committee
had begun its first voter registration
drive in McComb in August, 1961,
and when Negroes from the other
counties surrounding McComb asked
them to set up citizenship schools
nearer their homes, they did.
The student committee, then barely
18 months old, pioneered in south-
western Mississippi a program settling
young workers, on a subsistence wage,
in rural communities where they take
their chances with the Negroes they
work and live with. Our Host, E. W.
Steptoe, was one of the few Negroes
in that area who opened their homes
to SNCC workers.
A tiny man, 15 years president of
the Amite County NAACP, Steptoe
had kept the branch going by buying
memberships himself, and then selling
them back to local Negroes he cajoles
into paying $2.00 $2.00 membership fee.
Five Negroes had gathered in Steptoe's
home that day to record their experiences
in trying to register to vote on
film for a California movie maker, Harvey
Richards, who was donating his
talents to SNCC. The film, "We'll
Never Turn Back," has had mild success
as a classic of realism, for it depicts
black Mississippians, telling in
Mr. Bond is director of public relations for the
Student Nonviolent Coordinating committee. A former
newspaper reporter, Mr. Bond has poetry in
We'll Never Turn Back
their own words, what it means to be
black in a state that treats its Negro
minority like Jews in early Nazi Germany.
Louis Allen did not record his
reminiscences, however, because first
Richards, then his assistant, Amzie
Moore, a state NAACP official, and
finally Steptoe himself agreed any publication
of his memories would place
his life further in danger and that the
"hide" that went with the "hair" would
He did tell his story to us, however.
Almost a year to the day later,
he was shotgunned to death outside
Steptoe's nearest neighbor, a 52-
year-old farmer named Herbert Lee,
was, with our host, the most active
of Amite County Negroes.
On September 25, 1961Sept 25 '61, Lee drove
into Liberty, the Amite County seat.
He stopped at a cotton gin, and from
his truck, engaged a white man, E. H.
Hurst, in conversation. Minutes late,
Hurst -- then a member of the state
Legislature -- shot and killed Lee.
Within two hours, a coroner's jury
had convened, heard testimony, and
declared the killing self defense. Not
until then was Herbert Lee's body removed
from a pool of blood on the
sidewalk outside the gin.
Louis Allen who supported his four
children, his wife and his parents as a
logger, had witnessed the shooting. His
testimony before the coroner's jury,
and at a later grand jury investigation,
set Hurst free.
Notes and Questions
Please sign in to write a note for this page