Money raised in an emergency drive here has enabled a black farmers' co-operative to hold its option on 40 acres of Mississippi land.
The co-op's organizer--long-time Southern civil rights leader Fanny Lou Hamer--contacted a group of teaching fellows here last week and said that her Freedom Farms co-op needed $1300 to retain its option on the land in Sunflower County, Miss.
The co-op's goal, Mrs. Hamer said, was to provide low-cost housing for 100 black families who had been evicted from their tenant farms on white plantations. The co-op would also raise vegetables to feed the families and eventually to sell, Mrs. Hamer said.
A week after Mrs. Hamer's plea, Harrison Wellford, teaching fellow in Government, was able to send her the $1300--plus an undisclosed surplus--from collections in Cambridge. With the money, the co-op was able to beat the option deadline and keep the land from being sold to a white planter.
"The money came in from all over--from Cambridge, from Boston, from New York, and from many other places," Wellford said on Monday. "Lawyers, brokers, doctors, and professors mailed in checks." Wellford said he had received one check for $450 in the mail, plus "$260 in nickels and dimes from black and white children at the Friends' School in Cambridge."
The money from Cambridge came as a surprise to the black farmers, Wellford said, and "Mrs. Hamer is now using it as a selling point in winning support for her plan. She's using the generosity of the Harvard community to show her people that there's an alternative to starvation and exodus--to give them a reason to stay and fight."
Now that the co-op has held its option, it is beginning its drive for the full $22,000 purchase price of the land, Wellford added. Mrs. Hamer is contacting national foundations and expects help from them, and the drive at Harvard will also continue, Wellford said.
The "Freedom Farm Co-op" account that Wellford and Lester Salamon, teaching fellow in Government, opened last week in a Cambridge bank will remain open, and Wellford and Salamon are now devising plans for future fund-raising.
Contributions to Freedom Farm may be mailed to 51 Rice Street, Cambridge.