"Mississippi is the New Frontier of freedom" stated the Rev. Robert L. T. Smith, the first Negro candidate for Congress in that state in the Twentieth Century, in Lowell Lecture Hall last night.
During a talk sponsored by the Harvard Radcliffe Liberal Union, Smith stated that, while the Negro seeks human dignity and equal job and educational opportunities, the key to the solution of his problem is the right to vote. He asserted that "we can no longer look the other way while American citizens are denied the right to the ballot on account of color."
A supporter of the Mansfield-Dirkson Bill, which would require the acceptance of six years of education as evidence of literacy for voter registration. Smith stated that the bill "goes a long way toward putting the ballot in the hands of the Negro."
Seeks Full Participation
He contended that the racial policies of the state's leaders have brought Mississippi to its present condition as the poorest state in the nation. "We want full participation in all the affairs of our state and our nation as free citizens."
Smith, who seeks the Democratic nomination in the fourth congressional district, will oppose the incumbent, John Bell Williams. He conceded that his chances for nomination are almost nil, since the vast majority of the voting population, which is white, "would vote against me."
Passage of the Mansfield-Dirkson Bill, Smith maintained, would remedy a situation in which he claimed Mississippi has "very seldom been electing men because of their competence." He also predicted that the Republican Party, which "has been nothing but a shadow" up to now, would develop into a major political contender.
Citing Jefferson County as an example of the conditions that he wishes to improve, Smith pointed out that in this county, the population of which is more than half Negro, there is not one registered Negro voter.
The Negro candidate was one of the speakers at Wednesday's "Stand Up for Democracy" rally in New York, organized to counter a YAF mass meeting the same night.