|Fanny Lou Hamer at the Democratic Convention|
The song was based on letters 18 year-old college student Susan Sanford wrote home to her family, and that were shared with me occasionally.
She'd traveled to the deep South from her comfortable suburban home in California to participate in Freedom Summer by attempting to register voters and to teach in a Freedom School in Canton, Mississippi. She was living with one of the host black families who'd risked life and limb to enable change to occur. Being reminded of Susan and the fact that she was wearing my pearls under her tee shirts allowed me to feel a part of that change; at times it simply increased my sense of helplessness:
Song (written in the voice of the woman who shared her home with SNCC students):
daughta say, "mustn't run ...Monday mornin' ... streets are bare ...
seems as how dey don' want me nowhere
since ah went to the Courthouse and sign mah name to freedom.
sound the trumpets .. the Kingdom's come!
Mamma go to the Courthouse
'n sign yo name for Freedom".
Fields afire -- cotton flamin' 'neath the summa skies
Shrouds 'o White ... no name namin'.
Dey don' know 'dis dream cain't die
Churches burned -- deacon dead
still ah know it's like daughta said
ain't no turnin' back now --
Got to sign mah name to freedom.
Young folks heah a'roun' mah table talkin' through the night
faces heah ah cain't label -- brown ones blendin' wid da white ...
Sunday mornin' ... church ain't there
bombed it Wednesday but ah cain't care
God was down at the Courthouse day ah sign mah name to freedom
Ma Lawd was down at the Courthouse -- day ah sign mah name.
Note: During that period 37 black churches in Mississippi were destroyed by fire.