James N. Mays Papers, 1960-1967

Scope and Content Note

The papers have been arranged in three series: Correspondence and Notes, Organizations, and Miscellaneous Files. The collection primarily documents Mays' work as a field representative for the National Sharecroppers Fund and his civil rights activities.

CORRESPONDENCE AND NOTES include typewritten and printed form letters, miscellaneous notes, and portions of speeches, all arranged chronologically. There are letters to and from Mays while he was the Mississippi representative of NSF, and a representative of the CORE Scholarship, Education, and Defense Fund and the South Carolina Council on Human Relations. Also included is a form letter from April 1965, signed by Martin Luther King, Jr., requesting money on behalf of the Workers Defense League. The notes and speech drafts contain notes from meetings in several southern towns, research for speeches, and other material on civil rights, community action, and cooperatives.

Records of ORGANIZATIONS are arranged alphabetically by title of the group or activity. Included are the Committee for Non-Violent Student Action, Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, peace movement miscellany, Community Action Programs, Congress of Racial Equality, Council of Federated Organizations (COFO), Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, Mississippi Freedom Information Service, Manpower Development and Training Act, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, National Sharecroppers Fund, Poor Peoples March, Southern Regional Council, and War Against Poverty. Within the Freedom Information Service files are records of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service.

Such organizational files generally include flyers and near-print material concerning the group and its activities. Within the COFO files are a “Comprehensive Report: Overall Economic Development Program, Madison County, Mississippi” (1962); and information relating to the Jackson, Mississippi Freedom School. These latter files contain general data, sample classroom schedules from Carstens (or Carstons) Elementary School, and from a Detroit public school; and teaching materials, including radio plays, coloring assignments, and tests. Mays' NSF file includes memos, minutes of farmers' meetings, his reports as Mississippi field representative, a 1962 report by Fay Bennett on “The Condition of Farm Workers in 1962,” and a few applications for the Farm Labor Counseling Program.

Mays' MISCELLANEOUS FILES consist of alphabetically-arranged subject files on such topics as civil rights; community newsletters; conferences, including speeches, reports, and agenda; cooperatives and farming cooperatives; farming and farm labor; loans to rural groups; Medicare and Social Security; South Africa; and voting, voting rights, and political organizing. Most of the files are quite fragmentary. There is also one file of general civil rights and anti-war newspaper clippings. Photographs include images of a group of African-Americans gathered in front of a church, probably for a voter registration drive, and images probably of the Mays family.