In Memoriam

  • Avon Rollins

    The passing of our brother, Avon Rollins this past Wednesday (December 7, 2016), is a loss that is deeply felt within our community of SNCC veterans and the Movement as a whole.  Like so many of us, activism pulled Avon into the freedom struggle while still in his teens. Just a few weeks after the Greensboro sit-ins erupted, Avon, a Knoxville, Tennessee native, then a high school student, joined other students, mainly from Knoxville College, in launching a sit-in movement. He was one of the youngest in this group of protesters.
    Barely a year later he joined Marion Barry in enrolling in the recently desegregated University of Tennessee. By then his interest in SNCC, which he considered "the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement," had grown. By the summer of 1963 he was a member of SNCC's executive committee. That year he went to Danville, Virginia as a SNCC organizer to support the burgeoning movement there. He stayed there a year. 
    From Danville, he pushed the Movement to evolve from focusing only on demonstrations to an economic struggle. Danville was home to Dan River Mills, then one of the world's largest textile companies. SNCC bought a few stocks and as Avon later put it, "raised hell" at a Dan River Mills corporate board meeting in New York City.
    During his work with SNCC, he was arrested 30 times. Later, after a career at the Tennessee Valley Authority, he served as executive director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a Knoxville institution dedicated to the preservation of African-American history and culture in the city. 
    "We have to pass the baton to a new generation to foster change and make America what she is intended to be," Avon told a reporter shortly before his death. The I-40 bridge in Knoxville is named for him.
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  • Clifford A. Vaughs

    Clifford A. Vaughs  1937-2016
    Clifford A. Vaughs . . . civil rights activist, award-winning photographer and independent filmmaker, designer and builder of the iconic Captain America and Billy bikes and Associate Producer for the film Easy Rider, retired V.P. The Chosen Few MC, jazz lover, one-time manager of the Buddy Miles Band, and long-time single-handed sailer and adventurer died Saturday, July 2, at 8:00 p.m. at his home in Templeton, California, where he lived with his "other half" and mate Daniella Sapriel. He leaves behind four sons, two daughters, and grandchildren. Cliff was a SNCC Field Secretary 1963-65, and a noted photojournalist.  More information will be forthcoming as to a "Celebration of Life" planned for a later date in the Los Angeles area.
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  • Dick Gregory


    October 12, 1932 – August 19, 2017


    Dick Gregory, a pioneering force of comedy in the 1960s who parlayed his career as a stand-up comic into a life of social and political activism, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 84.   Although he was never on SNCC staff, he was an early and long-time friend of SNCC and the civil rights movement.


    Gregory used his  fame to become a civil-rights activist and opponent of the Vietnam War. He made friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X; honored a request from Medgar Evers to speak at a voter-registration rally in Jackson, Miss.; raised money for SNCC; delivered food to NAACP offices in the South; marched in Selma, Ala.; got shot while trying to keep the peace during the 1965 Watts riots; was arrested in Washington for protesting Vietnam; performed benefit shows for the Congress of Racial Equality; and traveled to Tehran, Iran, in 1980 to attempt to negotiate the hostages' release.

    Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967 but lost to Richard Daley, then entered the race for U.S. president a year later. A write-in candidate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, he received some 47,000 votes.  Gregory performed in Jackson, Mississippi at the 50th Anniversary Conference of Mississippi Freedom Summer.


    In the winter of 1963, white authorities cut off commodities in Leflore and Sunflower countieswhere SNCC was making its biggest effort in Mississippi. The optional federal government program permitted poor counties to receive surplus government food or “commodities” for distribution to the poor. In the sharecropped cotton plantation land of the Delta, this food was vital to making it through the winter.

    SNCC put out a national call for food. When Dick Gregory heard about the surplus food cut-off, he chartered a plane and sent 14,000 pounds of food to Greenwood. This was a first step that would lead the renowned comedian into increasingly deeper involvement with the Southern Civil Rights Movement. Both the surplus food cutoff and Gregory’s relief, noted Bob Moses, enabled many for the first time to see clearly “the connection between political participation and food on their table.” SNCC staff handed out food and voter registration forms.

    In the spring, SNCC organizers invited Gregory to speak at a mass meeting in Greenwood. The community had never heard a Black man speak publicly in the manner that Gregory did. He made fun of the police, calling them, “a bunch of illiterate whites who couldn’t even pass the test themselves.” Gregory also called out the local preachers reluctant to involve themselves with the Movement and said, “These handkerchief heads don’t realize this area is going to break … If you have to pray in the street, it’s better than worshiping with a man who is less than a man!” The meeting erupted into laughter and applause. A week later, 31 ministers signed a statement in support of the voting rights drive.

    A photograph of Dick Gregory at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, 1964, George Ballis, Take Stock

    Dick Gregory at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, 1964, George Ballis, Take Stock

    Gregory did not flinch from putting himself in the path of danger. Once in a mass meeting in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a bomb was tossed through a window, and people started rushing towards the door. Gregory grabbed the microphone, and said, “Where are you going? The man who threw it is outside God’s house. The Man who’s supposed to save you lives here.” Someone picked up the bomb and threw it back outside, and the meeting continued. The Clarksdale police chief denied that his officers were responsible for the bomb, “If one of our men threw that bomb,” he said “you’d better believe it would have gone off.”

    Gregory was constantly speaking to white authorities in startling, unexpected ways. During the protests in Greenwood, a police officer dragged Gregory across the street. “Thanks a million,” Gregory told him, “up north police don’t escort me across the street.” On another occasion, he wagged his finger in the faces of white policemen gathered in front of the county courthouse. “Who you calling nigger,” he told them, “You ain’t nothing but niggers yourselves. Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,” he continued while still wagging his finger.

    Gregory continued working with SNCC throughout the sixties. He traveled with SNCC’s Freedom Singers and included jokes about the South in his act. In his memoir, Gregory wrote, “I really hadn’t planned to lead the marching [in Greenwood], but looking at those beautiful faces ready to die for freedom, I knew I couldn’t do less.”  (With thanks to the SNCC Digital Gateway and The Hollywood Reporter).

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  • Eddie C. Brown, Jr.

    Eddie C. Brown, Jr.

    “His devotion, eloquence and generosity of spirit has ennobled and adorned the movement in our time. Because of his quiet self-confidence and humility he never sought publicity but thousands, especially poor folk, here and on the Continent have had their lives vastly improved by Ed’s effectiveness and compassion. He is truly one of the great un-sung heroes of our generation. We shall not soon see his like again.”[Ekwueme Michael Thelwell]

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  • Faye Bellamy Powell

    Faye Bellamy Powell

    Faye Bellamy was born in May, 1938 in Pennsylvania. She joined the US Air Force shortly after graduating from high school, and served at Ft. Dix, NJ.


    While working at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, her cousin Lee Jack Morton told her about SNCC. She enlisted and went to work in SNCC’s Selma, Alabama office, arriving in Selma on January 1, 1965.

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  • George Ware

    George Ware

    George W. Ware Jr., also known as Gro Hungan Yabofé Noványón Idizol, was an educator and co-founder of the Black Music Association.

    He died Oct. 5, 2012, of lung cancer. He was 72.

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  • Gwen Patton

    Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton died suddenly on May 11, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama.
    She was the first female President of the Tuskegee Institute student body in 1965 and she used her power to build a student movement. She was the Direct Action Chair for the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (SNCC affiliate) in the mid-1960’s.
    Her memoir is due to be published soon.
    Gwen was among the founding members of the National Rainbow Coalition and the Southern Rainbow Education Project.
    She was a youth founding member of the (Black) Alabama Democratic Conference in 1960, an organization dedicated to getting Black people registered as voters. She also became a youth organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and SCLC.
    As a student at Tuskegee University, she served as the first female student government association president. As a SNCC organizer, she was one of the founders of its Women's Commission and served as the first commission chair. She founded the National Anti-War, Anti-Draft Union and the National Association of Black Students. Based on Freedom of Information files, Gwen was under surveillance and classified under active investigation by the FBI and the CIA.
    Dr. Patton earned her bachelor's degree in English and history at Tuskegee, where she was told by Alabama state officials that she would never get a job in Alabama because of her movement activities. She earned her master's in history and the art of teaching from Antioch College, and her doctorate in political history and higher education administration from Union Graduate School.
    Her movement activities were interspersed with teaching at several colleges in the East and Southeast. Gwen was born 1943 in Michigan and moved to Montgomery, Alabama at age 16 to live with her grandmother.  After graduate school, she returned to Montgomery in 1977 and continued her movement activities while teaching at local universities and colleges.
    Dr. Patton most recently worked as an archivist for H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College, which houses special collections of Pioneers of the Voting Rights Movement. She was in great demand, locally, nationally and internationally, as a speaker and lecturer on the civil/voting rights movement. Dr. Patton was Montgomery Coordinator for the National Historic Voting Rights Trail and served on its National Advisory Council.
    For more about Dr. Gwen Patton, see:
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  • Ivanhoe Donaldson

    Ivanhoe Donaldson
    Ivanhoe Donaldson  died April 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.  He was born in 1941 in New York City, the son of a policeman.  He graduated from Michigan State University, where he became involved in the civil rights movement by delivering food to Mississippi sharecroppers during the winter of 1962-63, driving a truck loaded with supplies from Michigan to Clarksdale, MS.  He soon began working full-time as a SNCC Field Secretary.
    He was campaign manager for Julian Bond’s 1965 successful campaign for a seat in the Georgia state legislature and was SNCC’s point person at the Selma-to-Montgomery march.  In 1968, Donaldson helped found Afro-American Resources, Inc., which ran the Drum and Spear Bookstore,Drum and Spear Press, and the Center for Black Education in Washington, D.C. He was also a visiting lecturer for Afro-American courses at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst . Donaldson advised and worked for Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry for many years.
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  • Jesse Lee Harris

    Jesse Lee Harris

    SNCC veteran Jesse Lee Harris died January 28, 2015 in Jackson, Mississippi, age 75.

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  • Julian Bond

    Julian Bond
    Julian Bond, Vice-Chair of the SNCC Legacy Project, died on August 15, 2015 at his vacation home in Florida.  He was 75.  He was a long-time resident of Washington, DC. Read More
  • Julius Lester

    Julius Lester, SNCC photographer 1966-1968, died January 18, 2018 surrounded by his family in Belchertown, Massachusetts.  He was 78 years old.  A renowned author, musician, activist and photographer who taught for three decades at the University of Massachusetts, 

    Lester was born in St. Louis on Jan. 27, 1939. He grew up in Kansas City, Kan., the son of a minister, and later Nashville, Tenn., where in 1960 he received an English degree from the historically black Fisk University.

    Lester was a true polymath. He wrote dozens of critically acclaimed books, for children — including a retelling of the Br’er Rabbit tales and an exploration of slavery, “To Be a Slave” — as well as nonfiction and novels for adults. He was also a musician, and his very first book was a guide to the 12-string guitar, co-written with legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.


    Click here to hear Julius Lester talk and sing:


    In 1961, Lester moved to New York City, where he taught banjo and guitar, performed as a folk singer, hosted a talk radio show on WBAI and hosted a television show on WNET.

    It was while he was a folk singer in New York City that Lester, in 1964, decided to travel to Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.

    “Going to Mississippi in ’64, you knew you could be arrested, you knew you could be killed, you knew you could be injured. And so it’s not something you did lightly, not something you did because it was going to be fun,” Lester told PBS in a 2014 interview. “But there was this feeling inside of me that it was just something I had to do.”

    In addition to using his musical gifts at mass meetings and rallies, Lester also chronicled the civil rights movement as a photographer working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Those photographs were later part of a civil rights exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, and his larger body of work has also been featured in solo shows at many galleries. 


    Click here to learn more about Julius Lester's work with SNCC:


    In 1971, Lester became a professor of Afro-American studies at UMass Amherst, where he remained until his retirement in 2003. During his time at UMass, he won the Distinguished Teacher’s Award, the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship and the Chancellor’s Medal. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education named Lester the state’s Professor of the Year in 1988.


    Journey to Judaism

    When he was a child, Lester learned that his great-grandfather Adolph Altschul was Jewish, and this knowledge was one of the factors in his conversion to Judaism in the early 1980s. In 1988, he became a professor of Judaic studies at UMass, and he served as a lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, for around a decade. Lester chronicled his journey to Judaism in his book “Lovesong: Becoming a Jew.”

    In his retirement, Lester lived in Belchertown with his wife, Milan Sabatini.

     Lester was active on Facebook, where his page has nearly 3,000 followers. It was on Facebook that his daughter Lian Amaris kept the world updated about his condition in his last days, and where she announced that he had died.

    Facebook also provided a platform for Lester, a man of many words, to write a public statement to the world on Jan. 3 in what would be his final post.

    In it, Lester reflects on his health, as well as his gratitude for the space that his Facebook page provided for him to continue to teach.

    “Again, I am so grateful to all of you who shared so much wonderful energy with me, indeed who lavished wonderful energy on me,” were the last words he published, before signing off with a take care of yourselves and much love.


    Julius is survived by his wife, five children, and eight grandchildren.

    Click here for the New York Times obituary:


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  • Lawrence Guyot

    Lawrence Guyot

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Lawrence Guyot, the scion of the Civil Rights Movement who later turned his efforts to statehood for the District of Columbia died Nov. 23, 2012. He was 73.


    Guyot died at home after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease. Friends who had spoken with him in recent weeks said he was elated at having seen the reelection of President Obama, of whom he was an ardent supporter. He told the AFRO he voted early because he wanted to make sure his vote was counted as his health failed.

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  • Marion Barry

    Marion Barry

    Marion Barry, SNCC’s first Chairman, died November 23, 2014 in Washington, DC, age 78.    In April 1960 he  attended SNCC's founding conference in Raleigh, NC , representing the Nashville Student Movement, and was elected chair of the new organization by the delegates.   He was a former 4-term Mayor of Washington, DC, and 4-term member of the Washington, DC City Council.

  • Matthew Jones

    Matthew Jones

    A reflection by Bernice Johnson Reagon:

    In the 1960’s, as events in the Civil Rights Movement escalated, so did the repertoire of songs. Not only were there considerably more songs sung but their subject matter, form and cultural origins broadened. Up to the summer of 1963, the music created in the South in the midst of local community based organizing fell into congregational styled singing. These songs were structured so that they could be sung by large numbers of people and could be learned in the process of singing. From the period of the sit-ins there were songs styled in the rhythm and blues, doo wop tradition and they tended to be sung in small harmony groups by strong harmony singers.

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  • Robert C. Mants, Jr.

    Robert C. Mants, Jr.

    SLP December 7, 2011


    The SNCC Legacy Project mourns the death today of former SNCC Field Secretary Robert C. Mants, Jr. (1943-2011). Bob suffered a massive heart attack.

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  • Silas Norman

    Silas Norman

    SNCC Project Director in Alabama, passed on July 17, 2015 at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, age 74.   While a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Silas first came to Selma in June of 1964 as a member of the Selma Literacy Project and facilitated Malcolm X’s visit to Selma in early 1965.  Read More
  • William (Bill) Hall

    William (Bill) Hall

    William (Bill) Hall


    William “Winky” Hall grew up in Harlem and attended Howard University, where he first met fellow Civil Rights activists Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture) and Cleve Sellars, among others.  His early Civil Rights experience took place along Route 40 in Maryland, demonstrating at restaurants in Baltimore and walking along picket lines in Washington DC with Julius Hobson and fellow classmates from the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG).  In April 1964, he went to the eastern shore of Maryland to work with Gloria Richardson-Dandridge.  Much later, he went to Atlanta to become a campus traveler for SNCC in Alabama, recruiting other college kids to SNCC projects in Alabama.  He was based in Selma and worked with Dr. King, James Bevil, Andy Young and others in SCLC.
    He was on the second and third marches across the Edmond Petits Bridge.  As it turned out, the first march was lead by John Lewis, the second by Ralph Abernathy and the third by Dr. King.  It was the third march that was permitted to continue onto Montgomery; the others were turned backed.  Throughout the march, he traveled to college campuses recruiting kids to join.  Bill Hall was one of the SNCC leaders that remained after the march that demonstrated in front of the capitol with Jim Forman and college kids from Montgomery State and Tuskegee Institute.  He was beaten and arrested in Montgomery with Jim Forman and several others.

    When Malcolm X came to Selma, it was Bill Hall who escorted him into the church.  As a fellow New Yorker, Bill Hall invited Malcolm to Selma.  As fate would have it, Bill Hall and several Tuskegee students had been released from jail in Selma when he arrived on Tuskegee’s campus.  He approached Malcolm and asked him to come to Selma and the next day they went.  After the events at Selma, he remained in Alabama, while close friend Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) went to Lowndes County.  Bill Hall was responsible for organizing the students group at Tuskegee that later joined SNCC.  He would work closely with people such as Sammy Young, a college student and recruit from Tuskegee who was shot in the head.  James Forman later chronicled this event in his book, “Sammy Young Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement.”

    In the fall of 1965, he returned to New York City.  He wanted to take his grass roots organizing experience home.  Once there, he became involved in housing and school issues.  In New York, he began to focus on Africa – demonstrating in front of the South Africa Consulate Office in New York protesting the treatment of black people and the Sharpesville massacre.  He was arrested several times in New York protesting at the South Africa Consulate Office.  On one occasion, he was jailed protesting apartheid along with Julian and James Bond, Jim Forman, John Lewis, Cleve Sellers and Willie Ricks.  He recalled being greatful that Harry Belafonte and Sidney Portier bailed them out.
    In December 1967, he joined Stokely Carmichael in Washington DC.  At the same time, he applied for admission to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. – sensing contradictions in New York City’s school system.  In the 1960s, in New York City, only four African Americans had supervisory licenses in education.  This license qualified one to serve as a school principal in New York City.  It was hard to imagine that a school system with 1,000 school buildings had only four black people with the qualifications to serve as school principals.  As he recalled, there was only one who actually served in such a capacity.  To his knowledge, no Hispanics had any such licenses.
    On a brighter note, he was Stokely Carmichael’s best man when he married Miriam Makeba, and they all lived together briefly in Washington DC – until September 1968, when he left to go to Harvard.  “I initially went to get a Masters in Education,” he wrote. “But I later decided to enter the doctoral program and much later decided to complement the credentials with a Masters in Business.  During my time at Harvard, I managed to talk Cleve into coming to the Ed School.  By the time I left Harvard, I had four graduate degrees, a wife, a new son, a daughter from a previous marriage and a corporate job on Park Avenue.”  In a sort of homecoming, Bill Hall later went on to become superintendent of schools in Harlem.  He also served as school superintendent in Hartford, CT and New Brunswick, NJ.
    Over the years, he also worked for investment banks Lehman Brothers, Chemical Bank, Manufacturers Hanover, etc.  Additionally, he served as CFO for the District of Columbia, before finally reigniting his passion for education—teaching finance on the university level at Philadelphia area colleges and universities.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Submitted by Diallo Hall.
  • Willie B. Wazir Peacock

     Willie Wazir Peacock died n San Pablo, California on Sunday morning April 17, 2016 in San Pablo, California.   He was in hospice care at home.  His Colleagues in the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement wrote: "We will have a memorial service at the Berkeley Self Realization Fellowship Temple but we don't have a date.  And we believe there will be a memorial in Mississippi as well."
    Wazir was born in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi in 1937  He wrote:
        " In 1960, while a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, MS. , I had the first opportunity to express my activism. We all knew about the sit-ins by black college students in Raleigh, North Carolina and some Rust students wanted to show our solidarity. The balcony of the movie theater in Holly Springs was segregated so we organized a student boycott of the theater. We tried to get the students at a nearby industrial college to join us, but the president made them go to the theater and break the boycott."
         "In fall, 1960, we met our first SNCC representative, Jim Bevel, when he came to Rust with Sam Block and Dewey Green, Jr. We organized other students to meet with them and later Dion Diamond, also from SNCC (who was arrested on charges from Louisiana and therefore couldn't return). Then came Frank Smith from Atlanta, who moved to Holly Springs in early 1962. I worked on voter registration all over northeastern Mississippi and also organized a credit union with Frank until I graduated from Rust in August."
    Wazir worked for SNCC from 1960-1966 in Mississippi.  
    For more about Wazir's life and work, see
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