June 22, 2017

Joan Browning writes to notify us of the passing of Sheila Michaels, an early SNCC staffer.  " Dorie and I met her in Jackson in 1961 and she was at the 50th Mississippi Summer Project reunion at Tougaloo.  Sheila was a stalwart with CORE and SNCC in the early days," writes Joyce Ladner.
 

June 22, 2017

Letter from John Churchville:
I'm pleased to announce the publication of my new book--Envisioning the African/Edenic Future: The Path to Our Self-Actualization in Freedom.
Check it out at: www.createspace.com/7253067. Meanwhile, have a great day!
(John Churchville is a SNCC veteran of Southwest Georgia and Mississippi).

June 18,  2017

Letter from Marilyn Lowen:
 
Dear SNCC Sisters and Brothers,
 
My youngest son Khaiim Kelly attended the 1988 SNCC conference in Hartford, CT.
He had just turned 10 that week.
 
Nearly 30 years later he is teaching at Trinity and sent me this link.
http://digitalrepositoryu.trincoll.edu/sncc/
 
While it is fresh in my mind, I want to share this link with folk on the program.
 
It contains the complete program of the conference and good quality vimeo recordings of the panels.  Howard Zinn, James Forman, Julian Bond, June Johnson, Lawrence Guyot, Bob Mants, Silas and Martha Norman, Jack Chatfield and others are speakers.
 
The people listed below appear on the program on this link.
 
Aneb Kgositsile (Gloria Larry House)
 
Dr. Bernice Reagon
 
Bob Zellner
 
Casey Hayden
 
Cecil Gray (Victoria Gray Adams' son)
 
Cleve Sellers
 
Diane Nash
 
Ekweume Michael Thelwell
 
Hollis Watkins
 
Jean Wheeler Smith Young
 
Julie Guyot (Guyot's daughter)
 
Joyce Ladner
 
Yours in a Constant Struggle,
Marilyn Lowen
Julie Guyot (Guyot's daughter)
May 7, 2017    
New York Times article about Fannie Lou Hamer and food sovereignty:
 
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/05/06/opinion/sunday/the-hidden-radicalism-of-southern-food.html?smid=fb-share

May 7, 2017

The Hidden History of the SNCC Research Department:
 
https://news.littlesis.org/2017/05/02/the-hidden-history-of-the-sncc-research-department/

April 24, 2017  

“Come Let Us Build a New World Together”: The SNCC Digital Gateway

By Lauren Tilton

It can be challenging to teach about the civil rights movement. For many reasons, from time constraints to lack of access to archives, the liberation struggle is often framed through its most prominent leader, Martin Luther King Jr. Now, thanks to a partnership between Duke University and the SNCC Legacy Project, an organization comprised of SNCC participants, teachers have access to the SNCC Digital Gateway. The digital exhibition and archive uses essays, documentary sources, and visualizations to dive deep into the workings of the youth-led Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Throughout the 1960s and 70s, SNCC empowered black communities in the Deep South through grassroots organizing and planning actions such as freedom schools, sit-ins, and voting registration drives. The SNCC Digital Gateway offers students the opportunity to explore grassroots histories of the Civil Rights Movement while broadening their understanding of who accomplished social change and how. 

The National Museum of American History in DC displays the counter segment where four African American college students staged a sit-in at a “whites only” counter at a store in Greensboro, NC in 1960. UserFan/Wikimedia Commons/CC BY-SA 3.0

The site offers users seven gateways into SNCC’s activism: About, History, Timeline, People, Inside SNCC, Map, and Resources. Because of the depth of the content, I’d recommend providing students with some initial guidance on how to engage with the project. While it might be tempting to go straight to the History gateway, I tell students to start with About and read “The Story of SNCC,” which provides a brief overview of the organization and how it fits into a constellation of organizations fighting for freedom.

Next, I encourage them to read the History gateway which focuses on major SNCC events from 1943 to 1969, including the sit-in at Greensboro and the Freedom Rides. The timeline helps students keep events organized and see them in a broader civil rights context while noticing organizational changes within the SNCC. The design suggests a static timeline, but it is much richer than it appears. For example, students can click on “1965–1969 Black Power Takes Power: Political & Economic Organizing” and learn about how the SNCC organized around issues of economic justice and came to support the anti-Vietnam War movement.

From here, I recommend letting students explore on their own. For example, the Timeline links to pages including expository essays and documents. Clicking on “SNCC makes contact in Lowndes County” leads to a brief and well-researched essay about the efforts of Stokely Carmichael and fellow SNCC organizer Bob Mants in the infamous Georgia county that typified the violence of white supremacy. The right side of the page includes primary documents such as an article about SNCC’s organizing in The Movement and a 1988 audiovisual interview with Mants where he reflects back on the events that took place in 1965. The materials include links to the institutional and private archives that provided the materials. Along with introducing students to primary documents, the project thus encourages students to explore the archives. It also shows students the importance of giving credit through citations.

North Carolina Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee members, who helped organize and inspire sit-ins across the South, meet at the Tottle House lunch counter in Atlanta in 1960. U.S. Embassy The Hague/Flickr/CC BY-ND 2.0

Other gateways include PeopleInside SNCCPerspectives, and MapPeople brings attention to lesser-known activists and organizers like Martha Prescod (Norman). The page on Prescod, for example, helps illuminate the complexities of organizing through a short essay about her work as well as primary source materials including an oral and audiovisual interview. One possible assignment is to ask each student to select an interview of a woman and assess how race, gender, and sexuality constrained the revolutionary possibilities of SNCC.

Inside SNCC offers essays with documentary materials that address major themes such as governance, culture, political policy, and coalition building. This is particularly useful for helping students understand the organization’s structure as well as the central role of the arts through projects such as Freedom Singing and Freedom Southern Theatre. The Perspectives gateway has essays written by activists who reflect in the first person on their experiences. It also includes a rich collection of audio and video interviews with activists about Black Power. The latter in particular allows students to see activists reflecting back on SNCC, helping students see how historical actors framed their aims and accomplishments in the past and the present. The interviews can also help students learn how to assess oral histories. Teachers can ask students to compare how a person reflecting on their experience in 2016, like Jennifer Lawson, might frame their story and understanding of SNCC back in the 1960s. This might be of particular interest to those teaching about historical and cultural memory.

The Map section visualizes SNCC’s presence geographically. It allows students to immediately see a cluster of activities in Mississippi, where the organization concentrated its efforts. Clicking on a place brings the user to a page that lists the people and events in that location. Each name links to the People section, while an event brings users back to the Timeline. In fact, each of these gateways include in-text links that move the user across the site. The ability to click and move to another section of the site helps create a nonlinear narrative that encourages discovery and curiosity. A functionality ideal for teaching, students can move through the site creating connections across events, people, perspectives, and themes.

For instructors looking to link the 1960s to today, the Resources gateway is a great place to turn. Our recent presidential election has made clear that the road to ending racial inequality is anything but straight, and the struggle continues as exemplified by the Black Lives Matter movement. I have found students eager to discuss the connections they are seeing between the past and today, yet I want them to do so in a way that isn’t reduced to narratives of progress or claims that nothing has changed. The interviews with SNCC activists reflecting on their work in the intervening 40 years show that organizing for change is a continual and uneven struggle. Because the interviews are long, I’d recommend selecting short clips of three to four minutes and assigning them. Students can then discuss how the SNCC informed their later activism and also its continuing impact.

Whether interested in understanding SNCC in its moment or its legacies, the gateways build on each other to explain the intricacies of the organization and its role in the broader freedom struggle. One could easily use the project to focus several weeks of a course on SNCC or simply mine it for additional materials for a lecture. The hours of audio and visual material woven throughout the site are prime materials for close readings. The SNCC Gateway is, thus, an incredible resource for teachers and students alike who are looking to immerse themselves in the world of SNCC while learning about the broader grassroots organizing during the Civil Rights Movement.

 

Lauren Tilton is assistant professor of digital humanities and research fellow at University of Richmond’s Digital Scholarship Lab. She directs Photogrammar, a platform for visualizing photography, and is co-principal investigator of Participatory Media, a digital project exploring participatory community media from the 1960s. She is co-author of Humanities Data in R.

April 18, 2017​

SNCC Veteran Judy Richardson and James Forman, Jr. celebrate the release of James' new book "Locking Up Our Own" in Washington, DC.
 

 

A discussion about Lowndes County at Duke U on April 10, 2017
Organizing Lowndes County: Then & Now 

March 2, 2017

Why we can be hopeful.

SNCC veteran and chairperson of the SNCC Legacy Project Courtland Cox shared with Teaching for Change why we can be hopeful in these political times. He noted, “A divided America is a good thing.” Listen to this seven minute video clip to hear why.
https://youtu.be/Qq_i_KRA4ns

Former Ashfield Selectman to be honored for work with Freedom Singers

  • Bill Perlman of Ashfield. Recorder/Paul Franz 

By RICHIE DAVIS, Recorder Staff, Greenfield, Massachusetts
Tuesday, February 28, 2017
ASHFIELD — In former Ashfield Selectman Bill Perlman’s distant past are his days as a member of the legendary Freedom Singers.

At 18, he was asked by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee to become part of the group that lent their voices to the Civil Rights movement at rallies, in concerts and fundraisers throughout the South and beyond.

On Saturday, more than 50 years after the “Bloody Sunday” attack by armed police officers on demonstrators who tried to march on the Alabama state capital to win voting rights, Perlman will receive a Freedom Flame Award.

“A lot people have the view that the Civil Rights movement was in the 1960s, and that was it, that it solved all the problems and went away,” Perlman said in 2015, when he brought The Freedom Singers to Ashfield for a concert to mark the sesquicentennial of the Selma-to-Montgomery March.

“But the Civil Rights movement started in 1619,” he said, “when the first slaves came, and not only is it still going on, it’s also still needed.”

 

The 70-year-old retired electrical engineer, who was a longtime Franklin Regional Council of Governments Executive Committee member, was invited to take part in the 52nd annual Bridge Crossing Jubilee in Selma this weekend to receive the award in honor of his activism as part of the civil rights and voting rights movements. He is the youngest member of the otherwise all-black group that formed in 1962.

The celebration comes as voting rights are once again under attack. On Monday, President Donald Trump’s administration said the federal government no longer plans to challenge a strict voter ID law in Texas.

The Justice Department informed plaintiffs in the case that it will be filing documents to formally drop its opposition to the Texas law, in what the Associated Press called “a stark reversal under new Attorney General Jeff Sessions from the Obama White House, which joined a lawsuit against Texas in 2013.”

A federal appeals court last year ruled that the Texas law discriminated against minorities and the poor, and it ordered changes ahead of the November election.

Faya Rose Toure, executive director of Selma Jubilee, wrote to Perlman, “People who come often say the Jubilee is a pilgrimage, as we host people from all over the country and the world to commemorate and celebrate these historical events, as well as to inspire and educate those who attend regarding the pressing issues of the present related to voting rights, civil rights, and human rights.”

Toure added, “Jubilee also serves as an opportunity for all those who value these rights to come together as a community of people for four days of communion and serious discussions, speakers and educational workshops, renewal of old friendships, recognition of those individuals who have made a difference, and to enjoy good food, music, art and entertainment.”

Previous Freedom Flame Award recipients include Harry Belafonte, Dick Gregory, Jesse Jackson, Rosa Parks, Andrew Young and many others.

When James Forman, executive secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, invited Perlman to be one of the Freedom Singers after hearing him as a last-minute substitute playing his Martin 00-21 guitar at a 1965 fundraising event, the teen had recently dropped out after a month of community college in Brooklyn.

Each member was paid a $10 weekly wage as SNCC staffers, and the group’s main role was to raise money for the organization, singing, “Which Side Are You On,” “We Shall Overcome” and other songs on Northern college campuses such as Yale, Brandeis and Mount Holyoke. The group also performed at house parties as well as in large concert halls in Boston, New York, Chicago and elsewhere around the North, playing a 28-day tour of eastern Canada.

In rallies in Southern churches, the singers tried to boost morale and bring people together.

Unlike song leaders, who specifically led rallies and marches, Perlman recalled, “The Freedom Singers were performers — entertainers. We came up with interesting, complex harmonies. That was very different than getting hundreds of people singing.”

 

February 17, 2017

Interview with Bob Moses in the Southern Illinois University newspaper

http://www.theintelligencer.com/news/article/Remembering-civil-right-fighter-Bob-Moses-10940669.php

February 7, 2017 The Chronicle at Duke University.  Article by Bre Bradham.

SNCC legacy project brings together former members of the civil rights movement

In the early 1960s, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee organized youth across the South in the fight for desegregation. On Saturday night at North Carolina Central University, six veterans of the movement came together in Durham to recount how they became involved with the movement.

Although the five activists—Faith Holsaert, Shirley Sherrod, Larry Rubin, Annette White and Janie Rambeau—came from a variety of backgrounds, their stories intertwined through their involvement with SNCC and their experiences in Albany, Georgia, the site of one of the toughest civil rights battles.

“[Albany was] one of the most important of the southern movements of the 1960s, and arguably the most ignored,” said Charlie Cobb, the event's facilitator and a board member for the SNCC Legacy Project who worked with SNCC in the Mississippi Delta. “All the people seated at this table have been important to the movement that emerged in southwest Georgia.”

The panel’s discussion was organized through a partnership between the SNCC Legacy Project, Duke University Libraries and the Center for Documentary Studies. It is the first of four sessions planned for 2017. Each discussion will focus on a particular topic—from Saturday night’s panel on southwestern Georgia to a future talk on SNCC’s international connections.

Karlyn Forner, the SNCC digital gateway project manager for Duke Libraries, explained that the former SNCC members' discussions will be included on a website that aims to share the organization's history.

“It’s trying to tell the story of the movement from the inside-out. Part of the premise is that the movement’s history has been told by historians and scholars, but not necessarily the people themselves who created the history,” Forner said. “So it’s really about trying to tell the history of the movement that the participants recognize and know.”

The history of SNCC began not far from NCCU on the campus of Shaw University in Raleigh. All of the veterans, however, had their own stories to share about how they became involved with the movement.

Janie Rambeau, a leader of the movement at Albany State College who was expelled because of her involvement in the movement, said that she cannot recall exactly when she became involved because she always considered herself part of it.

Rambeau grew up hearing her parents’ stories about discrimination and activism but began to see it more “outright” for herself when she was in high school—water fountains were segregated and labeled with signs, and the “colored” bathroom was dirtier. She was arrested while singing “We Shall Overcome” on a rainy December morning.

Annette White, who lost her title of Miss Albany State College due to protesting, similarly cited her early beginnings in the movement. She said that she was delivered by the only black, female doctor in Southwest Georgia in August 1939.

“That’s when it started,” she said“I was in a totally segregated city on the south side of town, where black people lived. Everything that went on in that city affected me in some way. As I grew, my parents explained what being in a segregated city meant. My father wanted me to know what was out there so I could survive in that type of society.”

Faith Holsaert came to Albany from New York City where she first became involved in SNCC. When SNCC organizers approached her about going down South in the summer of 1962, she initially said no but then tragic events in Georgia changed her mind.

"At the end of that summer three churches were burned in southwest Georgia," she said. "For whatever reason, that really lit my fuse."

Larry Rubin, who is a Jewish veteran of the movement along with Holsaert, said that unlike other white northerners who ventured South, he was not shocked that people trying to register to vote were beaten up and fire-hosed.

“I know this is hard to believe,” he said with sarcasm, “but at that time this country was run by white, racist, white-supremacists. The reason it was is because a lot of their constituents were not able to exercise their right to vote.”

Rubin cited his Jewish heritage as one of the reasons that he felt he “had no choice” but to become part of the movement, leading him to move to southwest Georgia to join the efforts.

“I learned that part of my job was to be white in this movement,” he said. “To show people that blacks and whites can work together and that whites do not have to be in charge.”

Shirley Sherrod was born on a farm in “bad Baker County.” Her father died after being shot by a neighboring white farmer following a dispute over cows when she was 17. She said the night he died she made the decision to stay in the South and devote her life to making a difference. Sherrod joined SNCC a few years later.

Sheerod stressed that despite the passage of time, the need for activism has not ended.

“I’m still in that mode. I can’t separate the work after 52 years because it didn’t end,” she said. “The need for it is greater now, or almost as great now, as it was it back then. We need young people.”

 
 
A Remembrance from Bernice Johnson Reagon
Thank you Connie. We live today in a century our stances helped shape. I was born in Dougherty County Georgia, joined the youth council of the NAACP, then was a student leader of the Albany Movement. Fighting racial segregation was key to my formation as an activist voice, and in this century, I continue to be grateful that I lived to join and participate in that struggle.
Bernice Johnson Reagon
Remembering February 1, 1960
On Feb 1, 2017  Connie Curry wrote:
Dear friends.  Fifty-seven years ago today, I was driving to Atlanta to start a new job as director of the NSA Southern Student Humans Relation Project.  I had stopped in Greensboro, N.C. (my hometown) to pick up some things at my sister's house, was driving down West Market St. had the radio on and heard on the news--"Four students from A & T College have just been arrested at our downtown Woolworth's for sitting at the lunch counter and asking to be served......."    "what is going on, I thought" but picked up my things and drove to Atlanta.  I had been in Greensboro unintentionally at the same moments that began the student movement, that led to over 50,000 students in the south demonstrating at lunch counters, etc. by June of that year.  Well, you know the rest of the story, including my meeting Ella Baker in Atlanta, then Julian Bond, Charles McDew and many others and becoming a member of the SNCC Committee--first white woman.  The love and caring that we felt back in those early days lingers forever.  Was just listening to the news and while lots of things are mentioned about Feb. lst meanings--nothing about us. Well, that is their problem. "We'll walk hand in hand.  Black and White together.  The truth shall make us free and o and on."  Much love, Connie
 

Challenging Ourselves: Martin Luther King, the Movement, and Its Lessons for Today

This is a talk delivered by SNCC veteran Charles E. Cobb Jr. on Sunday, January 15, 2017 at the People’s Congregational Church in Washington, D.C. on the occassion of the Dr. Martin Luther King holiday.

By Charles E. Cobb

My thanks to Rev. Hopson, the congregation of Peoples church, and especially the church’s Board of Christian Social Action for inviting me here. I grew up in the Congregational church. My father Rev. Charles E. Cobb pastored St. John’s Congregational Church in Springfield Massachusetts, and later co-founded the UCC’s Commission for Racial Justice and became its first executive director. So I feel like I have come back home and welcome the opportunity to speak to you. Thank you.

Julian Bond

Julian Bond in Mississippi, 1963. Photo by Harvey Richards.

My friend and former co-worker in the movement Julian Bond, who is greatly missed, used to say that the primary misconception in the public’s perception of the southern civil rights movement can be boiled down to three short sentences. “Rosa sat down. Martin stood up. And then the white folks saw the light and saved the day.”

In the minds of many, the movement is thought of as mass protest in public spaces led by charismatic leaders. That is only partly true, however. The organizing tradition—a very old tradition, with roots in slave rebellions—better describes the movement. And, I want to push this forward as what is most relevant for continuing struggle in the 21st century as well as properly understanding movement history. And that does not mean that mass protest—those of yesteryear and those now, contradicts this tradition.

My approach to discussing the movement this morning is from the bottom up, or put another way, from the inside out since I was very much involved with the movement as a field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, or SNCC. We were an organization of grassroots organizers.

First, as much as the movement challenged segregation, racial discrimination and white supremacy, fundamental to real understanding of the movement are the challenges black people made to one another within the black community. This underappreciated dimension of the movement is as important today as it was more than half a century ago. Maybe even more important now, given the kind of violence we are witnessing in Chicago and other cities.

Martin Luther King was born today in 1929; we are celebrating his work. So before going further, let me tell you a story about Reverend King that is relevant to the point I have just made.

Few people give enough thought to the fact that before he achieved national and international renown as a civil rights leader, Martin Luther King was a young local minister in Montgomery, Alabama. How he emerged is important to understanding the emergence of the bus boycott there, which was driven by local people at the grassroots.

After Rosa Parks’s arrest, black Montgomery organized a highly successful one-day bus boycott. I am tempted here to discuss Mrs. Parks at length. She was much more than a weary dressmaker seeking a place to sit on the bus. As she put it, her life was “a history of being rebellious.”

E.D. Nixon and Rosa Parks in Montgomery on March 19, 1956. AP/Gene Herrick

At the end of the day, Montgomery’s black leadership—many of them ministers—met in Martin Luther King’s church to discuss continuing the boycott until the city committed to desegregation of bus seating. Most who spoke, expressed various degrees of reluctance and fear about doing this. Finally, the preeminent black leader of Montgomery—E.D. Nixon, one of A. Phillip Randolph’s union men and the former head of Alabama’s NAACP—rose and spoke. As the story came to me from Johnnie Carr, 95-years old when she was telling it, and part of a core group of women who had been working with Rosa Parks since the 1940s, Nixon basically accused the gathering of cowardice: “You preachers been eating these women’s fried chicken long enough without doing anything for them.” It was women, after all, riding buses across town into the white community to jobs as housekeepers and cooks and nursemaids who suffered regular humiliation traveling on public transportation. “Now,” Mr. Nixon continued, “it’s time to get up off your butts and do something for them!” It was then that a 26-year-old Martin Luther King stood up. Do we even think of Martin Luther King as a 26-year-old? “I am not a coward!” He said. The embarrassed gathering agreed to continue the boycott and Rev. King was elected head of the organization they formed at that meeting to continue the boycott—The Montgomery Improvement Association.

The way to understand this moment, I hope you see, is by understanding the kind of challenges black people were making to one another across the south. This is what drove struggle and change. Much of this still remains invisible. And broadening this with an almost equally invisible related point: The Movement thrust forward leaders, not the other way around.

However, as important as he was, I am not here this morning to discuss Martin Luther King. I intend to concentrate instead on Mississippi and its lessons, particularly as they apply to these times. That is the state where I worked as a SNCC field secretary from 1962 until 1967, and the state I know the best.

The vicious racial oppression that once so completely defined this state establishes a special kind of clarity for us this morning. To illustrate this, in a moment I will read to you a description of an encounter reported by another friend, and comrade, and hero from the days of Mississippi’s mid-20th century freedom struggle. Sam Block is his name. He, like almost everyone who formed the backbone of the southern Movement, is invisible and he died far too young from both the physical and psychological traumas of that struggle.

Rally for the Freedom Vote, Hinds County, 1963. Front row from left: NAACP leader Aaron Henry, SNCC organizers Sam Block and Willie Peacock, unidentified. Back row, Rev. Ed King with bandage on face. From crmvet.org

The words will come from a 1962 field report Sam wrote describing the early days of his efforts to organize around voter registration in the Mississippi Delta. Sam was the first of us—meaning the first of us who were young—18, 19, 20, 21 22 and 23-years-old—to organize for voting rights in the Mississippi Delta—cotton plantation country. The Delta was a vicious place where most black life had been reduced to plantation serfdom following the dismemberment of Reconstruction. The Delta was where the White Citizens Council was born. Sam began working in a town where the White Citizens Council was particularly powerful—Greenwood—county seat of Leflore County. Greenwood and the rest of the county, like most other Delta towns and counties, was two thirds black. When Sam arrived, there were more than 13,000 voting-age blacks in Leflore County, but only about 200 had succeeded in being registered. Listen to Sam’s report. The N-word, as we now say in polite company, is used in it; but it is necessary, I think. However, I apologize in advance for any discomfort its use causes. Here’s Sam:

We went up to register and it was the first time visiting the courthouse in Greenwood, Mississippi, and the sheriff came up to me and he asked me, he said, “Nigger where you from?” I told him, “Well I’m a native Mississippian.” He said, “Yeh, yeh, I know that, but where you from? I don’t know where you from.” I said, “Well, around some counties.” He said, “Well I know that, I know you ain’t from here ‘cause I know every nigger and his mammy.” I said, “You know all the niggers, do you know any colored people?” He got angry. He spat in my face and he walked away. So he came back and turned around and told me, “I don’t want to see you in town any more. The best thing you better do is pack your clothes and get out and don’t never come back no more.” I said, “Well, sheriff, if you don’t want to see me here, I think the best thing for you to do is pack your clothes and leave, get out of town, ‘cause I’m here to stay; I came here to do a job and this is my intention. I’m going to do this job…”

Now I think this exchange, which took place on the steps of the Leflore County courthouse, explains everything you need to know about the movement. Sam’s words were a promise and a prediction. Along with Sam, those of us in SNCC and CORE especially, dug in and stayed to do the job; were committed to doing the job, and drawing from deep wells of strength in black communities, broke the back of apartheid in Mississippi. But the outcome did not just affect Mississippi; it changed America. The job we did resulted in changing forever the rules of the national Democratic Party and that is what laid the groundwork for the Obama presidency. This is not boast, but history. Basically: In fighting for the right to vote—and winning—the door was opened to the possibility of winning any elected office, even the highest in the land. As the black abolitionist Fredrick Douglass pointed out more than 150 years ago and it’s as relevant now as then, “If there is no struggle there is no progress.” I stand here in praise of our struggle, and to testify that the violence underlying the Greenwood Sherriff’s words reveal the blood-soaked ground in Mississippi and across the American south that has been the price of progress. I stand here to insist that this must never be forgotten, and that there is a debt, a duty—an obligation we have—all of us—to repay this history with continuing struggle.

Approaching this history, there are, of course, some legitimate questions you may want answered in trying to grasp why I think Sam’s courthouse encounter with the sheriff was so significant. Who was Sam Block? He was only 22 when this happened; that’s kind of young, isn’t it? How did he get to Greenwood? What made him stay in defiance of the sheriff’s threat? The larger question is: Is there something we can use here today?

So, let’s look more closely at Sam. Youth comes immediately to mind in this consideration. As I said, he was just 22-years-old at the time of his confrontation with the sheriff. Largely missing from the narrative about the civil rights movement is that in many instances it was led by young people like Sam. To quote Martin Luther King speaking in support of sit-ins at a February 16, 1960 civil rights rally in Durham, North Carolina: “What is new in your fight is the fact that it was initiated, fed, and sustained by students.”

I was a 12th grade high school student when on February 1, 1960 the sit-in movement erupted in Greensboro, North Carolina. Black students there began refusing to leave whites only lunch counters and restaurants. Within two months such protests had spread to 80 southern cities. The student protests in Nashville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Georgia, and other southern cities that year, reached us via television and newspapers—especially black newspapers. And for me and most of my friends, before seeing these sit-ins, civil rights had been something grown-ups did. Now, looking at young people like Diane Nash or John Lewis or Julian Bond—students, my generation—what was coming through to us was that civil rights struggle was something we could do.

We see something similar in the way that protests over the 2012 murder of Trayvon Martin in Sanford Florida have led to an ever-expanding Movement for Black Lives that is led by young people. A whole new set of young leaders has begun to emerge and lay claim to the future they want to live in; launched a fight for their future. As a SNCC veteran, I see a lot of my younger self in this, and applaud it.

Amzie Moore, Mississippi, 1963. Photo by Harvey Richards.

Sam was also one of Amzie Moore’s people. That’s who sent him, via SNCC to Greenwood. SNCC, which grew out of the sit-in movement had by 1962 evolved into an organization of organizers, working closely and at the grassroots with older veterans of civil rights struggle—many of them local NAACP leaders like Amzie. You won’t know his name any more than you knew Sam’s, but you need to know some things about Amzie because understanding what he represents is another essential component of any real discussion about the movement.

Amzie Moore was the president of the Cleveland, Mississippi NAACP where Sam had been born and grew up, and had decided that he wanted to tap into and use the young energy he saw in the sit-in students. He admired what the students were doing, but was not interested in organizing sit-ins in his town; he wanted a voter registration campaign. He put that idea on our political plate, challenging our idea that “direct action” only meant sit-ins and picket lines of protest. Amize wanted to see the emergence of black power in the Delta. The black people were there; the registered black voters were not.

As we began working in the Delta, Amzie Moore’s home was our central headquarters. His house was an orientation center, a place for breakfast of scrambled eggs or for a spaghetti dinner; it provided telephone connections and was always full of conversation as well as Amzie’s sometimes grim, sometimes funny stories of Delta life and earlier civil rights struggle. Floodlights washed his backyard because he was certain that one night Ku Klux Klansmen, or white terrorists of some sort, would attack his home. Often Amzie, who had fought the Nazis overseas after all, sat in the bay window of his living room with rifles and pistols, waiting to repel an attack he was certain would come (which may be why it never came).

Our relationship with Amzie puts into perspective yet another important dimension of the movement: The convergence of young people—like Sam…or myself—with older people like Amzie—he was 49- years-old when we met him. I had just turned nineteen in 1962. They were willing to share their experiences and open up to us, networks that they had built over many years, even decades, of struggle.

Ella Baker (center) at the Highlander Center.

Ella Baker introduced us to Amzie. She was 59-years-old. You cannot talk of 20th century civil rights struggle without discussing this remarkable woman. And let me also say as an aside here, although it should really be central to any discussion, that you cannot talk about 20th century civil rights struggle without discussing the leadership of women. Ms. Baker was the NAACP’s Director of Southern Branches in the 1940s, was the person who organized Martin Luther King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) after the 1955-56 Montgomery, Alabama bus boycott. She immediately recognized the significance and potential of the emerging student sit-in movement in 1960 and negotiated 800 dollars from Rev. King to bring student protest leaders together at her alma mater, Shaw College in Raleigh, North Carolina. Out of this meeting came SNCC. As much as anyone, and more than most, her hands and her brains shaped the theory and methods of community organizing which defines the modern civil rights movement. Her main lesson: Organize from the bottom up. “Strong people don’t need strong leaders.”

Although a number of historical forces mark the era of modern civil rights struggle, in my opinion, the convergence of some very particular and very critical forces laid the foundation for the modern mid-20th century struggle from which there would be no turning back: the commitment to democracy and human rights embedded in the rhetoric of World War Two’s fight against fascism, the accelerating struggles for decolonization in Africa and Asia, post war economic and educational opportunity in the United States with so much of the world in rubble, and finally: the1954 supreme court decision in Brown v. Board of Education which began the process of dismantling the legal framework which underwrote U.S. apartheid. Importantly, that decision engendered hope, one of the indispensable ingredients for resistance.

Fannie Lou Hamer picketing on Freedom Day, 1964, in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.

What uniquely marks the era, though, is that in large numbers, people who were usually spoken for by others, began to speak for themselves, and not only that, spoke for themselves in such a way that they could not be ignored. This is very important so let me restate it in a slightly different way: Ordinary people who were usually spoken for by sympathetic advocates, or of, by hostile white supremacists, began speaking for themselves saying “this is what we demand; this is the kind of society in which we wish to live.” Montgomery, Alabama’s mid-1950s bus boycott and the now almost completely forgotten student struggle in 1951 Farmville, Virginia may be the post-World War II events that best represent this. I also think the person who probably best symbolizes this is Fannie Lou Hamer of Mississippi. She was a sharecropper and timekeeper on a Delta cotton plantation who became not only a leader of Mississippi’s 1960s movement, but a great national voice for civil rights. In any case, maids, sharecroppers, day workers, cooks, janitors, farmers, factory workers, beauticians and barbers, as I said, ordinary people who were usually spoken for or of—these voices began to be heard, or at least could no longer be ignored in the mid 20th century. And, through organization and direct action they changed a way of life.

It is worth noting as we seem to have entered an era where civil liberties are being eroded in the name of national security that the civil rights movement forced the issue of civil liberties. In 1963 Bernard Lafayette, one of the leaders of the Nashville Student Movement organized the first civil rights mass meeting in Selma, Alabama. When Sheriff Jim Clark burst in with his deputies and disrupted the meeting he was armed with a warrant from the circuit judge empowering him to prevent “insurrection.” And in the months leading up to the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project approached, the state legislature passed a “criminal syndicalism,” law. It empowered local authorities to redefine organized civil rights struggle (or labor union organizing) as “terrorism” with 10 years of imprisonment possible for any person who, “By word of mouth or written words or personal conduct advocates, instigates, suggests, teaches or aids and abets criminal syndicalism or the duty, necessity, propriety or expediency of committing crime, criminal syndicalism, sabotage, violence or any other unlawful method of terrorism as a means of accomplishing or effecting a change in agricultural or industrial ownership or control or effecting any political or social change….” Whew! After the first group of people tried to register to vote in Sunflower County, Mississippi, white nightriders shot up the black community. In Ruleville, a tiny Delta town, two girls were wounded. I was arrested for the shooting, by the mayor, who said I had done it to gain publicity for a failing movement. I was let go the next morning. If also charged and convicted as a criminal syndicalist I could have had 10 years in jail added to whatever sentence I was given for the shooting.

Looking across today’s political landscape I cannot say that such oppressive legislation is no longer possible. Fear often leads to tyranny.

In the United States today, with civil rights and civil liberties so vulnerable, the most important lesson of the civil rights movement is still relevant. You have to make a demand for the kind of society in which you want to live—especially if you want to live in a free society. As we used to say, “Freedom is not free.”

And this brings us to the Movement for Black Lives today. Alicia Garza, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter wrote a year or so ago, “When we say Black Lives Matter, we are talking about the ways in which Black people are deprived of our basic human rights and dignity. It is an acknowledgement [that] Black poverty and genocide is state violence. It is an acknowledgment that 1 million Black people are locked in cages in this country–one half of all people in prisons or jails–is an act of state violence. It is an acknowledgment that Black women continue to bear the burden of a relentless assault on our children and our families and that assault is an act of state violence.” Ms. Garza’s framing mirrors the concerns with systemic oppression that we held while fighting for change in the South.

I, for one, think their protests have been powerful and effective. Now they face the question of organizing beyond protest, a question we had to face too. A question we also have to face is how to support this young movement. We might begin by talking to them seriously about their ideas. I believe the earlier movement history I have offered here can be of some use to the young people working to maintain our ongoing struggle today. Obviously, while not everything from our era will be useful for 21st century activists, there is a core reality that strong movements are built by developing inclusive relationships capable of knitting together strategies formed as a result of listening to ordinary people’s experiences and ideas for change. More than any single thing this is what the movement did in order to engage in effective struggle. I think doing this in the black urban communities that now form the heart of black America is much more difficult than what we were faced with in the rural south of the 1960s, but the basic principle of digging in and finding a language that works remains fundamental. This is a conversation we do not have time for this morning. But I do know that this discussion has begun among some of the groups that form the Movement for Black Lives. So, as the Mozambicans used to say in their struggle for independence from Portugal—a Luta Continua, the struggle continues.

Finally, I ask you to consider this which can serve as a theme for today’s struggle as much as it served as the founding principles of the United States in 1787:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

For all the contradictions found throughout U.S. history this is the core, though still unrealized, ideal of the country. But do we really want to do this? Government as we’ve known it since the country’s inception has always been ambivalent and at many times, hostile to this ideal. And this idea is really the heart of my message to you this morning; what we learn in the passage of time from Martin Luther King’s emergence to the now of Black Lives Matter. It’s the emergence of ordinary people as leaders and spokespeople who are the real force for change—people who keep their eyes on the prize, as the old song goes. And today, this need is more urgent than it has ever been. And perhaps, too, more possible. I am, in effect, challenging each one of you to be the change. A luta continua.

Charles Cobb and SNCC veteran Philippa Jackson, who introducted Cobb at the church service.

Thank you.

Charlie Cobb

Peoples Congregational Church

Washington, DC

January 15, 2017

 

Charles E. Cobb Jr. is a former field secretary of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), a journalist, and the author of a number of books including This Nonviolent Stuff’ll Get You Killed: How Guns Made the Civil Rights Movement Possible (Basic Books, 2014)Read more.

Related Materials

Civil rights veteran Dorie Ladner honored in documentary

Deborah Barfield Berry , Gannett Mississippi  November 5, 2016

WASHINGTON — Civil rights veterans gathered Thursday night for the screening of a mini-documentary about Hattiesburg native Dorie Ladner and her work registering blacks to vote in Mississippi.

Ladner, an organizer for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, was among the “foot soldiers’’ of the civil rights movement challenging segregation in the Deep South during the turbulent 1960s.

“I wanted to confront the issue head on,” Ladner, 74, told the crowd after Thursday’s screening. “I just felt like I wanted to get out and do the work.”

Civil rights veterans from SNCC and the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE), packed an auditorium at the University of the District of Columbia for the screening of “Well-Behaved Women Don’t Make ‘Her-Story’: The Dorie Ladner Story.’’

It was the second showing of the film. The first was at Tougaloo College in Jackson earlier in the week. It will also be shown at the University of Southern Mississippi next February, organizers said.

The 23-minute film was the brainchild of Tougaloo students who met Ladner in 2014 at a conference hosted by the college to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Freedom Summer. Tougaloo College played a key role in the civil rights movement, hosting meetings and staging rallies. Many civil rights workers were Tougaloo students.

Yasmin Gabriel, the film’s executive producer, said students wanted to showcase the contribution of Ladner, who went to Tougaloo.

“It became a real intergenerational, symbiotic thing,” said Gabriel, also the special assistant to Tougaloo College President Beverly Hogan Wade. “Dorie Ladner is the kind of person who is selfless.”

 
October 25, 2016
San Antonio SNCC working with our courageous youth:
SNCC Legacy Project will Begin in November


By Mario Marcel Salas

A historic project is underway across the country, and in San Antonio, Texas
as veterans of the Student National Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC)
meet to organize projects and programs that seek to educate the nation. The
project in San Antonio will attempt to reach out to young activists in the Black
Lives Matter Movement in the form of two events; a poetry reading and a workshop
designed to train people on what to do when stopped by the police.

In the 1960’S, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee traveled to
the Jim Crow South to register African Americans to vote. It was extremely
dangerous work to do such a thing. Today, people across the country are
attempting to reform police departments that employ centuries-old abusive
practices. These activists are taking to the streets as blacks are being killed
in disproportionate numbers in encounters with the police. These young people
face the same criticisms from white supremacists as did the SNCC veterans in
the 1960’S. They even face the same type of criticisms from ignorant black folk
in much the same way as Martin Luther King and SNCC suffered from
conservative blacks that did not want to support the freedom struggle.
 
The project in San Antonio will reach out to young
social activists in the Black Lives Matter Movement in the form of two historic
events.
SNCC in San Antonio fought the segregationist policies of the city and
the county in various demonstrations that ranged from a large demonstration in
downtown San Antonio to the takeover of a school that was practicing racist
discrimination.  San Antonio SNCC started the first Free Breakfast Program in San
Antonio, at Antioch Baptist Church, which was later adopted by the SAISD (San
Antonio School District). SNCC in San Antonio was complimented by the Langston
Hughes Afro-American Theater, which was a group of poets and activists that used
the medium of theater productions and poetry to bring home the message of
liberation for blacks. The SNCC office and the Langston Hughes Afro-American Theater was located at the corner of Iowa and Pine in an old black theater building that unfortunately was torn down some years
back. 
The first event is a poetry reading, with an open microphone for
poets, around the theme of Black Lives Matter scheduled for November 18th.
Please try to attend this event on November 18th, beginning at 8 pm, at the
Little Carver located at 226 N. Hackberry Street.  It will be in part a
celebration of SNCC and the veterans of the Civil Rights Movement and Langston
Hughes Afro-American Theater. The poetry will be centered on the issues facing
the communities of color. 
 
The second event, the date and location of this event will be
announced, is a "KNOW YOUR RIGHTS WORKSHOP," dealing with police encounters in
minority communities. The program will feature attorneys and SNCC veterans who
have fought police brutality for years. Presenters will include ACLU
(American Civil Liberties Union) lawyers and African American Attorneys, as well
as Mario Salas, a SNCC civil rights veteran, and Claudius Minor of SNCC.

For information on the national efforts for justice go to the Texas Black Power
Chronicles, or the SNCC Legacy Project website at http://www.sncclegacyproject.org/ 
Donation for the event is $8, but $5 if you bring a copy of the flyer on your phone or a hard copy available on the Mario Marcel Salas Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/mario.m.salas
 
Charlottesville, VA October 20, 2016
Remarks on the occasion of a Symposium at the University of Virginia on the life and work of Julian Bond:
Julian Bond, SNCC, the Movement—Changing a Generation
Remarks by Charles Cobb, Jr.
It is difficult to imagine a grown-up civil rights leader in 1960—someone our parents or grandparents age—voicing something like this:
Look at that gal
Shake that thang
We can’t all be
Martin Luther King
This is a young voice and Julian Bond is the young voice we are hearing. He wrote that in 1960; and setting aside the fact that we hear a male voice lasciviously eying someone of the opposite sex, the deeper meaning of this couplet reflects an important change defining his and my generation. “We can’t all be Martin Luther King.”
It is perhaps worth briefly noting before going further that Julian once wanted to be a standup comedian and with another important figure in SNCC, Connie Curry, even enrolled in a comedy school for a time. Students of his here at this university have almost certainly encountered his wry humor.
But getting back to my main point: It is unfortunate that mid-20th century civil rights struggle has come to be largely defined by mass protest in public spaces led by charismatic leaders, with Martin Luther King being the great symbol of this—and in making this comment let me stress that I am not attacking Dr. King. However, the young people who spilled into the southern freedom movement, creating SNCC and expanding CORE—the Congress of Racial Equality, changed the dynamic of civil rights struggle by making a commitment to community organizing at the grassroots in the black belt south. It was struggle at this level that actually powered the movement. There is a straight line, for example, between the grassroot organizing that led to the creation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the election of Barak Obama. Tim Jenkins here can tell you how student protests in Atlanta got John Kennedy elected in 1960.
I do not have enough time to even begin elaborating on all of the dimensions of this organizing tradition, but it is important to note here that community organizing around ideas of freedom is a very old tradition in America’s Black communities. Enslaved Africans, after all, were not marching in protest on auction blocks nor sitting-in in plantation manor dining rooms seeking a seat at “massa’s” table. No. They were organizing—escapes, revolts, sabotage, even assassinations. They were also communicating in various ways ideas of rebellion and resistance. The kind of role Julian played as SNCC communications director began long before SNCC or the 20th century.
However, whether we start with resistance and revolts by African people in the 17th, 18th or 19th centuries, or with mid-20th century struggle, key to understanding Black struggle are the challenges Black people made to one another within the Black community. This aspect of the movement is often overlooked.  Like most journalists, I am always walking around with a few stories in my pocket. So, here is one that immediately comes to mind that Julian liked to tell explaining his first involvement with the movement. The sit-ins had just erupted in Greensboro, North Carolina. Julian, a student at Morehouse College in Atlanta, was sitting in a student hangout when another student, Lonnie King, came up to him with a copy of the Atlanta Daily World, Atlanta’s daily Back newspaper. A headline read “Greensboro students sit in for third day.”
“Have you seen this?” Lonnie asked him.
“Yes,” Julian replied.
“What do you think about it?” Lonnie inquired.
“I think it’s great!” said Julian
“Don’t you think it ought to happen here? Lonnie pressed.
“Oh I’m sure it will,” responded Julian. “Surely someone here will do it.”
Then what came to me, recalled Julian, “as it came to others in those early days in 1960, a query, an invitation, and a command.”
“Why don’t we make it happen here.”
Thus the Atlanta movement was born. Look at any movement event and you will see they almost always begin with challenges within the Black community. This is how today’s Movement for Black Lives began although with facebook, Twitter, Instagram and the like they have a lot more at their disposal than we had in 1960. Lawrence Guyot a SNCC field secretary who became chair of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) remarked once, “You can’t challenge institutions without challenging yourself first.” Or, as Congressman John Lewis, a former SNCC Chairman, challenged students in a commencement address this past spring: “If you see something that’s not right, not fair, not just, do something about it. Say something. Do something. Have the courage. Have the backbone to get in the way.”
This is Julian’s story. And his story, like the story of the movement itself, did not spring on the scene fully developed in its ideas and practices. It evolved; it grew. The Julian Bond who refused to disassociate himself from SNCC’s 1966 anti-Vietnam war statement had grown/evolved considerably from the Julian Bond who emerged as one of the sit-in leaders of the Atlanta Movement that wondered whether Bob Moses, another legendary figure in SNCC, might be a Communist. Just as the SNCC of 1966 embracing Black Power had evolved from the SNCC that was formed as nonviolent sit-ins spread in 1960. The lesson for those taking seriously and wanting to understand today’s still-emergent movement for black lives is that the young minds shaping it are still in the process of forming the ideas and practices that will drive it. I sit on the board of the SNCC Legacy Project and we consistently try and make our experiences of half a century ago available for use when relevant.
 
Crucial to understanding Julian’s story, and resonating today with the surge of young activism of the Movement for Black Lives, is the emergence of young people into leadership that accompanied the sit-in movement. It was something of a first in the long history of Black struggle although I do not mean to diminish the significance of the Southern Negro Youth Congress formed in the mid 1930s—SNYC, the first Snick some of whose leaders were influential with us in the 1960s. Still, shortly after sit-ins began in Greensboro, Martin Luther King speaking in Durham, North Carolina could declare, “What is fresh, what is new in your fight is the fact that it was initiated, fed and sustained by students.” Dr. King wanted these young activists to organize and become part of his organization, SCLC. The students, encouraged by one of the great figures of 20th century struggle, Ella Baker, resisted that and thus SNCC was born. Julian was there at this birthing. Time forces me to skip over a lot of the nuance that forms part of this decision. But these are the roots of some legendary figures in the southern movement: John Lewis, Stokley Carmichael, Diane Nash, Ruby Doris Smith Robinson, Charles Sherrod, among them. And Julian.
One step leads to another. The sit-ins resulted in arrests for many. You have to understand, this movement was led by Black college students, many of whom were the first in their families to get to college. You weren’t supposed to go to jail.  You were supposed to, in the language of the time, “Make something of yourself.”  So what’s happening. Again, with great relevance today I think, Charles Sherrod, SNCC’s project director in Southwest Georgia captured exactly what speaking to a reporter after serving a 30-day sentence laboring on a road gang for sitting in in a segregated restaurant in Rock Hill South Carolina: “You get ideas in jail. You talk with other young people you have never seen. Right away we recognize each other. People like yourself, getting out of the past. We’re up all night, sharing creativity, planning action. You learn the truth in prison, you learn wholeness. You find out the difference between being dead and alive.”
That’s Charles Sherrod at 22 years of age. You almost had to be young to think like that although some grownups come to mind: Bayard Rustin, Pauli Murray, James Farmer and Jim Forman. Among the young activists emerging in 1960 history was driving another momentous decision: Dropping out of school to commit full time to movement work. And if going to jail was difficult for parents and relatives to get their heads around, leaving school even for a short while made little sense at all. We live today in an era in which “gap years” for almost any purpose are fairly common. But back in the day when aunts, uncles, mom, dad, grandma and grandpa had scrapped together nickels, pennies, and dollars to get you to school. . . leaving, dropping out. What’s wrong with you, boy!?
In my view and this of course can be debated, dropping out of school was the single most important decision that shaped SNCC. Julian was among that early group of dropouts. And this brings me to a point that I’ll only make briefly here. Julian came from a prominent Black family. The backgrounds of those who left school to become part of SNCC’s expanding work seems to have cut through traditional distinctions of class. Exploring this is worthy of another symposium. Furthering this was the influence of Ella Baker who stressed to SNCC the necessity of organizing from the bottom up in the rural black belt south. Neither Julian nor SNCC would have become what they became without her. Again, something worthy of another symposium.
I am running out of time so let me move quickly to some sort of conclusion. First, however, an acknowledgement of what Julian built in SNCC from the perspective of someone who was a SNCC field secretary in rural Mississippi. These places—Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, Louisiana, could make you disappear. They were murderous though that seems to be forgotten these days. People got killed for trying to exercise rights we take for granted now. And Julian, as SNCC’s communications director played an important role in keeping us alive. Via Julian, we had a route to public awareness. It was much harder to disappear us in these rural counties. This was something we could not do very well from our various places as field secretaries. I am here in part to acknowledge this great debt to Julian and the department he built.
I have not done several things in this presentation; in particular, I have not presented a biography of Julian. You can go online or get a book for that. I have tried to give you some context for Julian’s movement life which leads us to a legacy that I think the arc of his life reveals: That is that struggle continues; a luta continua as Mozambican freedom fighters used to say. Clearly much work remains to be done. The challenge of this work is really a challenge to you. Want to make change. Change yourself. See something wrong; do something about it.
Thank you.
October 20, 2016
University of Virginia
Charlottesville, Virginia
 
 
The following are remarks prepared for those assembled in Albany, Georgia on October 8, 2016, to celebrate the Sherrod 50th Wedding Anniversary :
My sainted grandmother advised me and my siblings that in deciding whom to seek as reliable life-long friends, we should pay special attention to those who came early to important events and stayed late. That advice has proven true regarding Charles and Shirley Sherrod. When SNCC was founded in 1960 Charles distinguished himself early as a stalwart leader among leaders — not only in Albany, Georgia, but throughout the South. In the ensuing years, I came to recount his bravery in my standard stump speeches at countless fundraisers on college campuses across the country, which I had entitled “The Three Charles’s”— a rhetorical salute to SNCC’s trio of Chuck McDew, Charlie Jones and Sherrod as exemplars of those remaking America through serving as student role models. In the ensuing years, I came to know Shirley as another who came early and stayed late at all things committed to the enlargement of justice, belatedly vindicated in spite of her malicious would-be detractors. That is why it is a personal privilege for me to come to this special event to honor fifty years of the faithful vows of the Sherrods, not only in my own right, but on behalf of Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin and others, who due to circumstances beyond their control could not be here in the flesh to offer their congratulations. Events like this have widely different motives: to celebrate honoree celebrity, to recognize honoree importance, or to acknowledge honoree significance. This is an event of special significance, because it does not rest on erstwhile public acclaim or newspaper headlines, nor on the status of holding exalted official titles for the honorees alone. Instead, we come in the name of the human value resulting from the Sherrod’s life work, which will be felt in the lives of those who come after them and long after their individual names will no longer be remembered. — Their legacy will be heard in the countless giggles of youngsters carelessly splashing in integrated public pools. It will be seen when seniors lean on one another going to the polls to cast their ballots unafraid and unashamed to cast out scoundrels and reward better successors. It will be manifest when deserving recipients successfully apply for and receive public benefits paid for through public taxes without fear or favor. When I told the airport taxi driver upon my arrival where I was going and why, he steadfastly refused my dollars upon my delivery saying that my “fare had already been paid for” by the life and work of the Sherrods whom I planned to honor for their having come early and stayed late here in Albany for the enlargement of justice. His spontaneously heartfelt gesture said it all! Thank you Shirley and Charles for providing me and countless others a free ride in your name. Surely Medgar, Malcolm, and Martin and all the SNCC martyrs and family are joining me in this expression of profound gratitude and lasting appreciation. Congratulations and God’s speed for a half century well spent! Timothy L. Jenkins, SNCC Legacy Member
 
Albany, GA October 8, 2016
Letter to Charles and  Shirley  Sherrod  from the SNCC Legacy Project on the occassion of their 50th Anniversary:
 
The SNCC Legacy Project wishes to congratulate Charles and Shirley Sherrod for the half century they have been married. But we are also compelled to recognize that even longer than their marriage to each other has been their marriage to the Movement, here in Albany and Southwest Georgia. Thus, the tribute we are paying them embraces not only their love and commitment to each other, but also includes their often heroic service in the fight for freedom. Those of us in the Movement, especially those of us who were associated with SNCC as we are in the legacy project, find their work as inspirational in the 21st century as we did in the 20th century. Few activists and organizers have adhered to a higher moral standard than these two, and few have kept their eyes on the prize as long. They give real meaning to that freedom song born in the heat of Albany’s civil rights battles, that “Freedom is a Constant Struggle.” To the two of you, Charles and Shirley, let us say, and let it be known wherever voices are raised for freedom and bodies are put on the line for freedom that we are truly honored to be part of your family.
In struggle, SNCC Legacy Project
 
Washington, DC September 14, 2016
Guest Blogger: Charles Cobb, SNCC Legacy Project Board Member
The backlash against Colin Kaepernick – and all of his colleagues who are refusing to stand for the national anthem – is growing. His protest against racism and police brutality is being widely panned as unpatriotic, and some have gone as far as to call him a traitor. I would say the backlash is puzzling, except it’s not. I have long recognized that this is a common response to black protest – one I witnessed as far back as the civil rights movement.

Within the context of sports protest, the raised black-gloved fists of protest by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Mexico Olympics comes immediately to mind. Less noticed than their dramatically raised fists was the fact that both athletes wore black socks and no shoes when they accepted their medals. This was to represent the poverty of African Americans in the United States. They suffered insult and abuse when they returned home. Time magazine wrote: “Faster, Higher, Stronger” is the motto of the Olympic Games. “‘Angrier, nastier, uglier’ better describes the scene in Mexico City last week”.

Most Americans opposed the sit-ins when they erupted in 1960; and opposed the Freedom Rides when they took place in 1961. Young black people were pushing too hard, demanding too much too soon was the typical charge. The country was changing; give it time. Most black people it should be said here were not engaged in sit-ins or Freedom Rides for there was risk, sometimes great risk, involved in public protest. But it also must be said that the country changed because of aggressive pushing against segregation and white supremacy and the silence that supported it.

Protest will always make someone uncomfortable, or governments uncomfortable. It is, however, the American way – a liberty for which blood has been shed at home and overseas. The civil rights movement of the 1960s, for example, was not only a struggle for civil rights, but for civil liberties – the right to speak and to engage in public protest.

And yet, to this day, some forms of protest are more criticized than others. I cannot help but notice that the public rage being directed at Kaepernick and those emulating him is disproportionate. Compare Kaepernick’s “crime” with that of the Bundy brothers and their group, which orchestrated an armed takeover of a federal wildlife refuge in Oregon. While Kaepernick has been called unpatriotic, the Bundy brothers and the rest of the so-called Citizens for Constitutional Freedom were never labeled that way.

Those behind the takeover of the wildlife refuge felt that they were acting to assert an American way of life they felt was under assault. Yet Kaepernick and his colleagues feel that their lives are under assault too, that they do not matter, to borrow from a slogan currently rising in prominence politically. As these football field protests have grown from a single act to actions by a growing number, so too has the backlash.

And, while I draw the line at violent protest such as the armed Malheur national wildlife refuge protest or Ku Klux Klan terrorism that plagued the country for a century after the civil war, I do not make a distinction between good protest and bad protest.

There are protests that reflect what I agree with or what I believe in and those that do not. But that issue is not fundamental to their legitimacy. The protesting athletes are simply trying to push the country to live up to its professed ideals. To accuse them of being unpatriotic – now that is what seems un-American to me. --Charles Cobb

 
 
Washington DC August 5-6, 2016
 
The SNCC Legacy Project Board met in Washington, DC August 5 and 6; here is the group.
L-R Seated: Judy Richardson, Karen Spellman, Zoharah Simmons, Maria Varela, Sharlene Kranz.
L-R standing: Kim Johnson, Cynthia Palmer, Charles Cobb, Courtland Cox, Larry Rubin, Timothy Jenkins, Charles McDew
 
After the meeting we enjoyed a musical program at the African-American Civil Rights Museum entitled "The Songs of Matthew Jones".  Matthew Jones was a SNCC Field Secretary and long-time member of the SNCC Freedom Singers.  He also wrote and copyrighted more than 500 songs during his career.  The musical duo Magpie performed.
 
Enjoying the program are (L-R): Dorie Ladner, Susie Erenrich, Frank Smith (Director of the Museum), Terry Leonino (Magpie), Judy Richardson, Greg Artzner (Magpie), and Maria Varela.
Photo by Deborah Menkart.
 
Washington, DC July 23, 2016
SNCC veterans Courtland Cox and Judiy Richardson spoke on a panel today at the March on Washington Film Festival.  Their talk accompanied the new film "Two Trains Running".
Orlando Florida July 22, 2016
 
SNCC veteran Robert Moses (seated) appeared at a South Florida bookstore with author Laura Visser-Maessen to sign copies of the new biography  "Robert Parris Moses: A life in civil rights and leadership at the grassroots."  Standing and waiting to get his books signed is SNCC veteran Charles Cobb.
Washington, DC July 14, 2016
Three of the original SNCC Freedom Singers reunited for a program last night in Washington, DC.  
L-R: Chuck Neblett, Rutha Harris, and Bernice Johnson Reagon
 
Washington, DC June 29, 2016
SNCC Legacy Project received an award from Teaching for Change at a lovely program tonight at Busboys & Poets in DC's Brookland neighborhood.  Accepting the award on behalf of SLP was SNCC veteran Judy Richardson.  The award was presented to Judy by noted author Marita Golden.
 
 
 
 
Phoenix, Arizona June 18, 2016
Bob Moses testified before the Democratic National Convention Platform Committee hearing on voting rights in Phoenix.  You can see Bob's testimony here:
 
 
Washington, DC May 19, 2016
Jennifer Lawson and Judy Richardson gave a book talk at The Potter's House about "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC".
 
Washington, DC May 13, 2016
Hundreds of friends and family of Ivanhoe Donaldson gathered in Washington, DC today to remember and celebrate his life and work.  In this photo, the SNCC Freedom Singers: Charles Neblett, Rutha Harris, Emory Harris, and Bill Perlman sing at the memorial.  Joyce Ladner, left, was one of the master of ceremonies.  On the wall to the right is an image of Ivanhoe's mug shot.
 
At the end of the memorial program, SNCC veterans came to the front of the church and sang "May the Circle Be Unbroken."
At a gathering of SNCC veterans after the memorial service, SNCC Legacy Project Chairman Courtland Cox shares his memories of Ivanhoe Donaldson.
Photos by Byron Buck..
You can view Timothy Jenkins eulogy for Ivanhoe Donaldson on YouTube:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DUxWza2YOwI
You can view the entire memorial service on Vimeo: 
 
 
Durham, NC March 19, 2016
Watch as SNCC Veterans Charlie Cobb and Judy Richardson join Mark Anthony Neal of "Left of Black" at Duke University  for a conversation about grassroots organizing, the importance of research, and the energy of young activists today.
 
 
Washington, DC February 27, 2016
The SNCC Legacy Project Board met in Washington, DC and posed for this portrait.
Top row, L-R: Cynthia Palmer, Kim Johnson, Courtland Cox,  Charlie Cobb, Joyce Ladner, Judy Richardson, Bruce Hartford, Jennifer Lawson.
Seated, L-R:  Sharlene Kranz, Karen Spellman,  Chuck McDew, and Geri Augusto
 
 
 
North Carolina February 26, 2016
Check out this amazing video from the youth of the North Carolina NAACP:
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B6G0i_bfj9SXUUZvSVQzT1JCaDQ/view
 
 
Washington, DC February 24, 2016
 
2015 Selma Foot Soldiers Bronze medal lead
 

The Selma Foot Soldiers, whose protests in 1965 helped lead to passage of the Voting Rights Act, were recognized Feb. 24 on Capitol Hill with a congressional gold medal.

The ceremonies were held in Emancipation Hall of the Capitol Visitor Center.

The enabling legislation, Public Law 114-5, was signed into law by President Obama on March 7, 2015, the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, so named for the protesters' blood spilled by Alabama State Police. It was the first of three marches attempted from Selma, Ala., to the state capital to Montgomery, in search of equality in the voting process.

The marchers had assembled on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma to begin their quest. The hundreds of protesters were led by John Lewis, chairman of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, which attempted to register African-Americans to vote throughout the state of Alabama, and the Rev. Hosea Williams, of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Lewis is currently a U.S. congressman who has represented Georgia's Fifth Congressional District since elected to Congress in November 1986. Lewis is senior chief deputy whip for the Democratic Party in leadership in the House.

Williams, who continued his civil rights efforts and community service for decades, died at age 74 in 2000.

 

 

Washington, DC February 17, 2016
SNCC veteran Dorie Ladner spoke at the U.S. Department of Justice Black History Month program today.  Here's coverage of her talk:
 
 
Washington, DC February 12, 2016
Was Senator Bernie Sanders ever a part of SNCC?  The magazine Mother Jones  reported today:
"As Mother Jones reported previously, while enrolled at the University of Chicago (1962) Sanders was involved in the campus chapter of the Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), another civil rights group.  During his junior year, Sanders, by then president of the university's CORE chapter, led a picket of a Howard Johnson's restaurant in Chicago, part of a coordinated nationwide protest against the motel and restaurant chain's racially discriminatory policies. Sanders eventually resigned his post at CORE, citing a heavy workload, and took some time off from school.
Under Sanders' leadership, the CORE group at University of Chicago joined forces with SNCC's campus chapter, held sit-ins to protest segregation in university-owned apartment buildings, and raised money for voter registration efforts focused on African Americans."
 
Wikipedia reports:  "CORE activist Bernie Sanders led a rally at the University of Chicago administration building to protest university president George Wells Beadle's segregated campus housing policy. “We feel it is an intolerable situation, when Negro and white students of the university cannot live together in university owned apartments,” Sanders said at the protest. Sanders then strode into the building, along with 32 other students and camped out outside the president’s office, performing the first civil rights sit-in in Chicago history.

From January 23 to February 5, 1962  Sanders and the other civil rights protesters pressured Beadle and the university to form a commission to investigate discrimination. Beadle met with 300 students in the Ida Noyes Hall theater to announce that further sit-ins would be prohibited and that a committee would be formed to investigate CORE's charges of racial discrimination in University-owned buildings. "

 

In another on-line article, Nathan Wellman writes on USUncut a similar account, with clippings as added documentation:

http://usuncut.com/news/john-lewis-bernie-sanders-civil-rights-movement/

 

Finally, SNCC Staff photographer Danny Lyon posted this first-hand account of how he took pictures of civil rights activist Bernie Sanders at the University of Chicago in 1962:

 Celebrated civil rights photographer Danny Lyons has stepped forward to shoot down these accusations with his own testimony and additional pictures from the same event:

“In 1962 and the spring of 1963 I was the student photographer at the University of Chicago, making pictures for the yearbook, the Alumni Magazine, and the student paper, The Maroon. By the summer of 1962, I had taken my camera into the deep South and become the first photographer for SNCC.

“That winter at the University of Chicago, there was a sit-in inside the administration building protesting discrimination against blacks in university owned housing,” Lyons said. “I went to it with a CORE activist and friend. The sit in was in a crowded hallway, blocking the entrance to the office of Dr. George Beadle, the chancellor.

“I took the photograph of Bernie Sanders speaking to his fellow CORE members at that sit-in… Time Magazine is now claiming it is not Bernie in the picture but someone else. It is Bernie, and it is proof of his very early dedication to justice for African Americans. The CORE sit-in that Bernie helped lead was the first civil rights sit-in to take place in the North.”

Danny Lyons released these additional photos to prove Sanders' record.

Danny Lyons released these additional photos to prove Sanders’ record.

 

Massachusetts January 15, 2016
Message from Bill Perlman:
Sadly, my mother, Lucille Perlman died early this morning at home. She was 101. 
She was a gentle warrior working for causes that supported her philosophy of justice and civil rights.
Most significantly she volunteered for the International Labor Defense in the 1930s, and for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in the 1960s and was on, and chaired the board of the Brooklyn Children's Museum. 
Both her sons followed her lead. Lee, who passed away a couple of yearsago as a crusading journalist in Portland, Oregon and Bill who was SNCC staff and still performs with the Freedom Singers. 
She stayed true her beliefs through the end. She died peacefully in her sleep with her family by her side.
 
Washington, DC January 12, 2016
SLP Board members Judy Richardson and Courtland Cox were part of a panel at the National Press Club celebrating the anniversary of a speech Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. gave at the Club in July 1962.  Excerpts from the speech were played and panelists commented on their content and significance.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                               Judy Richardson at the podium.
 
 
Tuskegee, Alabama January 3, 2016
George Parris 
gave the eulogy
Family, friends and colleagues of Sammy Young, Jr. gathered at First Methodist Church in Tuskegee today on the 50th anniversary of his murder.  In what was once a
white-only church, Sammy was remembered for his brilliance, his leadership, his energy, and his fearlessness.   Here are some scenes from the program:
             
                                              Robert Moses, Sharlene Kranz and Guy                         Bob Moses speaking       Sammy's cousins Marquis Dunlap, Ebony            Tuskegee youth
                                              Trammell of Tuskegee who organized the program                                                 Gilbreath and (seated) Harriet Gilbreath
An article about Sammy Younge Jr. appeared in the NY Daily News:
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/black-man-killed-bathroom-alabama-1966-article-1.2645287
 
Washington, DC December 13, 2015
Preparing to go in three weeks to Tuskegee, Alabama for the 50th Anniversary commemoration of the murder of Sammy Younge, Jr.  Sammy was a student at Tuskegee Institute (now Tuskegee University, a SNCC staffer, and a Navy veteran.  He was shot and killed by a gas station owner when he tried to use the 'white' restroom.  I knew Sammy Younge, Jr, having spent the summer of 1965 at Tuskegee.  SNCC Executive Secretary James Forman wrote a book about Sammy Younge, Jr. and the murder:  
More information is available at:
http://sammyyoungejr.weebly.com/sammys-bio.html
 
Washington, DC November 23, 2015
On the first anniversary of the death of SNCC's first Chair, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser announced the naming of a road for him.  The road is located in the Ward that Barry represented on the City Council, Ward 8.  
 
 mayor for life
 
 
Washington, DC November 22, 2015
 
At the Smithsonian yesterday I watched a documentary entitled "Mississippi Inferno: Seeds of Revolt", produced for the Smithsonian TV Channel and narrated by Danny Glover.  The film documents the importance of black land owners in Mississippi in the early 1960's and the crucial support they gave to the civil rights movement and civil rights workers.  Not only did they house civil rights workers, but they put up their land as 'property bonds' to bail SNCC workers out of jail.  Interviewees in the film include Lawrence Guyot (SNCC/MFDP), Charlie Cobb (SNCC), Robert Moses (SNCC), and Dave Dennis (CORE), Hartman Turnbow (Milestone, MS land owner) and Edmond Clark  (Milestone, MS land owner).  You can view the film at:
http://www.smithsonianchannel.com/shows/mississippi-inferno/seeds-of-revolt/1003667/3416953
 
Washington, DC October 26, 2015
 
The SNCC Legacy Project and Duke University recently co-sponsored a 3-day conference in Durham, N.C. to discuss challenges to voting rights across the U.S.
 
Twenty SNCC veterans worked with young activists from across the country to brain-storm actions and strategies to combat voter suppression at the local, state and federal level.  Legislation that would end Sunday voting, curtail early voting, eliminate registration-by-mail and same-day registration, and require government-issued I.D.s to vote is being implemented nationwide.  These measures tend to suppress voter participation particularly among young, low-income and minority voters.  In fact, Alabama just closed 90 percent of its DMV offices, a move that will make it very difficult—indeed onerous—for Alabamans to get a government-issued I.D. – a driver’s license.
 
At the conference in Durham, among the young activists was a group from a new SNCC chapter recently formed at Shaw University.  The students from Shaw know their school was the birthplace of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee in April 1960.  Chantel Wright, President of the Shaw SNCC chapter, identified the group’s priorities as:
 1. Dealing with adversity, injustice, and inequalities.
 2. To enrich our community through unity, student activism, forums, and high scholastics.
 3. Recognizing the imperfections of society and making a commitment to positive change in the African American community. 
 
Here is a photo of some of the SNCC veterans at the conference with some of the students from Shaw.  The Shaw students are: Chantel Wright, Acacia Cadogan, Devonta Speller, and Taliesha Holmes.  The SNCC veterans are (left to right):
Colia Liddell, Freddie Biddle, Judy Richardson and Charles Cobb.
 
 
Washington, D.C. October 19, 2015
 
An impromptu reunion of SNCC veterans took place in Washington, DC recently after the Julian Bond memorial program at the Lincoln Theater.  Dozens of former SNCC workers gathered at the African American Civil War Museum, directed by  former SNCC staffer Frank Smith.  They came from around the country: from Vancouver and Vermont, from Minnesota and Mississippi, and all points in between.  We had dinner, took a group photo, reminisced about Julian Bond and shared memories of the 60's.  Some lamented the fact that the get-together was triggered by the loss of a comrade, and wished we could get together more often for joyful reasons.    Four Freedom Singers - Chuck Neblett, Rutha Harris, Emory Harris, and Bill Perlman on guitar -  led us in song, their voices strong and uplifting.    Many of Julian's relatives - his children and grandchildren, sister Jane and brother James, attended .   Julian's son Michael Julian Bond, an Atlanta City Councilman, made remarks on behalf of the family and said they all enjoyed being made welcome by Julian's SNCC family.    Many smart phone pictures were taken home to remember an  evening of nostalgia and fellowship.
 
 
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  Photo by Lloyd Wolf
SNCC veterans at the reception, first row left to right:
Bill Strickland, Janet Moses, Karen Spellman, Courtland Cox, Judy Richardson, Reggie Robinson, Pam Jones, Jen Lawson, Chuck McDew, Freddie Green Biddle, Charles Cobb, Danny Lyon, Dion Diamond.
Second row, seated left to right:
Mary King, Chuck Neblett, Carol Rogoff, Margaret Herring, Roberta Yancy, Dinky Romilly, Rutha Harris, Dorothy Zellner
Top row, standing left to right:
Frank Smith,Junius Williams, Beni Ivey, Timothy Jenkins, Bill Perlman, Joyce Ladner, Shirley Cooks, Joan Trumpauer Mulholland, Kathy Sarachild, Juadine Henderson, Dorie Ladner, Penny Patch,  Euvester Simpson, Sharlene Kranz, Joan Browning, Betty Garman Robinson, Emily Schrader Adams, Sue Thrasher, Emory Harris, John Floyd
 
                                           Freedom Singers Chuck Neblett, Rutha Harris, and Bill Perlman
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
This is a  regular weekly blog of information and news about the SNCC Legacy Project .  The editor solicits guest bloggers.  Write us at SNCCLegacyProject.org if you'd like to submit a blog entry.