In Memoriam: Charles Horwitz

Charles Horwitz


Jules Charles Horwitz was born in 1935, in Chicago, Illinois. He earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in international relations from the University of Chicago. From 1960 to 1961, while completing coursework for a doctorate at the New School for Social Research in New York City, he taught social studies at William Ettinger Junior High School 13 in East Harlem. In 1961, he traveled to Cuba with Dorothy Day, co-founder of the Catholic Worker movement. Upon his return, he was employed as a reporter for the City News Bureau in Chicago, and then worked for the Chicago bureau of Newsweek from 1963 to 1964.

In the fall of 1964, Horwitz moved to Mississippi to volunteer for the Council of Federated Organizations (COFO) in Jackson, where he was a member of the communications staff. In 1965, he began working for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). Also in 1965, he helped found the Freedom Information Service (FIS), a project to gather and disseminate news, statistics, and information related to the civil rights movement that was based at Mount Beulah, former site of the Southern Christian Institute, in Edwards, Hinds County, Mississippi. FIS was supported in large part by the Delta Ministry, a project of the National Council of Churches that was formed in September 1964 to support organizing efforts among disenfranchised and impoverished African Americans in Mississippi. When budget constraints forced the Delta Ministry to withdraw its funding of FIS in the spring of 1966, Horwitz began working directly for the ministry.

Horwitz created the Delta Ministry’s Hinds County Project and directed it until 1973. For the first several years, he focused on voter registration and education, political organizing, and economic development, particularly in the towns of Bolton, Clinton, and Edwards. He provided support to the 1966 boycott of white-owned businesses in Edwards, which began after town officials decided to sell the public swimming pool to a private owner following an integration attempt by local African Americans. From 1967 to 1971, Horwitz supervised the Neighborhood Youth Corps program in Edwards, training young organizers to conduct voter registration, citizen education, and social service projects. He also assisted in the development of two craft cooperatives, Freedomcrafts Candy Cooperative and Freedomcrafts Wood Cooperative.

In addition to these activities in Hinds County, Horwitz was frequently dispatched to represent the Delta Ministry in statewide and national events. These included the 1966 March Against Fear from Memphis to Jackson, which was led by James Meredith. Horwitz was also involved in relief efforts following Hurricane Camille in 1969, participating in a coalition called the Combined Community Organization Disaster Committee that sought equitable distribution of federal relief funds. From 1970 to 1972, Horwitz supported the strike of 750 black sanitation workers in Jackson and aided the Gulf Coast Pulpwood Association, a biracial organization of pulpwood haulers who won a strike against the Masonite Corporation in 1971.

Charles was involved in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). The 1967 elections, the first in which African Americans in Mississippi were able to participate on a wide scale, galvanized the activity of local chapters, and Horwitz assisted the groups in Edwards and Bolton. He also served on the MFDP executive committee from 1968 to 1970. In addition, he was an executive committee member of the Hinds County chapter of the Loyal Democrats of Mississippi, a biracial coalition formed in 1968 by the MFDP, the Mississippi branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, and the Young Democrats. The Loyal Democrats challenged the seating of the regular all-white Democratic Party at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois, where the loyalist group was officially recognized as the state delegation.

During his last years with Delta Ministry, Horwitz turned his attention to bringing a greater number of white Mississippians into common cause with the black freedom movement. In November 1968, Horwitz and other Delta Ministry staff helped organize a statewide conference on racism and poverty, which was attended by a large number of white Mississippians. From this conference, the Greater Jackson Area Committee (GJAC) was formed. Supported in part by Delta Ministry, GJAC focused on organizing poor and working-class whites on issues such as day care, welfare, and youth services.

School desegregation was another key issue in the final years of Horwitz’s Mississippi work. An October 1969 decision by the United States Supreme Court in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education ordered immediate desegregation of thirty Mississippi school districts. The order was implemented in January and February 1970, but many white families removed their children from the public school system to avoid having them attend classes with black children. Horwitz and other activists saw the need to generate biracial support for the schools. He represented Delta Ministry on the board of the Community Coalition for Public Schools, a group of organizations supporting integration. He also served as president of Mississippians for Creative Public Education, a project of GJAC that operated an educational survey group and encouraged working-class white families to become more involved in the public school system.

Horwitz was also a board member and chairman of the program committee of the Community Service Association (CSA), the official community action agency for Hinds County. CSA sponsored programs in the fields of child development, education, health, and welfare, and was responsible for the administration of neighborhood centers, family planning programs, and recreation services. The Hinds County Project Head Start, with which Horwitz was involved, was a delegate agency of CSA.

In June 1969, Horwitz married Carol Hinds, a Head Start and adult education teacher from Mississippi. The couple resided in Jackson and raised two daughters. They remained in Mississippi until 1973, when Horwitz became a student at Antioch School of Law, a public service law school in Washington, D.C. (now the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law). After receiving his doctorate in law, Horwitz worked for a program focusing on migrant workers. (Source MDAH Mississippi Archives).

Charles Horwitz wrote:

“From Sept. 1964 until June 1973, I worked for COFO, then became a paid SNCC Freedom Fund worker, then worked for the Freedom Information Service and the Delta Ministry of the National Counsel of Churches in Jackson, Edwards and rural Hinds County. I regard my work in Mississippi as the most significant and enriching experience of my life.”

Horwitz died Nov 13, 2006 in Brooklyn, NY.