The Freedom Movement and Ourselves
Looking Back 50 Years Later
Group B
Oakland, CA. April 5th, 2014


Chude Allen, Facilitator (Freedom Summer Volunteer)   
Lynn Adler, (SCOPE, SCLC)
Elaine DeLott Baker (COFO)
Stephen Blum (COFO)
Jimmy Collier (SCLC)
David Gelfand (SNCC)
Charles Love (SCLC)
Marcia Moore (SNCC)


Looking Back on the Freedom Movement   
Biracial Kids and Inter-Racialism
Whites in the Freedom Movement
Local Folk
Experiencing the Movement
Abandonment Guilt
Inter-Racial Sex, Marriage, & Women in the Movement
The Movement Changed Our Lives
Vietnam and the Draft




Chude: I'm Chude. First, we should say who we are. So, if it's all right with you, while we're still signing [the release form], can we start to go around and everybody say their name and just briefly what you did, what you were involved with.

Marcia: So I'm Marcia Moore. And I had been on exchange from Carleton College to Spelman in the spring semester of 1964, And then in Atlanta, we did work with the Atlanta Committee for Human Rights which is a group of college students from all over Atlanta, the Black colleges and the white colleges, and went into some of the neighborhoods, trying to convince people to change their ways.

One of the courses I took was Staughton Lynd's History of Nonviolence in America. Chude was in that class too when we found out about Freedom Summer and that Staughton was going to be one of the co-directors of Freedom Schools. Individually and separately, we both decided we needed to be in Mississippi that summer, and so we were. And then worked in Laurel, Mississippi that summer, both as a Freedom School teacher and doing some voter registration. I went back to the North, because there was plenty of work to do there. Done.

Stephen: Good morning. I was in Mississippi, or more particularly down on the Gulf coast to Gulfport and Biloxi [during the summer of 1964], having entered by way of a very brief orientation. I went in about a week later than other people, and so I could not go to Oxford, Ohio, but they did a short orientation for us in Memphis. And then I went to Gulfport and Biloxi where, like most people, I did voter registration work in the afternoon and in the evening if there weren't meetings, and in the morning, I taught in Freedom School, which is to say that I was nothing more than a student, which I remain. I went back the next year to Eutaw, Alabama, and to Selma.

David: David Gelfand. My involvement in the Civil Rights Movement started in the Boston area with the Northern Student Movement and working in Roxbury as a tutor, and I then became involved with SNCC in 1963. In part of the spring of '63, I was in Americus, Georgia. And because of the SNCC involvement, I knew about Mississippi Summer Project and enrolled. And I was in the Laurel Project for July and August and early September. And then briefly in Columbia, South Carolina, with SCLC in '65.

Lynn: Lynn Adler. I initially was at the University of Pennsylvania, and I went to a meeting in '64. It was about Vietnam. Someone stood up and said, "You know, we can do things right now, because all this stuff is happening in the South." So fast forward to briefly being involved with CORE and then becoming part of SCOPE and spending the summer in Alabama, Hale County, where we were doing voter registration and political education, which I think was we were getting more politically educated. And then we had a bunch of churches burn down, and the kids in the community all wanted to do direct action, and there was no voting rights bill, so we all boycotted and demonstrated and ended up the Camp Selma Prison Camp, and then I ended up in the fall going to Chicago and being on SCLC staff until '67 I think.

[In this context, "going to Chicago" refers to the open housing and economic justice campaign waged by SCLC and the Chicago Freedom Movement in 1965-66.]

Charles: Charles Love. 1964 I was President of a Friends of SNCC chapter on the San Francisco State College campus. I got kicked out of class in '65 and sent to Selma. And I joined SCLC in Selma, worked the Black Belt counties. There were about four or five of them. And left Alabama to go to Chicago.

Jimmy: Jimmy Collier, from Fort Smith, Arkansas. I left there at 15, put my age up, joined the Air Force. They kicked me out just before my 17th birthday. I went to Chicago and lived with my uncle. Got involved with NAACP and CORE. Drove a truck to Atlanta full of goods, me and another guy. He went back to Chicago; I stayed and eventually ended up on Dr. King's staff, in Lowndes County, Demopolis, Selma, Alabama and then on to Chicago and then later to Washington, D.C. and New York. Resurrection City and the Poor People's Campaign. Oh yeah, and also I actually came out here one time. I had a letter from Dr. King to Vincent Hallinan of the Longshoreman's Union [ILWU]. [Laughter] Remember that?

[Vincent Hallinan was a noted labor-lawyer and legal crusader. He defended ILWU leader Harry Bridges in one of the notorious red-baiting, McCarthy-era, political witch-hunt cases. As a result of his fierce and uncompromising defense, he was sentenced to 6 months in prison for contempt of court.]

Lynn: Yes, we all had these meetings.

Jimmy: Yeah. Yeah. Did you go to those meetings?

Lynn: Yes, at Charlie's house.

Marcia: What was the meeting with Vincent Hallinan?

Jimmy: Well, the idea was that we might could learn — the Civil Rights Movement — we might could learn something from the best union in the world, which was the Longshoreman's Union. So we worked. We got jobs as warehousemen, and then we became longshoremen. But we also went to meetings; there were leftist meetings going on with their hierarchy.

Woman: Wasn't it their son, wasn't it Kayo [Terrance]?

Jimmy: Yeah, yeah, yeah. That was all big time. So we did that. Then I went back to New York to work on Resurrection City. I love San Francisco though. I came back as quick as I could! [Laughter]

Woman: I forgot about Resurrection City. I was there also.

Jimmy: Yeah, that's right. We all three spent time together.

Elaine: I came to the South. There was an exchange program from Harvard through a Merrill Foundation Grant, and we were sent down to take over the Summer Schools so that the instructors at Summer School could get advanced degrees in the North, because a lot of them didn't have their advanced degrees. Everybody else, except me, was a graduate. I finished my junior year.

And when I got there, because I had done some work with Thomas Pettigrew, a professor at Harvard, who was working in Boston on a study of African-Americans and a housing project in South Boston, they asked me to write something that people could take out to the Summer Project to looked at the economic situation with the people we were working with. So kind of a survey; it was a survey. And I hadn't finished by the time it was time to go to Oxford.

[Western College for Women in Oxford Ohio — today part of Miami University — was the site of the two Freedom Summer volunteer orientations.]

So I just got on the bus to Oxford. I just told Margaret Burnham, and she was so kind to me. I remember her at Oxford being so kind to me. I didn't know where I was or what I was doing. When I got back, I finished at Tougaloo — Tougaloo had two eight-week [summer] terms.

And I went North to actually work in the Catskills as a waitress to make enough money to come back, because I came from a working class family. When I came back in the fall, in the beginning of September, I stayed in the Jackson [COFO] office while working in federal programs. And that was the fall — we all remember the fall — it was not a great time. A lot of confusion, chaos, not knowing what to do. And I went to work in federal programs.

Then I went to Canton [MS] at the ASCS election. Got arrested there as a poll watcher. Came out; cotton ginning season; I'm asthmatic, had an asthma attack; went back to Boston to get well; came back but didn't go back to Canton. I went doing federal projects around the state and then ended up in Batesville [MS].

Before I came to Mississippi, I had spent a year in Israel and had been on kibbutz and was very interested in co-ops. I was very good at working administration and bureaus, so I went to the Department of Agriculture and got connected with a co-op division and did the organization for a loan for the Batesville co-op for $78,000, I think it was, to buy equipment. And then I stayed in Batesville until we got the grant and got the co-op started. I left in May of '65 when things were getting a little bit dicey for white people.

Chude: And I'm Chude Pam Parker Allen. And I was with Marcia. We both came from the same college and went to Spelman for the spring semester. I worked both with the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights [in Atlanta], and then there was a white group called Georgia Students for Human Rights. Because this was the spring of '64, it's after the big [Atlanta] demonstrations, and a lot of the white students were getting involved. So I worked with them as well. And then I was a Freedom School teacher in Holly Springs, Mississippi.


Looking Back on the Freedom Movement

Chude: So, now we're gonna go around again, relatively succinctly the first time around, and then we'll open it up. If you want to share your observations about looking back 50 years, what you think we accomplished, didn't accomplish, whatever it is that you think you would like to share as kind of the key points for yourself about looking back on the Movement as a whole and our participation. And then this afternoon we'll talk about how it affected us personally.

Marcia: I wouldn't mind if we start with different people each time, like maybe across the room from me and what was achieved. I'm not shy about talking, but I don't feel like I need to talk first.

Charles: I was a very young person back at that particular time. And as people often find themselves, I was quite idealistic. My expectations probably were beyond fulfillment by anyone under any circumstances in any kind of situation. And so I don't think we accomplished what I set out to accomplish, but I think what was accomplished changed this country and continues to have an impact on it. In some parts, it's the unintended consequences that perhaps are far more valuable than those pure ideals that we had, you know, brotherhood and everybody {unclear} and stuff like that.

I thought it was — I looked back 50 years, and I see the seeds of that struggle providing the opportunities for America today to elect a Black President, and I think that there were so many things that did happen in the Movement that weren't really based on what people thought they were doing or wanted to do or tried to do. I think everybody here is here because you all — 50 years later — are still considering that to be probably one of the most valuable, impressive experiences that you've had. We have relationships that have endured and probably grown incredibly because of some of the things that we experienced together, that few people could ever understand.

So I think that, from my perspective, the academic answer is no, we didn't free the slaves and have a universal, Kumbaya, beloved community kind of experience, but were valuable, good, beneficial things coming out of that? And my answer would be: Absolutely.

Jimmy: Well, a picture's worth a thousand words. So, this is actually a picture that Matt Heron took. You won't find many pictures of me without a guitar. It wasn't my intention, but that's how it ended up. So this is 1965, and then a friend of mine is doing a thesis on my years in the '60s which is kind of nice, because he started off to do a — we're friends, and I was just trying to help him is all I was trying to do, but it turned out well for him. This is Fresno State, and they're going to give him a degree in journalism which he doesn't want, but they're gonna give him a minor in history, which he does want. So just because he's doing that. And he discovered me because I was friends with an ex-Hells Angels guy near where I live in Yosemite, and so anyway they got together. This guy's doing that. Okay, and the question was...? [Laughter]

Chude: What was achieved?

Jimmy: Well, I think that what was represented back then was incredible courage by young people who were students, who were people that had the rest of their lives in front of them, but who interrupted whatever it is they were doing at that time and showed, I think, just incredible, incredible, incredible courage to go to places like Mississippi and Louisiana and Alabama and even South Carolina and those places and help those people that were living in those places to stand up.

And we know that without that help, in some cases, nothing would've ever happened. Just the odds and the forces against — and I grew up in a place that wasn't the Deep South, and it was hard. And I still hold those memories in the back of my mind, and they have come up at various times as an adult — the anger and the frustration and insecurity, all of that stuff. So without that insertion of young people at that time, I don't think — and you know, we haven't been able to duplicate it, you know? When Dr. King was killed, and even with all the leadership from SNCC and other places, we have not been able to duplicate that energy at the force at whatever happenstance that happens.

The '60s and that period were a fantastic time when a lot of things came together, and, of course we're hearing about LBJ and how he, you know, coerced different members of Congress to pass laws, so we see that even then, things didn't happen because of tremendous pressure from us, although there was some pressure, and not necessarily because all of a sudden some of these people wanted to do the right thing.

And so now we're still faced with this journey and this battle, and frankly, I'm almost too tired and too sick to keep fighting. So when I do things, when I go to organizations and whatnot now, I'm a little disappointed that there aren't more young people. And you know, the world is changing.

I know my children, they're so busy, you know, with their kids and whatever. They're older and whatnot. I tried to be involved in the Occupy Movement, and what they saw was an old guy [Laughter] with a guitar from ancient times [Laughter] trying to tell them how to run their Movement.

["Occupy" refers to the Occupy Wall Street movement that swept across the nation in the Fall of 2011, raising issues of income inequality and political domination by the very wealthy. It brought back into political discourse, and to an extent re-legitimized, class conflict concepts that had been taboo subjects. It popularized the understanding that wealth has become concentrated in the top 1% of the population and the remaining 99% of the population are economically falling behind. Occupy in the United States was preceded by, and paralleled by, similar movements at the same time in a number of other countries.]

So I don't know. I still do organizations and interviews, and people write stuff and whatnot, so I don't know. The world is changing. I don't know if there will ever be again what we all experienced. I don't know. Have I said enough?

Elaine: I'm just thinking about what you said. I think what was achieved — when I came back, I had this kind of stunning moment. When I left Mississippi, I went to New York, and then I was on a commune in southern Colorado for ten years, and I came to Denver for some reason — we lived in Colorado — and went to this health club. And I saw this stunningly beautiful Black woman who was showing us around the health club. And I know it was kind of: Oh my God! This is really — I didn't expect that the Civil Rights Movement would mean that a Black woman would be in a health club as a salesperson.

And I thought: So what has been achieved is that it is now possible for people to do things that were not possible before. I just didn't expect that one. [Laughter] I had been away, and all of the Black people I knew beforehand were activists. And here she was, this is really — this is it. So in one sense, it's like, what changed was the law. And I mean, the law did change. The Voting Rights Act, and there were laws that changed because of things that we did that opened up different possibilities. And like you say, Jimmy, there were other things that are much more subtle, but yes, the law changed, and that was really important.

And then how the people that were involved — us — what we did because of — and we'll talk about what we did in the afternoon, but what changed is we had incredible tendrils out into so many areas. I have a lot of documents from Mississippi, and I was reading through — and this is like a report from Marshall Ganz — he's in Amite County — and yeah, Marshall Ganz also did the organization for Obama, the people that were going to do the organizing for Obama.

So I mean, we know so many of those situations where people who were basically formed in the South went back into the community and did all kinds of things. You know, the Women's Movement, all kinds of challenges to society based on what we saw and what we knew how to do. And those changes haven't been, I don't think, collated. And from that sense, if you would do these like spider webs of what we did and who we connected with and what impact that made, I think the impact would be enormous.

Chude: Well, I think one of the effects of looking back — that was a movement to end segregation. What I didn't understand then, and I try now to tell kids when I speak, is that there was de-facto segregation in the North and in the West. I realize people also need to know that segregation in the South was enforced in many places; whites didn't have a choice. Whereas in some places like Atlanta, it was legal to segregate, but not enforced. But in other places, you could not be together as equals.

Also, there were the anti-colonial struggles going on and the Movement in the South, part of its success was because these anti-colonial struggles were happening, and the US couldn't say to Africa, these African countries: "We believe in freedom," when all this stuff is happening in the South. So I mean I didn't have that connection when I went. I now understand that the Southern Freedom Movement was part of something that was going on worldwide for people's freedom.

What I also didn't understand then and I now realize is that in places like the Bay Area, things also were happening to try to integrate jobs and stuff. And I didn't have that sense, and I would say looking back that one of the limitations from how I was organized into the Movement was that I did not have a strong sense of the economics of racism and how it affected people in the North and in other parts of the country.

I was educated about the issues in Mississippi of people having no rights and being cheated out of even the pay they were supposed to get. And the whole issue of dignity, and that's another thing. I've always been clear that it was a "Freedom Movement," not only a "Civil Rights Movement." And that's the gift of having been in the South for a period of time and realizing that it was both about changing laws and having opportunities, and it was also about standing up and insisting on being treated with dignity.

And again, I don't think that's something people have a real awareness of if they've never experienced it, of what it means to be treated — well, the extremes that we tell are the ones where Black men had to get off the sidewalks in the South so that they would not look white women in the eye and things like that. But there were the more subtle things too, and I think for me the question of what does it mean to be a human being was part of what it meant for me to join.

When I speak, I tell people that white people are crazy. It's pathological to believe you're better than somebody else because of the color of your skin. And the other side of that — when people ask, "Why did you go?" Well, I say, "To become a human being." I joined a movement to change that kind of sickness. And I think we've made strides looking back over 50 years, but I certainly don't think we've in any way solved the issue of racism in this country. So I'll stop there at the moment.

Marcia: So I'll try not to repeat. I went in with maybe a little more understanding of the problems in the North because I happened to have taken a course the year before on race relations in the United States, and so I had a lot of academic background. I'd done maps of blockbusting in Chicago, and so that didn't surprise me. But I went in with a little more of a limited goal for participation in Freedom Summer. Yes, we were going to teach in the Freedom Schools, and we all knew what that meant. We were learning as much as we were teaching. Maybe preparing students for getting into integrated schools eventually.

But my feeling was that it really was to call attention to what was going on in Mississippi to the rest of the country. Anybody who was working in SNCC knew. Everybody working in SNCC knew. The rest of the country didn't. And I think we definitely achieved that. And I totally agree with the tendrils that went out after we left Mississippi. I know that many of us had this huge debate: Should we stay? Should we go? For me, it was: Finish college but work in the North, because I know there are problems there. But it was hard to leave.

I think what I feel was also accomplished was an understanding for me, and perhaps other people who went there, how strong the Black communities, the people who lived there, were. The people involved in the churches. Without the Black churches, we would not have succeeded. And that, I think, is one of the reasons that that hasn't been duplicated in the last 50 years. So that organization was there. The first people that I met in Atlanta who were — and maybe this is getting into personal — but the sit-ins came from people who were in seminaries. When I took information back home, before I went down, I spoke to my church, and I said, "This is what's going on. And people are just carrying out what we believe in, what we've been taught, all of our Sunday school is red and yellow, black and white." And I think that that linking of the strength of the people who were living in Mississippi and the fact that they felt that there were going to be people in the rest of the country paying attention to them from now on, yes, it put them at hazard, but it also made a difference in terms of their going on, even after we left. And lots of other things that I think we accomplished, but I've talked enough.

Chude: So Stephen?

Man: Yeah, thank you. I think I've seen pictures of Stephen, and he hasn't changed! [Laughter]

Steven: I got dumber, man. [Laughter] Which is my definition of a professor.

Man: I didn't know that!

Stephen: The amount of stuff I don't know continues to blow me away.

Man: Me too, me too.

Stephen: I tried one year when in filed my income tax, you know it said, "Occupation." And I wrote down: Overgrown student. [Laughter] They sent it back.

I got involved in what was to become the Movement, after the Movement historically had already begun. I was an undergraduate at Penn State, and a group of us formed a protest group around the denial of Negro, African- American men, boys, with barbershops. This was some time not long after the seminary students from Nashville, the original Freedom Riders, had begun to go. And I was struck then by the power of hatred, it's venom, not as we were to later see the deaths, but the hatred. And how much it seemed to give people energy. It was as if they loved and needed to hate. I still think that. I still think that, for a lot of people, hatred is deeply energizing and maybe even necessary. It scares the shit out of me, but I think that.

I went to graduate school where I got more involved. At this point, it was the furthest west I'd ever been in my life. I went to Northwestern just outside of Chicago. And again, we started a movement, and it was there that I began to hear about the Mississippi Summer for which I volunteered.

My sense of being in the "safe" part of [Mississippi], that was the Gulf coast, which was not safe at all, was that it was a whole hell of a lot safer than Neshoba County. My sense was in a horribly selfish way, this was for me. It was how much I was learning. How much I didn't know. And I had heretofore never admitted profound ignorance. I knew about what was unfair. That seemed clear.

But the why, the how, of the systemic interrelations between what we later called a profound need to go to war, a profound war on women, a profound war on people of color, later on our colleagues in the LGBT community. I didn't connect it. It was hard to connect with a six-year-old sitting on the dirt, when the night before I had read Lerone Bennett's book called Before the Mayflower, which I read the night before I taught the next morning in Freedom School. And so it was abundantly clear to me who the student was. It was not that kid. It was me.

I went back to Chicago and ended up working with 800 kids in a tutoring project on the West Side in Lawndale. Went from there to OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity], one of the founders of Upward Bound where I did what I think of as setting up a dating service between people who were deeply afraid of each other, the university community on the one hand and the poor community who said, I could go there? on the other hand. I lived out of airports for a couple years and ended up, as many of us did, in Berkeley, California.

Man: Paradise.

Stephen: Uhhhhh, turns out not to be so. The Berkeley, California where — as I later found out as a member of the Berkeley police force — where it was common for cops to use anagrams or algorithms like "TNA." TNA stands for Typical N***** Action. It was common cop slang for African-American males for domestic disputes. I learned that paradise wasn't paradise. Paradise rhetoric was perfect, man. It still is. But the reality is there's the west side of Berkeley, and then there's the hills.

And I so I kept learning, and because as an overgrown student, that makes me a teacher, I would try and talk about those issues with those people who became my students. And to the extent that I have made them — these are often 21, 22, 23-year-old doctoral students who are going to be clinical psychologists, who are going to be therapists — to the extent that I've been able to help make them see what you saw, which I could not agree more is still here. Cheryl Alexander's, The New Jim Crow, makes it abundantly clear, just abundantly clear how divided we are and how romantic I was when I, like so many others, cried with the election of our first African-American President, who is now using drones to kill people all over the world, just like the President before him. He got the job description right. It's called "President."

And I'm now close to retiring and thinking hard. I think Jimmy's absolutely right. It was abundantly clear that I had to go to Mississippi. It's not abundantly clear where I go next...

David: What was achieved? I know in the fall of '63, in the spring of '64, when the Mississippi Summer Project was being planned, one of the expectations — if not goals — was to have Northern progressive students heavily populate the state whose parents had strong contacts to Congressmen and lawyers who had ins with the Justice Department and the New York Times and the Atlanta Constitution. Because it was expected they would be harassed, beaten, might be killed, and the press would be down in abundance, along with TV cameras. Their parents would be irate, calling the Congressmen and women, mainly men at the time, and there would be action, for the first time. And there was.

A large part was not only Freedom Schools but voter registration. I don't think any of us would've predicted in '64 that for the last several terms there would be a Black mayor in Jackson, Mississippi, who unfortunately just passed away of a heart attack. And many other cities. Or like Stephen, in 2008 we would have an African-American President and an African-American as head of the Justice Department. Of course, both have done egregious things since. We always felt that freedom is a constant struggle. We learned that. But I think a great deal has been accomplished, and it's unfortunate that in the last several years the five guys in the black robes are accomplishing what all the guys in the white robes could not accomplish in '64 and '65 and '66. [Applause]

So it's not over. [Laughter] And you know, Alabama and Mississippi are still red states, and the Supreme Court's doing all they can to end — to make sure it stays that way forever.

[In the vernacular of 2014, "red state" indicates a conservative stronghold of the Republican Party. In the vernacular of the 1960s, politicians and the mass media used "red" as a label for vile, communist, traitorous, and un-American activities.]

So we just need more voter registration and more political organization and keep going. But I think a great deal was accomplished. Not enough, but a great deal.

Lynn: I feel like everyone said everything, so I don't know how much I have to add, but I was at the University of Pennsylvania, and I became very involved with many students from African countries and Latin American countries where upheaval and revolution was happening. So by the time I signed up to go South, I was pretty aware of the global struggle and what it took.

But I really had no idea what I was going to encounter, and of course we all got to the South and there was no [Civil Rights] bill, and we were all involved in direct action. And I think as far as what was accomplished on a small scale, I think the fact that we were there, and David spoke to it very clearly, that the white people who were there were why the press paid any attention. I mean, there were people being killed for years in these little counties, and nobody gave a shit. And suddenly, the eyes were on people.

And I worked on a film called Faith, Hope and Capital about ten years ago, and I went back to Alabama. I looked up a few of the people, but I didn't have much time. But the thing that really struck me was yes, there are elected officials now who are Black, and that is incredible. But there's also the economic divisions which still exist and of course are everywhere in the country. And when I was in the South, actually when we were in orientation, I talked to our project leader in Chicago, Jim Bevel, and I told him, I said, "I don't know why we're not doing this in the North." So he said, "Okay, I want you on the Northern staff. And in Chicago." The issues we encountered in the South, many of them were the same. I mean, certainly racism, economic disparity, all that. But anyway, we have to still be at it, because it is absolutely true that we have a huge struggle continuing.

Jimmy: Jimmy Collier. Let me just say that as a Black man, and I wanted again to honor everybody that went to the South and whatever your thing is, but I wanted to say something about Black men. You know, in many ways, sometimes we have been really the major targets of inequality, and my expectation, for instance, for Obama is just that he get through and not be assassinated. And my expectation for him was that he wouldn't be probably much different than the rest of them; however, the fact that he's there. The fact that he's called the President. All of that makes a difference, because we know how much we're affected, our children are affected, grandchildren, great grandchildren are affected by what they see.

And you know, we go up and down based on — we were riding high for awhile, and then O.J. And Black men went down. We weren't being chased by the women anymore. Then we were doing pretty good, and then Tiger stubbed his toe. But Obama brought us back. Black men now are considered, you know, humans. So I think — and as we see with the people that are in the South and so on, nothing's perfect. People are people. And Black people are no better. Let me just say that. They're no better than white people. They're just like white people.

Man: And no worse.

Jimmy: They're no different. They're going to be corrupt, some of them. I mean, looked what's on the Supreme Court. I hate that guy [referring to Justice Clarence Thomas]. I hate that guy.

So my point is simply this: Obama was reelected because there is a new dynamic in the country that's not us old farts. It's the young people. And it's the young people that are Latinos. It's the young people that are Asian. It's the young people that are from everywhere, and it's young Caucasians as well. They're not going to express it in the same way that we did in a Movement like that. But the world has changed.

And what we see from the Republican Party and so on is their attempt to hold on. They're desperate. All their money and everything. And of course we saw it with Obama. All their money to not have him be reelected didn't work. And so we have some of these kinds of things going for us. So I would just be careful in — you know, none of us are perfect. We fought for equality. We got it. I have had to do some things to make money and to be — I ended up having a corporate career later in my life, so you know, I've had to dance with the devil to make a living.

And so that's just how it is. It's not gonna be perfect, but it's better. If you're a Black person, it's better. If you're a woman, it's better. If you're a member of the lesbian/gay community, it's better. If you were handicapped before the '60s, it's better today. So I think that in some ways, we know there's work to be done, but we have to be careful in not recognizing that there is hope, because things are better. And they are.

Marcia. And thanks very much, because I am so glad to have heard you say what I think is true about Obama and where he is. And it's why, although he's part right, I have no problem with people calling him Black. Thank you.

I had a couple of thoughts that I wanted to add onto what we achieved. And one is an anecdote, so at the 40th reunion when we went into Jackson, and I saw this huge banner that said, Welcome Freedom Summer Volunteers! [Laughter] In the airport. And I was standing in line to rent a car, behind Bernice Johnson Reagan, and I thought: Okay! Things have changed. So that's one thing.

The other thing that I think was achieved and has a bit to do with politics — it certainly was achieved for me — was teaching us to looked under the surface of politics and also not pin our hopes on politics or any one politician as being the solution. Because when we put all of our eggs in that basket, for the reasons that you mentioned, we're gonna lose out. And the anecdote that I have about that, in the summer of '63, I happened to be in Chicago, and there was an NAACP meeting in Grant Park, and I went with some friends, including Demeris Allen who was studying to go to India, and we heard the original Mayor Daley welcome the NAACP and say: I swear, he said, "We are so glad to tell you there are no ghettos in Chicago." [Laughter]

And I had just done the study on blockbusting in Chicago. He's telling a lie! And then some young Turks came up and were protesting, and they got escorted out of Grant Park, so that was probably — having grown — you know, I'm 19 years old, and I'm thinking: Oh yeah, you've got to believe what these leaders say. No way do you have to believe what the leaders say. And then more and more when we were studying to teach Mississippi history, we learned to looked under the surface and to teach people to looked under the surface. And I think that was something that was accomplished as well.

Lynn: I don't — Yeah, Lynn. I don't know if any of you have seen the film The Barber of Birmingham? Well, it was nominated for an Academy award in the short documentary. Friends of mine made it, and it's about an elderly gentleman who was a barber in Birmingham who finally got the right to vote. And then there was this Black guy running for President, and it sort of follows what happens, his feelings. I mean, you really understand, no matter what we — I mean, we all know about Obama, and we all know about corporate capitalism and what is going on, but the fact is, this guy represented so many older people in the South who we all — knocked on their doors and dragged them down to wherever. And then they were asked to recite the Constitution, but finally, to be able to see what he saw was really — it's a beautiful film.

Man: And we all supported crummy white guys — for President. Why not have a crummy Black guy?

Man: Fair is fair!

Chude: See I'm one of the ones that basically stopped voting for capitalist party candidates after Johnson. I mean, not only after the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Challenge that he, you know, tried and succeeded in not allowing to happen, but he also had said that he would not bomb Hanoi, and Goldwater was saying he would. So I still voted for him, even though I was angry at him. And then he bombed Hanoi, and I said, "Forget this. I mean, I couldn't do it. So one thing we didn't say out loud, but we talk about, is that participation in the Movement radicalized a lot of us. We started out idealistic — I mean, I truly believed that love was going to conquer all.

Man: Yeah, I sang songs.

Chude: And you know, I came out of the South aware of poverty at a level that I had never been aware of before. So and then of course, I'm against the war. My first husband refused the draft. I helped to organize the early Women's Liberation Movement. I mean, I stayed an activist, and I stayed pretty much a radical. And that's one of the things I note that's so different today. Not of course the people that were like in the movements — you know, golly, when you get older, your brain goes ... [Laughter]

The 99%, you know, the Occupy. The whole idea of the 99%. I mean, that was brilliant. It continues to seem that laws don't change without mass movements, but mass movements also in some way are keyed into laws. Certainly, starting probably with that interesting marriage of the Supreme Court decision in '54 and the Montgomery Bus Boycott in '55, I mean not literally, but you know what I mean? It's the two things.

Woman: Citizens United.

Chude: Yeah, that there's this kind of thing that happens in a relationship between... Sometimes it's the courts doing positive things, and sometimes it's doing negative. But I would say looking back, the key thing is that there is no question that when there are mass movements, there is progressive change. And I think the same thing could be said that a mass movement that's reactionary like the Tea Party can push things the other way. That mass movements are important, that they play a key role, and you cannot get that kind of change just from electoral politics. But you can push electoral politics by having movements.

And so when I look back, that's one of the things I would say we — along with the kinds of changes we've — especially the really concrete ways in which things have changed in the South in particular. People can't just be killed all the time without sometimes — 

Woman: Someone noticing.

Chude: But sometimes they still are. North and South. People are killed, you know, by police for absolutely wrong reasons, and we still have a lot to go.


Biracial Kids and Inter-Racialism

Elaine: On terms of what was achieved, I realized one thing that was achieved. I have biracial grandchildren, and I don't think that I would have biracial grandchildren if we hadn't been together and learning. Obviously both societies changed, and also I was able to — my opinions about people, my daughter internalized — she came to the '94 reunion in Jackson. She's always been — we have Francis Mitchell who lived with us off and on for 30 years, was a part of our family. And her openness and ability to see Black men was the same as — I mean, she had white boyfriends; she married a Black man. That's a big change. That's a big, big change.

And seeing how — then, when you looked at your children — my grandchildren are like my children — and then you see the world through the eyes of someone who is trying to pretend and be aware of racial discrimination — you become sensitized to racial discrimination on multi-levels. It's kind of like a reminder of both what has changed and what hasn't changed. And it's been a great gift to me, and I think many of the biracial kids — I remember Francesca Polletta who taught Race Relations at Columbia said to me: "What's different now, Elaine, is about five years ago I started getting these kids who are biracial. And they're really different, and they don't see the world the way we used to see the world." And the biracial kids I tie to the work that we did and the openness and being able to see people. So I think that's a big change. They refuse to reject the world of either parents.

Jimmy: Well, I did my part. I've been married to three Caucasian women. [Laughter] My first wife, for the record, [Sheri Land] — we were married by Dr. King, and we tried to stay together for that reason.

Woman: In Chicago.

Jimmy: But it didn't work. Eventually, she said, "I hate you, but that's all right. We're friends today."

Man: But not because you were Black.

Jimmy: No, no. [Laughter]

Jimmy: But yeah, I think you're right. And we have biracial — we have children.

Man: If you'd been Jimi Hendrix, you'd still be rejected. [Laughter]

Jimmy: But I do — I mean, your point is well taken. The young people are different, you know? My kids — they don't even — they grew up of course listening to me talk about stuff and whatnot. But it's not conscious in their mind. They just don't pay any attention to it. They don't believe in it. Their friends are not as smart as they are. They don't know the details like you do and your friends do, but they just automatically are not racist. However, I don't think people really know though, like the level that you're talking about. I think that's something that we all know and other people don't know, because they haven't had that experience.

Marcia: Marcia, with a question. They live in the Bay Area?

Jimmy: They live around Fresno.

Marcia: Would you worry about them going into Mississippi or Alabama with their openness?

Jimmy: Today, I don't think I would. Now it depends on whether you're in a rural area or in a city area. And that maybe has always been the case.

Marcia: Or even a big city and being stereotyped.

Jimmy: Well, what does that mean today? Being stereotyped? I mean, as long as nobody is gonna kill you, if people stare at you, or if they act strangely toward you or whatever, who cares?

Marcia: I didn't mean biracial. I meant the Black component so that they are stopped by police and harassed. And they're hailing a taxi — I mean, the stories that I still hear that are happening in this country. And I guess we'll get to that, what we failed to achieve, but I love the fact that they — 

Jimmy: Profiling.

Marcia: Profiling, I meant, not stereotyped.

Man: Try one block from here [in downtown Oakland, CA].

Marcia: I think so. Yeah.

Lynn: I mean, my kids are — they're adopted, so they're — my daughter's Latina, and my son is Vietnamese. And all growing up, they had such a vast mix of friends that I think that — you know, and of course, they heard me and my ex, talking and being strident and whatever, screaming and yelling. And my son came out when he was 15. Now previous to that, my daughter had been incredibly homophobic, because she was totally into being a little gangster Chola and she'd hang with her friends and they'd talk about fag this, fag that. Suddenly, she has a brother who is gay, and she became the most fierce defendant. So I mean, I just think that our children and the next generations are being exposed to worlds that we knew nothing about, whether we were in the Civil Rights Movement or whatever. It's just, you know, not that there's been huge improvements, because as we know, looked at the jails; looked at the schools. .

Marcia. Just to finish my thought, I think I was remembering The Talk that many mothers have had to have with their Black sons after Trayvon Martin, and that's what I was thinking about.

Man: Oh absolutely. Or perhaps have always had to have with their sons. With Trayvon Martin and others it is sort of re-accentuated followed by white liberals saying: Geez, it couldn't happen. It's 2014. Yeah?

Jimmy: Yeah, I grew up in that kind of environment where, in school, if you were in school with me, you would say: That Jim Collier, they used to beat him to death. You could whip kids then. And what they were doing, they thought, was making sure that you didn't, as a young Black guy, they could beat some of that wanting to challenge the system out of you. And my grandmother would tell me: Don't get mixed up with stuff. So there was a lot of that that goes on, and I'm sure goes on today. But it's always been there. And you know, you have to challenge. That's why I think what all of you all collectively did makes a big difference. People have to have help, you know? And we only just continued a movement that had been going on, the sleeping, the — what is it?

Woman: Porters.

Chude: Sleeping car porters?

Jimmy: And then you just keep going back and going to the Labor Movement and what happened there. It's all kind of a progression. I mean, the Labor Movement didn't start out being on the side of Blacks. I mean, it took awhile before the Labor Movement supported everybody.


Whites in the Freedom Movement

Stephen: Stephen. I think one thing that's seemed important to me and perhaps I reflect only myself is we didn't "help" nearly as much, I think, as we helped ourselves. Privileged, in my case, white male, nice Jewish boy from Pittsburgh saw and hopefully and halfway humbled and halfway angry way have been able to say to others: Open your fucking' eyes. And I wouldn't have been able to say that.

Chude: And open your heart.

Stephen: Indeed. You must learn to love your neighbor with your crooked heart. It's {unclear}. It's one of my favorite couplets. That it's, as Jimmy said, I think there are very, very few heroes or heroines here. We all had crooked hearts, some of us maybe a little less crooked than others, and some of us still learning to open our heart. With any luck at all, you've been graced now with two generations, your daughter and your grandchildren. I wish them a world different than the one we knew.

Charles: I just wanted to say, I think my contribution is to reinforce what Jimmy said earlier. I think one of the things you see here in this event is there's way more white people than there are Black people. I mean, Black people — and in part you're right, but you're right about all of it. Anyone involved in a Movement such as that one is gonna benefit, but please don't underestimate the value that was played by white students in particular who — y'all jumped off the train. [Laughing and overtalk]

Man: I took a regular bus, so I don't know. [Laughing & overtalk]

Charles: I'm going to Mississippi?! [Overtalk]

Woman: We were privileged.

Charles: But I think that the impact and the effect is part of the change.

Man: Absolutely. No question.

Charles: And I think that there's gonna be a lot of conversations about, you know, paternalistic white people and whether or not they really did it for us or for themselves and other kinds of things. And there's probably some truth embedded in all of those kind of things, but if you want to know how I feel, I don't care! [Laughter]

Man: I'm with you, Charlie. I don't care. But you walked in!

Charles: And you know, you don't hear it any more, and kids today don't quite understand it because it's not as relevant today as it was back then. You spoke of hate, and you talked about the potential for violence and everything else, and there was always all of that. We endured that. We understood that. We survived that.

But you all jumped right in the bear's lair, you know? There was nothing that was hated as much as "N*****-lovers." And all of you, when went into the South, in any capacity, you didn't have to register people; you didn't have to be in the Freedom Schools, or anything else, just your mere presence representing a position and an issue that was so opposed by so many people there. I mean, that was — Jimmy said it was courageous. You know, it's a "C" word — courageous, crazy, I don't know. I'm not sure which one it was. Laughing]

But it had an incredible effect, and I think that you're right in terms of some of the strategy around that was to put young, white men and women at risk, in a situation to kind of — 

Man: Draw attention.

Charles: But you can say that — you can say that, but it sounds real good. To do it — [Laughter] — is a whole different world. I just want to say before we leave here, you all represent — not you all — all of the white people who were involved in that Movement in the South represent an historical value that people today probably cannot understand. They just cannot. They will associate what you did with what they're doing today, which is not the same thing. What you did is not the Occupy Movement. What you did is not the Gay Liberation Movement. What you did is probably, the closest thing, is akin to the Labor Movement back before it was — 

Man: In the '30s.

Charles: In the '30s or something like that. But it was a different — the difference was, the Labor Movement of the '30s was a movement that was using the people affected by the problem.

Woman: It was Gandhian. And we had Gandhi.

Charles: You had Gandhi, but the Labor Movement was a movement of poor people, the disenfranchised, white people, the people who were struggling because they didn't have any rights or opportunities, trying to get some. The Civil Rights Movement, the white people who participated in the Civil Rights Movement by and large was a completely different group of people. They were not the disenfranchised or the struggling. They were comfortable, affluent. They were educated. Where did you all come from? You all came from college campuses.

Woman: Yep.

Charles: Nice ones by the way. [Laughter]

Charles: But it was a completely different kind of situation for you, and I knew, when I was there, and Jimmy knew when he was there, you know, we were representing an interest that was personal and political, and it was part of something that we really didn't have much choice about. You all had different choices. You had many different choices. You could've been politically active in different ways, and certainly there were many who were. But for those of you who did it, God bless you. God bless you. And you don't find very many people who understand that movement today, because we're old.

Jimmy: It's a small percentage.

Charles: It's a very small percentage.

Jimmy: You represented a small percentage of people. And one of the things — I still get interviews and play music and stuff, and sometimes I find it hard to be — because they want me to be inspiring, you know? And so sometimes I find it hard to be inspiring and hopeful and positive, but that's important to young people and to people that are listening or that want to reflect on the Movement or whatever. Some combination of this being hopeful and all that along with still talking about the problems that exist and so on. There has to be a balance there. It can't be all: No, it didn't do any good, you know, at all. Or it can't be all: Everything's fine. There's got to be some element of both, I believe, in it.

And I certainly — to me, if I were to say to somebody today: You need to go to Mississippi or to Syria or somewhere and work within the system where — people would have a heart attack. And that's basically what you all did. You went to Syria in the 1960s, and it's amazing that you did that. And we went on, you know, Resurrection City and Poor People's Campaign with Dr. King, still trying to keep things nonviolent, still trying to have everybody involved in the Movement. And we did in the Poor People's Campaign and Resurrection City. History has criticized that project, that campaign, for 50 years now. And so in the last couple of years now, Resurrection City is getting its due, and they're saying what — you know, because that's what created this combination of Latinos and all these different people that we pulled together into Washington, D.C. for that summer.

And we were headed to Wall Street. If Dr. King hadn't been killed, that was our next destination was Wall Street. And we did an incredible job there. I remember organizing gypsies out of store fronts. And where do gypsies live now? I don't even know where they are. But they were in store fronts. I got to integrate into their culture, and I was different. And they wanted to be free, you know, for different reasons.

Some things you just don't understand, like I met what's his name? Bill Clinton, one time. You know, he's so pretty. [Laughter] I felt like I would date him. [Laughter] He's beautiful. He shines like a light, you know? And he's like all these great people. Dr. King, Pete Seeger, all these people that shine like a light and then somehow they make you shine. They make you feel — Clinton was the same way. Shake his hand: Oh yeah, Okay, I'll date you. Laughing] But anyway, you guys feel good about yourself. That's what Charlie's saying. And as we move on — I'll shut up.



Chude: I wanted to talk about leadership. So I'm glad you brought that up, Jimmy. This whole question of: What did we learn? When we looked back on these 50 years, both the pros and cons of leadership, because you have someone like Dr. King who had so many admirable qualities and I can only, as the years go by in many ways, respect him more. I mean, in San Francisco, there is behind the waterfall down at Yerba Buena, you can go see what he said. And that's before a lot of the Movement, some of those things, and he's already a radical around war and around economics.

[Referring to the Martin Luther King memorial in Yerba Buena Gardens, a public park in downtown San Francisco.]

But it's something wrong when you look back over the 50 years that people equate a Movement with a man.

Man: Absolutely.

Chude: We need leaders; we need the charisma and that way that they can — they shine, and they can make other people shine. A Movement can bring out the best in all of us. Someone gets pushed up. But somehow, the grassroots movement or what a movement is, which involves so many, many — must involve huge numbers of people, it can get brought down. What happens? That somehow as the movements are being de-fanged, they're de-fanged by making heroes of leaders.

Jimmy: And that's not true on the Right, by the way.

Chude: Say more, Jimmy.

Jimmy: It's true on the Left, but it's not true so much on the Right.

Chude: What do you mean?

Jimmy: Well, I think on the Left, if you looked at — if we were to looked at what happened to people who have been involved in movements on the Left, you're absolutely right. We don't train them to take over certain parts. There's a certain kind of competition really that goes on. People are not supported financially on the Left. Not only that, we have a multiplicity of issues that we deal with. It's very difficult to stay on any kind of a message, so to speak. That's not true on the Right. And also, we don't study the Right like the Right has studied us. And that's why we find ourselves today, because they studied what we did in the 1960s, and so they have taken away some of the ability to do what we did.

For instance, they own all the newspapers and the broadcasts, and they make the movies. One of the things that is interesting to me is the movie, Birth of a Nation, D.W. Griffith who did all that work with movies and so on. Well, that was the justification for the Ku Klux Klan.

[Referring to a major Ku Klux Klan resurgence between 1916 and the late 1920s that fomented hate and violence against Blacks, Jews, Catholics, and immigrants. They also attacked urban elites, intellectuals, and science. Their ideology combined white-supremacy, devout religious fundamentalism, and extreme hyper-patriotism. By the early 1920s, they numbered in the millions and were able to elect officials nationwide. For a period, they effectively took over the state government of Indiana. They referred to their secret political control as the "Invisible Empire."]

I was a Civil War re-enactor for about three years. I can tell you that we would fight the Civil War once a month throughout the summer with black powder guns, and you've seen the guys that do that. Well, we had a little Black unit. And of course, we would fight all weekend about whether or not it was States' rights or slavery. You know, you're asking for real bullets by Sunday night. [Laughter]

Elaine: I've been thinking about this, because I think we all think about leadership. There was a way of thinking — at least in Mississippi and at that time — that I think it came from — it was how we made decisions, that consensus decision making was a tradition before Mississippi, but I think it was reemphasized, because we were willing to die and willing to die for each other. And if that's the stake, then if you're asking people to be willing to die, then you have to honor their voices. There has to be clarity about what you're doing. And Bob Moses was the ultimate proponent of modeling that behavior, that thinking process. We were asking people in communities to give up safety, to give up livelihood, to give up their way of life. And those were the heroes. And we had to listen to them. We had to honor them, because we were asking them for permission to totally disrupt their culture and their lives.

Man: And then we went home.

Elaine: Well, Okay. But yes, and then we went home. If you ask the people that you worked with, they will say — because this happened to me 10 years ago when I [returned to] Panola County. They just asked us to come back, and they didn't blame us for leaving. They said, "Boy, it'd be great if you would come back, because we still have these problems." But now there were like three people (Blacks) on the school board and the county commissioner and all those things.

But the idea, the importance that people make the decisions that affect their lives, it was key, but it slowed us down. We didn't have a method of developing leadership, because leadership was so imbued with everyone. We didn't create leaders, because that wasn't how we believed it should be done. So that's also one of the things that was achieved, that sense that people who were involved need to make the decisions.

If you looked at all the social movements afterwards, it was like a key part, maybe more than is particularly useful. It slows people down, it made sense for us, because we were dealing with life and death and changing a culture. Did it make as much sense for people that were just ending up talking a lot? So I think that we did not develop leaders, because it was not the way we worked, and it's been a great loss. Now, there are attempts now, really, and Bob once again in his focus on youth, there are leadership programs, and there's a focus on that. But it was not a continuity from our work to now.

Stephen: I think both Charles and Jimmy are absolutely right that the people who invited quote the "n*****-loving, mother fucker, Jew educators..."

Elaine: You got 'em all! [Laughter] Communist, Jewish, n***** loving hippies.

Stephen: All of us, yeah. [Laughter]

Man: Commie!

Woman: Fag!

Woman: Communist, Jewish, atheist, n***** loving — 

Woman: Fag.

Man: Fag or slut. [Laughter]


Local Folk

Stephen: Some years ago, I can't remember the guy's name, he was a young professor I think at Arizona who wrote a book about the summer, about Mississippi Summer. And he asked me: Can you remember the names of the family you lived with? I couldn't. I really regret that. When I think of heroes, they invited this n***** loving, outside, mother fucker, educator into their homes. And if we quote "risk our lives," what about them? And so, yeah, we came, but only because of their homes, their lives. I wonder — the only thing I think of is I think of Anne Frank. Would I have invited you into my home if I knew people were looking for you? And if they found you, they would also kill not only you but me. And I don't know the answer to that question. I would hope that I would. As indeed the quote "righteous Gentiles" did in Europe in World War II.

Jimmy: Well, Paul Ryan is one of your people. [Laughter]

Man: He's Irish! C'mon!

Man: No, he's Jewish, isn't he?

Woman: Paul Ryan is not Jewish.

Woman: Not in the Republican Party. [Laughter]

Stephen: I'm here to tell you that I don't have a "your people." [Laughter]

Marcia: That was what I was inferring when I was talking about the strengths of the people that we had stayed with, but I will tell you, and I just happen to remember Mrs. Spinks and her husband who worked at the furniture factory, and Charlie-Boy Spinks who was the 14-year-old in the family, but when Gwen Zoharah Robinson and I, and Jimmy Garrett and Tom Watts came into Laurel, and we knew that we were going to stay with them, we had to wait until they'd found a spot, and Gwen Zoharah likes to say that when Ms. Spinks greeted her at the door, she said, "Girl, I've been waiting for you all my life."

So they, I think, did know, and it was the strength of the groups that they already were working with. And I think for us, and for me — I think about that issue over and over again for myself, would I do that on my own? Probably not. But we had a Movement behind us, and we had the heritage of the Gandhian Movement, and one of the lessons learned I guess, I was going to say, is that we could learn, just out of being a teenager, when what other people think about you is really important, that what other people say about you — n***** loving, Jewish, Communist — it can just fall off your back. I mean, not that most of us would've accepted that, but you can learn to say what other people say about me is not me. And you can carry that over into other parts of your life too.

David: I want to offer something. I don't remember his first name, because I never called him by his first name, the gentleman who housed me. He's single. His name is Mr. Brown. He was in the bottoms. One of the things is that it was easier for us to be nonviolent, because many of the people in the Black community were armed.

Man: To the teeth.

David: With shotguns and 30-30s. His rustic shack was two rooms, just wood nailed up. I don't know what he did, but he had razor wire all around the top of everything. Deflectors that no bomb could be thrown underneath, because he had screening. He had a screened-in front porch, and when I walked down the street, he was there in a rocking chair with his shotgun and 30-30. We were very safe. No one was going to come into the community to do anything to him or us. And there was in incident in August at a lake, at Curry Farm, and we were attacked by the Klan. And I probably would've been killed if the local people didn't have rifles and started firing back.

Elaine: When I lived in Mr. Miles, Robert and Mona Miles' house in Batesville, there was this hole in the window where I slept. They shot into the room — there was a bullet in the window — I got the front room. I thought I was really special, but it was where they shot a bullet through the window. But there was an armed guard, 24 hours, on the roof. And like sometimes, if I came in at the night to go to the bathroom or something like that, I went through the kitchen. There were the guards. They watched over the house all the time. So yes, we were safe because the community protected us. It couldn't always protect us. That bullet did go through the window. But after awhile I didn't feel unsafe. I didn't feel unsafe there. I felt protected.

Let me just say one thing about what you said, Stephen, about the comment of Anne Frank. I think that one thing that we learned is character, that years later, a woman who was a Nazi survivor said to me: "I always, in my friendships, when I meet someone, I think: If the Nazis were at the door, would this person give me up?" And I thought that that is what I internalized from the South is that I don't make friends unless there's a character there. Would they give me up? I mean, you learn that. It's really the people that you trust as friends have to be people that would give up for you as you would for them. And I don't have that many friends. I do have a lot of friends, but that's my criteria. It has to be somebody that I would stand next to and will stand next to me. And I think that has impacted me — that's one of the lessons I learned is what does it mean to have friends? What does it mean to have a community that faces the world the way you do? And is willing to stand there?

Jimmy: Well, I think your leadership issue though is important. Because we know that the assassination of Dr. King — you know, we went through a period where a lot of people were assassinated, killed, lost their jobs, or whatever ways they could be harassed. People went underground. I had some friends who were with the Weather Underground. They went underground. So it was not all over the country. You know, there's a think tank at Stanford that does Dr. King's papers [The M.L.K. Research & Education Institute] very prolific he was. But they've gone through FBI tapes and so on, and those tapes indicate that the government felt that they were under attack and that they could do whatever was needed. So we can't underestimate the importance of some kind of leadership. And the Occupy Movement, they believed a lot in — you know, we're gonna get into the SCLC/SNCC debate, but they believed a lot in consensus. But, as the old guy that wanted to contribute money, that wanted to contribute and so on, it's hard to find what that central place was. And so to try and advocate and push and support and so on was difficult, because there was no real central organization with a leader. And I'm reminded — who's the guy in England that took over? Was it Cornwallis? No, what was his name?

[Probably referring to Oliver Cromwell.]

I can't think of his name. But anyway, he said he ended up being — he started out being one of the people's — 

Woman: Let the people decide.

Jimmy: The people. And then he ended up being like a king himself. And the conclusion was: Well, we need somebody that always acts like a king or something. So, could we have done all this without a Dr. King? Without the leadership that we had? That's my question.

Chude: I'm not questioning leadership. I mean, I'm not questioning that you should or shouldn't have leadership. I was just putting out the question of: What is good leadership? And historically, when you look back, what does it mean that the Movement has been truncated and squashed down to Dr. King and Mrs. Rosa Parks? And maybe Mrs. Hamer. Because they would not be who they were if there were not hundreds and thousands of people that were also taking leadership at every level. I mean, you know, leadership isn't just at the top.

But the other thing we have not talked about is the shift into not only separatism and nationalism, but into posturing, which I think, when I look back, is one of the key weaknesses of what happened in the Movement, and it was not simply in the Black Movement. It also was in the Women's Movement and in the New Left SDS. Because all of a sudden it became, you know, who was the most charismatic and had the best speech? And especially up North, who had the right analysis?

Bruce [Hartford] brings this up a lot, coming back from having worked in the South, and all of a sudden confronting, as a white person, many people — some of the people here have confronted coming back to their towns or their cities, their campuses, and being told by the Black students there: Get lost, white person. You're white; you don't count. In their — one of them was describing last night to me, in their SNCC overalls, having not set foot anywhere, but all of a sudden, because of skin color, they can — they're the leaders, and the people who were on the ground are nobody.

You know, it's not a question of everything's right and wrong, but something happened when all of a sudden how you spoke and what your line was, was more important than what you did. And the thing about the Southern Freedom Movement is it was about doing. It wasn't just — and the thing is if you had those women especially in Montgomery not taking the buses, they are in an absolute dialectic relationship with Dr. King who's emerging as a major charismatic speaker. And I mean, they are working together. One does not exist without the other, right?

So that, anyway, is why I was raising this whole question of what is leadership? Where were the errors we made? And how the media truncated us down.

Charles: Can I just break off a piece before we get too far? I hear what you're saying, and I understand what you're saying, and I agree with much of what you're saying. But I think one of the problems of talking about leadership is that there are different leadership needs. And I think that there are sometimes, unfortunately, not the kind of attention paid to whether you are in a crisis and need crisis leadership or whether you are in a political activity and you need organizational leadership. I think the different situations require and demand different things. And in a largely unorganized community such as the Black community, it's not — and I was saying at SNCC — I was SNCC before I was SCLC, so I was, you know, Bob Moses was my god. He was the right guy.

But he was essentially someone who had been schooled in the colleges and universities, and he was bringing into the community an orientation that was largely, mostly politically oriented rather than crisis oriented. For the disenfranchised, dispossessed population of Black people who not only didn't have organization, but they had no power, to ask them to take any kind of change at all wasn't difficult. It was just hard for them to actualize, which is why traditionally within the Black community, you have these evolved Black leaders. They're crisis leaders.

And what they provide, as Dr. King did — yeah, in the Birmingham Movement, the Montgomery Movement, the reason that he was selected in the Montgomery Movement — the women and Ralph Abernathy and others who were actually the organizational leaders didn't want to die. And Dr. King was new, and he was inexperienced, and if he did get killed, it wouldn't be the same loss that they felt that would be for themselves. What happened was, he stepped up, and he became, in fact, an inspirational leader. And inspirational leaders do things a bit different. And we've all benefited from that.

There are some people who get you to go out and knock on doors and be able to put a lot of effort into doing business kinds of things. And that hard work, discipline kind of thing, yep, that's what you can do. An inspirational leader asks you to die. And to get a community to move from powerlessness to empowerment without any infrastructure there in order to do that, you can't do it organizationally. You can't ask them to make that kind of change based on the principles, the rudiments, the fundamentals of organizational analysis and other kinds of things.

Similarly, in the Second World War, Winston Churchill was an inspirational leader. Once the war was over, they tossed him out, right? Why? Because they didn't need him anymore. But during the war, when all was lost, and they were sitting in their little bucket out there in the middle of the Atlantic, all alone just counting down time, if you didn't have a Churchill in those Spitfire pilots who were willing to go off and die, you wouldn't have had the change that came about.

What Jimmy said is absolutely true. The thing the Black people fear about our leaders, those inspirational leaders, is that they die. One of the things in the conversation about leadership and who does it and how it's done in the red community, they honored their leaders. They honored their leaders. In the blue community, we eat our leaders. We eat 'em ourselves. In the Black community, they kill our leaders.

And so when we have this discussion around leadership, one of the things that each one of you experienced in whatever community you were in the South, leadership within the Black community existed in only one area. And that was in the church. There were pastors and preachers, inspirational leaders who could come out and kind of fire the people up to do something, and once they fired them up, they were ready to die. They'd be out there. They'd do it. But you're right, they might not have been — and we knew them; we all worked with them. When you're talking about character and other kinds of things, I don't know if there's necessarily a need to have character associated with leadership, if you're talking about crisis leadership.

Certainly if you're talking about organizational leadership, it's good that your leader isn't corrupt. But in dealing with crises and dealing with life and death, and asking people to make a choice, sometimes the people who can do that better than others aren't the people you want to go out and have dinner with later, and that's just part of the reality. But it is something that needs to be addressed, and it needs to be identified, because sometimes we're not looking at the situation clearly and understanding what is needed and why and what is going on.

Because as Stephen pointed out, what happened in the last national presidential campaign was Obama emerged as an inspirational leader. Everybody loved Obama. But then he became President. Organizational leader. Are the same expectations, the same standards applied to an organizational leader? Some people say he failed as an organizational leader, but he was great as an inspirational leader. He moved those people. He moved those people. And so when we looked at what it took, and we looked back 50 years to see what we were all dealing with, it was a mix of both.

Yes, most of us started in SNCC, right? Everybody?

Woman: I wanted to. I wasn't allowed to, because I was a white girl.

Charles: Yeah, you weren't there. But SNCC, the reason that we had that orientation is that it came off the college campuses. It was academic. It was analytical. I'm sorry.

Man: That was Charles Love, San Francisco. He's our new inspirational leader. [Laughter]

Lynn: I just want to say one thing. Now Charlie, you do remember as far as leadership is concerned, that in Hale County [AL], the Reverend Day — 

Charlie: Oh yeah, Reverend Day.

Lynn: — was very ineffectual.

Charlie: Yeah.

Lynn: And he was expected to be the leader. But the real leaders were the kids. The kids really took over.

Charlie: And every place that everybody lived, wasn't that partly true? I mean, one of the first things — and it was an organizational truth. We were told to go into the county and get the kids out of school. Why did you have Freedom Schools or classes? Because you moved the kids. And the reason that you moved the kids was the same reason that you brought white people into the South. They said if you take the kids out and put them at risk, it's gonna force the parents to come and get them. They're going to protect them. And so for us, every time we went into a county, shut down the schools. Pull the kids out. Start them demonstrating, doing something. And thy would do it; they would do it. But also, that tied the parents and the adults into: Don't hurt my kids. Don't get them out there. But that was organizational leadership. That was organizational leadership. But when the police came, when the po-po started throwing the gas and came out with the truncheons and all that other stuff, somebody — a preacher — Hallelujah, get up and shout now kind of thing, because if you didn't, they'd go home.

Marcia: This is Marcia. And I hope it's not repetitive, but I think it's a dialectic. It's like the leaders are needed, and the followers are needed. And I had written up lessons learned a couple of years ago when I was giving my Martin Luther King talk about issues, and I think this one is relevant. I said, "Building a movement doesn't depend on one or two people but hundreds, thousands, tens of thousands, each doing his or her part." If the goal is important enough, people will sign on. And each person's contribution is of value. Without the decades of work toward human and civil rights in this country by unnamed local people, many of whom were martyred for the cause, the changes that happened would not have come about, and people like Martin Luther King would barely have been remembered. So you can be inspirational to a few people, but it won't catch on.

You can have, as you said, a huge group of people, but it does help to have an inspirational — and then maybe an organizational — leader. And then so that's that topic.

The other thing that I know you mentioned how Bruce felt, and I know we've talked a bit, years ago, about at the end of Freedom Summer, with the talk by Blacks and SNCC about whites should not be involved in the Movement, and we were all going off on our own and individually trying to think about: "Was this the right thing for us to do as whites?" Because we were taking it to heart.

And I remember doing a little bit of self analysis and thinking: I'm — how do I want to say it? I don't like to take over. Maybe I take over now more than I did then, but Gwen Zoharah Robinson was definitely in charge of our project, and she was two years younger than me. And when you've got someone that strong, I felt like: Well, maybe that happened in other projects, but I don't think it happened in mine, other than those subtle changes that we as whites don't always know about Blacks — especially in those days — deferring to the whites. So I had to look at both of those.

So I think being a leader in that Movement had to have been a challenge, both on the local level as well as on the national level. And I think — I don't think it's going to turn out to be black and white — a pun — but I think that when I have been in meetings, you know peace and justice groups, Fellowship of Reconciliation, and people want to take on an issue, and they get disappointed that they can't bring about something like the Civil Rights Movement of the '60s. I have to say, you know, it's not that you just take on an issue. All of the work that's done in small groups, educating people, that has to build. And eventually, with people understanding that, when the time comes, and it might've been Occupy, maybe not quite, then the Movement will happen. You can't just direct it because you have an idea that you want it to happen.

Chude: Let's let Elaine.

Charlie: Oh, I'm sorry.

Elaine: I just want to tell a little anecdote about — you know, in SNCC, we didn't really respect Dr. King very much.

Chude: I remember. Tell the truth!

Elaine: And I remember when Selma came out, that we were supposed to go to Selma, and Stokely went crazy, the Jackson office, you know, "De Lawd, De Lawd." You know, we called him "De Lawd." Not me, but you know, Black people. And he said, "I'm not going there to get my ass kicked. I'm not." And then, guess what? Stokely went. Everybody went.

But it was an absolutely brilliant analysis you [Charlie] did of the role of the inspirational leader and the organizational. And I think for some of us, Bob Moses was an inspirational leader, because he was talking philosophically. And there were people like me who had been studying Camus in college. And Bob spoke to those strands of thinking. You're right. These were college ideas. But on the other hand, his ability to inspire by his love and respect of the people he worked with, we could see the local community through his eyes. And that was a different kind of inspirational.

Charles: San Francisco, once again. Well, let me add another piece to that, because I think that there are organizational and inspirational leaders, and there's also something more. And it's something that we don't see very often, and when it happens, it's an incredibly powerful thing, and that's called a visionary leader. And one of the problems with leadership is that oftentimes you have leaders who don't know what they're leading to. Or what they're leading for. And the problem is that you don't have to have a vision to be a leader. But if you have a vision and you are an organizational leader, which was SNCC, there are a lot of things that you can get people — because they weren't against leadership, and they weren't against a type of idolatry. It was just: We don't want it to be too big, too far. But there was Bob Moses. There was Stokely. There was John Lewis.

Yeah, all those kinds of things. But the fear, the fear that you have, and everyone has it, and it speaks to your point, because it's not racial. If you have a visionary leader that understands not only the journey but the destination, where you want to go, and is able to move people in that place, then you can't be distracted by other people who either are leaders or they have a different vision, and they're not going to cooperate with you to go along. Because what you were saying is true. We were all there, you know. I was SNCC. I didn't like — I wasn't gonna be behind some preacher, standing up there doing that kind of thing, until I met him. [Laughter]

I was on the college campus. I was all into that SNCC, "Let the people decide" kind of stuff, and I was also a part of the "white people don't need to make the decisions for Black people." But that's not the Movement racial, because Mao Tse-Tung did the same thing when he let the Red Guard go. You know, one of the things that happens is, Mao, like Dr. King and like some of the others, were visionary, inspirational leaders. And when you're dealing with not only the journey but the destination, you'll use whatever you can to ensure that people don't knock you off course. And that's what Stokely did.

Jimmy: Let me jump in here. Because we're moving to a global issue. Because some of us came into the Movement with a different kind of singular thought about it, more of a global thought. I grew into it having heroes like Che Guevera and so on. So I didn't care who was doing what, as long as what was being done was being done. That was always my view.

And you know, if there was some scary Black people, are some scary white people like SDS or the Weathermen, that made Dr. King and Bob Moses look good, because everybody was scared of those other guys. So you needed everybody. You needed every thought about what was going on, because those scary guys made everybody else legitimate. So we carried on.

You know, after Freedom Summer, we all carried on into the North, trying to organize in white communities, trying to organize Latinos, Mexicans that were doing land-grant struggles, Puerto Ricans who were coming into the country, then all the handicapped, LG — what is it? LGBT stuff. You know, whatever issue there was. The last thing — one of the last things that I did was me and this friend of mine that's passed away now, Eric Kindburg, we went back into Resurrection City, and we took a Navy transmitter, because we were gonna bust into radio transmissions from the Rocky Mountains. And then we discovered that the rural people weren't on our side, so we wouldn't be able to do that. We ended up in Canada, but anyway, that was another adventure.

To jump into what Charlie's saying is that, we saw the same thing when Dr. King was assassinated, the leadership probably should've gone to Jesse Jackson, but it didn't. It went to Dr. Abernathy, and so you had this shift in what was going to happen. And I guess my point is — like for instance, I sang as hard as anybody could possibly sing, everywhere. And I was even considered an ambassador to SNCC because I sang so good. But today — and I have songs that are in the Smithsonian and that are all over the world. I can looked on the internet and see the songs in Spanish and Italian and everything. But when I see movies now sometimes, they're not talking about me that was on the picket line and my beat up guitar and stuff. You know, they're talking about — who were some of the people from the day? You know, they're talking about celebrities. They're talking about celebrities that were singing. So, you know, there's a — And I never — 

Woman: Harry Bellafonte.

Jimmy: Well yeah, and he gave money, and he was involved. He was involved, yeah. But there's others that were just doing — and there's nothing against them, and I don't really care. I never really intended — you know, I did everything I could to sabotage my career anyway without any help from anybody else. [Laughter]

Woman: It's scary to get up there. You need help. [Laughter]

Woman: They're bringing it back. They're all going to YouTube now.

Chude: I wanted to just pick up on one thing about this thing about — well, both the visionary and inspirational leader and then the organizational leader. Many years ago now, I went to hear Diane Nash speak. She was speaking at a conference at UC Berkeley. And I thought I was gonna go hear a charismatic speaker, and she stood up there and did a blow by blow, detail by detail, of how she had organized the Freedom Ride, because she's the one that stayed back. And I was like: Wow! I always heard she was such this fiery person, and I'm hearing all these details.

Well, two things. One is it has stayed with me, in a whole different way than if it had been an inspirational talk. Because she was talking about the responsibility, the heavy responsibility of being the one who stayed behind and had to be on top of everything. And they show her in the Freedom Riders film, as the intense impressive leader, but she was talking about, you know, "I had to be on top of it." The boring concrete stuff, I couldn't make a mistake, she said, because people's lives were at stake.

So that's a kind of leadership. But I went up to her afterwards to thank her, and in the thanking her, I can't remember what it was we started to say, but all of a sudden, there was this fire in her eyes, and there was this light. And I thought: Oh, when it was called upon, she could be very inspiring, right? But when it was called upon, she could sit in the background and do that kind of nitty-gritty work. And maybe what I was partly raising was that a movement cannot be sustained without the nitty-gritty sustaining.

And many times of course in the South, it was the women. The preachers were up there, you know, exhorting people to risk their lives, and it was the women who actually made sure that certain things were going on. And sometimes now, we luckily get women up there too. But I think that that idea that leaders — that we need different kinds of leaders is really an important one, and sometimes people can play different roles at different times.

But the vision, don't you think what's missing today is that sense of vision? I mean, even if we weren't all fighting for exactly the same thing, we really were in the same ballpark, right? And do you feel today that there's not that sense amongst people wanting change that they have as much as a sense of a hope of what they're fighting for, not just what they're fighting against, but what they're fighting for.

Stephen: I thought for awhile that that might catch fire with Obamacare, that is, we live in a country as we all know where healthcare is not a right; it's a business. And Obamacare inched its way towards saying: You deserve this. You could have health. I thought it might be a galvanizing issue. As it turned out, the galvanizing is to kill it by that well organized Right. I mean, it's not going to get killed.

Charles: It wasn't everything you thought it was, but it was what Jimmy said, the Right out-organized the Left. And used the inspiration — they inspired their group to oppose their own self interests. I mean, that's leadership! [Laughter]

David: But that's not unusual. That's Prop 13. The teachers were in favor of Prop 13. What?! Give me a fucking break!

[Proposition 13 was a 1978 California initiative to slash property-taxes and require a two-thirds majority in the state legislature for any future tax increase or new tax of any kind. Passage of Prop 13 eventually led to drastic and crippling funding cuts for public education, public services, and public health.]

Lynn: Well, I think also Obamacare, who is really calling the shots here? It's the insurance companies.

Stephen: The little pieces that we got, we in no way got universal healthcare. And in no way are we a civilized society. And the question by for-profit insurance companies is in what way can we gain more customers and more revenue and quiet those people down?


Experiencing the Movement

Elaine: I think that to me, the definition of a movement — because I didn't come to the Movement as a political person. I kind of came accidentally. The definition of a movement is that it brings — all different kinds of people are swept up in the same thing. And it doesn't — so we had people so different for so many different — we had church people. We had political people. We had accidental people. But there was something in the Movement that inspired us.

It was that combination of inspirational leadership, the enormously powerful sense of the community. I mean, there was no way you could be in those communities without being inspired. You didn't need a King. You just needed: Oh my God, this is real. This is real. And this isn't right. And we were young, and we believed in right. So what's happening now is you have fragmented — we've fragmented. Identity politics came in at some point, and we have these fragmented — they're not movements. They're issues, and they're fragmented crusades.

Man: Now there's a phrase. Fragmented crusade.

Elaine: But they don't draw in the way the Movement drew in so many different — musicians — 

Jimmy: I wasn't a musician. I was a revolutionary.

Elaine: You were a revolutionary.

Jimmy: I was a revolutionary. And I used the instrument, the guitar. It wasn't my intention to do that. It just happened that that was a tool. We used it with gangs. We used it — and to this day, that's what I'm known for. But I don't think that — I mean, I'm not sure what the purpose of this symposium is, and maybe there's something that could come out of it, but you know, we live in a different world.

I mean, maybe we don't have newspapers, but the young people are Facebooking and Twittering and whatever else they're doing. They're communicating and whatnot. Maybe you don't have to have a leader today, in the sense that we needed somebody that would follow or inspire us, as Charlie is saying. Because we come out of a time of Batman and heroic, single people that were leaders. So maybe today, our contribution has to be something that speaks from yesterday but somehow speaks to today in a way where it can be effective.

My daughter teaches American History. She's my step-daughter, so she's Caucasian, but she teaches American History in college. And what she talks about in terms of the Movement is really different than what I've talked to her about as she was growing up. Her interpretation of it is different. And so I don't know that we can even speak about leadership except to say, as Charlie analyzed it, you know, people come out of nowhere, and they have the tools. Like I said about Clinton, you would follow him anywhere if you met him. You know, some of these people, they just have that ability. Dr. King had it. He made you feel special, and he was distant at the same time.

The people that I know, they all had it. Pete Seeger, a real good, close friend of mine when I was young, he had it. It was something distant about him, but he also could razor focus in on you, and whatever you wanted to do, you would be glad to do it. So those are the people, do we have to have those kind of people? If so, then we have to figure out what is the environment that gets people to that stage?

And my only point is that you've got on the Right, you have study going on. You've got think tanks going on. You've got the Koch brothers going on. You've got all of this energy and money and whatnot. I've reached a point where I couldn't play music anymore. I couldn't make a living. Jesse Jackson said to me one day, he said, "Jimmy, you know, you're a pretty good musician. Are you thinking about your career and stuff?" I said, "Oh no, man. I'm married to the Movement. I'm gonna play music in the Movement." Well, eventually, you know, my kids were expecting something. My ex-wife, and Lynn knows, she was wanting me to step up to the plate and whatnot.

So I started working. I had to go get a job. And I used the skills from the Movement to work, and I was successful and had to do things maybe that weren't so great, but I got to open up some industries for Black people and for minorities, for women. Black people and other minorities and women. So I guess, what's my point? My point is that on the Left, we need to somehow get a message that we can stay on, and then number two, we have to figure out how to support people that we think have the skills for leadership and somehow create it so they can survive.

Charles: Can I say something to Elaine about the thing that — and I guess it's to everyone, I think that the way in which we organize — Because it goes to the heart of where the political organization is now and what the problems are now and what the frustrations are stemming from in a lot of different things. As much as SNCC was probably viewed, and they viewed themselves, as organizational and not inspirational, SNCC during the '60s had some of the most impressive graphics of any organization I've ever seen. And it was simplistic. It was just single issue. Just like in health care, Obamacare. What was the problem there? They lost the message. What did all of us join the Movement for? Was it really voter registration? SNCC had a "One Man/One Vote" thing.

Man: Simple.

Charles: Yeah, but that wasn't their mantra. That wasn't SCLC's mantra. That wasn't CORE, NAACP's mantra. The mantra was "Freedom."

Chude: Freedom, yes.

Charles: And what did that mean? What did that mean? I went! I wanted to be free!

Man: Me too.

Charles: But when you fight over Obamacare, you're gonna lose over Obamacare. Nobody knows what Obamacare is. Nobody — you can do — but there you go. One of the things — it's the organizational vision again, that difference between the organizational leader, the inspirational leader, and the visionary leader. All of them, no matter who it was, no matter what organization you were a part of at that time, one word: "freedom." Freedom.

You go into the mass meetings. You go out walking the — no precincts — the rural paths or whatever it was, what were you talking about? It wasn't voter registration. Voter registration was on the way to freedom. And so you can organize people much easier around that kind of visionary message. And you don't have the problem of people feeling that it ain't working, because it's so broad and so big that they can find themselves in it anywhere. Every anecdote, every testimonial, every story that each one of us has, it gets categorized under the heading "freedom."

And so we've lost some of that. We've actually — we were undergraduates when we went in, and we went to graduate school. Now we're doing post-graduate stuff. We've over-analyzed the kinds of problems. We allowed the Left to lose its vision, and the Right, as you pointed out, boy, you know what their mantra is now? "Freedom."

Many: That's right.

Charles: "Freedom!" And they're doing the same thing now that we did back in the '60s with the same degree of success, because they're enthused. They're inspired.

Chude: And many of the same tactics.

Jimmy: Now the young people though are going to make a difference because did you see the Cheerios commercial?

Charles: Oh yeah!

Jimmy: And did you hear their response? When the Cheerios commercial — and there are two or three other commercials now that have multiracial families and LGBT families in the commercials, the Cheerios one they were criticized, and they were — 

Charles: They took it off.

Man: They did not. They did not. And then they brought it back.

Jimmy: Okay. All right.

Woman: Did they change it?

Jimmy: No, no, they didn't change it.

Man: They held. Thank God they held. There was a bunch of shit all over the media, as you would expect from some of the racist Right. They did not back away.

Jimmy: Yeah.

Man: I was surprised they didn't.

Jimmy: Yeah. Well, their response was that we are a credible corporation, and we must, in our advertising, we must appear credible to young people, and this is part of the young culture. And we're going to keep this commercial on the air. Now there are several more. And my point about all this several minutes ago was that D.W. Griffith did Birth of a Nation. That justified the Ku Klux Klan for many, many years. He was so criticized about that that he made another movie, the next year. We're talking 1915, and then he made another movie in 1916 called Intolerance. I've never seen it. I've never seen it. But what he was trying to do was to try and correct what had happened with Birth of a Nation . Now, I've never seen Intolerance. It's 3+ hours long.

Man: No one has.

Jimmy: It's available. It's 3+ hours long. I don't have 3+ hours probably left to live, but my point is this, that we can't even underestimate the effect that culture has on us, and we're going to see, with technology, we're going to see changes that we will not believe. And because we have lived so long, we're going to be exposed and be involved in things.

Now some of you, you know you're smart, like he's a smart guy. Charlie's smart. I'm not so smart. I'm not so smart. I had to go to work. I ended up working with the space program, and I have developed drones and things like that, so I've got a varied career in doing stuff. So, my point is this, the world is doing whatever it's gonna do, and we have to be in a position to speak truth to power in whatever situation we find ourselves in. And all of us, even though we're toothless now, we're old. I can barely walk. Somehow, I don't know if we can, we've got to find a way.

And my wife and I said awhile back, because I was living in one town, I was living in one town, and I was having my mail sent to another town. And my wife said, "No one's after you. You haven't done anything meaningful for 25 years." And she was right. And so my point is that what can we do? I mean, the purpose of all of this has to be: What can we do? They own all the newspapers and all that stuff, so we can't expect that the old tactics are going to work. We can't just get a group of whites together in a dangerous situation and think that that's gonna make a difference. It's not. [Laughter] It's not gonna make a difference. They're not gonna report it.

Marcia: And as these statements have gone back and forth, I keep questioning myself, in some ways, and I don't know if it's because of the vision of the people who were leading us at the time, to me, nothing as important as these issues of poverty, health care, nutrition are important. Nothing until maybe the new Jim Crow stuff that's coming out has touched me as personally, as deeply, as the rights of my fellow citizens not existing in a way that I thought they existed. And nothing has driven me quite as much to become as active as the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s.

I'm not saying that those are not important issues, but they don't seem to me to be as important as that did at that time. And part of it then is the fragmentation. Those are all important issues, but they're not as basic. Now maybe what we do need is another leader coming? Marcia, you know, that issue is the same issue, but it's the whole country. It's not just Mississippi. I haven't heard it yet. That's one aspect.

But the other thing is, as we have movements, the movements are very susceptible to being wiped out by the Koch brothers. And in some ways, I've thought that having the organizer in the White House who is not going to raise the flag of the abortion issue, raise the flag of some of the other hot button issues, but try and keep them quiet so that people in communities can work toward resolution of the problems. Maybe that is, at this time, a better way to go than just having a movement rise up to be defeated. Just a thought.

Stephen: I think I disagree. But I'm not sure. [Laughter]




Chude Allen, Facilitator
Elaine DeLott Baker
Stephen Blum
David Gelfand
Marcia Moore
[Note from Lynn Adler:

I wanted you to know how much I appreciate you putting this event together. I understand that was a real labor of love and very meaningful to those attending. I successfully convinced Charlie Love and Jimmy Collier, two of the folks I worked with in the South when I was with SCOPE (in Hale County, Alabama) and on SCLC field staff in Chicago, to join us. We participated in the morning session but I must apologize for our absence in the afternoon. We went out for lunch and got so involved in catching up and evaluating those amazing times that we just couldn't tear ourselves away. While all three of us live in California, we have full lives and rarely get a chance to visit. So, this event offered us a context to debrief and appreciate what has been accomplished, how much there is left to do, and to marvel at the continuing strength of our connections to each other. I thank you for this opportunity, and do hope that we meet each other again.]

Chude: This afternoon, we're focusing on how the experience affected us personally. Now of course we talked about that a lot this morning too, so my thought is that we could talk more personally about the personal.


Abandonment Guilt

Elaine: I'm going to pass around two pictures that I took of orientation, of the Nelson family. You'll see how devastatingly — how sad Mrs. Nelson looks, and inside the house, inside of this plantation shack, and it's the winter time, and it's cold. Just kind of feel the poverty. And I had this image; I had those pictures, and I had this image of these people that I had abandoned basically, and knowing that they were on the Hayes plantation. A very violent place, thinking that they were being kicked off. Just not knowing, but knowing that their economic livelihood had been a casualty of us being there.

And when we went to Batesville ten years ago, there was a reunion in Batesville. And I brought these pictures, and I put them out on the table, and I said, "Does anybody know what happened to these people?" And this woman, in I guess her 30s, who was like dressed in heels and, you know, well dressed, kind of working person. Someone you would find in a county clerk's office. As a matter of fact, she did work in a county clerk's office. She came up, and she said, "Oh, that's me."

Woman: That's what I thought you were gonna say.

Elaine: "That's me." And then she wrote, and you can see on the back of the picture, she wrote everybody's name on there. And she told me her mother, Mrs. Nelson, had worked in Head Start afterwards and was living in Texas. And she told me about everybody in the family, and it was just — after all these years, I had felt like I had been part of like this devastation of this family's life. And here she goes to say: We're fine. As a matter of fact, we've done really well. So that was just a very wonderful moment for me.

Stephen: Was there a father or a man in the picture?

Elaine: Yeah, but he was out in the fields when I took this.

Stephen: I see.

Elaine: So, Mr. Nelson. Yes, they were very powerful, strong people who stood up to the plantation folks and were the leaders of the sharecroppers. You know, we can work with independent farmers — I was doing a farm cooperative then, organizing a farm cooperative. But there was nothing you could do for sharecroppers. And we always worried about the sharecroppers, because I mean, everything was being taken from them. And we had no resources to set people up in other lives. So this was just a really — it was wonderful for me to feel that, and see that and hear that. So I think when many of us left the South, we had tremendous worries about the people we were leaving behind. And many times they were true worries, but sometimes they weren't, that people were survivors.

Marcia: Did she tell you anything about the route that her family took? Or that she took to get there?

Elaine: Well, her mother, Mrs. Nelson, the woman that you can see in the sharecropper photo, became a Head Start teacher when CDGM [Child Development Group of Mississippi], the community block grants came, and worked for Head Start for many years and is living in Texas now. She may come to our reunion in June. And then I think it was the grit and determination of the Nelsons that made their children so strong. I don't know particularly what happened to the others, but when I go in June, I'll find out.

Chude: And Elaine has raised one question, which is that whole question of leaving and feeling a certain amount of worry, if not guilt, that we carried with us. Some people stayed in touch with people that they were with, and then others like me were young enough and stupid enough not to... And of course, we didn't have email, and you didn't make phone calls and stuff like that in the way you do now. So there's that.

Stephen: If there was a phone where you were staying.

Chude: If there was even a phone that you could use, right. So if it's all right with you, shall I start? And then we go around? Okay. And for reasons that I don't quite understand, I have spent years thinking about this question of how I was affected personally and how other people, listening to other people's stories.


Inter-Racial Sex, Marriage, & Women in the Movement

Chude: And so the two things I think I would say, well of course going South, when I went to Spelman, the first Friday night — I was an Episcopalian, so I went to the Canterbury Club which was the little Episcopal group, and three of the guys asked me to go out afterwards for Cokes, which I didn't know was against the rules, so I went. And the question was: "Would you marry a Negro?" And in some ways, that would be how I would — that began — you know, that was like one of the first things that was ever asked of me.

And when I came out of Mississippi, I was wrestling with that question, and then in 1965, right before I did marry Robert Allen, who is African-American, I went to see this Episcopal priest that I had worked with in the summer of '63 in North Philadelphia. And he told me that the previous summer, after I had come out of Mississippi, I had gone to him, and I had said, "Do I have to be willing to marry a Negro?" And he had spent the year, when he would go and talk to white people, he would say: "I don't understand how somebody could be willing to risk their life for people they're not willing to live with." Now, he didn't tell me that story until I had worked this one through for myself and made the decision: Yes, I am going to marry interracially.

But I think it's a good — you know, at the level of personal, it's a good example of how fraught that question was, really, for us. And for me, it was marriage. It wasn't about sex; it was about marriage. And it was one I had to wrestle with. And then in the summer of '65, right before I got married, there was a television show that was broadcast from Philadelphia. They had come out and interviewed me earlier in the summer. And I talked about the sex phobia in the South around white women, and it was my first experience of being sexualized like that.

I mean, upper middle class white people, you know, we were gonna get married, and so sex wasn't really dealt with. But the whole question of, no matter where you were, everybody was assuming you wanted to sleep with a Black man, right? And I was saying how that wasn't what it was about. And I guess that was the week before, because two days before I got married, a man in the next town over in Lambertville, New Jersey who had a little progressive movie theater wrote in his little newsletter about this program and specifically that I was wrong to say that it wasn't relevant, that until people could marry together, there could not be equality. So I just put that one on the table that interracial marriage, which we also talked a little bit about this morning, it was, you know, a political question and a personal question. And very much, both those things. And Robert was from Georgia where it was illegal; we could not have married there.

Stephen: This is pre-Loving.

["Loving refers to Loving v Virginia, a 1967 Supreme Court ruling that overturned state "anti-miscegenation" laws that criminalized inter-racial marriage and sex.]

Chude: Yeah, and in Pennsylvania in '65, they wanted to know your race on the marriage license, but it wasn't illegal. So anyway that's what I'll put on the table.

Marcia: Well, that's interesting, because it raises an issue, as long as we're talking along those lines, when I did go back home and had finally convinced my parents that I really did need to be in Mississippi that summer, and then we spent the whole ride back from Atlantic City, New Jersey, which is another story, where I did get Martin Luther King's blessing at the Baptist Convention which my parents went to. I was in the same position. We thought Martin Luther King was too slow. But, we went to this Baptist Convention at the end of the semester at Spelman, and he was being awarded the Peace Award by the American Baptist Convention. Totally, by chance.

And so, as I say, being the enterprising young woman that I was, I dragged my parents up on the stage afterward, told him what I was planning to do, and he said, "Oh yes, that's a very good program." Well, with his blessing, what could my parents say? Because they were Baptists as well.

So then I got to talk to my church, and so these were the ways the Movement changed me and my church, even as it was happening. And we raised money for Freedom Summer, and we sent down a mimeograph machine and a lot of books. And so that was really important. But my pastor, I can still remember, he took me into the study, and he was asking me about it, and he said — and he's really understanding, and he had a Ph.D., and he said, "Do you have a Negro boyfriend?" And I just — I was so taken aback that I remember it 50 years later. I thought: You don't understand. Well, maybe he did understand, now thinking back on it. But I thought: That's not what it's about. And then after I got arrested, and there were a lot of stories in the Des Moines paper. There was some congratulatory mail to my parents and there was some hate mail, and a lot of it was around the issue of sex: 'Well, I hope you have all these Black babies.' And so that was a hot button issue, you know, for many people in those days. And I'll stop there, because we'll all have many things to talk about. But that was interesting.

Stephen: I'll jump forward, and then I'll jump backward. As long as I'm jumping, I might as well jump with a name. I was, I guess I still am, the older parent of younger children. And my big girl who's now 27 went, actually, to the same elementary school — we just met again, but the woman you met earlier whose son and daughter also went to the Berkeley schools where my kids — my two girls — did.

My girl, in about fourth grade, wrote what we, I guess, would call a term paper — God knows, three pages long, right? On this fancy computer on which, among other things, she could do graphics. She could make pictures. She did this, and it was she who ultimately — and I wonder whether you've had this experience — she taught me how to use a mouse. I put both hands on that sucker; I was not gonna let that go anywhere. That was a mouse!

In any event, she does this paper about the [Montgomery] Bus Boycott, and on the front, there's a picture of a yellow school bus, and in this paper, I am so tight with Dr. King — I mean, we are buddies. I never met the man in my life, for God's sake. So I disabused her that no, I did not know Dr. King. In fact, I was not on that bus. I never had the privilege of meeting Rosa Parks. I think she was really disappointed. She had this all worked out. Her Dad was tight with Dr. King.

As I carry it forward and work with people getting Ph.D.'s in order to be therapists, and this would be Clinical Psych people, for those of you who remember a first piece of American fiction about interracial relationship, a book called Strange Fruit, the abhorrence and fascination around interracial sexuality and particularly the reputed voracious sexual appetites of Negro men who incidentally had penises that were roughly six to eight feet in length and were continually looking at you, those fears in pieces of the white community, I find very much alive.

That as many attitudes have changed toward human sexuality — yours, mine, ours, straight or gay — the divisions over race and the very real dangers, even in our liberal Bay Area, for interracial couples or kids are very real. I sometimes think we got past a bunch of stuff, but I wonder whether we got past intimacy. I would have thought that some combination of the Women's Movement, more candor around human sexuality, and what we did in the Movement would have somehow coalesced to expose that folly. I'm not sure it has. I think they were afraid that when they called us "N***** lovers," they meant it. To which again, I raise my hand. See, guilty as charged.

David: I found all of your discussions fascinating, because that was never an issue. I mean, it was the furthest thing from what I experienced. Growing up, I came from a very progressive, Westchester County, north of New York City family. My father's avocation was constitutional law. He spent about 60% of his time with the LCDC [Lawyers Constitutional Defense Committee, an arm of the ACLU] or the [National Lawyers] Guild in Manhattan. He fought in the Abraham Lincoln Brigade in Spain. And I was raised that the House Committee on Un-American — the Un- American House Committee — [Laughter] And in high school, we found what turned out to be a progressive, Left wing discussion group. I spent a lot of time in the Village.

[In the 1960s, Greenwich Village, a New York City neighborhood, was the center of hip, advant-guard, leftist, anti-establishment culture.]

And I knew about SNCC in high school, and then in '63 worked for the Spring Break in Americus, and maintained contact with SNCC people. And so in the spring of '64, I went to the Mississippi Summer Project, and I was already committed in June and July of doing things with the Northern Student Movement in Roxbury, but I came home — or called my parents from Brandeis where I was a student and said I was going to Mississippi. Again, I told my father first, because I knew he couldn't say no. No way he could say no! But of course my mother was dead against it. So we went.

And when I went to college, I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life, so I had a dual major in political science and biology, because I wasn't sure which. Was I going to do constitutional law? Or was I gonna be a scientist of some sort or another? And I was still unsure through the summer of '64, but as Marcia knows, we were attacked in August of '64, and there was a grand jury hearing in November. Not in Laurel, but in the county seat in Jones County, the rural — the other one.

[County government in Jones county is divided between Laurel, the main town with a population around 20,000 and very rural Ellisville, population around 5,000.]

And I went down with a lawyer from the Lawyers Guild who was to represent me. And there were a lot of things that went wrong, and John Doar was called a whole bunch of times, because the FBI wasn't cooperating. Because all of the Northerners had left by the winter, the Northern agents. And it turned out that the motel room where the lawyer was staying had a rock thrown through it, and people who knew we were coming back to Laurel from wherever it was, the rural county seat, tried to run us off the road and Klan trucks and all the rest. I wasn't thinking about marriage or anything like that. [Laughter] I mean, I that was something when I grow up, which was gonna be way in the future.

And I decided: Well, shit man, I can't — If I ever do get married, I expect I'll have a family, and I can't be subjecting a family to this kind of stuff. The blinders, right? This is what you're experiencing, so that's what being a constitutional lawyer would mean. And then it was that November I decided: Okay, I'm still very interested in politics; I'll be very involved in politics, but I'm not going to law school. I'll pursue graduate studies in science. So that was a big change for me. Mississippi had that effect, not directly.

Of course the grand jury didn't indict Mr. V.L. Lee (head of the local KKK) for attempted murder. Oh, in fact, I think I have the newspaper clipping where the grand jury in that November praised the sheriff, because Jones County had the lowest crime rate in the nation. Not a single crime had been committed.

Man: It's a miracle. It's just a miracle.

Woman: Talk about blinders. [Laughter]

Elaine: I'll speak to it as a woman. You don't have to speak as a man, because you just speak. I'm going to address, in terms of the perspective of ...

Stephen: There's the infamous comment by Stokely Carmichael about women in the Movement that a woman's place in the Movement was on their back.

Elaine: Prone. I think the term was prone. The position for women in the Movement is prone. ...

Stephen: And colored, no pun intended, views of women in the Movement for ...

[See Women, SNCC & Stokely and Women & Men in the Freedom Movement for additional information and background.]

Elaine: So, we have to recognize — I think I recognize there was sexual tension. We were very young. We were adolescent. We were beautiful. We were in life and death situations. We were soldiers and did not know the future. I'll try to speak for myself. The future was not at hand. The present was at hand. And I think the present was also very much at hand for the Black Civil Rights workers who had been beaten and harassed, and the summer was just the culmination of so much violence. So there were interracial relationships which were kind of in your face to the white community — that was probably part of it.

I know friends have spoken to me about it. That it was the ultimate challenge of a racist society to have an interracial relationship. These were consensual, meaningful relationships before — I'm talking about before the summer and in the summer. I think that with Black nationalism coming in and so many white women in this situation, there was a consciousness that it was in some way rejection of Black women to have a relationship with white women. It became, in my time, it became not politically correct for Black men to have relationships with white women, but they happened anyway. So that was part of it.

And it was the ultimate. It was the ultimate. It was the fear. It was the irrational fear. My mother was born in Georgia, lived there as a teenager, and then married my father who was from the North and they lived there for five years. My parents were horrified beyond measure that I was down there, and that was the first concern — I'm sure they never mentioned that as a specific worry, but it was almost — it was visceral. It was visceral. So at this point — I'm gonna kind of talk about the transition from the Civil Rights Movement to the Women's Movement. Women who in the fall, were you there in the fall, Marcia?

Marcia: I went back at Christmas time, but not in the fall.

Elaine: Well, Christmas time; that's close enough. Women were doing a lot of work. They were keeping a lot of projects together where the former project directors had either gone to Africa or Atlanta, like regrouping. There was a regrouping of Black leadership in the fall. There was a real concern about the direction of the Movement. What do we next? Is it gonna be the [Alabama] Black Belt? Is it voter registration? What direction?

And the women kind of chugged along and just kind of held things together in many cases. A lot of the Black women became project directors in places where leadership was thinning. The Black leaders who had been project directors were — like Stokely left Greenwood. They were moving onto different — rethinking, regrouping. And there was a lot of work that was done by white woman and by white men, but I think the men had more comfort in what they were doing and were given more leadership because they were male. And a lot of the white women who were taking positions of responsibility, doing responsible work alongside — the other people in the project were kind of invisible.

And this, I think, this consciousness of: Wait a second, because what the Movement taught us was that we were — it was — we had been empowered to see ourselves. We were doing the work. In my case, I was driving around the state, working with federal programs. I had been arrested, and I was starting a co-op. I mean, we were fully, in our eyes, doing equal work with men and with Black men and Black women. And we were, I think I wrote something at that time in one of my journals that the hierarchy was: Black men, Black women, white men, white women. Wait a second. I wouldn't have thought this way if I hadn't come down South, but having been there, I just looked around.

So I think this was something that — when people say: How did the Civil Rights Movement empower the Women's Movement? There were a lot of things, but I think one of the basic things is that we became powerful in ourselves, saw ourselves as capable, and just looked around and said, "This is not who I am, and what I am doing is not being reflected in the way I'm seen and the way I'm treated." So that's it, for the moment.

Stephen: As that developed, women if you will, at long last coming into their own, did that coexist with Chude saying or with your saying there was sexual tension? Chude was saying there was a sense that you were, as a woman {UNCLEAR}, you 20-year-old, as a woman, you may have been coming into your own, shocking as that was for women and girls at the time. But let's not forget, you've got a vagina and breasts, and let's not forget that meant you were a sexual object. Both? Because they're at war with each other. I mean, to be regarded as an object as opposed to being regarded as a genuine, efficacious, responsible and valuable person in the Movement, albeit female, albeit white or Black in that hierarchy, which I think was absolutely — your description was my experience. I just wonder about it. I think I became conscious of it far later. Again, I think I was so ignorant, you could pile my ignorance from here to ...

Elaine: Guys are always a little bit behind in those developmental — 

Stephen: I discovered that as well, later as the sole male in my household. I was the outrageously proud Dad of two daughters. I discovered how much training I needed.

Elaine: Let me say that I didn't feel like I was a sexual object, but the sexual tensions were there. What I felt is that being in a relationship, that that relationship could not be acknowledged publicly. And that was — 

Stephen: In the Black community? Or in the white community?

Elaine: In the Civil Rights community. In the Movement.

Stephen: I remember — and I imagine we maybe all had this experience. The first time in my life that I ever felt safe in a Black neighborhood and unsafe in a white neighborhood was Mississippi.

Elaine: No, no, this is like within the Movement and like in meetings. If I had a relationship with someone, I couldn't sit next to him in a meeting, because it would diminish his authority. It would impact how he was viewed by his Black peers.

Stephen: Male and female.

Elaine: Male and female. Male and female, yeah. And I think there was a very positive aspect with this, which is Black Pride. Black women feeling Black is beautiful, and it was a rejection, I think. It was felt as a rejection of Black women. It made a lot of sense, but it fueled confusion, anger, resentment that, Wait a second. And it was kind of like, "I'm not doing this."

Stephen: Well, I remember so well being so sad and disappointed, not surprised, that J. Edgar Hoover had put microphones under Martin Luther King's bed and then proceeded to quote leak — it was not leaked; I mean, he put it out there. What had happened in that bed {UNCLEAR} it was, I thought at the time, America saying: See, I told you. And how disheartening that was. Are you gonna try and take this away? Are you gonna try and substitute the Movement with that microphone?

Chude: But I think that for me, looking back — now see, this was not then but looking back — I realized I had been declassed. That's what I came to understand, is that poor women of all ethnicities, but especially of course in the South, African-American women, were sexually available to white men. And they could do nothing about it.

Stephen: Historically.

Chude: Historically. And I didn't know that coming from the North and being naive. And that's what I was experiencing. I was experiencing this dehumanization, and that's not true in terms of the relationships I had with people on the project. I'm talking about the culture as a whole and the emphasis, this kind of emphasis, on white women and sex.

And so in retrospect, I can see it as a positive. I tend to see it as a positive when privileged people lose their privilege and have to see how the system really operates, but it means that I was experiencing dehumanization. And that was incredibly difficult. It doesn't mean that I hadn't experienced dehumanization at a more benign level, because I think everyone in this culture experiences dehumanization. As I said before, I think that for white people, white supremacy and racism is a pathology. Clearly it's not privileged to be sick.

But something about being white female and going South and having that in my face ultimately made me more aware of what it meant to be raised upper middle class white, where that was not something that — I did not have to worry — I came from a small community too where I did not have to worry about going outside and having anybody attack me. Everybody knew whose daughter I was. You know, that kind of thing. And of course, I was raised: You don't speak to strangers and stuff, but when you lived in a small town, there aren't many strangers anyway, right? I mean, everybody knows everybody. But I think that it was a uniquely, probably more than anything, white female experience in the South, that sense of being sexualized.

Because I totally believe you that, David, in your experience there was so much else going on, and there was such terror, and there was so much work. I mean, let's face it. We were all working really hard. We didn't have time.

David: It was hot and dusty.

Chude: Yes, it was hot and dusty.

Elaine: We were filthy.

Chude: But you know, on my project, one of the people that came later — he was not in the original trainings but came through the Memphis training — was Wayne Yancey, and he came bounding into the kitchen. I was in the kitchen of the Freedom House by myself, and he says, "Hi! You want to sleep together?" And I mean, I was this little goody-two-shoes. I mean, I was horrified. I was just furious. Well, it turned out, he asked every white woman. [Laughter]

And many, many years later, instead of saying — right afterwards that would've been an example of sexism and how terrible it was. I finally went back and thought about that experience, Wayne was the fourth person who was killed in the summer of '64. So I had to deal with the question that I didn't particularly like the guy that died on my project, and I had to come to terms with that. In coming to terms with that, and in the '80s I realized that the man had been perfectly nice. Hi! You want to sleep together? No? Okay. You know, he never was not nice to me.

David: He was nice.

Chude: I mean, it somehow didn't have the same — 

Man: Load.

Chude: — load, yes, that it had for little me. And that partly reflects the times.

Stephen: I was going to say, for millions of young women like you — 

Chude: Yes, yes. But he was not aggressive.

Stephen: I understand.

Chude: You know, it was not abuse.

Stephen: But that defeats the white fantasy. I mean, the white fantasy is the angelic, Southern woman who is also probably virginal, at least in spirit if not in body. [Laughter] But the fantasy of saying that this guy bouncing into rooms saying: You want to sleep together? Could imaginably be a cool, nice guy. I mean, he must be deluded. I mean, what would've happened do you think if the guy bouncing into the room had been Black?

Chude: This man was Black.

Stephen: Oh, I didn't know.

Chude: Oh, I'm sorry. Wayne Yancey was an African-American from Chicago who grew up in Tennessee.

Stephen: I see, no I didn't know — 

Chude: And was a working class Black guy.

Stephen: I didn't realize.

Chude: No, no, no he was a big, very large man.

Stephen: No, I thought he was one of us, another one of these outside white guys. [Laughter]

Chude: No, but I would say that to the degree that summer I had, you know, inappropriate pushing to be sexual was with a white guy. So stuff's going on, and of course for guys, the whole question of sexuality was very different than for women in that period.

Stephen: I think they call that history.

Chude: History, yes.

Stephen: For the same 10 million years.

Chude: But I find it fascinating, Stephen, that you think today it is still like deep in white people's psyches this fear of sex between Black men and white women. I mean, because it's so much the pathology since the history of rape, of white men raping African-American women...

Stephen: Conveniently forgotten, although inching its way into textbooks. I mean, they now suspect that Thomas Jefferson may have — [Whispering] he did the nasty — that wouldn't have been in the history textbooks 20 years ago. It literally wouldn't have been there.

David: DNA testing.

Stephen: A book that I like a lot for its title — a history student did it for his/her doctorate — it was a study crying out to be done. I guess it was done in North and South Carolina in the early '50s and '60s, and it asked white, middle class or blue collar white people: What did they make of all these "disturbances?" That is, the Movement. And the author of the book titled it with a line out of, I gather, a folk song which I did not know. The book is entitled, There Goes my Everything. They literally thought the apocalypse had arrived.

And if you were the leading edge of the apocalypse, it fed again the sexual fantasy of the first people to go are going to be them. And God knows, I'm no Freudian; I'm not a psychoanalyst, but the power of these two things, sexuality and color, I think is still, for some people, quite alive though not PC [Politically Correct]. I think. I see it in my students who are 24, 25 years old, doctoral students going to be therapists, and I listen to them talk about us, their parents, or better yet, their grandparents. And I don't know whether they're being PC with me when they say, "You know, my grandma was just an out and out racist," or whether — I'm not sure what's going on. I am sure when they talk about clients, that is people who are hurting and go to a therapist, that what comes out is all this stiff about the "n*****s," the leaf blowers, you know, it's there. Give it a little anger, and up it comes. And I find it less obvious and deeply scary, as a man, as a person, as a Dad of two daughters, all of the above.

Marcia: A couple of things. I mean, as you were describing this, in context of it's the white men who have been raping the Black women, to me, isn't that classically projection? That the more insecure a white man might be, either about white guilt from that, or am I really as potent as I would like to be? Then you project onto somebody else the things that you would like to do.

Stephen: Which is why, for years, we've said rape has nothing to do with sex at all. It has to do with power.

Marcia: Power, right. But it also, a lot of times when we take our fears out and looked at them, they are less potent. So perhaps because this hasn't been talked about in all of the other areas of Civil Rights, it hasn't gotten fresh air. And then I wanted to say one more thing about — I was a little bit more like you and maybe you in Mississippi — 

David: Yeah, I was teaching Freedom School. I didn't know what the hell was going on.

Marcia: — because I was a late bloomer, and I've only recently heard, because I was sharing with a friend at Carleton, that I had a crush on someone, and he said, Marcia, probably every guy in the freshman class had a crush on you. And that is so — now, that has to be hyperbole. I told him that, and he had said it to somebody else, and I said, Well, there goes that bubble. But I said, had I known — 

Man: Well, show me a picture from — 

Marcia: — had I known then what I know now — 

Man: — 1963, and I'll let you know.

Marcia: Because I had this perception of myself as a wallflower, as a nerd, nobody being interested in me. So I can't even — I don't think I was putting anything out there that would have either brought it on, or maybe I might not have seen it when it came. Because that really wasn't what I went down there for. But towards the end of the summer, as our group swelled, and I could see a few people pairing off — 

Man: Oh, I had no idea!

Marcia: — I'm not naming names. I thought, "Oh, that's really interesting," and then I was getting a little jealous. So anyway — 

Man: Did Jimmy [Garrett] and Gwen [Simmons] pair off?

Marcia: No! At least not as far as I know — and I think I would have known.

Man: I didn't know.

Marcia: No.

Elaine: Just to kind of — assuming that we're getting to a close on this part of the discussion, say that one of the reasons that there hasn't been a frank discussion about sexuality and interracial relationships in the Movement, there are two. One major one is exactly what you've been talking about, Stephen, because there was a fear that it was going to enrage, incite [white southerners]. It's exactly what they expected. There's no way they could understand. And the other is that we, I think, at least from the perspective of white women who were involved with Black men, wanted to protect the men — not that the Klan was going to go and find him and you know — but from the eyes of the historians, because the first thing the historians always ask was about sex. And it was offensive. It was truly offensive because, as you say David, that's not why we're there.

David: It's not why any of us went.

Elaine: No! And if it happened, if there were sexual relationships or liaisons or whatever, it was to be an expression of people wanting to like cling, touch something real, that there were real things. There were all kinds of things, but we were not going to expose that to people who had no idea what the Movement was about. Over the years, it's been — it's like it's been: No, we're not gonna... What, sex? Are you kidding? But I think that it's time, from my perspective, to acknowledge — 

Woman: Take the lid off, yeah.

Elaine: — that that was part of it. Because it had so many implications, in terms of the Women's Movement, of feeling in control of yourself and your relationships and saying like, looking at the way society looked at things and saying: This is — 

Stephen: Hyper-sexualization, I mean, the whole package.

Elaine: Yeah, all of it. All of it. So I hope that there — I still — I understand that desire to protect our partners, but I don't think — we don't have to say names, but I think — 

Stephen: In medicine, medical slang — if you don't know what the hell is going on, they will refer to it — medical slang is, oh the diagnosis is it's a facinoma. Who the hell knows what's going on? I think here, last week in my racism/sexism 101 class, we were talking about disability. First topic that came up — How do they do it? Again, sexual...

Chude: Sex. Let's admit, first of all, that we're all sexual beings, whether we're actively sexual or — 

David: You can speak for yourself. [Laughter]

Stephen: Sitting here pure as the driven snow.

Chude: Pure, oh that Victorian — that European Victorian approach to sexuality. Ugh! You know, it was really hard on a lot of us.

Stephen: But it's — I mean, looked at us. We're all, you know, 55 to 75 years of age and have been in relationships good and bad in our lives. Again, I'm no psychoanalyst, and God knows I'm no Freudian sexist pig, but the importance of this in our lives and therefore its capability of being raised to sort of mythic proportions — "They are gonna rape more white women." However, those white women from up North, they probably deserve it. It depends on what they're — it pretty much depends on — 

Woman: — N*****-lovers — 

Stephen: Well, you know, it depends on what they were wearing and stuff, and you know, they asked for it.

Woman: Blame the victim.

Stephen: I think that's better, but I don't think it's gone away.

Marcia: So, for me on a personal level, and again, it may be because I came into my sexuality late, some of the things — ways that the Movement affected me personally in terms of my own sense of power had to do with — when we went back, I finished Carleton, as did Chude, and that March during spring break, there was the March on Washington, and we helped organize three busloads to go back to the March on Washington.

I'd already become involved with Students for a Democratic Society, and because they were doing in the North and also raising money for stuff in Mississippi, and so then I stayed for an SDS conference for two days in D.C. before coming back. And I will never forget listening to one woman, and she was from Canada, and I never knew if it was because they treated women differently in Canada or — but she was just so poised and so well spoken and so in control of herself that she would just — you know, the room would be quiet and listen to her.

And I can remember that that was a difference which we all know, looking back on it, if you were raised a woman in those days, you let the men raise their hands and talk, and truly, it was not until I got out of college that I was as verbal as I am now. But it was a definite moment, an epiphany, of a woman can speak like this and be listened to in this crowd of many powerful — and you can imagine — people. And so then I began to look at myself and say: Well, I can do that too. And I often have heard that in all women's colleges there's less of what I had experienced with myself, and so it's kind of the plus/minus of women's colleges. But for me, that was an offshoot of the Civil Rights Movement.

And then for four years in Boston I was working in the anti-Vietnam War and Civil Rights Movement, and was able to begin to feel some of my own powers before moving out to Berkeley. And that was still the nascence of the Women's Movement and consciousness raising groups. And all of those, I think, were things that helped me understand as I was working with a group that was evaluating the Upward Bound programs, and I was working these 70-hour work weeks and saying, "You know, if I'm gonna work this hard, I really should do what I always wanted to do, and that is go to medical school." Would I have done that without the Civil Rights Movement? I don't know.

But all of those steps are probably what got me to do what has been my passion for the last 30 years. So I think it really affected me. And then the final thing is — no, it's not final, you can tell — but it's, as I've said, one of the things, and I feel like I've done a number of things in my life to be proud of, but when I think back on it, it's probably still the thing that I am most proud of in my life and so glad that my son knows, hopefully — well, I had that one interaction with Martin Luther King, but we weren't tight. But that I could have manufactured that, couldn't I? [Laughter]

Stephen: You could've been famous. I was famous for 30, 40 seconds. I was famous.

Marcia: So, to pass that on to the younger generation is something that I think is still really important for us to do.

Stephen: Indeed. And arguably, why do I think this? And arguably especially to daughters, in the sense that God knows for sons, but that connection between freedom, empowerment, gender and gender prejudice, they've inherited this and can help us all continue to move forward. Lorraine, my wife, talks about herself in elementary school was that Lorraine was a nice girl. I said, {UNCLEAR} did that. I don't have nice daughters. [Laughter]

Woman: God bless you!


The Movement Changed Our Lives

David: I just wanted to — there's a Brandeis yearbook that has a picture of me with Martin Luther King when he came to be a guest speaker. And another page, a picture of me with Malcolm X when he came to be a speaker. [Laughter] This was all after Mississippi.

I want to talk a little bit about how it affected our lives. Like Marcia, I joined SDS in Boston and became very involved in SDS in La Jolla where I was in graduate school, and started a coffee shop in Oceanside off base that we called The Sniper.

[Oceanside is the small town that services the large Camp Pendelton U.S. Marine Corps base north of San Diego. In this context, "coffee shop" refers to coffeehouses that anti-war activists set up as organizing centers and places of refuge for draftees caught up in a war they didn't understand or support. Doing anti-war work with GIs was a kind of grassroots organizing that both reflected and emulated aspects of the Southern Freedom Movement.]

I had the fortune of knowing both Phil Ochs and Len Chandler who came that summer to Mississippi, and they both were living in L.A. in the later '60s and came down often to The Sniper.

But then [I was] just involved in career and science and biochemistry and genetics. Years later, I had the opportunity to start a new research group at a biotech company in Berkeley. And it turned out that among the first Ph.D. post-doc level scientists I recruited was someone who had been a.) in the Peace Corps and then b.) doing draft resistance in Berkeley when he was a graduate student in biochemistry and telling people about using little glassine envelopes of bovine serum albumen [hidden] in their underwear [that] can be put in the urine sample. Someone else who had gone to Yale was a graduate student at Washington and had become a Universal Life minister.

[Prior to induction into the military, draftees were required to pass a physical exam including a urine test. It was thought that by adding some substance to the sample you could fail the exam and avoid induction. Ordained ministers were thought to be exempt from the draft. The Universal Life church ordained anyone who asked, and many men became Universal Life ministers in the hope of avoiding military service. Since aiding or abetting anyone in resisting or refusing the draft was a federal felony, accurate information on which draft avoidance methods did or didn't work was hard to come by.]

We all found ourselves years later pioneering, developing a technology which we are quite proud. And the two things I'm most proud of is that this DNA technology has been used to free 376 wrongfully convicted people. [Applause]

Polymerase chain reaction, PCR. Something like 76 on death row, and the Innocence Project continually updates the website. And the other was the diagnostic test for HIV that was approved by the FDA in '96. And I'm continually wondering how it was that the half dozen senior people that surrounded me in the late '80s and in the early and mid- '90s became part of this phenomenal group of dedicated scientists who were all left-wing, and we had the opportunity to apply our political philosophy to things of benefit, even if we didn't become lawyers.

Chude: Right. That was, I thought, part of your point, was that the value judgment would've been that you should've become a lawyer, and in fact, becoming a scientist has allowed you to move into a place where you've made very progressive, wonderful contributions.

Marcia. It's almost as though with those experiences, it gave you each a sense of your own power, so that you could do things that you might not otherwise have thought ...

David: Sure. I mean, all of this team were visionaries. I mean, earlier the importance of being a visionary. We had no idea how we were going to accomplish — how we were gonna make it happen, but we had this vision of what this technology might do in the future, in the mid '80s at Cetus. No one in the company believed it was real. Management hated us. I was continually berated by the president of the company. Whenever he would meet me, he wanted to know when I was gonna do something worthwhile for the company, when I was gonna stop playing around in the lab. All that kind of BS.



Chude: One of my questions was going to be, and that speaks to it also is that having been involved in both the Southern Freedom Movement and then perhaps in other movements — SDS, Women's Liberation, whatever. I tend to think of us as being — I call myself a bridge person, you know, on the edge. But I have this sense that very few of us were able to easily integrate back into what we would call the normal society.

Woman: Didn't want to.

Chude: No. Number one is not wanting to, but what I was curious about — I'm hearing people talk about the experience of being — after we left Movements, of being isolated and perhaps alienated. And how we dealt with that. And was depression an issue for you? Or did you, for a period of time, join some other group that was sectarian? As an attempt to find [the Freedom Movement experience] again? Did you leave and go again? I mean, there are some vets who went to, like especially Grenada [the island] and other places, to try to recapture the sense of what we were doing. But how did each of us integrate back into our lives? And find a place to stand?

I mean, I know that we have in this room — most of you are professionals. I'm not, but most of you are professionals. And you chose to find a career you loved, and you clearly do good work. But emotionally, how was it? That's part of my question. How did you deal with the feelings of loss as well as the feelings of fear? Because a lot of us had traumas and took those out when we left the South also.

Stephen: I congratulate you on the power of the questions.

Elaine: Would you like to respond?

Stephen: Not if I can help it. [Laughter]

Marcia: He's overpowered.

Stephen: They're really, really good questions. I'll bracket just for a second. I very much miss, in the past hour, the two gentleman [from the morning session] who are different from those of us at this table in a number of ways. I don't know either of them previously. But I take it that they did not have or do not have the kind of professional careers that some of us at this table have had. And that they see perhaps the contemporary world differently than we do. As such, I miss that voice. And because I remember Lynn [from the morning session] from 20 years ago — our kids went to the same elementary school in Berkeley, and I haven't talked to her in years, but I know that she's been sort of a Left progressive documentary filmmaker for years. And I just want to acknowledge that those three voices I miss.

I'm trying to evade [Chude's] question which I thought was dishearteningly accurate followed [...] thus getting close to being ganged up on. It's tough. You know, it's Okay. I'm a white male.

David: You're a psychologist.

Stephen: No, I'm not interested in {UNCLEAR}. I'm bilingual, but I am not a psychologist. I teach them, but my training is {UNCLEAR}. I trained with some {UNCLEAR}. So I get to say things like, "I don't understand." I can do that. I can walk around stone sober and say, "I have no idea what you're talking about." I can say, "Oh yeah, oh good, you're confused." Do you know Edgar Allen Poe's poem called "The Raven"?

Many: Hm-hmm.

Stephen: In which — or at least so I've imagined this graphically. It was a bird, a raven, that sits on your shoulder, and the raven's name is nihilism or pessimism. And the raven could, at any given moment, fly down and sit on your lap and say, "You're mine." Others would call that depression. And if it was a real preoccupation, a non-intermittent anxiety or {UNCLEAR} all the time. I worry about and talk about making meaning and hoping very much — I can say that certainly one of the most meaningful events of my life was participation in the Movement. That's clear to me. Being a Daddy, that's clear to me. Not much else is.

Marcia: So, I'm definitely in the bridge category. And I feel at times, you know, wishing that there were something as strong as the Movement to which I could attach myself.

Stephen: Agreed.

Marcia: And have. I mean, I've worked with the American Friends Service Committee and SDS for awhile, until it became violent, and that was not my schtick, so anyway, I did a lot of that in Boston and a little bit when I moved to Berkeley. I think that because I tend not to have the depressive gene and perhaps because I had a more limited view — I'm not saying that everybody who gets depressed has a depressive gene, but I do seem to be able to looked on the bright side a lot of the time, although I also have what I call the Pollyanna Reverse Philosophy. If I expect the worse and it doesn't happen, then I'm pleasantly surprised.

But I find that every group that I've attached myself to has limitations that I get impatient about. So impatience maybe more than depression, but because I didn't have as much of a global view that Mississippi was just gonna be the be-all and end-all that I could take the pluses and minuses, and I didn't have to internalize them. I was able, about 10 years after moving to Chico, when my son was at Santa Cruz, he was telling me about the Anne Frank traveling display which goes into communities and helps people understand the hatred that evolved into the Second World War. And we needed that at this time in California, because there was the anti-alien... You know, whenever there's a depression, then people take it out on the poor.

Stephen: The leaf blowers.

Marcia: And so I was very pleased and proud to be able to help bring the Anne Frank exhibit to Chico, and we had 20,000 people and school kids coming through over a six-week period, and many docents who went through training. To the point where 20 years later, people come up and say that was so good. And that Miep Gies had known what we were doing and so came to Chico, and we had 1,000 people attending her talk. So that was something that I could do that I felt was in some ways an outgrowth of what I had done in Mississippi. And believe me, you don't have time to get depressed when you're doing something like that. I wish there were more things that I could do.

I think the other lesson that I would pass on, because I think it's still important. When the Iraq War heated up, and I know that as a doctor, and sometimes as teachers, I guess I grew up thinking you're not supposed to talk about your politics to your patients or your students. Some people question that and say, "Nah, that's not a problem." But I would make space for some of the people that I thought would be very Right-wing, of whom there are plenty in Northern California, to tell me their view, and you would not believe how many grandparents who fit that category were very anti-war, because they did not want their grandchildren going off to war.

So I think that bridge aspect is really important, that as we listen, and I've said for quite a few years, while marches are important to raise issues, I think that's not how minds are changed. I think it's on that one to one personal level, when you meet someone, and you can share with them, and I have that opportunity, how you feel, and they trust you, they'll be more likely to listen to you. So those are the ways that I deal with depression and being active in a small way.

Stephen: And it's — this is gonna sound like a statement, and it's not. It's a question. Your mixing, if you will, of the personal, the political and the clinical/professional is your definition of that's how to be in the world.

Marcia: I think so.

Stephen: That's what I'm hearing.

Marcia: Yeah.

Elaine: So earlier, I was talking about the definition of a movement is it brings all kinds of people together who wouldn't otherwise be associated, or come together on their platform. I'm not essentially a political person. I mean, you know, The New York Times is my screen saver. I watch MSNBC. But I'm not a political — I could never stand the kinds of discussions, well the SDS discussions. I couldn't stand that kind of — Marty Peretz was my section man at Harvard. That should say it all. That posturing, and being right, and invoking the Red Book. I just didn't — I tuned right out.

What I connected with — I think of Mississippi as opening up my heart, that what it developed is, it developed compassion. It probably always was kind of intuitive, and that was there, but Mississippi really put me in touch with people and ordinary — what we used to call ordinary people. So when I left and basically left because, you know, white people were being pushed out. I left in May of '65. And with no animosity; it was just — I understood. I understood it, and I wasn't angry about it. It was just like, "Nah, I guess not." It's like, "It's time. It's time for me to go." And the co-op had gotten the loan from the Department of Agriculture for the co-op; they bought the equipment. It was on its way. We had distributed the seed. Kind of, "Okay. There's other people. I can leave. It's Okay to leave."

And then I went to New York, and I grieved. I grieved for years. But I functioned. I met my husband, and we lived on the Lower East Side, and we lived the glorious hippie life. It's like, it was a lot of fun. Like in the book Just Kids. My life was in that world. It was not exactly that, because my husband was a musician, not an artist. But his band opened up a little bit for the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the architecture exhibit. They were the band there. They were the first jazz rock band. It was the first fusion band. It was very much that vibrant life.

But I was grieving. I was absolutely grieving. So was that depression? I was depressed, but I threw myself into a different culture. I don't like drugs. I never did like drugs, so I was not a casualty of drugs. But it was just that life. And then we went to California, and then we went to southern Colorado. My husband was interested in geodesic domes, and we were in a commune. And in a Latino community, 95% Spanish-American and the poor New Mexico, southern Colorado, kind of northern New Mexico. And I totally immersed myself into the community, and I wrote grants for doing a local history based on oral histories of the viejos [old-timers]. And I got a grant from the National Endowment, Colorado Humanities, and built a playground. Did all kind of like — you know, when you looked at it, they were all kind of Movement things. But I did them — and I had my own community which I belonged to that I could contribute to. So — 

Marcia: You were a community organizer.

Elaine: Yeah.

Marcia: You could run for President.

Elaine: Yes. Yeah, I was a community organizer. I am a community organizer. I am not a political person.

Stephen: Sure.

Elaine: And I healed myself by working with the people and building and having this — and my husband and I actually built a radio station and its slogan was, "Community Radio Makes a Difference," and we had kids coming in and doing shows — it was wonderful. And then we got run out of town, because — 

Marcia: You made a difference.

Elaine: I wrote editorials about recalling the county commissioners which we recalled. But that was fine. It was fine. And we went to Denver, and I also taught GED in trailers and worked in adult education and started a community school and then came to Denver, and I work with community colleges. The people that I work with that I feel the most comfortable with are poor people and people that are shut out of mainstream culture. I just feel really at home there. And as long as I can be in that environment or working for that environment, I feel totally fulfilled. I give that — it's the gift that the Civil Rights Movement gave to me, was a way to be a human being in our society in a way that is hopeful despite the recognition that there is evil. There is evil.

Chude: And this is Chude. And you're also a bridge person, because you're bridging the privileges, the skills that you had and bringing it to a community.

Stephen: Elaine, did you ever worry about being disabled in whole or in part by the grief?

Elaine: No. Because I'm an idiot. I didn't look, I didn't know. I'm a survivor. I'm a survivor. I grieved, but I feel that that grief is part of the opening of the heart. Is that you can feel pain, and you feel empathy, and then you can be whole. I'm a Buddhist. I've been Buddhist since '72. That's been easy. I mean, it's a world view that corresponds to my experiences in the Movement which is compassion, open heart, working for the benefit of others, accepting this moment. So I'm very grateful for this life. I'm very grateful for the Movement.

Chude: You know, after the South, and after marrying interracially, I was very isolated, and one of the things that was very clear to me is that I never had — I grew up thinking I was normal. You know, I grew up — I'm WASP, upper middle class, in a community where the real differences were the Quakers vs. the Episcopalians. I mean, that's — [Laughter]

And I was raised that I would never marry Jewish, and I would never marry a Roman Catholic. Needless to say, people of color were not even, you know — 

Stephen: Didn't make the list, for God's sake.

Chude: Right. So I mean, I grew up in a basically homogeneous environment.

David: No Unitarians around.

Chude: No, I don't remember any Unitarians! [Laughter] So the crisis for me after leaving the South and marrying interracially was that I was isolated. I'm one of the earliest organizers of the Women's Liberation Movement, and so for many, many years I was active first in the Women's Liberation Movement and then in an organization of working women in San Francisco. And the crisis was that nobody was like me. And nobody was ever gonna be like me.

Now, I was a religion major in college, and I was a sociology minor, and I knew full well intellectually that certainly in terms of theological thinking there is only you at one level. And God or life or the universe or however one articulates it, but at one level, we are all alone. And another level, of course, we are in community. But I had never dealt with the alone side. So in the early Women's Liberation Movement, which was primarily white, I had the crisis that I was married interracially and didn't fit and didn't quite trust the white women. And I very much wanted to build a multiracial women's movement which in '67, '68 was premature.

But that crisis meant that I was constantly dealing with this feeling that I didn't fit anywhere, and therefore, there must be something wrong with you. Because that's one of the ways that I've discovered that people can deal with being different. I was very critical in the Women's Movement. I mean, I can now look back and say: I could've done a much better job of helping white women understand racism and white supremacy if I hadn't been so critical. You know, I got pissed. But also just, I'm here alone, and you're — 

And the interesting thing, and I do not have an answer for it yet, even though I raise it all the time, is I am not the only woman from the Civil Rights Movement who ended up being one of the early organizers of the Women's Liberation Movement, and yet, we seldom if ever talked about it [the Freedom Movement experience]. And like Marcia and I have at least mentioned, when we went back — Marcia and I went back to Carleton our senior year, after being in Mississippi in '64, and we have one more person. There were three of us, three women, three white women. The dynamics would've been quite different if one us had been male of course, but we were three women. And we raised money to send — remember we cleaned out the women's dormitory basements of all the old curtains and things that students had left, and we sent them. We did all this work, and we did public speaking and all that stuff. We never sat down and talked about what happened in our various projects. And that's the missing link.

And over and over again, I find out that that's true of people pretty much across the board. People came out of the South and had no way to talk about it. No way to talk about it with people who hadn't been there, and sometimes the grief was too great to really talk about it with the people who had been there. So there was this kind of place of alienation.

I would just comment that in the Bay Area Vets group, in the early years when we were trying to figure out who we were, there was a small group of us meeting one day and trying to decide: Should we keep meeting? And we went around and discovered that some of us had been in cults, and the others had all been depressed. Serious depression. So we'd all reacted in some kind of way to the endings of essentially the Movements, not just the Southern Freedom Movement, but in my case the Women's Movement, different things. And we had found different ways.

I mean, I was in a spiritual cult. Cults, whether spiritual or political, were another way of trying to immerse yourself 100% in an environment where you're both going to save the world and be treasured and be part. So that was my crisis. And for me, I mean, I don't have time to go into my whole story, but writing has turned out to be the way that I have healed and begun to find a way to both share with others and to also learn my own story. But I also want to share with you — 


Chude: So what I wanted to share just on this question of were we the depressed type? Or were we the type to go join things? Do things? I said to my grandson when he was about four, I said, "Tell, me." I said, "If this cup is, if there's water up to here. Is this half full? Or half empty?" Now we could go around the room. You're a half full. You know, Marcia's a half full. I'm a half full.

Elaine: I'm a half full.

Chude: Elaine's a half full. David's a half full?

Marcia: He's 50-50.

Stephen: I'm leaning toward half empty.

Chude: Leaning towards half empty.

Stephen: Leaning.

Chude: So the four-year-old looks at this — 

Stephen: I won't fall in if lean.

Chude: — it's half, you know, it's up to here. And he looks at me, and he says: It's both. [Laughter] I had never heard an adult say that.

David: From out of the mouths of babes.

Chude: You know? And it was like: Of course. And I think if we're talking about how has the Movement — looking back over 50 years — affected me, I could say, coming out of the South and the Freedom Movement, I'm like a glass that didn't get filled. Not everything we wanted happened. And love didn't save the world, and I didn't become, you know, one with everyone with this heart connection. That didn't happen, and sometimes people were even mean and sometimes I was even mean, and I made mistakes and all these things. It wasn't full, but it also wasn't empty, right?

And I have a feeling that that's a good — for me, a good image. I'm half full, and I'm half empty. Or maybe I'm three-quarters full and a quarter empty, because it depends how I look at it. If I look at what's happening in the world, and I look at my own — because I'm not an Elaine. I didn't — and I'm not a Marcia. I'm not somebody who has put my life all out there with people. I ended up needing, literally for my health, to pull back and become a more reclusive person and to do it through writing and sharing, although of course I'm so privileged to be in the Bay Area Vets group, and so it's not like I'm totally isolated.

But I think that's how I have healed is by acknowledging phenomenal hurts and losses and grief, and at the same time, embracing what I consider is just privilege. The privilege to have been part of a movement, two movements that helped really contribute to making positive change in the world. And I feel privileged of the fact that I have a mind.

David: That's still active.

Chude: That's still active. But, you know, we were — I don't remember which of the men was saying it this morning, that we mostly came out of colleges, and that's true. But I don't think it matters if we came out of colleges or if we never went to college. If you're involved in a social movement, you learn how to think. You learn how to see things differently. You're not taking — your ideas and information are not coming just from the dominant culture.

You know, Marcia and I took this class from Staughton Lynd on nonviolence at Spelman. And I swear I've looked in my Spelman folder numerous times and never noticed it, but one day, I finally noticed that one of the first assignments he gave us when we came to Atlanta, well basically in February — the end of January of '64 — was that we were to ascertain who was telling the truth about the big demonstrations that had happened in December and January against segregation, and you know, many, many, huge numbers of people were involved and put in jail and stuff. And we had the job of: Well, who was telling the truth? Was SNCC telling the truth? Was the [Atlanta] Constitution telling the truth? We had to, you know, amass this information. And I was quite struck by the fact that my conclusion was: The only way you would know for sure is if you were there. And you know, and Bruce Hartford has an article on the website that says — 

David: Get involved.

Chude: Right. Get involved. And the second one was that I really did not think that the Atlanta Constitution was right, that John Lewis hit somebody, because John Lewis believed in pacifism. So my mind was working, and I think, you know, what can we each — I mean, you came from a leftist family, David. I came from — 

David: Not my mother, but my father. [Laughter]

Chude: Oh, Okay. Well, my father in 1960 voted for Nixon, and my mother wouldn't say who she voted for. So you know, ultimately in the '80s I finally asked her, and it was Kennedy.

David: They didn't even vote for Eisenhower. [Laughter]

Chude: But anyway, what I'm saying is that given from where I came from, the gift of being — 

Elaine: Critical thinking.

Chude: Yes, exactly.

Marcia: Did you guys want to answer the question? Because I had another bridge thought. It had to with — because I remember you've raised that issue before, that we got back to Carleton and didn't talk about our personal experiences, and I've thought about that off and on, and I wanted to raise an example. When we did the Anne Frank exhibit.

One of the things that — in communities, you try to do, is have people tell their stories. And we knew and very quickly — I mean we spent a year and a half organizing it, that there were Holocaust survivors in Northern California. One of them — people said, You'll never get her to talk about it, and she was chair of the journalism department at the local community college. Well, not only did she tell, but she appreciated being able to say that she and her sister went to Anne Frank's school. And I mean, the stories that she told. She had been raised — her mom was Christian, and her dad was Jewish — no, it's the other way around. But she'd been raised as a Christian, but once they had to put stars on their sleeves, she had to as well. She had actually — when she had to walk by the synagogue, she was in fear of it. But she lived on the streets in Amsterdam for two years, and I mean, her stories were outrageous.

Many other people who came and spoke, and we did photographs of them so that people would hear their stories, as we heard then with the Shoah movie. People have never had a chance, or given themselves the chance, to tell their stories. Several reasons — survival guilt was a huge one. Life moves on, and you get so involved with life, and who would be interested in my story anyway? But once they realized that people were interested, they were so grateful. And I think for us, going back, it was like — I guess, again, I'm dense. But I didn't think that sharing my personal experience was going to be useful to anyone. And so just going ahead and doing more of what we had been doing was my way of dealing with it. But it might've been a way of passing over, you know, the grief. I don't know if I grieved leaving this movement. I got to pursue that a little bit more.

Elaine: Just briefly though. When I left Mississippi, I went to the Lower East Side of New York, and I was very close to Casey, Theresa Del Pozzo, and Emmy {Schrauder?} who had been in {UNCLEAR} House and had lived together. Theresa's husband was the drummer in the band that my husband — well, we weren't married then. He was the guitar player. Casey lived a block away from me.

Marcia: Casey Hayden?

Elaine: Casey Hayden. Emmy was — I mean, we were very, very close. They were my closest friends. We never talked about it [the Freedom Movement]. So, we never, ever talked about, about our experiences, about grief, about feelings about leaving, that even though we were in a group of almost like Mississippi ex-pats, but we didn't talk about it. So I think it's something about confusion, giving permission to yourself. When basically the fact that we left because we were pushed out didn't change the guilt for having left. Because somehow we should've been able to — I mean, we were leaving behind people in danger. We were leaving behind people that we had set up for economic destruction if not physical retribution.

So I mean to say: Well, they wanted us to leave; that's why we left. That's not a reason. I don't know. Maybe that was the dynamic. I don't know what the dynamic was, but I know that we never talked about it. Casey and I talk now a few times a week, and we laugh about it. Casey came, actually — I mean, we maintained over the years, but at that time, I think it was grief. I think it definitely was grief. We've talked about how it was grief. And there was no way to look at it. It was too raw.

Chude: And you were white.

Elaine: Yeah.

Chude: Because some people — and I don't know if this was true of all of you, and it was not true of me, but some white activists coming up did not feel they had the right to have an experience, so speak to that. Does that resonate?

Elaine: Yeah, yeah. It wasn't our Movement. It's like we felt it was the Black people's Movement. It wasn't our Movement. It was like: We shouldn't be telling the stories. We were invisible there. We have to be invisible now. Back into the woodwork. The fact that we didn't want to go into the woodwork, we chose different lives, didn't mean — I mean, there was nothing to hold onto. We had been basically told, "No thank you. Go to the North and take care of your own dirty laundry," or however it was put to us. Take care of racism in the North.

Well, we didn't feel at home with those white people. I walked the streets. I remember walking the streets of the Lower East Side and passing Black people and being totally comfortable and passing white people and just like being shivering with fear. It's like the identification was no longer with white people, despite the fact that there was no place in the Black community for me. And I lived on the corner of Third Street and Avenue C, the Puerto Ricans were on one side, and the Black people were on the other side of the street on the corners. I walked through there totally oblivious. Nothing ever — people were like, "Oh my God, you live there? It's so dangerous." To me, they were my people. I felt totally at home in the ghetto. The ghetto was where I felt I belonged. I mean, in a very positive way. They were my people. Don't put me with those Upper West Side people. Unh-uh. No.

Chude: Now what about SDS? I have heard two white women say that when they came back and joined SDS that they never talked about the Southern Freedom Movement experiences because the SDS men totally bad- mouthed it as a liberal movement and that it had no meaning and value. So I am curious whether those of you that were in SDS when you came back — 

Stephen: I didn't find that in Cambridge.

Chude: But did you talk about your experience?

Stephen: Not very much, because we wanted to end the fucking war. [Laughter]

Chude: The shift had happened. Yes.

Chude: And Marcia shook her head, "no," that that was not her experience either in SDS. I did not hear anybody bad-mouthing.

Stephen: At Brandeis, I was the only student from Brandeis who went to Mississippi in '64. The following spring, the Dean of Students asked me and a woman who had just joined the {Heller?} School, a sociologist, to form the advisory committee, because Brandeis had been asked by SCLC — you know, wave 2, '65, to adopt Columbia, South Carolina. And he asked us to be responsible for promoting, recruiting, training a group of like 40 students. And we'd go to Columbia, South Carolina. So we were still involved, indirectly.

Chude: But focused on the South and sending South.

Stephan: That's right. Brandeis and Columbia, right? Brandeis was to adopt Columbia, South Carolina. And forget about the Palestinians ...

Chude: I do think that one of the things that's hard to explain now is that things were happening so fast then. I mean, the Southern Freedom Movement was happening. The war in Vietnam was happening. The Women's Liberation Movement was happening. Gay Liberation started. I mean, we're talking about within six years, all these things are happening. And so there wasn't, in some ways, time to think and process.

Marcia: Well, thank you. I was going to say that again, not just not having time, because life moves on, but having a sense of understanding what you've been through does take time. You know, we've got 50 years of looking back on it, thinking about it, and we don't self-analyze every day of our lives. Oh, you know, I'm doing — except now if you're on Facebook or Twitter or whatever, you do, but we certainly didn't then. So I guess I'm hearing maybe a sadness that that didn't happen, but it's a little bit like you hear about the camaraderie that people have when they serve in the military and then they come out, and then they miss it. But do they find anybody that they can — and they may again go into calls or do, you know, or go through PTSD [Post Traumatic Stress Disorder], but when it's not a part of our way of living in the world to sit down and analyze and reflect, we do often move on to the next thing.

Stephen: Or we choose to exaggerate and lie. No, the example I'm thinking of, and I thought of this for years — We choose to exaggerate or lie. Classic example of it that I know is that people who go drink beer Friday night at the American Legion and tell war stories. There are versions of this within the military. There are certainly versions of this within first responders. Cops do this all the time. We don't seem to do it. We don't have an American Legion, unless it's this. And here, I think, humility sort of — it's not polite. It's a way of being, rather than, Well, I — you know, I mean, you talked about a bullet going through the window. How about one going through the roof? Or two bullets? I mean — 

Marcia: We're trying to learn from it.

Stephen: Rather than, you know, war is hell. Let me tell you about my hell. It doesn't seem to be.

Chude: The competitive thing.

Stephen: Well, the competitive, but also — 

Chude: The lack of experience.

Stephen: There's a political analyst who's written a book called The Bullet Song. There's a romance about it, and I think at least here today, and on the website, it's not portrayed romantically. It's more, if you know things like the Vietnam novels, like The Things They Carried. Extraordinary, extraordinary story. It's not John Wayne anymore. It's not romance. It's a grittiness about everything from sexuality to the enormity and the immorality of horrid poverty or horrid discrimination because you're a different color than I am. But as I listen to people like Seals or Navy vets with their tats, they talk about a brotherhood. They only brotherhood I ever knew were in white robes and scared the shit out of me. I don't know. I'm mixed up about it. I don't think I would've joined our American Legion if we had one for our Civil Rights Movement. On the other hand, I would imagine, PTSD included, it's probably a fairly good anti-loneliness device.

Elaine: I think that one of the reasons that we don't glorify is because we were so small in the face of what Black people were fighting. We see ourselves as very — I see myself, and I think we all see ourselves, as being just a very small part. There's no ego in that. And there's no ego — you can't talk to people. I never talked to people about the Civil Rights Movement. People that I work with don't know that I was in the Civil Rights Movement. It's not something you claim. It's something that you carry inside. I came here because I love the quality of the discussion on the website, because I think this is what happens in the Bay Area, that it is real and constructive and is not glorifying, and there are no badges of honor. It's, "Here we are. What do we understand? What can we offer to the world about our experiences?" That's it.

Stephen: I say that's it. You're also saying, if I understand you, and that's a lot.

Elaine: I think it's a lot.

Stephen: Yeah, "that's it" sounded diminutive, and I don't think it is.

Elaine: No, I mean that's what it is. It is what it is. This is reality.

Stephen: I'm sorry, the phrase seems to me to be both epistemological nonsense and a cliche. It's not what it is. It's your life as you lived it and the power and the feelings that you've been kind enough to express all day. "It is what it is," demeans you and demeans the events, both.

Elaine: All right. All right.

Stephen: I think.

Chude: Especially in print. You know, that's one of the things is that when you're saying it, you're going, "And that's it." And your hands are going out, and it's big. You know, it's big. But in print, it would seem like really implying little.


Vietnam and the Draft

David: I always felt I didn't have to go to Mississippi, because I felt I didn't have to go to Vietnam, because I fought for America in Mississippi.

Marcia: Say that again about Vietnam?

David: I didn't have to go to Vietnam. I did a lot to not go to Vietnam, because I fought for America in Mississippi.

Marcia: Well, that's how I — 

David: Three, four, five years before.

Marcia: — described giving my four years of service to my country with Mississippi and work that I did in the Boston area. And so when I talk about it, that's how I talk about it.

Stephen: It must've been a mistake. When I came back, I went to work essentially as a group worker running this tutoring program for some 800 kids on the West Side of Chicago, Longdale, the ghetto. And I had not returned to the Philosophy Department at Northwestern, and I was gonna do this. And I was granted a "strategic skills" [draft] deferment.

Elaine: Because you could work in the ghetto? [Laughter]

Stephen: I never asked why. It's just because I was second to go. And I thought: How profoundly ironic. It must've been a mistake or something.

David: It's a much longer story that I will just abbreviate. I didn't have to go because my draft board in White Plains, New York was lackadaisical and sloppy.

Stephen: In the immortal words of my Yiddish forebears, "Tanks, God." [Laughter]

Chude: And my husband, Robert, he refused the draft. He's African-American, and he felt it was racist, and he actually went down with — you know, back then, of course, he typed with carbons his little leaflet and then went out and went leafletting. And I literally thought I was kissing him good-bye, and I wouldn't see him for five years, that he'd be in jail for five years. And because of the way things work, it never happened, and they eventually told him they didn't want him. I mean, he kept losing the appeals and stuff. But what I learned in that experience because this is after the Southern Freedom Movement and before Women's Liberation. This is, you know — Well, it's probably '66. Remember, African-Americans tended to be, I mean he was — 

Marcia: Fire cannon fodder.

Chude: Yeah.

Stephen: Top of the list.

Chude: Yes, top of the list and stuff. What I learned is there is a big difference between being the one who risks your life or puts your life on the line and being a support person. I watched him grow, because in refusing the draft, he was putting his life on the line. And then he was part of a group called African-Americans for Survival which was people who had either gone AWOL or refused the draft. But I mean, these were all African-American men who were — you know, this is a little tiny group, but I was witnessing it.

And in the way things worked back then, they would meet in our apartment, and they didn't mind me sitting in, and I thought, "Oh wow, they think that I'm worthy because I was in the Southern Freedom Movement," and it took me years to realize it was because I was a wife, so I didn't count. [Laughter] And when I shared this thought with Robert he said, "Yeah, he thought that was true." But anyway, I got to sit in on these meetings, and I got to see that these people were dealing with a life and death issue, essentially. I mean, because if you go to jail for five years, it's still a real life issue. And then as a support person, I wasn't growing to the same degree.

When we were in the Southern Freedom Movement, we needed that support from the North. And I once met someone who was in one of these Northern support offices who said, "You know, we worked really hard, but we didn't get those rewards of being first of all with the local people and the privilege of knowing them, and of the camaraderie that happens about being on the front lines."

And I think also that, and I do believe this, that there are those moments when you make those choices thoughtfully. I think it's different if, you know, we're just sitting here, and something happens, and you jump up and I risk my life to protect Elaine. The spontaneity thing, I think, is a slightly different dynamic. But if we sit here, and we've been working on this for a number of days, and we've all agreed we're gonna go do something that could change our lives, we grow in a way that is very significant. And I don't think anything else does it.

And it doesn't mean that everybody should do it or shouldn't do it. Because if I didn't learn anything else, to understand my part, it's that people are different. And now when I speak, I say to people, "Not everybody's gonna be on the picket line. Not everybody would go South. They don't have the personality. They're just not gonna do it." I mean, independent of whether you were free to do it. You know, independent of whether you already had four kids. But saying that we all equally could go, some people will choose to be the ones who stay back and raise the money. Some people, as we always will say, we would've starved to death in the South if the [local Black] women didn't cook. Not all of them went down to register to vote. You know, some did; some didn't.

So that question of what makes a movement is the people, I think, on the front lines — it takes a certain kind of courage and a certain kind of personality, and something happens. There's some kind of, I think, leap in consciousness that happens. But we could not do it without the others that didn't go on the front lines. We simply couldn't. And so therefore, in fact, we were held by them as much as we were pushing the entire nation forward.

Marcia: And honoring those people was really, really important.

Stephen: Absolutely, absolutely.

Chude: So we have like three minutes to sum up. Stephen?

Stephen: It is an honor to listen and be with you, thank you.

Chude: Thank you. Marcia? Anything?

Marcia: I have nothing more to say. It's been great.

David: This has been a great day and a wonderful experience, and I thank you all.

Chude: Elaine?

Elaine: It was wonderful. It was wonderful. All of you, it's a privilege.

David: Let's have a beer in Jackson! [Laughter]

["Jackson" above refers to the Freedom 50th reunion and conference that was held in Jackson Mississippi two months after this discussion.]

Marcia: Absolutely! Oh, so David's daughter and — 

David: And two granddaughters.

Marcia: — two granddaughters are gonna be there. My son is going to be there. And {UNCLEAR} wanted to, and I don't know. So we're gonna be — 

David: Several months ago, discussing plans for the summer, because we always take our grandkids to the beach and sometimes go horseback riding in Wyoming, and things like that, so my wife is going hiking Mount Blanc in late June, and my daughter and son-in-law and grandkids live in the Russian River Valley, and I said, Well, I was going to Jackson for the 50th anniversary of the Mississippi Summer Project. And my daughter says, "Can families come?"

Marcia: Oh, neat!

David: And I said, "Well, I don't know. Let's find out. Do you want to come?" Oh, Brydie and Mackenzie need to know about what Gramps did.

Elaine: Oh, how wonderful.

David: And for a long time she's been asking me to tell them about Mississippi Burning.

Marcia: Why, that's not the right story.

Stephen: And you say, "No!" [Laughter]

David: The FBI were not good guys!

Chude: Bad guys! Bad guys! Okay.

[Most veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement strongly condemn the Hollywood film Mississippi Burning as a gross distortion and outrageous falsification of history.]


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