As Remembered by Wazir (Willie) Peacock
Sam Block, the legendary SNCC organizer in Mississippi, passed just as the 40th anniversary celebration of SNCC's founding began in April at Raleigh, N.C. Wazir Peacock, who worked closely with him, shared a few of his memories of Sam with others in the Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement Project recently.
I first saw Sam when we were both in high school. He was the drummer in his school's marching band, which came to play in my school. His playing attracted a big crowd, I'll never forget it.
We didn't actually meet until 1961, when I was a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, Mississippi and he was a student at Mississippi Vocational College (now Mississippi Valley State University) in Itta Bena. We began working together in 1962 in Greenwood, on voter registration, as SNCC Field Secretaries. By that time he wasn't living in a car any more we had a room about 4 X 6 feet for our home and office. Even then, Sam was a sharp dresser. He was absolutely flamboyant in his 3-piece suit. He had class.
It was hard work, trying to register voters in Leflore County. Our strategy was to work Leflore County like a wagon-wheel, with Greenwood as the hub, and work out of Greenwood into the surrounding areas. People were very afraid. Some of them, if they saw Sam coming, would avoid him. And enemies would also avoid him-they would come at me instead, they must have seen my knees shaking.
Sam had a profound kind of initiative. If someone came up with a good idea, he would put it into action right away. In the movement as in life, he was a mover and a shaker. He was always on the move, never resting, and he always had something to do.
We had diametrically different strategies. He wasn't much on detail, that's what I did. Sam cooked up new projects faster than I could put up the details for them. He would recruit help from the young ladies who came by the office. We bailed each other out in many different ways.
After Greenwood began to open up, we were invited by some of the Black leadership in Holmes County to do voter registration there. So we opened that up and began taking people down to register. Then we went into Humphreys County, which was next to Holmes, in the Delta, also to do voter registration. Sam was at the top of my list of best friends. He was one of my heroes and he was my brother. I always had a saying, if you see Sam in a bear-fight, help the bear! Because he was a bear-killer. It's hard to believe the bear-killer is dead. To me, I don't think he will ever be dead.
Copyright © 2000
Last Modified: April 24, 2000.