See SCOPE Summer Project, 1965 for background web links.
Draft of Journal.
In 1965, I was a freshman at Dartmouth, 19 years old. For reasons I do not remember I responded to an opportunity to work in the south with the SCOPE project of SCLC. At Dartmouth the William Jewett Tucker Foundation presented the opportunity to students. I have no memory of how this was done. I believe I was the only one to go South.
In the winter of 2011-12, I came across the journal in the process of downsizing my life. It is a little spiral Dartmouth notebook which sold for $0.30.
May 25, 1965.
Anticipating a summer filled with interesting experiences, I start this account with the idea of saving the impressions of my young, excited mind. Past attempts at journals have lasted about two days, but here follows an optimistic start."
This morning I reached a point where I had to decide one way or another as to whether I would be working in the South this summer. Dean Wentworth being sick, I called Dr. Mudge at Amherst, and he both assured me that I was welcome and that it looked like a favorable venture."
Therein ended the conflict that had been raging in my mind. The comforts of going home for the summer will have to wait. [I grew up in Port Angeles, Washington, a gateway to the Olympic national park where I had solo hiked since I was 12. Later in the journal I see that I had been offered a summer trail crews job with the Park.] I seem to almost feel a duty to go south and do my part for this cause. Couple with this is what I take to be a general concern for the deprived of this country. Unfortunately I fee a certain impetus coming from anger which has been raised by Jim Clarke, Matt Murphy and various others. [If any reader knows who Clarke or Murphy were, please let me know.]
... It grieves me not to see them [people at home] for another couple months. But isnt it perhaps written in my fate that I should eventually end up doing this? I think Dad made me concerned. How, I cant quite figure. [My father had a quiet but strong believe in civil liberties and justice and I know do understand the powerful passing on of values that sometimes can be gently accomplished by parent to child.]
Just returned from up campus and a rather though provoking discussion. Stopped in to tell Bruce what I'd be doing and he was properly shocked. [Bruce Drake, my older cousin from Bellevue who was a good friend.] Jim his roommate was a lot more unsettled as was Jeff Huck. [Jim and Jeff were from the South.]
They threw a pretty good battery of reasons why all the efforts being made aren't solving the problem, and instead just hurting things. Is it doing the negro any good to get him to register? I can't help but believe that the eventual solution they wait for can only happen in the near future if there is some outside influence. The sad Negro plight seems a result of his environment. If so, it seems that the environment is going to have to be changed.
These guys seem to agree that it is an unhappy situation. The difference seems to revolve around the question of whether or not the Northerner can help or whether the Negro is going to somehow pull if out himself. I personally am not content to wait a few hundred years to see their rights a s humans, and secondarily as Americans be fulfilled.
Their criticism that I can't just have this abstract idea of "the Negro" causes me to think. Sincerely it seems that I'm concerned with a particular group of humans that have a need. I hope so.
I left with a good feeling when both wished me good luck when I left their room. [Good on Dartmouth values.]
Chuck's encouragement and enthusiasm are both the nicest reactions I have run into. I sure wish he could be going too. Steve Pond also helps reassure me. If only there were many more southern Students like him, maybe this problem would be solved much quicker and less painfully. [A reference to my first year my roommate Chuck Length from Minnesota and a fellow dorm mate Steve Pond. We resided in South Wigwam. ]
I've started answering friends that I'm going to be a "Northern Agitator." It seems just as well to last at their objections before they come up. I hope they don't take me too seriously. Inevitably their reaction is: "You've got to be kidding." The general feeling seems to be recognition of a problem, but general disapproval of any liberal scheme for trying to solve it. I think they are kind of bogged down in a real apathy. Toad bad the Southern students aren't a little more apathetic, adults and KKK members too, for that matter."
Got a letter from the Park today with an offer for a good job. This of course makes me wonder if I've made the right decision. By now, however, I'm pretty sure of myself. Trying to brief up on Civil Rights activities over the past year and reading The People That Walk in Darkness vie coe xxx to a definite trend toward the Negro's freedom. But the trend seems to be only maintained by effort, constant effort. With my optimistic outlook on things I 'm sure that at least to some small degree I ought to be able to help that effort.
Having not heard from Amherst, I'm beginning to think that maybe it won't happen in Williamston as planned. I get the impression that there is a need throughout the South and I'll be damned if I'm going to sit in Williamston if the need isn't' her. I get that impression from the lack of correspondence out of Amherst. Perhaps I' m a little too impatient.
Chuck today gave me Letters from Mississippi. The "Bill" letter on non-violence appealed greatly. This concept bothers me. I'm such a poor one at taking things. It makes sense though if means one week instead of two in a hospital. Actually I now I figure that where we're going we shouldn't run into that sort of trouble. I doubt that the people will be all that friendly, but I don't expect more than mental hostility. Here's hoping.
Left yesterday morning at 6:00 and arrived here about 1:30 this afternoon. The trip was uneventful action wise, but psychologically it was filled. The further South the bus got the more nervous I began to get. Woke up in Richmond in the middle of the night and got off the bus into a hot, muggy depot. My grogginess and the weather sift me off edge. I realized I was finally in the south where the likes of me were not really loved. Avoid eyes and conversation as best I could. Began to affect an accent wit talking to people — could not help but think it sounded pretty authentic. The listing of destinations caught waiting to get back on the bus my attention over the PA system. A sweet sounding little town of "Lynchburg" was being called.
After Richmond I lost a good deal of my uneasiness except for a couple hours in the Atlanta bus depot waiting for luggage.
Seems I've arrived a day early along with abut twenty other kids. Spent the afternoon and evening at SCOPE headquarters called "Freedom House." It turns out to be a two-story house in the middle of a residential area. Disorganization seems to be the predominant theme, although a lot of that can explained by the fact that things don't really start till tomorrow.
Most of the staff appears extremely young, younger than they actually are — mostly negroes with a few whites. All seem to be in love with one another and with their cause. Even those that appear to be 17 or 19 are apparently veterans of St. Augustine, Selma, and plenty of jails. How lightening it was to watch them sing in the back yard. We were on the front porch for a while, but people kept mentioning that it was against the rules and finally someone insisted on giving up that spot. Seems the place has already been bombed once — there are iron bars on the lower windows. To bounce off such little presents.
Somewhat, but not complete polarization reigns between staff and us volunteers. One odd duck fom Ohio with a very Southern accent made the mistake of calling one of the young female staffers "girl" quite innocently. She was a little upset, probably rightfully so. All in all though things are very cordial and cooperative.
We're lucky enough to have good rooms in some college tonight. After many hours on the bus it's nice to have a safe, quiet place to stay.
Met prof and students from Amherst. The place is Williamson, North Carolina instead of South. The story goes that the KKK burned the biggest cross in history there, 94 ft. Impressive!
Things finally got rolling today. Registration this afternoon and multi introdutions tonight. Sed most of the day in downtown office and then out at SCOPE house. Felt good to getting into some work.
Williams introduced everyone under the sun. Main theme of the evening from him were anti-intellual professon that had come down to help and pro negro whi os the spirt of the movenent — many of those were present. It was impressed upon us tha tht future of SCOPE depends upon he success of groups. I'm afraid this is true. The county in N.C, apparnlty has 15,000 begroes. Should be plenty to do.
Woke up this morning to find wallet and watch missing. Got moved to older dorm last night and seemed to miss out all around.
One of the greatest handicaps these people have is fear. We've got to tru to get them to overcome our their fear. It looks like we will have to overcome our own fear if it comes up.
Most of us came down here obessed with the idea of danger and getting unhappy contact with whites. So ur friends in the Northbourht this side of things up. Tuesday morning's discussion did a lot to get us to forget oubt this think. By all speakers found that non-violene isn't falling own in a fetal position when beaten, but inteand an approach of love. Personal fean and concern for body just don't occupy any place of importance.
Talked to14 year old Diane today. A slight negro girl, she just came in from Selma. Had to try to get her to register in role playing and she was a tough cookie. I was kind of awed by her in general. Talked to her at dinner and began to think she was probably pretty young for the impression I had had for here. Turns out she is14! Has been working in Selma for a year. When she was 13 she left home to come down. No need to comment on my feelings.
These people are all liberal on most of the issues and contantly bring them up in their talk. King says that Civil Rights mys support the labor movement and does. Peace lines ate most prevelant. A lot the staff members wear a Viet Nam pin with their SCLC pin. Unfortunately this rubs me the wrong way. I wish they could just stick to Civil Rights.
Spent one full morning hearing how great labor unions are. I've finally figured out that these people are true liberals. They are concerned with social change and have a tendency to want to tie all these things together. It seems like there may be a loss of support for the Civil Rights movement if they tie themselves too closely with other movements. I know there are others here like myself who are totally committed to the Civil Rights cause, but much more conservative on other issues.
Good sessions on negro white relationship and what do do when thrown in jail.
Arrived here Sunday morning around 4 or 5 in the morning. Volkswagen was stopped by cops within about five minutes. Finally roused Sarah out and lept on floors, beds, sofas, and wherever. Got a couple hours sleep and then went out to one of the rural churches where we were well received.
Slowly but surely other people have taken us into their homes so we have a little more room here. It's a small four-room house We've set up offices in the front room and hope to get a phone soon.
Monday we contacted loal leaders and were given encouragement and offered help from almost all.
Yesterday and today we contacted local people and asked if they were interested. Most of them expressed definite interest.
Tonight we went to a real wild prayer meeting at Mt. Zion Holiness Church.
Police have been coming by at night and trying to bait us out. Yesterday they tried to pick up Joe on a vagrancy charge, be we all took the troule to keep money on us. The cops resorted to profanity and threatening bad things if he caught Joe out in the county alone. Today a couple car loads of red necks came by and talked to the boys out front. Told them how good they were to their negroes.
Went over and saw Johnson C. Smith group with Sheila. They're having a tough time getting set up. We agreed to working out an integrating exchange, but today we (sic) to postpone the exchange or cut it off.
Had our first meeting last night, after canvassing door to door for several days. We had scheduled it from 7-9, and about 7:15 the five people who had showed up seemed rather disappointing. We are learning many things about a different culture. One of them is that if you say a meeting will start at 7 that means that it'll start around 7:45 and furthermore that any time before 9 is a good time to arrive. Many of the people were just sitting on their porches waiting to see what would happen. When it became apparent that it would probably be harmless they wandered over. After the demonstrations and trouble in the last couple years these people are awfully nervous with some just plain afraid. Altogether we got slightly over 50 people to our kick off meeting. We'll try to have a kick off meeting on the other side of town and one in Everett tonight. With luck we'll get classes started in town later this week.
So far we're pretty much letting Sarah determine the shape of our work here. The plan is to get these classes going in the city and out around in the county. We'll concentrate on that till the middle of July when the voter bill should go through. Then we'll attempt to get the books open and get people registered.
Nerves are finally getting a little thinner, although no trouble has come up and probably won't. The switch from an academic community to his culture is rather an abrupt change. Poor Greg find it escecially hard. The sanitation and general cleanlinessis much different than up North. It takes a while to reach a poin where the flies and bugs aren't too much of a boeher; or the dirt floor for that matter.
Another gripe is the communial living and total lack of privacy. We're almost in a positionof owning nothing of our own and having to right to expect privacy. There are over ten of usstill sleeping in Sarah's house and druing the day thre areabout 15 of us living here.
One big problem is to know how far to push and how much we should just work under the people. Sarah's ace is much slower than ours, but we don't feel we should be pushy I think from now on, however, we are going to take over buying the food and preparing it. On the SCOPE side of things we're trying to go along at her pace.
Attempted to inegrate cafi in Hamilton without success. Will file complaint with Justice Department. [Note: Justice Department was right on it. Very nice to find a government supporter.]
Went over to Bertie County last night and watched the friction between SNCC and other groups in that county. Lot's of talk about cooperation, but not much chance of more that talk.
Ken got beaten on again yesterday by the kid he and Lou had trouble with before.
Woman afraid to sign anti-poverty because of KKK.
Man thinks he owns Negro.
Landowners answer mail and do everything for tenant.
Neal fired for mixed party.
Woman's hand writing.
I have not yet been assigned to a group and wold like to join one going to Virginia County. Due to local relations throughout the South it is impearative that I get as far away from them as possible in order not to jeopardize the project.
A diagram of street we canvassed. [maybe I will scan and insert. Then these notes:
Center St. 208 Alkbry [?] was receptive 1st time. Not home. Gave card to her dauther. Across from 208. Howell. Gave card to her daughter. Only contact. 122 Not home. 120 Would be home about 5:00 pm 119 120 across the street from Mrs. Hawkins. Will be home around 5:00 too. 118 Mrs. Hawkins will come if her friend comes. 108 Mrs. Whitehearst sick aunt, will make it if she can 106 not home 105 not home 104 no one staying ther permanently. Mr. Washington just can't make it. same for wife
703 Mrs Lord probably will come son will give card 707 Mrs. Clemmons has to work Moday night, will make it another if she can 708 Mr. Barns will probably be there
Martin Street 311 Mrs. Brown not home left card 310 no one home 207 works nights will make it when possible 205 not home 203 " " 201 Two people will probably come
Got three while just sitting on street four
Marlin Street 116 not home 112 not home 108 gave card to daughter
Mrs. Williamson will come. Lives next to Elder Brooks. Got four while sitting on curb Joe got the rest 120 not home
Broad Street 209 not home back at 3:30 207 not home out of town 120 rather a quick brush off owners of Bobby's 114 not home 113 not home 105 not home 108 not home
Orientation in Atlanta Stayed at Small's from June 20 to July 11 Worked on recruiting team for next week Worked on confernence Back into couple counties to help set up Into Hendersonfor 1 week Kinston
Incidents Attempts to pick up on vag a couple times, cursing People coming by house asking to leave Beatings at gas station General hate stares and cursing Police destroyed complaint wouldn't help on beatings Car incident Peanut incident Reaction to integrated recruiting team Threats at Franklinton Highway driving
Charles remarks when young Fear of people in Negro community Volunteer staff disputes
Williamston Worked on political education classes couldn't get people out Helped in Bertie County Worked on Hamilton Tried mass meetings Recruited many kids for Franklinton 15 different counties leaders Henderson meetings, marched kids, sat down in court houses, met with head of the local election board
Atlanta, Smalls', Goldenes, office, Koolnes', Hannibals', Dunston's, Franklinton, Gornes
Got to know law Got to identify unregistered Get registered
Have local argument Ballot way to better life Explain new bill
"Christ" & scripture real effective good to have a preacher with you.
Need to have local arguments for resistration stree light Funddation is on children (4 on up) parents listen to children 1. got to know the law 2. got to indentifu the unregistered 3. get registered
apt to find registered people who sell votes
Even if leaders of town aren't going to help you've got to go in and see them
Ideintify those who are and those who are working with
Tethto make out that ballot is key to better life, work on idea of power
Listen Might want to start by telling person that we're wondering why they aren't registered. And listen to arguments and then take apart.
Watch and listen for some point of interest to get discussion going
TO BE CONTINUED
Copyright © Peter Buck. 2012.
Copyright © 2012