Bruce Hartford

CORE, SCLC 1963-67, Alabama, Mississippi
Current Residence: San Francisco, CA
Email: bruceh@wwwriters.com
Web Sites:
      Sojourner's Blog
      www.wwwriters.com

Interviews, Books, & Histories
Interview, 2012
Oral History, 2002
The Grenada Movement, 1966
Articles on Nonviolent Resistance
Albert Turner & the Rocking Chair
The Selma Voting Rights Struggle & March to Montgomery
The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom
The Gandhi Ring
Poetry
Commentaries
The Meaning of "Radical", 2014
The Missing Word, 2014
Courage Was the Key, 2014
The Roots of Poverty, 2013
SNCC & Today's Education Struggle, 2010
That Darned "Why did you..." Question, 2008
Activists and Activism, 2008
Leadership: Freedom Movement vs New Left, 2007
Religion & Politics, 2004

I was one of many Jews active in the Civil Rights movement. I began with CORE and the Non-Violent Action Committee (N-VAC) in Los Angeles (1963-1964) with direct action campaigns for housing integration and school desegregation; and against employment discrimination by Bank of America, Van deKamps Bakeries, and others. We marched, we picketed, we sat-in, and we went to jail often. Some said that California was "different" from the South, but after experiencing the tender mercies of the LAPD and a restaurant owner who hired a mob of white teenagers to attack our picket line in the heart of Watts, I'm not so sure that the difference is as great as folks imagine.

In August of 1963 I participated in the March on Washington where Dr. King gave his "I have a dream speech," and John Lewis challenged the federal government to enforce the constitution it was sworn to uphold.

From 1965-1967 I was on the field staff of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). In those bygone days I was known as the "skinny kid" (alas, no longer), and was commonly acknowledged to be the worst singer in SCLC.

In early 1965 I was in Selma Alabama working on the voter rights campaign and then the March to Montgomery. I remember well Sheriff Jim Clark and his mounted posse, Colonel Al Lingo and his blue-helmeted storm troopers, and the Klan assassin who gunned down my friend and roommate Jonathan Daniels.

In the Summer of '65 I worked on voter registration and desegregation in rural Crenshaw County — 50 miles south of Montgomery and at least a century away from "..with liberty and justice for all." That was deep in Klan country, and I learned that when a dozen carloads of KKK chase you across half the county, a VW bug is not your vehicle of choice.

After returning to California to serve a sentence from one of the earlier L.A. sit-in arrests, I returned to SCLC in the Spring of '66 and worked in Hale County on the election campaigns of the first Black candidates to run for office in Alabama since the end of reconstruction. We lost, but witnessed the miracle of white voter-registration topping 110%, the dead rising from their graves to cast votes for the white incumbents, and a rigged election that would have warmed Joe Stalin's heart.

Later that summer I participated in the Meredith Mississippi March Against Fear, and following the Meredith March, I was assigned to Grenada Mississippi where one of the longest-sustained mass-movements of the era fought for voter registration, jobs, and school desegregation. The Klan mobilized mobs to attack the children on their way to and from (integrated) school, and night after night we marched out of Bell Flower Baptist church to face down mobs of hate-filled racists as we circled around and around the town square and its memorial to the Confederate war dead.

After leaving Mississippi, I worked on the "Spring Mobe," the first mass mobilization against the Vietnam War in New York City. In the Fall of '67 I enrolled in San Francisco State College where I was active in Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), anti-war actions, and the long 1968-69 student strike for Third World studies. During those years in San Francisco I supported myself working on the docks through the longshore union (ILWU).

After the SF State strike I became active in the GI Movement against the Vietnam War. In 1970-71 I was in the war zone ("WestPac") as a freelance journalist writing about the Vietnam War, and helping U.S. Marines put out the Semper Fi an underground, anti-war newspaper, clandestinely distributed on Marine bases throughout Asia.

When I returned from Asia I again became active in the ILWU and eventually Chief Shop Steward in a waterfront chemical plant.

After an industrial accident in 1980, I changed careers and unions to become a founding member and long-time national officer of the National Writers Union (UAW Local-1981), from which I am now retired.

I live in San Francisco, and make my living as a freelance technical writer for Silicon Valley computer firms. I am also author of the science fiction novel The Gandhi Ring (a metaphor of the Southern Freedom Movement).


 
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