Remembrances of SNCC
My career as an activist began while I was a freshman at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. I was elected as student leader by my fellow demonstrators in the sit-in movement. Influenced by Rabbi Hillel's dictum, If I am not for myself, who will be for me? If I am only for myself, what am I? And if not now, when?, I participated in the founding of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in 1960. I was elected as Chairman of SNCC in 1961 and served in that capacity until 1964.
Under my leadership, SNCC expanded its community organizing activities, penetrating into those parts of the South deemed too dangerous for organizers by traditional civil rights programs. With our commitment to developing and empowering local leadership and challenging racist laws and practices, SNCC's field secretaries led the way in desegregating local facilities, operating freedom schools and registering voters. That policy of bears fruit today in the increasing number of black elected officials all over the country today, including the office of president of the United States.
Since that time, I have been active in organizations for social and political change, working as a teacher and as a labor organizer, managing anti-poverty programs in Washington, D.C., serving as community organizer and catalyst for change in Boston, San Francisco, and Minneapolis.