In the New York SNCC Office
I began my political life with SNCC in the NY office and went to Meridian in the summer of l965. The people I met and the work we did gave direction and meaning to my life.
I arrived in Jackson in June, l965 to participate in the marches to challenge the laws against demonstrations. After the courts decided in our favor, I went for training in Hattiesburg and was selected to go to Meridian. The project was being led by Catherine Crowell. George Smith had replaced James Chaney and Joe Morse had replaced Mickey Schwerner as lead organizers.
The work consisted of testing of the Civil Rights Act by having white volunteers use a public facility (the swimming pool in Philadelphia, local restaurants) who would then witness the refusal of service to local black people. Affidavits were then filed with the Justice Dept. To support the passage of the Voting Rights Act we would canvas the neighborhoods and Lauderdale County trying to register voters. With Ben Chaney we went to Newton County to rally new support.
Perhaps the most sucessful project was a survey we did of segregation in the schools. We canvassed most of the black homes asking for the number of students in the home, what school they attended, and how far they traveled. We then made a map that showed that the schools could be integrated by minor changes in district lines. A law student supervised us and the data was submitted to the Justice Dept. We were told it was of great use and may have helped the early integration of the local schools.
I was eighteen years old and had never been away from NYC alone. I can't say how much I helped, but I was educated, supported and protected by brave, wonderful, committed people. I made lifelong friendships with two of the other volunteers and carried the lessons from that summer in all the political work I did afterwards. It changed my life.
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