Bowling in Prince Georges County,
The Ins and Outs of SNCC, Nancy Stoller (grad student paper), Fall 1965.
I am a white woman born in 1942 in Newport News Virginia to progressive New York Jews. I was raised to oppose segregation and prejudice. I got started in the civil rights movement in February, 1960 during my first year of college by organizing a sympathy picket for the Woolworth sit-ins. (This was in Wellesley, Mass.). I was called in to the Deans office for criticism, which led to several of us founding a campus civil rights group soon after. In 1962-4, I also worked with the Boston Action Group, which organized economic boycotts in support of hiring more African Americans.
During the summer of 1960, I got involved with D.C. NAG by joining the Glen Echo picket line. (My parents lived nearby.) I participated in many sit-ins with NAG, especially in various parts of Maryland. I also worked on food and clothing drives and support work for southern organizing during my college vacations. I stayed connected to DC NAG until 1963, but got increasingly closer to SNCC per se as it grew.
Perhaps because I was a white person born and raised in the south, I felt a strong responsibility and interest in fighting segregation. When the opportunity arose to work in Prince Edward County in the summer of 1962, I went there via the Northern Student Movement to work with the Prince Edward County Christian Association. There were about 10-12 of us from the Boston area who worked in Freedom Centers set up to teach kids who had been out of school for the past three years( because the whites in the county preferred to have no public schools as opposed to integrated schools). I also did a voter registration surveyeven though I had to invent it.
In the summer of 1963, I worked as a bottom rung research assistant for a social science research organization in Washington, DC. I got them to do a study of the March on Washington, including interviews of a sample of attendees. I dont think it was ever published. In graduate school at Brandeis University, about 8 of us who had done civil rights work organized a "crisis research group," which went to demonstrations and "studied" them as participants. In December of 1964, I dropped out of graduate school for a while and went to work full time for SNCC in Arkansas. I attended the Waveland conference soon after I began my time as a staff person. Most of the time I worked out the Little Rock office and was assigned the job of coordinating the Freedom Centers. This meant getting supplies distributed, dealing with details like phones, transportation, and other communication. I got to drive our 3/4 ton truck which was a big thrill. Our office also put out the Arkansas Voice, modeled on the Student Voice. We started it because someone donated a press. The freedom centers did education, organizing, and programs for kids, and also direct action, including some sit-ins.
I returned to graduate school in the fall and continued to work on issues of racism, primarily with the Boston Action Group, and with People Against Racism, an organization that focused on working with whites to build more of a movement in the white community.
For the last 30 years, I have been involved in various social change movementsanti-racism, feminism, anti-apartheid work, queer organizing, womens health activism, working on changing prison conditions, prison abolition, and so on. I have been very lucky to have a tenure track job teaching organizing skills to students at UC Santa Cruz. At one point I did get fired for being a bit too radical, but fought it with the help of many, many people, and got my job back, with tenure and a promotion. From my experience in the movement, I learned democracy, compassion, anti-elitism, to listen, to laugh at myself, and a sense of the power of everyday people once they put their minds to a task.