I worked with SNCC under the umbrella of COFO in the summer of 1964 for about three weeks. I came down, along with too other Stanford professors, at the invitation of Professor James W. Silver, an historian at the University of Mississippi and the author of Mississippi: The Closed Society. He wanted us and whoever other eggheads he could solicit to come down and just be conspicuous, on the assumption that "respectable" people like us would add legitimacy to the movement. Three Stanford Professors (in addition to many students!) responded: Otis Pease of History, "Bud" McColl of Sociology, and me.
I spent time in Columbus, Oxford, Meridian, Canton, and Jackson, but I found the role of being "conspicuous" too ambiguous to sustain, so I drifted into more defined work. I helped organize and run a Freedom School in "Dooderville," a black ghetto in Jackson, along with Janice Grant, Morris Levine, Sue Butler, Ed Weber, and-for a short time John Stone. (I have lost touch with an these people, and would love to resume contact.) I was the English teacher in the group and faced a "class" of some thirty kids ranging in age from kindergarden to high school and in literacy from zero to (on a scale of 10) at least 9. So we created a curriculum, swapped stories, made up plays, acted them out, started a newspaper. I also took kids to lunch around the corner (as some garage mechanics glowered at us from across the street, with tire irons in their hands) and since I had a rental car took the kids swimming to Canton (since an the pools in Jackson had been closed). We had some adventures being chased off Highway 55 into the safety of Tougaloo by some local toughs, desegregating the Sun & Sand Motel restaurant with the help ofa brave girl from the school: 16-year-old Joann Percy, who lived on California Ave. in Jackson and whose parents did not know ofher heroism. It or something worked, for by the next week the Sun & Sand had dropped the color bar.
My time in Mississippi was short, but it was intense, and I'm very glad I went-if only to realize the courage and dedication of those younger people, black and white, who risked everything over a long period for the cause. I remember Robert Moses with special admiration.
I wrote an account of some of this experience in an article entitled "A Short, Hot Summer" that appeared in Sequoia. a Stanford literary magazine, for Winter 1965, pp. 1-8. I could make a copy for your records if you wished.
I've tried to keep this short, as you wished, but I'd be glad to give a fuller account if you asked for it.
Thanks for making this effort to collect the record of this important event in American history. I hope the Blacks who did not "join" the movement but were inadvertently "in" it will ~ counted as "veterans" as well!
With my best wishes,
© Copyright Wilfred Stone, 2000
Copyright © 2000
Last Modified: November 8, 2000.