The Freedom Movement and Ourselves
Looking Back 50 Years Later
Group A
Oakland, CA. April 5th, 2014


Cathy Cade (SNCC), Facilitator
Edith Black (Freedom Summer volunteer)     
Sydney Gurewitz Clemens (SCLC)    
Joseph (Joe) Cooney (SCLC)
Fred Goff (Freedom Ballot volunteer)
Jeannine Heron (SNCC)
Lonnie King Jr. (SNCC)
Dennis Roberts (SNCC)
Fatima Cortez Todd (CORE)


What Did We Achieve?
What Were Our Failures?     
What Did We Learn?
What Were We Thinking?
What Did It Mean For Us?




Lonnie: I'm from Atlanta, Georgia, and I was the founding Chairman of the Atlanta Student Movement. We called it the Committee on Appeal for Human Rights. We started in February of 1960, and this young lady [referring to Cathy], she came in — I didn't know her — I had already gone off to DC, but I read about her. She came to Spelman from Carleton College. And we did a lot of things down there to change Atlanta. And I'll talk about them as we go forward, okay?

Dennis: My name is Dennis Roberts. Summer 1963, as a law student I went to Albany, Georgia, worked with CB King. Went back, finished law school. Went back there for 2½ years, and it was a great experience. My ex-wife started a nursery school in Albany in '64 when we came back, with CB's wife, Carol.

Jeannine: Okay, my name is Jeannine Heron. I came to Mississippi in '63. Somebody called me and said Medgar Evers has been killed. You should come to the funeral. That's how we came. My husband [Matt] and two children and I came to Mississippi. In the summer of '64 I worked mostly in the SNCC office in Atlanta, and in '65, the Child Development Group of Mississippi — I was co-founder and program director.

Fatima: Fatima Cortez Todd. Most folks in Louisiana called me Kathy. But I was 16 years old, and my mother dragged me everywhere that anything regarding human rights was involved, which led to — she was chairperson of Northwest New York CORE, and she was involved in the Women's Strike for Peace. And I made the banners for the Riverdale bus that went to the March on Washington.

Jeannine: What was your mother's name?

Fatima: Marie Witherspoon. And after that, because I was there with the rest of the kids on Sundays at Andrea Simon's salons for the Civil Rights Movement to raise money for different activities and so forth, all of us were sitting there going: "Okay, fine, we're going South next summer." And so I did, and by that time, I was just 18 and really dumb. But anyhow, I went to Louisiana, and I was just all over the state of Louisiana, wherever they put us.

Dennis: Registering voters?

Fatima: Holding classes for folks to learn how to register, and I developed a Freedom School in Monroe, Louisiana, you know, just stuff that you didn't know you knew how to do, but you did.

Sydney: And probably very well.

Fred: My name is Fred Goff, and I was one of the organizers of the Stanford delegation that went to Mississippi to work on registration, voter registration and the MFDP. And I went for two weeks or three weeks right in the fall of '63 and helped set up a lot of the — and worked with Al Lowenstein who was recruiting people from the different universities, and then went back, but I had to go — I grew up in South America and had to go visit my parents that summer, so I didn't make it to the Summer Project, although I kept working in the follow-up work after that. But I'm here mainly just to support my wife [Edith] and help her, because she has problems with her back and she was much more involved than I was.

Edith: My name is Edith Black, and I spent two summers with Freedom School. Well, the one summer was with the Freedom School, and the other summer was registering people for the Mississippi Freedom Party. And also I took a delegation down from Union Theological Seminary for registering voters in between those two summers.

Sydney: I'm Sydney Gurewitz Clemens, and I'm an early childhood educator and author. And like other people here, after — I'll go back to Atlanta after this — I started a nursery school where Harlem, & the barrio and the rest of the city came together in New York. The school is still going at another address under Black leadership. And later I started a charter school in San Francisco which came out of nine years of teaching in the Bayview [district of San Francisco].

I was a full-time graduate student at Atlanta University, one of seven white people on campus, and I was a TA for Horace Mann Bond, who was the father of Julian Bond. And I lived in the dorms, and I was the white girl in the dorms which was an interesting and important experience for me. I wasn't motivated by an organization to go to Atlanta. I was motivated to go to find out how to be a good person among people of color. I had been the only white girl in my Harlem 7th grade class, and I eventually taught in Harlem and in Bayview-Hunters Point [a district of San Francisco].

And Lonnie, your name was a beacon for us, and I don't know that we met, but we were in the same place on Wednesday night, I'll betcha.

Lonnie: Okay.

Cathy: What years were you in — 

Sydney: '61, '62.

Dennis: Wow, early.

Sydney: Well, I came from a — So I came out of a family with a fairly substantial sense of justice, and I took my sense of justice with me — I had to go to graduate school in order to get a degree, but I didn't have to go to graduate school in an ordinary place. I needed to go somewhere where I was making a difference.

Joe: Good morning. My name is Joe Cooney. There's lots of Joe Cooneys, Joseph R. Cooney. I was a young priest, Catholic priest, in an interracial conference in Washington, DC in the '60s and so when the Selma disaster happened, and Dr. King asked for people to go down South, I was one of the guys that, with permission and finances, went down on that Tuesday. I was there on that Tuesday when Dr. King went on the second march, from Brown Chapel. Of course, we turned around, and it didn't happen that day.

So I went back to school, all the way back to the seminary, but then that summer, I worked for SCLC and voter registration for the whole summer [SCOPE project] in what is called Taliaferro County. It's Crawfordville, really, is the town we worked in. Voter registration and started a Head Start. I filed — we did the paperwork and got the Head Start going and cut down the tables and all that stuff. Got the toilets.

But then we did voter registration to some extent. We went around to places [and] tried to get people to vote. Went to churches every Sunday. I think I went to three different services each Sunday, I think, in the morning and the afternoon, wherever we had some Baptist services going on. And then I went back the following summer and continued the same voter registration. The following summer was mostly school desegregation, so those are the two. After that, I went back to Washington and started a law office for indigents and it's still going, forty years later.

So that's my — and it significantly changed my life in the sense that one of the people I met in school desegregation I ultimately married her, a Black woman who was a lawyer, who is retired now — about to retire and enjoy her — so that's my life, in a nutshell. Joe Cooney. Thank you.

Cathy: My name's Cathy Cade. I got into the Movement when I was an exchange student at Spelman, in the spring of '62. Right when you [Sydney] left. And I spent a lot of time that spring hanging out at the SNCC office and listening to my new friends talk about what had just happened to them when they were Freedom Riders in Mississippi, because they had just gotten back. And I consider my listening to their stories one of the bigger contributions I made to the Movement.

Sydney: Did you live on campus?

Cathy: I lived on campus.

Sydney: Me too.

Cathy: Yeah. And we did demonstrate in front of Grady Hospital, and I heard Lonnie's name all the time when I was there, but I don't think we ever met.

Lonnie: No, I was gone by that time.

Cathy: So today, when you stood up and said you were Lonnie King, it just blew me away.

Then the summer of '63, I was briefly in Albany, Georgia. I was in jail for nine days with a whole lot of other people, and Dennis over here was my lawyer, and he would come visit us every day.

Dennis: Until the [Police Chief] Pritchett wouldn't let me come in any more.

Cathy: Yeah, and some of us went on a hunger strike, and I didn't eat any food for nine days.

Male: Wow.

Cathy: Which was a very interesting experience. What happens is you think about nothing but food. [Laughter]

I spent the rest of that summer working at the Atlanta [SNCC] office. That fall I went to graduate school in New Orleans where I could also be a part of the Civil Rights Movement there, and I worked with students in voter registration and testing.

["Testing" refers to integrating segregated establishments as a way of testing their compliance with either local desegregation agreements or the Civil Rights Act of 1964.]

Integrating restaurants had just happened, and so we got students from all the colleges in New Orleans, and we went around in integrated groups on Saturday nights to test different restaurants to see if they were really integrated. At the end of the evening we'd get back together and have a party. I ended up in the summer of '64 in North Gulfport [MS], and in '66 I lived in Canton [MS] and did some research for my dissertation. It was my way of still being in the Movement. And I got a lot of education out of all of this participation in the Movement.


What Did We Achieve?

All right. So that's who we are. okay, so we will keep an awareness that we want to have a good recording. We want to speak loudly so that all of us can hear, and also so that the tape recorder can hear. So this morning, we have questions. I'll read all the questions, just so that we have an overview, but then we'll start with the first one. So the morning is evaluating the Freedom Movement, and then the afternoon is about our personal experience and how it affected us. So, what was achieved? What did we fail to achieve? What lessons did we learn? What did it all mean? So let's start with: What was achieved? So we can speak in any order.

Sydney: I would like to tell the story that epitomizes to me what we achieved. My friend has a 6-year-old. The 6-year-old likes to look at the front page of the New York Times when it comes in. There was, one day, a photograph of the Sleeping Car Porters union having a reunion — very, very old, Black men. The kid brings the picture to his mother — this is a white kid — and he says to his mother: Mama, are these the old Presidents? [Laughter]

Lonnie: Well, let me speak. What did we achieve? We were battling a two-tiered society that was created several hundred years earlier, one wherein whites were on top, Negroes, Blacks, African-Americans were on the bottom. And what we achieved, I think, was that we were able to be the catalyst to take down all the signs of segregation, to integrate or desegregate public accommodations and some private. We integrated the theaters, the movies, the swimming pools, the churches. We also registered a lot of voters. I think, in a way, what we did was most significant because it had never been done before.

What we achieved was historic in the sense that we changed, at least on paper, many of the laws in this country that relegated people who were not white to second class citizenship.

If I had to sum it up, I think what we did was that we forced Americans of good will who had not really thought about what was happening in the South to take a second look and realize that what we professed in America was not what the reality was.

Let me make another comment. The Movement allowed white people of good will the opportunity to stand up for freedom, justice and equality. And I read a book recently about how the Atlanta Police Department was integrated, and at the time you all were going to jail and I was going to jail, I was unaware that the whites were being arrested and put in separate patrol cars or paddy wagons. This policeman has written this article that's in a book now. And I said: What? They did that? As this policeman has explained it in his memoir, he was [in] a paddy wagon that had all whites in it. And he said that the driver who was white would speed up and then slam on the brakes, in order to throw the white kids up against the wall. And they did that all the way to the police department. And that is unconscionable that somebody would be that vicious, to speed up and then brake. What kind of people were we dealing with?

In 1960, I'm a senior. On the first of February, a {UNCLEAR} young boy sat down in Greensboro. It was in the Atlanta Constitution, I think on the third I believe it was of February, and I'm sitting in the drugstore looking at it. And something in me said: Look, I thought about the panty-raid situation, and some of you are old enough to know what panty-raids were about. [Laughter] You know, prior to 1960, on the white college campuses, you can have a panty-raid at College X, and then soon it would just go all around the place. Well, I took the position that we need to follow the panty-raid theory, because segregation was ubiquitous. It existed all over the South, so Greensboro was not unique. And I told my good friend, Joseph Pierce, and later on Julian Bond, let's not let Greensboro be isolated. So we were ready to move on it, and we started organizing. And lo and behold, I learned that the college presidents had a tremendous intelligence system. ...

So I got this call from Dr. Rufus {Clement?}'s office and Dr. May's office to come to a meeting at three o'clock in {Hartness?} Hall, and when I got there, here were all these other folks I'd been organizing, along with myself and Julian and Joe Pierce. They wanted to tell us to go back to class and that Dr. Mays was the Chairman of Black Memberships for the NAACP, and he had talked to Roy Wilkins who said that we'll have {our own?} leaders, and send those kids back to class. So we had a meeting there, in that meeting, and the college presidents — all [five] of them — told us all to go back to class.

[At that time (1960), six Black colleges shared a common campus known as the Atlanta University Center — Moorehouse, Spelman, Clark, Morris Brown, Atlanta University, and Interdenominational Theological Center.]

At least the first four. And when we got to the fifth guy, that's Dr. Harry Lee Richardson, President of the Interdenominational Theological Center, Dr. Richardson, being a preacher, waited about ten seconds before he spoke. And when he did speak, he said: "I think that the kids are right. I have a Ph.D.; I head a major college, and I cannot go downtown except to spend my money." And he laid it all out. Shocked the folks who had spoken before. And then Dr. Frank Cunningham, who was the President of Morris Brown College, spoke after him. He was the sixth guy. He said: "And I think that Dr. Richardson is right. I agree with the kids.

And all of a sudden, you could see pandemonium among the college presidents." [Laughter] Because two of them had broken ranks. Clement, Dr. Clement, smart man. He said: "Well, who's going to speak for the students?" And so by this time, I'm the rabble rouser, so they called on me to speak. And I laid it out to them. In the mean time, {UNCLEAR} was thinking. He said: "I'll tell you what. Why don't you write a manifesto on why you're gonna do what you're gonna do? And you're the intellectual group who has gone to Black colleges. Just write the manifesto." Implied in that was: You write the manifesto, and let other folks do it. You just write the manifesto.

So we wrote the An Appeal for Human Rights which has been seen all over the world now. And I won't go through all of that except that it was a full-page ad, republished by the New York Times, the Harvard Crimson ran it for free, the Nation magazine ran it for free, and also [Senator] Jacob Javits of New York read it into the Congressional Record, and it is there forever.

But as soon as that was published, on the fifteenth — we published on the ninth of March, and on the fifteenth, over two hundred and some students simultaneously hit 11 places in downtown Atlanta, and the battle was on. I feel that God's hand was involved in this, because there were things that they would've come up with, I don't know where it came from. There was no road map for what we were doing. And contrary to what most people I don't think understand, Atlanta, Georgia was probably the hardest one to crack of all the places, because the richest folks in the South lived in Atlanta. You know, Robert Woodruff was worth $500 million in 1960 [equal to almost $4 billion in 2013]. He could've bought the whole South with his Coca Cola fortune.

And what they had was a modern day paternalistic system where Woodruff and his guys chose the Black leaders to be the buffers [between whites and Blacks], and those Black "leaders" fought us like hell. I mean, because they wanted to be accepted by powers that be. Mind you now, they actually had never met Woodruff nor the other folks who were in charge. The minions for these guys were rich, dealt with the Black folks, the Black leaders. So in Atlanta, we had to fight the white power structure, the political power structure, which is different from the white power structure, the Black power structure, and the college presidents. And God's hand had to have been in it, because it was not something that was a walk in the park.

We didn't have a Bull Connor [of Birmingham] who would beat us in the head that it's gonna go to all the newspapers all over the world. Those folks were poisoning us with arsenic. In other words, it wasn't obvious. They put out the slogan [that Atlanta was] "A city too busy to hate." They were hating all the time when they were hiding their hands.

So what we had to do was this, we had to move to organize the masses. The average person in Atlanta, Georgia — 97% of the Black folks living in Atlanta, Georgia — made $2,000 a year and less [equal to $15,700 in 2013]. Did you hear me? Two thousand dollars a year and less. So what we had to do was to find a way to corral those folks into a political force, and thank God, I went to Morehouse and was taught by some extremely brilliant economists who laid out to me the domino theory, put out by John Foster Dulles, basically dealing with the Pacific Basin. John Foster Dulles said that if Korea falls, the rest of the basin is going to fall like dominoes. You take that theory and then apply it to something else that another professor taught me which was that the marginal profit for grocery stores was about 4%, department stores was about 8%. And so I factored in that we represented 33% of the population in Atlanta — Blacks did — if we could just get 50% of those folks to not go downtown, we could bring them to their knees.

But, we had to have an organ to make that happen. The Atlanta Daily World, which was the first Black newspaper in America, daily, was against it. It was as if it was either being written by the KKK, because they did not want to write anything positive about us, and so we started something called the Student Movement and You, and we hired Julian Bond who was an English major to write it for us. And then all of a sudden a white man walked into my office down on Auburn Avenue in late May of 1960, and I was there. I was apprehensive. I said: Jesus, how did he get past Marianne, who was my secretary. So he must've seen that I was apprehensive, so he said: My name is {UNCLEAR} Hill. I own Hill Office Supplies. And I knew then that he was light complexion Black man, and he looked white. He sat down, and he said: "Scotty's wrong at the Atlanta Daily World." He said: "I'm gonna start a newspaper, but I need your help." And that's when I sent Julian over there, Julian Bond, John Gibson. I sent a lot of students to write the paper. Mr. Hill could use his money to start it, and it's called the Atlanta Inquirer. And that's what's in business right now, 50-some years later, but we needed to have an organ to sell our story.

So between Julian and other folks who worked over there, we were able to then get rid of those mimeograph sheets and have our own little newspaper, and we told the story. So we called the boycott on downtown Atlanta, Georgia. We had a slogan: "Close down your account with segregation; open up your account with freedom. Don't shop downtown." And it was a massive thing. And so then I contacted Dr. King, Jr. in August of 1960 and asked him to go to jail with us. And he agreed to do that, and so on the 19th of October, he and I and two plus other kids went to jail at Richard's Department store and other places. The rest of that is history. The Kennedy's got it logged and all that kind of stuff, and Kennedy moved from being double digits down in the Black community to having won by 70% after they got involved with King.

Now, they put out something called the Blue Bond, and the Blue Bond was the one that really turned the tide for them. What I've learned of late is why did the whites all of a sudden decide that they were going to sign that agreement with us to end everything? In doing some research lately, I learned that they lost $10 million over the Christmas holiday in 1960. And that's why when I announced on the 1st of February, 1961 that we were going to extend the boycott, and on March the 6th, they went and signed that agreement. It was the money. So the point I'm making to you is that if you're going to carry forward a revolution, you have to have your masses organized within a very simple common denominator. Close down your account with segregation; open up your account with freedom. Don't shop downtown. And be able to continue to sell it, sell it. That's what we did. That's why we won in Atlanta. They were not going to give up, as long as we were just sitting there. You had to take the money out of their pocket.

Jeannine: Great story.

Sydney: There's another piece to that story that I remember, and you could set me right, but as I recall, and I was there that night. The agreement was signed that we would stop demonstrating now, but Daddy King somehow did this thing where they wouldn't desegregate until the fall, and people were so absolutely crestfallen.

Lonnie: Oh man, they were pissed.

Sydney: Will you tell the whole story? Because that piece was so — that piece almost knocked me out of being able to function.

Lonnie: I'll tell you what happened. I got a call from Jessie Hill asking me to come to the most important meeting of my life. And I said: "Well, why Jessie?" "Well, I can't tell you until you get there." So I said: "Okay. He took {UNCLEAR}. I went to the meeting, and I walked in, and here is all the power-structure of the white community and the Black community, not Woodruff now, but all the other folks. And they wanted to have us agree to call off the boycott and everything on a gentleman's agreement. [Laughter]

I said: "Oh, no. No. I mean, c'mon." And so they went back and forth on me. So all of a sudden, when I wouldn't give in, Daddy King jumped up and said: "Boy, I'm tired of you! I baptized you! You're going to wreck this town!"

Well, my mother taught me to respect pastors, and so I just looked at him. Ironically, the man sitting in front of me was a man named Frank Neely, who was the Chairman of the Board of Rich's [department store]. He had been hitting me on my leg the whole while with his cane from across — Anyway, when I kept saying: "We cannot do this this way. I represent some people. You give me your best offer, and I'll take it to them." That's why King jumped up and said all that. When the battle ensued with King attacking me, and I wouldn't give in, then Ivan Allen, the guy who became Mayor, called for a recess. And during the recess, all these people [Black leadership] came and talked to me: "We've never had the white people to agree to anything like this." And I said: "No, I'm not gonna do it unless it's in writing." So finally, they wanted to tie it to the school desegregation thing. And what they wanted to do was to — what they proposed to me was to desegregate everything if the school system desegregates peacefully in the fall. Peacefully in the fall.

I said: "Have you lost your mind?" 'Cause I knew enough about them to know that all they had to do was pay somebody some money to go out there and start a fight, and then they would use that. So finally, they did agree to sign it, but my position was: If you sign it, I still have to take it back to the students. Now why did I do that? Well, I had a situation here where the Black leaders had joined with the white leaders on me, okay? I'm sitting in this room, by myself, with all these folks on the other side.

So, Mr. John Calhoun, who was a major NAACP leader, came up to me, and he says: "Lonnie, you're between a rock and a hard place." He said: "I was born in 1899, and every day of my life I have been segregated. And these white folks are willing to sign this agreement that they're going to desegregate, absolutely, after the school system peacefully desegregates in the fall. And it's in writing." He said: "I've waited all my life." He said: "It's going to come in two, three or four months?" He said: "I'll go along with it."

I said: "Okay, Mr. Calhoun, on one condition. I've got to take it back to my people. I wouldn't give in on that. When I left that meeting, before I got back to the campus, Ivan Allen — we were at the Chamber of Commerce — he had somebody waiting in the wings. He went in there and told them that the Negro students have agreed to end the boycott and that the lunch counters will be open tomorrow segregated. And that's all he said.

Woman: Son of a bitch.

Lonnie: That created pandemonium in that town. So four days later, there was a mass meeting at {UNCLEAR} Baptist Church, and all these — so they wanted me to preside. Well, Mr. Carl Holdman who was a professor at AU that they had deliberately left out of that meeting said: "No, hell, you're not gonna do that. You all created this problem. You solve it." So Reverend {UNCLEAR} started presiding, and then Daddy King got up and started trying to lecture to about 2,000 people. That's what happened. Daddy King — they were booing, and Daddy King got upset. He said: "I've been fighting for Civil Rights in this town for the last 30 years."

And a woman up there with the white nurse's uniform on said: "That's what's wrong." [Laughter] She said that, the church just erupted. So I asked Reverend {Stinson?} to let me use your phone. And so I called ML, Dr. King, Jr. I said: "ML" — he had just come back to town and lived on Sunset by that time — I said: "Look, we need you over here to talk to us." I said: "Your Dad just got booed down." I said: "Listen, we have a mob up here. He said: "But I'm kinda sick. I got a cold." But I said: "ML, you've got to come." He said: "Okay."

He came in. And everyone talks about his speech at the March on Washington. That wasn't his greatest speech. His greatest speech was that night when he came in there and he took that crowd up the mountain and back into the valley, up and down, up and down. And he praise Oh God, for what they had tried to do for all those years. He then talked about this is a new day, and what these young folks have done is unprecedented. And if the white people do not live up to what they said they're gonna do, in writing, he said: "I will have to lead this march downtown." And that's how the crowd kind of calmed down.

Now Ivan Allen in his memoir, former Mayor, wrote, that he was in that meeting. I didn't see him, but he said he was there. He said that's when he realized that this man had power that nobody else in that town had, because he could quell that crowd, because there were 2,000 folks in the church, and I understand there were about another 1,000 or 1,500 outside listening on our loudspeaker.

So to make a long story short, what you had there was a battle between the old guard and the new folks. Between the white people and all of the Black folks. And why did we win? We won because we were organized, and we would not give in. But it was a terrible thing to have to battle in Atlanta, Georgia because you didn't have things in Jackson where the community was already organized. In Atlanta, you had Black folks who thought that they had arrived, and they were willing to kill their Mama if they thought they were gonna be somehow or another displaced. And these crazy kids? No, no. No, that can't happen. But that Movement broke the back of the old line paternalistic leadership in Atlanta, Georgia.

Dennis: I never knew Ivan Allen wrote a book, but Stokely kicked Ivan Allen's ass in Carmichael v Allen, where I knocked out a couple of Atlanta crowd-control ordinances. And the other thing is I know where Woodruff was. He was down in Ichauway when that meeting was taking place, because that was his plantation in Baker County.

Lonnie: Do you realize most folks, white and Black, never met that man?

But I think, in a way, and this is flashing forward on some other questions that are here — and I plead guilty to this — I think that I was deluded into thinking that once we changed the law, over time, people would begin to accept the change and therefore the overall society would begin — 

Cathy: Okay, let's keep going. Let's try to stay focused on what we achieved. Keep a note for yourself about what we didn't achieve. [And] this is following the principle that we all get to talk, okay?

Joe: What I think was achieved was the SCLC's program for voter registration, political education at least in one county [Taliaferro, GA] was successful. It was just the five volunteers we had were there, essentially, to psychologically support the local leaders at that time — the former principals of the Black elementary and secondary school. And they had taken a stand against segregated schools. And SCLC was supporting them, and so they assigned us there.

And so we were going around essentially trying to educate the voters and get them to go down [to the courthouse to register]. But the community was doing this. We essentially were, I think, the white presence, and I say that because the five volunteers were all white. We were there essentially as psychological support for the Movement that was already going forward.

During the summer, every week we had a march, and people during the week were trying to get people to go down and register. Of course the registrar was antagonistic and all that, and the rest were involved in that. So what I think was successful in the following, second year [1966] was that all of the protests resulted in the lawsuit, the desegregation. {Ruffin?}, who was the SCLC attorney at that time — who [later] became a federal judge and a court of appeal judge — was the one who represented all of the people there.

[See Crawfordville GA School Bus Struggle for background.]

And we also brought in the Head Start and other federal programs — the volunteers were instrumental in doing the paperwork for this flow of money coming in from the feds at that particular time. So what we did was support the local group. And this ultimately meant, and Eddie Young was out and all the others — Hosea and ultimately after I left in the fall of '65 and had to go back to school, Dr. King was there. So it was a real participation, and the successful achievement, as far as I was concerned, was that the minimal support that came from SCLC supported the local community and its local efforts to overcome the problems that you were talking about, Lonnie, in society.

Long-term, that's another question, but they certainly integrated the swimming pool and all that stuff. So that was successful, I think.

Cathy: Could you say more specifically what whites were able to contribute? How were they able to help? As white people?

Joe: Yeah. Well, while we were there, I traveled around with Mr. Turner, Calvin Turner [a local leader], and we went to different places. I was driving the car. Well, I rented a car and used the car, and we went to all of these churches and talked. I was kind of working with them, and then we filed the papers for the Head Start thing, and one of the women on the group — I can't remember her name now — we went to the swimming pool. We had some, you know, Black kids — 

Cathy: I want to ask you, what were you able to contribute as a white person?

Joe: Just the participation.

Cathy: What do you mean?

Joe: Well, someone from outside was indicating support. Someone from the outside structure who was other than the whites that were there, it was contradicting, I think, the white — I can't tell you, the worst names in the world I've ever heard, worst curses in the world were from this Lola Williams who was the [Registrar of Voters] when we'd go up to register people to vote. I guess we indicated — we created a question mark in what was the white society. But I don't think it changed the white society particularly. It just supported the Blacks who were willing to stand up and who more and more went behind — 

There were three people in particular. It was Turner, and there was a guy named Evans Harris, and Frank Bates. A young kid. Frank Bates was the leader of the kids, the youngsters. He actually subsequently went to law school and was very involved in the Democratic Party in Georgia and ended up — he's retired. He's in Atlanta. He worked for some Democrats on the Hill and what was then I called the Hill in Atlanta was where the — 

Cathy: Okay, I want to get back to the question. What was achieved? Dennis?

Dennis: Well, to answer that question, what whites did was brought news coverage to the Movement, because nobody gave a shit about Black people getting killed, getting jailed, but when whites came down, suddenly the news came down. As far as what we achieved, well, we achieved a series — this is '63 — we achieved a series of legal victories: school desegregation, facilities segregation. It was kind of empty in that, at least in the beginning, like for the Black kids who went to the white school, I mean, it was a horror show for them. It was absolutely awful. Now years later, it began a very different thing. But back then, it was a nightmare.

Another thing we achieved is that there is now in Albany, Georgia the CB King Federal Court House which is the first and probably the only courthouse named for a Black person in the Deep South. What else did we achieve? Well, middle class Blacks could suddenly go to restaurants. Poor Blacks couldn't go anywhere, because they didn't have the money, and that was the real horror of the emptiness of what we were doing. You know, it didn't change anything.

Cathy: All right, we'll get to that part.

Dennis: — I made some notes here, but I think that's it. Oh no, we did one other thing. We freed the Americus Four. If you don't know what that was, they were charged with sedition which was a death penalty case in Georgia. Pretty much it.

Jeannine: I think that besides the tangible things that have already been mentioned, like voter registration and so on, I think we succeeded in raising consciousness. And I think the country was quite unaware of the severity of the injustice in the South. And as a result, as people began to think more about injustice and freedom, it spawned other things. It spawned the Free Speech Movement in Berkeley. It spawned the Women's Movement. It spawned the Farm Workers [Union] who were already beginning to organize in California. So I think it raised consciousness among — 

For myself — you know — I came to Mississippi thinking a policeman was my friend. [Laughter] I was very innocent about all these things. And I think that happened to a lot of the young people who came and went back to their homes and said: We've got to change this.

Fatima: I totally agree with Lonnie on paper. Adam Clayton Powell managed to get 63 pieces of civil rights legislation before Lyndon B. Johnson's signature. I did a lot of sit-in stuff, and at one point, I was not able to go into those nasty food restaurants and spend my little change on inferior food when, you know, I could've stayed across the tracks at, you know, Mom and Pop's Soul Food Restaurant. And I got to spend more money in hotels where I could now sleep. And on paper, I was a full citizen.

I think the biggest thing of what we achieved is that we now have in 2012 a Black male as President. In spite of the fact that he's handicapped with every other thing, you know, surrounding him. That was started, not in the '60s, but clearly in the '30s and '40s and on up. Actually the Abolition movement was the beginning when the first African stepped on the shore leading to the auction block back in the 1600's.

The other thing that we achieved, which I found out recently because we're doing a reunion in New Orleans of Louisiana CORE, is two young people from Jonesboro, Louisiana actually got to go and graduate from Louisiana Tech which is in Ruston, Louisiana which was a town that when we drove from Monroe to Jonesboro, we would hold our breath until we got through Ruston, because you did not want to get stopped. You did not want to get caught on that road by yourself, or you knew you were going to die. The young man ultimately, he died young from heart failure, I believe, for living in that kind of a life. But he did get to graduate from that school in that horrible town where the basketball team now is mostly Black, and Louisiana Tech, Ruston residents are now rooting for those Black folks to win. And the young woman recently got an honorary doctorate from Louisiana Tech, so on a very individual, personal, tangible way, there are some specific things that were achieved. But again, at this point, it's all on paper.

Edith: Yeah, Working with kids in the Freedom School, I think it made an enormous difference for them to discover their history. That's what we brought out. And I think if you don't know your history, then you don't have a sense of yourself as a people. So I saw the difference there.

Cathy: Well, I want to add that the LGBT Movement was also very much inspired by the Civil Rights Southern Freedom Movement, by an overlap of specific people, in addition to the techniques and the thinking and the heart feeling, so that's one thing. The other thing, I grew up in the Midwest in white communities. The neighborhood I lived in was all white. My school in the Chicago suburb was integrated, but our block was not, at all. My family was all white back then. Now, my family is Black, white, Asian, Latina. That's literally true. And I count that as a part of the effect of the Movement.

Sydney: And I got a couple of little stories. When Morton Sobell, my stepfather, was freed from prison, my husband took him on the subway to buy a suit of clothes for a press conference. And when he came back to the apartment, I said: What was different? Because he had been out of circulation for 18½ years. And he said: The Black people look you in the eye. [Laughter] They never used to look you in the eye.

I think the possibilities that were raised by the Movement are enormous. I think that the Anti-Vietnam War Movement was very deeply and strongly affected by those of us who had been in the South and knew how to get ourselves out to demonstrate.

I want to tell about the most important moment in my life — after my activism period — I was invited to give a speech in Natchitoches, Louisiana, which is pronounced Nackadish. Right? And I was speaking for Head Start, and the room was long and thin, and they had stupidly arranged the chairs so that I would be really far from the people at the back. And when I walked into the room, I was scandalized, because all the people in the front rows were white, and all the people in the back were Black. And it was well after this period, folks, and we had done this thing already. And so I decided that I would speak from the side of the room, just in front of the Black people.

Cathy: Down the road.

Sydney: Black people could see me as they were facing forward, and the white people had to turn themselves around, because I couldn't spend the whole evening talking about why are you doing this, and it wasn't my job to do that, but I sure wasn't going to have the whites in front of my bus. [Laughter] And it was one of the most taxing moments in my life as a public speaker, because either I was going to have to give up the lesson that I thought I was supposed to be paid to be doing, or I was going to give up my basic principles.

Dennis: I want to add something very briefly in terms of movements that were impacted. The Native American Movement was incredibly impacted. I remember Dennis Banks, and we used to talk about what went on in the South and how that just opened everybody's mind in the Native American Movement. And also the Hispanic Movement.

Cathy: I want to add that it also affected the thinking about racism all over the country. It wasn't just that people got conscious about the South. Because I was in the Civil Rights Movement, my mother got connected with Black leaders of the Black community in our Chicago suburb that we had never been connected with before, and they started doing support work for people in the South. There were friendships that were made in the Chicago suburbs because people were supporting the students in the South. Even bigger for my mother was that she became friends with people who were in unions. My mother came from an upper class family with her father was on the Board of Directors of John Deere. She grew up being taught that unions were awful. Here she's working with unions to send food and clothing to Mississippi. She welcomed this. She loved this, but this would never have happened without this Movement.

Joe: One thing I want to underline. The achievement for the persons with disabilities. You know, that was modeled totally after the Civil Rights Movement, and they got their inspiration — of course, they're the most — the legal work with regards to persons with disabilities is excellent.

Cathy: And a lot of the same techniques.

Joe: Yeah. I mean, ADAPT. I don't know if you're familiar with ADAPT. Which is the wheelchair users, and they routinely just appear at some politician's — or in Congress. They do it routinely in Congress.

Cathy: They sit in.

Joe: And they lock — they chain their chairs together.

Sydney: It was my privilege to be part of the community that made the legislation of the Americans with Disabilities Act happen. And again, I don't think I would have done that work if I hadn't done this work. There were three White House conferences on the family where we on the left were there to stop the radical right, and they were there to stop us, and we both succeeded, and the only issues that came out of those three conferences, because we canceled each other out, were that we all supported the community of disabled people. And out of that came the Americans with Disabilities Act. So I own every curb cut and every big toilet.


What Were Our Failures?

Cathy: I also have worked in the Disability Rights Movement. Okay, let's move on. What did we fail to achieve?

Fatima: I'm gonna say some things that may offend some people, so I hope you will understand that this is important, because we can no longer not say the things that will offend some people. I think that white people, in particular, were able to pat themselves on the back as they left the folks in Louisiana, and I'm speaking specifically of Louisiana, without them as backup anymore, and they still didn't know how to walk. And the white people went back to their homes.

Now, I happen to have been an upper class colored girl who later found out she was really Puerto Rican, because my father said that we were pure Castillian Spaniards and I found out that wasn't so. So I have lived this mixed up identity thing. What the people of Louisiana taught me that I was not doing them any favor by coming down there doing what I thought was a priority, because they had other priorities, and mainly they had their lives on the line.

Now, with all the movements that have used — it's like everybody kind of came to the same thought at the same time, that there are ultimately human rights, and we never made the linkage between racism and classism and ageism and heterosexism. We never made those links so that we were looking at the United States as an institutional structure of all the isms, and you can change as many things on paper as you want, but until you've got folks who understand the isms that they believe and that the people who are suffering under the isms are exercising their internalized oppression and therefore acting out the same way. Because among people of color, there's skin privilege; there's hair quality; there's education; there's what side of the tracks were you living on; where were you born; who was your Daddy; all of that kind of stuff.

And even though white people have it in their own way, because they want to know who your Daddy is and what side of the tracks you were raised on, because you were under the same system of class issues. And among the LGBT community, you know, you have folks who have things about lipstick lesbians and drag queens and transgender and transsexual without understanding that everybody is functioning in this society in 2012, which is where we have come to as a result of what we have done and what we did not do, still under the same isms and the same issues of internalized oppression. Because we act out some of the same garbage. Women are sexist to other women. You know, I have been a disabled person and turned around and said: You know, I need to find a toilet that's not sitting down on the ground, or you know, my wheelchair I needed at the time, it wouldn't navigate certain buildings.

One of the people that I admired the most was Richard Haley. Richard Haley came out of Florida A&M, and we were in New York at a meeting with CORE and everyone was trying to be heard and make their point as being the most important. Richard said: Hold it. I know. My crow is the blackest. The point being that all issues were important and we had to create a united view of the work to be done. And we did not take that seriously enough to unite all the issues, because I believe that Martin and Malcolm came to the same conclusion: Let's take the United States to the World Court for atrocities against humanity. And very shortly after that, they were gone. Bye-bye.

And we never picked up the mantle that would have eliminated a lot of power on a lot of different peoples. Because I went straight from the Civil Rights Movement to the Women's Movement, to the Pro-Choice Movement, to the Anti-Violence Against Women's Movement. You know, to the Reproductive Rights Movement. I mean, all the way down. You know, these are all the same things! These are absolutely all the same thing. I got here a little bit before 2012 to this conclusion, because I was doing the work in the late '80s, but that's what we failed to achieve which was a much larger broad base.

Immigration issues. You've got people coming up talking about: Them damn immigrants. Well, hold up a second! They are people of color just like you. And for the most part, well, yeah, for the absolute most part, because even those from Uzbekistan and everywhere else, they're people of color. Anybody from the Middle East is a person of color, and the folks from Russia are Asian, in case nobody wants to pay any attention to that. And anyhow, so it's that uniting under human rights which makes our fight around ecology and our environment and everything that we do, because I think it was in '67 the UN ratified the Rights of a Child.

Sydney: But not the United States. The United States has never signed onto that. I'm interrupting because it's so important for everyone here to know that this country has refused to ratify it. It's one of, you know, like three big countries that have refused to.

Fatima: And the Rights of a Child are all the consequence of the good stuff that would happen if all of us had understood that we are so linked to each other, and nobody can walk away from the table feeling satisfied or self-satisfied or any of that. And I do a lot of talking to high school kids, and I wear them out, but I do a lot of talking everywhere. And we are still hard pressed to get to the table of human rights.

Lonnie: Let me add to that, please. The people who pulled this Movement together were all young people. And most of us had to finish college and go on to do some other things and raise families. To a great extent, the masses of people that we were fighting for to try and make American a better place were kind of sideliners. They watched the battle. They participated in the boycotts. They wouldn't shop downtown, those kind of things. But when you left to go back to Carleton, and when I left to go to Washington, DC, others of us went on back to school, and you went to law school. The masses of people were left kind of rudderless, because you were the people who were the catalysts to bring about the change. You were the organized ones.

So what did we fail to achieve? We failed to achieve a permanent organization with some roots around the country that would continue to fight for the kinds of things that we were fighting for. Because we, as I said to someone earlier today, unconsciously, we put the freedom struggle for all of us on cruise control. But the folks that we were battling put it on overdrive. The battle.

So what you have here now is a situation wherein the people who were opposed to having the American dream go to everybody, they retrenched, and they did the same thing in the '60s and the '70s that they did after freeing the slaves in 1865. They went to change the rules to reinvent slavery by another name. And they've done the same thing now. What did they do? Richard Nixon, who said in '64 when he lost the governorship of California: "You won't have Nixon to kick around anymore." But the South was roiling, the white South, over school desegregation and anti-bussing. So Mr. Nixon said: Oh — and I'm putting this in his mouth now, okay? Based on his actions — Oh, if I can get a base in the South to hook into my Midwest and Far West and Eastern, I can be President. And so he then began to make speeches: anti-bussing, the "silent majority".

[See Cambridge MD & the "White Backlash" for background information.]

And in 1968, in Miami Beach, [Senator] Strom Thurmond [SC] who was head of the southern delegations at that time, went to meet with him in his suite and got him to agree to appoint strict-constructionists to the Supreme Court. Got him to agree to keep pushing this idea of basically white supremacy using code words. And then he brought in a young guy named Roger Ailes, A-I-L-E-S, who now heads Fox Broadcasting as his aide to handle PR. The rest is history, because the [white] South who hated the Republican Party because they had ended slavery, all of a sudden decided: Oh wait a minute now. We can take over the Republican Party in the South, and we can then hook up with our cousins who have moved to the Midwest in 1803, after the Louisiana Purchase, and we're gonna have a new majority. That is exactly what has happened, folks. That's exactly what has happened.

I won't go through all those presidential races, but we had the delusion that America would all of a sudden begin to live up to its creed — in time. We all knew it wasn't going to happen overnight, but we were naive to think that those folks who had spent centuries trying to create this dual society were going to all of a sudden turn around and say: You know, we've been wrong. We need to do a better job. [Laughter]

We now have to do, doctor, we now have to go back and try to readdress this question that we've been trying to make here which is that people of color, regardless of color should I say, should not be treated unfairly in this country, because that's how Jefferson, even though he was a slave owner, that's what was implied in that Declaration of Independence.

Dennis: Michelle Alexander wrote a book called The New Jim Crow, and that, more than anything else, exemplifies what we failed to achieve. And the book that Lonnie was talking about, written by Douglas Blackman about the old Jim Crow [Slavery by Another Name], how that came in after Reconstruction, it hasn't changed. The other thing that wasn't achieved by us was economic justice. I went back to Albany [GA] 50 years later for the Albany Movement anniversary, and the roads were still unpaved in the Black community. There were no street lights in the Black community. It was muddy shit in the Black community, 50 years later. That was what wasn't achieved.

Sydney: I want to talk about a lesson I didn't learn once, or perhaps I didn't learn twice, but I'm working on it. The first time I learned it was from Isabelle Milton {Surney?} who went to take care of the children and the household after Dr. King was killed, older white woman who knew that the function of white people in this struggle was to give service to Black leaders, and Coretta certainly needed support at that time. And because Isabelle was in her seventies, I went to take care of Isabelle. So I almost learned it then. But really did later when I was in Aoteoroa which is sometimes unfortunately called New Zealand. Maori people in their struggle showed me that if you wanted to support them you could wash the dishes. You could leave the leadership roles for the people who would be there when you were gone. I hope I learned that lesson, but I think that was a lesson we missed a lot, we white people.

Jeannine: I agree with what has been said so far, so I'm gonna try to say something different. I was raised as a Quaker. My father was a conscientious objector in the First World War. My husband was a conscientious objector in the Vietnam War. We were both very interested in nonviolence and read a lot about Gandhi, tried to participate in the Peace Movement with nonviolent actions. And one of the reasons we came south was because nonviolence was really being practiced. And I think singing for me expressed the joy and the power and the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement or the Freedom Movement. And when we sang "Black and white together" or "We'll walk hand in hand," or we sang "This Little Light of Mine," that meant to me the light of compassion and love for other people, and we could feel that growing in this beloved community.

And when Black Power happened, it was devastating, and that whole spirit died. I think Martin Luther King expressed it very eloquently in his part of the Movement, and I think that's why he's remembered and revered and Stokely Carmichael is not.

Joe: I have a comment that I think the original goals, certainly of SCLC and Dr. King, for the program I worked with in Selma were limited. They were limited at that time. And in that sense they were successful in achieving voter registration. As far as I was concerned at that time, pretty much a success, especially where I worked anyway. And desegregation. They were interested in those limited goals.

And only in later years, as far as I'm concerned, facts have indicated that where we were unsuccessful was class. Class. We didn't realize class. We now have very successful Blacks in the upper class. We have the President of the United States. I have numerous Black friends who are in the upper middle class, and very successful. College professors, run corporations, and everybody else. At the same time, I have clients who are unemployed — the largest percentage — I mean, I think unemployment in Anacostia in Washington, DC among the Blacks is probably 40% or so in young kids.

So, we have, in the sense of what was sought at that particular time, achieved those things, but we were not — I have an analysis of why we weren't addressing the class problem. I think it was because we were fearful of Communism, and we were fearful of using the word "proletariat" or the "sub-proletariat." Right now — and the Communists use the word "proletariat" — they forgot about the unemployed. Right now, so what's — we're addressing — the failures weren't of the Movement, because I don't think they were. It's the failure of our society in the industrial age to recognize that there is a large area of our society — it has to do with the distribution of wealth.

Right now, we have the — well for our food, it comes to our table, it comes through the wage system. And right now, we're having less and less opportunities for people to work, and the disabled persons, the old folks, the young kids, we've never really figured that in to the problem. It takes a lot of analysis, and it certainly is against the ideology of the United States right now which glorifies capitalism. So the problems aren't — I don't think they're failures of the Movement. Maybe I'm wrong, Dennis and Lonnie, you can — but I think that only in my old age am I beginning to recognize that. You know, there are ideas out there that are behind what we are trying to do but that are hidden.

Dennis: Just to add what Joe has said in terms of economic justice, the people who are working are making $7 an hour. They can't live on $7 an hour.

Joe: That's right.

Dennis: The other thing I want to talk about very briefly — 

Fatima: Just in response to what you were saying, one does not have to use any trigger language to say that classism is the assumption that people with money are more valuable than people with no money. Just like racism. It's no trigger language to say that the assumption is that white people have more value than people of color. So what was happening — what is still happening — is that white people still walk around with white skin privilege and I don't know too many white people who are willing to give that up and are willing to speak out too much anymore, because they are now part of that same unemployment folks that the colored people are. And they don't want to rock the boat, because their white skin privilege is getting darker and darker. It's not, you know, working as well as it used to work. And there's no Communist language attached to that whatsoever, and I really don't care at this point.

But the point is that on the big scale, people at that time were very afraid of different things, but the language was still the same. They didn't need to use those words, and the idea that we as human beings, people of color who were walking around and are still walking around with issues of internalized oppression supported their own enslavement by their attitudes that kept us as a separated community based on whether you were Latino or — I mean, in New York, if you were Puerto Rican, you had to stay over there, and if you were Black, you were over there.

I was right in the middle working for the Harlem United Program for Tutoring, and I walked around everywhere with lighter skin privilege. I was acceptable. I had class privilege. I went to private school, so they thought I was important. I kind of thought I was important too, because I was believing the same crap. And you know, that's how we all act out this stuff, and we never owned up to it. I mean, this is not funny, but in Plaquemine, Louisiana, when everybody got there for the nonviolent training we had to go through before we went out into the different cities, the local young Black men were lining up and picking out what white girl they were gonna intimidate into being with them: "If you really love Black folks, baby, you're gonna be with me." And, you know, playing on the white guilt, got over.

And then there were white guys who would kind of stand back and go: Yeah, you know? I'm a hippy with the long hair, but I am so cool, baby. And I got to watch all of this stuff, because I was in that Never-Never Land, and I was too young for everybody anyway, and so I was taken care of like the little sister for them to take care of. And that kind of protected me on a lot of levels. I got to watch, you know, like children get to watch what the grown-ups are doing, and there was so much of that going on. But the attitude in the middle of all of that was about exploitation, and it was very destructive. And while they were there, everybody was very liberal, but that did not serve us and did not serve the movement. And I think that we did not — we kept on feeding people fish as opposed to teaching people how to fish. And in that way, they were crippled.

Dennis: Yeah, I think one of the great failures was we did not destroy racism. And most recently, Shirley Sherrod from Baker County, Georgia, who is married to Charles Sherrod who Cathy and others worked under in Southwest Georgia, she had a very high position in the [U.S.] Department of Agriculture, and some racist cracker said that she was racist based on a speech she had given. He took it completely out of context. Now, what was interesting about that was that no one gave a shit. No one said: "Let me hear the speech." They just fired her, okay? Oh yeah, you don't know that? I'll tell you about it later. Obama canned her.

Lonnie: I think that in retrospect, we never achieved the level of voter registration and participation within the African-American community that we should've got. If you look at the registration today, or non-registration in the South today, I lead off with my state, Georgia, we have 1.2 million African-Americans in that state today who are eligible, who haven't been to jail, who have not registered. The entire South, I contend to you, is red because African-Americans, for whatever their reasons, have not registered and taken advantage of the franchise that many of you fought for. In addition, it's even worse on the Hispanic side. There are about 800,000 Hispanics who are legally in Georgia, and only 10,000 of them are registered.

Jeannine: My gosh.

Lonnie: Go to your state. All around the South is red because of nonfeasance on the part of African-Americans and malfeasance on the part of some of the whites who were in charge because they're trying to take advantage. If the Black folks didn't use those laws that were on their side for all these years, we're gonna get rid of them, because we've gerrymandered these districts. We know we can have our own majority, because they know better than we do that if we were to actually go out and register and vote, the South would be one of the most liberal parts of this country. But, it's not just the white racists who seem to be holding down America's dream, it's also us who are African-Americans. We haven't done our job. We have not had — what we didn't achieve? We did not achieve a regular, ongoing, civil & human rights organization. That's why {UNCLEAR} is out here, constantly working to make the American Dream a reality. We did not achieve that.

People shot their leaders. We are too concentrated on the big leader. The big guy. Listen to what I said now "the big guy." Not big woman, but the big guy.

Women: We hear you. We hear you, loud and clear.

Lonnie: I could go on and on on that, but you all get the idea.


What Did We Learn?

Cathy: Okay, so let's go on to the next question. What did we learn?

Lonnie: We gave up the battle too soon.

Sydney: I think at our best we learned to think about possibilities that we didn't used to think about before. It left us in a problem-solving, community-seeking mode, at our best. And I'm talking now about the seven, eight, nine people in this room. I think maybe the American people learned that it takes a hell of a lot of energy to fight for anything, and you could go to McDonald's and watch TV and have an easier life. And I don't know that that is — I don't know how to help people unlearn that except by being a gadfly, and maybe by doing their dishes so that those of them who have limited energy and leadership potential can be freed from doing the dishes to do something more important.

Fatima: I learned humility, because I was in Louisiana. I live in California now, and I learned that I did not know — and I learned it when I was still down there in the beginning as a teenager, and the people of Louisiana were so patient with me, to teach me what was real and what was important. And I wound up going back every year for about five years, and then I got involved in other stuff and didn't get back as often as I wanted to.

Cathy: Well, I want to try and guide it to what did the Movement learn? Not us personally.

Fatima: The Movement learned some humility because they didn't have all the things they thought they had, and folks kept having folks compete for the big guy leader around the country, and they kept trying to push for what was the most important — Black power, nationalism, integration movement. And what we learned was that even people we didn't agree with all the time were doing some very important things. I will not ever stop saying the Black Panthers in San Francisco created the Head Start and breakfast program that we now have all around the country. I'm okay with people thinking of Black Panthers — 

Lonnie: It was Oakland.

Fatima: I am corrected! Black Panthers in Oakland. I will never say San Francisco again. [Laughter]

Fatima: But you know, what does anybody outside of San Francisco and Oakland know about San Francisco and Oakland?

Cathy: And what else did the Movement learn?

Fatima: And the competing ideologies, that they didn't need to be competing. That we needed to be able to coalesce.

Cathy: Did we learn that?

Jeannine: No, I don't think we learned it; that's what we needed to learn.

Fatima: Right. We learned that that didn't work, but nobody was willing to do anything about making it different. And so a lot of people got hurt in the whole thing about Black Power, which was important to some people to go to that place, but you don't have to go to that place at the exploitation of somebody else's feelings.

Dennis: What Lonnie said about voting, one of the things we learned, which unfortunately has been forgotten a lot of places, is that the vote really means something. If you look at Baker County [GA], the majority Black counties like Baker County, which was probably the worst county in the United States with L. Warren "Gator" Johnson, Sheriff, Claude Screws before him. They have a Black sheriff now. Of course, he got indicted as well as everybody else. [Laughter]

Lonnie: It's in the water.

Dennis: See, it's equal. [Laughter]

Joe: Well, what I'm disappointed in is — I agree with Lonnie. We didn't succeed in getting the voter registration. In Washington, DC, there are 60,000 ex-offenders, and most of them aren't, but they could register in the district if they're not. DC has the most liberal ex-offender statute regarding voting.

But the other thing is that the Movement was focused on Dr. King, and as far as I'm concerned, I'm limited in that sense because King was the guy that I saw as the leader. And when he died, it wasn't able to continue, for whatever reason. In my opinion, the efforts that he initiated — Andy Young, you know, went off to work for Carter and different things happened. So I don't know how you would remedy or maybe you know more about that, Lonnie, about that type of organizational strength. So I guess that was a weakness that we were too dependent on the generals.

Lonnie: To kind of respond to that, first of all, Martin King did not — he was not the spokesperson in the beginning. It was really the young students.

Joe: All right.

Lonnie: Seventy thousand of them got all — 

Joe: Yeah, they pushed. They pushed.

Lonnie: Yeah, yeah. We went to Martin King in March of 1960 to ask him to call a meeting to try to pull the student leaders together to form an organization which became SNCC. Now he had just come back to Atlanta on the first of February, and I had been knowing him since 1945, as a member of that same church. Went to him and got him to do that. He put up [money] to Ella Baker to find a place. He said: "Lonnie, give me the list of folks that you think I ought to call." I gave him the list of all the folks I knew from our Movement days. He called the meeting. Ella Baker called it at her college, Shaw, over Easter weekend.

Dennis: Raleigh, North Carolina.

Lonnie: Right. King came in. Contrary to what has been written, Martin King never tried to take over SNCC or to make SNCC a junior arm of SCLC. That's been said by a lot of folks. That was not true.

King was the reluctant leader. The Atlanta leadership in the Negro community, got his Daddy to agree that he would encourage him to not get involved, because we don't need you in Atlanta. So King stayed away from Atlanta until October of 1960. He went all over the South talking. But we were young, going to college, and King was the only person of national stature and regional stature that we could get behind, because he could articulate what we were talking about, because he was a Baptist preacher.

King was a guy, in my opinion, who was in the right place at the right time with the right skills. That's not to minimize his contribution, but I think you've got to put it in perspective. Those 70,000 African-American kids and some whites had already started this Movement that was growing. King really became the leader of the Movement to a great extent after he went to jail in Atlanta, Georgia, which is [why they] came from all over the world, and that arrest changed the presidential election of 1960, where Kennedy went from double digits behind two weeks before the election to win it once his family got involved in King's release.

That's what made King become the focal point of the Movement, to a great extent, to other people's chagrin, like [NAACP head] Roy Wilkins and some other people. Now, we spent too much time though following the charismatic leader, and we did not spend enough time trying to develop local talent that could keep the Movement going, because the opponents felt: If we just shoot the messenger, we can kill the folks. And you know what? They were right. They were right. It wasn't that other folks were scared, it's just that we put too much emphasis behind the charismatic leader. I'm trying to tie into the main question that you were asking here, like what did we achieve? That was a part of what we did not achieve. We didn't find a way to decentralize a broad group of people to work together to try to bring about change. The other thing we did not achieve was to pull together a permanent organization of some kind, {UNCLEAR} that could continue working on these problems.

Cathy: No movement has done that. None of the movements that got support from the Civil Rights Movement has been able to create an ongoing, unified organization for their movement.

Lonnie: Why?

Cathy: Why do you think?

Lonnie: You are a professor. She pulled a professor thing on me! [Laughter]

Cathy: Okay, we got lots of hands up. Edie?

Edith: One thing I did think I was learning from the Civil Rights Movement, but I think you're now pointing to the fact that it really didn't result in — this was coalition politics.

Lonnie: Yes.

Edith: When people come together around an issue from different philosophical points of view, and it requires respecting; One, the boundaries of the issue you're talking about and that you're coming around this issue, and you are coming from different points of view, and; Two, it requires that you don't try to convert other people to your philosophical point of view. There has to be that overall respect and sense of limitations. And I think that's why it doesn't result in anything permanent, because people start pushing their own agendas rather than sticking to the issue.

Sydney: I am currently teaching, in the last year, all over the world is where I went. And I'm teaching a philosophy of working with young children that comes from Northern Italy and is very well thought through and is well believed to be the best way to approach teaching young children in the world. And the issue comes up in the staffs of programs for children up to six or seven that disagreements occur. This maybe reminds us a little bit of the Civil Rights Movement. And when disagreements occur, the Italians teach us — and I have learned this from them — when disagreements occur, they say we lean forward, and we want to create a research or an experiment so as to explore the problem, because that's the interesting part of our work. And they say: And you Americans, when disagreements occur, you walk away from the table.

I found in Portugal, in Singapore and Japan, in the last two months, that this was not just the American problem. This is a fundamental issue between what I like to call real and nice. And if you're going to be nice, you don't have that argument. You just leave, and you think they're stupid, and you don't say anything, because that wouldn't be nice. And if you really think that there is a way for human beings to function constructively, you stay for the discussion, you find the respect, and you make a research. You make something. You say: Let's try this for four weeks and that for four weeks and see which works better. You make some kind of motion toward. Absolutely.

Lonnie: Coming together.

Sydney: Lonnie is doing this. Instead of this, or that, which is really very frequent, you find some way to do this.

Cathy: You bring your fingers together.

Lonnie: Yes.

Sydney: And I most recently said this to, and I would've hoped they could've escaped it, but the child care center at Stanford, because they were saying: "We don't have enough time to talk these things through." And I was saying to their bosses: "Make the time." People need time to do that. And we're cheapskates with our time.

Dennis: Yeah, I think that there was no ongoing movement because of the charismatic leaders. SNCC tried to build local leadership, at least in Georgia where I was, and they were very successful. I mean, Baker County is a very good example, but nationally, having — and I don't want to dis Dr. King, but unfortunately, everybody focused around him, and then there was no local development. It was Dr. King comes to Albany, which screwed up. Dr. King comes here. Dr. King comes there. You know, and then he left, and he left behind Albany a shambles. He almost killed the Movement in Albany.

Edith: Can I ask you a question? You said, you were in Albany, and that you had a local leadership developed, and Martin Luther King came to speak, and it left the leadership in shambles. Could you explain that process a little more?

Dennis: I think Cathy can probably better explain it, because she was there.

Cathy: No, he came before I was there.

Dennis: Okay, here's what I knew. And I wasn't there when this happened. There was an Albany Movement of local people, Slater King, Goldie Jackson, just local people. And Martin was invited to come, and without really talking to people and analyzing the situation as to what was needed, he wanted mass marches and everybody got put in jail. The Chief of Police in Albany was a very smart man, Laurie Prichett, and because the whole idea was it was gonna fill the jail. Well, they just started farming people out: Lee County, Baker County, you know, Terrell County. There was no way to break it down. And Martin was jailed, and Martin said: I'm staying here, you know, blah-blah-blah. A couple of days later, he was bailed. No one knew how that happened, but he went on back to Birmingham, and it left the Movement in a shambles. I mean, it just — it got a whole bunch of people arrested for no reason. That's basically what happened.

Fatima: I think that the Movement — people had a fascination with seeing themselves on television and in the newspapers. Jesse Jackson is one person who was part of the North Carolina student sit-in thing, and when he saw himself on the evening news, that was it. He was off and running for the rest of his life and career. And the media exploited that. And again, the same isms that have kept us all from really creating a functional movement to move forward — because I live in California now, and I realized I had to get involved with the Democratic Party again, because whatever they do wrong, they are the only go-to party that I have to help make change.

Dennis: Unfortunately.

Fatima: You know, listen. You go there, and you work within the system, because I'm not gonna be a non-voter. And I walked those roads in Louisiana for three years in my sandals, because I couldn't even vote for three years when I went down there. Okay, but we have allowed the media to dictate who is acceptable as our leaders, and the Movement itself — Bayard Rustin, I adored him. He was a brilliant, brilliant man, and a Quaker. And he, and James Farmer, and I forget who else, I think A. Philip Randolph, had started that first March on Washington in '41 or '42.

Lonnie: It was '41.

Fatima: It was '41. And it didn't happen, but they were the originators, the original architects. But you would've thought that Martin Luther King — who was a very good friend of my Aunt Rose in the family; you know, nice man, loved the collard greens — was the only man that ever thought of any of this. But the media decided that he was acceptable, and the community of associate coalesced organizations decided that he was acceptable, that Bayard was not acceptable because he was a gay, Black man of phenomenal intelligence. James Farmer was hardworking, intelligent, but he was married to a white woman. You know, so everybody found something wrong with everybody else, but Martin became acceptable.

And even when Bayard came down as the architect for the Montgomery bus boycott, and he told Martin: I'm not gonna be too public here, because I'm not gonna let them distract what's going on with your boycott. But these are the things you need to do to advance this boycott to make it a success. Because Martin used all of those people's ideas, A. Philip Randolph and everybody. And the one thing A. Philip Randolph did for the March on Washington, because Bayard was not really allowed to speak; James Baldwin wasn't allowed to speak; John Lewis had to change his thing, because the archbishop wouldn't pray until the language was changed.

I mean, it's all this crap that people have given in to over the years that has not served anybody, except maybe some of the individuals. No, but the individual that said he wasn't going to pray until the language in the speech was changed. So that's how those decisions are made, and it's how a lot of people believe that Martin was the only one out there. But that's not Martin's fault; that's your fault for not knowing and not being willing to investigate what else was going around. Because people have stayed very much on tunnel vision — I'm dealing with my little thing — and that's why Richard Haley said: My crow is the blackest, and basically your crow over here doesn't matter.

Lonnie: Let me speak to your point for just a minute. I want to amplify what you said about the white press. The white press, to a great extent, is lazy. And what they do is they look for an easy way to do their deadline, to reach their deadline. And it's easier to get a comment from Martin King or for that matter James Foreman or what have you. They look for one or two persons that they have already prepared on their little sheet there and their little index card, and therefore, they can then build a story around that person.

Now that isn't to say that Martin King — he didn't put that in their minds. That's just the way they operate. I want to endorse everything you said, except to say that Bayard Rustin did, in fact, make the March on Washington what it was, but he did it from behind the scenes, because if you were out in front, they are a lot of folks who said: "We cannot afford to have a homosexual leading this." So he was able to subsume himself and make that thing happen. Martin King was a man who was born at the right time in history with the right skills. Because when you go through that whole list, and the man who inspired the March on Washington was ...

Fatima: A. Philip Randolph.

Lonnie: A. Philip Randolph in '41. He also was the one who called the second one. It was not Martin King; it was Philip Randolph who called it. But the press is a very prejudiced group. They will slant stuff based oftentimes on their universal prejudice, but they also don't believe in putting too many positive things forward when it comes to people of color.

I did a paper once on something called photographic journalism and how it discriminates based on the kind of pictures that they take. If the press — and you can almost pick up your paper and look at the pictures and tell whether that paper believes in a person. They will shoot 50 shots of you, and if that person doing this doesn't like you, until they find the one with your mouth open, or something like that. No, no, examine your newspaper. You can begin to see what kind of a leaning they have based on the pictures that they run, not just the articles that they run.

So I learned in this movement that there are very few givens except that racism is here, alive and well, and it would do anything possible to maintain the status quo. And you're not going to be able to stop it until you organize, organize all over the place, and chip it one by one by one. If this system was created from the 1600s, how do you expect us to get rid of it in 50 years? If it took that long for it to get to a certain point, you cannot overcome it. And what that means is that my great-grandchildren are going to have to fight this same battle that we are now battling because we don't have the organizational effort. America has not made the decision that we're going to bring our creed in line with our practice.

Dennis: The press chooses our spokespeople, our leaders, that's who decides it. I saw it not only in the Black Movement; I saw it in the Native American Movement, where [Dennis] Banks and [Russel] Means became the spokesperson. And a guy like John Trudell no one heard of, and he's a brilliant, brilliant ...

Fatima: [Clapping] Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! I have all his CDs. I have all his music and powerful poetry.

Sydney: Lonnie, I find myself surprised that I want to disagree with you.

Lonnie: No, that's Okay.

Sydney: No, we lean forward when that happens, because we know that lesson. I don't think your grandchildren and your great-grandchildren are going to have the same battle. I think they're going to have a battle.

Lonnie: A different battle.

Sydney: But I think that one of the burdens — and this may be arrogant, and I'll listen if people say it is, but I think one of the burdens of the Movement has been that Black people in the process of slavery and segregation have been injured. And when you come to a fight injured, you come not only with the best of you but also with your injuries. And your great-grandchildren will have had fewer injuries. So if I'm right, and I teach grown-ups about children for a living, if I'm right, then that is one of the things we have given to the generations that are young is that they have less injury. They have less exposure to the vicious pain that is the descendant of slavery.

Lonnie: I agree with you on that. I don't disagree on that.

Sydney: I thought we might.

Dennis: Cleverly put.

Lonnie: If I might just, for 30 seconds, Madame Chairman, to support her on that. My grandchildren are knocking the ball out of the park, and you're right, my grandboy is leaving Mercer University in May with a 3.9 average. And he's been offered a scholarship.

Sydney: And they just beat Duke!

Lonnie: That's right. And he's been offered a scholarship to Juilliard, to the New England Conservatory, and Eastwood Conservatory. He's got to make a decision on which one he wants to go to. He plays viola. And his brother is coming along, and he's smarter than he is. So they're gonna do well. They don't know a thing about all this stuff, but they will still face some problems, that's all I'm trying to say.

Sydney: Absolutely.

Lonnie: Because they don't look like the white Anglo-Saxon Protestant. That's all I'm trying to say.

Cathy: I want to add that I've noticed over the years that many of us activists have become parents to a generation of artists. Some of us became artists, but even more so our children and grandchildren are actors, musicians, and visual artists. I'm just putting that out there. Our children and grandchildren are artists.

Lonnie: Yes, oh yes, that's true. Yeah. Yeah.

Dennis: One of the, I think, great tragedies is that the next generation doesn't know shit about the Movement. I've been asked a number of times to speak at local high schools, and I would get this absolutely blank stare. I thought — I finally stopped doing it.

Jeannine: Rosa Parks. Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King, that's it.

Dennis: One other quick thing. I had a past personal injury case, a young Black man who had fallen down some stairs, and his father came with him. His father wore bib overalls, and I was like: "Oh my God." And I had a great big poster, because I represented her, of Angela Davis. The father told the whole story. The son sat silently. Finally, the only thing he said: "Who's that fine looking sister?" And his father knocked him out of the chair. [Laughter] And said: You shame me. That's what he said.

Jeannine: Well, I think our great-grandchildren may be uniting with others to fight even bigger things like global warming and the fact that we're not gonna have enough food, and that we're trashing the planet. So it may be that these impending crises are gonna pull us all together at some point.

Sydney: And they're all different colors, our grandchildren are.

Dennis: Let us pray.

Fatima: I don't have any belief in three generations beyond where we are now. And the reason I don't is I look at our teenagers and our young men up to age 30, and I think 30% of our 18 to 35-year-old Black men are in prison.

Dennis: Or under parole supervision, probation/supervision.

Fatima: Prison. Or they are working in jobs that are slavery by any other name. And that our young women don't know anything more than hair weaves, making babies, and they don't even know how the babies are made. And certainly don't know how to take care of them. And they don't vote. They don't think about voting. They don't think that they have anything to contribute.

I was working in [California] Governor Brown's office, the campaign office, along with [Calif. Attorney General] Kamala Harris and — God, she's my State Senator, I can't think of her name right now, because I'm flustered — Karen Bass. Thank you, God. And we had two kids come in the office, two young Black men with their pants hanging down to their knees, and you know, their hair all a mess, not even locks or just a big 'fro. And what they had seen was a sign: Green jobs, which was part of the campaign stuff. And they said: "Well, what you all doing here?" And it's like: Okay, this is a chance, and we took the time, and they wound up volunteering. And by the end of the thing, the voting day came, their pants were actually at their {UNCLEAR}. I say: "You are never gonna get a job coming in anywhere looking like that. And we're the only place on this street that's gonna take any time and talk with you. So the next time you come in here, you have your pants at your waist where they're supposed to be, with a belt, and you have your shirt right, and you comb your hair. I don't care how you comb your hair, but you comb your hair." And what they had seen was a sign: Green jobs, which was part of the campaign stuff. And they wound up volunteering. And by the end of the thing, the voting day came, their pants were actually at their waist.

So I fed everybody in the campaign office, because I had done the phone — 

Sydney: You're the Jewish mother.

Fatima: I was the Jewish mother. I'm a Puerto Rican mother, honey. It's the same thing.

And there are not enough of those two young men going into places, inquiring about what's going on here. And they're not voting. And I don't know. I have three children. I have one grandchild. And I look at — my one son is on the street, because he wasn't diagnosed with schizophrenia. And we have insurance and good doctors, and they still missed it because he hadn't reached 19 when they examined his acting out, and they just thought he was being a rebellious teenager. But no, there were other things going on. So I have to know about him through the police reports when he gets arrested, and I got to — "Oh, he's released." "Okay, it was a misdemeanor. Okay, do you know where he is?" "No." So it makes me very, very fearful of what three generations from now is going to look like. And with the issues of global warming and potential nuclear warfare, and we're all — 

Jeannine: And one other thing that I didn't put in my list which is the oligarchy that is happening in this country. The 1% and the power of money in this country.

Dennis: And we just learned with the new Supreme Court decision, it's [only about the] money.

Cathy: All right, all right.

Lonnie: Giving them more power.

Fatima: And all of us can say all of us, because it's just what the deal is.



Sydney: So let me sing you a song, because they didn't know it, but it's really the right song for us. [Singing]

May the work that I have done speak for me.
[Others joining in]
May the work that I have done speak for me (speak for me).
If I fall short of my goal, someone else will take a hold,
May the work that I have done speak for me.

And it's a {UNCLEAR} song, the children I have taught. May the picket lines I have walked, and so forth. Isn't that just right for this event?


What Were We Thinking?

Cathy: The afternoon questions are: Why did we participate? What did it mean for us? How did it change us? How has it affected our lives since?

Now, these kind of all go together, but I'm going to switch it up a little bit and I'm going to say: What were you thinking when you got in the Movement? [Laughter] What brought you into the Movement? Why did you want to get into the Movement?

You know, what pulled you in, in the beginning? And then we'll break it down a little, okay? All right. I'm going to repeat it. What brought you into the Movement? Why did you want to get into the Movement?

Fatima: I'm a New Yorican — Fatima — I'm a New Yorican, that is, a New York Puerto Rican. Some people say you're a Black Puerto Rican, and I say, yes, all Puerto Ricans are Black. I don't know what the federal government does. It says that I'm Caucasian when I go in the hospital, because Puerto Ricans are identified as white. And I have asked many a nurse: Do I look any part of Caucasian to you? [Laughter]

So once we get past that, then they can treat me. And because there was this thing inside of me that all different parts of my family were active in one thing or another, from union work and politics, and I was a kid that they dragged along, and then I had an Aunt Rose who, anything that happened in Africa, she sent me the book that I was supposed to read. I'm nine years old, and she's sending me books and stuff. And you've got to read this. I love telling the stories.

So with all of that, when the Civil Rights era — my mother is working with the Human Rights Commission in New York City — it was like going into your family business. And our family business was activism. As upper middle class, as internally oppressed with class issues and color issues and all the internalized oppression issues that you could have, they were still activists in their own — they were colored liberals is what they were.

So I felt like I was doing what I was supposed to be doing: going South in the summer of '64. And once I got there, I realized I was not prepared for anything that was about to happen. I did not feel I had anything to really contribute to folks except I could read and write, and I could teach literacy. And I realized how important that was. And I was young, so I still had enough energy to walk the dusty roads going from sharecropper farms, one to another, and running my mouth on why they should do this.

So I became aware of things that I hadn't given very much credit to that really were very important. And then I knew how to cook, so I could cook different things. I introduced a lot of people to lasagna, and you know, it became the simple things that you take for granted that people were looking to have, kind of a human contact with somebody who's also telling them that they could make their lives better. And I wanted to believe that, and they wanted to believe that. And that's what got me there and kept me there.

Jeannine: Matt and I were very active in the Peace Movement, living in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. And I was very active with the Women's Strike for Peace. And one night, about two o'clock in the morning, we got a phone call, and it was Barbara Deming who used to write for Liberation magazine. She said: "Jeannine" — she was also in Women's Strike — she said, "Jeannine, I'm in Jackson, Mississippi, and a man has just been killed, and I think people from the North need to come down here and see what's going on."

[See Medgar Evers Assassination for background.]

I said: "Barbara, I've got two little kids. I don't have any money." She said: "We'll find a way to pay for it, just come." So I got on a plane the next day and went to Jackson. I was welcomed by Ed and Jeanette King at Tougaloo College. And we went into Jackson and walked in the funeral procession, and it was a very, very moving experience. And at one point, I got separated from them, and I just felt like I was one white face in this Black sea of faces. And this little woman came up to me, and she held my hand. She said: "Don't be a'feared. You're all right. We're all together." And there was this white — there was this scuffle up ahead, and this white man was walking up and down saying: "My name is John Doar, and I'm from the Justice Department." [Laughter] My name is John Doar, and I'm from the Justice Department!

Dennis: And he didn't do shit.

Jeannine: And whatever scuffle was happening, it seemed to die down, so I don't know whether he had any effect on that. But that was my first experience in Jackson, and I went home to Matt, and we talked about it. And of course, he was a photojournalist and wanted to photograph the changes that were going on in the South, and we were both interested in nonviolence. So we packed up our two kids, and in two months, we had left Philadelphia and were on our way to Jackson, and we lived in Jackson for a couple of years. That's how we got started.

Dennis: Well, first of all, I got my politics from my Communist Party Aunt Paula who was a shop steward in the teacher's union which is CP Union in New York. And when I would visit her, she had a big globe, because she was a teacher. She had a great big globe, and I'd have to point at a country, and whatever country it was, she would take me to a restaurant that served that cuisine.

Jeannine:?: Oh cool!

Dennis: And I had eaten like pretty much everything. I had to eat the most bizarre thing on the menu, and I ate so many testicles and sheep heads, and like today, it's a problem for me, but while I was eating, she would regale me with the story of whatever capitalist exploitation had taken place in that particular country. [Laughter] So it was weird, because I thought this [was a] very upper middle class town, but the lady next door had been, you know, in the Party, and she got me all turned onto union stuff.

So I finally went to law school, and I hated it. I mean, I really loathed and despised it. And I figured, I can't do this anymore. You know, I don't want to be a lawyer if this is the kind of bullshit you have to put up with. So, I was at the end of my second year, and I thought: You know — and I was married at the time. I wanted to get divorced. And I thought: I need to get a summer job in a law office. Now this is before they had something called internship — which is the new slavery. And I was a hippy, you know what I mean? You know, [UC Berkeley law school] Boalt Hall was all like Orange County surfers with pressed chinos. And anyhow, all married and wives supported them, and they divorced them as soon as they passed the bar, but I was kind of an outcast.

So the one guy I knew in law school who had decent politics and was from that area, I asked him if he could find me a law job for the summer. He came back after a couple days, he said: "Well, nothing around here, but would you want to go South?" Now, I was in Berkeley long enough to know, going South meant Los Angeles. [Laughter] No seriously — 

Woman: And that was bad enough!

Dennis: Yeah, and going East was Denver. So I met this woman named Ann Ginger, and we started talking. Another CP-er. And we started talking, and she kept telling me: "Do you realize how dangerous it is? I mean, the police kill people, and it's monstrous." I [had] heard a lot of bad-mouthing about L.A., but this was like beyond the pale, you know? And we were into it for about half an hour before I realized: She's talking about Mississippi and places like that. At that point, I was kind of intrigued by it, and again, because of family politics, I thought: You know, I should really apply for this.

The National Lawyers Guild sponsored law students to go South and clerk for Civil Rights lawyers. Well, it turned out there were only two Civil Rights lawyers who even thought about taking a law clerk from the North. So I sent in my application, and I was like top half in Boalt Hall, and I'm competing against Columbia, Harvard, Yale Law Review guys. I thinking: There's no way in the world I'm gonna get this, but all right. And I get a letter from CB King, you know, telling me: C'mon down. So I thought — 

Cathy: In Albany, Georgia.

Dennis: Yeah, I thought: Well, what if he doesn't realize I'm white? I can't call him and say: Excuse me, sir — so I sent him a picture so he'd recognize me after I got off the Trailways bus, figuring once he saw I was white, that'd be the end of it. You know, if that'd be a problem, he'd give me some bullshit story about his cousin came to town or whatever. No, he wrote me back saying: C'mon down. And I was really excited, and I got off the bus which is right across from his office in what was called Harlem. I went upstairs; he opened the door for me, and I walk in. The secretary looks up: "I told you he was a white boy, CB." [Laughter]

So then he had to tell me the story which was that he had all these applications, and Shipiro and Goldberg and DeBenedetti and Papadopuus and he does not want an ethnic, you know? He's looking for a brother. So he said: Dennis Roberts, possibility. [Laughter]

Dennis: He looks at the resume: bellhop, busboy, {third cook?} [Laughter] But what sold him — see, I was looking to make a book jacket, ultimately, you know, that's why I took those jobs. Anyhow, what sold him was that I was in the Steward's Department of the Merchant Marine. Well, he was in the Navy. Steward's Department is Black or Filipino, and since I didn't look Filipino and I didn't have a Filipino sounding name, he assumed that I was Black. That's how I got the job. So I was like the first reverse Affirmative Action hire in America. And you know, I was there for that summer. I got so absolutely intrigued.

Cathy: What year was that?

Dennis: '63. Summer of '63 when you were there, and I saw you in jail, along with my ex-wife. And I was blown away by it. It was so incredible. And you know, a lot of the kids who were down there were really disenfranchised — or disowned by their family. Well, I was a hero in my family. You know, my Aunt Paula thought my going South was great, I mean the CP were the only people talking about civil rights in the 30s, 40s, 50s. Anyhow, that's what happened. I mean, I didn't come there out of this, you know, thing that most people did. It was when I got there that I knew I had to come back. I came back a year later (after I completed my last year of law school) and then Wendy Mann (SNCC worker who I married) and I came back for another two and a half years. That was it. It was the best two, three years of my life, I'll tell you that.

Lonnie: I got involved with the Movement, I guess, because I was tired of the segregated system in the South.

I had gone to the Navy in '54, came out in '57 and I went in on a "kiddy cruise." What that meant was that I went in the day before I was 18, and I got out the day before I was 21. And my mother had to sign for me to go in, and so she told the recruiting officer that she was signing for me to go to the Navy on one condition: That I was not gonna be made a seagoing busboy, which is what you were talking about. By that, I mean, she didn't want me to go in and be a steward's mate. And so she said: He can do that here at home. He can go on and make fifty cents an hour here at home. So I went in the Navy and instead of putting me in the Steward's branch, they put me in the Deck Force, to chip paint. And I won't go through all that except to say that it was a very horrible experience, and I had to fight almost every day I was in the Navy in some way or another to get justice in there, and I was able to win on all of my battles. And I ended up after three years at E5 [Petty Officer 2nd Class], up for E6 [Petty Officer 1st Class], but it was based on my passing tests as opposed to anybody's good will. But I got everything I got in the Navy, primarily by having to fight.

And so I had a choice to go to San Francisco State College on a boxing scholarship, because I was the heavyweight champion of my ship. But I turned that down to go back to Atlanta to go to Morehouse, because I felt that at some point we're gonna have to fight this battle in the South, and I wanted to be there. I know that sounds corny, but there were a few witnesses who know that's why I turned down the scholarship to USF. I went back in '57.

Cathy: How I got into the Civil Rights Movement. My family was from the Midwest, all white, middle class, with lots of privilege. I was raised a Unitarian. My mother was an activist liberal. She got called a "Communist" because she defended the United Nations. My father was a Republican. I went to integrated schools outside Chicago, but then my father got transferred to Memphis, and I ended up going to segregated Central High School of Memphis in 1957 when Central High School in Little Rock was being forcibly integrated.

It was a very particular time, and I was living in a segregated white middle class community in Memphis. I wanted an integrated life, but I couldn't make it happen. The last year, when I was a senior in high school, our Unitarian youth group did manage to get together twice with a Baptist youth group. That was radical, and that's as much as we could do. Then I went to college in Minnesota, Carleton College, I was there a year, and they started this exchange program with Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia, an historically Black women's college. I decided that I wanted to apply for that exchange, and it was the first decision that I made on my own. I made the decision to apply without asking my parents, and then I told them that I wanted to apply.

I took a lot of time thinking about it, I got accepted, and I got to go to Spelman. I was at Spelman for three days, and then I was marching in front of the Georgia State Legislature with over 100 students from Atlanta Black colleges, seven other exchange students, and Howard Zinn. And some of us white students and Howard Zinn gathered together, and we decided that we would go sit in, in the Black audience section of the State Legislature, which was up in the balcony. We went, and we sat in.

We could look over the balcony and see downstairs to where the head of the legislature was picking up the phone, very angry. It was clear he was calling the state police. At which point, we looked at each other, and said: You know, nobody gave us any permission to do this. If we get arrested, it's going to cost somebody money; maybe we better leave. So we get up, and we are walking down the hallway, and we look up, and there are four shoulder-to-shoulder gigantic state policemen marching down the hall toward us. We're going: Oooh, yikes! But they walk right past us, because we're white! It was like the epitome of how ridiculous this whole racial system is. You can't tell by skin color who is on which side of the struggle. That was my beginning of being in the Civil Rights Movement.

Sydney: I was an early entrant. I went to the University of Chicago after two years of high school and therefore graduated when I was 19. And I went to work, because people had said: Go to graduate school, and I had thought: I'm too young. And so after a couple of years of the kinds of jobs you get when you are 19 and have a B.A., a little proofreading at Fawcett, dumb jobs. I decided I was now old enough to go to graduate school, and I didn't want to go to graduate school, because I would be bored out of my mind!

I'd been visiting Mortie [Morton Sobell] in the federal penitentiary in Atlanta, so maybe if I went to Atlanta and went to the AU campus, I could major in integration, whatever you call it. Why are you laughing at that? Well, it was more interesting than education, for sure! And Horace Mann Bond was Chair of the Education Department there, and he was no slouch, and he was willing for me to be his T.A., so that was all good. So I went. I did not know that we were on the cusp of something as important and interesting as this Movement. But I went with the full commitment to go.

I lived in the dorm. I learned not to bring up hair. [Laughter] Well, that was one of the big first lessons I learned was don't talk to Black women about hair, because you'll never get back off that subject to anything else. And now that I've heard Oprah talk about it, I'm so glad I learned that. Anyway, I was part of the student body. I had some interesting personal experiences where Black guys would ask me out, and then they'd stand me up because there was no place they could take me. I was trouble, and I didn't like that. I wanted to be taken out and have love affairs and you know, do what you do. And racism was messing that up among all the other things. So I imported a white guy who I'd been seeing in New York, and we got married, in an illegal ceremony by Murray Branch who was a teacher at [Interdenominational Theological Center]. It was illegal because at that time it was illegal in Georgia for a Black minister to marry any people to each other who were not Black. We were planning to challenge it, but we didn't stay married long enough. [Laughter]

Anyway, so I was there, and I did what people my age who were at my university were doing. I went and I took part, as I was permitted to, and there were some very clear rules, and I think they were very smart rules, that didn't let me get arrested, because there would be no one to protect me there. Black people were getting arrested in tens and twenties, and they had each other's support in jail. So there were other jobs found for me to do. There was fetching and carrying, and I did it. And I went to school and got my master's degree. But my the family's religion was justice, and so it all fit. It all was very much a piece of my life.

Dennis: Well, in Georgia you had a fornication statute.

Sydney: [Laughter] I'm sure it did!

Joe: I guess I come from a family of coal miners, originally. My one side was a Welsh side and an Irish side in Pennsylvania, all coal miners. They were the Black people I knew. There were no Blacks at all until I got to high school, and the only Black I knew was the doctor's son, Dr. Grove, but my brother told me later on that it's an unusual statistic that where I grew up in Wilkesboro, Pennsylvania, the average income of Blacks is significantly higher than the average income of whites, because of — but anyway, they were smart enough not to go out in the coal fields.

So I actually went to law school, and then I joined — my grandfather actually was a union leader in the miners, United Mine Workers, so I was interested in the Civil Rights type thing. So when I was in the seminary, I was involved in a racial conference in Washington, DC. DC was a segregated city then, in the '50s and '60s. We would protest down at the Civil Rights Department about the Civil Rights Act, trying to get it passed and all that stuff.

So then along came Selma and Dr. King, you know, after John Lewis and them had the problems on the bridge. He asked for volunteers to come down very quickly, so he calls and asks people to come down, and we went down on Tuesday. We flew and drove, so I got involved there because of essentially religious motivations, I guess you would say, and family motivations. But what was interesting is my organization paid the expenses. They just picked up — my superiors and everybody else thought it was a good idea, so they approved it. It was this young kid that was just ordained, letting him go.

So I don't know if that puts me in the same class as you, just inadvertently. So why I was involved, I guess it was because of my initial motivations and my boss giving me his credit card. I flew down there and rented a car. We flew into Birmingham and drove to Selma. And we came back with — gave rides to some Episcopal priests. There were mostly clerics on that one, that second march. They were the only ones that could drop everything and go down quickly. So that's how I got involved. It's not quite like Lonnie. I wasn't in the service or anything, but it was a kind of a militaristic outfit that I was in. I'll pass on.

Edith: I grew up in an upper middle class suburb of New York, Montclair, New Jersey. And was brought up in proper Republican principles, including my father was very proud of the fact that the Republican Party had freed the slaves. It was very much imbued in me from a little child, everybody was created equal, as our Declaration of Independence said. And also, I had a very small Christian faith which eventually led me into seminary. And I think the key event was when I was in college, the March on Washington occurred. And I went down, our chaplain took a group of us down, and I heard Martin Luther King's speech, and it stayed with me all my life. It just really instilled a deep commitment to human rights.

And then when the recruiters from SNCC showed up at Smith College, where I was at the time, and would kind of get people to go down to Mississippi to break the back of segregation down there, and I had to go, so I went. I went that first Summer of '64, and then in '65 I went again. I was in Natchez, Mississippi. That's when Natchez really blew up and ended up integrated as a result of that summer.

And in between, meanwhile, I was going to seminary. I led some seminary students down for a voter registration project. And I was in Holmes County the first summer and at that voter registration drive. And so I do a lot of organizing in the seminary. Charlie Sherrod, by the way, was a student there while I was there. We were good friends.

Dennis: Seminary in Virginia?

Edith: Union Theological Seminary in New York City.

Dennis: Oh, I thought Charles was in Virginia.

Lonnie: He went to Virginia Union [in 1960].

Male: This is her in the Freedom School.

Cathy: Oh, and that's a famous picture. I know that picture.

Fred: I grew up in Columbia, South America. My parents were Presbyterian missionaries and always had — they'd actually gone there quite conservative, and were quite radicalized by their Holy Spirit, so they were there for 29 years. But I went to — I was sent away to school when I was 14, and I had to go to an English-speaking school in order to study at a college, English-speaking college.

I ended up at Stanford, and the head of my dorm, was a lawyer from New York named Al Lowenstein. And he gave a very inspiring speech the first day of school to everybody, 800 students in Stern Hall, about how you can make a difference. One person can make a difference, and it's up to each one of you to figure out how you can do that. And he later asked me if I would help organize a contingent from Stanford to go to Mississippi, and I went with him to Jackson and drove him around to various places. Four of us left in the fall of '63 for two weeks, took off from classes to go figure out what could be done, talk with leaders there, see what they wanted students to do, to come back and so that was how I went.

And I mainly served as a kind of aide de camp for Al and that's where I met Bob Moses and a bunch of — many other leaders in SNCC, and [Rev.] Ed King in the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and heard about all that. And then later, a good friend of mine from Stanford who's the person who shot and killed Al Lowenstein in his law office, Dennis Sweeney. In fact, I just talked to him a few days ago. He's now living in Clackamas, Oregon, outside of Portland. He never was tried, because he was considered unfit psychologically.

Woman: He was diagnosed as schizophrenic.

Fred: Right. He has a diagnosis of schizophrenia, and he was treated and went to a psychiatric hospital up in — 


What Did It Mean For Us?

Cathy: We're going around again, and the next two questions I think we can do together, and you can decide what you want to do. It's: What did being in the Movement mean to you, what did it mean for you personally? And how did it change you? And then the last question is going to be: How did it affect your life since? So how did it affect how you lived your life after the Movement?

Sydney: Can't we integrate all three of them?

Cathy: You want to integrate them? Okay. Go for it. That's fine. So, what did it mean that you were in the Movement? And how did it affect your life that followed the '60s? Who would like to start?

Sydney: I'm willing to. The Movement was part of a stream of justice that had influenced me from previous to my going to Atlanta and continues to motivate me to this day. I look at social problems with an eye to how can I help? Most recently, I was in Singapore where I saw Filipino maids and chauffeurs being treated in ways which represented to me something very close to slavery. The chauffeurs were breathing air in the garages which was not ventilated, and my sense was that they would die 20 or 30 years before their time. And so I'm actually still working on a letter to send at least to the owners of the building that I was a guest in, saying: Look, in the day of cell phones, you don't need to have men sitting in fumes all day long. They can get a phone call and beat the boss to the car and chauffeur them around and not be dying of the air.

And I've looked at centers for Head Start, and I see the problems there again in terms of how do we advocate for the children? How do we advocate for the staff? How do we advocate for people who have less voice than we do? I have been privileged to be given voice and to cultivate my voice and to have learned from people of color how to have a voice and use it. And nothing that happened to me in Atlanta or on a picket line in front of Howard Johnson's in New York saying "28 flavors, all vanilla," nothing that's happened to me has made me weaker, has made me less articulate, has made me afraid.

I think I'm afraid to be afraid, and it holds me in good stead. And it means that I get an awful lot of emails from organizations, and I try to do what I can for them. And that sort gets more and more difficult. It makes me support something like Occupy with great joy.

["Occupy" refers to the Occupy Wall Street mass movement against income inequality and for economic justice that took place nationwide in the Fall of 2011.]

As the body gets old, I have to figure out how to do the work without crippling myself. And as I talk to people, I'm hard-wired to teach, and I tend to teach about justice. And it is one of the best things about my life. I'm done.

Dennis: I think mine's pretty short. There's an expression: Right time, right place. And that's the story of my life. Because I was with CB King for 2½ years. At that time, my ex-wife, who had started a nursery school, was offered a scholarship at Bank Street in New York, so you know, I was going to go with her and work for a trucking company which is what I'd done previously.

And just then, Bill Kunstler, Arthur Kinoy and Morty Stavis who carried most of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party Litigation started to set up a constitutional rights project, and they knew me from Georgia. They asked me if I wanted to be the first staff attorney. Yeah! You know, a real law job. I wasn't going to take the New York bar. And from that, I did the pre-trial — Michael Tigar and I did all the pre-trial work, pre-trial motions in the Chicago Eight case. It was held in contempt by Judge Hoffman, but then he reversed himself. It's the only contempt that was ever had — and you know, everything followed.

[The Chicago Eight case was an infamous, highly publicized, politically-motivated trial of leaders and organizers of the massive anti-war, pro-civil-rights, anti-Humphrey protests at the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago IL. The defendants were all either acquitted or had their convictions overturned on appeal.]

Because of that, I did all the pre-trial again with Tigar in the Angela Davis case. And when Dennis Banks got arrested, Bill Kunstler called me and ask me if I would do that. So I mean, everything just flowed. It was really right time/right place.

[Civil Rights activist and noted leftist Angela Davis was charged with complicity in an attempted prison-escape in California that resulted in three deaths. After a massive "Free Angela" campaign and a highly publicized trial she was found not guilty. Dennis Banks, an American Indian Movement leader, was arrested with hundreds of others after an armed, take-over of Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Lakota reservation in South Dakota. Banks was acquitted on those charges, but convicted on charges related to earlier protests elsewhere. Banks refused to accept incarceration and fled the state. California Governor Brown granted him a form of amnesty and denied South Dakota's effort to extradite him.]

It was a fluke that I started in Georgia. Absolute fluke. That's what happened to me from the Movement.

Jeannine: Okay, As I said before, one of the things that most attracted me to the Movement was the idea of building a beloved community. And that really built over 1963 and 1964, and then when SNCC essentially told all the white people in the Movement that they didn't want them there anymore, I said: "Well, what's next?"

And at about some time around in there, Tom Levin and Polly Greenberg came up to me, because I had two kids. I was a mom; I wasn't prepared to be an educator, but they asked me if I wanted to work on a grant for Head Start, which we did. We worked in New York. We worked in Philadelphia and wrote the grant, and we got it, because Polly was already affiliated with the Office of Economic Opportunity. So, it was a million dollar grant. [The Child Development Group of Mississippi] was the first Head Start in the country, and because we were all working with the Movement in Mississippi, we could organize all these little communities, and it was really the local people who organized it. And we had 5,000 kids around the state of Mississippi.

And there was a lot of politics in the middle of it. [Senator] Stennis tried to throw us out, and he said: "I'm going to hold up the appropriations for Vietnam if you don't throw the CDGM out." They tried to move us to Holly Springs. Anyway, it was a very intense and wonderful summer. One day I was in one of the Head Start projects, and there was a little girl sitting off to the side watching the other kids play, so I went and sat next to her. And she reached over, and she was trying to touch my hair and everything. I said: "What do you think you're gonna learn in Head Start today?" And she kind of thought about it, and then she drew herself up, and she said: "I'm gonna learn to read and write, and then I'm gonna go home and teach my Daddy."

Fatima: All right!

Jeannine: And that sort of stuck with me, and I decided I wanted to do something about literacy and young children, and I've been doing that ever since. So, really, because I felt I had to kind of shift direction, take the principles of justice and freedom and human rights with me, but go into a field where I could be a professional and do something that I felt was important. So that's what I've done ever since.

I did dyslexia research, brain research, at UC San Francisco for 10 years, and since then, I've done five research grants with the National Institute of Child Health and Development to develop materials for early literacy. And it's a very important thing, because in America, two-thirds of our students cannot read proficiently, and the majority of the reason is not because of class size; it's not because of poverty; it's because we're not teaching them to read correctly, in a way that their brain can develop efficient pathways. So that's my mission.

Fatima: Going South was probably the most important thing I had ever done for my education as a human being. And the people in Louisiana took a young woman who got off a first class Delta flight in a green and white linen dress, patent leather shoes, white gloves, and hair fresh from the beauty parlor, and for the first two weeks, it drove me crazy, because I had rollers in my hair because the weather was so humid that my hair just went Tchkkkk. And I learned to wear my Keds as opposed to the patent leather shoes. I mean, they were very gentle with me and just let me know that what I had was inappropriate and wasn't going to serve me.

And then they taught me what they needed for me to do for them. And what they needed for me to do was teach them how to read, so they could read the voter registration stuff and make sense of it. And that's what I did, and then I had Freedom Schools which were about general literacy. And I created a newspaper. I learned how to use a mimeograph machine and how to do stencils, and it was a legal size thing, and we passed that out. You know, folks took it and it got around the state, and I guess that prepared me to be editor at the University of Connecticut when we came back and went back to school. And then I did the newsletter at a church I was at for about four years. So they taught me that I had to create something.

And the other thing that I learned was that I was responsible. I was responsible for my community, and my community was planet earth. My grandmother is Native American, and she had a certain sense of responsibility for her immediate community, but she always — the statement: "You must consider now for the next seven generations, the consequences of your actions." You tell a kid that, and I go: "I don't know how to count seven generations. What does that mean?" But I learned that — because the families that I dealt with — 

Even though I spent some time in southern Louisiana, I spent the majority of my time in northern Louisiana, and the bulk of that time in Jonesboro Louisiana. And there were generations in that town. This one family, the Mason family, they have all of this land up and down the road on both sides, and there's aunts, grandma, up here there's a compound, and there's great-grandma, and all the kids, and that family — that's their city dwelling. And then they have 97 acres out in the country off the dirt road where they grew all the food that the whole family — and everybody went. So they taught me things like how to shell peas, you know, how to milk a cow, how to feed the calf. I mean, they used me. Just like: No, come on over here. And that's where my lasagna recipe was most successful.

But it was basically — I didn't really have — I never thought I had any real skills, except foo-foo skills. And what they did was they took those foo-foo skills and turned them into concrete things that they needed.

But my responsibility was how I treated other people, and the politics being personal, and what it set me up for was everything else that I did, which was then to go to the Women's Movement and then all the other important movements, and to speak out on all the isms, all the time. And to be aware of how I spent my money, and so I never have had Carl's Jr. I do not eat Winchell's or Domino's. And there's a book called — and I don't know where it is now, but it might be online: Shopping for a Better World. Because where your money goes is real important.

And you know, whatever issue was going on, if you're spending your money there, then you're responsible for what happens and how the kids are treated, how the child workers are treated, how everybody's treated, and you need to do something to change that. And speaking up, even within the confines of your family, which is really hard, and doing mentoring so you're dealing one on one with somebody, and these are all things that I learned, because in the tutoring that I did, the literacy stuff, it was always one on one.

And it's that kind of sense of responsibility that we don't even need giant movements, but we need to take responsibility for our — what we do and how it affects the planet and how we deal with our neighbors, our family, and the people, so that if we understand that we are like a pebble that goes into the lake and it ripples out, that if we make good ripples, they're going to interact with other good ripples, and maybe that's what works as opposed to all the marching and everything else. But there's a place for the marching. There are folks that can do that.

I can't do the marching anymore, but I can vote. I can harass people to vote. I have a very good friend who is a former friend, because she made the mistake of telling me when Barack Obama was running the first time [2008] that she had never voted and never intended on voting. And I said: "Excuse me?" And then we exchanged a few words, and I never — I said: "I have no place for you in my life." And I hung up and deleted her in my phone book, because I ran from the Klan. I was face down with a double barrel shotgun by a kid that was maybe 18 when I was 18. I mean, I just have too much stuff related to what we were all doing down there to make a difference. And when I go through that kind of stuff, and you're gonna tell me that you don't have time to be bothered with that, okay. So how it has affected my life is that I have never shut up. [Laughing and applause] And I don't intend to.

Cathy: Make it plain.

Fatima: Make it plain.

Cathy: It totally shaped the rest of my life. I also haven't shut up, and I think people would be surprised if I did. Going to Spelman was a huge education for me. I went back to Carleton College after Spelman and I got all A's. My mind was turned on by being able to connect what I personally experienced with what I was reading in books. I was so excited about the change coming in the world.

There are two things that I learned when I was living in different Black communities that are still operating for me today. Living in Black communities, I got to see the power of Black women. My mother was strong, but she also lacked power in her life. I'd never seen so many strong women before. It was amazing, it made a big impression on me, and it was part of my getting into the Women's Movement. I also, like you Dennis, was born at the right time so that these movements came along at the right time for me. I went from the Civil Rights Movement to the Women's Movement to the Lesbian Feminist Movement to having babies as a lesbian mom by donor insemination to now being part of an Old Lesbians Organizing for Change group around ageism. I've been lucky to have these movements present as I've moved through my life.

But the other big thing that I learned in the Black community was what you were saying about humanity and recognizing the humanity in every person. In all the different Black communities I lived in, I was taught that I was to look people in the eye and to say hello to everybody. I was watched to see if I was doing it right. To this day, I walk my dog in my neighborhood, and I look at people, and I say hello, and some people look at me, and some people don't. In some ways, it's predictable. The type of person that is most likely not to say hello to me are white men. It's not all white men, but those are the people for who I don't exist, and they don't want me to see them, and they don't want to see me. And older Black people, they look at me, and we say hello to each other. It means a lot to me.

When I was in the Civil Rights Movement, I was close to the documentary photographers and was very aware of them, but I didn't think I could be a photographer because I was a woman. Then I moved out to the Bay Area, was part of a women's liberation movement and a lot of us started tuning up our cars, and then some of us started becoming carpenters and electricians, and then it occurred to me: Well, maybe I could be a photographer. It just happened that Bill Light who was taught by Matt Herron in Mississippi

Jeannine: Bill and I went to jail together in Washington, DC.

Cathy: All right. So Bill Light had been taught to be a photographer in Mississippi, and he was living in San Francisco, in the early 1970s living in San Francisco, and he agreed to teach me and another woman in my Women's Liberation small group to be photographers. He gave us three lessons, and he said: "Now, you can use my dark room any time you want to." We've both spent the last 45 years committed to photography. I did a lot of documenting of the early Women's Liberation Movement and the Lesbian Feminist Movement. My archives are at The Bancroft Library, UC Berkeley, and soon they'll be available to everybody. I have an incomplete slide show of pictures from Occupy Oakland on YouTube. If you just type my name in, you'll see it. I'm working on a video about Willie B. Wazir Peacock, which will be on YouTube soon.

I would also add that my being in the Movement had a lot of effect on my brothers and sisters and my parents. With the exception of my father, my mother, my brothers and sisters all became more activist than they might've been. You can see it in the next generation too. In my children and my niece, it continues. Along the way I've also gotten to be a part of the Disability Rights Movement.

Joe: How has it affected me and what it means to me? I think my life was significantly changed. I was slated to go into what would've been prison chaplaincy, and I actually — the reason why I had to leave the South in '66, I had to go to work in the prison system in DC But I was there a year, and this sense of justice that I had been exposed to more than I would've planned, it was not something I had originally planned at all. It caused me to ask for and get permission and actually begin to open a law office and start to practice law for poor people in Washington, DC

But we didn't have any money, so what happened was I actually got a job with the Department of Agriculture, in the Office of Civil Rights as a trouble shooter working in the South. I had the credentials for that. That was back in [Secty of Agriculture] Walter Freeman's day, so I went and looked at problems in Mississippi and Louisiana, particularly allotments and farmer's homes and that kind of stuff, just for a year. But then when Nixon was elected, oh, times changed, so I switched to the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

But all my money was going to support the law office. We had a full-time attorney and part-time secretary, and I worked there as well, with the permission of Howard Glickstein who was the head of the Civil Rights Commission. So we continued that, and then I worked full-time for the office. We got some more money, and we continued. And then I moved on to Pennsylvania when my mother got sick, and I stayed there a year, working still in Civil Rights, actually for the Legal Services Corporation. And then I should mention that when I was in Washington, Walter Washington appointed me to the Commission on Human Rights in the local agency.

And then also while I was still a cleric, I filed two desegregation suits against the parochial schools in Louisiana, so as a consequence, they de-established the separated system for the church schools, so they weren't sued by the Justice Department. We started it. We changed the system not only there but in other places. On a national level they changed because of the lawsuit we filed, two of them, we sued two bishops. But then by this time, my services were being frowned upon by the higher ups in the church hierarchy, so I departed with the consent of my superiors. And then I got married two years later to one of the Black lawyers who I worked with, who also had been desegregating one of these school systems there. She worked for the government.

Anyway, so I guess that's — after that, I'm still working in legal services, the organization I started back there then, '67, it's still going today. We have 11 lawyers, and we do mostly at this point disability law. We are the designated agency for disability law in the District of Columbia. We also have a segment for housing in the District of Columbia and an equivalent disability equivalent for people. So it's still going, and one of the reasons that I guess I'm out here is I'm about to retire, and I'm thinking about all these things now.

In retrospect, how did I get here? As I leave, I'm wondering how I got here. And I guess it's very much, you know like Dennis was saying, things happened along the line, and it just — and when I was, you know, two summers in Georgia out in a rural area, where there was no running water, that exposed me to the situation, and we desegregated the schools there. So it all clicked in. As my wife told me — she supported me all these years — she always makes the point that as long as I've been an attorney, believe it or not Dennis, I've never collected a fee from a client.

Woman: Oh my gosh.

Dennis: I wish I could say that.

Fatima: That's some kind of record.

Woman: That is an amazing record.

Joe: Just to say the least, I think that's one of the reasons why I'm here. I wanted to hear some other people too. I thought I'd meet some, at least one or two that I met in Georgia were from out here, and I thought maybe I'd meet one or two of them.

Lonnie: Let me just say that my life was changed by the Movement, and intermittently I've been involved in a number of issues since that time. It's too long for me to go into, but let me just say that I was President of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP for five years after the {UNCLEAR}.

I led the effort to bring in Lonnie Crim who was the first African-American Superintendent of Schools in the South. I fought with the national NAACP over that issue. They wanted me to bus the kids from downtown Atlanta up to Marietta and Burnette County and what have you, and I had a series of seminars around the town, and I never forget the one Black woman who got up, and she said: "Mr. King, why is it the Black kids have to bear all the brunt of desegregation?" She said: "If you accept this plan that the NAACP is trying to get you to do out of New York, it's gonna mean that instead of getting up at three o'clock in the morning, I've got to get up at two to get my kids ready to go up to all the schools up there that are gonna be predominantly African-Americans, because white folks are gonna run." She said: "So what's the difference between going to the school out here versus up there?" She said: "We need to change the leadership of the school system." That one voice convinced me to fight with the national office of the NAACP, and we won that battle.

I lost the battle with the national, because they kicked me out because I wouldn't go along with their plan. But what they didn't know was that I was in charge of the case, so they went to the Court of Appeals in New Orleans, asking them to remove me because it was their case. What they didn't know was that I had gotten all the — there were nine original plaintiffs, one was dead — I got all the eight ones who were still alive to sign an affidavit, naming me in my personal capacity as their representative of the class. So when we got down there, before Judge Wisdom's court, it was Judge Wisdom.

Dennis: The federal judge being spoken about here was John Minor Wisdom. He was one of "the four," three Republicans and one Democratic appointee to the Fifth Circuit, hated by the southerners because they enforced the civil rights laws and [Supreme Court] decisions. Judge Rives son was killed in Korea and the crackers would go to the cemetery and defecate on his son's grave. The other two were Judge Brown, and Elbert Tuttle (the greatest judge who ever lived). I worshiped him.

Lonnie: The NAACP and the Legal Defense Fund, all them [said] kick Lonnie King out, because we represent the class, not him. And so my lawyer, a guy named Benjamin Spaulding, just two of us there, there are about ten of those boys over there and just two of us. Mr. Spaulding got up and he said: Judge {Wisdom?}, may it please the court, I have an affidavit to pass out. He passed out the affidavit that I had. Pandemonium broke out in the courtroom, because we had snookered them. And they were out of the case.

That's how Lonnie Crim got to be the Superintendent of Schools in Atlanta, Georgia. The position that I took was that it was $100 million budget down there. African-Americans had never had a chance to run that school system, and what I was hoping we could do was to control the money and do what had not been done. I was wrong about what I was trying to do. We still should have kicked the butt of the Black superintendent and the butt of the white superintendent, because unfortunately, he didn't do what he could've done, and those who came after him. And you read about the cheating scandal. That was almost a flow from that decision made in '73.

In addition to that, in your home town up there in Washington, DC, I came to town in — I joined the Young Democrats. And when I got in there, it was an all-white organization except for about 10 Black folks. I go: "This is crazy. DC is a predominantly Black city, called it Chocolate City." So I organized 3,000 African-Americans and came in and joined the organization. I ran as president, won the presidency, and then I moved them to push for home rule, because we hadn't had home rule in DC since 1895. And so I pulled the Young Republicans, got them to join something called Y.O.U. If you were there in the '60s you know about the organization. We led the effort, got home rule for DC, because Senator Wayne Morse, some of you've heard of I'm sure, from Oregon, said to me: If you can get 10,000 people to come to the Washington Monument in July, and if I see 10,000 people, I will give DC home rule. I'll go to {UNCLEAR} and get it done. We got 20,000 people up there. And so when I called Senator Morse to speak, he got up, and he said: "You know, I told Mr. King that if I saw 10,000 people, I would give DC home rule. I would go to {UNCLEAR} and get it." He said: "I'm going tomorrow to get it done." That's how DC got home rule.

But again, it comes from my having done all this stuff down here. Another part of my career was one where I went to work for the government in Civil Rights positions. I was Chief of Higher Education for the South for HEW, and in that job, I moved to get schools desegregated all over South Carolina, Mississippi, you name it. I was going around doing that. I can mention several other things that I've been involved in, but the bottom line is this: I moved from there to the Department of Interior. I was in charge of the nationwide Bureau of Land Management EEO [Equal Employment Opportunity] Program, so again, I tried to get Blacks who did not have a chance into some of these jobs.

And I'll just give you one anecdote here. I convinced the Bureau to have Blacks go into these training slots in the summer, from the engineering schools. So when I came down to North Carolina A&T, because they had a lot of kids down there, so I convinced the school to send those kids to the West. I ran into two problems. Number one, the Black parents didn't want to send their kids out there, because they thought the whole West was Mormon, and they didn't want to do that. And then the Mormons didn't want the Black kids to come out. So we had to figure out a way to get everybody to: "Look, let's not be so afraid." And we somehow or another were able to work that out. And we got 27 young kids to go out there to actually live with those Mormons out there and work in the West, and it worked out okay. But you know, it was the fear of the unknown. We went to Utah; we went to Nevada; we went to Washington State, Idaho. Those were the different places. And in sum, I've been involved in being a troublemaker for justice almost ever since I came into this world.

Joe: This was the Park Service? Interior?

Lonnie: Park Service. The Park Service was a part of what I was doing, but I was Chief of Product Development and Evaluation before I became the head of the other stuff. The Park Service was also under my jurisdiction, and so we did a lot of stuff there too. But if I'm going to put it in one line, I guess I'd say that this Movement changed me to the point that I have become intermittently a troublemaker for justice.

Edith: I think working with the kids in the Mississippi Summer Freedom School just convinced me that I had a teaching vocation and that I love working with children, especially their enthusiasm would really energize me, and I also felt that I could raise their hopes and their ideals. And so I have done a lot of environmental education work with kids, and I think that experience was the reason I got oriented that way. And also, just living with people in rural Mississippi, again, I saw this more simple way of life. I began to understand that a lot of the superficiality of middle class life — that there were just many basics in life like family relationships. I saw how strong the families were and how that's what gave me the strength.

I remember living with a core group of farmers who were the center of the Civil Rights Movement in Holmes County, and it's because they independently owned their own land that they could be so strong. And I think it gave me a lot of courage. I did get my voice there. I'd always had strong ideals, but I'd been trying to articulate them, and I really learned to, as you said, never shut up. And I became a little activist, got involved in the Peace Movement, a lot of other things. So I'm very grateful for that, that experience.

Fatima: I think that either there's a point at which just like, you know, just shut it off and let us talk like human, ordinary folks, but I think that there was a certain kind of idealism that we went South with, because we were too naive to know any better.

Sydney: Good for us.

Fatima: But what it prepared me for is when I came back, and I got a job at Lincoln Hospital's Mental Health Services for the Albert Einstein College of Medicine thing that they had going, and nobody challenged me when I wanted to create an art and music program for so-called bad boys. And I got to do that, and I got to walk over to the local school, and they gave me six kids that they let me take over to the community — I mean, it was like: I could do — because I knew if I could survive Louisiana, I could do anything.

And while I was listening to folks, I thought about — I mean, I've been a part of two theater companies, one which did performances in the prisons and one that was for working people, and we really created the idea of 9 to 5, or they did, and then I later joined the company.

Cathy: In our movement organizations there comes a time when there's dissension and differences between us. I was recently pushing a difference in my Old Lesbian group and somebody said: "Oh, Cathy Cade, you've got some guts bringing this up." And I'm sitting there thinking: "This is nothing compared to Mississippi!" [Laughter]

Fatima: One of the things that I did in 1990 was I was one of the co-founders of the Multicultural Alliance for Reproductive Freedom in Los Angeles, and I was planning a conference. And what I wanted to make sure was that multicultural went beyond color, origins or anything like that. It also included the LGBT community. So I had my cousin, I demanded that he be part of — my gay cousin — he be part of the men's discussion on reproductive rights. And he was partnered up with a straight Native American man, and that was probably one of my proudest accomplishments, because we had the whole training for all the facilitators of all the groups, and it's like every group had to commit to being responsible for bringing up the issues of the other groups.

And the point was, it's like I had to — I felt that we would do nothing if we did not hold ourselves — that's what I meant by holding ourselves accountable and reaching across the issues that we think don't apply to us, because all the isms affect all of us. And like I said, when I was disabled, and when I was in a wheelchair, I became real aware of like: Oh no, they didn't. I can't go there, because I can't navigate this, or I can't navigate that. And you know, airports with two handicapped toilets? And 30 ordinary toilets where the seat is all the way down there, and you — 

Dennis: You can't get up.

Fatima: You can't get up. And you don't realize it until — and I'm short, so I don't have that far to go. But I still can't get up. And it may seem like a funny thing, a simple thing, and you don't realize what the other person is going through. And that cuts across the board on every single thing and every single color issue, every single national origin issue, and every religion and non-religion. And a lot of stuff to take into consideration, but I was very proud of my cousin. I am always very proud of him, because I mean, we were out there doing women's health clinic defense with Act-UP, you know, he was like: "I never thought I'd be out here doing this." He's a real corporate guy and really well-educated, and he's also gorgeous. But anyhow, he embraced all the stuff. And it's like: You've got to bring your family along, you know, my mother brought me along.


Jeannine: If we're breaking up, I just want to say it's really been a pleasure to hear all your stories and to be here with you.

Joe: I want to second that. It's hard to believe that time has passed so quickly.

Dennis: I hate going to 50th anniversary stuff, because it makes me feel like I'm 50 years older than when I was doing that.

Sydney: Well, but you're in good shape.

Dennis: Relatively.

Sydney: Well, you're here, you know.

Dennis: I'm here. I'm walking with my cane.

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