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


Maria Gitin, SCOPE, SNCC, SCLC
Bettie Mae Fikes, SNCC, Freedom Singers   
Hardy Frye, SNCC
Benjamin "Buzz" Graham, SNCC
Charles Hammonds - SCLC SCOPE
Matt Herron, SNCC, CORE
Stephen Rose, SCLC, SNCC
Joseph (Buddy) Tieger, CORE, SNCC
Eleanor Walden, SCLC, SNCC, SSOC


Evaluating the Freedom Movement
Losing the Beloved Community
A New World
What We Lost
A Nonviolent Army
Young & Old, What We Accomplished
A Spiritual Struggle
Changes Wrought by Black Political Power  
A Movement Cultural Worker
How Did the Movement Affect Us?
Charles Hammond: From Frat Boy to SCOPE
Steven Rose: Going South
Joseph Tieger: Totally Engaged
Matt Herron: Movement Photographer
Buzz Graham: Mississippi Experience Was Formative
Hardy Frye: A Whole New Thing
Climate of Fear
Maria Gitin: Something Bigger Than Me
Composition of Whites in the Movement





Maria [to Steven]: You did everything: CORE, SNCC, SCLC.

Steven: Well, you know what? I don't think I did any of them. I don't know why they said that. I was in something called the Student Interracial Ministry.

Maria: Please say your name since we're recording.

Steven: Steven Rose, R-O-S-E. I did the Student Interracial Ministry in Nashville. I worked for a man named [Rev.] Kelly Miller-Smith who is no longer with us. But that was the focal point of the work in 1961, which was when I was there.

Maria: Oh, was this at the beginning of the national movement that James Lawson — 

Steven: This was directly following the first Freedom Ride, the one that went down South and ended up in jail in Mississippi. Where are you [now]?

Maria: Actually, I live in Santa Cruz County, south of here. Where do you live?

Steven: Manhattan, New York.

Maria: Ahh. You came out from New York?

Steven: Yes.

Maria: Good for you.

[Additional group members arrive]

Matt: Here we are.

Maria: Well, we're beginning with Steven just talking, actually doing just what we're supposed to do which is to just introduce ourselves and to say a little more. So he was just explaining that — 

Steven: I was a student at Union Theological Seminary in New York, and I joined a group called the Student Interracial Ministry, and we went South in the summer of 1961, and I was assigned to First Baptist Church, Nashville. Minister Kelly Miller-Smith. And at that time, there were a lot of Freedom workers, Freedom Ride people who had just arrived back from what they'd been doing. People like John Lewis, Diane Nash, and actually Jim Lawson.

And [also] with the exploratory program in journalism of the Chicago City Missionary Society in the '60s. And essentially, I spent the summer of 1961 working under the leadership of people like Jim Lawson, and we were demonstrating in Nashville through that summer. And my real sense of the Civil Rights Movement was gained because I spent time in virtually all of the places that things were going on as a writer during the 1960s. So I was in Birmingham interviewing Dr. King the day after the Gaston Motel was bombed. And I was in Selma for the second march and all that. I was in Clarksdale. I remember driving out of Clarksdale with — 

Maria: So as a facilitator, they asked me, for this first go round, to just say where you were. And then we're going to do the storytelling.

Matt: Okay, my name is Matt Herron. In 1960 onward I was working in Philadelphia [PA] with the American Friends Service Committee as a writer and photographer. And I was also doing peace demonstrations for the Philadelphia yearly meeting. And it got to the point where we could get a thousand well-dressed Quakers out with neatly lettered signs encircling City Hall. The police knew we were nonviolent, and everything was peachy keen.

I went South in '63, not joining a group but as a photographer. That was my profession, but I worked with SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee]. I helped set up the SNCC dark room in Atlanta, and the following summer I ran a group of five photographers who worked throughout the South but largely in Mississippi. And I did three things. I photographed for the Movement; I worked as a magazine photographer for the major [photo] and news magazines; and I tried to document the process of social change in the South as a documentary photographer. So I was all over the South, but I was based in Jackson, Mississippi.

Maria: And what was the span of years?

Matt: We came South in the Summer of '63 right at the time of Medgar's funeral and stayed in Mississippi until the Fall of '64 with our two children. We were, I think, the only family to move South with children and join the Movement. And we had to put our kids in school, and we didn't want to put them in Mississippi schools, so we moved to New Orleans. The next summer we were back in Mississippi. My wife was one of the three founders of the Child Development Group in Mississippi [CDGM], the first Head Start program, and so I was all over the state. And I continued shooting until 1970 when we climbed aboard our small sailboat and sailed to West Africa.

[Another member joins the group.]

Maria: At this introductory point, we're sharing our name, our group affiliation and a little bit about where we were, and I always say, "Where you were assigned during the war." [Laughter] So, Hardy?

Hardy [Frye]: Well, I grew up in the South. In 1956, I took the normal route of all young African-Americans at the time who could not find work, there were no jobs, so I joined the Army. And I had seen a couple of things before I went into the Army. In '56, I saw the Montgomery Bus Boycott. I lived in Tuskegee which was a few miles, 29 miles, from Montgomery, and my father participated in the boycott. So I saw it. But I went into the Army. And meanwhile, while I was in the Army, I found the Movement through Jet magazine basically.

Coming back to the States, getting out of the Army and was discharged, I joined CORE [Congress of Racial Equality]. There were still — jobs were not open like they are. So if you were going to the South, no jobs. So I flipped a coin between New York and Los Angeles, and I wound up in — the coin was bent on one side, because I had relatives in Los Angeles. I didn't have any in New York, so I went to Los Angeles, joined CORE.

Man: What year was that?

Hardy: 1959. In 1960, I participated in the first demonstration when we picketed the Democratic Convention at the Los Angeles Coliseum for the Civil Rights platform. So from that, I was working with CORE in California, and I transferred over to SNCC, Friends of SNCC. And from that, I ran off to Sacramento where I was going to college at Sacramento State. And I went to Mississippi in '64. I was in Holly Springs where I was based, and I also did organizing and worked in Fayette County, Tennessee which is right across the border, southeast of Memphis, on the Mississippi border.

I spent some time in Selma, when they called us over from Mississippi to the big demonstrations a few years later. And that was from '64 when I went down for the Summer Project through '67, '68. But I would go and go back to campus, go to college for a semester and go back down there for another semester, back and forth.

Matt: Where were you stationed abroad in your military service?

Hardy: Germany.

Joseph: Right. My name is Joseph Tieger. I grew up in New Jersey. I went to Duke University in '59. I was 16. I was pretty inexperienced in the world. Sit-ins happened in February of '60. I wasn't really ready for it. They passed. I knew it was happening, but I wasn't ready.

In February of '63, my senior year, I was in the Null&Void coffee house, the only desegregated place of public accommodation in Durham except Woolworth's and Kress and the bus station. A group of six people came in from the picket line, and it was like my destiny walked in and found me. And I went over and said, "How do I get with you?" There was going to be picketing beginning on March 1st for fair employment in downtown Durham. I picketed all spring and became a part of the group of maybe 15 people who were the core. And it was NAACP [National Association for the Advancement of Colored People] youth and CORE. Floyd McKissick in Durham, the advisor to the NAACP youth group, was also connected with CORE.

And for me, it was the equivalent of what the beloved community in Mississippi was. We all got very close with each other. It was crossing over into a world that I knew nothing about, but it felt like home when I got there. And that spring after Birmingham, there were demonstrations all over the South. In Durham there was a silent march from the North Carolina College campus to City Hall, probably 1000 people.

We broke up into about a dozen separate groups, staged sit-ins all over town, and I was asked to lead one of them,and it was kind of the beginning of my life in the Movement. From there, I worked with CORE from October '63 through May '64. Got out of jail and went to work for the SNCC office in Washington, came back south to work with the SNCC office in Atlanta, and then was a field worker in Eastern North Carolina through '65 and into June '66.

There's a story about how we happened to still be there in June '66, because nobody really knew we were there. We were two white people, and nobody returned our WATS calls, and Cleve Sellers didn't bother to come by and tell us to leave, so we just stayed on. And so on.

[WATS (Wide Area Telephone Service) was a precursor to 800 numbers and conference-calling.]

Joseph: There are a lot of stories off of that, but my life in the Movement really continued for another six years. I worked for Congressman John Conyers for a few months, staged the first public draft refusal in DC in the spring of '67, returned to North Carolina as an organizer for Vietnam Summer, went to Duke Law School to be a Movement lawyer, then practiced law in North Carolina for a couple years until July '72. So it was really about an almost 10-year stay.

Buzz: Benjamin Graham — Buzz Graham, actually. I was a senior in high school down in Los Angeles. I was taking some courses at UCLA, and I saw a sign that said, "Make History Instead of Studying." And that drew me into what was CORE at that time, housing discrimination. Then I went to college in Berkeley, and I was active there for some employment discrimination work. And then I went down to Mississippi, the Mississippi Summer Project. I was in Batesville, Mississippi and stayed there until about the end of December and then left.

Maria: Maria Gitin. Well, I was one of the smallest, shortest-term foot soldiers ever. I was in SCLC, SCOPE, and Friends of SNCC. And briefly in Selma was formally inducted into Selma SNCC because they needed to count more people working in my county. Although I am proud of my SNCC affiliation and hung out with SNCC kids before and after that summer, I was not in SNCC as a primary affiliation. I was more loyal to and identified with my county, Wilcox County AL which was pretty much organized by locals and by SCLC.And I was only there during the SCOPE project time period which was June, July, and part of August in Wilcox County, Alabama. The county seat, Camden, is just 37 miles from Selma in Dallas County.

Joseph: That was '65?

Maria: In '65. After Selma and before the passage of the Voting Rights Act. And it was one of the most violently segregated counties outside of Mississippi. It was extreme and daily harassment. Arrests, chasing, and shotguns and so forth. And I guess, if I stick to the rules, since we're supposed to talk about how it affected us later, I'll just stop there. Also, I want to mention that I finished six years writing a book about my experience which was published in February by University of Alabama Press, This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight, University of Alabama Press.

So, our topic between now and about one o'clock, which seems like a pretty long time, but once we get started — is to generally talk about our evaluation of the Freedom Movement. So, in some sense, because this is going to be looked at by historians after we're dead, this is a chance, rather than have somebody else interpret our history as we lived it, to talk about the broader issues of what we achieved, what we failed to achieve or what we could've done better, the challenges, the lessons we learned, and what did it all mean?


Evaluating the Freedom Movement

Maria: Interestingly, our conversation guide is designed so that we talk about our personal experience in the afternoon. So this is the broader topic. If you were writing the history from your own perspective and what you see as far as the changes that we made, that we all lived through, spanning it sounds like from the late '50s to the mid-'60s. So although we don't have somebody from the earliest, '53, but we almost span the era that is considered the Southern Civil Rights Movement. So who feels philosophical?

Steven: I always feel philosophical.

Maria: The writer, perfect.

Steven: Are we really tied to that time? I mean, I find it very difficult to talk about the impact of the Movement in that frame. I mean, I lived in the middle of Manhattan, and you say this was the most violent thing. I still live in a violent city. I still face the same realities, and if I'm honest, I think it's either more out now or more violent now, in some ways, than it was then.

And I think we're still balanced on a very thin rope between being able to tilt in the direction that would move toward the beloved community and one which would — what you call that — not just pie in the sky, but subversive, and I would reject it out of hand.


Losing the Beloved Community

So I mean, for me, the whole thing died. My experience in Nashville and my prior experience in the '50s died at the end of the '60s, and I didn't have the same experience of elation when all of the so-called, "Great Society" got put in, because I felt that the weight of what had been put in our way was too huge to do anything about in the face of a life, of a very painful life with no — you know, I get emotional obviously about that.

["Great Society" refers to a slogan used by President Johnson in regards to his War on Poverty and related social programs that he proposed in the mid-1960s.]

Steven: It was lost, for me, not just when King was shot but when Malcolm was shot and when Kennedy was shot, and when Lyndon Johnson got up on the TV and said, "There will be no wider war," and I believed it.

[In his 1964 reelection campaign, President Johnson promised "There will be no wider war," and he vowed never to send American troops to fight in Vietnam. When the secret "Pentagon Papers" were later published, they revealed that at the time he was making those promises he had already set in motion plans to expand the war with U.S. combat forces.]

And that was the end for me. I remember getting it in Faneuil Hall, standing in front of some woman that had been his press secretary — Johnson's — and I said, "What was it like to work for a man who lied to the American people?" I didn't get an answer. But this is my life.


A New World

Hardy: Well, you and I are probably about the same age, but I think that it was dramatically different for me. One, see, I grew up in the South. And I grew up in a unique situation. I grew up at Tuskegee, so I had a sense of Black history, and it was just two different worlds — Black world and white world — and that was it. What the Movement did for me, I think, was open up a broader world from Tuskegee to Berkeley. I wrote an essay about my travels and all the things I went through to Berkeley where I got a Ph.D., and all the Movements in between those two.

I think for me, as I said earlier, I was on the correct path for Black youth my age when Montgomery happened. I was in high school, somewhat bored with high school. Montgomery exploded, and I remember asking my father, "What's the big deal? You always get on the back of the bus. I mean, you pay your money, and you get on the back of the bus. What's the big deal?" And my father talked to me, and I saw my father travel 40 miles just to buy groceries and all that, but I didn't have a context to put it in.

[" 40 miles just to buy groceries..." refers to the Tuskegee Merchant Boycott of 1957 that defeated a racial gerrymandering scheme by the Alabama legislature designed to prevent Black voters from participating in municiple elections.]

Hardy: When I'm teaching a course now [at U.C. Berkeley], I can pull out some of the context. I had no context back then. So I was just going through these experiences, and the experiences I was going through were, how do you make it? Well, you join the Army, because the Army can give you — it might've killed you and all that, but you join the Army, because it can give you the GI Bill.

["GI Bill" refers to legislation first passed during World War II that granted military veterans cash payments for tuition and living expenses to attend college, low-cost home mortgages, low-interest loans to start a business, and so forth.]

Hardy: It can give you extra points for [obtaining] a civil service job, blah-blah-blah-blah. But just one more point about the world I grew up in. It's amazing to me how [today] I see all these Black athletes in all these schools, and I grew up 19 miles from Auburn and they didn't even let Blacks in the stadium. The only way we could watch a football game was look through the hedges.

So this whole thing coming along, and I got to follow it by being in the Army because I was in the Army when the Army was going through its integration stages. I was one of the first after that, and we had a lot of fights. We would literally — it was a situation where we could be integrated on the post and then go outside the post and be back in a segregated world. So I was picking up Jet magazine and reading about this stuff when I was in Germany and becoming more politicized. And reading what Martin Luther King was saying and all that kind of stuff. And partly, it made me question war and made me question a whole lot of things that I had not done before.

And so when I came back to the States and decided I wanted to move to California, one of the first things I did was join CORE. And it was very interesting, because back in 1963, I sit-in for my first time. We sit around the little rotunda in the California [Capitol building] for three weeks because of housing segregation in 1963.

[Landlords in California commonly made rental decisions based on race, relators did the same regarding home sales, and banks used race to determine who could get a home mortgage. The purpose was to create and maintain segregated white, Black, Latino, and Asian neighborhoods. CORE and other civil rights groups fought for "open housing" legislation to outlaw these practices. The sit-in Hardy participated in was one of those protests. A Fair Housing Act was finally passed in 1963. In 1964, the Real Estate Association joined with the Republican Party and the right-wing John Birch Society to submit Proposition 14 to the voters who passed it by a two-thirds majority. Proposition 14 nullified the Fair Housing Act. In 1966 the California Supreme Court overturned Proposition 14 and restored the Fair Housing Act. Governor Edmond "Pat" Brown, a fair housing supporter, was then defeated by Ronald Reagan, a Proposition 14 supporter who declared, "If an individual wants to discriminate against Negroes or others in selling or renting his home, he has a right to do so."]

Hardy: So I got introduced to a whole other set of people who — my life without the Movement, my life would never have been able to meet [those[ people. It introduced me to a white world, which I had no experience with, because I grew up in a Black world. And it also made friends for life.

Then when I went to Mississippi, they were debating all these issues, which I had never been introduced to. And so I started reading a lot, and so it focused my — it turned my whole life around, where I have been active for the last 50 years. One thing that I think I wrote about in one of my books was that the unique thing about what the Movement did was it allowed me to move around this country and I met people with different experiences, with different backgrounds and all that thing. So it opened up a whole world to me that was not there and was not even on a projection to be there.

And something we won, just to give you an example, when I was in the Army, we traveled integrated, we were traveling from Houston, Texas to West Pecos Texas, and I was in charge of the meal tickets, and I had a lot of white troops with me, and they wouldn't serve me in Pecos Texas, right? And I said, "Fuck you." Excuse my language. "If I can't eat, they don't eat." So the white soldiers — we went across the street and got some bologna, and we all ate it. And the sheriff says to me, "Don't you ever come through this town again, Pecos, Texas, you better fly over it or something."

When I lived in L.A. [before the Movement] I lived in an all Black world, South Central. Alameda to Figueroa, 82nd Street to Wilmington, that's it. So those kinds of experiences, [the Movement] opened up that kind of world that — I became an academic, probably because I got interesting ideas and marks in debate, all that stuff that I never thought about before. So for me, it's been a guide to my intellectual and my actual life for the last 50 years, because I wound up either reading or talking or seeing somebody I know that was in the Movement, and that makes a big difference when you know the people after 50 years. So that's what it did for me.

Joseph: I think — it's such a big topic, and it's kind of hard to keep personal stories ... I don't think I'm going to try that.

Maria: No, I think everybody's doing a great job, and I think we'll just do this — go around, because I think the personal stories have to come out first before we can get to the abstract.


What We Lost

Joseph: Yeah, I'm very suspicious of philosophy without personal grounding. Well obviously, in some ways, the Movement succeeded magnificently. I mean, I'm glad that the bus came along and I got on it when I did in February of '63, before Birmingham. Something changed after Birmingham, but at that point, just desegregating places of public accommodation looked gigantic. It looked like, "Yes, we've got spirit, and we've got determination, and we've got dedication, but this is one tough mountain." And we scaled it. We did that.

It meant then, what's the point of being able to get a hamburger if you can't afford it? And all of that. So once that was accomplished, then we began to see what the mountain range looked like. And I guess whether it was a success or not depends on what's the "it?" Other things happened that were tremendously important for me personally, and I think for the culture. When I went into it, I still kind of believed, even for the first year or so, that the federal government was an ally and that the problem was racists in the South.

Maria: Yeah, didn't we all?

Joseph: We all did. It's kind of hard to remember that, but we all did. So that changed. I'm really interested, not only in the external issues of desegregating this or opening up that, but the spirit that we brought to it and that sense of beloved community and what happened to that. So it's kind of a two-track thing. And I think we did get crushed like bugs, as far as belief in — in the experience of beloved community. It did not survive long in the face of the repression, and the FBI. Discovering that the federal government was not our ally is kind of hard to take. Just beginning to experience the FBI's indifference, much less its COINTELPRO later was hard to take.

[COINTELPRO was the FBI's secret and illegal campaign to disrupt the Movement, personally destroy Dr. King, and maintain the racist status-quo. See FBI's COINTELPRO Targets the Movement for more information.]

Joseph: And what was really hard to take was the way that it disrupted the relationships between Blacks and whites in the Movement itself. That was a real blow. That was very hard for me. Coming in with that experience of the glory days of being absolutely dedicated, absolutely trusting one another, absolutely relying on one another, putting our lives in each other's hands, and then coming to the place where I got verbally attacked by Willie Ricks in the SNCC office for being whatever it was that I was. It was really hard, and nobody else in the room — Jack Minnis or anybody else — speaking up and saying, "Lay off of him. He's okay. His heart's in the right place." Everybody was intimidated. And something terrible was lost there.

And I don't know that it's ever really been consciously healed. I mean, we've gone on beyond it, but we haven't. Or maybe we are. Maybe this is the way that we're doing it, but it was a pain that I carried with me for a long time, because I still felt committed. I still felt dedicated, but I felt that there was a wall now. And I understood why there was too. It wasn't that I was naive about it. I understood why that assertion was necessary, at least I think I did. I think I've maintained that vision of beloved community regardless, improbable as it seems.

And it seems to me, fast-forwarding 40, 50 years forward to where we are now as we look at our — going from being able to eat in a restaurant to having the money to pay for the restaurant, to what's being served in the restaurant, to the destruction of our food sources, to global warming and mass starvation and what we are facing — I can't see how we are going to, I don't know whether we're going to survive it as a species. I think that's very much an open question. The really interesting issue to me is we might be on our way to being wiped out, to wiping ourselves out. That's entirely possible.

Even if we are, what's our spirit going to be as a species as we go into that? That's the one variable that's open to us. And in the extremity of facing mass extinction, can we come together with our hearts open and learn to cooperate with one another as a species, as a people? Never mind across racial and class lines, across all lines. It seems to me that that's the test for humanity now that we're facing. So that intimation of beloved community that I had is very much alive in me.

It seems to me that, basically, we were not equipped psychologically, or in any other way, to deal with the shit that came down. And I think that maybe we didn't realize how deep it went: that it wasn't just evil racists; it wasn't just Southern sheriffs; that, in fact, that capacity to not treat one another as allies lay within each of us. And so I think that this is a big topic, and I think it opens up great depths. And I think it's, in some ways, significant for us at this moment, not just in historical evaluation. How do we love one another? Including in the face of the brutalities that we have visited on each other? Our whole species basically is living off of eons of mistreating one another, and in every direction. The political liberation cannot be separate from the psychological liberation and the spiritual liberation, it seems to me. Maybe I'll stop there, because this is going pretty global.

Hardy: Can I ask you one question? Where I agree with your personal analysis, the question that keeps coming to my mind is, nobody in all the social science literature that I've read over the last 40-50 years predicted we were going to do what we did. I don't know any — in the books I've read — where they predicted what we did. I mean, that's a mighty big question. I mean, nobody predicted it. What happened, what we did in the '60s, nobody predicted it.

Joseph: That's right.

Hardy: None of the best scholars predicted it, and everybody thought we were in some kind of caste system that was going to be there forever. If you take that perspective, then it seems to me that we kind of might be in a little bit more healthy place than — because at least it's being debated. At least issues are being put on the table, and they're being put on the table raw. And they're being put on the table with all these things that happened. I mean, I was a friend of Frank Cieciorka. He and I did our first picket line together — in Mississippi, I mean.

He died a few years ago. He was the one who did all the Black John Brown paintings in SNCC. And you know, I just think that nobody predicted it where we're at now. People are talking, and they're raising their voices, and they're raising the question. That's what the Black community, they talk about the environment. That was not a part of this question [back then]. So anyway, I just think that maybe in some of this, you can't predict. You can't say that it's going to be — that world that we want to make out there, just you can't predict.

[So] I just wanted to challenge my colleague a little bit. Because of course we write about it and read about it a lot. And I just find it amazing that when I was researching and read all the literature for 40 years, I didn't find one where we did. That's to me the big question.

Joseph: And I agree with you.

Maria: I just want to take a minute to welcome Betty Mae Fikes.

Maria: One of our super stars of the Movement. I mean, we know we're all equal, but you know, she's more equal. [Laughter] Anyway, Betty, I just want to tell you what we're doing right now since it's all being recorded, and it'll make it easier for the transcribers is that at this point, and right after this round we'll go to you. People were saying where they were, what years, what they did. A little bit about that, and then we're kind of philosophizing about where the Movement succeeded, where it failed, the victories, the losses, what kind of challenges there were, and the lessons we learned and what it all meant. And so Steven Rose who was in CORE and SNCC and SCLC and also an author has spoken and Hardy and Joseph Tieger. And Hardy was — did you finish that thought?

Hardy: I'm not saying that somebody didn't have a road map. Maybe Trotsky or somebody had a road map, but I'm talking about actually predicting it? I didn't grow up thinking that I was going to see something different, that I was going to have a different lifestyle, that I was going to be able to go to a school with white kids and all this. None of that was there.

Buzz: Or that we'd have a Black president.

Hardy: Whatever you think about it. But you're right. And I just think that what we seeing is the hostility that makes us feel uncomfortable, all of us. That we had to go through that stage. You couldn't — we had to go through that stage. There's no way around it.

Maria: I think Matt has been wanting to — 

Matt: I have to agree with Hardy. I keep thinking of Dickens' introduction to the Tale of Two Cities. "It was the best of times, and it was the worst of times." I don't think anyone could predict what the Movement would — that this coming together of local Black leadership and local folks and largely college educated white and Black kids coming South and that merging together would create this mysterious, wonderful, strange confluence of power that the Civil Rights Movement became.

And if you look historically at what happened to the country, it's hard to find another popular Movement that created so much change in such a short time. So, it was the best of times, and I know that photographing it that I was always aware that I was shooting history. And I took many photographs that I wouldn't have otherwise if I was just filling an assignment, because I wanted that record there.

On the other hand, here we are today [2014] with maybe the most toxic politics the country has had. So are we heading down the drain? Or is the beginning of a great new era? If I look at Washington, I'm very depressed. But there are things that give me hope. If I look at kids in high school today, I think that they are less race conscious and more open to diversity, not only of color but LGBT and everything else. I have two grandchildren who are gay, and they're just moving smoothly into the world. So I'm not sure whether what we're seeing in Washington is the dying struggles of a conservative beast, or whether it's going to take over.

Certainly, if you look at the Supreme Court cases, you have to be depressed.

[A few days before this conference in April of 2014, the Supreme Court overturned federal campaign-contribution limits. In essence, their 5-4 decision in McCutcheon v Federal Election Commission opened the door for wealthy individuals and corporations to spend unlimited amounts of money to sway elections. This was just the most recent in a long string of highly partisan, pro-corporate and anti-democratic decisions in which the 5 Republican members of the court defeated the 4 Democratic appointees.]

Matt: But if I look at the country, I'm not so sure that things are all that bad, and I think only time will tell. Hardy was talking about his Army experience, and that's very interesting to me. I've been thinking a lot about what it meant to grow up in the South, join the Army, go to someplace like Germany which was essentially — if it wasn't a racist society, maybe Germany after the war was at least kind of neutral or not very concerned with race. And I know it had a profound effect on a lot of GIs who were there. And if you look at people who came back from military service, back to the South, you've got people like Medgar Evers, Charles Evers, Amzie Moore, Aaron Henry, and Hardy. These were people who were transformed by their military experience and decided they weren't going to take it anymore. They were going to do something about it. And I think that was — I don't think we give enough emphasis in evaluating the Movement about how important that was.

Maria: Every leader in my county — every African-American male leader — was a military veteran. In Wilcox almost everyone who was older had done service.

Matt: How could you come out of the Army and go back into the South and bow your head and go on with things as they were? It was a moment of transformation. So I guess that's where I come down on the whole thing.


A Nonviolent Army

Buzz: So I went back to Mississippi ten years ago for a reunion, got my souvenir T-shirt. And I was really gratified with what I saw, you know, Black policemen, going into a restaurant and not only Black people but interracial couples. Nobody was batting an eye. And you know, my sense that this sort of fear and repression really had lifted from the state. And I think that was really extraordinary.

You know, as has been said, if you don't have the money to go to a restaurant, what good is it if it's integrated? And certainly, we have not been able to, I think, really grapple with economics and the inequality, which remains a big problem. And we're beginning to sort of grapple with health care which is my particular interest in my profession, and I think now realizing that really everybody needs health care, and that's something that was not really on the table for awhile.

Also, in terms of some of the things that you said, Joe, in terms of the problems that we got into, I think there was really a lot of post-traumatic stress disorder, and I think at that point 50 years ago, we didn't understand what that was or how it affected people. And more and more, I kind of understand that we were basically a nonviolent army, and a lot of the problems that the military vets had when they came home were problems that we face then and still face now. And I think that whole issue of the violence that we faced and the fear really did affect our psyche, and we just really didn't quite understand or have the means to understand how that affected us. And in some ways, that may have been a bigger factor than the FBI or some of the external forces that were put on us.


Young & Old, What We Accomplished

Maria: I think the achievements of the Movement were phenomenal, and everybody here has pretty much articulated that, that it was astounding that a few young leaders — I mean, Dr. King, Hosea [Williams], [James] Lawson — they were only a few years older than we were. Everybody was kids. And the things that people did in Selma, in Birmingham, in Montgomery. I'm reading a book now by Rufus Burrow Jr. It's not out yet, but he asked me to preview it, it's title is, And a Child Shall Lead Them. And he really drew out how almost every one in the Movement was kids. I mean, elementary kids, and high school kids like Betty Mae Fikes and Charles Bonner coming out at 15, 16 years old, getting arrested, and then we college students — I was 19 — to be so inspired by the risks that they were taking.

When you are young you have that sense of justice and injustice, which any right thinking person of any background should have, but young people in particular had this sense that segregation was wrong, that it should not be happening. And for me, seeing Bloody Sunday on a friend's television was just like, "This is a total outrage. I have to go do something, immediately. I have to go do something about it."

To me, one of the most important aspects of the Movement was that it did bring together youth of different backgrounds and yet we respected our elders. When Mrs. Septima Clark taught us how to sing, or Dorothy Cotton told us we had to wear dresses all summer while we were climbing over fences and running from the Klan for God's sake. You know, we respected them, and yet some people thought that we were a bunch of wild — I think one of the things people need to understand is that we really were a nonviolent army. And we were organized. At least in our county where there was so much violence and such a Klan presence and a violent Sheriff.

You had to report where you were; you had to have a partner to go anywhere; you had these various safe houses to go to when we were being chased. So I think the whole organization aspect of it is another, I think you know we're really bringing out the military thing, because when I started talking to people [in Wilcox County], they had all been [military] vets. And they were the most nonviolent people. I mean, they were leaders, but they had had that experience of coming back and having that perspective of how wrong it was where they were.

Two key things that I don't believe most people understand are, one, the nearly military level of organization which included many adult leaders who had actually been in the US Military and two, the level of cooperation between adults and youth. Of course we had some rogue workers and not every one followed the rules. But, in my county at least, these were big factors.

Those ladies — church ladies, as I called them — if they told me, "Stay away from that young man," or "Go here," or "Do this," or "Don't be standing in front of the children to get your food." They had to teach us white kids how to act. So I feel that that intergenerational cooperation and multiracial cooperation was really important.

As we talk about accomplishments of the Movement, we should not leave aside the fact that we got all these laws passed. I mean, the 1964 Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, endless state and local legislation, all the desegregation, affirmative action. All the sacrifice and trauma that people went through — and many of you went through much more than I did — we put our lives on the line in a time when in some places we did have empathetic media and we had compassionate photographers, so that the story got out and it did change hearts and minds, and it brought money and funding and votes and changed this country. I think it was a phenomenal Movement.

What we failed to achieve was to have the wherewithal to deal with all the things that came down to suppress the Movement. We didn't have the strategy, resources, or maybe even the will to keep it going in that format. But I, like Hardy and Matt, am pretty optimistic actually. I certainly had some very difficult years coming back but then got involved in the Women's Movement and doing battered-women and spousal-abuse work, and then later got back into race work. And like Hardy, I continued to always have interracial friends. I definitely got — I was thrown out of SNCC and officially dis-membered or whatever. I mean, not dismembered like cut up, but ... [Laughter]

I had not been through all that some of you have, and I have sat with many, many white SNCC friends, and they have sobbed about it. But part of coming in later with the SCOPE project in '65 is we had an orientation where we were told that we were temporary extra help and that we were there to support Black leaders, and we were not to be leaders, and we were not equals. We were to be allies and supporters, and I relished that role. So I knew that I was part of this historic Movement, a small part, and then I was going to have to let it go.

And yes, the Black Power experience, as expressed here in the Bay Area where I was at San Francisco State, and Oakland, was way more separate than I had ever imagined. And I will not say that — I mean, it definitely caused me pain, but I remained friends with Charles [Bonner]. I lived at the house with Jan and Charles from Selma SNCC, so we had kind of a different integration.

However, we failed to keep the healthy aspects of the Movement alive, at least right away when we returned. We became hippies, basically, and then later we went back to school or dropped out or whatever we did. So for me, for my lesson from the Movement was finding a role how to be a white ally and to not take the post-Movement separation between Black and white so hard. I had grown up in a poor family that was sometimes abusive towards girl children, I had some very difficult times coming up. I was one of the poor Northern kids who went South — it helped me not have so much pain around the separation, because I understood it in the historic context.

They gave us all these books to read. I had read Fanon's — and I'm like, "Oh shit, I am an oppressor! Damn, I don't want to be an oppressor!" But I could see it was neccessary as Hardy said, that period of having to go through the anger and revolution. I'll be honest, it hurt like hell to accept white privilege when I felt I came from an underprivileged background but reading the philosophy and discussing it with Charles Bonner and others, made it comprehensible.

And it gave me life skills of being able the rest of my life to canvas for voters, walk precincts in communities of color. Despite their shortcomings, I've stuck with the Democratic Party. I still register voters in communities of color — mostly Latino now. I go out and canvas, walk precinct. I find the best diverse candidate I can and just work for them. And I've always done that, so I think that's why I feel optimistic and hopeful, because I'm almost always around people who are still working on making a difference. So even if we're kind of up against it, which we usually are with whatever cause you're in, then you have these victories where you do get your first Black President elected. That was a day we just sat and cried with joy and said, "You know, we made this happen. We're part of this."

So to me, it meant that humans in this country, young and old, Black and white, and others can come together and make social change. And I have faith — I have to have faith, because I would be so discouraged if I didn't — have faith in our young people that there will be another Movement of some kind, and it won't look like ours, and it won't sound like ours. I see some leaders, like Ben Jealous the recent CEO of the NAACP; he's an amazing leader who has organized many effective, well covered protests against hate crimes and police abuse.

So Bettie, now it's your turn.


A Spiritual Struggle

Bettie: My name is Betty Fikes, and I bring you greetings from Los Angeles, California by the way of Selma, Alabama. And I'm really tired. It's what you're speaking of, yes, it's going on in the children. I have blisters on my feet, because I left Minnesota yesterday afternoon and didn't get here until this morning, and didn't get settled in until 2 o'clock, and that let me know that I'm still fighting for freedom. How many times have we walked to get blisters on our feet?

But I travel the country, going to different schools, Marshall. As a matter of fact, I flew in from here last week for the Martin Luther King Center with all the students that wanted to know all about SNCC and their work. Saturday night I was at Allen Temple [in Oakland] with Congressman Barbara Lee which was a great turnout of youth. So the things that we did 50 years ago still have an impact today, not as broad as we would like for it to be. And I speak practically every day or every other day that the good and the bad — we won a lot of battles, but the war has not been completely won. And do you think it ever will be?

I still use the quote that the Doctor Reverend Martin Luther King said, "I might not get there with you." But as a child from Selma, I didn't think that we were making history — didn't have a clue. I didn't even know that my parents did not have a right to vote, even though as a child I could see the difference traveling to different parts of the state and the country. And when the Movement came about, it gave me another avenue to look at. And when I got involved, I didn't think it was very serious. I just thought it was something that we were going to do to make a change. There would be no violence, because Selma was a pretty sturdy place. We didn't know that there were so many sheeps in wool's clothing.

Our city was entwined on television and in the history books, the only thing that I remember that we did was the colored and white fountains. I didn't know the prejudice that was going on in my own city, because we all got along. You know, you grew up thinking, "This is the way it is supposed to be." Until you find out there's a change. You know something is wrong from a child's eye, but you don't understand what is wrong. And when Bernard Lafayette and John Lewis and Worth Long, all of them came to the city of Selma to tell us, well, all we were to do was to pass out leaflets for a mass meeting.

Maria: And just for the record, could you say the year that you remember that happening?

Bettie: That was around '63 I think it was. And in that, I just thought the people would come together, and they would not so much organize, just right the wrong. And everybody would go back to the North, but it did not happen that way. And the ending of it was just like you all were talking about. It was like men and women that have fought in the Vietnam War. Some of their lives were never the same again.

And when I travel to schools today, they ask the question, "Were we afraid?" And I have to stop and think, because I've been traveling so fast, I forgot that it has been 50 years for me. I've been celebrating 50 years' history for everybody else, and last year, it just dawned on me, "My God, you've been fighting this for 50 years, now you've become the person that you used to call old grandmother, now you're the old grandmother." [Laughter] "Now you need somebody to fight for you."

Because all the things that we fought for have still not really been changed. We have been fighting for some of the same things over and over and over again, and even though we've had tremendous change in things — as you say, the Black President — we can go to any restaurant, we can ride the city buses now, we fought for interstate transportation, you can sit anywhere on any bus going from state to state, all these things we must say we were a part of to make that change. Now we look at we're still fighting a bigger war, and always like I was telling the children yesterday, now we're fighting something we can't see. We are in a spiritual warfare, and it's so entwined that you don't know what it is until it hits.

And if you're not prepared for it — because 50 years ago, the fight then was so spiritual. It wasn't like religious; it was spiritual. People were coming together and like what you were saying, you were dismembered. See, I didn't know anything about that. You know, my thing has always been about love, treating people the way you want to be treated. My old grandmother instilled that into us daily. You must treat people the way you want to be treated. And I thank God that even with the whites that I was around, I never found too much of the anger until the Movement, but in that, it brought me to this place that I am in today.

And when they ask the question, "Why?" And I look back, and I look at everybody coming together, all nationalities uniting, and there's one thing we had was the singing that brought so much joy, and the spirituality, and I tell people, "The reason you don't have a Movement today is because you have no spirituality." Hearts are not reaching out anymore. We're not touching each other anymore. We sit in our room with closed doors, like we did 50 years ago, but when you come out of the closed doors, you're supposed to go back to your communities and work. And I'm doing that with the children today.

And at the Martin Luther King Center here [King Research & Education Institute at Stanford], I travel all over the country, not staying in hotels but camping outside, living the history. I just told Roy last week, even though I was tired, I could not turn them down, because it made me feel so much like the things we did 50 years ago, and to see kids so eager to get out there and to do it all over again. And to let them know that there can be another change; the only difference is, we marched; we protested.

It's a different time today, and you know, look at the modern technology. But the modern technology is oppressive also, because it took us away from each other. Nobody's writing or communicating anymore. I'm sitting in the airport, and I see everybody on their phones, and I sit in restaurants, and there are a couple sitting there, but still, they're texting. You know, we're still oppressed in another way. And where's there's oppression there's always — but then now, when I go to schools and sit up and look at all this diversity that we fought so hard for, and I know then that, "Wow, it's something that we did back then that worked. We're standing on the shoulders of many, and we've still got work to do."

My friend, Matthew Jones, wrote a song that was so relevant for today, and when he wrote it, he said, "Who would've thought we'd still be fighting 30, 40 years down the line?" Now it's been 50, 60 years down the line, and some longer than that. But we look at the change from the Black Panther, and even though people thought it started here in Oakland, our history has been so twisted up, and researched wrongly. And even to the credit of the people, and we have gotten to the point now that I had to correct the people yesterday because they said that I was an original Freedom Rider. And I said, "No, no, no."

I'm a Freedom Singer, and I'm a Freedom Fighter. I just tell the story of the Freedom Riders, because all of that is entwined. And I find that sometimes we've gotten to the point where we've got to be careful of what we say, because we don't want to take it out of context. "Oh no, she was not a Freedom Rider." But when I tell the stories, I am a Freedom Rider, because in my mind, even as a child, I wonder what was going through their minds when they were sitting on that bus, heading to Aniston and different parts of Mississippi, knowing that a mob was waiting on them.

[In Mississippi and elsewhere in the South, the Black community often referred to all Movement activists — Black and white — as "Freedom Riders" whether they were on the buses in 1961 or not.]

Yes, I am a Freedom Rider, because I could feel the humiliation. I could feel the abuse. But today, everything has to be so {UNCLEAR} that — I'm sorry. And I don't want to take an honor from anyone or anybody, but when I tell the story, I want to tell it so that the youth, like the youth that we were today, can take a grasp and go into their community to know that you can say, "Well, I am."

And the only thing like — my performance went over very well. I was in Minneapolis the last of February up until the 1st of March, and it went over so well that I was invited back this week, and I told them I couldn't come because I had promised a group of SNCC people that I would be here on the 5th. And they promised, "Ms. Fikes, if you come, we'll fly you out on the 2nd and fly you back in on the 4th." So I'm very tired, but in telling that, I was saying that I don't want anyone to think I'm trying to take credit from anyone. Stories have to be told. No one realizes, especially the youth today, I tell them, "Thirty years from today, most of the youth will think that Martin Luther King was a white man."

They haven't been taught, and we're not teaching our younger generation today. And even though all of you are fighters, fought the war, so many of the young don't know anything about it. And I would always ask them to "raise your hands if you've heard of Fannie Lou Hamer. Raise your hands if you've heard of John Lewis, a Congressman." And that is in our 50-year history. I'm not talking about slavery time. So that means that not only the parents aren't on the job that was there; that means that the teachers are not on their jobs; and most of the students are not interested enough to research the job. So we still have got a long way to go.

And I just love to think that I'm just so blessed to have the good and bad of both worlds. And I tell the children that Martin Luther King and Malcolm X and James Baldwin and Fannie Lou Hamer are legends to you today, but they were just "Freedom Fighters" to us, Uncle Martin and Mama Fannie. And I am so blessed that they took me under their wings, and that's the reason that I to do what I do today. Why? Because somebody did it for me. And I don't do it for the legend. I do it for unsung heroes, the ones whose names are not in history books. Like you guys. Your names are not mentioned in documentaries too much. And some of the books that have been written — your names have been written and talked about. That still comes in few numbers. We had warriors. We had foot soldiers that made my life as rich as it is today. I don't have a lot of money. As a matter of fact, most of the Freedom Fighters have no money, but I'm very rich.

And I thank you for all the ones that went before me. And that's why I have to do what I do, because you all laid the foundation for so many of us. And I was so glad to be a part of that history.

Maria: Thank you.

Matt: Amen. Did you ever know a woman in Selma named Doris [Wilson]? She was on the March. I photographed her many, many times, and I would love to find where she is today.

Bettie: I don't know. Most of the people — You know, the name — I'm good at faces, but not names anymore. And then most of the people I know back then — when I go home now, they tell me they're all dead. That's — Wilson. I don't know.

Matt: I met her on the March, and she was — she really came alive on the March, and everybody photographed her. But I'm trying to connect with some of the people that I photographed, and she was [...]. I've got thousands of Civil Rights photographs on my website. And when you're talking to kids, you could refer them to the site. Because I'm trying to do the same thing, that is, keep the history alive, educate young children and so on. So that might be a resource.



The Changes Wrought by Black Political Power

Hardy: I wrote this book on the independent Black political parties, so I spent three years — two to three years back in the Black Belt, in Lowndes County and Macon County and Hale County in Alabama, because there was a Black political party. It was integrated, but really mostly Black, 90% Black — the National Democratic Party of Alabama. They were the ones that are responsible for all the Black political leadership in Alabama now, and a lot of those people are a direct result of what we did. And that makes a big difference. I mean, you know, even when I get irritated by the right wing, I have to balance the fact — I don't care that much for the President [Obama], he's okay, but if {UNCLEAR}. The fact is the American people voted for him twice.

Buzz: And waited for eight hours to do it [referring to the long lines at polling stations in heavily Black precincts].

Hardy: I mean, the fact is, a Black President? I never thought I would see a Black President. But you know, I think the right wing — I mean, you know, when you go to these small counties — that's what I did in my book — I looked at the Black Belt counties, and you see the politics there, man. It's a big difference than when we were going through there [in the 1960s].

[Group reconvenes]

Hardy: I just wanted to make — we were talking about change, and I want to give three examples of — when I was doing the research for this book I wrote on Alabama politics, on the National Democratic Party of Alabama which was a Black offshoot of what we had done earlier. This was in the Black Belt counties of Alabama where you got all the Black elected officials. One example, just talking about the climate and everything changing, on the day that George Wallace was shot, I was in Tuskegee, Alabama with my mother and she woke me up.

[In early 1972 (with Richard Nixon in the White House), George Wallace, the Governor of Alabama, was running for the Democratic presidential nomination against George McGovern, Hubert Humphrey, and others. On May 15, while campaigning in Maryland, he was shot several times by a white assailant. Wallace was permanently injured and never fully recovered.]

I had an interview with Sheriff John Hewlett in Lowndes County. Sheriff John Hewlett is the [second] Black sheriff in the South. So my mother woke me up, and she said, "You still going?" I said, "Why?" She said, "Well, did you hear George Wallace was shot?"

[Lowndes County, long known as "Bloody Lowndes," had been a Klan stronghold noted for its racist violence against Blacks. The shooting of Wallace was the kind of incident that in the 1960s might have incited retaliatory attacks against Blacks by white racists and law enforcement agents such as state troopers.]

I hadn't heard. She said he got shot in Maryland or somewhere. I said, "Yeah, I got to go, because I've got an interview. I got a chance to get this interview. I better go."

So I'm driving in Lowndes County, and I had a blowout in my car. And I look up, and there is this [white] Alabama state trooper, the hat, the whole thing. Pulls up behind me, and I'm going — I had flipped back to my SNCC days — don't say nothing, don't look .... And [he says], "Sir, can I help you?" I said, "No, no, no problem. I can get a ride. I can stop somebody." He said, "No, no, no. I can help you. I can give you a ride back to {UNCLEAR}. I said, "No, no, no. Don't do it. I got it." And so he drove [off], because I was still in the mindset of '64. This is '72, I guess it is. And when I get the tire fixed, and then I drive into town, [Hayneville], the county seat, who walks into the office reporting to the Black sheriff but the state trooper. "Oh, you got the car fixed? How you doing?" [Laughter] That's Alabama in '72.

The second thing is — one of the things I saw when I was writing about these counties was a lot of these counties have Black sheriffs [and other officials] now. That made a tremendous difference. And the number of people that got shot by — "he ran," beat up by the cops on Friday, Saturday night. The fact that people could — the whole climate of crime and police violence was different than before.

And the final point, the key point, Black migration. If you look at the history of these counties, before, during the period I was working with SNCC and stuff, every May was "Get out of town month." What they meant was these kids were graduating from high school, and come May, they head North.

Joseph: The bus station.

Hardy: The Greyhound bus was loaded with these kids being migrated to the North. Migration, our migration has declined significantly since, in these counties.

Matt: And it reversed in many cases, people coming back.

Hardy: Yeah, you're right. But what's important, a lot of the young talent they were losing — [some are[ still migrating, but it's not the impact [that it once had]. Now, to me, it's a result of breaking the back of — we broke the back of the South and the kind of caste [system] that existed before, before we went in there.

And that's why I think you see — one of my first kids I got to work for me, named [Rodney Barry], he worked for me in Holly Springs, [became] the State Director of Education for the State of Mississippi. A Black kid that got into SNCC when he was 14 years old. So I mean, it might not — we got all these bigger problems, I agree, but I want to tell you something. And the final thing is, I drove 30-some-thousand miles around that state for three years, and I was not — and didn't have the fear that I had ten years earlier. I didn't fear cops.

Matt: That was a big change in Mississippi. The fear was gone. When I went back for a reunion, I couldn't — something's different about the state. What is it? You know, I could see a lot of things that were different, and finally Jenette King, Ed King's boy said to me, "The difference is, the fear is gone."

Hardy: And I don't think that would've happened without — I'm not convinced that that would've happened but for the fact that we chose to go. Now remember, we were only what? Nine hundred some people. Maybe a little over a thousand [participating in Freedom Summer of 1964]. That ain't a lot of people to make the kind of significant change that I think we did.

[Eleanor Walden joins the group]


A Movement Cultural Worker

Maria: So I'd like to get Eleanor in on some things before we break for lunch.

Eleanor:: I'm Eleanor Walden. I was a singer. I am a singer. And so my part of the Movement was cultural work, and I sang with Bernice Reagan and sometimes with the SNCC Singers, occasionally.

I think the achievement that I think was best was that we [a group of singers] went around the Southern colleges in what I was told was the first integrated tour of Southern colleges. Let's see, Len Chandler was with us, Bernice [Reagon], Pete Seeger came for a little while, Cordell Reagan. Many whose names of course I can't remember. But the idea of not only the songs in the demonstrations buoying up the people and giving them the courage to go to jail and run ahead of the police cars and so forth, but that as a cultural worker — that's how I defined myself — that was so much a part of the fabric of the Movement. It wasn't entertainment.

And I point that out to this very day at places I go. You know, they'll introduce the speakers, but they will not introduce the singers, because we're entertainment. But we're not; we're cultural workers.

And I learned so much on that trip. First of all, I'm from New York City, and I had very deep prejudices about the South. Any white person with a Southern accent had to be a bigot and a bastard. What I learned was that that wasn't necessarily true, because I met Miles Horton, and I met Don West. And I met Howard Zinn — well, he wasn't a Southerner, but some of the people who were the most clear about race relations and the need for justice and equality were some of those white people, and it was shocking to me. So I felt that — I mean, I went South in '64 because of what was happening, and I came from a radical family in New York, so that was a natural for me. For the first time since — well, I was born in 1930, so I wasn't really too aware of what was going on, but my father was a Wobblie.

Maria: For the record, would you just say what a Wobblie is?

Eleanor:: Yeah, Industrial Workers of the World (IWW). And my cradle songs were "Rebel Girls," and the "Red Flag," and "Solidarity Forever."

Steven: And "Working Class, She's a Precious Pearl."

Eleanor:: And then I lived in the Village, Greenwich Village, and so I met Pete Seeger in Washington Square Park who started and encouraged the folk revival movement. So that was all part of who I am. And when I went South, I got involved in the Movement in that capacity. I worked a little bit at the SCLC office. I was at Highlander when there was the beginning of the formation of SNCC. And so my part in it was very dainty. I didn't have the boxing gloves on, but I think that what we did with the music and with being able to meet people — 

One thing that Bernice always reminds me of as a stupid Northerner. We stopped with our bus full of Black and white people at a grocery store [in Mississippi], and this little boy, Black boy, was outside of the store, and he wanted a soda pop. And you could tell he wanted that soda pop, and I was standing there. And I went over to him, and I said, "Do you want a soda?" And he said, "Yes, ma'am." And so I went into the store and took my dollar bill or whatever it was and got change for the little boy and brought it out to him and gave it to him.

And Bernice said I took my life in my hands. Now, to me that did not compute until I knew more about what the Civil Rights Movement was all about. And it's a memory that sticks in my mind because it's so outrageous. So it kind of encapsulates the — not horror, but something. Well, horror, yeah. The core of how disgusting, of how unjust, and I don't want to use cliches. It's just something that I remember as having changed my life and taught me something I did not know.

But also being a singer was something that elevated my spirit, and being together in that bus with people and singing was a triumph over the evil that we were seeing around us. And then I think the only thing other that I want to mention is that I lived in Atlanta during the '60s, and we created a group called the Atlanta Folk Music Society, and it was for fun. We got together; we sang, and Black and white — certainly as a Northerner and as a progressive, radical person, I had no concept of this. But then we decided to have a folk festival, so we went up to Helene, Georgia — Mount Helens? Anybody know? Anybody remember? Mount Helens, Georgia, I think it was. There was a big farm. And so we got everybody together, and we had hundreds of people, and we had a folk festival. And we got a letter from Jimmy Carter, who was then the Governor of Georgia, thanking us for having peacefully integrated the Georgia State Parks. That was another big shock, because all we were doing was having a normally good time.

Buzz: So I have a question for you. So you grew up sort of in a tradition of maybe secular music, folk music, and then you came South, and there was sort of this Gospel, Christian experience. And I wondered how that was for you? It was very different for me.

Eleanor:: Well, for me, it was the first time I saw Christianity in action. No, I was never brought up in the church, and my singing was of folk music revival and the IWW songs that I learned. But I realized the power of the church songs when they're applied to the conditions of the people. So that's the only way I can answer that.

Maria: So you were able to sing those songs with full heart and throat without reservation?

Eleanor:: Oh, absolutely. Oh yeah. Because the burning sensation for justice, for what Jesus is reported to have said, you know, "Love each other," that seemed pretty simple to me, but I'd never seen it in action before. And then the "We Shall Overcome" of course comes from the church song, and "We are Soldiers in the Army," you know, one right after the other. It made sense to me.

Steven: [To Buzz] What was your experience?

Buzz: Well, it was — you know, my tradition is Jewish, although I never really had much religious training. But it was really a whole — It was, I think, a whole new experience for me. And of course, as a civil rights worker, you go to church and you kind of give your little spiel, and of course I didn't know much about the Bible, but I tried to bone up and talk about that sort of thing. But, you know, as I kind of went and lived there, it became much more real to me in some way. That although I didn't, and I still don't buy in, in a membership sense, to Christianity, I think that whole spirit has stayed with me. I still have a very big interest in Gospel music, and I listen to it a lot. It just has really carried over.

Steven: I am married to a Jewish atheist, and every Sunday, when we were living in D.C., we would listen to stained glass bluegrass, and that was basically Ralph Stanley, people like that. I love Bernice. She is too much. Have you heard that? Ever heard this — my favorite is "Jacob's Ladder" that she does. That recording is too much.



Matt: Where do we go from here?

Maria: You mean King's question? Or lunch?

Matt: No, the group.

Maria: Oh, the group. [Laughter] Because you know that was his last book, Where Do We Go from Here?

Steven: I wanted to say I've found this very valuable today.

Maria: Well, you've all — everybody's contributed so much. We should probably take 5 minutes each, and then we'll be at lunch, to just maybe share an individual thought and feeling. This afternoon, we're going to talk a lot more about our feelings and our lives and what we've done with our lives since then, so there will be lots of time for personal stories.

So I'll just kick it off by saying that I feel more inspired than I expected to be. I was really looking forward to this, but I also know all the challenges that we're facing, and so many of us are getting older and have health issues. And there's a bittersweetness about the fact that Bruce really wants to record this, because he thinks we're all gonna be dead in a few years. [Laughter] But I'm grateful to be here, and I feel like we're a wonderful group. I know Betty will come and go as her phone and her spirit moves her.

Hardy: Well, being on the board when we came up with this idea, the Veterans, I decided I was — I was first saying, "Well, I don't know if I want to go just sit around and listen to war stories." [Laughter]

Hardy: But on the other hand, having been teaching for the last 40 years, college students, I know the effect of our website on these young people. And if we made any mistake, we probably should've video recorded it so that they can make their transition. Because I think too much of history is written about people who — I forget the guy — he's an old Movement guy, with the People's History.

Joseph: Howard Zinn?

Hardy: Howard Zinn. If we could video it in some way, so they can have a view of who the people were. Who the people were. Because too much in academia as well as public, we get the big person, and we don't understand anything about how these people, normal people, do it, and they change. And so this has been interesting to me, to just talk about — just sit around the table and talk about it. So thank you.

Matt: Two things occur to me, thinking ahead. One is I'm absolutely with you on the fate of the earth. I mean, if I think about two things I want to work on in the next few years, that's certainly one. And the other is Black incarceration, the fact that so many Black men — 

Hardy: Are in jail.

Matt: This is the latest way in which our government tries to deal with unrest in the population, it's jail. I mean these kids go from high school to jail, a lot of them. And I see a change maybe happening, but this is an issue that needs real work. And it could be something that some of us get involved in. The other thing is that I want to offer a resource. There are thousands of civil rights images on [my] website, and your students can download them for free, for papers or studies.

One of the things I've tried to do is to keep Civil Rights history alive. And so the pictures all have captions, and there are stories that go with the different portfolios. I just put up two portfolios, one on Black churches and the other called Klan Murder. It's about Chaney, Schwerner and Goodman. And it's a site that keeps growing. At any rate, please use it, and I'd appreciate if you tell me you're going to download images, but at least the watermarked ones on the site are available for people to use. And I also make my living by licensing them for publication, so that's a whole different side of it.

Buzz: Just one thing on sort of the influence of the Movement, a number of years ago, when there was this build-up to the Iraq War, I wrote a letter to President Bush, and I said, "You know, this situation with Saddam Hussein is very much similar to the situation in Mississippi. There was a lot of intimidation and fear, and Hussein had agreed to all these observers." So I said, "Why don't you send in a thousand observers like the Mississippi Summer Project and we could change the culture." And of course, George had other ideas.

But you know, I think one of the disappointments to me is that although the success was limited, we really did have a success, and we really had an approach that worked. But you're not really seeing that since then. I mean, the idea now is that you send in the guns, and we've all seen how limited that type of situation is to effect change. So that has not really been carried forward, I think, as any policy, and I think it's a little disappointing to me.

Matt: You know, every revolution in history was started in some way by the middle class. They were people who had some leisure, some education, and often a sense of grievance. It wasn't necessarily that they cared about the revolution, but they may have started it. What I see ahead is more and more economic disparity in this country and the middle class being more and more challenged by falling incomes, and so I was very hopeful when the 99% Movement got started, and I spent a lot of time on the streets, thinking, "Maybe this is it."

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

And obviously it was too soon, but I think there will be a coming revolution. I have to believe that, and I think it's going to resemble, in some way, the 99% thing, because that was really a cry from people who were hurting. We don't hurt enough yet to be there, but I think we're moving in that direction, and I hope I'm around for it.

Steve: I think you're going to be around for it. I've been involved mainly online, and I'm involved with Occupy people, and I'm involved with Anonymous people and other people.

["Anonymous" refers to a semi-clandestine, loose association of internet activists who engage in various forms of cyber-protest and digital direct action.]

And literally, now, is supposed to be two months of an effort to create globally 3.6% of humankind who will resonate to notions of serious change, and what characterizes it is a move away from confrontation to spirituality. But an embrace of what, in my background, which was Yippie stuff, an embrace of the symbolic actions that can begin to take advantage of the gullibility of the media and simply create things that people see. "Hoo! You saw somebody out there today. They were lying down in front of the bank. Why? Why was that?" Etc. And that's supposed to be happening now. I have not been in touch with media for a few days. I've been on a train. But I think if this is successful, we will all know about it within a couple of months.

Joseph: I think, again the question of whether it was successful depends on which "it" we're talking about. And as Hardy emphasizes on his own terms, in what we set out to do initially, we were immensely successful. We were so successful that we spawned all these other things that we saw needed to be — I mean, we saw more of the implications of what else needed to change. And I mean, all the other movements that got generated off of the Civil Rights Movement are astonishing. We couldn't have foreseen that at the time. So I totally agree with you, Hardy, about that.

I think the really interesting question right now is whether we can jump our national borders, and identify, as a species, with the rest of us all over the planet, and recognize that we're all expendable to the oligarchy. It's like the "house Negro" and "field Negro" kind of concept. White middle class people are so beguiled by our "house" status that we don't see that we're totally expendable. And as the concentration of power and wealth increases, middle class impoverishment is increasing too. And there needs to be an identity with the poor of the world, with the poor of the earth, and seeing that our fates are interconnected.

And as far as beloved community, I think you might as well think big. But I think it's that global perspective that may be the hidden legacy of the early days of the Movement. It's just a matter of making a conceptual leap and seeing that we're all perishing in the course that we're on and that there is something of the spirit that is called for in getting past our narrow economic interest of saying, "Okay, well we don't want any middle class tax hikes. That's our big issue, and we'll try to protect our piece." There is a radically different gestalt that needs to come in, but it is all just one mind-move away. So as well as celebrating the success of the Movement in its own initial terms, I'm not convinced that those deeper things are — let me say it differently. I still have hope that we might hit the big one.

Eleanor:: I wish I had as much hope as you.

Joseph: Well, I don't have a lot, but I've got a little.

Eleanor:: But what I've seen is that these groups like Occupy — what happens? The police — they give them a few days, then the police come in and smash heads. And they did it in New York, and they did it in Oakland. And they have read their Marx, let me tell you. The fascist state is very much up on what they can do to squelch us. And I think they were a lot more naive in the '60s.

Hardy: But we're a lot more sophisticated ...

Matt: That's true.

Hardy: That's the interesting contradiction.

Hardy: We're a lot more sophisticated. I got kids who — I deal with a lot of these kids, and they got just in technology. They can bring, they're going to bring stuff. And I think the contradictions are so great that I guess I'm a little bit more optimistic. And I'm dealing in real, I'm trying to find out why kids are killing each other, so I'm spending a lot of time in jails and talking to these kids. And I'm telling you, you talk about depressing, that's depressing. But on the other hand, I see a lot of good kids.

Buzz: That's what I spend all my time doing, organizing kids.



[Betty Mae Fikes and Eleanor Walden join a different group, and Charles Hammond joins this group for the afternoon session.]


How Did the Movement Affect Us?

Maria: How being a Civil Rights worker — especially since most of us were very young — how it affected us personally, and some of the questions to kind of stimulate this are: Why did we participate? So motivation. And this time, let's like stretch out a little more. People can talk for 5 or 7 or even 10 minutes. What motivated you? Why did you do it? What were the values and things that fed into that? And what did it mean to you? What did it mean to say, "I am a Civil Rights worker," or to say today, "I'm a Civil Rights veteran?" How did it change you? Many people have already referred, in this group as well as elsewhere, that it was a life-changing experience or that it changed things for you. And then, and I saved this part for the last half an hour, how has it affected your lives ever since? So all the other things that you did as a result of being a Civil Rights worker.

So whoever is moved to start to talk about, why'd you do it?


Charles Hammond: From Frat Boy to SCOPE Worker

Charles:: I was 19. I was a student at UCLA. All I was interested in was beer and girls.

Dr. King came to campus and spoke, and it piqued my curiosity. Later an incident happened. I had a friend that I invited to lunch ;I was in a fraternity, believe it or not, and I brought my friend back for lunch, and she told me after lunch she didn't think my friends were too kind to her. I was puzzled, I didn't know really what happened, but when I got back, there was a group of guys that confronted me and said, "Don't you ever do that again." I said, "What?" They said, "Don't you ever bring a nigger here." I was pretty shocked. At that time, the fraternity was under a lot of pressure to diversify, because they were pretty much out of tune with the times. I told my roommate about what happened, and how I was just dumbfounded. Bob said, "Well, look around. I mean, do you see anything but white people in these fraternities? Do you see any Catholics? How about Jewish people? The Jewish people have their own fraternity, ZBT, and we call them the Heebie-Zeebies. We make fun of them. You're living with a bunch of bigots." So, it was pretty much an eye opener for me.

And as I say, I was not political at all. A while later the inter-fraternity council offered a scholarship for a Greek to go on this Bruin SCOPE project, and I decided, "You know what? I'm gonna do this." I kind of just looked into it and decided, "This is something that I should really do." I went and applied for it. I don't know the time period, a week or so or whatever, then they called me and said, "Well yeah, you're the one. Come on down here and sign these papers." They gave me a check made out to SCOPE that I was to give to our project leaders. When I left, I asked them, "Why'd you pick me?" The IFC guy was really angry. He said, "Because you were the only dumb son of a bitch that applied." They truthfully thought they could offer the money, and no right thinking Greek would take them up on it. They could get good publicity and not have to pay. So I kind of backed into it.

And as kind of a back story to it, I visited with Jim Simons about two years ago, and his first comment was, "Oh yeah, you were the fraternity boy. We were kind of wondering about you." I was not well accepted at first by Bruin SCOPE. Our group was all very political, very tight, and I was kind of the outsider. It took me awhile to be accepted into the group. I wasn't really a Republican or anything like that, just not political, at least not yet. That is how I joined SCOPE.


Steven Rose: Going South

Steven: Are we circling?

Maria: If the spirit says move, and if anybody nominates — 

Steven: My spirit says move, and then I can relax. [Laughter]

Steven: Well, since we're going back, when I was in college, I found myself in a college I didn't like particularly. And I didn't like the thought of moving toward a corporate life. And I got alienated from it, and I started going to these work camps in New England. I went to a work camp run by a man named James Robinson, the Reverend Jim Robinson. And Jim Robinson was — I mean, that would take all afternoon, but he was from the South. He was Black. He had made a life of going around mainly to white colleges and lighting a fire. And he saw that as one of his missions. He later did the ground work for the Peace Corps and founded an organization called Crossroads Africa.

And when I went to the camp — I'm not going to get into detail — but there were events related to that that made it impossible for me to think of myself as living the kind of life that I was brought up to live. And I didn't know what to do. I really didn't know what to do. When I went back to college, I had the same experience that you did. I was in a fraternity. They would not consider somebody. The president came to me and said, "If you feel that way, you probably shouldn't be here." And I said, "Fine." And so I quit the fraternity.

Charles:: So did I.

Steven: And by the time I graduated from college, the only thing I could do was go to theological school which I wasn't really — that wasn't — you know, I didn't have a "Come to Jesus" moment really. I just went. And while I was there, my friend John Collins who later became head of Clergy and Laity Concerned About Vietnam, he said, "Do you want to go down South this summer?" I had just gotten married. And I said, "Sure."

[Clergy and Laity Concerned about Vietnam (CALCAV) was organized in October of 1965 by clergy opposed to the Vietnam War. They believed that a faith-based anti-war group would be less vulnerable to the anti-communist, "red-baiting" being used by conservatives and right-wingers to smear groups advocating an end to the war. Dr. King was a founding member. On April 4, 1967, CALCAV sponsored Dr. King's famous Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence speech at Riverside Church in New York City. CALCAV continued to organize against the war, mobilize protests, engage in civil disobedience by protecting draft-resistors, and confront corporate war crimes. In 1971, they changed their name to simply Clergy and Laity Concerned (CALC) because they were by then addressing issues beyond Vietnam such as apartheid in South Africa, nuclear weapons, and ending U.S. military involvement in Central America. The national CALC ceased operating in the 1990s, but some local chapters under various names continue to function to this day.]

And I ended up in Nashville, and I was in the wonderful church down there working for Rev. Kelly Miller-Smith, and I've kept at it in one way or another. It killed my career. I was having a pretty good, pretty hot hand during the '60s editing a magazine, and I was sort of like a talking head now. But I then got involved in the reparations battle, that Jim Foreman, I say ultimately got involved in, because I beat him to it. Because I was trying to get the white churches to give away their money to the Black Economic Development Conference. And you know, if you want to ruin a career in the church, I can't think of a quicker, more effective way to do that. That's it.

Maria: And how old were you when you got involved?

Steven: Well, I was in college. I mean I had been involved in it in a sense before, because I think my general attitude — I think I was a universalist at the age of 4. So I mean, I'm inclined to that. But I was in my early 20s.

Matt: And you're married to an atheist.

Steven: Now I am. I will explain very quickly. Some marriages are partnerships, and I was in a wonderful partnership thing where both of our needs were met by each other, and the whole thing was bigger than the two of us. When that ended, as such things will end, I got remarried eventually.


Joseph Tieger: Totally Engaged

Joseph: When I was about 14, my father sat me down and told me who to read. Once I got past reading Perry Mason mysteries and things like that, it was time to read something real. He told me about Upton Sinclair and all the left liberal people of his generation. I'm kind of steeped in that, and I loved it. And Clarence Darrow became my hero.

When I left for Duke in the Fall of '59, my father said, "As a Jew in the South, don't get involved in anything." In February of '60, of course, North Carolina lit up with sit-ins. It never occurred to me to get involved. I just turned 17. I had been very over-protected. I really wasn't ready for that, but in February '63 I was in the coffeehouse, as I said, and a group of people came in from the picket line, and it was just clear to me that that was my life.

I was involved all spring and got arrested a couple of times in the post-Birmingham demonstrations. There were, I think, 1400 arrests over the three days in Durham. It was one of the big, big places, and within three weeks, the city cracked, and 57 restaurants and movie theaters desegregated. It was huge, and I just loved it.

I graduated; I went home; I did not want to stay in New Jersey. My mother had a whole career path planned for me. I was going to marry a nice Jewish girl and live in the suburbs and have a nice house, and my parents would come over for dinner on Friday nights. It was the Movement that gave me the strength to get out of that. I mean, it saved my life, really. It saved me a lot of psychotherapy, and I had something I was so totally committed to. During the summer I visited in Goldsboro. Floyd McKissick had a group called the NAACP Commandos who were traveling organizing demonstrations all over eastern North Carolina.

North Carolina in the Summer of '63 was the most engaged state in the South. During the period from Birmingham to the March on Washington, I think there were 14,000 arrests, and over 4,000 were in North Carolina; 25 or 30 towns had mass demonstrations, and Floyd and the NAACP youth had a lot to do with it. There was a night march while I was in Goldsboro, and I was the only white person in it. There were hundreds of demonstrators and thousands of rednecks all around us and I was singled out for verbal abuse, and I got spit on, but I just knew that this was where I belonged.

I went back to New Jersey for a a few days, then left home and hitchhiked down to Durham. I went to the March on Washington with the Durham group and when we got back, and Floyd hired me to work with CORE.

At that point, I think I was the second white person on the CORE southern field staff, along with Mimi Feingold who was in Louisiana. Eric Weinberger had worked with CORE earlier in Tennessee, and I remember reading about him being brutalized by the police and having a cattle prod put to his genitals, and then Zev Aelony was the CORE field worker, along with the three SNCC people, charged with insurrection, a capital offense, in Americus [GA].

And so I was just totally, totally engaged. I worked in Chapel Hill in the Movement there, which was an attempt to bring a public accommodations law to a city in the South. Louisville had one, but otherwise nobody did. And if we could crack Chapel Hill, and get one there, that would be great, and if we couldn't, it would be a demonstration for Congress that you couldn't do it municipality by municipality. You needed public accommodations as part of the Civil Rights bill. So that was a big deal. That was about a year in prison, and I got out on appeal.

I should mention first that among the people who came into the coffee house in Durham the night the Movement found me, was Ginny, whom I later married, and that we had a Movement marriage for 9+ years, until 1972, when the Movement ended, for me, and the marriage ended right along with it. And in New Orleans, there was one other couple at the CORE staff conference, and that was Mickey and Rita Schwerner. And we hung out and we spent one evening together, and rode around in the station wagon that wound up being Mickeys death car.

After working at the SNCC office in Washington during the summer of '64,I went to Brandeis on a scholarship in the fall to study with Abe Maslow. That's where I read William Bradford Huie's article about the Neshoba County murders in a Ramparts magazine. And after reading it, I went into the chapel on the Brandeis campus where I never otherwise would've gone and just had a sense of communion with Mickey, that he did not get to live his full life, and if I had a chance to live mine , I was going to live it for Mickey.

And if I hadn't gotten that year in jail and then gone through all that stuff in North Carolina, I probably would've been in Mississippi, and if I'd been at the summer training in Ohio, Ginny and I probably would've gone to Meridian with Mickey and Rita whom we knew, and I probably would've been in the station wagon. So I've always carried that with me. It's been kind of a consecration in my life. I guess that's enough.

Matt: Wow. I just finished putting a portfolio up on my website called Neshoba Murders. There's of course no photographs of that event, so I have an essay which is in the book on Ben Chaney, James Chaney's younger brother. [And a photo of Ben] taken right after the murders, as he tries to deal with his brother's death and what it means and what it means for him and so on.

Joseph: I should say that within a couple weeks after that experience in the chapel, I got a commutation from North Carolina's governor for the year I was facing. And there were 42 more years of stuff that could be opened up against me, but those got washed out too.

And so Ginny and I decided to leave Brandeis and return to the South, and we wanted to go to North Carolina. And on the way we stopped off in Washington at the SNCC office and heard about the Black Belt project that was going to be coming to North Carolina, among other places. So we worked in the research office in Atlanta for about three or four months, and most of the time I was working on getting us back to North Carolina. And then we became part of the project that picked up, and expanded upon, up the work that John Salter had done as a SCEF organizer in Halifax County. (John and I had initially met in jail in Chapel Hill.) So Ginny and I were in Bertie and Northampton counties from the end of June '65 through July '66.

Originally Alma Bosley was with us, a Black woman from Mississippi, who had been a CORE organizer and SNCC organizer, and she was post-traumatically stressed, and it turned out she had a concussion, and she went off to get medical treatment. Ginny and I stayed in Bertie and Northampton, and it was a hugely successful project. 3,000 people were registered in three days, and Black registration went from 20 to 40% of the electorate in both counties. And a very powerful, decentralized grassroots movement developed on the pattern that John Salter had set up. And this could go on forever, but among other things, we blocked a $1.2 million OEO [Office of Economic Opportunity] project, or the voter's movements did, and eventually they created a community action program of their own and got funding for the poverty program that was hugely successful.

At the height of it, Ginny began a sexual relationship with one of the Black community organizers that we were working most closely with who was our — we three were tight. We were close friends. And other people in the community made it clear that Ginny and I were going to have to leave, and I went through all kinds of stuff, including being concerned that if word of it got out the wrong way, Tim could get lynched. And there I was, crushed in my own marriage and all of that. It was sort of hell.

And we wound up going to Washington and somebody in the SNCC office told me that John Conyers' legislative assistant was looking for somebody to work in the office, and I started working in the office there. And it was clear that there was no more role for a white person to be a Civil Rights organizer, and I decided to go to law school and become a Movement lawyer. I went to Duke Law School organized a south-wide group called the Southern Legal Action Movement which amazingly grew to include 200 liberal to radical lawyers and law students and became a National Lawyer's Guild affiliate.

Matt: Is this the group that came into Mississippi and helped during the Summer of '64?

Joseph: No, that would be the Guild itself. So this was an indigenous group of southern lawyers and law students. And then I practiced law for two years. I was a member of the Haymarket Square Collective, which operated a GI Coffeehouse in Fayetteville, near Fort Bragg, working on anti-war things, and worked with the Black Panther Party, and then in the Summer of '72 realized that it was over. The Movement wasn't there anymore. I was burned out, and I headed West with my thumb in the air and wandered around for four years and then settled in California. And then ... to be continued. I'll pick up the rest later with what I've been doing since then. So that's what the Movement did for me. It basically changed my life and gave it meaning and direction, and it's never left me. And I still feel that consecration with Mickey.


Matt Herron: Movement Photographer

Matt: I was a conscientious objector during the Korean War.

Joseph: Wow.

Matt: There were two conscientious objectors at Princeton, myself and a graduate student. I spent a summer in a Quaker work camp in Mexico. Quakers are the only people I knew who shared my feelings, although I had spent an evening with Bayard Rustin while I was at Princeton, and that was quite formative. So I ended up marching in Armed Services Day parades in Ann Arbor where I went for graduate school, and I got my status from my draft board and spent two years in Ramallah [Palestine] teaching in an Arab secondary school. I met my wife, and we were married in Beirut. She was a teacher there.

Came back to Rochester where I'd grown up, and then after some other stuff I won't go into ended up in Philadelphia working for the American Friends Service Committee as a writer and photographer and trying to get my career started. I was determined to be a photojournalist at that point. And I think as I said previously, I was also running demonstrations in Philadelphia and doing pretty well.

But the sit-ins were a siren call to us from the South, and I woke up in the middle of the night, and a little voice said to me, "What you're doing here doesn't make a god-damn bit of difference. The police are cooperative. You're cooperative with them, and you're just making people feel good." So we decided to go South, and Jeannine who was a member of an early feminist peace group called Women Strike for Peace — she'd gone to Geneva with Coretta King and some other people to demonstrate at a {UNCLEAR} conference, and she got a call from a friend who said, "I'm in Jackson. A Civil Rights leader has been murdered, here. His name is Medgar Evers, and there are no white faces in his funeral march tomorrow. Would you come down?"

So Jeannine went South, with the mission to see whether we could move to Mississippi with children who were three and five without endangering them. And Ed King, the chaplain at Tougaloo said, "If you live in a white neighborhood, and you're discrete, you'll be fine." So we went South in the Summer of '63, shortly after Medgar's funeral. Before that, I had had my first bust in Maryland trying to integrate an amusement park [Glen Echo amusement park]. I came there saying, "I'm a journalist. I'll just watch everything." So they entered the park, and I found myself at the head of the line of hundreds of people, and the guy next to me sat down, so I sat down, and they hauled us off to jail. Bill Coffin from Yale and I shared a cell together. It was the first bust for both of us.

Steven: Footnote. I lived with Bill when I resigned from my fraternity.

Matt: Yeah. He was a great guy. I don't want to go on about what I did in the South.

Maria: It's more about how it changed you, from who you were to — 

Matt: Yeah. People around this table have spoken about burnout and so on. I really never experienced that. For one thing, I was embedded in the Movement, but I was not a member of the Movement. I helped Jim Foreman set up a photo team for SNCC in Atlanta. I helped get the dark room together. I trained photographers, and I shot in my spare time, lots of stuff around Mississippi. But I was also supporting myself and my family as a photojournalist. I had two small children, and I had a wife, and I think that gave me a cushion in a way against some of the stress of Civil Rights work.

I always considered myself not a member of the Movement but a supporter. And I had certain skills, so these were what I lent to the Movement. And we left Mississippi in the Fall of '64, right after the Democratic Convention. And my memory of that is that it was a time when people Black people said, "We've got to run the Movement ourselves." It was not a time of hostility toward white people. We hugged each other and cried and said good-bye.

And we moved to New Orleans to put our kids in school there, and I had just finished 10 fun-filled weeks which are the subject of this book, running a team of photographers in the South, something called the Southern Documentary Project. I was trying to keep that going. My idea was to set up headquarters in New Orleans and run the project for three years sponsored by a university. That never happened.

As you remember, there was no great outpouring of support for Civil Rights in the country at that point. It was hard to raise money. It was hard to get people on your side. So we were back in Mississippi the following summer. Jeannine was one of the three founders of the Child Development Group in Mississippi, the first Head Start program in the country. And I was around the state shooting, and then we were back in New Orleans, and I was back in various places — Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi — up until 1970.

In 1970, we got aboard our 31-foot sailboat and sailed from New Orleans to the West Coast of Africa and spent a year sailing down the West Coast of Africa. We did two books, one called the Voyage of Aquarius and another we just finished called Our Big Blue Schoolhouse about educating children on our trip.

But I don't know whether — I was certainly radicalized by my experience in Mississippi, but I was a radical before that time. My family is very conservative. I didn't come out of that background. It was generated from other things. But I went on to become a photographer and bridge officer on the first Green Peace anti-whaling voyages, and then went to the ice floes of the St. Lawrence to try and stop the harp seal farm. I was busted on the ice by Mounties and spent six days in jail on the Magdalen Islands.

Hardy: Did you work with Abbie Hoffman?

Matt: No. No. So I think that in many ways Mississippi probably pushed me to a life of various kinds of protest activity and social justice activity. As a photographer, I was always focused on social situations and social change and so on. My website is called "Images of Change." And then I started a stock picture agency focused on Civil Rights, so I would say that I am, in a different way, actively involved in Civil Rights up until right now. It's been a major part of my life. That's probably enough.


Buzz Graham: Mississippi Experience Was Formative

Buzz: I'm not really sure what motivated me to get involved, and I don't know if it was a clear etiology or thought. It was so long ago, it's kind of hard to say anyway. And when you're 18 or so, I'm not sure that I can relate to that very much at this point. But I know that I became very focused and committed, and through my freshman year and then down in Mississippi.

And then I think also I'm not exactly sure why I left at the particular time that I did, and I think it was a number of mixed feelings. I think that on the positive sense, I think that I really felt that we had kind of accomplished what we wanted to do in terms of breaking the fear and intimidation. And where I was in Batesville in Panola County, I think there was a very noticeable change in the attitude in the few months that we were there. You know, Panola was not the hardcore Delta and some of the very heavy resistance that other places in Mississippi had.

I was also maybe not really disillusioned, but I think because of some of the internal wrangling that started to surface in SNCC, I just didn't feel that my continued participation would be all that really valuable. So I left, and I went back to Berkeley and enrolled again and stayed in school for about two weeks. And then after two weeks I couldn't really figure out exactly what I was doing in school, because I was kind of there because I was expected to go there.

Man: What year was that?

Buzz: Well, so this was in the beginning of '65.

Maria: So before Selma, before Bloody Sunday.

Buzz: Yes. Well, by that time, I had left Mississippi, so I was just back. Yeah, I was back in Berkeley.

Maria: So it was SDS and all the protests and all that.

Matt: So when Mario was starting the Free Speech Movement?

Buzz: Yeah, the Free Speech I think, as I remember, because I had taken a vacation from Mississippi, so I was kind of going — I think that was part of when we came back, and it was — because I think Mario Savio was down in Freedom Summer, but he had went back to Mississippi in the fall. So I think that was kind of going on, but I was down in Mississippi at that particular point.

So, you know, then basically I just kind of stayed in Berkeley, and I didn't really do very much, and then I started to travel around. And I think that certainly the Mississippi experience was formative in the sense that I wanted to be involved with people and engaged with people and have some influence over their lives.

Matt: Mileston, Mississippi, Summer of '64.

Buzz: Mileston, yeah. Yeah. So I think basically I ended up gravitating toward medicine and getting into a medical career, which I found personally satisfying in terms of being involved and being engaged. And I think that there were a number of things that I learned from Mississippi that have been helpful. I think one thing is listening. You know, doctors aren't always so good at listening, but I think that one of the things that I learned, and it sort of trickled down from Bob Moses and so on is really to pay attention to the people that you're dealing with and interacting with. And you know, not to just come in there with your own ideas and your agenda but have it come from the people that you're interacting with. And that's been a very valuable concept I think in medicine, to be able to do that.

So, I haven't been particularly — you know, there are a lot of political aspects in medicine. My main focus is really the local politics and trying to make sure that people get access to care in my area.

Maria: And you're here in this region?

Buzz: Yeah, I'm up in Mendocino [CA], which is a small town in kind of the middle of nowhere.

Matt: You're an M.D.?

Buzz: Yeah. And so, you know, getting access to care for people in rural areas has been and continues to be challenging, so I've been fairly active in that.


Hardy Frye: A Whole New Thing

Maria: [Hardy], you're pretty much talked quite a bit about how you got involved, but the tangential questions to that are — we were talking earlier about how the Movement changed the world, but we want to talk about how it changed you, your perception of yourself or your feeling about yourself, how it might have influenced the path that you took in life.

Hardy: Okay, well. Like I said, I started when I was in Germany and overseas, I was excited about what I was reading about what was going on in the United States. And I read Jet magazine saying anything about something that was going on in the Civil Rights Movement. And part of my {UNCLEAR} was beginning to, at that time, from my public education, was I began to question a whole lot about ...

I was pro-military; I went in the military and was going to spend 20 years and retire and have a career. And the Civil Rights Movement raised a lot of questions that I could see, and the military was at the same time trying to change. I was kind of in the experimental group in the military. The military had only been integrated about 10 years when I went in, so they hadn't worked out all the {UNCLEAR} so on and all that stuff. So you had to deal with that. And I guess my first foreign affairs [awareness came] by being in Germany because if you were a Black GI you went to relax in East Berlin. If you were a white GI, you went to West Berlin. And the reason was that the stereotypes about Black soldiers had been [established] back in World War II. Still had about Black soldiers. And so the only place we could go to get any kind of self respect was in East Berlin. And you know, German cheese and beer and everything.

Maria: And girls?

Hardy: And girls, yeah. Yeah, and girls. Because in West Berlin, there were all the stereotypes were, especially with other GIs, white GIs, about Black GIs. And also, I got no comrade. I got no comrade, because I walked — comrade was on one side of the border, and I was on the other side of the border. It was 11 degrees above zero. And comrade and I had an understanding. "Comrade" was Communist Soviet Union. We had an understanding. I got some cigarettes. I don't smoke, but I'll give — comrade smoked cigarettes. Comrade give me something back. But more than that, we had an understanding that I don't want to be here; you don't want to be here, but if you cross that border, I'll have to kill you and vice versa.

And this is at the time that I got my real sense of it when we had — Eisenhower, I think, was President, and we had the atomic cannons, and you couldn't fire them east and west. You had to find fire them south, because if you can fire east and west, you would cross their border into, and so we used training gear to fire in a direction that would not create a crisis.

So all this stuff, I was beginning to get interested in. What's this all about? Why are we here? Comrade's not a bad guy. I mean, you know, shit. We go to West Berlin. We go to East Berlin. We get girls. We get beer. We get cheese. We get all of that stuff. And nobody wants to go to West Berlin.

So when I came back, I got discharged, I decided I didn't want to stay in the military any longer, so I got discharged. They sent me to Texas, and I stayed there for about a year, then I got discharged. And here again, there is a lot more being debated among Black GIs about what's going on and the Civil Rights Movement. And there was kind of a secret pride in these people who are marching, because some of them were getting beat up and all of that. And we were told basically, "Whatever you do, don't get caught in uniform in fighting."

So I got out, and I flipped a coin, and I decided to go to L.A. And the coin, as I said, was weighted, because I had relatives. People don't migrate where they don't have anybody. If you got a choice between migrating somewhere where you got family or some relatives or not, you go where the relatives are, right? So I go to L.A., and Jack Kennedy is running for President. And by that time, I got married, and I went down to the Coliseum because they had a picket line. It was definitely a picket line, and what they were picketing about was a Civil Rights plank in the Democratic Convention that year.

And my wife was, like a lot of Blacks at that time, very conservative. And so I remember what kind of ended it all was I went on the picket line, and she felt she would be embarrassed if she was on a picket line. And so as a consequence, I got more involved with CORE, I didn't know about SNCC at the time. She would like be at me like, "Are you crazy?" And so that relationship didn't last very long after that, so we had no kids, so we got divorced.

And I moved to Northern California, but I came to Northern California after having gone to participate at the sit-in, I met all these guys, all these white people — mostly white people — in the L.A. CORE. And talking about books and ideas and all this kind of stuff, and we came to Sacramento because the California [legislature was debating] the Fair Housing Act of 1963, I believe it was. And we spent, I think, almost 40 days on the Rotunda at a sit-in as part of CORE.

And I met Jerry Brown's Daddy [Governor Edmund "Pat" Brown]who — I don't like Jerry, but I like his Daddy — Jerry Brown's Daddy was the one who pushed through at the time — Very good [on] labor [issues], very good guy. And he literally came out and discussed with us around the Rotunda, so this is like, "Oh wow, you know, this is interesting." And we won. We won the Fair Housing Act. He finally signed it, and then two years later, California voted it out.

So I got that for a lesson. And then I went down to join — I heard about SNCC, and I went down and joined Friends of SNCC and helped organize it in Sacramento. I was a student at Sacramento State. And I also was organizing for a community-based organization, and so I was getting really involved. I did the first community [patrol of the] police. We were trying to have the police go to a place in Sacramento called Oak Park, which was kind of a liberal, integrated neighborhood, funky neighborhood. McGeorge Law School is located there in the city. And so we organized this community [patrol] of the police, and we got cameras, but we didn't have any film in it. Nobody knew we didn't have any film in it, right? And so we'd ride around, and we'd see the police harassing somebody, and we'd stop and act like we were filming. But it was stupid — 

Maria: It was effective though.

Hardy: Well, we went through, and we found the first Black woman radiologist in the country. She lived in Sacramento, and her name was Sarah Peyton, so we talked to her. She had some class and status, so we talked her into joining our — being our kind of guide. She became — and she would ride with us. And so we knew cops weren't going to beat her. For damn sure they might beat us, but they weren't going to beat her. And so we organized that group, and so then we'd get calls.

And I met Mike Miller and the Movement newspaper in San Francisco, and Gail Brown and all those people were there. And somebody said, "Do you want to go to Mississippi?" And the Mississippi Summer Project came up, so I volunteered. One of the few Blacks who volunteered to go down there. I didn't tell my mother or my parents though.

Maria: How old were you at this time?

Hardy: I was about 22.

Charles:: Where were your parents living?

Hardy: They both lived in Alabama, and I didn't tell them. I didn't mind telling my father, but my mother would've freaked out, "Are you out of your mind? Are you crazy?" And so I told her I was working.

And so to tell you what affected me, I was getting — so I could actually be — like an intellectual debate I could get in, in these conversations. I mean, I was hearing ideas that I had never heard before. I was sitting around a table, listening to people argue and all this. They thought they were bright. They didn't seem that bright to me, but they thought they were. So I had to read a lot.

And I met a guy named John Marlow who did Socratic education on me. John was a professor of history. He had gone all the way through Berkeley, from a freshman to Ph.D. with a 4.0 grade point average, but he was an alcoholic. And so he came and joined the Civil Rights Movement, and sometimes in Sacramento, there were two of us on the CORE picket line, just John and I in front of Pepsi-Cola or wherever we were boycotting. It's a hundred degrees out there too. And we'd be [picketing] and so we talked about ideas, and he introduced me to music. He introduced me to Broadway Berkeley, and we would argue about revolution. And he'd have me read all this stuff, and we'd argue about revolution.

And so I got a very Socratic education which prepared me to deal with graduate school at college. I went back to college, and I joined — everywhere radical white students would take a course, I would take the same course they took. And I wound up for years fighting, but I did it all the time. And at Sacramento State, most of the professors were from Berkeley anyway. John and I — he taught me everything, and we would talk. And it was a fantastic education, Socratic in the sense that a lot of ideas we talked about were discussed [traveling] between Berkeley and Sacramento on [Interstate] 80. We were going back, and then he'd come to Berkeley. He would show me. We'd go to bookstores, Cody's Bookstore and all that stuff.

So I was getting — I feel like I was not intimidated by these white intellectuals. I had one other professor that was a great influence who supported the Movement. His name was John [Minns], who was a professor at Berkeley, and he was a Marxist Communist, and he had been fired during the anti-Communist thing in California. He'd been fired, and he went to Mexico, and he was in Chile, and he also was an advisor to the government of Chile, and they were going to kill him.

So I had all these kind of — I'm coming into a whole new thing, and I'm believing they're right. And we were successful. We integrated a few... You know, we got PepsiCo to hire their first Black drivers, and stuff today that wouldn't even be talked about. And John Minns would be feeding me all this Marxism on the side. And I'm reading about Marx and Trotsky, and so this is getting interesting. I'm thinking, "I might like this."

And I wound up — they had a — I joined SNCC, and [said] I would go. So I went to Mississippi. I wasn't scared. Most I feared was that my parents might find out. When we went to Ohio [for Freedom Summer orientation], we get to Oxford, Ohio, and we had two days, and we were faced with these guys being killed. I mean, Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney. And when I knew I was committed was when Bob Moses came out and wanted to tell us about Schwerner, Goodman and Chaney, and they were probably — he kind of hinted that they probably had been [killed]. We don't know. And a woman, one of the veterans, she got up and started singing, "They say that freedom is a constant struggle.

Then I found out — I ran into my babysitter from [when I was] a child. Victoria Gray was my mama's niece and my aunt, and she babysitted me when I was a kid. I ran into her. And John Lewis said to us, "You might have... " How'd he put it? He said, "I know some of you might want to think about whether you want to go. This is getting serious." He said, "I would like for you to go, but at the same time, if you have some real concern about it and don't want to go, you don't have to." And the next morning, I think one person didn't go. Maybe one or two people didn't go.

So it became a challenge to me as well. All of a sudden what I had been seeing — because I had never been beaten in a demonstration earlier, none of that kind of stuff. It was not put on the line, and so I went to Holly Springs, arguing academic Marxist arguments all the time.

And went to jail, because my job was to put on a big button, "Register to Vote," carry a clipboard in my hand and walk around the square all day long in Holly Springs. All southern towns got squares. And I walked around the center of town, and the police walked in to tell me [not to be] there. And we had a guy from South Africa, white guy from South Africa I remember, and I don't know how he got there, but he was there. And we dressed him in a tweed coat, and he looked like an FBI, so he was standing around all day long and watching me. He was kind of marking me ...

Matt: Yeah, and you have a little notebook in your pocket, and they're sure you're FBI.

Hardy: And then I used to talk — and I learned a lot about whites southerners at the time, because in Holly Springs, the white population all wanted to compromise. They were not interested — the leadership was not interested in confrontation, if possible. They wanted to compromise. Part of that compromise was because they were close to Memphis. And the Memphis Commercial Appeal and the other newspapers had an effect on Holly Springs, right?

So we put together a Civil Rights news program in the morning for kids. And we would take the Richmond Commercial Appeal and show them how they would make part of history. So it got me more involved. And I got this tremendous amount of respect for understanding agriculture, because even though I had grown up in the South, I was kind of — Tuskegee is kind of an elite urban area. It's not rural. And I picked my first cotton. I had never picked cotton and drove this tractor on anybody's property and shit, but I did all that kind of stuff, right? And so I became very much a part of it, and I had a tremendous amount of respect for them. And so once I did that and once I decided, well, I'm going to do both. I'm going to finish college and go back and forth. And my whole college career was writing about what I was actually doing. I was writing papers about social movements and all that kind of stuff that I was already doing.

Maria: Hardy, would you wrap up in the next few minutes?

Hardy: I spent from '64 to '68 when we went to the convention, and I also had experience in organizing Fayette County, Tennessee which was the fourth poorest county in the country at the time. So that led to teaching, working with the — not with the Panthers, but helping SDS organizing in Oakland, stuff like that. And so the last 50 years have been just one cause after another. Lucky we made a film, you might have seen it. I produced a film with Connie Field and Marilyn Mulford called Freedom on My Mind.

Matt: It's full of my photographs.

Hardy: Yeah, well it took us five years, and we got nominated for an Oscar, but we lost to {UNCLEAR} . And I've been doing that ever since. And I like teaching, and one of my specializations is social movements. So it's just like part of what I do. Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Berkeley for a year. And if you can be Chief of Staff in Berkeley, you can be any god-damn where.

Maria: Oh, I made you mayor when I was talking about you. You weren't mayor? Oh, I thought you were mayor.

Hardy: So that's what I've done. And unfortunately, if I've got any weaknesses, I haven't been able to transfer that kind of experience to my kids. And I don't know why, but they don't want to even talk about it. [They're all females. And they don't even want to talk about it, so I don't know if a male would've made a difference. But I have not been able to — they know about it, but — 

Matt: Yeah, me too.

Hardy: My wife now, she was in the Movement. She was in P.L. Progressive Labor, so that was a long time. So that's what I did, and so I've been doing that.

Maria: Thank you.


Climate of Fear

Steven: I have a quick footnote on Mississippi Freedom Summer. I had been at Oxford, Mississippi when Meredith came [to desegregate the Univeristy of Mississippi in 1962]. My friend Will Campbell sent me down there to watch this. There were two people shot. One of them had a beard. I noticed that. I then went to Oxford, Ohio on assignment, and I heard about what you heard about. And I said — I learned that your friend had a beard. And I said — I don't know if it was before or after — I think it must've been after that I said, "That's the death warrant in Mississippi." And then I ended up in Clarksdale, Mississippi during this stuff, and John Lewis was there. We had worked together in Nashville, and so John Lewis and I ended up in a rented car that I had, driving North, to get out of Mississippi from Clarksdale. We did not speak one word, as we were traveling. We got across the border, and we looked at each other, "Phew!" Just like that. That was how much fear there was in the air at that time.

Maria: He actually wrote about that in — 

Steven: John Lewis?

Maria: I don't know if he names you, but he writes about going across that border, and "We didn't speak one word until we got — "

Steven: Are you serious?

Maria: Yeah. Have you read his book, Walking with the Wind? It came out a couple years ago. It's his autobiography.

Steven: That's funny.

Hardy: We had one person die on the project in Holly Springs, three days after we got there. His name was Wayne Yancey. And my assignment was to try to get the papers out of his pocket in the hearse. And this is a guy — We think shomehow — there was an accident on the highway coming from Memphis. Car turned over, and he was killed. But they wouldn't take him to — the coroner didn't come out. He was in the back of the ambulance. They brought him to the Freedom House, and {UNCLEAR} was there, and one of the things, we were arguing with the police about getting a death certificate and all that, and Ivanhoe Donaldson wanted me to go in his pockets to see if he had any addresses in his pocket. And we had a big hassle about that, so we had been hit early — early in that summer by the death of Wayne Yancey. I wrote an article about him for some Catholic journal.


Maria Gitin: Something Bigger Than Me

Maria: I was born in 1946 in Petaluma and grew up in Penngrove which is a rural area in Sonoma County. (My name at that time was Joyce Brians.) I went to elementary school with kids who had been born just when their parents were let out of the federal interment camps for being of Japanese descent during World War II. And also with numbers of kids who were in families who had Holocaust survivors, or whose families had perished except for them.

We would talk about these things, these wrongs and listen to each other. And we were the first wave of the Baby Boomers who had this kind of consciousness. Life magazine was giving us this image of the world, of Korea, of conscientious objectors, of early segregation protests happening in the South. So even though we were in this very rural, mostly white area, almost everybody I went to school with was first-generation, whether they were from Croatia or Portugal or Italy or Russian Jews or Germans. Lots of people spoke other languages at home, so there was a certain consciousness.

And then there was the nearness to San Francisco State, and my parents didn't think it was worth spending any money on girls, and we didn't have much money to start with. I wanted to go to San Francisco State to get away from home, and I had a liberal aunt in Mill Valley, my Aunt Dorothea who helped me get a job as a live-in maid. I worked for a family that had five children under the age of seven, including two boy twins who just made my life hell. I worked 10-hour days all summer in exchange for $25 plus room and board per week.

I was just in Alabama [recently], and somebody said, "You're the only white girl I ever met who had a sleep-in job!" But I did that, and saved up, and went to San Francisco and thank God it was during the beginning of the Great America, because tuition was like $72 a semester, and you could buy your books and then sell them back at the end [of the semester] for not that much less than you paid for them. And then I was low income, so I got a work study job where I worked 15 hours a week in some professor's office, and they paid me enough that I actually was able to, with other young women, to rent a place.

And as I mentioned earlier, I always had this sense of justice; you know, if things are unfair or if things are unfair in the world or unfair at home, partly religious, partly political, a basic sense of not liking anybody to be mistreated. And then when I saw Bloody Sunday, I immediately said, "I have to do something." So I go over to the [campus] SNCC office, and they tell me I can't join SNCC because I'm white, and I say, "Okay, what can I join?" They said, "Well, you can join Friends of SNCC." So I joined Friends of SNCC, and they had the information on the SCOPE project, even though it was an SCLC project, that was where I heard about it. I ended up being the SCOPE recruiter at SF State and am even written up as the 'head' of my county project in some SCLC SCOPE documents, but at the time, I felt very small and unimportant.

And next thing, we're in Atlanta, and we're having this orientation where just every leader you could think of — you were in SCOPE also, right? You were in SCOPE. Yes?

Man: Yes.

Maria: I mean, just anybody you could name who was living at the time — James Lawson, James Bevel, Martin Luther King, Hosea Williams, Ralph Abernathy, Septima Clark, Dorothy Cotton, Bayard Rustin, Annell Ponder. I mean, it was — you were talking about your mind being filled. It was like suddenly everything about history and slavery and Reconstruction and economic inequity — and there were labor movement people there. And Michael Harrington.

Charles:: It was intense.

Maria: It was 14 hours a day, if you look at the schedule. And then there were parties afterwards. And it was like this is — you just have to go to your county and do what the local leaders tell you.

And so you're just suddenly plunged into a place, and what it changed for me was I always had been very insecure, and I had been somewhat mistreated at home, and we were poorer than a lot of families where we lived, and we didn't have land, and I had a lot of anxieties which I continue to have. But I found this acceptance of just being able to be part of something bigger than me. That it was not about me. And when you're a teenager, everything is about you, right?

I was very fortunate, on the advice of Dorothy Cotton — who I talked to recently — I reminded her that she did a workshop, and I don't know if the boys went to a boys workshop, but they told the girls that if possible to refrain from romantic relationships all summer, and if not, you should hook up with a boy of your own race so that you wouldn't discredit the Movement or cause problems with the Black girls. And I obeyed! I immediately got together with an adorable Jewish guy from California, and we stayed together for a year and a half. But what I learned in the Movement that summer was you didn't have to be from a supportive family. You didn't have to have money. You didn't have to be a boy. You could do something that made a difference, just by showing up, by responding to a call to something bigger than you. And that really affected me profoundly.

The love that the people there showed us that summer, people in Wilcox that I now see regularly again — they were like, "You little white kids, you had no idea what you were doing, and you were bringing this danger to our community, and we felt responsible for you."

And so here we were, we came with his naive idea that we were here to save and liberate the people from oppression, and it really was all about them becoming surrogate parents and looking out for us. And the thought and care that went into the SCLC, the WATS lines that they had, the way that we could be being chased by the Klan somewhere and would be hiding in a ditch, and then suddenly [SCLC field organizer] Major Johns would just show up with a car like magic.

And years later, I talked to people in SCLC staff about how they had lists of every Klan member and what their M.O. was and whether they did fire bombings and who was where. And it went both ways. I mean, they had rats in our meetings, but we had rats in their meetings which I didn't know until years later that it was going both ways, and there were these many, many, many close calls. So it was that sense of danger and excitement and being young but also that people care about you that really served me well.

And I think it was very traumatic, and I, like many of us, came back and just dropped out of school and couldn't cope and smoked some pot, was a hippie and everything else, but I always had that sense that there's something bigger than me. And then when I was ready to drop back in, I was able to get involved at a deep level.

But ultimately, for my last comments, I'll just go ahead and do the wind-up for me — what I got from being part of the Movement was really accepting my responsibility as a white person to end racism, because racism is not a Black problem. It is our problem. It would not exist if there weren't racist attitudes or lack of will to change policies, to change institutions, to change laws and to just call it out when it's there. You know, sexism, homophobia, racism, when it's there and when it just kind of slides by.

I don't know about some of the other white people, but to this day, like I went last night with one of our sister Civil Rights workers to a really nice restaurant. I couldn't help notice that there were like two Asian people and two Black people, and everybody else in the restaurant was white, because it's a fairly pricey restaurant in Berkeley. where I lived until recently, in Watsonville, it's 79% Latino, and my husband is Latino, so we feel more comfortable when it's more mixed. So that awareness of race — I need to stay uncomfortable with that — because it keeps me doing the work, even though I have lots of friends, and it's easy to want that feeling of the beloved community. And we're trying to create it, but I cannot deny the reality of people with darker skin who are discriminated against.

I was just in the hotel lobby last night, down here at the Marriott [in downtown Oakland], I could walk in there and sit there for hours and no one will ever come up and ask me what I'm doing there. Ever. I can go use the bathroom. I can use the phone. Anything I want. A couple young Black kids came in and sat down, even though they were way dressed up, immediately the door man was over asking them, "Can I help you? Are you meeting somebody? What's the story?" And I know that's just the story of life at this point in history and so I feel it's like a never ending responsibility to take action when I can, step back and take a rest when I can't. I also to try to help people who haven't had our experience, who haven't had the joy of living in a more interracial world to look at the barriers that we create sometimes for ourselves and for each other. So that's my last piece. It's time for everybody to have their last say.


Composition of Whites in the Movement

Matt: I've got a question. Do any of you have any idea what the percentage among white volunteers in the Movement were Jewish?

Maria: I'm sure it was big. [Laughter] Right?

Matt: I'd like to know.

Hardy: Probably the majority.

Matt: You think it was a majority?

Maria: I think it was at least half.

Steven: I do not think it was a majority.

Maria: No, because there were so many Quakers.

Eleanor:: There weren't that many Quakers, were there?

Maria: Lots of Quakers and Catholics.

Steven: There were also just people like me, WASPy types.

Maria: Radicals.

Hardy: You mean the larger Movement, you don't mean just the Summer Project?

Matt: No, I mean the Summer — well, people who came South to work in the Movement.

Steven: When we were at Selma the second time, the second march, the whites in that group were largely ministers, Catholics — 

Maria: Catholics, Episcopal.

Matt: Well, there was that ministerial contingent, but among sort of college kids and so on who came down?

Hardy: Yeah, but I think — I'm thinking of what you're saying, because the Selma thing was a lot of Catholics, but I'm talking of the 900-some people that came down for SNCC, I suspect that it was largely Jewish. I know how many Blacks — I can tell you how many Blacks there were. I mean, they don't — when you read about it, they don't count the local Mississippi, the people who were already there. But there was about 10 of us, 15 of us.



Maria: Well, the very last question is, "How has it affected our life since?"

Steven: I'll give you a three-minute or four-minute thing which is about politics right now, except that it's been my problems for 50 years, and that is, I don't think this problem of the beloved community is not — I don't think this problem of the beloved community is going to be solved until we solve the problem of community, and the problem of community results, in my view, from the oil economy, from the car economy, and from the nuclear family economy. And until a person with comprehensive vision can understand that ultimately, if we're going to have any kind of integration, any kind of beloved community, we need to make community voluntary and find a way to do that in which people can live, move and be in the same place. The only way to do that is to totally remake society but to do it in terms that people like and that people can figure out a way to make money off.

Matt: I think the beloved community is an illusion.

Steven: I don't.

Matt: Beloved community comes when a group of people share a cause together. You're not going to see it in the general society — ever — because there are too many different things. I mean, we can learn to live with each other; that would be nice. The kind of thing we experienced in the South was because we were on the front lines, and at least briefly, for me in '63 — I don't know that it carried on through '64 and later — but during that time, anybody who was there was a fucking hero. And we clung to each other, and it was my only experience of what beloved community might be.

But I don't expect it in the general society. I don't think it's possible. It's possible when you're together and sacrificing for a cause. I think guys in Vietnam, regardless of color, had that kind of feeling, because their ass was on the line. They were helping each other stay alive, and so there was a kind of bonding together that happened in combat conditions that created that sort of beloved community. But I don't think it's something we can work toward. I think we can work toward toleration and a multi-ethnic society, and if we can get sort of there, we're doing god-damn well.

Joseph: Actually, I think I can pick up from there for my concluding thing. I remember hearing Mario Savio when I was at Brandeis in the fall of '64. He went on a national tour at some point, maybe in October or November, and he talked about the feeling on the Berkeley campus among the people who were participating in the Free Speech Movement, and that where before there had just been this sort of alienation — people wouldn't look at each other particularly — there was now a feeling we're together in something. And that's always been a profound metaphor for me.

And it's also, given what, we are all facing — well, that Oscar Wilde thing, that "the noose is a powerful concentrator of attention," that we're all facing the same noose right now. And I think the challenge is, how can we recognize that we are, and not freak out about that, and maintain some degree of spaciousness around that, so that we can actually sustain the gaze at what we're facing? We do have a very powerful common denominator, if we can get the consciousness to recognize it.

So that's where I see that the beloved community may not be out of the question as a human transformation. And so the work that I've done since the Movement — so in '72, I hitchhiked away and spent about four years traveling around the country without any basic guiding light. The 9+ years of the Movement as a guiding light was gone, and I then ran into somebody who told me about transpersonal psychology, and I headed to the Bay Area to study transpersonal psychology and to pick up from what I'd been doing with Maslow.

And about a year later, I met Johanna Luther, the woman I've now been with for 36 years and we began using video as an instrument for personal and social transformation. We recorded two 9-day retreats on conscious living/conscious dying with Stephen Levine and Ram Dass. And while those retreats were happening, Three-Mile Island was also happening. And the light went off in my mind that the consciousness that palpably can be there when we're facing our personal death could be there when we're facing planetary death.

["Three-Mile Island" refers to the partial melt-down in 1979 of a nuclear power plant in Pennslyvania.]

It just has not — it was not part of the Movement then, and it still isn't. But we then met Daniel Ellsberg, and introduced Dan and Ram Dass to each other, and recorded their first conversation, and incorporated it into a 9-hour PBS series we created called How Then Shall we Live? — with Helen Caldicott too — trying to bridge those two dimensions of personal mortality and planetary mortality. So we spent 10 years doing that — and living hand to mouth, I guess is a fair way to put it. It was the basic SNCC style.

And then we did another project with Ram Dass hosting a course in Oakland we created called Reaching Out to deal with issues of racial healing, deep ecological awareness, and compassionate social action. A thousand people attended 10 weekly classes to address the question of what keeps us separate — and what can we do about it? And that became another 10-year project to turn that into a 7-part TV series, also called Reaching Out, which went out over PBS stations all around the country, and was the first TV production to be selected, as a recommended community resource, by Bill Clinton's Presidential Commission for a National Conversation on Race..

And now I'm working on a memoir. I'm hoping to bring this consciousness into my writing about my Movement days, and my post-Movement life. It's only through community that we can find the capacity to deal with what we're facing as a species. You can't find it by yourself because it's so overwhelming. That's my gamble, or at least that's how I'm running off this consecration to Mickey, basically. It seems so preposterous that it's almost not worth discussing the possibility, that as a species we could change, that we could recover from our species history from the beginning until now, but I can't see any other way of making it through this. That's what my life is organized around.

Charles:: I think for me, it opened my eyes, because like I said, I was just a dumb college kid. Luck of the draw, born white and male and heterosexual. Not on third base certainly, but probably on first base.

["Third base" is a reference to a popular, sardonic assessment of President George Bush II: "He was born on third base and grew up believing he had hit a triple."]

I just figured it was easy. There were opportunities, and life was good. And the stint down there was really an eye opening experience.

When we left there, after we got out of jail, we had 24 hours to leave the state. And we packed everything and were headed out. I shared with the other group that Willie Bowens was one of our real leaders of the group down there, a local, and he was a sharp guy. He was a year older than us. He was 20. But when we got everything really quickly together in our car to leave, he showed up with a suitcase, and he was going with us. And how do you, at 20 years old, walk away from your family, your friends and everybody to get in a car with three guys and go to California? And he had a very simple answer. He said, "I have no future here." Willie's really a very brave man, and he made a future for himself.

And I guess later in life, and maybe I'm a slow learner because I didn't learn about women's rights until I met my wife. I mean, I just thought it was as easy for women as it was for men, and my wife spent 32 years in the fire service, and she fought every day of her life for everything she got and faced harassment very similar to the type of harassment we got, and it was just a mind blower for me that that kind of happened. And obviously I was — when you talked about homophobia, it's like I was pretty late coming to the party to realize that gay people should be treated equally too. I mean, I'm kind of a cave man, I guess. There are many more bridges to be crossed, and I don't know how many more times my eyes have to be opened before I get there. That's all I have.

Hardy: You have to work for something to visualize something before you can make it. And I think that it's easy to see the negative aspects of living in this society, living in the world, but I've traveled and worked in South America and other places, and there's just so much you can do. That living in this society, I really got a shock as I came back to the States after living and working in South America for three years in Guyana and the rain forest and all that kind of stuff. I just, "Yeah, that's what you hear in the news, but there are a lot of good things that people are doing."

I mean, this health thing is going to be an enormous impact and it just got passed. It's going to be enormous what it's going to mean. I mean, we can't even imagine. When I was in Guyana, when I needed a doctor I just give him a call. Here, if you want to argue about whether people should have health care or not, well, we won that one. It's going to be enormous. There are 7 billion people?

I mean, I stayed in the hospital [here] for four days for $48,000. That was crazy. If I didn't have insurance, you know, I just keep my eyes looking forward. I mean, we can only do so much in life. I'm 75 years old, man, and I spent 50 years of my life doing this.

Maria: I was at a conference recently whith Lewis Baldwin who is a King scholar who happens to be from Wilcox County. He teaches at Vanderbilt and has written about 11 books about King. He made this great speech, and he said, "You know what? We did our share; it is time to step aside and let today's youth lead." It was like this benediction from this, you know, Reverend Doctor Lewis Baldwin saying, "You know what? We did it. It's you kids. You need to do it." I'm like, "Yes!" [Laughter] Maybe we should just get out of the way.

Hardy: No, keep doing what you're doing.



Steven: What percentage of people on the website, of the entire Movement, is there? Is the website 10% of the entire Movement?

Matt: Oh, a lot more, I think.

Maria: I think there are more, yeah, more than 10% of the people are on it at this point, because Hartford has gone to all these conferences, CORE, SNCC, SCLC events. As I travel, reading from my book, speaking, I meet people everywhere who say, "Oh, I was in SNCC in Philadelphia," and I tell them about it [the website].

Charles:: There were almost 500 in SCOPE. Weren't there close to 500 of us?

Steve: Well, yeah, right. How many people here worked with people that are here?

Charles:: There's nobody from my project here.

Steven: There's nobody here that I know from Nashville.

Maria: There are people here from my county, but not from my project. They were working with SNCC or with groups that came later like Don Jelinek's, Southern Rural Research Project (SRRP) and with [the government run] Volunteers in Service to America (VISTA) in Wilcox County.

Charles:: I think there are three or four of us from SCOPE, but there's nobody from my chapter of SCOPE.

Steven: And I know plenty of people who were in the Movement, genuine — 

Maria: Well, let's say there were a thousand in the Freedom Summer [1964]. Next summer — it's been debated, but 600 in SCOPE counting all the staff, and then there were 400 on the ground, locals and people who were already there. So that year was a thousand at least. So that's two thousand right there just from two summers. And then if you're going to count the whole Civil Rights Movement, you're going to have to [include] Birmingham and Montgomery — 

Steven: Well, and the North.

Maria: The Civil Rights Veterans website defines its scope as covering the just the Southern Civil Rights Movement from 1951-1968.

Steven: Okay.

Maria: Bruce probably has a better idea of the numbers. But still, overall, I bet it's under five thousand people who did the kind of level of work that we did, where you were there in the field in the South.

Man: And staff people.

Matt: Are you including local people in this survey?

Joseph: Staff people? Or... ?

Maria: No, he doesn't use that word. He talks about Freedom Movement veterans and local activists or something about locals, because of course, there were a hundred times more locals everywhere than there were workers.

Joseph: Yeah, I think I just read that 70,000 people participated in the first wave of sit-ins in 1960.

[As of April, 2014, almost 600 veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement had listed themselves on the website's Roll Call. In addition to full-time civil rights workers engaged in some form of community organizing or mass protest mobilization, that number included some local people who participated in their communities and some students who were active from their campuses.

There are no official statistics stating the total number of people who participated in the Southern Freedom Movement, nor can there be without first defining what "participate" means. Protesting? Going to jail? Attending a mass meeting? Housing a civil rights worker? Preparing food for marchers? Walking to work during a bus boycott? Attempting to register to vote when it was dangerous to do so? Working as a full-time organizer? Attending a freedom school? Working in an organizational office?

I would guess that somewhere around 150,000 people put their bodies on the line and/or risked jail in the 1960s by participating in sit-ins, Freedom Rides, or other dangerous protests. It's been estimated that about 500 men and women were on SNCC staff. I would guess that SCLC staff was probably around half that, CORE maybe 100 (in the South). Throw in NAACP, SCEF, SSOC, and Delta Ministry field staff and that might bring the number of full-time field organizers (or "field-secretaries" in the lingo of the day) to perhaps 1,200, give or take.

In addition to the well-known Mississippi Freedom Summer of 1964 and less well-known SCOPE in 1965, there were summer volunteers working in Mississippi in 1963, 1965, and 1966. And CORE ran summer projects in Louisiana from 1963-1965. There may also have been summer projects in some other southern states. At a very rough guess then, summer volunteers for all the different projects from 1963-1966 was probably between 2500-3000. And then there were the legal, religious, and medical volunteers some of whom served during their two or three-week vacation periods and others for months or years.

All these numbers are WAGs (Wild Ass Guesses) — Bruce Hartford.]

Matt: So I want to throw my survey question out.

Maria: Oh, so this about the numbers was a preamble to the third survey question.

Matt: How many of you, having made this long journey from early youth through the Civil Rights Movement to where you are, came through it with any religious belief?

Man: I have none.

Hardy: None.

Matt: None.

Man: None.

Man: None.

Charles:: Oh, I have a religious belief. It's the cause of most wars. It's my belief.

Matt: No, I'm talking about supreme being or deity or something of that kind.

Steven: I have an answer. I had it before, and I have it after. And it's not the same thing.

Maria: That is my same answer. I was very religious. I've lost faith completely after the Movement. And then I — 

Steven: No, I have more faith now than I ever did. And the only person that it's even come close to referencing it is this character over here, when he talked about the Socratic dialogue.

Steven: I didn't say you got it. I just say you moved a little closer. I'm going to get out because I [...]

Maria: I belong to the temple and observe the holidays, and I have a reformed Jew's understanding of religion — which is kind of like being a Unitarian with better food and music. [Laughter] And I belong to this very very progressive Santa Cruz temple, Temple Beth El in Aptos, where we do a lot of social action, work on immigration, poverty, race issues all the time.


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