SNCC 60th Commemoration
Small Group Discussions
October 13, 2021

Group B

Streaming Video

[This transcript has been edited to delete extraneous material for improved flow. Speakers were allowed to edit and expand their comments for clarity and completeness. As indicated by [brackets] some clarifications and explanatory annotations have also been added.]

Participants:

Chude Pam Parker Allen
Heather Tobis Booth
Daphne Muse
Gwendolyn Zoharah Simmons
Larry Spears
Pat Vail

Contents:

Introductions
Zoharah: Down at the Grassroots
Larry: Hattiesburg Beating
Pat: Singing With Mrs. Hamer
Heather: Lessons Learned
Heather: The Hawkins Family
Daphne: Class and Challenging the Structure
Chude: Being a White Woman in the Movement
Interracial Relationships and Movement Marriages 
Howard Moore
Vietnam War and the Freedom Movement
Fear and Courage
Parenting
Living for Freedom with Love at the Center
Thinking about Nonviolence
How We Treated Each Other
Appearance & Hair as Cultural Statements
Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer
Religion and Spirituality
Apologies & Reparations
A Change Had Come
Decline of SNCC
SNCC, the Movement, & Intersectionality
McCarthyism, Youth & SNCC
SNCC and Electoral Politics
The SNCC Legacy
Enduring Bonds
Black Power & White Allies
Being a White Ally
More on Preserving Our Legacy
Dealing with Infiltrators & Provocateurs
Address Problems As They Come Up
Linking Global Struggles
Poor Whites
Leadership in SNCC
Post-Traumatic Stress & Trauma
Summing Up
 

[Begin Session #1]

Introductions

Chude:

I'm Chude Pam Parker Allen. When I was in the south, I was Pam Parker. I went as an exchange student to Spelman [College] and was involved in the student movement there. This was in the spring of 64. So the big demonstrations had already happened. So I was more in the support stuff of going and demonstrating at the jail or going to a court case, and then of course, picketing against the segregated restaurants and then with Staughton Lynd in a workshop on nonviolence in America. And then I went as a freedom school teacher to Holly Springs, Mississippi. Okay. Heather, do you want to be next?

Heather:

Sure. By the way, it's just so wonderful to see those I know. And those, I don't know, but just know of you as legends, so glad to be here.

I'm Heather, Heather Tobis Booth. Tobis was my maiden name. I connected first with CORE in New York in support of the Woolworth's boycotts and then went to the University of Chicago and was the head of Friends of SNCC there and very active in the Chicago Civil Rights Movement and the coordinating group there. I went to Mississippi in 64, which is also where I was born. So I was returning — 

Zoharah:

Oh, wow, I had no idea.

Heather:

 — And I was a little time in Monroeville [MS], mostly in Shaw, Mississippi with the Hawkins family. Their story is extraordinary. And there's a book about their family now, and then was in Cleveland [MS] with Amzie Moore and then returned to Chicago, did some national traveling for Friends of SNCC, fundraising, speaking. Stayed with the Civil Rights Movement until the Whites were asked to move. And I became very active in the women's movement and knew Chude also from that.

Chude:

Great. Thank you. Pat. Do you want to be next?
Pat:
I'm Pat Vail, that's my maiden name. I was married at one time, but that was when I was a young person.

I was living in Boston and working at Harvard Law School as a secretary, but I was involved with the National Student Association (NSA) and a variety of other crazy things in Boston in 63-64, and was fortunate enough to be invited to a program when Dick Gregory and Mrs. Hamer. And I forget who all else came to Boston and did a presentation. And I had been doing work in Roxbury [a Black neighborhood] with the tutorial program and so forth. And I was just absolutely taken by the stories that the representatives had.

So I ended up in Greenville MS]. I was there actually for a year. I lived in a variety of places, some of them out on the plantations and others in town with wonderful families. And I'm sorry to say that most of my good friends have passed away. This is part of the problem with being 80 years old. Isn't it?

Chude:

Great. So Zoharah, would you like to be next?

Zoharah:

Oh yes. Greetings to everyone. So wonderful to be here with you all. I got involved in the Movement as a student at Spelman College starting in 1962. And of course that's where I met Chude and I was Gwendoline Robinson or Gwen Robinson. And I too took classes with Staughton Lynd and was greatly influenced by him and Howard Zinn, both of whom taught at Spelman. And then there was Vincent Harding out in the town. And I, actually under strict orders from my grandmother, joined a church and it just happened to be the West Hunter Street Baptist Church, pastored by Reverend David Abernathy [brother of civil rights and SCLC leader Ralph Abernathy].

And of course I had no idea who he was when I joined, but when I first laid eyes on Martin Luther king Jr. It was in that pulpit. So it was a conspiracy, there was no escape. And I got involved with SNCC and I too went to Mississippi during the Mississippi Freedom Summer [in 1964]. I was assigned to Laurel, Mississippi to be a Freedom School director, which is what I really wanted to do. As it happened, the person who was assigned to be the project director, Lester McKinney was arrested soon after, and as it turned out, had an outstanding warrant. So he had to leave and I was temporarily supposed to be project director. I spent 18 months in Laurel. I worked with SNCC in New York for a time.

Chude:

Thank you so much. Daphne, do you want to be next?

Daphne:

Good morning everybody.

If I get kicked off, we're under power outages. So you could lose me because of the fires.

[Referring to the Northern California wildfires at the time of this discussion in October 2021.]

My name is Daphne Muse. I am currently the inaugural Elder in Residence at the Black Studies Collaboratory at U.C. Berkeley, which I'm tremendously excited about. I came to work with SNCC in Nashville when I was a student at Fisk university. And I went to a meeting posted, held by Diane Nash, and James Bevel, [Rev.] James Lawson, on the Anti-war movement. So my entry into the Civil Rights Movement was through the Anti-war movement. The tone and tenor at Fisk at that time was very intense. And Julius Lester had just graduated and Marion Barry and the demonstrations in Nashville were at a fever pitch. I went on to become the manager of Drum and Spear bookstore [in Washington DC], which was part of SNCC's legacy. And I am just tickled black to be with you all, this afternoon.

Chude:

Perfect. Thank you, so Larry, your turn.

Larry:

I'm Larry Spears. I grew up in California. During my undergraduate career, two members of our university [Stanford] went to the election in 1963 in Mississippi and brought back stories. [Referring to the Freedom Ballot in the Fall of 1963.]

Then Martin Luther king came and spoke. Allard Lowenstein was the assistant Dean of students and he was very much opposed to the SNCC project [Freedom Summer in 1964], which tested my metal. And the students who had gone included Dennis Sweeny, who later murdered Allard Lowenstein in New York, he was dealing with some father issues. In the process I went to Hattiesburg, was involved in voter registration. And after [being beaten] in August, was secreted away in the backseat of a car with a blanket over me and woke up in Laurel. And then came back in 1965 to Laurel because of [Zoharah's] leadership. And so that's it.

 

Zoharah: Down at the Grassroots

Chude:

Great. Now we get to each do a five minute on — as Bruce said, there's no way we can answer all the questions of how did you join? What did you do? What was your experiences and what do you see as the main effect on your life? Obviously in five minutes we got to choose something. And this time, according to our leader, Bruce, I'm to go last. So I'm going to ask Zoharah, would you start this time because you were in the middle of going on and so you can. You have five minutes to share whatever you think is important.

Zoharah:

Okay, thanks. So, wow. I've already talked a little bit about how I came to be in the Movement and was assigned to Laurel and became project director there. And I really learned so much as a result also being in the Civil Rights Movement. I not only worked in Laurel, Mississippi, but briefly in New York and then to Atlanta, to the Atlanta project of SNCC. And since that time I've been involved in so many movement, organizations, including Anti-war, Anti Vietnam War, et cetera.

So what has I think been indelible was learning that people at the grassroots level, people who are often discounted, those people are able to make incredible change. That's what I learned in Mississippi and that people know what they need. And all they need is sometimes a little encouragement, some resources sometimes, but people know what they need and what they want, and the role of the organizer is to help them achieve those goals.

That has been with me for 60 years. And I have taken that with me everywhere I've gone to be involved in organizing or whatever work to this very day. I'm in Gainesville, Florida, where I've been for 21 years and retired from the University of Florida in 2019. So learning that people's movements can bring about the change that I know I want and still want has been just the thing that I've taken with me these 60 years.

Chude:

So you still have two minutes. Would you like to tell us one experience from Mississippi?

Zoharah:

Wow. I always tell this story about arriving in Laurel. Well, really we had nowhere to stay, so we had to sleep in Hattiesburg and we drive up, three of us, Jimmy Garrett, Lester McKinney, and myself. We had a list of names and on my list was a woman named Eberta Spanks. And so when I get to her door and knock on it, I'm still totally shocked that we are going to be asking some people, would they let us live with at them? When that meant their houses could be burned to the ground, they could be killed or what have you. But nonetheless, that's what we had to do.

So I — Given she was my first one. I was stumbling around trying to figure out how do you ask somebody that? And she looked me up and down and she said, "Are you one of those Freedom Riders?" And I didn't know if that was good or bad, but I said, "Yes, ma'am I am." And she said, "Come in, I've been waiting on you all my life." And she was 50 some odd years old. So that was the beginning of the Laurel project.

 

Larry: Hattiesburg Beating

Chude:

Great. Thank you. Larry, I'm going to ask you to go next, because you talked about coming into Laurel and coming back because of Zoharah. So perhaps you could tell us a story partly about what that was like in Laurel.

Larry:

Well, the big story was we did voter registration work and we gathered a group. The children liked to come and follow us. It was like a Pied Piper kind of situation. They would follow us around the community and then we'd go to lunch at some church.

And so [while in Hattiesburg] I made the mistake of guiding us in a shortcut along an abandoned railroad, which was the separating line between the poor white community and the Black community. And two guys drove up in a pickup truck and had lead pipes and they started beating this group I had been shepherding along. We had a program of national religious leaders that would come to Mississippi and would be touted around so that they could have an experience. So they would go home and talk to their congregation. So, Rabbi Arthur Lelyveld, was a very prominent Rabbi in Cincinnati, and his son was an editor at the New York Times. I was taking him around explaining about what we did. And so he was caught in the beating at the same time.

So, it turned out later that the FBI reported to the White House  — apparently that this beating was quite significant because the FBI report to the White House indicated that there [choking up] — Excuse me — that there may be a possible race war and that this was just start of something pivotal. That was not the case, but there are documents that show the concern at the highest levels about this small event involving the Rabbi.

The leaders were afraid at SNCC & COFO about what things were going to happen [referring to more white violence against Larry]. So, they decided to get rid of me [from Hattiesburg], and put me on the floor of a backseat of an old car covered with a blanket. And I woke up in Laurel.

 

Pat: Singing With Mrs. Hamer

Chude:

I see. Great. Thank you for that story. Okay, Pat, do you want to go next?

Pat:

I guess part of what I take from that experience was the fact that here at 80 years old, I still want to be in charge of my life. I don't want other people telling me what to do — "I'm here to give you suggestions."

I started out in Greenville. Somebody mentioned Memphis. And what I remembered about Memphis was barking dogs being restrained and men with guns. So Memphis was not barbecue to me [possibly referring to barbecue eateries in Memphis that some Freedom Workers like to frequent]. It was a scary place.

At any rate, I had signed up to be a Freedom School Teacher. And as it turned out, I had been working as a secretary at Harvard Law School and we didn't have a secretary in our office. So I ended up being the secretary for the office amongst other things. But I think the thing that I cherish most was being able to sing several times with Fannie Lou Hamer. I had never been transported and I loved music and I loved singing, but singing with her was such an extraordinary life changing and never to be repeated kind of experience. And some of you may recognize that as well. Is that enough?

Chude:

That's great. Thank you.

 

Heather: Lessons Learned

Chude:

Wonderful. Yeah. Heather, do you want to go next?

Heather:

Sure. I'm taking notes on what each of you are saying. I'm finding it actually pretty emotional. When Zoharah was describing lessons she learned, there are three big lessons I learned from Mississippi. By the way, I think it's quite likely the change that Mississippi and the Freedom Summer and the courage of the Black community that I saw had more of effect on me, certainly than I ever had on anyone. And it stayed with me my whole life. The three big lessons that I often described that I learned from Mississippi. One, just as Zoharah said, I learned, and it's sort of a theme of my life, that if you organize, you can change the world, but you've got to organize.

The second is that you sometimes have to stand up to illegitimate authority. The first time I ever was arrested, and wasn't planning on being arrested, we were doing a voter registration drive. As far as we knew it was not a civil disobedience. I don't believe we were breaking any laws. And we were all arrested to destroy the voter registration effort. This was an official voter registration effort at the county seat. And that's when we did then the MFDP registrations, because we couldn't do the official ones.

[Since attempts by African Americans to legally register to vote were so often suppressed with arrests, violence, and economic retaliation, the Movement also ran a parallel unofficial "Freedom Registration" effort to both recruit members into the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) and to demonstrate that Blacks wanted to register to vote and would do so if they could. See Freedom Vote in MS and MFDP Challenge to Democratic Convention]

I've been arrested many times since knowing I need to stand up to illegitimate authority. And the [third lesson] is knowing to trust local people. That you just need to give support if they want it and they know what they need in their life. And I've really tried to follow that.

I do want to share a bit of a story about...and Chude how much time do I have, Chude?

Chude:

Oh, you got three minutes. You got plenty of time.

 

Heather: The Hawkins Family

Heather:

I wanted to tell a little story about the Hawkins family, because I feel that you may know the story, but it is so — I don't think it's very well known and it's so stunning to me. So Andrew and Mary Lou Hawkins took us in as several children. I mean their generosity was just extraordinary. And Andrew had been involved in a Sharecropper's Union [Southern Tenant Farmers Union (STFU)] trying to get more than I think 5 cents or whatever. And even testified in Congress.

And also he had a lawsuit against the city of Shaw — his family did, [over] unequal accommodations that the white part of town had a swimming pool, had tennis courts and the Black part of town didn't have paved roads, indoor plumbing, street lights. And he won the lawsuit at the Supreme Court. And as a result, his house was firebombed twice. And in the second fire bombing, one of his sons and two grandchildren were killed. And then the sheriff, later on, on a trumped up charge, said, Mrs. Hawkins attacked him, which I can't believe this without cause. And she was killed.

So you have one family that stood up and he fought in so many different things and you have four people in the family who were murdered and it's not — We should, people should know this.

Chude:

Yes.

Zoharah:

I didn't know.

Heather:

And there is a book about it that one of the volunteers wrote called A Small Town Rises.

And then Benny Thompson, the Congressman from the area did have a commemoration about four years ago and had a piece of the federal highway named after them. This is a commemorative sign from it. Anyway, it just, when I think about the courage and the bravery and then the impact on their children and their grandchildren — 

Chude:

Yes.

Heather:

I'm probably out of time, but there's so many other stories.

Zoharah:

I hadn't even heard of the Hawkins family. I'm so sorry. That's amazing.

 

Daphne: Class and Challenging the Structure

Chude:

So Daphne, you want to come next?

Daphne:

Yes. First of all — everything — the Movement taught me to document, document, document. Everything that I touched that related to Black life and culture I tried to hold onto. So this was in my archive, and I pulled it the other day. It's the Mississippi Freedom Summer Project Volunteer's 25th anniversary Reunion Journal. And these documents helped refresh my memory. And they take me back into how the Movement shaped my humanity.

I've also been looking at the class struggle that took place within the Movement. I lived in Nashville with my aunt and uncle who were quote, "successful Black middle class people" and excuse me, "Black middle class Negroes." They did not want involved in the Movement whatsoever. And I had to sneak to go to those meetings with Jim Lawson and Diane [Nash] and I would lie and tell [my aunt & uncle], "Oh, I'm going to the library."

[Referring to the nonviolent workshops and organizing meetings for the Nashville Student Movement]

And the ways in which middle class people fought against the Movement. It was just so distressing to me because they felt the little they had would be taken away [because of white retaliation against the Freedom Movement]. And I think that it's important that the class struggles that took place within the Movement are not overlooked.

I learned how to listen very differently. I learned the importance of organizing, especially when I got to Drum and Spear from people like Jennifer Lawson, people like Cortland Cox, Don Brown, and Ralph Featherstone. Ralph was the consummate organizer, thinker. He was so strategic and I learned so much about what it meant to be a strategic thinker. And I learned that from them and all that I had access to read. And as a faculty member at Mills [College in Oakland CA] and at [U.C.] Berkeley to teach to my own students and to pass forward and to continue to pass this forward through my grandchildren, my daughter, and lots of young people who are currently doing social justice work,

What I failed, what I feel that, one of the things that we fell short on was not being able to was not being able to get more embedded into the structural justice. That while we accomplished a lot around voting rights, around, quote, so-called "desegregation." that there were — Getting into the structure of the systems has been much more daunting. And it's really reflected in the fact that now so much of what we did accomplish is being unthreaded, and unmind, and undermined, and trying to pass on how we organized, passing that on to future generations. Not as "the way," but "one way," because there is more than "the way" there are multiple — I mean, one way, there are multiple ways in which this can be done and you are seeing it reflected in the art, the culture, the history, and the organizing strategies of those moving forward.

 

Chude: Being a White Woman in the Movement

Chude:

Great. Thank you. I'm going about to speak my share, but before I do, just so I don't forget, what Daphne just raised will be our afternoon discussion. So to be clear, that we are going to have a lot of time to talk about the kinds of questions that she just raised around our eras.

So, okay. For me, I've done this a couple times before this workshop. And so I started thinking about what have I never talked about in a workshop? And I decided that I wanted to talk about interracial marriage, sex, and being a white woman. Because these are things that are always being written about — usually incorrectly. So I'm quite curious to see how other people's experience correspond. When I went to Spelman [as an exchange student], I was part of Canterbury Club, which was a Episcopalian group on the Morehouse campus.

And the first evening that I went there after the dinner and the program, three of the young men asked me to go out for Cokes. I didn't know Spelman girls weren't allowed to do that, so I did it. And I'm sitting there with my Coke, and the first question is, "Would you marry a Negro?" And I had not even considered that. I figured I would date, but I hadn't even thought about that. So I said something to the effect of, "I would try very hard not to, because it would be so difficult, but if I loved him, I would." And I found out a year later, from seeing two of the young men again, that they thought I said "No." I thought I said "Yes." And the result of that was that nobody asked me out, in terms of the young Black men, because that, I guess, got around.

And I had the privilege, which I don't know if it's true for young women today, but back then, it was just a privilege to be friends with men, with no issue about sex. You just become close. And all of the Canterbury people, Barry Gaither was one, along with myself, we were two people from that club who went to Mississippi in '64. But it was very interesting then. So then I get to Mississippi and there the pressure, all of a sudden, is much more about sex, interracial sex, and that the white women were going down [to Mississippi] because they wanted to, essentially, fuck the Black men.

[Referring to racist and misogynist falsehoods spread by segregationists to denigrate white women who supported the Freedom Movement. For southern whites, this lie invoked deep cultural myths about the sanctity of "white womanhood" and incited intense hatred and rage against Black men.]

And so that was something that just weighed on me. It's the first time I was ever de-classed, because I come from the upper middle class, where all of a sudden I was seen mostly as a sexual being, overtly rather than covertly.

And that I had to come to terms with the fact that most people didn't see me as a person. I also interpreted, when I came from — the Holly Springs [project] had a very large staff. There were about 40 of us, and because we were opposite Rust College — in fact, the women lived on the college campus and the men lived in the freedom house. So my experience in Mississippi was a lot being with peers. I didn't live with a [Black] family, I lived with peers. And so I was convinced that so many of the Black men weren't interested in knowing me, because they were afraid of this paranoia around white women bringing danger to a project because the [local] white men would become violent [at the sight of a white woman socializing as an equal with a white woman].

And so it was just different. I consider it one of the great privileges of my life, that I got to know [SNCC leader] Ralph Featherstone, who was on our project for a couple weeks. And I have written about that —  Would You Marry One?, But he was the kind of person that taught me a lot about trusting other people, and trusting people to work through their contradictions. And the whole time that I knew him, I don't know [about] those of you that worked with him, but I never experienced him as somebody who put somebody down. He might tease me a little bit, but he was much more just to say the truth in a kind of calm way. And that was just a gift. I mean I was 20 years old, and he was adorable and I did basically fall in love with him for those few weeks. If it had not been that I was leaving and he was joining the Movement full time, if we'd been in the same place, I was totally happy for him to be my boyfriend.

But the idea of interracial marriage was still something I had not dealt with. And so I came out of the South and I went to visit one of my mentors, Father Paul Washington, an African American Episcopal priest at the Church of the Advocate in Philadelphia. I had worked there. And he told me the following year, that the year I came back, in stress of course from all the pressures of the summer, I had said to him, "Do I need to be willing to marry a Black man?" Or a "Negro," [as] I would've said then. And he told me the following year that every time he spoke to white people, he would say, "I don't understand how somebody could be willing to risk their lives for Negroes and not be willing to live with them."

A very interesting contradiction that I was wrestling with. Well, for those of you that know me, I did in fact answer that question, "Yes." And I've answered it twice, "Yes." Very different men from very different parts of the country, but both African American.

And then, to just end this all, is I still thought for a long time that the big issue in Mississippi was sex between Black men and white women. And then Don Jelinek, in our [Bay Area] group here, was speaking once. And I asked him afterwardsk — he was working on a case in Benton County to integrate the schools. And he said the big issue was the whites did not want to have interracial schools because their daughters might marry Negroes. So I've come back to understanding that interracial marriage was, and is, a key question. And in my case, to just finish here, because of the friendships, especially with one friend, Barbara Joy Douglas at Spelman, and then the friendships with the young men at Canterbury House always, for me, the issue has partly been the freedom to love.

So, anyway, now we're open to discussion. And as Bruce said, the key thing is that we're going to be talking to each other, rather than giving talks now. So I don't know who wants to start and who wants to respond to whom?

 

Interracial Relationships & Movement Marriages

Daphne:

I would like to see you write more on the freedom to love.

I found myself in kind of the opposite situation. Having moved to California, got deeper involved in black nationalism for a hot second, and ended up marrying a Mississippi-born white man, who was a Quaker. And so I think that there is the need for the discussion from our generation about the implications that came with loving beyond racial boundaries and the fear that was held by so many — not only white people — but a lot Black people did not want to see their daughters or their sons marrying outside of the race.

And I think there's the need to explore that even more. It's not even a big question now. I mean, in this collaboratory that I'm working with at Berkeley, I would say a third of the people involved are mixed race. And I'm not just talking black-white, that extended beyond the black-white mix. But [Black-white] was much more intense. If somebody had married a Native American, or even an Asian American, that was more acceptable than marrying a white person. Although when I married David, my father said, "There really is justice in this world, you married a Mississippi-born white boy." I almost fell out when he said that.

And the whole conversation around women exploring their sexuality in the Movement, and what that meant, and how that impacted the Movement, I mean, those are discussions that need to be had. They aren't the driving forces, but they are conversations that I think are important.

Chude:

Great. Thank you. Okay, who else would like to jump in?

[Comment about Howard Moore shifted to below]

Pat:

My husband was African American — Black — he was "African American" when we got married, I guess. Within a year after I was in Mississippi, and we had, actually, some tough times and some great times. We were involved, we were in DC and the Free DC Movement, the anti-War movement, of course. And Stokley [Carmichael aka Kwame Ture] used to come by now and again, and Ivanhoe [Donaldson] lived in the same building, and my dear friend, Lisa Anderson, also lived in the building at the time.

I have two boys who are both in their fifties at this point. And I guess I was never quite so shattered as when I heard a Black woman say, "White women should not be allowed to raise Black children." I think the context was adoptions, but I was so incensed with that, that for one time I just kept my mouth shut, because I didn't know what to say. And I'd be curious to know whether anyone else ran into that juxtapositon of parents and kids being somewhat different.

Chude:

OKay. Zoharah, were you going to speak?

Zoharah:

I'm not clear how you want to do this. And my hand up was to respond to Daphne about Howard Moore. But if there's a theme in terms of the whole issue of interracial parenting and marriage, if someone wants to speak to that and then I'll come back to Daphne and Howard Moore, who I love dearly. Yes.

Chude:

Okay. Anyone else want to speak to the question of interracial marriage or any related issues? Okay. So then talk about Howard if you'd to.

 

Howard Moore

Daphne:

I also want to say that there are a couple of people whose names do not come forward in our discussions around the Movement. I worked for Howard Moore, when Howard was the lead attorney for the Angela Davis defense, Angela Davis trial. I was the secretary for the legal defense team. And Howard had done a lot of work in the South and represented a lot of people. And I just want to bring his name to the table as somebody who often doesn't get his due. And I'm sure that there are those of you in the room who interacted with Howard or Jane [Bond Moore] and were impacted by their lives.

Zoharah:

Okay. I just wanted to say, Daphne, that when I was arrested the first time there in Atlanta, Georgia as a student at Spelman — and you've already mentioned how middle class Black people fought so hard against their children being in the Movement — Spelman was also very antagonistic to our being in the Movement. And so, at the orientation for freshmen, that's Fall of '62, one of the first things they said to us was, "Do not get involved in the Movement."

And as I was a poor person there on a full scholarship, and of course they threatened us, particularly with taking our scholarships away. But when I went to jail, I not only was terrified of going to jail, I thought I was also going to be kicked out of Spelman when I got back to campus. But Howard Moore was the beautiful, smiling face that escorted me out of jail and back to the campus.

I've had a long association with Howard and I agree, he is one of our unsung and often unknown heroes, brother-in-law to Julian Bond, of course, his wife being Julian's sister Jane. But yes. And I'm so happy to say that I'm Facebook friends with Howard to this very day and we communicate often that way.

Chude:

Cool. Okay. Oh Larry, hi.

 

Vietnam War and the Freedom Movement

Larry:

I'd just like to raise the issue of the connection between the Mississippi Summer Project and the Vietnam War. In my view, from a cultural point of view, that Mississippi Summer Project stopped the war in Vietnam. It was the direct connection to the resistance to the war, [to] the returning of draft cards, all of that Movement, that shocked government leaders into making the decision to end that war. So, I'm just saying, I think that that connection [which] people discounted, was a powerful effect.

Daphne:

I concur that the Movement had such impact on the Vietnam war, the war on Vietnam. And I'd like to see more written about that, and more discussion about that. And those were points at which we leveraged our power in ways that I don't think we recognize had much deeper impact on the policies of the country than many realize.

Heather:

I wanted to build on that. Part of what SNCC was, is it made us proud to be a "radical" in the sense of going to the root cause. Not just for — We may only be able to win a small reform. I was for any improvement in lives that could happen. So it wasn't that I needed to jump to the most radical reforms. But I was proud to look for more fundamental changes. And it's also been a part of my perspective ever since.

It's impacted my involvements in other movements, including against the war in Vietnam. And I was a campus leader at the University of Chicago after I got back from the [1964 Freedom Summer], and we had the first sit-in against the war in Vietnam because the university was collaborating with the Selective Service System [the military draft]. They were providing [grade] rank order of the male students. So if you had lower rank in your grade point average, you were more likely to be drafted.

And we knew that there was a relationship between — even in an elite school, like the University of Chicago — there was a relationship between class and race and it played into that. But also, we didn't want to collaborate with the selective service system. And so we were the first university where there was a takeover of the administration building.

By the way, just saying how the generations connect. I got a call as — 

Chude:

Okay now, wait, wait. We're getting into the afternoon session. Remember? The afternoon session's going to be the effect of the Movement, the Movement itself. And it's probably a good time to take a break after I say this, so if everybody wants to do a bathroom break or just a little five minute break. Right now, what we're supposed to be doing, if we can, is how did it change us? So yes, go there. I mean, it gave you courage, right?

 

Fear and Courage

Heather:

Well, on courage, I would say, I think I have maybe a different view than many people I've heard speak about it. I was frightened out of my mind almost every minute. I was frightened partly for myself, but I was more frightened with my being in the house with the Hawkins family — risking their lifes. I was so concerned that in their generosity — and it did [put them at risk], though was also other things they did. So I have always thought you take action in spite of how frightened you are. I am not someone who is unfrightened, I'm frightened in almost everything I can do.

In fact, part of what I say often is, in the Movement people might say, "Are you willing to die for free freedom?" And I made the choice I wanted to live, but I was willing, if that was needed, to take those risks. But now I say the real issue is — will you live for freedom? Will you do the boring work? Sometimes it is too hot, it's too cold. I'm too tired. I don't have the energy. I don't want to make one more phone call. I don't want to be on one more Zoom. But will you live for freedom? I do think people will find interesting just two things I was going to say.

One is as this call was starting, I got a call from my niece's daughter, Isha Clark Tobis, who's part of the group at Howard [University in Washington DC], who's just taken over part of the administration, or taken over the library because they want student representation. She's a student at Howard. She called up to know could I help her on press. I felt like, "Oh my God, what's going on?"

But the second thing was on the anti-war movement. I'm not going to get in a whole discussion of it too. So at the sit-in at [Chicago University], the person who we had as an outside speaker was a national secretary of SDS, Paul Booth. He said he came looking for me. Within three days he asked me to marry him. And we were married over 50 years and had a movement life.

And so for me, I didn't face the issue of black-white marriage, but I did face the issue, that's a whole other experience, of what it means to be a movement couple. We are both working so intensively, so dramatically raising your children in the same values, but where time and money are often additional pressures. And joys.

Chude:

Yes. It's now 11:12, according to my clock. So can we go to a five minute break, just in case people want to get something, and come back. And maybe could we focus partly on, for all of us, Heather's posed it in terms of being a movement couple, but we can also pose it in terms of being a movement person, because I would assume that all of us, from Mississippi on, have thought of ourselves as being part of the Movement.

Heather:

Is this going into the second part or is this a continuation of the first part?

Chude:

Yeah. Well, let's try to think about it in terms of Mississippi and the coming out, I mean, because for those of us that were white, we were coming out to white society. So the question is, were we going to stay true to the commitments we had made? I don't know. Shall we take a little break and then see how we want to pose it?

Zoharah:

Larry has his hand up.

 

Parenting

Larry:

How we translate our post-Movement experience into parenting.

Chude:

Okay. Yeah.

Daphne:

I love that. [inaudible 00:52:34]  — [Referring to her daughter] But she also saw it as taking something away from her, but also giving her something. I mean, Rosa Parks spent a week at our home in 1980 in Oakland. We lived in the hood. We lived in east Oakland. She saw day to day how structural injustice and structural racism, how those things impacted her life. And as she got older, they became things that she had a lens through which to make an analysis about how that impacted her life.

But as a young child, these meetings, these demonstrations were taking something from her. And there was heartbreak around that, there was real heartbreak around that. So it got to be complicated, especially since she was a single child, only child. I think had I had more than one child, there would've been the companionship of a sibling, but because she didn't have the companionship of a sibling, I think she felt more deprived.

Chude:

Gotcha. Yeah. Heather, did you want to comment?

Heather:

Several things. I think that so little prepares us for being parents, except perhaps seeing a model of what our parents are like. But a movement-like life brought us out of the reality of, I think, what many of our parents were like, they may have had the same commitment. I felt I actually was living my parents' values, but you know, my mother was a stay-at-home mom, and then she went to work later. And it was just a different life rather than believing you give everything you have for the Movement.

Thinking about what Daphne was saying. Though I haven't, and one of my proudest things is that my kids live in their own ways, but carry on the shared values, which was very important to me and my husband. I haven't talked a lot about raising children in the Movement, and there's a number of stories about that, but I have talked a fair amount and been on panels about living a life in the Movement. Because even that, how do you do this for the long haul? I won't go into it, but I really think it's different, if you think this isn't just a sprint, it's not just a summer, but it's your entire life.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Heather:

And it's what you do when you are working. It's what you do when you're not working. It's what you do when you're a witness. It's what you do. I mean, living in this crazy world on this knife-edge right now, particularly. So anyway, when it's time for that.

 

Living for Freedom with Love at the Center

Daphne:

Heather, I'd like to go back to something you said earlier, when you were questioning, "Would I die for freedom?" And you said, "Will you live for freedom?" Well, clearly all of us have lived for freedom.

Heather:

Clearly.

Daphne:

We're here, we're in this moment. And I thought that was such a profound statement that you made, where we live for freedom. And we live for freedom, not only freedom, but freedoms because many of us have been involved in not just the Civil Rights Movement, but the Anti-Apartheid movement, the Anti-war movement, the feminist movements, that we translated, this work across multiple platforms.

And in listening to many of the things that you've had to say, not just in this moment, but across time, is, I think the Movement also shaped our humanity. And it shaped it in ways that we did not necessarily know it was doing, but that we've been able to live long enough to reflect and say, look at the kind of human being I've become because of Mississippi. Because of Fannie Lou Hamer. Because of Freedom Summer. Because of all the people that my life has, our lives have, intersected with and the standard that the Movement raised, the standard for humanity for us.

Larry:

It might be worth some conversation about this idea of living in the Movement, as contrasted with the other, as going over to the other side. That is the way in which people understood how you stay in the Movement. If you get a job in a hospital, you get a job in a local government, you get a job, you live in a middle class community. How do you think about that barrier? That it isn't you're either one or the other, but it's a different way of translating the Movement experience into the subsequent life. And I think we sometimes fall into the trap of thinking that the only valid movement in history is being against things. Being against Apartheid or being against misogyny. So, just that concept, I think, is worth some exploration [crosstalk 00:59:03].

Chude:

Yeah, go ahead, Heather.

Heather:

I was going to build on to what Larry said it made me think of some other things. But what Daphne said about how it affected our character and our being in the world. I mean, from the work we did. It made me think of the following. Like I think all of you, yes. I, I live in the movement in so many ways. In the last election, after I had decided I wasn't going to take on a full-time job anymore. Too much is too much. It was the middle of the pandemic, and I supported a candidate who was not the final nominee, but when Biden, it was clear was going to be the nominee, I volunteered. And then I was hired to, I had two roles in the campaign. I was head of progressive and seniors outreach for the Biden campaign.

The reason I mentioned it is, I had a large volunteer crew, maybe 800 volunteers. And they were like 250 who worked almost full time. And I made a button for each of them that I then sent to them. One said, because I ended every meeting that we had as organized, "If you organize you can change the world." But then this is the one that, that Daphne made me remember. It says "Love at the center." And I finished every meeting by saying, remember, we can do this. "If we organize, we can change this world, with love at the center."

Chude:

With love at the center.

Heather:

Cause you can really get on each other in a campaign. You're tired, things don't go exactly right. Is it your fault? Is it someone else's? But remember, love at the center. And so Daphne the point you were making of their values and vision that we also were taught, in addition to the concrete history and experiences.

And even though it changed over time, I really wanted a "beloved community," for all the ways in which it was more aspiration, in reality. I also found, one of the reasons I stayed in the movement is I love the people I work with.

[Referring to the sense expressed by many veterans of the Southern Freedom Movement that they were part of, and aspiring to create a "beloved community."]

Daphne:

Absolutely.

Heather:

And I felt, there was some craziness too, but I mostly felt I was protected by that community in large part. In Mississippi, certainly by the Black community at the risk of their lives.

Chude:

Yeah (affirmative).

Heather:

But even of the volunteers, I was younger. I may have been the youngest volunteer. I was a very young volunteer. Maybe an immature one, but also young. And I felt I was protected, in a way that only a loving community who care about the people as well as the mission could do. And it taught, it was one of the big lessons that it taught me. Love at the center.

 

Thinking about Nonviolence

Chude:

Great. So Larry, do you want to speak?

Larry:

Another issue is the change in our thinking about nonviolence. When I was in Hattiesburg [MS], we had just come out of the [Freedom Summer volunteer] training, where we got kicked around in Oxford, Ohio for a while. And so I was terrified. So I was living with a family, a middle class family behind Morningstar Baptist church in Hattiesburg. And the nephew, the one that owned the home that we stayed in, I think he and his friends posted armed guards around the house.

Chude:

Yes.

Larry:

I was comforted by that, at the same time, ideologically supportive of nonviolence. And then with, with the experience of the beating, and then to hear the leaders of SNCC talk later in sort of ambivalent terms about violence and the need for violence to bring about change. It was a big transformation in our thinking that was going on and that none of us were very clear about, in my view.

Chude:

Zoharah, did you have your hand up before? — You're muted.

Zoharah:

Sorry about the earlier malfunction and of course I missed some of what you all were saying. And I was really trying to zoom in as to where you are now. I know we said we would talk about raising children in the Movement and just a line of two on that. I certainly have one daughter and raised her going to all kinds of demonstrations and meetings.

When she was about nine years old, she said to me, "I hate the Movement," because she would be so angry at having to go to all these meetings and sit quietly while we went on and on and on and on. So I was a bit worried that this was going to turn her against the Movement. But as it has turned out, she is very involved. Not in the same movements that I've spent most of my life in, but very involved and committed to social change around the question of nonviolence.

I know that I have been through many different feelings about nonviolence, certainly being, going into the Movement, having been influenced by Dr. King and Staughton Lynd and Vincent Harding. I clearly believed in it.

You mentioned, Larry, about the house where you lived, people having arm guards. Mrs. Finks [in Laurel?] would sit up every night, many nights, particularly when we'd had a lot of threats on the phone, sometimes we'd have to just take it off the hook and leave it off. She would sit in the darkened living room with a shotgun across her lap. And she would say to the three of us, who were living with her, three women, and she said, "You can rest because I'm watching, I'm watching over you." And watching over her husband and her son who was there. And I clearly appreciated that. So this whole idea of does nonviolence mean you don't try to protect your life when it's threatened? There's an issue that I think many have had to grapple with and it's one that I still grapple with. So just wanted to jump in on that one.

Chude:

Do you remember we used to have those debates? At least I did in Atlanta with, "Well, what would you do if someone broke in your house and they were about to pick up your baby and bang his head against the wall, would you still be nonviolent?" And of course, being very affected by Staughton and everybody I was, "Oh, yes, I'd be nonviolent."

Zoharah:

I certainly learned, that's not the case. I'm going to protect my baby.

Chude:

But I think we were, the way I look upon it now, just as a reference, is that I do think it's valuable to learn the techniques of nonviolence.

Zoharah:

Oh, I agree.

Daphne:

Yes.

Chude:

So that we don't start with the violence that is so prevalent in this culture without questioning it.

Daphne:

Yes.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

And I think that where I grew up in Pennsylvania, which was semi-rural country, the violence wasn't overt the way it was in the South with the whites, it wasn't overt like that. And that naivete partly came from not really realizing how violent everybody could be, until I had to start dealing with that. So yes, I think it was, I think we all went through changes and we continue to, because of the kind of culture we live. And I think it's an ongoing question, but so certainly we all learned there was a difference between offensive violence — 

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

 — and self defense.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

But they were not the same thing. Heather, you have your hand up?

Heather:

Yes, I'm in the middle of this fight for Build Back Better and to make sure the billionaires have to pay.
[At the time of this discussion, the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress were trying (with little success) to enact the comprehensive "Build Back Better" package of economic-recovery and economic-justice legislation and programs.]

And so when we take our break, I'm going to be away a little bit longer and I'm getting called back. I got some calls on it and other things and I'm just sorry on that.

Chude:

Okay. Thank you to let us know.

Heather:

What I was raising my hand on, was on the nonviolence issue. You may have addressed this. I think that even currently the issue of, at least tactical nonviolence and impactful action versus symbolic action, is a critical lesson for today's movement. Even impactful, civil disobedience and non-impactful civil disobedience.
[At the time of the Freedom Movement in the 1960s, "tactical nonviolence" and "philosophical nonviolence" were often counterposed to each other in debates among activists. See Two Kinds of Nonviolent Resistance]

So I believe that in terms of the Movement advancing our cause if we're speaking to the broad American public, unless the public can see the immediate cause that would lead someone to take a violent response as the Deacons For Defense had, or someone threatening you and you can't breathe, or which even then we, they weren't violent responses. But unless there's [a self-evident reason for a violent response, violence is] a message to the American public [that] I believe it is not effective in persuading people that this is a movement [they] want to be part of. This is different from the issue of self-defense.

And then even on the question of the tactics, there's some people who think, "Oh, well, what we need to do is we need to all get arrested." And I've been arrested a fair number of times for a very different causes and think that it's also maybe important, but there's sometimes, there are arrests, no one notices. There's no coverage of it. And you may do it for your own moral purpose. And I actually think that that may have a usefulness, but it's having an overall strategy.

One of you, I don't remember if it was Zoharah or Daphne, was talking about having a strategy and becoming a strategic way of thinking that we got from the Movement, or Larry was that you? Anyway, I don't remember who said it. And I think that ensuring that our actions fit into a strategy is also one of the important [lessons of the Movement]. There was a theory of change that we had, helping to think about having a theory of change and not just one action after another. "Oh, let's just sit in, let's hold hands around the courthouse, let's Tweet." In what context?

 

How We Treated Each Other

Chude:

I think one of the things about pacifism as I learned it in Atlanta, was that it was partly referring to how we treat each other. And how, even, we treat those who see us as the enemy. And I've often thought that much as I could not hold on to being a pacifist, I mean, that's no longer my politics to always be a pacifist because I do believe in self-defense. I think that aspect of the Southern Freedom Movement played a very positive role in reminding people that tactical nonviolence in and of itself does not raise a question about how are we treating each other within the Movement.

Daphne:

Yeah.

Chude:

And pacifists, at least, forced us to always be aware of that. I'm not sure we all did a great job. I mean, certainly in Holly Springs [MS], I mean I only found out that Ivanhoe [Donaldson] had migraines years after the Movement. But you know, Ivanhoe was the head of our project and sometimes Ivanhoe would just be, was on us. I mean, we used to make a quip, he didn't like white women because he would jump on us. But you know, in retrospect as I looked at it, I mean one time he got so upset because the people, the Freedom School teachers, had eaten up all the food in the project. And the men came back from being in the field and there was no food. He was right to be upset, but he would really blow some times.

And I can remember, I don't remember now when it was, before he died, he did call me once. And by then I had found out from another member of the Holly Spring group, that he had migraines and he was so touched that I even knew that. I think for a man, in particular, to admit that was hard. But it would've helped me back then to have known that there were times when he was just suffering. And yet he still, I mean, this is another way in which, what does it mean to be part of a Movement when you suffer from something like that, and you still are going out every day and you are still facing the terrorism that he faced all the time.

But anyway, I just wanted to say, I think that it's good to remember that in the Southern Freedom Movement, that those who were pacifists did make me, at least, carry throughout the rest of my life, this thought that like Heather with her button is, that we are partly about treating each other with the kind of love and respect and dignity that we would like our whole society have.

Zoharah:

Yeah.

Pat:

I went to a school the year after I was in Mississippi called the Upland Institute. It was held at Crozier Seminary in Chester, Pennsylvania. And we were supposed to be getting a masters in nonviolence. I don't remember what exactly they termed, what it was that we were getting. But we had a number of Quakers who were involved in the organizing of that program. And frankly, I personally found them quite violent. They just weren't violent overtly. They were violent to their wives. They were violent to women generally in terms of their attitudes. They were not, "Oh yes, we're equal and I'm dying to hear what you've got to say." Not at all. They were in charge. And that really surprised me. And I've not worried about it ever since.

But I must say, I'm impressed with all of you living through the movement for the last 60 years. I just must have led a really stupid life because I've been involved in stuff but I'm certainly not worried about what people have thought or they have been coming up with slogans and so forth. I was an attorney and I worked as an attorney for 40 years and did a lot of pro bono work for Legal Aid and also, ultimately, for seniors here in Jacksonville.

And probably the funniest thing about my children is that, well, one of them is a conservative and the other one is a liberal, so that's not funny. But when my younger son was at Georgetown [University in Washington DC] back in the late eighties, I guess it was, he actually wrote a paper about my experience in Mississippi. It was a communications and civilization kind of a course. And so he interviewed me and he interviewed Lisa Anderson, who was my dear friend, who was also in Greenville at the time. And it was fascinating to see how much research he had done and what he was doing. And he is the same way now, he's still doing research and still doing writing and very much can concerned with what's going on.

The thing that I've gotten involved with is probably a spinoff, is that I've gotten involved with ancestry. And I have been amazed at the scholarship that is going on, particularly amongst the Black professors and the kinds of data that they're pulling out now that we can share with the children and the grandchildren and the great grandchildren.

Yes, there were lots of Black folks in the Revolution. They were everywhere and doing everything. And the same thing has been true ever since. And I think we've had a real lack of information. I mean, think about Georgetown and the fact that the Georgetown fathers [Jesuit founders] sold the slaves that they had in order to raise money, to build another building. And my son said, if I had known that, I don't think I would've gone there. I said, if I known that you wouldn't have gone there, that's for sure.

But these are bits and pieces of our lives that are only now starting to come forward and I find that very exciting and I just wish there were a way to let all the young people know how much value they have and what value they come from. And that they just should not feel put down by these old ratty white folk who were bad-mouthing them. But let me stop.

 

Appearance & Hair as Cultural Statements

Larry:

Just on a more superficial level, the issue of uniforms, how we dressed was a way of making a cultural statement as we moveed back into the time period after the summer. I can remember being on the lecture circuit, speaking circuit, particularly to religious groups. And when I went to the synagogue, they made it very clear that I was supposed to wear denim in order to be visually in the Movement that I was talking about. And I wondered if different people had different expectations about how do serious women at the time make fashion statements with regard to jewelry, with regard to frilly things, that it just unclear to us. I never have seen anything written about the fashionistas of the Movement.

Pat:

I don't think there was anything fashion about the whole thing. It was all denim skirts. And, of course we weren't supposed to wear trousers and pants. We had to wear skirts.

Chude:

That's Right.

Pat:

But [inaudible 01:21:42] other than that, it was just whatever you could wash in the bathtub while you were taking a bath, just pretty practical stuff that's [inaudible 01:21:52] any jewelry at all.

Larry:

But, that was in Mississippi. After Mississippi, did women — the difference between women coming into the Movement and leaving after the summer, did that change the way in which we all (Movement men) presented ourselves?

Pat:

No.

Daphne:

The Movement couture shifted [after] Black Power came in.

Chude:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pat:

For sure.

Daphne:

Because women started wearing African prints and geles — which are the head wraps. There was a definite shift in the couture of the Movement once Black Power came in.

And Pat, I want to go back and just kind of reassure you that these young people, they know a lot more about who they came from than we ever did. They really do. And their whole thing about ancestors and respecting ancestors and knowing more about the ancestors. It is pretty fricking amazing.

Pat:

It is. It's so exciting. I'm always reading things and I send them to my kids. I'm sure it's "Oh, mom, sending something else to read," but I just think it's so important to know these things and share that information. So I'm glad to have you have that affirmation.

Daphne:

Yeah. And then I want to go back to the nonviolence — 

Chude:

Wait one minute. Zoharah, do you want to speak to the costumes or the — 

Zoharah:

Daphne is talking about what we Black women did. I don't know if others also wore geles and African attire, but I certainly know that I did after the rise in Black Power and Black consciousness. For a number of years, I only wore African attire and geles and the like. So, of course the thing that happened in SNCC, and I remember so well how my mother and grandmother were so annoyed, as well as Spelman college when I began wearing an Afro [hair style].

Daphne:

Oh yeah.

Zoharah:

Now that, from my folks, was a no-no. It was like, we sent you to college, not for you to go down there and lose your mind. Because, in their mind to start wearing an Afro meant I had lost my mind. And needless to say, as a Spelman [student], absolutely. I was called into the Dean's office and the Dean said, "What have you done to your hair?" And I said, "I washed it." And so she said, "Don't get smart with me and threaten me".

These things that we have gone through around Black people and the shame that we had to throw off regarding everything, hair, color, size of nose, size of lips, shape of butt, you name it. We have been taught to hate that about ourselves. And so this is one of the things that for a while, we really saw change after Black Power and Black consciousness.

But, I know that I still — Larry in reference to your question, when I went home to Memphis, even though my folks were upset about the Afro, I felt like I couldn't upset them about the clothes. Because if I was going to church or other things I had to dress like I always had dressed before joining the Movement. So I preserved a few of those church-going dresses and things so that I wouldn't completely embarrass my family at church.

Chude:

Well, I remember at Spelman the women didn't shave their legs and I thought that was great. So I stopped shaving my legs. It was just very different how it was. Then I go back to my hometown, and I have to raise money to go to Mississippi. And I realized I couldn't do it with hairy legs up there with the white folk, you know? So it was those changes, those ways where you do adapt and where you don't adapt is very interesting.

I do remember at the spring SNCC conference '64, which was oriented mostly about us going to Mississippi, but there were workshops in the afternoon on both student movement in the North and the student movement in the South. And since I was at Spelman, I went to the one in the South and part of the debate was around clothing because the SNCC men used to come on the Spelman campus and we would give them our food tickets so they could eat and stuff. But they would be in their overalls. And so some of the Morehouse guys were saying "No, this isn't okay. When you come to the Atlanta University campus, you should look like us."

[In the 1960s, five historically black colleges and universities (HCBUs) shared the Atlanta University Center campus — Clark Atlanta University, Interdenominational Theological Center, Morehouse College, Morris Brown College, and Spelman College]

And the SNCC guys were saying, "Hell no". You know, we are identifying with the poor and the problem with the bougie Black folks is that they don't want to identify with the poor. So this was the debate. And I, of course was totally influenced by the SNCC guys. But I've subsequently read that Ms. Ella Baker took the position that you should not dress in ways that come up in confrontation with the people you're trying to organize.

So, we've lost Heather for her meeting, so I can't get feedback from her, but I certainly think when we started, by the time we started women's liberation, a couple years later, this whole issue around skirts was in. We had been made to wear skirts all our lives. We weren't allowed to wear pants. And so all of — and flat shoes rather than heels.

These things [may] seem kind of minor now, but they weren't minor. That's one of the things — where's the balance between [when] you're trying to organize people and [an] issue has become a fundamental issue for you, whatever the issue is. So having your hair natural, in my case, I was raised that you couldn't have straight hair. It had to be curled. And, and if you woke up one day and your hair was straight, you had to wear it in a ponytail.

These were the rules. And then I go to Spelman where the women are straightening their hair. But I will comment about the straightening phase. Being a white person, a girl, and at least in my college [Carleton Colleg in MN] and stuff, how you dealt with your hair was on your own. [But] oh my God, at Spelman, it was a social thing.

Daphne:

Oh yeah.

Chude:

Everybody was hanging out together and helping each other. People were doing each other's hair. It was really quite beautiful on that level of how people supported each other and I didn't have that experience. And then I'll just end with the hair thing that when I went to Mississippi, I'd cut my hair short. I'd cut my hair short at Spelman because I'd gone through all these changes. And I thought that I needed to make a statement when I went back home that I was different, which of course didn't mean anything to anybody else. But it did to me, that I'd cut my hair short.

In Mississippi it was wonderful in that I could get up in the morning and I take a shower because I didn't have to worry about curling my hair. Because if your hair was real, real, real short, you were allowed to have it straight. But I was super conscious and I can remember this even up 'till today that the girls that I was in their room with them, I was super conscious that they could not get up in the morning and go put their heads under the water and be cool because they were still straightening their hair.

Daphne:

Yeah.

Chude:

So that whole hair thing was big. And — 

Pat:

I'd like to say that I still look like what I did at three years old. It really is pretty pitiful but I wore my hair same way the whole time. Hey, what can I say?

Daphne:

There were two women at Fisk [University in Nashville TN] when I entered in 1962, I think by 1963, they had Afros. Philippa Thompson Jackson and Arnette Whitmeyer. And it was like, "Oh my God, look what they've done." I mean, the whole, Fisk was super bougie, super bougie. And I just thought, how absolutely brave of them. And then I looked at them and I said, "And don't they look gorgeous?"

Chude:

Yes.

Daphne:

Now, I didn't get an Afro until 1967, '68, but I always go back to the courage it took for them to do that. '62, '63 and Philippa actually was in SNCC. She worked with SNCC. She lives in DC now and she may be a part of the conference.

 

Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer

Daphne:

I want to swoop back to something about the nonviolence. And I think it just popped in my mind too. In 1969, Jennifer Lawson and I worked on a voter registration project in Quitman County, Mississippi. Cortland Cox and Charlie Cobb sent us down to work on this project. Jennifer took me to meet this woman that, as soon as I saw her, I recognized her, but I couldn't believe that I was there in this field with her. And I said, "Oh my God, there really is a God and I just met her." It was Fannie Lou Hamer.

And every time I feel a crisis of spirit of morality, I say, "I wonder what Fannie Lou Hamer would say. I wonder what Fannie Lou Hamer would do." And out of that has come a mantra that I often refer to is how am I going to kickass nonviolently

Chude:

That's good.

Daphne:

And I just, I have a photograph of Ms. Hamer that hangs in my home, I just feel that there were people like her who were so absolutely brilliant and strategic in their thinking and their movement that are embedded in the core of my spirit. And I go to those people, I go to [Ralph] Featherstone, I go to Ms Hamer. I go to Ella baker and those two women who were students at Fisk. They become points of reference when I have these moral crises or when I'm — Which have become more often lately and they ground me. And there's so many people for whom become that for each of us have grounded us and kept us from doing things that mean we would not be alive at this point.

Chude:

Thank you. Yeah. Larry,

 

Religion and Spirituality

Larry:

Just with regard to the fashionista discussion, it links to parenting. That is, how did our generation deal with piercings and tattoos by our children? That is, in my experience, it seemed to be a reversion to the pre-SNCC middle class life. I was beside myself with regard to our daughters and tattoos.

Then I wanted to just raise the issue about how has this experience changed us theologically, not just denominationally with regard to our religious organizations. How did this change our reflection on coming into the Movement, and then, after '64 and '65, how did the trajectory of our theological lives change?

Chude:

Well, I think I'll answer that part. I came in as a devout Christian and I came in very much with the Christian idea of "redemptive suffering." I was completely willing to die if that would end the sin of racism. That was partly how I thought.

And then I had to deal after I came out with the fact that I was an Episcopalian and they didn't allow women to be ministers. And all of a sudden it was like, "Wait a minute." So when I quit, I quit completely. I just denied any kind of spirituality for a while. And then had to reclaim it. And I do not consider myself a Christian because I refuse to say there's only one way to find spirit. So that's what happened to me. But it is what took me when in going to Mississippi. It's part of where my courage came from, was that I totally believed that God would be with me and would help me. That's me.

Zoharah?

Zoharah:

An interesting question. I certainly went into the Mississippi as a — I was a questioner even before I went. I was brought up in a very devout Black Baptist home and upbringing. But I had questions even then. I certainly saw myself as a Christian. And I, like you Chude, I really — there were many times when there was tremendous fear that you were going to be killed flying down the road at a hundred miles an hour with white guys in trucks, with gun racks, chasing you, et cetera.

And you know, who were you calling on? It was Jesus. I mean, it was "Save me!" Interestingly, in Atlanta was when I really sort of made two moves. One was into Eastern thought and studying yoga, Nanda Paramahansa, and beginning the meditation that was taught by the Self Realization Fellowship. But on the other side, being impacted by Malcolm X and the Nation of Islam. So it's interesting that in my life, to some extent, I brought those two together in Sufism, which is what I consider the path I'm on now.

Chude:

And Pat, were you not religious? 'Cause you were shaking your head.

Pat:

Oh yeah. No, we went to church every Sunday and we went to choir practice, we went to Sunday school and then I went to a Presbyterian college, which back in the fifties, we had chapel four days a week and 7:15, everybody up and out of bed kind of a thing.

And perhaps fortunately I spent a year in Paris as a student, my junior year. So by the time I got back my senior year, I was ready for going to take them all on and had a similar confrontation with the dean that one of you just shared and so forth. But I can remember, I sang in the choir, of course. And I could remember we were taking a Eastern religions course of some sort or other. And I walked out of chapel that day thinking, "I don't think there's anything."

I don't think there's anything there. So I went and I talked to my Eastern professor and I said that. And frankly, in some respects, I'm still there. I belong to the Presbyterian church and I do my little do-dad so forth. And I actually did start the kids back to Sunday school, but primarily because it was clear to me that Western religion provided the underpinnings of Western culture, which is to say, art, literature, and music. It had nothing to do with the liturgy and so forth. And I guess I'm still waiting to be convinced.

I love the books that they have about the role that women have played, but has been hidden over the eons and so forth. So I guess I kind of approach it as a historical thing rather than as an emotional thing.

Chude:

Daphne

Daphne:

I think there's a lot more religious and spiritual diversity as a result of the Movement. That a lot of people saw how Christianity, the link between Christianity and racism, and how it had been used as a tool to — as part of the oppression and colonization of Black people.

I am not a religious person. I was raised quasi-religious by my parents, but I just never got embedded into it. Although I've had my moments where I've said, "Dear Jesus." I've called on Jesus.

But I think that there was this quest, this opening that came as a result of — there's got to be something greater than this Christianity and that people sought it. People like Zoharah have sought it and found multiple new paths for nurturing ourselves in deeper spiritualties that we knew little about before.

But as we explore, even some of our aunts and uncles and people in our — even our parents were exploring spiritual experiences that we didn't know about because they had to keep it hidden because all Black people had to be Christians. You could not be anything else. It was just thought of as utter heresy — 

Chude:

Right.

Daphne:

Not to be a Christian.

Chude:

Well, that was, I think there's two things to say too. For me, going South and being part of the Movement was a wonderful moment of combining politics and my spirituality. For the most part it was not true on my campus. The radicals were atheists, the conservatives were Christian. So for me it was just wonderful.

But I was a religion major at my college and I did offer a religion class as one of my classes at my freedom school. The lesson I learned was [to] start where people are — and I didn't. I started with atheism. I asked one of the people on my project that was an atheist to come talk about that. And the Roman Catholics and the Baptists simply could not grasp [it].

The Roman Catholics ran to the nuns and I had to go talk to the nun about — When I speak, I share this mistake I made. I say you start with where people are and then if you want to enlarge their understanding, you don't start on something that their worldview had never included that somebody could be there who didn't believe essentially in Jesus, but certainly in God. And it was quite something.

Anyway, it's 12:15, so we are going to take a 45 minute break. I'm going to ask if it's all right, when we first come back, we do a little evaluation of how we did in the morning and think about how you'd like it. Do you want us to keep raising hands, which we started to do, how you think it's best that we do the afternoon, just on the facilitation side to help me out.

Pat:

Okay. I Like raising hands [crosstalk 01:44:55].

Daphne:

I'm cool on hand raised.

Chude:

Okay and Larry? Larry, did you have something?

Larry:

Yeah. With regard to the theology, the other side is the powerful effect of the Black church experience in Mississippi for our spiritual lives. I mean, people took it seriously.

Pat:

That's true. That's true.

Larry:

And their powerful view of music and the power of music, it was outside of my previous experience. So it worked both ways, the opening to new ideas, the determination to be a part of the salvation story in the Black church was pretty amazing.

Chude:

Great. Okay. We will be back at one o'clock yes.

[End Session #1]

[Begin Session #2]

Chude:

This afternoon is for the evaluation of the Freedom Movement and its successes and failures. We each get five minutes [to start]. Yes Larry.

 

Apologies & Reparations

Larry:

I'll just start with a couple of achievements. Are you going to break this into achievements and then failures or let's all lump together?

Chude:

You have five minutes to do whatever you want.

Larry:

Among the achievements is the empowerment of youth in public policy and the role of grassroots people in sustaining our Movement. And on the failure side, the failure, first, of a continuity organizationally of the Movement. It just sort of disappeared and fragmented.

Secondly, the lack of forums for consultation within the Movement accepted at the highest levels in Atlanta. And the third is not recognizing the relations — Or failing to address the structural issues of racism.

Chude:

Okay. You have more time if you want to speak in more detail.

Larry:

I just wanted to make a pitch that, look going forward, if there is any energy left among this aging population, that the idea — the powerful idea which I think is comparable to the SNCC project — is the issue now of apology and reparations. That apology and reparations are practical, involve economics, politics, the culture, the spiritual institutions. Apology is global as a movement. Dealing with the apology and reparations here allows Germany to do its thing, allows Italy, Russia, China, and theU.S. to establish the precedent of apologies and reparations for past wrong acts. And that that is something that is a powerful force for a universal civilization.

Chude:

Great, okay. Who wants to go next? We're doing our five minutes Heather, kind of the successes and failures of the Movement. Okay. Yes, Zoharah.

 

A Change Had Come

Zoharah:

Okay. I would concur with a number of the things that Larry said in terms of our successes. I would look at some different ones, particularly the ability to get voting rights. This is clearly something that the whole world has proclaimed that the movement did and that was certainly to secure — we know they're not secure [now] — but secure voting rights for African Americans who had been denied that right across a large swath of the South.

I think also that as African Americans, we were, I believe greatly personally liberated by the Movement. When I think of how my parents and grandparents were and then when we young Black folk with all of our white allies stood up and said, "We're not taking this shit anymore. You can beat us, you can do whatever, but we're not turning back."

And that was powerful. And I know personally it was powerful for me. And in spite of my parents not wanting me to get involved, they had to admit to me that a change had come. And they absolutely participated in that change gleefully, by not having to go in the back door of every place we went in or all the things that would change. These are no small things.

 

Decline of SNCC

Zoharah:

Thinking about the destruction of the Movement, we have to certainly look at what COINTELPRO did, as well as the problems we had internally.
[Refering to the FBI's infamous COunter INTELigence PROgram (COINTELPRO) that was designed to "expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralize" the activities of organizations and individuals that FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover considered to be "subversive." For him, that included anyone and everyone who supported voting rights for nonwhites, an end to Jim Crow segregation, an end to racially-motivated police brutality, or an end to the system and culture of white-supremacy.

In 1975, the "Senate Select Committee to Study Governmental Operations with Respect to Intelligence Activities" (known colloquially as the "Church Committee") issued a report on COINTELPRO concluding that:

"Many of the techniques used would be intolerable in a democratic society even if all of the targets had been involved in violent activity, but COINTELPRO went far beyond that ... the Bureau conducted a sophisticated vigilante operation aimed squarely at preventing the exercise of First Amendment rights of speech and association, ... Groups and individuals have been harassed and disrupted because of their political views ... Unsavory and vicious tactics have been employed — including anonymous attempts to break up marriages, disrupt meetings, ostracize persons from their professions, and provoke target groups into rivalries that might result in deaths."]
See FBI's COINTELPRO Targets the Movement for more information.

One of the things that killed SNCC was lack of funding. And the funding that was cut off once SNCC became associated with Black Power, we lost a tremendous amount of our funding base. And then to come out against the war in Vietnam, and to support the right to self-determination for the Palestinian people, that did it. We lost our funding base.

And so the fact that SNCC [was not], as the NAACP was, based on membership. We didn't have that. We were based on donations.

[The NAACP had a large number of dues-paying members who were organized into chapters, each of which contributed funds to the national organization. SNCC was composed of a small number of staff and unpaid volunteers. Organizationally, SNCC was supported by voluntary contributions from individual donors and a small handful of labor unions and other progressive groups.

In the Mid-60s, a series of SNCC positions and actions alienated a significant number of donors who then withdrew their financial support. That process began in 1964 with the MFDP challenge to the liberal Democratic Party establishment at the Atlantic City national convention. It accelerated when SNCC expressed sympathy for the northern ghetto uprisings, followed by their opposition to the Vietnam War, their call for Black Power, and then support for the Palestinians at the time of the 1967 Arab-Israeli War (sometimes referred to as the "Six-Day War."]

And of course, we didn't have time to get to looking at the systemic roots of racism and to try to adjust that, we were destroyed before we got to that.

But moving into the contemporary period, having taught for 20 years at the University of Florida in African American studies and religion, I know that the young people I taught over 20 years knew nothing about the Movement.

They never even heard of SNCC. When I would start our class in the fall or spring and say, "SNCC", they'd say, "Well SNCC, what was that?" And then when they learned about it, boy, were they overjoyed to know about it. And so we, I think in many ways through no fault of our own, were not able to get our story out and we are doing that now.

And the young people, a last line, the Dream Defenders, Black Lives Matter, Dreamers, all these, Occupy, you name it, the movements have all reached out to us. I'm so stunned. They can't get enough of us. It's like, we want to hear your stories, we want to know what you did and how you did it and how have you sustained yourselves for 60 years and still been in the movement.

Thank you.

 

SNCC, the Movement, & Intersectionality

Chude:

Great. Okay, who would like to go next, Daphne?

Daphne:

I think the Movement had a tremendous impact on the academy. The development of ethnic studies programs. The decentralization of the academy, not just in ethnic studies programs but at places like Berkeley where I taught for many years. And at Mills where I also taught, I saw this manifest. Mills was like a "fricking" plantation when I got there. And the battles were absolutely heavy. People like Robert Allen, Clyde Taylor, Michael Omi, it was a very diverse ethnic studies program before it became a department. And the intersectionality that came about as a result of that, created a dynamic in the academy that still exists.Aand I attribute some of that to the Movement and to people in SNCC.

And I think that here on the West Coast, because of the radical nature of politics in California in the '60s and '70s, my students knew about SNCC. They didn't know the whole history of it, but they knew who Stokley Carmichael [Kwame Ture] was. They knew who people in the leadership were. And some had heard of Fannie Lou Hamer because of [Congresswoman] Barbara Lee and Barbara Lee was a student at Mills. And she brought Shirley Chisholm to Mills. And so Mills has had this interesting intersection with movements, especially the women's movement and Berkeley in ways that maybe other academic institutions didn't see the same kind of impact. And the Bay Area had the [Black] Panthers and people from SNCC. It really was a hub of radical politics.

I also think that the Movement created the opportunity for the intersectionality between Black Power and Pan-Africanism. Julius Nyerere came to be honored. Willie Brown of all people, the then mayor of San Francisco, brought Julius Nyerere, who was then the President of Tanzania, to the Bay Area. People knew who he was and lauded this.

And then there was also the impact that organizations like SNCC had on the dock workers [ILWU], because that helped. There was organizing within those unions that stopped the dock workers from loading ships destined for South Africa. And they played a real role in the anti-apartheid.

SNCC had a national and international impact that I think a lot of people don't realize. Charlie [Cobb] and Courtland [Cox] and Jennifer [Lawson] and Geri Agusto, they all lived in Tanzania. They had connections to movements across the continent that continued to move some of the ideas of SNCC forward and from which they learned a lot being involved in global politics.

I think [Zoharah's] comments about the fact that SNCC was not a membership organization like the NAACP and that it lost its funding when it became more global in terms of its outreach around Pan-Africanism and the FBI certainly played a huge role in all of that.

And I think that there's so much about the history that still needs to be explored and that people don't understand about the impact. I wish that SNCC — While this is a legacy project and it's real important, I wish it was a project that still had the impact of the NAACP, that there were in fact chapters still and that the work — Although some of the work will be carried forward through Black Lives Matter.

And I think that the organizing and the strategic work of SNCC impacted the Chicano movement, impacted the Asian movement, and there were intersections with the Native American movement. And so the deeper history of the organization, while there were failures, there's that hidden history that continues to be peeled back and revealed. And it comes out through the stories like these sessions that we are holding now.

Chude:

Great, thank you. Okay, Heather.

 

McCarthyism, Youth & SNCC

Heather:

Though I'm sorry I missed what Larry said and I don't know if others spoke before, again I had this other work [I had to do]. What Daphne just said made me realize — I think that the impact of SNCC was a break with [1950s era] McCarthyism and a break from a quiescent period that was forced by the repression of the state against people who were for radical change in the society or just about any change in the society. And that was a break with McCarthyism.
[Referring to the notorious 1950s-era racist, red-baiting, demagogue Senator Joseph McCarthy [R-WI]. In this context, "McCarthyism" is being used as a shorthand label for the post-WWII, "Red Scare" era of American politics during which Republican and Diexiecrat politicians incited fear and hatred of anyone who questioned or dissented from conservative orthodoxy. Civil rights advocates, labor union activists, New Deal supporters, free thinkers, liberals, and progressives of all kinds were demonized and smeared as "Commies," "Pinkos," and "subversives." They were persecuted politically, fired from their jobs, investigated by the FBI, and subjected to violence by right-wing vigilantes.]

There was a time when I had been visited [by FBI agents?] and told we shouldn't use the [National] Lawyers Guild because they were a communist. And I thought, well, they're going to defend us, this must be good.

But I think the whole break with that period of '50s quiescence in which many groups were part of it, but SNCC because it also captured the energy that was going on on campus. And there was a new youth movement, every movement had its youth movement. So SCLC [[Southern Christian Leadership Conference]] and SNCC, but there were SANE [[National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy]] and SDS [[Students for a Democratic Society]]. Even in the women's movement there was a NOW [[National Organization for Women]] [and] Women's Liberation.

It was a student youth effort because there was a new socializing force in the society, which were campuses going back to what Daphne was saying about academia, where suddenly campuses were socializing people. I think [[almost]] half the college-age population was in college in the '60s for the first time in our history. The increasing college attendance allowed young people to find a peer group in other young people and not be only under the guidance of their family and original community.

I also think that just as others were saying, [the Civil Rights Movement] affected every single movement that has come since. Not just one or two, but every movement. We all owe a debt to it. For the Women's movement, Women's Liberation, almost everyone out of my Women's Liberation efforts in Chicago had some connection to the Civil Rights Movement. And it was an inspiration for what we did. The changes that happened eventually, some too late, Lord, much later. But in the Labor Movement, when [John] Sweeney was elected [President of AFL-CIO in 1995] in the break with McCarthyism, again, it was part of that tradition that was carried forward.

Anyway, so I think that every movement was affected by — Because it was a model of how do you stand up to illegitimate authority, how do you take action. I think the greatest change from SNCC was in the people, that we all were changed as a part of a generation. And you can just see it by the people on this call. I don't know what everyone is doing and we haven't gone through all the things, but all of us are bringing these politics and this perspective to everything we do.

Daphne:

Absolutely.

Heather:

Some of it in direct Movement works, some as Larry said in our lives, in other ways.

On the areas in which we were not successful, first of all, we had 50 years of mostly stopping bad things from happening as opposed to making progress. Between 1945 and the 1973, it was an expanding middle class, even if it was much more white than Black. It was an expanding middle class and inequality was declining. By 1973, those figures reversed. And we are now just possibly in a chance to make again progress with some of the visions that we had in SNCC. But we are on a knife's edge because the right-wing has also learned our tactics. One of the things that happen is they learn from us and they are carrying on those tactics and threatening us with it and it may be the destruction of almost everything we had.

Two, do I have any more time? Because I've got two more things to say.

Chude:

You have a minute.

Pat:

You can have my time.

Heather:

No, I'll just — And on many of the things that we need to have done — [Because of] SNCC's dissolution, we were not a force to impact it. So it's not like it [was] SNCC's fault — just as it wasn't anyone else's fault. But we were not adequately electoral when the right-wing turned electoral before we did. In fact, I mostly learned a lesson [from the Movement] to be anti-electoral, unless you have your own base like the Black Panther Party, the Alabama Panther Party.
[Organized by SNCC, the Lowndes County Freedom Organization (LCFO) in Alabama was an independent political party separate from the Democratic Party which at that time was all-white and fiercely segregationist. In comparison, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) fought to be included in that state's all-white Democratic Party. The LCFO symbol was a black panther so they became colloquially known as the "Black Panthers" or the "Black Panther Party." In later years, LCFO supporters merged into and assumed leadership positions in the (eventually) integrated Alabama Democratic Party. A Black liberation organization in Oakland California requested, and was granted, permission to use the "Black Panther Party" name and symbol. Under that name they became a well-known national organization. ]

I lived in Chicago [with] Mayor Daley Democrat[s]. I didn't want to be with them. I didn't want to be with those Democrats. So I was anti-electoral. Until Reagan was elected, I had been anti-electoral. I've now become very electoral. I run campaigns and do other things. But it was an absence that didn't prepare us adequately.

The South has basically been — There's valiant work going on, valiant. But we can see it was neglected by the broader Movement and there wasn't enough of a voice. The need for an alliance with a labor movement and with other efforts in the society to build both base mobilization power but also majority power so that we can organize to win, which is now happening, this intersectionality is now happening.

There wasn't a lot around to be a force. The last thing I was going to say is that there were at least three elements that I thought that SNCC brought and embodied that were incredible — but then got fractured. Organizing real people and supporting them into organization, which we weren't pulling them, as Daphne said, into organization, always. Though, MFDP was. Secondly, movement-building which is different from the organization, but the movement spirit. And the third is political consciousness, change, and political education. And I think those three got fractured for a number of years and there wasn't a force that could pull it together, partly because SNCC for many reasons, didn't endure.

 

SNCC and Electoral Politics

Chude:

Zoharah did you want to comment on something?

Zoharah:

Absolutely. SNCC really was very much involved in the political issue. We organized the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, we organized the party in Alabama called, the first Black Panther real electoral politics party [referring to the Lowndes County Freedom Organization].

We ran Julian Bond [for Georgia state legislature] and I was at that meeting where it was discussed. Wasn't it time to start thinking about running people for office and so Julian Bond was the first person who was a SNCC's staff person to run for office in Atlanta. And of course won and was refused his seat and then we had to run him again and fight it all the way to the [Georgia] Supreme Court to get him seated. We really did already have this idea of impacting electoral politics, but the organization [SNCC] Sended before we could do a lot.

But when you look at the organizations that came after SNCC and the just huge numbers of Black people who ran for office and were elected in the wake of SNCC, I think that we do have to see that SNCC was in many ways in the vanguard. And the fact that the people, local people, that was one of the things that just took me away, that we had people who had never been able to vote, who didn't really know anything about the party structure of our parties, how they took to that like fish to water. And just watching those people have those conventions, our local convention, and then to go to Jackson [MS] and have our state convention and then to elect our delegates to send to Atlantic City [1964 Democratic Party national convention]. These people in record time jumped into that. So I just wanted to bring out that we really did have our eye on the political ball.

 

The SNCC Legacy

Chude:

So Pat, do you want to say anything?

Pat:

A couple of things, but one, let me make a snarky comment of having been all these 60 years, and attending every 10 years to a reunion and so forth. SNCC went out of its way to make sure that we white folks didn't feel as though we were actually SNCC. We were the people who came from up north. And I know many of us felt that way, that there was a real attitude by the SNCC people, that they didn't want the rest of us to take any credit for what they had done, which I don't think was our intention anyway.

It's just that with the name recognition. Do I say I'm a freedom rider? Well, no, not really. At any rate, that's always stayed with me that if [SNCC] had been a member organization, maybe we would've had a chance to show how much it meant to us and how we wanted to support it, but that was not what happened.

Other than that, I agree with the things folks have said. It's just the whole mindset of nonviolent participation in society, I think has just permeated to the point where it's hard to even recognize — Well, it would've been hard until four years [2016 election of Trump] ago to recognize the impacts that SNCC and the Movement have had on society. I'm not sure where we are at this point or whether that's going to continue. And to me, it's a very worrisome thing where we are right now.

And I know I wanted to mention one thing, I had donated all of my SNCC materials to my college archive and the archivist turned the material into a course that she developed and used for the new students who were coming in, who came from families, who had never been to college before.

And she used it for research and for history and analysis and so forth. I had all of the SNCC fundraising stuff since I'd worked as the secretary in the [SNCC] office — I had everything, the newsletters and the news articles and all of those sorts of things.

And the following year, I went up to campus up in Pennsylvania and spoke with the students and they were just overwhelming in their support and interest in what we had been doing and how they could follow on with what was going on. And I must say I've been just warmed to watch the Black Lives Matter, and the young people are just out on the streets. I think it's just terrific. We've done our job folks. Amen.

Chude:

So Zoharah was asking you Pat, what college?

Pat:

Oh, Wilson college in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. It was a women's college until about seven years ago. And now it's a co-ed college.

Chude:

Great. Thank you.

Pat:

I have a copy of the curriculum if you want to see it, Zoharah.

Zoharah:

Are those materials digitized? And can we go on online?

Pat:

They are digitized.

 

Enduring Bonds

Chude:

So I guess now I'm the only one that hasn't spoken yet. I think in terms of the effect of the Movement, on what came next, I think it was really important that those of us who were white — who joined the Southern Freedom Movement, whether we came from the North or the South or the West — the personal bonding that happened. It seems to me has stayed with us also during periods when, with [black] separatism and then in just situations where we've not been fortunate enough to be in interracial situations, that personal bonding was still there.

That commitment to — when Heather talks about the family that she lived with and the price that family paid, I'm just assuming Heather, that you carry that all the time with you. And my sense of that is that it has allowed some us to, in situations where we've had to deal in my case with white women, because I worked mainly in Women's Liberation and then the Women's movement. I could see the difference between people who had that kind of bonding and those who [essentially] had no relationship to people of color. In terms of how much they understood racism and white supremacy. So I think that was big.

And when the book, "Letters from Mississippi," was republished, Betita Martinez, formerly Elizabeth Sutherland, had a book-party here at Modern Times Bookstore. She asked [SNCC veteran] Wazir Willie Peacock to speak as well as some of us who were in the book because Wazir had been opposed to the Mississippi Summer Project [Freedom Summer]. Wazir, in fact, had left Mississippi. And it has always stayed with me that Wazir said at this book-party, that he was so proud that his Movement had influenced every other movement, that all of us who went on to do other things had been influenced by our experiences in the Movement.

Also one time after we'd been speaking somewhere and we were having lunch together here at the house, or maybe it was in the car coming back, he said that he really believed God had wanted the Mississippi Summer Project to happen. He was a very spiritual person. And I think those two things were connected in his mind because we could take it out into the rest of the country and the other work we were involved in. So I think that was a great gift that the Movement gave along with the learning how to do things, to stand up against what Heather calls "illegitimate authority," to really understand the importance of people being treated with respect.

I've consistently said this was not a "Civil Rights Movement," this was a "Freedom Movement" because that's one of the things that I learned. It wasn't just about laws, although they were important, but it was also about people being treated with dignity and respect. And that's something I learned in the South.

The other thing I think, because of SNCC's standing with the poor and respect for the poor and respect for people like Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, I think many of us took that with us also. To counteract the dominant culture's real disdain for poor people. We came from an experience that gave us a different point of view. I'm not saying I, or any of us, were always consistent around our class stance, but I just think it sure helped us to remember and to think about class.

So I think that was one of the real strengths, but I also think that it was very important that during the period, especially of Black power and [black] separatism, that some of us were privileged to still have support in our work, especially around white supremacy and racism, with white people. We had support from individual African Americans and other people of color to help us understand.

Now, in my case, of course, I was married to Robert Allen and we worked together on continuing to understand both racism and then sexism. Fifty years ago we worked on a book together called "Reluctant Reformers: Racism and Social Reform Movements in the United States", which has just been republished. [OR Books 2021] The book now has a foreward by Jamelle Bouie, which is quite thrilling. My main focus was the woman suffrage chapter, which has been used in anti-racism workshops, and in some women's studies classes. It was helpful in understanding white supremacy and racism in the Women's Liberation movement to be able to take a look at how the Woman's Rights movement of the 19th century had dealt with, and did not deal with, the issue of racism.

But what I wanted to raise was that this book focuses on white supremacy and not just racism. And I find in the last few years when I raise white supremacy with somebody who is talking about racism I find I need to say I think the ideological thing is white supremacy. It's not just that whites think people of color are bad it's that they actually are holding onto an idea that white is best and better and will, in fact, make great sacrifices to their own wellbeing to hold onto this concept. So I just wanted to add that.

But the point I'm partly making is that both because of Robert and because of someone named Patricia Robinson, who was a northern Black activist and strong, strong, supporter of Black women in particular and many of us white women, is that I had people to help me. I had people to both nudge me, but also to support me when I was standing against the racism in the Women's Suffrage movement. And I will just, I mean, excuse me, cross that out, Women's Liberation movement! (Laughter) I used to speak all the time in conferences and stuff about the Woman Suffrage movement to show similarities, but I was not there!

My great- grandmother was there, but I was not there. But anyway, the support was so important. There's organizational support, but what happens with people in movements also is that we can cross fertilize so that even if I'm working over here and you're working over there, if we know each other, I can call you and ask you for some advice and help, and you can call me. And that was something we came out of the South with some of us. And I think that really helped the movements as we spread out into all the various ways we've worked over the years. So now we're open to dialogue. Is your hand up Zoharah to speak?

Zoharah:

Yes. My little hand is up to speak, yes.

Chude:

Okay. And then Daphne next.

 

Black Power & White Allies

Zoharah:

Okay. I think a little bit around the edges we've mentioned what happened in SNCC when Stokely Carmichael became chairperson and all of the strife that went on inside. And I was one of the members of the Atlanta Project of SNCC that wrote what the New York Times, when it published large pieces of it, called it — said it was SNCC's — what's that term? It ran out of my head just that quickly, but not "treatise." They didn't call it a treatise, but — 

Larry:

Manifesto.

Zoharah:

 — Manifesto! Thank you. Thank you, Larry. It was SNCCs manifesto on Black Power.
[See The Basis of Black Power.]

And of course it was not SNCC's because the organization was very divided over that document when we presented it at an staff meeting [in Atlanta]. But the whole issue of the need for Black people to be able to say, "This is my Movement."

I think it was a very critical need when you are a Black person who has been taught all your life that you are inferior, and my time in Mississippi, it was just so clear when a local person would come into the office, and if I was there and say a white man or a white woman was there, the local person would automatically assume that the white and was in charge. Because, this is how they lived all their lives.

And so if they learned that I was the project director, it was a shock. So this was one of the things we mentioned in this manifesto was the need for Black people at large, to see Black people, as leaders, as thinkers, et cetera. And so the whole issue of self-determination and all of that was critical.

And I know that many people who I dearly loved in SNCC, I always told my students that I lived, but maybe 16 months in a small room with two white women, at Mrs. Spink's house. And prior to that, I had never even had a meal with a white person until I went to Atlanta and we did it at the Canterbury house and the Friends' Meeting house, et cetera. So, and two of us had to share a bed and the other one slept on a cot. Now, you don't get no closer than that. And so, we had to look at each other's hair and say, well, why is your hair like this? Well, why is yours like that? I mean the kinds of things, and I love those women. I mean, we went through hell together, but at the same time, that didn't mean that I still didn't organizationally need to have this space that I understood was created by and for me.

And, of course, this leads us to Black power, Black consciousness, 'cause lastly, when I was in high school, if somebody called you "Black," you hit them in the nose because you were not "black." It didn't matter if you were as black as a shoe, you didn't want to be called "black." You didn't want to be called "African." Those were curse words.

So for us to go from that to "I'm Black and I'm proud," and all of this stuff, I mean, that was monumental for Black people. And it was needed. And I am so sorry for all of the white allies who felt hurt and rejected. And some of them who I loved dearly certainly felt that way.

I went recently to a birthday party for Staughton Lynd, who I love, my mentor. And he raised that with me recently because he was still hurt over that. And that really hurt me that he was still hurt because he was my mentor And I love him too, I just love him so.

But this is something that, some of us have had to address one on one or in group meetings, like with Bob Zellner at a public meeting. He and I had to deal with this at the University of Chicago. Why did Black people put white people out of SNCC? I mean, and we had an amazing three day event around this whole issue that was organized by Dr. Payne, who wrote the book, I've Got the Light of Freedom." So this is something that is really important for us to understand as allies who are trying to make this, the beloved community, that we all want. Thank you.

[See "I Want to Be Your Friend, You Black Idiot!!": The Dynamics of Majority Involvement in Minority Movements.]

 

Being a White Ally

Chude:

Great. Thank you. Heather.

Heather:

When I give talks — Like everyone probably on this call, I give a lot of talks, about this moment, about history, and other things. [This] issue, especially on campuses comes up, "How can you be a white ally?" And "can you even be a white ally?" And so the conversation, Zoharah, that you described having, it is such a current issue.

And it is haunting parts of the next generation of young white people coming into the movement. I don't know about others, but this is very true. And I give two examples amongst things that I say in an answer. One is I say, you can be an ally if people want you to be an ally, [if you] ask them, and if they ask you, then you can be an ally. And I explain how in SNCC, we were asked and then educated. I was certainly educated. I did not realize I learned — As I said, I think I learned more than anyone I [have] ever dealt with learned. I got reeducated by Black staff, by Black leadership, by the community in understanding some things I wasn't sensitive to before. And then at some point, the majority of the SNCC staff decided that the white shouldn't be part of it anymore.

And again, I had to be educated. When I first heard that, I was in Chicago SNCC, and I had been, we were in jail together in Chicago, we bailed people out together. I felt we would've risked each other's life for each other, but not everyone felt that way. It was a learning experience. And they said, "So time to go do something else and organize in the white community." And at that point, the allyship was not asked for. And so I went on and did something else, but never forgetting the lessons that I learned before.

I just wanted to reinforce that the kind of dialogue that you said you and Bob Zellner had, it is so current and important. I constantly find the lessons that I learned. Partly, I think I was particularly naive coming into SNCC. And the lessons I learned have stayed with me my whole life and I still find them useful. And I think others do even passing them on.

Chude:

Daphne.

 

More on Preserving Our Legacy

Daphne:

Well, a couple of things I going to circle back to Pat. Is there a link between your archive and the SNCC legacy project?

Pat:

I guess there could be, I really hadn't thought about it. Here is the direct link.

Daphne:

Please do that and approach them about creating the link because there are other people who have archived who have not to my knowledge, linked them to the SNCC legacy project. And I think that's important.

Pat:

That's a super idea. And I know that Amy would be glad to do that. I will follow up on that for you.

Zoharah:

I'm on the SNCC Legacy Project board. I'm happy to work with you on it. And then we have CRMVET.ORG [this website, the Civil Rights Movement Archive.]

Daphne:

Couple of other points, that some of the SNCC work made its way into curriculum projects, thanks to people like Judy Richardson and Deborah Menkart and an organization called Rethinking Schools.

One of the things that SNCC did, that very few people realized, had a deep impact on Black children's literature because Julius Lester and Jennifer Lawson wrote a children's book [Black Folktales]. The cover is red with a black image on it, And that was a turning point in the world of Black children's literature, which actually dates back in print to the late 19th century.

So the work that was being done by SNCC was not limited in its scope. It was much more vast and in depth than a lot of people realized. And when I managed Drum & Spear, Judy Richardson, and actually Juadine Henderson, and I, we developed a section in the store called Third World children's literature, realizing that there were, for an example, Shirley Graham Dubois had written biographies on Benjamin Banneker and other Black people of historical note. And the more we dug, the more books we turned up.

 

Dealing with Infiltrators & Provocateurs

Daphne:

My third point is one of the things that brought about the demise of SNCC — Infiltrators. Provocateurs. That there were things that we could never control because there were powers, going back to Heather's point about McCarthyism and how McCarthyism never really died, it just morphed into other formations. And there were people in those organizations who did everything they could to ensure that SNCC and especially any other quote, "radical" organization was undermined. So there were forces that were invisible to us at times, we did not necessarily know who the infiltrators were, but they were real. They were real.

And there's a document, it's not a SNCC document, but I was doing some research recently. And I had gone to the Pan-African conference in Guyana in 1970. So I was doing some research about that, and up pops a document from the CIA. And I'm going to make sure that this document goes into the archive from the CIA talking about how they were following the conference in Guyana and that Howard Fuller was their primary target.

[Referring to Dr. Howard Fuller, a North Carolina educator and civil rights activist who at the time of the Pan-African conference had just co-founded Malcolm X Liberation University which existed in North Carolina until 1973.]

So whatever the internal politics of the organization were that led to certain failures — and I would never say SNCC was a failure. There were failures within the organization. There were also those who were undermining every single effort being made.

Pat:

Agreed.

Chude:

Yep. I just want to comment also on, Zoharah, from what you said. I remember when we first did our first reunion out here in '89, Hardy Frye [SNCC 1964-1967] was very clear that the period of needing to separate was not easy just as you had said. He made the point he had to separate from people he cared about. And I think I had never heard anyone say that before. And I thought that was really quite profound, as what you said I felt was quite profound about how much one can love people and yet still know at this time we needed to go in a different direction. I just think that's very helpful to people understanding that personal feelings can remain, but there can be a moment when for other reasons, it was necessary to be separate.

[And] I was just going to add that for me being an ally exists even if nobody's asked me to.

Zoharah:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Pat:

Right. I'm sure.

Chude:

Larry go, please go ahead.

Larry:

This is in regard to provocateurs. Has anybody ever studied that from a strategic point of view about how to deal with provocateurs? As Heather was saying, this is a current problem, and it's going to be a problem going forward even on a more sophisticated level for any kind of social change organizations. And how does an organization deal with provocateurs while still maintaining diversity of viewpoints internally in the dialogues and the discussion? I just don't know of any literature on that, but your documentation would privude good models.

Pat:

I would bet the cold war in the aftermath of World War II there should be some stuff actually. Because this has been such an issue, at least since the American Revolution and our good friend Benedict Arnold. It's — 

Larry:

Excuse me, but not from a strategic point of view. From a historical point of view, there's much documentation of that. But, how to deal with it, how proactively to deal with it in a constructive way that recognizes the center of love, but, at the same time can deal with tough separating of provocateurs from the organization, exposing people and the issue of funding. How do you deal with that?

Daphne:

I think that is an excellent question, and I think it is essential to these times. Just in terms of how certain operations manifest, I encourage all of you to get your FBI files, because even though most of it is redacted, every now and then there's a sentence that they forgot to redact that says it looped into something that you didn't know. So, that's just one historical point reference, but yours is more focused on the contemporary. This is something I'm going to research to find if there is somebody doing this work and as I now speak, it seems like I read something on Portside recently.

Chude:

Good.

Daphne:

That may be a good — I just have to go back and kind of rewind and figure it out. But I definitely want to see that research.

Chude:

So, Zoharah, you wanted to comment?

Zoharah:

Yes. On this particular point, two things.

I worked for the American Friends Service Committee (AFSC) for 23 years. The first job I had was as the associate director of the program on Government Surveillance and Citizens Rights. And that program had me traveling across the country interviewing Black Panthers, including the folk there in Chicago, including Fred Hampton's girlfriend and others who had been in that apartment when Fred and Mark were killed.

[Referring to the 1969 murders committed by Chicago police.]

[And] out on the west coast, talking to the folk who had been killed there. Anyway, the AFSC — And it's in the archives at the American Friends Service Committee. Unfortunately, their archives are not digitized, but all of that material is there. Much of it was sent to Washington, to the Senator who held those hearings on COINTELPRO. I'm blanking on — 

Larry:

Church. Church. [See above.]

Zoharah:

What was it? Church. Thank you.

The Church committee. So now all of those documents are available, but of course, that's just telling you what they did, and it isn't dealing with the strategies of today. But I can tell you when the Black Lives Matter and a lot of the young people, when they meet with us these are the questions that they're asking. Some of the things that they have already begun doing — the decentralized leadership, they're learning from what happened to Dr. King and Medgar Evers and all. Let's not have one person identified as the leader who can be assassinated and end the movement. So, that's one of the big things. I don't know how many of you have noticed. It's very hard to find them. The leadership is diverse. It's quite hidden. Some of that has to do with them trying not to be targets.

They ask us often what to do. Some of the things that we tell them — I know I do. Anybody who comes in here into your movement, advocating violence, they're probably sent in there by the FBI, CIA, or some of the group. Put a mark on them and do not let them have leadership positions. Those who are trying to bring in drugs — because we know that's what happened so badly up in the Panthers. Those who are trying to bring in guns — Some of these things should stick out to you as indications that they're coming in here to infiltrate and destroy your movement.

But I do not know, Larry, of anything that's actually been written as these are points you should look for, and these are dos and don'ts in order to try not to fall prey to the machinations of our government and other groups.

Chude:

So, Larry.

Larry:

Something that may be close, but I don't think is quite on point that Zoharah is mentioning, is Gene Sharp's archive.
[Referring to Gene Sharp, a well known advocate and scholar of nonviolent strategies and tactics. He was a professor of political science at the University of Massachusetts and founded the Albert Einstein Institution dedicated to advancing the study of nonviolent action.]

Zoharah:

Yes.

Larry:

Gene Sharp, who was the first to analyze the role of nonviolence on a global basis, may have made comments and have sections regarding how different movements have managed infiltrators and provocateurs.

Chude:

Heather, do you want to comment?

Heather:

Just to say that what's happened now with the — Two things. One, one of the worst impacts of a provocateur (and a belief that there is a provocateur or an agent who may not be a provocateur, but is an agent to mess things up), is it turns us on each other.

Daphne:

Yep.

Heather:

And in political campaigns, I often am brought in at the very end because the campaign people are so fried that they think, "The computer went down, this person must have made it go down," when it probably was an electronic SNAFU. But you just can turn on each other. And so there's really this question of being clear and keeping to our vision and values. Anyway, it's a dilemma. I'm just agreeing, but it's the one side effect.

The second thing that's a particular problem is the right wing has taken this on with like O'Keeffe, who does the — They try to get you on tape and get you saying something that either is out of context or sometimes just boasting, oh, we could do that. We could knock them out. We could — 

Anyway, we all know they undermined ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) and then destroyed its organizing over that. But they also have taken on Planned Parenthood, NPR, many, many groups. I have a friend whose main stock and trade is going after that, her name's Lauren Windsor. And actually the political consulting firm I work with was a target of that and we have a million dollar lawsuit. We actually think we're going to win against them, but it actually almost destroyed our operation.

Daphne:

Wow.

Heather:

Just agreeing.

Larry:

Another resource would be the analysis of the Malcolm X murder, the provocateurs from the police department who actually killed him. That there were a number of people that were infiltrated. That is kind of close to SNCC experience in how basically Black organization would deal with that kind of provocateur.

Heather:

And there wasn't there just — even more recent, like in the last month expose, or I only saw it in the last month — that ties Hoover more closely to that there was an FBI agent who was consciously working and was part of the planning with Malcolm X's murder.

Zoharah:

That and the Panthers. The big movie, put the spotlight on that the — what was it called? "Judas and the Black Messiah," a major motion picture, which put a real spotlight on how the FBI and the Chicago Red Squad assassinated Fred Hampton and Mark Clark. If you haven't seen that movie it's worth seeing.
["Red squad" was a generic term for local police units tasked with suppressing labor, anti-war, dissent, and social-justice organizations and activities throughout the 20th Century. "Red Squad" usually referred to such units in large northern cities such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, etc. In the South, the sheriff's posses and state soveriegnity commissions played similar roles.]

Daphne:

Absolutely.

Zoharah:

Those of us who had already investigated that stuff years ago and wrote about it — it was shocking to us then. And I think for maybe a lot of people to see it in a movie, they're shocked now. So it can be talked about openly when it was kept pretty hush-hush for many years. But yes, you're right, that film. There's been several documentaries about Malcolm X and the FBI informants that were engaged in killing him.

Heather:

I lived in Chicago and was a target of the Red Squad. We lived with Al Raby, who was head of the civil rights movement in Chicago at the time that Dr. King came to Chicago, and his wife, and Paul, my husband, were very active in anti-war movement and other things, and me. And we had an unmarked police car outside of our house 24/7. And we used to joke that the Red Squad got us "Four for the price of one."

Daphne:

Good.

Heather:

And it's in the Red Squad files.

Daphne:

Yeah.

Chude:

I want to raise another question around this. And this comes from Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz's book, Outlaw Woman: A Memoir of the War Years, 1960-1975, Univeristy of Oklahoma Press. About the women's liberation movement period, where she described someone who was a low level informant. But they traveled across country together and the woman would keep asking questions, and it never dawned on Roxanne that she was always answering. And I thought that was very interesting because it's another way of — Independent of the question, whether somebody's an informer, if one gets to the point where I'm doing all the talking and the other person's doing all the asking, there's something wrong in the dynamic, but in this case, the person was writing down the answers and sending them on.

Heather:

Who was that, Chude? Do you remember who that was?

Chude:

I'm not sure Roxanne ever named the person, it was low level. I just was interested in the dynamic. And the other one that it brings up for me is how important it is when something comes up to have some way of addressing the question before it starts to become resentment, before gossip starts, before all those things. It doesn't mean necessarily that we'll always identify somebody. A friend told me the informer in their group in the New York area, was the nicest guy in the whole group. He was the one that drove everybody home. He was the total sweetheart.

Daphne:

Of course he was.

 

Address Problems As They Come Up

Chude:

I've read others where it should have been clear from the beginning because he was the male-supremacist asshole, and nobody was dealing with it.

But regardless of whether it's an infiltrator or a provocateur, or it's just us being human beings with our limitations and mistakes, the tendency to let things ride until they become problems is really serious; rather than learning how to have helpful dialogue when things aren't going right.

And that I think since we are talking partly here about the time in SNCC, when we were interracial and stuff, that was key back then, even in terms of, if some white person was doing something that was insensitive in some kind of way, was even manifesting a form of white supremacy, to be able to address that and help that person learn to change rather than just making that person feel bad. That's another way to go with it. Those kinds of lessons are really important that we not ignore, but that in our ways of confronting with one another, we try as much as possible to be constructive and helpful.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

And I think sometimes then we can identify when somebody doesn't really fit. Something's wrong, that's the other thing. Wazir Willie Peacock used to say, that the reason he survived and people survived in Mississippi was because they had an intuition. You could be driving down the road and you normally would go straight and all of a sudden your intuition would tell you to turn right, is one of the examples he used. I think the same is true about people, that if we learn how to listen to what I call that our inner guidance, intuition — you can call it anything. That there's a way we can pick up when something's off and then instead of ignoring it, we can try to figure out positive ways to address it.

 

Linking Global Struggles

Chude:

So, Larry.

Larry:

On the list of failures, I'd just like to put a spin on one of them and maybe turn it into a positive. That is the linking of Black Power, Vietnam, and the Palestinians. That is, I think that it is really the courage and leadership of SNCC to recognize that there was a global dimension to what they were doing. And that, even though it may have been a major factor in killing SNCC as an organization, for organizations in the movement in the future, everything global is really local.

Daphne:

Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Larry:

It is what I care about Palestine, Vietnam, and Myanmar, and the Muslims in China [Uyghurs], those are all linked together, and we need to be conscious of that connection and to not be apologetic and defensive about it, because all organizations are going to be local in that way — the reducing the global to the local.

Daphne:

Yeah.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Daphne:

It's fascinating because out of that connection to the Palestinians, Drum and Spear Press published the first anthology of Palestinian poetry, "Enemy of the Sun." And that combined with the Autobiography of Malcolm X really ratcheted up the intensity of the FBI who had a regular presence in the store. And they would come in and flip books off the shelf and say, "Oh, that wasn't shit. I read that. That isn't shit." And so that decision to be supportive of Palestine continued to translate after SNCC.

And that commitment to that country was sustained, and it gave voice to Palestinian poets like Naomi Shihab Nye, who has become a global poet and highly lauded, and her work is tremendously respected, and Drum and Spear published her first work. They were a place where our first works were published. It cost SNCC a lot to support Palestine, but I'll bet if it went back and revisited that decision, it would make the same decision all over again.

Larry:

They might have, but it's how we frame the issue.

Daphne:

Yes.

Larry:

If SNCC has a position [that] is pro-Palestine, that's different than SNCC having a position that the situation in the middle east, between Israel and Palestine, needs to be resolved on the basis of justice. That's a different way of [framing] the issue. You can stand for that in many, many forums in a way that you can't just by saying we are for Palestine.

Daphne:

Got it.

Zoharah:

I just want to say that thank goodness it is a little different now. You probably all know that some of the contemporary groups have taken groups of people to Palestine and Israel to see for themselves how the occupation operates, et cetera. So I've been very pleased to see the Black Lives Matter folk take on this issue. And thank goodness that has not hurt them, even though there was an attempt to try to smear them. It didn't work because after all these years, and goodness it ought to be, the case that there has been growing awareness of the injustice towards the Palestinian people and the need for the end to occupation. So, labeling somebody an antisemite who ask for justice for the Palestinians, doesn't work like it worked on us. We were smeared and people dropped their support of us. It's not happening now. I'm glad to say, Larry.

 

Poor Whites

Larry:

I want to just raise another issue that it seems to me in the area of failures — that SNCC did not know how to deal with poor white people.

That is, all of the people in Mississippi were infected and poisoned by racism. And by not being able to make a case for how the changes were to the benefit of everybody, with regard to poor people being exploited and their roads not being paved and all. It just seems to me that we have to find a way to universalize that experience so that the recommendations that are made in the advocacy can address poor people's families, white families as well as Black families, in this context.

Chude:

Heather, did you — 

Heather:

Wasn't there a poor white organizing project that Zellner did? [Bob Zellner was a southern white who worked with SNCC0. And he was also working with the wood cutters about a Wood Cutters Union.

And one of the books we read in Oxford, in Ohio, in preparing to go [to Mississippi from Freedom Summer] was The Other America [The Other America: Poverty in the United States by Michael Harrington], which was really about Appalachian, largely white, poor people. And I just personally felt I was schooled by SNCC in a class and race analysis.

And some of the things, Larry, I think it didn't — some of the things it just had to do with resource and capacity, and it was focused on — The main project was living within the Black community. So, I agree Larry on where I think we need to go. And I also think that SNCC didn't endure — a lot of the lessons got lost. And maybe SNCC also changed over time. Anyway, just to say that was my experience of it, at least in some of the earlier days.

Chude:

So, Zoharah?

Zoharah:

And Heather, you mentioned it, there was what we called the White Folks Project, and that project was organized around the same time as Black Power. And Bob Zellner was a part of that White Folks Project. Sue Thrasher [white SNCC activist]. There are a number of people, and I am happy to say somebody has finally written a book about it, and I don't have that at my fingertips, but I certainly hope we're going to have as a result of this conversation, a mailing list, so we can send things out.
[For more info on the White Folks Project see: We Must Be Allies...Race Has Led Us Both to Poverty and The Lessons of Laurel.]

Chude:

Yeah.

Zoharah:

But I will certainly get the title of that book. But I just wanted you to know that SNCC gave money, they set up an office, they were staffed, and when the whites in the town found out that they were civil rights types, they ran them out of town.

I think it's fair to remember that SNCC was started to end Jim Crow and to get Black people,the dignities of life that had been denied them for 400 years. So, that organization really was not created to do what you're suggesting, even though, because we did have a class analysis, there was the understanding that what was hurting Black people, not being able to sit down and get a cup of coffee, et cetera, not being able to register to vote, but the impoverishment was hurting white people just like it was hurting Black people. But you had to deal with trying to keep Black people alive so that they could get the rights that they should have as citizens.

One last thing for me on this, to me, it's not a question of allies anymore. We are all under threat from fascism, from authoritarians. This is not about allies anymore. We Black, white, brown, red, yellow, white, we had better get together to fight these right-wing, crazy people. This is not about allies, anymore. We're all in this and they want to kill us. Let me tell you.

Pat:

Hear, hear!

Chude:

That's the truth. Heather?

 

Leadership in SNCC

Heather:

I wanted to raise something I was just thinking of. I'm not sure why my mind went in that direction, but — 

Some of the particular leaders in SNCC also were themselves transformative. Just imagine Bob Moses' leadership. He was usually the last — In meetings I was in, I wasn't on the SNCC staff, so I defer to all of you who saw this more day in, day out. But he was often the last person to speak. He spoke relatively briefly, softly, not sermonizing, or speechifying, speaking very plainly. And it created a sense of if you speak — not everyone followed this. But if you speak [it's] important to have something to say, and that you've listened to other people.

Staughton [Lynd] has some of that quality, kind of part of his Quaker quality. Fannie Lou Hamer had that quality, that was both honest and plain-spoken. No pretense. And it wasn't everyone, but it was different from some of the parts of the movement that were very important, but that came out of the church or came out of just a different tradition. And I think it was also — more open, also, to women's leadership. Which again, in a movement leadership coming out of the church was less of a women's leadership, even if women were doing a lot of the work.

So I was just thinking about how our [SNCC] culture was shaped by it. And actually when people were talking about how our costumes, our dress, was impacted by what people wore and you had to wear denim overalls or whatever. I even think the language — I remember, I think. Did other people feel this? You kind of wanted to imitate how careful and thoughtful people who didn't want to be imitated, but it was a way of feeling alive because it was such a different way of being than a showy general society.

Chude:

It is interesting though. Over the years. Once I was at a workshop, I mean a conference, and one of the other speakers came to something I was doing. And he basically commented that I wasn't like Bob Moses. I didn't speak like Bob Moses. I was like, "Well, yeah."

But I notice it in the vets here, the Bay Area vets, because I coordinate our speaking, right? And some people are slow speakers. Jean Wiley was. Cathy Cade. They were slow speakers, and if I went to see how it was going, I could watch how students were paying close attention.

And then other people, like Bruce Hartford are — He does intellectual big things and he's never going to be a slow — and I'm not a slow speaker. We're not slow speakers. We're different. And so the thing, also, that's what's supposed to be happening. We're trying to find our own authentic voice and who we are. And one that allows us to, of course, listen and learn from each other. But I always thought that was very interesting, that somebody told me I wasn't doing it the way Bob did it.

Heather:

And Bob wouldn't have wanted you to [your way].

Chude:

Yeah. Amen. Bob would not have wanted me to.

 

Post-Traumatic Stress & Trauma

Chude:

Since we're, we're moving sort of close to ending, we still have, it looks like 20 minutes, I wanted to just raise the question of post-traumatic stress and where that fits in to the whole thing of what we could and couldn't bring forward. I don't think any of us, at the time, had any clue about how much we got damaged by terrorism and by all the pressures. And of course back then, we didn't have some of the understandings we have now.

But also, it was — I mean, the thing is, you can look back and you could go, "Oh, wow. It would've been really good if — " Even though it was not even an option. The white and the 10% Black volunteers, who came to the trainings in Oxford, were not brought back to do any kind of, whatever that word is [debriefing], afterwards, to share what happened. And instead, we were split up [meaning that at the end of the summer the volunteers either remained in Mississippi or returned to their schools or homes on an individual basis].

And so one woman who's in another session today, Fran O'Brien, comments that she went back to Oregon to her college. She was going to be a senior. And in '89 at a reunion, she met another volunteer who'd been at another college close by. And what it would have meant to her to know that there was at least someone else around. Now, there was no way that that all could happen then, but it doesn't change the fact that for those of us that went back and spread out, we didn't have any tools for how to help each other.

I went back to Carleton. There had been seven people from Carleton who went south to Mississippi in '64. Four graduated and three of us went back, including Marcia Moore, who was in Laurel. And we did a lot of work around organizing support for SNCC. There were lots of curtains and bedspreads that students would leave when they left college, for example. And we wrapped them all up and sent them down to Mississippi. We did that kind of stuff. We never talked in detail about what happened on our projects. Somebody was shot in Moss Point where the other woman was. We never talked about it. How did that feel, any of that kind of thing.

Then I got involved in the Women's Liberation movement. From the beginning, there were people who'd been in the South. We didn't talk about it in detail with each other. There was not a way in which that was — That was not a point of unity. I've always wondered about that.

Cathy Cade and I went to the same college. We both went to Spelman. She was two years ahead of me. We both were in Mississippi. She was involved in early women's liberation meetings in New Orleans before we did it in Chicago and then New York. She comes out here in 1970 to San Francisco. It took us 17 more years to sit down with her box of stuff and go through what happened in detail. I don't mean the broad stuff. I mean, again, the detail stuff, the ways in which there was real connections on our projects. The ways in which there were those moments where things just fell apart. The ways that we built trust, the ways we lost trust. All those kinds of questions.

It took us that long. And there's no point in saying we should have done it earlier because we didn't know how. But I do know now that when we've made mistakes we have a way to figure that out — to talk about it and learn from it, instead of being embarrassed and trying to hide it or make the person feel like shit. Those don't help. What helps is to be able to take it apart and understand it. It's not about, for white people, it's not about acting right. It's not about never making a mistake. It's about understanding what we now call institutional racism and what we call ideological white supremacy and racist behavior.

But even if you act right, if you don't understand it, you can't change it. And so it's better, like for us to — if I make a mistake — for us all to stop and say, "Let's talk about it and learn from it." Might be hard, but then we can go forward with knowing more than we know now. And we didn't know how to do it back then. But we are aware, at least here, the vets in the Bay Area, that many people suffered a lot of post-traumatic stress from the terrorism. And it does affect you. It does affect how you can function and your health.

And, and yes — 

Heather:

Sorry, I didn't mean to cut you off. I wanted to ask you a question.

Chude:

Go ahead.

Heather:

Didn't Mike Miller try — 'cause he was in the Bay Area, I think. Didn't Mike Miller try to create a project for what he called "The Walking Wounded?"

Chude:

That's how we started. Taylor Branch had come out here to talk about his, I think, his second volume of his book Pillar of Fire: America in the King Years, 1963-65. And he said that many people he interviewed were really walking wounded. We started the group to help other people. And then there came a point when it was not working. And we were all sitting around at Jean Wiley's house. And Wazir [Willie Peacock] says, "We're the walking wounded."

And we began to own up to the ways in which we ourselves had been damaged. And so we switched, it became the Bay Areak — ultimately the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement. But originally we were calling ourselves the Walking Wounded, but it — we needed to turn in. We needed to become a support group and turn it in. And I would just finish with — Jimmy Rogers is probably the best example because he was there when Jonathan Daniels was murdered. And Father [Richard Morrisroe] the priest was wounded in Alabama. He was there.

And it took him many times of talking about it, sharing it, to really be able to go through all the layers of how traumatic that had been. And I've since — I've read — Oh, don't you hate it, now that we're older and names just go out of your brain?

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

Ruby Sales. I've read, in her interview, that she didn't speak for a year afterwards, because she's the one that Jonathan pushed aside. And we didn't start meeting — that was, like, '89. They'd been carrying those wounds. And so, just for the future, I think it's important that we stay up on remembering that we all have mental health needs and that we help each other.

And so we have about a little less than 15 minutes. Would you like to sum up, each of you, how you feel about this, what we could do better in the future or just how you feel about it?

And I do see — 

Zoharah:

I do. I just wanted to comment on this little piece of what you've just raised. It's interesting because — two things. I'm a founding member of an organization called the National Council of Elders. And we had our 10th anniversary celebration last week. And one of the three days, we invited 17 young activists to join us. And we were silent and let them tell us what was on their minds and what they wanted to do, et cetera.

And I had, in my mind, thought they were going to come in talking about organizing and what we're going to do next and all that. And what they were talking about was basically the trauma that they were in and how could we help them deal with it? I mean, I was stunned. That was not at all what I was expecting. So one of the things that they wanted us as elder movement people to do, was to be involved with them on an ongoing basis, almost as it seemed like counselors of some kind. So we're trying to work that out.

That's one piece. The other piece was that for some of us, I know myself — Jim Forman saved me because I didn't realize that I was coming apart at the seams. And he recognized it and told me that I had to come out for a break.

[Referring to James Forman who began working with SNCC in 1961. He became SNCC's executive secretary.]

And that's why I spent three months in New York working in the Friends of SNCC office, there. But from that point, went right back to Atlanta, et cetera. So for some of us, we either had to get sick. 'Cause in my case, it came, what, maybe a few years later. And I wound up in the hospital, them thinking I had adrenal cancer. And thank God, it wasn't. But so many of us just thought we had to keep on keeping on, no matter what. And some of us died early. Some of us went a little bit crazy. So that's just — That's the way it was. We won't talk about who, but anyway. Thank you.

Chude:

Great. Okay. We probably have six or seven minutes left. Does anybody want to make a last comment or have any other issues you'd like to just leave on the table?

 

Summing Up

Daphne:

I sure hope that the students and the professors in this Collaboratory that I am a part of at [UC] Berkeley, get to see these conversations. This has been beyond therapeutic.

Chude:

Okay.

Daphne:

It has been emotionally, and intellectually, and spiritually enlightening. And the bonds that I forged with people in SNCC, even though I was never a member of SNCC, but I worked closely with SNCC. Those bonds have endured. And in some ways, really kept me from going off the absolute deep-end because when Ralph Featherstone was murdered — "Oh my word." I moved about a year later. I moved to Phoenix to heal. To try to heal. And it has taken me years to deal with that.

So, the point about trauma that was discussed, it's real in all of us. And I just value, respect, and appreciate each and every one of you. And I don't know what my — I don't even want to imagine what my life would've been like without the Movement, because it has given me a life so rich and so fulfilled beyond anything I ever imagined. And for that, I am eternally grateful.

Chude:

Thank you.

Heather:

I put into the chat that I just thought that the thoughtfulness and the quality of this conversation and the honesty with so many shared elements and so many different elements, you know, we each saw the elephant from a different part, but we were also in the same sphere, but the thoughtfulness makes me just feel so appreciative. Both of SNCC, Civil Rights Movement, but of the people who are in the Movement. I mean, what a high-quality group this discussion is. Yeah. I mean, it's serious and meaningful. Anyway, I'm grateful to Bruce, for having thought about it too. Chude, thank you for sharing it so well.

Daphne:

Yes.

Chude:

Thank you.

Heather:

And several of you, I never met before, but I'm very grateful for the connection and I'm sure there'll be something about getting email addresses or phone numbers of those who want to share. So we can be in touch. Not just of this small group, but of the whole conference.

Chude:

Yeah. Zoharah. Do you have your hand up? [Referring to the Zoom application "Raise Hand" icon].

Zoharah:

I do.

Chude:

I wanted to make sure it was new.

Zoharah:

Oh yeah, it's a new hand. I tried to put it back down. And several have not spoken, I don't want to hog the conversation, but I, too, want to say, I greatly appreciate the vets in Northern California for doing this. You know, when Bruce first brought it to the SNCC planning committee, we were already pulling our hair out by the roots, saying, "We can't take on anything else!" So, I'm so happy this has happened. It has been wonderful meeting all of you whom I didn't know. And of course, I look forward to seeing you again, if we live long enough, maybe in person.

I want you to know that for the SNCC 60th, which begins tomorrow, and I hope all of you are coming, we do have on Monday evening, a session like this, but now we have 800 registered people. But we're putting the SNCC civil rights folk all together in groups to do something like this.

And so this is very useful for me as one of those people who'll be trying to do what Chude has done so well. In one of the groups of the SNCC folk who will be put in small groupings together out of the 800. That's the first night of the conference. And I hope people are registered and planning to attend. Thank you.

Chude:

Okay. Assuming that we have two minutes left, Pat, do you want to say something and then, Larry?

Pat:

Well, I've never met any of you before or heard about you, but it's been a pleasure to spend this afternoon with you. Thank you so much. I look forward to being in touch.

Chude:

Good. And Larry?

Larry:

I just wanted to add to the discussion about PTSD that there's the related issue of moral injury.

Chude:

Oh?

Daphne:

Yes.

Larry:

Very important.

Pat:

That's interesting.

Larry:

An analogy with, particularly, military veterans is useful, but it is not the whole picture. And the issue of moral injury is important to be included.

Chude:

Good. Okay. Well I thank you all.

Pat:

Good job.

Chude:

Thank you. Thank you.

Larry:

So we're leaving now?

Chude:

Well, we just sit here and they're going to take us away in one to two minutes.

Zoharah:

And do we go back to big group?

Chude:

We go back to the big group to say goodbye. If we were in-person, of course we would sing.

Zoharah:

Yes.

Chude:

That's what we did — When we did the 50-Year Retrospective Discussions in-person in Oakland, that's how we ended — everybody singing and it was quite wonderful.

We've only mentioned the music once Larry, when you brought it up in terms of the church, but for me, the music was such a key part of the Movement. And, again, to quote Wazir, Wazir used to say, it makes you bigger. It made you bigger. Oh, look at you [Heather] with a big picture. You had a guitar, that's right, I remember.

Heather:

That's me at 18 at Fannie Lou Hamer's house in Ruleville.

Zoharah:

Wow.

Chude:

All right.

Heather:

For a birthday, someone blew up the picture.

Larry:

I'm supportive of Gwen's grandmother, who taught her how to sing, because she led the meetings every evening in Laurel and had a wonderful voice.

Zoharah:

Oh, you remember that! My God!

Larry:

Absolutely!

[End Session #2]


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