What did the Southern Freedom Movement mean to you? Do you feel as if you made a difference?

Patricia Anderson:
To me, it meant that people of all colors and backgrounds had come together to right a wrong that had been prevalent in this country for decades upon decades. It meant that we were trying to change the feelings, the unwarranted hatred of a people just for the color of their skin. It meant that finally people were willing to sacrifice everything in order to bring about change.

How did it affect you?

In one word, profoundly. I was never the type of person who would sit by and watch something happen without becoming involved, so my becoming involved was a natural thing. When the Voting Rights Act, and other civil rights acts were actually signed in to law, it was emotionally overwhelming to me.

Do you feel as if you made a difference?

Yes. However, in the recent past and now I'm not sure that the impact that we made, that the differences that we made are going to hold. That is; as I see things happening like laws being repealed that effect minorities, that allowed them to be accepted in to schools, colleges and universities. That allowed them to be hired on all levels, and not just as maids or janitors...I am sickened. When I hear Black people speak for the restrictions of these laws, such as affirmative action and so forth, I wonder why on earth did we even bother? Those same Black people who speak out against affirmative action benefited from affirmative action in their own lives, and yet they try to sell the bill of goods that affirmative action is no longer relivant or viable. Which is not true. When they dare to say that all employers would hire Blacks, women and other minorities on their own without affirmative action, they are speaking without thinking. Although, in some minds the civil rights issues are solved, in most thinking minds we know that they are not. We realize that if you have a qualified Black person, woman or other minority applying for a job, and a qualified white male applying for that same job, that the white male will get the job. That if it were not for these restrictions placed on hiring in the first place, that the white males would work, then on a much lessor extent the white females, then the minority workers would be considered. While in general they act as though affirmative action was a whim....and some sort of bandaid program, indeed it was not.

Bruce Hartford:
Not as an individual. But as one person part of a larger social movement, yes we as a group did make an enormous difference. The Civil Rights Movement was one of the rare times when the truest meaning of American democracy was carried out in action. A time when we the people took history into our own hands and created a mass movement for justice demanding that America actually live up to its stated creed of "One nation, with liberty and justice for all."

Gabe Kaimowitz:
Absolutely. My life and child raising were changed by it, and my knowledge prompted me to bring numerous court cases as an attorney to establish precedents for the anti-poverty movement, blacks, Puerto Ricans, etc..

Joan Mandle:
This experience changed my life. I became a committed activist, got a PHD and taught social change and social movements and wrote and spoke on the importance and impact of social movements. I remained involved in Civil Rights, but when I went back to college I also got involved in the struggle against the War in Vietnam and the Student Movement, started a Free University as part of SDS, and then became involved in the Women's Movement. My dissertation looked at how college women became involved in feminism and my published writings have also been on how the Women's Movement changed our society.

I know that we made a huge difference. First we helped to shine a light on what was wrong with our society — with segregation and racism — at a time when most people didn't want to look. And we changed our own lives by becoming more conscious political actors and more effective organizers through that experience.

Wazir (Willie) Peacock:
I think collectively we made a difference. We faced fears straight on that the population faced every day and just had a lot of fear. The civil rights workers, the people who came down later, began to realize the kind of fear that people lived under. Fear that most of the workers who came down in '64 had never experienced in their whole life. It was really unreal to most of them, but this is the kind of stuff that the Mississippi staff had grown up under.

It was a shock to the police and authorities to see. They knew we were Mississippians, and to see us facing up to them and standing up to them, they couldn't understand what had happened, what had gone wrong. So breaking through that fear and getting people to make the attempt to register to vote, that was a big, big step. And I know the students reading this today, they cannot appreciate how big a step that was. But yes, we made a difference. We made a difference because we put ourselves out there first. We had to do what we were asking the people to do.

Dick Reavis:
The movement showed me that the Bill of Rights is merely paper and that in the usual run of things, moneyed power dictates both law and social customs.

Jimmy Rogers:
No, I did not make a differance as an individual. I think I was part of a situation that made a difference. I don't really feel that I did that much on my own.

I think that one of things that we as a movement did was get the Voting Rights Act passed. I think that we motivated a lot of the local people in Lowndes County to believe that the situation could change somewhat, and it did. Since I left the South, I've been back to Lowndes County two or three times, and I'd have an opportunity to talk to people and when they recall the old days they talk a lot about SNCC and how they feel that SNCC impacted their lives and just about all of it was very positive because it gave them motivation to stand up to oppression.

Alvin Rosenbaum:
As one of the few southern white boys involved, it was important for me to demonstrate that not all southern whites were racist. The story of southern moderates and liberals of the era has not yet been told.

Jean Wiley:
There's no aspect of my life that wasn't affected. I can't image who I would be without the Movement. It wasn't an episode, it was a way of life and a way of viewing life, and living life. Living my beliefs. It affects everything. I mean, from my being a parent, to my view of the larger world. It's like I am not impressed with anything that is official in this government. I'm not impressed with the institutions. I'm an outsider, essentially. It made me see that I will remain an outsider and that's okay.

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