Down to the Grassroots

After the sit-ins, after the freedom rides, a small band of dedicated sisters and bothers turn their backs on the ivy-halls of academe and forego their future careers. They leave the college campus to carry the Freedom Movement down into the soggy swamps of Louisiana, the mean little towns of Mississippi, the red-dirt roads of Alabama, the piney woods of Georgia, and every hamlet and plantation of the segregated South. The press calls them "Civil Rights Workers," but to the southern Black communities who shelter and guard them they are "Freedom Riders" and "Freedom Fighters."


[photo by unknown prisoner]



James Forman of SNCC doing time in jail.

[Photographer unknown]


George Ball of SNCC working down at the grassroots.

[Photographer unknown]


Mississippi NAACP organizer Vera Piggy conducting a voter registration class. Going over the procedures, filling out the application, studying the literacy test questions.

[photo from CORE pamphlet]


CORE organizer Frank Robinson working the streets, Sumter, SC.

[photo from CORE pamphlet]


Organizing is a family calling. Frank Robinson's daughter teaching voter registration, Sumter, SC.

[© Frank Cieciorka]


There are no computers, faxes, cell phones, or copy machines. Flyers, notices, and reports are typed on old, donated typwriters.

[© Frank Cieciorka]


There are no copy-shops or money to pay professional printers. Newsletters are cranked out on mimeograph machines and hand-collated on long tables.

[© Frank Cieciorka]

[Bruce Hartford]

[Bruce Hartford]

[Collection of Frank Cieciorka]


Released from jail in Gould, Arkansas, 1964. From left: Bill Hansen, unidentified, Frank Cieciorka, Cleve Sellers, unidentified.

..we're gonna talk, talk, with our minds on freedom..

Protests, movements, organizing, all need planning and consensus. That means meetings. Many, many, many meetings. Long meetings. Hard meetings.

[Highlander Center photo]


SNCC meeting, Alabama, 1962. From left: Reggie Robinson, Bill Hansen, Rutha Harris, Charles Jones, unidentified (behind Charles), Cordell Reagon, Ruby Doris Robinson, unidentified.

[© Tamio Wakayama]


COFO staff meeting, Hattiesburg Mississippi, 1964.

[© Frank Cieciorka]


Mass community meeting to discuss voter registration and the MFDP in Benton County, MS. 1964.


..And a Song Will Rise.

Singing sustains and energizes us through danger and fear. Through long days and longer nights; through cold, hard winters; and hot, fierce summers, "freedom songs" nurture us, protect us, and keep us sane. They are the expression of our ideology, and the songs we sing together are the pledge of trust and committment that we make to each other.
[© Charmian Reading]


"What could be more natural?
After sorrow, comes joy.


Fannie Lou Hamer on the Meredith March Against Fear, Mississippi, 1966.

[© Matt Herron]


Hollis Watkins & Arvenna Hall of SNCC, after being released from jail. Jackson, MS, 1963.

[photographer unknown]
[© John Phillips]

SCLC Freedom House, Selma AL.
From left: unidentified, SCLC Alabama Director
Albert Turner, Bruce Hartford,
Rev. Richard Boone,
Chuck Fager.

[© Frank Cieciorka]


"We Shall Overcome" at the end of a mass meeting in rural Benton County, MS, 1964.

[Photographer unknown]


SNCC & SCLC staff and community leaders gathering their courage for the march over the Edmund Pettus bridge on "Bloody Sunday." Selma, Alabama. 1965.

[Photographer unknown]


Ivanhoe Donaldson (SNCC), Chuck McDew (SNCC), Loraine Hansberry, Nina Simone, Theodore Bickel, James Forman (SNCC) in Bickel's New York home. Date unknown.

[© Joe Alper]


SNCC Freedom Singers from Albany GA, in performance.



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(Labor donated)