Betty Garman Robinson
(1939–2020)

Remembering SNCC veteran Elizabeth "Betty" Garman Roginson
SNCC Legacy Project (SLP)

 

As remembered by Courtland Cox
October 12, 2020

All, it is my sad duty to inform you that Betty Garmon Robinson has died as a result of a fall she suffered on Friday. Her family is now making preparations for her funeral and will let us know if the SLP can be of assistance.

 

As remembered by Gwendolyn Zoharah Robinson
October 12, 2020

This is devastating news! She was such a force for change and so committed to SLP's work. Betty will be sorely missed!

 

As remembered by Jennifer Lawson
October 12, 2020

This is devastating news. Betty was such an important voice with her unbroken history of community organizing, her deep knowledge of so many communities and her affection. What a loss!

 

As remembered by Judy Richardson
October 12, 2020

Keisha called me Saturday afternoon, right after she fell and they'd taken her to the hospital. The family allowed me to tell Dottie and Jean, since we were close (we just had our bi-monthly Fab4/Girlfriends call last Sunday and had to hold our annual trip this year due to Covid). When I spoke with Keisha last night they were making sure all family knew.

I had a long conversation with Betty on Friday evening. Dottie, Betty and I texted during the VP and presidential debates. I saw her for lunch week before last when she visited. So glad we had all that.

We're all still in shock.

 

As remembered by Sharlene Kranz
October 12, 2020

Oh such horrible news. The world is an emptier place without Betty in it. A great loss for us all.

 

As remembered by Maisha Moses
October 12, 2020

When I was 7 or 8 years old, Sweet Honey in The Rock came to Cambridge. Of course my parents took us — Omo age 6, Taba age 4, Malaika age 2 — to see them. I still remember that concert, and the songs on this album (Believe I'll Run on See What the End's Gonna Be) that we played over and over and over, the songs and the stories and the people behind them becoming part of us. Betty is in these songs. All of the "Leaves falling all around us" are in these songs. Somewhere on the other side parties are being thrown.

I love y'all and am thankful.

 

As remembered by Larry Rubin
October 12, 2020

No!!! Betty is so much a part of us, she can't be gone! She's with us still, no matter what.

 

As remembered by Cynthia Palmer
October 12, 2020

Although I did not know Betty nearly as long as most of you, the few times that I did interact with were special.

She was always kind to me and I valued her wisdom. I am always saddened to hear of another Freedom Fighter passing.

 

As remembered by Bruce Hartford
October 12, 2020

(Sigh) Another warrior done gone. She was a true Winter Soldier and an unfailing point of light in a dark and darkening world.

Betty Garman Robinson -- ¡Presente!

 

As remembered by Karen Spellman
October 12, 2020

This news of Betty's transition has left me breathless! I just can't believe she is no longer with us. Betty has been a ROCK to the SNCC family, with her crystal clear thinking, her caring spirit her steadfast dedication to ending racism and oppression. We must proclaim her name and and tell her story for all to celebrate.

Long live Betty Garman Robinson!!!

Rest In Peace and Power dear sister.

 

As remembered by Maria Varela
October 12, 2020

Lo siento mucho por su familia, incluidos todos nosotros.

 

As remembered by John McAuliff
October 12, 2020

Betty was of invaluable assistance in organizing for the Summer Project and other SNCC support from a faraway college campus.

She remembered our contact in later days and was an occasional warm correspondent.

 

As remembered by Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ)
October 12, 2020

Passing of Betty Robinson

We learned this morning of the passing of Betty Robinson, a movement giant, elder and co-founder and leader in the SURJ Baltimore chapter. We're sending love to her family and our comrades in SURJ Baltimore.

Below you'll find a note on Betty's life from SURJ national, as well as a number of resources for you to learn more about Betty's life, and especially her work as part of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. We will be sharing this on social media - when it posts, please share!

On a personal note, Betty modeled for me the kind of white anti-racist leadership I could be proud of and wanted to live into — humble, action-oriented, moving with deep love, and in it for the long-haul. I was lucky enough to sit at her kitchen table many times and will treasure those memories. Betty's legacy is one we can and should feel at our backs and lean into with dignity.

In solidarity,
Erin

Yesterday we lost a beautiful elder, mentor and comrade in the struggle for racial justice, Betty Garman Robinson.

Betty was a long-time member of SNCC (Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee) and carried the learnings of that work into her work with SURJ. She was an early and enthusiastic supporter of the organization and was one of the founders of the Baltimore Showing Up for Racial Justice chapter. Many of us first met her at our gathering at the Highlander Center in 2015.

SNCC's powerful organizing work has greatly inspired SURJ's work and countless other organizations in our movement. Betty is also co-author of the anthology Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC Legacy Project, bringing that work to younger SURJ leaders she worked with., and she continued as an active member of the SNCC Legacy Project.

Betty was a constant and close partner and mentor to so many of us for years. She enthusiastically and humbly supported the leadership of young people. When coming through town, she would host us in her home, share a meal and stories of her life. And she always expressed such a sincere curiosity about what we knew, were learning, and expressed such confidence in our leadership.

Just in the last week many of us at SURJ national had spoken with her about organizing work. Betty was engaged in our electoral work to unseat Trump, bringing her experience organizing in Georgia to help inform our work with white voters there. She also was active in supporting new SURJ chapters that are being founded in response to the uprisings this summer.

Betty is someone who embodied so much of what SURJ is working to help white people in our movement to embody - a fierce commitment to racial justice, being in action and putting our bodies into the struggle, and a humble and connected leadership. She showed us what it meant to be in movement and active for a lifetime.

She died with her hands still on the plow. Our hearts are with her family members, loved ones, and all those she touched directly or indirectly. She has left us so much to be proud of, look to and live into in her passing.

 

As remembered by Fred Mangrum
October 13, 2020

I haven't been in touch nor seen Betty in a very long time. I sadden hearing this message of her passing. Condolences to her family.

 

As remembered by Timothy Jenkins
October 14, 2020

TO MY FELLOW TRAVELERS — A TOO SOON ELEGY

My sainted grandmother always told me to attach special importance to those whose enthusiasm brought them early to an event and who stayed late because of their abiding commitment.

My first encounters with Miss Elizabeth Garman, then a coed flower from Skidmore College, came in the mid-fifties when she joined in the fight against the right wing Young Americans for Freedom's attempts to take over the liberal United States National Student Association. She was fighting against the mass exodus of its Southern college membership in revolt against our endorsement of the Brown v. Board of Education decision and our support for the Free South Africa Movement.

Still later, I worked with by-then "Betty" in joint SNCC efforts for black southern voting rights and since then against Northern police violence as well as the defense of Black Women and girls in Baltimore and beyond.

In each instance, she justified my grandmother's advice to give special attention to the likes of a Betty Garman, who came to the call early and who stayed so long with her Hands on the Freedom Plow from the sit-ins to the coming of the surprisingly well integrated Black Lives Matter Movement of today. She was ever proving Carlyle's adage incorrect that "the making of history is but the biographies of famous men."

We can now all be deeply moved and grateful for her having come so early and stayed so late inside the meaning of our lives. Let her truth keep marching on with us all and those to follow us as well!

On our way to Freedom,

 

As remembered by Mike Miller
October 15, 2020

In 1962, Betty Garman was my next door neighbor in Berkeley, CA. She recruited me to join the SNCC staff. I became the SNCC Bay Area Rep in late 1962. Betty and I remained friends since those heady days of the early 1960s.

My partner Kathy Lipscomb and I stayed at her Baltimore house Fall, 2019 when we all went to a preview of Gene Bruskin's musical The Moment Was Now. We had one of our usual deep conversations ranging from families to The Movement to the state of the nation and world. Betty was special, the epitomy of the SNCC spirit. I will miss her. My condolences to her lovely family."

 

As remembered by Jennifer Bryant
October 16, 2020

Such a huge loss. I met her at a housing event in Baltimore when I was an organizer with ONE DC. We remained Facebook friends after. She was the kindest person and truly committed to mentoring young people to build a society better than the one we have. She will be truly missed.

 

As remembered by Lucia Hatch
October 17, 2020

When I was the lone New Jersey staffer outpost for SNCC during Freedom Summer, Betty was my lifeline to what was going on. She was always responsive and calm, and I depended on her for so much. I was so sorry to hear of her death, and I send condolences to her family and many friends and admirers.

 

As remembered by Margaret Herring (Lauren)
October 19, 2020

The First Time I Met Betty Garman

In the fall of 1964, I worked in Batesville, MS, helping with the Freedom School, etc., and then I worked in the DC office of the MFDP during the Congressional challenge. After that I went to work in the national SNCC office in Atlanta.

My first day there, I met the other people there and went to Betty Garman's office since that was the department I was to work in. She was putting out a mailing to northern supporters asking for supplies and money for projects out in the field. We folded, and stuffed envelopes and put labels on. Then, she had to go to a meeting and said she'd be back in an hour or so. And I kept stuffing.

Pretty soon, Ivanhoe came in and picked up one of the letters. "Why are we sending out this crap?" he said. "Who wrote this?" I didn't know what to say ... it was my first day on the job. I was flummoxed He fussed some more and I kept stuffing. Finally, he moved on somewhere else.

After a while, Betty came back and I told her about what Ivanhoe had said. "Oh," she said, with a little chuckle, "don't pay any attention to Ivanhoe. He goes off sometimes." So we kept stuffing and took the mailing to the post office.

I learned so much from Betty. And I must say that as time went on, Ivanhoe was very kind to me.


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