Cynthia Washington
(1942 — 2014)


As remembered by Muriel Tillinghast
March 5, 2014

Cynthia served in Mississippi during the Summer Project in as a staff director of SNCC in Bolivar County, Mississippi. She had been active previously in the Nonviolent Action Group, (NAG) out of Washington, D. C. NAG was an activist group which included high school and college students from across the city and nearby areas in anti-segregation/desegregation work in the early 1960's in multi-state activities. While it had a large Howard University contingent, all of the area colleges were well represented. As my memory serves, Cynthia came from George Washington University.

In addition to raising her son, Donald, and caring for her mother, Phyllis, Cynthia returned to school in computer science and secured work at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). She became a high-level employee at the agency and retired from there several years ago.

She is survived by her son, a grandchild and her mother. She and I had been friends since childhood.

Muriel Tillinghast


As remembered by Joanne Gavin
March 5, 2014

I am terribly shocked by learning of our loss of Cynthia!

I remember her from D.C. and from Mississippi.

She broke free of her prim and proper "D.C.B.B." ("D.C. Black Bourgeois" as D.C. SNCC people said) upbringing and became a warrior for the people.

On her application for some SNCC project (possibly the summer project) she listed as her skills: "read write and speak English and drive trucks")

Upon one return from Mississippi, possibly from the Freedom Vote she had no time to change before catching her plane, so her super-prim-and-proper mother met Cynthia — in dungarees, boots and a good layer of Delta dust — at the D.C. airport. She delighted in telling us about that meeting.

During the gathering of depositions for the convention (?) challenge, she said she wanted no part of a radio-equipped car, calling the long antenna then required a neon "get SNCC here" sign for the Klan, and wanted only a fast car and a good gun and went alone (by choice) into Talahatchie County and got her depositions.

I hadn't seen or heard about her in a long time, but she will always live in my memory as a tough-minded, no-nonsense, fighting sistah.

I had silent sobs and a hint of tears just writing this, but I remembered her and put a stop to that. She would have no part of such.

Love to all. And a big hug to Sister Cynthia!



As remembered by Leslie Burl McLemore
March 6, 2014

I knew Cynthia from her time in Missippippi and later in Atlanta and DC. She was a righteous sister with a sharp mind and a profound Passion for her people. I enjoyed the long conversations we had solving the problems of the world. I had not been in close contact with her in recent years but she will surely be missed.

Leslie Burl McLemore


As remembered by Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton
March 13, 2014

I first met Cynthia in 1965, when she came to Tuskegee Institute (now University) after hers and SNCC's organizing in Alabama's Black Belt. She was stunning, dressed in overalls over her white blouse, and brogan shoes, dusty with red dirt. She was brilliantly sharp in her analyses of our people's oppression. It was clear that she had been informed by rural folks in their certitude that Black folks had the right to self-determination, especially in the duty to protect themselves, families and their lands.



As remembered by Charlie Cobb
April 2, 2014

We kept in regular touch and I spoke to her for my book [This Nonviolence Stuff'll Get You Killed] shortly before she died and this epigraph opens the book:

I never was a true believer in nonviolence, but was willing to go along [with it] for the sake of the strategy and goals. [However] we heard that James Chaney had been beaten to death before they shot him. The thought of being beat up, jailed, even being shot, was one kinda thing. The thought of being beaten to death without being able to fight back put the fear of God in me. Also, I was my mother's only child with some responsibility to go home in relatively one piece and I decided that it would be an unforgivable sin to willingly let someone kill my mother's only child without a fight. [So] I acquired an automatic handgun to sit in the top of that outstanding! black patent and tan leather handbag that I carried. I don't think that I ever had to fire it; I never shot anyone, but the potential was there. And I still would hurt anyone if necessary to protect my son and grandson and his wife.

Cynthia Washington to Charlie Cobb

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