Ivanhoe Donaldson
(1941 — 2016)

SNCC Profiles: Ivanhoe Donaldson (One Person, One Vote)

Timothy Jenkins at the Memorial for Ivanhoe Donaldson (YouTube)


As remembered by Fannie Theresa Rushing
April 3, 2016

I am reaching out to say thank you for passing on , as I will do, the sad news of Ivanhoe's death and because b each of these deaths diminishes those of us left behind and creates a greater need to hold on to the circle and one another. Arranging a visit for Ivanhoe to speak on my campus was the nest step into the "river" for me and I am both politically and personally saddened by his death.


As remembered by James Bond
April 3, 2016

I've lost another really good friend and brother.


As remembered by Rita L. Bender
April 3, 2016

I feel much sadness at the loss of this strong man.


As remembered by Gloria Richardson Dandridge
April 3, 2016

It is very sad .

Ivanhoe trained the first local student group when the Freedom Riders first came into Cambridge during the Route 40 project in late '61. Actually the only "training" the community had.


As remembered by Larry Rubin
April 3, 2016

I loved him. He was my mentor and hero both in the South and in building the new DC. His wisdom guided my life in many ways.


As remembered by Gladys Mack
April 3, 2016

We've lost another true leader of our endless sturggle for freedom and justice and a good friend who always challenged me to find my inner best.


As remembered by Deborah Menkart
April 3, 2016

My deepest condolences.

From my limited opportunities to meet and talk with Ivanhoe Donaldson I was impressed by his brilliant mind, strategic thinking, commitment to peace, and kind heart. I will post the report we did on his virtual classroom visit in 2014 -- it is indicative of how much students could learn from him, here: The Value of Nonviolence Comes First (Zinn Education Project).


As remembered by Stuart Ewen
April 3, 2016

I remember Ivanhoe well, a kind and wise and beautiful soul. He now joins our ancestors who will continue to teach the generations yet to be born that freedom is a constant struggle.


As remembered by James Marshall
April 3, 2016

May Ivanhoe's name be blessed . He was an inveterate fighter for all with his eyes constantly pointed in the direction of Freedom, an example for all of us as to who a freedom fighter should be and how we should fight the good fight.


As remembered by Michael Thelwel
April 3, 2016

My Brother

These are such dreadful times. I was thinking about Ivanhoe just last night.

About our meeting at JC when he was ten and I twelve and now I'm thinking about his time with Cherif in the department we were trying to found at UMass back in 1969-70. Shit this really hurts for some reason I wasn't expecting it.

I hate this age we're in with the inevitable, ceaseless seems almost weekly news of this nature,Goddamn. Goddamn Please tell me what the plans are so I can be there.

One Love Bro


As remembered by Leslie-Burl McLemore
April 4, 2016

As one of the leaders of the political wing of SNCC, I greatly admired the political skills and instinct of Ivanhoe. He will be miised in several quarters. Long live the work and memory of our fallen brother. Peace,


As remembered by Charlayne Hunter-Gault
April 4, 2016

Greetings, We are in as much pain as many of your over Ivanoe's transition. Please share with his friends and family our deepest condolences. We pray the ancestors are greetings their latest . RIP.


As remembered by Charles McLaurin
April 4, 2016

So sad to learn of the death of brother Ivanhoe,he was intellectual and brave.I first met him in Clarksdale,MS in 1963. Ivanhoe had brought down a truck load of medical supplies to Aaron Henry to be distributed to poor needy sharecroppers in the Mississippi Delta. Ivanhoe was arrested and jailed. Henry got him out of jail and he continued to assist in the movement effort in the state. God bless the family. McLaurin and family


As remembered by Zoharah Simmons/Gwen Robinson
April 4, 2016

There are no words to express my sorrow each time a member of our tribe joins the ancestors. Gone but not forgotten. The memory of Ivanhoe's brilliance, dedication and his work for the liberation of our people (All People) lives on in the hearts and minds of ALL of our Band of Brothers and Sisters and Circle of Trust.

¡Presente Ivanhoe Donaldson!


As remembered by Bernice Johnson Reagon
April 5, 2016

I got to know Ivanhoe when he pulled some of the long driving for The Freedom Singrs on our national tour.

My song. "They Are Falling All Around Me, " runs through my 'being' a lot these days. To be expected as I turn to moving thru my 70s, such wonderful communal company — both sides of the river... here and moving on... Listen to Bernice sing "They Are Falling All Arounce me."


As remembered by Bob Moses
April 5, 2016

Even though I knew Ivanhoe was passing on, it was a shock to get the news; I miss him.


As remembered by Cora Masters Barry
April 6, 2016

Ivanhoe was brilliant . He was thoughtful, analytical and purposeful in all he did. He was the architect of Marion's emergence into elected politics. It was Ivanhoe who guided Marion to victories on the school Board, First elected City Council,and his first two terms as Mayor.

Marion loved and respected Ivanhoe, and the feeling was mutual. I worked with them both through all of these political endeavors. What stood out in my mind about how Ivanhoe and Marion related was Ivanhoe was always very direct with Marion, and Marion would listen to him. They were both very smart and calculating, Ivanhoe laid out the game plan and Marion ran the play. It was an awesome team, a sight to behold and ALWAYS ALWAYS victorious.

When Marion and I discussed the plans for his home-going services he said to me "I want Ivanhoe to speak but I know he can't" so don't bother him. That was to me a brother who understood the depth of the spirit of his brother. They had a special bond.

They are together now, they'll be missed, they stood alone in their uniqueness and their power.



As remembered by Constance Curry
April 6, 2016

As some of you know, I worked with Aaron Henry to produce his memoirs in 2000, Aaron Henry, the Fire Ever Burning. I interviewed Ivanhoe about when he brought some supplies to Aaron in 1962, and the interview is on page 217, "A True Believer," and shows Ivanhoe's understanding of what Aaron was trying to work on in Miss. and in the Freedom Democratic Party.


As remembered by Gloria Richardson Dandridge
April 6, 2016

I am sorry.

Ivanhoe introduced me to a young Tom Hayden. In pre-CNAC he was part of the young people that trained them. ... Not intellectually especially, but how to protect themselves when police attacked, how to orchestrate legal picketing and marches.

And later his scary trips from NYC to Mississippi to take trucks of food and sometime books from gifts by "liberals " from NYC area.

Somehow always thought he would just be around .


As remembered by Dwight Williams
April 16, 2016

As a young black man form South Philadelphia, I traveled to Atlanta Georgia in the early 60's to attend a SNCC conference and I meant Ivanhoe Donaldson. I immediately knew I was in the presence of a special someone. He was the real deal. He personified SNCC to me... His strength of intellect, his compassion, his courage, his commitment.

Yes, Yes. Yes!

With tears in my eyes and sadness in my heart I too say... He will be missed.


As remembered by Charlie Cobb
May 13, 2016


The public part of Ivanhoe Donaldson's life — brilliant political strategist, one of the best organizers in the Civil Rights Movement, insistent and demanding on detail in whatever he did, or asked you to do, does not tell the whole story, or even most of the story we need to know and think about if we are going to think about him.

"The Movement" was at the center of his life and thought. Now, I'll leave it to each one of you to decide the meaning of "The Movement." I cannot pretend in 3 or 4 minutes to be able to stand here and offer you much that is substantial or even acceptable to the notions of anyone here about what the Movement was or is. This is especially true of the SNCC people gathered in this church, who, as Joyce here once said, "Will argue with a lamppost."

I could talk about Ivanhoe and the Movement — at length, if I had the time. Here, in this space, however, I will limit myself to just a few things. That the two of us were brothers is my starting point. That's personal as well as political. In a larger sense, the piece of the Movement we were most involved with — SNCC, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee — was a band of brothers and sisters (and to complete this phrase we often used to describe ourselves, "a circle of trust"). Mississippi and SNCC's work there brought the two of us together. In December 1962 while working in Mississippi, I heard that some guy from up north trucking down food and over-the-counter medicines had been arrested in Clarksdale. His name was Ivanhoe. I remember thinking, Ivanhoe — like in Sir Walter Scott? Who's named Ivanhoe? Who's gonna be coming next? Lancelot?

Anyway, the two of us wound up crisscrossing the Mississippi Delta together as SNCC organizers. I hadn't been in Mississippi very long myself, so the two of us were learning together how to move in that state during those murderously dangerous times, more than once being threatened in some little town or county at gunpoint. Discovering — and this is the real Movement story — the deep wells of strength in rural Black communities which we could draw on for sustenance and survival. Whatever we thought we were bringing to these communities as young SNCC activists, these communities gave us much more, starting with their own ideas about change and what they were willing to fight for. Not to mention the fact that they kept us alive. And if you really want to understand where the Movement's power lay, it was here in this largely ignored back country of the Black Belt South.

Ivanhoe's old car — I think he called it Betsy, it is worth noting as a measure of how little we had, did not have a floor. Instead, it had refrigerator racks. Dust boiled up inside and I remember telling him we were more likely to choke to death on Delta dust than get killed by the Ku Klux Klan. He liked to sing on the road. I can't say he had a great voice, or even a good voice, but I sang along, figuring if he could, I could. That describes an important aspect of my relationship with him.

I once asked Ivanhoe, while traveling on some dusty Mississippi road, whether he thought it might be a good idea to have a gun in the car. "Not a good idea, Charlie," he responded. Some of that response was his always nearby practical side kicking in. Gunplay was something SNCC field secretaries needed to be very careful about, not romanticize or fanaticize about. But something deeper was at play in his thinking. And that's why I have brought this up. Are you nonviolent? I asked him in this inquiry. His response to that question: "Well, I don't have the courage for that. It's not my way of life." The importance of nonviolence in the Movement, he went on to tell me, was that it introduces a discussion of values into the political discussion and struggle; discussion and struggle where anger and rage can often dominate. Very few, however, himself included, had the courage to accept nonviolence as a way of life. He went on to quote the Julian Bond couplet we all loved: "Look at that girl shake that thang. We can't all be Martin Luther King."

The question of values was at the heart of a lot of our conversations over the years. If you want to change the world, you have to figure out how to address and change the values that put the world at risk, was what he strongly felt. That, in the final analysis, was what the Movement was really about. The values that legitimize violence was near the top of his list of concerns.

I wanted him to write at least one book; urged him to think about that. He did outline out a few ideas on paper, and craft a few passages, but nothing more. I am sorry for that and before stepping away from this podium, I'd like to express one more idea in Ivanhoe's head that I am sure would have been included in whatever he wrote: The Movement did not change the world, but it certainly changed us.

Now, speaking very personally, in concluding and speaking as a younger brother will speak of his older brother in these circunmstances let me publicly confess that without Ivanhoe here — I don't mean here in spirit, or here in our hearts, of course that's true. He is here in those senses. But without Ivanhoe here, where we can wrestle with ideas, I feel less secure, less certain about where I'm going.

Thank you.


As remembered by Casey Hayden
May 13, 2016

I knew Ivanhoe first in Ann Arbor, Michigan, in '63, when I was grad student's wife, married to Tom Hayden. Martha Prescodd and I were working with others collecting food and clothing for the suffering voter registrants in Mississippi. Tom and I had organized such a drive and driven such a truck to western Tennessee for evicted registrants a year before, under CORE auspices, as I recall.

Now Ivanhoe was driving. I had experienced the danger of such an act myself, run out of town and barely escaping to Memphis. Perhaps for that reason, I always felt a bond with him and perhaps that is why I saw him as slightly dangerous. Or maybe I was just drawn to his intensity, always a soft spot in my heart for good looking, intense young men. We loaded up and off he went in that truck. We followed his journey then and I continued to do so for decades to come.

We worked together off and on through the next few years, crossing paths, and then closely involved in MFDP work during Freedom Summer. He told me decades later, "When we said whites should work with whites, we didn't mean you." That was kind, although a bit late. He stayed in touch, though, and invited me to his table for that last dinner for Toure in DC.

There was this iconic thing about him, hurried and frowning, Camus in his back pocket and his hair nappy. When I learned reading his obituary that his dad was a cop, that all somehow fell into place, as though he grew up facing into contradictions of all kinds, and bravely refused to turn away from them. He was one of those deepest in my heart, and I think that was true for many of us. We were young together in a way far beyond the ken of ordinary folk. I am forever grateful.

Rest in peace, Ivanhoe.

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