James Hill
(1938 — 2017)


As remembered by SNCC Legacy Project
January 12, 2017

Statement From the SNCC Legacy Project
Celebrating the Life of James Hill

The members of the Board of SNCC Legacy Project want to express their condolences to Sylvia Hill on the passing of her husband and SNCC veteran, James Hill. James, a quiet and proficient organizer, conducted voter registration in Helena, Arkansas and Mississippi.

As a student at the University of Oregon, James was involved in developing the political and cultural awareness of Black youth. James developed a cultural program called "Doing it Black" that encouraged students to express their artistic talents.

In the early 1970s, James continued his work on developing the education possibilities for Black youth at Macalester College in St. Paul, Minnesota thru the Upward Bound program.

The liberation of African people was a family affair in the Hill household. So James and Sylvia worked tirelessly on organizing African Americans to attend the Sixth Pan-African Congress in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. They also worked with the African Liberation Support Committee in support of the liberation of Southern Africa. Despite James' many years of serious health challenges, he soldiered on in support of the liberation of African people. We have all benefited from the contributions of James Hill and we say a collective, thank you.

In struggle,


As remembered by Jimmy Garrett
January 17, 2017

James Hill, Presente!

My first contact with James Hill was while attending a SNCC staff meeting in 1965.


I. Quiet and Proficient Organizer

  1. We met again in Spring 1967 in Portland Oregon.

    I was actively organizing the Black Students Union at San Francisco State College. The SFSC BSU had invited and was hosting Leroi Jones (Amiri Baraka) as poet in residence. His focus was to organize the West Coast wing of the Black Arts Movement.

    Amiri and I were invited to travel to Portland Ore. to speak on Black Power and the Vietnam War at Portland State College and Reed College. As it turned out, I made the programs without Amiri.

    James had promoted the appearances from his base at Univ. of Oregon up in Eugene. We met at the airport and did the usual SNCC ritual of discussing our various struggles, past and present.

  2. After the evening's festivities, James and I and couple of Black Students from Portland State spent much of the night talking about Black Power. James and I felt that Black Power was a great call to arms, but needed a profound organization to sustain its dynamic voice. We also worked through the need to build Black Students organizations on predominant white-college campuses. James understood the importance of Black Students connecting with and sustaining relationships with Black and oppressed communities.

  3. The next morning, James showed me his several boxes of index cards that contained the most extensive network of contacts I had ever seen. The index was broken down by name, interest, organization. The index boxes included Black activists, athletes and religious leaders, the boxes included white liberal academics, social gospel activists, and politicians, native American fishermen, and trade unionists. There were addresses from all over Oregon and many from the State of Washington. James had been working to build alliances in those two states since moving back to Oregon University to complete his studies.

  4. Needless to say, James and I formed an alliance. It was out of this contact list and filled with people of all stripes who trusted James, that more than a dozen BSU chapters were formed over the next 2 years. These included BSU chapters from Bellingham to Seattle. The foundations were laid with more than 50 BSU chapters in 5 states formally unified as the Western Regional Alliance of Black Students' Unions.

II. My second work with James (this time with his wife Sylvia, a profound thinker and leading figure in the anti-Apartheid and anti-imperialist Movement of that period.)

1976-1981 Global Black Power/Pan Africanist Period James, Sylvia and a group of former SNCC workers and local activists established or developed such groups as the June 16th Coalition (Name for the date of the major uprising in South Africa) that evolved into the Southern Africa Support Committee (SASP), City Wide Housing Coalition (with 12, 000 local members pushed through one of the most progressive tenant/landlord laws in the US), Committees Against Police Abuse (CAPA), Rape Crisis Centers; the struggle to defend affirmative action under National Committee to Over Turn the Bakke Decision (NCOBD) which culminated in a massive march and demonstration in Wash, DC., and institutionalizing Howard's WHUR and Pacifica's WPFW

We tried to build local Black led organizations where contentious spirits everywhere. Sharp observers could watch James Hill in the background of a heated meeting of the people, back of the room, corner of the hall, listening to a disappointed dissident, a soiled orator, patiently waiting for each to complete her/his rant and then cajoling the restored soul back into the circle. James did not seek the limelight. But he worked hard to maintain the unity of the group finding something positive in almost every statementpicking out key points from rambling presentations. That's how he expressed his abilities as an organizer, quiet, and resolute.

James wanted concrete results, hardliner on goals cajoling by style.

How he could do that for 2 or 3 hours, living with the constant discomfort of living with sickle cell anemia (most of those affected with s/c in his generation was dead already) and then endure stark pain and debilitation whenever a s/c crisis struck.

James, at his most productive did all of us well.

He was a quiet and proficient organizer of the people, SNCC, bred and foaled

James Hill, Presente!

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