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SNCC Legacy Project
The Passing of Jean Wiley
Memorial Service Condolances
A Life Well Lived in a Liberated State of Mind, by Daphne Muse
As remembered by Bruce Hartford
December 18, 2019
Jean was our beloved sister of the struggle.
When interviewed, she said of herself:
"When I was growing up, there was a term called "Racemen" and "Racewomen" and that's what you wanted to be. You aspired to be a Raceman or Racewoman. It meant that you were constantly and consciously doing things that furthered the race. That your personal success had to take a back step. In a way, it was probably a little like the 'Talented Tenth' except that the Talented Tenth meant the intellectuals. This was across class and income lines. So you grew up knowing who the Racemen and Women were, in a city as big as Baltimore."
Jean lived her life as just such a Race Woman, standing for justice, freedom, and equality for all people everywhere. When I think of Jean I recall her dedication to the ideals that she lived out all the days of her years. Every time I remember Jean I'm always struck by her gracious dignity and innate compassion and courtesy towards all — even those with whom she might be in momentary disagreement. And I'm also struck by her uncompromising, adamant, tenacious opposition to those who oppress others for their greed or incite racial hatred to advance their political power.
At heart, Jean was always a teacher. In college classrooms, publications she wrote for, and the living rooms where we held our meetings, she was that rare and best kind of teacher, the kind that moves and provokes others to think for themselves and digg deeper. She listened deep to others, and when she spoke her comments were so insightful that we always listened deep to whatever she had to say. And so very often in our BayVets discussions a single observation from Jean would radically change the tenor and direction of our analysis and opinion.
Some 242 years ago, in the freezing winter of January of 1777, an ink-stained wretch named Tom Paine huddled by a tiny fire in the blood-stained snows of Valley Forge and wrote:
THESE are the times that try our souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.
Ever since, those who stand for freedom and democracy and endure against discouragement, adversity, and defeat have been called "Winter Soldiers." Jean Wiley was a Winter Soldier of the Freedom Movement and all the subseqent social justice movements it spawned.
Jean Wiley ¡Presente!
As remembered by Maria Gitin
December 18, 2019
So sorry to hear this, what a wonderful woman. Although I did not know her well she certainly was one of the strongest longest leaders always there and her quiet yet persistent way. May she rest in blessed memory.
Maria Gitin, author of: This Bright Light of Ours