[As told to and discussed by Freedom Movement veterans and family members at a story-telling session, U.C. Berkeley, September 30, 2018.]
|Movement Veterans||Family Members & Guests|
|Ron Bridgeforth||M. Diane Benton|
|Cathy Cade||Louise Rosenkrantz|
|Helen Singleton||Gail Brown|
|Eugene Turitz||Alison Brown|
Cathy: My name is Cathy Cade. I worked between 1962 and 1969. I worked in Atlanta, Mississippi and Louisiana.
So, just as an introduction, I'll say that I was very inspired by the photographers in the Civil Rights Movement to become a photographer. I saw them doing the photographs. I saw them come out of the dark room and hold up the pictures. And it was so powerful. Those pictures made information go all over the country in ways that our cell phones do now. Well, I'll just say that I would've like to have been a photographer back then, but I didn't think I could be because I was a woman. That's where I was at in the '60s. But now, I'm having lots of memory problems, and I'm writing poetry. So what I'm going to present to you is in the form of a poem.
Moving Through Time: 1954 to 1971
I grew up in an all-white upper-middle-class family.
Today, my family, near and far, is multi-racial.
My junior high school in the Chicago suburb of LaGrange
Well, the school was integrated,
But LaGrange was divided into the large, well-off white side,
And the smaller, poorer black side of town.
At school I reached out to some black students,
For they seemed to have something special.
I sought the sweet gentleness in black boys who respected
And the amazing assertiveness of some of the black girls.
Part way through my high school years my family moved to
Where my father was transferred to a job designing mechanical
For International Harvester.
In 1957 I attended segregated Central High School of
Just as Central High of Little Rock was being "forcibly
At my Central High many students repeated: "2-4-6-8
don't have to integrate."
While in class I stated "I'm for integration."
The teacher looked like she was going to faint.
Directly across the street from my school was my Unitarian
Which was a little bit integrated.
The Unitarian church taught me about the lynching of Emmet
And to respect for the activism of his mother, Mamie
Our church youth group had two meetings with black youth
a nearby black Baptist church,
This was my only connection with black young people while I
lived in Memphis.
I proceeded to almost-all-white Carleton College in
My junior year, the spring of 1962,
I got to go on an exchange program to Spelman College, a black
women's college in Atlanta.
I made this decision without asking my parents, my first
decision without my parents.
My teacher Howard Zinn, and other white exchange students
Sat-in briefly in the Georgia State Legislature.
We left before getting arrested.
I worked on voter registration and spent a good deal of time
sitting in the SNCC office,
Listening to the stories of my new SNCC friends.
Back for my last year at Carleton, we raised money for
work in the South
And had SNCC workers come educate us.
The summer of 1963 I was working with SNCC in Albany, GA.
I was there two days when the police arrested all the visiting
white civil rights workers.
I ended up in a segregated cell of seven white women,
Including Miriam Glickman.
To gain support throughout the country, we went on a hunger
strike for seven days.
I kept dreaming of tomato soup.
My father came down to Albany for the trial.
I was offered acquittal if I agreed to leave Albany.
I was not leaving The Movement.
My father went home and the next day had a nervous breakdown.
I was not leaving The Movement,
But was unsure of my contribution in Albany with my
I agreed to leave Albany.
I was accepted to work in the Atlanta SNCC office.
There I finished the summer doing whatever office work I was
Enjoying more friendships,
Though Stokely made it clear he didn't want whites working
And admiring the documentary photographers.
What to do next?
Still unsure of the proper role for whites in The Movement,
I decided to accept a scholarship in Sociology at Tulane
University in New Orleans.
I was hoping that as a researcher and teacher I could make a
significant contribution to The Movement.
In New Orleans, in addition to school, I did voter
registration with CORE
And spent a week in Jonesboro, Louisiana working with the
Deacons for Defense and Justice.
The Deacons believed in, and acted on, blacks' rights to
I made many trips to Jackson, Mississippi for COFO
planning for the big summer program of 1964
That summer I was a leader in North Gulfport,
Specializing in phone calls with the police, about who had
been recently arrested.
They would ask, "Is this 'ole Cathy?"
Back In New Orleans, I helped start Students for
Bringing together activists from several black and
mostly-white colleges there.
By 1967 it was time to write my dissertation.
I did my research in the black community of Canton,
Mississippi, near Jackson.
I lived in the black community with Ruby Coleman
And interviewed blacks of different classes
On what they thought was the best way to bring social change.
I confirmed my theory that working class blacks believed in
agitation and "direct action,"
While well-off and poor blacks favored being law-abiding,
trained and educated, and working hard.
While back at Tulane writing my dissertation,
We started a local Women's Liberation Consciousness Raising
Which included a number of women who had been in The Civil
Rights Movement in various parts of the South.
Next thing I knew it was 1969 and I was moving to San
Francisco Where there was a large women's movement
And we didn't have to argue as much about what were our
I quickly connected with Carleton graduate and Spelman
exchange student Chude Pam Parker Allen.
Who was now a leader in the SF Women's Movement.
In 1971 SNCC photographer, Bill Light, moved to San
Offered to teach me photography and lend me his dark room.
I started documenting the Bay Area women's movement.
That same year I came out as a lesbian, the day of the
anti-Vietnam war march.
Not the end.
Helen: Not the end. I like that. [General laughter] You mentioned somewhere in there that you joined this other group so that you wouldn't have to argue over your priorities? Can you expand on that a little bit?
Cathy: OK, so I have to think a minute. So in the early Women's Movement, you know, some of us thought that fighting for abortion rights was most important. Some of us — God, I can't even remember what we were fighting about, about whether we should just be a consciousness raising group that just talked to ourselves or whether we should go out and demonstrate, things like that. And there weren't very many of us in New Orleans then. So I was drawn to San Francisco where there would be more people, and you could get together with the women who were choosing the same things you wanted to choose at that moment.
Helen: I don't know where I'm going with this, but there's a book called "Why do all the Black kids sit together in the cafeteria?" That's the name of a book. And I haven't read it all. I've got it here on my Kindle, but I haven't read the whole thing. And it brings up what I think is a question that happens a lot, and that is, people who feel that they have like interests and needs do tend to want to speak and talk and be with each other.
And sometimes, that bothers people who don't have the same needs or likes just like us. And so this just simply reminds me of that. Like I said, I haven't read the book, so I don't know what the answer is to that, but I do know that I've been part of groups where we did the same thing. What I've found is that the people who have a problem with one group sitting together, people who think, 'Why are they separating themselves from us?' Are just being a little too sensitive. They're not separating themselves from you; they just like being together with themselves. It's not about you. That's what I think anyway.
Cathy: Well, I want to add just one thing kind of brought up by your question which is that my beginning to be conscious about race and to take steps away from my white upper middle class family was that I saw something in the Black students that I was around. Something that I wanted, I wanted in my life. And it had to do with race, and it had to do with class too. It had to do with the limits of what my class background was teaching me about how you were supposed to be and the individualistic stuff, and so I just wanted to — there's a line in there that's about that, but I just wanted to emphasize that. And I feel very lucky that I got to have that. OK, I'm done.
Ron: It must've been quite an experience for you at Spelman.
Cathy: Fabulous. Fabulous. Yeah, if you go on YouTube, there's a little piece up there now about my talking with a lot more detail than I could remember yesterday, about what it was like for me to be at Spelman. Yeah, it changed my life and enriched it.
Helen: At that time, were you the only white student there?
Cathy: No, no, no, no.
Helen: By that time there were more?
Cathy: Oh yeah. There were, I'm guessing, there could've been easily 10 white students there, 10 exchange students. [General laughter] You're laughing, because you think that's not very many?
Helen: Exactly. [General laughter] Well, it was only recently, in the '60s I think? Maybe after the '60s that the historically Black colleges — I think it was part of the Civil Rights Act, that since they did receive funding from the federal government that they should be integrated, just like every other school is supposed to be. And so some brave people like you decided, 'Well, then why don't I apply to that school?'
Cathy: But it seemed like a lot, because I wasn't the only one. There were all these others. There were six others, or whatever. I don't know. I may have the numbers wrong. We should ask Chude.
Ron: What did your parents say about your decision? To go to Spelman?
Cathy: They were nervous. They were nervous. But my mother had had — she'd been very close to — when she was a child, she grew up very close to a Black boy. And she was against racism and stuff, so she could support that. And my father was concerned that, you know, Carlton was this very important school, and was I going to be losing education by not being at Carlton for a semester? I mean, it was the biggest education I ever got in my life being at Spelman.
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