Transcript: Journal of a SCOPE Volunteer
Peter Buck Summer, 1965

Introduction. February, 2012


In 1965, I finished my freshman year at Dartmouth at the age of 19. I went south to work in the SCOPE project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. The following is an accurate transcription of my journal. The transcription accurately reflects the original grammar, spelling, formatting.



May 25, 1965


Anticipating a summer filled with interesting experiences, I start this account with the idea of saving the impressions of my young, excited mind. Past attempts at journals have lasted about two days, but here follows an optimistic start.


This morning I reached a point where I had to decide one way or another as to whether I would be working in the South this summer. Dean Wentworth being sick I called Rev. Mudge at Amherst, and he both assured me that I was welcome in the program and that it looked like a favorable venture.


Therein ended the conflict that had been raging in my mind. The comforts of going home for the summer will have to wait. I seem to almost feel a duty to go South and do my part for this cause. Couple with this is what I take to be a general concern for the deprived of this country. Unfortunately I feel a certain impetus coming from anger which has been raised by Jim Clark, Matt Murphy, and various others.


Unhappily I wrote Dad, Nance, and Donna informing them of my decision. It grieves me not to see them for another couple months. But isnt it perhaps written in my fate that I should eventually end up doing this? I think Dad made me concerned. How, I cant quite figure.



May 27


Just returned from up campus and a rather thought provoking discussion. Stopped in to tell Bruce what Id be doing and he was properly shocked. Jim, his roommate, was a lot more unsettled as was Jeff Huck.


They threw a pretty good battery of reasons why all the efforts being made arent solving the problem and instead just hurting things. Is it doing the negro any good to get him to register? I cant help but believe that the eventual solution they wait for can only happen in the near future if there is some outside influence. The sad Negro plight seems a result of his environment. If so, it seems that the environment is going to have to be changed.

These guys seem to agree that it is an unhappy situation. The difference seems to revolve around the question of whether or not the Northerner can help or whether the Negro is going to somehow pull it out himself. I personally not content to wait a few hundred years to see their rights as humans, and secondarily as Americans, be fulfilled.


Their criticism that I cant just have this abstract idea of the Negro causes me to think. Sincerely it seems that Im concerned with a particular group of humans that have a need. I hope so.


I left with a good feeling when both wished me good luck when I left their room.


Chucks encouragement and enthusiasm are about the nicest reactions I have run into. I sure wish he could be going too. Steve Pond also helps reassure me. If only there were many more southern students like him, maybe this problem would be solved much quicker and less painfully.


Ive started answering friends who Im going to be a Northern Agitator. It seems just as well to laugh at their objections before they come up. I hope they dont take me seriously. Inevitably their reaction is, Youre got to be kidding. The general feeling seems to be recognition of a problem, but general disapproval of any liberal scheme for trying to solve it. I think they are kind of bogged down in a real apathy. Too bad the Southern students arent a little more apathetic, adults and KKK members too, for that matter.



June 4


Got a letter from the Park today with an offer for a good job. This of course makes me wonder again if Ive made the right decision. By now, however, Im pretty sure of myself. Trying to brief up on Civil Rights activities over the past year and reading The People That Walk in Darkness Ive come to see a definite trend toward the Negros freedom. But this trend seems to be only maintained by effort, constant effort. With my optimistic outlook on things I m sure that at least to some small degree I ought to be able to help that effort.


Having not heard from Amherst, I m beginning to think that maybe it wont be Williamston as planned. I get the definite impression that there is a need throughout the South and Ill be damned if Im going to sit in Williamston if the need isnt there. I get that impression from the lack of correspondence out of Amherst. Perhaps Im a little too impatient.


Chuck today gave me Letters from Mississippi. The Bill letter on non-violence appealed greatly. This concept bothers me. Im such a poor one at taking things. It makes sense though if it means one week instead of two in a hospital. Actually now I figure that where were going we shouldnt run into any of that sort of trouble. I doubt that the people will be all that friendly, but I dont expect more than mental hostility. Heres hoping.



June 12 Atlanta


Left yesterday morning at 6:00 and arrived here about 1:30 this afternoon. The trip was uneventful action wise, but psychologically it was filled. The further South the bus got the more nervous I began to get. Woke up in Richmond in the middle of the night and got off the bus into a hot, muggy depot. My grogginess and the weather set me off edge. I realized I was finally in the south where the likes of me were not really loved. I avoid eyes and conversation as best I could; began to affect an accent when talking to people - couldnt help but think it sounded pretty authentic. Waiting to

get back on the bus my attention was caught by the listing of destinations over the PA system. A sweet sounding little town of Lynchburg was being called. After Richmond I lost a good deal of my uneasiness except for a couple hours in the Atlanta bus depot waiting for luggage.


Seems Ive arrived a day early along with about twenty other kids. Spent the afternoon and evening at SCOPE headquarters called Freedom House. It turns out to be a two-story house in the middle of a residential area. Disorganization seemed to be the predominant theme, although a lot of that can explained by the fact that things dont really start till tomorrow.


Most of the staff appear extremely young, younger than they actually are; Mostly negroes with a few whites. All seem to be in love with one another and with their Cause. Even those that appear 17 or 18 are apparently veterans of St. Augustine, Selma, and plenty of jails. How lightening it was to watch them sing in the back yard. We were on the front porch for awhile, but people kept mentioning that this was contrary to rules, and finally someone insisted on giving up that spot. Seems the place has already been bombed once - there are iron bars on the lower windows. To bounce off such little presents.


Somewhat, but not a complete polarization reigns between staff and us volunteers. One odd duck from Ohio with a very Southern accent made the mistake of calling one of the young female staffers girl quite innocently. She was a little upset, probably rightfully so. All in all though things are very cordial and cooperative.


Were lucky enough to have good rooms in some college tonight. After many hours on the bus its nice to have a safe, quiet place to stay.


Met prof and students from Amherst. The place is Williamston, North Carolina instead of South. The story goes that the KKK burned the biggest cross in its history there, 94 ft. Impressive!



June 13


Things finally got rolling today. Registration this afternoon and multi introductions tonight. Spent most of the day working in downtown office and then out at SCOPE house. Felt good to getting into some work.


Williams introduced everyone under the sun. Main theme of the evening from him were anti-intellectual professor that had come down to help and pro negro who is the spirit of the movement many of those were present. It was impressed upon us that the future of SCOPE depends upon the success of groups. Im afraid this is true. The county in N.C. apparently has 15,000 negroes. Should be plenty to do.


June 14


Woke up this morning to find wallet and watch missing. Got moved to an older dorm last night and seemed to miss out all around.





One of the greatest handicaps these people have is fear. Weve got to try to get them to overcome this fear. It looks like well have to overcome our own fear if it comes up.


Most of us came down here obsessed with the idea of danger and getting unhappy contact with whites. So our friends in the North bought this side of things up. Tuesday mornings discussion did a lot to get us to forget about this thing. By all speakers found that non-violence isnt falling down in a fetal position when beaten, but instead is an approach of love. Personal fear and concern for body just dont occupy any place of importance.

Talked to14 year old Diane today. A slight negro girl, she just came in from Selma. Had to try to get her to register in role playing and she was a tough cookie. I was kind of awed by her in general. Talked to her at dinner and began to think she was probably pretty young for the impression I had had of her. Turns out she is 14! She has been working in Selma for a year. When she was 13 she left home to come down. No need to comment on my feelings.


These people are all liberal on most of the issues and constantly bring them into their talk. King says that Civil Rights must support the labor movement and does. Peace lines are most prevalent. A lot the staff wear a Viet Nam pin with their SCLC pin. Unfortunately this rubs me the wrong way. I wish they could stick to Civil Rights.


Spent one full morning hearing how great labor unions are. Ive finally figured out that these people are true liberals. They are concerned with social change and have a tendency to want to tie all these things together. It seems like there may be a loss of support for the Civil Rights movement if they tie themselves too closely with other movements. I know there are others here like myself who are totally committed to the Civil Rights cause, but much more conservative on other issues.


Good sessions on negro white relationship and what do when thrown in jail.



June 23 Williamston


Arrived here Sunday morning around 4 or 5 in the morning. Volkswagen was stopped by cops within about five minutes. Finally roused Sarah out and slept on floors, beds, sofa, and wherever. Got a couple hours sleep and then went out to one of the rural churches where we were well received.


Slowly but surely other people have taken us into their homes so that we have a little more room here. Its a small four-room house. Weve set up an office in the front room and hope to get a phone soon.


Monday we contacted local leaders and were given encouragement and offered help from almost all.


Yesterday and today we contacted local people and asked if they were interested. Most of them expressed definite interest.


Tonight we went up to a real wild prayer meeting at Mt. Zion Holiness Church.


Police have been coming by at night trying to bait us out. Yesterday they tried to pick up Joe on a vagrancy charge, but we all took the trouble to keep money on us. The cop resorted to profanity and threatened bad things if he caught Joe out in the county alone. Today a couple car loads of red necks came by and talked to the boys out front. Told them how good they were to their negroes.


Went over and saw Johnson C. Smith group with Sheila. Theyre having a tough time getting set up. We agreed to working out an integrating exchange, but today we to postpone the exchange or possibly call it off.



June 29


Had our first meeting last night after canvassing door to door for several days.

We had scheduled it from 7-9, and about 7:15 the five people who had showed up seemed rather disappointing. We are learning many things about a different culture. One of them is that if you say a meeting will start at 7 that means that itll start around 7:45 and furthermore that any time before 9 is a good time to arrive. Many of the people were just sitting on their porches waiting to see what would happen. When it became apparent that it would be harmless they wandered over. After the demonstrations and trouble in the last couple of years, these people are awfully nervous with some just plain afraid. Altogether we got slightly over 50 people to our kick off meeting. Well try to have a kick off meeting on the other side of town and one in Everett tonight. With luck well get classes started in town later this week.


So far were pretty much letting Sarah determine the shape of our work here. The plan is to get these classes going in the city and out around in the county. Well concentrate on that till the middle of July when the voter bill should go through. Then well attempt to get the books open and get people registered.


Nerves are finally getting a little thinner, although no trouble has come up yet and probably wont. The switch from an academic community to this culture is rather an abrupt change. Poor Guy finds it especially high. The sanitation and general cleanliness is much much different than up North. It takes a while to reach a point where the flies and bugs arent too much of a bother, or the dirt for that matter.


Another gripe is the communal living and total lack of privacy. Were almost in a position of owning nothing of our own and having to right to expect privacy. There are over ten of us still sleeping in Sarahs house and during the day there are about 15 of us living here.


One big problem is to know how far to push and how much we should just work under these people. Sarahs pace is much slower than ours, but we dont feel we should be pushy I think from now on, however, we are going to take over buying the food and preparing it. On the SCOPE side of things were trying to go along at her pace.



July 4


Attempted to integrate cafi in Hamilton without success. Will file complaint with Justice Dept.


Went over to Bertie County last night and watched the friction between SNCC and other groups in that county. Lots of talk about cooperation, but not much chance of more than talk.


Ken got beaten on again yesterday by the kid he and Lou had trouble with before.





Woman afraid to sign anti-poverty because of KKK.


Man thinks he owns Negro.


Landowners answer mail and do everything for tenant.


Neal fired for mixed party.




[In Womans hand writing] Peggy Fiero


I have not yet been assigned to a group and would like to join one going to a Virginia County. Local relatives throughout the South it is imperative that I get as far away from them as possible in order not to jeopardize the project.



[A diagram of the streets we canvassed can be found in the PDF of the journal when a good PDF can be posted.]


Center St.


208 Alkbry Not home. Gave card to daughter.

Across from 208. Howell. Gave card to daughter. Only contact.

122 Not home.

120 Would be home about 5:00 pm

119 121 across the street from Mrs. Hawkins. Will be home around 5:00 too.

118 Mrs. Hawkins will come if her friend comes.

108 Mrs. Whitehurst sick aunt, will make it if she can

106 not home

105 not home

104 no one staying there permanently.

Mr. Washington just cant make it. same for wife


Hyman St.


703 Mrs. Lord probably will come son will give card

707 Mrs. Clemmons has to work Monday night, will make it another if she can

708 Mr. Barns will probably be there


Martin Street


311 Mrs. Brown not home left card

310 no one home

207 works nights will make it when possible

205 not home


201 Two people will probably come


Got three while just sitting on street



Marlin Street


116 not home

112 not home

108 gave card to daughter



White Street


Mrs. Williams will come. Lives next to Elder Brooks.

Got four while sitting on curb

Joe got the rest

120 not home


Broad Street


209 not home back at 3:30

207 not home out of town

120 rather a quick brush off owners of Bobbys

114 not home

113 not home

105 not home

108 not home


Orientation in Atlanta


Stayed at Smalls from June 20 to July 11

Worked on recruiting team for next week

Worked on conference

Back into couple counties to help set up

Into Henderson for 1 week






Attempts to pick up on vag a couple times, cursing

People coming by house asking to leave

Beatings at gas station

General hate stares and cursing

Police destroyed complaint wouldnt help on beatings

Car incident

Peanut incident

Reaction to integrated recruiting team

Threats at Franklinton

Highway driving

Charles remarks when young

Fear of people in Negro community

Volunteer staff disputes





Worked on political education classes couldnt get people out

Helped in Bertie County

Worked on Hamilton

Tried mass meetings

Recruited many kids for Franklinton 15 different counties leaders

Henderson meetings, marched kids, sat down in courthouse, met with head of the local election board






Places stayed - Atlanta, Smalls, Goldens, office, Koolnes, Hannibals, Dunstans,

Franklinton, Gornes

Got to know law

Got to identify unregistered

Get registered


Have local argument

Ballot way to better way of life

Explain new bill



Christ & scripture real effective good to have a preacher with you.


Need to have local arguments for registration street light


Foundation is on children (4 on up) parents listen to children


1.     got to know the law

2.     got to identify the unregistered

3.     get registered

apt to find registered people who sell votes


Even if leaders of town arent going to help youve got to go in and see them.


Need to get on friendly basis with people


Identify who are and who working with


Try to make out that ballot is key to better life, work on idea of power


Listen Might want to start by telling person that were wondering why they arent registered. And listen to arguments and then take apart.


Watch and listen for some point of interest to get discussion going



People arent going to know even the simplest things. Might not know what ballot or registering is.

Statistics that show what enough voters can do. Especially where there are more negroes than whites.


Got to let these people know there is no march or demonstration can go down by selves.


Sometimes you might want to take local youngster along.

Talk can quickly turn to rumor and rumor can ruin project


Anybody that is around contacting people is good to use to pass the word.


Dont want to spend all your time on stubborn individual


Discussion is much better than dialogue


Quote bible and go to church


If you can find out what church or clubs an agreer [sic.] is in you might be able to get someone who knows him to do the job.

Make yourself look a little bit selfish you want to let them think that youre there to help yourself.


Groups going down to registrar helps. People are going to have less fear if theyre with a friend.



Non violence is an appeal to the best in the person that you have to deal with.


Bevel says we shouldnt waste our time worrying about how to protect our body. Says we should always be trying to communicate.




reading done through experiences


the people have quite a bit of intelligence. Might be able to get them to write name in 20 minutes.

Have a five day training session for people who have a knowledge of read and write to teach them to teach others and how to recruit. Taught a basic amount on citizenship. Taught simple economic things that they want to learn. Curriculum formed from the things people want to know. Many want to know about federal assistance programs.



Letter recognition. Might begin with name than other words. Have an alphabet with letters have to be made to shake hands with the following letters.


caps and smalls. Always use script. When they go through they check off the letters in order.


Have to watch the proper use of lines what goes above and what below.


Start off teaching big words instead of Run Dick Run. They are familiar with big words and once shown them they will recognize.

Have to take there hands and show them the motions.


Have to be careful not to embarrass. Might write the name on a tablet for them, if they dont know what it looks like. Then when you show it to them tell them what each letter is and have them repeat it. When they know what the letters are then have them identify out of an alphabet.


Next help them to write the individuals letters in order. Then might have them connect those letters.


Might have them over night trace over the letters you send home on a tablet.


You never take a student up to the board at first unless he will be somewhat proficient. Start at a tablet. Have others busy in any way


If voting bill goes through then they will only have to write name and address.


So they arent watching the pupil.

If you cant understand what their name is ask if they have something with their name on it such as a check, or some sort of id.





Sound chart in notebook.

Begin with constant sounds non vowels


have picture of a pig with a symbol p next to it. They say p with the teacher. Get them to say the sound of p.


Might only want to take five sounds at a time.


Have them look in the election laws to find a word that begins with p. Might find word precinct. Then ask what a precinct is. Then put sentence with precinct in it on the board and then read it to them. Then have them read it with you. Then might want to work on the other letters in the word precinct. Pronounce and have them pronounce letters and then run together in one word.




Why Vote booklet. Helps convince them to vote.


Demonstrate how government jobs are given out. Teach something about politics.


Next want to teach use of newspapers.


Consumer education and simple education.


Teach various processes - how to write checks and things. Have short stories that tell how things are run.


Teach use of a budget

stay out of arguments


we are not required to defend our loyalty to SCLC


stay away from white community


rides, babysitting, hospitality committees to make things pleasant


[currently illegible]

and get thrown in jail so they know you are there.


Hold workshops on non-violence and movement.
Have mass meetings and free picnics.

Girls more prone to join movement, got to get boys.

Organize youth into groups of canvassers.

Organizing a Citizenship class.



Outside a City Rural

Get just a few people to start with

Get a good location, a good building, dont get a well known building. Elect officers to run the committee not educated necessarily consider persons job. Get some basic by laws.

Work with independent farmer.

Dont have organization to obvious.

Pick a good night for meeting.

Dont get people that can be fired from job.



find out if youth are doing anything at all. Where do they hang out. Talk to a couple about the movement.


Go down and sing at the schools


Freedom songs get up spirit


Register voters


Will find unregistered voters in bars and all kinds of places. A wino has a vote. Dont give up easily.


Mobilization of a Community for Direct Action

contact mayor, councilmen, then find out negro leaders, get to know people and negro leaders

might do some helpful labor

Got to learn about community and people

Got to create confidence in the community

Children 6 to 13 years old


How to organize a community for SCOPE.

Have to remember that we represent SCLC.

No matter how bad the local leadership is you have to back it.

Have to be careful to remember that youre leaving.

Keep young people busy.

Mass meetings cant last forever. Go in with confidence. Be instrument of local leadership.


How to organize a county


One organization for whole county. Get a coalition of all organizations in county.


Negro white relations in community


Southerner doesnt see negro as a human, think they are something different


Most oppressed unemployed white is the first group ready to form a coalition with negroes. Have common bonds.


Must be very sensitive to the feelings of the negroes


negro family strong unit


women run institutions man is in a humiliating situation. Women can get jobs easier than men. Hard for a negro man to be a man cant express his manhood in many ways tries to express it sexually

There is going to be resentment to us because we are white. Negro women are going to resent white women.


Must not take things personally.


Should be dealing with a brotherly love, not romantic or self-sacrificing love. Dont want to look paternal.

Negro institutions arent like ours, but they are important burial society meetings.


Have to make careful distinction between what is sacred and what is secular. And have great respect for sacred.


Religion is necessary with what they have to go through. Must go along with religion.


People are very non-judgmental about sinning and sinners who are trying.


Rock and Roll was always a good common base for integration of kids.


Well be dealing somewhat with a jukebox culture.


Civil Rights Commission Call Collect

Lew Mitchell Wash. D.C.

202 382 2601


Can call this cat to get all kinds of information on things.


SCOPE office 404 522 2023

SCLC office 404 522 1420

Hosea Williams home 404 755 3340



Civil Rights Bill


Title I

voting not worth beans


Title II

public accommodations

Hotels and placement of lodgings except for places of five places or less

Any restaurant or lunch counter that gets things across state line

Gas station

entertainment where you are entertained

and any place that is with one of the above


places where people participate arent covered


Can enforce with lawsuits, or could have sit downs


Title III

A. General can sue to integrate any public facility

Can bring it when there is any danger for individual who brings suit


Title IV

Authority for fed gov to integrate schools


Title V

C Rights Commission - Wont effect us


Title VI

No fed funds can be used to discriminate or segregate


Great number of agriculture programs. Reach in to most things. Crop allotments


Title VII

FEPC Fair Employment Practices Commission


Goes into effect July 2, 1965


Employers of 100 or more for the first summer. Employers cant discriminate in hiring, firing, promotion and what not.

Also effects employment agencies and unions. Also effects apprentice programs.

Complaints now have to go to Washington. Should have some regional offices


Dear Steve,


Just time for a short note, I hope. Im currently sitting in the lobby of a hotel waiting for a meeting of Lenoir County Doctors to get out. I was in it for a while, but got bored and sneaked out. This meeting is to plan a new hospital for the county. I thought perhaps they would mention plans for integration, but that didnt come up. The current hospital is completely segregated, but were going to fix that with the 64 Civil Rights Act. Im getting some dirty looks now because I came in with Negroes, but if they knew what we have planned I wouldnt dare sit here.

I went to Williamston, N.C. rather than Williamston, S.C. as I

originally anticipated. But after about 3 weeks there I moved on. The registration books are closed in N.C. which meant that we concentrated more on the political education and community organization aspects of SCOPE. There were about 11 of us in Williamston which was way too many. I next spent a week travelling around the state identifying the CR leaders in various counties and getting them to send there youth to a conference on CR. Next I spent a few days going back into the places and helping organize the local youth.

The next [not finished. Not sent]


Robert Penn Warren Sat. Eve. Post


It would be sentimentality to think that our society can be changed easily and without pain. It would be worse sentimentality to think that it can be changed without some pain to our particular selves black and white. It would be realism to think that pain would be a reasonable price to pay for what we all, selfishly, might get out of it: our own freedom.


Speaking of the white who wants to do something


The safest, soberest, most humble and perhaps not the most ignoble way for him to think of grounding his action is, not on generosity, but on a proper awareness of self-interest.

It is self interest to want to live in a society operating by the love of justice and the concept of law.



Authors note:


A page of addresses is omitted from this transcription out of respect for privacy.


Interestingly most of the addresses contained no name. I am quite sure that this was to seek some privacy if the journal fell into the wrong hands.


Included were two southern families where the male had served in WWII with my father. I do remember visiting one family in Florence, S.C. where I was cordially received.