[Cathy Cade was a SNCC activist in Georgia, Mississippi, and New Orleans 1962-67.]
To my family in its largest meaning.
Preface and Acknowledgements I Remember My Jail Stay My Family, The Movement, and Me Bill Cade's Report Continues My Family and My Movement History Bill Cade The Trial Interviews With Siblings & Mother Another Arrest Lasting Effects on Siblings Mother Bill Cade The Flight Out Albany, GA Bill Cade's letter to Mr. Walters My First Letter from Albany, Georgia My Mother Writes to Her Aunt My First Day in Southwest Georgia I Decide To Go To Atlanta Second Letter from Albany: In Jail Understanding My Father Letter from My Mother My Life Continues Letter to My Mother My Father's Last Years My Father's Report on Albany
Preface and Acknowledgements
I first wrote this piece in 1996 in response to a call for submissions to a Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) women's anthology. The call included a list of questions to consider . As I thought about what my particular contribution might be, one question stood out: "How did your being in The Movement affect your family?"
Shortly after receiving the call, I attended a family reunion outside of Chicago. I was the daughter of aging parents, a sister to four siblings and the mother of sons aged 11 and 18. It occurred to me there that I could interview my siblings and my mother. My father was still alive, but feeble and in intensive care. I didn't think about the interviews beforehand; I just sat down with each family member in turn and took notes as they spoke. It was an amazing experience. Each person in my family had particular memories that were strong and clear.
* * * * * *
As the oldest of my four siblings I grew up assuming that I, alone, was the kid that understood what was going on in the family. When I was in my 30s or 40s I finally figured out that this was not true. If it was ever true, certainly after leaving home for college there were vast areas of family life of which I had no first hand knowledge. I learned a lot by interviewing my brothers, sister, and my mother. I am grateful for their willingness to share their memories.
When I got home to Oakland I summoned up my courage and looked in the cardboard box I'd been moving for years the one labeled "Mississippi." I had no idea what I would find there, but, among other things, I found the letters and journal I'd written from Albany, Georgia in 1963, as well as my parents' letters, and my father's report from his visit to Albany. For conciseness, I have used selections from these documents indicating omitted parts.
I am so grateful for these documents because they have helped me to remember, and they record events that I have yet to remember. (I have no memory of any part of the mass meeting in Terrell County let alone the awful news of the rape and death of the young Black woman in Sumpter County). My father's report gave me information I didn't experience or probably would have repressed if he had told me. May I make a plea, dear reader, that you keep your letters and emails and write journals at least for part of your life?
But why did it take courage to open the box and read the documents? Simply put, while I was in The Movement I was always asking myself "Am I making a real contribution?" I know I'm not alone asking this among White volunteers and I believe it was often a question for Black SNCC workers as well. Come to think of it, friends and foe alike were always raising questions about who was, or was not, being effective.
So opening the box and reading the documents raised that question again. I know I gained so much, but did I make a real contribution? It is my hope that by sharing these memories I will have another chance to contribute to The Movement The Movement for Social Justice and Peace in its largest sense.
* * * * * *
Though I very much want this to be about how my being in The Movement affected my whole family, as it happens, my father is central to the story. I grew up hating my father for being unfair, mean and scary. He had a lot of rage. But I also loved and respected him and I never stopped trying to understand him. I respected his commitment to learning and hard work. I loved the stories he brought to the dinner table of how he got around the irrationality and ineptness of the large bureaucracies he worked for (the US Army, John Deere and International Harvester). Finally, he taught me to laugh big.
Holding this great range of my feelings about my father has not been easy. I was furious at him for coming to Albany, Georgia when I was in jail. I was embarrassed that he was talking with the leading White segregationist lawyers in town. Today I feel some respect for his talking with "both sides." Few Northern White volunteers talked with Southern Whites. In retrospect, I suspect it added to the stress that resulted in his brief nervous breakdown when we returned to Chicago.
I was very close to my supportive and loving mother. So when she got scared and sent me a frantic letter about boys and girls staying in the same house, I just got mad at her briefly and wrote her a letter pretty certain that I could set her back on the right track.
* * * * * *
As I rewrite this memoir in 2002, I am now 60, both my parents have passed on, and I am now the mother of sons aged 17 and 24. As I again work with this material I feel my parents' fears for their child. If I had my life to live over, I would do the same, but I am more understanding and even proud of my parents for the support they could give me.
Part of my current business is helping people write their personal histories. In writing this memoir I have experienced much of what my clients tell me they experience: shyness and modesty, doubts about what is important to others, and frustration at my inability to remember some things. In addition, I am a bit embarrassed at my past naivete and that I have not remembered the extent of the repression described in the documents. I have experienced a gradual healing from looking at the complexity of my relationships with my parents and from reclaiming parts of my life that I thought I had to leave behind when I left the South. I have reconnected with more people from Albany than I ever imagined was possible.
I am proud of what we in The Movement were able to do in the face of such opposition. I hope readers will be able to make some connection with the great variety of characters in this memoir: the various members of my family and also the people of the Black and White communities of Albany. In the past, when I have tried to tell these stories in person, listeners have often become starry-eyed and romantic about me. I hope that by writing the stories in more detail a more complex, rich and contradictory reality can be communicated. By writing this I am calling the courage of those times into my life today. I hope my stories will help people understand what happened. I hope that this will give us courage to act in the present.
Many thanks to the editorial committee of the SNCC (pronounced "snick") women's anthology for getting me started: Faith Holsaert, Judy Richardson, Betty Garman Robinson, Jean Wheeler Smith Young, Dottie Zellner, and especially Martha Prescod Noonan. The anthology is still in process. A short version of this memoir will probably be published there along with the stories of many other Black and White women.
Thanks to those who read earlier versions of this memoir: Sue Thrasher, Judy Freespirit, Helen Garvy, Robert Pardun, Dennis Roberts, Miriam Cohen Glickman, Penny Patch, Lea Arellano, Roxanne Dunbar, and Daphne Muse. A special thanks to Chude (Pam Parker) Allen for all our years of conversations about race and class and for her encouragement, ideas, and support at each step of putting together these stories.
My Family, The Movement, and Me
As I begin writing in 1996, my father, an elderly White man, lies dying on the special-care floor of a retirement center in Chicago. He is cared for by Black working-class women who are not afraid of his dying and, even more surprising to me, not afraid of him. Although these days he is often barely conscious, there is a sweetness in the relationship between my father and his nurses.
My Family and My Movement History
I experienced the Southern Civil Rights Movement beginning in 1962 as an emerging young adult. As I write about my experiences in SNCC , I uncover a story not just about a young White woman, but about a middle-class White family.
Before I tell my family's stories, a brief account of my background: my family moved from the Chicago suburbs to Memphis, Tennessee in 1955 when my father was given a new assignment at International Harvester. Among other projects, he was part of a team of engineers designing better mechanical cotton pickers. These cotton pickers were displacing the Black labor force in the nearby Mississippi delta region a major economic and political change in the area.
|African Americans were forced from their rural homes in a cruel and oppressive manner. However, Lee W. Formwatt, Professor of History at Albany State University gives an added perspective. "It is no coincidence that the revolution in race relations in the mid-twentieth century Southwest Georgia accompanied a contemporary agricultural revolution. As white planters and farmers mechanized agricultural production and African American tenants moved off the plantation and the farms to towns and cities, they moved from an environment of strict racial control to one with less white domination." ("Moving Forward by Recalling the Past: A Brief History of the Albany and Southwest Georgia Civil Rights Movement," Albany Herald, 1998.)|
While I attended all-White Central High School in Memphis, Central High of Little Rock, Arkansas was being integrated, but not without the with the help of the National Guard. While segregationists worried about the new threats to their "Way of Life." I attended the Memphis Unitarian Church and youth group. The church happened to be across the street from my segregated high school. At the Unitarian Church I found support for my integrationist ideas and an occasional Black person attended services.
When I graduated from high school, I chose a liberal arts college in Minnesota Carleton College. Less than a year later my father was promoted again and the family moved to Hinsdale, Illinois, a wealthy suburb of Chicago.
The spring of my junior year of college was in 1962, and I participated in an exchange program at Spelman College, a Black women's college in Atlanta. Deciding to apply for this program was my first decision independent of my parents. I want to go to Spelman because living in Memphis I had almost no access to Black students my age. I was for integration , but racist thoughts were beginning to go through my heard. When I told my parents I wanted to go, they were nervous, but they didn't try to stop me, for my parents were very pro- education and, my mother at least had raised me "not to be prejudiced."
In the spring of 1962 there were White exchange students from seven colleges at Spelman . The first week at Spelman I took part in a demonstration with Howard Zinn [the progressive historian and author of A People's History of the United States], and others, sitting-in at the Negro section of the Georgia State Senate in Atlanta. We left before we were arrested. The rest of my semester there consisted of classes at Spelman and Morehouse Colleges, hanging out with my new friends at the SNCC office, taking part in more demonstrations, doing some voter registration work, and attending a SNCC conference.
I returned to Carleton to finish my undergraduate degree. During this time, I arranged for the Freedom Singers and Frank Smith to speak on campus, raised money for SNCC, and collected books and clothes to send to Mississippi. Four churches and the two colleges in town collected clothes to be sent to the Black communities of the Mississippi Delta where people were being denied support for trying to register to vote. Carleton students donated 120 boxes of clothes. Four thousand pounds of food were collected at the University of Minnesota. All of it was trucked to Mississippi, for free, by members of the Teamsters Union.
Two weeks after graduation from Carleton in June of 1963, I was in Albany, Georgia participating in the first summer civil rights program attempting to use relatively large numbers of White volunteers. My second day in Albany, along with many others, I was arrested for loitering and vagrancy. My father came to Albany to rescue me. He ended up having a nervous breakdown when he returned to Chicago. I left Albany and worked the rest of the summer in the Atlanta SNCC office.
Interviews with My Siblings and My Mother, Summer 1996
My siblings' experiences varied with their age at the time, their role in our family's dynamics, and particular issues going on for each of them individually. But my father's reactions and fears were central to everyone's experience. I remember not wanting my parents to worry, but at the time I gave little thought to my siblings. I was leading my life and fighting for what was right.
My youngest brother Willie was 7 in 1962.
"It was heroic for me that you would be doing that courageous work. I boasted to my friends about it. It was thrilling that the Hinsdale police drove by every once in a while because you were doing dangerous work because of threats on our house by the Indiana KKK.
"From Memphis I had wonderful memories of Mary (the Black woman who worked for our family in Memphis) and playing with the kids of her family rolling tires. You were helping them.
|Hired by the local moving company, Mary Brown first arrived at our house to help unpack the vans and proceeded to ask my mother for a job. She was not big but had a big scar across her cheek. She was looked down upon by the other maids in our upper-middle-class neighborhood. My mother respected Mary for her substantial and acknowledged leadership of her multigenerational family. When we first lived in Memphis my mother told me that Mary's mother was the matriarch and Mary was next in line. When her mother died, Mary became the head and sent her daughter Rhea to work at our house. Mary would take my younger sister and brothers to her house to play, but I didn't get to go because, at 15, I was "too old." It was not uncommon in the South for Black and White children to play together until they got to a certain age nearing sexual maturity and then those friendships were forbidden. When Rhea's son, Preacher, would come by our house to see his mother I would try to talk with him, but he would move from room to room and leave very quickly looking very uncomfortable or scared.|
[Willie contined..] "I heard Mom and Dad argue in their room at night and her getting hit. I couldn't hear their words, couldn't tell what it was about. It was tough.
"My current participation on the board of LINK came from your work as a role model. LINK is sponsoring inner city African American students to a private education, providing mentors and financial support."
My middle brother, Curtis, two years older than Willie, was 9 in 1962.
"I remember there was a threatening postcard, 'We're gong to get all the nigger lovers.' I remember thinking, 'Who's going to hurt my sister? This isn't right,' but getting very little information. I was told it is just a prank, that there are a lot of sick people in the world. 'Don't worry.'
"I remember being mad at everybody because I wasn't getting a straight answer about what you were doing, why it was important, why people would threaten me in that letter our family got from the KKK.
|I have no present memories of that KKK letter. I suspect I didn't take seriously that there could be a real threat to my privileged family Miriam Cohen Glickman, was in jail with me in Albany. She recently told me that a cross was burned by the KKK on her parents' yard in Indianapolis, Indiana. It was a Saturday morning and her family was getting ready to go to temple. "I wasn't living at home, but just home for a visit. My father was mad and I'm sure my parents were worried. I wasn't very worried because it was a small cross, waist high, and it was done in daylight."|
[Curtis continued..] "There was a nightly ritual of TV news at the dinner table. Dad would talk back to the TV making racist remarks, mimicking Martin Luther King. I was pissed at Dad for being so childish about something so important. The most vivid image I have was Dad giving a big raspberry to a speech on TV. It was at the dinner table with his spit going over our food. He made an awful face with it.
"Outside our family I was getting the message that Black people are very scary, you don't want to be near or involved with any Blacks. White was what it was all about. I wanted to get a feeling that someone in the family was sympathetic, that it was worthwhile. I knew Mom felt that way, but it really wasn't stated.
"I remember Mom desperately trying to make peace within all the turmoil in the family. Eventually Claire, a few years older, explained things to me.
"I loved it when you came home. You were fun to be with. I remember watching old movies on TV with you. It seemed like you were gone a long time. I had doubts that you were ever coming back.
"When I was 15 I went to a heavily integrated school in downtown Chicago Central YMCA. It was made up of spoiled White kids and inner-city Black kids. I needed to get out of Hinsdale. I wasn't suburban, sports-oriented, and I needed to get away from my Hinsdale drugged-out friends."
My sister Claire was older; she was 13 in 1963; 7th grade (junior high school).
"I was in the popular clique at school and that was the most important thing to me. I was a cheerleader in 7th grade. I remember Mom saying, 'If you spent as much time on your homework as you do on your hair, you'd get straight A's.'
"Because of Mom and you and Unitarianism I had an awareness, but it was nothing my peers understood or cared about.
"I was really proud of you even when I was in the clique. When we moved from Memphis to Hinsdale I was eleven. Because in Memphis I got to go home with Mary and play with the children there, I felt the degradation, the inhumane separation. I had an excitement about the Civil Rights Movement, yet it was reported from the outside. I didn't experience it directly because in Hinsdale there was only one Black kid in my school and no Jewish kids that I knew of.
"In 8th grade I wasn't allowed to try out for cheerleader. The gym teachers said it was because my uniform was balled up in my locker. I think they had identified me as not part of the debutante Republican girls group. The girls chosen stayed together all through high school as cheerleaders and homecoming queens. After awhile I decided to be friends with Muffy from the Unitarian Church and I drifted away from the clique.
"When I heard you were going to Spelman, I was surprised there was a Black women's college. There was no evidence in upper-middle-class White Memphis that there were Black intellectuals. Whites projected Black people as nasty. At the same time going to Mary's and the gospel church was my favorite place to be.
"It was exciting when you came home. You were a source of news and information. I remember you arguing with Dad as he made a racist remark at the TV news, challenging him politically and ethically. You were putting words to what I felt. He was so scary and you stood up to him. It was mind blowing. Mom didn't stand up to him. I was proud of you getting back at Daddy for being so mean and hard.
"I don't think I ever felt scared for you, that anything bad would happen to you, because it was such a righteous thing you were doing. I thought that good must conquer evil.
"I saw the letter from the KKK. It said 'Your daughter's sleeping with a different nigger every night and we're going to bomb your house.' It didn't scare me; it was another amazing piece of the puzzle. How could they know we existed? It made everything more real. I connect that letter with Dad's breakdown. It did help me understand why Daddy was so upset.
"Later, all these experiences made my high school seem very dry. It was hard to pay attention. Eventually Muffy and I went down to the Southside of Chicago and worked in the Ida B. Wells settlement house. It was right after the riots when Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated. People of the Black community invited us to their homes.
"One of the benefits of growing up in Hinsdale and the pursuit of status and material things was that I wasn't impressed with it. I saw the mothers were up-tight and scared. They were unhappy, unsatisfied, and isolated as contrasted with the warmth and connection of the Black women I'd known in Memphis."
My oldest brother Theo, was just 17 months younger than I; he was 17 in 1962.
"I was proud of you. I shared your values and felt a little guilty that I wasn't taking the risks to support my values that you were. Having lived in Memphis from when I was 11 to 16, I was in awe that you were putting yourself in the path of the huge monster of racism in the South. You were putting yourself in the path of such big powers.
"I didn't do as you did because I made my choices at that time by what would be the most fun. It's called hedonism. Right before I went to college I talked to this young neighbor guy who told me: if you're in a fraternity you have fun, if you're not you don't. So I joined a fraternity. Then I was in and became a 'black sheep' and was actively and overtly judging them for being a racist institution. At one meeting I stated that I didn't believe that we were some special people. But I don't think I told anybody about my sister maybe quietly to 2 or 3 confidants. Although I was proud of you, it wasn't social currency with these people. I was an arrogant liberal in a conservative institution.
"When I heard you were in jail, I was concerned about your well being. The whole concept of jail was really scary to me. To not be free to go where I want and do what I wanted to do felt awful. I always associated jail with something I did wrong and should feel guilty for.
"I was buffered from Dad's nervous breakdown because I was off at camp as a counselor for the summer. I enjoyed Dad being blown away and hoisted on the petard of his own prejudices.
"Later, I was at home when you announced you'd be bringing Sidney home. Claire was crying because she was afraid she would be judged because her sister was dating a Black man. I got really severe with her and told her 'I think Cathy thinks more of you than to judge a person by their race.' I think she heard me."
Lastly, I interviewed my mother, Elise Cade, who was 45 in 1962. I was her eldest child; she was the mother of five .
"I was very proud of you. I admired you. The difficult part was that Daddy was so scared because of you.
"I don't remember being scared for your safety. Or rather, I figured you were doing what you wanted to do, that you felt very strongly about it, and I hoped it would go well. I thought you were mature enough and I trusted your decisions until you wrecked my car [as described near the end of this memoir].
"What worried Daddy as much as your physical safety was that, being a rabid Republican, he was sure you would become a Communist. You were his oldest child and he was scared about your life. You were young and idealistic.
"He had grown up in Michigan. All he knew were White Anglo-Saxon Protestants and fighting against the Japanese. Anyone who was different was bad and not to be trusted. He and I had very different ideas about it.
"Of the two of you, I worried about Bill more. It scared me to relive his first nervous breakdown [which happened] when we were living in Hawaii right after Pearl Harbor was bombed. It was three months before you were born. Now, [in 1963] I had four other kids, my parents, and Bill's parents to be concerned about. I was mostly just trying to keep my head above water daily with no long view. I realized at that time that I was going to be the focal point of keeping things together as a family.
"When he went down to get you out of jail it was scary for him and from his point of view he felt he was brave.
"Sometimes I wonder what I should have done differently about the conflicts between Dad and you kids, but having survived we are not doing so bad. Had it been 1996 instead of 1963 I would have left Dad. [In 1966 she did separate from her husband, then reunited with him saying the teenage children were too hard to manage by herself.]
"At one point the Tribune interviewed me. I said people could send money for SNCC to me in Hinsdale and gave my address. Somehow I got the word from some Hinsdale residents that no Hinsdale women should do this. That made me mad and want to do it more.
"Initially the KKK letter scared me and then it made me mad. If the KKK was reacting, you were doing something right.
"Later, there were meetings in Chicago of parents with kids in Mississippi. We could talk to each other about our fears, say those things we didn't say to people who didn't agree with us. We were all afraid for you.
"The Meat Packers Union was supporting the civil rights work in Mississippi. One night the parents' group met at the home of a Black union leader in Chicago. I'd led a very protected life with my father being on the Board of Directors of John Deere and Company and I was raised very anti-union. It never occurred to me that I'd ever meet anybody from a union. Being in a union organizer's home was a far bigger step from my up bringing than being part of a civil rights movement.
"I learned about and joined the LaGrange Inter-racial Fellowship and became connected to middle class Blacks in nearby suburbs. These were my first inter-racial friendships since I was a child. We met at a community center and the Second Baptist Church in La Grange. We spent the weekend together when John Kennedy was assassinated in the fall of 1963."
Lasting Effects on My Siblings and Mother
Each of my family members remembers being proud of my work; my being in The Movement significantly changed their lives. Today three of the five of us live in interracial households and are raising mixed-race children. Another brother is active in a mentoring program for inner-city youth in Chicago. Still another brother is part of a land co-op in Costa Rica. For many years my mother supported racial justice issues through the Unitarian Church.
My siblings and I benefited from my mother's progressive values as well as our support from Mary and her family in Memphis. I would hate to see my civil rights work and the efforts of the rest of my family discounted as a rebellion against our father. However, I believe that my siblings and I first directly experienced oppression, as children, at the hands of our father. This helped us to identify with other oppressed groups.
Whereas my siblings and my mother had general memories loosely attached to specific times and events, in my boxes of old civil rights papers I found letters to and from my parents as well as my father's 25-page type-written report from Albany. When I went to Albany, I had just turned twenty-one and had just graduated from college. The fight for civil rights was intense, as you'll see below.
My First Letter from Albany, Georgia
Thursday, June 22, 1963
Dear Mom and Dad,
As I'm sure you've already heard, things are happening down here.
There are about 15 White students on the staff. The Movement is using
two houses in the Negro community. Cooking for summer staff is done by
a neighbor lady wonderful
breakfast paid for by the community. I'm to stay with
a family, I think. Last night I was at the house where the senior
As yet I don't feel I'm ready to go to jail, but it is a definite
possibility. I'm becoming convinced that direct action is the only
Dear Mom and Dad,
As I'm sure you've already heard, things are happening down here. There are about 15 White students on the staff. The Movement is using two houses in the Negro community. Cooking for summer staff is done by a neighbor lady wonderful breakfast paid for by the community. I'm to stay with a family, I think. Last night I was at the house where the senior staff stays....
As yet I don't feel I'm ready to go to jail, but it is a definite possibility. I'm becoming convinced that direct action is the only hope.["Direct action" referred to public demonstrations such as marches, sit-ins, and picket lines. After the repression I experienced growing up in the 1950s and the McCarthy era it was such a relief to be taking a public stance.]
There will be no concessions without pressure and the Negro community
has had all it can take. Publicity is now of major importance. I feel
awfully naive, but did you realize that even after last summer's
demonstrations [and promised concessions] the demands for
desegregation of the public facilities, an indication of up-grading in
jobs, lawful conduct of the police, a bi-racial negotiations board
etc, have not been met at all, none of them!
If I do go to jail I won't till I feel ready and
there will be other white girls there are several
things you can do. First of all, I'll be all right. They won't hurt
us, for they fear the publicity. Can you find me some news contacts
with Chicago newspapers and radio? You can give them the office
If I do go to jail...the policy is jail, no bail. It usually takes
about two weeks for trials to come up...
Will call Sunday night. Dad, don't jump on Mother, I'll be all right.
P.S. Whatever you can do about those publicity contacts will be
If I do go to jail I won't till I feel ready and there will be other white girls there are several things you can do. First of all, I'll be all right. They won't hurt us, for they fear the publicity. Can you find me some news contacts with Chicago newspapers and radio? You can give them the office number.
If I do go to jail...the policy is jail, no bail. It usually takes about two weeks for trials to come up...
Will call Sunday night. Dad, don't jump on Mother, I'll be all right.
P.S. Whatever you can do about those publicity contacts will be greatly appreciated.
Journal Entry: My First Day in Southwest Georgia
Thursday, June 22, 1963.
I arrived yesterday afternoon. Last night the shit hit the fan. We
went out to a meeting in Terrell County, in a tent where one of the
four churches that were burnt last summer used to be. We had about ten
people from Albany SNCC and 25 from the counties. We heard a report
from Charles Sherrod, SNCC project director, the gist of which was
that the concentration of SNCC this summer would be direct action in
We new workers were introduced. Everyone was very friendly. We met a
Mr. Edwards who is trying to start a co-op gas station. Each person is
to put up five dollars and the federal government is to give a loan.
We heard of a case in Sumpter County of a girl getting raped and dying
a few days later. The family knows who did it, but is afraid to come
forward. Some fellows are working on a follow up on this.
When we returned to Albany we were greeted by the news that the people
at the meeting in Albany (while we were in Terrell County) had decided
to march. Twenty-six were arrested; at least two boys were beaten. A
woman watching on her porch was dragged half a block by the police.
An emergency mass meeting was held at Buleah Church last night. Some
of the boys in the CME neighborhood, a tough one, threw bricks at a
police car and really tore it up. A white man was hit with a brick.
Rev. Wells spoke. He says he has trouble keeping the boys in the
church. He is a very kindly, folksy preacher who works as a civil
servant. His daughter, 14, went to jail last night.
Sherrod spoke, quieted down the people. He talked a little of
non-violence, but is afraid to say too much, I think, for it is so
difficult to get the people to move.
Chief Laurie Pritchett, Albany Chief of Police, walked right into the meeting:
big about six feet two, 275 lbs, sandy-haired
handsome wearing white spats! Everyone cheered and
clapped a strange kind of hero....
Slatter King, now head of the Albany Movement, was last to speak. He
spoke loudly, quickly and forthrightly. Joni Rabinowitz, a White girl
from Antioch College who's been here for a while, feels that he'll
demand real steps, not wishy-washy compromises. Slatter King put it on
the line that he was disappointed about the violence....
I'm working in the office today, a good way to get into things. So far
have washed dishes. There's no running hot water, just a kerosene
Twenty to thirty kids have just been arrested in the Washington
project. The plan is to have simultaneous movements from all parts of
town rather than bringing everyone together for one meeting and one
march. This is a fairly new approach. Hopefully it will mean more
grass-roots contact. Each area is playing it by ear, seeking advice
from leaders living in the area whether to march, to meet, or ride
downtown and sit-in.
Action is now starting in East Albany. About five car-loads of people
left East Albany to sit-in downtown. Six were arrested at Quickie
where a customer spilled coffee on them with the police watching. More
were arrested at Lee's drug store. Meetings at CME are now in
progress. Nine SNCC staff are now in jail.
The White man hit by a brick in a passing car last night has a
Joyce just talked to Martin of the Justice Department. He feels that
demonstrations are necessary to channel the tension, and frustration.
The community is very aware of Medgar Evers' death, the rape in
Terrell County, Birmingham, Danville, etc...
Thursday, June 22, 1963.
I arrived yesterday afternoon. Last night the shit hit the fan. We went out to a meeting in Terrell County, in a tent where one of the four churches that were burnt last summer used to be. We had about ten people from Albany SNCC and 25 from the counties. We heard a report from Charles Sherrod, SNCC project director, the gist of which was that the concentration of SNCC this summer would be direct action in Albany.[As opposed to emphasizing voter registration in the surrounding counties.]
We new workers were introduced. Everyone was very friendly. We met a Mr. Edwards who is trying to start a co-op gas station. Each person is to put up five dollars and the federal government is to give a loan. We heard of a case in Sumpter County of a girl getting raped and dying a few days later. The family knows who did it, but is afraid to come forward. Some fellows are working on a follow up on this.
When we returned to Albany we were greeted by the news that the people at the meeting in Albany (while we were in Terrell County) had decided to march. Twenty-six were arrested; at least two boys were beaten. A woman watching on her porch was dragged half a block by the police.
An emergency mass meeting was held at Buleah Church last night. Some of the boys in the CME neighborhood, a tough one, threw bricks at a police car and really tore it up. A white man was hit with a brick.
Rev. Wells spoke. He says he has trouble keeping the boys in the church. He is a very kindly, folksy preacher who works as a civil servant. His daughter, 14, went to jail last night.
Sherrod spoke, quieted down the people. He talked a little of non-violence, but is afraid to say too much, I think, for it is so difficult to get the people to move.
Chief Laurie Pritchett, Albany Chief of Police, walked right into the meeting: big about six feet two, 275 lbs, sandy-haired handsome wearing white spats! Everyone cheered and clapped a strange kind of hero....[This speaks to a kind of intimacy between Southern adversaries, everyone knows each other and a sense of power due to the number of people gathered at the meeting.]
Slatter King, now head of the Albany Movement, was last to speak. He spoke loudly, quickly and forthrightly. Joni Rabinowitz, a White girl from Antioch College who's been here for a while, feels that he'll demand real steps, not wishy-washy compromises. Slatter King put it on the line that he was disappointed about the violence....
I'm working in the office today, a good way to get into things. So far have washed dishes. There's no running hot water, just a kerosene stove....
Twenty to thirty kids have just been arrested in the Washington project. The plan is to have simultaneous movements from all parts of town rather than bringing everyone together for one meeting and one march. This is a fairly new approach. Hopefully it will mean more grass-roots contact. Each area is playing it by ear, seeking advice from leaders living in the area whether to march, to meet, or ride downtown and sit-in.
Action is now starting in East Albany. About five car-loads of people left East Albany to sit-in downtown. Six were arrested at Quickie where a customer spilled coffee on them with the police watching. More were arrested at Lee's drug store. Meetings at CME are now in progress. Nine SNCC staff are now in jail.
The White man hit by a brick in a passing car last night has a fractured skull.
Joyce just talked to Martin of the Justice Department. He feels that demonstrations are necessary to channel the tension, and frustration. The community is very aware of Medgar Evers' death, the rape in Terrell County, Birmingham, Danville, etc...[Black civil rights leader, Medgar Evers was shot and killed outside his home in Jackson, Mississippi on June 12, 1963.]
My Second Letter from Albany: In Jail
Friday, June 23, 1963
Dear Mom and Dad
Felicia and Miriam just came to join us. Also a drunk [local] white
woman has been added to the cell next door. I'm fine, am losing
Relationships here are very interesting. Penny Patch, a veteran
activist, dislikes policemen so much that she talks to them as little
as possible. Joni Rabinowitz, another veteran, manages to keep her
dignity while giving the officers a lot of lip. They seem to have a
kind of respect for her?
There are seven of us now in an 8 by 8 cell all White
females in The Movement. The jail is segregated, of course....
We can yell to the Negro kids, but it's not too easy. We sing
together, have grace together as a group before we return our food
uneaten. I'm getting pretty hungry, but temptations are minimal! It's
hot in the day and cool in the mornings need
blankets. There are about 120 of us in jail now, some have been moved
to other jails....
We're being held for investigation of loitering and vagrancy. They can
hold us for 72 hours then need to charge us. Our attorney C.B. King is
very capable and charming. He visits us every day. I'm looking forward
to his bringing us books tomorrow.
How's the publicity in Chicago coming? Write me a long letter. Mail
will be greatly appreciated. I'll write more later. It will mean a lot
to have your reassurance that both of you are not too upset....
Friday, June 23, 1963
Dear Mom and Dad
Felicia and Miriam just came to join us. Also a drunk [local] white woman has been added to the cell next door. I'm fine, am losing weight![A reference to our hunger fast and my growing up feeling too big and fat.] Felicia said that Joyce had talked to you and you were great. It was a great relief for me to hear that.
Relationships here are very interesting. Penny Patch, a veteran activist, dislikes policemen so much that she talks to them as little as possible. Joni Rabinowitz, another veteran, manages to keep her dignity while giving the officers a lot of lip. They seem to have a kind of respect for her?
There are seven of us now in an 8 by 8 cell all White females in The Movement. The jail is segregated, of course....
We can yell to the Negro kids, but it's not too easy. We sing together, have grace together as a group before we return our food uneaten. I'm getting pretty hungry, but temptations are minimal! It's hot in the day and cool in the mornings need blankets. There are about 120 of us in jail now, some have been moved to other jails....
We're being held for investigation of loitering and vagrancy. They can hold us for 72 hours then need to charge us. Our attorney C.B. King is very capable and charming. He visits us every day. I'm looking forward to his bringing us books tomorrow.
How's the publicity in Chicago coming? Write me a long letter. Mail will be greatly appreciated. I'll write more later. It will mean a lot to have your reassurance that both of you are not too upset....
[The letter continues on Saturday, June 24th after I've talked by
phone with my parents.] That nice Chief Prichett you
just talked to just came back to look in on us. He's all smiles and
false charm. We asked him how many people he beat last night and he
told us "Why you know we never beat anybody". We heard an old man and
a woman beaten last night. The old man was taken out on a stretcher.
Joanne Gains, a 12-year-old, was beaten yesterday, not hurt badly.
These are all beatings of Negroes, some more serious than others.
My plan is to stay here as long as I can contribute. If I decide I
can't, and I won't decide for a week or more, I'll probably go to
Atlanta to work on voter registration.
My purpose here is to try to assist demonstrations to the end of
achieving some meaningful desegregation. You say things are getting
out of hand. To a degree this is true. That's why SNCC is even more
important than ever, for the people are tired, they are beginning to
know that things don't have to be the way they are. If this
frustration and anger isn't organized and channeled, even more
violence will occur with no beneficial results for the Negro
community. You begin to realize that this fight isn't something you
pick up after you've done your homework, but something effecting the
whole way of life of thousands of people. Things are changing, but so
far they've made little difference in the every day life of the
majority of Negroes. Children are still growing up knowing there are
vast numbers of experiences never open to them, just because they're
My plan is to stay here as long as I can contribute. If I decide I can't, and I won't decide for a week or more, I'll probably go to Atlanta to work on voter registration.
My purpose here is to try to assist demonstrations to the end of achieving some meaningful desegregation. You say things are getting out of hand. To a degree this is true. That's why SNCC is even more important than ever, for the people are tired, they are beginning to know that things don't have to be the way they are. If this frustration and anger isn't organized and channeled, even more violence will occur with no beneficial results for the Negro community. You begin to realize that this fight isn't something you pick up after you've done your homework, but something effecting the whole way of life of thousands of people. Things are changing, but so far they've made little difference in the every day life of the majority of Negroes. Children are still growing up knowing there are vast numbers of experiences never open to them, just because they're Negro.
Letter from My Mother
Saturday, June 24, 1963
I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it was to be able to talk
with you on the phone this morning after all the stories we had,
second hand, third hand, fourth hand...
Perhaps what really needs to be reassessed is not that you want to do
all you can to help with the cause but just where you can be most
effective in so doing, with your education, background and being a
white northern girl. SNCC has accomplished so much this past year that
you must find this difference amazing and heartening. Our concern, and
not only ours but many others, is now that having started the snowball
it can no longer be stopped at non-violent action and those of you who
come from the north full of zeal of the worthiest sort, may be used,
entirely unbeknownst to yourselves.
If the moderate Southerner, who has done much to further your course,
is violently turned against SNCC by the emotional flaunting of mores
long established (as whites and colored boys and girls all housed
together in the same barracks) living together as it will be
implied... In other words with all the problems the Negroes have which
are legitimate...do not add one new dimension. You do not expect
society to condone boys and girls living together in the same house
unmarried and without chaperones here, or any other place in the USA.
Why should you expect it to be acceptable in the South where this is
an even tougher situation than elsewhere? I am willing to believe that
you all live lives of the utmost virtue. THIS IS NOT THE POINT. YOU
GIVE AID, COMFORT AND AMUNNITION TO THE VERY ENEMY YOU WISH TO
CONVERT. Separate the boys and girls and there will be less objection,
live together and you can expect sympathy and understanding from no
Letter to My Mother
Monday, June 26, 1963
I am at the moment furious with a letter that started out so nice. To
speak to the point that has upset you so the housing.
While we white students are here for the summer we are under strictly
Puritan rules no drinking, no smoking in public, no
going bare foot, no wearing long hair down.... When we go outside
we're not to go with any group that could possibly be construed as
interracial dating, no going anywhere alone. All the summer workers
live with families. I spent one night, in the girls' room of the SNCC
house because they didn't have a home for me yet I do
now. ...You know that our very presence in the Negro section of Albany
arouses the hatred of whites no matter what we do. I am disappointed
that you accept, to any degree, the criticisms of the evil minds of
these people. Our puritan life is well known to the Negro community.
You talk of the great strides SNCC has made, but children are
still growing up in a system that is so cruel to them, limits their
development and opportunity to appreciate so much of the world. The
movement in Albany has been going on for three years. So far nothing
has been desegregated. Public pools are being sold to private persons
to be reopened segregated...
I am more and more convinced that mass demonstrations is the only way.
Everything else has been tried over and over again. M. L. King
"negotiated" and prevented marches when he was here last summer and
nothing was desegregated. I'm sure few Northerners realize this. I
think the only possible chance for conversion is by contact on an
equal level between the two groups, which can only occur after
desegregation. Intellectual arguments at this point lead nowhere.
About the violence. There is violence, too much, but this makes SNCC's
methods of channeling the immense frustration even more important. If
SNCC pulled out, uncontrolled, non-constructive riots are sure to
I cannot begin to tell you what a relief it was to be able to talk with you on the phone this morning after all the stories we had, second hand, third hand, fourth hand...
Perhaps what really needs to be reassessed is not that you want to do all you can to help with the cause but just where you can be most effective in so doing, with your education, background and being a white northern girl. SNCC has accomplished so much this past year that you must find this difference amazing and heartening. Our concern, and not only ours but many others, is now that having started the snowball it can no longer be stopped at non-violent action and those of you who come from the north full of zeal of the worthiest sort, may be used, entirely unbeknownst to yourselves.
If the moderate Southerner, who has done much to further your course, is violently turned against SNCC by the emotional flaunting of mores long established (as whites and colored boys and girls all housed together in the same barracks) living together as it will be implied... In other words with all the problems the Negroes have which are legitimate...do not add one new dimension. You do not expect society to condone boys and girls living together in the same house unmarried and without chaperones here, or any other place in the USA. Why should you expect it to be acceptable in the South where this is an even tougher situation than elsewhere? I am willing to believe that you all live lives of the utmost virtue. THIS IS NOT THE POINT. YOU GIVE AID, COMFORT AND AMUNNITION TO THE VERY ENEMY YOU WISH TO CONVERT. Separate the boys and girls and there will be less objection, live together and you can expect sympathy and understanding from no group whatsoever...
Letter to My Mother
Monday, June 26, 1963
I am at the moment furious with a letter that started out so nice. To speak to the point that has upset you so the housing. While we white students are here for the summer we are under strictly Puritan rules no drinking, no smoking in public, no going bare foot, no wearing long hair down.... When we go outside we're not to go with any group that could possibly be construed as interracial dating, no going anywhere alone. All the summer workers live with families. I spent one night, in the girls' room of the SNCC house because they didn't have a home for me yet I do now. ...You know that our very presence in the Negro section of Albany arouses the hatred of whites no matter what we do. I am disappointed that you accept, to any degree, the criticisms of the evil minds of these people. Our puritan life is well known to the Negro community.
You talk of the great strides SNCC has made, but children are still growing up in a system that is so cruel to them, limits their development and opportunity to appreciate so much of the world. The movement in Albany has been going on for three years. So far nothing has been desegregated. Public pools are being sold to private persons to be reopened segregated...
I am more and more convinced that mass demonstrations is the only way. Everything else has been tried over and over again. M. L. King "negotiated" and prevented marches when he was here last summer and nothing was desegregated. I'm sure few Northerners realize this. I think the only possible chance for conversion is by contact on an equal level between the two groups, which can only occur after desegregation. Intellectual arguments at this point lead nowhere.
About the violence. There is violence, too much, but this makes SNCC's methods of channeling the immense frustration even more important. If SNCC pulled out, uncontrolled, non-constructive riots are sure to occur.
|C.B. King was Albany's leading Black civil rights attorney. Dennis Roberts, a law student from California, was C.B.'s legal intern the summer of 1963, Dennis writes from Albany in a letter of June 22, 1963: "I have been advised by people who know, that there are lots of guns, dynamite, and ammunition. Yesterday one of the [youth] gang leaders walked into the SNCC office and announced that he was through with SNCC and was out to 'kill him a few crackers.' He was finally talked out of it, but a few hours later was arrested on 'suspicion of vagrancy,' so you can be sure when he gets out of jail he is not going to listen to any more non-violence talk." In a later letter dated July 7, 1963: "Tonight a cop was hit in the head with a brick although this wasnt carried in the local press. Also last week one of the guys who hangs around the poolroom punched a cop and got away." (From papers at the Meiklejohn Civil Liberties Institute, Berkeley, California.)|
I'm getting tired, will write again soon. Please have faith in me Cathy.
My Father's Report on Albany, Georgia
June 6-28, 1963.
This is an attempt to relate the facts concerning the arrest of my
daughter Catherine in Albany, Georgia, as a result of her organizing
activities among the colored population there. I suggest that the
reader acknowledge the possibility that they represent the moves in a
"cold war" between the southern white people and a portion of the
negro population. In this "Cold War" the ordinary ideas of truth,
justice, fact, rumor have been distorted out of all reasonable
As an engineer William (Bill) Cade was used to investigating, problem solving, note taking and report writing about his empirical findings. This accounts for much of the tone of this report which he gave to the FBI (see below for an explanation of FBI involvement). However, he was operating under great fear for his daughter's safety and had decided, before he came down, that the Albany Movement was being used by Russian Communists for their own nefarious ends. My oldest brother put it this way when I interviewed him: "Dad was excited about working with the police and FBI. For him the authorities were the good guys and those in jail were the bad guys, yet this was his daughter. He was digging playing junior G-man. He was going to save you and help you get out of jailand you didn't want to be saved."
The punctuation, capitalization, etc. are as produced in his typewritten report.
Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, people, Black and White, who stood up to racism were accused of being Communists and Communist dupes. Though the McCarthy Era was over, in the 1960s the "Cold War" was still on. SNCC repeatedly refused to be intimidated and manipulated by these accusations, which were designed to discredit the organization. This required considerable courage.
This story starts about 5:00 p.m. on the 23 of June when I arrived
home from a long hard day at the office and my wife handed me the
following clipping from the Chicago Daily News..."Hinsdale Girl Held
At the suggestion of SNCC, my wife had instituted a series of phone
calls, person to person, to the Albany jail requesting to speak to
Cathy Cade. All had been met with statements that she was not
After an evening conference with an experienced labor attorney and a
close friend, [That is, an attorney who advised corporate
managers on their "labor problems."]
it was decided that I
should call Chief Pritchett and ask for permission to speak to her....
Chief Pritchett inferred that were she persuaded to leave town, she
would be released.... He also asked me whether or not we knew that the
whites and colored female and male members of the SNCC organization
were living together in cramped quarters....
Cathy stated [Referring to my phone call on Saturday, June
something to the effect of not to worry, the arrest charge
was completely false and they would be quickly released by their
brilliant lawyer C.B. King. That it was important that we contact him,
that we should spread the word, keep calling the jail person-to-person
and protest, as it would protect them from police brutality. She would
call us immediately upon her release and not to worry, the publicity
We spent an anxious Saturday and Sunday with not a word. On Monday
morning I asked our lawyer to contact someone there. He called back
and advised that the firm of Perry, Longstaff and Walters were
considered the leading lawyers in Albany. They advised that I come
down and see for myself....
I was met at the Albany airport by Mr. Edgar Campbell, a June graduate
of a Southern Law School working for Perry, Longstaff and Walters.
After checking into the Hotel, I went for a walk around the center of
town to get the lay of the land and called Mr. C.B. King's residence.
I did this from a pay phone rather than the hotel since the "Cloak and
Dagger" atmosphere was beginning to get to me.
Mrs. King answered and stated that C.B. was in Montgomery and would
not be home until late, but that he would call me at the hotel. She
assured me that everything was OK and that the trial would be Friday
morning. She gave me the telephone number of the Shiloh Baptist Church
and stated that I need not have called her from a pay phone as her
phone was tapped and every move watched! She said she assumed that
C.B. would be acting for me as well as Cathy and I said no, I had in
mind other council. "You mean 'city' lawyers, well that's a
I continued walking around town for half an hour, saw the jail where
Cathy and seven others had been on a "fast" for seven
days all seemed quiet, no shouting or noise and
lights were all out, but somewhat nerve shattering by its very
I went back to the hotel across the street from the jail...started to
relax, wrote up a number of questions which I thought needed answering
and tried to sleep. On impulse I picked up the phone and called SNCC
headquarters.... Charles Sherrod picked up the phone and said, roughly
"Who is this"? I introduced myself and started asking him what he
could tell me. He said he could tell me anything he would tell any
reporter over the phone so I asked how far away the church was...about
5 blocks. Sherrod suggested that it would be pretty dangerous to get
there through the last two blocks...and suggested I give the name of
the corner of Jefferson and Whitney.... I asked the (White) taxi
driver to take me to the above corner. "Are you a reporter or
something?" He said a white man had had his skull fractured by a
thrown brick while taking his maid home recently, and he would not go
down there, that there had been a mass meeting that evening and the
police had had that area blocked off. I said take me as far as you
want and let me off. This was about 1 block from the church....
The next block consisted of a row of typical Negro shacks on stilts
with a dirt sidewalk wandering among trees.... I saw a long low brick
church building.... There was a light behind the shuttered windows and
apparently much activity.... A white boy came to the door and said,
"Go around the block." I followed instructions although reluctantly
because it meant going into the dark adjacent to the housing. The
thought crossed my mind that my white shirt might be a "flag of truce"
anyway I "had to know".
The same white boy opened the door.... I was introduced to Joyce
Barrett, Prathia Hall and the rest. Joyce was a young white girl very
pretty, delicate face and good figure. Prathia was a young colored
girl about 20-25 with a good mind and very commanding
presence somewhat masculine in her authority, I
should say. Sherrod entered, attired in blue jeans with a blue jeans
jacket and said, "Did you know you were followed"? I allowed as how I
had expected to be, but that I thought it important to talk to them
before anyone else in order to get the picture. Sherrod appeared to be
an intelligent young negro about 20 but of no great managerial
authority. During the next two hours of conversation interrupted by
phone ringing every 5 minutes, Joyce and Prathia constantly said to
Sherrod, Don't you think this is right and he always agreed. It was
apparent that the two girls were running the show. [In 2002
this paragraph strikes me as a masterpiece of sexism, and I recall
that we didnt have the word "sexism" at the time.]
During our two hours talk, it seemed we covered everything under the
sun. They wanted to know why I was there. I said I was an engineer and
wanted to see for myself what was going on, to make up my own mind
what was happening. They were sorry I got into town too late for the
Mass Meeting, but that there would be one tomorrow night. I emphasized
that I intended to talk to everyone including Chief
Pritchett long silence.
On the subject of salary they said they were being paid $10 per week,
but had not been receiving it recently. The church was now their
room they sleep on sleeping bags on the
pews and the colored folks brought them their
We discussed the situation regarding bringing white, northern girls
into the situation as irritating to the white population and that
there was a real danger of great violence on the part of the whites if
they were irritated a little too much, that this did not seem to be a
non-violent approach, the situation being what it was. They said that
violence might be necessary to accomplish their ends, but that they
felt that the white girls being there was channeling the explosion of
pent-up emotions into non-violent action....
Joyce stated that she had been in jail recently for three weeks, had
fasted, and while it was unpleasant, it had had no ill effects. She
appeared to be in good health.
We discussed that in America it was possible, an example, myself, that
whenever I was unhappy with my job I picked up and moved to another
part of the country. They said that this was simply
unthinkable. [Thirty years later at the 1994 Mississippi civil
rights reunion Charles Sherrod would come up and ask me,
affectionately, how my father was.]
[Next day]... I called my wife and decided not to tell her of my visit
to SNCC's hideout of the night before and of my suspicions as to its
phoniness. It would only worry her the more.... I had a strong feeling
that Cathy should be gotten out of town!!!
|To be clear, he hadn't been to a "SNCC hideout." Anybody in Albany could find out which church the SNCC workers were staying at. The "phoniness" is a reference to my father's belief that the Albany Movement was being directed by Russian Communists.|
I had a good breakfast and met Edgar in the lobby and we drove about
five blocks to the law offices of Perry, Longstaff and Walters. We
were immediately ushered into Mr. Walter's office.... By way of
introduction he stated that he was a segregationist and believed in
the separate but equal philosophy but that being a lawyer first and
foremost he felt that he could work with me. I stated that I
understood his position from having lived and worked in Memphis four
years, and that I wanted his advice and help, but probably not his
representation in court as C.B. King was the lawyer for the
Mr. Walters felt that equal rights for Negroes were coming as fast as
they could be absorbed, that several fine negro schools had been built
recently (I saw one on one of my walks and it was an excellent
facility). That the library had been desegregated with equal treatment
for all and that the universal voter registration was an accomplished
fact, in fact the voter registration boards were leaning backwards to
register any negro that could read at all. He felt that some minimum
standards of intelligence must be maintained....
Mr. Walters offered to call Chief Pritchett over and we could have a
private talk about the situation.... Chief Pritchett came over and we
discussed the situation for about an hour.... He said that when the
particular complaint re Cathy's organizing activities came in, the
detectives went into the area and saw these girls going from house to
house. When asked for their identification they would not show it,
although the detectives showed theirs, but asked were they arrested
and when told that they had to come to the city hall for
investigation, they flopped on the ground and one white girl refused
to pull her skirt down below her waist, fortunately she was wearing
undergarments. But this behavior, by white girls in front of a crowd
of 30-40 negroes was simply not rational!!!
|Later, at his request my father was shown this complaint. "Complaint #20765. June 1963. Washington Homes project 2:45. Colored voice reported that white people are going through the neighborhood shouting and running and that she was afraid." My memory is that we were walking door to door talking with people about registering to vote and many were afraid.|
He felt that the white people of Albany were being very restrained
that the negro elite and in fact the great bulk of the negroes were
having nothing to do with the movement in fact they resented it as
making the gap wider between colored and whites. He felt the situation
to be extremely tense as witness the fact that the hardware stores had
been completely sold out of shotgun shells recently. He urged that the
white SNCC organizers be gotten out of town immediately.
I accepted his offer to talk with Cathy in the hotel room.... Cathy
was brought in dressed as she had been picked up in culottes, open-
toed sandals, and a sleeveless blouse, all somewhat the worse for
wear.... Once in the hotel room Cathy said in a weak voice that she
had not wanted me to come. I explained my position as an interested
person, father, and citizen of the USA and I wanted to know what was
going on and why, what were the objectives. She complained of police
brutality such as the chief eating a piece of pie in front of them and
raiding their cells taking toothpaste, soap, books. The books which
were later returned, turned out to be paperbacks of all sorts of
revolutionary literature the titles being unfamiliar
With respect to the effect of this activity on her part on her family
and her grandparents, she said that it was simply a question of values
that this situation was disturbing a lot of white and negro people and
that this was necessary. She said that there is a point beyond which
there is no such thing as facts. You become committed to a
value that these values transcend empirical or
With respect to the Negroes leaving the community if they did not like
the situation, that it was unthinkable because for the negro people
their family are their one comfort, that the fellowship of the negro
community is more important to them than bread and butter...
..."Please Daddy, offer to pay C.B. He works so hard and won't ask
for a cent, but a contribution would be very nice."
This concluded this conversation and I concluded that in her present
state of mind she thought it possible to stay in Albany when she was
Looking Back: I Remember My Jail Stay
[This section was written in 2002.]
I was neither the first nor the last White woman to be arrested in Chief Prichett's round up which he hoped would convince Northern volunteers to leave Albany early in the summer. By the end of the day there were seven of us in a cell meant for four. There were four beds and a mattress on the floor. There was a sink and a toilet at one end of the cell and bars opening onto a small hallway at the other end. We could tell that an officer was approaching by the jingle of his keys hanging from his belt.
Though segregation was being challenged, the jails were still segregated. Thus there were four sections in the jail: Black male, Black female, White male, White female. Some older black men, who were in jail for non-Movement offenses and moved about doing janitorial work, would sometimes carry notes back and forth between these sections.
The high point of our days were visits from our lawyers C.B. King and Dennis Roberts, a summer law intern. They brought us news of The Movement, information about our case, tooth brushes, writing paper and books. For nine days we never left our cells, except for one interview with the police and towards the end, my visit with my father in his hotel room. We spent our days talking, reading, and sleeping. I don't remember what books we read. Dennis Roberts brought us books sent from up North to the SNCC office. They were paperbacks and because there were so few books we tore them in parts and circulated them so that everyone could have a piece to be reading.
I have always remembered the policeman who interviewed me the second day I was in jail. He talked to me of being from the North, of not hating Negroes. Almost begging for understanding, he was speaking of his struggle to feel like a good person while being on the Albany, Georgia police force. I felt compassion for him, but didn't trust my response. I never mentioned this to any of my civil rights friends, partly because I felt so new and partly because I feared I would be criticized. This encounter made a big impression on me. I never talked about this with anyone, but in the 1970s I often remembered this man when my friends called policemen "pigs."
Everything our lawyers brought in was approved by the police. Thus it was quite a surprise when a few days into our stay a policeman was sent into our cell to confiscate all our stuff books, writing paper, even tooth paste. He was surrounded by seven of us screaming and nattering at him like a flock of birds. This particular policeman was very handsome, young, and notorious for being mean.
I was sitting on the top bunk when I realized the bag he was putting things in was right beside me. He couldn't keep an eye on the bag as he was reaching for things on the lower bunks. I started to consider that I could probably remove things from the bag and hide them under my shirt. I hesitated, thinking, "What if I get caught stealing?" Then two things happened: I realized I was already in jail and the policeman took Sue Wender's glasses without which she couldn't see at all. He put the glasses in the bag beside me and leaned over to get more stuff from the lower bunks. He'd gone too far. I grabbed the glasses and a few other items. When the policeman finally left I triumphantly brought out Sue's glasses and the rest of the loot. The next day our stuff was returned to us, probably due to protests from C.B. It had all been simply harassment.
Ironically, given my father's fears of Communists, when I was in jail Joni Rabinowitz was telling me about her growing-up with leftist parents. Her father was a famous New York attorney. It was listening to Joni, and others, that week, that made the proud labor movement history of the 1930s real to me.
As the days progressed I was feeling stronger and stronger, for unlike my first two days in Albany, I began to understand where I was, with whom, and why. Also I was being liberated from the lie that going to jail meant your life was over. I'd never felt so alive. Lastly, I'd always hated the world "fuck." That word was written all over the walls of our cell. I laughed at myself and got over it.
We decided to go on a hunger fast to draw more national attention to the situation in Albany. Besides, the food looked awful and we only had to resist eating three times a day. As the days went by I began to spend long periods of time fantasizing about food. In the end my favorite fantasy was about hardboiled eggs and tomato soup.
Our hunger, lack of space and exercise began to wear on us as a group. We would be talking about something and all of a sudden someone would be talking about food. Nicely, or not, we would shut the speaker up. This was the situation when Chief Pritchett came back to our cell eating a piece of lemon meringue pie and "offering" us some.
When it came time to go to our court dates we could hardly walk up the stairs. We stumbled and clutched the rail. The police thought we were faking for effect, but we weren't. Our legs were truly weak from lying on our bunks for nine days. We had no change of clothes since we'd been arrested.
I was embarrassed by my father's coming to town, though Felicia's and Miriam's came too. I had little idea what my father was doing or thinking.
Bill Cade's Report Continues
I went back to Walter's office and explained what had taken place that
I would like to talk to the local FBI officers.... We drove over to
the post office where we met with the head of the local FBI.... After
some off the record discussion I said it boiled down to whether or not
Chief P. was honest with respect to the things he was telling
me. They stated that he was honest and that I could quote them
on this i.e. there was not wanton mistreatment and beating of
prisoners! They felt that Joni Rabinowitz and Penny Patch, both white,
were the leaders of the SNCC operation. I went back to the hotel with
Mr. Walters who suggested that I not go to the mass meeting since it
was at Shiloh Church.
I called Chief P. for more information and he told me that the mass
meeting would be at Arcadia Church and it would be safe to go there.
Arriving 8:00 p.m., only a few children and older women were around.
By 8:30 about 70 people had arrived. Prathia Hall started the meeting
with a reading from the bible about the torture and martyrdom of the
Christians according to Paul. Prathia is an excellent preacher with a
beautiful contralto voice. She led several freedom songs and also
introduced me as the father of Cathy who was one of the girls in
jail.... The climax was when the Rev. Jones gave his "monkey dance"
imitating the city judge dancing while the "devil" Chief Pritchett
pulled the strings. This brought the house to its feet cheering and
clapping. By this time about 140 people had assembled.... The meeting
was closed by the singing of more "freedom" songs and everyone went
home. Several kindly people came up and introduced themselves and one
kindly colored woman said she was working week days but come Saturday
she was going to carry some food to the church for SNCC.
I called C.B. King, who was at home. He made the following statements
in deep, measured tones: the girls would likely be convicted since the
judge has previously demonstrated little or no regard for the basic
freedoms. They would probably get 60 days or $200 fine or both. Asked
how the girls felt, physically he replied, "Their sense of purpose
will overcome their physical discomfort". ...If they stayed in jail he
questioned whether or not he was sufficiently influential to get them
to change their position on fasting since it was a commitment they
themselves had made. Re the wisdom of SNCC's irritating the Albany
white population by the use of white, Yankee girls as agitators he
felt that getting things changed required irritation and that
agitation stands to bear some good ultimately. Only through agitation
has there come progress. That he was ever sensitive to our frustration
as parents, but that the majority members of the movement favored a
concept of non-violence although incidental to any change there will
be some violence. The majority of the violence has come from the
guardians of the peace. It is true that after the police have
demonstrated their brutality some children have hurled rocks and
brickbats. That neither the Albany Movement nor SNCC can accept
responsibility for violence any more than the white people accepted
responsibility for the KKK in days past. That certainly all people
ought to be apprized of the situation based on the evidentiary matter
submitted. Finally, that he was not aware of his having an image with
the girls beyond that of the usual lawyer-client relationship, but
that he is willing to help in any way he can. I would see him in court
the next morning.
We were allowed into the courtroom with the prisoners, some 12 white
boys and seven white girls and perhaps 70 negroes were
[Seeing that the white males would be tried first, my father visits a white doctor who reassures him that our fasting for nine days won't have hurt us.]
...Dr. Hillman couldn't understand how the girls had gotten
themselves involved in this situation and thought that the lack of
Baptist-Christian church affiliation had probably been mostly
responsible. Neither he nor Mr. Walters could quite understand my
reluctance to call in local ministers to help counsel Cathy and the
rest of the girls....
Bill Cade's Report The Trial
C.B. King is a 35 year old, handsome, energetic intelligent colored
man who obviously knew more law than the judge, prosecutor and Chief
P. put together. He handled the trial strictly as a show for the
benefit of the prisoners to show them how wronged they were....
|I remember C.B. King's defense of us as skilled and intelligent, but not as trying to impress us. For that matter, we were already impressed. And we weren't alone or naive in this admiration of C.B. King: in November 2002, the new Federal courthouse in Albany will be named after him. From my point of view this paragraph is typical of Bill's ability to see Black people's strengths only to then undercut and deny their meaning.|
C.B. King addressed the court saying the police had acted in a manner
to harass SNCC by picking up the organizers, following them, and
referring to the girls as "bleached niggers". He moved for dismissal
on the basis of no prima facia case. Motion overruled.... Cathy Cade
came to the stand next. She testified that she was going through the
projects knocking on doors and telling of a mass meeting. Seeing her
two companions being arrested, she went over, showed her
identification and asked if she were under arrest. Informed of her
status of being under investigation as a vagrant, she sat down on the
ground in protest. "Two patrolmen picked me up and jerked me along the
ground and put me in the back of the patrol car." Policemen pushed her
into the office at City Jail.... Asking the arresting officers why she
looked suspicious she was told that any white girl in shorts,
sleeveless sweater and open-toed shoes working in an all negro section
of town was considered suspicious!!!! . . . .
C.B King stated that Section 32 of the City Code did not apply since
by no stretch of the imagination were the girls loitering, that the
evidence does not sustain the charge and conviction would be
defamation of character and the local government was in violation of
the 14th amendment. The judge ruled that the 14th Amendment had not
been violated, that you girls were doing the city of Albany,
yourselves and your families a disservice, that you were guilty as
charged and would serve a sentence of 60 days on probation under
jurisdiction of parents and that he would suspend the sentence if you
would go back home. There was considerable confusion at this point
with C.B. King claiming that the verdict was not proper and a
suspended sentence meant the girls were free to go their own way if
they were adults.
...I finally got Cathy to make a decision to come home for the
weekend for a rest, if she could come back by plane on Tuesday, this
being the best I thought I could do under the circumstances.
I called Edgar to thank him for all he and Mr. Walters had done. He
said they were glad to do it, that there would be no bill for their
two days work, and that if anything further should come up to please
give him a call.
I walked down to Shiloh Church to say goodbye to the SNCC people and
to see that Cathy was really coming home!! I almost flipped when Cathy
wasn't there imagining that she had skipped town. They said she was
over at the SNCC headquarters,... I went there, no Cathy, then back to
Shiloh fighting panic all the way.... Finally Cathy showed up with her
At this point we almost missed our flight out of Albany. Felicia's father, a Professor of Law at the University of Kansas, was driving my father and I to the airport in Felicia's car bearing out-of-state license plates. We had not gone more than three blocks before the county sheriff stopped us. Professor Oldfather was searched, his wrists handcuffed behind his back and he was put in the back of the sheriff's car. A deputy drove us all to the county jail. The charge was driving with a defective muffler. We were released when the sheriff called the city police and we assured them that we were leaving the state. We made it to the airport just in time to catch our flight.
Bill Cade's Report Continues The Flight Out
Joni Rabinowitz also showed up at the airport. The girls were greatly
excited from the prolonged fasting, and the excitement of getting out
of jail. Joni and I got a seat together after the first stop and we
had a good talk about what she was doing and why, the fact that she
was going back to NYC for a party and to make speeches re. their
experiences. Significantly, we talked about her visit to Russia under
the Student Movement program, beautiful Leningrad etc. I concluded
that she had had much training and indoctrination in Communist
Stopping in Atlanta
Unable to get a last minute flight all the way to Chicago, my Dad and I spent the four hours between flights in Atlanta at the home of an African-American family whose daughter, Rose McCree, I'd befriended when she was an exchange student from Spelman College to Carleton College.
Weak from nine days in the cell with no exercise and no food, I gratefully ate tomato soup and hard boiled eggs and went to sleep. My father, I learned later, talked to my friend's mother for hours of his fears and "discoveries" about the Communists in Albany. When I awoke a shaken mother tried to warn me that something was very wrong with my father. I heard her, but couldn't take it in.
Bill Cade's letter to Mr. Walters of Perry, Longstaff &
(Written on the plane from Atlanta to Chicago)
Dear Mr. Walters:
We are on the final leg of the journey home. Now the battle for
Cathy's mind can begin, thanks to the very wonderful and generous
treatment that a group of Southerners has given to a complete
stranger. At the moment, Catherine does not suspect anything of my
complete role and is being very cooperative....
I have all the notes I took and a briefcase full of stuff. I am
thinking of giving a report to the Chicago FBI. Perhaps we have
devised a way to operate or to improve operations. What a completely
incredible nightmare this has been. Show this to anyone you wish, but
would suggest Chief Prichett, Justice Department men and local FBI,
and most of all to Edgar who was really wonderful.
If there is anything or any way I can help the peaceful progress, let
me know. It seems to me that if all of the good people in this country
will only realize the seriousness of the situation and work together
we can defeat Communism, but it will take some doing, and we must be
as dedicated as they are and as smart and clever.
P.S. Here's for more amateur Cloak and Dagger.
At Home In Chicago
When we got to my parents' house, I was weak and exhausted. I fell asleep as my father was talking to these two strange men in the living room. My father had called the FBI to come "debrief him." When I woke up, my mother told me my father was in the hospital having a nervous breakdown.
My Mother Writes to Her Aunt
Sunday, July 14, 1963
I had hoped that we might spare my parents the details of all that is
happening, but this now seems impossible. So I enclose a letter to
them which I ask you to give my father first and talk it out with him.
When my parents call and say, "Doesn't she understand how her
activities worry and affect us?", implying what kind of gratitude is
this.... It starts Bill off again in the hysterical type reaction....
The team of psychologists, psychiatrist etc, at the hospital now feel
that Cathy must make up her mind what she must do, and then get out.
That she is not the real problem, only one symptom of it, and this
leaving home is something that he must learn to live with even though
he has not been able to face the real problem as yet. Meantime the
weekends are difficult and I find it hard to love the unlovable.
Cathy is magnificent and how proud I am to have such a
Much, much love to you, Elise.
I had hoped that we might spare my parents the details of all that is happening, but this now seems impossible. So I enclose a letter to them which I ask you to give my father first and talk it out with him. When my parents call and say, "Doesn't she understand how her activities worry and affect us?", implying what kind of gratitude is this.... It starts Bill off again in the hysterical type reaction....
The team of psychologists, psychiatrist etc, at the hospital now feel that Cathy must make up her mind what she must do, and then get out. That she is not the real problem, only one symptom of it, and this leaving home is something that he must learn to live with even though he has not been able to face the real problem as yet. Meantime the weekends are difficult and I find it hard to love the unlovable.
Cathy is magnificent and how proud I am to have such a daughter.[I am so proud of her for being able to say thisand so grateful to have this letter.] Her decision will be such an unpopular one and one the "lay" public will never understand. She is a truly remarkable girl in the best New England tradition....
Much, much love to you, Elise.
I Decide To Go To Atlanta
Three White fathers came to Albany: a lawyer, a newspaper editor and an engineer.
|Miriam Cohen Glickman's father was a newspaper editor who used his connections to inform the New York Times of the arrests in Albany. Prior to that, reporters had been calling the Albany police who were denying any arrests had taken place. Charles Oldfather sent an account of his experiences in Albany to the Harvard Law Record.|
After the trial three young White women left Albany with their fathers: one returned to Albany soon after, one went to work in the Atlanta SNCC office and one did not return to the South. I was home for two weeks and then as a compromise with my father's fear, and not without some of my own, I decided to spend the rest of the summer in SNCC's Atlanta headquarters doing office work.
I had never wanted my father to come to Albany, I couldn't believe that he was talking to and trusting the White authorities. Back in Chicago, I was angry at him for tricking me into coming home and for making the racist assumption that Negroes could only be fighting for their freedom if they were duped. I was furious with him for interfering in my life, but I could also see that he was very scared and I felt I owed him something for raising me.
Moreover, I was also scared for my safety in Albany. I had only been there one day when I was arrested. I had no time to feel at home there. It was hard to know if the attention and care I needed from the Negro community was justified by any contribution I could make. I gained strength from being in jail in Albany. I never again put myself in a situation to go to jail, but I don't rule it out for the future.
I went to work in Atlanta because I felt quite literally that being in The Movement was the only way for me to be alive. Not to go would be a living death. I paid a price for not returning to Albany, Georgia, in not becoming connected with a local Black community, facing my fears and seeing if I could make a contribution there.
In Atlanta there was the built-in contradiction, stress, and marginalization of doing office work in a radical social movement the disadvantage of not being "in the field." The question of whether Whites were useful and appropriate in SNCC was already being raised by some Black SNCC workers in and around the Atlanta office as early as the that summer (1963). Some who were raising these issues were my close friends, so I took these questions especially seriously. However, I found ways to work with SNCC through the summer of 1964.
In the 1960s I was mad at my father for letting fear run his life; now I am able to admit my own fears. In the 1960s I could not let myself fully feel the danger I might be in or I might not have been able to continue in The Movement. Indeed one of the problems I had in the South was figuring out when was I in a dangerous situation and when was I in danger of censoring my actions unnecessarily. For example, if I was driving as a lone White woman and nobody knew me, or where I'd come from, I was reasonably safe. If I was known, that could be another story. With pre-feminist awareness, I thought of myself as being safe as a White woman in the South, not in danger as a woman. It was not until 1994 when I was driving to a SNCC reunion in Jackson, Mississippi that I felt safe enough to let myself feel the fear. I was very scared, felt foolish, and yet was still unsure of what was real.
In 2002 my sons are 24 and 17. I take brief peaks at how I would be feeling if my sons were doing what I was doing in the 60s. Honestly, I don't want to think about it. They aren't activists, to my regret, but they are both leaving home. I'm trying to arrange for my sons and I to visit the South, but irrationally, my old fears get in the way and I keep putting off the trip.
Understanding My Father
In the summer of 1963 I understood that my father's nervous breakdown was caused by his overwhelming fear from a childhood trauma specifically, that I would die as his young brother had died.
Also, as a teenager during the Depression of the 1930s, my father never recovered from witnessing the collapse of his aunts' thriving restaurant business. I've never been able to understand how, then, he remained such a strong individualist and defender of Capitalism.
At his core, my father believed that if you worked hard you should and would be rewarded with a good life. It was very scary for him to think that you might work hard and not get ahead. He was capable of recognizing and respecting a hard-working person of color, but unable to understand that an oppressive system could make it very difficult, or even not in your best interest, to put your hopes into individualistic achievement as opposed to familial and community support and participation.
In addition, the nervous breakdown was also brought on by his internal conflicts in 1963. He was predisposed to be proud of his oldest child. Before I was arrested and his fear took over, he wrote of helping me get newspaper articles published. But I was challenging some of his most cherished beliefs.
My father's conflicted feelings must have been heightened by putting himself in the presence of both sides of the struggle in Albany. He experienced, in a short period of time, the charm of powerful Southern White men and the charisma of the Black Civil Rights workers and the mass meetings. From his written report the reader sees that he let himself experience the strengths of Black leaders like Prathia Hall, Charles Sherrod, and C.B. King and then proceeded to question their motives. His individual reaction underscores the deep psychological damage racism creates in all of us, including privileged White men.
By the time he left Albany, my father chose to believe and identify with the White male authorities. He further tried to resolve the conflicts by use of a third force; the Communists had duped the civil rights workers. He believed that Capitalism, with any problems it might have, was the best economic and political system possible and that Communism was the major threat to Capitalism. He used to say that anything else besides Capitalism would be chaos. He meant that quite literally. He experienced the Albany Movement in July 1963 as chaos.
My father was in the hospital for a week or so and then went back to work. He never again tried to stop me from working for civil rights in the South. Just a year after his nervous breakdown he came to get me in southern Missouri after I'd wrecked my mother's car. He was kind and thoughtful and even got mad at the insurance agent who suggested in a racist manner that I should never have been in the South in the first place.
My mother had lent me her car for the summer of 1964. Returning to Chicago at the end of the summer, I was first in a long line of cars behind a slow big truck on a two-lane highway in Missouri. The pressure was building for me to pass. When I attempted it I ran into a narrow concrete bridge I hadn't seen. I was hurt a little bit, not seriously, but the car was totaled. The other two were not hurt, but shaken. The worse part was that the young Black man to whom I was giving a ride from Mississippi to Chicago had to sit up all night in the hospital waiting room in a strange southern Missouri town with no money for food until my father arrived the next morning.
My father's support has new meaning for me as a parent of children who drive. In writing this piece I have had to relive all the dangerous driving I did back then. Not all of the danger was from others; some was from my driving while I was too tired not accepting my limits.
Two years later I brought Smith, my Black boyfriend, home to meet my family without objection from my father though my mother cautioned me not to marry just for love.
I don't think my father and I ever talked about racism in America again, but I do remember our last fight, in 1971. It was the same old fight, but this time fought to the conclusion me calling him a filthy Capitalist and him calling me a dirty Communist. We never fought again.
Ironically, in the early 1970s International Harvester sent my father to Moscow to advise the Russians on how to use the new farm machine technology they had just purchased. This was way before the end of the "Cold War" of American Capitalists vs. Russian Communists. He found the bureaucrats and party members very scary and the people warm and generous. My mother says the people were particularly attracted to my father because he looked like the older men of their families lost in World War II.
My Life Continues
In the fall of 1963 I entered graduate school in Sociology at Tulane University. I wanted to work "full time in The Movement", but I was never sure what I could contribute. To my surprise, I also found myself reluctant to disappoint my parents by dropping out of school.
As it happened, I was at Tulane just three days recovering from the Dean's welcoming letter stating there that were still too many women graduate students when I got a call from SNCC friends. They were in town to help out with a local voter registration effort. In between classes at Tulane I canvassed and hung out at a Black neighborhood cafe with my SNCC friends.
Soon I was going to Jackson, Mississippi for the weekends. I made more SNCC friends and witnessed the debates around the planning for the Freedom Summer of 1964. I eventually worked in office communications in the North Gulfport project.
Back at Tulane after the summer, I helped form a city-wide group called Students for Integration, then a Tulane Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) group, worked with CORE knocking on doors in New Orleans' Fourth Ward, did dissertation research in Canton, Mississippi, and was part of the first Women's Liberation group in New Orleans in 1968.
In 1970 I moved to San Francisco where I worked full time in the Women's Liberation Movement, came out as a lesbian, and became a photographer.
In 1978 and 1985 I had my two sons by donor insemination the first White, the second Black and White.
My partner of seven years, is Lea Arellano. Lea is a writer, musician and consultant to nonprofit organizations.
My Father's Last Years
Though he still had periods of paranoia, in the last years of his life my father changed more than I ever imagined a human being could change. After his by-pass heart surgery, his emotional heart was often quite open. Driving by an under-used army base, he suggested it be made into housing for the homeless. He made special efforts to talk with and understand the unconventional lives of his 5 grown children. He gave me money so that I only needed a part-time job while I worked on my photography book about lesbian mothering. In return for the financial support, I had to write him quarterly progress reports of course. Doing these reports turned out to be quite helpful to me in understanding what I was accomplishing.
When I remember these changes in my father I experience great hope for change in the whole world.
Postscript: As a child, despite all my father's admonitions not to take risks, I loved to climb out onto the high diving board, stand terrified at the end, and then take the leap. On August 21st, 1996, I was cuddling with my girlfriend in California when my body jerked, I called out "Oh shit!" and for a brief moment felt both the fear and exhilaration of that leap. I later learned, it was the moment my father died in Chicago.
Cathy Cade lives in Oakland, California. She is owner of Cathy Cade: Personal Histories, Photo Organizing, and Photography. She can be contacted by email at Cathy@CathyCade.comHer web site is: www.CathyCade.com.
Copyright © 2002 by Cathy Cade.
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Copyright © 2005
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