Heather Tilsen Baum

CORE, SNCC/COFO, Louisiana, Mississippi, 1963-70
Current Residence: St. Paul, Minnesota
Email: HeatherBaum@comcast.net
Phone: 651-699-2825

I want to add my thanks to you for creating and maintaining this web site and for doing this work. The real story of The Movement will not survive, unless we our selves work to keep it alive.

I was born with the Freedom Movement in my blood. My parents were black-listed labor activists, and my Mother gave me stories about Harriet Tubman, Fredrick Douglas and Nancy Hanks to read when I was 7 years old. I spent my earliest years in the warm embrace of the wonderful pre-cold war progressive movement of the late 1940's. These experiences, and the many strong women organizers, writers and artists in my family shaped me.

I became a member of CORE when I was still in Jr. High School. My family was part of organizing and hosting many fundraisers and other Civil Rights activities in the Twin Cities. Movement heroes were often present at these heady events, and I was awe struck.

By 1963, I was fearless — and though under age, wild horses could not keep me away from The Movement. Still in high school in 1964 I broke all of the rules and went to Jackson. At 17 little did I know how I was jeopardizing myself and the all the people around me with my presence. As events began to unfold that summer, I soon figured out that the COFO office was not a good place for a green little high school girl to be, and went back to graduate. At Christmas, 1964 I went to San Francisco. There I met the Freedom Rider who was later to become my husband. We were introduced at a New Years Eve Party at the home of the famous Dynamite Hallinan in Berkeley, during the most stirring events of the Free Speech Movement. Bob and I have been married for almost 36 years.

After graduating from high school, I moved into "The Movement House" on Campus. It was the center of civil rights and anti-war activity in the Twin Cities. That year, in 1965 along with 5 other University of Minnesota students, I responded to a call from John Lewis to come to Bogalusa Louisiana. We drove into town in a racially mixed car with 2 black students lying under blankets in the back of the station wagon. Armed police in full gear lined the streets. I do not know why we are alive today.

Bogalusa is a small town close to what at the time was called "the seat" of the Klan in Shreveport. A mean, mean place. During 1964, and 65 voter registration and organizing was strong in the area, and the already frequent violent attacks on the black community there escalated to an every day occurrence. Hooded Klansmen road through the steamy little town on horseback every night, and grabbed anyone with dark skin who dared be out after curfew right off the street. People were often found dead in the swamp.

The community began to arm itself. Our presence was intended to calm the attacks, but instead, they escalated. By now armed resistance and Black Power was openly emerging. While my memory of a lot of those violent events is somehow foggy, the heroism of the folk who took us into their homes and their church has remained with me throughout my life.

My husband and I continue to be active in the movement for peace, justice and democracy in our home community. But, we have often commented to each other over the years, that it was in The Movement and from the incredible heroism of southern civil rights workers that we learned the true meaning of leadership. Their inspiration guides us still in all that we do. I am writing about our life and experiences together, and hope one day to publish something.

Copyright © 2002, Heather Baum.

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