Susan Butler

COFO, 1964-66, Mississippi, Alabama
PO Box 253, 45 Thieriot Avenue
Chestertown, NY 12817
Phone: 518-494-3835

In August 1964, I went down to Mississippi as part of a contingent of about 10 Freedom School teachers recruited by the United Federaton of Teachers (Local 2) in NYC, and sponsored by the Hotel & Club Employees Union (Local 6) as their "Teachers in MS" — for the purose of getting the attention of as many people as possible. I stayed for two weeks with Rev & Mrs. Lewis on Wiggins Street in Jackson & then with Mama Belle on Trinity while teaching at Galilee Church on Galilee along with Janice Grant (teacher from Aberdeen, MD), Will Stone (professor of English at Stanford Univ., CA), MOrris Levine (another UFT volunteer from Brooklyn, NY), Ed Weber (librarian at the Univ. Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI who is, sadly, deceased), Ann Cummings (graduate student from CA) and JOhn Stone (graduate student from Charleston W.VA). Janice & I attended the August 16th memorial service for Jim Chaney, Andy Goodman, & Mickey Schwerner in Philadelphia, MS. We also met with James Silver (author of Mississippi the Closed Society) on August 23rd at his home on the campus of the Univ. of MS in Oxford, along with MOrris Levine and Ursula Junk (a worker from Germany who stayed on after the summer of '64. I recently learned that Ursula is deceased). Other people I remember: Stu House (Detroit), Jimmy Travis (CAN), Alvin Packer (Hattiesburg, MS) Luis Perez (NYC), Clarence McDougal (MS)

March 1965: Went down to Selma, Ala on March 9th to do whatever needed to be done. Took part in demonstrations & the first lap of the Selma to Montgomery March along with Al Gordon, a NYC teacher & Freedom Rider (1961). We stayed with Mrs. Howard & her children, Thelma & Bubba on Eugene Street. During a spontaneous demonstration at (Mayor) Joe Smitherman's home, Al & I were arrested & confined to a community center overnight before being released in the morning.

July 1965 & July 1966: Returned both summers to help in whatever way I could: voter registration, recruitment, office work, etc. (My 1965 stay was eclipsed by an unexpected political situation in NYC which I felt I couldn't deal with from MS). In 1966, I was en-route to California via Selma, where I spent time with Mrs. Howard & her friends, & then for a brief visit to MS where I remember transporting something from the Jackson COFO office to Ira Grupper (SNCC worker from NYC), who was director of the Columbia, MS. project. Met with Ira, Ann Siratof (teacher from NYC) and many local people.

April 1968: Al Gordon & I flew to Memphis, TN to participate in the sanitation workers demonstration that took place shortly after MLK was assassinated.

Other work related to the Movement: NYC Committee in Support of the Mississippi Freedom Labor Movement/Sunflower County; various & sundry fund-raising events, speaking events (most memorably at Lafayette College in Easton, PA), etc.

As you can see, my involvement was as a volunteer, a foot-soldier and a young person who knew impossibly little about a lot of things but had some pretty good instincts about others.

My experience in the Movement changed my life in terms of many things, most especially in how I perceived our society and in understanding alternative ways to deal with resolving (or simply effecting) its myriad of problems.


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