Betty Garman
(Betty Robinson)
(1939-2020), In Memory)

SNCC, 1964-66, Georgia, Mississippi

Interview, 1966
Betty Garman (Robinson) (SNCC Digital Gatewar)

In 1960 as a college senior I helped organize a demonstration against a Woolworth store in my college town of Saratoga Springs, NY. Ultimately, after some intervening years in which I raised funds for organizing in the South and hosted the Freedom Singers in Berkeley where I was a grad student, this led to me joining the SNCC staff in March of 1964. Jim Forman recruited me to come to Atlanta where I worked with Dinky Romilly to build support and raise money from northern students and community groups to fund SNCC's work in the South. During the summer of 1964 (Mississippi Summer) I worked in the SNCC national office in Greenwood and then returned to Atlanta in fall '64 where I remained until fall 1965. Then I traveled doing federal programs and worked in the Washington SNCC office. For the most part I worked behind the lines to support the front line assault on the segregated South.

It was indeed a privilege for me to work with wonderful savvy, smart and dedicated peers from the South and around the country and to survive the eye of the social movement storm of the 60's. This experience was the major influence on my life and informed the later choices I made about work, career and family. Every young person should have a social movement in their lifetime an incredibly and indelibly formative experience which allows you to think and see outside the box and to understand the way our country works and then to rise to the challenge of eliminating racism and fulfilling the promise of democracy for ALL America's children and people.

After SNCC and after organizing for an end to the Vietnam War, I moved to Baltimore in 1972 to work in a factory and subsequently worked for eighteen years in public health research.

Coming back to organizing in 1998, I was the Lead Organizer for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA) which was organizing neighborhoods to take action on quality of life issues. As an Open Society Institute Community Fellowship recipient in 2003, my project was to teach and popularize the history of social justice organizing in Baltimore for a new generation of organizers. I am the co-editor of Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts of Women in SNCC, published in 2010, a member of the SNCC Legacy Project Board and SNCCs 60th Convening Planning Committee.

Currently I still work as a community organizer in Baltimore, Maryland, by actively supporting the young people in groups like Organizing Black, the Baltimore Algebra Project, CASA de Maryland among others. I am the initiator and an active member of SURJ, Baltimore (Showing Up for Racial Justice is a national organization calling white people in to the struggle for racial justice and equity). In the 1960s, SNCC told us to go into the white community because this is where the power lay. Sixty years later it is clearly a necessary focus for white organizers to be doing this and undermining white supremacy.

I am available to give presentations about SNCC and my experiences, speak to classes or with students doing research papers.


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