Joanne Gavin
(1932-2021 In Memory)

SNCC, COFO/MFDP 1963-71, Mississippi, Washington DC

Answers to Jon Hale's Freedom School Questionnaire, 2008
The Moon in Alabama is Big and Yellow, 2010
Articles by Joanne Gavin (Workers World)

Jackson COFO office, Jackson Project office, MFDP state ofc in Holly Springs, Project Headstart in the Tougaloo community, and informally with whatever was happening in the Jackson/Tougaloo community.

After working for a year or so with CORE in San Francisco, I went on the chartered bus from there to the '63 March on Washington, and sold my return ticket and lived in the community there and worked in the SNCC office for the next year.

My fate was sealed one day in when I happened to be present at a reunion of two great minds (Hamer & Carmichael). The energy field their meeting created burned me fatally and I knew it had its source in what they had shared in Mississippi. I wanted me some of that, but felt people were needed in D.C. and stayed there until July '64

In MS. I worked briefly at the Jackson COFO office and then was assigned to coordinate a Freedom School for the Tougaloo community.

At Summer's end it was back to Jackson, the COFO office (lotsa WATS line hours) and the Jackson Project office.

Then to the Holly Springs MFDP office to file-sit and work a bit with the local project.

Called to Jackson to support the Jackson Demonstrations (staffing phones at the MFDP office while everyone was in jail). Invited by the Tougaloo community people to teach in Headstart.

Offered job as secretary to the Division of Natural Sciences at Tougaloo College and may have been there yet had not Nixon cut funding to education. (Was asked to be "faculty advisor" to SNCC affiliate at Tougaloo, though I was not "faculty", mainly because they had to have someone on paper and knew I would stay out of their business!)

Went back to my old work of offset press opr., typesetter and proof reader, at small shops in Jackson, and at the "Clairon-Liar/Jackson Daily No News" , and also worked various dreadful telephone annoyer jobs. Moved to Houston 10/71 with employer that had merged w/Houston- based co.

Had a radio show for a couple of years (volunteer) on the local Pacifica station in the early '70's (international folk music). Met Workers World Party around '73-4, joined and have been member since. Got heavily involved with the struggle to end the death penalty (ended up in the belly of the beast once again!) and spent a lot of my time on that.

Like most southern activists, could not afford the luxury of specialization, so also got involved in a variety of movements and causes, mostly getting called for picket lines, and events. The SNCC orgaizer in me tried to get into the background as much as possible and turn things over to younger and local people.

Kept in touch with Kwame Ture and, along with SNCC brother and long time ally the late Ester King, helped to organize a memorial program for Kwame in Houston. (Brother Ester worked in Itta Bena in '64 and with student movements at Texas Southern U. and for many years in diverse causes in Houston.)

I "retired" on social security and part-time jobs 17 years ago at 62. All those years of not working for pay, and the minimal pay when I did work, did not add up to enough SS to live on, even in the South. So, when part- time work dried up I was, in March, 2007, forced by sheer economic necessity to give up activism in Houston and take my sister up on her request that I come to California to help care for my then 94+-year-old mother. We first lived in the remote sub-Mojave town of Norco, but in July 2008 my sister bought a "manufactured home" for Mom & me in a "seniors' park" near her home and business in Huntington Beach. My mother died in March, 2010 and I began to dream of returning to Houston. Things came together to make that possible in late 2011, and at the end of that October I did indeed return to activism and like-minded associates. Finances are extremely tight, so: what else is new?

Mississippi marked me for life, and that was the best thing that could have happened to me.

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