Maria Gitin
(Joyce Brians)

Alabama, SNCC, SCLC, SCOPE, 1965
P.O. Box 216
Capitola, CA 95010
Phone: 831.708.2560
Web Sites:
     This Bright Light of Ours and Thislittlelight1965's Blog

Letter From Movement Boot Camp
Letter From Wilcox County, Alabama
Happy 4th of July 1965
Story From Wilcox County,
Sim Pettway, Student Civil Rights Leader, 1965
Food for Thought
Reaction to Supreme Court Overturning Voting Rights Act
Wilcox Co. Churches: Santuaries & Action Centers in the CRM
A Long Hot Summer Ahead?
Presentation to Alabama Dept. Archives & History, June, 2016. [Video ]

In 1965, as a 19 year-old freshman at San Francisco State College, shortly after viewing footage of the attack on peaceful marchers in Selma, an event known as "Bloody Sunday," I walked over to the SNCC office on campus where they told me about the Summer Community Organizing and Political Education project (SCOPE), a project of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, (SCLC). I signed up immediately. We had three intensive briefing sessions in Berkeley, including with Rev. Cecil Williams, who had just returned from Selma. After three days and nights on the road with some guys from Berkeley, I joined 400+ other college students to attend 5.5 day, 14-hr a day, Orientation in Atlanta, where I met and learned from Hosea L. Williams who directed the project, Dorothy Cotton, Septima Clark, Jimmy Webb from Selma, James Orange and dozens of other civil rights leaders, including Young, Abernathy, and King.

I spent the rest of the summer canvassing for voters with local youth in Wilcox County, Alabama, where the Ku Klux Klan was active and the sheriff vitriolic. Life-changing experiences included speaking at mass meetings, being jailed, and learning the role of whites in the Black freedom fight. (Oh, and falling in love with a white Jewish co-worker from California — go figure!) Our SCOPE group was adopted or co-opted by Selma SNCC with Charles "Chuck" Bonner at the helm. We had some wild adventures and even managed to register 500 new voters before the 1965 Voting Rights Act passed. Our official SCOPE leaders were Daniel Harrell and Major Johns.

Although it was a short intense summer, I never forgot the courageous local residents who risked their lives to let us work side by side with them. A few years ago I determined to rediscover my old Wilcox County friends and to learn more from these grassroots freedom fighters that formed the backbone of the civil rights movement. After six years of nearly constant work on the project, I have just completed a book based on my original letters, conversations with co-workers, return visits to Alabama, and more than 40 interviews with Wilcox County activists and their families. The folks there still amaze and impress me. If I have been able to live up to even half of their example, I will consider my life a success. My book, This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Wilcox County Freedom Fight, will be published by University of Alabama Press in 2014.

All who worked on voting rights in Wilcox County, AL are welcome to leave stories and comments at my blog:

Copyright ©
(Labor donated)