Joseph A. Harris, PhD

SNCC, Mississippi, 1964
267 Griggs Avenue
Teaneck, NJ 07666
Phone: 201 280-8580

I became active in civil rights demonstrations for fair hiring practices in 1963 in Berkeley/San Francisco, during my sophomore year at the University of California, Berkeley. I volunteered as a SNCC worker in Mississippi for the 1964 Summer Project. After driving a donated jeep loaded with supplies across the country, I was trained in Memphis and then sent to Jackson to do door-to-door organizing.

I worked in Jackson doing freedom registration in the 23, 24, and 25 precincts.

Every day, I would leave the Freedom House where I slept and be met outside the door by my group of teenage bodyguards/companions. They would accompany me as I made door-to-door pitches to residents to Freedom (voter) Register and also to join/build the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP). Although I was arrested once while driving a car with Black passengers, I did not experience any violence.

At the end of the summer, I participated in the MFDP demonstrations outside the 1964 Democratic Party Convention in Atlantic City, NJ. A highlight of my summer was meeting and working with Mrs. Hazel T. Palmer, a resident who later became a leader in the MFDP.

My experiences in Mississippi helped shape my life and views about the importance of grass-roots and multi-racial organizing. Upon returning to the University of California, Berkeley, I joined the Free Speech Movement and continued my civil rights activities. In the following 55 years, my activities have included volunteer and full-time community organizing, political action and research work for unions, organizing international conferences, people-to- people international tourism and solidarity delegations, and managing local election campaigns.

In 1990, I became Director and Professor of Labor Relations at the State University of New York, College at Old Westbury. In that capacity, I also gave guest lectures at universities in China (Beijing and Guangzhou). I retired from teaching in 2010 and became a full-time labor arbitrator. I have not yet retired (2020).

I have been a civil rights, peace, and community activist all my adult life. I am now an active member of the Bergen County MLK Birthday Committee and of Teaneck United. Occasionally, I speak about the Mississippi Summer Project (schools and churches/synagogues) and show my treasure trove of original documents.

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