Parrish Kelley

SNCC, 1964

I spent two months in Ruleville, at the age of 18, as a teacher in the Freedom School. In 1989 a reporter from the Clarion-Ledger called me, having gotten my name off a list taken from the Sovereignty Commission files and released that year under a Freedom of Information lawsuit. I told him that I had only had a "worm's eye view" of the movement that summer. What I didn't say was that there was an amazing collection of talent and energy there. There were the remarkable people like Mrs. Hamer, Stokely Carmichael, Bob Moses, and many others.

But there were others who had the same fire and acuity and focus, and you never hear of them now, and yet they were as remarkable and as inspired as those you do hear about. Did these people become saints and heroes because of the times and circumstances, or were the times grand and historic because of the genius that assembled there? I think after all these years I know the answer, but I also know that it doesn't matter. All that matters is that we were there, and we saw it, and we acted. The veil of the temple was rent, and we led the way through it into a new world, and even if that new world looked disappointingly similar to the old one there were at least a few things that would never ever be the same again.

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