Karen Jo Koonan

SNCC, Mississippi & California, 1964-68

I went to Indianola, Mississippi at the age of 19 in September, 1964. I stayed until April, 1965 teaching in the Freedom School,registering voters, organizing demonstrations, and helping to get people out of jail.

It was in Mississippi that I learned that the problems in this country were (and are) much more serious and more institutional than just a few ignorant racists. It was the first time I experienced political violence and government indifference at best and complicity at worst. I also experienced the strength and inspiration of an organized and determined community willing to risk so much to make fundamental change. This example has stayed with me all these years, inspiring me to remain active in the movement for justice ever since.

I remained connected with SNCC for years after I left Mississippi, working on "The Movement" newspaper which started as a friends of SNCC newsletter in SF in 1965. I worked with "The Movement" until 1969.

I was fortunate enough to be able to bring my two adult daughters to a reunion in Indianola about 5 years ago and they got to experience the inspiration first hand after hearing about it their entire lives. I think it is essential to keep the history alive so the next generations can be moved and learn from this powerful and unique period in American history.

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