Sharlene Kranz

SNCC 1963-1965
Current Residence: Washington, DC

Tesitmony: I started as a volunteer in the Fall of 1963 in the D.C. NAG office as a high school student. The most charismatic speak I EVER saw was Stokely Carmichael, still a college student at Howard, speaking at the D.C. church that fall. Washington, D.C. hosted a national SNCC meeting the week after JFK was assassinated; that was my first SNCC conference. I also remember collecting mountains of used clothing to be shippped to Mississippi. I also remember canvassing door-to-door with Jean Wiley, who taught me how to do it. Mike Thelwell ran the DC office.

In the spring I went to a SNCC conference at Gammon Theo. Seminary in Atlanta. Seven people drove from DC to Atlanta in Larry Rubin's Jeep for the conference. Our luggage, which was tied on to the roof of the Jeep, disappeared somewhere along the trip and we all got to Atlanta with only the clothes we were wearing. Betty Garman took us to a dept. store and we all bought some clothes and toothbrushes, etc.

That summer (1964) I worked in the DC office of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, and then at the Gem Hotel in Atlantic City. I believe I earned $10 per week. I remember typing briefs for Eleanor Holmes, and reports from Mississippi organizers that came in over the phone, and many, many press releases. The office was on U Street, above Ben's Chile Bowl, and near the Bohemian Caverns nightclub. At the Gem Hotel I 'manned' the short-wave radio (this was in the days before cell phones) trying to keep in touch with the cars and drivers and delegates all over Atlantic City. I saw Mrs. Hamer give her testimony at the Democratic National Convention--pretty exciting stuff for a high school student. That fall, I started college at New York University and volunteered in the NY SNCC office, as well as heading the NYU Friends of SNCC. We did mostly fundraising, putting on benefit concerts, and hosting visiting civil rights workers.

Over winter break we took a group of NY volunteers to Cambridge, MD to help set up a community center there. John Battiste was the organizer in Cambridge at that time. That spring was the time of the Selma march, and the NY Friends of SNCC participated in sympathy demonstrations at the Federal Building in Manhattan and at the White House.

That summer I worked on a project at Tuskegee, Alabama, and in the fall of 1965 came back to Washington and worked at the D.C. SNCC Office, for Marion Barry. John Lewis signed my paychecks, a fact I treasure to this day. (I think I was still making $10 a week!) Finally in Jan. 1996, needing to support myself, I got a job with the local poverty program. I've been in Washington, DC ever since. I've for several non profit groups over the years, and for two Members of Congress, and in the retail book business. I married a wonderful man and we had a wonderful son, who is now a junior in college. After 27 years together my husband died in 1997, and in the process of making a new life as a single person, I am now in my second year of law school. I plan to do some kind of public interest law, exactly what kind remains to be figured out.

Not many teenagers get the kind of opportunity I had to be involved in an exciting and meaningful social movement; next to my husband and son it was the defining event of my life.

Copyright ©
(Labor donated)