Andrew Maguire
(G. Andrew Maguire, Gene A. Maguire)

SNCC, 1960, North Carolina
Current Residence: San Francisco, CA
Cell: 201-848-2585

I was inspired by the sit-in movement that began in February, 1960. Then having arranged with the Oberlin Review student newspaper to write about the forthcoming meeting and my experiences, I traveled to Raleigh, NC in early April where I attended/participated in the formation meeting of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) as, in effect, an informal Oberlin College student representative.

The meeting took place at Shaw University, where we were housed in dorm rooms. Apart from the discussions and planning for coordination of the sit-in movement — by then spreading rapidly — on Saturday we picketed a Woolworths store downtown. There was a revolving picket line, which drew a large crowd, and I was attacked by an angry young white man who was observing and hurling epithets, especially at me, as I was the only white person marching in the line. This attack was reported on national radio news.

On Sunday morning four of us — including Charles F. McDew of Orangeburg, SC, who the following year became chairman of SNCC and led nonviolent organizing, demonstrations, voter registration, and established alternative schools for African American students to facilitate student activism and participatory democracy throughout the South — went to a downtown Baptist Church in an attempt to attend services. We were met on the steps by elders of the church who turned us away, denying us admittance to the services. We four then went to an African-American church where we were welcomed.

The SNCC discussions themselves focused on widening the circles of nonviolent protest, making sure everything was as well coordinated as possible with nonviolent strategies preserved at all times, and working everywhere and in every possible nonviolent way toward eliminating segregation.

Attendees included organizer Ella Baker of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC), McDew, John Lewis, Stokely Carmichael, Julian Bond, Marion Barry, James Lawson, James Forman and other young leaders who rose to prominence during the protests that were taking place across the south; representatives from the Congress of Racial Equality, Fellowship of Reconciliation, National Student Association, and Students for a Democratic Society were among those who attended. Martin Luther King, Jr. addressed the meeting. Folk singer Guy Carawan led the group of attendees in singing We Shall Overcome.

Over the next several weeks I wrote articles for the Oberlin Review, published in April-June 1960, describing and reflecting on my experiences at the meeting and traveling in the south where "whites only" and "colored" signs and the racists and segregationist attitudes and structures they represented — were everywhere prevalent.

I was raised in southwest Los Angeles where in the 1950's it was a transitional community of mixed races in which crosses could be, and were, burned on residents' lawns. My father, a Presbyterian minister from a church in Cincinnati, Ohio, had come to California to head the college student division of the YMCA in the western states. He was committed to a liberal, activist version of Christianity that emphasized social and economic justice and his heroes included Howard Thurman and James Farmer, among other leaders I met and was inspired by as a young man growing up.

Nothing seemed more insanely unjust and destructive, or more important to eliminate, than racism. In graduate school, expanding my interest in racism to include colonialism and the struggles of newly independent states that came into existence in the 1950's and 60's, I specialized in the history of Africa, learned Swahili and did Ph.D. research in East Africa, then wrote a book Uhuru in Tanzania: The Politics of Participation published by Cambridge University Press.

In my first job at the U.S. Mission to the United Nations I worked with my superior in the State Department, Donald F. McHenry (later U.S. Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the UN) to assure that our government strictly interpreted and applied the then minimal international sanctions on South Africa. In the 1960's and early 1970's I allied myself with the American Committee on Africa and the Interfaith Center on Corporate Responsibility and spoke on college campuses in favor of divestment.

After the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy 1968, I left the State Department to work for New York City Mayor John Lindsay in leading a community planning, organizing, and development program in the Jamaica Center downtown and the surrounding mainly African-American economically depressed Queens County neighborhoods.

After election to the U.S. Congress from my home county in New Jersey, I worked in the 1970's to preserve sanctions against the Ian Smith and Abel Muzorewa regimes in Southern Rhodesia until there was a legitimate one-man one-vote government led by Robert Mugabe and Joshua Nkomo of the Patriotic Front. I sponsored a meeting in the Capitol with Mugabe and Nkomo when they visited the U.S. prior to Zimbabwe's independence.

On a trip to South Africa I represented the U.S. Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and presented the Stevie Wonder Humanitarian Award to Black Consciousness leader Steve Biko's sister after Biko was killed by the South African police.

In Congress, I organized a bipartisan Congressional Ad Hoc Monitoring Group on South Africa to chart the plight of political prisoners and bring pressure on the apartheid government there. Our group spoke at length during House proceedings and entered information about political prisoners in South Africa into the Congressional Record. We demonstrated in front of South Africa's Embassy in Washington, D.C., met with South Africa's Ambassador to the U.S., and received a ministerial level South African government delegation visiting the U.S. that requested to meet with us. When we made our views on apartheid clear, the delegation walked out of the meeting.

I authored the first restrictive U.S. legislation against South Africa forbidding the U.S. Government's development finance institution, the Export-Import Bank, from financing the provision of equipment or materials by U.S. companies to the defense and other ministries of the South African government that could be used to assist repression.

In South Africa in 1978 after a conference I attended on the future of South Africa (sponsored by the World Peace Foundation in Boston and the South African Institute of International Affairs in Johannesburg), I met with Nelson Mandela's wife Winnie Mandela, who was under house arrest, with Dr. Nthato Motlana and other African National Congress leaders in Soweto and elsewhere, with the Black Writers' Union, and, accompanied by former U.S. Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, with the South African government's Minister of Justice.

I travelled in South Africa with Shun Chetty, a lawyer for political prisoners, but we were denied permission to enter a prison to visit a well-known political detainee.

At a press conference at the airport before leaving the country, I described the regime as founded on racism and maintained by terror — front page news the following day in both Black and white national English language press.

In Congress I was proud to be considered by some an honorary member of the Black Caucus. Caucus chair Parren Mitchell of Maryland spoke in New Jersey in support of my re-election to Congress. And I was proud that another important Congressional colleague from that time, Andrew Young, a close associate of Martin Luther King, Jr. and a former mayor of Atlanta and Permanent Representative of the U.S. to the UN, came to New Jersey to campaign for me when I ran for the U.S. Senate in 1982.

In 2024, Ahead of the Curve: Andy Maguire in Congress and Beyond, by historian Michael Takiff, was published and is available on Amazon.


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