I come from a very conservative religious background and having been raised in a community in western Pennsylvania (Conneaut Lake, PA) which was not too different from the southern states in terms of its lack of tolerance for nonwhite individuals, a person could reasonably suspect that I would also share those values.
But the Christian Gospel demanded that I respect all people with love. And it was the admonition that became a driving force in my life regardless of the cultural stew in which I was raised.
Attending a college away from home, particularly one with a religious orientation — West Virginia Wesleyan College — was truly the seminal point in my development as far as being exposed to a world beyond my insular upbringing. However, that phenomenon is hardly unique and quite typical from my perspective of someone leaving the nest of childhood.
Because I was planning to attend seminary after graduating from college, I was exposed to a number of religious affiliations including the National Council of Churches who sponsored an April 1962 conference in Harlem, NYC that I attended. There I met some Freedom Riders who were responsible for integrating buses in the deep South, and I also met Malcolm X. This was the beginning of my sensitization and radicalization with respect to the race issue and the Civil Rights Movement.
In 1963 I attended a demonstration against the Methodist Church (I was a Methodist) protesting the lack of integration in Methodist Churches. It was here that I met a member of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and learned about their 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project. I subsequently applied and was accepted.
In July 1964 I travelled to Mississippi and for several weeks participated in SNCC s project of voter registration and political education. This was the summer that my fellow civil rights workers, Schwerner, Goodman, and Cheney were abducted by the White Citizens Council and murdered. The picture of myself on this book cover was taken by a York, PA newspaper shortly after I had returned from Mississippi.
In March 1965 I drove with two college classmates and my history professor, Robert L. Hunt, to Selma, Alabama to participate in that historic Selma-Montgomery march.
The following summer I joined Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project and was assigned to work in Lunenburg County Virginia with four other volunteers.
In January 1966 I returned to VA to work full time as a staff member for the Virginia Students Civil Rights Committee (VSCRC) until June 1966 at which point my civil rights career came to a timely end and I returned to my life in New England. The details of my civil rights career have been recounted in my book The Lake Effect that I coauthored with my brother Terry.
My second book Selma And Its Aftermath attempts to offer a different outlook and approach describing a personalized perspective of historic events through the lens of a camera. But a series of photographs of historic events are essentially meaningless unless set in the proper context of history. This book attempts to convey a sense of ground-up history by portraying through photography the actual people who were literally the boots on the ground activists. These individuals not only changed history, but through their courage and actions changed their own personal histories by registering to vote and then exercising that right. My current lifestyle includes managing my real estate rental properties and taking care of my family. On February 23, 2015 I was blessed with the birth of my second son, Emmett William Michael Monnie, and he has certainly contributed to my busy lifestyle on my little farms in the woods of NH located outside of Manchester.