My role in the movement was pretty much focused on publicizing what we were up to since I had vast skills as a photographer and half-vast skills as a writer. That started in Wisconsin when I was a student and, about 1959, we started picket lines, visitations, fund raising and such to support the kids in the south who were sitting in at lunch counters. Our student NAACP got blacklisted by the Madison and national NAACP because we associated with leftists, but the student government types joined in and pretty soon were doing most of the work and leadership, so I headed to where the real action was.
Day after my last class, I headed to New York City with wife and baby and soon hooked up briefly with a friendly NAACP chapter (Welfare Dept.) and more importantly, with Brooklyn CORE. There I started a monthly newsletter for members and the community, and barraged local media about actions and neighborhood needs involving services, schools, housing.... We also helped to launch the political career of Major Owens with Brooklyn Freedom Democrats, but he survived it and only recently retired from Congress from Brooklyn.
After I bit the poisonous apple of the middleclass, I started to spend significant time earning a living. I often mixed that with the movement when I discovered that editors would pay me to write about and photograph some of the same stuff I had been doing for free to publicize the movement. I traveled a lot through the hotspots in the south, especially MS where I eventually became good friends with Fannie Lou Hamer and always stayed in Ruleville with her brother. (I've been in Israel during the Intifada and felt perfectly comfortable there, but I don't recall ever feeling comfortable in MS.)
The other spot that is still etched into my psyche is Bogalusa, LA. I worked like hell to get Look magazine to run a piece on the Deacons for Defense and Justice (who carried guns to protect the nonviolent protesters against the violent classes), but never found the right stuff so that information with photos ran in a lot of smaller places like Newsday, Sepia, Ave Maria .... In the 1980s I visited Royan Burris in Bogalusa, and his new house had bars on all windows and loaded guns leaning against all 4 corners of the house! So much for change!
I'm back in Wisconsin now, turned 70 this year (and still haven't mumbled that dreaded "r" word), but you know what? The instincts that got me (and probably all of us) neck deep in the movement don't retire either. Since my wife and I busted our chops turning out a boring newsletter long enough that we don't have to worry about working for a living, I've spent a couple years locating and digitizing photos from the past 50 years. Some were stolen during two break-ins, but some of them are at our web site:
I joined the Obama campaign big time, the first hard core politics for me since Major Owens' campaign. Our team of a dozen volunteers organized about 400 other volunteers to phone bank, canvass, fund raise and get out the vote in a major piece of Madison's west side. There was no doubt that Madison would vote for our man, we just needed to squeeze every vote to balance McCain votes elsewhere in the state. I also sat at a keyboard way too long defusing blogs and letters to editors around the count that showed "the wrong points of view." Wrote some well placed letters to editors too. Our team and teams like us throughout Wisconsin are staying in place to keep our guy honest and to work for local progressive politicians.