While I was in high school in Boston, from 1963-65, I worked in the Cambridge Friends of SNCC office. After graduating, I spent the summer of '65 in Pine Bluff with the Arkansas Summer Project.
Afterwards, my organizing continued in the civil rights, student, anti-war, Black Power and labor movements for over twenty-five years. I've also lived, worked and organized in New Haven CT, Beloit WI, Baltimore MD and Atlanta GA.
Based on my experience as a Boston Panther and as Lt. of Information in the Black Panther Party's New Haven chapter, I periodically speak about "Political Lessons from the Black Panthers." In New Haven, I launched a weekly local Panther newspaper called The People's News Service which was copied by BPP chapters across the country.
I earned a Masters in Political Science from Goddard College , and graduated from Boston College  with a doctorate in Sociology. My fields of specialization focus on race relations, historical sociology, and social movements. I currently teach Sociology at Essex County College.
Below are some of the stories that I tell when speaking about my SNCC experiences:
How I joined SNCC: When I was a sophomore in high school, my parents gave a fundraiser for SNCC with Dick Gregory the featured speaker. A few days later, I decided to take the leftover posters back to the SNCC office — and kept on going back.
The Radicalization Process: Before joining the Arkansas Summer Project in Pine Bluff, I attended the SNCC orientation program for summer workers in June 1965 in Wash. DC. The organizers planned an excellent radicalization experience for us. During the orientation program, we held a 24 hour vigil in front of the Justice Dept. beginning on the eve of the first anniversary of the disappearance of Chaney, Goodman and Schwerner. We then went directly into a pre-arranged meeting with John Doar, Ass't. Atty. General for Civil Rights. We had been prepped to ask some pointed questions. As we started, US Atty. General Nicholas Katzenbach walked in so we put the questions to him. The one question I remember was "Why won't you authorize FBI agents to make on the spot arrests in the presence of the commission of a felony as is authorized by the US Criminal Code?" Katzenbach's reply was that it was Justice Dept. policy in civil rights cases to take notes and submit them to a local jury. This experience helped me to begin a serious re-evaluation of my political and philosophical perspectives on non-violence, pacifism and political power.
The Creamland Cafe: In Pine Bluff AK, about mid-July in 1965, at the end of a good week of voter registration, four SNCC workers, all male, 2 Black and 2 White, went out to celebrate. We ended up at the Creamland Cafe. When we entered and sat down, the White female proprietor, bristling at waiting on our integrated group, said, "We got to serve the colored, but we don't have to serve the White" referring to a recently passed Arkansas civil rights law. We decided to sit there and wait for all of us to be served. Another worker across the table from me then observed, "Watch out, she's got a shot gun." But while she threatened us with the shotgun, we still stayed seated. Eventually the police arrived and arrested the White workers, who were taken to jail, charged with disorderly conduct & resisting arrest, and beaten. This incident became part of our campaign against police brutality in Pine Bluff.
Copyright © Charles Pinderhughes, 2012