Vincent K. Pollard
(1944 — 2010)

SCOPE, Georgia, 1965

At age 19, I passed out leaflets to encourage attendance at a Civil Rights rally at Chicago's Soldier Field. On a hot Sunday afternoon in June 1964, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke there to 100,000 people. Later that year, I reviewed King's latest book - Why We Can't Wait - for the literary magazine at Maryknoll Seminary (later, Maryknoll College).

Transformatively, however, those experiences were minor steps compared to my involvement in the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's "Summer Community Organization and Political Education" (SCOPE) Project during June-July 1965. Only four months earlier, Malcolm X (1925-1965) had been assassinated in Harlem. The SCOPE Project began during a narrow window of time between the 1965 voting rights demonstrations at Selma, Alabama and the effective date of the Voting Rights Act (6 August 1965). And in some parts of the South, the SCOPE Project continued at least until the end of 1965.

Benefiting from experiences of the Council of Federated Organizations in Mississippi in 1964, SCOPE guidance insisted that while outside volunteers (like me, mostly Caucasians) could be helpful on a short- term basis, but that we would have to work under - and respect - local African American Civil Rights organizations' leadership. After all, those groups were the ones bearing the brunt of the year-round pressures, demands and dangers in their communities. And a year or two later, those kinds of opportunities would be dwindling fast!

Coming from a small, mostly Caucasian Roman Catholic undergraduate seminary, I would have been ordained a missionary priest in 1971 if I had stayed on that career track. But that did not happen.

Instead, I found my political, cultural and religious assumptions challenged and stimulated from others in the SCOPE Project. For example, I quickly realized that linking my commitment to the Civil Rights Movement inescapably led to opposing the Second Indochina War (the U.S. War in Vietnam). A further link between the denial of constitutional rights and the Vietnam War was the poverty that I witnessed in my short time in Chatham County, Georgia: It was more severe than anything I had seen on Chicago's West Side.

In Chatham County (urban and rural Savannah), I appreciated the hospitality of Mrs. Lucille Brown in whose home I slept at night. And I was pleased to help out with running the mimeograph machine, delivering handbills, and ghostwriting a front-page article on SCOPE for The Herald - an African American newspaper. Even a privilege as seemingly mundane as an out-of-state driver's license meant that I picked up and drove a number of people to be registered to vote.

My actual contributions were not dramatic. But the opportunity for reflecting on my experiences accelerated my understanding of how racism, war and capitalism reinforce one another. In retrospect, I also appreciate the willingness of activists to discuss and debate deep differences with a considerable degree of mutual respect.

During the following summer (1966), I participated in almost every demonstration organized by the Chicago Freedom Movement's failed open-housing desegregation campaign. And in 1967, I worked six months as a full-time intern on staff for the Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago -- a member organization of the Coordinating Council of Community Organizations with which Dr. King collaborated on specific issues of mutual concern.

Subsequently, the pace of politicization in movements against the Vietnam War, the military draft, and many related social issues continued and deepened with intermittent intensification. As a political activist and simultaneously a member of United Auto Workers Local 551 at Ford's Chicago Assembly Plant (1973-1988), I helped organize and eventually chaired of the successful Jearl Wood Defense Committee (1980-1982). That landmark case entailed civil rights issues, adverse conditions experienced by industrial workers, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder among Vietnam combat veterans, and imperialism.

The SCOPE Project educated me for successful political activism, including future collaborations with African American leadership. And to the best of my ability and understanding, I remain politically involved today.

I would not have written the paragraphs above without having first having been interviewed in early 2007 by my former Honors 495 student Rachel Jing Han Choy for a life-writing psychology assignment that she had undertaken ("Dr. Vincent K. Pollard: A Life History," University of Hawai'i at Manoa). But more immediately, on 8 February 2010, Jo Freeman (SCLC-SCOPE Project, 1965) directed me to the "Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement" history project.

In reverse chronological order below, the following incomplete bibliography includes articles that I wrote during or about my Civil Rights Movement experiences-or during or about activities mentioned above that were directly influenced by those experiences. It also includes directly related resources:

Ashley Chapman, interview of Vincent K. Pollard for her article on Black History Month -- scheduled for publication in Kapi'o [Kapi'olani Community College], 23 February 2010,

"Martin Luther King's Foreign Policy," blog, Faculty Row, 4 February 2010, .

Robert Biggert, audiotaped interview of Vincent K. Pollard, for follow-up study of SCOPE Project voter registration volunteers, Principal Investigator: Professor Gerald Marwell (Department of Sociology, University of Wisconsin-Madison], in Pollard's residence, Chicago, 6 April 1985; interview transcript not published.

Commissioner's Complaint No. 1964 (12 May 1969), United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois-Eastern Division); dismissed, 23 April 1970.

"Draft Refusal," "Other voices" column, Hyde Park-Kenwood Voices [Chicago, Illinois], vol. 4, no. 4 (May 1969), p. 6.

"At the Induction Center," The Inside Agitator, [Chicago, Illinois], April-May 1969, p. 6.

President of the United States [Richard M. Nixon], "Order to Report for Induction," Selective Service System notification, 11 April 1969.

"Beyond Politics," The Catholic Worker, vol. 33, no. 12 (December 1967), p. 7; abstracted in Peace Research Abstracts Journal, vol. 8, no. 5 (My 1971), Reference Number 68066, p. 85.

"Reason for Weston Tent-In," letter to the editor, Chicago Daily News, 16 July 1967, p. 10.

"The 'Davis Family' - The Tragic Cost of Segregation," Witness [Catholic Interracial Council of Chicago], vol. I (June 1967), pp. 6- 7.

"Rowan vs. King," letter to the editor, Chicago Daily News, 9 May 1967, p. 14.

"Glen Ellyn: Student Social Involvement," Channel: A Newsletter for Maryknollers, vol. 4, no. 3 (Spring 1966), p. 8.

Martin Luther King, Jr., generic ("form") letter, to SCOPE Volunteer, 1 October 1965.

Martin Luther King, Jr., letter to V. Rev. Charles H. Cappell, Maryknoll College, 30 September 1965.

[Pseud.], "Massive Voters Registration Drive Launched by SCLC," The Herald [Savannah, Georgia], vol. 19, no. 5 (July 3, 1965), pp. 1 and 5.

"Negro Vote Drive Starts," Savannah Morning News, [late June 965 or early July 1965].

Review of Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can't Wait (New York: Penguin Books, 1964), in The Glen Echo [Maryknoll College], vol. 16, no. 1 (Autumn 1964), pp. 29-30.

SCLC-SCOPE Project materials, Vivian Harsh Afro-American Collection, Woodson Regional Library, Chicago Public Library, 9525 South Halsted Street, Chicago, IL 60628. Donated by Vincent K. Pollard at some point during 1987-1991.

Jearl Wood Defense Committee {1980-1982}] materials. Vivian Harsh Afro-American Collection, Woodson Regional Library, Chicago Public Library, 9525 South Halsted Street, Chicago, Illinois 60628; donated by Vincent K. Pollard, 12 December 1987.

SCOPE Project materials. Martin Luther King Center for Social Change, 449 Auburn Avenue, Northeast, Atlanta, Georgia 30312; donated by Vincent K. Pollard, 21 February 1983.

Copyright © 2010 Vincent K. Pollard


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