John Reynolds

SCLC, 1965-71 Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, South Carolina
773 Spinnaker Beachhouse
Seabrook Island, SC 29455

I was a staff member with SCLC from 1965 to 1971. I began working in my hometown of Troy, Alabama, with the SCOPE project after Leon Gutherz and Frechettia Ford came to Troy to set up a voter registration campaign. The SCOPE project was under the overall direction of Hosea Williams. Once I learned that they were in town, I began working with them. I was so active that the "powers-that-be" in my hometown assumed I was "an outside agitator" even though my first Civil Rights arrest occurred in my home county — Pike County.

After the SCOPE project that summer, I went to SCLC's Citizen Education School in South Carolina, which was directed by Dorothy Cotton and Septima Clark. It was Mrs. Clark who recommended me to become a part of the SCLC national staff. I went to Atlanta with her and Dorothy Cotton, and was hired by Dr. King. I soon moved into the SCOPE house on Auburn Avenue, Dr. King's boyhood home. Over the next few months I worked out of the SCLC national office until my first field assignment, which was to return to my hometown and continue voter registration for a few months. My next assignment was in Selma and Dallas County, Alabama, and then I worked all over the Black Belt of Alabama in Perry County, Hale County, and Greene County. In most of these counties I was doing voter registration or organizing direct action, such as demonstrations and boycotts.

One of the major projects that I worked on was in Birmingham in 1966 where thousands were arrested around the issue of jobs and voter registration. I was in Chicago with Dr. King in 1966 when he moved into the south side of Chicago as part of the open housing campaign. I was also in Louisville with Dr. King as we attempted to disrupt the Kentucky Derby; the issue there was open housing. In 1968 I was assigned to coordinate the Poor People's Campaign in New England. I was with Ralph Abernathy as the Committee of One Hundred arrived in Washington, D.C.; this group was part of the National Poor People's Strategy Committee. Once the Poor People's Campaign began in earnest, I served as the Sanitation Director for Resurrection City.

Also in 1968 I was in Chicago with Dr. Abernathy during the Democratic Convention where we continued to raise the issue of the plight of the poor. Other major projects that I was involved in after the Poor People's Campaign included the hospital workers' strike in Charleston, South Carolina, and directing an effort in Ridgeville, S.C. to get Native American children accepted into the public school system. After those projects, my last assignment was in Providence, Rhode Island, where I stayed after leaving SCLC.

During the next few years, I worked in the Chaplain's Office at Brown University, and then in social service agencies. I received an M.Div. degree from Andover Newton Theological School and served as Pastor of Bethany Baptist Church in Pawtucket, RI. My wife and I moved to South Carolina in 2010, where I began to write about my experiences. My book, The Fight for Freedom; A Memoir of My Years in the Civil Rights Movement, was published in 2012.


(Labor donated)