Interview re SNCC, Mississippi, E.W. Steptoe. By Orion Teal (SOHP). 2010
My first contact with SNCC was in my junior year of college in Philadelphia with students and faculty from Morgan State University in Baltimore I began to travel frequently to the Eastern Shore of Maryland where we repeatedly challenged segregated public accommodations and routinely were arrested as a result. Following my graduation in 1963 I returned to Cambridge, MD to work full-time with Reggie Robinson and the remarkable Gloria Richardson to overcome the oppressive social, political and economic conditions.
I intended to pursue my graduate studies at Columbia University when I left Cambridge at the end of the summer. Instead, I became a member of the full-time SNCC staff, first working in the NYC office with Jim Monsonis and Julie Prettyman and then Elizabeth Martinez (Sutherland) providing support for the field staff, organizing high school and college student "Friends of SNCC" groups, recruiting participants for the 1964 Summer Project and organizing demonstrations. I traveled extensively to project sites throughout Mississippi during the summer with Elizabeth. Following the '64 summer I was asked to work in Amite County, Mississippi. Until I left SNCC I lived and worked in Amite with the very wise and very cantankerous E.W. Steptoe and his family. What I learned there about courage and values and hope ... and about the extraordinary things accomplished by ordinary people ... these have guided my life and continue to do so 50 years later.
I went on to become a public interest attorney and served the community in this capacity for more than 35 years.