A Walk in Holly Springs:
Union Organizing: Lessons From SNCC Work (Labor Notes, 2014)
... But South I Went (Jewish Currents, 2014)
It was my parents' fault. I was born with my heart and soul dedicated to social change, although when I got into trouble in the South, they told me that they had never meant for me, personally, to be in danger — just that someone should do the work.
I was a voter registration worker in Lee and Terrell Counties Georgia — walking the red clay roads encouraging people to vote, taking depositions from those who had tried and were harassed, and offering what little protection we could. In Albany, I helped organize and participate in the sit-ins and boycotts that were being conducted along with voter registration as part of the Albany Movement. In both places, the main job of whites was just to be there, to demonstrate to the Black Community that whites did not have to be the boss, and to the white Community that there was such a thing as the "beloved community."
Mississippi: Again with the walking down red clay roads and trying to help people get the courage to register, despite the fact that they would probably lose their jobs, and might lose their homes or lives. Also, I organized both white and black share-croppers to take part in the "cotton allotment" votes run by the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (ASCS). By law, poor farmers and share croppers were allowed to help decide who gets what subsidy, but since the 1930's they were kept out. Also — I helped organize a union at a brick making factory in Holly Springs - 80 blacks and 20 whites.
It was when the ASCS and union organizing began that Eastland stepped up his Red-baiting and violence increased. By and large, the African-American Community did not respond to Red-baiting, mostly because they did not believe anything the white establishment said. I have the usual stories to tell of being beaten, arrested, chased, shot at, and once driven alone into the woods by a deputy sheriff, who had previously arrested and beaten me. (He scared me half to death, but just wanted to tell me his brother worked at the brick making factory and that although the whites would not sign cards, they would vote "yes" in the election. They did.)
I've spoken extensively about what motivated whites to work as SNCC organizers (actually, "field secretaries"), and the role of whites in the Movement. Also, what motivated Jewish young people, and their role.
I also speak about the fact that most of the vocal opposition to the Civil Rights Movement — from the Klan to the State Sovereignty Commissions — did not invoke racism, but used the charge of "communism." While working in Mississippi, I was a victim of Senator Eastland's Red-baiting — he gave a speech in the Senate and several around the State trying to show that the Civil Rights Movement was Communist-led and that the disappearance of Goodman, Schwerner and Chaney was a Communist Hoax. He targeted me and a few others, especially after I was arrested in Oxford, MS carrying a U-Haul filled with books for the Freedom Libraries, which he called "literature aimed at overthrowing the State of Mississippi."
After SNCC, I went to Kentucky with an assignment from the Southern Conference Educational Fund. Aside from stints with the Philadelphia Urban Coalition, the National Jewish Committee Relations Advisory Council, and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, for 45 years I have worked in the labor movement as an organizer, media and public relations specialist, speechwriter, publications editor, and political advocate. I was also a reporter for the Dayton Daily News, a speechwriter for the U.S. Department of Education, and served four terms on the Takoma Park, Maryland City Council. I am now the Communications Director and DC-area Political Director for the Mid-Atlantic Regional Council of Carpenters, an affiliate of the Carpenters union.