Marcia Sprinkle

SNCC, 1964-68 DC, Maryland
Current Residence: San Francisco, CA
Phone: 415-310-3955

I did not go to the Deep South but worked in Ohio and DC. I joined SNCC in college in 1963 (Oberlin, Ohio). We did fundraisers to collect money to send south, we focused some on local issues in the town of Oberlin (esp. with the telephone company which employed only black operators, not allowed to take breaks) and we went into Cleveland to teach in freedom schools that were organized I believe by SNCC.

In 1964 when I graduated some of my friends went south. I wanted to but was swayed by my family to not go — my mother was "crying herslef to sleep every night" according to my father — so I went instead to DC where I quickly met Betty Garmen, Marion Barry and Topper Carew and began community organizing in the Adams Morgan area for a powerful community resident activist organizer (Bishop Reed) for whom a school is named (Marie Reed). She and a later long time school board member Hilda Mason were my mentors.

At this point I don't think we were strictly part of SNCC but part of the larger "Movement". With Marion Barry and Betty and Margaret Herring and others I helped organize a collective that tried to get the Coop to put a grocery store in the inner city (not successful) and integrate a housing complex in Bethesda, MD (successful). I ran a suumer program in 1966 in an alley in Adams Morgan for 75 kids with just a wagon of supplies.

As I struggled with the role of a white organizer in predominantly the black ocmmunity, I decided that I needed to have a "professional skill" to offer, not just do-gooder sentiments. I had also been volunteering for the war on poverty before they got legislation passed and had learned about Bank Street College of Education in NYC and in 1966-67 went to NYC for a year to get an MEd. and came back to teach in the first "community controlled school" in DC. In NYC I had volunteered in the Two Bridges neighborhood organizing and at freedom schools in Harlem while getting my degree.

By 1968 I was married to a lawyer who had worked in Mississippi for COFO, had twin babies and was on a path that I believe SNCC and the movement that came before us put me on — a life time of working mostly across the color line as a white in the black community. When Dr. King died I was volunteering for the Poor People's Campaign. Although I was no longer a SNCC member, it was the influence of Dr. King and Berneice Johnson Regan in DC who moved me along to thinking in systemic terms, not just civil rights. I also by this time was connected with a group of older leftists in DC learning about our history which is essential.

From there I wont go into my life story but I worked for many groups and issues including Welfare Rights, Job Corps and my last job for 15 years organizing with parents in the shelters in DC. For example in 1977 we were arrested for supporting a strike by nursing home aides. In the late 70's I organized a group of about 20 who went to Tupelo to support the black commuity in challenging the KKK. When we arrived there was a ring of maybe 100 Klan members with 2x4's entirely circling the city hall — a shockingly open statement about who the Klan was.

The Civil Rights Movement had spurred me even as a teenager (I went down and picketed at the local Woolworth's in my home town of Rye, NY in 1959 and my father came and pulled me out of line but I went back later). But there is no question it was SNCC that generated an organized way to follow my passion and set me on my way.

What is most powerful I believe is that I was not a leading or known figure nationally and yet my entire life's work went into the movement. Over time I became part of and known in the huge network of activists in DC. Part of what could make us effective at all was the many years of work and relationships and being "known" to the community as a go-to person. This then is the total SNCC story, I believe. The hundreds, maybe thousands, of people and projects carrying out the work — sometimes in the organization, often not, but all part of the struggle. The combined influence of the people who went before and this outburst natonally of student support for the civil rights campaign in the South spurred and educated an entire generation for its lifetime.


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