Wilfred H. Stone

(1917 — 2015)

SNCC 1964

I worked with SNCC under the umbrella of COFO in the summer of 1964 for about three weeks. I came down, along with too other Stanford professors, at the invitation of Professor James W. Silver, an historian at the University of Mississippi and the author of Mississippi: The Closed Society. He wanted us — and whoever other eggheads he could solicit — to come down and just be conspicuous, on the assumption that "respectable" people like us would add legitimacy to the movement. Three Stanford Professors (in addition to many students!) responded: Otis Pease of History, "Bud" McColl of Sociology, and me.

I spent time in Columbus, Oxford, Meridian, Canton, and Jackson, but I found the role of being "conspicuous" too ambiguous to sustain, so I drifted into more defined work. I helped organize and run a Freedom School in "Dooderville," a black ghetto in Jackson, along with Janice Grant, Morris Levine, Sue Butler, Ed Weber, and-for a short time — John Stone. (I have lost touch with an these people, and would love to resume contact.) I was the English teacher in the group and faced a "class" of some thirty kids ranging in age from kindergarden to high school and in literacy from zero to (on a scale of 10) at least 9. So we created a curriculum, swapped stories, made up plays, acted them out, started a newspaper. I also took kids to lunch around the corner (as some garage mechanics glowered at us from across the street, with tire irons in their hands) and — since I had a rental car — took the kids swimming to Canton (since an the pools in Jackson had been closed). We had some adventures — being chased off Highway 55 into the safety of Tougaloo by some local toughs, desegregating the Sun & Sand Motel restaurant with the help ofa brave girl from the school: 16-year-old Joann Percy, who lived on California Ave. in Jackson and whose parents did not know ofher heroism. It — or something — worked, for by the next week the Sun & Sand had dropped the color bar.

My time in Mississippi was short, but it was intense, and I'm very glad I went-if only to realize the courage and dedication of those younger people, black and white, who risked everything over a long period for the cause. I remember Robert Moses with special admiration.

I wrote an account of some of this experience in an article entitled "A Short, Hot Summer" that appeared in Sequoia. a Stanford literary magazine, for Winter 1965, pp. 1-8. I could make a copy for your records if you wished.

I've tried to keep this short, as you wished, but I'd be glad to give a fuller account if you asked for it.

Thanks for making this effort to collect the record of this important event in American history. I hope the Blacks who did not "join" the movement but were inadvertently "in" it will ~ counted as "veterans" as well!

With my best wishes,

© Copyright Wilfred Stone, 2000

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