In the spring of 1964, when CORE had accepted my application and assigned me to a voter registration project in Louisiana for the summer, I had strong convictions, lofty ideals, and no idea of how everything I thought I knew would change when I got there. In my world the president of the student body at the state university I had attended for one year was a black Rhodes Scholar, a professional club of black businessmen was raising money to help support me through the summer, and my activism consisted of volunteering to stuff envelopes in the local office of the Urban League. Had I thought about it, I might have expected there would be some hostility from the white community in Louisiana. I was in no way prepared for the absolute poverty that controlled every aspect of the lives of those in the rural black community who, at great risk, fed me, housed me, and protected me for the next 15 months.
I have never thought my contribution was any more than that of just another white student whose presence drew Northern attention to the Movement. I believe all the benefit accrued to me. No other form of education could have determined so irrevocably how I think and who I am.
I am forever grateful that I had such an opportunity in my lifetime.
Copyright Sharon Townsend 2013