Statement on the 60th Anniversary of the Freedom Rides
The Wrong Side of Murder Creek
A White Southerner Joins the Struggle
Remembering the March on Washington
Thoughts on Port Huron
50 Years of Poor People's Organizing: An Interview, 2020
In the fall of 1963, I had been in jail for most of the summer in Danville, Va. with Danny Foss, a Brandeis graduate student in Sociology.
Mr. Foss, Maurice Stein and President Abram Leon Sachar arranged for me to go to Waltham for the fall semester beginning September 23, 1963. I spent two years with great professors and visiting lecturers Maurice Stein, Herbert Marcuse, Bruno Bettelheim (gave one lecture), and Morrie Schwartz. I also remember notable students like, Tom Rose, Angela Davis (from my home state of Alabama) and Bob Emerson, the son of Thomas I. Emerson, Jon Davies, and Ray Arsenault, [at Brandeis during the 1970s] who wrote the definitive history of the Freedom Rides.
While I was studying and not getting my master's degree in Sociology from Brandeis, my wife Dorothy Miller was working on the Harvard campus in the basement of the Epworth Methodist Church. James Forman, Executive Director of SNCC had assigned her to head up and expand the New England Friends of SNCC, which had been a mainstay of the organization. I spent some time traveling around the region with Dottie, recruiting volunteers to go south for the Freedom Summer of 1964. Dottie and I also raised funds for SNCC's day-to-day operations.
After two years in the Boston area, we moved back to Atlanta to continue our southern organizing. When SNCC became an all-black organization in the late 60s, Dottie and I organized the GROW Project, or Grass Roots Organizing Work, for the purpose of reaching poor and working-class white southerners. We also called the organization Get Rid of Wallace. Governor George Wallace was our Alabama racist governor who convinced the Republicans to become the national party of extreme racism. These last four years of Trump was the result of Republican's southern strategy.
I have recently moved back to Fairhope, Alabama with my new wife Pamela Smith to work with Senator Doug Jones and other southern progressives to, once and for all, confront our nation's foundational history of genocide against native peoples, slavery, Jim Crow and extreme racism. To that end, we have just completed work with movie director Barry Alexander Brown from Montgomery, Alabama and executive producer Spike Lee, from Snow Hill, Alabama, on a film called SON OF THE SOUTH, adapted from my memoir, THE WRONG SIDE OF MURDER CREEK: A white southerner in the Freedom Movement.
Information on the movie can be found on our website, https://www.smithzellner.consulting/.