Tag Archive for 'sncc reunion'

SNCC at 50: Bruce Hartford

Our latest interview from our Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee 50th Anniversary Conference interviewing project is up! We spoke to Bruce Hartford, a lifelong activist who left California for Mississippi and Alabama, where he joined the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in their efforts to desegregate schools and register voters. Hartford’s interview is one of many that emphasize the passion of civil rights organizers and the grueling strain of facing down violent segregationists day after day.

Bruce Hartford from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

SNCC at 50: Rick Tuttle Interview

In April, the Southern Oral History Program partnered with the Duke Oral History Project to conduct a series of interviews with veterans of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee who had gathered on the campus of Shaw University to celebrate and reflect on the 50th anniversary of the group’s founding.

Among those we spoke to was Rick Tuttle, who heard news of the movement first as a student at Wesleyan and then as a graduate student at UCLA. He headed South to join SNCC in Mississippi, and was immediately plunged into the violent world of voter registration and local resistance. He left Mississippi in a hurry after Medgar Evers’s murder as word spread the murderer had chosen Tuttle as his next victim …

Rick Tuttle from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

Stanley Boyd: SNCC Undercover

In 1964, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee sent Stanley Boyd to Clarksdale, Mississippi, to infiltrate the white community there and identify the power players. Boyd, a pacifist who grew up in Pasadena, California, arrived in Clarksdale saying he was a graduate student working on his thesis. He was soon plugged into the town’s power structure–bankers, mainly–and free to roam and observe the mechanics of the white and black communities. He dined with powerful whites and attended services at black churches, submitting reports to SNCC in an effort to guide their efforts to force desegregation. And he escaped Clarksdale unscathed. Not Holly Springs, though–later that year he was idling his his car, waiting to evacuate civil rights activists in case threatened violence took place, when he was arrested, jailed, and beaten. Though he left SNCC not long afterward (with many whites), Boyd remained active in the civil rights community.

The Southern Oral History Program and the Duke Oral History Project spoke with Boyd at the 50th anniversary conference hosted by the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee at Shaw University in April. Take a look:

Stanley Boyd from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

Voices of SNCC: Penelope Patch

At the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee’s 50th anniversary conference, we sat down with activist Penelope Patch, who worked for SNCC between 1962 and 1965 in southwest Georgia and Mississippi. Stay tuned for more video …

Penelope Patch from Southern Oral History Program on Vimeo.

SNCC’s 50th: Thoughts from Sue Thrasher

Many thanks to activist, writer, and educator Sue Thrasher for sharing these thoughts on the recent SNCC conference. We have posted them with some photos taken by historian Patrick D. Jones. Take a look at Patrick’s album of SNCC reunion photos here. The site also has a great list of SNCC reading, both from a historical perspective and reflections on the conference.

Leah said, “Iron your blouse. . .  it’s like we are going to a family reunion!” And thus it started — four intense days of seeing old friends and repeated attempts of trying to “place” people (Did we meet during COFO summer? The SNCC office in Atlanta? Or simply passing through Nashville?). Nan (Orrock) said as we were leaving the conference that it would take a long time to process the event, and a full five days later, I am still remembering and thinking about certain things. Intense is the word I have used to describe it to friends here; certainly on Sunday night I felt both emotionally and physically drained. Leah (Wise) tells me it has been the same for her. I think we expended enough psychic energy in those four days to last a month.

My immediate response was one of feeling “at home” or as Casey Hayden used to say, with my tribe. I have always thought of the SNCC days as the moment when I became the person I am today. It was that particular time – a few short years – that shaped how I have lived my life, and I am eternally grateful. I suspect the same is true for many of the 1100 people gathered in Raleigh. It was celebratory, and comforting, to slip back into the fold.

Continue reading ‘SNCC’s 50th: Thoughts from Sue Thrasher’

Guest Post: Bernard Timberg on SNCC Conference

Bearing Witness and Meeting Old Friends: Notes on the First Day of the the 50th Reunion of SNCC at Shaw University in Raleigh, NC

By Bernard M. Timberg

They came from all across the country to attend this 50th anniversary of the founding of SNCC: greybeards of blacks and whites, integrated again fifty years later, and “children of the civil rights movement” as those born in the sixties often described themselves, as well those of the student generation.  Teachers, students, social workers, those who had retired, often still doing good work in their communities.  And in addition to two sessions with everyone in large halls (almost 1000 people by then having signed up to attend), there were breakout sessions on “The Early Student Movemment Philosophy and Activism,” “From Student Activists to Field Organizers,” “SNCC Builds and Organization” (a panel primarily made up of the women who ran the Atlanta central office), “The Raleigh Civil Rights Movement,” “The Societal Response to SNCC,” and “Up South” (SNCC projects in the North).

I came as a friend of the Southern Oral History Program and someone who had helped document the 40th Anniversary of SNCC with a team of students from Johnson C. Smith University in 2000, working with a team organized by SNCC activist and historian Connie Curry.  I had been a “foot soldier” in the civil rights movement, first in high school with Washington, D.C. CORE and then with the “Freedom House” project in San Francisco working to save low-cost housing in the Fillmore district from the bulldozers of “urban removal.”  But this was a conference for foot soldiers as well as leaders, though there were plenty of leaders in attendance as well.

The first night I went to Crabtree Marriott hotel in Raleigh simply to observe what was going on.  What I saw was fellowship, reunion, a lot of hugging, people who hadn’t seen each other in years and were glowing in the ability to re-establish connections with people they hadn’t seen in years.

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SNCC Reunion Day 2

Sat in on a special live-audience taping of the State of Things with guests Charles Cobb (SNCC field secretary), Frances Beal (SNCC member and head of its Black Women’s Liberation Committee), and student activist Ash-Lee Woodard Henderson today. Cobb and Beal shed some light on their experiences with SNCC, including these nuggets:

*The alleged tensions that roiled SNCC’s relationship with other organizations were totally absent on the ground, according to Cobb. Mississippi sharecroppers didn’t care who was squabbling with whom over what. They wanted the vote. To them, everyone was a “freedom rider” or a “non-violent.”

*On SNCC’s dissolution–Beal thinks it was a victim of its own success. “We set out to destroy Jim Crow and in fact … we did it.” So what was next. Cobb reminded us that these kids were just tired, too.

*Beware! “Academicians,” according to Beal overemphasize nonviolence. The fight was for racial equality. Period.

And there’s more. You can listen to the segment here.

Later in the day, a panel on Black Power, Education, and Pan-Africanism, revealed an interesting tidbit about environmental justice.
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“The Societal Response to SNCC”

Civil rights veterans, students, and scholars–and not a few camerapeople and photographers–gathered in the chapel on Shaw’s campus to discuss “The Societal Response to SNCC.” Panelists were Larry Rubin (who worked in southwest Georgia), Timothy Jenkins (Mississippi), Dottie Zellner (Mississippi), John Doar (civil rights division of the Justice Department), and Peniel Joseph (Tufts historian).

John Doar (right), escorting James Meredith onto the campus of Ole Miss.

It was, in SNCC style, a loosely formatted panel that emphasized questions from the audience. John Doar opened the discussion by recalling his role in the Justice Department and how
“the SNCC kids” inspired him and his fellow lawyers to try to enforce the law in Mississippi, where the “system was absolutely corrupt.”

“If you were white and you were 21 and you could breathe, you could vote,” he remembered. Not so for blacks.

Timothy Jenkins cited the Freedom School’s as SNCC’s crowning achievement, because they taught black kids for the first time that they could be somebody, that not everyone was out to crush their dreams, and that they could choose success. “That was the impact of SNCC.”

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The SOHP at Shaw

The SOHP's David Cline and Duke's Karlyn Forner prepare for an interview.

The Southern Oral History Program has set up shop at Shaw University to record the memories of civil rights veterans in town to attend the conference marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. Our colleagues from the Duke University Oral History Project are there with us, and we’re hoping to preserve the memories of the many unsung civil rights heroes who are in attendance.

SNCC Conference: Day 1

Civil rights movement veterans descend on Raleigh this weekend for a conference marking the 50th anniversary of the founding of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.

Founded in 1960 at Shaw University, SNCC began as a loose coalition of students inspired by the Greensboro sit-ins in February of that year (the name SNCC, thought to be temporary at the time, was chosen in order to encourage those who gathered at Shaw to keep in touch) was instrumental in pushing the civil rights movement towards its most ambitious goals of community empowerment and full citizenship. SNCC emphasized organization rather than leadership, and the need to give local people the tools to secure their own rights, rather than inspiring broad social change through charismatic leadership. This posture often led them to clash with civil rights leaders like Martin Luther King, whom some members of SNCC derisively called “de Lawd.”

SNCC’s intensely thoughtful approach and civil rights zealotry bred remarkable success in the Deep South, where political activism was unwelcome. At lunch counters in North Carolina, white segregationists poured milkshakes onto protesters; in Mississippi, they murdered them. But SNCC persisted, registering voters and dramatizing the shocking violence of the region.

Panels composed of SNCC veterans and scholars will continue at Shaw throughout the weekend.