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Building the Foundations of a Movement 2010

Building the Foundations of a Movement 2010

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Published by Kathy Emery
how the foundations of the civil rights movement was created
how the foundations of the civil rights movement was created

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Categories:Types, Research, History
Published by: Kathy Emery on May 03, 2011
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Supplemental Readings for San Francisco Freedom School 2010
 Building the Foundationsof a Movement 
(Willie B. Wazir Peacock.........................................2MOUNG BAYOU...................................................4BLACK CHURCHES............................................5YOUNG WOMEN’S CHRISTIANASSOCIATION......................................................6HIGHLANDER FOLK SCHOOL........................6HISTORICALLY BLACK COLLEGES ANDUNIVERSITIES.....................................................7Black Leaders..........................................................8
 
Willie B. Wazir Peacock
SNCC 1960-66 Interview on Crmvet.org websiteI was born in the small town of Charleston, in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi-the same county whereEmmett Till was lynched in 1955. While going to school there, one of my brothers was jailed and, although a juvenile, the authorities would not release him to our parents. The policy then was to make such prisonersclean the streets, which became humiliating for a youth when his fellow students walked by. A plantationowner offered to get my brother released if my father would share-crop for him. So one day I came homefrom school to be moved I didn't know where, until I found out I would be living on that man's plantation.But the owner broke his promise and made no effort to get my brother released.Just then I was reading about slavery in school and I saw slavery first hand on that plantation. This had a powerful effect on my life and I made several attempts to run away. The first time, the owner's son saw meand took me back to the plantation, but I succeeded the second time. For a year I didn't contact my parents. Itwas a tactic to make them leave the plantation; I thought they would see the family was falling apart there.Finally they left the plantation and found me in Grenada, Miss. I decided to return home and saw theimportance of going to school. My greatest motivation was to do something practical about the conditionsfaced by black people, my people.I finished high school and won a 4-year scholarship to Rust College in Holly Springs, Miss. In 1960, while atRust, I had the first opportunity to express my activism. We all knew about the sit-ins by black collegestudents in Raleigh, North Carolina and some Rust students wanted to show our solidarity. The balcony of the movie theater in Holly Springs was segregated so we organized a student boycott of the theater. We triedto get the students at a nearby industrial college to join us, but the president made them go to the theater and break the boycott.From the boycott we moved on to voter registration in the town. That was too radical for some collegeofficials, so they had Medgar Evers come to organize an NAACP youth chapter on campus. They made sureto exclude me and my group from this meeting, and we were never included in the chapter. But we continuedto keep the boycott alive and eventually the theater closed, rather than desegregate.In fall, 1960, we met our first SNCC representative, Jim Bevel, when he came to Rust with Sam Block andDewey Green, Jr. We organized other students to meet with them and later Dion Diamond, also from SNCC(who was arrested on charges from Louisiana and therefore couldn't return). Then came Frank Smith fromAtlanta, who moved to Holly Springs in early 1962. I worked on voter registration all over northeasternMississippi and also organized a credit union with Frank until I graduated from Rust in August.I was supposed to start medical school that fall and went home to Charleston. Bob Moses and Amzie Moorecame to see me because help was needed in Sunflower County. I left the same day for Amzie's home inCleveland, to the disappointment of my mother and with the blessings of my father. When we arrived aroundmidnight, we got a call from Sam Block at the SNCC office in Greenwood, who was there with LawrenceGuyot and Lavaughn Brown. He said there was a group of white men with bats and chains outside the building. Bob advised Sam to escape and that we were on the way. We got there about an hour later andfound the office had been ransacked. I remember that Bob turned on a noisy fan (it was hot) and we went tosleep in the office.The next morning Sam, Guyot and Brown showed up. I cut a stencil with a stylus and we mimeographed aleaflet to let people know we were still there and were not "outside agitators" who would start something and be gone overnight, as the propaganda said. After that, with no place to stay, we would all pile up on the floor at Amzie Moore's house and go over to the Greenwood office to work during the day.2
 
Things began to move very fast after this. The Voter Education Project (VEP) had been privately funded, andwe hd to organize for it.. We pulled together the Council of Federated Organizations (SNCC, CORE, SCLCand the NAACP) at a church in Clarksdale, Miss., with Bob Moses as COFO director. That night most of usgot arrested for violating curfew.In the summer of 1962 we were working towns all over the Delta, sometimes several in the same day, andstaying at Amzie's house. One day Jim Forman of SNCC came from Atlanta when we were working inIndianola. I guess we looked hungry because he asked when we had eaten last, and we couldn't remember.So he went to a local cafe and managed to get some food and we ate.More people came and settled in Ruleville-SNCC people from Mississippi and Charlie Cobb from Boston.That's when we met Fannie Lou Hamer. One day we took a busload of people from Ruleville to Indianola toregister, and were harassed on the way back by police who said the bus was the wrong color. That night wehad a mass meeting, where we learned that Mrs. Hamer and her family had been evicted from the plantationwhere she had worked many years because she refused to have her name removed from the voter rolls as theowner wanted. A few nights later, several homes in Ruleville were shot into by people trying to hit Mrs.Hamer. By this time, Sam Block and I had found a brave woman-Hatti Mae Miller-who let us stay at herehome so we didn't have to go back to Cleveland every night to sleep at Amzie's.The black community in Ruleville and Greenwood had begun to open up to us, so our work intensified. As aresult, we spent more time at our individual projects and then meet once a week with Bob Moses to write our reports and have workshops. In early 1963 we had a breakthrough. One church opened up to us. More andmore people went to register to vote; one day 126 people attempted to register. Unable to believe this,Randolph Blackwell, Bob Moses and Jimmy Travis came from Atlanta to see for themselves. That night theyinsisted on leaving despite a warning from others who had been chased earlier by a group of whites. Theywere attacked and Jimmy Travis was shot and ended up at the university hospital in Jackson.Wiley Branton, VEP director, gave a statement to the press without consulting us in which he said that, because of the shooting, Greenwood would be made a testing-ground for the civil rights movement. Thismade it necessary for SNCC workers in other Mississippi projects to move to Greenwood that summer;including celebrities like comedian Dick Gregory. Many mass meetings and demonstrations were held; morearrests and racist attacks took place. For the first time we had to make mass bail for people, which the National Council of Churches helped to provide. Some spent as much as 40 days in jail.In fall 1963, discussion began of having what became the 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. At the firstmeeting, in Greenville, everyone voted against it, mainly though not only because of the danger (the projectwould bring many white people who could not be hidden in the black community as we were) and also because too often black people would agree to act because whites were asking but there would be no realconsciousness-raising or commitment.In spring 1964 Bob Moses, who had opposed the project, now supported it as did Aaron Henry of the NAACP and Rev. Ed King. Bob argued that the project would bring national attention to the plight of black Mississippians. I continued to oppose it and did not participate because people felt I would "sabotage" it. Inretrospect, I can understand that position because I was one of SNCC's key organizers in the state and hadinfluence with the people. So I spent the summer between New York, for medical treatment, and Madison,Wisconsin, where SNCC's Freedom Singers performed and some including my brother became ill.That fall I enrolled in graduate school at Tuskegee Institute in Alabama because I still hoped to attendmedical school. There I got involved with TIAL (Tuskegee Institute Advancement League) and asked to bean advisor. I came to know many of the students, like: Wendell Paris and his wonderful mother, AnnAnthony, Gwen Patton, George Nimrod, Simuel Schultz, and Sammy Younge, Jr. We began going to Selma3

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