In Memoriam

  • Avon Rollins

    The passing of our brother, Avon Rollins this past Wednesday (December 7, 2016), is a loss that is deeply felt within our community of SNCC veterans and the Movement as a whole.  Like so many of us, activism pulled Avon into the freedom struggle while still in his teens. Just a few weeks after the Greensboro sit-ins erupted, Avon, a Knoxville, Tennessee native, then a high school student, joined other students, mainly from Knoxville College, in launching a sit-in movement. He was one of the youngest in this group of protesters.
    Barely a year later he joined Marion Barry in enrolling in the recently desegregated University of Tennessee. By then his interest in SNCC, which he considered "the vanguard of the Civil Rights Movement," had grown. By the summer of 1963 he was a member of SNCC's executive committee. That year he went to Danville, Virginia as a SNCC organizer to support the burgeoning movement there. He stayed there a year. 
    From Danville, he pushed the Movement to evolve from focusing only on demonstrations to an economic struggle. Danville was home to Dan River Mills, then one of the world's largest textile companies. SNCC bought a few stocks and as Avon later put it, "raised hell" at a Dan River Mills corporate board meeting in New York City.
    During his work with SNCC, he was arrested 30 times. Later, after a career at the Tennessee Valley Authority, he served as executive director of the Beck Cultural Exchange Center, a Knoxville institution dedicated to the preservation of African-American history and culture in the city. 
    "We have to pass the baton to a new generation to foster change and make America what she is intended to be," Avon told a reporter shortly before his death. The I-40 bridge in Knoxville is named for him.
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  • Charles McDew

    Charles "Chuck" McDew

    June 1938 - April 3, 2018.

    Retired history professor. Charles F. McDew led his first demonstration in the eighth grade, to protest violations of the religious freedom of Amish students in his hometown of Massillon, Ohio. McDew’s career as an activist expanded in scope while he was a freshman at South Carolina State College in Orangeburg, South Carolina. Inevitably involved in the newborn sit-in movement, he was elected as student leader by his fellow demonstrators. McDew attended the founding conference  of SNCC at Shaw in April 1960 while a student at South Carolina State and a member of The Orangeburg Movement for Civil Improvement. He served as the second Chairman of SNCC, 1960-1963. McDew has been active in organizations for social and political change, working as a teacher and as a labor organizer, managing anti-poverty programs in Washington, D.C., serving as community organizer and catalyst for change in Boston and San Francisco, as well as other communities. He has appeared on countless radio and television programs as a speaker against racism. McDew recently retired from Metropolitan State University, Minneapolis, MN, where his classes in the history of the civil rights movement, African-American history, and in social and cultural awareness were always oversubscribed.  He served faithfully on the SNCC Legacy Project Board, never missing a meeting.  He is survived by his daughter Eva.


    Read McDew's obituary in The New York Times:

    Read McDew's obituary in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

    Listen to an oral history interview with Chuck McDew:
    View another interview from 1963:
    Read the obituary in McDew's hometown paper:
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  • Clifford A. Vaughs

    Clifford A. Vaughs  1937-2016
    Clifford A. Vaughs . . . civil rights activist, award-winning photographer and independent filmmaker, designer and builder of the iconic Captain America and Billy bikes and Associate Producer for the film Easy Rider, retired V.P. The Chosen Few MC, jazz lover, one-time manager of the Buddy Miles Band, and long-time single-handed sailer and adventurer died Saturday, July 2, at 8:00 p.m. at his home in Templeton, California, where he lived with his "other half" and mate Daniella Sapriel. He leaves behind four sons, two daughters, and grandchildren. Cliff was a SNCC Field Secretary 1963-65, and a noted photojournalist.  More information will be forthcoming as to a "Celebration of Life" planned for a later date in the Los Angeles area.
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  • Cornelius J. Jones

    Cornelius J. Jones of Mendenhall, MS died October 11, 2018 at the age of 74.  Born in Pennsylvania, CJ (as we was known) came to Mississippi in the early 60's , attended Tougaloo College and later Tuskegee University, majoring in economics.  He helped organize the Lowndes County Christian Movement for Human Rights  in Alabama.  He served as a  SNCC Field Secretary at Tuskegee and in Lowndes County.  CJ later worked with the Mendenhall Ministries and Voice of Calvary Ministries. He marched in the 1965 Selma-Montgomery March, and the Meredith March of 1966.  CJ leaves his wife, three children, and three grandchildren.    Last year CJ was honored with an award from the Mississippi Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement for his lifetime of service.
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  • Cynthia Washington

     Photograph of Cynthia Washington, undated, crmvet.orgA native of Washington, DC, Cynthia joined the Nonviolent Action Group while a student at Howard University.  She worked as a SNCC Field Secretary, and was project director in Bolivar County, MS during the 1964 Summer Project.  In 1965 she directed a SNCC organizing project in Greene County, Alabama.  Later she returned to D.C. and worked for NASA.She died in 2014.  See
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  • Dick Gregory


    October 12, 1932 – August 19, 2017


    Dick Gregory, a pioneering force of comedy in the 1960s who parlayed his career as a stand-up comic into a life of social and political activism, died Saturday of heart failure. He was 84.   Although he was never on SNCC staff, he was an early and long-time friend of SNCC and the civil rights movement.


    Gregory used his  fame to become a civil-rights activist and opponent of the Vietnam War. He made friends with Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X; honored a request from Medgar Evers to speak at a voter-registration rally in Jackson, Miss.; raised money for SNCC; delivered food to NAACP offices in the South; marched in Selma, Ala.; got shot while trying to keep the peace during the 1965 Watts riots; was arrested in Washington for protesting Vietnam; performed benefit shows for the Congress of Racial Equality; and traveled to Tehran, Iran, in 1980 to attempt to negotiate the hostages' release.

    Gregory ran for mayor of Chicago in 1967 but lost to Richard Daley, then entered the race for U.S. president a year later. A write-in candidate on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket, he received some 47,000 votes.  Gregory performed in Jackson, Mississippi at the 50th Anniversary Conference of Mississippi Freedom Summer.


    In the winter of 1963, white authorities cut off commodities in Leflore and Sunflower countieswhere SNCC was making its biggest effort in Mississippi. The optional federal government program permitted poor counties to receive surplus government food or “commodities” for distribution to the poor. In the sharecropped cotton plantation land of the Delta, this food was vital to making it through the winter.

    SNCC put out a national call for food. When Dick Gregory heard about the surplus food cut-off, he chartered a plane and sent 14,000 pounds of food to Greenwood. This was a first step that would lead the renowned comedian into increasingly deeper involvement with the Southern Civil Rights Movement. Both the surplus food cutoff and Gregory’s relief, noted Bob Moses, enabled many for the first time to see clearly “the connection between political participation and food on their table.” SNCC staff handed out food and voter registration forms.

    In the spring, SNCC organizers invited Gregory to speak at a mass meeting in Greenwood. The community had never heard a Black man speak publicly in the manner that Gregory did. He made fun of the police, calling them, “a bunch of illiterate whites who couldn’t even pass the test themselves.” Gregory also called out the local preachers reluctant to involve themselves with the Movement and said, “These handkerchief heads don’t realize this area is going to break … If you have to pray in the street, it’s better than worshiping with a man who is less than a man!” The meeting erupted into laughter and applause. A week later, 31 ministers signed a statement in support of the voting rights drive.

    A photograph of Dick Gregory at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, 1964, George Ballis, Take Stock

    Dick Gregory at the Democratic National Convention in Atlantic City, 1964, George Ballis, Take Stock

    Gregory did not flinch from putting himself in the path of danger. Once in a mass meeting in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a bomb was tossed through a window, and people started rushing towards the door. Gregory grabbed the microphone, and said, “Where are you going? The man who threw it is outside God’s house. The Man who’s supposed to save you lives here.” Someone picked up the bomb and threw it back outside, and the meeting continued. The Clarksdale police chief denied that his officers were responsible for the bomb, “If one of our men threw that bomb,” he said “you’d better believe it would have gone off.”

    Gregory was constantly speaking to white authorities in startling, unexpected ways. During the protests in Greenwood, a police officer dragged Gregory across the street. “Thanks a million,” Gregory told him, “up north police don’t escort me across the street.” On another occasion, he wagged his finger in the faces of white policemen gathered in front of the county courthouse. “Who you calling nigger,” he told them, “You ain’t nothing but niggers yourselves. Nigger, nigger, nigger, nigger,” he continued while still wagging his finger.

    Gregory continued working with SNCC throughout the sixties. He traveled with SNCC’s Freedom Singers and included jokes about the South in his act. In his memoir, Gregory wrote, “I really hadn’t planned to lead the marching [in Greenwood], but looking at those beautiful faces ready to die for freedom, I knew I couldn’t do less.”  (With thanks to the SNCC Digital Gateway and The Hollywood Reporter).

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  • Donald P. Stone

    Donald P. Stone
    1935-September 13, 2019
    We are saddened to announce the death of former SNCC staffer Donald  P. Stone in Atlanta, GA on Friday September 13, 2019.  Stone was a pivotal part of the SNCC Atlanta Vine City Project in 1966-68,   Born in Alabama and a Morehouse graduate, Stone was working in the post office when he joined the Atlanta Student Movement in 1960.  He later served two years in jail for demonstrating at a selective service recruitment office.  For more about Don Stone  see
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  • Eddie C. Brown, Jr.

    Eddie C. Brown, Jr.

    “His devotion, eloquence and generosity of spirit has ennobled and adorned the movement in our time. Because of his quiet self-confidence and humility he never sought publicity but thousands, especially poor folk, here and on the Continent have had their lives vastly improved by Ed’s effectiveness and compassion. He is truly one of the great un-sung heroes of our generation. We shall not soon see his like again.”[Ekwueme Michael Thelwell]

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  • Faye Bellamy Powell

    Faye Bellamy Powell

    Faye Bellamy was born in May, 1938 in Pennsylvania. She joined the US Air Force shortly after graduating from high school, and served at Ft. Dix, NJ.


    While working at the New York World’s Fair in 1964, her cousin Lee Jack Morton told her about SNCC. She enlisted and went to work in SNCC’s Selma, Alabama office, arriving in Selma on January 1, 1965.

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  • George L. Greene

    October 8, 1943 - October 24, 2018

    A native of Greenwood, MS, few in SNCC were tougher than George Greene when faced with police harassment. In one confrontation with a Ruleville, Mississippi town constable, the officer demanded to know what kind of work he did. “I told him I worked for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee and COFO out of Jackson.” The cop accused the group of being “a bunch of people from New York and all across the country who had deliberately come down to stir up trouble between the Negroes and whites and that we must go to jail.” But he did not arrest Greene.

    George Greene was certainly not a New Yorker but was well known for his barely tempered backtalk and many arrests while organizing for SNCC. The Greenwood, Mississippi-native once stood his ground when an Alabama police deputy tried to force him off a picket line. “You didn’t invite me here, so I guess you can’t invite me to leave,” Greene told him looking him squarely in the eye. “I haven’t done anything. You don’t even think I’ve done anything, so why are we having this conversation?”

    Greene was among the earliest of the local people who drove SNCC’s work through his unfaltering commitment to organizing southern Black communities, beginning with his own in Greenwood, Mississippi. For Greene, son of local NAACP leader Dewey Greene, movement work was in his blood. While he was still in high school, Greene took Medgar Evers’s advice to start a NAACP youth council. Time and time again, he put his life on the line in the name of freedom.

    When SNCC came to Greenwood in 1962, they knew they needed local organizers to make real, lasting change and gain the trust of the community. The brothers, Dewey Jr. and George, were among the first local SNCC canvassers in Greenwood, helping the group strengthen their alliance within the community network.

    In the spring of 1963, George was on his way home from a community meeting when the windows of his house were shot through twice. The community turned out to show their outrage in the first ever mass community protest march in Greenwood. There had been threats to outside COFO volunteers, but when a local person was threatened, they came out in droves.

    In SNCC, Greene became a full-time organizer in some of the most violent places in the South, like Natchez, Mississippi and Lowndes County, Alabama. A reporter wrote that Greene had “more bullet holes in his shroud than any man in Mississippi.” Thankfully, he had also raced cars in high school, and his driving skills were legendary in SNCC. In November 1963, while working on a registration drive near Natchez, he and SNCC worker Bruce Payne saw two men following them. The chase got to 105 miles an hour when Greene was forced off the road. Pistol drawn, one of the men came up to the driver’s door and demanded he get out of the car. When Greene quickly sped off, three shots were fired at the car. One bullet hit a tire, but he managed to get away to a side road.

    The Greene family is one of the most-remembered local Greenwood families devoted to the Movement. Relying on family ties and community networks to create lasting change in Greenwood, SNCC learned first-hand the resilience of local people like George Greene. For him, civil rights work was a family affair.

    Text from See more at
    Photo shows L-R Stokely Carmichael, Charles Cobb, and George Greene at a protest in Atlanta in December 1963. Photo by Danny Lyon.

    Image may contain: 3 people, indoor
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  • George Ware

    George Ware

    George W. Ware Jr., also known as Gro Hungan Yabofé Noványón Idizol, was an educator and co-founder of the Black Music Association.

    He died Oct. 5, 2012, of lung cancer. He was 72.

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  • Gwen Patton

    Dr. Gwendolyn M. Patton died suddenly on May 11, 2017 in Montgomery, Alabama.
    She was the first female President of the Tuskegee Institute student body in 1965 and she used her power to build a student movement. She was the Direct Action Chair for the Tuskegee Institute Advancement League (SNCC affiliate) in the mid-1960’s.
    Her memoir is due to be published soon.
    Gwen was among the founding members of the National Rainbow Coalition and the Southern Rainbow Education Project.
    She was a youth founding member of the (Black) Alabama Democratic Conference in 1960, an organization dedicated to getting Black people registered as voters. She also became a youth organizer in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and SCLC.
    As a student at Tuskegee University, she served as the first female student government association president. As a SNCC organizer, she was one of the founders of its Women's Commission and served as the first commission chair. She founded the National Anti-War, Anti-Draft Union and the National Association of Black Students. Based on Freedom of Information files, Gwen was under surveillance and classified under active investigation by the FBI and the CIA.
    Dr. Patton earned her bachelor's degree in English and history at Tuskegee, where she was told by Alabama state officials that she would never get a job in Alabama because of her movement activities. She earned her master's in history and the art of teaching from Antioch College, and her doctorate in political history and higher education administration from Union Graduate School.
    Her movement activities were interspersed with teaching at several colleges in the East and Southeast. Gwen was born 1943 in Michigan and moved to Montgomery, Alabama at age 16 to live with her grandmother.  After graduate school, she returned to Montgomery in 1977 and continued her movement activities while teaching at local universities and colleges.
    Dr. Patton most recently worked as an archivist for H. Councill Trenholm State Technical College, which houses special collections of Pioneers of the Voting Rights Movement. She was in great demand, locally, nationally and internationally, as a speaker and lecturer on the civil/voting rights movement. Dr. Patton was Montgomery Coordinator for the National Historic Voting Rights Trail and served on its National Advisory Council.
    For more about Dr. Gwen Patton, see:
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  • Ivanhoe Donaldson

    Ivanhoe Donaldson
    Ivanhoe Donaldson  died April 3, 2016 in Washington, DC.  He was born in 1941 in New York City, the son of a policeman.  He graduated from Michigan State University, where he became involved in the civil rights movement by delivering food to Mississippi sharecroppers during the winter of 1962-63, driving a truck loaded with supplies from Michigan to Clarksdale, MS.  He soon began working full-time as a SNCC Field Secretary.
    He was campaign manager for Julian Bond’s 1965 successful campaign for a seat in the Georgia state legislature and was SNCC’s point person at the Selma-to-Montgomery march.  In 1968, Donaldson helped found Afro-American Resources, Inc., which ran the Drum and Spear Bookstore,Drum and Spear Press, and the Center for Black Education in Washington, D.C. He was also a visiting lecturer for Afro-American courses at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst . Donaldson advised and worked for Washington, D.C. mayor Marion Barry for many years.
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  • James O. Jones

    Former Director of the Arkansas SNCC Project 1963-1966, James O. Jones passed away June 1, 2019 at his home in Austin TX.  He was 76 years old.  Jim was the second director of Arkansas SNCC.   A native of Willisville, Arkansas, he was one of the original  nine students (along with Ruthie Buffington) who got expelled from Arkansas AM&N College (now Univ of Arkansas, Pine Bluff). Later on he completed his BA at the Univ of Arkansas (Fayetteville; main campus). After SNCC Jim went on to work for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives in Atlanta and Epes, Alabama, and the Texas Dept. of Agriculture.  For more about James O. Jones, see SNCC Digital at
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  • Jesse Lee Harris

    Jesse Lee Harris

    SNCC veteran Jesse Lee Harris died January 28, 2015 in Jackson, Mississippi, age 75.

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  • John M. O'Neal

    Actor, playwrite, director and cultural activist John M. O'Neal died at his home in New Orleans, today, age 78.  John became a SNCC Field Secretary after his graduation from Southern Illinois University.  He worked for SNCC in Georgia and Mississippi, and was a coordinator of the Mississippi Freedom School program in the summer of 1964.  John, along with two colleagues, founded the Free Southern Theater, an integrated touring repertory company which  gave voice to African-American actors, playwrites, directors, and audiences.    After his work with SNCC, he made his home in New Orleans and founded Junebug Productions, Inc, a cultural orgnaization.   In addition, O'Neal was a visiting professor in theater at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York, from 1989-1992, where he taught playwriting.   He was a member of the Actor's Equity Association, the Dramatist Guild, and a founding member of American Festival Project, a national coalition of performing arts organizations.
    Watch John O'Neal at
    Read more about John O'Neal at:
    Article in Facing South:
    John O'Neal performing as Junebug Jabbo Jones
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  • Julian Bond

    Julian Bond
    Julian Bond, Vice-Chair of the SNCC Legacy Project, died on August 15, 2015 at his vacation home in Florida.  He was 75.  He was a long-time resident of Washington, DC. Read More
  • Julius Lester

    Julius Lester, SNCC photographer 1966-1968, died January 18, 2018 surrounded by his family in Belchertown, Massachusetts.  He was 78 years old.  A renowned author, musician, activist and photographer who taught for three decades at the University of Massachusetts, 

    Lester was born in St. Louis on Jan. 27, 1939. He grew up in Kansas City, Kan., the son of a minister, and later Nashville, Tenn., where in 1960 he received an English degree from the historically black Fisk University.

    Lester was a true polymath. He wrote dozens of critically acclaimed books, for children — including a retelling of the Br’er Rabbit tales and an exploration of slavery, “To Be a Slave” — as well as nonfiction and novels for adults. He was also a musician, and his very first book was a guide to the 12-string guitar, co-written with legendary folk singer Pete Seeger.


    Click here to hear Julius Lester talk and sing:


    In 1961, Lester moved to New York City, where he taught banjo and guitar, performed as a folk singer, hosted a talk radio show on WBAI and hosted a television show on WNET.

    It was while he was a folk singer in New York City that Lester, in 1964, decided to travel to Mississippi during the Freedom Summer.

    “Going to Mississippi in ’64, you knew you could be arrested, you knew you could be killed, you knew you could be injured. And so it’s not something you did lightly, not something you did because it was going to be fun,” Lester told PBS in a 2014 interview. “But there was this feeling inside of me that it was just something I had to do.”

    In addition to using his musical gifts at mass meetings and rallies, Lester also chronicled the civil rights movement as a photographer working with the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. Those photographs were later part of a civil rights exhibit at the Smithsonian Institution, and his larger body of work has also been featured in solo shows at many galleries. 


    Click here to learn more about Julius Lester's work with SNCC:


    In 1971, Lester became a professor of Afro-American studies at UMass Amherst, where he remained until his retirement in 2003. During his time at UMass, he won the Distinguished Teacher’s Award, the Faculty Fellowship Award for Distinguished Research and Scholarship and the Chancellor’s Medal. The Council for Advancement and Support of Education named Lester the state’s Professor of the Year in 1988.


    Journey to Judaism

    When he was a child, Lester learned that his great-grandfather Adolph Altschul was Jewish, and this knowledge was one of the factors in his conversion to Judaism in the early 1980s. In 1988, he became a professor of Judaic studies at UMass, and he served as a lay religious leader of Beth El Synagogue in St. Johnsbury, Vermont, for around a decade. Lester chronicled his journey to Judaism in his book “Lovesong: Becoming a Jew.”

    In his retirement, Lester lived in Belchertown with his wife, Milan Sabatini.

     Lester was active on Facebook, where his page has nearly 3,000 followers. It was on Facebook that his daughter Lian Amaris kept the world updated about his condition in his last days, and where she announced that he had died.

    Facebook also provided a platform for Lester, a man of many words, to write a public statement to the world on Jan. 3 in what would be his final post.

    In it, Lester reflects on his health, as well as his gratitude for the space that his Facebook page provided for him to continue to teach.

    “Again, I am so grateful to all of you who shared so much wonderful energy with me, indeed who lavished wonderful energy on me,” were the last words he published, before signing off with a take care of yourselves and much love.


    Julius is survived by his wife, five children, and eight grandchildren.

    Click here for the New York Times obituary:


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  • Lawrence Guyot

    Lawrence Guyot

    WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Lawrence Guyot, the scion of the Civil Rights Movement who later turned his efforts to statehood for the District of Columbia died Nov. 23, 2012. He was 73.


    Guyot died at home after a long battle with diabetes and heart disease. Friends who had spoken with him in recent weeks said he was elated at having seen the reelection of President Obama, of whom he was an ardent supporter. He told the AFRO he voted early because he wanted to make sure his vote was counted as his health failed.

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  • Marion Barry

    Marion Barry

    Marion Barry, SNCC’s first Chairman, died November 23, 2014 in Washington, DC, age 78.    In April 1960 he  attended SNCC's founding conference in Raleigh, NC , representing the Nashville Student Movement, and was elected chair of the new organization by the delegates.   He was a former 4-term Mayor of Washington, DC, and 4-term member of the Washington, DC City Council.

  • Matthew Jones

    Matthew Jones

    A reflection by Bernice Johnson Reagon:

    In the 1960’s, as events in the Civil Rights Movement escalated, so did the repertoire of songs. Not only were there considerably more songs sung but their subject matter, form and cultural origins broadened. Up to the summer of 1963, the music created in the South in the midst of local community based organizing fell into congregational styled singing. These songs were structured so that they could be sung by large numbers of people and could be learned in the process of singing. From the period of the sit-ins there were songs styled in the rhythm and blues, doo wop tradition and they tended to be sung in small harmony groups by strong harmony singers.

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  • Mattie Bivins

    February 24, 1940 - October 25, 2018
    Mattie Bivins Dennis at the 50th Anniversary of Freedom Summer 1964.
    On a CBS national broadcast, Mattie Bivins Dennis told the country what registering to vote in her hometown, Hattiesburg, Mississippi, was really like. “I was thinking as I walked along the dirt road in front of my house about the dust which would be on my shoes and the scars from the rocks. And that if we had enough registered voters–Negro registered voters, that is–this wouldn’t be a problem at all. Because the streets would be paved.” It was September 26, 1962, and only 12 of the 7,500 voting-aged Blacks in Forrest County, Mississippi were actually registered to vote.
    For Bivins, civil rights work was a family affair. She and her relatives formed a web of local activists in the local Freedom Struggle. As a child, Bivins watched her father D.K. Bivins fight for the vote alongside farmer and NAACP leader Vernon Dahmer. Her cousins Dorie and Joyce Ladner were integral to SNCC’s organizing in Palmer’s Crossing, a proud and resilient Black community just south of the Hattiesburg line. This local network and support system inspired Bivins and others to keep on despite fierce white resistance to their efforts.
    In 1962, when Hollis Watkins introduced Mattie to Bob Moses, she was ready to jump on board with SNCC. She went with fellow Tougaloo College students Colia Liddell and Dorie Ladner to Sunflower County to register people to vote. For a time she managed the SNCC/COFO office in Greenville, Mississippi.
    Dave Dennis, the only CORE organizer in Mississippi at the time, came to Hattiesburg, and met this community of local people changing the world around them. There he met Mattie, and soon he and Bivins married, forming an important partnership rooted in organizing for the Movement as well as love.
    In 1963, Bivins went back to Tougaloo and kept fighting against segregation and police brutality. And, despite the financial stress that Bivins, Dennis, and all movement workers dealt with everyday, they shared what they had to keep the Movement family alive.
    Mattie Bivins Dennis is survived by her daughter, Erika Young and son-in-law, Brian Young. Her grandchildren Jalen Young and Julian Young, and former husband David Dennis.
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  • Mildred Forman Page

    Mildred Forman Page passed away in Chicago on March 19, 2018.  She came to the Atlanta SNCC office with her husband James Forman, and worked as a SNCC Field Secretary.  One of her duties was managing the SNCC Freedom Singers.  Later she returned to Chicago, remarried and raised her three children.  She was active with the Chicago Friends of SNCC and the Chicago SNCC History Project of which she was a founding member.
    Read more here:,_Secretary.html
    Read more here:
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  • Robert C. Mants, Jr.

    Robert C. Mants, Jr.

    SLP December 7, 2011


    The SNCC Legacy Project mourns the death today of former SNCC Field Secretary Robert C. Mants, Jr. (1943-2011). Bob suffered a massive heart attack.

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  • Silas Norman

    Silas Norman

    SNCC Project Director in Alabama, passed on July 17, 2015 at his home in Ann Arbor, Michigan, age 74.   While a graduate student at the University of Wisconsin, Silas first came to Selma in June of 1964 as a member of the Selma Literacy Project and facilitated Malcolm X’s visit to Selma in early 1965.  Read More
  • Tamio Wakayama

    SNCC Photographer Tamio Wakayama passed away on March 23, 2018 in Vancouver, B.C. Canada, at age 77.  As a child he and his parents spent time in a World War II internment camp for Japanese-Canadians.  He joined SNCC in 1963 and soon was working as an official SNCC staff photographer.  After Freedom Summer, Tamio returned to Canada where he organized a Friends of SNCC Chapter.  He was the author of six books, including Dream of Riches: The Japanese Canadians 1877-1977, a photographic reconstruction of the memory of the Nikkei community,
    See Tamio speak about photographing during the civil rights movement:
    Read  more about Tamio at
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  • Unita Blackwell

    Image may contain: 1 person

    Unita Blackwell, the sharecropper who later became the first black woman mayor in the state of Mississippi and advised six U.S. presidents, died May 13, 2019 at age 86.

    She served as a project director and field secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), helping organize voter drives for African Americans across Mississippi.
    Her son Jeremiah Blackwell Jr. told Mississippi Today his mother died Monday morning at a hospital in Biloxi after a long battle with dementia.

    Unita Blackwell’ leadership was historic: in 1976 she became the first Black woman to be elected Mayor in the state of Mississippi.  Across the South and especially in Mississippi the leadership of women was the critical ingredient of the 1960’s civil rights Movement. Women were the backbone of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party (MFDP) whose 1964 challenges to the National Democratic Party resulted in new policies banned the seating of future delegations that had been chosen through racial discrimination. Those new rules eventually changed the face of United States politics.
    In 1963 Unita encountered SNCC when she gave sanctuary to SNCC workers Charlie Cobb and Ivanhoe Donaldson who had been run out of nearby Sharkey County at gunpoint while canvassing for voter registration. They made it to Mayersville in neighboring Issaquena County where the two saw her standing in front of her small store and asked if she had a telephone.  Subsequent conversations about their work in SNCC and the building of the Mississippi movement caused Unita to join and in less than a year she became a SNCC field secretary. She was just 31 years old, and believe it or not, except for Mrs. Fannie Lou Hamer, she was SNCC’s oldest field secretary in the state.  Unita became a project director for SNCC and helped organize voter registration drives for Afro Americans across Mississippi
    In April 1965 she and her husband Jeremiah sued Issaquena County’s Board of Education after the school principal suspended over 300 black children—including their son Jerry—for wearing SNCC pins depicting a black hand and a white hand clasped with the word "SNCC" below the image. The case resulted in a school desegregation plan for the county.
    We tell this story not simply to underline Unita’s great strength and commitment but to make the larger point that building relationships in the grassroots--step by step—brick by brick if you will—was the source of the unique leadership which arose in  the Mississippi Movement  and across the black belt south.   As we like to say, leaders don’t make the Movement; the Movement makes leaders.
    One last point in this very brief expression of our love and respect for Unita: She was able to finish the eighth grade and with a high school equivalency certificate in 1982 was accepted at the University of Massachusetts (Amherst) where she received a master’s degree in Community and Regional Planning.  In 1992 she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius Grant” for her work in rural housing and water systems. Her life is a beacon for us today, illuminating the resistance and leadership present in marginalized people and places.  All around this nation, let Unita Blackwell’s light shine.  


    Ms. Blackwell was the author of a memoir, “Barefootin’: Life Lessons From the Road to Freedom” (2006), written with JoAnne Prichard Morris.  Survivors include her son and four grandchildren.

    See more about Unita Blackwell at

    Ms. Blackwell's obit in the The Washington Post:

    Ms. Blackwell's obit in The New York Times:

    Ms. Blackwell's obit in The Root:

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  • William (Bill) Hall

    William (Bill) Hall

    William (Bill) Hall


    William “Winky” Hall grew up in Harlem and attended Howard University, where he first met fellow Civil Rights activists Stokely Carmichael (aka Kwame Ture) and Cleve Sellars, among others.  His early Civil Rights experience took place along Route 40 in Maryland, demonstrating at restaurants in Baltimore and walking along picket lines in Washington DC with Julius Hobson and fellow classmates from the Nonviolent Action Group (NAG).  In April 1964, he went to the eastern shore of Maryland to work with Gloria Richardson-Dandridge.  Much later, he went to Atlanta to become a campus traveler for SNCC in Alabama, recruiting other college kids to SNCC projects in Alabama.  He was based in Selma and worked with Dr. King, James Bevil, Andy Young and others in SCLC.
    He was on the second and third marches across the Edmond Petits Bridge.  As it turned out, the first march was lead by John Lewis, the second by Ralph Abernathy and the third by Dr. King.  It was the third march that was permitted to continue onto Montgomery; the others were turned backed.  Throughout the march, he traveled to college campuses recruiting kids to join.  Bill Hall was one of the SNCC leaders that remained after the march that demonstrated in front of the capitol with Jim Forman and college kids from Montgomery State and Tuskegee Institute.  He was beaten and arrested in Montgomery with Jim Forman and several others.

    When Malcolm X came to Selma, it was Bill Hall who escorted him into the church.  As a fellow New Yorker, Bill Hall invited Malcolm to Selma.  As fate would have it, Bill Hall and several Tuskegee students had been released from jail in Selma when he arrived on Tuskegee’s campus.  He approached Malcolm and asked him to come to Selma and the next day they went.  After the events at Selma, he remained in Alabama, while close friend Stokely Carmichael (Kwame Ture) went to Lowndes County.  Bill Hall was responsible for organizing the students group at Tuskegee that later joined SNCC.  He would work closely with people such as Sammy Young, a college student and recruit from Tuskegee who was shot in the head.  James Forman later chronicled this event in his book, “Sammy Young Jr.: The First Black College Student to Die in the Black Liberation Movement.”

    In the fall of 1965, he returned to New York City.  He wanted to take his grass roots organizing experience home.  Once there, he became involved in housing and school issues.  In New York, he began to focus on Africa – demonstrating in front of the South Africa Consulate Office in New York protesting the treatment of black people and the Sharpesville massacre.  He was arrested several times in New York protesting at the South Africa Consulate Office.  On one occasion, he was jailed protesting apartheid along with Julian and James Bond, Jim Forman, John Lewis, Cleve Sellers and Willie Ricks.  He recalled being greatful that Harry Belafonte and Sidney Portier bailed them out.
    In December 1967, he joined Stokely Carmichael in Washington DC.  At the same time, he applied for admission to the Harvard Graduate School of Education. – sensing contradictions in New York City’s school system.  In the 1960s, in New York City, only four African Americans had supervisory licenses in education.  This license qualified one to serve as a school principal in New York City.  It was hard to imagine that a school system with 1,000 school buildings had only four black people with the qualifications to serve as school principals.  As he recalled, there was only one who actually served in such a capacity.  To his knowledge, no Hispanics had any such licenses.
    On a brighter note, he was Stokely Carmichael’s best man when he married Miriam Makeba, and they all lived together briefly in Washington DC – until September 1968, when he left to go to Harvard.  “I initially went to get a Masters in Education,” he wrote. “But I later decided to enter the doctoral program and much later decided to complement the credentials with a Masters in Business.  During my time at Harvard, I managed to talk Cleve into coming to the Ed School.  By the time I left Harvard, I had four graduate degrees, a wife, a new son, a daughter from a previous marriage and a corporate job on Park Avenue.”  In a sort of homecoming, Bill Hall later went on to become superintendent of schools in Harlem.  He also served as school superintendent in Hartford, CT and New Brunswick, NJ.
    Over the years, he also worked for investment banks Lehman Brothers, Chemical Bank, Manufacturers Hanover, etc.  Additionally, he served as CFO for the District of Columbia, before finally reigniting his passion for education—teaching finance on the university level at Philadelphia area colleges and universities.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     Submitted by Diallo Hall.
  • William Porter

     William Porter, 76, son of the late John and Lizzie Mae Porter of Albany, GA, went to be with the Lord on Friday, Aug. 24, 2018. Known to family as “Bill” and to friends as “Porter,” he was born on Nov. 3, 1941, the second oldest of eight children. He attended local schools and spent two years at Albany State College, when the civil rights struggle drew him into voter registration efforts.
    A participant in the 1961 Albany Movement to desegregate public facilities, he left school in 1962 to devote his energies to become a soldier in the cause of freedom. He became Southern Christian Leadership Conference’s (SCLC) coordinator of Citizenship Schools in the area to teach people how to pass the literacy tests on their knowledge of the U.S. Constitution in order to vote. He joined the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) (known familiarly as “Snick”), 1962-1967, serving under Chairmen Charles McDew and John Lewis as chief file clerk; project director in Gadsden and Birmingham, AL; southern fundraiser; campus coordinator; scholarship coordinator; conference coordinator; assistant director of the research library; and Atlanta Office manager.
    Some of the documents he created and accumulated are known as the “William Porter Papers,” part of the SNCC Archives at the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Social Change in Atlanta, GA.
    Later, while obtaining his B.S. degree in Business from the University of Iowa in Iowa City, Bill met the love of his life, Violet Brodie, and married her, stating in the wedding ceremony that he was also, in effect, marrying her two children, Eileen and Anthony, to show his unconditional fatherly love for them. Bill yearned to be a minister and gave his first sermon at Bethel AME Church in Iowa City. The family moved to Washington, DC, where Bill and Violet were blessed with a son, William Robin Porter. Bill was a correctional officer in the juvenile detention system, and lived in Maryland before moving to Henry County, GA in 2008. Possessing a gentle demeanor with a steadfast determination to do whatever he set out to do, Bill was known for his love of “throwing down” in the kitchen with his down-home culinary skills.
     He leaves to cherish his memory his wife, Violet Porter of McDonough, GA; a daughter, Eileen Leona Brodie, of the Atlanta, GA area; two sons, Anthony Mason of McDonough, and William Robin Porter of Maryland; and eight grandchildren.
    Submitted by Brother-in-law William Durant.
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  • Willie B. Wazir Peacock

     Willie Wazir Peacock died n San Pablo, California on Sunday morning April 17, 2016 in San Pablo, California.   He was in hospice care at home.  His Colleagues in the Bay Area Veterans of the Civil Rights Movement wrote: "We will have a memorial service at the Berkeley Self Realization Fellowship Temple but we don't have a date.  And we believe there will be a memorial in Mississippi as well."
    Wazir was born in Tallahatchie County, Mississippi in 1937  He wrote:
        " In 1960, while a student at Rust College in Holly Springs, MS. , I had the first opportunity to express my activism. We all knew about the sit-ins by black college students 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 tried to get the students at a nearby industrial college to join us, but the president made them go to the theater and break the boycott."
         "In fall, 1960, we met our first SNCC representative, Jim Bevel, when he came to Rust with Sam Block and Dewey 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 from Atlanta, who moved to Holly Springs in early 1962. I worked on voter registration all over northeastern Mississippi and also organized a credit union with Frank until I graduated from Rust in August."
    Wazir worked for SNCC from 1960-1966 in Mississippi.  
    For more about Wazir's life and work, see
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