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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  • Betty Garman Robinson

    January 8, 1939- October 11, 2020.   
    Born in New York City and raised in Pleasantville, NY, Betty Garman moved to Atlanta in March 1964 to work full-time in the SNCC Office.  She was the Northern Friends of SNCC Coordinator. During her years with SNCC, Betty Garman was chairman of the University of California, Berkeley, Friends of SNCC chapter and then for two years a member of the SNCC staff – at the organization’s national office in Atlanta, Georgia, and in Greenwood, Mississippi, and later at the Washington SNCC Office.  In 1972 she moved to Baltimore to work in a factory, organizing a rank and file movement within the union.  For eighteen years after that she worked in public health, first as a researcher in occupational medicine at Baltimore City Hospitals and then at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health as a researcher on injury prevention and HIV-AIDS studies.  In 2003 she was one of ten Baltimoreans to receive an Open Society Institute Community Fellowship.  Her project was to popularize the history of social justice organizing in Baltimore.  Previously, she was the Lead Organizer for the Citizens Planning and Housing Association (CPHA) which organizes communities to take action on quality of life issues in the Baltimore region.  She worked with Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ), a national organization calling white people in to work for racial justice. In November 2017 she was appointed to serve on the Baltimore City Civilian Review Board. Betty is co-editor of "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC"  (University of Illinois Press, 2010).  She served on the SNCC 60th Anniversary Conference Planning Committee.  Betty is survived by her daughters Tanya and Keisha, and three grandchildren. 
    Read more:
    Library of Congress interview:
    CRM vets intervieew:
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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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  • Constance Curry

    Connie Curry died June 20, 2020 in Atlanta, Georgia.  She was 87 years old. Connie attended the 1960 founding conference of SNCC at Shaw University as a delegate of the National Student Association's Southern Student Human Relations Project. She was named an 'adult adviser' to SNCC and was an active supporter of SNCC ever since. She was an emeritus member of the SNCC Legacy Project Board.
     From 1964 to 1975, she worked as a field representative for the American Friends Services Committee. She served as  the City of Atlanta’s Director of Human Services from 1975-1990. 
    Curry is the author of several works, including her award winning book, Silver Rights (Algonquin Books of Chapel Hill, 1995; Paper back Harcourt Brace, 1996), which won the Lillian Smith Book Award for nonfiction in 1996; was a finalist for the 1996 Robert F. Kennedy Book Award; was recommended by the New York Times for summer reading in 1996; and was named the Outstanding Book on the subject of Human Rights in North America by the Gustavus Myers Center for the Study of Human Rights.
    She collaborated with Bob Zellner on his memoir The Wrong Side of Murder Creek: A White Southerner in the Freedom Movement (2008)
    She is the author of Mississippi Harmony with Ms. Winson Hudson, published fall 2002 by Palgrave/St, Martin's press. Mississippi Harmony tells the life story of Mrs. Hudson, a civil rights leader from Leake County, Miss.,who also challenged segregation in the 1960s. Curry also collaborated in and edited Deep in Our Hearts: Nine White Women in the Freedom Movement (University of Georgia Press, 2000) and the book Aaron Henry: the Fire Ever Burning (University Press of Mississippi, 2000).
    Read more about Connie Curry at:
    Watch Connie Curry speak about the legacy of Ms. Ella Baker.  Starts at 40:50.
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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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  • Curtis Hayes Muhammad

    May be an image of 1 person and beard1943-2022

    Curtis Hayes Muhammad,  Civil Rights Veteran and Grass Roots Organizer, dies, age 79

    Submited by his family

     Curtis Hayes Muhammad spent his entire life participating in various struggles for human rights and civil rights. His activism began in the fall of 1961. Only 18 years old, he was one of five young people from McComb, Mississippi, brave enough to respond to Diane Nash’s and Bob Moses’s call to begin direct action and community organizing there.  He was a  key member of SNCC’s dangerous and groundbreaking efforts all over Mississippi throughout the sixties. Jailed many  times for civil rights work, Curtis kept the principles of bottom up organizing learned from Moses and Ella Baker as the guiding foundation to subsequent efforts of union and community organizing and struggles for African Liberation.  These beliefs in a cooperative society  and bottom up organizing led by poor and dark skinned people have been embraced by many contemporary movements for social justice today

    Curtis’s early life experiences made him responsive to these movement ideals.  He grew up in a family of sharecroppers in Chisolm Mission, Mississippi who had joined with 26 other sharecropping families and purchased a plot of land which they worked together. Raised by his grandmother, a midwife, he was taught principles of black independence and strength.  Learning that his father had to flee Mississippi after  killing several Ku Klux Klansmen in a gunfight, Curtis was determined to find ways to fight against Mississippi segregationists.  He began preaching as a child and was encouraged by his grandmother that he had an important role to play in the liberation of black people. 

    Curtis’s post civil rights activism included  helping to organize the 1963 Chicago School Boycott when 225,000 students walked out demanding an end to racial segregation and the disparate treatment of Black students.   He was an organizer for the New Politics Convention that ran Dr. Benjamin Spock and Dick Gregory in the 1968 presidential election as third party candidates. Curtis helped establish a radical black bookstore in Washington, DC and helped create an early version of a Community Supported Agriculture project, bringing produce from Black farmers in the South to northern progressive communities in DC and NYC.  He also worked on housing issues for poor people with the Harlem Reclamation Project which urged homeless people to take over abandoned brownstones and rehabilitate them, and thus extract ownership from the City.  In Jersey City, NJ, following the same model, he assisted in the handing over of more than 60 brownstones to poor folks. 


    Later he worked as a union organizer for Unite in Monroe, LA.  He successfully organized several dozen locals, mostly of Black women garment workers, using the Ella Baker model of organizing. As a result, the organized workers sometimes made decisions independent of and criticized by national union leaders, such as calling for and enacting wildcat strikes. He went on with the now federated Unite-HERE to New Orleans organizing hotel and restaurant workers there and mentoring young folks in Union Summer.  Along with Bob Moses and other local New Orleans community members, he helped form Community Labor United, which worked on improving public education in New Orleans and was the  laboratory for a national Quality Education as a Civil Right Campaign.  That organization was the united front that was supporting and sponsoring community organizing in New Orleans when Hurricane Katrina hit in 2005.

    After hurricane Katrina, Curtis worked with several organizations to aid the devastated black community there. One group founded Survivors Councils, governed through consensus-based decision making and story circle,  which took on the work of fashioning their own return and rebuilding of their community. Their work focused on establishing the basic needs for a sustainable community and included seizing control of and rehabilitating school building to provide for their own education, taking over and rehabbing federal housing developments to provide opportunities to people from these  communities to come home, developing their own hospitals, clinics, child care and health care institutions, and developing and sharing art and culture to develop their own educational and personal sharing, again, maintaining the Ella Baker method of organizing. He also held classes and helped fund programs to familiarize younger organizers with Ella Baker’s principles and tactics.  His message was always to go deep, go to the bottom and have the people lead.  He insisted on self discipline and the ethics of love and care and respect for self and others.  

    Curtis traveled to several Latin American, Central American and West Indian communities researching the history of  particular groups of black citizens.  He organized projects in Colombia, Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Mexico and Jamaica (where he launched the International School for Bottom Up Organizing). Though he spoke only English, he was well received  with his message of “Your people are my people, your enemies are my enemies, we are together in fighting oppression.” He also traveled to several  African countries and developed a special interest in Liberia after learning one set of his ancestors, the Upkins, moved there in the nineteenth century.  He founded an orphanage there and as a supporter of a democratically run Liberia, was arrested and tortured in 1992. He was finally released through the efforts of his family and friends. 

    Curtis was extremely proud of the 10 children he parented.  Abdullah, Ishmael, Sanovia, Olosunde, Saad, Llena, Musa, Jabari, Africa, and Curtis, Jr.  During his final days, struggling with a malignant brain tumor, he was surrounded by his children and 13 grandchildren and sister Barbara listening to freedom songs and the music of Sweet Honey in the Rock. One of the slogans he held most dear came from those poor and black people affected by the Katrina disaster, “Nothing about us, without us, is for us.” 

    For more information, see:
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  • Cynthia Washington

     Photograph of Cynthia Washington, undated,
    22 February 1942 - March 2, 2014
     A 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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  • Debbie Amis Bell

    Determined to make a difference, a tribute to comrade Debbie Bell
    Debbie epitomized the word "activist."  She was  SNCC (Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee) Atlanta staff during the 1960s, and traveled to the Jim Crow South to desegregate restaurants and participate in other SNCC programs.  At one point she was arrested and spent time in solitary confinement in an Atlanta jail.  Back in Philadelphia, Debbie launched her career as a Phys Ed teacher in the Philadelphia public schools, was a leader in her union (PFT - American Federation of Teachers, Local 3), and spent the rest of her life fighting for workers, women, equality and justice, socialism and peace.  She was a National Committee member of the Communist Party USA and a leader in the party’s Philadelphia District organization.
    Debbie is survived by her devoted husband and activist partner of more than 50 years, David Bell, their two daughters Renee and Andrea, and grandchildren.
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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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  • Doris Derby

    Doris A. Derby (Nov. 11, 1939--March 28, 2022) 
    SNCC Legacy Project is sad to announce the passing on March 28, 2022 in Atlanta of SNCC veteran Dr. Doris Adelaide Derby, who worked in Mississippi and the Southern civil rights movement for nine years. Born 1939 and raised in Bronx, NY, she studied at Hunter College in New York City. While at Hunter she became involved with the student sit-ins in North Carolina. Upon graduating from Hunter in 1963, Doris traveled to the Atlanta SNCC office, and to the SNCC project in Albany Georgia. Returning to New York to work as a teacher, Doris stayed involved with the New York SNCC office doing fundraising and other support work, and helped organize New York Artists for SNCC. After the March on Washington Doris relocated to Jackson, Mississippi and became a full-time SNCC Field Secretary. She stayed in Mississippi for nine years, during which she helped organize the Free Southern Theater, the Mississippi Folk Festival, and the Child Development Group of Mississippi. She also began documenting her work through photography.
    In her essay in "Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women of SNCC" Doris wrote: "In my work in the southern Freedom Movement from 1962 to 1972, sometimes I was in the ground troops, and sometimes I was in the leadership."
    Doris went on to earn a Ph.D. in cultural and social anthropology.
    She was director of Georgia State University's Office of African American Student Services and Programs and adjunct associate professor of anthropology. Her book: "Doris Derby, A Civil Rights Journey" (2021) features many of her movement photographs.
    For more information see:
    Doris Derby's obituary in  The Atlanta Journal Constitution:
    Doris Derby's obituary in The Washington Post:
    Doris Derby's obituary in The New York Times:
    Doris Derby at Through A Lens Darkly premiere, Atlanta Film Festival 2014.jpg
    Photo U. Illinois Press 2019
    Doris Derby
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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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  • Elizabeth Martinez

    Ms. Martínez in the mid-1980s. “I can practically narrate the story of my political life using Betita’s work as anchoring points,” the activist and scholar Angela Davis wrote. 1925-2021     Elizabeth "Betita" Martinez died June 29, 2021 in  San Francisco.  She worked for SNCC  in Mississippi during Freedom Summer 1964 and as the Director of the NY SNCC Office in 1964-65 and was then known as Liz Sutherland.  She  was editor of  “The Movement: Documentary of a Struggle for Equality” (1964), a pictorial history of the civil rights movement, with text by  Lorraine Hansberry. Ms. Martínez directed the royalties to  Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee.  She edited “Letters From Mississippi,” correspondence from the mostly white Northern college students who had volunteered in the Mississippi registration drive. She also edited James Forman’s autobiography, “The Making of Black Revolutionaries: A Personal Account” (1972). Elizabeth was born in 1925 in Washington, DC and was raised in the Maryland suburbs.  Her mother was American-born and her father was from Mexico.  Liz later claimed her Latina heritage and reverted to her birth name, Martinez.   She is survived by her daughter Tessa. 
    Read more:
    New York Times obituary:
    Los Angeles Times obituary:
    SNCC Digital Gateway:
    Washington Post obituary:
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  • Eric Jones

    Eric Jones passed away on Wednesday morning, January 15, 2020 in Washington, DC.  He was a member of NAG while a student at Howard University, and served with SNCC in Alabama in the mid-1960's.
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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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  • Gloria Richardson

    Photo of Gloria Richardson, July 1963, Cambridge, Maryland
    Gloria Richardson passed away at her home in New York City on July 15, 2021, age 99.  She was the leader of the Cambridge, Md. Nonviolent Action Movement in the early 1960's.  She is survived by her daughters and two grandchildren.
    Read more:
    SNCC Digital:
    The Baltimore Sun obit:
    See Gloria Richardson on YouTube:
    Photo of Gloria Richardson by Danny Lyon, 1963, Cambridge, Md.   Notice the SNCC button her lapel.
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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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  • Hardy Frye

    Hardy Frye died at home  in Berkeley, CA on June 16, 2021 of Parkinson's and congestive heart failure.   He was a  SNCC Field Secretary  in Mississippi and Alabama from 1964-1967.   Born and raised in Tuskegee, Alabama, after high school he joined the U.S. Army.  After discharge, he went to Los Angeles and quickly became involved in Movement activities.  He joined a Friends of SNCC group, and in the summer of l964 he went to Mississippi to join Freedom Summer.  He was assigned to the SNCC voter registration project in Holly Springs.  He later earned college and graduate degrees, including UC Berkeley where he earned a Ph.D. in Sociology.  His book Black Parties and Political Power: A Case Study,  came out in 1980.   Dr . Frye also served  as the Director of the U.S. Peace Corps in Guyana.
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  • Harriet Tanzman

    Harriet Tanzman was born in  Brooklyn, New York and grew up in Far Rockaway in Queens. Harriet grew up in a predominantly Jewish part of Rockaway, where there was some diversity; the two largest groups were Jews and Blacks.
    Harriet remembered being upset at some residents' and fellow high school students' prejudiced comments because they ran counter to the very liberal Jewish set of values with which she had been raised. Harriet chose to continue her studies at the University of Wisconsin because of its reputation for progressive faculty and students. As a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Club, she also worked with the local Congress of Racial Equality (CORE) chapter.
    Ms. Tanzman first considered going south after hearing some Freedom Riders speak in 1961. In the summer of 1963, she heard Gloria Richardson, of the Cambridge, Maryland movement speak during a visit to California about how she endured death threats and physical repression in a violent fight to end school segregation. Tanzman recalls, "She basically invited us. There is this work to be done and you could participate." 
    In September of 1963, she started a graduate program in Social Work at Wisconsin, but after JFK's assassination in November of that year, she quit school and went to work in the Atlanta Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee office. She worked in Atlanta until January of 1964, and then went back to Wisconsin for a semester of graduate work in history. She remained connected to the civil rights movement through her involvement with CORE. However, after hearing Diane Nash speak on campus, she felt a strong pull to return to the South.
    From late 1964 to June 1965, Harriet worked with the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in Alabama. She first worked in Gadsden with a black organizer, Ben Luchion. Then, following orders from SCLC leaders, Harriet returned to Selma, teaching reading and other skills to local people from January to June 1965. Later, Harriet worked on a Southern Conference Educational Fund project in New Orleans. Harriet also served as a member of the board of directors of the Veterans of the Mississippi Civil Rights Movement, Inc. 
    In her later years, she returned to the South as much as possible and remained involved in local political issues. She worked as a historian and chronicler of the movement with a number of organizations and institutions, including NYU's Tamiment Library. Her most recent activities included work at WBAI, New York's progressive radio station.
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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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  • Jane Stembridge

    The Freedom Mosaic - National Center for Civil and Human Rights - Atlanta,  GeorgiaApril 7, 1936-July 21, 2021
    Born in Georgia and raised in South Carolina, Jane was SNCC's first staff person.  A student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City in 1960, Ella Baker convinced Jane to come to Atlanta to staff the new SNCC office.  “I came here because I, too, needed to be free, respected, understood … Being white doesn’t answer your problems, being able to go in anywhere does not end your needs,” she wrote to a friend."
    Quote from SNCC Digital,
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  • Jean Wiley

    June 11, 1942 – December 9, 2019
    The courage, grace and intelligence of Jean Wiley are sharply etched in our thinking as we remember her today. To say she is greatly missed is to state the obvious. Her very full life incorporated freedom movement activism, especially with the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and faculty positions at the University of California at Berkeley, Columbia University, and Tuskegee Institute. She was also the best kind of teacher, in both formal and informal settings: the kind who encouraged and even provoked others to think for themselves. 
    Journalism was also an important part of her life. She was one of only three Black women who covered the Angela Davis trial. She was a reporter for the Howard University-based WHUR radio station in Washington, D.C., during its first year of operation, contributed to Essence magazine in its earliest days, and consulted with the Institute for the Black World in Atlanta, Georgia.
    During Julian Bond’s Georgia state congressional campaign she was SNCC’s temporary Communications Director. She also served on the staff of the National Center for Law and Economic Justice, an agency offering legal services to poor people. Jean was a mother, grandmother, and great grandmother.  
    She always saw herself as a race woman, committed to the “redemption and vindication of the race”, a concept that emerged within the Marcus Garvey Movement. As her good friend, documentarian Daphne Muse, who was a SNCC volunteer during her student years at Fisk University, puts it: “She navigated the curves and right turns of oppression and transformed the racists’ screams of ‘You can’t’ into the hallelujahs and Black Power of ‘We will. We can.’”
    But Jean Wiley cannot be defined or appreciated solely in terms of the struggles against oppression that she was involved with, or the many works she initiated. Her home in Oakland, California, was a place of comfort for many in the Movement—a glass of wine, music, and wide-ranging conversations that covered the world as it was and as we wanted it to be, often mixed with laughter as well as commitment.  In the letter to her son, Cabral, included in Hands on the Freedom Plow: Personal Accounts by Women in SNCC, she concludes: “…dedication to the struggle takes you to places, causes, and people you’d never have dreamed of.  I hope you find your rightful place within our struggle and among the kinds of dedicated activists I found – people with vision, courage, and respect for one another.  The struggle continues.  It must.
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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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  • Jesse T. Morris

    SNCC Veteran Jesse Morris passed away this week in Jackson, Mississippi, age 80.  Jesse was born in Wilmington DE and grew up in California, where he earned a B.A. in economics from the University of California in 1960.  He came to Mississippi in 1963 and worked for SNCC and COFO .  In 1965 he helped form the "Poor People's Corporation", an organization of cooperative factories.  HE served on the Board of the ACLU of Mississippi, and was active in the Freedom Democratic Party, and the State of Mississippi NAACP.

    To read  more about Jesse Morris go to

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  • Jimmy Rogers

    SNCC Veteran Jimmy Rogers passed away from Coronavirus at his home in Oakland, California on February 5, 2021, age 84.   Jimmy worked with SNCC in Tuskegee and Lowndes, County Alabama from 1961-1967.  
     Born in Brooklyn, New York, after finishing five years in the US Air Force in 1959,  Rogers went to work for the New York State Commission Against Discrimination, which was located at 270 Broadway in Manhattan, New York, New York.  
    After his years in Alabama, Jimmy moved to California and worked as a probation officer until his retirement.  He leaves his wife,  a son and granddaughter.
    Read more about Jimmy Rogers at
    Photo: L-R: Jimmy Robers, Ruby Sales, Gloria Larry, September 1965 in Hayneville, Lowndes County,  Alabama.
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  • Joanne Gavin

    SNCC veteran Joanne Gavin died at home in Houston on February 11, 2021 at age 89.
    Born in Denver and raised in California,  she took a bus to Washington, DC to join the March on Washington in August 1963, and stayed to work for a year in the DC SNCC office.  She then worked in the Jackson COFO office, the MFDP state headquarters in Holly Springs, and in the Freedom School in Tougaloo, MS.  
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  • John Lewis

    Congressman John Robert Lewis, who served as the third Chairman of SNCC from 1963-1966, and as a SNCC Field Secretary from 1960-1963, died at his home in Atlanta on Friday July 17, 2020.  Born in Troy, Alabama, he was a leader in the Nashville Student Movement of 1960, was a Freedom Rider in 1961, was an organizer of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and went on to direct the Voter Education Project, and the VISTA under President Carter.  He served on the Atlanta City Council, was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in November 1986 and served for 34 years in the Congress representing Atlanta's 5th C.D.  Author of many books, including his autobiography WALKING WITH THE WIND, and his graphic memoir MARCH which won the 2016 National Book Award.   He introduced  the legislation that created the Smithsonian Museum of African American History and Culture, and he was the last surviving speaker of  the 1963 March on Washington.  John is survived by his son John-Miles.  
    For more about John Lewis:
    His obituary in the New York Times:
    His obituary in The Atlanta Constitution:
    His obituary on Atlanta's Fox News:
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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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  • Joseph Charles Jones

    Joseph Charles Jones (August 23, 1937 – December 27, 2019)

    Charles Jones was there at the founding of SNCC in 1960, and was a courageous freedom fighter who ignored the very real personal danger that faced those who organized to end Jim Crow – that systemic denial of equal access to public accommodations, housing, jobs, education, banking and agricultural resources…and, always the suppression of the Black vote through beatings, murders, church bombings, and economic intimidation.


    In the early 1960s, Charles was one of the brave, young activists who left college to organize full-time with SNCC. He and his fellow activists were subjected to beatings and jailings during the sit-ins, Freedom Rides and other protests. Together with local organizers they refused bail in Rock Hill, South Caroline, serving hard time during that 30-day “jail no bail” protest. Charles was also a SNCC Field Secretary in Albany, Georgia and McComb, Mississippi, helping to organize voter registration campaigns.


    In McComb, police were looking everywhere for Charles after a student walk-out at the Black school. When they burst into the local Black grocery store to which he’d fled for sanctuary, he turned his back on them, put on an apron, and began cutting meat. When they demanded to know if anyone had seen Charles Jones, he replied: “I don’t know no Charles Jones, but if I see him, I’ll let you know.“


    While attending Howard University Law School, he became executive director of Action Coordinating Committee to End Segregation in the Suburbs (ACCESS), a group founded to challenge segregated housing in the Washington, DC area. In that position, he conceived the brilliant idea of replicating the Meredith March and, in 1966, ACCESS organized a 60-mile march around Washington’s Capitol Beltway to highlight the “noose of segregation” that ringed Washington. More and more folks joined the march during the 4-day protest as they marched along the highway. ACCESS also organized a campaign against the segregated private housing, funded by the Defense Department that surrounded military bases in the Washington, DC area. In fact, Charlie had a one-on-one meeting with then-U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara and actually convinced him to declare segregated off-base housing off limits to military personnel. It was a major victory.


    Charles Jones remained focused on fighting against racism throughout his life. Fellow SNCC veteran, Tim Jenkins, offers this remembrance of Charles Jones:


    “I will remember him for his eloquence without the necessity of lengthy preparation. I will remember him for his courage to say ‘no’ to the best of his friends when he considered them in error. And I will remember him for admitting his own errors without hesitation whenever warranted.


    All this made him an exceptional human being in my sight, if not yet in the sight of man! His tears were always for others, but never for himself. Greatness comes in small packages without a label calling for ‘fragile’ or ‘special handling’. From all the SNCC veterans who worked with Joseph Charles Jones, we say: ‘ It’s an honor to have served with you in the struggle for human and civil rights.’”


    He will be sorely missed



    SNCC Digital:

    New York Times obituary:


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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.

  • Marshall Jones

    January 6, 1938-March 29, 2020
    SNCC Freedom Singer Marshall Jones passed away in New York at age 82.   A native of Tennessee and a music major at the University of Tennessee, Marshall joined SNCC in 1963 and traveled with the Freedom Singers to raise money for SNCC. His mellow tenor will be sorely missed. Our condolences to his wife Alice and his children.

    Click here to see/hear Marshall sing his mournful song, "In the Mississippi River".

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  • Matt Herron

    Matt Herron, 20133 August 1931-August 7, 2020

    Matthew J. Herron died when his glider plane crashed near San Rafael, California.  He was 89 years old.

    Born in Rochester, NY, Matt  studied photography in Rochester as a private student of Minor White, and then worked as a writer and photographer for the American Friends Service Committee in Philadelphia. A conscientious objector during the Korean War, Herron was organizing peace demonstrations and beginning to shoot assignments for Life and Look at the time the first sit-ins were occurring in Tennessee and North Carolina. He was arrested for attempting to integrate an amusement park in Maryland in the summer of 1963 and shortly afterward he and his wife, Jeannine, moved to Jackson, Mississippi with their two small children. 

    For the next two years Herron pursued three styles of photography: classical photojournalism for the major picture and newsmagazines, documentary photography as practiced by his mentor, Dorothea Lange, and photography as propaganda in the service of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) and other civil rights organizations. Often he was able to use news assignments as cover for a more documentary style of work. Many of the iconic photos used to document SNCC's story were taken by Matt. 

    In the summer of 1964, Herron organized a team of five photographers, The Southern Documentary Project, in an attempt to record the rapid social change taking place in Mississippi and other parts of the South as civil rights organizations brought northern college students to work in voter registration and education. George Ballis and Danny Lyon were among the Southern Documentary photographers and Dorothea Lange served as informal adviser to the project.

    In 2012 he curated a 158-print photography exhibition, This Light of Ours: Activist Photographers of the Civil Rights Movement, featuring nine photographers who joined the civil rights movement and shot it from the inside. This Light opened in Salt Lake City and is now touring the US. The University Press of Mississippi has published a companion volume to the show. In 2014 Herron published Mississippi Eyes, the story of the Southern Documentary Project.  The Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service has recently agreed to host a US tour of his 50 print exhibition on the Selma March and Voting Rights.

    Herron's photographs are in the permanent collections of the National Museum of African American History and Culture, the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute, the Memphis National Civil Rights Museum, the Smithsonian Institution, the High Museum of Art, the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture and the George Eastman House. He is the subject of several profiles, including Witness in Our Time: Working Lives of Documentary Photographers, and a cover story in the Princeton Alumni Weekly, June 2014.


    Read more about Matt Herron:

    New York Times obituary:

    Other news:

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  • 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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  • Morris Ruffin

    Morris Lenwood Ruffin, Jr.
    Morris Ruffin, later known as Bamba Ra aka Shahid Muhammad, was born in Philadelphia, PA.  As a student at Howard University (Class of '66) he joined the SNCC affiliate, the NonViolent Action Group (NAG).  He worked with SNCC in the Atlanta Movement, and in the Philadelphia PA SNCC office. In the 1970's he was a frequent contributor to The Journal of Black Poetry, and became a designer of men's clothing.  He is survived by his daughter and granddaughter.
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  • Norris McNamara

    Norris McNamara
     SNCC Staff photographer Norris McNamara passed away at his home in Chicago on Dec. 27,  2020.   He worked in the photo department of the Atlanta SNCC office during 1964.He photographed  1960s civil rights marches in the South and the aftermath of the December 1969 Black Panther raid in Chicago.  He was an avid sailor, and is survived by his wife and daughter.
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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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  • Robert P. Moses

     Brave Times at Burglund High | Jackson Free Press | Jackson, MS
    Robert Moses was a SNCC field secretary and director of SNCC's 1964 Mississippi Summer Project. He was instrumental in the formation of the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, a group that challenged the regular Democratic Party delegates from the state at the party's 1964 convention. Moses later moved to Eastern Africa. From 1969-1975, Moses worked as a teacher in Tanzania. In 1976 he returned to Harvard and did further graduate work in philosophy, after which he taught high school math in Cambridge, Massachusetts. In 1982 he received a MacArthur Fellowship, and used the money to create the Algebra Project, a foundation devoted to improving minority education in math. Moses taught math for a time at Lanier High School in Jackson, Mississippi, and used the school as a laboratory school for Algebra Project methods. He is the author of Radical Equations: Civil Rights from Mississippi to the Algebra Project.   He served as Vice-Chair of the SNCC Legacy Project.  Bob is survived by his wife Janet, and their children and grandchildren.  
    Enjoy this 2014 interview of Bob Moses conducted by Julian Bond:    
    Read more at SNCC Digital:
    Read about the Algebra Project:
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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

    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  at a hospital in Biloxi after a long battle with dementia.

    Unita Blackwell’s 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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