Activism

Freedom Day in Hattiesburg, Mississippi

Chapter 6 in Zinn’s biography You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train • Beacon Press • Sept. 1994; Sept. 2002
Mrs. [Fannie Lou] Hamer told me that a few months earlier she and five other movement people had been returning to Greenwood from a meeting in South Carolina. The bus stopped briefly in Winona, Mississippi, and some of them went into the “white” waiting room. They were all arrested, taken to jail, separated from one another. Annelle Ponder, a graduate of Clark College in Atlanta (her younger sister was a student of mine at Spelman), was beaten to the point where her face was so swollen she could barely speak. Mrs. Hamer was beaten with blackjacks all over her body.

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SNCC: The Battle-Scarred Youngsters

Published in The Nation • October 5, 1963 and republished April 23, 2009
Having just spent a little time in Greenwood, Miss., I felt a certain air of unreality about the March on Washington. The grandiose speeches, the array of movie stars, the big names dropped and bounced several times, the sheer impress of numbers—all added up, technically, to an occasion that one describes as “thrilling.” And it must have been so to participants and to the millions who watched on television. Still, while swept up in the spirit myself, I wondered if, to the Negro citizen of Greenwood, Itta Bena, and Ruleville; of Albany, Americus, and Dawson; of Selma, Gadsden and Birmingham; of Danville, and other places, it may not have seemed the most Gargantuan and best organized of irrelevancies.

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