SCLC’s SCOPE project in Wilcox County Summer 1965

June – August 1965 SCLC’S Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project – Wilcox County

Hosea L Williams with his top SCOPE staff outside the Freedom House in Atlanta in the Summer of 1965. As stated by his daughter, Dr. Barbara Williams Emerson in February 2012, "It is a good photo from the period, but it says nothing, or everything, about female participation": L to R- Benjamin Van Clarke, Stoney Cook, Carl Farris, Andrew Marquette , and Richard Boone. – Courtesy Barbara Emerson Williams. Copyright, all rights reserved.

Hosea L Williams with his top SCOPE staff outside the Freedom House in Atlanta in the Summer of 1965. As stated by his daughter, Dr. Barbara Williams Emerson in February 2012, “It is a good photo from the period, but it says nothing, or everything, about female participation”: L to R- Benjamin Van Clarke, Stoney Cook, Carl Farris, Andrew Marquette , and Richard Boone. – Courtesy Barbara Emerson Williams. Copyright, all rights reserved.

SCLC (Southern Christian Leadership Project) SCOPE (Summer Community Organization and Education) project, directed by Rev. Hosea Williams, was part of an already active Alabama Voter Education Project that coordinated (or attempted to coordinate) efforts between multiple civil rights organizations. As many as 600 black and white college (and some high school) students were assigned to six states for ten weeks after a 5.5 day 14 hr a day intensive Orientation in Atlanta, GA June 14-19, 1965.

In Wilcox County, five white northern student volunteers joined SCLC’s Dan and Juanita Harrell, and Major Johns, two

Dan Harrell in front of Antioch Baptist church

Dan Harrell in front of Antioch Baptist church

(perhaps three) white seminary students from California and some SNCC field workers from Selma to support local leaders in voter education, voter registration and leadership development. In early April, Californian Bob Block, who had walked all five days of the March to Montgomery, came over from Selma with Strider Benston, Bruce Hartford and Charles Bonner to join a Camden Academy student demonstration led by Ralph Eggleston, Sim Pettway and other students. Block was recruited by Dan Harrell to stay on as SCLC field staff. Local activist Ethel Brooks was also on SCLC SCOPE staff that summer. Students Robert Powell, Grady and Charles Nettles, Don Green, and Frank Conner; Mary Alice Robinson and Betty Anderson were some of the many Camden Academy activists working with SCOPE on voter education and registration after their own demonstrations all spring. Local adult leaders included: Rev. Thomas L Threadgill, Mr Albert Gordon, Mrs Rosetta Anderson, Mrs. Virginia Boykin Burrell and many others from the rural areas of Wilcox County. About 30 total local and field workers canvassed all summer, resulting in 500 new registered voters before the passage of the Voting Rights Act in August. Soon after passage, more than 3,000 Wilcox residents were registered, creating a new African American majority.

Charles “Chuck” A. Bonner of Selma SNCC began to coordinate voting efforts in Wilcox County with SCLC and later, SCOPE. Bob Block and I (Joyce Brians/Maria Gitin) belonged to SNCC and SCLC. SCLC/SCOPE workers were the majority in Wilcox County that summer. Most local residents didn’t know or care who were with except for being “sent by Dr King” and “with the Movement.” Local white segregationists called us as “outside agitators.”

Ethel Brooks SCLC Wilcox County field staff

Ethel Brooks SCLC Wilcox County field staff

 

For more about SCOPE and Voting Rights in Wilcox County, AL  This Bright Light of Ours: Stories from the Voting Rights Fight by Maria Gitin: www.thisbrightlightofours.com

More about VEP: http://mlk-kpp01.stanford.edu/index.php/encyclopedia/encyclopedia/enc_voter_education_project/

4 comments on “SCLC’s SCOPE project in Wilcox County Summer 1965

  1. Ms. Brooks,
    I just got this from Maria, & will study & respond. I do remember driving the van in from Selma, and much of what occurred, until I was knocked out & carried off to jail.
    Strider “Arkansas” Benston
    Much of my Summer of ’65 is recounted by Dick J Reavis of Marengo County
    in “If White Kids Die.” 2001.
    Most of my own stories are yet to be written.
    I will soon send You my account of that Day, { April 6 ?, 1965. )
    Thanks,
    Arkansas

    Like

  2. joseph gadson says:

    DR. Barbara Emerson. I’m Joe Gadson a long time staff member of the honorable field general Hosea Williams. I know you from several encounters in Atlanta Ga. I remember the freedom marches organized and led by your father between 1960 and 1964 in my hometown of savannah Ga. I was between the ages of 5 to 9 years old. and was told by my grandmother, great aunt, and great uncles that the honorable Hosea Williams was there cousin. His leadership and bravery has effected me for life. Because the General was unbought, unbossed, unsold, right on and black to the bone he never got the credit for organizing and leading marches. A good example was the first march over the Edmond Pettis Bridge. He and many others were beaten yet people want to re name the bridge after another person with no mention of The great Hosea Williams. I will volunteer for or with you in any position or in any way you need. Please ask me. I’m waiting!

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    • Maria Gitin says:

      Hello Joseph, My site is not hosted by Barbara Williams Emerson so I cannot connect you with her here. But she is on FaceBook under her name and is easily contacted through public information. I’m sure she would be glad to hear from you.

      Like

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