The Fight is Not Over!
SCOPE50.org August 2016
New SCOPE50 Board Members
As I mentioned in the last SCOPE50 Newsletter, the members of the Board of Directors of our newly incorporated SCOPE50 organization include Barbara Williams Emerson, Jo Freeman, Bob Heard, Lanny Kaufer, Richard Smiley and myself. The Board recently approved the addition of three new members: Sherie Labedis, Mary Whyte, and Tara Young. Sherie was with SCOPE in 1965 and many of you met her at the Reunion book signings; she is the author of You Came Here to Die, Didn't You?" Mary is an internationally known artist from South Carolina and the author of several books; she is involved in many community issues. Tara is a labor organizer in Washington, DC, who has a Civil Rights Heroes (Workers and Volunteers) Facebook page; she volunteered her time to work at the Reunion.
Jo Freeman's Convention Diary
This summer Jo Freeman attended both the Republican and the Democratic conventions! She has posted some extremely interesting articles which I'm sure you will find of interest. You can check them out at: http://www.seniorwomen.com/ni/ni_politics.html. Some of the topics include: class and culture at the conventions, organized women at the conventions, Cleveland's other gatherings, police presence at the conventions, and the mood of Bernie Sanders' supporters.
State Voter ID Laws
We have had some good news lately regarding the attempts by some states to enact voting restrictions that undermine the Voting Rights Act. The U. S. Court of Appeals has made determinations in at least three states which are victories for civil rights groups. The U. S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit has ruled that a Texas law requiring voters to show a government-issued form of photo identification before casting a ballot is discriminatory and violates the U. S. Voting Rights Act. In North Carolina, the 4th Circuit agreed with allegations that North Carolina's omnibus bill selectively chose voter-ID requirements, reduced the number of early-voting days and changed the registration procedures in ways meant to harm blacks, who overwhelmingly vote for the Democratic Party. And in Wisconsin, where one federal judge had already eased restrictions on voter-ID requirements, a second judge found that additional elements of the law passed by the legislature and signed by the Governor were unconstitutional.
Brandeis SCOPE Project Revisited
Last month, Lynn Goldsmith Goldberg had the opportunity to revisit St. Matthews, South Carolina, where six members of the Brandeis SCOPE group had spent the summer of 1965. She agreed to write about her experiences and share them with us.
St. Matthews, SC and Fifty-one Years
by Lynn Goldsmith Goldberg
The summer of 1965 SCLC and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., led a project called the Summer Community Organization for Political Education, with the goal of informing and registering black citizens across the South to vote. Brandeis University, along with many other schools around the country, recruited students who were willing to give up their summer plans to head south and participate in the project. It was going to be a dangerous summer, but many students wanted to be a part of the bigger civil rights efforts.
While we were there that summer, six members of the Brandeis group spent our time in St. Matthews, South Carolina. We were looked after and cared for by a very close knit and warm black community. They became our family and bonds were established that have lasted even today. Our hosts and sponsors there were Mr. and Mrs. Furman Hart.
On July 23, 2016 I had the pleasure of visiting St. Matthews again, fifty-one years later. My husband, Larry, and I were invited to a family reunion held by the Mckenzie family. I had become especially close to them because one of vital local workers in the summer in 1965 was Harold Mckenzie. Harold, Furman Hart, Jr., Butch Jackson and John Lee Anderson were our guides around the miles of winding roads through Calhoun County. Harold later lived with my parents, Sonia and George Goldsmith in Princeton, NJ, for a year to further his high school education. Other Mckenzie members later met the Goldsmith family and became even closer with them.
Although there are many things that have changed in small ways, St. Matthews is still the sleepy small town in South Carolina that we knew the summer of 1965. The railroad tracks still divide the main street, but blacks and whites live on both sides. The Savitz Department Store is now the Town and Country Café—a slightly musty eatery that is loaded with yesteryear charm. Floyd's grocery is now a Laundromat, and Calhoun Road, which was the address of the Hart home, was renumbered so I was unable to find the house without help from Melvin Hart. Of course the overgrown vegetation has rendered many places unrecognizable, hiding places like the home of Hope Williams who was the most important leader we had that summer.
Reuniting with all the Mckenzies this past weekend at the home of Allen and Debbie Mckenzie was beyond a treasure. Harold was one of eight children so there were lots of people for us to meet. We immediately fell into their warm embrace and all the years that have past evaporated. There were some surprises too. Geneva Floyd, now 96 years old, was there as well. She and her husband owned the small grocery store where we were always welcome to come and have a soda or some food. Another person at the Mckenzie family picnic was Melvin Hart. His father, Furman Hart, was our sponsor in the town where we came to live while working in Calhoun County. Although I have known Melvin for many years, I had never actually met him face to face – he was too young that summer to be active in the voter registration project. Instead, he was one of the very first black students to integrate the schools in the town that fall.
I had the pleasure of giving a talk on the work SCOPE did that summer and how over the years changes have slowly come to the area. Many of the younger generations there did not know much about the Summer of 1965 in the South. Now they have learned about the courageous work their neighbors did back then. They can read more about it on my web site that was set up by Brandeis University. (Google: Lynn Goldsmith Goldberg papers)
Civil Rights Book by Miyuki Kita
One of the attendees at our Reunion last fall was Miyuki Kita, an American Studies professor at the University of Kitakyushu in southern Japan. Professor Kita has recently published a book which translates the diary that Lynn Goldsmith Goldberg kept during the summer she spent as a SCOPE worker in South Carolina in 1965. Following are portions of an article about the book which appeared in The Times of Israel:
"Miyuki Kita, an American Studies professor at the University of Kitakyushu in southern Japan, has focused her entire academic career on Jewish political activism in the United States. Her town has no Jewish community. "Japanese students know only Martin Luther King, Jr., and regard him as the only hero of the civil rights movement," said Kita from her home in Kitakyushu on the southernmost Japanese island near South Korea. "So I would like Japanese readers to know the civil rights movement has been made up by various people including white people and women."
Her concentration is Jewish involvement in the US civil rights movement, the subject of her recently published book which translates the diary of Lynn Goldberg (nee Goldsmith), a Jewish Brandeis University student who spent the summer of 1965 in Calhoun County, South Carolina. Goldberg worked for Martin Luther King's Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and Summer Community Organization and Political Education (SCOPE) project, a voter registration drive. In 2011 Goldberg donated the chronicle of her stay in the South to the Brandeis University Archives, and portions of it have been posted online.
Published in Japanese, the English title of Kita's book is "Foot Soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement: Lynn Goldsmith, a Jewish Student Volunteer, Summer 1965." The picture on the book's cover shows Goldberg in her Brandeis University yearbook photo with dark eyeliner and a bob. While completely in vertical Japanese script, the book reads right to left and is peppered with photos of Goldberg dressed for the heat in a sleeveless dress and long braids. There are also photos of other subjects: young idealistic participants in the project, a racially diverse group of young lunch counter sit-in protesters being assaulted by segregationists, Ku Klux Klan flyers, a photo of a Klan cross burning, SCOPE recruitment pamphlets and a present-day photograph of Goldberg.
SCOPE followed on the heels of the 1964 Freedom Summer in Mississippi where two Jewish volunteers, Andrew Goodman and Mickey Schwerner, who along with local activist Ben Chaney were killed by the Ku Klux Klan. Those three are also pictured in Kita's book along with Martin Luther King.
For Kita, publishing the story for the Japanese is an educational mission. She said she hopes her book explains the contribution of unsung, unknown people in the civil rights movement. "I want readers to know that there was severe discrimination in the US and Europe for Jews because in Japan we don't know Jews live in the US," Kita said. "The only image we have of the Jewish people is Anne Frank or the Holocaust."
"Also I argue that because of Jews' minority status, the Jewish people have done much to forward the American ideal of freedom and democracy." Kita said she explored the roots of the SCLC-SCOPE project and specifically focused on the case of Brandeis University, which sent the largest group of students. "In the epilogue I mention SCOPE's legacy, the story of the 50th reunion in Atlanta last year which I attended, and recent enactments of voter ID laws at several states," said Kita.
To research the story Kita spent the 2011-2012 academic year as a Fulbright Scholar at Brandeis. "I found that the students had a very active civil rights movement," Kita said. "And I was convinced of how many Jewish people were committed to civil rights."
In 2014, on the 50th anniversary of the death of Schwerner, Chaney and Goodman, Kita presented her work at a Brandeis University conference on Blacks, Jews and Social Justice in America organized by American Studies professor Stephen Whitfield. "Her book captures a particular moment in history where you see that the only way society was changed was by people taking risks," said Whitfield, who mentored Kita while she was on campus. "[Kita's book shows] people demonstrated bravery outside of their particular interests. It was a moment of civic bravery."
Brandeis University's Professor of American Jewish History Jonathan Sarna mentored Kita during her research. He said Jewish and Jewish American studies is growing worldwide, especially in Asia. China is another hotspot. "You don't have to be British to study Shakespeare," said Sarna. "Scholars approaching the subject in different places will have a different perspective making the field less parochial and more international. We are enhanced by the study of other civilizations. We often see others studying other societies — Greece, Rome, the Bible — in order to draw lessons for our own society."
Kita did not come to Jewish American history recently, but she did so with fresh eyes. While majoring in English as an undergraduate student at University of Ochanomizu in Tokyo, she watched the documentary "Eyes On The Prize" for the first time and learned about the thousands of foot soldiers in the US civil rights struggle. She then pursued a Master's and PhD in American history. During that time she studied African American history at University of Maryland, College Park, with stints at New York University and a research fellowship at the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research in New York.
Kita herself is an activist who attends peace rallies against the increased militarization of Japan. "In my current book I wanted to show how important voting rights are," Kita said. "Fifty years ago people died to help register African American people to vote. In Japan we don't need to register to vote but people are not interested in politics. They just give up."
Kita had to learn about the many groups formed in the 1960s including white Jewish college students who got involved in that struggle. As part of Kita's research she attended a 50th reunion of the SCOPE project in Atlanta with Goldberg, who was surprised to be the subject of a book in Japanese.
"I find it amusing," said Goldberg, who acknowledges the irony that she has retired to Charleston in South Carolina, a state where the Jim Crow laws were once rigidly enforced. Looking back at her summer in St. Matthews, South Carolina, Goldberg said she remembers many emotions, including feeling the warmth of the black population she went to help as well as the violence from the white power structure. "It was dangerous," said Goldberg. "We were arrested and we were shot at. We were young. We belonged to a group who believe in King's nonviolent ways to make things equitable. We believed we were right."
Goldberg called Kita a very courageous, focused and dedicated academic. For her part, Kita said Goldberg was kind and generous. The Japanese students in her American History class regularly write Goldberg and the retiree takes the time to respond to their questions.
Kita has already moved on to her next research project – Jewish students at City University of New York Queens College who turned a critical eye on discrimination in their own backyard in Long Island during the 1960s."
Memories of Bob Fitch, My Friend
by Richard Smiley
In 1965, I met Bob Fitch when we were staff members at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC). We quickly developed a friendship that expanded over many decades until his demise. Bob was instrumental in changing my life from a high school drop-out to obtaining not only a high school diploma but both B.A. and M.A. degrees. He was not only a friend but a mentor who always encouraged me to do my best and set an example for others to follow.
It was through his intense teaching that I learned many techniques on using a camera for good quality pictures. He encouraged me to use this knowledge in taking pictures of black candidates running for political offices, and to take pictures of the many places and people where Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke during the counties in Alabama to promote the "first-get-out-to-vote" campaign after the 1965 voting bill passed and were able to capture this bit of history with our cameras. On one occasion we were arrested, and Bob used his "pen" camera to secretly take pictures in the court room of this experience.
Bob knew I was a high school drop-out, and after inquiring what my future plans entailed, he not only encouraged me to go back to school, but he used his connections to get me into school. He immediately arranged for the Head-Master, Mr. Carl Munger, at the MidLand School for Boys located in Los Olivos, California, to interview me for acceptance in the school. It was through Bob's great compassion for me as a person and friend that he made it possible for me to continue my education, because I was accepted at this school.
I remained in California for a period of time, and Bob remained in Atlanta, Georgia. In spite of the distance, we remained friends until his demise. When I recall this friendship, I recall a man who not only captured the history of people, places, and memorable events through his camera, but he also captured the traits of his passion for mankind.
We got word last month of the death of Willy Siegel-Leventhal. Leventhal was a SCOPE volunteer in Macon, Georgia, in 1965. A UCLA graduate, with a Master's in Sociology, he wrote extensively about SCOPE and about civil rights issues.
Soon we will have SCOPE50 t-shirts to publicize the work that we are doing and to earn a little money to enable us to do more. I will send you more information when the t-shirts are available.